soup and rice cake

A New Spin on Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Soup and a Sandwich. My go to here is always grilled cheese and tomato soup; with a big “Yes”, when it comes the question of to dunk or not to dunk. See the fun video at the end of this post to see the correct technique!

soup and rice cake

Today, join me for a new spin on grilled cheese. These recipes in fact, presented in a pair of blog posts starting with my take on a chef-inspired rice cake.

This post is part one. You’ll find part two here, with the original rice cake recipe – the one that inspired this post.

As for the soup: I’ve got a trio of choices for you there, as well.

Of course, all three are local options. One in support of a Charlotte area restaurant, available just about any day of the week. The second, in support of a local NC farmer, available fresh made and frozen, at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market; and the third, in support of an Asheville, NC based producer, available 24/7/365 to order online for home delivery.

Dip your Grilled Cheese into THIS

The first soup option today is the tomato bisque from Fenwick’s in Charlotte, NC. Located on Providence Road in Charlotte’s Eastover neighborhood, this family owned neighborhood spot has been a Charlotte favorite for the past 36 years! Times have, of course, forced a transition to take out only with outdoor patio dining available as weather and space allow. Until we can all gather inside again, know you can enjoy all of your Fenwicks favorites, included their homemade tomato bisque.

Call 704-333-2750 to place your order. Pull into the parking lot and a member of the Fenwick’s team, smiling under that mask will bring your order right to your car.

Local Soups Farm Fresh, Homemade and Frozen by the Quart

While most people think of shopping at local farmers markets in the spring and summer, farming and sowing the local harvest is a full time, year round job. Enjoying the local harvest is a full time pleasure. Don’t let old man winter keep you away from local farmers markets.

I shop at local farmers markets every Saturday morning and during the week, you’ll often find me headed out to a local farm store. I have often said, farmers are the original McIvers, taking lemons and making lemonaide at every turn.

signage at the farmers market

Such is the case for the farming family at Hoffman Heritage & Heirlooms Farms in Lincolnton, NC. In the Charlotte area, Andre Hoffman sells every Saturday at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Yorkmont Road in Building A. “The Regional” is one of four state run farmers markets in North Carolina.

farmer on a truck

When business began to initially slow up back in the spring, part of the pandemic pivot for family-owned Hoffman Heritage & Heirloom Farms was to create a retail line. As not to waste what didn’t sell, Andre partnered with chef Ben Sullivan who makes soup – delicious soups. It’s a lovely solution and a great way to make use of the unsold produce. The new company is called Heirloup, and you are going to love it. Ben is now regularly making a dozen or so soups with Hoffman’s produce, freezing it for sale at market. The tomato bisque is one of my favorites. Buy several quarts when you go to shop local on Saturday mornings, so you will always have them on hand. Simply defrost, heat and serve. Heirloups are also available from Hoffman Farm at the Hickory Farmers Market in Hickory, NC.

DIY Soup and A Grilled Cheese Made Simple

Need another easy recipe to success? Start with the line of Halfway to Homemade soups, sauces and condiments from Vegetable Kingdom in Asheville, NC. This is a line of from scratch, small batch soups and more you are going to love. You’ll find several available in the local sections of area grocery stores like Harris Teeter, Lowes and Ingles. Or, you’ll find the entire line available to order online for home delivery at

jars of soup

Here’s how to start with a jar ( or two) for a super simple roasted tomato bisque.
Start with a jar of the Halfway 2 Homemade Sweet Potato Bisque. Add a can of organic fire roasted tomatoes. Or, you can pan roast your own split organic cherry tomatoes. Simply toss them with a clove of unpeeled garlic, a bit of thyme and a drizzle of EVOO. Add 1/4 cup ( or more to taste) of the delicious Vegetable Kingdom homemade Hot & Smoky Ketchup .

Heat the mix, then puree; adjust seasonings, adding more ketchup if you would like.
Dress with microgreens or a drizzle of Vegetable Kingdom’s Feta Dressing for a dazzling finish you’re going to love!

Inspired Grilled Cheese

Our recipe today, one I shared with show host Beth Troutman on WCNC’s Charlotte Today show on Monday Jan 11, is a fun play on Grilled Cheese. It’s a stuffed rice cake – a technique I learned from my good friend Chef Chad Blackwelder.

soup and rice cake

In case you missed the segment live, here it is for you to watch before we move ahead or, if you saw the show – watch it again, just to review.

In my next blog post, I’ll share Chad’s recipe that served as the inspiration for this grilled cheese and tomato soup post. Stay tuned… its a keeper! Delicious cheese stuffed Tidewater Grain Company Carolina Gold Rice Cakes. In Chad’s recipe the cakes are stuffed with Chapel Hill Creamery Carolina Moon cheese, served in a mushroom ragout! Oh my…

rice cake in mushroom sauce

For now, here’s my take on this melt-in-your-mouth, cheese-stuffed rice cake. Like Chad, I’m featuring Tidewater Grain Company’s Carolina Gold Rice and Chapel Hill Creamery’s Cheese. For my take on grilled cheese, I’m using CHC’s Hickory Grove Cheese. Other local products making guests appearances in today’s recipe: fresh farm eggs from Coddle Creek Farms and fresh organic parsley from A Way of Life Farm, butter from Uno Alla Volta and EVOO from the fine folks at Olive Crate.

How to Cook Tidewater Grain Company’s Carolina Gold Sticky Rice

Before we can dive into the rice cake recipe itself, we need to cook the rice. Tidewater Grain Company is a realtively new North Carolina product. It is grown at the North Carolina coast near Oriental, NC. 2020 was the farm’s second real harvest. It is becoming available to wholesale and retail markets across the state but if you can’t find it near you, simply, hop online and place an order for home delivery.

One of the reasons I love working with Tidewater Grain Company’s Carolina Gold Rice is that is that you can use it when you need light and fluffy rice for a recipe or use it as a sticky rice. Either way because it is an heirloom grain, grown with regard to its history, without over or un-needed processing, the taste is over the top.

For this rice cake recipe, you’ll need to cook the rice as a sticky rice – here’s the how to.

Its easy to do, but for this recipe, you’ll need to make the rice with enough time to let it cool before you plan to make the rice cakes. The beauty is you can do it in advance. In fact you can make the cheese stuffed rice cakes in advance, too. And, you can make them with Tidewater’s White or Brown rice.

Not Your Mama’s Grilled Cheese

1 cup Tidewater Grain Co. Carolina Gold Rice, you may use white or brown rice or a combination of the two.

2 ½ c. water

2-3 fresh bay leaves

Your Favorite NC sea salt

2 local farm eggs – I used eggs from Coddle Creek Farms. Available in Charlotte at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, the Southend Market at Atherton or at the Coddle Creek Farm Store

1/2 cup panko crumbs

A small bunch of fresh minced Flat leaf Italian parsley. I used organic parsley from A Way Of Life Farm. Available in Charlotte at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market.

One small wedge of Chapel Hill Creamery Hickory Grove cheese, thin sliced into rectangles. Available in Charlotte at Whole Foods on Fairview Road and at Orrman’s Cheese Shop in Uptown Charlotte at 7th Street Market.

eggs and cheese

Bring salted water to a boil. Add the Carolina Gold Rice rice and stir once. Return the pot to a boil; add the bay leaves. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Uncover. Fluff rice with a fork, cover once again and allow to stand off the heat for 2-3 minutes.

 Spread the cooked rice across a parchment paper lined baking pan. Let cool.

The rice may be cooked ahead of time and kept in the fridge until you are ready to make your rice cakes.

To make the rice cakes, combine the cooled rice, eggs, panko, parsely and salt and pepper to taste. Dive in with your hands and blend well.

Use a ring mold sitting atop a sheet of parchment paper to shape your cakes. For each cake, pat some of the rice down into the ring mold to fill the mold halfway; Top with several slices of cheese. Top with additional rice and pat down once more to thoroughly enclose the cheese in the center of the rice mix.


How to cook your Tidewater Grain Co. Carolina Gold Rice Cakes

Once you have the rice cakes made, you can hold them in the fridge for a couple of hours, or cook them right away. Simply brown them in a bit of melted butter mixed with a bit of EVOO. I cooked mine with Uno Alla Volta local butter, available at both the Matthews Community and Charlotte Regional Farmers Markets. And then added in a swirl or two of Olive Crate Kores Estate Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil to help keep the butter from burning and add a crispy finish to the outside of my rice cakes. Order Olive Crate products online with free shipping on all orders; or in the Charlotte area find them at several locations in town, including the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market and the Coddle Creek Farms farm store in Mooresville, NC.

Once the rice cakes have browned, use a thin spatula to transfer them to a parchment paper lined baking sheet to bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. This is a good way to reheat leftover rice cakes as well.

Serve the hot rice cakes along side a bowl of your favorite tomato soup option listed at the top of this post and commence to dipping and dunking your way through the meal. Here’s how its done…Enjoy!


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