If it’s April, it must be time for beer

Craft beer followers already pour into North Carolina because of its reputation as the South’s premiere beer destination, with more breweries than any state south of Pennsylvania (73 and counting). More and more of those breweries are now locally sourcing hops (at least in part) and even growing their own (again, in part).

In April there’s another reason to imbibe — a month of foam-focused activities, including tastings, hotel packages, and special events as part of the state’s inaugural North Carolina Beer Month. “We hope to open even more eyes and palates to the popularity of craft beer,” said Win Bassett, director of the North Carolina Brewers Guild.

NC Beer Lover’s Weekend at O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro

Participating breweries range from “nano-brewery” Bear Creek Brews, west of Raleigh, to Oskar Blues, the state’s largest craft brewery, near the Pisgah Forest (its parent brewery is in Longmont, Colo.). Offerings include a float trip down the French Broad River in Asheville followed by a tour and tasting at Altamont Brewing (April 20 and 27, $50); the Hickory Hops festival hosted by Olde Hickory Brewing with 40-plus breweries, music, and the Carolinas Championship of Beers.(April 20, $10-$30); and NC Beer Lover’s Weekend at O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro, with dinner and cooking class featuring beers by Highland Brewing Co. (April 26-27, $319 to $678). www.ncbeermonth.com


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Farm Fresh Orange County — in print!

I had a great time (but it was work, too!) organizing and writing content for a special 8-page guide to finding farm-fresh food and fun in Orange County. The booklet is first appearing in the March/April issue of Chapel Hill Magazine and also is available at the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau. I hope at some point it will be distributed around town as well, though I’m not sure about that.

The guide highlights some farm-to-table restaurants, shops with dining, farms to visit, farmers markets and special food and farm events in and around Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough, NC. It’s like a mini “Farm Fresh North Carolina.” I appreciated that I could again highlight some of my favorite farms and events, and also provide updates. The other thrill was the fab design, with eye-popping color, and the great photos by Donn Young. While I loved the design of my book and the photos (by creative photographer Selina Kok, who, yes, happens to be my spouse), the images were in more-affordable black and white. Color is so sweet! I was able to do some back and forth with the visitors bureau and the designers, and we all agree that the final product is smashing. See you for yourself!

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Cheese and goats and beer!

So many cool Triangle events coming up!

Prodigal Farm, one of just two Animal Welfare Approved goat cheese dairies in North Carolina, is hosting some cool events. On Jan. 27, they’ll have a Beginning Cheesemaking Workshop, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.. On March 29, also from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., they’re offering a Beginning Goat Husbandry Workshop. The farm is in Durham County, near Bahama. They’re also hosting a dinner at King’s Daughters Inn in Durham on Jan. 22 at 6:30 that highlights cheese and Mystery Brewing brews. Yay!

Up the road in Chatham County, near Siler City, Celebrity Dairy, which hosts monthly dinners at its B&B, is having one of their mega-popular Open Barn weekends on Feb. 9-10 from noon to 5 p.m. Go see the babies!

Back in Durham, Sean Wilson of Fullsteam Brewery and Page Skelton of Cackalacky condiments have paired up on a yummy brew called Cackalacky, with a ginger pale ale flavor. Can’t wait to try it — which I’ll do at the launch party at Fullsteam on Jan. 27, from 3 to 5 p.m. They’re going nationwide with this beer, and we get the first taste! See you there!

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How sweet it was …

I got this sad news today from John Swann at Maple Creek Farm, famed for its southernmost maple syrup. I’ve written about them here before, and check out the photos too!

To our Followers, Customers, and Friends:

We regret to announce that due to increasingly warm winter temperatures over the past few years, the yield of maple syrup at Maple Creek Farm has been steadily diminishing to the point that it is no longer feasible to produce maple syrup at all at our Yancey County farm. Consequently, we will also no longer be able to host our annual Maple Tour in February.

We wish to thank all those who have visited our farm and bought our maple syrup. We hope that the climate change will reverse, and that winters in these parts will once again be cold enough to produce maple syrup, but we have our doubts that this will occur, given the trend of increasingly warm winter temperatures.?

It was sweet while it lasted…

Thanks again for your support,

John Swann

Maple Creek Farm

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Tribute to a gentle giant in farming

Bill Dow at Ayrshire Farm in 2009

Bill Dow, one of the state’s sustainable-farming pioneers, passed away this week at the age of 67. Bill was a kind and gentle man whose humility served him well, first as a doctor and then as a farmer advocating a healthier way to grow food and consume it. This lovely story detailing his many achievements ran in the News & Observer today. Those include becoming the state’s first certified organic farm, in 1980; helping start the now famous Carrboro Farmers’ Market; and placing a conservation easement on much of his land, in Pittsboro.  Chatham County extension agent extraordinaire Debbie Roos put together this lovely tribute page for Bill.

I included Bill in “Farm Fresh North Carolina” even though his farm had no official public interaction. Still, I felt he was so notable that I  asked if I could include him. (Other private farmers of similar status turned me down.) I cautioned him that he might get calls from strangers wanting to see the farm. He was fine with that, he said, saying that it helped spread the good word. This is what I wrote in the book’s introduction:

Bill and I chatted during a 2011 book signing with Andrea Reusing of Lantern, who uses his farm’s produce

While this book features many farms that are set up to serve the public, others are private, but the farmers nonetheless feel it’s important to let people see the work they do. As organics pioneer Bill Dow at Ayrshire Farm in Chatham County told me, “If people don’t learn about where their food comes from, then we’re in serious trouble. I feel like it’s my duty to show them.”

And below is my entry on Bill’s farm. May his lasting legacy give comfort to his loved ones. Thank you, Bill Dow, for your years of dedication.

Ayrshire Farm

Bill Dow of Ayrshire Farm, near Pittsboro, became the state’s first certified organic farmer in 1980. Three decades later, he’s still farming without pesticides, though he dropped the certification. Bill also helped start the Piedmont Farm Tour and the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, and is still active in both. On about three of his twenty-two acres, all held in a land-conservation trust, Bill grows a mix of vegetables, including greens, tomatoes, and peppers, as well as heirloom apples and blueberries. During the course of our thirty-minute visit in the late morning, three restaurant owners called, asking, “Hey Bill, what do you have today?” Bill welcomes visits from individuals and small groups because, he said, “It’s terribly important to show people where their food comes from.” He also helps groom future farmers. “Farming is a viable option for young folks—if they can afford the land.”


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Food fest recap: all yummy all the time

Colleen Minton, the belle of the ball

I was treated to some glorious dining and noshing events at TerraVITA in Chapel Hill last weekend. and now it‘s back to watching the waistline.

I’ve witnessed this fine food and beverage festival, founded and run by the gracious and energetic Colleen Minton, blossom from a decent-sized one-day happening to a three-day Southeastern to-do featuring classes, gatherings, and tastings from more than 45 food and beverage purveyors. I met people from around the Southeast coming to sample dozens of yummies from North Carolina chefs, wine makers and beer brewers. The providers of sustenance have one thing in common (other than offering quality nourishment) — they focus on sustainable products, meaning local farm fare that is grown with minimal chemicals.

Biscuits with pimento cheese and kale pesto

Friday night’s East to West sit-down meal featured three of our state’s top chefs — Vivian Howard of Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, Cassie Parsons of Harvest Moon Grille in Charlotte (and a farmer herself), and Adam Rose of Il Palio in Chapel Hill. Offerings included collard dolmades with pork, confit of carrots and beets, Sunburst Trout fritters, rabbit three ways (ravioli, sausage, and confit), and collard green and country ham creamed Carolina Rice middlins with pickled collard stems and turnip roots. I’m having fantastic food-fueled flashbacks! We sat at long communal tables and ate family style, great for getting to know your neighbors, though I missed the aesthetic of plating dishes.

Tasty, lovely morsels from Herons at the Umstead

Saturday’s “Grand Tasting” proved equally compelling, and this time plates abounded, tiny ones and plenty of them with samplings too numerous to mention. Several fell into the meat and biscuit category, my favorites being Weathervane’s butternut squash biscuits with pulled pork, and Chapel Hill Country Club’s sausage biscuit with pimento cheese and collard pesto. Chocolate purveyors were sprinkled throughout, including my two favorite in the state, Escazu from Raleigh and French Broad Chocolates from Asheville. It being early afternoon and with no designated driver, I passed on the alcohol but enjoyed eyeing the microbrews, wines, and the state’s first all-local and organic spirits from Top of the Hill. Next year I’ll have to bring Bob.

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Fermenting food in a few easy steps

April McGreger leads a workshop on fermenting food

I’m bubbling over with excitement after my workshop on fermenting! OK, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but it was very interesting to get a primer on the process that I’ve been reading so much about over the past several years. I have had in mind to write a big piece about the health-minded followers of fermentation. Some day.

Last week, eleven of us gathered at The Cookery in Durham, where for $40 we got a two-hour-plus lesson from April McGreger, aka The Farmer’s Daughter. I’m a longtime fan of April, who is a food-preservation artist and maker of some amazing fermented and canned products, which she sells at farmers’ markets and even online now.

April and her lovely assistant process cabbage while a fellow student chops carrots for kimchi

We made sauerkraut and Korean kimchi, a ubiquitous relish using the “wild fermentation” method — as opposed to “lactofermentation,” and meaning you don’t add any culture. The longtime leader of the wild movement is Sandor Katz, so if you want to know more about it, check out his website or books.

April told us that fermentation is the oldest method of preserving food and basically allowed people, always traveling in search of food, to stay in one place for awhile. It changed the course of civilization! And did you know that the oldest fermented cabbage is from China – fed to the builders of the Great Wall? Later it landed in Germany, where sauerkraut became a national staple.

We each got to take home a jar of kimchi

The sauerkraut was ridiculously simple – cabbage, salt and dried juniper berries (optional). The trick is to keep air out during the fermenting process. We each brought home a little batch and I’ve followed April’s instructions to prevent air from getting in. We’ll see! The kimchi involved a lot of chopping and a lot more seasoning, leading me to think how fun it would be to have a kimchi party, with a few folks coming together to share the prep and chopping duties, and of course the goods!

Meanwhile, the day after class, Tasting Table posted this great article about the many uses of kimchi. I guess everyone is bubbling over!

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Let ‘Chefs of the Mountains’ be your guide

First, there was the “Food Lovers’ Guide to the Triangle.” Now there’s “Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants & Recipes from Western North Carolina” (John F. Blair, $19.95), by food critic John E. Batchelor. John doesn’t know it, but he helped me with researching my guidebook, “Farm Fresh North Carolina,” because I learned about tons of restaurants in the Triad region from his stories in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem papers. Thank you, John!

John will be promoting the book – with chefs in tow – at several bookstores around the state. Check out the schedule here and keep in mind you’ll probably be treated to some nibbles, too, but no guarantee. He’ll be at my local awesome bookstore, The Regulator, on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. with Chef Michael Barbato of Chetola Inn and Resort in Blowing Rock. Speaking of BR, John includes several restaurants from that resort town south of Boone. The book came at the right time for me, as I’ll be in Boone in a month and haven’t been there for several years. I think I’ve picked out the place, thanks to John: Vidalia. We’ll see.

Author John E. Batchelor

“Chefs of the Mountains” is part of a series started by my friend Ann Prospero, who wrote “Chefs of the Triangle.” Like Ann did, John gives us tasty morsels about each chef’s personal and professional life, followed by several recipes. There is a big difference, though: color photographs grace this book. Lucky John! The only glaring omission is a price key. Maybe next edition?

John says all 40 chefs use fresh, local ingredients, and in sidebars he highlights some of the farmers and artisanal producers, such as Imladris Farm in Fairview and Sunburst Trout Farms in Canton, two places I’ve enjoyed visiting.

If you love the NC mountains and good food (who doesn’t?), John has a book he’d love to sign for you!

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Sign up soon for NC organic cotton tour

Y’all know how much I love Eric Henry and TS Designs and Cotton of the Carolinas. Read some great articles about the venture here and here, along with Eric’s op-ed piece in the News & Observer. Sign up by Wed., Oct. 10, for his Fourth Annual Cotton Harvest Tour, this year on Saturday, Oct. 13 and focused on organic cotton!

So, invite your friends and family to spend the day with TS Designs and explore where their Cotton of the Carolinas t-shirt begins! And meet their farmer, Ronnie Burleson, along with everyone who makes this special t-shirt a reality. Details are here. Price – $12/person – includes local lunch. RSVP by October 10th to Eric Henry (eric@tsdesigns.com)


10 am – meet up at Rolling Hills Cotton Gin

10-10:30 – introduction of the Cotton of the Carolinas

10:30-11:30 – tour of cotton gin with Wes Morgan

11:30 – out to the cotton field

12-1 – lunch at the farm, bad weather we eat at a church

1-2 – harvest cotton!

2-3 – Q&A, wrap-up and head home


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A hot, sweet time at Pittsboro Pepper Festival

It’s time again for one of the hottest events in the Triangle – the Pittsboro Pepper Festival, on Sunday, Oct. 14, in Chapel Hill.

Who’s invited: Everyone interested in local food and sustainable agriculture and having fun and eating in Central NC.

Who’s going to entertain you: Abundance Foundation and Piedmont Biofarm‘s seed-saving research division, plus chefs, brewers, food artisans, nonprofits focusing on sustainability, sponsors, musicians, bubble blowers, acrobats and a veggie circus!

When: Sunday, October 14, 3 to 7 p.m.

Where: Briar Chapel’s Park (16 Windy Knoll Circle, Chapel Hill, NC)

All things pepper can be tasted at the festival

What: A celebration of the Piedmont’s sustainable agriculture, local food, our community and all things pepper!

Why? This began five years ago when Farmer Doug Jones needed data about his 100-plus varieties of peppers that he grows. Forty friends and family came by to taste and submit data. It turned into quite the festival, and now we’re ALL invited!

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Vollmer Farm returns with even more fall festivities

Happy fall, y’all! … One of my favorite photos taken for my “Farm Fresh North Carolina” guidebook is this one, of a boy we spotted at Vollmer Farm carrying a load of pumpkins. It might look staged, but it’s not.  And the big news this week is that Vollmer’s “Back Forty” just opened for its fall festivities, which it has expanded to include a puppet play tent. You might want to go later on a Saturday afternoon for the 5 p.m. bonfire and marshmallow roast, followed by a family movie at dusk. Not only does the former tobacco farm, 45 minutes northeast of Raleigh, have loads of activities for families, it has become an fully organic farm and has the largest you-pick organic strawberry field in the state. I’m a big fan!  I also want to mention that the farm lost its matriarch this past summer. Betty Vollmer was an integral part of the farm, and her generous spirit still prevails.

Here’s my entry from the book:

Few in the state do agritourism at the level Vollmer Farm does. What’s most admirable is that the Vollmers operate a working farm, having made the switch from tobacco to produce, while also attracting thousands of visitors a year to their “Back Forty” entertainment complex. In the spring and summer, certified organic strawberries and blueberries are ripe for the picking, while some farm produce, snacks, and ice cream are for sale in the large gift shop. Starting in mid-September, the action really picks up. Tractor rides take hundreds of visitors and school groups a day to the “back forty” acres, filled with games, playgrounds, mazes, and other agriculturally themed attractions.  Address: 677 Highway 98 East, Bunn (Franklin County), 919-496-3076, www.vollmerfarm.com. Open April to October.

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Southern cooking: it’s a sides show

Lina found me crying over an ugly green plastic box the other week. I was reading through my mom’s recipes (she died in 2009), on yellowed index cards in her hand-writing. Her famous salmon cakes, always served with cole slaw and peas; corn pudding; succatash. What had sent me to the box was a search for stewed tomatoes, which I begged Mom to make every time the adult me visited. That forgotten memory was triggered by an article written by Fred Thompson about the classic Southern dish that features white bread and brown sugar (yes, it’s like dessert!). I never did find Mom’s recipe, but now I have what I believe is a close version in the just-released “Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides: 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate” ($35).

UNC Press editor Elaine Maisner introduces Fred Thompson at his book launch at A Southern Season

I went to Fred’s launch party at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill this week, hosted by his (and my) publisher, UNC Press. Several yummy “sides” were offered up, including pickled shrimp, pimento cheese, grilled okra, collards, and sweet potato guacamole (which I must make soon!). Maybe you’ll find some nibbles at one of his many signing events locally and beyond.

Most of us in the Triangle know or know of Fred, a professional food stylist, writer, and recipe developer. He writes a column for the News & Observer, has penned many cookbooks, publishes Edible Piedmont, and teaches at A Southern Season. The most important things to know about Raleigh resident Fred are he’s a North Carolina native and all-around good guy. And I’m not saying this just because I won a stack of his books in a raffle. (Thanks, Fred, and UNC Press!)

Fred at his book-signing table

What Fred told us about Southern food resonated: “It’s the true fusion cuisine. It has all crossed paths and is a celebration of the world.” Amen.  “Southern Sides” is his most personal book, he said, and I also think it’s the most beautifully designed, with dozens of scrumptious-looking photos.

Here’s evidence that Fred, a promoter of locally raised, fresh ingredients, is truly Southern. He refuses to ignore canned mushroom soup, Velveeta cheese, and Miracle Whip. “Just get over it,” he writes, “because I guarantee that what you taste will make you forget such common ingredients.” Which means that I’m making the stewed tomatoes the way Mom did – with canned tomatoes, not fresh ones. I’ll report back and let you know if the flavor was anything like I remember.

But fear not, fresh-ingredients-only folks. There are plenty of recipes for you too. With 250 side dishes, there’s something for everyone, as they say. So buy a copy or three of Fred’s book – and make sure to use it. As Fred said, “I don’t want my cookbooks sitting on a shelf. I like them to get splattered.”

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Do not miss this year’s TerraVITA food festival

Food and farm-fresh friends, I don’t mean to harp on this, but if you haven’t gotten your tickets to TerraVITA,  one of the state’s leading food and beverage festivals, you’d better do it soon. The three-day spectacular is in Chapel Hill and environs on Nov. 1-3, a mere month away.  Somehow, founder and organizer Colleen Minton has managed to coax chefs from around the entire state to attend the Nov. 3 Grand Tasting, most of whom have a farm-to-table focus. Read the full list here. Pretty amazing, huh?! Read my earlier blog post on TerraVITA, which spells out the details. I’ll see you there!

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‘Food Lovers’ Guide’ to the Triangle is out

My pal and busy “Durham Foodie” blogger Johanna Kramer just birthed her first book, and it’s a great one for food-minded locals and visitors to the Triangle. (And, really, who isn’t food minded?)

Food Lovers’ Guide to Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings” (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95) is chock full of information on restaurants, markets, culinary events, cooking classes, wine and beer spots and more.

You’ll find the books at the usual places, in stores and online. Better yet, have Johanna personalize your copy — and buy extras for friends. She’ll be at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill on Saturday, Sept. 22, from noon to 2 p.m., and at the West 94th St. Pub in Durham on Sunday, Sept. 23, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Johanna Kramer signs her new book at the launch party in Durham, NC

Skimming through the 254 pages of listings, I’m transported to some of my favorite spots (Pie Pushers food truck, Guglhupf bakery and restaurant, especially the outdoor patio) and reminded of all the places I still need to visit (I’m too embarrassed to confess which ones I’ve yet to check out). Even Johanna’s book launch party on Sunday introduced me to a new spot — G2B Gastro Pub, a sleek but friendly bar/restaurant tucked away in the back of a small office complex in Durham.

In the back of the book you’ll find 18 recipes to whet your appetite, including Macaroni au Gratin from chef Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Downtown Diner in Raleigh; Market’s Ketchup, by Chad McIntyre of Market, also in Raleigh; and Raw Vegan “Pad Thai” from Triangle Raw Foods.

As I told Johanna, I’m even impressed by the index and appendices, making it easy to find what you’re looking for. So start looking and visiting!

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Farm tours held across NC this month

Wow, it’s farm tour central here in North Carolina, with two tours this weekend, in Charlotte and the eastern Triangle, and next weekend in Asheville and environs. (Many of the farms are in my book, which offers do-it-yourself tours!)

The 4th Annual Charlotte Area Know Your Farms Tour is this weekend from 1 to 6 p.m., with an impressive 45 farms participating. Tickets are $25 to $30 per carload, depending on where and when you get them. Farm stops include BirdBrain Ostrich Ranch (ostriches!), Creekside Farms (pigs!), and the famed Grateful Growers Farm (more pigs and etc.!) One of the prettiest farms/settings on the list is Stowe Dairy Farms, which features an old farmhouse, rolling hills, cows, and very friendly farmers!

In the Triangle, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association presents the 7th Annual Eastern Triangle Farm Tour from 1 to 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday. Advance tickets are $25, which will get your carload into more than 20 farms. The CFSA’s bigger tour is held in the spring, but there is plenty to see on this one, including the goats at Prodigal Farm, the great activities going on a SEEDS Educational Garden, and both organic produce and agritourism action at Vollmer Farm.

Finally, out west, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, aka ASAP, has moved its traditional June Farm Tour to September. It’s Sept. 22 and 23 from 1 to 6 p.m., and advance tickets are $25. Farms opening their gates include Hickory Nut Gap Farm (agritourism and animals), Sunburst Trout (fish and streams), Round Mountain Creamery (goats), and Mountain Farm (lavender, goats, and gifts!).

A few visiting tips: Dress in clothes that can get muddy and dirty, leave the pets at home, and don’t forget to pack the four C’s: curiosity, cash, cooler, and camera!

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TerraVITA triples the fun (get your tix now)

Wow, in only its third year, TerraVITA has become a leading Southern food and wine event, with a focus on farm-sourcing, artisanal producers. This year’s event has expanded over several days, with activities running Nov. 1 to Nov. 3 in Chapel Hill.

Much of the credit goes to founder and organizer Colleen Minton. I’ve seen a lot of “food festivals” come and go, but this one keeps getting bigger and better. And … Colleen gives back, as well. TerraVITA has donated more than $10,000 to local nonprofits over the past two years, and this year is adding a fund-raiser for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

Below are some details on this year’s celebration, and tickets are on sale NOW! Ordering info. is here.

WHAT: TerraVITA is a 3-day festival featuring the best in sustainable food and beverage in the South and celebrating chefs, farmers, and artisan beverage producers who offer the necessary foundation to create a sustainable network. The event features educational workshops and demonstrations, guest speakers, as well as food and beverage tastings and meals. The festival will begin with the Harvest Potluck Fundraiser for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and end with the pinnacle event, the Grand Tasting on The Green.

FEATURING: More than two dozen chefs and artisan food producers from across the state of North Carolina participating in tastings, demos, dinners and workshops for the general public. Also, artisan wine producers, micro brewers, coffee roasters and boutique distillers will participate in workshops and over more than 100 tastings.


★ Harvest Potluck Fundraiser: Thursday, Nov. 1,  from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Carrboro Farmer’s Market

★ The Sustainable Classroom (Speakers, Workshops & Demonstrations): Friday, Nov. 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at multiple locations in Chapel Hill (hotel shuttles provided)

★ The Carolina Table: East Meets West (Dinner): Friday, Nov. 2 from 7 to 10 p.m. (Location TBD)

★ The Grand Tasting on The Green: Saturday, Nov. 3, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on The Green at Southern Village in Chapel Hill

HELPING: TerraVITA has donated more than $10,000 to local non-profits over the last two years. Each year, they hold a silent auction and donate 100% of the proceeds to charity. This year, they’re adding a fundraiser for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Market. The last two years both the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) and TABLE, a non-profit offering weekend meals to children in need, have been beneficiaries. Last year, they added Culinary Historians of Piedmont NC (CHOP NC).

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Celebrate Farmer’s Market Week with more markets

It doesn’t surprise me a bit that the US Department of Agriculture announced a 9.6 percent increase in National Farmers Market Directory listings. Oh, and happy National Farmer’s Market Week!

I’m also sure that plenty of markets are not even in the directory, a database published here.  The latest count identifies 7,864 farmers markets operating throughout the United States.

As for North Carolina, we’re among the states leading the push, boasting the 10th-most farmers markets for the third year in a row. The News & Observer did a nice piece about our markets, though reported from the State Farmers’ Market, which isn’t as local as many others.

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Weathervane chef is star of the show

Chef Ryan Payne from Weathervane at A Southern Season took home $2,000, Dansko clogs, red chef jackets for his team and major bragging rights after winning the Fire in the Triangle series, a new chef competition organized by Got to Be NC Competition Dining. Also impressive was who he ultimately beat: Chef John Childers of Herons at The Umstead Hotel and Spa. Sixteen chefs from the Triangle and Southern Pines competed in the 15-dinner series that began June 11 and concluded last week. I was lucky enough to judge the semi-finals and turned out all my favorite dishes of the evening were from Chef Ryan’s camp.

I was at A Southern Season (in Chapel Hill) yesterday for a book signing and spoke with many folks who had just eaten lunch at the Weathervane and were raving about the food. Some knew of chef’s win, and those who didn’t do now.

Next up: Fire in the Triad. Tickets on sale now!

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Weathervane chef knows how to say Cheese!

Congrats to Chef Ryan Payne of the Weathervane at A Southern Season for rising to the top of the semifinals at Fire in the Triangle, which I helped judge last night. The secret ingredient was: Cheese!

Sources for our nation’s favorite dairy product were: Goat Lady Dairy (you must have dinner there sometime), Hillsborough Cheese Company, and Ashe County Cheese, a fun place to visit in West Jefferson.

By far the standout offering was Chef Ryan’s appetizer: Ashe County Mountain Sharp Cheddar & Beer Soup with Country Nehi Grape Sausage, Housemade Cheddar Pretzel & Smoked Farmer Cheese. See all course details here.

After tonight’s face-off between Heron’s and The Oxford, the chefs will rest up until the sold-out finals on July 31. Good luck this evening, bon appetite, and eet smakelijk! And don’t forget, Fire in the Triad starts soon!


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It’s settled! Il Palio vs. Weathervane on July 23

I was already feeling lucky to be asked to judge one of the Fire in the Triangle chef competition sponsored by Got to Be NC. Then I learned I’d be judging the semifinals, on July 23, meaning I’ll get to sample the cream of the crop. And now, with the regular season finished, I finally know who will be competing during my judgeship, causing me to float on even higher clouds: Adam Rose of Il Palio versus Ryan Payne of Weathervane, two outstanding chefs from outstanding restaurants in Chapel Hill. Both heartily endorse the use of fresh and local ingredients, and I cannot wait to find out what the NC-sourced mystery ingredient will be. Past choices have been cantaloupe, turkey, blueberries, and, most recently, corn. Maybe tomatoes? That’s too easy, isn’t it? But it’s July, so that’s an obvious choice. Whatever it is, cannot wait!

The event has been sold out for months, but tickets are available for Fire in the Triad , which starts soon and is worth the drive.

My pal Johanna Kramer at Durham Foodie is the official blogger for the series and has written terrific recaps here.  Don’t read them when you’re hungry unless you have time to whip up a tasty meal afterward.


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