Piedmont Farm Tour

This Saturday and Sunday is the 16th annual piedmont farm tour – billed as “America’s largest farm tour”.  It’s a great way to learn about the Triangle’s local and organic farm & food scene.  You’ll get to meet local farmers & tour their farms!

With 6 new farms and 40 farms in all, the 2011 Piedmont Farm Tour has something for everyone! We are pleased to add to the tour this year, beautiful Lindale Organic Dairy, a 5th generation farm, an exciting new permaculture-style farm up in Hillsborough  –  Ever Laughter Farm, and Cozi Farm, which is raising animals near downtown Saxapahaw!  And, Suki Roth will be opening up her Herb Haven!  These farms, plus lots of your favorites, will make a great tour!

Load up a car with your friends and family , choose the farms on the map you’d like to visit and get out in the countryside! The tour is self-guided and farms and sites are located throughout the Triangle in Alamance, Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Person counties.. Visit any farm in any order. And, don’t forget to take a cooler so that you can take home some of the farm fresh products for sale at many farms!

Advance tickets are $25/car.  On the days of the tour, tickets will be $30.  The farms will be open from 1pm – 5pm each day.  For more information, maps, and tickets, visit http://carolinafarmstewards.org/pft2011.shtml

The Cookery – Durham


The Cookery is a new venture in downtown Durham that’s meant to foster and support the area’s food entrepreneurs.  Described as a “culinary food incubator”, it will be much more than just a kitchen for rent.  In addition to four commercial ovens, a 30 quart mixer, coolers, fridges, freezers, terminals for cleaning and stocking food trucks, and rental lockers, the goal is to offer design and marketing services as well to help get local food businesses off the ground.  The venture’s founders are Nick Hawthorne-Johnson, who bought the building at 1101 W. Chapel Hill St. when the Durham co-op closed, and his wife Rochelle Johnson, of Row Design Studios.

To celebrate its inception, the Cookery will be hosting an open house this Thursday April 7th from 7-9 pm.  Those who come out will have the chance to check out the facilities and eat some scrumptious goods from the likes of Pie Pushers, Slippin Sliders, Farmhand Foods Sausage Wagon, and other local food trucks.  Sounds like another great event and a really cool place!

credit/source: Bull City Rising for almost all of this info

SEEDS Pie Social

Coming up on Sunday April 10 is a great event called the SEEDS Pie Social.  SEEDS, which  stands for “South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces”, is a non-profit organization based in Durham that focuses on getting urban youth engaged in sustainable food activities, from participating in community gardens to entrepreneurial activities.

The event will feature music, garden tours and an auction.  In the auction, instead of bidding for things, you’ll bid to learn fun and interesting skills from fellow community members, like how to spin fire, reupholster a chair, brew beer, fly a plane, play capoeira and more.

In addition, there promises to be great food as well.  Pies, both sweet and savory, are being donated by many of Durham’s best eateries, including Toast, Watts Grocery, Scratch Bakery, Foster’s, Four Square, Dos Perros, Pie Pushers, Durham Catering, The Farmer’s Daughter, Daisy Cakes, Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, Parker and Otis, Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse, Piedmont and others.

All proceeds benefit the Durham Inner-city Gardeners (DIG) program at SEEDS. DIG is a youth-driven, urban farming leadership development program that empowers young people by teaching organic gardening and healthy life skills while providing them with meaningful employment and job skills.  A suggested donation of $10 will get you up to 4 pieces of pie.

The event is from 2pm – 6pm at the SEEDS Garden at 706 Gilbert Street in downtown Durham.  For more information, visit http://www.seedsnc.org

PieBird (Raleigh, NC) – Preview

I stopped by the soon-to-open PieBird in downtown Raleigh tonight for their “soft” opening (disclaimer: my wife designed the website, so we had the inside track).  The space is gorgeous, with plenty of table seating and a nice bar.  The details of the interior are really nice, like the cute little birdie salt and pepper shakers on each table and the sliding barn bathroom doors.  In the back of the space, there’s a very cozy nook complete with a fireplace.  Of course, we tried a few samples as well – an apple tart with caramel and crushed peanut brittle, a strawberry whoopie pie, and a chocolate bourbon pecan pie.  All were yummy.  We didn’t get a chance to try any, but there will be plenty of savory offerings as well.    In addition to the full bar, PieBird will also be offering its own custom coffee blend from Counter Culture Coffee.  It’s a great addition to Raleigh and we look forward to their official opening within the next few weeks.

Rock & Shop Market

photo by Geoff Wood

The 11th Rock & Shop Market is coming up next Saturday December 4th from 12 – 6 pm. This year’s event will be in Durham and promises bigger and better than ever!  In addition to over 50 talented designers selling handmade goods, there will be two bands performing at the Motorco Music Hall (the Ox Magnolia and Onward Soldiers), a handful of food trucks (Only Burger, DaisyCakes, Klausie’s Pizza, and more) peddling their wares, and libations available across the street at the super-cool Fullsteam Brewery.  But’s that not all!  There will also be a fashion show and a DJ for entertainment.  Admittance to the event is $5.  Come out and bring all of your friends.  For more information, visit http://www.rockandshopmarket.com or on Facebook here.

NC State Fair – Baked Goods Competition

image via Flickr

The fair is well known for its abundance of preposterous food concoctions (principally fried ____ ), but, believe it or not, there are other culinary aspects of the fair worth considering.  The following is a reminiscence of my experiences in the NC State fair baked goods competitions.

2006: We went to the NC state fair last night. Everything was the same as it always is, except for one surprise.  After some roasted corn, a picture with the largest pumpkin (664 lbs), a stroll past some of the unusual vegetables (turban squash, snake gourd), a baked potato for my wife, and a stop by the cows being groomed, we went on a mission in search of the baked goods that I had entered into competition.  These were: ciabatta bread for “Category W2-301: loaf – yeast with white flour”, lemon apricot scones for “Category W2-319: scones – any flavor/type”, and coconut biscotti for “Category W2-346: cookies – biscotti – any flavor/type”.    The entries are displayed in large white well-lit cases (behind glass), arranged on shelves according to category.  I could not locate my bread; it may have been in the middle of the top shelf, which was too tall.  Maybe they had thrown it away in disgust.  My biscotti were there, but its neighbors had taken the prizes.  Maybe it was too crunchy!  My scones, however, were displayed at the front of the case, along with a large blue ribbon that said “First Premium”!  I noticed that mine looked kind of flat and crumbly next to the other entries, of which we later learned there were ten.  But, there was a big bite taken out of the scone resting on top of the pile (you must submit 6 scones).  A fair official nearby looked up my exhibitor number and confirmed that I had won.  She let on that she doesn’t normally eat the foods (I guess she was not one of the actual judges), but that she “loves scones”, presumably explaining the half-eaten one on top.  After opening the case so I could have my picture snapped with the ribbon, she encouraged me to enter again next year “with the exact same recipe”.  I expect to receive the $10 prize money by the end of next week.

The next year, 2007, I chose to focus on the biscotti category, determined to win the ribbon that had eluded me the previous year.  I experimented with a number of recipes, finally settling on pumpkin chai.  A fall combination, sure to strike at the sentimentality of the tasters.  One of the oddities of the state fair baking competitions is that the entries are judged at least one full day after they have been submitted.  And any kid will tell you that the best time to eat a cookie is right out of the oven.   So although the deadline for entry is always 12:00 noon on the Wednesday before the fair begins, I was forced, due to work schedules, to prepare my creations on Tuesday night so that I could drop them off early Wednesday morning.  I imagine the majority of the entries are baked Wednesday morning to maximize their freshness at the time of tasting, but this was a luxury I would have to work around.  My biscotti, of all things baked, would have a lonely day and a half to grow stale and lose its crunch while awaiting the discriminating palettes of the judges.  In the end, as I recall there were only a few entries, and I claimed another ribbon, a simpler, more modest white satin affair with the words “Third Place” shining in gold lettering.

My confidence was soaring with two ribbons under my belt.  This is easy, I thought, I’ll win a ribbon every year and build up a wildly impressive collection.  But 2008 would be different in a number of ways.  To begin with, we decided that it would be fun to compete against friends, in addition to those anonymous champion bakers from across the state.   In a move of perhaps ridiculous bravado, we enlisted Matt and Tanya Andrews, a husband and wife team who was, of all things, planning to open a bakery (see Yellow Dog Bread Company).  The competition would be real to us this year, and we would probably be crushed.  We settled on scones as the category of competition, and we went to work as never before creating recipes.  Almond cherry, chocolate chocolate chip, cinnamon raisin, cranberry oatmeal, cheddar apple, cheddar chive.  Some had eggs and butter, some buttermilk or cream, lemon zest or coarse sugar, amorphous or triangular.  It didn’t matter, we had to win.  The freezer began to fill with all those extras not required for testing.  Finally, we had tried at least one too many, and an outside party was needed, an independent taster to bring focus to our efforts.  Our friend Ryan graciously accepted our invitation to stuff his face with scones, and we set about sampling each one (again).  We all felt terrible after an hour or so, but we had reached a consensus on the winning formula – the texture of the cinnamon raisin and the flavor of the cherry almond.  Easy!  It was past 11:00 on Tuesday night.  Our entries were due the next day. I plowed through one last batch far too hastily.  They came out looking delicious.  But we did not win a ribbon for our scones this year, and neither did our baker friends for theirs.  What had gone wrong, I wondered.  What did the winning scones taste like?  Maybe next year I would know.

Pittsboro Pepper Festival

The third annual Pittsboro Pepper Festival is coming up this Sunday October 3rd from 4-7pm.  The event will benefit the Abundance Foundation and the Piedmont Biofarm.  The Abundance Foundation is focused on both renewable energy and local food, and has been supporting Farmer Doug Jones’s research at Piedmont Biofarm for many years.

There will be a pepper tasting of 40 different varieties of mostly sweet and some hot.  12 Local Chefs from the Triangle and Triad will be creating dishes using Farmer Doug’s peppers, including chefs from 18 Seaboard, Angelina’s Kitchen, Carolina Crossroads Restaurant, Chatham Marketplace, Chipotle, Crook’s Corner, General Store Café, Lucky 32, Market Restaurant, Mez, The Natural Chef Program @ CCCC and Zely & Ritz.  In addition, Triangle Brewery will offer a habanero pale ale beer.

There will also be live music by the Holy Ghost Tent Revival  and a tour of the Eco-Industrial Park on Lorax Lane.  The Park is home to Piedmont Biofarm, Piedmont Biofuels, The Abundance Foundation, Eastern Carolina Organics, Carolina Worm Castings, Green Door Design Build, Green Bean Counter, EcoBlend, Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, Working Films and Screech Owl Greenhouses.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $25 at the door, with children 12 and under free.  For more information and to purchase tickets, please see the event webite here.