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This chocolate is too pretty to eat.

Ahhh, sleeping in! It’s always nice to sleep in until 9:30 AM. I remember my freshman year of college when I would sleep in until noon. It’s impossible for me to do that now. After eating so badly all weekend, I went for a run outside with my friend Kristin. I like running on an empty stomach so I skipped breakfast and ate lunch after I got back. Lunch was fabulous. I made what my dad likes to call a “power salad.” However, I like to be a bit more girly so I’ll call my creation a strawberry field salad. I used fresh lettuce from the State Farmers Market, boiled an egg from Latta Farms, and sliced some local tomato and strawberries. Delicious and healthy!

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After feeling rejuvenated from my run and lunch, Kristin and I visited Escazu Chocolate. Obviously the cocoa isn’t grown in North Carolina. However, at Escazu Chocolate you can see where they produce all of their delicious chocolate. The girl at the register told us that they tried growing a cocoa tree in their store, however, it’s now being nursed back to health. I suppose cocoa trees just don’t like Raleigh.

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Kristin and I were in chocolate heaven. We watched the machines making chocolate through a glass window in the corner of the shop. We stood by the glass for a few minutes watching the chocolate spin around on a stone wheel. We were in awe. Kristin even commented that she could take a bath in the chocolate, which made me die laughing!

We went over to the case of chocolates. It took me at least five minutes to decide what to order. The girl at the register was so friendly and helpful. I decided on the honey and chamomile dark chocolate. The honey used to make this chocolate is super local, from the hives in their backyard! I also ordered a coffee, the beans were roasted by Counter Culture Coffee in Durham. Kristin spent a lot of time debating between a chocolate push pop or a chocolate covered marshmallow. When the employee told us they made their own marshmallows at the store, Kristin was sold.

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We both loved the atmosphere of Escazu Chocolate. We were surrounded by local jewelry, pottery, and paintings made my artists throughout the Triangle area. The shop had such a great feel and I was happy to support my local artisan chocolate shop. Kristin and I enjoyed our little chocolate treats that were entirely too pretty to eat at a wooden picnic table. I knew I was going to feel bad eating the hand-painted honey and chamomile dark chocolate; it was truly art! However, after my first bite, the art didn’t even matter. The chocolate had such an amazing flavor. When the dark chocolate shell cracked and I reached the center, I tasted the creamy mixture of honey and chamomile. The perfect combination of sweet and floral. Yum! I will definitely be visiting Escazu Chocolate in the near future.

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After working on homework for the rest of the afternoon, I met up with Courtney and Autumn for dinner at Tyler’s Taproom. I called the restaurant before we went to make sure there would be something for me to eat. The employee told me they use a lot of produce and meats from North Carolina. I was sold! We sat outside on the deck. The weather was beautiful and the deck had such a great vibe. Everyone was hanging out. There were older men relaxing in adirondack chairs with a beer in their hand and families enjoying a burger and fries at a picnic table.

I ordered a Fullsteam Sweet Potato Carver beer. Fullsteam is a brewery located in Durham. They proudly support the agricultural heritage of the South, which is why they have a sweet potato beer. As you all know, I love sweet potatoes. It’s kind of a problem. I could eat (or drink) sweet potatoes every day of my life. So, I had to order this beer! This amber ale was delicious. I smelled the sweet potatoes the most, and wasn’t hit by a strong sweet potato taste.

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I told our waitress about my blog and she looked worried. Darn! I had called earlier and thought I wouldn’t have a problem eating local. She told me that I would be safe ordering the corn dog appetizer. I really wanted to get something else but I had to stick to my local food challenge. She assured me that the sausage inside of the corn dogs is made by a North Carolina company. The corn dogs were just alright, they were kind of chewy. I’ve never had gourmet sausage inside of a corn dog and I wasn’t a fan. Thank goodness I was happy with my sweet potato beer. Tyler’s has a great local beer selection though. They have pages in their beer menu dedicated to local beers. I would definitely come back to the deck at Tyler’s because it’s fun place to enjoy a NC brew.

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Dirt and a little beach music.

I had meetings out of the office all day on Thursday. Since I didn’t have to make the 25 minute commute, I got a few extra minutes of precious sleep and had time to make a delicious breakfast. I spread Jammin’ George’s apple bourbon jam on a piece of Nana’s sourdough bread. I scrambled an egg from Latta Farms and to top off my meal, I had a few local strawberries.

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Last weekend I visited the State Farmers Market to pick up some lettuce. I purchased romaine lettuce and purple lettuce. The two large heads of lettuce were only three bucks, what a steal! If I went to the grocery store, I would have bought the same amount for double the price.

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I had a few leftover NC shrimp, which where seasoned with a little Old Bay. So, I washed the lettuce I purchased at the State Farmers Market to make a shrimp salad for lunch. I also put a few slices of the hot house tomato I had leftover from Whole Foods. Salads are a great way to use up your leftovers. Anything tastes good on a salad! Make sure you always buy local lettuce whenever you can. The lettuce tastes so much better than the over-priced stuff you get in a plastic bag from the grocery store. Plus, you’re supporting your local farmer and economy. Don’t worry about the dirt on the lettuce. Just wash it off! Like my parents always say, “God made the dirt, the dirt don’t hurt.”

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After my meetings all day, I went to my last class of graduate school. The class goes from 6 to 8:45 PM, right during dinner time. Really? How convenient. I always have to pack something for dinner or go to Hillsborough Street. I remembered how difficult it was for me last week to find something to eat on Hillsborough Street, so I packed some leftover fish and veggies. While my class was chowing down on pizza that my teacher ordered to celebrate the end of the semester, I settled on dinner from my lunchbox.

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I made strawberry pie to share with my class. I used crust made and packaged in Salisbury that I found at the grocery store. For the filling I used up the rest of my strawberries from the Kanapolis Research Center. From what I could tell, the class enjoyed the strawberry pie!

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I started my Friday morning off with a bang! I had a slice of Nana’s sourdough bread with jam from Jammin’ George. The apple bourbon jam has such a unique flavor. George makes one of a kind jams. He takes the time to really think about what flavors go well together. He’s definitely not afraid to experiment!

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Joy took me out to lunch on Friday. We spent about ten minutes trying to figure out where to eat. We decided on Beasley’s since I knew I could definitely get local foods from this restaurant. Joy said my blog makes things challenging when eating out. She’s exactly right! You really have to do your research and trust the restaurant is telling you the truth about what foods are local.

After looking on the chalkboard menu located on the wall of Beasley’s, I decided that the market salad sounded awesome. It was made with all local ingredients; lettuce, strawberries, goat cheese, and a house-made vinaigrette. Since I hadn’t tried the honey chicken, what Beasley’s is known for, I asked if I could have some chicken on top of my salad. The salad was the bomb! I cleaned my silver plate and enjoyed my lunch as well as the company.

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I went to the Southern Women’s Show with Liz after work on Friday. Part of the show was dedicated to North Carolina food and beverages. The people at the booths kept calling us over to try a free sample (or twenty). I think we each ate about fifty samples: breaded fish and chicken, homemade dips, red velvet cupcakes, sourdough bread, cheese biscuits, and peanut bars. We totally ruined our dinner. I wasn’t hungry for the rest of the day!

I woke up on Saturday morning in a rush. I packed a cooler, put on a sundress, and headed to Courtney’s to leave for the Triangle Beach Music Festival. Luckily, I grabbed the last piece of Nana’s sourdough bread on my way out for breakfast. The beach music festival was interesting. I enjoyed people watching while I sipped on a local NC brew. I ran into a lot of friends from college who all follow my blog. Everyone thought I was cheating on my local food challenge because I was drinking beer from a can. My roommate told me that Triangle Brewing Company makes canned beer and it’s sold at Total Wine. I made a special trip out to Total Wine to get canned NC beer for the beach music festival, glass bottles were not allowed. I assume glass isn’t allowed because of the crazy crowd. I can see it now, the angry man with the cut off jeans and American flag tank top beating someone over the head with a glass bottle in his drunken state. Anyway, I was happy with my beer in a can.

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Since I rushed out of the house, I didn’t even think to pack a lunch. I walked around the beach music festival looking for food. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be eating when all of a sudden I spotted the Goodness Grows logo, part of the “Got to be NC” branding campaign. Bright Leaf hot dogs had saved the day! It’s been years since I’ve eaten a hot dog. These bright red hot dogs are definitely a North Carolina delicacy. I ate the red hot dog and enjoyed every minute of my lunch.

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After shagging at the beach music festival, Courtney and I went out downtown to meet up with Charles and Autumn at Raleigh Times for dinner. Raleigh Times is part of the 10 Percent Campaign and they strive to use local foods. I ordered the pulled pork nachos, what our waitress suggested. They were definitely delicious. The nachos were topped with pulled pork, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, and jalapenos. I gave all of the jalapenos to Texas native, Charles. He ate the jalapenos like a champ!

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I think I gained five pounds after my weekend. I ate so badly. I’m ready to get back into a routine this week and I need to eat some healthy, local food. Eating local foods doesn’t always mean you’re eating healthy!

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The Daily Planet Cafe: Cheerwine and chicken salad.

Toasted bread. Yes, I had time to actually toast Nana’s sourdough bread this morning! I spread some peanut butter from Whole Foods on top of the bread. I even got to sit down at my kitchen table to enjoy breakfast.

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I went to the House Childhood Obesity Committee meeting as soon as I got to work. I bumped into my friend, Elise. We decided to get lunch together after the meeting at the Daily Planet Cafe, which was conveniently right across the street. I visited the opening of the North Carolina Natural Sciences museum this past weekend. I was eying the Daily Planet Cafe’s menu on opening night, however, since it was 4 AM I couldn’t exactly order any food. So, I was excited to order lunch at this brand new restaurant.

The Daily Planet Cafe is dedicated to offering North Carolina foods and beverages. The menu even has the “got to be NC” logo! I asked the employee her favorite dish on the menu. She suggested I order the Chicken Salad Melt. Of course I took her advice because she told me I wouldn’t be disappointed. Elise and I went to get our drinks after placing our orders. I freaked out! Elise’s finance, Ches and I are both addicted to Cheerwine. We also have the same birthday. I think we are twins. Or maybe all people born on October 6th constantly crave Cheerwine. Anyway, this was the first restaurant I’ve seen offer Cheerwine from the soda fountain! I immediately sent Ches a text message to alert him of my new, delicious discovery. I’m so happy the Daily Planet Cafe is close to where I work, you better believe I’ll be coming here to stock up on my Cheerwine. They should probably give me a frequent Cheerwine buyer card.

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After my entire day was made just by standing in front of a soda fountain, it got even better. A massive sandwich was delivered to my table. The employee was right, I wouldn’t be disappointed in the Chicken Salad Melt. The sandwich used multigrain bread from Neomonde Bakery, which was toasted perfectly. The sandwich had a delicious, generous portion of chicken salad. The chicken salad was chunky and included bits of fruit and pecans. The best part of the sandwich was the brie cheese. I have never had chicken salad with brie cheese. Whoever thought of adding this decadent cheese is brilliant! You probably won’t believe this, but I ate the whole sandwich. Alright, you probably believed me. Y’all know this girl can eat some local food!

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After enjoying the most amazing sandwich of my life, Elise and I started smelling coffee and tea brewing inside the restaurant. Even though it was lunch time, Elise and I can always use a dose of caffeine. We walked over to the cafe portion of the restaurant. Oh my goodness, Larry was at it again! Larry and I started our relationship this past weekend in Boone. Thankfully, Larry is from Raleigh and the Daily Planet Cafe has decided to feature his beans! I ordered a Larry’s Beans Cowboy Blend coffee. I wanted something bold to get me through the rest of the day.

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After enjoying lunch and working for a few more hours, I made my way to Greensboro. I helped Commissioner Troxler plan his Speakers Series event at UNC Greensboro focused on local foods and sustainability. The event was last night at 6 PM. We had a wide range of panelists including Chef Jay from Lucky 32, Rick and Robert from the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, two farmers, a business owner, and a researcher involved in nutrition. I wasn’t going to have time to eat dinner until I made the drive from Greensboro back to Raleigh. I ended up getting home around 10 PM. Thankfully, I had leftovers in the fridge. I heated up some tilapia and veggies for dinner. I also broke out a bottle of Serenade white wine from Duplin County Winery. Yes, there’s ice in the wine. I’m obviously not a true wine snob, huh? We had over 200 people attend the event at UNC Greensboro! So, I felt like I should celebrate with a glass of Duplin.

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I’ll leave you with one statement that Chef Jay from Lucky 32 said at the Commissioner’s Speakers Series. “Eat what you love. Buying and eating food is a political act. Do it wisely!” That statement is so true. Eat local foods! If you eat foods like strawberries from Mexico, you aren’t supporting your farmer a few miles down the street who is growing the same product. If you want to see legislation supporting the local food movement, you need to start by actually buying and consuming local foods.

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Another great time at Sitti, plus a home cooked meal!

I had a rough start Tuesday morning, as you can see from the blurry picture of a peanut butter sandwich sitting in my lap in the car. As I was multitasking, driving with my knee and eating, I realized I forgot a drink. You know that feeling when peanut butter gets stuck on the rough of your mouth? Well, that was how I felt until I made it to the water fountain at work. I really should start waking up earlier! Nana’s sourdough bread and the freshly ground peanut butter from Whole Foods was delicious as always. A good ol’ standby! 

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I met my former boss, Lisa for lunch at Sitti. I was super excited to go to Sitti because I had a wonderful experience a few days ago at the restaurant with a few of my friends. I finally got to meet Eryk, who I had been emailing back and forth about my 43 day local food challenge. He was very friendly and helped me to select a dish from the menu made with local ingredients. All of the chicken, beef, and seafood is from a local supplier. I ordered the chicken and artichoke dish. While Lisa and I waited for our food, a basket filled with pita bread headed our way. Sitti makes their own pita and the best part is that the pita bread is hot when it reaches your table. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than freshly baked, warm bread! Well, unless you add chocolate somehow to the bread.

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The chicken and artichoke dish came out within a few minutes. I don’t even know how to possibly describe the dish. Words just don’t do it justice. Since I couldn’t eat the rice, I stuffed the chicken and artichokes into the pita bread. This was a great idea! The chicken was so tender and seasoned to perfection. The artichokes gave it that extra flavor boost too.

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When I thought I couldn’t possibly eat anymore, Eryk brought Lisa and I a dessert, labneh cheesecake. Labneh is a Lebanese yogurt, which is much lighter than the cream cheese usually made to make a cheesecake. The labneh cheesecake was light and airy, and the crust was amazing. I felt like the cheesecake was calorie-free because of the light texture! Lisa and I demolished the cheesecake. Well, all of it except for one bite. You always have to leave one bite of dessert so it doesn’t “look” like you ate the whole thing! We wouldn’t want people judging us now, would we?

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I am going to Sitti for my graduation dinner on May 12th with my entire family. They are excited to try the restaurant because all I can do is rave about the food. I suggest that everyone in the Raleigh area or just passing through try out this Lebanese restaurant. The food is awesome and there is definitely something on the menu for everyone.

After my amazing lunch, I finished up the work day and went home. This past weekend I visited the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market and picked up all sorts of goodies! I have been using Nana’s sourdough bread and Jammin’ George’s jam in the mornings. I was waiting on the perfect night to cook up a dinner using the beautiful squash and zucchini I bought from the market at Parker Farms stand. This farm is based out of Davidson County and they grow vegetables year round in greenhouses. 

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I also made a trip to Capital Seafood Market, located right off Lake Wheeler Road near the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. I picked up some tilapia and shrimp, which was delivered to the Capital Seafood Market from the coast of North Carolina. Out of the five years I have lived in Raleigh, this was my first time ever visiting this store. Shocking, right? I love seafood and live right down the road from this store. I will definitely be going back because they had a wide range of seafood, most coming straight from North Carolina. 

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For dinner, I fixed a piece of tilapia. I pan-fried the fish in some olive oil and seasoned the fish with lemon pepper. I cooked the shrimp with some olive oil and Old Bay seasoning. Then, I prepared a side dish of squash, zucchini and vidalia onions with a little salt and pepper. Chef Jay Pierce from Lucky 32 said that foods don’t need a lot of added ingreidents. I couldn’t agree more! Foods have natural flavors that shouldn’t be covered up by lots of sauces and spices. You should let the flavors of the actual foods come through when you’re cooking. Check out my awesome dinner, a perfect way to end my day.

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Monday is the new weekend.

Yesterday I woke up quite excited and a little stressed. I have a love-hate relationship with Mondays. They serve as a reminder of what you have to finish by the end of the week. They also start the brutal five day countdown until the weekend. Alright, maybe it’s just a hate relationship with Mondays. However, this Monday was different. The only thing on my brain all day was soft shell crab and spending time with some amazing people for dinner at Beasley’s.

I rang in the new week with an extra special breakfast, an egg sandwich! Kidding. You should know by now that my breakfasts aren’t too eventful. I used Nana’s sourdough bread and placed a scrambled egg from Latta Farms on the sandwich.

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During my day at work I caught up on emails while visions of soft shell crabs danced in my head. I took a quick lunch in the break room with all of the ladies at work. I packed a bag of local strawberries and half of my burger that was left over from my “linner” at Draft on Sunday. The burger was just as good the next day!

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It was quittin’ time. I rushed home to get ready for the night out at Beasley’s. Remember how I told you I stayed up until about 4:30 AM during the opening night of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences? Well, the guy I learned about penguins with during the wee hours of the morning at museum included me as his guest for a family style dinner at Beasley’s.

When Rett, Courtney, Steve and I arrived to Beasley’s we were a few minutes early. We went to the bar and ordered North Carolina beers. Of course, I got the Duck Rabbit Brown Ale made in Farmville. Duck Rabbit is one of my favorite breweries. The beer was served in a mason jar, which made me feel even more at home. We made our way to the long table in the middle of the restaurant. Chef Ashley hosted us for a family style dinner of soft shell crab, tomatoes, coleslaw, potatoes, and asparagus. She told us that the foods were local and the soft shell crab was caught right off the North Carolina coast. Finally, my dreams of soft shell crabs came to reality. The crab was delivered on a silver platter (literally) right in front of me. The side dishes were scattered around the large table and I dipped out generous portions of each side dish. I ate every bit of food on my plate, Rett definitely got his money’s worth! To be fair, I did warn him I was going to eat everything. It’s not too often that I get treated to such a nice dinner consisting of all local foods. We also had the opportunity to sample different wines with our dinner, which was a lot of fun. Certain wines went along with a particular dish.

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I never wanted the soft shell crab to end. It was cooked perfectly and the crab had such a natural salty, savory flavor. Ahh, now I’m going to have dreams about this darn crab! Soon my attention was diverted to a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries headed my way. Poof! Soft shell crab thoughts disappeared from my head. The ice cream was home made and topped with local NC strawberries. The ice cream was so creamy and was really the perfect ending to a delicious meal.Image

I complimented Chef Ashely at the end of the meal. I felt honored to be dining in such a wonderful restaurant where the owner/chef is concerned with supporting her local food economy. It was amazing to me how large a menu Beasley’s has written in chalk on the black boards covering the brick walls of the restaurant. The menu uses local produce and meats. There is definitely something to eat for everyone. I would like to go back and try the famous chicken and waffles. Beasley’s is known for their chicken with its unique honey flavor. I imagine if I was this impressed with a soft shell crab that Beasley’s chicken has to be out of this world. I will be coming back!

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Burgers and beer. I feel like a guy!

After attending the opening of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences until 4:30 AM and then getting three hours of sleep, I hit the trail for Boone with some friends and Oscar, the CouchSurfer from Venezuela. Oscar had never visited the North Carolina mountains so we decided to go up for the remainder of the weekend.  

I reluctantly rolled out of bed. I felt like my head had just hit the pillow! I should have not stayed up all night at the museum learning about penguins. Anyway, that’s beside the point. The first order of business was to make breakfast before driving three hours to the mountains. I topped a piece of Nana’s sourdough bread that I bought at the farmers market with an egg. I then spread apple bourbon jam by Jammin’ George on a second piece of bread. Breakfast was excellent, the perfect combination of sweet and savory.

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The long car ride and lack of sleep really started getting to me.  You know how the combination of the sun rising and the sound of the interstate makes you fall asleep behind the wheel? Ok, maybe that’s just me. Anyway, I pulled off an exit around the Greensboro area to pick up a Diet Cheerwine. It gave me just the kick I needed to make it the rest of the way to Boone. I’m also mildly addicted to this soft drink; my blood needed some Diet Cheerwine running through my veins to function for the rest of the day.

Our first stop in Boone was at a restaurant called Hob Nob Farm Cafe. The restaurant cooks their foods using produce grown on their farm, Hob Nob Farm, and other organic local farmers. Hob Nob Cafe is cash only, so if you plan a visit be sure to keep this in mind! I ordered the Jamaican Jerk Burger, a local beef patty topped with bacon, portabellas, peppers, apples and cheddar cheese. This burger was unique and had a great flavor. The apples added the perfect amount of sweetness to the dish.

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Once the massive burger was demolished, my friends and I walked around Appalachian State University’s campus. After about an hour of walking we started getting hungry again. That tends to happen when you hang out with a girl blogging about food. I also needed coffee because the Diet Cheerwine was wearing off at this point. We stopped in at Stick Boy Bread Company, a local bakery in Boone. I ordered a coffee made with beans roasted by Larry’s Beans, I want to meet Larry! His coffee is delicious. After taking a sip of coffee, I couldn’t resist the giant cinnamon bun calling my name. I love supporting local bakeries, I mean who doesn’t?

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We went hiking for the remainder of the afternoon at Rough Ridge. Courtney and I also took a quick nap at the base of a waterfall. Once we regained the strength to continue our journey in Boone, we went on a hunt for local food. I searched online for a good restaurant. I couldn’t find a single one that was open at 8 PM! I was going to starve. Finally, I remembered Galileo’s, a restaurant I had visited last year in Boone. I remember the waitress telling me they try to serve local foods whenever possible. I called up Galileo’s and spoke to the chef. He told me their restaurant sources 95 percent of their foods from local farmers. Winning! I ordered the pecan crusted chicken breast. The chicken was from Ashley Farms and was crusted in ground local pecans and homemade breadcrumbs. A delicious homemade jam served as the glaze. I also got two sides, local strawberries and green beans. Everything was cooked to perfection. I enjoyed a People’s Porter by Foothills Brewery with my scrumptious meal. I loved every minute of dinner. Galileo’s definitely supports their local community and the restaurant is decked out with ASU stained glass windows, too cool!

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To finish off the night, Courtney and I went to the TApp room. Get it? We were at App and drinking beer from the tap. Anyway, I ordered a Highland’s Gaelic Ale while people watching with Courtney. We had a great time at the TApp room. I would definitely go back because they have a wide variety of NC beers.

The next morning we had to leave Boone pretty early in order to get Oscar on his flight. As much as we enjoyed showing Oscar the mountains, he did need to get back to Venezuela. We stopped by Boone Bagelry, a locally owned and operated restaurant that also buys locally. The 16 types of bagels are made fresh every day. I ordered an everything bagel with cream cheese. The bagel was awesome! Next time I would definitely ask for a small amount of cream cheese, I swear the bagel was topped with an entire block of cream cheese! I also had a coffee by Bald Guy Brew, a coffee roaster based out of Boone. I felt like I was cheating on Larry because I think I’m also in love with Bald Guy. These two men know how to roast coffee! The key to my heart is definitely through locally roasted coffee beans.

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After dropping Oscar off at the airport in Raleigh, I went for a nice run. I need to exercise even more with all of this eating! Of course, after my run I was starving. I met a friend for a late lunch at Draft off of Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh. Maybe I shouldn’t call it lunch, how does linner sound? It was like 3:45 PM by the time we ate. I ordered the NC Bruschetta Burger. The local beef patty was topped with Chapel Hill Creamery fresh mozzarella, Sunny Creek Farms heirloom tomatoes, basil and aged balsamic. I only ate half of my burger! I had a side of sweet potato fries, which were definitely gone by the end of my meal. I am obsessed with sweet potatoes! Draft is such a great restaurant. The menu has the “got to be NC” logo on the back and also lists names of farms and producers. All restaurants should strive to be more like Draft!

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I couldn’t eat anymore after my eventual weekend in Boone and delicious linner at Draft! I’ve found that the 10 percent campaign and Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project websites have been extremely helpful when I’m traveling to find restaurants that offer local foods. I would suggest checking these two websites out!

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A sense of community.

I’ve never really visited Greensboro, I’ve only just passed through on my way to the mountains or been there to attend a concert. On Friday I had the opportunity to visit the city for the whole day. To prepare myself for the hour and half drive, I made the usual egg sandwich and had a side of strawberries.

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You’re probably shocked that my breakfast is sitting on the kitchen table and not in my car. Don’t worry, I was too. What’s even more shocking is that I had time to stop by Whole Foods to grab a cup of coffee! The coffee is locally roasted in Durham by Counter Culture Coffee. I think I need to go to Durham, it must be where the coffee gods live. Joe Van Gough and Counter Culture Coffee are both awesome!

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After my breakfast and smooth cup of black coffee, I was off to visit Greensboro for the day. I stopped by the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market to pass out flyers to promote the Commissioner’s Speakers Series event at UNC Greensboro. I had the best time at the farmers market! I talked to numerous farmers about local foods and made some new friends. I also got a private tour of the farmers market (thank you, Rick) and had a photo shoot (thank you, Robert). I bought a bag full of items before I had to leave. I love supporting local businesses and farmers.

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After my visit to the farmers market, I was off to Lucky 32 in Greensboro. I was meeting with Chef Jay Pierce to talk about the upcoming Commissioner’s Speakers Series event. Chef Jay is great! He is one of the speakers for the event and I can tell how passionate he is about cooking and using local ingredients. He takes the time to get to know the farmers and producers in the Greensboro area. After meeting Chef Jay, I sat down at the bar with all of the Lucky 32 regulars. After much debate and talking to the four regulars, I ordered the Grillades and Grits. I thought I could never eat this whole plate of food, but I sure did. I would have licked my plate clean but I didn’t think that was appropriate in such a nice restaurant. The flavors were amazing and I never wanted my food to end. I needed an endless pot of Grillades and Grits! Lucky 32 chefs slowly braise the pork shank until it falls off the bone. Then, they mix the pork with its braising liquid and serve this deliciousness over a bed of cheddar cheese grits. What’s even better is the entire dish is local. Chef Jay was able to tell me that the grits are from The Old Mill of Guilford and the pork is from Cane Creek Farms.

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After shooting the breeze with the four regulars at the bar and cleaning my plate, a plate of cornmeal crusted Carolina catfish was delivered to one of the regulars. Earlier I had been debating between the catfish or the dish I had just scarfed down. As soon as the plate was sitting in front of the regular, a small piece of the catfish was headed my way. A complete stranger cut a piece of his catfish for me! I couldn’t believe it. I thanked him profusely and I’m so glad he let me try his catfish. The catfish was cooked perfectly. I’m still glad I ordered the Grillades and Grits but next time I’ll be getting the catfish so I can try something new.

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I was extremely full after eating so much comfort food. I didn’t think I could possibly eat dessert. But when the waitress showed me the dessert menu, I remembered that I have a second stomach for dessert. Chef Jay brought out two desserts for me and the regulars to share. The first dessert was the homemade buttermilk pie with strawberry coulis. Chef Jay told me the buttermilk pie is an old recipe and that it uses only local ingredients. The second dessert was Mamaw Millie’s scuppernong wine jelly cocktail with housemade custard. The scuppernong wine used in the dish was from Duplin Winery, one of my favorite places to visit in Eastern North Carolina. Both of the desserts were phenomenal and made using all local ingredients, down to the eggs and milk! I must say the buttermilk pie was my favorite though. The pie had such a rich flavor and the strawberry coulis added the extra umph to the dessert. I could have eaten the whole piece!

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There is a wonderful sense of community in Greensboro. The farmers, consumers, and restauranteurs are all working together. I am happy I went to the farmers market before visiting Lucky 32. I told most of the farmers I was visiting the restaurant for lunch and they all raved about Chef Jay. Each farmer or producer I talked to had a tie to Chef Jay. For instance, I met Jammin’ George who sells jams to Chef Jay that Lucky 32 provides for their customers on the weekends. Chef Jay even works directly with George to come up with new jam flavors, like cranberry tangerine.

I could really see the local foods movement in full circle during my trip to Greensboro. I’m so happy I received the opportunity to travel here for the day on Friday. My trip showed me how important it is to support your local farmer and eat at restaurants that do the same.

I made it back to Raleigh on Friday evening and didn’t have an appetite at all for dinner! I had eaten so much that I settled on a few strawberries for dinner to tide me over until the morning. Thank you Chef Jay for such an awesome meal and pleasant time at Lucky 32.

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I met Mitch!!!

I sense a theme. I feel like I’m always running late. Yesterday morning I used my car cup holders for a glass of Maple View Farm Milk and Porters Farm strawberries. I used the passenger seat to hold a piece of Ninth Street Bakery seven grain bread with Whole Food’s local peanut butter. My breakfast was mediocre and even worse, enjoyed in my car on the way the work.

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To make up for my “just ok” breakfast, I took another Cheerwine from Ray’s fridge. Luckily I have a great boss who’s fridge supplies me with free Cheerwine! The Cheerwine helped me get through the morning until lunch time. Thank goodness for the caffeine kick. Cheerwine is amazing; it’s my favorite soda. It’s so bubbly and I love the exquisite cherry flavor.

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After enjoying my Cheerwine, Sarah and I met in the break room for lunch. I packed my lunch; a tomato and mayo sandwich with a side of strawberries. Y’all are probably bored of my typical lunches (sorry). It was very good and the tomato was juicy and delicious! I’m glad that greenhouses are growing tomatoes. Greenhouses make it extremely easy to eat local foods year round.

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Unfortunately, after my day at work I had to go to class from 6 PM until 8:45 PM. It’s awful…right during dinner time! I forgot to pack a dinner so I had to figure out which place on Hillsborough Street offered local foods. My coworker Beth told me that Chipotle often sources local produce and meats. Luckily Chipotle is on Hillsborough Street, right next to my night class! I walked to Chipotle before my class. The manager called their distributor to try to figure out which foods were locally grown or produced. The distributor closed at 5 PM so he did not get an answer. I couldn’t eat. The time was 5:58 PM; I had to run to class (without food, might I add). I sat through class with a growling stomach!!

Finally, we had a break. I ran to Mitch’s Tavern. This restaurant is part of the 10% campaign, meaning their restaurant sources at least 10 percent of their products from local farmers. I sat down at the bar and asked the bartender if I could order dinner, something using only North Carolina ingredients of course! She told me to ask the guy sitting next to me. I turned to the gentlemen next to me. Of course, it was Mitch, owner of Mitch’s Tavern!! I tried to contain myself but I’m sure he could sense my excitement. My life goal was complete, meeting Mitch. Mitch was drinking a beer and unwinding from the day. He told me I should either order the BBQ sandwich or a sweet potato. I decided on the BBQ sandwich. I had to pay about seven bucks for this entree, which included chips and coleslaw. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat the potato chips because they weren’t local so I gave a few of the chips to my classmate, Kati. The BBQ sandwich was just ok. I should have taken Mitch’s suggestion for the sweet potato (rats!). The BBQ needed some extra vinegar sauce, for sure.

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After my class, I was still hungry. I got back to my apartment and was wanting a dessert. I cut up some strawberries and put some whipped cream on top! The whipped cream was from Food Lion, produced in Salisbury! It was the perfect end to my night.

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Ice cream for dinner? Why not.

Yesterday I attended the Agriculture Commissioner’s Circle meeting and Speakers Series event in Charlotte. I woke up around 6 AM to make the brutal three hour drive from Raleigh to Charlotte. Of course I snoozed for an extra ten minutes, the amount of time I usually give myself to make breakfast. So, I had to run out of my apartment with a cup of Porter Farms strawberries and a glass of Maple View Farm milk. As you can see, car cup holders are my new kitchen table!

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I toured Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville with the Commissioner’s Circle. The greenhouses were fascinating and beautiful! All of the walking (like 75 acres of walking and I’m not kidding) sure did make me hungry. Luckily, we had lunch scheduled at Harvest Moon Grille. You may remember my amazing dinner there last time I was in Charlotte. I was so excited to pay this restaurant a visit for the second time since I’ve been blogging. It’s so easy to eat North Carolina foods at Harvest Moon Grille. Chef Cassie Parsons only uses ingredients within a 100 mile radius of her restaurant. I settled on a pork burger after much debate. The pork burger was on a local bun, and was topped with Ashe County Cheese and lettuce. Oh! How could I forget? It was topped with even more pork, a slice of bacon cooked to the perfect amount of crisp. It’s comforting to know that my pork comes from Grateful Growers farm, the farm Cassie owns. It’s also great to see the farmer who supplies the lettuce walking into the restaurant and giving Cassie a big hug. The restaurant and the farmers really support each other and I love the environment at Harvest Moon Grille. My luscious, savory pork burger came with a side of quinoa salad. The quinoa was cooked perfectly. Usually the quinoa that I have at restaurants is dry, and boy, this was not the case. The salad was delicious and naturally sweetened with local fruits, carrots, and other veggies.

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I spotted a plate of sweet potato fries making their way across the room to a member of the Commissioner’s Circle. My coworker, Chrissy and I both looked at each other with a grin. We had to have these bright, orange fries in our lives and our tummies. I immediately found the waiter and before I could blink the fries were sitting next to me and Chrissy. I can’t resist sweet potatoes; they are seriously my favorite food. The fries were colorful and tasty. I never wanted them to end!

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After a filling lunch, I went to UNC Charlotte for the Commissioner’s Speakers Series event and then made my way back to Raleigh with Chrissy. The traffic was terrible around Concord so we decided to take the back roads. Chrissy and I spent about 20 minutes googling and calling restaurants to see if they served local foods (or were even open). We couldn’t find anything in these small towns. Oh no, I was going to starve!! I was so frustrated and hungry that I told Chrissy I would just eat ice cream for dinner. About three minutes after I made this ridiculous statement, we were driving through Ramseur and I saw a sign for “Big Daddy’s Pizza and Ice Cream.” God had delivered in a weird way. I guess he is the “Big Daddy,” right? We pulled into the restaurant and walked inside. Everyone looked at Chrissy and I like we had walked into the restaurant naked. I suppose in Ramseur everybody knows each other and we were definitely the outsiders. Chrissy ordered a pizza and I walked over to the ice cream case. I ordered a medium ice cream for three bucks, which was like four scoops. What a deal! Chocolate and cookies n’ cream, yum!

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I knew the ice cream was homemade and I was wondering if “Big Daddy” made it himself. I was going to ask the lady who scooped my ice cream but I felt like she wouldn’t really like my humor. Anyway, I sat down at a booth to enjoy the massive amount of ice cream for my dinner. Sure enough, I saw a sign located on the bottom of the ice cream case (where no one would ever see it). The ice cream was from Homeland Creamery located in Julian, North Carolina. The creamery does not add hormones and is local. Double the fun!

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One of my coworkers, Beth is slightly worried about my eating habits. Sorry for having ice cream for dinner, but when you’re driving through Small Town USA it’s extremely difficult to eat local foods. That just goes to show how hard it is to eat locally when you are on the road in general. It’s also frustrating that the local foods movement is so large in urban areas, while in the rural areas (where the food is actually produced), it’s not as prevalent. Something is wrong with this picture!

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“Which pond does your seabass come from?”

Yesterday was phenomenal. I started off my day with the usual egg sandwich. Oscar, my friend from Venezuela, was laughing because he had never seen someone make an egg sandwich before! He told me in Venezuela they usually make a tortilla and fill it with eggs, meats, and veggies for breakfast.

I met Oscar for lunch downtown. The original plan was to go to Chuck’s for a hamburger. However, he was craving Italian. As soon as he told me his mind was set on Italian, I started getting nervous. There was no way I would be able to eat anything at an Italian restaurant! Oscar had been walking around downtown Raleigh all day getting to know the area. He told me he saw a place connected to the Marriott Hotel that looked pretty good. We walked there and of course, there was nothing I could really order. I spotted on the menu homemade minestrone soup made with seasonal vegetables. I asked the waitress if the soup had local vegetables and she looked at me funny. I don’t think she really understood me or what the word “local” meant. She nodded her head and brought me out an order. The soup wasn’t my favorite. It had spinach, onions, and tomatoes floating around a tomato broth. I didn’t take a picture because it didn’t look too appetizing. I didn’t want to be a bad hostess and demand Oscar to go to a different restaurant. I hope the soup had local vegetables (doubtful), but I hope you all understand if it didn’t.

Dinner definitely made up for the lunch. Oscar and I met my two friends Simone and Gabi Saleh in downtown Raleigh for the evening. We went to Sitti, one of my absolute favorite restaurants in Raleigh! I had been tweeting with the restaurant (AKA, Eryk) last week and mentioned my local food challenge. Eryk was awesome and set up a reservation for my group. As soon as we sat down and ordered our drinks, an appetizer was headed our way and brought out by a great employee, Sean. Sean placed an order of sweet potato kibbee in front of us. He told us this dish is being submitted into the “Best Dish in NC” restaurant competition. Sean described the dish and started telling me where every ingredient came from; farm name and all! At the end of his presentation I asked him if he could please write down all of the farm names. Before I could even finish my sentence he handed me a slip of paper with all of the farms! What can I say? Great minds think alike! Anyway, the dish was technically called: Pine Knot Farms beavregard sweet potato kibbee mikli with Ashley Farms chicken hashwi. I really hope the dish wins this years competition. The sweet potato kibbee was delectable. It was slight fried, the perfect mixture of sweet and savory, and when dipped in the labneh (a Lebanese yogurt) it was even more delicious!

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I placed an order for the seabass, which included shitake mushrooms, tomato broth, garlic confit and white truffle polenta. To pick on me, Simone asked Sean, “Which pond does your sebass come from?” He shook his head, smiled, and told Simone that their seabass comes from the sea (duh, Simone). On a more serious note, Sean told us that the seafood at Sitti comes from the North Carolina coast. And my goodness, the seabass couldn’t have been more perfect or fresher. The edges of the fish were crispy and the sauce was so savory. Sean was also correct, the mushrooms really do make the dish.

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Sitti also bakes their own pita bread. I used the warm pita bread to soak up the remaining sauce from my seabass dish. My plate was clean by the end of the night; now that’s a sign of an incredible meal. I encourage everyone to visit Sitti. The restaurant staff is wonderful and the food is out of this world. What’s even better is that the restaurant prides itself in using local North Carolina ingredients to make authentic Lebanese dishes.

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After the fabulous time at Sitti, Oscar and I went down to Busy Bee for a drink. I told the bartender that I would like a dark, North Carolina beer; he knew the perfect one! He poured me an Olde Hickory Russian imperial stout with sour cherries and toasted oak chips. The beer looks a little foamy in this picture, however, once the foam settled, the beer was quite delicious. I love dark beers and this beer was definitely one of a kind. I could really taste the toasted oak chips, they gave the beer a smoky flavor. Then the hint of sour cherries hit me at the end of each sip, which was a pleasant surprise. I had a great end to my evening talking to Oscar about the differences between Venezuela and the United States. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Sitti and the Busy Bee!

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