So many ways to eat and drink locally, all of them this week produced, packaged and made in the Carolinas. With one bonus find, not made locally but available till the end of the month from a local restaurant franchisee. I am delighted to share these stories.
Loving all the Locally Made
I had a blast late last month at the annual Flavors of NC trade show. The show is sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. This annual event has gotten better and better each year I attend. It’s a day for chefs and retailers to see all that is local from across the state of North Carolina. Of course, every farmer, rancher and fisherman can’t be there, but lots of local producers attend. The goal is for chefs and retailers large and small, to connect to more easily bring local food product to your table.
Every Product Has A Story
I reconnected with the artisan makers and producers of lots of local product I’ve written about in the past, and met new farmers and friends I can’t wait to write about in the weeks and months ahead. Every local produce has a story and that’s what makes each and everyone a specialty item in its own rite.
Today’s round up is of six delicious products and then some. You are going to love them all. But, before we get to the list, I want to share a product that will only be available in Charlotte till the end of the month!
Eating Locally doesn’t always mean artisan
We I say eat local and drink local, I think most people assume that products are small hand crafted artisan made items. And sometimes, certainly for most of the products I write about, that is the case. But sometimes the opportunity to eat local is on a larger scale. It might refer to supporting a local chef or singular restaurant, or it might refer to a larger locally owned operation.
Such is the case with the first delicious bite on today’s list. A unique limited time opportunity to eat and support a local Carolina franchise. And, in the process, taste a delicious new product soon to be on the national market.
Plant Based Fried Chicken Done Well
What do you get when you combine people who know plant based foods with people who know fried chicken? You get a practically perfect pairing of a classic, now offered in a delicious plant-based version.
In the summer of 2019, Kentucky Fried Chicken decided to jump on the plant-based foods bandwagon. They partnered with the fine folks at Beyond Meat, makers of the Beyond Burger and Beyond Sausage products. The challenge? To come up with a chicken-y plant based product with a taste and texture as close to Col. Sanders real thing as possible. By August, development teams had come up with a remarkable proprietary process to create the plant based chicken substitute. They did a one day test in Atlanta late last summer that ended with rave reviews. I am I hear to tell you, it really does taste like KFC’s finger lickin’ recipe.
I had my first taste inside at a lunch meeting at the beautiful Freedom Drive store. To confirm my thoughts, I took a spin through the drive thru of the store on North Wendover Road for a second taste. My car filled with that signature aroma of the 11 herbs and spices and the taste and texture was spot on. But, don’t just take my word for it.
From now until February 23, 2020, you can visit 19 of the 61 locally owned KFC franchise locations, to taste for yourself. I think you’ll be pleased and surprised and ready to order more.
Here is how I know…
I grew up eating Kentucky Fried Chicken original recipe as my dad owned one of the early franchise operations at a time, back in the early 1960’s when franchising was just becoming a thing. Daddy bought the rites to develop the Jacksonville, Florida / Duval County franchise directly from Colonel Sanders himself and the Colonel often came to visit.
This snapshot is circa early to mid 1960’s taken with my brother Jaimie and me outside the house where I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida.
Pro Tip – pair your order of the new KFC Beyond Chicken nuggets with the new KFC fries. Both are generously coated in the secret recipe seasoning that results in the signature KFC taste. It’s a match made in heaven!
One final note, for those of you who are vegan or vegetarian. While these delicious Beyond Chicken nuggets are plant based, it should be said that, like the KFC fries, they are finished in the same oil as is the chicken, so final products are not vegetarian.
More Made in the Carolinas
My connection with the rest of the products I am sharing today, is not quite so personal. Except to say I love them all and I think you will, too.
If you are in the Charlotte viewing area, you might have seen this Made in the Carolinas segment on the Charlotte Today show on Monday Feb 10, 2020.
If you missed it, you can watch the entire segment here. Enjoy and then read on for all the delicious details!
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Drink Local at Brunch with this Made in the Carolinas mixer
Hail Mary is a deliciously fresh and flavorful bottled Bloody Mary mix crafted in small batches in Raleigh NC. Owned by the husband and wife team of Kellie and Blake Stewart, this recipe is a result of another from Kellie’s grandma Edna. Edna used to preserve the flavors of her homegrown tomatoes by canning the juice. Kellie took that process, added a mix of spices she loved and Hail Mary, an all-natural gluten free blend made from fresh juiced tomatoes, peppers, horseradish root and spices, was born.
Enjoy it in a Bloody mixed with a choice of local vodka or as is for a Virgin Mary; but know, that you can cook with it too. Use Hail Mary Mix as a marinade for fish and chicken or as a base for your favorite recipe for gazpacho, paella or spicy cheese dip.
Currently Hail Mary is available in Food Lion stores in their “local” section across the state or you can order it direct from Kellie and Blake here. Or, find it in other retail locations as you travel the state, you’ll find all the retail locations here.
Goat Lady Dairy Cheese from Climax NC
Goat Lady Dairy is one of the largest goat cheese creameries in the Carolinas. Yet, products are still produced from local farm goat milk and still crafted in small batches.
Nestled in The Heart of North Carolina, the farm partners with several neighboring farms to have enough goat’s milk to make enough cheese to meet demand. Goat Lady Dairy is well known for their delicious rich and creamy popular chevre, as well as their aged Providence and Lindale cheeses.
Not only delicious on a cheese tray, try the chevre crumbled on salads, the natural rind Providence shredded on pasta. Goat Lady Dairy offers a wonderful cow’s milk cheese as well. Lindale is the name of Goat Lady Dairy’s raw cow’s milk gouda-style cheese. It’s excellent on its own or bake it into a souffle or cheese bread, for fabulous results.
Make plans to visit the farm this year for one of their popular Dinners at the Dairy. Twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, keep an eye out for info on Goat Lady Dairy’s open farm days. Guests can come to visit, meet the goats, taste the cheese and learn all about the artisan process.
Goat Lady Dairy cheeses are available in many local grocery store and specialty shop cheese cases. Or, you can order online direct from the dairy.
Let The Fun Be-Gin
Next, one of my favorite ways to drink local. It’s the award winning trio of gins from my friends at The Chemist in Asheville, NC.
I’ve already told you about Chemist American Gin and Barrel Rested Gin, in my December Drink Local round up. With the new year, came a new incarnation of this local spirit. And now, we have a trio of Chemist gins to love. Just out, look for Chemist’s new Navy Gin. It needs to be on your bar and in your glass.
A Gin by Any Other Name
Whats the difference between the three varieties of this vapor-infused local beverage? The quick answer is subtle nuances. The longer explanation involves time and patience to develop the flavor.
The flavor of Chemist’s American Gin comes from the mix of juniper and other proprietary botanicals with which it is infused. Bottled at 45% alcohol, it can be considered Chemist’s base level gin. The recipient of numerous gold metal awards, Chemist American Gin enjoys many regional, national and international accolades.
The American Gin at Chemist is the base for the Distillery’s Barrel Rested incarnation. Here, Chemist American Gin is poured into oak barrels and allowed to rest for 4-10 weeks. At Chemist, barrels are used for aging up to three times.
As individual barrels are used, they impart less and less of their woody flavor and aroma. To that end, The distillers at Chemist rest their American gin in both new and used barrels and then blend the aged spirits from various barrel to get their signature barrel-rested flavor profile.
The Subtle Navy Strength
Chemist’s Navy strength gin is higher in alcohol, but that means it takes less to create the perfect cocktail. Award winning mixologist and Chemist brand ambassador Jonny Burritt suggests only using an ounce and a half in your glass, rather than the standard two ounce jigger.
The 2020 trend in cocktailing is “simple is better”. Perfect timing for the release of Chemist’s Navy Strenth gin, infused with a tea of ginger, orange and cardomom, the flavor is smooth and subtle with a bright and very delicious finish. Don’t over think it.
Make an excellent Gin and tonic with The Chemist’s Navy Strength Gin, and a splash of Alley Twenty Six tonic, another of my favorite ways to drink local. Garnish with orange, juniper berries or sage to accent the fabulous flavor of the gin.
When A Little Sprout Becomes a Big Story
Sunny Creek Farms is the source of some of the best and most carefully grown sprouted seeds and specialty produce in the southeastern United States. You see, growing sprouts can be tricky business, but the team at Sunny Creek Farm goes to great lengths to do it right. The farm and growing operation are in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tryon NC.
Its a huge facility run under pristine conditions. The whole operation takes place indoors and sprouts are grown with carefully controlled standards. Sprouts are not microgreens. They are instead, the germinated form of seeds and beans. Gardening and growing sprouts is different from most other types of produce as they require no soil, only water and the right temperature. Depending on the type of seed or bean, sprouts start to grown in just 2-7 days. Sprouts yield the most health benefits when they are consumed raw, which is why you want a producer that runs with high safety standards like Sunny Creek.
Look for Sunny Creek’s raw alfalfa sprouts, as well as clover, sunflower, broccoli, mustard, radish, garlic, dill and pumpkin sprouts in the produce section. In Charlotte you will find them at Harris Teeter and Whole Foods. You’ll also find fresh beans and black eyed peas with the Sunny Creek Farm brand.
For fun and a little crunch added to salads and other veggies, don’t miss Sunny Creek’s crunchy sprouts, a mix of flavors that make for a great snack or topping.
It’s the Whipped Cream on Top
Betcha didn’t know that their is a strong possibility that the can of aerosol whipped cream in your fridge started in North Carolina.
Take a look at the back of the can. There are only three major producers of aerosol whipped cream in the country – many of them private label for other major and store brands. One of those producers is Alamance Foods in Burlington, NC.
It all started in 1927, when Ralph H. Scott expanded his father’s butter, milk and cream business and established the Melville Dairy. In 1959, Melville Dairy was selected as a franchise producer of a revolutionary new product – Aerosol Whipped Cream! The new whipped cream company later became Alamance Foods, one of the first producers of aerosol whipped cream in the United States.
Today they still produce aerosol whipped cream. Most of the cream is packaged for other companies, but Alamance produces their own brand as well. Sold mostly to the restaurant industry, you will occasionally find in in club and convenience stores. This sweet and creamy product is made from real dairy – lots of it is from North Carolina. What a fun way to eat local.
You Melt My Heart
Just look at what the very talented Brittani Rayfield , Charlotte pastry chef extraordinaire is cooking up. Gotta love hot chocolate that comes in its own heart-shaped white chocolate edible packaging. And, there are marshmallows, too!
The heart comes in a clear cello box with directions on how to melt it. All you will need is a couple of cups of milk and one of these hearts to make the best hot chocolate ever. Each heart makes 16 ounces (2cups) of hot chocolate. Brittani’s heart is made of white chocolate , filled with love, homemade hot chocolate mix and of course, a handful of mini marshmallows. To order, simply contact Brittani. You’ll find her at CTO Sweets on Facebook. Each meltable chocolate based creation and all of her other sensational sweets are crafted to order.
If you want to see more, follow my Heidi Billotto Cooks Facebook page and my @heidibillotto Instagram feed and check out the video of how this heart shaped meltable works with cooking technique and tips from Brittani herself. Or, you can watch it in this Valentine-centric blog post. I can’t wait for you to see it….