Don’t Miss These September & October Nibbles and Sips

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

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

Make + A + Reservation

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

 Don’t forget to #TellThemHeidiSentYou….

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Heidi Billotto’s Nibbles and Sips – March 2014

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODLots of worthwhile Nibbles and Sips in the Queen City for early March.  Pick and choose or  enjoy them all!

Artisan Olive oils and vinegars, Italian eats, oysters on the half shell,  green beer, crawfish, handmade matzah and goat cheese – this week its quite an eclectic mix!

Thursday March 13  – For the Love of Oil and Other Good Things, don’t miss this tasty event

Pour olive LOGOPour Olive Presents an Evening Tasting Artisanal Italian Foods by Zia Pia  

Thursday ,March 13      6-8pm
Join my good friends at Pour Olive with Victoria and Riccardo of Zia Pia Imports as they sample a choice selection of Zia Pia’s specialty artisanal Italian foods. Experience the unforgettable, inimitable, authentic flavors of Italy’s regional food traditions — pates, pestos and preserves from Sicily, organic tomatoes from Puglia, organic chocolates made in the Modica tradition and gianduja chocolate from Piedmont — while learning about Italy’s regional food traditions. Discover the pleasures of artisanal Italy with Zia Pia imports and Pour Olive at this first time, joint-sponsored event! Word is they have wonderful wines to sip along with these artisanal foods, and as always plenty of Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Balsamics to sample and buy. Call for more information – 980.207.1510   Pour Olive is located at 1528 East Blvd. , Charlotte, NC, 28203  – additional parking lot in back of the building.

On the Half Shell

I ate my weight n fresh caught oysters while Tom and I were  in the Florida panhandle last year - This year all we have to do is go to Upstream!

I ate my weight n fresh caught oysters while Tom and I were in the Florida panhandle last year – This year all we have to do is go to Upstream!

Upstream is located in Charlotte’s Southpark area at 6902 Phillips Pl., at the Phillips Place shopping area.

Upstream is located in Charlotte’s Southpark area at 6902 Phillips Pl., at the Phillips Place shopping area.

Yum! If you are a mollusk lover like me then run, don’t walk  to Upstream Seafood restaurant this month! From now till the end of the month of March , the popular SouthPark restaurant located in Phillips Place is cracking open a remarkable deal on oysters!

Get this – Monday through Thursday, 4pm-6:30pm in the Upstream Bar, you can eat all the East Coast oysters on the half-shell you want for just $1 each PLUS all the West Coast oysters you want for just $1.50 each.   In addition to the oyster special, Upstream’s bar will also feature daily drink specials and have their Bar Bites menu available.

Upstream is located in Charlotte’s Southpark area at 6902 Phillips Place, at the Phillips Place shopping area. Hours of operations: Mon-Thurs 11:30am -10:00pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm; Sunday 10:30am-10pm; Sunday Brunch 10:30am-2:30pm. Reservations are accepted at 704.556.7730.

Visit online at Upstream on Urbanspoon

Seeing Green –

green river eventJoin in on the St. Patty’s day fun for the 4th annual Green River Revival,  Saturday, March 15 at the US White Water Center. The celebration will kick off with the Color Me Green 5K, a trail race similar to the Color Run, but of course, the color of the day is green. Following the race, watch as the whitewater rapids turn bright green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, followed by live music, and lots of food and drink. The river, dyed for the day in emerald green,  will remain open to those eager to raft or kayak the green waters.

For info visit


For Mardis Gras stop by and Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler at e2 Emeril’s Eatery in Uptown Charlotte

CHef Brian Mottola, executive chef at e2 Emeril's Eatery in Charlote NC

Chef Brian Mottola, executive chef at e2 Emeril’s Eatery in Charlote NC

My friends at e2 emeril’s eatery always offers a taste of New Orleans in uptown Charlotte. But the vibe is never more authentic than in the spring when e2 hosts a New Orleans Crawfish Boil on the patio each Friday. The popular tradition that began last spring returns this Friday, March 14 from 4:30-7 p.m. and, the best part it that because Charlotteans love to celebrate,   we can do it all over again  each Friday this month, weather permitting, until May 30.

e2 Eerils Eatery Pastry chef, Stephanie Nikolic

e2 Emerils Eatery Pastry chef, Stephanie Nikolic

A peel-your-own crawfish boil is truly a food experience that brings people together. Louisiana crawfish are served fresh out of the pot, with corn, mushrooms and Andouille sausage as co-stars. Abita beer is available on draft for $5 and Budweiser and Bud Lite bottles are $4. The cost is $15 per person for an all-you-care-to-eat al fresco feast.

Its all happening at e2 emeril’s eatery 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts, Suite 100 Charlotte, NC 28202 Complimentary Valet Parking for Dinner.    e2 emeril’s eatery, conveniently located at 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts in Uptown Charlotte, offers complimentary valet parking for dinner Monday-Saturday beginning at 5 p.m. Dinner is served Monday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 

For more information on e2 emeril’s eatery, please visit  E2 Emeril's Eatery on Urbanspoon

Planning for Passover –

Every piece of the wood-fired Vermatzah is made by hand in small batches.

Every piece of the wood-fired Vermatzah is made by hand in small batches.

I discovered this artisan-made from ancient grains, organic Matzah last year, right before the Passover holiday – when I wrote to order, they had already sold out – so  I signed up for the company’s email list and sure enough, last week got an email reminding me that is was time to place my order for this year’s holiday.

This is handmade, wood-fired Artisan Matzah for Passover baked with a blend of organic Vermont wheat and Emmer, an ancient grain used in the original matzah baked thousands of years ago.
vermatzha 2Naga Bakehouse is a small, family run wood-fired bakery in Middletown Springs, Vermont.  They’ve been baking Vermatzah since 2009.  Every piece of wood-fired matzah is still made by hand in small batches. Like so many locavores, these bakers strive to re-connect the food we eat with the story of where it comes from by growing many of our own ingredients and sourcing the rest from local farms. What’s not to love?
My Matzah order should be here soon and I can’t wait to taste it –  I was going to wait  to write about the product, but I don’t want you to miss out on a chance to order – so check it out now – you may read all about it  on Facebook at or for more info and to place a Vermatzah order visit,  
On your Bucket List
You're gonna love Heidi's On the Farm class at Bosky Acres Dairy

You’re gonna love Heidi’s On the Farm class at Bosky Acres Dairy

For those of you who have always wanted to know how,  I invite you to join in on the fun at my upcoming  On the Farm cooking class at Bosky Acres Dairy and Learn to Milk a Dairy Goat!

The next class in my unique On the Farm series will take place at Bosky Acres Farm in Waxhaw NC.  Dairy owner and artisan goat cheesemaker Michelle lamb will not only introduce us to the goats, the kids and her way of  locl farm life, but she’ll share the secrets to making her wonderful Bosky Acres goat cheese and each class participant will have the opportunity to learn to milk a dairy goat as well – talk about photo opts!
bosky acres baby goatsDuring the down and rest time during  the  cheesemaking process, I’ll be there using Michelle’s wonderful cheese is four different dishes,  sharing hearty samples and recipes too…and did I mention that Josh Villapando from the Assorted Table Wine Shop will join in on the fun with wine pairings for each dish –  its going to be great fun – Make your reservations now by simply emailing me at . Cost is $75 per person. Attendees must be at least 16 years  of age.

Battle A. B. Vannoy Hams with Chef Brent Martin from The Peculiar Rabbit and Chef Tom Dyrness from Upstream Seafood. Martin edged Dyrness by just over 1 point!

Last night’s Battle A. B. Vannoy Country Hams was a close one.  It came down to the scoring of the last dish before it was clear that Chef Brent Martin from The Peculiar Rabbit would take this win.

The team from The Peculiar Rabbitt

The team from The Peculiar Rabbit

Cooking for team Peculiar Rabbit along with Chef Martin, were Chefs Geoff Bragg and Andrew Melton; cooking for team Upstream Seafood was Chef Tom Dyrness with Chefs Sean Anderson and Brian Williams. 

The team from Upstream Seafood

The team from Upstream Seafood

I was there for the noon welcome to the chefs and the presentation of the  secret ingredient.

Prior to that, chefs had already some time to look around the kitchen at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, a neutral ground and beautiful “battlefield” for each of these Fire in the City Competition Dining dinners.  The chefs were given time to explore the mobile pantry, provided by the Competition’s title sponsor Pate Dawson – Southern Foods and  stocked full of fresh and shelf stable items with which to cook. They also were encouraged to  take inventory of ingredients and equipment and get a feel for the set up.

I asked chefs for any first impressions of the day – they were all excited, ready to begin and eagerly anticipating the presentation of the secret ingredient. ” It will either be pure joy or shear terror,” said Chef Williams from team Upstream Seafood.

As Competition Dining creator, Jimmy Crippen announced that the secret ingredient this day was Country Ham, all six chefs on both of the teams  looked  pleased. Chef Brent Martin from Peculiar Rabbit told me he was happy, but that the idea of including  country ham in each dish, had thrown his dessert idea out the window – “But, we’ll regroup,” he told me. And regroup they did – more about that in a bit.

Nancy Jordon in t he Curing room with country hams from A.B. Vannoy Hams

Nancy Jordon in t he Curing room with country hams from A.B. Vannoy Hams

from left - Byron Jordon, Tom Dyrness, Nancy Jordon and Brent Martin

from left – Byron Jordon, Tom Dyrness, Nancy Jordon and Brent Martin

A Ham so good, it’ll….

It is no wonder that the chefs were pleased with the secret ingredient. Cured and distributed from A.B. Vannoy in West Jefferson, NC, these hams are slow-cured to insure a quality product. Each ham is hand rubbed with what owners Byron and Nancy Jordon deem to be just the right blend of salt and  brown sugar  then  are hung on racks to complete a 9-month curing process.   Unlike other country hams  there are no chemicals, preservatives, nitrates, or nitrites involved in the process at all. Just salt, brown sugar, fresh mountain air and time.

Gotta love it!  And Rick Stapleton, VP and General Manager – Greensboro for Pate Dawson – Southern Foods does! What does Rick think of this particular Secret Ingredient?

Heidi Billotto, official blogger for Fire in the City, with Pate Dawson-Southern Foods' Rick Stapleton and Bryon and Nancy Jordon ( seated.

Heidi Billotto, official blogger for Fire in the City, with Pate Dawson-Southern Foods’ Rick Stapleton and Bryon and Nancy Jordon ( seated)

I tweeted this quote  out last night during dinner, but in case you missed it, Rick says, ” This country ham is so good, it’ll make your tongue slap your brains out!”

Maybe, Rick; but as good as each individual NC grown product turned secret ingredient is – it is what the competing chefs do with the product that matters in these culinary battles.

Each of the six chefs from The Peculiar Rabbit and Upstream seafood worked the line to get everything plated and out to 120 hungry diners.

Each of the six chefs from The Peculiar Rabbit and Upstream seafood worked the line to get everything plated and out to 120 hungry diners.

This group of six chefs worked hard to bring out the nuances of the ham and make it work with a combination of good-tasting ingredients.

If your singular country ham experience has been on a biscuit for breakfast – you are in for a wild ride as you read the descriptives below. Each bite of each dish was full of flavor and while some dishes highlighted the ham more than others, each dish enjoyed high scores.

While chef teams prepped and cooked individually during the fast moving 6 hours prior to the dinner, they all helped each other plate and serve 120 hungry diners who enjoyed each innovative course.

While it is a competition, its also a time for chefs to work together and get to know each other. Of course, everyone wants the win, but  it’s nice to know that these chefs do have fun in the process.

Davyee Sutton from WCNC-TV covering all the action

Dayvee Sutton from WCNC-TV covering all the action

And the crowd had fun too – while everyone in attendance get to vote, there are a group of three professional judges invited each evening  and  their vote is slightly weighted. Among the “Pro” judges this night were Owner and Executive Chef of Zebra Restaurant, Chef Jim Alexander;  Linda Seligman of Charlotte Epicurean Magazine and Craig Utt of Axis Marketing. All were impressed with the venue, the concept and the culinary results.

WCNC-TV’s Dayvee Sutton was also on hand with photographer Matt taping all the action for a spot to run later this week or next on WCNC’s midday program, Charlotte Today.

Plates Please Collective Palates

Tom Dyrness' Low Country Ham Boil, Corn-Andouille-Shrimp & Country Ham Broth

Tom Dyrness’ Low Country Ham Boil, Corn-Andouille-Shrimp & Country Ham Broth

The evening started with a light and delicious plate from Team Upstream seafood and chef Tom Dyrness –  the broth was quite flavorful and while it was a simple presentation, the ham wrapped shrimp sealed the flavor deal for me.

Course 1 Low Country Ham Boil, Corn-Andouille-Shrimp & Country Ham Broth

Hoppyum BBQ Shrimp, Country Ham Corn Pudding, Chili Oil, Curled Chives from Chef Brent Martin

Hoppyum BBQ Shrimp, Country Ham Corn Pudding, Chili Oil, Curled Chives from Chef Brent Martin

Course 2 – Interestingly this was also a shrimp and corn creation but this time by Chef Brent Martin and the Peculiar Rabbit team, The dish was comprised of  Hoppyum BBQ Shrimp atop Country Ham Corn Pudding with  Chili Oil and fun Curled Chives. This dish garnered high marks from the judges and the crowd both in taste and presentation and with that melt-in-your-mouth Country Ham Corn Pudding its no wonder – more please!

Palmetto Quail & Country Ham Roulade  with a NC White BBQ Sauce and a puree of Apple & Rutabaga

Palmetto Quail & Country Ham Roulade with a NC White BBQ Sauce and a puree of Apple & Rutabaga

Course 3 was from Chef Tom Dyrness and was the other high scoring plate of the evening  and another of this food writer’s faves-  a clever Palmetto Quail and  Country Ham Roulade sat front and center on the plate atop of round of braised leek. The roulade was finished with a NC White BBQ Sauce alongside a puree of Apple & Rutabaga – intricate, innovative and delicious, too!

Lusty Monk Cheshire Pork Belly, Country Ham-Fig-Walnut Crust,  Golden Tomato Relish, Beet Broth, Chive Oil, Rutabaga Puree

Lusty Monk Cheshire Pork Belly, Country Ham-Fig-Walnut Crust, Golden Tomato Relish, Beet Broth, Chive Oil, Rutabaga Puree

Course 4 from Chef Brent Martin – A Lusty Monk Cheshire Pork Belly, Country Ham-Fig-Walnut Crust,  Golden Tomato Relish, Beet Broth, Chive Oil, Rutabaga Puree. Honestly, too much on this plate for me and the tang of the mustard overpowered the taste of the country ham.  While the dish scored well, it was Martin’s lowest scoring plate of the evening.


…And then there were desserts! Yes desserts, each made with  the A.B. Vannoy Country Ham. Nancy and Bryon Jordon were blown away  with these two incarnations of their hand rubbed and slow cured pork and so was  everyone else! 

Salty Chocolate Pavè, Oatmeal Biscuit, Brown Sugar & Country Ham Ice Cream

Salty Chocolate Pavè, Oatmeal Biscuit, Brown Sugar & Country Ham Ice Cream

Course 5 – From Tom Dyrness of Upstream Seafood –  Salty Chocolate Pavè, Oatmeal Biscuit, Brown Sugar & Country Ham Ice Cream –  Yes country ham ice cream…for me it was the mix of sweet and salty that made it all work


Apple Mascarpone Semifreddo, Cider Reduction, Blueberry Coulis, Sparkling Cider Jell-O Shot, Candied Country Ham

Apple Mascarpone Semifreddo, Cider Reduction, Blueberry Coulis, Sparkling Cider Jell-O Shot, Candied Country Ham

In Course 6 from Chef Brent Martin – an Apple Mascarpone Semifreddo, Cider Reduction, Blueberry Coulis, Sparkling Cider Jell-O Shot, Candied Country Ham scored just point higher than Dyrness’ dessert and helped him capture the win.  If  you are asking, I think it was the oh, so, clever sparkling cider Jell-O shots that nailed it.

At Evening’s end the win went to Chef Brent Martin  and the team from Peculiar Rabbit. Congrats, Brent!!    They will go on to compete in the quarter finals on October 5 against the team from Wooden Vine.

Ticket Sales and T-Shirts

the Official Competition Dining T-Shirt - get yours today!

The Official Competition Dining T-Shirt – get yours today!

As the word is spreading, the tickets for each night are selling fast. Tickets are still available for most of the quarter final rounds and a few other nights as well. To make your reservations and secure a place at the table for more good things to come – visit the NC Competition Dining – Fire in the City page on this blog and click the links to reserve your space. Do it now – you don’t want to miss out!

And in support of the competition by sure to order your own official Competition Dining T-Shirt! These made in NC tees come in two colors and a variety of men’s and women’s sizes.

The Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series is teaming up with TS Designs in Burlington, NC to bring you our 100% North Carolina-born-and-raised apparel. Our shirts are made with TS Designs’ “Cotton of the Carolinas.” The cotton is produced “dirt-to-shirt” right here in the state, and the company supports 500 jobs within a 600-mile radius.

Competition Dining T-shirts available at every dinner and online for all shapes and sizes!

Competition Dining T-shirts available at every dinner and online for all shapes and sizes!

Visit to trace the supply chain and meet fellow North Carolinians behind all nine steps of the manufacturing process, from growing to ginning to dying.

We are all a community of chefs, farmers, or diners. Support your neighbors and wear the shirt!

For more information on The Peculiar Rabbit located at 1212 Pecan Ave in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, 704.333.9197, visit

For more information on Upstream Seafood located at 6902 Phillips Pl Ct., 704.556.7730, visit

For more information on those delicious slow cured country hams – visit