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Carolina Jubilee to Benefit Carolina Farm Trust

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Lisa and I are food people. We have recently also become farm people. Well, to clarify, we don’t own a farm or even work on a farm. But we have come to know many farmers and are pretty entrenched in the agriculture movement in America. We get that we need to balance sustainability with the need to feed people affordably. Farmers need to be paid a fare wage. People need to eat. The land needs to be preserved. Food needs to be healthy and affordable. Farming and the food supply need to be sustainable. Animals need to be cared for. The list goes on… Myriad issues are at play, but the bottom line is we cannot poison our land to feed our people. There has to be a better way.

Carolina Jubilee

Carolina Jubilee, a benefit for local food sustainability will be held October 16th-17th at VanHoy Farms in Harmony, NC. The two-day event will showcase local bands, food purveyors, and vendors, with all proceeds to benefit the Carolina Farm Trust (CFT).

Click here for tickets!

The Carolina Jubilee Festival is an annual music event with the mission of providing support for the Farm-to-Table initiative with locally produced food and beverages and a variety of regional bands.

Local and regional farms will be represented, and education will be provided on the importance of the agriculture industry and its sustainability. Carolina Jubilee will also invite vendors and organizations that focus on clean energy and the promotion of eco-friendly products and services.

The two-day festival will take place at the gorgeous VanHoy Farms Family Campground, with over 100 rolling peaceful acres of land with full camping facilities and amenities: hiking, water activities, pool, event coliseum, and more. Camp out at the festival!

Contact VanHoy Farms to reserve your campsite ($10/car).

Carolina Farm Trust is a locally run non-profit with the plan to drive action in regional food sustainability. Its mission is to protect our state’s farm land and foster an ecosystem of sustainable farming.

The loss rate of farm land is alarming. Every year 100,000 acres of land is lost to urban and suburban development in North Carolina alone. Any guesses what is the biggest hurdle starting a farm or expanding a farm? Land.

CFT is looking to compete with developers for land, buy it, and lease it back to the farming community, at rates low enough to cover the taxes (think something akin to the Nature Conservancy model). This will work two ways: allows new entrepreneur farmers to have access to land and existing farms to build and expand. By giving land access to new entrepreneur farmers and existing farmers to expand, we are helping the supply reach the local demand. CFT’s goals are based on true economic development and investment in the Carolina region.

“I care deeply about our small agriculture community and hope to save our farm land, provide economic development within the agriculture community, as well as bring other nonprofits and people of all walks of life together to focus on sustainable initiatives that are crucial to our means of survival,” states Wyatt, Executive Director of Carolina Farm Trust.

There are many ways to get involved and support CFT’s mission:

  • Get up a ticket to the festival in October
  • Become a sponsor of, or vendor at the event
  • Become a featured farmer
  • Volunteer
  • Share Carolina Farm Trust’s story and mission

Questions? Want to help? Ready to become a sponsor? Contact Zack Wyatt at zack@carolinafarmtrust.org. Stay tuned on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Fill Your Easter Basket With NC Treats

The Easter Bunny is a procrastinator. You’d think all that sugar fuels him to hop around like…well, the Energizer Bunny. Alas, he lacks organizational skills. If your Easter Bunny needs a boost this season, hop on over to fill your basket with state fare.

If there’s one state that can boast the motherlode of locally made Easter basket gems, it’s North Carolina. We have curated some ideas to make your bunny’s job easier. Shopping locally bolster’s our state’s economy, of course, but filling your basketwith  local fare truly makes for a unique gift that makes a difference.

Fill your Easter Basket with NC Treats

Piedmont Candy Company is one of the last vestiges of a family owned candy company with production in the United States. It’s based in Lexington, NC, home of more than barbecue. Try the Puffs in the citrus and fruit flavors.

Piedmont Candy Peppermint Puffs #HandmadeNC

 

Chapel Hill Toffee, Videri Chocolate Factory, and The Secret Chocolatier will satiate your chocolate cravings way better than a waxy, hollow chocolate bunny.

Videri Chocolate Factory #HandmadeNC The Secret Chocolatier #HandmadeNC

Chapel Hill Toffee #HandmadeNC

Crude Bitters & Sodas has a wonderful selection of unique bitters and shrubs. I cast my vote for the Pineapple Ginger schrub. Serve it up with some Topo vodka for the grown ups. I mean really, Easter baskets aren’t just for kids, right?

Crude Bitters Pineapple Ginger Shrub -- #HandmadeNC

Big Spoon Roasters’ Peanut Cocoa Butter isn’t a body butter but it is a balm for the soul. Eat it off the spoon. Founder Mark Overbay’s favorite snack is a big ol’ spoon of peanut butter straight from the jar. Mine too.

Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Cocoa Butter #HandmadeNC

Tonya’s Cookies are the best kind of homemade treat…they are made in someone else’s home! Tonya comes from good kitchen stock; Chapel Hill’s famous Mama Dip’s is her grandmother’s restaurant. The ever so tasty White Chocolate Pecan Crisp is my favorite.

Tonya's Cookies White Chocolate Pecan Crisp #HandmadeNC

Counter Culture Coffee will be a hit among the adults who woke up for a sunrise church service. Try the #46.

Stanbury, Where Nothing Disappoints

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There is one problem with having dinner at Stanbury.

Every meal you eat thereafter pales in comparison. Such was my plight last weekend. My husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a marvelous dinner at Stanbury. We found ourselves indifferent to every other meal option for the rest of the weekend. Nothing sounded appetizing. We are normally pretty eager eaters so it took a while to realize that what we were experiencing were the lingering effects of dinner at Stanbury.

I began my journey on the Pineapple Express, a delectable cocktail that was ever so balanced to be both perfectly sweet and tart. Goldilocks would have approved. My husband had the Stanbury Gin & Tonic. Who knew that celery, the wallflower of vegetables, could be so divine? And to think we relegate those stalks to tuna salad, never giving it a stage to shine on.

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We enjoyed the most delectable, creamy oysters with our cocktails. They were served on a bed of rock salt and presented ever so simply. To have dolloped a bit of cocktail sauce would have been a culinary crime. You might have heard audible gasps if you were seated at the table next to us.
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The charred broccoli in chili sauce was also divine, though it could be a tish spicy for the uninitiated. I’m from India and embrace spicy food so I thought it was sublime. My husband loved it too, though he might have ordered another cocktail to quell the heat. We devoured it so quickly I didn’t even capture a shot.

The first time we visited Stanbury we lamented the fact that we ate so much that we didn’t have room for the marrow. We weren’t newbies this time and knew to prioritize this indulgence. We shall never visit Stanbury again without ordering the marrow. When we told our sons about the melty, richness of this dish, they clamored to go to Stanbury right away. Never mind that it was 10:00 am. Your senses will be delirious with one bite of this goodness. The zing of the capers and parsley cuts the richness of the marrow, while the crunch of bread completes the medley. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t daydreamed about this dish.

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To finish off our meal, my husband and I shared the ribeye. We had been hearing accolades about the ribeye so we decided we must finally give it a go. This is one more thing our sons are dying to try. It’s delicious in its simplicity. The ribeye is generously topped with truffle butter and is certainly large enough to share. I’m pretty sure the truffle butter is what sold our sons on this dish. I swear, there can’t be 11 and nine-year olds on the planet who devour more truffle salt. The ribeye is also served with fries and an arugula salad. We also eat more arugula than any family in America so this too excited my boys.
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The light was dim so apologies for the photo. I admittedly didn’t fool around too much because I just wanted to dig in. Stanbury does not disappoint. The service is attentive and friendly, a nice departure from the oft uptight atmosphere that this caliber meal is usually served in. It’s a relaxed vibe that makes you feel chill, not out of place. There’s not need to dress up or stand out, though it’s cool if you do. Next time I’m going to kick back on the patio with the cocktail menu and indulge in oysters and marrow. Join me.

Where is Stanbury located?

Stanbury is located in Raleigh at 938 N. Blount Street.

The Secret Chocolatier

Everyone has their favorite decadent treat(s). Mine are bon bons and sea salt chocolate butter toffee from The Secret Chocolatier in Charlotte, NC. Owned by the Dietz and Ciordia families, The Secret Chocolatier was conceived when Chef Bill Dietz found himself at a career crossroads. He called a family meeting with his wife, Karen, their daughter Robin Ciordia and her husband Andy, and the four foodies decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Three years later, after building a following at local farmers markets and retailers, they responded to public demand for a storefront where customers could get their chocolate moment five days a week.

The Secret Chocolatier #HandmadeNC

How good are they? Famed food critic, Helen Schwab from the Charlotte Observer proclaimed:

“In Timothy Leary’s eight-circuit model of consciousness, the eighth circuit is the one you need to get to for out-of-body experiences. Here’s a shortcut: Truffles from the Secret Chocolatier”

Their use of American craft chocolate, which is chopped and melted with hot cream to be whisked into silky ganache is a beautiful assault on the senses. It is full-bodied with a character akin to Frank Sinatra’s stage act. Saucy, yet robust. Combine that with fillings created in house from all natural ingredients, with nary a flavoring oil or extract in sight, and you have a chocolate ready for its Academy Award.

Andy and I met on Twitter in 2007 and struck up a fast friendship. When I heard about this tasty venture, I headed over to the Atherton Market in the South End section of Charlotte to test their wares. My first purchase was chocolate brownies. What’s so special about a chocolate brownie? When it is the perfectly sized three inch brownie enrobed in creamy chocolate creating a bit of heaven in every bite. More importantly, it passed the test of the pickiest chocolate connoisseur I know, my son.

I spent some time at The Secret Chocolatier before Christmas and learned how to make some of their products. It is a laborious process filled with love and marked by serious craftsmanship. During the time I was there, we created vanilla bon bons. The time to create these delectable treats is one and a half hours from start to finish. It doesn’t matter if it is one bon bon, or twenty dozen, that is how long the process takes.

Chocolate tempering at The Secret Chocolatier #HandmadeNC

Tempering chocolate at The Secret Chocolatier in Charlotte, NC.

Another lady who was with me on this field trip confided “I never understood why chocolate was priced the way it is until today. Now I won’t hesitate buying good chocolate.”

The entire premise behind The Secret Chocolatier is to create artisan chocolates. Chocolate is a family business and the Ciordia and Dietz families want their customers to feel like they are part of the family as well. Amazing corporate gifts are created via the concierge service, along with unique wedding ideas that will satisfy any bride.

Vanilla Bon Bon's at The Secret Chocolatier in Charlotte, NC #HandMadeNC

Vanilla Bon Bons

You can find The Secret Chocolatier at the locations in Charlotte (listed below) or order online from their website.

Each Bon Bon is filled by hand at The Secret Chocolatier in Charlotte, NC. #HandmadeNC

Bon Bons being filled by hand.

 Locations:

Chapel Hill Toffee

Ever tried toffee? I made a happy discovery and found Chapel Hill Toffee while in my local grocers and picked up a box all in the name of research for Handmade NC. Instead of tearing into the box in the car, I brought it home, plated a piece (or three), and sat down to taste test this gorgeous, sugary confection.

Chapel Hill Toffee is definitely a family affair. Karen Graves had perfected her toffee recipe and decided to open a small home-based business. She made her retail debut at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill in 2006 and soon after (2008) son Mark joined her in the kitchen to help scale their business. His wife joined the Chapel Hill Toffee team in 2012. What started as a cottage industry in North Carolina has grown to a much larger family business with products now in 400 retailers across the country.

Chapel Hill Toffee #HandmadeNC

On first appearance, the toffee is a perfect square, robed in dark chocolate and dusted with finely chopped pecans. When you smell the toffee, you are smelling the deep dark cocoa and pecan. The first bite gives you a hint of good dark chocolate and a slight nutty flavor. Not enough nut to overwhelm your palate, but just enough to enhance the dark chocolate. The real surprise is getting through the thin layer of chocolate and getting the first hit of English toffee on your tongue.

Chapel Hill Toffee #HandMadeNC

Imagine your taste buds coming alive and you’ll understand what you will find when you try Chapel Hill Toffee. The dark, earthy chocolate with its hint of truffle, mixes with the depth of the pecan. These flavors meld with the smoky, sweet, caramelized sugar used to create the toffee, with an unexpected hint of salt from the caramelization process. The toffee was brittle enough to have a satisfying crack, but not so brittle that you think you are going to break a tooth when biting into it.

You can find Chapel Hill Toffee in select retailers on their site www.chapelhilltoffee.com. To order online, head over to http://www.chapelhilltoffee.com/shop/.

Disclosure: This post was not sponsored. I bought Chapel Hill Toffee at my local Whole Foods and am quite happy it made it home for me to do a proper taste test. If you see me devouring toffee at the red light the next time I leave the grocery, please look the other way. I don’t want you to witness such toffee savagery. 

The Season for Local Chocolate

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It’s so silly when advertisers and retailers claim there is a chocolate season. Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter. Sure, all mark the times of year we see chocolate sales soar, but let’s be honest, chocolate is seasonless, as in, appropriate for all seasons. Any occasion can be celebrated with chocolate. Heck, you don’t even need a reason to celebrate!

Granted, with the promise of Cupid’s quiver making hearts aquiver, all eyes are on chocolate right now. I used to inhale the duty free European chocolates my parents brought back from their world travels. Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, all chocolate havens. I’d be remiss to leave out my English indulgence, the Cadbury Flake. I’m delighted to have a world class chocolatier just down the road from me in downtown Raleigh. Videri Chocolate Factory has recently won accolades at the Good Food Awards for its strawberry anise ganache. It’s too good to be sinful.

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Check out the full review on Ilina’s site when she wrote about Videri last fall.