Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's a Cheerwine Krispy Kreme morning

Yes, Krispy Kreme has added a Cheerwine-flavored doughnut. And yes, they dropped off a stack of boxes at my office this morning. I guess we got them right after the governor did. I'm honored.

Verdict? The Cheerwine-flavored filling does taste a little Cheerwine-like, with a bright cherry flavor. I'd eat that if someone put it on a cupcake. But the chocolate topping is kind of lost under all the red and white sprinkles.

But overall? Sorry, but I'm a Krispy Kreme purist. If you're not buying them from a bakery when the "Hot Now" sign is lit, it's just not the same. Once they cool, they stiffen up a little and just became a cold, slightly tough, yeast-raised doughnut. The point of Krispy Kremes was that freshness, being able to get them right after they went through the shower of hot sugar.

In this case, the Cheerwine flavor will only be available in supermarkets. Given the interest I've seen, you should see plenty of them around.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New product roundup: Not all junk food

  • Hey, thanks, Starbucks. I'm usually pretty good at resisting the high-calorie, high-price allure of frozen Frappicinos. But I will stop by for iced coffee, one of my secrets to existence in the summer. Now there's Starbucks Via Iced Coffee, a mix that you can make wherever you are. Add 16 ounces of water and ice and you have iced coffee. The one I have sitting next to me, made with water from the office water fountain, tastes convincingly like a pretty good iced coffee. (Next on my wish list: An unsweetened version. But maybe that's just me.) You get a package of 5 packets, each good for 2 (8-ounce) servings, for $5.95, which works out to less than I spend to say "nonsweet/nonfat/vente iced" before I go into the grocery store.

  • Remember when I wrote about reduced-fat peanut butters hiding a lot of sugar? If you're still looking for a good all-natural peanut butter, check out Crazy Richard's, available with the other peanut butters at Harris Teeter. It's got a great taste, and it's only ground-up peanuts. Thanks to reader Sonia Womble for that tip.

  • Ben & Jerry's has two new do-gooder ice cream flavors that will only be available at Target stores, Berry Voluntary and Brownie Chew Gooder. BV is a raspberry cheesecake flavor with white chocolate chunks and a raspberry swirl; BCG is vanilla caramel ice cream with fudge brownie pieces and a caramel swirl. Pints are $3.50 suggested retail, but you can score a coupon for a free pint by going to, registering for a volunteer activity in your area and forwarding it to five friends.

  • Jamba Juice is on the move. You can now buy frozen smoothie mixes in the Razzmatazz, Strawberries Wild and Mango A-Go-Go flavors in supermarkets and in Wal-Mart. Suggested retail price is $2.99 for a two-serving package; 120 calories a serving.
  • I've heard that M&M's has added a pretzel flavor, but I haven't spotted them yet for a taste test. As soon as I do, I promise to check back. Strictly in the interest of research, of course.

  • Frito-Lay has been lowering the salt. We did get to try Frito's, Ruffles and Lay's chips with 50% less sodium. Verdict? Not bad. We really didn't miss the salt.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Checking In: Super G Mart

I stopped in Wednesday to see if Charlotte's new international supermarket, Super G Mart, actually lives up to the name.
Super G Mart actually is pretty super. Super big, at 52,000 square feet. Super clean and well-lit. Super well-stocked, although there are areas of the store that are still coming together, like the bakery.

It was even super friendly, judging from the cashier and the guys in the produce department who tried to help me figure out the difference between the big, green jackfruit and the smaller brown durian. (They're similar, but jackfruit is sweeter and allegedly not as stinky as the famously stinky durian.)

The Greensboro-based company officially opened Monday, so they're still giving away very colorful eco-friendly shopping bags -- mine will proudly join my pile of Trader Joe's and Earth Fare bags.

The store aims for a mix of nationalities. It seems to be about equally divided, product-wise, between Asian, Mexican and American brands and foods. So you can stock up on rice noodles and find canned La Choy chow mein a few aisles over. Not that you'd want to, but still.

The store is at 7323 E. Independence Blvd., where Village Lake Drive comes into U.S. 74 across from Lebo's. Hours are

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gluten-free expo has a waiting list

I was looking forward to posting information on Charlotte's first gluten-free expo, planned for Aug. 7 at Johnson & Wales. But before I could even type the words, the free event filled up.

You can sign up to get on the waiting list, though, in case of cancellations. Besides vendors and restaurants with samples of gluten-free foods, JWU chef-instructor Peter Reinhart will teach a class on gluten-free cooking, and Dr. Ivor Hill of Wake Forest will hold a talk on the latest research.

It might also be useful to check the site for the food makers and restaurants who have signed up to offer free samples. Go to to do that and get on the waiting list. And in the meantime, with that much demand, I'll bet Charlotte's second gluten-free expo won't be far behind.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Got a refrigerator for a good cause?

The people behind the Matthews Community Farmers Market are no stranger to innovation. It was the first grower-only market around here, and the first to add things like an Ask The Chef table.

This year's new program: The Share the Harvest Challenge. Customers can buy a little extra fresh produce and put it in coolers. Volunteers from the Matthews Help Center pick up the coolers and use the donations for food crisis assistance. I hear that fresh fruits and vegetables aren't the only things that get donated. One customer buys an extra dozen eggs every week to add, and the farmer/vendors do a pretty good share of donating from their unsold goods, too.

Market manager Pauline Wood says the program is doing better than they ever expected, filling 3 to 4 coolers on Saturdays and 1 or 2 on the new Wednesday market day.

In fact, it's going so well, the Matthews Help Center now needs help to handle all the food. Wood says the center is looking for someone who can donate a refrigerator to store the food while they distribute it. They need either a home refrigerator that doesn't have a freezer (so there's more space in the refrigerator) or a commercial cooler.

Got a line on one someone would be willing to donate? Call Kim Rhodarmer, the executive director of the help center, at 704-847-8383.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grocery store etiquette: Gaffe on Aisle 5? has an interesting debate, sparked by writer Helena Echlin: What are the worst transgressions by supermarket shoppers?

She interviewed store employees in a couple of places and came up with descriptions of people writing the wrong bin number to score cheaper buys on high-priced goods, people dropping crumbs while eating things they're going to pay for later, small children roaming the aisles, cart-moving (sorry, sometimes that one is necessary) and of course, the dreaded cell-phone blockages.

Interesting observation from one store manager: Sometimes people act irrationally because they come in hungry and their blood sugar is low.

How about you? Can we come up with a list of the things nice shoppers don't do to other nice shoppers?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Know Your Vegetables: Kohlrabi

At the Charlotte Regional Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. I spotted a fresh batch of these at the New Beginning Farm stand. A sweet little boy looked at it with wide brown eyes and asked what it was. I was happy to tell him: It's a model of the space ship that New Beginning owner Donnie Cline used to come to Earth. (For fans of Donnie, that would explain a lot, wouldn't it?)

OK, OK, then I told the kid it was kohlrabi. He seemed to like the spaceship idea better. Kids.

Kohlrabi is sort of like a cross between a turnip and a cabbage, although it belongs to the cabbage (brassica) family. Like turnips, it can be a little peppery, but it also cooks up sweet and mild.

You can cut off the little arms (they kind of remind me of lobster arms -- more trouble to suck the little meat out of them than they're worth) and you can peel the kohlrabi if it's larger or older. Succulent little fresh ones like this can be used with the peel on if you prefer. And if you get one with the leaves attached, those are edible too.

You can cut it into strips and add kohlrabi to stir-fries, or you can use it raw. Shredded kohlrabi makes a nice crunchy addition to coleslaw, or shred it and toss it with diced apples for a crunchy fruit salad.

I only had the one small one, about the size of a cue ball. I ended up dicing it, simmering it in a mixture of broth and water for about 20 minutes, and then tossing it with a fast sauce I made from sauteed wild mushrooms, some slow-cooked onions I simmered up this weekend, and a few big spoons of the tomato oil from Duke's Bread at the Atherton Market.

Next time, I think I'll try the pureed kohlrabi from Sheila Lukins' and Julee Rosso's "New Basics Cookbook." I saw an internet post that claimed it's out of this world. Which would be oddly fitting, wouldn't it?

Kohlrabi Puree
Adapted from "The New Basics Cookbook" and

4 kohlrabi bulbs, with leaves if possible
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoons cream, milk or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the kohlrabi, peeling if necessary. Trim off the leaves and set aside. Cut the bulbs into 1-inch cubes.
Place the cubes in a small saucepan, cover with water, add a little salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, until fork-tender.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet while the kohlrabi cooks. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and the kohlrabi leaves, cover and cook 5 minutes. Remove lid and cook until any liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside.
Drain the kohlrabi chunks and place in a food processor with the mushroom mixture. Puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper and return to the saucepan to rewarm before serving.
(Or puree the kohlrabi in the pan with an immersion blender. You also could leave the mushroom mixture the way it is and serve it over the kohlrabi puree.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Charlotte food news roundup: Dads, dark and a festival

whilel you're killing time waiting for the debut of Chik-Fil-A's spicy chicken sandwich this afternoon (I don't know why it's exciting either, but it's all over the blogosphere), here's a few things coming up:

Friday-Sunday is the annual Taste of Charlotte on Tryon Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and 6th Street. Hours are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. It's a mix of family entertainment, shopping, live music and food booths featuring Charlotte restaurants. You need festival coins to buy food samples and beverages. Dunkin Donuts will give away free samples of Turbo Coffee. Get the list of restaurants and other details here.

The Vanlandingham Estate is putting on a Father's Day barbecue from noon to 4 p.m. June 20 on the grounds of the very pretty historic house in Plaza-Midwood. You can bring dogs and kids (and dads too, I presume). $10 gets you a plate with barbecue, coleslaw, potato salad, fruit salad, baked beans, banana pudding and tea or lemonade. $5 more gets you a beer. It's Dad -- buy the man a beer. Reservations are required. Call 704-334-8909 or go here.

OK, we promised dark news: Good Eats & Meets, a dining group that gets a bunch of people together for dining adventures, is doing a Dining in the Dark dinner at Andrew Blair's this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. It benefits The Foundation Fighting Blindness, and yes, you eat dinner in the dark. Which is supposed to heighten your senses. Or increase your dry-cleaning bill. It's a three-course meal for $50, and you can get details and meet up with the Good Eats & Meets group here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Market Report: Tuesdays at Atherton

It's bigger than I expected. Cooler, too, in more than one meaning of the word.

I stopped by the new Atherton Market at Atherton Mill on South Boulevard on Tuesday afternoon to check out the new local-shopping option. Even on a hot afternoon, the really big ceiling fans and open doors at both ends keep breezes moving, a pleasant change from sweating under the tents at the old open field at Camden and West Park.

And the chalkboard signs, big space and new local-food makers like Duke's Bread, New York Baking and Pasta Wench give it a feel of a refreshed food mission, a very painless stop on the way home from work to add to what you bought on Saturday or to boost your fresh-vegetable quotient. (That's Adam Duke at left. A $4 tub of his incredibly flavorful tomato oil helped with the fast dinner creation at my house. I brushed a little on mahi mahi before pan-searing and sticking it in the oven, then stirred a little more into the skillet to make an instant pan sauce). There were plenty of farmers with a wide variety of vegs -- Carlea Farms with cukes and a big pile of garlic, Barbee Farms with potatoes, Fisher Farms, Laughing Owl and several more.

Of course, keeping all that variety depends on people coming out to buy it . . . You know that old saying, you get what you pay for? With local-food markets, it's also true in more than one way.

In other market news:
  • The York Downtown Market in York, S.C., is adding a new midweek market day, 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays. Details:

  • The Matthews Community Farmers Market starts its new Wednesday hours next week, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. June 9. Reports on the Saturday market include blueberry, potato and tart-cherry spottings (there seems to be a veritable cherry explosion at all the markets this year), and promises that corn and blackberries will be in within the next few weeks.

  • As always, you can find our searchable database with information on markets all over the region at

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cookbook Winner: Raking Raichlen over the coals

Chemeeka, who worried she (or he) was too late is actually the winner of this week's cookbook giveaway, a copy of "Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue!"

Chemeeka, send your mailing address to me at and I'll send you the book.

Thanks, everyone, both for playing and for sharing your notes about Memorial Day cookouts. Maybe it will dry enough to grill again by Labor Day.

If you're wondering how I pick cookbook winners, by the way, I use the very handy Random Number Generator at It works on numbers between 1 and 100. I number each of the entries (sometimes I number forward, sometimes backward, just to keep it interesting), then I plug the total into the Random Generator.

Works better than the Wayback Machine, if you're old enough to remember that.