43daylocalfoodchallenge

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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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Bike rides and Coquette, a little piece of Paris.

8:30 AM on a Sunday? Yes. I actually got up early to meet my friend Alex for a bike ride. I bought a Diamondback on Friday and have decided to start biking around Raleigh. I am obsessed with my bike, I feel like a little kid again. There are some awesome greenways throughout the city and my apartment isn’t too far from the farmers’ market. Winning! This local food challenge has definitely encouraged me to be even more green. Before hitting the trails, I ate a bowl of Little Red Wagon granola with Maple View Farm milk.

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Alex and I biked around NC State’s campus and then to Pullen Park. All of the biking made us hungry so we ate at Pullen Place for lunch. Pullen Place made it extremely easy for us to order local foods. The menu has a carrot beside each menu item made using local ingredients. There were also signs in the window with seasonal specials made using farmers’ market produce. I was impressed with the renovations to Pullen Park and fell in love with the cafe. Pullen Place needs to be on a locavore’s to-do list. You can eat amazing, fresh food at the cafe while relaxing at the park.

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Alex and I walked up to the window at Pullen Place to place our order. I packed my leftover egg salad sandwich from Neal’s Deli in Carrboro so I just ordered a side, sweet potato salad. Alex ordered a baked sweet potato. We both are obsessed with sweet potatoes. I’m surprised we haven’t turned into sweet potatoes yet! The salad was the perfect combination of sweet and salty. I also loved how the cafe used purple sweet potatoes in the salad. The colors made me happy! I would love to go back and order lunch sometime soon. They had a chicken salad special with fresh strawberries and walnuts that sounded yummy.

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After eating lunch, Alex and I wanted dessert. Pullen Place carries Locopops, which are made in Durham. Alex ordered the strawberry lemonade pop. I was super indecisive (as always) so I let the employee pick my pop. Thank goodness she knows her pops, she picked me out the cookies and cream. The Locopops were the perfect ending to our bike ride and lunch. They cooled us off and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth!

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After my first big adventure on my new bike, I relaxed by the pool for the rest of the day and then visited the State Farmers’ Market with Courtney. I bought produce for the week and some meats. Sunday was just beginning though! I met Graham for dinner at Coquette in North Hills, a restaurant owned by the Urban Food Group. Chef Beth LittleJohn called me earlier this week and invited me to a three course dinner using only local foods. I had been looking forward to this dinner all week!

When I arrived to Coquette, a French Brasserie, I was immediately blown away by the atmosphere. The bright red chairs and quaint tables seated next to open windows reminded me of my trip to Paris. I was seated at the best table in the whole restaurant with a beautiful view of the fountains, as well as a nice breeze. Graham and I were greeted by our delightful server and Chef Beth. They were so excited to have us in their restaurant for a local foods dinner.

The first course was a salad made with local romaine lettuce from the Interfaith Food Shuttle garden and bloomy rind goat cheese from Prodigal Farms. The salad was topped with a poached egg from Coon Rock Farms and Coquette’s house-made Dijon balsamic vinaigrette. I’ve never had a salad with a poached egg. Clearly I need to be more European! The egg and goat cheese made the salad savory and rich with flavor. The vinaigrette added just the right amount of spice to make the salad even more delicious and interesting. A fresh basket of sliced sunflower bread and French baguette also came out with our first course. The breads are baked fresh every morning at the restaurant. The best part about eating the bread was the butter. The restaurant whips unsalted butter until it reaches the perfect consistency and then adds gourmet sea salt on top. Graham and I were in love with the butter. Thankfully, our server told us how easy it is to make! We seriously ate half the dish of butter with our bread.

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The second course was pork from Coon Rock Farm topped with beer butter. That’s right, beer butter. I was intrigued; Chef Beth was a genius for combining these two ingredients into one culinary package. She used beer from the Highland Brewing Company out of Asheville and butter from Maple View Farm to make this mouthwatering concoction. The pork was sitting on top of Swiss chard from Kellam-Wyatt Farm and fingerling potatoes from Johnston County. The fingerlings were crispy around the edges and soft in the middle. The Swiss chard was excellent and went along well with the flavor of the pork and beer butter. Graham and I cleaned our plates!

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Just when I thought I couldn’t eat anything else, the third course arrived. It was time to get my second stomach into gear. Everyone has a second stomach for dessert, didn’t you know? The most beautiful dessert was sitting right at my fingertips. The fruit tart was almost too pretty to eat. Once Chef Beth started describing the dessert I changed my mind, I was going to eat the whole thing. The crust was a hazelnut shortbread made in-house, then filled with pastry cream made out of ingredients from Coon Rock Farm and Maple View Farm. The strawberries from Ball Berries and Produce were placed perfectly on top of the tart. This dessert was culinary art.

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I wish I could have captured Graham’s facial expression when he took the first bite of the tart. Really, it was love at first bite. We both could not stop raving about the taste and texture of the dessert. The strawberries and cream blended perfectly together, and the hazelnut crust was impeccable.

Our evening at Coquette was fabulous. I felt like I was leaving Paris behind when I walked out of the restaurant. I was beyond impressed with the service at Coquette and especially with Chef Beth. She is so creative and I appreciate her passion for local foods. She says it’s often hard at restaurants to use local foods due to the cost. However, she believes people will pay a little more because local foods are fresher and just taste better. Chef Beth grew up on a farm and desires to support her local farmers. I was amazed by all of the wonderful food at Coquette and I will definitely be visiting again soon. I highly recommend Coquette, a little piece of Paris in Raleigh.

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Home cookin’ and supporting local farmers

I love Friday mornings, it means the weekend is near! I started the morning off with a bowl of Little Red Wagon granola and Maple View Farm milk. I’ve really enjoyed eating granola in the morning. Usually cereals don’t hold me over until lunch, however, this granola is filling!

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For lunch I had a sweet potato sprinkled with salt and pepper, strawberries, and Diet Cheerwine (of course). I’ve found during my local food challenge that I’m eating more “whole” foods, like fruits and vegetables. These foods provide me with a lot of fiber and keep me fuller for much longer. After my challenge I plan on shopping at the farmers market still and keeping these foods in my diet.

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My coworker, Beth brought me a can of green beans. She worries constantly that I’m not getting enough to eat. The green beans were from her garden last summer and she canned them in August. Canning is such a great way to keep foods available year round. I decided to cook the green beans along with some onions I purchased from the State Farmers Market. I also cooked a vegan crabcake from Whole Foods, which was made with all local ingredients including the “fake meat.” Dinner was excellent! I have to admit I was a little nervous about the crabcake but it tasted exactly like the real deal.

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I was craving something sweet. I sliced a few local strawberries and topped them off with whipped cream from Salisbury. The strawberries and cream satisfied my sweet tooth! I can really tell a difference between North Carolina strawberries and those grown in California. They are so much sweeter and juicier. I think I’m going to be depressed when strawberry season comes to an end.

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On Saturday morning I woke up early to spend the day with Madeline, my childhood best friend. We had a big day planned! So, I hit the road after eating a bowl of Little Red Wagon granola, local strawberries, and Maple View Farm Milk.

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Madeline and I spent the morning and afternoon in Carrboro. Our first stop was Weaver Street Market. If you ever have a chance to visit Carrboro, you have to go here! Weaver Street Market is a community owned cooperative grocery store. The majority of the items I saw in the store were local, organic, and natural. Since Madeline and I started our morning off early, we had to grab a cup of coffee while perusing the store. Larry caught my eye (again). It’s a love affair. I ordered a cup of coffee, the El Salvador Dali blend. The coffee really does have a hint of s’mores. It was love a first sip!

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We walked around the quaint, earthy and eclectic town of Carrboro. If I lived in Carrboro I’d have no problem eating locally 24/7. The restaurants, grocery stores, and markets all pride themselves in serving local foods. After admiring the town, I started hearing a banjo in the distance. Madeline and I turned a corner and realized we had arrived to the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. We were welcomed to the market by the relaxing folk music and smell of wildflowers.

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I absolutely love the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. The people were so friendly and there was so much variety. I found everything here: fresh produce, bouquets of flowers, all types of cheeses, meats, eggs, and baked goods. I purchased a bouquet of wildflowers, a giant tomato, Chapel Hill Creamery’s smoked farmers cheese, sweet snap peas, onions, lettuce, potatoes, squash and zucchini. I purchased everything for less than 25 bucks! What a deal.

After walking around the market, Madeline and I had worked up an appetite! We went to Neal’s Deli. I ordered the egg salad sandwich on rye bread. The employee was able to tell me where every single ingredient was from, farm name and all! She also told me they had just picked up their tomatoes for the day from the farmers’ market. The sandwich was so filling, I was only able to eat half. The egg salad was unique, using onions and bold spices. It was also topped with a tomato and shredded lettuce.

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After relaxing and talking over our tasty lunch, I dropped Madeline off and went back home to Raleigh. I got ready for a Cinco de Mayo party hosted by my thesis chair, Dr. Bruce. I told Dr. Bruce I would be in charge of bringing all of the produce, I needed to make sure I could eat! I helped her shred lettuce and dice tomatoes and onions. Dr. Bruce’s daughter, Ainslee was amazed by the giant tomato. It was almost bigger than her head!

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Dr. Bruce had so much food for the party! I made myself a Cinco de Mayo salad with local chicken and the lettuce, tomato, and onion from the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. I also had a Duck Rabbit Milk Stout, my absolute favorite NC beer. We had a great time socializing and enjoying local food!

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We always have an excuse for sangria!

I splurged. I went to Whole Foods on Thursday morning and bought Little Red Wagon cinnamon raisin granola for $6.99. I purchased this granola during the first few days of my local food challenge. Luckily, the granola at the Earth Fare in Charlotte was only 5 bucks. It’s shocking to me how I can find some foods for so much cheaper in other grocery stores. Little Red Wagon’s granola is from Chapel Hill too! You’d think the price would be a little less in Raleigh compared to Charlotte. Maybe it’s just Whole Foods that has some of their prices jacked up. Anyway, for breakfast I had a cup of granola with a glass of Maple View Farm milk. Little Red Wagon makes some darn’ good granola. It’s so crunchy and isn’t too sugary. The raisins and cinnamon add natural sweetness to the oats.

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After breakfast I went to the Center for Environmental Farming System’s Field Day in Pittsboro. We stopped for lunch before making it to the Field Day. While Debbie and Andrea chowed down on Bojangles’ fried chicken and seasoned fries, I tried to be discrete in the corner of the booth. I pulled out my lunch from my hot pink lunchbox (so much for being discrete, right?). I envied Debbie’s fried chicken supreme dinner as I ate a salad with a boiled egg and tomatoes, along with some local strawberries.

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After lunch, Andrea, Debbie and I spent the whole day touring different farms and learning more about sustainable agriculture. I fell asleep during the car ride back to Raleigh. The 90 degree weather had definitely wiped me out! As soon as I was back in Raleigh I had to liven up; I had dinner plans with Courtney and Liz at Cantina 18.

Cantina 18 is one of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh. Not only is the food fresh and delicious, they have the best sangria on the planet. I’m not exaggerating. Honestly, I’ve yet to find a better sangria. We ordered a pitcher (you caught me, two pitchers) of the strawberry vanilla bean sangria. The sangria is perfect during this time of the year because Cantina 18 uses North Carolina strawberries!

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I told the waitress about my 43 day local food challenge. She was so excited for me and brought out the restaurant manager. The manager was great and discussed a few of my options for dinner. She had the chef prepare me a dish using all local ingredients. I basically had a deconstructed burrito: a pile of short rib, pickled pablano peppers, and sweet potatoes with their homemade lime cream sauce on top, which is made using local milk. The food was amazing but there was entirely too much meat! I had to give some of the short rib to Courtney and Liz because there was no way I could eat everything on my plate.

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I really appreciate when the managers and chefs at restaurants want to work with their customers. You don’t always have to order a dish off the menu, most of the time restaurants are flexible. I truly believe that all good chefs love being creative and my local food challenge has encouraged a few chefs to put their thinking caps on!

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