Three Cheers – Cheerwine Celebrates 100 Years!

Cheerwine Social Media Profile logoThree Cheers my friends! A early May trip to the Rowan County Museum in Salisbury provided my inspiration for this post written in celebration of the 100th anniversary, or the #Cheertennial, as they like to say, of Cheerwine. The legendary soft drink “born in the Carolinas and raised in a glass.”

There will most certainly be #CheerInTheAir as thousands of Cheerwine fans across the country, many members of the official fan club – the Cheerwine Authentic Soda Society –  celebrate this unique cherry flavored soft drink that has been pleasing the public’s palate since its inception in 1917.

I was invited by the marketing folks at Cheerwine to take a little trip down memory lane with them and then to tell the story of this delicious native North Carolina beverage.  I am pleased to partner with the company on this post and in the promotion of the big day of celebration for the centennial,  scheduled  in downtown Salisbury for May 20, 2017.

The Cheerwine Bottling Company,  was conceived by general store owner  L.D. Peeler of Salisbury, NC. in 1917. After a long search for something new in soda offerings, he invented the formula for Cheerwine.  What was then a new and unique soft drink with the sweet cherry taste, is still the delicious Cheerwine beverage we know and love today,

IMG_1413The very building in which Cheerwine was invented still stands in Salisbury at 322 East Council Street. While it is no longer a general store, the murals on the side of the building tell the story of its heritage.  The company’s headquarters are a mile or two away, but still proudly in their hometown at 1413 Jake Alexander Blvd. S., Salisbury, NC 28146.

“While much has changed around Cheerwine over the last hundred years, the taste and authenticity of Cheerwine itself will never change,” promises Cliff Ritchie, Cheerwine’s president. Ritchie is the great-grandson of the soft drink’s founder, L.D. Peeler. His children, Joy Harper and Carl Ritchie, are the family’s fifth generation and currently work for the Salisbury-based company which continues to be family owned.

soda shop setThe company and its many fans have been celebrating this major milestone since the first of the year, when the Rowan County Museum, located at 202 N Main St, Salisbury, NC 28144, turned over more than half of the exhibit space to display a wonderful and impressive collection – much of it on loan from private collectors –  of  Cheerwine memorabilia, advertising, bottles, cans and packaging.

heidi in booth

In the largest exhibit room the museum has set up an old fashioned soda shop – for display only – with counter stools from the original Salisbury Woolworths and a 1950’s circa original vinyl covered booth as well. Its a step back in time through the 10 decades of Cheerwine’s long lived popularity. So much to look at, so much many will remember – from billboards to old newspaper advertisements. This food writer just had  to slide into the historic booth for a quick photo op, to stop for a sip and take a moment to take it all in.

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One of the original glass bottles with the paper Cheerwine label still intact, is on display at the Rowan County Museum in Salisbury, NC, now till the end of the year.

As was the case with the inception of many of the early soft drinks, Peeler was looking for a way to improve the taste of seltzer water. 100 years ago was still a time before glass soda bottles – which would crack under the pressure of the effervescent and decades before the concept of canned sodas or plastic bottles.

The seltzer water was a chemical concoction and until production of the bubbled water was fine tuned it took the expertise of someone with a scientific background to get the mix just right. And so it was that most early soft drinks, often called tonics or elixirs, were thought to give a healthy boost and were prepared and mixed for on-site consumption by pharmacists.

By the early 1920s the first bottled soda’s came around and I was impressed to see one of the original glass bottles complete with the paper label in the Cheerwine exhibit.  The first vending machines came in the 1950’s and gave the consumer the convenience of buying a single Cheerwine on location.  Prior to that Cheerwine was delivered to stores, first by horse and buggy and then by delivery trucks.

The Secret about the Cheerwine Syrup

As the mix was perfected, and the seltzer water became available on tap, soft drink service moved from pharmacies to soda shops where “soda jerks” blended the sweet Cherry flavored syrup with just the right amount of seltzer water.

Cheerwine, and other soft drinks of the day, was not only served by the glass over ice, but the syrup was served on ice cream sundaes and in ice cream floats.  Each of these soda shops specials was hand crafted by a Soda Jerk.  These were the craft mixologist of their day. The moniker was coined and became popular in the vernacular, as a result of the  jerking action it took to pull down the tap to pour the seltzer in the glass.  syrup boxEven though soft drinks like Cheerwine had been sold to consumers in bottles as the industry developed since the 1920s;  these popular soda shops  and then the drive -ins with “car hops” that followed, continued to mix their own, blending soft drink syrups and seltzer together to order.

The syrup came to soda shops and restaurants in boxes shaped much like an oversized paper milk carton. The cartons were labeled “For Fountain Use” but somehow over the years, Cheerwine syrup has found its way into our kitchens where  chefs and home cooks alike, opted to think outside the syrup box, and have loved blending this wonderfully sweet elixir into hundreds of different recipes.

Interestingly, the syrup is not thick and honestly not overly sweet. It definitely tastes of cherries; and while I am not privy to any trade secrets to give away, for me the “deliciously different” taste of Cheerwine, tastes more than just of cherries, there is also a unidentifiable, rooty, rich component – almost as if there is a bit of sassafras in the mix. Whatever the proprietary blend is, a breakdown doesn’t really matter – I love it, both as a beverage and as an ingredient.

the sweet secret - Cheerwine syrup

A glass, bottle or can of Cheerwine,  starts with the sweet syrup pictured front and center here.

The secret I am privy to share is that Cheerwine syrup is  readily available to consumers at an incredible price. It is yours for the asking, ready for you to purchase to use in your own craft cocktails, cakes, ice cream concoctions, candies, and in marinades, barbecue sauces and glazes for beef, pork, chicken, duck, shrimp and other seafoods as well.

While the syrup is not sold in stores, Cheerwine’s sweet secret syrup is available at the Cheerwine corporate headquarters in Salisbury anytime during regular business hours and will also be available for sale in one of the Cheerwine booth’s at the May 20 celebration for just $3 a bottle!!

1eb6dc_dfd76f41f9cc48e0b9d98f5866007a5a-mv2If you find yourself in need of some inspiration before you start to cook  try a jar of another of my favorite Got To Be NC/Goodness Grows in North Carolina products: Cackalacky/Cheerwine Sweet Sauce. The original, and oh so fabulous, Cackalacky sauce is made from North Carolina sweet potatoes. When Cackalacky fans asked for a slightly sweeter version of this delicious slightly spicy sauce, the sauciers at Cackalacky who make the magic happen, reached out to their friends at Cheerwine. The result:  a sweet ‘n savory dip / grilling sauce / marinade  that you’ll want to mop on everything from shrimp on the barbie to that burger on a bun.

Join in the Cheerwine Centennial Celebration

100YearsofCheer_LogoNo cheer-pressure here, but if you’d like to raise your glass in cheer and join in  the May 20 Centennial Celebration in Cheerwine’s home of Salisbury, NC,  you won’t be alone, so my advice is to start early.  You may drive from Charlotte or make the day even more fun and take the train!!

To simplify travel to and from Cheerwine’s Centennial Celebration, the brand has partnered with Amtrak to offer a discounted transportation alternative. Trains will run from Charlotte and Raleigh to Salisbury, with stops at all stations in between. The Amtrak Salisbury Station is just steps away from the action, and Cheerwine will be served to riders while supplies last! To receive a special 15 percent discount on your pilgrimage, Cheerwine fans may book your tickets here 

The City of Salisbury will be closing off two blocks of Main Street to any vehicular traffic all day on May 20, 2017. There will be stands with free Cheerwine with commemorative Koozies,  free biscuits and bbq and a host of live music for everyone to enjoy from noon to 8 pm. In addition, look for Limited Edition Cheerwine merchandise available for purchase and  a People’s Choice BBQ Competition from noon-2 p.m. Here a half dozen or so teams will compete. Celebration attendees can sample BBQ from each team at no cost and then vote for their favorites. After the competition plates of BBQ will also be available for sale.

Come hungry, in addition to the BBQ and plenty of Cheerwine to drink, the May 20 celebration includes food from many of Cheerwine’s partners and friends. Here is what you’ll find in store: Krispy Kreme will be serving fresh made doughnuts from their new “Hot Now Mobile Store”;  Bojangles and Biscuitville will be serving free biscuits; and Select Bakery  will be serving Cheerwine cake. Fatz Café will be on hand with more good eats,  you can sample that famous Cackalacky sauce I told you about earlier; and King of Pops will offer a specially made Cheerwine-flavored popsicle, on my!

For adults there will be a Biergarten with NC craft beer, featuring pours from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte,  and New Sarum Brewing Company & Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery, both located in Salisbury, NC.

Antique carFor kids, look for the Family-Friendly Kids’ Zone, with magicians, jugglers, rock climbing wall, obstacle course, slides, bounce house, lawn games and more.

Remember the Cheerwine exhibit at the Rowan Museum I told you about? There will be free tours of museum’s multi-room exhibit celebrating Cheerwine’s 100 years. And while you are looking around at it all, keep an eye out for the historic 1927 Cheerwine Ford delivery truck – it will be making appearances during the day and will be the perfect back drop for fun #Cheertennial photos with family and friends!

Cheerwine’s $100 Centennial Can Promotion

But that’s not all – the festivities don’t end after the May 20th weekend. There is reason – actually 500 reasons –  to keep celebrating Cheerwine through the end of the year. As you purchase cans of Cheerwine this year, keep your eyes out for the $100 Centennial Can promotion. There are 500 of the specially labeled  cans to be distributed throughout the Cheerwine inventory this year. Find one, peel off the winning label on the back of the can and win $100!

cheerwine cansHere is how it works. Throughout 2017, the beloved soft drink will continue rolling out new editions in its centennial can series with each of the Cheerwine labels used over the course of the past ten decades. Cheerwine fans are invited to collect all seven cans in the series, shown here, before the end of the year. My Cheerwine sources report that there are still plenty cans out there yet to be redeemed so there is still the chance to win! Check out the complete contest details here

PrintLater this year, I will be doing another article about Cheerwine and its importance as a local North Carolina product. I will be including some recipes in that post and invite you to join in the fun. Send me your family’s favorite Cheerwine recipe. it doesn’t have to be original but if its not, be sure to credit the source; or if its an original recipe tell me a bit about the history.

My friends at Cheerwine will send coupons to everyone who submits a recipe and I’ll print three of the top recipes submitted.

Send me your recipe with your photo and contact info – Name, Street Address ( so we can send you your coupons) and email, plus a few words about why you love the recipe  – Heidi Billotto – at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com. Then, stay tuned and look for that second post to come out later this fall.

Meanwhile plan to attend the Cheerwine Centennial Celebration in Salisbury Sat May 20, noon to 8 pm and have a blast! Here’s to another 100 years of cheer!

Want to know more?

Where to buy: Cheerwine is available in supermarkets, restaurants, mass merchandisers and convenience stores in select states nationwide, across the state of North Carolina and on the company’s website at cheerwine.com.

Social Speak: Follow Cheerwine on Facebook at facebook.com/cheerwine; or on Twitter and Instagram @drinkcheerwine.

Hashtags: Always look for the #TellThemHeidiSendYou and #IllHaveWhatHeidisHaving Hashtags for all of my food, drink and restaurant recommendations.

When you post your photos from the Cheerwine Centennial Celebration on your social media, be sure to tag me and Cheerwine too, and use any of the fun Cheerwine  hashtags  #CheerInTheAir, #Cheertennial , #Cheerwine100 ,  #Cheerwine  & #Cheers

16298545_10154919280799085_6495336173437586267_nWant to taste or buy more after or before the May 20 celebration? Innes Street Drug Store (112 S Main St, Salisbury, NC 28144) has Cheerwine merchandise for sale and makes delicious Cheerwine floats and fudge.

In addition to the yearlong Cheerwine exhibits open all of 2017, the Rowan Museum in downtown Salisbury also has Cheerwine shirts for sale. For more information and museum hours, click here.

 

For more information on Cackalacky/Cheerwine Sweet Sauce, visit the Cackalacky Website here.

#TellThemHeidiSentYouTo enjoy more from HeidiBillottoFood.com, subscribe to this blog by following the prompts in the upper right hand side bar of this page.

More posts about culinary events, cooking classes, and restaurants you don’t want to miss coming soon.

And remember, #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

 

 

Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week: Delicious Tastes to Sip & Savor

Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week Runs Now till April 30, 2017

I always love it when Charlotte chefs and restaurants pull together to put on a food event.  Throughout the year there are many such collaborative events, wine dinners and themed promotions, and I have loved them all. But for me, some of the best events stretch out over a week or two, giving the dining out public the chance to explore, taste and experience at several different venues.

WineandTapasWeek-just-charlotteThe all new, first ever, Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week is just such an event, and it runs NOW through April 30. This eight day long event ( it all started Friday April 21) is about little plates, sharing and tasting – a great way to dine out with friends; and you still have lots of time to participate!  The more than 30 of Charlotte restaurants  are taking part with special menus offered for the eight evening stretch of this Springtime extravaganza.  CWTW founder Phong Luong, owner of Zen Asian Fusion in Dilworth  came up with the clever concept.

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Heidi Billotto with Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week Creator Phong Luong of Zen Asian Fusion on East Blvd.

I caught up with Phong at the Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week kick off event, held in The Bottle Shop in the lobby of the Center City Marriott, just outside Stoke Restaurant.  He explained the reasoning behind the dedicated week –   “Everyone loves tasting new flavors in food & wine and its always fun to share! Little plates are a great way to try just a taste.”  The concept is  a clever approach and an easy, reasonably priced way to get new and repeat customers in to try out a restaurant where they have never eaten,  or perhaps haven’t eaten at for some time..

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Chefs Rodrigo Velazco, Evoke; Chef Chris Coleman, Stoke; Chef Ryan Daugherty, Dogwood Southern Table all cooked at the Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week Kickoff

This CWTW affords customers a change to mix and match and taste a variety of tapas and wines.  Chef Ryan Daugherty from Dogwood Southern Table and chef Rodrigo Velazco from Evoke restaurant were at the CWTW Kick off and joined Stoke’s Chef Chris Coleman to share tastes of the tapas and wine they will be serving at their own restaurants so that kick off attendees could see how the concept would work.

While a few of the participating restaurants have planned seasonal menus just for the promotion, many are featuring tapas or small plates regularly featured as appetizers, sides or salads on their current Spring menus.

IMG_1142For the stretch of Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week, each participating establishment is offering a pre-selected menu of wine and tapas. $30 or $35 dollars ( depending on the restaurant) buys you two glasses of wine and  two tapas offerings. The really cool part is that you can order a CWFW package for yourself, or you can share one order with friends. It makes for a wonderful game of mix and match which helps to  make this culinary adventure even more fun.  Enjoy your Wine & Tapas offering as a start to a meal, or as an opportunity to just  meet for a drink and a quick  bite. You don’t need to specify when you make your reservations that you’d like to order the Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week plates; not everyone in your party has to participate, and you can change it up and order off the restaurants regular menu as well – but only the specific Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week menu items qualify for the special $30-$35 pricing.

IMG_1096The week before the kick off my husband Tom Billotto and I were invited to come by several of the participating restaurants for a taste of what would be on their menus. And then I tasted more at the kick off event. There are lots of big flavors on these little plates and the wine pairings are nothing to scoff at – as always, Charlotte restaurants and chefs are putting their best plates out there for you to enjoy – take advantage, sip and savor your way through the remaining days of April,  hitting as many of the participating restaurants as you can – you’re going to love it!

The list of participating chefs/restaurants is up  on the Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week website as are the detailed menus and wine lists at each venue; and if you would like, there are reservation links here as well.  Check them all out, and eat at as many as you can,  but first  take a look at this quick preview from a trio of the participating restaurants we tried and then make your plans. 

 

LUCA MODERN ITALIAN KITCHEN

For those of you who don’t know, Jessica and Luca Annunziata, Proprietress and Chef, formerly of Passion 8 restaurant here in Charlotte decided just after the first of the year to change Passion 8’s name and concept. The new Luca Modern Italian Kitchen  was born and is still located on Elizabeth Ave. in Charlotte.

IMG_1055The menu and wine list is now decidedly authentic Italian cuisine. You simply cannot wait another minute to go in and check it out. Lots of nightly specials like Tuesday’s Bottomless Bowl of mussels for just $18 and Wednesdays all you can eat pasta night for $30.  You can certainly sit anywhere you’d like in this beautiful restaurant, but truth be told, when it is just the two of us, we love sitting up at the bar. They mix many a creative craft cocktail at Luca Modern Italian Kitchen and will come up with any kind of spirited elixir your would like to try.  While wine comes with the Charlotte Wine & Tapas package, you might just have to start your evening at Luca with a cocktail first.  

Like many of the participating CWTW restaurants, Chef Luca is  featuring some of the regular items from their all Italian menu and all of the wines on the are all spectacular Italian pours. This is the food Chef  Luca was born to cook, literally – its the food he grew up eating and each and every bite of the four dishes we tried – plus the soup and the dessert we decided to add on  was nothing short of spectacular. 

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Pasta e Fagiole at Luca Modern Italian Kitchen. 

We started, as I suggested with cocktails and with a little bite before our tapas  & wine pairings because we simply love Luca’s Pasta e Fagiole, a thick and delicious bean soup with fresh homemade noodles and enjoyed a side of the restaurant’s homemade foccacia on the side.  

Then we made an evening of it and each ordered  the two tapas and two wine package. It was more than enough to make a meal and there was more than enough to share..

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Baked Eggs in Tomato Broth at Luca ModerItalian Kitchen

Among our little plates this evening,  this iron skillet of baked eggs in a savory tomato broth, Parmesan and grilled bread,  or as they say in Italian, Zuppetta di uovo pomodoro    con Parmigiano e pane alla griglia.

We simply had to order pasta, as it is all made in house, so the Gnocchi alla Sorrentina – a hot casserole full of fresh made gnocchi was the perfect next plate.  These soft fluffy little pillows of pasta came baked with a sauce from San Marzano tomatoes topped with mozzarella – ahhhh!

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Tender Grilled Octopus at Luca Modern Italian Kitchen

While the gnocchi was divine and we could have simply ordered more and been quite happy, I decided to beef it up a bit with Luca’s  Polpettine di Bisonte  – these bison meat balls are served with local Urban Gourmet Farms mushrooms and a creamy Parmesan fondue – perfect with the 2015 Scarletto Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo pairing Jessica Annunziata had suggested.  Tom ordered and very much enjoyed  Luca’s tender Polpo alla Griglia (grilled octopus), a favorite on many local restaurant menus this time of year, but served here with a warm potato salad, celery, olives and a bright lemon emulsion,  few do it better than chef Luca and the team at Luca Modern Italian Kitchen.

We ended our meal at Luca with a two servings of Gelato  – a blood orange for Tom  and a coffee for me. Luca and Jessica bring in this perfectly Italian gelato from a company in Greensboro. The name is Gnam, Gnam Gelato and believe me it is nom, nom.  For More info …

EVOKE RESTAURANT AT LE MERIDIEN HOTEL

IMG_0951With a new chef on the team and some major menu development in progress look for big things to be happening at Evoke Restaurant in the Le Meridien Hotel on McDowell Street in  Uptown. Chefs Rodrigo Velazco in the kitchen at Evoke and Chef Oscar La Fuente, the hotel’s executive chef, certainly have plans to take things up a notch, so the Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week affords them the opportunity to stretch their culinary wings a bit and offer some really cool special plates. We had a delicious evening, tasting our way through several plates of tapas. As this is the restaurant at Le Meridien Hotel, Evoke regularly serves breakfast lunch and dinner and the bar is open during those hours.

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A Trio of Trios Marinated Stuffed Olive Plate at Evoke at Le Meridien Hotel 

We tasted several Wine & Tapas pairings at Evoke – The first a clever trio of olives presented three ways – Olives stuffed with Marcona almonds, Dolce Gorgonzola and Fig jam are skewered and dressed in three different combos of oil and vinegar – my fave was the 20 yer old white balsamic with Pumpkin seed oil, but you will love the mix of tasting them all.  Use Evoke’s signature foccacia also on the plate for dipping up the remaining oil after the olives are gone!

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Taste of Spring Grilled Vegetable Platter at Evoke Restaurant at Le Meridien Hotel

The “Taste of Spring”  vegetable plate combines seasonal grilled, sauteed, pickled and raw veggies and was another seasonal winner and a delightful alternative to a simple salad.

At the CWTW kick off, I also tasted Chef Rodrigo’s Middle Ground Farms’ Rabbit Scarpinocc ( a stuffed pasta much like half moon ravioli) served with Sherry jus and manchego; and his delicious fresh Cobia Crudo, a tartar of sorts dressed with aji  rocoto ( a small Peruvian chile) and corn nuts. Sad to say, my photos didn’t come out well, but don’t let that stop you from ordering – both selections are  on Evoke’s  Tapas week menu and worthy of your consideration!

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Corn Soup from Evoke Restaurant in Le Meridien Hotel

As we did at all of these stops, we complimented our taste of the CWTW menu at Evoke with a few extra bites from the restaurant’s  seasonal menu. Chef Rodrigo offered us a sample sized portion of his delicious corn soup served in a tiny saucepan;  and we ended with a a wonderful not too sweet finish from Evoke’s talented pastry chef. On the plate Green Matcha tea mousse with raspberry cream inside, a raspberry puree, and black sesame tuille. Its enough for two of you to share, but you’ll want to order on all your own!

For More Info…  

 

 

THE ASBURY AT THE DUNHILL HOTEL

If its been a while since you have been to The Asbury restaurant in the Dunhill Hotel, its time to get back Uptown and prepare to be wowed. Chef Matthew Krenz’s spring menu has got it going on. If you like what you taste from the Spring menu ( and you will) you’ll want to come back for more. Be sure and check out the detail and make reservations for the one or more of the upcoming  collaborative chef dinners   held monthly from now till the end of they year – Chef Matthew teams with another chef from around the city or across the state and they plan a whole chefs tasting menu dinner around a certain theme –  these dinners are a blast and you’ll want to be sure and make reservations. the next one takes place on May 25 with Chef Greg Collier of The Yolk!

But I digress… all of the Asbury’s Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week offerings are also featured on the Spring menu and you won’t want to miss a single one.  Start your evening  with two of The Asbury’s signature items: the deviled eggs, prepared a different way every evening and the savory sticky buns – yum!!

IMG_1110Each of The Asbury’s  tapas plates is its own little ode to Spring. Take for example the peas bathed in uni butter alongside a pea emulsion with mint and cilantro topped with toasted coconut and springtime blossoms. This is peas like you have never had them before, but this is how you are always going to want then from here on out! See what you’ve started, Chef Krenz!?

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Fried Oysters at The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel

The fried oysters, dusted with cornmeal and cleverly plated in the shell with onion jam, Cajun-spiced aioli and baby cress are another winner – there are four on the plate – just delicious and beautifully presented.

Heartier Tapas from Chef Matthew include the melt-in-your-mouth Pan-fried Lamb Sweetbreads, that come to the table almost looking like a salad of sorts – the sweetbreads are dressed with  local mustard green and with the made-in-house carrot BBQ sauce the slightly spicy greens are the perfect  foil to the rich taste and texture of the sweetbreads.

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Fermented Chili-glazed Pork belly at The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel

It is not often that I order pork belly. Those of  you who know me know that I am just waaay over the “everythings-better-with-bacon”, but never say never as there is always the exception to the rule. The Asbury’s tapas of Fermented Chili-Glazed Pork Belly is it. Its tender, and moist and served the way pork belly was meant to be, atop a cornbread puree, braised greens with local turnips and radish

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Pea and ricotta tortellini at The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel

Finally ( well sort of) I’d like to recommend the pea and ricotta tortellini as a tapas plate to consider. It’s scrumptious! Stuffed with local Uno Alla Volta ricotta and peas, topped with asparagus & crispy ham,  the thin melt-in-your-mouth pasta is bathed in a white wine butter sauce – oh my!

IMG_1132When the tapas and wine pairings were done, we found ourselves totally satisfied, but its always nice to end on a sweet note and Chef Matthew did more that oblige the craving.

Spring in Charlotte means strawberries and in total tribute Chef Matthew has created a spectacular take on a Southern fave – strawberry shortcake. Here macerated local strawberries and blueberries are bedded atop a fresh baked biscuit and then topped with an incredible strawberry mousse with  lightly whipped cream. Nuff Said!   For More Info….

#TellThemHeidiSentYouIf you’d like to try a taste and sip and savor your way through these and other area restaurants participating in the Charlotte Wine & Tapas Weekend, its easy and you still have till the end of the evening on April 30. Visit the CWTW website and scroll down through the entire list of logos so you won’t miss a single on of the 30 + excellent options. Click on the individual restaurant logo. This will take you to the restaurant’s page on the site (I’ve already provide those for the restaurants I highlighted here.) Here you will read a bit more about the restaurant , see the Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week menu and can even use the link provided to make reservations if you would like.

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Post your photos on social media and be sure to tag me in the posts on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter – I will be happy to share. Enjoy! Have fun! Now go forth to Sip and Savor your way through the Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week line up…Cheers!

 

 

 

Heidi Billotto Live: from The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market

PrintWe interrupt the regularly scheduled series of blog posts to bring you a brand new series of social media videos – all LIVE from local area farmers’ markets.

I generally hit 2-3 area markets on any given Saturday morning. Its my Saturday morning thing to do. It’s not just about what I need to pick up for that week’s cooking classes, catering jobs or what Tom and I will eat during the week; for me a farmers’ market trip is about seeing what’s growing, visiting with all the farmers and being there to support what they do. The fact that I can buy all the local produce, proteins and product that I need and know where it all came from and what went into the food that I eat and serve to others is a bonus. Someone commented on the Facebook feed that they were amazed that I knew everyone’s name.

That’s what shopping local is all about: Knowing your local farmers and producers; Shaking the hands that feed you and resting assure that the food you eat was grown and nurtured with love and care, not pesticides and hormones.

This new video series started as a way for me to help the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market promote their opening day last week. I was going to write a blog post about the new additions to the market and the list of new vendors, but alas as it was all new I didn’t have any of these photos to include in the post.

So instead, I decided to hit the market early on their opening day April 15, 2017 and film my very first Facebook Live video. I had a blast! I have always loved spreading the word of all our local farmers bring to the table and this was a fun way to do it in real time. It appears that lots of Facebook friends and fans loved it too. To date that first FBLive video has enjoyed over 1.6K views! I am over the moon!

And you will be, too, when you go to shop at the Matthews Community Farmers market this Saturday and any or every Saturday hereafter, Spring and Summer hours are now officially in effect.

The market, located at 188 N Trade Street right in the heart of downtown, Matthews, is open every Saturday from 8 till noon. Matthews is a “growers only” market and  each of the farms represented by the farmers themselves are located within 50 miles of downtown Matthews.

Currently the Matthews Market is hosting a strawberry fundraiser with fresh delicious berries from Cody Strawberry Farms and new to the market this year is the addition of a food truck or two. Both of these trucks are preparing breakfast items using the local product you’ll find available at the market each week. Last weekend I enjoyed a killer Farmhouse Croissant from Carolina Smash Truck. The savory breakfast sandwich was prepared with Maitake Mushrooms, green onion, egg, and white cheddar – just what I needed to go with that delicious cup of Good Cup Cappuccino I was enjoying after I posted my video.

You can check out all the names of all the participating vendors, and sign up for the Matthews’ Market’s email newsletter by visiting their website 

Each week the market features a different chef presenting a 9 am cooking demo; and a different local musician  there to provide a little music to enjoy as you shop from and visit with each of the market vendors.

Last weekend, Chef Luca Annunziata wowed the crowds with a taste of his traditional Italian cuisine now featured on the menu at his restaurant Luca Modern Italian Kitchen ( formally called Passion 8). This Saturday, April 22 at 9 am chef Adam Reed from Sante Restaurant in Matthews will be cooking  up a storm for the market crowds to  sample and enjoy after they watch his entertaining demo.

And there is so much more, from compost to King of Pops, local honey, chicken, eggs, pork, beef, fresh from the Carolina Coast seafood,  fresh flowers, plants for you to grow and produce for you to cook and eat; From Water Buffalo cheese to locally made cottage cheese and ricotta; From Beeswax candles to Breads, pastries, frozen casseroles and pizzas made from local ingredients, baskets, pottery… whew! Just take a look at the video here and check it all out for yourself… then stay tuned.

Coming up  in a day or so, a post I filmed yesterday Wed April 19  which  features my  Facebook Live Video with market vendor details from the brand new Wednesday afternoon Selwyn Avenue Market in the parking lot of the Mouzon United Methodist Church from 3-7 on Wednesday afternoons.

This Saturday, April 22, I am teaching one of my On the Farm cooking classes at New Town Farms, but before hand I  will be at the Waxhaw Farmers’ Market at 208 N Church St, Waxhaw, NC 28173, open from 9 till noon,  to bring you a FBLIve video of everything from the market there. You can join me on my HeidiBillottoCooks Facebook page to watch the video live – probably around 9:30 -10 or so ( I’ll post a social media heads up about 5 minutes ahead of time), or you can catch it later on my personal Heidi Billotto Facebook page. Or if you are not on Facebook you can view it here in the next farmers’ market blog post.

My plan is to film from a local market once or twice a week  over the course of the next several months – so get ready for your close ups Atherton Farmers’ Market, Mecklenburg County Market, Noda Farmers’ Market, Davidson Farmers’ Market and more! If you know of a market selling local product that I am leaving out or one I might not be aware of – please post a comment here,  let me know and I’ll add it to my list.

My purpose is instead of just offering a list of local markets, you can really have the opportunity to see for yourself, virtually meet the farmers and producers and then make plans to go and shop local so you can eat local, too!

And don’t forget, what ever farmers’ market you shop at this weekend, be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou

First Taste of Spring at The SavorNC Cooking Stage

4452defe-d5bd-4fc1-9cc8-2289ed2d4211Tomorrow Friday Feb 23, 2017 marks the first day of all the food flavor and fun at the SavorNC Cooking Stage at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show at the Park Expo in Charlotte NC. The show runs for 6 full days – this weekend of Feb 23-26 and then again the weekend of March 3-5. Attendance at the SavorNc Cooking Stage is free with your ticket to the show and we will be located right by the show entrance, so you can’t miss us!

 

savorncI happily play the part of host of the cooking stage and have invited over 40 restaurant chefs, private chefs, caterers, farmers and other food-centric folk to be on stage with me cooking with tons of local produce, proteins and products.  The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has come on as the title sponsor of the stage, so we are the SavorNC Cooking Stage and each day we have a different local day sponsor involved in all the action.

agriculture%20(stacked)

The cooking demos each day start at 10:30 am and run every hour on the half hour. Chefs will be cooking, sharing technique, tips about buying local and handing out complimentary samples at each and every demonstration.

At the end of each demo, we’ll ask a couple of fun trivia questions pertaining to what each chef said, and where ingredients might have come from and the winners will get great prizes which will include gift  bags of swag from the NC Department of Agriculture, gift certificates from the participating restaurants and special samples and or coupons from our day sponsors.

Recipes from each day of demos and a photo recap of the day will be posted on these blog pages each evening of the show, so stay tuned for the word on lots of local eats and how to make them in your kitchen over the next ten days. Consider these two weekends a first taste of Spring with all the wonderful local ingredients this, my favorite season of the year, brings.

Here is the line up of chefs for each day  and a little bit about our GotToBeNC Day Sponsors for this first weekend of the 2017 Southern Spring Show… Look for a similar article next week on the line up of all the action for the March 3-5 weekend or check here for a link to the complete list of participating chefs

img_7229Goodnight Brothers Country Ham from Boone North Carolina kicks off our list of day sponsors this year on Friday February 24, 2017. Throughout the day chefs will be hamming it up with Goodnight’s all natural line of thin sliced dry cured ham (I like to call it North Carolina’s answer to  Italian prosciutto) as well as Goodnight’s classic Country Ham. Goodnight Brothers has sent me two HUGE boxes of  sample sized packages of ham to hand out to the crowd and at 12:30 I will be on stage with Bill Goodnight of Goodnight Brothers, cooking with both varieties of this locally cured ham and talking about the history of this family owned company and how they do what they do.  if you have ever eaten a ham biscuit at Bojangles, then you know how wonderful Goodnight Brothers Ham really is – take this opportunity to come to the Spring Show on Friday, to try, taste and learn more about it.

Cooking onstage with me Friday February 24, 2017 –

10:30 am
Springtime Favorites

Chef Blake Hartwick, Bonterra Dining & Wine Room

11:30 am
WCCB Everyday Eats Hamming It Up

Chef Troy Gagliardo
WCCB Charlotte

12:30 pm
Cooking with Goodnight Brothers Country Ham
Cooking Stage Host Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto and Bill Goodnight from Goodnight Brothers Country Ham

1:30 pm
The Sweet & Savory Sides of Eating Local
Chef Paul Verica and Chef Ashley Boyd, Heritage Food Drink, Waxhaw NC

2:30 pm
It’s Cookin’ at The Cowfish

Chef David Lucarelli, The Cowfish Sushi & Burger Bar

3:30 pm
Charcuterie and Cooking with Beer 

Chef Terra Ciotta and Chef Philip Lloyd, The Art Institute

4:30 pm
Dinner from the Springtime Garden

Chef Michael Rayfield, U.S. National Whitewater Center

5:30 pm
Gluten Free Vegan and Vegetarian

Chef Beverly McLaughlin, Beverly’s Gourmet Foods

img_7234On Saturday February 25, 2017 Parla Pasta from High Point North Carolina is our day sponsor and you won’t believe all the delicious Pastabilities we’ll have on hand. Simone Drake from Parla’s parent company Drake’s Pasta will be with us all day and is bringing a wonderful pasta salad for show goers to snack on between demos as well as plenty of coupons to hand out, so everyone can go and buy their favorite variety of Parla Pasta from their grocer’s freezer case after begin inspired by the culinary action onstage. Again, chefs will be cooking with the different varieties of Parla Pasta throughout the day and at 12:30 Simone and I will take the stage together to cook and talk pasta. Parla Pasta is available at grocery stores across Charlotte – find it in the freezer section at your favorite locations of Harris Teeter, The Fresh Market, Publix, Ingles, and Lowes Foods.

And here is who will be cooking onstage with me for Saturday February 25, 2017:

10:30 am
Little Plates, Big Flavor with Stoke Restaurant’s infamous Pork Ragu

Chef Chris Coleman, Stoke at the Marriott

11:30 am
Sweet Springtime Dreams

Chef Ashley Boyd and Chef Miranda Brown, 300 East

12:30 pm
Ah, The Parla Pastabilities

Cooking Stage Host Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto with SImone Drake of Parla Post

1:30 pm
It’s Got to Be NC!

Clark Barlow, Heirloom Restaurant

2:30 pm
Kale Yeah!

Heidi Billotto cooks with the Greens that Grow at Tega Hill Farms

3:30 pm
Entertaining on the Fly: From Zero to Party in under and Hour
Susan Murray Innkeeper and Cookbook Author, Carolina B&B, Asheville

4:30 pm
Pasta and Prosciutto with Springtime Style
Chef George DiPaolo from the Community Culinary School of Charlotte

5:30 pm
Risotto From the Springtime Garden
Chef Geoff Bragg from the Community Culinary School of Charlotte

cloister-honeyOn Sunday February 26, 2017, our friends Randall York and Joanne di la Rionda from Cloister Honey are in the house with their entire line of sweet and savory locally raised honey. Cloister Honey will be available to sample and purchase throughout the day right at the cooking stage. Many chefs will be incorporating the line of Cloister Honey into their recipes and  in the 12:30 time slot this day, I’ll be cooking with Cloister and Randall and Joanne will join me onstage to talk about raising bees, how they came to build a hobby into a company and we might even get  Joanne to share her secrets ( well some of them) on how she develops her delicious honey blends and flavor infused varieties. Cloister will be giving away samples as a part of each prize package during each of the chefs demos throughout the day  – its going to be a sweet way to wind up this first weekend of fun and local flavor on the SavorNC Cooking Stage at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show.

On the SavorNC Cooking Stage Sunday, February 26, 2017:  

10:30 am
Sunday Brunch Fresh from the Farm

Chef Kevin Woods cooks with  Two Moons Family Farms

11:30 am
The Art of Japanese Cuisine From Yama, Yama Izakaya and Baku Restaurants

Chef and Sake Specialist Birdie Yang

12:30 pm
Catch the Buzz – Cooking with Cloister Honey

Cooking Stage Host Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto with Cloister’s Randall York and Joanna de la Rionda

1:30 pm
Jamie’s Favorite Top Chef Recipes

Chef Jamie Lynch of 5 Church and Top Chef Charleston contestant

2:30 pm
Donuts: Not Just for Breakfast
Courtney Buckley, Your Mom’s Donuts

3:30 pm
Wine Pairings with Local Favorites 
Josh Villapando, Assorted Table Wine Shop

So Many great local GotToBeNc products to feature on the Savor NC Cooking Stage this first weekend of the show, and so many chefs to help create the show. I’m proud to say we have a truly great line up of award winning and nationally recognized chefs here in Charlotte and our surrounding areas and  I am thrilled to promote them on the SavorNC Cooking Stage this weekend and next.

charlotte-living-winter-2017-coverIn addition to recipes and samples and all the fun you’ll have at the Savor NC Cooking Stage, remember to also pick up a copy of the new issue of Charlotte Living Magazine. That beautiful dish on the cover was prepared by Chef Thomas Marlow of Mimosa Grill in Uptown Charlotte.

As many of you know, In addition to this blog, I also am the food editor at Charlotte Living and this first issue of the year is our annual food issue. So excited to see my “100 + Restaurants Worth Your While Restaurant Guide” finally done and printed up in living color. A TEN-PAGE spread of great places to eat in Charlotte and a word or two about many chefs who make this such a wonderful food-centric city. Pick up a copy of the magazine at the SavorNC Cooking Stage and enjoy the guide, articles on Mimosa Grill in Uptown Charlotte and Highland Avenue Restaurant in Hickory as well as a piece on local Moorseville woodworker Jeffrey Mathews of Old World Moulding Company who creates incredible cutting boards for chefs around the world; and  a section on 6 ways to open a package, box, bottle or jar to Eat Local and more. Can’t wait – you can check out the Restaurant Guide and some of these other articles online at CharlotteLiving.com

 

 

 

Cooking Classes with Heidi Billotto

img_7806April Showers bring May Flowers and several new “At Home with Heidi” and “On the Farm” Cooking Classes  – make your reservations today! 

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 – email me and lets plan your own private class with work associates or with friends or family.

simply-email-heidi-to-make-your-reservations

Registration links are at the end of each class descriptive.  Make your reservations by simply sending me an email. Payment confirms your reservation and you may pay by cash, check or credit card. As soon as I gets your email, I’ll be right back in touch to confirm your payment and to give you the  address and details for each class.

Looking forward to seeing you at one (or more) of these “At Home with Heidi”  or “On The Farm” Cooking Classes soon…

on-the-farm

Sunday April 9, 2-6 pm – On the Farm Cooking Class at Windcrest Farm in Monroe, NC SOLD OUT Lots of local in the guise of great greens, herbs. lettuces, radishes, garlic, microgreens and more planted and  growing in the certified organic greenhouses and grounds at Windcrest Farm in Monroe, NC  and we’re planning an “On The Farm” class to celebrate the first of Spring harvest.  This fun and informative class will kick off with a 45 minute or so farm tour  as we explore the  lay of the land with farmer Mary Roberts and her hubby Ray; then we’ll head into one of the greenhouses or, if weather allows, under a tent at the garden shed to set up a makeshift kitchen to cook with all of Windcrest’s fine local certified organic produce. We’ll have an appetizer and aperitif to start as we head out on our tour and then come back to create 4 fabulous courses of all local fare… But Wait, there’s more….Joining us at class is Ann Jacks from Grassfed Productions, Rootdown Foods, Charlotte’s source for local, grass-fed, cultured butter and ghee; grass-fed beef jerky; gluten-free crackers; grass-fed bone broth; and other grass-fed treats. AND, our favorite Wine guru, Josh Villapando from Assorted Table Wine Shoppe will be on hand to provide a Springtime Wine Pairing with each course.  Its going to be fabulous!  Cost is $85 per person.  For reservations, Email Heidi here 

on-the-farmOn The Farm Cooking Class at New Town Farm – Saturday April 22, 1-5pm –SOLD OUT I taught my very first “On the Farm” class at New Town Farms years ago and love going back each year to enjoy a class at this  family farm in Waxhaw, North Carolina each year. New Town Farms was established in 1990 by Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg.  These unique On the Farm classes kick off with a walking farm tour led Sammy who will talk about his farming philosophy and share what goes into growing the produce and raising the proteins sustainably produced at New Town Farms. We’ll meet the chickens and the laying hens, visit with the pigs and then all wind up in the kitchen making a four course meal from all that New Town has in season. Wine parings with each course compliments of Josh Villapando at the Assorted Table Wine Shoppe at 7th Street market in Uptown Charlotte.  These classes are truly an incredible experience – don’t miss it. Cost $85 per person. For Reservations Email Heidi Here

on-the-farm

On The Farm Cooking Class at Tega Hill Farms -Saturday June 3, 6-9 pm Another wonderful On the Farm Class, this time in the hydroponic greenhouses at Tega Hill Farm in Ft. Mill. Our guides and hosts for the evening are Mindy and Mark Robinson. They’ll teach us all about growing greens, lettuces. microgreens and more in water. By the beginning of June peas and tomatoes may be getting their start as well.  As in all of my On the Farm classes, The Robinson’s will share their views on sustainable farmer and the pluses of greenhouse growing. We’ll set up a kitchen area among the veggies and cook with everything they have in season to create a 4 course dinner for the evening. Wine pairings from Assorted Table Wine Shop of course. Come and join in on the fun! Cost $85 per person. For Reservations Email Heidi Here

on-the-farmOn the Farm Cooking Class at Proffitt Family Cattle Company – Saturday June 24, 4-8pm – So excited to be back working with my friend Shelly Eagan at Proffitt Family Cattle Company for another wonderful On the Ranch farm tour, class and dinner. Proffitt is located in Kings Mountain and is a certified organic grass fed cattle ranch. Come join us to meet the herd and the dogs and the chickens, tour the ranch and find out what exactly goes into raising the kind of beef you need to be eating. Class participants will also be able to purchase beef after class if you would like. Josh Villapando will. of course. be on hand with wine pairings – it’s going to be spectacular. Cost is $85 per person.  For reservations email Heidi Here and then check out the blog post I wrote about Proffitt earlier this year – the post included some tasty NC Beef recipes I know you’re gonna love!

And. last but not least, here are All the Details and the Fine Print on my regular series of cooking classes, both At Home with Heidi and On the Farm….

Living the Loving Local Mantra: In my classes and catering I cook for clients as if I were cooking for my family. It is important to me to use the healthiest, freshest product so I shop Local and cook with produce, proteins and products sourced primarily from local farms and vendors, using certified organic or product that is grown by organic standards when I can’t find what is needed from a local source.

Wine Not?  I partner with my friend Josh Villapando of the Assorted Table Wine Shop at 7th Street Station to provide wine ( and sometimes beer) pairings at each class (with the exception of the cocktail and appetizer class), so you’ll not only leave with some great recipes, but you’ll know what beverages to pair with them as well.

The Take Away: Everyone participates in the preparation of each dish and each class participant leaves with a packet of recipes, wine notes and coupons and other fun party favors.

Class size is limited: Your advance reservations via email gets you on the class list and advance payment confirms your space in class. Once I hear from you with a reservation I will contact you with specifics on how to pay. I will send out directions and any other details you might need, several days prior to  the class date.

Cancellation Policy: I try hard not to cancel events; but reality is. There is a three person minimum for my At Home With Heidi Classes and if weather is a problem we try hard to reschedule. If you need to cancel  more than 7 days prior to class I am happy to provide a full refund of your advance payment. If you cancel 6 days or less before the class date I know you will understand that I will have already started making plans and purchases and am glad to offer you a refund of half of your original payment.

I Heart You! Happy Valentine’s Day!

blog headerIts a little heart-shaped kiss of everyone’s favorite seasonal sweet… and its on my  list of “Things That Make You Go Mmmmmm…

Whether you are planning on saying “Be Mine” or “See Ya” to your sweetie this Valentine’s Day, there’s no easier way to put your thoughts together than through a few Conversation Hearts.

These heart-felt talkative treats are enjoyed by millions of Americans each year. In fact, Americans have been enjoying the candy we now call Conversation Hearts since the 1800s.

wafers-boxMade by several companies, the leading manufacturer of Conversation Hearts is the NECCO/Sweethearts brand. Its  my favorite brand of any heart shaped candy and  shares a history with another longtime favorite of mine,  the much loved NECCO Wafers. Daniel Chase created the idea for the first conversation hearts in 1866 by devising a machine that would press food dye letters onto the candy lozenges made famous by his brother and NECCO founder Oliver Chase. The Conversation Hearts we know and love today came to be in the early 1900s. hearts 2Today NECCO manufactures 8 billion Sweethearts year ’round to meet consumer demand.

From mid-February to January NECCO produces about 100,000 pounds of the iconic candy hearts each day, which adds up to billions of candy hearts—more than enough for everyone in the world to have one, so buy several packs and be sure to share the love .

Through the years, the sayings on Conversation Hearts have been an edible reflection on how our culture has changed, but it is good to know that some of the original sayings are still in rotation, including “Be Mine,” “Be Good,” “Be True,” “Kiss Me.”

In honor of NECCO’s 150th anniversary in 1997, the original phrase “The One I Love” also reappeared in the mix. In the early 1990’s, NECCO’s then Vice President Walter Marshall began an initiative to update the sayings each year, retiring some while adding others. The first new phrase, in years was “Fax Me” which met with a bit of controversy from diehard Conversation Heart fans; but now you can find hearts that suggest a would be lover “email me”, “text me” and “tweet me”, too!ChocolateSweethearts

And they come in Chocolate and  are Gluten Free…Gotta Heart That!

While all Conversation Hearts have been certified Kosher and  gluten free from the beginning, the flavors have made changes with the times.  It all started with the original eight familiar flavors customers found in the company’s Necco wafers: orange, lemon, lime, clove, chocolate, cinnamon, licorice and wintergreen. Now there are just six different flavors of hearts in box.

dazzledsweetheartsWhile the classic flavors are mixed and boxed together, the Necco company also produces  separate boxes of chocolate Conversation Hearts,  and they are, like the rolls of chocolate NECCO wafers, this food writer’s personal favorite…just sayin’

But if you’d like something different, instead of enjoying the classics, you can also now buy sugar-free Sweethearts and for those of you who really like to pucker up, enjoy the Dazzled Tart Sweethearts this season in Pink Lemonade, Wild Berry Grape, Sour Apple, Watermelon, Extreme Tangerine and Blue Raspberry

Here’s how it rolls…

To make this sweet candy confection,  six simple ingredients -sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, gum, colorings and flavoring –  are blended together into a mixing machine, one color and flavor at a time, until they turn into a soft dough.  The dough is fed into a machine that presses the dough until it is flat, a process called sheeting. The sheeted dough moves on to the cut and stamp station where  the sayings are applied on the dough and  a large machine cuts the dough into 100s of little  hearts. Next, the sheets of cut hearts go into a drying tunnel for about 30 – 45 minutes. The finished hearts are lightly dusted with cornstarch and moved to a drying area where they cool and harden during a twelve hour resting period. Once the hearts have cooled and dried, the starch is dusted off and flavors are mixed together to provide the assortment we find in each box or bag. Each year NECCO reports that they receive hundreds of saying suggestions from romantics, candy lovers and school kids, alike. 

Think you have a good conversation heart phrase to add to the collection?  Sweethearts NECCO is happy to accept suggestions for sayings from their consumers. Each saying can be no longer than two lines of four letters on the small hearts and two lines of six letters on the large motto hearts. You can either e-mail your suggestion to the company via their website at Necco.com,  or mail it to Sweethearts, NECCO, 135 American Legion Highway, Revere, MA 02151.

#TellThemHeidiSentYouWhy not surprise your sweetheart  or your best friend this Valentine’s Day with a box of conversation hearts and reservations at any one of my upcoming At Home with Heidi  cooking classes. The list is on the home page of my blog at HeidiBillottoFood.com – just shoot me an email  to make your reservation and I’ll be back in touch to confirm the delicious details.

Heidi Billotto’s 2017 Cooking Classes Start February 1

Heidi and Julia

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

In the words of my great culinary hero, Julia Child, from her book My Life In France, ”

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook. Try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”

So, I too, encourage you all to Be Fearless and get set for all the Fun as you prepare  slice, dice, simmer and saute at any one of the  first few months of the exciting 2017 season of hands-on classes cooking classes At Home with Heidi.
The links to my direct email to make your reservations are at the end of each class descriptive.  Make your reservations by simply sending me an email with the name of the class you want to attend and your phone number. I will contact you as to how you would like to pay. Payment confirms your reservation and you may pay by cash, check or credit card.
Living the Loving Local Mantra: In my classes and catering I cook for clients as if I were cooking for my family. It is important to me to use the healthiest, freshest product so I shop Local and cook with produce, proteins and products sourced primarily from local farms and vendors, using certified organic or product that is grown by organic standards when I can’t find what is needed from a local source.
heidi head shot 1 -Wine Not?  I partner with my friend Josh Villapando of the Assorted Table Wine Shop at 7th Street Station to provide wine ( and sometimes beer) pairings at each class, so you’ll not only leave with some great recipes, but you’ll know what beverages to pair with them as well.
The Take Away: Everyone participates in the preparation of each dish and each class participant leaves with a packet of recipes, wine notes and coupons and other fun party favors.
Class size is limited: Your advance reservations via email gets you on the class list and advance payment confirms your space in class. Once I hear from you with a reservation I will contact you with specifics on how to pay. I will send out directions and any other details you might need, several days prior to  the class date.
Cancellation Policy: I try hard not to cancel events; but reality is. There is a three person minimum for my At Home With Heidi Classes and if weather is a problem we try hard to reschedule. If you need to cancel  more than 7 days prior to class I am happy to provide a full refund of your advance payment. If you cancel 6 days or less before the class date I know you will understand that I will have already started making plans and purchases and am glad to offer you a refund of half of your original payment.
cooking clip artThat’s all the detes, now on to the descriptives.  Stay tuned for info on Cooking Classes for Kids and be sure to Save the Date for the Southern Spring & Garden Show’s Savor NC Cooking Stage taking place Feb 24-26 and March 3-5, more info to come in another blog post soon.

Looking forward to seeing you at one of my At Home with Heidi Cooking Classes soon…Here we go….

Wed. Evening Feb 1, 6:30-9pm – Asian-Inspired Appetizers Coming off the heals of the Jan 28 Lunar New Year and heading into SuperBowl weekend,  why not plan to serve your favorite armchair quarterback a spread of Asian-inspired appetizers and small plates. Make-your-own eclectic eggrolls and steamed dumplings with a duo of dipping sauces,  sweet and spicy sesame honey-ginger wings, moo shu pork with pan fried pancakes & mushroom & micro green stuffed steamed buns kick off this evening’s starting line up.  Cost $75 per person. For reservations email Heidi here.
heidi with Julia Child tomatoesSat. Afternoon Feb 4 – 2-5 pm – Fresh from our local Winter Farmers’ MarketsHard to plan an On the Farm class this time of year, but who says you can’t shop local in the Winter months? Our local farms produce all year round and this day I’ll shop 3 or 4 favorite markets in the morning – Matthews, Waxhaw, Atherton and Yorkmont and come back to cook with you that afternoon with recipes using chicken, pork, beef and lots of local vegetables as well, making a great seasonal meal with all of our fabulous farmers’ market finds. Cost $75 per person. For reservations email Heidi here.
Wed. Morning Feb. 8, 10 am -1 pm – You Won’t Miss the Meat – A Daytime class featuring  some of my favorite vegetarian recipes and  YES, These recipes are all Gluten Free, too!! (We will be using nuts and eggs in this class, but I am glad to show you how to make substitutions) On the menu: Debbie’s Delicious Veggie Burger or MeatlessBall hoagie with mushroom sauce, Chana (Chickpea) Masala, Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli Brown Rice Ramen Noodle Salad, and scrumptious Pistachio Blondies! Cost is $70 per person. For reservations email Heidi here.
Sat. Evening Feb. 11 – 6-9pm – That’s Amore!  This Valentine-inspired class is full of fun and flavor! The premise of this  Food & Wine of Italy cooking class is an Italian dinner for two with traditional Italian recipes that feature ingredients legend and long-time lore consider to be aphrodisiacs. Come and enjoy the fun as a couple, a single or with friends, as you would like. We’ll cook a four course meal, share Italian wine pairings and celebrate this season of hearts and flowers. Cost is $75 per person. For reservations email Heidi here.
Thurs. Evening Feb 16 – 6:30-9pm – Cooking with Local Mushrooms – We are so lucky in Charlotte to have locally harvested mushrooms available at local markets each week. Urban Gourmet Mushrooms, available at the Atherton and Matthews Community Farmers’ Markets offers a variety of mushrooms that we’ll use to cook up a marvelous meal from appetizer to…wait for it…yes, dessert! Just you wait and see!  Cost is $75 per person. For reservations email Heidi here.
heidi-teaching-at-proffittSun. Afternoon Feb 19 – 2-5 pm – Tapas and Wine of Spain – The small plates of Spain, known as Tapas are a fun way to enjoy a dinner with an accent on the Spanish side of things… look for seafood, sausage, saffron, tomatoes, capers and orange flavors to all play a big role as we prepare 6 little plates. Each a different recipe, but all with the same Spanish flair. Ole! Cost is $75 per person. For reservations email Heidi here.
Thurs. Morning Mar 9 – 10am – 1 pm  French Country Cooking   featuring a lovely dinner or luncheon menu perfect for family and friends – French green lentil salad with homemade vinaigrette, Pan d’Epices ( a gingerbread like toasted bread from Burgundy France), oven baked, grilled chicken Dijonniase, roasted potato salad Provencal and a lovely sweet mocha macaroon tart for dessert. Cost is $70 per person. For reservations email Heidi here.
Sun. Afternoon Mar. 12 – 2-5pm – Try A Little Thai – In every Thai dish experience the flavors of sweet, hot, spicy and sour. In this class we’ll make some of the most popular Thai dishes from soups to seafood, a curry, a noodle dish  and sticky rice and coconut cream with mango for a sweet finish. Cost is $75 per person. For reservations email Heidi here.
Wed. Evening Mar 15 – 6:30-9 pm – Pot Pies – Over and above the classic chicken pot pie, these pastry-covered one-dish meals are perfect for the family or when ever you want to entertain a crowd. Menu includes Classic chicken pot pie, Phyllo wrapped Greek Spinach Pie, a roasted root vegetable spin on Shepard’s Pie and for dessert – why Southern fried pies, of course!  Cost is $75 per person.

For reservations email Heidi here.

cooking class for Samantha Foreman - March 2011 010Tues. Evening Mar 21 – 6:30-9 pm – Food and Wine from the Land of Down Under – To start the Spring season, a class full of traditional Aussie favorites. Each dish will be paired with one of a line up of great wines from either Australia or New Zealand.  Combined, the menu makes a fun dinner for four and will include: Balmain Bugs ( read that as lobster and shrimp) in Pawpaw (that’s Aussie for papaya) and Mango sauce, Macadamia nut crusted  lamb and roasted leeks, Damper – the traditional bread of Australia, and a cream and fruit filled meringue – Kiwi Pavlova – for dessert. Why we might even throw in some Lamingtons – (chocolate and coconut laced bar cookies) for everyone to enjoy and take home. Cost is $75 per person. For reservations email Heidi here.
Sat Afternoon Mar 18 – 2-5 pm  – Bread Baking 101Nothing quite like the smell of bread baking in the kitchen and nothing more fun than cutting into a warm loaf and serving up slices slathered with butter or cheese, oh my! This class covers all the basics for baking yeast breads and rolls with recipes for a  three-cheese loaf,  an egg-based challah, a sweet swirled poppy seed loaf and a class Baguette recipe that doubles as a delicious pizza crust as well.   Cost is $70 per person. For reservations email Heidi here.

video graphicAnd now a cooking video bonus and a special offer from the Olive Crate in Waxhaw!

My  blog post last week featured North Carolina Beef-centric recipes with the spotlight for me on Proffitt Cattle Company in Kings Mountain and their delicious and good-for-you-too certified organic grass fed beef. In the post itself are links to several other blog post by North Carolina bloggers featuring additional beef recipes and the stories of North Carolina Cattle ranches. be sure to check them all out!
I was fortunate to have a cooking segment booked on WBTV’s Morning Break  the morning the beef article posted and used the air time to share my recipe for the Beef Pot Roast recipe I shared in the post. This was originally my mother’s recipe for Brisket, but I amped it up a bit, added some North Carolina flavor ( ie: tomato chutney instead of chili sauce and the wonderful addition of cocoa nibs) and viola!
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ICYMI ( That’s abbreviated speak for In Case You Missed It) here is the link to the video, and if you’ve an interest in the wonderful Kores Estate Bottled Extra Virgin Greek Olive Oil I used to start the recipe, you can order it directly from the Olive Crate Website. Check out their Certified Organic Greek vinegars as well – Use the code HeidiB20 when you place your order and you’ll enjoy a 20% discount on your purchase. Cheers!  

Proffitt Cattle Company: GotToBeNC Organic Grass Fed Beef

Agriculture is by far the largest industry in the state of North Carolina. And when I say agriculture, I’m not just talking produce, but proteins as well. I am pleased to have been asked by the NC Department of Agriculture to write this  post  in conjunction with a team of food bloggers from across the state, each writing about a different North Carolina cattle ranch with the purpose of promote the awareness and availability of all types of North Carolina raised and locally sold beef.. After you’ve read my post and recipes that follow, look for more great  beef recipes and info about several other North Carolina  cattle ranches, by clicking on the  links to all of the other participating blogs are at the end of this post.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has in part sponsored this post; but the opinions, recipes and choice of  local cattle ranch to feature in the post are my own.

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There was a time when it was all but unheard  of for a consumer to think about buying any sort of meat at a farmers market, but happily those times have changed. At nearly every regional and local farmers’ market large and small, consumers can find pasture raised poultry, pork and grass-fed beef.

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Proffitt’s Shelley Eagan with the herd

I first met family rancher Shelley Eagan of Proffitt Cattle Company at the Charlotte Regional  Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road. She was at a table all by her lonesome with a big white cooler, representing her family farm in Kings Mountain and selling what she thought to be some of the best beef available in the area. Turns out lots of other people, including this food writer, agreed and as one thing led to another and it wasn’t before long that I started featuring the Proffitt certified organic grass fed beef in my cooking classes. Wasn’t long before other people started to discover the fine quality and wonderful taste of the Proffitt beef as well. Shelley went from one cooler, to five or six and a line waiting for her early each Saturday morning.

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Heidi Billotto in action, teaching one of her “On the Farm” series of cooking classes at Proffitt Cattle Company

The ranch sold certified organic beef at the regional market and at their farm store for several years, but today all of the Proffitt’s beef is sold exclusively in Charlotte to Whole Foods  and is available in the meat case at the chains’ SouthPark location.

A whole cow’s worth of fresh primal cuts of beef are delivered to the stores on Friday mornings and the butchers at Whole Foods, cut product as is needed. Trimmings and a nice mix of healthy fat to lean hit the grinder  very four hours to insure the very best quality of ground beef. Needless to say, The Proffitt Cattle Company beef continues to enjoy immense popularity in and around the Charlotte area – the quality and the taste, just can’t be beat.

As the years have passed more and more people who care about what they eat and what they are feeding their families, have turned to buying grass fed beef, as they do chicken, pork, rabbit and lamb from local farmers and ranchers – for the very same reason people buy locally raised produce. Its good to know the person who stands behind the food we eat and even better to know where your food came from and how it was raised. As a consumer, I try to buy as much local product as I can, not only is it the healthier choice, I consider supporting a local farmers to be the better choice for our local economy as well.

You are what you eat

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Grazing on the high grass and loving every delicious bite!

Grass Fed beef is better for all of us – people and cattle alike. To eat grass without additional supplements or additives is just the natural course of things for the herd. But it is important to point out that the terms “grass fed” and certified “organic” are not synonymous.

For me, the certified organic label on the Proffitt Cattle Company beef is the icing on the cake. Not just because, like all grass fed beef it is lean and contains a high percentage of  fats that are good for us such as those much sought after Omega 3’s; and not just because grass fed beef is also a source for tons of beneficial antioxidant vitamins and minerals.  That it is certified organic means that the herd at Proffitt Cattle Company was raised without any antibiotics or growth hormones. Everything used on the ranch is organic, GMO free and totally untreated.

Shelley explains it, “Our animals don’t get sick, so there is no need for any sort of preventative antibiotics. Cows get sick when they are stressed.  One way they get stressed is by being confined.  Our animals are never confined and they rarely get sick.  If one should become ill we remove them from the herd and treat them to keep them healthy. If that means they must receive antibiotics, we do so and they are no longer a part of our program.  They are never ever fed antibiotics like  commercial feedlot cows.”

The Grass is always Greener 

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Baling Hay at Proffitt Cattle Company

So you’ think that cattle ranching was all about cattle, but turns out it isn’t just about raising cattle, its also about growing grass. If you were to decided to go into ranching as was the case with Shelley’s dad Steve Proffitt back in the year 2000. You might think about the cattle, about horses and about how much land you would need. But you probably wouldn’t have realized that a big part of your time each season would go into  growing grass and making hay. Its a big part of the job and this year, for ranchers across the state, it has been a job that has been more difficult than ever. With devastating flooding in Eastern North Carolina and drought conditions for the fourth quarter in Mid and Western North Carolina, raising grass fed beef has had its challenges.

At Proffitt  the herd of 200 or so head of cattle is raised on a rotation at four different certified organic properties  – 2 pastures in King’s Mountain, one in Shelby and one just over the state line in Blacksburg, SC. Not only is the herd moved from pasture to pasture as they grow; but as the cattle mature, the pastures are divided into sections so the grass fed herd, only grazes one section at a time. As they eat, they also naturally fertilize that part of the pasture so that new grass will grow. When the herd has munched the current pasture down to the ground, they are gently moved onto the next section – like an never ending salad bar. Then as the grass grows, they circle back to graze the first section again. Generally when weather is good, it all goes pretty smoothly and  the farm looks to the fall and spring grass growing seasons to make hay for the winter months.

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Brian Eagan unrolling a bale of hay

Hay is just the pasture grass that is cut then allowed allowed to dry.  The certified organic grass  grows tall and then is cut.  Timing is critical here. If the hay is on the ground for too long, it will begin to loose its nutrients, something a grass fed cattle rancher can’t afford to have happen. At Proffitt they have the flexibility to set aside a couple of pastures  in the fall solely dedicated to hay production. When the hay is dried to just the right state, the family comes in with big balers to roll the hay into huge round bales which are reserved for feeding the herd through January and February when the grass naturally doesn’t grow as fast. The happy herd at Proffitt Cattle Company is 100% grass fed so the winter hay is an important park of the organic diet plan. This  year, due to the drought, the Proffitts will have to purchase certified organic hay to supplement what they were able to make on their own. Hopefully sunny skies and moderate rain this winter and early spring will put Mother Nature’s normal grass growing cycle back on track.

Let’s Get Cooking

Once you try the beef at Proffitt Cattle Company, I dare say you will have a tough time going back. Over the years, I have prepared lots of cuts from Proffitt’s London Broil to meatballs, from short ribs to chili. Today I share three of my favorite recipes featuring Proffitt Cattle Company certified organic beef. As the beef is organic it is important to me that the other ingredients in the recipe are too – so shop for locally raised or organic vegetables, herbs and canned product as you prepare to cook – after all your finished dish is only as good as the ingredients that go into it..

Which brings me to olive oil.  Often beef recipes call for a roast or steak to be seared. As grassfed beef is lower in fat, recipes often call for the addition of an oil or other animal fat. I have recently discovered what I consider to be one of the best olive oils on the market and I wanted to share it with you here. It is important to note that the Olive Crate in Charlotte is also a sponsor of this post, but this is a brand I believe in and use regularly, so I am happy to welcome them has a partner in this post.

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Kores Estate Bottled Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Olive Crate

This unblended single variety estate grown extra virgin Greek olive oil  is locally distributed by the Kostouris  family in Waxhaw, NC.  Their company is  Olive Crate and this wonderful organic  late harvest extra virgin, eco-sustainable Kores Olive oil comes from Greek Manaki olives grown by their family in Greece. The oil as well as a selection of vinegars can be found at the Saturday morning Waxhaw Farmers’ Market and the Atherton Farmers’ market in Charlotte as well as at the charming little farm store at Grace Roots Farm on Providence Road, less than a mile from the Waxhaw market location. The flavor of this Greek oil is superb – do check them out – just #TellThemHeidiSentYou

I used the Kores olive oil in each of the recipes below. Here is a great little tip to add flavor to any recipe where you brown beef, particularly before a braise. Instead of using butter, bacon fat or canola oil to sear your beef or saute the veggies; use the Kores oil along with several sprigs of fresh rosemary at the start of the dish. Gently warm the oil and the rosemary together and you’ll be adding a ton of flavor and keeping it  healthy with all the fabulous polyphenols  only a current harvest estate olive oil can offer.

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

Want to try this wonderful Kores estate bottled extra virgin olive oil for yourself? Make your first purchase online using the code HEIDIB20 at the Olive Crate website and you will save 20%!

GotToBeNC Proffitt Family Farms Grass Fed  Organic Beef Pot Roast

img_81241 ( 2-3 lb) GotToBeNC Proffitt Family Farms grass-fed, organic chuck roast

Coarse grain sea salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend to taste – a ground mix of black lampong, pink reunion and  black malabar peppercorns ( available at the Savory Spice Shop)

2 Tbsp. Kores Estate Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Olive Crate in Waxhaw

2 springs fresh rosemary

3 organic onions, peeled and thin sliced

2 stalks organic celery with the leaves, chopped

1 (10-ounce) can organic whole or diced tomatoes

½ cup tomato chutney or chili sauce

2 cups full bodied red wine

¼ cup Cocoa Nibs ( My secret ingredient here – available in Charlotte at the Savory Spice Shop or the new Vin Master Wine Shop ( formally Queen City Pantry)

2-3 bay leaf

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2-3 organic yellow potatoes, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sprinkle the sea salt and Heidi’s hot pepper blend to taste over the Proffitt Family Farms Chuck Roast. Heat the Olive Crate’s Kores Estate Greek extra virgin olive oil with 1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary over low heat in the bottom of an oven to table casserole. There is no need to brown the roast first, but for added flavor,  add the sliced onions and celery in the warm Kores olive oil and toss until well coated..

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the seasoned roast over the onions and celery. Top roast with the tomatoes, red wine, tomato chutney or chili sauce, cocoa nibs, celery, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary and parsley.

Cover and bake in the oven for about 3 hours, basting often with the pan juices; and turning the roast over in the pan of juices and vegetables about half way during the cooking time.

Add the potatoes ( and carrots if your would like) and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, or until the potatoes are cooked.

Remove the roast from the pan of veggies and pan juices. Slice the meat against the grain ( that is the muscle line of the roast) and cut into slices. Place the slices back into the casserole dish, basting with the pan juices and keep warm until ready to serve.

img_8128Braised Proffitt Cattle Company Short Ribs

2-3 Tbsp. Kores Estate Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Olive Crate in Waxhaw

3 lbs. boneless or bone in Proffitt Cattle Company Short Ribs

Sea Salt & Heidi’s Hot Pepper blend to taste

Flour

2 organic onion, minced

2-3 whole organic carrot, minced

1-2 Parsnips. Minced

2-3 stalks of organic celery, minced

3 cloves Garlic, crushed

2 cans whole organic tomatoes, crushed

2 Tbsp. Savory Spice Shop Tomato Powder or organic Tomato Paste

8 oz Dark Beer or Red wine

2-3 cups Beef Stock

3-4 sprigs mixed oregano, thyme and bay leaf

Heat the Kores estate olive oil in a deep cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

Season the short ribs with the salt & pepper and dust with the flour.   Sear the ribs on all sides in the heated oil, then remove them from the pan.

In the same pan, saute the onion, carrot, parsnips, celery and garlic.    Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to blend. Cook until heated and then add the beer or wine.

Return the beef to the pan, adding enough stock to nearly cover. Bring to a boil; Cover the pan and allow over a medium heat for about an hour or so.

OR,  Place in the preheated oven covered and cook for two hours.

To serve: Place the ribs on a deep platter.   Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce and serve over mashed potatoes or grits

Now we’ve talked a  lot about healthy in this blog post, but I’m not going to lie to you here – this next recipe is a bit higher in fat. Don’t compromise. Treat yourself,  and for the best flavor and texture here, use the heavy cream. Go for an organic brand, or a local product if you can find it. I like using Homeland Dairy’s heavy cream available for sale at the new Vin Master wine Shop at Atherton Mill in Charlotte’s Southend neighborhood. Serve a wedge of the tart with a crispy green salad dressed with the Olive Crate’s Kores Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil and any one of their flavorful  balsamic vinegars.

img_8165PARMESAN, CARMELIZED ONION and PROFFITT CATTLE COMPANY GROUND BEEF TART

refrigerated dough for one pie crusts – I like the organic  Immaculate Baking brand

For filling:

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 Tbsp.Kores Estate Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Olive Crate in Waxhaw

1-2 cups caramelized onions

½ lb. local Proffitt Farms ground beef, browned

1 local  or pasture raised organic egg

1 local or pasture raised organic egg yolk

img_8148Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a circle just an inch or two larger than a 9-12 inch French tart pan. Fit dough and pan and trim as shown in class. Press dough into pan. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

For the filling:

Warm cream over medium heat and stir in grated cheese, stirring until smooth.

In another bowl, whisk together whole egg, yolk, and salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Add cream mix; whisk until smooth.

Scatter caramelized onions and ground beef evenly in tart shell and pour custard over. Bake in a 350 preheated oven until custard is just set and golden in patches, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack at least 20 minutes. Freeze if you would like. Cut into wedges to serve.

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Like what you’ve read? I was pleased to prepare the pot roast recipe in this post on the morning Jan 20 at 9 am on Charlotte’s own WBTV’s Morning Break with hosts Kristen Miranda, Chris Larson and Coach LeMonte Odums. In Case You Missed it – LeMonte is a big beef lover and he absolutely fell in love with the Proffitt Cattle Company Pot Roast recipe. Just click on the pink television on the left to see the segment!

Meanwhile, do check out the NC Beef posts from a number of other bloggers across the state. Its GotToBeNC Grass fed beef for sure and you’ll love reading about these wonderful NC cattle ranches and trying out these scrumptious recipes.

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Part of the happy grass fed certified organic herd at Proffitt Cattle Company in Kings Mountain NC

Got To Be NC Beef Farm Tours

And What To Make with Your NC Beef

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I am delighted to partner with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services in Raleigh and the Olive Crate in Waxhaw NC to make this blog post possible. Thanks to to Steve and Diane Proffitt and Shelley and Brian Eagan of Proffitt Cattle Company for all of their help in making this post possible.   #BrandsIBelieveIn    #DelightedToShareTheStory

Charlotte NC Chefs head to James Beard House in NYC

james-beard-dinnersCharlotte, North Carolina chefs continue to take the James Beard house in NYC by storm and 2017 kicks off with several big dinners featuring Queen City-based culinary talent. Last night it was my pleasure to be a guest at a practice run of a collaboration dinner between 2 of Charlotte’s finest, Chefs Luca Annunziata of Passion 8 on Elizabeth Avenue and Chef Sylvain Rivet of Renaissance Patisserie on South Blvd.

While I love seeing and tasting what chefs do in their restaurants on a regular basis, it is always nice to take advantage and attend special dinners like this to see what happens when chefs think outside the box. I particularly enjoy collaborative dinners  – there are lots on the calendar in Charlotte. I suggest you take advantage and make reservations as you see them pop up!  It is always a fun and unique experience every time.  No matter the chefs involved, their culinary talents challenge each other and play off of one another to truly bring it to the table.

 

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From left, The Butcher, chef Marc Pauvert; The Baker, chef Sylvain Rivet; and The Chef, chef Luca Annunziata

The Charlotte chef and the pastry chef were joined in the kitchen last evening as they will be next week in NYC by Baltimore based Master Butcher, chef Marc Pauvert of the Four Seasons Hotel.

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Chef Philippe Haddad

Rounding out the culinary team in New York will also be Atlanta-based chef Philippe Haddad of the Cape Dutch Restaurant in Atlanta. Haddad was unable to attend the dinner in Charlotte last night, but his contributions will only add to the excitement in New York. Also lending a helping hand at the New York event ,the Carolina’s own chef Joe Bonaparte of the Myrtle Beach Culinary Arts Institute.

 So, a butcher, a baker, and a chef  (or two) walk into the Beard House kitchen—but as was experienced by a supportive and happy crowd last night, this dinner is no joke.  In New York, these culinary compatriots will demonstrate the exceptional art of whole-animal butchery in a collaborative French–Italian feast celebrating their combined heritages and crafts.

The  trial run, if you will, evening in Charlotte started with a round of passed hors d’oeuvres – creamy chicken liver pate profiteroles with berry coulis, savory beef short ribs, skewered a la plancha, spherical chicken croquettes in bamboo boats and crispy dirty rice arancini with tomato jam.

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And for me, a “HoneyBunny” and orange/vodka/honey infused craft cocktail from the Passion 8 bar.

An assortment of fresh baked rolls hit as soon as we  were seated – nothing better to me than a course of delicious bread and butter and I was glad it arrived first with time to enjoy.

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Dinner  officially started with a beautiful plate of dinner co-sponsor Springer Mountain Farms Chicken in a duo of savory bites: a tender and delicious chicken porchetta with fennel salad, extra virgin olive oil powder, and  a drizzle of vincotto; paired with a melt-in-your-mouth braised chicken scarpariello topped with shishito peppers and  house-made pork sausage – things were off to a fabulous start….

 

img_8386Next course, a charcuterie platter of sorts – duck three ways or in French, Canard Trois Facons.  On the plate, a “Yes, please I believe I will”  foie gras torchon with onion jam;  a scrumptious duck confit with apple–frisée salad; and sliced duck prosciutto with a small round of made-in-house burrata and a crisp toasted slice of fresh baked pan de mie.

 

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With such a wonderful Italian chef on the team it stood to reason there would be a pasta course. This night the small plate of tiny but tender gnocchetti verdi  ( small green gnocchi) were tossed into a tomato-y rich lamb ragù. The crunch of fried Rappahannock oysters, added texture and a thin slice of Parmigiano-Reggiano served as the perfect slightly salty finish.

 

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All of this led to the beef course where the French butcher showed his chops. So tender and perfectly grilled grass fed beef tournedos, cut from the tenderloin of beef served atop a celery root puree, garnished with  with brussels sprout leaves, and finished with a grilled half of Charlotte’s own Urban Gourmet Farms king trumpet mushrooms, and au jus – perfect!

And then there was dessert – two courses of dessert, in fact, and a take home box as well – gotta love having a French pastry chef on the team!

img_8396For me the blood orange crème brûlée echoed the cocktail I had enjoyed at the start of the evening. It was sweet but not too sweet and creamy enough to provide the perfect finish after the course of rich savory beef. The surprise here was the accompanying tuille – made  with crispy almonds and believe it or not, bacon fat..,

 

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img_8406Then, for the table (and as this photo shows, the chefs to share) a  secondary dessert course of  three types of wonderful petits fours:  miniature chocolate brownie bomb; popcorn macaroons; and petit Grand Marnier–vanilla puffs – Yes!  And as a take-home for  the-day-after-dinner breakfast ( or to eat in the car on the drive back home) a chocolate truffle and two sweet bite-sized cakes. what a fabulous finish!

 

And then this happened….Big News from Passion 8

jessicaandlucaTalk last night after dinner was not just about the Beard House ,but of some big changes to come to Passion 8 as well. In February, look for the husband and wife team of Luca and Jessica Annunziata to take their passion for all things Italian to a whole new level. Passion 8 will be changing names and styles and while Jessica and Luca will remain at the helm and the Elizabeth Avenue location will remain the same, the new restaurant name and concept will be LUCA, Modern Italian Kitchen. This talented couple will still offer a menu that is locally inspired with a focus on Farm-to-fork product, but recipes and menu features will all hail from Chef Luca’s Italian heritage.  I am proud to say I was the first food writer to ever write about Passion 8, when the restaurant was located on HWY 51 in Ft Mill and I’ve kept you up to date on everything this talented couple has done since – stay tuned… I can’t wait to tell you about it all as the new menu is revealed and name changes occurs, so that you can make your reservations at LUCA soon and, in the process, #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Want to go to the Beard House or at least see it for yourself?

img_8414The  dinner last night, billed as practice round, gave the guests an opportunity to give feed back, so that the team of chefs can tweak as needed before the big dance in New York.  Its no small production – Luca will load up all the local product and drive to Baltimore two days before the dinner. He and Marc will prep in Baltimore the day before then drive to New York for a day of cooking in the infamous Beard House kitchen the day of the dinner. Thanks to the magic of digital technology, you can follow each of the chefs involved on their individual social media streams and the night of the dinner, Friday January 27, you can stream the action from the kitchen live via the James Beard Kitchen Cam – check it out on the Beard House website 

If you’ve a mind to go, see, taste and enjoy it all in person, tickets for the Butcher, Baker & Chef dinner in NYC are still available – make your reservations here.  

charles-grill-678x1024Mark your calendars as more Charlotte-based chefs participate in upcoming Beard House dinners as well.  Chef Charles Semail of Chef Charles Catering in Charlotte will also cook at the James Beard House the end of this week, in fact,  at a separate dinner with a team of five other chefs. Chef Charles dinner will focus on The Art of Charcuterie. The dinner in New York is on Jan 20. If you can’t get to NYC for the dinner Chef Charles is participating in, then head to the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market on Saturday to buy and for a taste what Chef Charles Catering does so well.

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Then, save the date in February as Chef Jamie Lynch of 5 Church in Charlotte, Charleston and Atlanta (and Top Chef fame) present a “Take Me To Church” dinner on Feb 5, 2017.  

 

 

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If this post about some of our fabulous Charlotte-based chefs inspired you – I want to know where you are eating and what you are cooking. Remember  Charlotte, Queen’s Feast: Charlotte Restaurant Week  kicks off on Friday Jan 20 – where are you going to eat?

Post  your photos and then tag me on your social media posts – @HeidiBillotto and @HeidiBillottoCooks on Facebook; @HeidiCooks on Twitter and @HeidiBillotto on Instagram   Food is always so much better when you share it with friends!

Consider me your go-to-gal for info on chefs, restaurants, recipes, cooking tips, trends and food-centric travel.

I invite you to join me in all my culinary adventures, by signing up to follow this blog. You’ll get my recipes, reviews and articles as soon as they  post, directly to your in-box.

Almost here, Stay Tuned…my list of Jan, Feb and March 2017 hands-on cooking classes posts on Monday January 22, 2017 – can’t  wait!

3 Day Weekend: Durham NC

center-city-bull-for-the-bull-cityWhadaya say, time to get the heck outta Dodge and plan a relaxing 3Day weekend?

Consider a visit to the Bull City – just an hour and half way its an easy drive and you won’t believe what you’ll find there.   You probably know that Durham, NC is a part of North Carolina’s Research Triangle region and that it is home to Duke University; but did you know that included in this city’s rich history is the fact that it is the site if the largest surrender of Confederate troops, effectively making it the city in which the Civil War ended or that it is now the happy home to Burt’s Bees?
bull-durham-tobaccoDurham is a great food-centric town and the perfect destination for a relaxing fun and flavorful 3 day weekend!

Known as the Bull City ,due to the fact that the first brand of Tobacco sold and shipped out of Durham was Bull Durham brand, Durham is home to many old textile mills and tobacco factories. A cast bronze bull now sits in the center city square and many think it good luck to give the bull a rub on the head. When Durham’s last producing textile mills closed in the late 1980s and  a decade later the last of the city’s working Tobacco factories closed. But instead of planning the demolition of these large mills and factories, or letting them sit empty to decay, city planners have wisely repurposed most to be shopping and entertainment  venues and malls.

thedurham-hotel-outsideTwo of my favorite hotels in the center city are repurposed properties as well  The Durham Hotel, with mid century modern interiors and a beautiful rooftop bar.

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And 21c Museum Hotel Durham, a  hip boutique hotel featuring funky art exhibits throughout. Both properties were originally banks and have since been repurposed and a grand places to call home during your Bull City visit.

 

the-durham-hotel-lobby-restaurantBoth hotels offer on property dining and while I have yet to eat at 21c Museum Hotel Durham, I enjoyed a fabulous meal at The Durham and would go back again, no matter if I stayed there or not. It’s no wonder the food was so well done, the restaurant in The Durham Hotel, serves a delicious locally-inspired menu designed by the Triangle’s  James Beard Award-winning chef Andrea Reusing.

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Durham is a walker-friendly city divided into districts that all offer shopping, dining and entertainment venues. and as you walk looks for these fun informational signs  that direct you to even more fun to be had and sites to be seen,

Cute funky little shops are all over town head to the Ninth Street shopping district or Brightleaf District where you will find your self wandering in and out of the shops at Brightleaf Square – have a blast.

scratch-bkery-2Start the day with Breakfast and delicious baked goods at Scratch Bakery or the Ninth Street Bakery. From pies to cookies, and more to enjoy on site or take to go, both of these places will make for a great start to your day. Check out the made-in-house tonics at Ninth Street Bakery and don’t miss a slice of pie at Scratch.

 

 

watts-groceryIn fact there are lots of great restaurants in the Durham area, many of them with menus that center around locally farmed or produced proteins, produce and product, so those of  you who know me, know I love that! Among don’t miss farm to fork spots to stop for a midday or evening repast: Piedmont, home to the talented Chef John May and Watts Grocery, the brainchild of chef Amy Tournquist.

img_3867Also make plans to enjoy a trio of restaurants and more to come by chef Matt Kelly, Currently Kelly owns or is a partner in  Mateo, a terrific Spanish tapas restaurant doing it right; an Italian Trattoria called Mothers & Sons and a classic deli known as Lucky’s Deli. By the Christmas holiday Kelly also hopes to have a seafood restaurant to add to his harem of well-know, well-done eateries – I’ll keep you posted!

fullsteam-on-tapLooking for a bit of night life then head to the Central Park District where you will find all sorts of repurposed automotive workshops and former gas stations. The Central Park district is home to Fullsteam Brewery – a front runner of the pack of uber popular North Carolina brews. The Plow to Pint is their motto as they incorporate local farmed goods, heirloom grains, and seasonal botanicals in each of their brews. The tap room is open every day from late in the afternoon to the wee hours of the morning.

parts-labour-1Across the street from Fullsteam is Motorco and the adjacent Parts & Labor. MotorCo is a popular music venue while Parts & Labor a bar and restaurant offering incredibly well done street food to enjoy at tables inside the bar out in good weather, outside at a host of picnic tables lit with twinkling white lights strung overhead.

Looking for coffee – lots of shops around town, but don’t miss a stop in a Cocoa Cinnamon – located right around the corner from Motorco.

220th_sm_0vb5sblmuhAnother fun area to explore is the American Tobacco Campus the former home to the American Tobacco company. This area is interestingly enough now a smoke-free campus with restaurants, office space, shops and entertainment venues.

heidi-with-burts-beesIt is also home to the headquarters for Burt’s Bees and the largest visible bee hive. The center of the factory  building is now a beautiful park, with tables and chairs for al fresco dining lined on either side. In the center a stream of running water, once used in conjunction with the factory now adds a wonderful water feature.

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Throughout the campus,  bits an pieces of Durham’s tobacco industry pay homage and tell the story of this city’s history. Check out this photo of me on a tractor once used to plant tobacco!  The American Tobacco campus sits next door to the Durham Bulls stadium and an Aloft hotel is adjacent to the property as well

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Of course the Duke University campus contributes to a major part of the Durham skyline. Take the family to enjoy one of the most hidden treasures in the Bull City, The Duke Lemur Center. This research sanctuary is dedicated to helping this endangered breed to thrive and grow and repopulate. It is the  largest lemur sanctuary in the world. Interesting and informative tours are available by appointment.

#TellThemHeidiSentYouIt was my pleasure to share all of this info on my monthly 3 Day Weekend travel segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today. The show originally aired at 11:45 on Wed Nov 14. Want to see for yourself? Simply Click here , then for more info visit http://www.durham-nc.com/                 #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

 

 

 

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

imgresIt was a tremendous afternoon on Sunday Nov 6 in Charlotte! It was the first time I attended an Order/fire screening, but I can assure you it won’t be my last.

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From Left, Chef Greg Collier, Chef Marc Jacksina and Photographer Peter Taylor

The Web series, done in an exceptionally well thought out, casual documentary style, of sorts,  is a series of filmed interviews of Charlotte area chefs and farmers and is the brain child of Charlotte’s own videographer and award winning photographer, Peter Taylor and chef and on screen host Marc Jacksina.

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Greg and Subrina Collier

 

The screening this day was an afternoon of new and old friends all from and in support of Charlotte’s culinary community – chefs, farmers, media and more attended the Order/fire screening of Episode 3  of the series’ second season, featuring chef and owners of The Yolk in Rock Hill and @Dawn in Charlotte, chef Greg Collier and his wife Subrina.

Both places are wonderful breakfast joints  with lunch and sometimes dinner options.  I personally love that  menus at The Yolk and @Dawn are always changing. Greg is an exceptional chef and always has something new and different up his sleeve that he is anxious to try out on his regulars. The wait for a table at The Yolk, the first and more established of the Collier’s two restaurants is sometimes long, but always worth it. Both places should be on your Must- Go-To-Soon list #TellThemHeidiSentYou

This Sunday, the afternoon family friendly  event in Greg and Subrina’s honor, an O/f viewing party  and benefit chicken dinner took place at Free Range Brewing in NODA.

imagesFree Range brewing is a great place with something for everyone. Have to admit it – I am not a beer lover at all – seems I am missing the beer-loving gene altogether, but I am thrilled that Free Range had other local options in addition to their line of lovely local brews.

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Old North brand shrubs – 2 bottled and one on tap at Charlotte’s Free Range Brewing

And its thanks to Free Range Brewing that I am now officially obsessed with farmer Jamie Swoffords seasonal Old North brand shrubs on the menu.

A shrub is an artisanal drinking vinegar often flavored with other ingredients. For Swofford that, of course, means local ingredients, often directly from his farm.The shrub is concentrated and may be used in cocktails or thinned with carbonated water for a good-for-you thirst quenching beverage.  The non alcoholic, fresh and fizzy muscadine and rose hips shrub is on tap NOW at Free Range and is simply delicious!  Two others, in the concentrated form, are available in bottles at Free Range Brewing. (You’ll be hearing more from me on these delicious drinkables these soon.)

The A Bao Time food truck in the parking lot on Sundays was a great addition as well. Note: you can learn more about all the events that take place at Free Range Brewing and all of their local brews here;  follow A Boa Time via the truck’s social media and learn more about Jamie Swofford , “The Chef’s Farmer” on his website and in his own Order/fire documentary on the O/f website.

For the Nov 6 event, chefs Geoff Bragg, Marc  Jacksina, Greg Collier and others hosted a Chicken Pickin’ for guests to enjoy.

 

img_6325Whole chickens were rubbed with Collier’s own Tennessee Rub, then smoked and served in quarters with a nap of Alabama white sauce – Wow. Sides of Mac and cheese, vinegar based slaw, baked beans and rolls were prepared by  the talented faculty and students team from the Community Culinary School of Charlotte – a real Charlotte treasure! Stop by the school to taste for yourself for breakfast or lunch or hire their team at Encore Catering to help with your next event!

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Life is short -I just had to taste the cookie first!

Yummy sugar glazed Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies from 300 East made for a sweet finish to a delightful afternoon.  Chickens for the event were graciously donated by Springer Mountain Farms so that the proceeds from the event could all go to benefit the programs at the Community Culinary School of Charlotte.  

Not sure when the next screening for Order/fire  will be, but follow this blog and my social media and I’ll be sure you hear all about it. Meanwhile catch up on other episodes from this season and last  online at http://orderfireclt.com/  #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

 

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater: The Story of Seasonal Squash

Thought it would be fun  in the week before Halloween to serve up an update of a seasonal post on cooking  with pumpkin and winter squash. Plus, here is your advance notice to be sure to tune into Charlotte Today on WCNC on Monday Oct 31 for a special edition Pumpkin-Driven Restaurant Round-Up along with an accompanying blog post so you can see – and go to taste – what Charlotte area chefs are doing with this seasonal squash on their fall menus.

But before you can cook though, you must carve… learn all the tricks of the trade this weekend Oct 31, 4-7 pm at Lenny Boy Brewing Company from some of Charlotte’s finest chefs and farmers, all members of the Piedmont Culinary Guild who will be putting on their annual fund raising event for the fall season…Carved…

carved-2016-facebook-ogThe fun begins right at 4pm and runs through till 7 on Oct 31, 2016.  You and your family will watch pumpkins be transformed into clever and creative, sometimes ghostly and ghoulish  works of art.

I can promise you these aren’t your mama’s triangled-eyed Jack-O-Lanterns!  The photos I’ve posted here are from a Carved event a couple of years ago,  I took some of them, and some are thanks to the Piedmont Culinary Guild, but as incredible as these photos are, know the event just keeps getting better and better, so make it a point to make Carved a part of your family’s pre-Halloween festivities.

And, to add to the fun,  you’ll help add to the excitement by casting your vote for what you deem to be the best carved entry and your ticket will serve as your raffle number to possibly win one of the Carved creations! The lucky carver of the  winning creation gets the 2016 bragging rites and a custom-created leather knife roll and apron, crafted by Guild Member Brad Todd of Lucky Clays Farm.

In addition to the seasonal squash on display this year, Carved-goers will enjoy  fresh shelled popcorn-on-the-cob, courtesy of PCG Member Brent Barbee of Barbee Farms; fresh cider pressed on site from  North Carolina apples, courtesy of PCG Member Eric Williamson of Coldwater Creek Farms; and an antique John Deere tractor “ice cream machine” that will be set up to sample and demo fresh ice cream, courtesy of PCG member Bo Sellers of Allee Bubba Farms.

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Emily Russell from Zone 7 Foods at the 2015 Carved event

But wait theres more: Magic and balloon creations by Scott Link; Artistic caricatures created of you and your family on site by Sarah Pollack; Tin-type photographs developed on site by Jeff Howlett; and a Silent auction

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Chef Dave Feemster – Fahrenheit with his chili pepper pumpkin

There will be a separate Kids Competition on the Carving front. Kids, ages 11 and under who bring a pumpkin they carved themselves get in FREE and will be eligible for special prizes. Plus, PCG Member Megan Lambert of Johnson and Wales University will have a table of sugar skulls for kids to decorate, plus there will be games and other activities for children to enjoy.

Two options during the event  to purchase  food on site:  PCG Member Tara Diamante will have her Bleu Barn Bistro food truck at Lenny Boy – offering dishes created from locally-sourced meat and produce. While PCG Member Courtney Buckley will  be serving up sweets from Your Mom’s Donuts cart on site – offering all local product made from Got ToBeNc locally  milled flour, pasture raised dairy, and eggs.

Your ticket includes entrance to the event, a souvenir Carved 2016 cup, one Lenny Boy beverage (with supplied ticket) ( You may purchase more to drink on your own) and one voting ticket – which doubles as an entry to the Carved raffle to win one of the carved pumpkins created at the event.

Cost is  Adults: $18 in advance or $22 at the door; Kids – 11 and under: $5
(Remember – Kids who bring a pumpkin they carved themselves get in FREE)  Advance tickets are available online here and advance sales end on Friday, October 28. 

How to carve your pumpkin and eat it too!

Like the chefs and farmers participating in the Carved event,  most of us do not hesitate to go out and choose a real pumpkin for our Halloween Jack-o-Lantern, but when it comes to actually cooking this seasonal squash, we tend to forgot that “Eat Local” mantra and all the possibilities of using fresh versus canned. This year, I suggest you shop from local farmers, rather than the canned veggie aisle of your local grocer and make some puree you can freeze and use for months to come.

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Local Pumpkins from Dover Vineyards spotted at The Asbury booth at this year’s Dilworth Southend Chili Cookoff

It’s easy to put up your own pumpkin puree this season and I am happy to use this post to show you how its done. Fresh pumpkin, like all other varieties of winter squash is abundant in this area and makes for some very fine eating not only in pie, but in custards, ice creams, breads, cookies and muffins as well as savory recipes like soups, salads, pastas, tempura and pureed or baked as a side with grilled or roasted meats and is great for juicing, too.

Whew! Pumpkin is also quite nice served raw, either grated into salads or thin sliced and served with raw veggies and your favorite dip.

These seasonal squash are low in calories, yet abundant in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Pumpkin is a great source for vitamins A, B-complex, C, and E all are rich in anti-oxidants and anti-aging properties. Health benefits aside,  legend and folk lore has it that this grandest of gourd’s is also an aphrodisiac…so all of a sudden, pumpkin season could take on a whole new meaning … I’ll leave it at that and let you draw your own conclusions.

pumkins in the fieldPumpkins grow in a wide variety of sizes, some weighing in at well over 100 pounds. Save the big brusiers for winning awards at county fares and for carving contests. Nothing like a large Jack-o-lantern set out and lit up on the porch designed to welcome treat or treating seasonal guests. Keep in mind that once “Jack” has been carved and spent several nights out of doors, all sorts of ants and other creepy crawly things may take up residence, to say nothing of the melted wax. That’s all fine, if the plan is to keep the carved pumpkin outside, but if you were planning to cook and eat the pulp after the 31st, then best to buy another pumpkin or two or three for all  your upcoming culinary endeavors this season.

For eating purposes, look for medium to slightly smaller pumpkins, those with more tender and succulent flesh.  Like any other winter squash – butternut, acorn, golden and Hubbard – the skin should be free from blemishes and the pumpkin or squash heavy for its size. Store whole any winter squash, pumpkins et al, at room temperature for as long as a month or keep in a cooler place for as long as three months.

To easily get inside the tough outer shell, place your pumpkin in a large heavy-duty plastic garbage bag, take it outside and drop it on some hard concrete – this might be one fun and good way for the kids to help with the process.. The pumpkin will split open into several pieces. Remove the pumpkin pieces from the bag, scoop out the stringy pulp that surrounds the seeds and then cut the firmer pulp from the outside pumpkin shell. Boil, steam, bake or fry the chunks of pumpkin as you would potatoes, or oven roast by placing the pumpkin chunks, skin and all, cut side down in a large baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about an hour, or an hour and a half or so, or until the pumpkin pieces are fork tender – about the same consistency as a baked potato. When the squash has cooled slightly, scoop is of the cooked shell.

For pumpkin puree, mash or process the roasted, boiled or steamed chunks in a processor, blender or by hand. Season to be sweet or savory, as you choose and then use as directed in your favorite recipe. Cooked pumpkin pulp will keep in your freezer for six to eight months.

In addition to being used as a base for many sweet and savory recipes, pumpkin or winter squash puree may also be served on it’s own as you would mashed or creamed potatoes. Simply add a little butter to the puree and season to taste with salt and pepper.

From Little Seeds, Big Pumpkins Grow

pumpkin heirloom-seeds-740x493The pumpkin seeds, sometimes called pepitas, may be rinsed from the stringy pulp, which holds then in place inside the pumpkin and then baked. Because you will remove them before setting your Jack-o-lantern outside, you can bake and eat the seed from pumpkins you carve as well as those you cut up and cook.

First, rinse the seeds well, removing all of the pumpkin pulp. Then, pat the seeds dry between several layers of paper toweling. Spread the dry pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a lightly oiled or buttered baking sheet. Season them generously before baking with your favorite spice or spice combination. Use something as simple as a mix of salt and pepper or go for a zestier blend of garlic salt, chili powder and a dash of cumin. Toast the seeds in a preheated 200 degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour, turning them over halfway during the baking time. When the seeds are dry and toasted with a crunchy consistency, remove them for the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container and enjoy over the course of the next several weeks and months.

Pumpkin pairs well with other veggies of the fall season including locally grown carrots. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for oven roasted pumpkin and carrots – serve it up in carved out small pie pumpkins in place of bowls for an extra touch of something special. Enjoy!

 

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Heidi Billotto gets into the act at the 2014  Piedmont Culinary Guild’s Carved event several years ago – tons of fun for all!

Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

Recipe from Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

1 medium sized pumpkin or 2-3  butternut or acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise

3-4 whole organic carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

2 shallots, minced

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Water or broth to cover

1 cup heavy cream or fat free half and half, more if needed

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Place the pumpkin or squash on a parchment paper lined baking sheet cut side down. no need to scrape the seeds out first unless you’d like to go ahead and roast those separately. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the outside of the pumpkin or squash begin to brown. When the pumpkin is  cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds, then gently scoop the pulp from the skin. Reserve.

In a stockpot, Heat olive oil for a minute, till it becomes aromatic. Add carrots and shallots or leeks and saute until they start to brown. Add butternut squash, cover with water or broth; bring to a boil and allow to boil until carrots are tender.

Use an immersion blender or a food processor to puree the squash and carrots and stir into broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the heavy cream or half and half for a creamier soup if you would like. Adjust seasonings.

Serve hot, freezes well. Thin with additional broth or water if desired.

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Stay tuned for another pumpkin centric post on Monday Oct 31, as a share how local Charlotte chefs are serving pumpkin on their fall menus and be sure to tune in to see 5 of my favorites on Monday’s Halloween edition of Charlotte Today on WCNC in Charlotte.

If you’d like to be the first to see each of my blogs posts as they appear on this site, then simply subscribe to the blog as prompted and each and every post will come right to your inbox.

Greensboro, NC Getaway Plan A 3Day Weekend this Fall

 

heidi head shot 1 -In Need of a little getaway this fall season? Might I suggest that you look no further than North Carolina’s Triad region connecting three major cities all within a half hour drive of each other and about a hour and half in travel time from Charlotte, making a trip to any of the Triad cities –  High Point, Winston-Salem and Greensboro – worthy of a three day weekend status.

Fun to do my October 3 day weekend segment for WCNC’s Charlotte tOday on the city of Greensboro, NC. The details are all here in the post, but if you want to watch the video, scroll to the end and simply click on the link.

Greensboro, home to the sit in protests of the 1960s, Harlem Globetrotter “Curly” Neal and the place where Vick’s VaporRub was invented, is also know as the Gate City due to the heavy flow of railroad traffic that went in and out of the city in the late 1800s. Today Greensboro is still a major Amtrack  hub with trains arriving and leaving from The Greensboro Southern Railway Depot, now known as The Depot, originally built in 1899.

gro_stationinteriorHow to get to Greensboro, Nc

While Greensboro is an easy car ride from Charlotte, a fun nod to our state’s history would be to take the train for your three day weekend visit, and then uber or bike around the city as needed. Amtrack tickets from Charlotte start at just $19 one way and you can book a reservation for your bike as well. While the original Greensboro Depot is now the home to all sorts of transportation, a portion of the original train station still remains and makes for a fun and historic way to kick off your trip.

What to do in Greensboro

imagesOnce you get off the train at The Depot in downtown Greensboro, you are a quick walk or bike ride from the Greensboro Children’s Museum, a great place to spend some time with the kids.

One of the most fascinating exhibits for kids and adults alike is Greensboro’s Edible SchoolYard Garden, the only sanctioned Edible Schoolyard garden to be a major exhibit in a museum.

This working hands-on garden is used to teach kids about growing and planting, raising crops taking care of farm animals – the garden includes its own family of laying hens for fresh eggs, as well as taking care of and feeding the hungry in the community.

The garden is used as a major source of product for adult and children’s cooking classes taught year round int he museum kitchen. And chefs around town also teach at teh museum and use produce from the garden in their seasonal menus. For more information about regular events at the museum as well as the schedule of cooking classes, here’s where to find  the details.

Agriculture is king in North Carolina and there are lots of farms in around the Greensboro area with lots of fun events coming up this fall season – any one of them would be a great anchor around which to plan your three day weekend Greensboro getaway.

images-4Among them High Rock Farm, in Gibsonville, NC. The farm house on High Rock Road was originally used as a stage coach stay in the 1800s and has also been a tavern and a post office. Now it is home to High Rock Farm owner Richard Teague, who planted the first chestnut tree on the property in 1991. High Rock Farm is now the largest working and producing chestnut orchard in the mid-Atlantic Region. The farm celebrates it harvest each year with an annual Chestnut Roasting Festival, this year on Nov 6, from noon – t5 pm. Admission is just $8 per person. The fun includes hay rides through the orchard, music, food trucks, tours of the historic home and more. Kids under 10 are free. For more info HighRockFarm.com 

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Goat Lady Dairy in Julian, NC, a stones throw away from Greensboro is home to a large goat cheese making operation and the dairy offers monthly cheese-centric 5 course Dinners at the Dairy as well as farm and dairy tours. The remaining dinner dates for this year are Nov 11 and 12 and December 2 and 3, so make your reservations now. For more information visit GoatLadyDairy.com

If you, like me love to shop for housewares and china, old and new and find the fun is int he hunt for that can’t live without piece; then you simply cannot miss a trip to Greensboro’s own Replacement’s.

Located at 1089 Knox Rd. in McLeansville, NC, just outside of Greensboro, Replacement’s is  the world’s largest supplier of old and new china, crystal, silver, and collectibles.

great-wall-of-china-in-replacementsThe 500,000-square-foot facilities (the size of 8 football fields) house an  inventory of 12 million pieces in more than 425,000 patterns, some more than 100 years old. You can order from Replacements online, look for a missing piece to your grandmothers good china or browse through the inventory online, but there there is nothing quite like being there and to my mind this one of kind shopping extravanganza is worth the 3 day weekend jaunt in and of itself. For more info, or to buy or sell your favorite china pieces visit the website here

unknown-2Where to stay for the trip?

Lots of choices from the historic, charming  and said to be haunted 1903 era boutique Biltmore Hotel in the downtown area  – an easy walk from the Amtrack station. Visit the website for more info or reservations

unknown-1To The O’Henry,  an elegant hotel located a short and easy 4-minute walk from the Shops At Friendly Center.  Beautiful guest rooms have tall ceilings, unique furnishings, plush beds and en suite bathrooms with soaking tubs and separate dressing rooms. Your reservation includes a free Southern-style breakfast is served in the pavilion or the garden, while afternoon tea and pre-dinner cocktails are available in the lovely Craftsman-style lobby. For reservations and more info visit the website here

proximity-hotel-photos-exterior-hotel-informationThe Proximity , the sister property to the O’Henry, may be one of my favorite hotels in the area. Its the first green LEED hotels in the country with strict sustainable practices designed to save energy and help the environment while still offering a luxurious place to stay. 100 sun panels on the hotel roof, heat the water in the hotel and the energy the elevators create going down, allow them to go up as well. Bicycles are available for guests to ride on the nearby five-mile greenway that extends to over 75 miles of trails and routes throughout the Greensboro area. For reservations and more info visit the website here

Where to eat in Greensboro

Once you have your hotel reservations and have honed in on what you want to see and do in the area, you’ll need to decide what and where to eat. The restaurants at both The Proximity Hotel – Print Works Bistro , fresh local ingredients used to create fabulous comfort food;  and at the O’Henry Hotel – Green Valley Grill – informally elegant interiors serving seasonal favorites in a Mediterranean style-  are both excellent choices.

4213690For burgers, beef, vegetarian and otherwise, Hops Burger Bar  with two locations in Greensboro, is a popular local favorite you won’t want to miss. Parking is tight and there is often a wait, but its worth  each and every juicy bite-o-burger! If Mexican is more your style, go eat where nearly every chef in the Greensboro area sent me – El Camino Real – an understated Mexican joint in a strip center  at 4131 E. Spring Garden Street.

undercurrent-outside-gsoFinally for more white table cloth dining, check out Undercurrent Restaurant in downtown Greensboro, Listed as one of the “Top Ten Restaurants in Greensboro” by USA Today, the focus at Undercurrent is farm to fork. Sourcing all sorts of local ingredients from farms large and small, Chef de Cuisine, Michael Harken­reader  and the Undertcurrent’s team will wow you for sure. Open for lunch dinner and brunch, Don’t miss the opportunity to eat at Undercurrent soon!

Here is the link the to segment I did on Charlotte Today with hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson sharing a couple of reasons why you need to think about visiting Greensboro this fall. Enjoy!

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

For more info on all that is happening in Greensboro, North Carolina, visit the Convention and Visitors Bureau   #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

October Restaurant RoundUp: 6 Restaurants That Should Be on Your Radar

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Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto in the WCNC Charlotte Today studios with all the dishes featured in her October Restaurant Roundup lined up and ready to roll.

Updated Blog post to go along with my October Restaurant Round Up segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today originally airing this morning (Wed., Oct 19) at 11:47.

A link to the video from the show appears at the end of this post and I’ve updated each restaurant’s section with photos of the featured food and several shots from the show. Always great fun to share my thoughts on chefs, restaurants and food that really should be on your radar.

In addition to the photos posted here, I’ll also post them all on all of my social media with links back to the blog and to the video.

To be the first to see them, Friend me at Heidi Billotto or like my page at Heidi Billotto Cooks on Facebook; follow me on Twitter at @HeidiCooks and Follow me on Instagram @HeidiBillotto.

The segment on Charlotte Today  featured five restaurants that, if they aren’t already, really should be on your radar. The sixth, included in this post relates to a dinner I attended last night.

Check those social media feeds now and you’ll see photos from a fabulous dinner I attended last night at The Asbury in the Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte.

The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel

img_5423It was the last Collaborative chefs dinner of the 2016 series and it was an extraordinary evening. A pairing of the culinary talents of The Asbury‘s culinary team led by executive chef Matthew Krenz and guest chef John May from Piedmont Restaurant in Durham. This dynamic duo turned out 9 plates of fabulous fall flavor, each course paired with a wine especially selected for the evening by Josh Villapando of The Assorted Table Wine Shop also located in uptown Charlotte in Seventh Street Station.

If you haven’t eaten at The Asbury yet, don’t wait a second longer to make reservations. With a focus on all that is local and seasonal, and a nod to our Southern roots, Chef Matthew Krenz is really doing something special and the new fall menu is now up and running. And when next you visit Durham, be sure that a dinner at Peidmont Restaurant, home to chef John May, is a part of your plans!

There were nine courses at the dinner last night so can’t picture them all here – and its hard to pick a favorite, but if pressed I would have to say it would be John May’s salad with a poached egg and Matt Krenz’ roast lamb with stewed white beans and bitter greens. Both truly outstanding. My favorite wine of the evening  – this is another hard pick, but I think I’d have to say the rose paired with May’s salad. After nine plates and nine wines, the name escapes me so just call Josh at The Assorted Table Wine Shop and ask – he’ll be glad to tell you all about it!

Look for more on Krenz,  The Asbury and the fall menu in my culinary section of the new issue of Charlotte Living Magazine out soon – Subscribe to this blog and you’ll be among the first to know when the fourth quarter issue hits Charlotte newsstands!   Now on to the five restaurants featured on air this morning.

Dunkin’ Donuts in Concord, NC  30 Raiford Drive

concordstoreoutsideThis newest Dunkin’ Donuts celebrates its Grand Opening on Friday Oct 21 and has the distinction of being the 50th Dunkin’ Donuts to open in our area. The fun at the Grand Opening begins bright and early at 6:30 am. Free coffee to each guest from 7-9 am, and one lucky customer will be picked at random and will win free coffee for a year!

img_5430All the other Dunkin’ Donuts locations will also be celebrating with 50 cent cups of coffee and 50 cent donuts all day long on Friday Oct 21 – For more details on all the events planned at the Grand Opening and for a several fun recipes with Dunkin’ Donuts products as ingredients check out one of my blog posts from earlier this week here.

Fern, Flavors of the Earth at 1419 East Blvd. in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood 

img_5304After four year in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, Fern, Flavors of the Earth, takes up new digs in Dilworth. Now with an open kitchen, seated at the bar, inside and outside on a beautiful patio, there is more room to sit and enjoy the great vegan and vegetarian dishes chef Matthew Martin and his team are turning out.

On the show today I featured Fern’s,  Buffalo Cauliflower appetizer and well as two entrees: the raw noodle pasta dish and the Seitan Steak. After the show, My husband Tom and I stopped by to drop off some containers and stayrd for lunch which led us to discover two more favorite Fern Fall Flavors – the black bean burger and the Buddah Bowl, a mix of black Forbidden Rice, sauteed tofu and mixed seasonal vegetables – can’t wait to go back for more!

Clean Juice with three locations in Charlotte, at Birkdale Village, Sonecrest at Piper Glenn and in CrossFit Vitality in Concord

img_5366This is a great new juice and smoothie bar with a clean fresh and all organic approach to eating on the run.  I love the smoothies and the bowls, but don’t miss the little bites like the pumpkin, avocado or almond toast offerings. And if you are interested in juicing or a juice cleanse – the folks at Clean Juice can set you up and get you headed in the right direction.

As I said on air, the thing I love about this place is that this chain of juice bars are USDA Certified Organic, which makes their healthy offerings all the better. On air I showed the chia puddings, the carrot, pineapple and orange juice, spiced up with a big of good – for you turmeric; a wheat grass shot, the blue Panther Fan smoothie and my favorite of Clean Juice’s seasonal bites, the Pumpkin butter toast, made with homemade pumpkin butter, bits of cocoa nibs, cinnamon honey and sliced apple.

The last two restaurants featured today are  old favorites. Solid members of the Charlotte culinary skyline, both are located uptown.

Aria Tuscan Grill located at 100 N Tryon Street on the lower level of Founders Hall

img_5368With modern contemporary interiors that include  a dining room with a picture perfect view of whats going on in the kitchen, a private chefs table dining room open to the kitchen, a large and comfortable bar area and private dining rooms for larger groups, the fall menu at Aria features many seasonal old world Italian favorites as well as several new delicious spins on classic recipes.

Featured today – chicken cacciatore served atop homemade pasta with mushrooms and olives; Aria’s signature caramelized gnocchi in a truffled cream sauce, with thin sliced prosciutto and grated pear; and a melt-in-your-mouth polenta topped with Taleggio cheese and sauteed mushrooms. Funny enough I stumbled over the pronunciation of the word Taleggio – just for future reference for us all, its “Tall-Agee-O”. No matter which way you say it , its smooth and creamy, pungent in aroma but rich in flavor and a perfect foil for the umami of the mushrooms and the base of creamy polenta.

City Smoke at 100 N Tryon with an entrance off of the bottom floor of Founders Hall at the foot of the escalators.

img_5367If you are thinking barbecue, well, you are right, but City Smoke is so much more. Much of the fall menu comes from the rotisserie and its all about the smoke.  Classic Oysters Rockefeller, shucked ot order and topped with a spinach cream and then served on a bed of course salt, pepper and bay make for a fine start. My favorite recipe of the season at City Smoke might be the  smoked and grilled octopus salad – sliced grilled octopus served with roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted red bell pepper all atop a bed of lightly dressed arugula. Finally we have the Lamb roast done on the roitisserie and served with a rich brown sauce topped with a pine nut gremolata along side a bowl of roasted beets and blue cheese – This one had my name all over it!

Here is the link to the video segment in its entirety. I hope you enjoy it
Then make breakfast, lunch or dinner plans ( as it applies) to each of these great places soon. and remember to tell them Heidi sent you! Cheers!

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

If you enjoyed this post, I suggest you sign up to follow HeidiBillottoFood.com  where prompted on the home page.

That way each and every post, restaurant suggestion and recipe will come straight to your in box as soon as is goes up online.

Eat Your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee & doughnuts and cook with them too!

img_5272Did you know that this perfect paring of coffee and donuts isn’t just for breakfast, your next coffee break or a great midday or late night snack any more.  That’s right, now you can drink and eat your seasonal pumpkin Dunkin’ Donuts latte and  donuts and cook with them too!

Today’s recipes are thanks to the chefs in the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchens at the company’s home base in Canton, Mass.  But once you see how their culinary minds work the application is easy and you, too, can start to shortcut a recipe – for example, substituting ground donuts for graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in a pie crust and using Dunkin’s seasonal pumpkin latte in place of the milk, sugar, and flavoring for your own fun pumpkin pancakes.

tl-horizontal_mainSame goes for the  Dunkin’ Halloween Reese’s Peanut Butter Donuts – chocolate covered doughnuts with a rich peanut butter buttercream in the middle just as is the candy of the same name. Enjoy this sweet treat as you celebrate the season of ghosts, ghouls and goblins. Simply place 1-2 0f these donuts in a food processor to grind them up; shape the mix into small bite-sized balls – about the same size as a Dunkin’ Munchkin – freeze, dip in melted chocolate or refrigerate and roll in Dark cocoa or chocolate shots and there you have it – quick and easy chocolate peanut butter truffles.

The Dunkin’ Donuts concept began in 1948 with a donut and coffee restaurant in Quincy, Massachusetts called “Open Kettle”, then the name changed to Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. I can almost guarantee that founder William Rosenberg had no idea that his dream to serve guests donuts and coffee to kick off their morning, would one day be over 12,000 donuts shops in 44 countries strong; and I  feel certain he never entertained the idea that customers would buy his famous donuts as an ingredient in their seasonal recipes!

img_5276I grew up eating Dunkin’ Donuts in my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla – coffee and a DD French cruller became my go-to morning break snack when I was in high school. (It was a time when seniors could leave campus between classes. With really no where to go, we all camped out at the DD in the neighborhood, till it was time for class again.) While my personal Dunkin’ Donuts fave is and always has been the light and airy, melt-in-your-mouth French cruller; this time of the year the Apple Croissant Doughnut is a great seasonal stand in. The taste is that of an apple turnover wrapped in a light a fluffy cruller style doughnut. In addition to the Apple Croissant doughnut, another seasonal selection you won’t want to miss is Dunkin’ Donuts pumpkin glazed doughnut. Also available in Munchkin sized bites, this seasonal crowd pleaser is also great for dunking and as you will see, does double duty as an ingredient in your favorite seasonal recipes  as well!

Save the Date | Friday Oct 21, 2016 – Dunkin Donut’s 50th Charlotte area store Grand Opening in Concord NC 

concordstoreoutsideThe first Dunkin’ Donuts in the Charlotte metro area opened in 2004.  This week in Charlotte, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and doughnut fans across the city will be celebrating as the 50th store in our Metrolina area opens for business. The newest member of the Dunkin’ Donuts family  is in Concord NC, at 30 Raiford Drive. The grand opening is on Friday Oct 21 and the festivities start at 6:30 am. Regular hours at the Concord location are 5am – 10 pm.

On Oct. 21, from 7-9 am the new Concord Dunkin’ Donuts will be giving away free cups of coffee. Mayor Scott Padget will be on hand to help serve guests and will help present one randomly selected guests as the lucky winner of free coffee for one year!

At 7-7:30 am, don’t miss the fun as Dunkin’ recognizes several local heros at the new store opening with a Kickin’ Cancer with Coffee Dance-off event. Charlotte’s own Braylon Beam,  the six year old who captured the nation’s hearts a year ago with his Ellen DeGeneres Show appearance and dancing-as-therapy videos promoting his #JustKeepDancing campaign and Charlotte’s hearts as the Panthers’ honorary coach, will lead teams of Concord Fire Fighters and teams of Concord Police in a fun and friendly dance-off.

Also from 7-9 am look for on air personalities from Fox 46 to be on hand, serving free medium-sized coffee and doing love broadcasts, as well ,as a part of the station’s monthly “Free Coffee Friday” promo.

img_5275Across the city every Dunkin’ Donuts will be celebrating the 50th shop opening with 50 cent cups of coffee and 50 cent doughnuts throughout the day on Friday. 

In Concord, the new shop is looking to sell 500 cups of coffee after the free pours Friday morning have come and gone. If the goal is met, as a part of the Kickin’ Cancer with Coffee event, Dunkin Donuts will donate $5 for each cup sold for a total contribution of up to $2500 to the Bring it 4 Braylon Foundation.

 

Before Friday’s celebrations begin, you can stop by your closest Dunkin’ Donuts to pick up Hot Pumpkin Lattes and Pumpkin donuts or Pumpkin Munchkins and The new Reese’s Halloween Donut for more that just a morning or midday treat. Use them as ingredients in your next homemade recipe as well…

Drink your latte and eat it too – Pumpkin Latte Pancakes (See this recipe on Video from Fox 46 Charlotte here)

img_5347Recipe courtesy of the chefs in the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchens in Canton, Mass.

1 ½ Cups of all-purpose flour

3 ½ Tsp of baking powder

1 Tsp of salt

1 Small ( 10 oz) hot Pumpkin Latte, chilled ( in this recipe the latte takes the place of the milk, sugar and pumpkin flavoring you might otherwise add to your own pancakes)

1 Egg

3 Tbsp. of butter, melted

img_5342Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk them together.

Then, add the remaining ingredients and stir until they are evenly mixed.

Heat a pan over medium/high heat and spray it with cooking spray.

Once hot, spoon the pancake batter into the pan, then flip to make your pancakes. 

I added my own “Keep in Local, Charlotte” touch here by finishing the stack-o-pancakes  with toasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzling of local sourwood honey.

Pumpkin Donut-Crusted No Bake Pumpkin Pie

Recipe courtesy of the chefs in the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchens in Canton, Mass.

img_53463 Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Cake Donuts, crumbled

1 Package of cream cheese at room temperature

1/2 Cup of pureed pumpkin

1 Cup of powdered sugar

1 Tsp of cinnamon

1/4 Tsp of nutmeg

1/4 Tsp of cloves

2 Cups of heavy whipping cream

1/4 Cup of ground Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast coffee

img_5338Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and press the crumbled donuts firmly into a pie pan.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes, then cool thoroughly, just as you would a graham cracker curst.   

For the filling,  combine the cream cheese, pureed pumpkin, powdered sugar, and spices until smooth.  

img_5339In a separate bowl, whip 1 cup of the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold into the pumpkin mixture.   Pour the pumpkin cream mixture into the donut crust and smooth out with a spatula.   Refrigerate overnight.

 

 Just before serving, make the coffee flavored whipped cream to top your pie.  In a microwave safe bowl, combine ground Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast with 1/4 cup of heavy cream and heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave.  Strain the Dark Roast out of the cream using a coffee filter and set aside.  Whip the remaining heavy cream in a bowl and once it reaches soft peaks, add in the Dark Roast cream.   Pipe the cream onto the top of the pie and enjoy!

For another variation on the theme, instead of the using the roasted coffee beans to flavor the coffee, try what I did on the Oct 20 broadcast of WBTV’s Morning Break Charlotte. Video Here

img_5488Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Latte Pie Topping – Combine 1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of Dunkin’ Donuts  pumpkin latte, chilled and  1/4 cup of powdered sugar with about 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend until light but smooth. Pipe on the pie as your would whipped cream and decorate with chocolate covered coffee beans. Enjoy!

 

#TellThemHeidiSentYouThe 50th Dunkin’ Donuts shop in our Metrolina area is open for business in Concord NC, at 30 Raiford Drive. The grand opening is on Friday Oct 21 and the festivities start at 6:30 am. Regular hours at the Concord location are 5am – 10 pm. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

About the Bring It 4 Braylon Foundation: The mission of the Bring It 4 Braylon Foundation is to help alleviate the burden associated with pediatric cancer by providing comprehensive support to families and individuals who are fighting the disease. Founded on Braylon’s philosophy,  wise beyond his years, calling on us to “Be Brave. Be Positive. Have the Heart,” in the hope that together we can help to face and alleviate the challenges pediatric cancers patients and their families face everyday. For more info on how you can help make a difference visit, http://www.bringit4braylon.com/

Get Your Panther Game Day Eats On

img_4477Football season 2016 is kicking off and Carolina Panther’s fans of all ages are feeling the roar!  Time to suit up for the season, and start planning your tailgate!

If you don’t have season tickets (or a friend with season tickets) at the stadium, you might be looking for a new great place stop and take in all the action.

Sports bars may be the place that first comes to mind, but honestly, they aren’t  everyone’s cup-o-tea; and although they are often packed on game days, sometimes you just want more than the obligatory wings and spinach artichoke dip to go with your game.

Enter this month’s list for my Charlotte Today September Restaurant Roundup : Places you may not think of ( but you should) to go for Panthers’ game day eats in and around the Queen City.

This list was originally broadcast on WCNC’s Charlotte Today on Friday Sept 16. In case you missed it, you can watch the original video with show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson here, then scroll down for photos, details and links to all the restaurant websites.

img_4494First up with the coin toss, Mimosa Grill in Uptown Charlotte, located at 327 S Tryon Street. While Mimosa may not be the place to go and watch the game, it is definitely THE place to go to start your game day activities. A Panther Game Day -themed Sunday brunch starts at 10:30 am with a delicious hearty buffet plus several ala cart items and daily specials. Enter the Game Day Burger I featured on the show. This beefy  burger made from a ground mix of chuck, brisket and short ribs served grilled to order with bacon, cheese and  garlic aioli with salt roasted  fries is sure to fit the bill and is served on Panther game days only.

img_4490If you live north of the Queen City, make your running pass to the relatively new Novanta 90 Pizzeria Napoletana -120 Langtree Village Dr #102, Mooresville, NC 28117. In the Langtree complex right off of I-77 this family run, authentic Napoletana restaurant is the real deal with  a matching pair of wood fired pizza ovens from Naples that turn out true Italian pizza in just 90 seconds.  My favorite pastas on the menu as of this writing include the Peppedew pepper puttanesca with buccatini pasta (pictured here) and the made to order deconstructed lasagna – in both beefy and vegetarian variations. Hot and bubbly  with just the right bit of char on the crust, the pies at Novanta are deliciously different from NY style pizza or Chicago pies or even other wood fired pizza’s you’ll find in the area. The magic is in the dough, made with Italian Typo 00 flour, just the right amount  of rising time and a lotta love. They are big enough to share, but small enough to order for yourself or to order a couple of alternatives to enjoy several variations as you watch the game from the bar or pizza bar at Novanta. Mozzarella is fresh made in house every day, meats are all local from Mills Family Farm in Mooresville and other ingredients are imported direct from Italy, including the vodka served on the rocks or straight up in the lemoncello martini – just sayin’.

img_4496Perhaps you do have tickets to the game and a space to tailgate, or you’re hosting a Panther party at your home in front of your own big screen, but you just don’t want to cook. While you play armchair quarterback, turn to any location of Midwood Smokehouse – there are  three around Charlotte – as your own personal offensive lineman when it comes to putting together your buffet. This season they are offering three different packages of your choice of smoked meats, sauces, sides and rolls each specifically designed to suit the size of your crowd.  Locations  at 1401 Central Avenue in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood;  in Ballantyne at 12410 Johnston Road; and now the new Midwood Smokeshack in Matthews at 3335 Siskey Pkwy. 24 hours notice is needed for the package deals, but you can always go in and order to go anytime. The Pittmasters at Midwood burn hickory wood, 24/7, so things are always smokin’.

img_4500If your looking for someplace you probably haven’t thought of yet to watch from the sidelines, check out Vivace in Midtown Charlotte, located at 1100 Metropolitan Avenue.

This contemporary Italian trattoria may not be a place you would think of for game day eats, but think again. With new executive chef Rodrigo Velazco now heading the culinary team, Vivace boasts a new line up of bar bites perfect for game day munching, among them this order of three algrodolce drumsticks with a balsamic drizzle and delicious crispy prosciutto crusted melon.

img_4497

There are televisions around the bar at Vivace but if you head upstairs, where there is also a beautiful view of the city; the game is piped in over the speakers and you can enjoy the action and the fabulous food play by play.

img_4486

Set on taking the game in at a sports bar? Then head to the Uptown Charlotte location of Duckworth’s, also home to The Cellar at Duckworth’s all at  330 N Tryon Street. As I said to Colleen and Eugene on the show, just five words for you here: “one-hundered-seventy-five-televisions” No doubt you can get a great view of the game from any seat in the house. Typical sports bar game day fare here, but the nachos are the bomb, constructed in layers of fresh house-fried tortilla chips, a mix of cheeses with or without chicken or chili and toppings that include jalapenos, tomatoes, onions, guacamole and sour cream. plenty for your team to share.

img_4473While Duckworth’s boasts an outstanding offensive line of cooks ( shown here) in the kitchen creating each platter of game day nachos, wings and more. Downstairs at The Cellar at Duckworth’s – open from 5-11 pm on Sundays, you can take a break from the game day festivities,  or enjoy an afterparty dinner and craft cocktails from  the creative gastrobpub menu.

 

img_4504Look for more of my Restaurant Roundup posts on this blog once or twice, each and every  month , or just subscribe to the blog and posts will come to your inbox as soon as they go up.

Also check out the  Saturday morning news on WCNC in the weeks ahead  for my appearance with Colleen on a segment called Tackle Your Tailgate for a slightly different version of our original Panthers-centric Restaurant Round-up video.

No Kid Hungry Dinner at Mimosa Grill set for Saturday, Sept 17 – Don’t Miss It!

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

Make your reservations for the Mimosa Grill Annual No Kid Hungry dinner now before its too late #TellThemHeidiSentYou

A wonderful annual event is taking place at Mimosa Grill this week in Charlotte,  NC Saturday Sept 17 with a cocktail reception at 6 pm and a seated dinner at 7 pm.  and I am happy to use this forum to tell you all about it.   Tickets are still available and you can reserve your spot and start to make a difference in hundred’s of children’s lives by clicking here.

If you asked Chef Thomas Marlow and  Chef  Scott Wallen of the Harpers Group they would tell you its probably one of the most important dinners they do all year as it benefits Share Our Strength’s national No Kid Hungry Campaign to end childhood hunger.

femalechefs

NO CHILD SHOULD GROW UP HUNGRY IN AMERICA But one in five children struggles with hunger. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign is ending childhood hunger in this nation by connecting kids in need with nutritious food and teaching families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. You can help surround kids with the nutritious food they need where they live, learn and play. Pledge to make No Kid Hungry a reality at NoKidHungry.org.

Thomas Marlow

Chef Thomas Marlow Executive Chef Mimosa Grill in Charlotte hosts The 2016 No Kid Hungry Dinner

While Marlow and Wallen and Charlotte’s Harpers Group are the hosts of this year’s dinner, this evening features an outstanding line up of female chefs of note from across the southeast and promises to be an incredible event with the likes of Chef Ashley Auer  from Cooks & Soldiers in Atlanta, GA;  Chef Emily Hahn  from Warehouse Bar + Kitchen in Charleston, SC;  Chef Annie Pettry from Decca Restaurant in Louisville, KY; and Charlotte’s own Chef Alyssa Wilen from Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen all sharing the Mimosa Grill Kitchen to bring this wonderful meal to the table.

Take this unique opportunity to spend this Saturday evening at Mimosa Grill and see what this great group of talented ladies can bring to the table.

Before the seated dinner begins, the evening starts with a 6 pm reception and appetizers by Chef Marlow and the team at Mimosa Grill featuring:

Summer Melon  cucumber & bell pepper relish  with Charlotte’s own Uno Alla Volta marinated feta

Springer Mountain Fried Chicken Biscuit  brown sugar mayo – pickle relish

Heritage Farms Hot Bacon Carolina griddle cake –  spiced peaches
mallorcan almonds & basil

Local Harmony Ridge Duck smoked goat cheese & creamed corn

To drink  at the top of the evening, guests will enjoy  Death’s Door Gin with Fino Sherry, Plum, Hibiscus Flower, Lemon, and Bubbles;  and  Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel with Citrus, Cilantro, Agave, Chickpea, and Mole; two signature cocktails crafted for this evening by guest Mixologist Madison Burch of Tavernpointe, Seven Lamps & GRAIN in  Atlanta, GA  

Guests will also enjoy Mecktoberkfest, Old Mecklenberg Brewery;  and Hugel & Fils Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France 2013

The evening continues with a dinner of  four seated courses, each with a specially selected wine pairing by guest Sommelier for the evening, Laura Maniec from Corkbuzz in
New York, NY & Charlotte, NC. 

Tickets are  still available but the event is sure to sell out as it has in years past. Don’t wait, call your friends and make plans today…if you need to whet your palate a bit before you buy – here is the menu for dinner. A fun live auction will complete the evening. Its a delicious event for a wonderful cause – don’t miss it!

Hokkaido Scallop Crudo  apple & nasturtium by chef annie pettry | decca restaurant  Paired with Hugel & Fils Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France 2013

Beet Salad mepkin abbey mushrooms – whipped feta, toasted flax + spelt crunch, pickled red onion + parsley salad by chef emily hahn | warehouse kitchen + bar  Paired with Galerie Naissance Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California 2014

Carolina Amberjack with Kaffir Lime butternut squash – eggplant & chicken confit by chef alyssa wilen | chef alyssa’s kitchen Paired with  Siduri Willamette Pinot Noir. Williamette Valley 2014

Pistachio and Maraschino Cherry Mousse aerated chocolate cake – feuilletine soil – pistachio brittle & drunken cherries by chef ashley auer | cooks & soldiers Paired with Chevalier du Pastel Sauternes, Sauternes, France 2009

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

MAKE YOUR RESERVATION NOW – #TellThemHeidiSentYou
$175 per ticket  Table hosting  and other sponsorship opportunities are available as well.

Recipes from the Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage -Sept 9 2016

Twice a year I have the pleasure of hosting the cooking stage at the Southern Spring Show in April and Southern Shows Ideal Home Show in September. Back to back demos with tons of local chefs, caterers and other food-centric folk every hour on the hour!  I cook as well as host the activities and this year the fun takes place the weekend of Sept 9, 10 & 11 2016.

heres-what-was-cooking-at-the-southern-shows-ideal-home-show-friday-sept-9-2016

Still two days to go for this show with lines ups of great chefs sharing wonderful recipes on Saturday Sept 10 and Sunday Sept 11.  You can purchase tickets online here and use my special Friends and Family code of HeidiCooks16 to get a discounted price ( tickets are regularly $9 online,  $10 at the door, but with my code you can get them from just $6 a piece)

IMG_7417Before we get cooking today, here is the recap and recipes from all the fun and flavor on Friday… Just missing one set of recipes here and I will add them in later this weekend, as soon as I get them, so check back for updates….Meanwhile here’s the recap and the recipes.

The first day on the Southern Shows Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage 2016 day kicked off with chef Troy Gagliardo sharing his EveryDay Eats ( seen Tuesday Mornings on WCCB-TV) technique for homemade smoked pork butt, then transformed into a bbq pork fajita.

I followed Troy’s demo with a French Bistro style lunch or light dinner of Classic French Onions soup and my all local slider take on a Croque Monsieur using milk from Hickory Hill Farm in Greenville SC, biscuits from A Little Taste of Heaven in Monroe, Thin Sliced Prosciutto Style Country Ham from Goodnight Brothers in Boone,  and my favorite Herbs de Duxelle from the Savory Spice Shop in Charlotte’s Southend neighborhood.

img_4181Next Chef Terra Ciotta for the International Culinary School at Charlotte’s Art Institute,  stole the crowd’s heart with her Gateway Cheese Grits and Braised Shortribs, sharing lots of great technique ( Do you know why to add the celery last when you are sauteing a mirepoix? Answer below).

img_4195Melanie and Andy Tritten were up next sharing the fabulous flavors of their four Locally made Got To Be NC Cannizzaro sauces with two great recipes – one for Zucchini Crust Pizza and the other for the cutest little Zucchini and Yellow squash ( instead of pasta) raviolis you have ever seen.

img_4203Private Chef Bill Bigham followed with a trio of tasty crostini – shrimp and garlic, prosciutto, honey and fig and  artichoke with feta – wow!!

img_4206Personal Chef Cynthia Ferich was new to the cooking stage this year and the crowd loved her stories of cooking with her grandmother, sharing family recipes and keeping family traditions alive with her cookbook Mama Mia Cucina and her Fabulous recipe for Meatballs and Sauce.

I finished off the day with a Local Love demo, sharing tastes of Uno Alla Volta Cottage cheese with Cloister Honey’s new Salted Honey, My Tenda-Bake Pancake Mix cobbler recipe ( see yesterdays blog post)  and another version of the earlier Croque Monsieur recipe, this time with slices of White Chocolate Baguette from La Farm Bakery in Cary topped with more Goodnight Brothers ham and a bechamel made again with Hickory Hill Farms whole milk and Ashe County Blue Cheese – its a keeper, folks!

#TellThemHeidiSentYouRecipes from our first day follow here as well as links to to all the chefs. My plan is to post the recipes each evening ( or the morning after) so just stay tuned for  more or just subscribe to the blog ( on the home page here) to get the posts each day in your inbox and then you’ll be among the first to receive my regular blog posts every week or so.

Chef Troy Gagliardos PRO Pork for the home cook   

More At http://cheftroy.net/

8-10 Pounds-Pork Butt-with fat cap, bone-in or boneless

To Coat-Chef Troy’s Back Rub-or your favorite bbq rub

4 Cups-Hickory Wood Chip-soaked at least one hour

Sauce

1 Cup-Ketchup

¼ Cup-Cider Vinegar

¼-½ Cup-Cold Water

2 Tablespoon-Chef Troy’s Back Rub-or your favorite

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Directions

Pre heat oven to 225 degrees.  Pat pork dry and completely coat pork with rub. Place in a roasting pan fitted with a rack, cover with aluminum foil. Roast until tender, about 8 hours. Pre-heat grill/smoker for indirect low heat, about 225 degrees.  Remove foil, place rack with pork on grill, indirect heat side.  Add wood chips and let smoke for 1 to 1 ½ hours.  Remove and shred pork using two forks.  Sauce if desired and serve on buns, tortillas or on its own.

Chef Troy Gagliardos Pulled Pork Carnitas with Charred Slaw

1 Recipe-PRO Pork for the Home Cook (see recipe at http://www.cheftroy.net)

2 Each-Lime-one cut into wedges, one juiced

To Taste-Chef Troy’s Back Rub

1 Recipe-Charred Slaw with Spicy Russian Dressing

Flour or Corn Tortillas

Directions:

Cook pork according to recipe.  Pull pork off in large pieces and place 6 cups in a mixing bowl and squeeze in lime juice to taste.  Season with Chef Troy’s Back Rub and toss to combine.  Place an iron skillet over medium high heat.  Place pork in skillet and begin to brown.  When warmed through and slightly caramelized, cover and remove from heat.  Warm tortillas in a dry pan or on low heat grill, keep warm in a clean kitchen towel. Top each tortilla with a mound of pork, a dollop of slaw {garnish with crispy ramen from slaw recipe}.

Charred Slaw with Spicy Russian Dressing

3 Cups-Red Cabbage-about a quarter head, leave core intact

3 Cups-Green Cabbage-about a quarter head, leave core intact

To Bruch-Olive Oil

To Taste-Chef Troy’s Spice Mix

½ Cup-Carrot-shredded

3 Each-Green Onion-sliced thin

2 Tablespoons-Unsalted Butter

1 Pack-Dry Ramen Noodle-crushed

Dressing

¾ Cup-Mayonnaise

¼ Cup-Ketchup

1 Teaspoon-Tabasco Hot Sauce

½ Teaspoon-Worcestershire Sauce

3 Tablespoons-Chives-sliced thin

To Taste-Kosher Salt/Black Pepper

Directions

Preheat grill for direct heat grilling to medium high heat.  Make dressing by combining all ingredients and refrigerate.  Melt butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Crush ramen noodles, place in pan and cook until lightly toasted-3-5 minutes.  Place on a paper towel lined plate and allow to cool.  Brush cabbage lightly with oil and season with Spice Mix.  Place over direct heat and char on both cut sides, 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove, allow to cool and slice thin.  Place cabbages in a bowl, add carrot/green onion and toss to combine.  Add just enough dressing to coat and toss to combine.  Add toasted ramen to taste and serve.

 

Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto’s Classic French Onion Soup

HeidiBillottoFood.com

 

3 medium onions, thin sliced

2 cloves Local or organic garlic

5 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. sugar (not needed if you are using sweet onions or if you have the time to really cook the onions low and slow)

6 cups beef, mushroom or chicken broth or half of each

1 cup dry white wine

a bouquet garni ( made with celery bay leaf and other fresh herbs like thyme and parsley

½ cup Tawny Port

1/3 cup heavy cream or fat free half and half (optional) or you can also use an unsweetened coconut creamer

For finish and gratinee:
1 baguette of French bread
1 cup grated swiss cheese ( Emmenthaler or Gruyere are always good)

Here’s How Its Done:  Sweat the onions and garlic in the butter over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes or until tender. During the last five minutes stir in the sugar. Add the stock and wine and bouquet garni. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Add Port and  creamer.

To serve: Pour soup into individual ramekins. Top each with a slice of the baguette. Sprinkle with the Swiss cheese. Run under the broiler until the cheese melts

Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billottos’s French Bistro Croque Monsieur Biscuits

HeidiBillottoFood.com

 

Béchamel

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1½ cups whole local milk

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Pink Himalayan seas salt from the Savory Spice Shop to taste

Heidi’s Hot Pepper blend from the Savory Spice Shop ( 1/3 each Black tellicherry peppercorns, Black lampong peppercorns and pink reunion peppercorns)

For the sandwiches:

8 A Little Taste of Heaven Biscuits

6 oz. Goodnight Brothers Country ham, biscuit cut or thin sliced prosciutto style

3 oz. Gruyère, grated (about 1½ cups) or for a fun local twist use Fading D Farm aged Buffola cheeses

2 Tbsp. Savory Spice Shop tomato powder  + 1 Tbsp Savory Spice Shop Herbs de Duxelle Mushroom Powder

For the béchamel:  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add flour and stir cook until mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add milk, stirring until mixture is smooth. Cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the bechamel from heat and whisk in mustard and nutmeg; season to taste with salt.  The sauce may be made ahead and held in the fridge for a day or so or frozen – defrost overnight in refrigerator

For the sandwiches:  Warm the biscuits in the oven according to package directions, Cut each biscuit in half. Place the biscuit bottoms on a Parchment paper lined baking sheet, Top each biscuit with a spoonful of béchamel, then layer each with ham and grated cheese.Take a cup of the remaining béchamel and stir in 1 tablespoon of the tomato powder and 1 Tbsp of the Herbs de duxelle mushroom powder.  Cover each bundle with a biscuit top them, coat each with bechamel, then top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with tomato powder and herbs de duxelle. Bake until cheese is brown and bubbling, 10–15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Braised Short Ribs

Artisan Restaurant at the International Culinary School – Art Institute Charlotte

4 oz Oil – Olive & Canola Blend

3 lbs. Short Ribs

Salt & Pepper to taste

Flour      to coat

1 lb. Onion

½ lb. Carrot

½ lb Parsnips

3 cloves Garlic, crushed

2 oz. Tomato Paste

8 oz Beer, Dark preferred

2 oz Brown Sugar

2 oz Worcestershire

2-3 cups Beef Stock

3-4 sprigs Oregano (or other strong herb)

Heat the blended oil in a deep cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

Preheat an oven to 325 F (162 C).    Season the short ribs with the Salt & Pepper and dust with the flour.   Sear the ribs on all sides in the heated oil, then remove them.  Saute the onion, carrot & parsnips in the pan.   Add the tomato paste and stir it in to dry; add the beer, Worchester and brown sugar.  Add some of the stock and return the short ribs to the sauce. The sauce should come half-way up the sides of the ribs. Adjust with additional stock as needed.  Place in the preheated oven covered and cook for two hours, turning the ribs over every 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place the ribs on a deep platter.   Using a submersible blender, puree the sauce. Adjust the consistency as needed by thinning with additional stock or thicken with a Corn Starch Slurry.

Crock Pot Method

  1. Complete steps 1 & 2 above, placing the Short Ribs in the crock pot.
  2. Follow steps 2 – 5 above, pouring the sauce over the short ribs in the crock pot.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours.
  4. Remove from short ribs from the crock pot onto a platter and continue to step 8.

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Gateway Cheddar Grits

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup milk

As needed salt

1 cup stone ground grits

4 oz. unsalted butter

4 oz. heavy cream

4 oz. grated cheddar

Bring stock and milk to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in grits.  Place in 350 oven to cook, stirring occasionally.  Add more stock if needed.

When grits are done, stir in the butter, cream, and cheese.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.  Serve immediately or cool in a shallow pan.

To reheat: combine grits with a little heavy cream and warm gently on the stove over moderate heat.

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Braised Shortribs

Andy and Melanie Tritten’s Cannizzaro Sauce Zucchini Crust Pizza

More at https://cannizzarofamiglia.com/

1 Medium-Large Zucchini
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan
2 tsps Sea Salt
1 Jar Cannizzaro Marinara or Arrabbiata
Your Favorite Pizza Toppings

Shred Zucchini on a cheese grater over a clean dish towel.  Squeeze out as much water from the Zucchini as possible.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg. Add zucchini, parmesan and salt and mix well.
Top a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray. Place zucchini mixture in the center and with wet hands (this will help with sticking) pat it down to about ½ inch thickness.
Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until it starts to lightly brown.
Top with sauce and all of your favorite toppings. Bake for another 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Andy and Melanie Tritten’s Cannizzaro Sauce  Zucchini Ravioli

2 Zucchini & 2 Yellow Squash
1 8 Oz Container Ricotta Cheese
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 Beaten Egg
1 Jar Cannizzaro Marinara or Arrabbiata

Slice squash lengthwise very thin – using a wide vegetable peeler.  Layer 2 slices and then 2 slices forming a cross. Mix ricotta, parmesan, ½ of the mozzarella and the beaten egg.
Spray a small lasagna pan and fill with 1/2 of a Jar of Sauce. Place 1 Tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the cross.  Flip each side up to form a square ravioli.
Place seam side down in pan. Spoon remaining sauce over each roll & top with reserved cup of Mozzarella Cheese.  Bake at 400
̊ for 20 minutes or until bubbly & melty.

Chef Big Bigham’s Garlic Shrimp Crostini  

More at http://www.chefbillbigham.com/

8 Large Shrimp, deveined, peeled

8 slices Baguette

3 cloves Garlic, peeled

3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

Heat grill pan Grill bread until golden brown on both sides  Place toasted slices on a large platter, rub garlic over tops, then brush with olive oil.  In a small saute pan, melt butter with a splash of olive oil over medium heat.  Finely dice one clove of garlic and add to the saute pan. Cook until fragrant. Add shrimp and cook about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Thinly slice a clove of garlic. Add olive oil to a small sautee pan over medium heat. Cook until golden brown. To assemble, place one shrimp on the crostini and garnish with a garlic chip.  Serve immediately

Chef Bill Bigham’s Manchego, Prosciutto, Black Fig Crostini

8 slices Baguette

8 slices Manchego Cheese, sliced to fit Crostini

4 slices Prosciutto, slice in strips

4 Black Figs, halved

Honey

1 clove Garlic, peeled

1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Grill or toast  bread until golden brown on both sides. Place toasted slices on a large platter, rub garlic over tops, then brush with olive oil. To assemble, place Manchego on a piece of crostini. Mound a few strips on Prosciutto on top of the Manchego. Place a halved black fig on top of the Prosciutto. Drizzle with honey. Serve immediately

Chef Bill Bigham’s Feta Cheese, Artichoke, Kalamata Olive Crostini

2 oz Feta Cheese

4 Artichoke Hearts, halved

8 pitted Kalamata Olives

8 slices Baguette

1 clove Garlic, peeled

1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Grill or toast bread until golden brown on both sides. Place toasted slices on a large platter, rub garlic over tops, then brush with olive oil. To assemble, spread teaspoon of Feta on each crostini. Top with an artichoke heart and Kalamata olive. Serve immediately.

Cynthia Ferich’s “Cynthia Cooks” Noni’s Spaghetti Sauce

More at http://www.cynthiacooks.com/

Salsa di Pomodori della Nonna

meatballs (see recipe below0

2 pounds of fresh Italian sausage

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups of tomato puree, fresh or canned

1-1/2 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 whole carrot

1 stalk of celery

6 oz. can of tomato paste, dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Wash and cut the sausage into 2-inch pieces.  Heat a skillet and add the olive oil, sausage and onion.  Fry until the sausage is cooked and the onions are lightly brown and translucent in color.  Add garlic and cook until lightly brown.  In a large sauce pot, pour in the tomato puree, chicken broth, sausage, onion and garlic.  Bring to a slow boil, reduce to low heat, and add the parsley, basil, salt and oregano.  Cook for 2 hours.  Add meatballs, carrot, and celery.  Cook for 2-1/2 hours and remove the carrot and celery after they have cooked.  Add dissolved tomato paste to the sauce approximately 20 minutes before the sauce is cooked.  Remove meat and serve with your favorite pasta.   Serving Suggestion:  For a meatier-flavored sauce, add pork ribs, braciole, and soup bones along with the sausages and meatballs.  The meats add a fabulous flavor.  As a little girl, I woke to the smell of spaghetti sauce every Sunday because that was ‘pasta day.’  This is my grandmother’s recipe as she instructed me to prepare it in her own words.  She said “you add the tomato paste during the last 20 minutes so that the sauce doesn’t become bitter.”  I often double the recipe, and freeze the sauce for a later date.  Don’t store the meat with the sauce, as the meat will absorb the sauce.  Store them separately.

Cynthia Ferich’s “Cynthia Cooks”  Meatballs or Polpette

2 cups of day-old Italian bread, cubed with crusts removed

3/4 cup of water

1/4 pound of ground veal

1/4 pound of ground beef

1/4 pound of ground pork

1 egg

1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley

1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

Soak cubed bread in 3/4 cup water.  After the bread has been soaked, squeeze out the water a handful at a time.  Combine all ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until blended.  Roll into balls.  At this point, the balls can be fried on all sides in a skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  They don’t have to be cooked through if you are adding them to the sauce, but they need to be browned so that they will not fall apart when added to the sauce.   Note:  This recipe makes 1 pound of meatballs.  I often triple it and freeze the uncooked balls on a cookie sheet until frozen, and then put them in freezer storage containers for later use.  You can add the meatballs to the sauce frozen.   My great-grandmother used to say, “don’t handle the meat too much or the meatballs will get hard.”  She only used a wooden spoon to mix the meat.  I start with the spoon, but end up using my hands.  Your hands contain heat, so be careful not to heat them up too much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking Up A Storm at the Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage Sept 9,10 & 11

adding the olive oilI’ve gotta lot cooking this weekend  – Sept 9,10 & 11  – and I’d love for you to consider this your personal invitation to  join me and a host of talented chefs for a taste or two of it all  at the Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage!

That’s right! Its time for the annual Southern Ideal Home Show! It takes place this weekend, Sept 9,10 & 11; and Parking is free at The Park Expo – 800 Briar Creek Road!   The cooking stage is just a part of what goes on at this annual home show; but as I have for nearly a half dozen or so years now, I’ll be there all three days  presenting cooking demonstrations myself and acting as  host of  the cooking stage personally introducing you to some of my favorite restaurant chefs, private chefs, foodies and farmers with back to back cooking demos every hour on the half hour each day of the show.

Dates & Times – Mark your calendars, phone your friends and make plans now to join us. The action on the cooking stage takes place on Friday Sept 9 from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm; on Saturday Sept 10 from 10:30 am  to 5:30 pm; and on Sunday Sept 11 from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. Plus, check it out,  I’ve got a special price on show tickets for you as well!

Tickets  – Once you are in the door, you can check out all of the exhibitors and can come to any of the cooking stage demos throughout the day. Adult tickets are $9 in advance, $10 per person at the door , but you can buy them in advance here, online,  for just $6 per person  with this special HeidiCooks16 code! ( kids 15 and under may attend for free with an adult)

Recipes – Come for the fun of it all – and for some great new recipe ideas for all you’ll be cooking this season. The recipes each chef prepares for this show will be up on this blog each evening of the show day, so you can easily circle back and make a copy of the ones you loved and want to try for yourself.

And More –  At the cooking stage, you can look for tasty samples, coupons, and great giveaways at each of the demos as well as a chance to meet each of our Home Show Cooking Stage chefs up close and personal. You won’t want to miss a single bite!  I am thrilled to have students from the Charlotte Community Culinary School volunteering at the stage, assisting our participating chefs, as well. I can’t wait to see  you there! 

Here’s the 2016 line up of chefs for this fun and  flavorful weekend…the only thing missing is you!

Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage – Friday Sept 9, 2016

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Heidi Billotto and Chef Troy Gagliardo

11:30 am   Everyday Eats  Chef Troy Gagliardo, WCCB Charlotte’s CW
12:30 pm   French Bistro Style  with Cooking Stage Host, Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
1:30 pm   Sophisticated Comfort Food Chefs Terra Ciotta and Phillip Lloyd, Art Institute of Charlotte

andy and Melanie

Melanie and Andy Tritten

2:30 pm   Getting Sauced  Melanie and Andy Tritten, Cannizzaro Sauces
3:30 pm  Crostini for a Crowd  Chef Bill Bigham, Private Chef

HeadShotChefWhisk.Good (2)_closeup

Chef Cynthis Ferich

4:30 pm  Mama Mia Cucina Chef Cynthia Ferich, Cynthia Cooks
5:30 pm    Local Love – 5 local products you’re going to love having in your kitchen and on your table  Cooking stage host, Heidi Billotto, Charlotte Culinary Expert

Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage – Saturday, Sept 10, 2016

10:30 am  Italian Appetizers  Chef Vincent Caminiti, Novanta 90 Pizzeria Napoletana

jill aker-ray

Private chef Jill Aker-Ray

11:30 am   Good, Better, Best – Take one master recipe and then servie it up three ways!
Chef Jill Aker Ray, Private Chef
12:30 pm   Fresh From the Farmer’s Market  Chef Adam Reed, Sante Restaurant of Matthews
1:30 pm     Under the Tuscan Sun Chef Rodrigo Velazco, Vivace Ristorante

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Chefs Emily and Chris Russell, Zone 7 Foods

2:30 pm     Fresh Local Good  Emily and Chris Russell, Zone 7 Foods
3:30 pm   Wine and Dine   Chef Ashley Owens, Napa on Providence
4:30 pm    Southern Comforts   Chef Michael Griswold, The Pump House in Rock Hill
5:30 pm    How to Bake Biscuits and More   Chef Geoff Bragg, Community Culinary School of Charlotte

Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage – Sunday, Sept 11, 2016

IMG_7962

Heidi with chefs Sam Stachon and Clark Barlow

11:30 am    From the Fall Farm to Your Kitchen   Chef Clark Barlow, Heirloom Restaurant
12:30 pm    Here’s Whats Cookin’ in Hickory   Chef Sam Stachon, Highland Avenue in Hickory

luca

Chef Luca Annunziata

1:30 pm    Cooking with Certified Organic Ginger  Mary Roberts, Windcrest Farms and Heidi Billotto, Charlotte Culinary Expert

 

2:30 pm   The Art of Cooking with Local Mushrooms, featuring Chef Luca Annunziata from Passion 8 Bistro  Hiram Ramirez and Michelle Smith, Urban Gourmet Mushroom Farms
3:30 pm    A Little Sweet, A Little Savory   Amy and Scott McCabe, The Savory Spice Shop in South End

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

To make sure you get the show recipes and all of my upcoming blog posts with recipes, on local restaurants and chefs, exciting three day weekend adventures and more, as soon as they hit, why not subscribe to HeidiBillottoFood.com now -then each blog post will come to your inbox as soon as I hit the “publish” key.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Day Weekend:Greenville, SC…Yeah, That Greenville WOW!

In need of a September vaca? On the lookout for more food, drink and music than you can shake a stick at? Well, you’ll be glad to know that just an hour and half or so drive south of the Queen City is where its at! Greenville, SC is a great three or four day weekend getaway.

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Shoeless Joe Jackson statue in Greenville

Greenville, SC is the home of Duke’s Mayonnaise, baseball’s Shoeless Joe Jackson (you can visit his home, now a museum); Fluor Baseball Field, modeled after Fenway Park with its own smaller version of the “Green Monster”;  Furman University, and The Liberty Bridge, a suspension pedestrian bridge that stretches over the Falls on the Reedy River which flows through the city.  

Greenville, SC is also just a stones throw from the high tech BMW manufacturing plant (where tours are also available) in Spartanburg SC in one direction and Clemson University ( home of Clemson Blue Cheese) in the other. Add all that to the  fact that the city’s annual extravaganza dubbed euphoria is right around the corner – the weekend of September 22-25 to be exact – makes timing for a Greenville Getaway practically perfect!

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You can still get tickets to this  four-day weekend that features celebrated chefs (including Chef Chris Coleman from Stoke restaurant & Coco and the Director at the Marriott Uptown, Chef Clark Barlowe from Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte and Chef Joe Kindred from Kindred’s in Davidson); plus lots of beverage professionals, celebrity singers and songwriters, and a diverse offering of wines, craft beers, and spirits.

euphoria 2016 offers over 30 all-inclusive events – from a tasting event appropriately named Feast by the Field to a food truck rodeo to multi-course dinners with wine pairings. Certainly something to fit every foodie style! 

Get your tickets to euphoria 2016 and then plan a Greenville getaway while you are there.

Three of my favorite places to stay in Greenville include a great little B&B, a historic hotel and a contemporary getaway just outside of the city

IMG_1932The Swamp Rabbit Inn, 1 Logan St, Greenville,  is located just two blocks off Main Street and as is the case with most B&B’s offers a  great alternative to a regular hotel stay. With a half dozen rooms, several with private baths, this fun & funky, colorful comfortable home offers guests a full kitchen, shared living room space and great back deck. In addition, you are welcome to bring your bicycle or rent one here.

If you didn’t already know Greenville is a town of cyclists and the owners and staff at Swamp Rabbit Inn & the adjoining Bike Shed can help you plan your route and get you hooked up with anything you need. If you’d rather not cycle, the convenient location is an easy walk away from everything happening on Main Street.

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For more conventional hotel lodging, stay in the historic Westin Poinsett, 120 S Main St, Greenville, SC.This elegant hotel  is right in the midst of  all the Main street actions an each walk from The Peace Center performing arts venue or to Falls Park on the Reedy. The hotel’s 1920 roots remain in the stunning foyer of the hotel while the rooms offer a taste of modern day luxury.

If you just need some space, but still  want to be close enough not to miss out – then book  room at Hotel Domestique10 Rd of Vines, Travelers Rest, SC,homefullwidthjust 30-40 mins outside of Greenville center city . This stunning European villa is owned by world renowned cyclist George Hincapie, and while programs and activities are geared towards bicyclist enthusiasts, bike or no, its a wonderful place to take a day or two and get away from it all. A salt water pool, yoga classes and on property massage services are just a few of the amenities.And while you are there be sure to make dinner reservations at the hotel’s  Restaurant 17.

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Overhead view of the Sobe’s open kitchen from Table 301

For dining in town, just stroll down Main Street to check out all of your options. Several of my favorites are all a part of the Table 301 group which includes The Lazy Goat, Passerelles Bistro, located right at the entrance to The Falls at the Reedy and the restaurant that started it all, Soby’s. At Soby’s, upstairs with a perfect view of the open kitchen and the rest of the restaurant is the original Table #301, the best seat in the house,, for which the ever growing restaurant group is named. When you make reservations ( and yes, you do want to make reservations) at Soby’s, be sure to ask for Table 301.

IMG_2018If you are in shopping mode, you can’t miss Beija-Flor Denim Salon.  Actually this shop is worth the drive down to Greenville in and of itself and while you can purchase these jeans online, its worth taking a looksee in person at the Greenville, SC Beija-Flor  located  at 618 South Main Street.

The graphics on the window offer a quote saying “These jeans changed my life” and indeed truer words were never spoken. The concept was started by two women who wanted other women to look and feel good in what they wear. To that end, they work with sustainable and sometimes recycled denim to make the best looking, best fitting jeans ever. I’m sold – you really just have to see for yourself, visit them when you are in Greenville or check it all out online. They really do offer the perfect fit.

IMG_1836Set and looking good in your new jeans, as you walk down Main Street in Greenville, you’ll pass the entrance to Falls Park. Each time I visit Greenville, I like to start my day with a walk around the falls, its peaceful and centering way to start the day. Start with a stroll across the Liberty Bridge and then wind your way along the river. Lots of public art and bronze sculpture all around the city; and beautiful sculptured gardens en route- even under the overpasses.

IMG_1838And if you have to work -what better place than in a park – when need a break from the flourescents – take your laptop outside and check email while you sit along side the river, as the entire center city is wifi-ed.

If you are out to exercise, walk or bike all or part of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Developed with a grant by theGreenville Health System, the 19 and some mile Swamp Rabbit Trail links the cities of Travelers Rest and Greenville. Directional signs and maps abound so its hard to loose your way.

swamp-rabbit-cafe-greenville-scAlong the trail, or by car, just a short drive from Main Street, be sure to include a stop at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery.

IMG_2147Great sammies here all make on fresh baked Stecca Bread. If you’ve a passion for local foodstuffs, this is the place. Part old fashioned grocery, part farmers’ market, part sandwich and coffee shop – take it all in and enjoy.

IMG_2165And finally, while  we are talking local and while you are in the Greenville area; follow my lead and take the circuitous route back home vis a vis a stop in Belton SC at the wonderfully infamous Grits & Groceries restaurant.  The restaurant is really between Belton and Due West, SC but for GPS purposes Belton will be what pops up. Run by husband and wife team Heidi and Joe Trull, the Grits & Groceries concept really deserves a blog post all its own, and I promise one is in the works, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include it here and truth is – one most really experience a meal at Grits & Groceries, rather than just read about it,  to truly appreciate it all.

The restaurant’s tag line is “Real Food. Done IMG_2168Really Good.” and that about says it. Pretty much, Heidi cooks, Joe bakes; and with each dish is a big heapin’ handful of oh so Southern Hospitality from these talented and just plain friendly folk. The couple traveled the world sharing their culinary craft as they went, but when it came time to raise a family, they decided to come back to the country to settle down.

The restaurant is in an historic building, once home to an old country store at Saylors Crossroads,  at the junction of South Carolina state highways 185 and 284. Get set to enjoy a fine taste of all that is local in this part of South Carolina from Heidi’s pimento cheese balls to Joes fried pies.

If you’ve got a hunger  for more before you can make the pilgrimmage, pick up a copy of the Trull’s newly released cookbook, you can order one here. But then just plan a date to enjoy a weekday breakfast or lunch or weekend brunch  and get on the road. How do you know when you are there? Just look for Rudy – the Giant Rooster on the corner – the restaurant stands right behind him

North Carolina Chefs Showdown

Its a food and lovers’ dream dinner. The 2016 North Carolina Chefs Showdown.

Chefs showdown logoThis is the inaugural year of the NCRLA – the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association’s North Carolina Chef Showdown and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to have played a part in putting it all together. The evening features 16 of North Carolina’s best chefs and pastry chefs as well as six of the Triangles most creative mixologists, all together at one venue at Raleigh’s 214 Martin Street/Market Hall for an ambulatory evening of sweet and savory food and drink as a part of the NCRLA 2016 Expo in Raleigh North Carolina.

The 2016 NCRLAExpo is predominantly for the culinary trade and hospitality industry and takes place in Raleigh Aug 29 and 30. The Chef Showdown event is for the trade with tickets now available to the public as well and I am telling you, no matter where you live in the Carolinas, this event will be worth the road trip.

The NCRLA 2016 Chef Showdown in this Monday night August 29; doors open at 6 pm.

You food-centric folk  are going to Eat This Up!!!

While it will be dinner and a ton of fun, its also a competition and to that end, I’ve rounded up a tremendous panel of judges all involved in the  industry, including Master Baker Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary, Chef Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte; Chef Ryan Conklin of Rex Healthcare in Raleigh; Certified Master Chef Tony Seta of Butterball; Andrea Weigl, Food Editor from Raleigh’s The News & Observer; and Tim Parrish, Marketing Specialist at North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

This awesome panel of judges will be charged with the task of naming several awards to be announced by our host for the evening, television personality Ken Smith of Raleigh’s WRAL, including recognition for one  dessert plate and one savory dish that make the best use of a North Carolina Grown, Raised, Caught or Made product, produce or protein; One dessert plate and one savory dish  offering the most creative presentation; and then of course the big overall award – the 2016 NCRLA Chef of the Year and the 2016 NCRLA Pastry chef of the year.

In addition there will also be a People’s Choice Awards for the best savory dish, the best dessert and the best craft cocktail  and there is  also an interactive Instagram contest to boot! It’s going to be an exciting evening for sure. The chefs are ready to roll, all that is missing is you!

Don’t Miss This Inaugural Event:

Get your tickets NOW for the Monday night 2016 NCRLA Chef Showdown event with just one click right here

Have I whet your palate? Need a bit of a push – well then, this will seal the deal.. let me tell you  who will be there cooking. You won’t believe that all this culinary talent will be in one room!

2016 chef showdown chefsThese chefs are cooking in this competition without any boundaries or parameters, serving guests and judges alike, with plates that best represent their personal style and what they do on a daily basis at their restaurants. Its going to be fabulous! 

From Charlotte, Luca Annunziata Passion8; Matthew Krenz The Asbury; Tom Marlow Mimosa Grill; Matt Tilman Gallery Restaurant; Ashley Bivens Boyd 300 East and Heritage food & drink; Jossie Perlmutter Block & Grinder – Langtree; #NoellGogg The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge.

From Hendersonville, Jess Roque Never Blue

From Hickory Sam Stachon Highland Avenue

From the Triad: John Bobby A Noble Grille ,Richard Andrew Miller Graze Restaurant, #PabloDelValle Atelier on Trade,Jay Pierce The Marshall Free House

From the Triangle Chef Gerry Fong at the Dorothy and Roy Park Alumni Center at NC State University

John May Piedmont Restaurant and Christopher Scott James The Angus Barn.

Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery, by Tamara LackeySo what’s dinner and dessert without a little bread and butter?  Guests with a passion for bread ( and who among us doesn’t have that)  will be delighted to know that the evening also includes a Bread Station compliments of the talented team at La Farm Bakery.

Heidi Billotto 2008

And did I mention there would be wine, beer and  craft cocktails, all compliments of these fine Triangel based mixologists: cheers to Alex Flynn, The Haymaker, Raleigh; Kyle Hankin, Fox Liquor Bar, Raleigh; Quentin Hill, The Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill; Drew Schenck, RallyPoint Sports Grill, Cary; Jarod Sneed, Tupelo Honey Cafe, Raleigh; and Tim VanBeek, The Washington Duke Inn, Durham

Cost for the evening is $125 per person. Tickets Available Here and I will see you there! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

A Bite of GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte from Behind the Scenes

DSC_0655As many of you know I travel with the GotToBeNC Competition Dining series organizers across the state of North Carolina – promoting chefs and their culinary prowess as they participate in  dinner events set up like a live version of a mix of Chopped and Ironchef.

Slide95My job is not to cook, but  instead to tell the tale of chefs and farmers, restaurants and featured products; and in addition to handle all the social media, the sponsors and relationships with our competing chefs.

I love what I do and have met some very cool people in each city, but have to say I am so happy to be in Charlotte this month as The GotToBeNC Competition Dining series kicks off a seven night series in the Queen City.

 

Team Radical Range Riders

Team Radical Range Riders

Monday Aug 8 was evening one. This first preliminary battle saw chefs Paul Verica from Heritage Food & Drink; Ashely Boyd from 300 East and Heritage Food& Drink and Joe Bonaparte from the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach on Team 3 Cooks up against chefs Adam Reed from Sante of Matthews, Terra Ciotta of the Art Institute of Charlotte’s Artisan Restaurant and Jess Cochran from CPCC’s culinary school who came to play as Team Radical Range Riders.

Team 3 cooks

Team 3 Cooks

The concept of a dream team of chefs – all from one restaurant or from three separate restaurants is new to the GotToBeNc Competition Dining Series this year and the chefs and the audience are loving the experience.

I, too, had a blast yesterday. I have had the pleasure of knowing all of these chefs for years – save for Jess who I just met the other day and am looking forward to getting to know.

Its been great watching all of them grow, hone their skills, make their marks both individually and together to help carve a place for the Charlotte culinary community in the statewide, regional and national spotlights.

Yesterday was no different and the fact that all six of these chefs were good friends with similar cooking styles, made it all the more fun from the Chefs’ Breakfast at the start of the day to the announcement of the winning team about 9:30 Monday night.

images-2One of this year’s Competition Dining sponsors, Alsco, treats the chefs in each region across the state to a relaxing breakfast as a start to the day and in Charlotte our breakfast spot is @Dawn, located at 2130 Ayrely Town Blvd at the intersection of I-485 and South Tryon Streets, the relatively new breakfast concept brought to you by Greg and Subrina Collier of The Yolk, a great  little breakfast spot in Rock Hill. After a family style meal of local eggs cooked to order, two kinds of grits, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, biscuits, fresh local fruit, coffee tea and more and some fun photos the crew all headed over to Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, our home base for each of the Charlotte events.

chefs at the reveal

Chefs meet each day with Chef Ref Chad Blackwelder for the Secret Ingredient and Mystery Basket reveal

Back at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, located on Cleveland Ave in the Dilworth neighborhood,  Competition Dining Chef Ref Chad Blackwelder from Sanford, NC, sets up a refrigerated mobile pantry, sponsored by Pate Dawson Southern Foods full of great items for the chefs to cook with and make a part of the meal. The pantry has all the basics and includes lots of North Carolina product.

 

 

In addition Chad UPDATED - NCDAalso shops at local markets in each city so that the end result of each six course meal features a good mix of  local farmers, NC  Produce, product and proteins as well as a mix of other regional and seasonal items.

At the reveal each morning of competition, chefs learn of the secret ingredient they will be working with – to be featured in each of their 3 courses to make a 6 course meal. In addition, they have a group of mystery basket ingredients to choose from that they must include somewhere in the meal.

To that end, the first Charlotte preliminary  dinner featured Black Mountain Chocolate cocoa nibs and Dominican Chocolate as well as several varieties of local chiles and peppers.

The chiles and peppers came almost entirely from the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market from my friends Mark and Mindy Robinson at Tega Hill Farm and from Cathy and Eric McCall at As Hot As Possible Hot Pepper Herb Farm. Poblano chiles were from Coto Farms at the Atherton Farmers market and the spicy Thai Chiles were from Ma Cha at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market

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Chef Paul Verica | Heritage Food&Drink

From the  Mystery basket selections, chefs were limited to two proteins – duck from Joe Jurgielewicz & Son – a fourth generation sustainable duck farm in Pennsylvania and one of the leading Pekin duck suppliers in North America ; and Greenbrier Farms pork, a farm I discovered and was happy to bring to the Competition Dining table and to the attention of Pate Dawson when we competed in Greenville SC last year.

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Chef Adam Reed Sante of Matthews

Also in the Mystery Basket this first night of Charlotte competition, other local favorites from the Savory Spice Shop in Southend and from Charlotte’s own, award winning Cloister Honey. Basics in the kitchen also came from lots of local farms all of whom sell at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Saturdays including watermelons, onions, and more from A Way of Life Farm; cucumbers, blackberries and more from Burton Farms; Tomatoes and Peaches from Lincoln County; Blueberries from Blackwood Berries, a farm located not far from Fayetteville, NC

These six chefs did both secret ingredients and all the mystery basket and pantry items proud in six courses that featured flavors from an rich Manchamanteles sauce served in The Radical Range Riders course 3 to a light NC Peach and Thai Chile sorbet a part of the plating for Team 3 Cooks course 6. The intriguing mix kept the crowd guessing all through the evening as to which team made which plate, but as Competition Dining host and creator Jimmy Crippen always remnds guests, it is always best not to guess who made what, but instead to simply vote your palate.  For final results of this first battle and a detailed description of each plate visit the Results Page at the Competition Dining Website

In the end, it was an excited Team Radical Range Riders who took the win and will go on the compete in the Thursday August 11 semi final round.

They will go up against the winner of tonights August 9 battle which will find Team Bistro 127 from Hickory NC with chefs Shawn Bank, John Edwards and Jeff Croft all going up against Team Vicious & Delicious with chefs Ryan Forte and Phillip Platoni from Southminster in Charlotte and chef Brigitte Oger from Craft Cakes of Charlotte. Check out these pages on Wednesday Aug 10 to see the results of the  Tuesday Aug 9 nite event.

As I write this Monday night recap, chefs are in the kitchen with 2 very cool secret ingredients, one a local seasonal favorite and the other one you might be surprise to find is an ingredient produced in the state of North Carolina.  Here are all of the Aug 10 chefs at the

 

Its anyone’ game. Tonight’s  preliminary battle and the August 11 semi final battle are already sold out with a waiting list, but tickets to the  Aug 22 and 23 preliminary battles are still available.  Treat yourself to a night of North Carolina’s favorite culinary sport and join us, if you will.

Tickets for the preliminary events are just $74.78, exclusive of beverages. Here are the direct links:

August 22 between Team Lucianos Charlotte and Team Fahrenheit CLT

August 23 between Team Heirloom and Team Trois Petit Cochon with chefs from The Fishmarket in Ft. Mill and Cafe Montes in Charlotte

Don’t miss a single bite of the action – if you can’t make it you can follow along on all the social media – I look forward to seeing you there – Cheers!

 

2016 GotTobeNC Competition Dining Series Comes to Charlotte

BlackCompDiningLogoIts called Competition Dining – The GotToBeNc Competition Dining Series – to be exact.  Its a series of interactive dining events held across the state of North Carolina.  Think of it as what you would get if  you combined the cooking and competition premise of  the television shows Chopped and  Iron Chef and then add in the fact that YOU get to be the judge as teams of talented area chefs create a number of courses centered around a “secret ingredient” each night of competition.

As many of you may know, I work and travel across North Carolina with the Competition Dining team headed by the uber-enthusiastic host and creator or the event, Jimmy Crippen.

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODI absolutely love what I do as the face behind all the #CompDiningNC social media, newsletters etc,  coordinating relationships with local, regional and national sponsors; helping to connect local farmers and chefs and in general making sure that our dinner guests have the most fun possible as we competing across North Carolina, this year with regional series in Durham, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington.

Its fun to travel meeting talented chefs across the state, but I am particularly excited to be home in Charlotte next month as the competition kicks off August 8, showing the state what Charlotte chefs bring to the table. Excited, too, to be the first to share the news in this post as to which Charlotte-based chefs are competing and when they will be in the GotToBeNC Competition Dining spotlight, that’s right – you heard it hear first!

bring your own battery packs - CopyAs a dinner guest at any Competition Dining event, you and your dining companions will enjoy a six course meal, but you won’t know which team of chefs prepared which course. You’ll have fun voting on the specially designed app on your phone, voting and posting on your own social media if you would like, as you enjoy each sweet and savory forkful. In the end, your votes are tallied, the teams come out to meet the crowd, the scores are reveled and one team wins and the other goes on the cook another day.

UPDATED - NCDAThere really is nothing else like it... with the NC Department of Agriculture as the title sponsor, The GotToBeNc Competition Dining series comes with a focus on promoting local NC and for this series Charlotte area produce, proteins and products.

Here’s how it all works – Every GotToBeNC Competition Dining Series dinner event includes two chef teams battling it out, each preparing three courses centered on a featured North Carolina ingredients  – its like simultaneously eating at two of your favorites restaurants.

bonterra_thumbnailIn Charlotte all of the  events will take place at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, located at  1829 Cleveland Ave. We book out the restaurant on the days of competition; our chefs start early in the  morning with the reveal of the secret ingredient or ingredients, cook all day and then plate and serve guests at the event that night. Doors and the bar open at 6 pm and the show starts about 6:45.

verica in actionWhile the chefs are cooking in the kitchen, as ticketed guests, you can get in on the action as well, savoring a full-service, six-course meal without knowing which chef prepared which plate.  As you enjoy the dinner, you’ll vote on each dish using the free app, and ultimately help determine who moves on to the next round and who goes home. Guests attending the finale in each region receive a gift bag of coupons, swag and samples compliments of our Competition Dining Sponsors.

While the Charlotte Food-centric crowd has been enjoying the competition for several years running now, its always fun to have a new twist. New to GotTobeNc Competition Dining for 2016, the creation of All-Star Dream Teams allows chefs from different restaurants to partner together for the three-person teams, upping the potential caliber and creating a more fun and competitive atmosphere for all.

In just a few weeks the Queen City series kicks off. In Charlotte, 24 highly competitive chefs on eight individual Dream Teams go up against each other for the regional Charlotte win.

The Charlotte series will take place in two heats, the first with 2 preliminary Battles on August 8 and 9 and a semi final round on August 11. The second heat sees preliminary battles on August 22 and 23  and a semi final round on August 25.

The Charlotte Finale will take place on Sunday August 28. The finale is already sold out. No doubt that each of the preliminary rounds and the semi final showdowns will soon be sold out as well. I don’t want you to miss out on all the fun – check your calendars, call your friends and make your reservations TODAY .

Here is the lineup of talented Dream Team chefs  all are in contention for the big Charlotte win…. I don’t want you to miss a single bite of the action, so to make it easy, I’ve included the brackets with competing teams plus links to tickets sales for each battle. Can’t wait to see you there! Just click on the red dated link to purchase tickets for each individual battle

Aug. 8 GotToBeNc Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

Team 3 cooks Comp dining cltTeam 3 COOKS from Waxhaw: Paul Verica, owner and chef at Heritage Food & Drink; Joseph Bonaparte, executive director at the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach; and Ashley Boyd, pastry chef at Heritage Food & Drink and 300 East in Charlotte.

Radical Range Riders comp dining CltTeam Radical Range Riders from Matthews: Adam Reed, owner and chef at Sante of Matthews; Terra Ciotta, culinary instructor and chef at Artisan Restaurant in Charlotte; and Matthew Sganga, owner and chef at the Stone Table in Monroe.

Team Bistro 127 Comp Dining nc CLTTeam Bistro127 from Hickory: Shawn Bank, executive chef at Bistro127; John Edwards, sous chef at Bistro127; and Jeff Croft, assistant sous chef at Bistro127.

ViciousandDeliciousTeam Vicious and Delicious from Charlotte: Ryan Forte executive chef at Southminster; Phillip Platoni, chef de cuisine at Southminster; and Brigitte Oger, owner at Craft Cakes in Charlotte.

 

Aug 11 GotToBeNc Competition Dining Charlotte Semifinal Dinner sees the  Aug. 8 winning team versus Aug. 9 winning team

 

Aug 22 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

Team LucianosTeam Luciano’s from Charlotte: John Soilis, executive chef Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano; Daniel De Dios Guerrero, chef de cuisine at Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano; and Giovanni Bassi, sous chef at Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano.

team black mamba 2Team Fahrenheit Charlotte from Charlotte: David Feimster, executive chef Fahrenheit Charlotte; Rachel Child, pastry chef at Fahrenheit Charlotte; and Lewis Carter, sous chef at Fahrenheit Charlotte.

 

Aug 23 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

Team Heirloom comp dining cltTeam Heirloom from Charlotte: Clark Barlowe, chef and proprietor at Heirloom; Zack Gragg, executive sous chef at Heirloom; and Ann Marie Stefany, pastry chef at Heirloom.

Team Les Trois Petit Cochon comp dining cltTeam Les Trois Petit Cochon from Fort Mill: Neil Bratton, executive chef at Fish Market Bar and Grill; Jon Ernst, executive chef at Café Monte in Charlotte; and Wade Waller, former executive chef at Standard Brewing Co. in Maryland Heights, Missouri, now relocating to Charlotte

 

Aug 25 GotToBeNc Competition Dining Charlotte Semifinal Dinner sees the  Aug. 22 winning team versus Aug.23 winning team

August 28 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Finale – Winner of the Aug 11 semi final goes up against the winner of the Aug 25 semi final for the Charlotte regional prize package including the coveted red chefs jacket compliments of Alsco, a check for $2000 in cash and prizes from Pate Dawson Southern Foods, an autographed book from Master Baker Lionel Vatinet of La  Farm Bakery in Cary NC and a hand forged knife from Charlotte Bladesmith Steve Watkins of Ironman Forge…and then of course there are the braggin’ rites and entree to the November Battle of Champions.

 

Summertime & Charlotte Restaurant Week Makes the Eating Easy

imgresIts Time, Charlotte.

Starting Friday July 22 and running for 10 solid days through to July 31,  its the Summer 2016 Edition of Charlotte Restaurant Week, affectionately, officially and appropriately known as Queen’s Feast. This is the Charlotte area restaurant promotional phenomenon brought to you by Charlotteans Bruce and Jill Hensley of Hensley Fontana Public Relations that, over the past 8 years, has captured the attention and appetites of thousands of diners across the metropolitan Charlotte area. Pull out your calendars, call your friends and start making reservations.

Charlotte Restaurant Week has grown into a multi-county promotion in which numerous upscale restaurants will offer a prix fixe, three-course dinner at a cost of only $30  or $35 per person (not including tax and gratuity).

This summer there are 130 plus restaurants participating across eight counties in the Charlotte metro area from Mecklenburg, Gaston, Lincoln, Catawba, Iredell, Cabarrus to Union, and York, so you know there is a participating restaurant near you!

CRW%20Summer%20header%202015This special 10-day long pricing, substantially less than what a typical three-course meal would cost at any of the restaurants involved, doesn’t mean “dumbed down” food or less-than-fabulous service.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.

The premise here is to give potentially new patrons, who might not otherwise  step in the door of a more high-end establishments or have always wanted to try a new place that just opened, a chance to try out the eats and the experience at an easy-on-the-pocket book price tag. At the same time the promotion adds value to the dining out experience for restaurant regulars. Truth is, the restaurant week promotion helps the dining establishments, too, bringing in a broader cliental base at a time of the year that is generally slow for the restaurant industry at large.

imgresPlus this season there are some added bonuses. If you are a AAA member, or thinking of becoming one, now is the time to do so. Just take a look at this: During the summer 2016 Queen’s Feast, select restaurants are offering AAA members an exclusive bonus. While dining in the restaurant during Queen’s Feast, just present your current AAA membership card for the opportunity to purchase a $50 gift certificate from the restaurant for only $25!

AAA members must present a valid membership card while dining in the restaurant during Queen’s Feast (July 22-31, 2016) during dinner hours to take advantage of this offer. The gift certificate will not be redeemable during Queen’s Feast. Other restrictions may apply. With this writing here is a short list of the restaurants participating in the Charlotte Restaurant Week-AAA promotion: BAKUBella Fresco Italian Mediterranean KitchenBonterra Dining & Wine RoomBrazz Carvery and Brazilian SteakhouseThe Cajun QueenCampania CafeCopper Modern Indian CuisinePassion8,  Primo Tuscan GrilleROCKSALT and Vivace

So that’s 12 of the participating Queen’s Feast restaurants, just over 100 more to go including new comers to the event such as Five and Dine and The Pumphouse  both just over the SC border;  Aix en Provence in Eastover; Kid Cashew in Dilworth and the new location of Global in Pineville – all, in this food writer’s opinion, worthy of your consideration as are long time Queen’s Feast participants such as Gallery Restaurant at The Ballantyne Hotel; Bistro La Bon in Plaza Midwood;  Heirloom in Charlotte’s  Coulwood neighborhood; and Mimosa Grill in Uptown Charlotte.  

The twice annual Charlotte Restaurant Week has become an event patrons plan for, gathering groups of friends, making reservations well in advance to get in at all their favorite spots. With the ten-day stretch of the event, and this round with over 130 restaurants participating, there is a lot of eating to be done!

And there is no guesswork involved. Everything you need to make your Charlotte Restaurant Week: Queens Feast plans in up on the Charlotte Restaurant Week website – here are just a few tips for making it all the easier.   Once you get to the Queens Feast Website you’ll find the restaurants listed first by region or county and then in alphabetical order, take a look through the list and then…

  • Click on individual restaurant names for location, menu, and reservation information.
  • The Prix fixe price is $30 or $35 per person; all menu items are per person unless otherwise indicated.
  • Know that the Queens Feast Charlotte Restaurant Week menus are available for DINNER ONLY.
  • Be Flexible. Most of the participating chefs plan menus based around lots of local product. With the popularity of Charlotte Restaurant Week, know that menus are subject to change without notice based on product availability, but even if there is change, chefs will still offer their very best to give you the  regal experience you are anticipating.
  • If you happen to have coupons for any particular participating restaurants, know that these may not be accepted during Charlotte Restaurant Week after all you are already getting a phenomenal deal on your Queen’s Feast dining out experience.  Please check with the restaurant and/or refer to coupon restrictions for redemption policies or better yet, just save them for another time and enjoy the Queens Feast experience for what and all it is.
  • And finally, and most importantly, if you are unable to keep your reservation for any reason, PLEASE BE CONSIDERATE AND CANCEL as soon as possible to give other diners and the restaurant the opportunity to fill those seats!

 

#TellThemHeidiSentYouIf you still have questions, simply call your favorite restaurant and just ask. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

Farm to Fork For The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market

Six Spectacular Chefs, One Incredible Evening six chefs for the matthews market

Luca Annunziata, Passion 8 Restaurant in Charlotte, NC

Joe Bonaparte, Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach  in Myrtle Beach, NC

Tim Groody, Fork! in Cornelius, NC

Joe Kindred, Kindred Restaurant in Davidson, NC

Adam Reed, Sante of Matthews, Matthews, NC

Paul Verica, Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw, NC

 

What do these six well -seasoned North Carolina chefs have in common? A love for all things local and an abundance of culinary talent  often showcased at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market early Saturday morning series of cooking demonstrations. And now these chefs are all giving back as a part of the Matthews Market’s 25th Anniversary celebration and you are invited to join in on all the fun.

 Joe BonepartThese chefs are longtime supporters of local sustainable agriculture and lots of area markets including The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market. They are collaborating on this event to help the market raise money to meet mounting operating costs and make needed site improvements. The Matthews  Market, is celebrating its 25th season of bringing farmers and community together over locally grown food, hopes to raise $25,000 by August 1.

38c00bab-e20b-4b77-ada1-34ec19ccd227There are several ways you can support the market this year, first and foremost Shop Local every week. You’ll be amazed how easy it really is to find all the local produce, protein and product you need for your weekly shopping list and how much better tasting it is than commercially produced product.

The next way is to attend this dinner – You’ve read my blog posts before and you know I wouldn’t steer you wrong. On the contrary this is the right thing to do. You still have time to purchase tickets and, think about it, with these six chefs working together to prepare a summer feast using all local product, its a win-win. Just imagine, it’ll be like eating at SIX of your favorite restaurants simultaneously and you’ll be supporting the market at the same time.

The menu will feature the best of the seasons local harvest complete with wine pairings for each course.. The date is Monday July 18 at 7 pm. Advance reservations are a must and get excited because in addition to the dinner a wonderful silent auction will take place as well.

You are going to eat this up, quite literally, The Fun, Food and Festivity will all takes place at  Passion8 Restaurant, located at 1523 Elizabeth Avenue,  in Charlotte.

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

Cost is $150 per person.  Click here to purchase your tickets now! Don’t wait until its too late!



The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market is a taxable non-profit. Ticket purchases and donations are not eligible for a charitable tax deduction.
Want to do more? Become a “Friend of the Market” or a 2016 Business Sponsor – read more for details

GotTobeNC Competition Dining is in Greensboro

comp dining promoPutting my Competition Dining hat  on this week for the second Triad event of 2016 GotToBeNC Competition Dining series.

Last month we competed in a very successful series Winston-Salem and this week we are in Greensboro, NC.  One preliminary battle under our belts and a second scheduled for this evening with the regional finale on Thursday of this week, its fast and furious, but its been exciting as we have gotten the week in Greensboro underway.

 

Proximity Hotel photoWorking with our area lodging partner Proximity Hotel in GSO has afforded me the opportunity to experience all that America’s first Green Hotel has to offer.Proximity Hotel is the first hotel in America to receive the LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Its really quite a feat, hot water heated by solar panels, energy created my the motion of the elevators, well groomed plants and gardens all around – this is environmentally friendly done right in a luxurious setting that is down to the last detail – next time you visit Greensboro it is definitely one of the places you should stay!

chefs breakfast hobnob undercurrents best

Chefs from Undercurrent and The Hobnob with Competition Dining founder and host Jimmy Crippen and Jamie Hinson from 2016 sponsor Goodnight Brothers Country Hams

A trio of our sponsors, Goodnight Brothers Country Hams, the Greensboro CVB, and Joyce Farms, hosts our chefs to pre-battle breakfasts this week all at the Proximity’s Print Works Bistro – a charming cafe located on the lower level of the hotel. The restaurant is surrounded by gardens, the interiors are understated yet elegantly comfortable and the food is excellent. the green concept goes to the restaurant and kitchen as well with water cooled refrigeration and more. 

IMG_1624My first night in town I opted for a simple dinner at the Print Works bar –  I started with what may well be my new summer cocktail for the 2016 season -a French 702- a refreshingly delicious sip of gin, St Germain, lemony simple syrup and sparkling wine, oh my!  as I was in the mood  for just a bite or too – Printworks tomato and arugula flatbread,  and a bowl of incredible chilled cucumber soup  made for the  perfect “wind down meal after a busy day of traveling” repast and just another reason to visit Greensboro!

Competition Dining Greensboro Preliminaries

Four very talented teams will compete in the course of the trio of Competition Dining dinners in Greensboro.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.03.28 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.02.56 PMLast night, the first night of the competition, hometown  chefs Michael Harkenreader, Noah Sheets & Chris Rosato , “Team Wiley Pickle Weasels” from Undercurrent Restaurant in Greensboro took on a trio of talent  found in chefs Matt Montandon, Donald Francis and Justin Neal all a part of “Team Hobnob”, the dream team from The Hobnob Restaurant  and Jordan Street Cafe, both in Brevard NC. It was battle Miso and Mushrooms – an evening of umami!

misoThe two  featured “Secret Ingredients ” for this flavorful evening both have North Carolina roots. The first a product one might be surprised to be a locally produced ingredient – traditional Japanese miso! Got To Be NC  organic, GMO and gluten free misos from Miso Masters Miso,  produced by North Carolina’s own The American Miso Company located in the foothills of Western North Carolina in the town Rutherfordton, NC. Who’d of thunk it?  But its true, in fact, for more culinary offings from Rutherfordton – check out the link at the end of this post; but, in the meantime, make no mistake, this miso is indeed the real thing, produced with care and quality beyond reproach. The American Miso Company is the largest producer of  traditional miso in the world and is proud to  produce high quality traditional misos, aged naturally ( sometimes for years) using traditional ingredients. Miso Masters makes 7 different varieties of traditional miso ( available to consumers  – as well as chefs – at area EarthFare and Whole Foods stores.

correct mushroom photoAlong with the Miso, the Undercurrent and Hobnob Competition Dining chefs also had six different varieties of locally grown wild mushrooms all from a relatively new Charlotte-based mushroom farm called Urban Gourmet Farms based in Charlotte NC.  I’ve written an article on this mushrooming operation for the Summer issue of Charlotte Living Magazine, on Charlotte area newsstands  and online soon, so look for more to come, but suffice to say that these mushrooms are some of the best locally grown product I have ever seen and many Charlotte area chefs agree. I was personally thrilled to be able to bring Urban Gourmet Farms into the Competition Dining series in hope that chefs across the state would be exposed to the quality and the flavor of this wonderful product.

Six Miso and Mushrooms plates later the first evening of Competition Dining ended with the win  going to long time competitor chef Michael Harkenreader and Team Wiley Pickle Weasels from Undercurrents restaurant in Greensboro. After having tasted Michaels talent for several years of Competition Dining I am excited to eat at Undercurrents soon; but  will also be planning a trip to Brevard as I was so impressed with the skill and talent of the team from The Hobnob.

That’s the thing about these Competition Dining dinners held across the state and why I love being on the core team that plans, promotes and executes these regional series. Not only does each series -held this year in Durham, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington – expose diners to a tremendous amount of locally grown, raised, caught and made local product, produce and protein; but it also exposes Competition Dining guests – and our thousands of followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – to a vast array of culinary talent in our state.

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I Love bringing together farmers at all of our Competition Dining events, here we have Michelle Smith and Hiram Ramirez from Urban Gourmet Farms with Randy Lewis from Ran-Lew Dairy

I always look for every opportunity to incorporate local farms into the mix and the Competition Dining pantry provided by our sponsors at Pate Dawson Southern Foods. This week in Greensboro I am proud to have worked with Competition Dining Chef Ref Chad Blackwelder to have brought produce from The Specialty Farmer, from the Waxhaw Farmers Market in Waxhaw NC; Rabbit from Clearview Farms from Lincolnton, NC and squash blossoms from Tega Hill Farms in Tega Hill, SC and of course Urban Gourmet Farms mushrooms into the Competition Dining pantry. In addition I have loved working with dairy farmer Randy Lewis from Ran -Lew Dairy to provide pint sized packages of his exquisite cream top whole and chocolate milk for our birthday gifts for this week!

Looking for your next new place for a spectacular meal, I encourage you to visit the Competition Dining website at CompetitionDining.com  and take a look at all of this year competitors for a list of some of the best restaurants in North Carolina.

In addition to my work with Competition Dining, this year I am working on a series of 3Day Weekend articles, taking in all the sites in each region as we compete  and will be sure to include all of these chefs and restaurant details in each article or post.

More Competition Dining Greensboro to come

comp dining promoBut last night was just the beginning in Greensboro. The second preliminary battle takes place this evening – Tuesday June 21 – and tickets are still available. Another team of Greensboro locals -chefs from Sedgefield Country Club, “Team Culinary Crushers” will take on “Team The Natives” from Native Kitchen and Social Pub from Swannanoa, North Carolina. Tickets for this second preliminary battle are still available – just click here to go directly to the reservation page

But wait, there’s more….If you would like to attend the Greensboro Finale on Thursday June 23, to see who takes it all and who gets to wear the coveted red chefs jacket, those tickets may still be purchased here

For the Rest of the Story, subscribe to this blog and follow me at HeidiBillottoFood.com. Heidi Billotto or Heidi Billotto Cooks on Facebook, @HeidiCooks on Twitter and @HeidiBillotto on Instagram

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

For more about attending a Got to Be Nc Competition Dining event, in Greensboro this week, In Raleigh next month, in Charlotte in August or in Wilmington in September, simply visit CompetitionDining.com and click on the icon for each city – competing chefs and brackets are announced about a month out of each series.

If you would be interested in being a sponsor for the 2016 season of Competition Dining its still not too late to use this fun and exciting format to connect with North Carolina chefs and guests alike, and it just so happens that I am the person to talk to abut setting up a sponsorship for you your product or your company – just give me a shout at Heidi@CompetitionDining.com

For more on great eats  in Rutherfordton NC , check out an article I wrote for the Lake lure and Blue Ridge Foothills website and find out why I think the best burger may be found at the Rutherfordton County Airport! Here you go…

For more on Undercurrent Restaurant in Greensboro, visit Undercurrent.com Undercurrent Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For more on The Hobnob in Brevard, NC, visit HobnobBrevard.com Hobnob Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato ; For more on Jordan Street Cafe in Brevard, NC, visit TheJordanStreetCafe.com Jordan Street Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For more on Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, visit Sedgefieldcc.com

For more on Native Kitchen and Social Pub in Swannanoa, NC, visit NativeSocialPub.com Native Kitchen & Social Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For more on The Proximity Hotel and Printworks Bistro, visit  ProximityHotel.com Print Works Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

To see how Miso Master Miso is made, watch this informative video to get the whole story – great stuff!

For more info on Urban Gourmet Farms mushrooms, visit UrbanGourmetFarms.com – check out the story I wrote for Charlotte Living Magazine online at CharlotteLivingMagazine.com in the next couple of weeks!

For more info on Ran-Lew Dairy, visit  Ranlewdairymilkco.webstarts.com

And stay tuned for more about planning a Three Day Weekend in Greensboro, but if you just can’t wait, check out the website at Visit Greensboro – lots of great ideas for places to stay, places to visit and places to eat!

 

 

May 2016 On the Farm Cooking Class: A Taste of Honey

a taste of honey cooking classMark Your Calendars…Save the Date and be prepared to “Catch the Buzz” as we turn our attention to the “Business of Bees” in my May On The Farm hands-on cooking class.

The fun takes place in the honey room at Dancing Bees Honey Farm in Monroe, NC and in addition to meeting the bees, learning how they affect the harvest of the food you eat and tasting the honey, you can even have your photo taken in front of Robin’s new ride, affectionately dubbed “The Bee Mobile”

Nothing sweeter (or better for you) than the taste of local honey! Just wait till you taste! And then just wait till you see what we’re going to prepare – a five course feast with honey in every dish!

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Robin and Jeff Knight of Dancing Bee Honey Farm in Monroe, NC will show you how their bees do their thing and then we’ll cook with this local liquid gold in all its flavorful variations along with lots of other locally sourced produce, products and proteins to make a five course meal from beginning to end. My friend Josh Villapando of Assorted Table Wine Shoppe at 7th Street Station in Uptown Charlotte will be on hand, too, to provide “perfect-for-summer-sipping” wine pairings with each course.

Cost $85 per person – and includes a farm tour plus 5 hands on courses with wine pairings and a recipe packet with wine notes for each class participant. . 

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Its all happening on Sunday May 15, 1-4 pm. Reservations are a must, so just let me know that you’d like to attend via an email to Heidi@HeidiCooks.com 

A day or two before class I will send an email to all of our class participants with any specifics you need to know as well as directions to the farm.

I do hope you can join us.  You’ll learn lots about the importance of bees plus have a sweet time in the process. Honey and lots of other sweet things from Dancing Bees will be for sale as well.

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Reserve your spot by emailing me now at  Heidi@HeidiCooks.com 

To read more about Dancing Bees Honey Farm and all you will find there at our class, take a looksee at this article I wrote about the farm as it originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Charlotte Living Magazine…

Idb_logo116s’ll admit it, I have a strong sweet tooth. But instead of a spoonful of sugar, I’ll opt for a quick pick me up of a spoon of honey every time. Make mine sticky sweet and locally harvested, a bowl of “Dancing Bee” deliciousness, please. The golden elixir or liquid gold we call honey is actually just a simple by product of the business of bees, living in the microcosm of a hive, working together to get the job done.

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I love finding local bees and honey in each city I visit – here I am at the hives on display at  the Burt’s Bees offices in Durham, NC ( I know it looks like it, but I swear I was not touching the glass!)

 

I like to taste and buy different local honeys when I travel. Intrigued by the regional differences in the taste and color, and mystified as to how it all works, I went to visit Master bee keeper Jeff Knight and his wife Robin at the apiary adjacent to their home in Monroe, North Carolina. I have often bought honey and bee products from Robin at the Dancing Bee stand at the Matthews Community Farmers Market, and this season fell hard and fast for the NC Mountain sourwood honey the couple harvested last season. The taste and the difference between the Dancing Bee wildflower honey and this rich, luxurious second cousin, led me to further investigation…. to read more about Dancing Bees Honey and the fascinating “Business of Bees”, just click this link to Charlotte Living Magazine’s Fall of 2014 issue: http://www.charlottelivingmagazine.com/department_articles/food_and_entertaining/past_food_articles/The_Business_of_Bees.pdf

The Hands That Feed Us: A Celebration of Art, Food & Drink

In the Queen City and looking for a unique and tasty way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo Thursday May 5, 2016?

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Scratch your plans for  chips and salsa and make a reservation now for this week’s Culinary Canvas dinner brought to you by the team at CLTure in Charlotte.

CLTure is a blog based in Charlotte, bringing news to your inbox about regional and local music, food, film,  and performing and visual arts events.  Once a quarter or so they sponsor a unique collaboration of chefs and artists coming together to create a special evening of food and art.

This week the May 5th dinner featuring the talents of  my friends Chefs Paul Verica and Ashley Boyd, Mixologist Bob Peters and Charlotte artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner to benefit Charlotte’s own Friendship Gardens organization.

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Paintings by Charlotte artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner tell the story of migrant farm workers

Friendship Gardens is an expanding network of community, school, faith-based, institutional, public, private, and backyard gardens. Most of the garden partnerships share their harvest for the benefit of Friendship Trays. For the community Friendship Gardens offers educational workshops, volunteer and leadership opportunities, community connections, and food access to those with limited options. Beyond the gardens, Friendship Gardens has developed a mobile market to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in food desserts and are currently working to add SNAP / EBT access for that service. At the heart of the mission is the development of an urban farm and learning center to grow food, train volunteers, educate our community and support the urban gardening community at large.

Friendship Trays  is our local community’s Meals on Wheels.  Friendship Trays’ mission is to deliver daily, in a caring and friendly manner, balanced meals to individuals in the community who are unable to obtain or prepare their own meals because of age or infirmity.  The volunteer driven organization delivers more than 700 meals each weekday to elderly, handicapped, and convalescing people who are unable or greatly restricted in their ability to prepare or secure meals.

The theme for the May 5  Culinary Canvas five course dinner  was inspired by a recent series of paintings done by Rosalia. “The Hands that Feed Us” series of paintings is a Torres-Weiners tribute to Latino migrant workers, in this area and across the nation.

For chef Paul Verica, the theme is a nod of the cap saluting what he does everyday at Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhax  and to what Pastry chef Ashley Bivens does both at Heritage and her home base at 300 East. That is to pay homage to local farms and farmers.

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Nothing like cooking and eating fresh from a local farmers’ market. These radishes from New Town Farms at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market

Shake the hand that feeds you, I like to say, for without farms and farmers local and across this country, there is no food wth which to cook or to write about.  Knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown or raised is equally important. As you get to know the local farmers at any one of the Charlotte area’s dozens of local farmers’ markets, you’ll become a part of the circle – shop local, cook local, eat local.  Shop at local farmers markets each week with local farmers, support  your local community and local agriculture. Nothing quite as much fun on a Saturday morning as going to see what was just harvested the day before and could be on your table that evening. From locally raised beef to bamboo shoots, you’ll find it all in our regions local farmers markets, so let this dinner (or at least this post) be your inspiration as well, to shop with and support the hands that work so hard to feed our community.

Ah, but I digress…

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Chef Paul Verica, Heritage Food + Drink k in Waxhaw, NC

In addition to the art of Rosalia Torres- Weiner and the dinner from Chefs Paul Verica and Ashley Boyd, there will also be drink in the guise of craft cocktails created by another good friend, Bob “Bob the Bartender” Peters. Bob can usually be found creating and mixing libations at The Punch Room on the 15th floor of the Charlotte Ritz-Carlton, but this night he’ll  be shaking and stirring with Tito’s Vodka (a sponsor of the event) and creating craft cocktails for the crowd.

 

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Pastry Chef Ashley Boyd from Heritage Food+Drink in Waxhaw and 300 East in Charlotte

I will be there too, acting as emcee for the evening, and enjoying the food, art and drink. Its still not too late for you to make plans to join in the celebration of all that is local in Charlotte, meet the artists, both culinary and visual,  and a few of the  farmers who will make this evening special – all people you need to know –  and to help lend a hand to those who lend a hand to others everyday in the process. Come in join in the fun.

 

 

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Bob Peters, Mixologist Extraordinaire from The Punch Room, in Charlotte

 

The May 5 Culinary Canvas dinner takes place at a unique  Charlotte venue: the C3 Lab, a collaborative co-working creative space located at 2525 Distribution St. Charlotte, NC 28203 in South End.

 

 

 

 

 

Iheidi head shot 1 -nterested? Here is the link to purchase your tickets.

The event is from 6:30-10pm Thursday May 5.  5 courses  of fresh from a local farm fare plus dessert and craft cocktails as only Paul, Ashley and Bob can do…Cost is $80 a person, you won’t want to miss it – hope to see you there!

Want to Know More?

On Friendship Trays: Visit FriendshipTrays.org

On Chef Paul Verica and Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw at 201 W. South Main Street ,Waxhaw, NC, Visit HeritageFoodAndDrink.com or call 704.843.5236  to make reservations. Heritage Food & Drink Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On Chef Ashley Bivens Boyd and 300 East restaurant in Charlotte at 300 East Blvd, Visit 300East.net or call 704-332-6507 to make reservations. 300 East Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On Mixologist Bob Peters and The Punch Room on the 15th Floor of Charlotte’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, Visit The Punch Room or call 704.547.2244 Punch Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On the art of Rosalia Torres-Weiner, Visit ArtByRosalia.com 

To subscribe to the CLTure Blog, Visit clture.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When 2 Chefs are Better than 1: A Chefs Collaborative Dinner

chefchriscoleman-copyThe Asbury Restaurant located in the Dunhill Hotel in Uptown boasts a creatively crafted menu of Modern Southern cuisine. The underlying mantra of each meal and seasonal menu is to honor the past, celebrate the seasons and to keep looking forward. Under the direction of  Charlotte native Chef Chris Coleman, food and beverage director at The Dunhill and at the helm since The Asbury’s inception in 2014.

The restaurant now operates with what most would call a dream team of chefs. With Coleman, Chef Matthews Krenz, chef de cuisine and pastry chef Jossie Perlemutter are at the restaurants core. The trio heads a great culinary team of line cooks,  service staff and beverage aficionados who make a culinary concept that features  regional heirloom ingredients as well as specialty items grown by small, family farms throughout the region, work Chef Coleman searches out the best quality he can find—much of it coming from within the local region work, in spades.

Just after The Asbury’s first anniversary in 2015, Coleman thought it would be fun to reach out to farmers and friends and feature them at special monthly dinners, and so began The Asbury’s  Collaborative Series. After all what could be better than two great chefs working on one dinner together?

low country dinner prep“I’ve wanted to do this since I was first hired by The Dunhill, even before the Asbury concept became a reality,” Chris explained. “I’ve got a lot of friends in the industry and to plan a time that we can take a day and cook together, makes it fun. I love what I do on a daily basis, but bringing friends into the kitchen is  a great way to learn from each other,  share new techniques, and see what I do every day from another chef’s perspective.”

Each dinner in the series has a separate seasonal theme and  brings together chefs, food lovers, farmers, and artisan food makers together to celebrate the bounty of our state and region.

IIMG_8221 was delighted to attend the first Asbury collaborative dinner of 2016 with pooling the talents of The Asbury’s Chris Coleman and Executive Chef Ben Harris from Poogan’s Porch Restaurant in Charleston, SC.

It was a night of Lowcountry feasting and fun and even now as I write, I can still taste the nuances of every individual dish. I knew that any evening that started with Chris and Ben shucking oysters in the bar was going to be great and my hunch was not wrong. I’ve noted a couple of my favorite courses from that memorable Taste of the Low Country dinner below, and if you weren’t there, you be sad to know what you missed.

But just so that doesn’t happen again, you first must know about a similar opportunity TONIGHT you will not want to miss…all of the info you need to know to be a part of tonights  exciting beer -centric dinner is at the end of this post. Meantime here is just a taste  of the Lowcountry dinner and what you can anticipate from this wonderful chef’s Collaborative concept.