… no, really … I’m serious. It all started last Wednesday night and if you live in Chapel Hill, you know it was raining cats and dogs (or as a friend from Greece once said “it’s raining chair legs.”) But let’s not follow idiomatic expressions just yet.
Wednesday evening was the monthly CHOP (Culinary Historians of Piedmont) meeting and we were expecting Charles Thompson, author of Spirits of Just Men, a history of moonshine in 1930’s Franklin Country, VA as our speaker. Maybe ten of us braved the deluge, including Charlie. You could feel his connection with what was for him a relatively new-found understanding of a community where moonshine was the livelihood … whether it was the making of, the supplying of ingredients, or the running. It touched everyone. Even the children.
As you might guess, you can’t really talk about food on an empty tummy, and who would want to anyway? Members are encouraged to bring dishes to share and this Noah’s-ark-of-a-night brought out dill deviled eggs, potato pizza, pepper jelly, and Krispy Kreme bread pudding (with extra sugar drizzle, ’cause God knows you just can’t put too much sugar on a donut). Comfort food for a new group growing more comfortable with one another with each bite and each meeting. Wonder what Charlie thought of us!
Thursday evening found me joining another group of relative strangers (though not for long) at a Fall menu preview at Carolina Crossroads Restaurant at The Carolina Inn … all lovingly prepared and presented by Executive Chef Jimmy Reale.
Sharing this table with me were Suzanne Brown (NC Dept. of Tourism), Susan Reda (Susan Reda Productions), Elizabeth Peck (free-lance writer/Signature Tastes of Charlotte/Smoke Alarm Media), Martin Armes (PR, Marketing & Communications), Jonathan Campbell (Director of Food & Beverage at the Carolina Inn) and Jack Schmidt (Director of Sales and Marketing at the Carolina Inn).
All eight courses (yes, I just typed eight) are inspired creations reflecting Chef Reale’s respectful use of local organic and sustainable products. My personal favorite – Housemade Lamb Sausage & Sweet Potato Hash, Mini-Pita, Bacon Jam, Sunny Side Latta Farm Egg, with a Pink Peppercorn Maple Syrup. I think my eyes rolled back in my head with each bite. My only suggestion? That it find it’s way onto the breakfast menu too!
Sure I’d never want to eat again (yeah, right), I had barely enough time to recover before the anticipated TerraVITA Food & Wine Event at Southern Village. Friday was a planned farm tour for media and it was already spitting rain when we all met up at Open Eye Cafe in Carrboro for a freshly brewed cup and visit with Carrboro Coffee Company’s Scott Conary and Mark Leatherwood.
Armed with caffeine and umbrellas against threatening heavy, rain-laden clouds on the verge of bursting, we headed to Chapel Hill Creamery where we were met by the big, warm, brown eyes of Glory, one of their Jersey’s. Owners Flo Hawley and Portia McKnight shared stories and cheese under a tin-roofed shelter while rain drops fell around us. Rain makes you hungry. I now know that.
Second up was Peregrine Farm, home to Alex & Betsy Hitt, regulars at the Carrboro Farmers Market where they are well-known with their fruit, vegetables and hand-cut flowers. I’m guessing there’s a handbook somewhere that requires everybody who lives in the country to have at least one tin-roofed shelter. Not at all a bad way to spend a morning. The harder it rained, the hungrier we got and Betsy & Alex’s kitchen was THE place for lunch catered by Neal’s Deli. Way to go, Matt & Sheila, you know I’m a fan.
Third stop was to have been Cozi Farm, but rain decided differently. Suzanne Nelson, owner of Cozi Farm, met us at the Saxapahaw General Store (and you already know how I feel about that :). I’m going to directly quote Suzanne, because no matter how hard I try, I surely couldn’t say it any better than she does … “Cozi farm is a diversified, thriving polyculture where animals are treated with reverence and grace, earthworms are cherished, and all critters eat a species-appropriate diet.” Cozi is one of the only farms in the state selling eggs, chicken, turkey and pork raised with organic locally milled feed. You gotta just love someone who cherishes earthworms!
You can’t make a stop at Saxapahaw without another peek inside The Eddy and The Haw River Ballroom! NOTE TO SELF: I am not obsessed with this place. I am not obsessed with this place. I am not obsessed with this place. 100 times on the blackboard. Ok, maybe I am right now, but you really can’t blame me. THEY built it. Plus, I’m knowing that I’m coming back out here Sunday night to see Spirit Family Reunion.
Soooo … I’m not even close to being done yet, but I have to go check out what Teresa is doing in my front yard. We (well, not exactly me, but I did buy the stone) are creating a new walkway using Tennessee Fieldstone.
And I haven’t even gotten to Saturday yet, much less Sunday night where there’s definitely a story or two worth repeating 🙂 Y’all stay tuned. I’ll be right back.