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TerraVITA

TerraVITA is just around the corner and features many Greater Raleigh culinary experts and restaurants. Terra meaning “of the earth” and Vita meaning “life” captures in its definition the very spirit of the event. If you have an appreciation for great food and drink, you do not want to miss this three-day celebration. Foodies, mark your calendars for November 1-3.

The headline event, the Grand Tasting on The Green, will take place on Saturday, November 3 from 1-4:30pm. This TerraVITA event showcases sustainably made wine, microbrews, coffees and spirits and offers them side-by-side with culinary tastings by James Beard-nominated chefs, artisan chocolatiers, charcuteries and cheese makers from across the state of North Carolina. The participating restaurants and food artisans for this event from the Greater Raleigh area include Herons Restaurant, Elemental Chocolate, Little Hen Restaurant, Mandolin, Crumb, 518 West, 18 Seaboard, Market Restaurant, Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, The Chef’s Academy, Escazu Artisan Chocolates, and NamaKiss Chocolates. The beverage participants from the Greater Raleigh area include Slingshot Coffee Company and SIP…A Wine Store. Advance tickets are $65 for the all-inclusive event with a special designated driver/no alcohol ticket offered for $55 before November 1.

In addition to the marquee Grand Tasting, three other events occur during the festival: Chefs’ Harvest Potluck,The Sustainable Classroom, and The Carolina Table: East Meets West Dinner. Tickets are still available for the Sustainable Classroom, which will be held on November 2, 9:30am-4:15pm. This event includes a combination of culinary workshops, tastings, and beverage and food demonstrations featuring food and beverage experts and aficionados. Tickets are $35 for two sessions, or $50 for four consecutive sessions. Each session lasts an hour and fifteen minutes and will include multiple experts specializing in different facets of food and/or drink. Jay Pierce from Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen and Sherry Stolfo from The Chef’s Academy are two of the experts representing the Greater Raleigh area.

Tickets are selling fast for TerraVITA. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a weekend. Surrounded by food and beverages for three days? Count me in!

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Paleo Pumpkin-Almond Muffins

I recently decided to become Paleo. Yes, I’m now a “cavewoman.” Fine, I’m just eating like one. I absolutely love the fall season, especially pumpkin! Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pies, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin beer are among my favorites.

I am still dedicated to buying local foods. However, the Paleo diet is limiting my choices because of some of the obscure ingredients I am required to use. I went to Harris Teeter to purchase most of the products for my homemade Paleo Pumpkin-Almond Muffins. I bought a can of organic pumpkin for about 3 dollars. There was only brand of almond meal/flour produced in Milwaukie, Oregon by Bob’s Red Mill. It set me back quite a few bucks too! Sheesh, 11 bucks for a small bag of this stuff. Thankfully, I had local eggs from Latta Farms on hand and some local honey produced by one of my old college buddies. I had all of the spices in my kitchen cabinet (thank you, Mom). The almond butter I used was from Trader Joe’s and also contains roasted flaxseeds. After reading quite a few Paleo blogs and tips, I created a recipe.

Paleo Pumpkin-Almond Muffins

Yield: 10 muffins

Ingredients

1 cup almond meal/flour
1 cup canned organic pumpkin
2 eggs
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tbs vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend well by hand.
  3. Use paper liners and divide muffin mix among 10 cups.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until muffins are cooked all the way through.
  5. Cool and then serve.

I know you’re not supposed to eat raw eggs but I had to try the batter. I licked the spatula. The batter earned my seal of approval! These suckers were going to be delicious, I could already tell.

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My goodness! The aroma of these muffins is absolutely overwhelming. My roommate has trouble smelling and she could even smell them when she walked in the door! I was trying to contain my excitement as pumpkin and cinnamon filled the air.

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Perhaps the best part about driving to the grocery store, laboring in the kitchen and torturing yourself by the smell of pumpkin is what? You guessed it, eating! The muffins were extremely moist and I enjoyed the slight crunch from the almond butter. The nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla remind me of the crisp fall weather that is slowly beginning to approach North Carolina. I highly suggest this recipe and let me know how you like my Paleo Pumpkin-Almond Muffins!

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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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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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