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.


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




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.


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.


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.


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!


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  #TellThemHeidiSentYou



Battle Lusty Monk Mustard finds Chef Nicholas Daniels, Wooden Vine up against Chef Brent Martin, Peculiar Rabbit. Robust Mustards for the Passionate palate lead Chef Brent Martin to a spot in the semi finals

and the secret ingredient for this battle was Lusty Monk Mustard

…and the secret ingredient for this battle was Lusty Monk Mustard

nc comp diningThe month of October kicked off with the last three battles of the Quarter Finals of  the inaugural season of Competition Dining’s Fire in the City…here is  recap of the action from Tuesday Oct 1, 2013.

It was a  brawny battle between Chef Nicholas Daniels and his team from Wooden Vine vs Chef Brent Martin and his team from  Peculiar Rabbit; and the secret ingredient for this second night of quarter final action – mustard!

Indulge, repent, repeat…. is the tag line for Lusty Monk Mustard; and so it goes and so it was at Competition Dining’s Battle Lusty Monk Mustard.

These diners toast to a fun evening of Competition Dining - Charlotte's newest team sport!

These diners toast to a fun evening of Competition Dining – Charlotte’s newest team sport!

125 or so lucky diners feasted on six fine courses of fare, each centered around the sweet, spicy hot flavors of NC’s own Lusty Monk Mustard. The question on each individual diner’s mind was how well did each chef incorporate the unique taste  of this mustard into each of their three required dishes for the competition.

Lusty Monk Mustards are fresh-ground, hand-crafted, and full of fire but full of flavor as well which made them a perfect secret ingredient for this night of the quarter finals of Fire in the City Competition Dining between teams from the Wooden Vine led by chef Nicholas Daniels and The Peculiar Rabbit led by Chef Brent Martin.

Lusty Monk is a family-owned, quality-conscious company, devoted to the idea that condiments should never be boring. They lovingly craft the mustard in small batches, and the company encourages their collective brethren to slow down and savor each bite.

Chef Nicholas Daniels from The Wooden Vine comes up with plan for the evening

Chef Nicholas Daniels from The Wooden Vine comes up with plan for the evening

All six chefs worked to plate each of the six courses for the evening

All six chefs worked to plate each of the six courses for the evening

While Quarter final Competition Diners did just that and enjoyed the fare immensely;  the action in the kitchen was anything by slow – what these guys turned out was terrific and the scores were very close. With a half point spread, Martin and the team from Peculiar Rabbit had what it took to really cut the mustard and took the lead.

Chef Martin and team Peculiar Rabbit move into the semi finals to battle Chef Phil Barnes and the Roosters team on Monday Oct 14. Here is how the evening played out….

Course One from team Wooden Vine

Course One from team Wooden Vine

Course one started the evening with a roulade of NC Flounder Stuffed with Burn In Hell Maple Leaf Farms Duck Chorizo &  a Farro and Duck Crackling Hash with a Confit of Orange Salad with Asparagus, all finished with an Altar Boy Serrano Beurre Blanc
This was the first plate out for Chef Daniels and while flavors were good, the fish was slightly over cooked – a tough break right out of the gate.

Course Two from Team Peculiar Rabbit

Course Two from Team Peculiar Rabbit

Course Two was Chef Martin’s first course of the evening. The Arugula Salad with Confit of Manchester Farms Quail was nice, but for me the star of the plate was the innovative Crispy Fingerling Chips made with a leaf of sage sandwich in between two thin slices of potato (more please!)

These unique fingerling  and herb potato chips topped the salad in course two

These unique fingerling and herb potato chips topped the salad in course two

The salad was finished with a tremendous Pickled Radish Original Sin & Bacon Vinaigrette Oyster Mushroom Confit – a great use of this night’s secret ingredient and Martin’s scores on this dish reflected that!

Course Three from Chef Brent Martin

Course Three from Chef Brent Martin

Course 3 was also from Chef Brent Martin and like the first course featured  NC Flounder but this time scallop stuffed and served  with a fabulous Crawfish & Maine Lobster Beignet in a Golden Beet & Sweet Pepper Reduction and a Burn In Hell Chipotle Mustard Aioli – all topped with a smooth and delicious Scallop Mousse with Brunoise Tomato – a high scoring plate for team Peculiar Rabbit

Course Four from Team Wooden Vine

Course Four from Team Wooden Vine

Course 4 went back to Chef Nicolas Daniels and centered around a Sundried Tomato & Original Sin Stone Ground Mustard Rubbed Veal Tenderloin with a side of Altar Boy Honey Mustard Ravioli stuffed with a House Made Ricotta-Arugula Pesto sauced with an Apple Mustard Soubise (a béchamel with an oniony base) and a bit of Charred Swiss Chard. The ravioli here, on my plate slightly undercooked,  proved a hard call for Chef Daniels although the combination of the home made ricotta and the mustard was brilliant. The veal, though, was sadly tough and this was  likely the plate that took Daniels down.

Mustard for dessert? But of course, and interestingly, the fine flavors in the trio of Lusty Monk Mustards available to the chefs made a sweet course very workable.

Course Five from Team Wooden Vine

Course Five from Team Wooden Vine

Course Five came from chef Nicholas Daniels and was comprised of a Chocolate Brownie topped  with a Burn In Hell Chipotle Mustard & Almond Brittle which was indeed the star of the plate!  A side of Bourbon Ice Cream with Root Beer Caramel & Citrus Blackberry Gastrique finished the dessert.  Daniels had me at the brittle – he could box and sell it if he had a mind.

Our second dessert of the evening was the night’s final course. Don’t you just love Competition Dining – the edible sport where one dessert isn’t enough – but I digress…

Course Six from Team Peculiar Rabbit

Course Six from Team Peculiar Rabbit

Course Six was a Altar Boy Honey Mustard Buttermilk Panna Cotta from Chef Martin dressed with a Recuerdo Malbec Gelee, and  Walnut Biscotti Crumble. The plate was finished with a
Prickly Pear Gastrique and Poached Asian Pear

The scores were close and it could have been anyone’s game. While congratulations go to both teams for a dinner well played, it was Chef Brent Martin and team Peculiar Rabbit who would continue on to cook another day.

Quarter Final Battle Mustard Champion, Chef Brent Martin from Peculiar Rabbit

Quarter Final Battle Mustard Champion, Chef Brent Martin from Peculiar Rabbit

Making a surprise guest appearance this night was this food writer's husband, Tom Billotto- Cheers!

Making a surprise guest appearance this night was this food writer’s husband, Tom Billotto- Cheers!

For more information on The Peculiar Rabbit located at 1212 Pecan Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205; 704.333.9197, visit

For more information on The Wooden Vine, located at 231 N Tryon St  Charlotte, NC 28202;
704.376.8463, visit  

For more information on Lusty Monk Mustard, visit

For more photos from Battle Lusty Monk Mustard and all the Competition Dining Fire in the City Dinner – visit and “Like” Competition Dining on Facebook!