43daylocalfoodchallenge

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Final reflections.

I have gained valuable experiences and knowledge through my 43 day local food challenge. I feel it is necessary to reflect on the 43 days and to share these reflections with those of you who have been loyal followers of my blog. I will start each reflection off with a common question I received from friends, family, and strangers during my challenge.

 
Have you lost weight?
 
I wish! I only lost one pound during my 43 day local food challenge. I was asked the question, “have you lost weight?” almost every other day. Maybe I finally mastered the art of wearing clothes to disguise my weight? Who knows! I found myself consuming more fruits and vegetables during my challenge. I also ate eggs or peanut butter most mornings, which provided me with protein and energy to make it through the day. Overall, I feel eating local foods is much healthier. I ate “whole” foods and basically eliminated processed foods from my diet. I avoided the center aisles of every grocery store. I could only find local foods on the outside of the grocery aisles. Think about it; the outside of the grocery aisles usually includes healthy foods like produce, meat, bread, and cheese. I also shopped frequently at farmers’ markets, where processed foods barely exist. By shopping at farmers’ markets and avoiding the center aisles of the grocery stores, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to pick up crackers, cookies, popcorn, cereals, and other snack foods. 
 
On the other hand, there were days when my diet was absolutely terrible. My coworker’s husband called me the “beer and ice cream girl.” Sometimes when I was traveling or did a poor job of planning when to go grocery shopping, I had to resort to eating local ice cream for a meal. I definitely drank a lot of beer too, that explains why I only lost a pound. I knew North Carolina had some great beer, however, my local food challenge definitely taught me a thing or two about NC beer. We have so many breweries and the beer rocks! 
 
What can you eat?

I got this question a lot. My response was always, “anything grown or produced in North Carolina.” Let me elaborate and reflect.
 
I could eat any fruit or vegetable grown in North Carolina. This was surprisingly hard at first. I started my challenge during the winter crop season. There weren’t a lot of fruits I was able to eat besides apples from the mountains. I definitely missed being able to pick up oranges, bananas, and berries from the grocery store. Thankfully, strawberries, blueberries, and peaches were available during part of my local food challenge. Americans definitely take produce for granted. I encourage you to look around the grocery store next time you’re shopping for produce. Everything comes from Mexico or California. You can purchase a banana or avocado every day, too bad it’s traveled hundreds of miles to get to you. I enjoyed talking to farmers and purchasing produce at the farmers’ market. I knew who was growing my food and I wanted to support them for their hard work. 
 
I ate breads and granola produced by local bakers. Anytime I was visiting a city in North Carolina, I always picked up a loaf of bread from a local baker. Nana’s bread in Greensboro, Ninth Street Bakery in Durham, Neomonde in Raleigh, Little Red Wagon Granola in Chapel Hill, and Camino’s in Winston Salem were among some of the bakeries I visited.
 
Meat was interesting. I’m not a huge meat eater, however, the local food challenge caused me to become more carnivorous. The challenge also allowed me to learn more about cuts of meat and different types. I ate a lot of ground beef because that was easy to find at the grocery store and at restaurants. Whole Foods carries local beef, grass fed and organic. I also purchased a lot of meats from Mae Farms, including Canadian Bacon and pork tenderloin. I found local meats to taste more flavorful compared to the meats I was purchasing at Food Lion. I am also happy that I live in North Carolina. The coast is only two hours away from Raleigh so I was able to eat a wide variety of seafood, which was wonderful. We are definitely a diverse state when it comes to meat. I can’t imagine living in a state that doesn’t have fresh, local seafood. 
 
I only ate chocolate as long as it was made by a local, artisan chocolatier. I ate chocolate from Escazu and the Videri Chocolate Factory, both are located in Raleigh. I couldn’t live without chocolate. Although the cocoa wasn’t grown in North Carolina, it’s good to support a local chocolatier. I was also able to see the chocolate being made in Escazu’s store. 

It’s so expensive to eat local, right?

Yes and no, some products are pretty expensive while others are cheaper. A locally made chocolate bar cost me around 6 bucks, compared to the 1 dollar I could spend on a Hershey’s bar. I also found cheese to be pricey. Before my local food challenge, I usually bought bags of Food Lion brand cheddar or Parmesan cheese for 2 or 3 bucks.  When you’re shopping for local cheeses, you can’t just buy a bag of shredded cheese. I tried lots of different types of cheeses and fell even more in love with goat cheese. Although I would pay 3 dollars for a small piece of cheese that barely fit in the palm of my hand, it tasted so much better and I found a smaller amount of cheese was needed at meals. Produce wasn’t expensive. I found fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market to be about the same price as the grocery store. Sometimes certain fruits and vegetables were a few cents more a pound but I’d rather place a few more cents in my local farmer’s hand. Produce at Whole Foods on the other hand, wiped my pockets clean! Remember the four dollar tomato? I would highly suggest shopping for produce at your local farmers’ market.
 
I did spend a good amount of money at restaurants. I enjoy eating out and I consider this a social activity. I spent a lot of time searching online for restaurants and then calling them to make sure they offered local foods. As far as pricing, the restaurants were comparable to others in the area. Most of the restaurants I visited have found a way to make their menu seasonal so they can incorporate local foods. 

Umm, why are you doing this again?
 
Because I want to. I didn’t embark on this local food challenge to prove a point or to be ridiculous. Honestly, I wanted to see what all the great state of North Carolina had to offer me. I simply wanted to see if our state was diverse in the types of agricultural products available to consumers. There’s so much talk about eating local foods, I just wanted to see if you can easily do so in North Carolina. Plus, I get bored easily. I wanted to see if I could stick to a challenge.
 
I didn’t really see this one coming, but my social network has definitely been impacted by my local foods challenge. I have met numerous foodies and chefs throughout North Carolina because of my challenge. It’s refreshing to talk to a chef and discover their passion for local foods. My friends were also excited about my challenge. Courtney was always willing to drink a local beer with me or visit the farmers’ market. My friend Jonathan who lives in Pittsburgh sent me a picture of a chalkboard at his work’s cafe. The chalkboard listed foods the cafe would be offering during the day and which local farms were supplying the ingredients. Not only have I impacted people in North Carolina to think locally, my blog has reached other parts of the states. My blog was also picked up by the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau because I frequented a lot of restaurants dedicated to serving local foods. I am the visitRaleigh foodie blogger now!
 
What’s the first thing you’re going to eat after this challenge?
 
Avocados. If only North Carolina could grow avocados because I missed guacamole the most out of any food. Also, fruit! Americans are spoiled, I couldn’t eat common fruits like bananas and oranges.
 
Would you do the challenge again?

In a heart beat. It’s kind of funny, I often forget that I’m not doing the challenge anymore. I have totally changed where I shop for foods. I haven’t been to a large grocery store since the end of my local food challenge. I only shop at the farmers’ market now and then at Whole Foods for products I couldn’t find at the farmers’ market. I can honestly say close to 90 percent of my food dollars are going towards local foods. The 10 percent is going solely towards avocados!

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It’s almost too easy to eat local in Asheville.

I always love visiting Asheville. The restaurants in Asheville are dedicated to using local foods. Although I successfully finished my 43 day local food challenge, I stuck to the rules of my challenge for the most part when I was visiting Asheville. It was almost too easy to eat local foods!

I wanted to mention an amazing restaurant I visited while in the city last week, the Tomato Jam Cafe. I had to call the Tomato Jam Cafe for directions because I missed my turn into the restaurant, which is noted by a tiny blue sign pointing to an office park. The restaurant sits on the corner of a medical office park and is open for breakfast and lunch.

Bekah and I walked up to the cash register to order. I ordered the Tori Melt, walnut chicken salad with cranberry mustard and goat cheese. The bread was from a local baker, Annie’s Naturally Bakery in Western North Carolina. I couldn’t decide which side to order, so I told the employee to surprise me. She picked the homemade applesauce.

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The sandwich was perfectly toasted. The walnut chicken salad with cranberry mustard was definitely unique. Most chicken salads are too heavy on the mayo for my liking, but Tomato Jam Cafe got it right. The goat cheese made the sandwich savory along with the sweet and tangy flavors from the cranberry mustard. I’m so happy that the employee picked the homemade applesauce for my side dish. The applesauce is out of this world. Imagine eating chilled, baked apples. Incredible! The applesauce wasn’t mushy, it was chunky and was sweetened nicely with a touch of cinnamon.

After cleaning my plate (it was easy), a cupcake was delivered to our table. The cupcakes are baked fresh at the restaurant. We received a double chocolate cupcake topped with cinnamon chips and toasted coconut. The cake was light and the cinnamon chips added the most amazing taste to the dessert. You haven’t lived until you try cinnamon chips. Forget chocolate chips!

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I had a great experience at the Tomato Jam Cafe. The employees make you feel like you’re at home eating in their kitchen. Maybe it was the alphabet magnets and artwork hanging up from loyal customers? You feel cozy while drinking out of a mason jar and enjoying some fresh, home cooking. I highly recommend paying Tomato Jam Cafe a visit. There is something for everyone at the restaurant.

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Going out with a bang!

My 43 day local food challenge ended on Monday. I do apologize for not writing until today. I’ve been at a professional conference in Asheville with little time to blog. Anyway, on Monday I decided to go out with a bang! For breakfast I ate leftovers from the Mother’s Day brunch I prepared with all local foods, crustless quiche and a blueberry muffin. The best part about the meal was definitely drinking a glass of chocolate milk. Maple View Farm’s chocolate milk is amazing. It’s so rich and fresh. You can taste the difference in this milk, which is produced 30 miles from where I live. I don’t mind spending a buck more for better tasting milk and for essentially decreasing my carbon footprint.

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Sarah, Simone, Gabi and I went to lunch at Beasley’s in downtown Raleigh. I ordered the vegetable plate for 9 bucks. The collard greens were tasty. A lot of people don’t like to eat “greens.” If you’re one of these people that’s iffy when it comes to collard greens, you’ve got to go to Beasley’s. I promise you will change your mind. They are prepared with a little vinegar and I added Beasley’s homemade hot sauce for a slight kick, I like things spicy! The coleslaw was also delicious and interesting. The coleslaw I typically eat is prepared with finely chopped ingredients and of course, lots of mayonnaise. Beasley’s uses local produce in their coleslaw and what I found to be a unique addition were the tomatoes. The coleslaw isn’t swimming in mayo and is chunky, which created a nice crunchy texture. The best vegetable on my veggie plate was (by far) the mac and cheese. Is mac and cheese a legit vegetable? Well, today it is! The mac and cheese was prepared with Ashe County pimento cheese. The pimento added a nice flavor to the baked mac and cheese. I am slightly obsessed with cheese in general and in my opinion, Ashe County makes some of the best darn cheese in all of North Carolina.

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Courtney wanted to treat me to dinner for my graduation. We had to drive out to Holly Springs to run an errand so we decided to grab dinner at Homegrown Pizza. When we pulled up to the restaurant, we were a little nervous. You have to walk through what looks like an office building filled with chiropractors and dentists before actually reaching the restaurant. We sat down in a booth and started people watching. A lot of parents were treating their kids to pizza. Soon my attention was drawn from the families to the pizza. The crust was bubbly and the aroma of the pizza passing by the booth was divine.

Courtney and I asked our waitress about the local ingredients they use in their pizza. The pizza dough and marinara sauce are homemade and prepared every day in the restaurant. The produce is delivered to the restaurant by Papa Spud’s, an online farmer’s market that connects restaurants and people to local and sustainable farmers. Papa Spud’s delivers fresh food right to Homegrown Pizza’s door. The only time Homegrown Pizza doesn’t use local foods is when particular items aren’t in season. Courtney and I decided to order the veggie pizza prepared using local produce. She added pepperoni and jalapenos to half of the pizza. She’s my friend who likes everything extremely spicy, remember?

The pizza came out to our table within a few minutes. I enjoyed the pizza and my favorite part was the crust. I felt like I was on cloud nine after taking the first bite of the pizza crust. The crust was golden brown, a little crispy, and airy. The produce was so fresh and tasted wonderful with the homemade marinara sauce. I also appreciated that Homegrown Pizza doesn’t drench their pizza with sauce. I would definitely go back to this pizza joint soon!

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After dinner, Kristin and I drove over 30 minutes away to Angier for ice cream. I told you I was going out with a bang! Kristin and I are ice cream buddies. Our love for ice cream instantly bonded us when we first met a few years ago at NC State. Sunni Sky’s was featured on Good Morning America and Kristin told me I had to try their homemade ice cream. We pulled up to flashing palm trees and a huge crowd of locals devouring waffle cones piled high with ice cream. We walked into the ice cream parlor and there was no way I was going to decide between Sunni Sky’s 90 plus flavors. I started sampling a few flavors and my indecisive personality got the best of me. I asked the two employees to pick out their favorite flavors for me, which were strawberry cheesecake and brownie batter.

Kristin and I sat outside at a picnic table. We couldn’t stop raving about the ice cream. No wonder Sunni Sky’s was featured on Good Morning America! Their ice cream is fabulous. My favorite flavor was the strawberry cheesecake. The chunks of cheesecake were huge! The brownie batter was also amazing. I think they should rename their brownie batter as death by chocolate. I’m a chocolate lover so I was pleased. The chocolate ice cream was heavenly and creamy, then the brownie bites made the ice cream even more divine. I would drive every day to Angier to get this ice cream.

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Eating local foods has been challenging at times but it was surprisingly much easier than I thought. In my next blog post I will be reflecting on the past 43 days. I also promise to keep this blog going when I find interesting restaurants or recipes that use local foods.

 

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Two and a half hours of cooking.

On Sunday morning I woke up around 9 AM to begin cooking Mother’s Day brunch. Everything on my brunch menu was carefully thought out and made from local ingredients. I love cooking and my 43 day local food challenge has really allowed me to use my creativity in the kitchen. All of the ingredients either came from a farmers’ market or Whole Foods.

I set the table with a bouquet of purple and white flowers grown in North Carolina that I picked up at Whole Foods. Instead of eating off a paper towel or out of a tupperware dish (like I usually do), I set the table with nice dishes, silverware, and wine glasses to make my mom feel special.

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I made blueberry muffins from scratch with blueberries from North Carolina’s coast. The muffins turned out wonderfully, brought out the natural flavor of the blueberries and weren’t overly sweet. For a side dish I cut up strawberries from the Piedmont Triad Farmers’ Market and added a few leftover blueberries that I didn’t use for the muffins. I also made a crustless quiche. I used nine eggs in the quiche; these “Pride of the Morning” brown eggs were from Kernersville and I picked them up at the State Farmers’ Market. I used Maple View Farms skim milk and then added a little salt and paper to the mixture. Included in the quiche were onions and tomatoes from the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, and Canadian bacon from Mae Farms. The quiche was a huge hit with my family! We only had a few pieces leftover. My sister who cringes at the thought of adding vegetables to eggs ate a big piece. Success!

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While at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market I bought a bag of potatoes from Brinkley Farms. I cut up the potatoes and cooked them in the leftover grease from the Canadian bacon. I also threw in a few onions to add extra flavor. They turned out to be delicious. You should always have potatoes at brunch, they are a brunch staple! Honestly, can you think of a restaurant that doesn’t have potatoes on their menu at brunch? Didn’t think so.

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My mom enjoyed the meal, flowers, and company of the family. I spent two and a half hours cooking brunch, whew! But it was definitely worth my time seeing her smile and making her day extremely special.

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Sitti is love.

I slept in on Saturday morning to prepare myself for the big day ahead of me, graduation. I ate a few NC strawberries for breakfast and started getting ready. It’s not every day that you get your Master’s degree. My parents, siblings, and grandparents attended my graduation.

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After successfully walking across the audience without falling on my face and making a corny graduation speech, I was done with graduate school. What a great feeling! To celebrate, my family and I went to Sitti. We were seated outside on their patio. Wow, what an amazing atmosphere! The patio is surrounded by buildings and is essentially an open air courtyard. The lighting, modern furniture, and brick buildings make you feel like you’re at an upscale restaurant in New York City. We couldn’t have asked for a better table to celebrate graduation. My dad ordered some champagne and we made a toast.

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I crave Sitti’s warm pita bread. Eryk jokes that they put diet crack in the pita. Whatever it is, it works. I can’t stop coming back to this restaurant for the house baked pita bread. The warm pita dipped in the za’atar is phenomenal. You can’t just eat one piece of bread. Before your meal comes it’s very likely you’ll eat at least two (maybe three) pieces of pita.

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To start off the meal, we ordered the Sitti and Lebanese tastings. The Sitti tasting included hommos, baba ghanouj, fattoush, chicken shawarma, kibbee mikli, and cheese rolls. The Lebanese tasting was vegetarian so it had everything on the Sitti tasting except the two meats. Instead the Lebanese tasting included falafel and warak anab. Everything was delicious. My grandparents tried Lebanese food for the first time on Saturday and loved it all.

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Eryk also brought us out two appetizers. The first was halloumi, which my dad likes to call the “Lebanese grilled cheese sandwich.” This Mediterranean cheese is seared and then topped with dates, roasted almonds, olive oil and fresh thyme. The sweet taste of the dates with the savory taste of the cheese is wonderful.

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Kaley, my younger sister is usually not an adventurous eater. Eryk brought us out the sweet potato kibbee mikli, one of the appetizers in the running for the Best Dish in NC competition. The crust is made out of sweet potatoes and inside is Ashley Farm’s chicken hashwi. Kaley said this was the best thing she’s ever eaten in the entire world. I would have to agree.

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After stuffing our faces with the numerous appetizers, can you believe we were actually able to eat dinner? To stick to my local food challenge, Eryk suggested I try Sitti’s entree that’s in the running for the Best Dish in NC competition. I ate the softshell crab with sweet potatoes and mustard greens. Oh my goodness. I ate the whole crab, which was crispy and perfectly flavored. The sweet potatoes were tender and I especially loved the purple sweet potatoes. Eryk and I were discussing “greens” and how he had never tried them. He said after eating them at Sitti he cannot stop because they are so delicious. He’s right; the mustard greens were phenomenal. They added a savory flavor to the dish and paired perfectly with the crab.

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After eating entirely too much food (oh well, it was delicious), it was time for an adventure. Eryk and I had been tweeting about the Sitti bees. I asked if I could go on the roof of the restaurant to see the Sitti bees for my graduation present. Eryk took me up to the roof to see the four bee hives. The honey bees collect their pollen from the Capitol Building and Moore Square. Within the next month or two Sitti will be making their own honey, Hargett Street Honey. They will use the honey in their food too. You can’t get more local that than, seriously!

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The experience at Sitti was amazing. I love the employees and the food. You will always get amazing service and feel like family at Sitti. Image

 

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Strawberry Day and a trip to the Bull City.

Have I mentioned how much I love my job? Well, I have the best job. I love working in the agriculture field because I get to meet so many people and attend fun events. On Friday I traveled to Greensboro for Strawberry Day at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market. For breakfast I felt it was only appropriate to eat a few strawberries from North Carolina.

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During Strawberry Day I passed out free samples of Lumpy’s homemade strawberry ice cream to visitors at the farmers market. Steve and I ate about five or six samples worth of ice cream (shhh, don’t tell anyone). The ice cream is made using fresh strawberries from Ball’s Berries in Wake County. If you’ve never had Lumpy’s, go immediately to their store in Wake Forest. Their strawberry ice cream is honestly the best I’ve ever had. Trust me, I’ve eaten my fair share of ice cream during my 22 years of life.

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After eating strawberries and strawberry ice cream all morning and afternoon, my taste buds were wanting something a little more savory. Jammin’ George, my buddy I met during my first trip to Greensboro, invited me to join him for lunch. Steve and I went to his booth at the farmers market had the best time listening to George’s stories over traditional Lebanese fare. George needs to be a stand up comedian. He has such a great personality and makes fabulous Lebanese food, as well as jam! For lunch he made us a falafel pita with pickled radishes, and tabouli.The falafel was perfect. Steve and I could not stop raving over the delicious sandwich!

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We also had George’s homemade hummus and baba ghanoush. George explained the process of making both of these spreads. To truly make a delicious hummus or baba ghanoush, you need to use the best ingredients. George is dedicated to quality and it really shows in the taste of his foods.

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Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat anymore, George pulled out a large slice of baklava for Steve and I to share. George’s wife, Christine makes the baklava. The baklava is absolutely amazing. Sometimes baklava can be soggy or too sweet. Christine’s baklava is flaky and she adds a hint of cinnamon, which makes the dessert even more delectable. I appreciated all of the wonderful food and cannot wait to visit Jammin’ George and the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market again soon.

I left Greensboro to head to Durham. Before seeing Wicked, I met a few friends from work at Bull City Burger and Brewery. I sat at the bar while waiting on my friends to arrive. The bartenders were awesome and recommended the Jack Tar Stout. The beer was delicious. The best part about my experience at the bar was seeing the fermentation tanks. You can’t get more local than that! Gotta love NC beer. On the back of the beer list I was also easily entertained by 43 beer quotes, ranging from Homer Simpson to BCBB regulars. Isn’t that crazy that they have 43 quotes? My local food challenge is 43 days, what a coincidence! Maybe it’s the Buddha of Beer telling me that BCBB was made for me?

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The atmosphere was incredible at Bully City Burger and Brewery. The restaurant is dedicated to providing local foods and is environmentally conscious. The tables were made out of wood from old North Carolina barns, how cool! Once my friends arrived we went up to the register to order. The bartender recommended the Green Monster, of course I followed his advice. I also “checked in” on foursquare and got a free order of Dirty Fries for being a “newbie.” Not only did the restaurant grab my attention with their use of local products, they are even ahead of the game in the technology arena!

Chrissy ordered fried pickles as a teaser before our meal. The pickles were sliced extra thin with a “frost brewed” pretzel crust. Instead of the tradition ranch dressing for dipping, BCBB makes their own dipping sauce. It added an extra zing to the pickles!

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My food arrived and I was blown away with the burger. The beef is 100% pastured raised in NC and doesn’t have any added antibiotics or hormones. Oh my goodness, it was honestly some of the best beef I’ve ever had at a restaurant. The juicy patty was topped with raw onions, gruyere cheese, and roasted poblano peppers. The bun was downright amazing and is baked in house. The flavors were perfect and the toppings were unlike anything I’ve ever had on a burger. The Dirty Fries were also delicious. I had to share them with Chrissy because there’s no way I could have eaten them all. I cannot wait to go back to Bull City Burger and Brewery. My trip to Durham was a success and BCBB allowed me to stick to my 43 day local food challenge.

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Check out Deja Mi, it’s a new app that lets you post and share pictures with your friends while tagging your location. There are more photos from Bull City Burger and Brewery here.

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Beer and food trucks, can life get any better?

I started my Thursday morning off with a bowl of strawberries and blueberries topped with whipped cream. I wanted a little something sweet and the berries hit the spot! I’m so happy that blueberries are in season now too. It’s definitely added more variety to the types of fruits I am able to eat during my local food challenge.

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On my lunch break I walked down to the Morning Times for a cup of Counter Culture iced coffee. Morning Times is just a few blocks away from where I work. It was great to walk around downtown because of the beautiful weather. The iced coffee was absolutely delicious. I’m a big fan of Counter Culture coffee, which is roasted in Durham. I don’t even need to add any sugar or milk to the coffee, it has such a perfect, bold taste.

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For lunch I enjoyed a salad topped with blueberries, strawberries, and North Carolina peanuts. The peanuts gave me an extra boost of energy to get through the rest of the day. Put your Planter’s Peanuts away and purchase local peanuts. They are so much more flavorful!

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My favorite part about Thursday was visiting Big Boss and Sarge’s Chef on Wheels for dinner and drinks.

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Courtney and I grabbed a beer to start off our evening. I ordered the Angry Angel Kolsch Ale, amazing! We walked outside to Sarge’s. I missed this food truck when I was at the Triangle Beach Music Festival so I had to try it while I was at Big Boss. The first thing I noticed about Sarge’s was the great family feel. The owner was inspired by his military parents to serve up foods inspired by the places they lived during his dad’s service in the Air Force. The food truck not only serves up some of the best food in Raleigh, it’s creative food. The food mixes Asian, Caribbean, and other soulful flavors all together, it’s simply delicious!

Courtney ordered the jerk chicken; marinated jerk chicken served on a tortilla with lettuce, red cabbage and special Sarge’s sauce. Courtney loves spicy food and she said the chicken definitely brought the heat! She also ordered an ear of corn served with a sweet, zesty sauce and then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. I ordered the shrimp po boy. The local shrimp was lightly breaded and then piled high with hand tossed onion rings, lettuce, and a special lemon sauce. The sandwich was massive! The food was out of this world and reasonably priced.

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I didn’t want to put this unattractive picture up but seriously, the sandwich was bigger than my head! Of course, I ate every single bite.

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After my first few bites of the shrimp po boy, a softshell crab was delivered to our table.The crab was incredible. The golden brown crust was so flaky; the last bite left me wanting more.

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I highly recommended Sarge’s Chef on Wheels. Sarge’s is great about using Twitter to let you know where they will be located. It’s exciting to follow them and to see where they will be next. I cannot wait to try more of Sarge’s food. The shrimp and grits, one of their signature dishes is on my to-eat list! Yes, I have one of those!

During dinner Courtney and I noticed the following sign. You can’t get more local than that! Asheville better watch out, Raleigh has some fantastic breweries.

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After thoroughly enjoying our dinner, Courtney and I went to the tap room at Big Boss. I had two more beers, the Belle Wringer and Hells Belle Belgian Blonde. The staff at Big Boss was awesome! They let us sample a few beers before deciding on what to order. Big Boss doesn’t have a beer I don’t like. I would definitely check out the brewery and try to go on the second Saturday of the month so you can get a tour. What a fabulous night, beer and food trucks! Life is good.

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18 Seaboard: Bringing the NC coast to Raleigh.

I woke up on Wednesday morning and I was starving! I finished off the bag of Little Red Wagon granola with some local blueberries and Maple View Farm milk. Although I love the granola, I was getting tired of eating the same thing for breakfast for over a week. First, an egg kick. Then, a granola kick. I wonder what food I’ll eat next week? I can’t believe this Monday is day 43 of my local food challenge.

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I met my Cool Aunt Andrea (she’s not really related to me, but whatever) for lunch at 18 Seaboard. The menu at 18 Seaboard is phenomenal and changes each season. Chef Jason is adamant about using foods from local farms. Andrea ordered the cornmeal-crusted catfish on top of a grit cake with a blood orange relish and sautéed spinach. Her dish included local ingredients; Old Mill of Guildford grits and Carolina Classics Farm catfish. She let me have a bite of the catfish and grit cake. Wow! I was impressed. The catfish was so flaky and the grit cake made the dish buttery tasting. Come on, who doesn’t love butter?

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I ordered the chef’s special, hardwood fire grilled shrimp salad. The salad was massive! Guess what? I ate it all. The salad had lettuce from Double T Farms, cucumbers from Barum Farms, strawberries from Lewis Farms, and wild Western NC pickled ramps. My two favorite parts about the salad were the crumbles of Prodigal Farms Goat Cheese and the Pamlico Sound shrimp. The goat cheese added a rich flavor to the veggies and paired nicely with the grilled, juicy shrimp. The salad was topped with a housemade strawberry vinaigrette, which added a great sweet flavor to the salad and wasn’t overpowering. 18 Seaboard was excellent. I felt like I should be sitting outside on a dock looking out into the ocean; the seafood was that fresh! Too bad I looked out the window and realized I was still in Raleigh.

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I wasn’t too hungry for dinner. I wonder why? Oh yeah, probably because I ate the equivalent of four salads during lunch. Finally, 9:30 PM rolled around and my stomach starting rumbling. I decided to make breakfast for dinner. I whisked together two eggs from Latta Farms and a splash of Maple View Farm milk. I sprinkled salt and pepper into the mixture and poured the eggs into a ramekin. I cooked a few slices of Canadian bacon from Mae Farms and added the bacon crumbles to the egg mixture. Finally, I added diced onions and tomatoes from the State Farmers Market and crumbles of Chapel Hill Creamery’s smoked farmers cheese to the egg mixture. Viola! A crustless quiche was ready in no time. I’m not going to lie, it was amazing. I think the Canadian bacon and cheese sold my taste buds. I plan on making the crustless quiche again sometime over the weekend.

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Good food and a glass of wine.

Do you ever wake up in the morning with the urge to cook? Well, this happens to me all the time. I love chopping up fresh ingredients and using my creativity to turn them into something delicious. But the best part about cooking is definitely eating the finished product, not doing the dishes!

On Tuesday morning I woke up and looked in my fridge to figure out what to make for breakfast. I had tomato and onion from the State Farmers’ Market, cheese, and a few eggs from Latta Farms. I chopped up the veggies and crumbled up some smoked farmers cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery. I whisked together two eggs and a splash of Maple View Farm milk. In a matter of minutes, an omelet was assembled and then served with a side of fresh strawberries and blueberries.

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Sarah and I left the office to meet Simone for a picnic lunch in front of the Capitol Building. We each packed our own lunch and thought it was a perfect day to be outside. The weather was beautiful!

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I had a salad made using lettuce, tomato, strawberries, and blueberries from the State Farmers’ Market, and Chapel Hill Creamery’s smoked farmers cheese. I also had a side of sugar snap peas. I enjoyed sitting outside in the sun and eating a healthy lunch.

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After work I went for a bike ride on Reedy Creek Road. I saw goats, horses, and cows. Clearly I had an awesome ride! All of the biking made me hungry so I invited Liz over for a home-cooked meal. For the first side dish I used the rest of the canned green beans from Beth’s garden last summer and mixed them with fresh onion from the State Farmers’ Market. For the second side dish I roasted some potatoes my boss brought me from Starling Farms in Autryville, North Carolina. I coated the potatoes with the lavender balsamic vinegar I bought when I was in Asheville at Olive & Kickin during the beginning of my local food challenge. The main dish was pork tenderloin from the State Farmers’ Market coated with Duplin Winery’s Muscadine BBQ Sauce.

Dinner was phenomenal. I’m not just saying that because I cooked everything. The ingredients were so fresh. Liz and I could also tell a huge difference in the pork. The meat was so tender and juicy compared to the meats we usually buy from the grocery store. The potatoes were divine. Willi Starling knows how to grow his potatoes! Buying meats and produce from your local farmer is the way to go. I will definitely pay a few more bucks to buy local foods. I don’t want to sacrifice taste or quality ever again!

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During dinner (and after dinner) Liz and I enjoyed a glass (or two) of Riesling by Old North State Winery in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. The wine was the perfect ending to a great Tuesday!

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Whoopie pies and fresh food.

You know what makes me happy? Food and cooking. Monday morning I ate a bowl of Little Red Wagon Granola and Maple View Farm Milk. I topped the granola with fresh blueberries that I bought at the State Farmers’ Market in Raleigh. I am so excited the blueberries are in season! It’s amazing the types of foods that are becoming available so early this year in North Carolina due to the warm weather. I’m not complaining; it’s making my 43 day local food challenge so much easier! Can you believe it ends on Monday? These days are flying by.

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For an early morning snack, I ate a bag of sugar snap peas that I bought at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market this past weekend. What a delicious treat! These sugar snap peas are so sweet; it’s hard to believe you’re actually eating a vegetable. I will never purchase these from a grocery store again, they don’t compare to the sugar snap peas straight from the farm.

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I was very busy at work so I had to eat lunch at my desk on Monday. I had a salad with fresh lettuce, tomato, strawberries, and blueberries all from the State Farmers’ Market. It was topped with smoked farmers cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery. The cheese and fruit go perfectly together! What a great mixture of smoky, savory, and sweet.

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Work settled down so I took my lunch break a little later and met up with Kristin at Cafe Helios. Cafe Helios serves Counter Culture Coffee from Durham and baked goods from bittycakes, a bakery out of Raleigh that uses organic and local ingredients. Cafe Helios has such a great atmosphere. Everyone was either studying with a giant cup of coffee, sitting next to each other listening to music, or just chatting and eating at a table. Kristin ordered a hot chocolate with a brownie made using Videri Chocolate, a new chocolate factory that just opened in the warehouse district of Raleigh. I ordered bittycakes’ whoopie pie also made using Videri Chocolate. The whoopie pie was fantastic; it had a strawberry butter cream filling made from North Carolina strawberries. The whoopie pie and iced coffee from a mason jar made me smile. I will definitely go back to Cafe Helios. It’s a hidden gem right off Glenwood Avenue. I should also meet the owner of bittycakes because I want her to make my wedding whoopie pies. Yes, they were that good that when I get married (someday) I want her whoopie pies instead of cake.

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After work and yoga class, I went by Whole Foods on my way home to pick up some seafood for dinner. After staring into the seafood case for quite a while, I asked the seafood guy for some help. He told me the catfish sounded delicious and it was local. The seafood guy at the Whole Foods off of Wade Avenue is my new best friend. Hmm, I wonder if he recognizes me and feels the same way? Anyway, I went home and prepared Cajun Catfish with a side of squash, zucchini, and caramelized onions. All of the produce was from the Carrboro or State Farmers’ Market. Dinner was fantastic; I didn’t have any leftovers. Cooking really makes me happy. I enjoy good, wholesome food. When I cook I try to use minimal ingredients and let the natural flavors of the foods really shine through.

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I wanted a little something sweet after dinner. I ate a small bowl of strawberries and blueberries topped with whipped cream from Salisbury. What a great ending to an awesome Monday!

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