It's a little hot yet, but block-party season is coming up soon. And every successful block party usually has a leader, the neighbor who gets it organized, remembers the nametags and the chalk for drawing on the streets, and sets the standard for bringing out the best food.
We want to salute the block-party queens and learn their secrets. So I need you to turn them in: E-mail your nomination to me at email@example.com. Please include the person's name and a way to contact her.
Remember, a true Block Party Queen is a benevolent dictator who makes everyone feel welcome and useful in her court.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
It looks like a scale model of a medieval torture device. But when the good corn comes in at the farmers markets, it's time to dig into the back of the cabinet and pull it out, all evil and gleaming.
It's a corn stripper, and I actually have two, both gifts from my mother-in-law. One had a wooden trough and was attractive but not all that practical. The one I really use looks a little mean, with its shiny metal rack and the hole in the middle with a razor-sharp blade on one side and a stubby bar on the other.
I seriously love creamed corn. Not that nasty pasty stuff from the can. In the summers, my mother made terrific creamed corn, always fresh and corny. We went through whole black-iron skillets of it. When I picture a good summer supper, it's always on the table along with a platter of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers cut up with vinegar.
The tricks to good creamed corn are really good corn -- very fresh, with plump kernels -- and a corn stripper. The stripper skims across the top of the kernels, slicing off the tender part, while the metal bar below the hole scrapes across the cut kernels and extracts the milky juice. Getting plenty of that juice is important. The natural starch in it is what thickens the creamed corn.
My mother has told me about the darkest days of the Depression, when my grandmother had seven mouths to feed that included two growing teenage boys. Sometimes she was so short on provisions, she didn't have milk to make creamed corn and had to use water. But they always had big skillets of corn.
I think of that whenever I make a skilletful. I have the luxury of milk, added in several additions. I usually start with butter, although my mother almost certainly started with a dollop of bacon grease from the can on the back of the stove. I add salt and plenty of black pepper, and a splash of milk. Never sugar, though: That's the kind of thing my mother would have sniffed at. If the corn is worth cooking, it's sweet enough.
Then I cook it slowly, stirring often so it doesn't stick. As it thickens, I'll add a little more milk, sort of like making risotto. It can take 20 minutes or so until it's creamy and cooked through.
Then it's ready to dish up and put out on the table, with sliced tomatoes and something simple like chicken breasts or pork chops. Or maybe no meat at all, just a table full of great produce surrounding a skillet of corn.
I know plenty of good corn dishes -- succotashes and hashes and chowders. And just corn on the cob with chile powder and lime has its pleasures. But when the corn stripper comes down from the back of the cabinet, it's a sign: Summer is here.
Monday, June 27, 2011
I don't ask for much from a restaurant meal: Great ingredients, well-prepared. A little thought put into it. And I like flavors so strong, they grab and hold my attention enough to make me want to ignore everything and just live in that moment for a little while.
I made my second visit to The Admiral in Asheville recently. It's a strange little restaurant in what looks like it used to be a gas station. It's in West Asheville on Haywood, at what some people call Five Points. Parking is a dice-toss that might leave you circling for a few blocks.
I'd call the interior tawdry-chic: Dark, with a low ceiling, lots of repurposed vintage furniture and touches of yellow and red lighting. There's an old Budweiser sign with neon strategically blacked out so it appears to spell "dive." The cooking line is three guys behind a counter, laboring with intense choreography to turn out a short menu of small plates, entrees and a short list of desserts.
I stick with small plates, to have more room to try things. Pork belly has almost worn out its welcome on menus, but this version took it back to what I originally liked about it: A surprisingly large square of belly, cooked soft on the inside and crisped and sticky on the outside, served on top of red potato salad with crisp fried onions. It was a mixture of creamy, sticky, cool and crisp.
My husband settled on a full-size plate of diver scallops with a vanilla-sweet corn sauce.
But the dish that grabbed my attention was the Ethiopian Beef Tartare. Yes, raw beef can be risky, but if they're willing to serve it, I was willing to try it. It involved raw egg, too. So sue me.
It arrived on a rough, wooden cutting board: A pile of minced red beef mixed with red spices. A little indentation on top with a raw quail egg. A dab of creamy fresh goat cheese. A pile of crisp, hot, french fries. And a small pool of a sweet, fruity house-made ketchup.
The beef was mixed with so much spice, it was intensely hot and salty, almost painful to eat. Just when it got overwhelming, you could mix in a cooling, creamy bit of goat cheese, or a little of the ketchup, or a break from the crispy fries. Every bite was different, every combination a change-up.
It was a little scary and a little dangerous, and it tasted like comfort food in hell. I loved every bite of it.
It was so intense, the powerfully flavorful ginger-lime creme brulee I picked for dessert almost tasted bland. It was so affecting, I was still thinking about it a week later.
That's a restaurant experience worth my bill.
The Admiral, 400 Haywood Road, Asheville, 828-252-2541, theadmiralnc.com. Dinner only, 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Reservations strongly suggested. The menu features local, seasonal products, so it changes frequently. Small plates range from $6 to $12; entrees are in the $25 range.
Charlotte got a little tap from Michael Voltaggio, one of the "BroVos" and the winner of season 6 of "Top Chef."
In the July issue of Food & Wine, the Volt gave his own Top 10 list. Under "regret," this was his answer:
"I wish I'd learned to play an instrument. There's a piano in the Charlotte, North Caroina, airport, right near the food court. Random people sit down and play and fill the airport with music. I always wish I could just sit down at that piano and start playing."
Aw, chef! That's as sweet as an airport full of rocking chairs. But surely a chef can do "Chopsticks."
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
If my column inspires you to visit the Matthews Community Farmers' Market, this weekend's 20th anniversary celebration on Saturday morning will include free cupcakes, prints of a market painting by NoDa artist David Thayer French, a grilled-pizza demo by Art Institute chef Joe Bonaparte, live music and speechifying. The market is at 188 N. Trade St. in Matthews. Details: www.matthewsfarmersmarket.com.
Also in today's food coverage: Andrea Weigl breaks down the new healthy-plates logo, and recipes for turkey keema, tuna steaks, apple pie and Gwyneth Paltrow's version of chicken stir-fry. Find all that at www.charlotteobserver.com/food.
Monday, June 20, 2011
I was finishing up my Saturday shopping at the Matthews Community Farmers Market the other day when manager Pauline Wood ran up and said, "You've got to taste this."
The name of the blog is I'll Bite, after all.
What she had found were tiny yellow fruits covered in a light green husk. They looked like very small tomatillos. But they didn't taste anything like them. Pauline described the flavor as crispy pear. I'd say sweet with a hint of pineapple.
What we had stumbled on were the first ground cherries I've seen in markets around here. Our confusion is understandable: They hide under a lot of names -- strawberry tomatoes, husk tomatoes, dwarf cape gooseberries. They are a member of the nightshade family, so they are distantly related to tomatoes, but nightshade is a mighty big family. The genus is Physalis in the solanaceae family. Apparently, green ones can make you sick, so don't try to forage for them unless you really know what you're getting.
Technically, a tomatillo is a cultivated ground cherry, so my first guess wasn't too far off. But ground cherries are much sweeter.
Latin and family matters aside, they are tasty little things, with a haunting, sweet flavor and crispy texture. Besides eating them raw or in a salad, you can make them into jam, bake them into little tarts, or dry them with a dehydrator. In a 2007 issue of Edible Boston, I found a suggestion from chef Anna Sortun to toss them in a pan with warm olive oil and use them in a stuffing with Serrano ham.
Whichever you do, you'll have to do it quickly. The vendor only brought them to let people sample them, and he expects to only have enough to sell them next Saturday. They're so rare in this market, he's s not even sure what to charge for them. If he has them, they'll be in the second tent from the entrance by the parking lot, next to the Community House.
I was once doing a story on food in Charleston when I hooked up with Matt and Ted Lee for a couple of stops. They took me to one of the great fried-chicken places, a tiny joint called Martha Lou's. As we walked in the door, the guy behind the counter hollered out, "Lee Brothers in the HOUSE!"
OK, long way to explain that South Carolina is having a contest where you actually can win Lee Brothers in your house, to cook for your supper club. The S.C. Department of Agriculture is sponsoring "Lee Brother Your Supper," a campaign to encourage people to buy certified S.C. produce and products.
Through July 31, you can enter the free drawing to win a supper-club dinner cooked by Matt and Ted using all-S.C. food. (Your supper club event must be held in South Carolina for no more than 50 people.) There will also be weekly drawings for T-shirts and copies of their newest book, "Simple Fresh Southern." Get an entry form online at www.leebrotheryoursupper.com. If you're not from South Carolina, you still can get daily Lee Brothers recipes and cooking tips.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
In our guide to N.C. food gifts in December, Andrea Weigl and I included Bamboo Ladies Pickles, made in Raleigh by Carla Faw Squires. Squires got a little more attention today, with a shoutout by Florence Fabricant in the New York Times. (Oh great - now we'll never be able to get them!)
The pickles really are unusual and delicious. Yes, they are made from bamboo, from a family recipe. They get attention when you put them out for hors d'oeuvres or on an antipasti platter. In Charlotte, I found them at Dean & Deluca and the Common Market, ranging from $8 to $10 for an 8-ounce jar. Or you can get information at www.bambooladies.com.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Yes, that is a Chef Boyardee pizza made from a boxed kit. And yes, I made it (and ate it). It's part of our Father's Day tribute in Wednesday's Food section.
Don't worry, we have better food in honor of fathers, too: Experts Walter Royal of the Angus Barn, Robert Brener of Johnson & Wales and Vic Giroux of What's Your Beef share their tips for grilling the perfect steak.
Also: Whether it's OK to eat fruit on an empty stomach, and recipes for Green Goddess dressing, turkey wraps and bacon blue-cheese burgers.
Look for it all on Wednesday at www.charlotteobserver.com/food.
When I checked last week, Charlotte's Whole Foods is still a big pile of dirt. Pass your time with this while you're waiting for the chance to get your Humboldt Fog in those little carts they got . . .
Monday, June 13, 2011
My blog post on Taste of Charlotte brought an interesting comment from George 10:09 AM:
"Have these vendors been inspected and certified by the state or city? If I got sick on bean sprouts and decided to go to court, would the city have a bond to cover that?"
Excellent question, George. I called Lynn Latham, the environmental supervisor for the Food & Facilities Sanitation Program through the Mecklenburg County Health Department.
The answer, George: Yes, they are inspected. Anyone selling food to the public has to meet certain requirements. In the case of festival vendors such as the restaurants working Taste of Charlotte, they first have to apply for a permit. Their application has to explain what they're making and how they plan to handle it. Food & Facilities can approve or disapprove the application, and give them notes on what they need to do to get approved.
Then there's a site inspection when the tents are set up. "We go down there, we look at the setup, we make sure it matches what was on the application," says Latham. "We're making sure they have setups for utensil washing, for handwashing, that they have proper storage of the food, there's proper temperatures, that we don't have cross-contamination issues. Once we're assured, we issue them a permit. They're allowed to operate for that period only."
In the case of a recurring event with food, inspectors go every time to check the setup.
Food trucks have to get a permit that shows their setup has been approved, and they are then subject to unannounced inspections, just like stationary restaurants. That happens about every 3 months. The trucks have to supply the health department with a route and updates, so inspectors can find them for occasional inspections.
Bonding isn't part of what Latham does as an inspector. But I recently asked Robert Krumbine of Charlotte Center City Partners to address a question about the trucks at the Thursday night food-truck rally uptown and he indicated that trucks have to be bonded to take part in that event.
Whether you can bring a case against a vendor who makes you sick is trickier, says Latham. "When it comes down to proving foodborne illness, are people willing to go to the doctor and is the doctor willing to take specimens?" Sometimes doctors are more focused on making you feel better, or people skip getting tested if their health insurance doesn't cover it.
"That's a battle we fight all the time. Without a specimen, you can't pinpoint the organism. Actually proving a foodborne illness isn't easy."
Latham emphasized that you can help by letting the health department know if you see something that you think might be a problem.
"The important thing is, if there is food for sale to the public, there must be involvement from the Health Department. They can show you their permit, which is not the same as the business license. (You) can ask to see a health department permit. If there is not one, there is no assurance that everything is approved."
To contact the health department or to see the regulations or report a possible violation, go to www.meckhealth.org and click on "Environmental Health," or call the department, 704-336-5100. It's also very easy to see the inspection report on a restaurant: http://mecklenburg.digitalhealthdepartment.com/
Friday, June 10, 2011
I do! I win the endurance contest, anyway. Observer features editor Mike Weinstein and I took on the challenge this afternoon, joining several sets of judges in 90-plus heat. What a coincidence: We had to go from booth to booth and judge roughly 93 offerings.
The actual winners were announced last night. See results below.
In the meantime, a few observations about the Taste of Charlotte event if you're going:
1. It's gotten better. In the first few years, the lineup was more generic festival food. But in the last couple of years, it's really increased the number of local and non-chain restaurants. For those who remember the original Taste of Charlotte back when it was in 4th Ward Park, this is a good trend. This year's roundup included Harvest Moon Grille, Caffe Siena, Divine Pies (hi, Agnes!), Mert's, Dixie's Tavern, RiRa and Outlaw BBQ. Also, there was a good representation of international restaurants, including Woodlands, Namaste and Brazas.
2. Good turnout. I thought expected it to be deserted during the judging hours of 1 to 3 p.m. on a Friday. But even in the heat, it was pulling in a good crowd. And people seemed to be relaxed and having a good time.
3. Pulled pork. And more pulled pork. Even restaurants that aren't known for it were serving it. Understandable: It's a crowd-pleaser, and it's easy to do from a booth with steam tables. But by the 4th -- or was it the 5th? -- we were no longer squealing with delight.
4. Don't miss: Caffe Siena's Sea Bass Cake with Chipotle Slaw, Outlaw's brisket slider, Brazas' bacon-wrapped chicken, Polka Dot Bakery's Tuxedo cupcake, Flying Biscuit's BLT wrap, Mai Thai's Ginger Chicken Wing and Ri Ra's Guiness wings.
The official winners:
Best overall: Harvest Moon Grille, for Moonitas.
Best entree: Caffe Siena, Sea Bass Cake
Appetitzer, Modern Mexican, jalapeno shrimp
Dessert: Polka Dot Bakery, Tuxedo Cupcake
Most unique: Mert's Heart and Soul, Soul Roll
Display: Newk's Express.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Rhonda Mathis of Charlotte is the winner in our random drawing for a copy of the cookbook "Tupelo Honey Cafe," by Elizabeth Sims, featuring recipes from the little restaurant in downtown Asheville.
While we're on the subject of Asheville, here's a question for you: What's your don't-miss eating experience there these days? I'm making a trip over there soon. On my list: 12 Bones and Doc Chey's, and a return visit to The Admiral.
I've already been to Barley's Taproom, Chocolate Fetish, Early Girl, Tupelo Honey, The Market Place, the Laughing Seed and Zambra. And of course, I've made many trips to the French Broad Food Co-Op and the Grove Arcade.
What else should be on my list, Asheville fans?
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
A couple of links worth following this morning:
In case you have noticed, CNN has been featuring North Carolina as part its Defining America series. Now CNN's food-centric Web city Eatocracy.com is singling out livermush for attention in this report. Why you need to go: They're taking a poll on how people feel about livermush. Vote early and often.
If you're feeling gipped about spring taking such an early departure, a feature on Leite's Culinaria might make you feel better. Somewhere, in climates other than this one, people are still eating strawberries and asparagus. Go here for Renee Schettler Rossi's lovely story and some equally lovely pictures.
Whenever I've been on WFAE's "Charlotte Talks," there is always that moment when the "on air" light turns on, the music cues up through my headphones, host Mike Collins starts his patter - and I give a big gulp. Here comes a chance to make a fool of myself while thousands of people are listening.
It's enough to make a girl wish she had a good cocktail at 9 in the morning. Not that I would indulge so early, but still.
So when a new cocktail book, "The Ultimate Cocktail Book," by Bill Reveall and Neil Mersh landed on my desk the other day, guess what caught my eye? The Mike Collins.
Yes, there is a Mike Collins cocktail. Sadly, it doesn't have anything to do with our longtime talk-radio host. It's a variation in the large Collins family, iced cocktails that always include lemon juice and soda water. Tom Collins is the best known, made with gin, but there are collinses. I've dallied on occasion with the John Collins, made with bourbon or rye. There's the Juan Collins, with tequila, the Pierre Collins, with brandy, and the Comrade Collins, with vodka. There's even a nonalcoholic version called a Phil Collins. And apparently, there's a Mike Collins, made with Irish whiskey.
Still, knowing there's a Mike Collins is a good excuse to raise a glass to our own Mike Collins. Mike, here's to you. And your mic.
Mike Collins From "The Ultimate Cocktail Book" ($17.95, Hamlyn).
5 to 6 ice cubes
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon simple syrup (see note)
3 ounces Irish whiskey
1 orange slice
1 maraschino cherry
Club soda or seltzer
Orange rind spiral
Put the ice cubes into a cocktail shaker. Pour the lemon juice, sugar syrup and whiskey over the ice and shake until a frost forms. Pour, without straining, into a tumbler or Collins glass and add the orange slice and cherry speared on a cocktail stick. Top with soda water, stir lightly and serve decorated with an orange rind spiral.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
If you go by the Atherton Market, 2104 South Blvd., on Saturday, you'll be able to see a new project: The Farmer Foodshare Donation Station.
(And if you go to the Atherton Market today, remember that it'open from 3-7 p.m. Tuesdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays.)
At the Farmer Foodshare Donation Station, shoppers can donate fresh food bought from the stalls or cash that volunteers will use to buy fresh food. The food will go to Friendship Trays, the Dilworth Soup Kitchen and Urban Ministries.
The Farmer Foodshare program is already operating at Carrboro Farmers Market near Chapel Hill. Since May 2009, farmers and shoppers have provided more than 41,078 pounds of food to feed the hungry.
As a regular farmers market shopper, I have to say this one is a great idea. I'd happily buy two heads of cauliflower instead of one, or an extra bucket of peaches to make sure somebody else's family gets to eat fresh, locally grown food.
To help the program get started, Harvest Moon Grille will host a dinner Monday with Joe Kwon of the Avett Brothers helping out in the kitchen. A percentage of the proceeds will be used get Farmer Foodshare off to a good start. Reservations are strongly recommended. There are no tickets, just the usual cost of dinner entrees, which usually runs from $16 to $25. Get more details here.
If the last season of "Top Chef Masters" had been as fun as the Padma Lakshmi mashup video, I might still be watching . . .
The International Association of Culinary Professionals announced winners of its awards last week. Along with the James Beard Foundation, the IACP gives annual awards for books and food writing.
Among the IACP winners this year: Jonathan Bloom of Durham, author of the book "American Wasteland," in the Food Matters category. Bloom tied with Deborah Krasner, author of "Good Meat." Bloom also has a blog, Wasted Food.
Authors Matt and Ted Lee of New York and Charleston won the American category for "The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern."
To recognize the 25th anniversary of IACP's book awards, five books were named to the Culinary Classics category, for books that made meaningful contributions to the field of culinary literature: "A Book of Mediterranean Food," by Elizabeth David; "On Food and Cooking," by Harold McGee; "The Classic Italian Cook Book," by Marcella Hazan; "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle; and "The Joy of Cooking" (1975 edition) by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker.
For the full list of IACP winners, go here.
Monday, June 6, 2011
While you're shaking off the weekend haze, here are a few interesting links that popped up over the weekend:
Yes, that's a blue lobster, a rare phenomenon that's documented on Eater.com. They turn up occasionally, and this one is headed to an aquarium.
My colleague Andrea Weigl has a fascinating column about the difficulties of determining the source of her supposedly N.C.-caught seafood. (I should have linked to it last week, but it got a bit busy around here, between the Target food prices and the importance of letting everyone weigh in with their thoughts on Miss Cheerwine.)
On the practical side, when you need hurricane advice, turn to a Floridian. Food writer Jan Norris has an excellent roundup of practical hurricane-season kitchen precautions that applies to any power outage, even a winter storm.
And just to get you tapping your toes, Seriouseats.com has a roundup of 12 songs about coffee. I'll warn you, though: Frank Sinatra's "The Coffee Song" is compulsively catchy. I have it on my iPod, but I have to listen with caution. Once it starts, it's hard to get the darn thing out of your head.
Friday, June 3, 2011
And yes, we'll give one away. Read to the end to find out how.
The thing that keeps me endlessly interested in writing about Southern food is how it takes so many guises: It can be as down-home as a Paula Deen-knitted afghan, and as cutting-edge as sous vide pasture-raised pork. It can be soul food, it can be tea room food. And it's still all good.
And this year, we have a particularly fine crop of cookbooks from authors right here in North Carolina. Consider, and definitely consider buying:
"Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes," by Andrea Reusing (Clarkson Potter, $35). Quite a year for the chef of Chapel Hill's Lantern. She got the James Beard medal as Best Chef Southeast, and she turned out this terrific book. She writes more as a food lover than a chef, with a natural and warm style. The result is both a cookbook and a vibrant portrait of the food culture in the Triangle. Even better: She's cooking with the food that's all around us, right here and right now. There is serious inspiration to be had here.
"Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen," by Sara Foster (Random House, $35). The owner of the Foster's Market cafes in Durham and Chapel Hill has written several cookbooks. This feels like her most personal book yet, and much more Southern. Like the food in her cafes, the recipes are good-times dishes with comfortable style. Lots of tips for working with ingredients and changing up the dishes. Lots of great pictures, too, for those who need to see it before they'll cook it.
"The New Southern Garden Cookbook," by Sheri Castle (UNC Press, $35). If you're a CSA member or a farmer's market regular, you need this. It's broken down by ingredient, from apples to zucchini. This is the book for those times when you stumble on really great figs or green garlic, or a dozen others. The recipes are a mix of old favorites, like "kilt" lettuce (an Appalachian version of a wilted salad) and more contemporary tastes, like garlic custard, collard pesto and smoked tomatoes.
"Tupelo Honey Cafe," by Elizabeth Sims with chef Brian Sonoskus (Andrews McMeel, $29.99). It's as much a celebration of the "Foodtopia" of Asheville as it is about the sweet cafe near Pack Square. This is not one of those "postcard to me" chef books with food you'll admire but not make. The recipes here are completely doable and kitchen-friendly. For proof, see the recipe below for Warm Pimento Cheese And Chips.
OK, a giveaway: I've got a copy of "Tupelo Honey Cafe" to share. Send me an email with "Tupelo Honey" in the subject line and I'll pick a winner at random. Deadline: 9 a.m. June 9.
Warm Pimento Cheese And Chips From "Tupelo Honey Cafe," by Elizabeth Sims.
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely diced roasted red bell pepper
Combine all the ingredients except the tortilla chips in a large bowl to mix. Transfer to a microwaveable dish and microwave about 20 seconds, or until hot. Or put in a baking dish in a preheated 350-degree oven about 15 minutes, or until heated through. Serve with the tortilla chips.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Carolina barbecue makers get plenty of attention and some gorgeous pictures in Saveur magazine's June/July special issue "A Tribute to Cooking With Fire."
Executive editor Dana Bowen, a North Carolina regular, writes a tribute to great N.C. barbecue places in "East Vs. West," and John T Edge covers pitmasters and customers in North and South Carolina in his story "BBQ Nation." Kansas City, Texas, South Chicago and East L.A.'s barbacoa get attention, too, as well as barbecue books and barbecue competitions.
The issue is $5 and is on newstands now. If you're a barbecue fan, it's a keeper.
In the meantime, we have our own barbecue project coming up next week, on the dwindling art of wood-cooked barbecue. Stay tuned for that.
This is the picture Salisbury-based Cheerwine sent out to announce the appointment of the first Miss Cheerwine, "a brand ambassador that will travel throughout the South for a fun-filled summer, meeting fans and representing the iconic drink at concerts and events."
Miss Cheerwine is Spencer Cummings, 23, an N.C. native who now lives in Chattanooga, Tenn. She was chosen for "embodying the effervescence found in every can and bottle."
Yes, she was chosen for her sparkling personality. I guess we haven't come such a long way, baby.