Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Join these Gourmet Adventures



courtesy of Foggy Ridge Cider

A FAVORITE PLACE TO TASTE
Cider has become a favorite of mine. And not that brown, thick juice, either, although I do enjoy that. But REAL cider. What is sometimes called "hard cider," apple juice that's fermented and become more than 7 percent alcohol.
Diane Flynt, of Foggy Ridge Cider near Dugspur, VA, has quite an artisan's touch with the cider she makes from a variety of "spittin' apples," those varieties that are so tannic to taste but perfect for fermentation. She's studied and apprenticed with the best in France, England and New England, and her product shows.
This coming Saturday, welcome autumn with a visit at her cider-tasting facility. You'll be amazed at the marvelous taste - so food friendly, too - and how different each of the varieties of cider she produces tastes. I bought a case the last time we stopped in.

October 2 Fall Open House with Dogtown Pizza
Foggy Ridge Cider
Sample Grimes Golden, Newtown Pippin, Ashmead's Kernel and Pomme Gris with nationally known apple expert, Tom Burford, at Foggy Ridge Cider's fall open house. Learn about heirloom apples and bring your own mystery apples for identification. Enjoy Dogtown Pizza's famous artisan pizzas and fall mountain views. All this and 91 year old Eldon Gardner playing his harmonica and washboard tie. Cider tasting free. Pizza $10 to $15. Open 11 to 5.

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TERRAVITA - OCTOBER 16TH

Terra meaning “of the earth” and Vita meaning “life,” captures in its definition the very spirit of this event. The first of its kind, TerraVITA Food & Wine Event will bring together some of the finest biodynamic and organically-grown wines and microbrews in the world with the very best locally-grown organic edibles in the Southeast!


Alongside dozens of international fine wine producers and a select few microbrewers, chefs from North Carolina’s top restaurants, confectioners, cheese-makers and food artisans will prepare culinary treats using seasonal organic fare for all attending this sustainable celebration! If you appreciate fantastic food, love locally-grown, consider yourself a wine lover, or find yourself waking up early to get first dibs at the farmer's market, or know enough about beer to recognize the terms "hops"

and "microbrew," you will want to put this event on the calendar.


There will be an array of enticing food and beverage samples that will blow you away! The month of October offers a plethora of locally-grown ingredients, and whether you’re into grass-fed meat or you are a vegetarian chowhound, there will be plenty of choices - setting us all up for one of the most amazing buffets in the Southeast!


TerraVITA’s Grand Tasting on the Green will take place on The Green at Southern Village, an upscale, environmentally-conscious, mixed-use community in Chapel Hill, NC. Tickets are all-inclusive (Yes - all alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as food samplings are included) and can be purchased for $65 each. That means the only reason you'll need to break out your wallet is to support our deserving non-profits!


We are fortunate to have some of the very best chefs in the state of North Carolina signed on to participate in TerraVITA! Look forward to experiencing wonderful tastings by Bill Smith and Paul Covington from Crook’s Corner, Vivian Howard from Chef & The Farmer in Kinston, Amy Tornquist from Watt’s Grocery, Stephen Ribustello from On The Square in Tarboro (and featured in the August issue of Our State magazine), Jimmy Reale from Carolina Crossroads, and on and on... See the Food & Beverage page for more specific details on “who” will be with us on October 16th!


The event will begin at 1 p.m. with will-call at check-in (there will be no tickets actually sent), where you will receive your wine glass and begin experiencing an afternoon of tastings – selecting from more than 80 Biodynamic or organically-grown wines, sustainably-produced microbrews and some of the best locally-grown organic foods available…

For more info or to get your tickets www.terravitaevent.com/


October 19th, Love at First Bite


photo courtesy of Todd Elliot

Alan Muskat is Asheville's WILD MUSHROOM MAN, who forages for chefs and takes amateurs out into the woods to teach what's edible and what's toxic. He also shares his enthusiasm for devouring the goodies he finds in the wild, and has a new eating/cooking series to share.

Wild Mushrooms with Alan Muskat and wild canap├ęs with Kim Hendrickson at Laughing Frog Estate, Walnut, NC (near Asheville)
Finding Our Place at Nature's Table
This Autumn to Spring, join us for one or more of seven “slow food, slow mood” experiences -
a wild foods "forage and eat" dinner series the third Tuesday of each month
October 19th to April 19th 3-9 pm

Each event will feature:

• a foraging expedition or food prep “playshop” led by regional experts

• a behind-the-scenes look at wild food preparation and fine cooking

• an intimate four course dinner with wine pairings prepared by distinguished area chefs





AND FROM OUR COAST - A NEW CSF - Community Supported Fishery
Core Sound Seafood was started as a way to connect the fishermen of Down East Carteret County, North Carolina to a viable, local market. Most of the fishermen that make up this coastal community have been fishing all their lives – often they can trace their fishing heritage back four or five generations. Sadly, these fishermen are increasingly leaving their life on the water as global markets, community economic loss, rising fuel prices and decreasing buying prices threaten their livelihood. Our goal is to provide a market to these fishermen and their families by offering locally caught, fresh seafood to the Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Raleigh community through a weekly CSF (community supported fishery) share. We believe that North Carolina fishermen are a tremendous resource in our state’s diverse agricultural offerings, and including them as producers in our local food shed is vital.

They are making deliveries of seasonal seafood - clams, fish, etc., from now through December. Check them out at

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Gunk-holing Gourmet


MAKING A MEMORABLE MEAL
You know those trips you take when you find yourself smiling a bunch? When conversations flow, laughter erupts, and the weather gods are looking out for you?
We just spent a couple of nights on the Chesapeake with our buddy, Rob, and it was the twelfth year we've taken his 32-foot Fidelio out of the South River near Annapolis and sailed to the Eastern Shore.
And don't tell his wife, Christy, but he claimed the last night's meal "the best meal of his life."
A DAY OF GOOD EATING
At first light we heard the chug-chug of a crabber's boat as he set his lines; later we'd sail by as he netted the famed Maryland crabs into his buckets. Crab cakes made with freshly picked crabmeat, barely breaded and dusted with Old Bay, found their way onto my lunch plate when we later pulled into the dock at Oxford. We sat outside under the shade of an umbrella as we ate and chatted and listened to the sea gulls and lapping of the waves, the smell of marsh and Chesapeake mud overtaken by lime and beer and the spicy whiff of Old Bay seasoning.
That's terroir. That's eating where you are, being in the moment. Is there anything sweeter?

MARYLAND HAD A LITTLE LAMB.....
Rob is not just a family doc extraordinaire who relates with his patients with his heart wide open, but he's also a published poet.
After a day of wind in our sails, we find a quiet gunk-hole up a creek and toss the anchor. We tidy up the mess we made while under sail, while he usually fixes us all a RumDumbDumber. Then Rob pulls out, or more recently, pulls "up" a file of poems from his iPhone to read to us as we lounge around the cockpit. They're free-form impressions and observations that make you chuckle or lament or nod your head in recognition of the minutae and the bigger issues that make our world go round, and I feel richer for his outpourings.
We throw the pits of seasoned olives overboard, or at each other if deserved. We miss Rob's wife, Christy, a busy attorney who sent us off with a lovely salsa made with their own cherry tomatoes, some fresh corn and black beans. As the coals build on Fidelio's small charcoal grill attached to the stern, we again talk politics, movies, books, kids, you know, life. No easy answers to any problems, we decide.

HOW TO COOK A LARGE MEAL ON A SMALL BOAT
I place the beets from the farmers market in Raleigh that I had slow-roasted at home and covered in foil, on top of the hot coals to heat them up. On top of them, I place roasted tiny potatoes acquired from Charles Church, at Watauga River Farms at Valle Crucis.
I believe behind every good bite of food is a good story, so I tell Rob about Charles, one of my favorite farmers I met while researching THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK, and how he switched from growing burley tobacco like his father and grandfather, to going organic. How the fields touch the banks of the river, how he's pulled so many arrowheads, shards of pottery and other remnants of the Native Americans who toiled his soil before him. How when I asked if he had any beets for sale, his helper asked how many I wanted and went to pull some from the field.
We pull our beets and potatoes off and smother them with jackets and a pillow to keep them warm.
Meanwhile I readied a rack of lamb to assume the space on the grill. I had chopped rosemary and oregano from my garden and placed them in a jar with olive oil and minced garlic. We smeared the herbal mixture all over the lamb, then covered the bare, naked bone tips with foil to keep them from burning. As flames flared from the droppings of melted fat, we all gravitated to that end of the cockpit, taking deep breaths and long sips of the tempranillo Rob opened.
One section of the rack was just perfect before the rest were ready, so we sliced up three chops and ate them from the bone, like starving food worshippers. "That is the best meat I have ever, ever put into my mouth," Rob exclaimed.
Oh my God, he said as he took a bite of beets. "And the potatoes, you can almost taste the river soil," he said. We all grinned, and toasted to our good fortune.
The final touch? An apple tart made with the lovely, green Pippin apples I found in Woolwine, VA last week. We groaned and stretched under the moonlit night, looking for constellations.


MEMORIES on the CHESAPEAKE BAY
The deal with these sailing trips is that Rob supplies the boat and the booze, and I do the food. I have become such a locavore and seasonal cook, and it travels with me.
I loved the enthusiastic response to my meal planning and food prep from Rob and the hubby. Yet dinner required teamwork and coordination, so we all "owned" it.
What makes a memorable meal? Is it just the food? The primal taste of garlic and lamb?
The earthy taste of terroir from root vegetables like beets and potatoes?
Or the wine that brought out the best in the food?
Or is it the company and the conversation that make a meal memorable? Or the locale?
How about all of the above?
After dusk, as the sky dimmed and moonlight laid on the water, we were all mellowed.
Our hunger for meaningful moments was as filled as our bellies. An that, folks, makes a
MEMORABLE MEAL.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Carolina Foodie: IS IT ALMOST FALL?

Carolina Foodie: IS IT ALMOST FALL?

IS IT ALMOST FALL?


MY MOUNTAIN STASH
"Stop! Turn around," I screamed.
We had just flown past a farmers' stand on the side of a back road that led to Woolwine in southwest VA, on the way home from the Galax VA area and the Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th Anniversary celebration, where I signed copies of THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK.
"Apples!" I yelled louder. So he stopped and made the turn, I'm sure anticipating pies and crunchy snacks.
But this stop was a gold mine. Apples, warty pumpkins, sourwood honey, cushaw pumpkins, and a long squash I did not recognize.

PERMELON
It's a what? How do you spell that? "I dunno," said the farmer. "But I do know the deer love them. They've pawed their way through several boxes worth." At two feet long and several inches thick, it will provide a lot of flesh to devour, I thought.
An internet search tells me that PERMELONS are a term for Old Appalachian winter squashes that are found especially in West Virginia and southwestern Virginia.
Aha.
Another source says they were grown by Native Americans all over the east.
Someone else said they were a sweeter relative of pumpkin, and more nutritious.
Another site said they were available at farmers markets in SW VA, and that she makes permelon butter, like apple butter, or serves it like any other squash.
I'm thinking I'll roast some cubes with olive oil. Any one else have any suggestions or experience with permelons?

CURSHAW PUMPKINS
Now this one I recognized as an heirloom squash - the cushaw or sometimes spelled kershaw - that many farmers in the Blue Ridge are growing. You treat it like any other pumpkin or butternut squash, roasting it to use the flesh in pumpkin pies or in soups.
It will keep well for several months if stored in a cool, dark space.
I plan on using this big boy in a spicy, ginger soup. Any other suggestions?




SOURWOOD HONEY
A favorite and a treasured food source, sourwood honey comes from what's also known as the "Lily of the Valley" tree. The highest concentration of sourwood trees are found in western NC, with some in Virginia and Georgia. Bees flock to sourwood blossoms in late June through July, with new crops of honey available in August and September.
This honey is spicy yet sweet, a bit floral, with a rich, buttery feel. I just love it, and save it to pour on toast where I can appreciate its taste pure and unadulterated.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SEAFOOD SAFARI

The Shackleford Wild Ponies
EARL WHO?
A nap was in order during the calm before the storm, Hurricane Earl, caused a mandatory evacuation of the Cape Lookout area. That meant that all four sailboats anchored in the bight, and folks like us, out for a sunny, calm day cruise, today would be scooted away by the Coast Guard. And the wild horses? I'm sure they'll endure the high winds and possible overwash. They seem to be hearty souls.
I'm grateful to have been there a few days ago to enjoy a picnic of freshly steamed Pamlico brown shrimp, with cantaloupe that tasted of the Carteret County black soil, and cool off with a float in crystal clear and smooth waters. That area of the Southern Outer Banks does call itself "The Crystal Coast."


Just south of Ocracoke along the chain of "Outer Banks," Cape Lookout is also part of the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" that extends down from its northerly neighbor, Cape Hatteras. Decades ago, I observed short, stout cement-block buildings that were bunkers used during World War II, when German subs were sunk within a couple of miles of the shore. Here, over a century ago, there was also a "processing plant" for porpoises, or bottle-nose dolphins, to gather the oil from their carcasses to use in lamps and crude machines. Oh my.
This trip, we witnessed a half-mile long pod of these graceful, gentle beauties as they fed on bluefish right along the cape. I had to wonder if they knew a storm was coming, and were filling up while they could.

A BEVY OF SEAFOOD
On the way to Atlantic Beach, we stopped at a favorite fishmonger, B & J Seafood in New Bern, where they clean and pack fresh blue crabs from the Pamlico Sound. We netted a beautiful, pulled from the water that day Southern flounder, which we stuffed with lump crabmeat and laced with lemon juice, melted butter and a sprinkle of Old Bay. Another delightful, memorable meal was jumbo lumps of crabmeat that I panned in butter, and paired with a buttery, smooth California pinot grigio from Mirrasou.
But my man loves scallops, and we had scored some big boys that were dry-packed and fresh from cooler waters than ours.
Fresh corn from home - well, I had cut it from the cob, flash-boiled, then frozen for this trip - and some tasty heirloom tomatoes made a pretty and tasty plate. He loved it.
The recipe follows.




SEARED SCALLOPS WITH CORN VELOUTE AND TOMATO CONCASSE
1 pound sea scallops
2 cups or so of freshly cut corn
1 large heirloom tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
olive oil for cooking
salt and pepper
fresh chives or parsley, minced, if desired

1. Wash and pat scallops dry.
2. Heat corn in just enough water to almost cover the corn. Scoop out about one cup into a blender with just a bit of the cooking water. Puree until smooth. Heat veloute in a small pan if needed. Season both corn and veloute with salt and pepper.
3. Heat chopped tomatoes and onions just until warm. Season.
4. Add just enough oil to a large saute pan to coat the bottom. Heat until very hot. Add just a few scallops - NEVER over crowd when sauteeing scallops, or else you get rubbery discs. Brown on both sides - it should take just about two or three minutes per side. Remove to a plate, and continue to brown the remaining scallops.
5. To plate, place the tomato concasse in the middle of each plate. Pour the veloute around the edge. Scatter the scallops evenly. Ladle the drained corn over the scallops and veloute. Scatter herbs if desired. Eat immediately!