Fresh from the Farmers’ Market: Pork Chops and Sweet Tater Tots

I love shopping at farmers’ markets and eating local. For those of you who have read the stories I share on these digital pages, or the words I write between the covers of Charlotte Living magazine; and for those of you who follow me on my social media feeds, you already know that each and every Saturday morning finds me at a local farmers’ markets stocking up for cooking classes, catering jobs and the food my husband Tom and I eat every day.

UPDATED - NCDASo when an opportunity popped up to work  for my friends at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture promoting locally raised North Carolina pork at local regional markets, I jumped at the chance to be involved.

While I am being compensated for this post, the words, recipes and opinions and the choice of the farmer featured here are my own; and am delighted to be representing Charlotte as one of five bloggers from across the state in this sponsored promotion featuring North Carolina farmers who raise pork and sell at Regional State Farmers’ Markets.

This promotion affords me an opportunity  to share the story  of North Carolina farmers Jamie and Sara Jane Davis of A Way of Life Farm in Bostic NC – a regular Saturday morning stop for me at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market.

As luck would have it Jamie and Sara Jane not only raise pork, but a slew of certified organic veggies as well, making their booth at the market a one-stop-shop and a quick answer to the question of whats for dinner tonight?

This time of year, the list of seasonal certified organic vegetables at A Way of Life Farm includes a half dozen or so varieties of sweet potatoes! One variety in particular, “Sunshine” is a species specific to their farm and I’ve used these certified organic sweet potatoes in a fun family favorite recipe for sweet potato tots to go with the chops or to enjoy as a snack all on their own!

 

IMG_3615My recipe for Molasses and Mustard Marinated pork chops has become one of my favorite local pork recipes – you’ll find it at the end of this post.

It’s a recipe I shared on television recently with Charlotte Today hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson in Charlotte on October 6, 2017.   It’s a crowd pleaser for sure and its been time tested and taste approved  with my cooking class students and catering clients as well!

It all starts with the delicious pork from A Way of Life Farm and my hope is that it will inspire your menu planning for this season and for the seasons to come, as local pork like all local meat are available all year round.

Before I share a bit about the farm, the details of the pork chop recipe and a fun side dish for sweet potato tots – I thought you’d like to see the video from the segment on Charlotte Today…

 

On the Farm at A Way of Life

For Jamie and Sara Jane, the way they raise the pigs is important, as is the way they raise all the certified organic crops they cultivate, feed their family and sell to consumers. It is their belief that pigs raised on pasture and woodland,  able to root, dig, and run, are healthier and happier animals; and the fact that these animals have access to sunlight, fresh air, exercise, and wild nutrients make the resulting meat more nutritious than many conventional products.

IMG_1262At any one time you’ll find a dozen or so pigs and piglets roaming the woods up behind the cultivated certified organic fields at A Way Of Life. The pigs wander the woods eating acorns and bark and their natural diet is supplemented with soy-free certified organic feed.

The result is pork with truly exceptional flavor and texture, so marinades such as the one I offer today are only needed to provide flavors to enhance the already spectacular  taste and the melt-in-your-mouth texture.

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Shop Regional and Local North Carolina Farmers’ Markets all year long…

With the change in seasons, many consumers forget that farmers don’t just produce in the spring and summer. Local farmers and ranchers farm and ranch all year long, through snow and rain and wind and hail.

At A Way of Life Farm, Sara Jane and Jamie live on the farm, and the “yard” that surrounds there home is all farm land yielding seasonal crops that range this time of year from all sorts of leafy greens, ginger, turmeric, broccoli, and more to a half dozen varieties of sweet potatoes.

Every week they work the land and take care of the pigs on the farm; then they regularly  harvest produce on Friday and load up the truck to ready themselves for the Saturday morning 5 am start time to head from Bostic to the Charlotte Regional Market. The market opens at 8 am and Jamie and Sara Jane and their crew are there until 1 or so in the afternoon, but the best selection of pork and veggies from A Way of Life are to be had before noontime.

IMG_3617-1The Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market is one of four regional Farmers Markets owned by the State of North Carolina and operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. These regional Farmers Markets are strategically located across the state to serve North Carolina farmers, both large and small and make shopping local easy for area consumers who support North Carolina agriculture, our state’s largest industry.

The Charlotte Regional Farmers Market is located at 1801 Yorkmont Road and is easily accessible from South Tryon Street, Tyvola Road, I-77, and I-85. Farmers and vendors at the market are spread out in four different buildings and you’ll find A Way of Life Farm in Building A, on the right hand side just as you enter from the parking lot. You’ll see all the seasonal veggies, but go to the table set up in front of their truck for the pork.

Meat is much harder to display than all the colorful produce – Its all frozen in coolers behind the counter and at A Way of Life Farm it is portion packaged, so you have your choice of cuts, sizes and quantities.  Don’t leave the market without purchasing enough pork for at least one meal, believe me, after you taste, you will thank me for the sound advice.

The selection of  available pork cuts at A Way of Life Farm, varies each week as do the seasonal vegetables. When you are at their booth, sign up for their weekly newsletter to help keep you in the know and up-to-date with what you will find at the market each week.

And now, thanks to a grant from Farmers Market Coalition, A Way of Life Farm is set up to accept SNAP benefits at the Charlotte Farmers’ Market and for on-farm sales. This makes it possible for even more people to enjoy the benefits of eating local. Jamie and Sara Jane asked me to help spread the word and I hope you will as well.

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In the recipe below I’ve featured the chops; but this recipe will also works well with a loin roast, boneless loin chops, pork shanks and a pork shoulder roast – those cuts will just take a bit more time to cook.

I hope you enjoy my recipe for what I think are some of the most delicious pork chops you’ll ever eat, and the accompanying recipe for my homemade sweet potato tots to go with…

But wait, that’s not all…

If my recipes whet your palate for more ways to eat local pork, then visit these other blog posts featuring recipes using more North Carolina Pork from farms around the state…

Got To Be NC Pork at Your Local NC Farmers Market

 

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Heidi Billotto’s Mustard & Molasses Marinated NC Pork Chops from A Way Of Life Farm

4-6 local bone-in pork chops from A Way of Life Farm in Bostic NC available at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road on Saturday mornings

For the marinade:
1 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2  bay leaves
1 cup of your favorite whole grain mustard

1 cup local molasses
6 juniper berries, lightly bruised or 1/4 cup gin

Marinate the chops for up to an hour at room temp or longer in the refrigerator, turning it occasionally. Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before cooking.

Transfer the chops to a roasting pan and bake, covered in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or so.

Uncover and broil  just to crisp the outside of the chops, taking care not to burn the marinade.

And because man and woman cannot live on pork chops alone (although it is tempting to try)…. I offer a fun sweet potato side to the chops…

chops and tots

A Way of Life Farm “Sunshine” Sweet Tater Tots

 

2 lbs. A Way of Life Farm “Sunshine” Sweet potatoes or any other dry flesh variety, peeled

1/4 cup self rising flour

1 Tbsp. sweet paprika

1 tsp. granulated garlic

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. sugar

Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend ( a mix of pink and black peppercorns) to taste

1 cup organic Canola oil

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook until parboiled, about 6-7 minutes; drain well and let cool.

IMG_7722Using a hand grater, finely shred potatoes. Using a clean dish towel, gently pat the potatoes dry, removing as much water as possible. Gently spread the grated potatoes on the dish towel and sprinkle with the flour; then season with the granulated garlic, paprika, onion powder, seasoning salt and pepper, to taste. The mixture should be soft but dry. Gently scoop up the seasoned potatoes, place the mix into a bowl and then gently shape into  “tots” , taking care not to squeeze them too put as you mold them into shape.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add tots to the oil, 5 or 6 at a time, and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to drain, re-season if you would like and enjoy!.

 

 

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For more great all local recipes come and join in the fun at one of Heidi’ Hands-on cooking classes – including a Pork 101 Cooking Class see the complete schedule of classes for Oct and Nov; then call your friends and make your reservations today! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Fall into Fun: Heidi Billotto’s 2017 October & November Cooking Classes

cropped-heidi-billotto-food-blog-logo-not-compressedAnyone can cook, let Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto show you how to make it fun!!

Each of Heidi’s cooking classes  classes include  the preparation of 4-5 different dishes centering around a main topic, using as much local and organic protein, produce and product as possible.

Each class is  a hands-on experience (as much or as little as you would like),  printed recipes, servings of each dish we create, wine pairings from our friends at Assorted Table Wine Shop, gift bags, coupons and, of course, tons of fun.

 

bb585753-46b1-4feb-8810-4297445b3655So now, the next step is yours…Call Your Friends, Save the Date and Make your Reservations now, to confirm your place in any one of the following October and November 2017 cooking classes. Never too late to make a reservation… Hope to see you soon!

For your convenience, visit the  “Heidi Billotto Food” shop  where you can make your reservation and pay in advance for the cooking classes you would like to attend all at once time – gotta love one stop shopping!

 

simply-email-heidi-to-make-your-reservationsAfter you make your reservation, Heidi will personally  follow up with an email giving you any details and directions you’ll need to know before class.

And if you would rather register by email and pay with a check, then by all means feel free to contact Heidi directly at HLNC@carolina.rr.com!

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Here’s the updated list of October and November cooking classes. Keep checking  back as we are adding in new classes all of the time!

 

Sun October 22, 1-4 pm  – At Home with Heidi  – Getting Sauced

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Even with great local proteins, its a wonderful well done sauce that often really makes the dish. In this hands-on class we’ll cover all there is to know in terms of basic technique for making the five “mother sauces” as  outlined in French culinary technique and then create an all local dish with each one.   Wine pairings with each course by Assorted Table. Cost is $85 per person. Make your reservations here

 

Tuesday October 24, 6-8pm    Like Cheerwine? Then you will love this special cooking class I am doing as a part of the YELP Charlotte Made series of events this fall.

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My “Cooking with Cheerwine” YELP class is free and promises to be tons of fun, but to make a reservation, you have to be signed up as a YELPER which is super easy to do… Here is the link for the class registration  ( which will also take you to the YELP website) once you are registered as a “Yelper” you can sign up for the class; but hurry,  The class is limited to 25 participants and is sure to sell out – its going to be tons of fun!  We’ll start with a little appetizer upon arrival and then I’ll be sharing 4 recipes using the iconic soft drink. We will also have a make-it-yourself Cheerwine Ice Cream Float station and then you’ll be able to photograph your creation for a posssible post on Cheerwine’s social media!! Plus the folks from Cheerwine will have swag, four pack bottles and Cheerwine syrup for sale at the class; and we have fun take home gift bags for everyone in attendance as well. Hope to see lots of familiar faces in the crowd!

Saturday October 28,  4-7pm – At Home with Heidi – Local Pork 101

chops and tots

A “Back to Basics” presentation with great recipes and big time flavors and a focus on locally raised pork from several of my favorite farms. We’ll braise pork shanks in a rich tomato sauce, sear crusted pork tenderloin, sauté or grill bacon topped pork burgers and bake tender stuffed chops plus have a couple of other surprises on hand, like the easiest way to cook bacon ever!!… Its a class you won’t want to miss and with wine pairings by my friends at Assorted Table Wine Shoppe, this late afternoon event becomes a wine dinner of sorts! For more great local pork recipes, Check out this blog post done in coordination with a promotion run by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture

Cost for Pork 101 cooking class and wine dinner is $95 per person.  Make your reservation now 

Saturday November 5, 2-5 pm – Soups On – At Home with Heidi

Soups On Cooking ClassNothing speaks to calm and comfort like a great bowl of soup – perfect for a first course for guests,  an easy family dinner or quick heat and serve lunch.  On the menu for this class four of my personal favorites – The real deal French onion soup with a thick cheesy crust; Local Kale and white bean Ribolita just like like they serve in Tuscany;  an elegant vegetarian Potato and Leek soup with parslied pumpkin seed pesto and a totally from scratch real chicken noodle soup ( with your own bone broth and fresh made noodles) everyone in the family will love.

Cost is $75 per person. Click here to make your reservation

 

Saturday November 11, 5-8 pm – A Classic Steakhouse Dinner – At Home with Heidi

6428184741_c34a4ba8ca_mobileFor this class the focus is on a meal just like the big steakhouses made but I’ll show do it all at home. Recipes include from-scratch blue cheese dressing; creamed local spinach; killer scalloped potatoes with local spuds, and a braised garlic steak spread plus all the basics of cooking a steak – we’ll do local grass fed fillets, ribeyes, t-bone and a New York Strip all locally raised from Proffitt Family Farms – and then, for dessert a classic chocolate souffle. of course! Wine parings for each course offered by my friends at Assorted Table Wine Shop.

Cost is $95 per person. Make your reservations here.

bb585753-46b1-4feb-8810-4297445b3655Wanting Something More?? A Little More Personalized perhaps, or maybe one of these same classes, but a different day and time?

In addition to these regularly scheduled cooking classes, just a reminder that Heidi teaches tons of private classes for  company team building events, for birthday parties or Girl’s Night Out gatherings, supper clubs, couples date nights or just as fun gathering of friends.

Email Heidi to Plan a Private Class all your own…Start with a cocktail hour complete with appetizers and a wine tasting from our friends at Assorted Table Wine Shop; then move into the kitchen for a hands-on class to cook and enjoy!

 

Save the Date! Don’t Miss the Fun at Heidi Billotto’s Cooking Classes

Two fabulous On the Farm classes on the calendar as September rolls into October; plus we’ll be cooking with local product in the At Home with Heidi classes on tap in the next several weeks as well…

Get ready to slice, dice, simmer and saute as you make plans to join in on the fun at any one of my exciting hands-on classes cooking classes taught as the name suggests, “At Home with Heidi ”  in my home kitchen; or  come and experience one of my unique On the Farm Classes are held at various farms in and around Charlotte. Each On The Farm class includes a walking Farm Tour and then we settle into the farm kitchen to cook with whatever is in season. You really just have to experience these classes for yourself, there is indeed something quite special about being on all these local farms…

Classes are a perfect  for a fun date night, night out with the girls and a great way to meet new people or host a team building event.  Don’t see a date that fits – Plan Your Own Private Cooking Class email me and lets plan your own private class with work associates or with friends or family.

Make + A + Reservation

Now it is super simple to make your reservation for any of my cooking classes. Simply click here to shop my online store and reserve your spot or spots in class! As soon as your payment is confirmed I’ll send you an email with all the class details and directions!

 

90a40f2d-b135-4501-b4b7-64c102593be3Sun Oct 8, 2-5pm – At Home with Heidi – Gluten Free Gourmet    

This class features an entire Gluten free menu from  appetizer to dessert; plus we’ll make a delicious gluten free pistachio cake with North Carolina’s own chestnut flour from High Rock Farm in Gibsonville, NC and Japanese milk bread gluten free dinner rolls that will freeze perfectly and are ready to reheat when you are. Wine pairings with each course by Assorted Table Wine Shop. Cost for the class is $85 per person.  Click Here to Make Your Reservations

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Sun October 22, 1-4 pm  – At Home with Heidi  – Getting Sauced

Even with great local proteins, its a wonderful well done sauce that often really makes the dish. In this hands on class we’ll cover all there is to know in terms of basic technique for making the five “mother sauces” as  outlined in French culinary technique and then create an all local dish with each one   Wine pairings with each course by Assorted Table. Cost is $85 per person. Click Here To Make Your Reservations

 

 

 

cropped-heidi-billotto-food-blog-logo-not-compressedPlan a Private Class all your own as a team building event or to enjoy with friends. Start with a cocktail hour complete with appetizers and a wine tasting from our friends at Assorted Table Wine Shop; then move into the kitchen for a hands-on class to cook and enjoy!

Classes are a perfect  for a fun date night, night out with the girls and a great way to meet new people or host a team building event.  

Don’t see a date that fits? Email me and lets plan your own private class with work associates or with friends or family.

 

Don’t Miss These September & October Nibbles and Sips

Tons of fun Food & Drink-centric Events In and Around Charlotte – Don’t Miss a single one!

Do you find yourself in transition from the carefree vacation-full season of summer to what can become a more hectic, more scheduled back-to-school season that starts with September and October and before you know it its November?  Whoa! Let me help you put on the breaks for just a second…

Make + A + Reservation

It’s time to make some plans to keep the fun stuff going. So today I offer you a list of ” and Sips”, a round up of 17 different food and drink events you can attend in the next two months.  Save the dates, Call Your Friends, Make your Reservations, Have Fun this Fall and keep checking  back for more Nibbles and Sips as new fun food-centric events hit the calendar! 

 Don’t forget to #TellThemHeidiSentYou….

imagesSeptember is North Carolina Wine Month!! So plan to spend September sipping, stomping and celebrating North Carolina’s many outstanding wineries and vineyards. With an entire month dedicated to tasting our wine, it’s the perfect time to pair your winery or vineyard visit with harvest festivals, grape stomps, special wine tasting tours and more. There are events at wineries across the state – too many to individually list here, but you will find a list of fun festivals on the NC Wine website here

4462defff12cf8d1eea3160c6d7ffbb0Thursday – Sunday, Sept 7-10 – The 2017 Yiasou Greek Festival, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox cathedral, 600 Eat Blvd. in Charlotte.  Charlotte’s Yiasou Greek Festival began in 1978 and since then has become one of Charlotte’s largest cultural events. It is eagerly anticipated by the Charlotte community each year. The Yiasou (the Greek word for Hello, Goodbye and Cheers) Greek Festival features Hellenic cultural exhibits, authentic Greek cuisine and homemade pastries, entertainment, live music and dancing, wine tastings, art, shopping and more. Experience the sights and sounds of Greece when you visit the 40th Annual Yiasou Greek Festival. It’s a time of the year when everyone can be Greek! Hours: Thurs., 11am – 9 pm; Fri/Sat., 11am- 10 pm; Sun., Noon-8pm For more info…

Order-Fire_S3E1-poster-663x1024Sunday Sept. 10th, noon  – The season premiere of Order/fire at Free Range Brewing – Chef Matthew Krenz of The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel is hot off of his NCRLA NC Chef Showdown Chef of the Year award, is the focus of Order/fire’s Season 3 premiere. These events are always a blast – Free Range offers a cash bar with beer and my friend, farmer and local producer Jamie Swofford’s non-alcoholic shrubs; while chef Matthew is making Krenz Ranch beef tacos – my oh my! The doors open at noon, the social hour begins at 1 pm and the screening starts at 2. No admission fee but there is a great raffle to enter, if you would like – generally $10 a ticket, $$ goes to a charity important to Chef Krenz.

downloadSeptember 13, 2017, 6:30 pm – Portuguese Wine Dinner – Roosters Wood-Fired Kitchen, SouthPark. Chef Jim Noble and his team always do it right!  Look for this special evening to start with passed hors d’oeuvres followed by four courses of food paired with fabulous Portuguese wines. Cost $70 per person. Call 704.366.8688 to make a reservation. Seating is limited.

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September 17, 2017, 6:30-9:30 pm – 5 course Mushroom menu at Heirloom Restaurant –   In celebration of the health department approved foraged mushroom consumption in a restaurant setting, Chef Clark Barlowe has prepared a 5 course tasting menu featuring some of his favorite finds and mushroom farming friends. Click here to reserve your seats

21034608_1541902652497378_4269546947028118295_n13091953_1344016235612340_6126695405623522528_nMonday September 18, 6:30-9:30 pm – Southern Beer + Southern Food –  The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel and Chef Matthew Krenz welcome Sean Lilly Wilson, owner and chief executive optimist at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, NC and Chef Kyle McKnight, Fullsteam’s Director of Food Operations all reunite once again to bring you a fabulous dinner of food and beer. I attended the dinner this talented trio did last year ( see the photo on the right with Sean and my friend Susan Dosier) and even though I am not a beer drinker ( with apologies to Sean), I had a fabulous time! This year  Raleigh entrepreneur and founder Steve Mangano of CurEat joins in the fun. CurEat is  the new restaurant-finding app you will all want to download to find out where your favorite chefs and foodies are eating out!

Cost of this Southern food and beer extravaganza is $65 per person. For reservations, call The Asbury at 704.342.1193

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Sept 21 -24 in Greenville, SC Its time for another big annual gathering of foodies – Euphoria 2017!! Founded in 2006 by platinum-selling singer/songwriter Edwin McCain and restaurateur Carl Sobocinski, euphoria educates, entices, enlightens and entertains. The four-day event includes exclusive tasting events, intimate musical experiences, cooking demonstrations and wine seminars, as well as multi-course dinners and live music concerts and many  Charlotte area chefs such as Amy Fortes, Ashley Boyd, Blake Hartwick, Bruce Moffett, Scott Hollingsworth, Thomas Marlow, Clark Barlowe,  Matthew Krenz,  and more are taking part! Dedicated to excellence, euphoria features domestic and international wines, award-winning chefs, master sommeliers and renowned singer/songwriters. For more info, tickets, etc…

db_logo116sSunday September 24 , 2-5 pm – Heidi Billotto’s Hands-On On the Farm cooking class at Dancing Bees Farm in Monroe, NC.    Just Follow the Buzz and learn all about the Business of Local Bees with Master Beekeeper Jeff Knight. Robin Knight will be there, too, to share with us how she makes all the wonderful bees wax candles, lotions, bath scrubs and more. 5 honey-centric courses perfect for family dinners and entertaining too, make this class extra sweet. Assorted Table Wine Shop will be on hand to provide a wine pairing with each course.  Can’t wait to see you there!  Cost $85 Simply Email Heidi to make your reservations 

17098240_1659386481022112_7978105722794810790_nTuesday, September 26 at 6 PM – 9 PM –  A Caribbean Voyage –  Soul food sessions CLT – a dinner series featuring a group of very talented African American chefs and mixologists in Charlotte, Including Greg Collier, Michael Bowling, Sam Dotse, Jamie Barnes and DiSean Lamar Burns, just to name a few. Their goals are “to promote minorities in the hospitality industry, reclaim the ingredients of our heritage by redefining “soul food”, and donate to charities that help causes that directly affect our communities”   This Soul Food inspired dinner  will be  a progressive culinary journey to the Caribbean with 6 courses  The evening will be coupled with amazing beverage pairings and fantastic music! All of the proceeds from this dinner (like all Soul Food Sessions) will be donated to a local Non Profit that is making a positive impact in our community. This evening’s event will benefit Project 658 and their efforts in serving the refuge, immigrant, and poor of our City. Check out www.project658.com to find out  more. Cost is $80 per person. Link to get your tickets here. For more info visit the Soul Food Sessions CLT page on Facebook.

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TOTN LOGO-1Wednesday, September 27, 2017 – Charlotte’s 22nd Taste of the Nation® for No Kid Hungry 2017 will  at the Fillmore Charlotte, 820 Hamilton Street.  Ensure that no kid goes hungry, whether in Charlotte or across the nation, by joining the city’s finest chefs, sommeliers and mixologists for a remarkable night of dining in support of No Kid Hungry’s work to end childhood hunger in America.   for the fourth year running, guests will have the opportunity to purchase a $20 raffle ticket which will correspond to one of over 100 bottles of wine!  The Wine Grab – always a popular part of this annual event – will be set-up in the bar closest to the Fillmore’s front doors so stop by when you first arrive because these bottles will go quickly!  Each donated bottle of wine ranges in retail value from $20 to over $100!  At the event itself,  mix, mingle, and enjoy food and drink prepared by more than 30 of Charlotte’s top chefs and mixologists.

VIP Admission : $120,  6:00pm – 9:30pm.  General Admission : $85, 7:00pm – 9:30pm  For more information, visit the website and follow Taste of the Nation Clt on all of their social media.

 

8112e840-ea24-4e43-8e44-1237232945f0September 29 & 30, 2017 – Time for a road trip to enjoy a great annual festival – The Carolina Jubilee, a two-day music festival in Harmony, North Carolina at VanHoy Farms.  The fun features local and national music acts, celebrity chefs including Executive Chef Clark Barlowe from Heirloom Restaurant, Carolina breweries, wineries and distilleries.   This is a family friendly event with kid’s activities provided by Discovery Place Kids and the option to camp on-site at VanHoy Farms. There is an a 5k and 10k the morning of September 30.      Tickets to one day of the festival are $35. Both days are $55. Both days and camping is $65. Children under 12 are free. Parking will be $10/car and cannot be paid in advance. Proceeds from the event benefit the Carolina Farm Trust. For more info…

HRG_ChefSaturday, September 30, 4pm-10pm – 25th Anniversary Bash at Harpers’ Restaurant, SouthPark Location. Seems just like yesterday I was writing that the doors opened at Harpers’ Restaurant and now it seems that 25 years have flown by! The restaurant is celebrating all month long with lots of specials you’ll enjoy, but don’t miss the fun when they throw their 25th Anniversary Bash on the 30th on Harper’s outdoor patio. There will be plenty of food and drink specials, like 25% off Bar Bites ALL day and a Tap Takeover by Winston Salem’s Foothills Brewery. Look for some of Foothill’s best sellers, such as Torch Pilsner, Jade IPA, Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout 2015 & 2016, plus a couple other surprises. Larkin & Gary Dodgen will supply live music from 4pm-7pm and Scott Smith will continue with entertainment on the patio, 7:30pm-10pm. Party-goers will be treated to gift card giveaways and great door prizes from Foothills Brewery. 

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Thursday, October 5, 2017, 3PM “Outstanding in the Field” regional dinner at Renfrow Farms in Matthews
Host Farmer: Pressly Williams, Renfrow Farms, Matthews, NC (Charlotte)
Guest Chef: Adam Reed, Santé of Matthews, Matthews, NC

Adam Reed is one of farmer Pressly Williams’ favorite chefs and a longtime friend. That relationship bodes well for eaters in the field. Chef Reed’s Santé restaurant is across the street from Renfrow Hardware (est. 1900), and has been in the same spot since Adam answered an ad in the New York Times placed by a North Carolina lady looking to hire someone to run her restaurant. Adam moved his family down from NYC and changed the local food scene for good. The rest is accolades and good times. Before we sit down, Pressly will show us around her fields filled with okra and chard, figs and radishes, flowers and happy honeybees. Cost $215 per person Click here for reservations

upStreamFriday Oct 6, 6:30 pm – Upstream Restaurant’s 9th Annual Oyster Bash  Half-shell connoisseurs can reserve tickets now for this all-you-can-eat party that includes oysters from  around the world and pairs them with fabulous, interesting wines and sparklers.  Here’s what’s on the menu: raw oysters paired with incredible wines; Live entertainment; Fire roasted oysters—prepared New Orleans-style; A chance to Win a case of wine in a raffle to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry. Tickets:  $125 per person, inclusive. Reservations are limited and pre-payment for the event is required. Make your reservation online here.   For more info:  704.556.7730

first harvest of baby ginger - Windcrest farmSaturday Oct 7, 2017 – Heidi Billotto’s Hands-On On the Farm  Ginger harvest cooking class at Windcrest Farm in Monroe, NC, 3-6 pm – This class kicks off with an ginger-centric appetizer and aperitif and a toast to the season of all things ginger! Then the group is off on a walking tour of Windcrest Farm as we explore the lay of the land and visit all the greenhouses to see what is growing for the season. Most of our focus will be in the greenhouse filled with rows of ready to be dug ginger and turmeric. Class participants will learn how to harvest their own and can try a hand at digging if they would like.  Once we learn the farming and harvesting side of this year’s ginger season, we’ll head back to the garden shed where I will have a makeshift kitchen  all set up for all of use to work together to prepare 4 courses of  “Ginger-liciousness” with all of Windcrest’s fine local, USDA certified organic produce and the local protein and products of other producers as well. our friends at Assorted Table wine shop will provide wine pairings for each course.  Cost of the class is $85 per person. Simply email Heidi at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com to make your reservations.

90a40f2d-b135-4501-b4b7-64c102593be3Sunday Oct 8, 2-5 pm – At Home with Heidi Cooking Class – Gluten Free Gourmet – If you are tired of not being able to eat the pizza crust or pie crust, or the stuffing or the bread, then be tired no more. In this hands-on cooking class, we’ll work together prepare an entire meal – all of it gluten free from the appetizers right down to dessert and the bread in the bread basket. As always its as hands on as you would like to be – or if you want to watch, take it all in and eat and enjoy that’s fine too! Assorted Table Wine Shop will provide our wine pairings for each and every course. Cost is $75 per person Email Heidi at Heidi@Heidicooks.com to make your reservations. 

WineandTapasWeek-just-charlotteOct 13- 22, 2017 – Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week – Fall Edition . The first Charlotte Wine & Tapas week took place last spring and was a huge success – you can read about it in an article I wrote for Charlotte Living Magazine – The concept is a delicious one, its all about little plates, sharing and pairing food and wine. Many Charlotte restaurants participate with special menus and for $30 or $35 you get a trio of little plates to enjoy on your own or share with your friends. You’ll be hearing more from me as the event gets closer – just pencil these dates on your calendar so you won’t miss a single bite!

DI_wEiCWsAIweIjMonday October 16, 2017 at Heirloom Restaurant. My friends photographer Peter Taylor and Chef Marc Jacksina have done it again… Don’t Miss, Order/fire’s first ever ordertogether dinner!  Tickets are $125 each and includes a 7 course dinner from 14 of Charlotte’s best chefs and beer pairings from Free Range Brewing. Plus the promise of other special guests in the kitchen! The evening also includes a silent auction, a grand raffle and the sharing of some great stories.

 

download-1October 18-21, 2017 – Terra Vita Food & Drink Festival  in Chapel Hill, NC – The Chapel Hill, NC-based nationally noted festival of food & drink, now in its eighth year, offers exceptional dinners, tasting events, after parties, chef demos as well as the “Sustainable Classroom” – educational experiences featuring renowned chefs, authors & national media. Many Charlotte chefs and food-centric folk are involved including Clark Barlowe, Matthew Krenz, Joe Kindred, Keia Mastrianni and Bruce Moffett just to name a few. Detail on all the dinners, workshops, and seminars as well as reservation links are all on the very informative Terra Vita website.

https-cdn.evbuc.comimages348776111395543578761originalSaturday Oct. 21, 3-6 pm – The annual Carved event sponsored by the Piedmont Culinary Guild.  This is an annual pumpkin carving extravaganza with lots of local chefs and food-centric folks in the mix! Its a family-friendly fall festival and pig pickin’ and included in the $20 ticket purchase price , you will enjoy a delicious plate of locally sourced food, created by Piedmont Culinary Guild chefs, a beverage from Lenny Boy Brewing Co. ( with the option to buy more), entry into the public pumpkin carving competition, and more. For more Info and tickets… 

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Save the dates, Call Your Friends, Make your Reservations, Have Fun this Fall and keep checking  back for more Nibbles and Sips as new fun food-centric events hit my calendar! 

In Honor of Julia – My Julia Child Story

PrintThis Tuesday August 15 2017  would have been Julia Child’s 105th birthday.

I invite you to join me in celebration at my annual In Honor of Julia Cooking Class, to be held this year on Sunday Aug 13, 2017 from 2-5 pm.  Like all of my classes this is a hands-on experience, but if you’d rather just sit back, watch, eat, drink and enjoy that’s fine too and I feel sure Julia would agree! In class we’ll prepare 5 of my favorite Julia recipes using all local ingredients that I will pick up from area farmers’ markets this Saturday.  Do come and join in on the fun – Look for details on the class itself and reservations links on the cooking class page of my blog. I’d love to have you join us!

julia child on setChild, who passed away in August of 2004 was our nation’s grande dame of cuisine and my personal  culinary hero. She got her  start at what would become  her lifelong career because she wasn’t afraid to take a chance and then happened to be in the right place at the right moment and made it work; but I don’t think even she had any idea of what her eventual  impact would be. She took her passion and ran with it, with wild abandon, to lead the charge to change the culinary world. She brought the style and technique of French cuisine to American home cooks first in a two volume culinary tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, VOLs. 1 and 2, which she co-authored; and then continued to influence the world via of number of her own television series. It all started with The French Chef produced by Boston PBS station WGBH in 1963 .

Ask any food writer, chef or culinary professional who has been writing and working since the 1960’s or ’70’s and they probably have a Julia Child story.

julia-child-in-kitchenMy Julia Child story started in the mid 1960’s when I was eight or nine. I loved to watch what was then the first television show of its kind, the new Julia’s PBS series, The French Chef.  I wasn’t so interested in cooking at first, as much as I was fascinated by Julia herself, her attitude and her panache; to say nothing of all of the little bowls into which each and every ingredient was placed, the mis en place, ready for Julia to whip into something wonderful. And I loved her flourish as she raised her glass and to toast us all goodbye and “Bon Appetit!”

 

Back then, the home I grew up in in Jacksonville, Florida was set up so that my brother Jaimie and I shared a large bathroom fitted with a lengthy vanity and large wall mirror situated low enough to the counter top that we could see ourselves without having to stand on a stool.

julias cookbooks

Heidi Billotto’s much loved and much used collection of Julia Child’s books & cookbooks

Inspired by Julia, I would often while away hours by taking a few pots and pans and every little bowl I could find with me into the bathroom, cover the sink with Mom’s well-worn wooden cutting board and would pretend to cook, with all of the Julia –like flourish I could muster, watching myself in the mirror just as I had watched my mentor on television.

Several years later my parents gave me my very own copy of The French Chef Cookbook and encouraged me to move from the bathroom to the actual kitchen, where I began to cook for real.

Fast forward to September 2001. I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina and was teaching cooking classes  and catering and working as a food writer and restaurant critic.  The 40th Anniversary edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia’s first cookbook, originally published in 1961 had just been released. In promotion for the new edition, Julia Child was available for interviews. I set up the interview and dialed the number the PR people had given me. Low and behold it was Julia’s home and I got her answering machine. In her own unmistakable warble, she explained that “no one was home right now, please leave a message…”  I left my name. Later that day, I came home to find a message on my machine.

“ Hiiiiiideeeee, Julia here…” My heart raced, I think I may have actually stopped breathing for a moment. She was headed out to dinner with friends but I could call her back in the morning. I don’t think I slept a wink that night.  I saved her message on the machine ( in a time before the world was digital, like most of the rest of the world I had a mini cassette tape voice recorder) for months until the tape  finally broke from repeated play.

300-JULIA-BRANDING-FINALI never met Child in person, but had the great good fortune to interview her over the phone on two occasions. Initially in that first conversation with this culinary icon, I stammered and stumbled over my questions, unable to think of much more than the fact that I was actually speaking on the phone with Julia Child. She was her delightful and unpretentious self and immediately put me at ease. After a while it was like chatting with an old friend. She even asked me for a recipe.

“I hear your fried chicken is really quite good down there,” she said. “Would you send me the recipe, if you have a good one?”

Julia Child asked me for a recipe – I was floating on cloud nine. I mailed a recipe off the next day and still have her number and address in my old paper bound address book.

A native Californian, Julia graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts in the 1930’s. At that time women were expected to graduate to become be a nurse or a secretary or a wife and a mother, but that was not for her.

“I just wanted to have a good time,” she said. And she did. In 1944, she found herself in working in Washington DC in the office of War Information. She was later upgraded to the Office of Strategic Services or OSS, the precursor to the CIA and was sent on assignment to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to gather intelligence during World War II. In Ceylon she met the man who would become her husband, Paul Child. Just after the war the Childs moved to Paris, France where he was a diplomat at the American Embassy.

If you have seen the movie Julie & Julia or much better still, read Julia’s book “My Life In France”, then you know the story; but I am so honored that I heard it first from Julia herself.

Julia told me that she had taken French all of her life, but when she got to France, she couldn’t say a word.

“At least not a word that anyone could understand,” she laughed. “My husband was practically bi-lingual; he was taken for French all the time, but somehow I could just never pull it off.”

Eventually she found herself looking for something to do and began taking a culinary class set up for housewives at Le Cordon Bleu. Her interest piqued and Julia talked the famous culinary school into admitted her to a training class for former GI’s offered as a part of the GI bill. After six months of classes she was hooked! “This was for me”, she said. Indeed.

Friends and fans have continuously celebrated and applauded her life and her career. All of her cookbooks remain in publication and several of her television shows are syndicated. Video clips are now available on itunes and YouTube and she even has her own Facebook Page!

Julia Child

While Julia refused to ever allow her name to be attached to a kind of cookware or kitchen utensil brand, in 2000-2001 she did allow her good friend Gary Ibsen, a grower of more than 400 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and founder of the annual Carmel TomatoFest in Carmel, California, to name a tomato for her. Her only request was: “That it be tasty.”

Ibsen complied and today one can purchase packets of seeds for The Julia Child Heirloom Tomato through Ibsen’s website, where you can also read a bit about Ibsen’s long time friendship with Julia and his memories of her.

 

Heidi and Julia

Heidi Billotto 2003 at The Julia Child Kitchen exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC

The kitchen Julia and Paul Child shared in their Cambridge. MA home, the same kitchen seen in her last three PBS television shows, was disassembled in November of 2001 when Julia moved back to California. Julia donated the kitchen to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in the hope that it would inspire home and professional cooks to ”make your kitchen a real family room and an important part of your lives.”

Literally millions of visitors a year, “tour” Julia’s kitchen. It has been rebuild exactly as it was and encased in clear glass walls so visitors can peep in where windows, doors and wall used to be and see it all in all its glory. Julia was a gadget person and as she told me, “sort of a knife freak.”  That is an understatement. Julia’s collection of kitchen gadgetry is amazing and it’s all there, including the knives lined up on magnetic strips and the pots and pans hanging on the pegboard wall. It’s a wonderful exhibit – a must-see for culinary enthusiasts of any age. If you don’t have time for a trip to the Smithsonian right now, you can take a virtual tour of Julia’s kitchen  and hear her thoughts on making the donation and having the kitchen open and available for everyone to see and visit.

Heidi Billotto 2008

 

Over and above that she has influenced many more of us than she would have ever know, including a little girl who pretended to cook in front of the bathroom mirror and now gets to do it for real.

We raise our glasses to you Julia, Happy Birthday and  Bon Appetit!

 

 

simply-email-heidi-to-make-your-reservationsWhile I don’t have an exact menu For my Annual “Celebration of Julia” Cooking Class just yet, I can promise we will recreate several of her classic master recipes to make a meal.  As the menu is based on local ingredients, I’ll wait until I hit Saturday markets to make final decisions, but rest assured, the fun will start with a bubbly toast in Julia’s honor and an appetizer upon arrival. Do plan to join us. Cost is $85 per person. Simply Email me to make your reservations– Cheers! Heidi

 

Home Grown Tomatoes

Tomato TimeFresh off the VinePlant ’em in the spring eat ’em in the summer, All winter without ’em’s a culinary bummer…                                 From “Home Grown Tomatoes” | John Denver

I don’t know about you but I have been like a kid in a candy shop with the flood on homegrown tomatoes now available in local markets. I long ago gave up on growing my own, deciding to leave the important work of seeding and sowing such seasonal pleasures to the professionals. Now I buy at every market from a host of farmers and you should too!

There is nothing quite like that first taste after a winter and spring without the real thing, but after a month or so it feels like you  just can’t eat them fast enough.

Truth is though, with one master recipe, you can use this season’s perfect fruit (or vegetable) to create a host of dishes to enjoy. And the best news is that these pan roasted tomatoes freeze well. So cook ’em down and pack ’em up and enjoy this, oh so special, taste of summer throughout the rest of the year as well.

This past week in particular has been a tomato-ey one for me. I’ve done a tomato time cooking class at Windcrest Certified Organic Farm in Monroe as a part of my On the Farm series of classes and then have been on television twice this week to help promote the first ever HomeGrown Tomato Festival to benefit 100Gardens.org in Charlotte.  I’ll be appearing as an official judge at the festival along with mixologist Stefan Huebner of the newly opened DotDotDot at Park Road Shopping Center and North Carolina’s own “Tomato Man”, Craig LeHoullier – Raleigh NC- based author of the award-winning book “Epic Tomatoes” and THE MAN who developed and named the famed Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato.  More about the festival at the end of this post along with the video segments that aired to promote it, but first -lets get on to the recipes of how best to eat ( and drink) up the sensational taste of summer tomatoes.

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Just a little reminder from my friends at Barbee Farms

First thing…How do you know when your tomatoes are ripe? You can’t always tell by the color because many heirloom varieties are not red – they are often green, yellow or striped. Look follow your nose, they should smell wonderfully tomato-ey and should be firm to the touch – although when you are shopping, don’t go around squeezing the tomatoes – farmers hate that and while we are on topic the same goes for peaches!

tomato tips

Now that you know how to choose and how to tell when your tomatoes are ripe, let’s start with a cocktail, shall we? Now I am not a bartender or mixologist by trade, but if you’ve got a good recipe and use great ingredients, making a refreshing summer cocktail is just like cooking a meal. You can do it, too, and here’s how…

Heidi's Summer SmashTomato watermelon cosmopolitanHeidi’s Summer Smash | Tomato and Watermelon Cosmopolitan

1 small local watermelon (check out the watermelons from Rowland’s Row Farm, available at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market and the Davidson Farmers’ market or the melons from Barbee Farms, available at the Davidson Market or at the Barbee Farms farm store in Concord)

1 ½ lbs. local red, pink or yellow heirloom tomatoes ( in truth the color doesn’t matter – its about the taste of the ‘mater; but for this cocktail, rosier hues help keep it in the pink!)

1 cup organic sugar

1 cup water

3/4 cup Your favorite Vodka ( lots of great choices distilled right here in North Carolina)

lime

1 local jalapeno, sliced and candied*

Cut the pulp of the watermelon from the rind; remove any seeds ( see my tomato seeding tip below) and puree the watermelon until it is smooth. Refrigerate or freeze the puree.

Cut smaller cherry tomatoes in half or seed larger tomatoes; then cut them into chunks. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat and add the tomatoes. Allowing the tomatoes to cook for 15 mins or so in the simply syrup made when the sugar melts into the water. Ad the tomatoes cook down, their flavor transfers to the syrup. Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool. The longer the tomato pieces sit in the syrup, the more tomato-ey goodness they will impart.

For two ( or maybe three) cocktails: combine 1 cup of watermelon puree with 1 cup of the candied tomato syrup ( use the candied pieces of tomato themselves for a garnish) Add the vodka and shake well. I like to do this in a large canning jar as I find it easier to shake than a cocktail mixer; but if your watermelon puree is frozen, you could also whip it up in a blender. Blend well; pour over ice. Add a squeeze of fresh lime.

Garnish with a candied tomato and a candied slice of jalapeno if you want to spice things up!  **To candy the jalapeno, make the same simple syrup mixture you did for the tomatoes, but this time add in fresh sliced jalapenos instead.

What Would Heidi Do-

pan roasted tomatoesNow that we all have a cocktail in hand, lets get down to cooking with all of this season’s wonderful tomato – you will find them everyone, just be sure you are buying local. In these photos you will see local tomatoes from Windcrest Farm in Monroe, New Town Farm in Waxhaw and Tega Hills Farm in Ft Mill ( all available at the Matthews’ Community Farmers’ Market), from Burton Farms ( available at the Cotswold Farmers’ Market and the Regional Market on Yorkmont Road) and from Rowland’s Row Family Farm ( available at the Matthews’ Community Farmers’ Market and the Davidson Farmers’ Market)

Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

 

3 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil ( available on Saturdays at the Cotswold Farmers Market and at all of my cooking classes)

1 small local yellow onion, diced ( optional)

2 cloves local garlic, optional ( optional)

OuterBanks SeaSalt & Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend (made from a blend of three peppercorns found at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend Charlotte)

3-4 Lbs. local tomatoes,  diced or quartered

Place 2-3 Tbsp. of Kores Estate olive oil in a large pot and saute diced onion and garlic with salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. If you don’t want to add the onions and garlic, then just start with the oil.

Add all of the tomatoes to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes until the tomatoes start to soften. Puree the onion-garlic-tomato mixture with an immersion blender or food processor and use as a spread on toast for a wonderful appetizer all on its own or proceed with any of the following recipes…

Just Like Disney Did It RatatouilleJust Like Disney Did It Country French Farmers’ Market Ratatouille

One pan of Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

Your choice of any of these veggies:

2-3 local Haikuri Turnips

1 local eggplant, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 zucchini, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 yellow squash, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, cored and very thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, cored and very thinly sliced

3 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate olive oil, or to taste

2 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence

¼ cup Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese ( available in cheese and gourmet shops all around Charlotte as well as on Saturday mornings at the Matthews’ Community Farmers’ Market and the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road)

Spread the pan roasted  tomatoes on the bottom of an oven to table casserole.

Arrange alternating slices of eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, and yellow bell pepper, starting at the outer edge of the dish and working concentrically towards the center. Overlap the slices a little to display the colors. ( Remember how the little chef did it in the movie Ratatouille? Layer your veggies, just like that!) Drizzle the vegetables with 3 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Dollop with the Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese or ricotta cheese.  Sprinkle with Herbs de province. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until veggies are roasted and tender and slightly browned. Top with the remaining pan roasted tomatoes just before serving.

Summer Tomato BisqueHeidi’s Summer Tomato Bisque

 

One pan of Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

2-3 firm, ripe tomatoes, diced

5 large Italian  basil leaves, cut in a chiffonade (roll the leaves up and then thinly slice them and viola! You have a chiffonade of basil!)

2 cups water

drizzle of Olive Crate Chile Pepper organic vinegar

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Start by heating the tomato puree you made in the Master recipe. Add the remaining diced tomatoes, basil leaves, and water. Simmer 10-12 minutes.

Remove from heat; spoon into bowls. Top each with a drizzle of the chile pepper balsamic vinegar. Serve with Greek yogurt and additional fresh basil on top.

Homemade KetchupHomemade Tomato Ketchup and Fries

For the Ketchup:

2 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate  Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ local red onion, minced

¼ cup minced local celery

One pan of Heidi’s Master Recipe for Pan-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup organic sugar

3/4 cup Olive Crate Honey vinegar

2 Tbsp. sea salt

Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend, to taste

Saute onions and celery in olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes, stir to mix.

Add remaining ingredients.  Cook on medium high heat, stirring constantly, uncovered, until mixture is reduced by half and very thick.

Smooth the texture of the ketchup using an immersion blender, about 20 seconds.

Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes

 For the Fries:

Peel and rinse 4-5 local potatoes.  Cut the potatoes into your desired shape.

Place them in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow them to soak, 2 to 3 hours.

Drain the potatoes and blot dry on several thicknesses of paper towels.

Heat a few inches of  organic canola oil in a heavy pot.  ( you can tell that the oil is hot enough by placing a dry wooden spoon in the oil as it heats. When little bubbles start to form around the spoon, then the oil is hot enough for frying)  Cook the potatoes in small batches for just 4-5 minutes – they will not be brown, but remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels.  Then refry them in hot oil until brown. Salt to taste and serve with your homemade ketchup!

More about the first ever Home Grown Tomato Festival to benefit 100Gardens.org in Charlotte.

Come on out and join in the fun at 1 pm on Saturday July 29, 2017 at Midwood Country Club in Charlotte. Purchase tokens for $5 each to buy delicious homegrown tomato sandwiches made with bread from Sunflower Bakery and Burton’s Farms heirloom tomatoes or tomato pies from Christine’s Konditorei; beverages from Eli’s Lemonade and more. You and your kids may also adopt and take home a dwarf tomato plant; listen to the bands, watch the mixologists compete for the best tomato cocktail and see, taste and vote for all the homegrown tomatoes vying for the best of show.

On the Charlotte Today segment I did this past Monday with Home Grown Tomato Festival creator and farmer Sam Fleming of 100Gardens.org in Charlotte and mixologist Stefan Heubner, Sam tells show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson more about his aquaponic operation and how he is teaching kids how to farm. I talked about all of the dishes I’ve showed you here and Stefan shares another great tomato cocktail recipe. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craving a Competition? I Got What You Need!

PrintAs many of you know I freelance in the culinary world, which means I have irons in many fires. I’m a food writer and blogger, I work with chefs and restaurants to fine tune and manage their social media,  I teach cooking classes, I share stories in print and on television about local products and take my readers on virtual food and drink-centric three day weekends.

In addition to all of that I am most pleased to be working with the team at the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association – NCRLA as the organizer/coordinator, writer of blog posts and host of the 2017 NC Chef Showdown event to be held in Raleigh on August 21, 2017!  I did the 2016 NC Chef Showdown as well, the inaugural year for this now annual event, but this year promise to be even bigger and better.

Sixteen chefs from across the state will compete for the titles of 2017 NCRLA Chef of the Year and 2017 NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year... and I’ll be there to bring it all to you bite by bite!
Just take a look at the stellar line up of chefs and restaurants who will be participating in this year’s evening of competition. They will be there preparing dish which represents them and their restaurant.  I am thrilled to be instrumental in helping them tell their story –  getting to know these chefs from across the state of North Carolina,  writing about them and their restaurants, inns and hotels and sharing with each of my readers, followers and fans what this talented group of North Carolina chefs does so well – can’t wait to see what fabulous sweets and savories they will  bring to the table!  

IMG_2670Just this morning I wrote a blog post similar to this one for the NC Chef Showdown Website & Blog announcing the list of chefs recently selected to participate in the 2017 NC Chef Showdown competition, and just in case you missed it -I wanted to share it here with you as well.

With nearly 40 talented applicants from across the state applying to compete, and only 16 spots to fill, the competition was fierce and the decision of the selection committee, a formidable one.

In all, 16 of North Carolina’s top culinarians will be competing on the evening of August 21, 2017.  The event will take place in Raleigh, North Carolina at 214 Martin Street and Market Hall Raleigh’s historic downtown City Market and the presenting sponsor is the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Cooking for a crowd of 300 plus, competing chefs will each have a station representing their restaurant or culinary outlet. Chefs will serve tasting-size portions to guests and plated tapas-sized portions to a panel of six culinary judges.

The presentation of the plates to the judges will be done live on stage in front of the crowd throughout the course of the evening. Chefs will have an opportunity to introduce themselves to the judges and the crowd and will share the concept of the dish they have each created for the evening.

This year’s event will see the following talented chefs on the savory side of the table competing for the title of the 2017 NCRLA Chef of the Year. If you just can’t wait to see what these talented chefs will be cooking in August, spend this summer visiting their restaurants and eat with them now! You can visit all of their websites here – be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou !

And competing with dishes to satisfy the collective sweet tooth of the 2017 NC Chef Showdown crowd will be the following four North Carolina Pastry chefs all going for the title of 2017 NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year.

All 16 chefs will be judged on the look and taste of the dish as well as the best use and number of local North Carolina ingredients including on each plate.

The judging panel of industry professionals will offer the top honors of 2017 NCRLA Chef of the Year and 2017 Pastry Chef of the Year, in addition to  awards for  competitors in both the sweet and savory categories for the “Best Use of a North Carolina Product” and the “Most Creative Presentation”

092836adcfb3f147e9ddba652c15f755New in 2017, the NCRLA will also crown a 2017 NCRLA Mixologist of the Year, as six NC distilleries will be featured with hand-picked bartenders slinging their spirits.  Look for the announcement of competing teams of distilleries and mixologists to come in the weeks ahead.

Attendees to the 2017 NC Chef Showdown will also get a say in the matter as each guest will get one vote in each category to determine the People’s Choice winners for Best Savory Dish, 2017 Best Pastry Dish and 2017 Best Cocktail.

The 2017 Chef Showdown will take place after the first day of the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Expo at the Raleigh Convention Center. Centrally located in the state’s capital city, this is an event that offers members of North Carolina’s hospitality industry two back to back days of meetings and seminars as well as a trade show.

static1.squarespaceTickets for  the 2017 NC Chef Showdown are priced at $125 per person. The event takes place on August 21, 2017 from 6-9 pm.

Your ticket price includes unlimited tasting sized portions from all 16 of these talented chefs, tasting sized cocktails from six North Carolina distilleries represented by six of the state’s talented mixologists, a chance to vote in the evening’s People’s Choice awards,  a selection of wine or beer, a gift bag to take home and an evening of fun, live music and more! Don’t wait, Get Your Tickets Now!

 

Those of you who have a business that caters to the hospitality industry may be interested in  playing a slightly bigger role in the 2017 NC Chef Showdown event. if you are interested in being a sponsor at any number of levels, please contact Mindy Wharton at the NCRLA  with any questions or to work out all the details: 919.277.8585 or mwharton@ncrla.org.

Questions about becoming a member of the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, visit the NCRLA website here.

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

To keep up with all the details of the 2017 NC Chef Showdown and to learn more about each of the competing chefs and their restaurants – go to the NCChefShowdown website and follow that blog just as you do this one.