Friday, June 28, 2013

Want to cook and drink beer Saturday?

OK, some of you will be doing that already. But if you're looking for a more organized way to do that, and learn something at the same time, it's almost-but-not-quite-too-late to sign up for an outdoor cooking class and brewery tour Saturday morning (as in tomorrow morning) at Old Mecklenburg Brewery, 215 Southside Dr.

Fire & Beer starts at 10 a.m. with an outdoor cooking class taught by Tom Condron of the Liberty, "Down to the Bone! The Southern Grill." Then you get a tour of the brewery, followed by a lunch featuring the dishes made in class.

It's $50, reservations required. But here's the good news: The reservations are handled by The Liberty, so you can call 704-332-8830 until 11 p.m. tonight and snag a seat. (And my pardons for being late --the announcement was sent to a co-worker who forwarded to me, and I missed it in my inbox. Which is no surprise if you've seen my inbox.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

OK, y'all -- here's a Southern chef story to love

While the debate goes on about Paula Deen's dismal legacy, here's a chance to get excited about another kind of Southern food story.

"A Chef's Life," the PBS series about Vivian Howard and Ben Knight and their restaurant The Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, will debut in September. I was already looking forward to it. Here's the column I wrote last year after my colleague Andrea Weigl took me to visit the restaurant. 

This morning, there's a preview video up for the show. And after watching it, I'll admit it: I'm excited.

Get ready for a different, and loving, look at cooking and living in the South, and particularly in our state. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

10 tips to help kids form healthier habits

When kids are out of school for the summer, it can be a good time to focus on things like healthful eating habits. You're packing lunches for summer camps and fruits and vegetables are all around you.

The American Heart Association sent out a good list of 10 tips to try:

1. Portion control. Parcel snacks out into small bags to make it easier.
2. Sneak in whole grains. Instead of switching suddenly to whole grain pasta, for instance, mix in a little at a time until they get used to it.
3. Lead by example. If you want your kids to get regular exercise and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, they need to see you doing it.
4. Make healthful food fun. Try introducing new food in stages. If they only eat mac and cheese, add a little broccoli to it and move up from there.
5. Don't pressure kids to eat. Just present the new food and don't make a big deal about it. Or ask them which new food they'd like to try, then find a way to make it.
6. Eat together. Studies have shown this one over and over -- families that eat together at a regular mealtime tend to eat more healthfully. And regular mealtimes cut down on snacking.
7. Relax. Food shouldn't be pressure, it should be pleasure. Small changes add up over time.
8. Get kids involved. Shopping, growing food, cooking -- you learn to control what you eat when you have more input into it.
9. Plan meals. If a whole week seems like too much, at least plan a couple of days at a time.
10. Read up on nutrition. Reading nutrition labels counts. So do books on where food comes from. The more reading, the better.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Eat popcorn in Belmont

If you go to the Red, White & Belmont festival next weekend, watch for the red truck from "The Biggest Loser" and the snack company Popcorn, Indiana. The truck is traveling across the country for "FIT Across America 2013," a focus on healthful snacking.

You get samples of FIT ready-to-eat popcorn (40 calories in a 1-cup serving), as well as giveaways and tips from representatives of the NBC show "The Biggest Loser."

Red, White & Belmont will be in Stowe Park, 24 S. Main St. in Belmont, from Friday, June 28, through Sunday, June 30. Get more details on the festival at

Friday, June 21, 2013

A tough week for Paula Deen

Eat your grits with a smile

Jane Bruce of Chapel Hill (formerly of Charlotte and Charleston -- apparently Jane only lives in cities that start with CH) shared this with me a little while back, in exchange for cooking tips that I've shared over the years.

Take it with a pat of butter and a grain of salt. Another part of Jane's grits information noted that the proper amount of salt is one grain of salt per 10 grits.

The 10 Commandments of Grits
I. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits.
II. Thou shalt not eat thy Grits with a spoon or knife.
III. Thou shalt not eat Cream of Wheat and call it Grits, for this is blasphemy.
IV. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's Grits.
V. Thou shalt use only salt, butter, and red-eye gravy as toppings for thy Grits.
VI Thou shalt not eat Instant Grits.
VII. Thou shalt not put ketchup on thy Grits.
VIII. Thou shalt not put margarine on thy Grits.
IX. Thou shalt not eat toast with thy Grits, only biscuits made from scratch.
X. Thou shalt eat grits on the Sabbath for this is manna from heaven.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Get dirty for dinner

I had to reach out a very long way to get information on the 3rd annual Soil to Soul Farm Dinner: "Tiny Chef" Susanne Dillingham, one of the organizers, is in Italy at the moment. But she'll be back in time for the dinner July 13 (rain date July 14) at Windy Hill Farm (in New London, between Concord and Albemarle). 

Dillingham and chef Craig Barbour of Roots Farm Food will be the cooks for the five-course dinner. As an example, the main course features a moonshine-basted whole roasted hog wrapped in pancetta and served over a sweet pea and Silver Queen corn succotash. 

Tickets are $75 cash or check ($80 by credit card) and reservations are due by July 8. You can get tickets through Roots, Windy Hill Farm or using Paypal at Dillingham's Tiny Chef website,

And since the evening starts with a walking tour of the farm, dress casual and comfortable. Dirt is optional.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Looking for a recipe from a local restaurant?

Have you eaten something at a local restaurant that you're dying to try to make yourself? Robin Domeier wants to know about it for a new column on recipes from restaurants.

Remember, though, that national chain restaurants rarely share their recipes. So it's best to stick to dishes made by local chefs. She also may need to adjust some of the recipes, particularly if they involve very large quantities or products that aren't available to home cooks. But Robin has a lot of experience and training as a personal chef. So if she can't get it, there's a chance she can come up with something like it.

The column will start next month and she's looking for requests to get started. Send her an email at with the name of the menu item, the restaurant where it's served, your name and the town where you live (there are so many towns in our circulation area that we like to be able to say if you live in Mooresville or Monroe) and a little bit about why you like the dish so much.

Great summer vegetable trick: Pan-braising

Cam Wester's lineup of things she pan-braised.
I got an email a few weeks ago from reader Cam Wester:

"You were nice enough to reply to an email I wrote you a couple of months ago about your blurb in the paper on pan braising. Just had to show you today's pan-braised effort: Sugar snaps, grape tomatoes, asparagus, chard (to put with some of the tomatoes and some white beans), skinny green beans, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Clearly I was in the mood for vegetables -- and this was just from the grocery store! Can't wait to get to the farmers market!"

I've written about pan-braising several times, but early summer is a good time for a refresher. As you can see from Cam's description, it's an all-purpose cooking method that works for a wide variety of vegetables. When you have a pile of stuff from the garden or a bunch of things you bought because they looked so good, you couldn't resist, this is the technique you need.

Here are my general directions:

1. TRIM the vegetables and cut into large but still bite-size pieces. If they're small, like cherry tomatoes or skinny green beans, leave them whole.

2. PLACE in a skillet with a scant 1/4 cup of water, about 2 tablespoons olive oil and any seasonings you like (salt, pepper, dried herbs, a sprinkling of red pepper flakes or smoked paprika are all favorites of mine).

3. COVER the skillet and bring to a boil. Cook maybe 2 to 3 minutes for a lighter green vegetable such as broccoli or greens, a little longer for something dense like cubed winter squash or root vegetables. You want the vegetables to be just fork-tender.

4. REMOVE the lid and continue cooking for a few minutes until the water has cooked away and what's left is the oil flavoring with the vegetable juices. Stir-fry for a minute and serve.

That's it -- fast and easy, with just a little fat added. Do you have a go-to fast method you love? Add a comment and share. Thanks. And thanks for writing, Cam.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Help Community Culinary School with Whole Foods day

If you're planning a shopping trip to Whole Foods, put June 25 on your calendar: That's 5% Day to support Community Culinary School of Charlotte.

CCS is a terrific Charlotte resource. A culinary program for people who are chronically unemployed or coming back from hard times, it trains people for jobs in food service. On 5% Day, five percent of the store's net sales that day will be donated to the nonprofit school. Staff from the school will also be there that day to talk about the program.

And if you want another way to eat well while helping the school, don't forget their Bistro!, a lunch program held at 1 p.m. every other Thursday at the school, 2401-A Distribution St. near SouthEnd, while classes are in session. It's free, but takes donations. For details on that and the whole school, go to

Monday, June 17, 2013

Matthews farmers market adds Tuesday night hours

You're craving fresh food but you just can't get to a farmer's market on Saturday morning? The Matthews Community Farmers' Market starts its Tuesday Twilight Market this week through Aug. 6.

That's 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays in the usual market space, in the little field at North Trade Street in Matthews, about a mile off N.C. 51 near U.S. 74. (If you need GPS, try the address for Renfrow's Hardware on the other end of the block, 188 N. Trade St., Matthews.)

The market will have the same (or mostly the same) locally grown produce, baked goods, cut flowers and  chef-made entrees you'd find on the weekend. Plus, only at the Tuesday market, Alex Ranucci of Ranucci's Big Butt Barbecue will sell 1-pound packages of barbecue ready to take home for dinner. This week's chef demo will be Tia Bazzelle of Mert's Heart and Soul.

 For details on the rest of the Matthews market action, go to

Smell the smoke at the Blue Ridge Barbecue Championship

A sunny Saturday morning is the perfect time to be a judge at the Blue Ridge Barbecue Championship in Tryon, N.C. Unfortunately, even for my hardy Verizon connection, it wasn't the best place to send Tweets from the action. I only got sporadic Tweets to go out.

Before we get to the action, the winners were:
Overall: Rocky Top Barbeque, Walt Moulton, Jonesborough, Tenn.
Governor's Trophy: Smoke in the Mountains, Brandon Ray, Asheville, and Smoke This, Scott Jarrett, Hickory.
Chicken: Rocky Top. (Scott Adams, Sauced! BBQ, Charlotte, placed third.)
Pork: Fowl Butt BBQ, Jan Mitchel, Decatur, Ind. (Zach Goodyear, Sauceman's BBQ, Charlotte, placed second.)
Brisket: Smoke in the Mountains.
Whole Hog: Bubba Jack's, Jack Chavis Jr., Charlotte. (Jeff Del Mastro, Mac's Smoke Shop, placed fourth.)
Anything But: Flaming Pig, Vick Wilkins, Red Springs.
Dessert: Scott Adams, Charlotte.

Yep, that's me, judging once again.
Isaac Brown, 17, was a first-time judge.

My favorite category: Ribs.
Jim Tabb, in hat, founded the festival.
Whole-hog judges study an entry.

Thighs are popular in the chicken category.
Judges are sequestered until after the contest.

We can't visit the teams until the end of the day. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Reporting from the Blue Ridge Barbecue Festival

I head to Tryon on Saturday to serve as a judge for the 20th annual Blue Ridge Barbecue championship.

What's it like being a barbecue judge? I've judged this one more times than I can count (although I've taken the last couple of years off). So I can tell you that it is delicious, smoky, and harder than it looks. It also means eating so much pork that your brain gets addled.

Having said that, I'll try to capture this one by Twitter throughout the day Saturday and round it up here next week. Follow along and let me know how I'm doing -- I'm @kathleenpurvis on Twitter, and I'll use the hashtag #ncbbq.

And I apologize in advance for that pork-addled brain thing.

Is your dad a wine guy?

If you're celebrating a dad who is a beer fan on Father's Day, I have a whole menu of beer dishes right here.

But what if he isn't a beer guy? 201 Central, a wine and beer store in Wesley Chapel, will end Friday with "Cabs for Dads," a tasting with more than 30 cabernet sauvignons and appetizers from 5 to 8 p.m.

The tasting is free, and you can get a 20 percent discount on mixed cases.

201 Central stocks wine, beer and specialty food. It's at 5939 Weddington Monroe Road; 704-821-2686. Wesley Chapel, by the way, is about halfway between Matthews and Monroe, southwest of U.S. 74 off Route 84.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Want to get involved with a plastic bag ban?

Charlotte White of Charlotte would like to see our city ban the use of disposable plastic bags, as several cities have done. So she has started a petition drive to ask the city to take action, either banning or requiring a fee for single-use bags.

As she explained in an email:  "As of right now DC is the closest city that has any plastic bag laws in place, and that is why I think Charlotte could be a great leader of environmental responsibility in the South East."

White says she will hold a reusable-bag giveaway on Saturday at the SouthPark Earth Fare from noon-2 p.m. Provide an email address so she can send you information and you get a reusable shopping bag. 

If you want to skip the giveaway and go straight to the petition, go to . 

This isn't White's first food-related environmental drive.  A couple of years ago, she used her blog, Random Charlotte, to start a campaign called Leftover Love to try to get people to take their own containers to restaurants so they didn't use disposable containers. 

Need a farm camp for the kids?

There are farm teams, so how about a farm camp? The organization Know Your Farms, which has operated  farm-subscription services and local-food activities in the Charlotte area for several years, will hold two sessions of Camp Food Sprouts, a day camp this summer for children ages 6-12.

The sessions are Wild Safari, July 8-12 and Picnic Fun July 15-19. The camps include lessons in sustainablity and ethical land stewardship, garden, kitchen activities and outdoor play. The camps are 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. weekdays (additional child care is offered until 5:30 p.m. for $20 an hour).

Base fee for each camp is $300, although the organization says the price is negotiable. There also are discounts for  members of the Know Your Farms farm subscription and for those with multiple children signed up.

The camps are held at Unity of Charlotte Church, 401 E. Arrowood Road. Details and registration:


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Whitewater, cold beer

Temperatures in the mid- to upper 80s and a 10 percent chance of rain? Looks like a shot at a decent Saturday coming up. If our story on an all-beer menu for Father's Day put you in the brew mood, remember that Saturday is the Brew Stash Bash at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

That would be an all-day festival with a trail race, live music and craft beer sampling from more than 20 local and national breweries. The 6K Brew Dash begins at 11 a.m. Preregistration is $27 and ends at midnight tonight. Preregistration gets you a slot in the race and a commemorative pint glass.

The actual beer event and festival starts at 1 p.m. on Belmont Abbey Island. Beer tickets are four for $5 and each one gets a 4-ounce sample. Sampling ends at 6 p.m.

For details, schedules and directions, go to .

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

World, get ready to meet Vivian Howard

If you don't pass through Kinston all that often -- and it's 90 minutes just to get there from Raleigh -- you may not have had a chance to stop at The Chef & the Farmer, the from-the-heart restaurant by chef Vivian Howard (above) and her husband, Ben Knight. I wrote a column about Howard's smart cooking last fall, and since then, I've heard from several friends who have made the trek and loved the place as much as I did.

Now Howard is about to make her TV debut, in a PBS series "A Chef's Life" that will debut in September. The story is about how Howard works with local farmers in Eastern N.C. to get the ingredients she uses in the restaurant, and about her life: She and Knight, an artist, left New York several years ago to open a restaurant in Kinston, her home town. They're raising twins while operating a restaurant in an unlikely place. And they've faced tough odds: The restaurant was badly damaged in a fire two years ago, and had to rebuild.

From PBS' description: "Using a chef's modern sensibilities, Vivian explores Southern cuisine, past and present -- one ingredient at a time. A celebration of true farm to table food." 

"A Chef's Life" debuts on PBS stations Sept. 13. Watch for it. And if you haven't been to The Chef & the Farmer . . . I have a hunch you might want to book a table soon.

Photo Credit: Rex Miller

Make stuff in the South? Garden & Gun wants you

If you make a food, fashion, outdoor or home product in the South, Garden & Gun, the Charleston-based magazine of Southern-related cool, has opened the entry season for its annual Made in the South Awards.

The awards are for craftspeople or businesses with a Southern-made product. In addition to the four original categories -- Food, Style and Design, Outdoors and Home -- they've added a new category, Drink. (Hmm, what category would a book written in the South about bourbon fit into?)

Winners get $500 and appear in the December 2013/January 2014 issue.  Judges include Birmingham chef Frank Stitt, Atlanta designers Sid and Ann Mashburn, Brooks Reitz of the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and interior designer Barrie Benson.

The deadline for entry is Aug. 1. Go here to get an entry form and the full rules.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Blue Ridge Barbecue Festival marks 20 years

If you want to see the smoke in the Smokies, consider a run to Tryon this Saturday for the Blue Ridge Barbecue Festival -- the state's official N.C. barbecue championship, as declared by Gov. Pat McCrory.

This is the 20th anniversary, and it includes a visit from Destination America's show "BBQ Pitmasters," which will be filming an upcoming segment of the show. There's also music, including Donna the Buffalo, TownMountain and Big Daddy Love, a craft show and carnival rides.

Which brings us to the barbecue contest, the center of the whole thing. This is a KCBS-sanctioned event, and teams and judges come from all over. I'm returning as a judge this year, so I'll be in the sequestered tent. If you've never been to a barbecue competition, you can watch the cooking at all of the tents, but you can only buy barbecue from designated vendors. There's also a barbecue shopping area where you can buy books, rubs and sauces.

This year, the contest is part of the Western N.C. Points Chase: Teams enter three contests, the Blue Ridge, the Maggie Valley Barbecue Festival July 26-27 and the Franklin Mountain High BBQ Aug. 9-10. The team with the highest accumulated score from all three gets an additional prize of $1,000.

Friday is free from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, adult tickets are $8 and children under 12 get in free. For details, directions, a full schedule and hours, go to or call 828-859-RIBS.

One Great . . . ice cream bread

After running the three-ingredient Beer Bread recently, I suppose it had to happen. Someone sent me a link to a two-ingredient bread, made with ice cream.

The ice cream bread is pinned up all over the internet, particularly Pinterest. The idea is as easy as it gets: A pint of ice cream, any flavor (I used Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia, but Chunky Monkey would be a good contender, too) and self-rising flour. The result is a simple bread, with a texture that's between a quick bread and a loaf bread. It makes good toast for a weekend morning, or you could grill a slice and top it with Nutella and diced fruit for a summery dessert.

One adjustment I made was to the pan size. While some internet versions show it made in an 8- or 9-inch standard loaf pan, I got better results with a smaller 7-by-5-inch loaf pan. You also could use a muffin pan.  

Ice Cream Bread
Adapted from all over the internet.

1 pint ice cream, any flavor
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

PLACE the ice cream at room temperature for 30 minutes, until softened but not completely melted. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

SCRAPE the softened ice cream into a mixing bowl. Add the flour and stir until blended.

SPREAD the batter in a nonstick 7-inch loaf pan or a muffin pan. (If you're not using nonstick, spray the pan with nonstick spray.) Bake 35 to 45 minutes, until the center springs back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted in the center comes out dry. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a rack.

YIELD: One small loaf.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rain or shine, farmers markets are still ready for you

Looking at all the gray weather makes me glad I'm not out in the fields today. But local farmers and food producers are, and they'll need your business Saturday morning for sure.

What's up at some of the local markets this weekend:

The Atherton Mill and Market celebrates its third anniversary at SouthEnd in a big way. Peter Hatch, the retired director of Thomas Jefferson's historic garden at Monticello, will speak briefly at 9:45 a.m. and will sign copies of his book, "A Rich Spot of Earth," at 11 a.m. I had the chance to meet Peter a number of years ago when the Association of Food Journalists visited Monticello and he's inspiring on the subject of heirloom produce and biodiversity. Other festivities: the Mike Strauss Band will play from 10 to noon, and chefs from Jimmy Noble's King Kitchen will do cooking demos starting around 11 a.m.

Peach season is arriving slowly, like everything else this year, but the first peaches are in. So Saturday is the start of the annual Peach Fundraiser at the Matthews Community Market. Pee-Dee Orchards of Wadesboro will have Rich May peaches for $18 a peck or $7 for a quarter peck. Proceeds help to operate the market. This week's chef demo is Marc Jacksina of Halcyon Flavors of the Earth.

I don't have specific news on the Charlotte Regional Market, the 7th Street Public and the Davidson markets, but that's probably because there's so much going on, they don't have time to writing. But you can find a guide to all the markets in the 6-county region, including a searchable map, at I'll also try to Tweet about what I found on my own shopping exccursion, if you want to follow along; I'm @kathleenpurvis at

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How do you handle your tomatoes?

In my column  this week, I raised the question of whether we should place tomatoes stem-up or stem-down on the counter. After hearing the debate among the experts, I came away from the research thinking about how you actually have been set free to do what your tomato needs you to do:

If you have a tomato that needs to ripen, you could go stem-up, so that it releases moisture and the weaker shoulder around the stem doesn't get bruised while you're waiting.

If you have a tomato that already is ripe and you want to make it last a few days longer, you could place it stem down, to slow moisture loss through the stem scar.

Of course, there's always more information than I can fit into the space for my column. Please note that even though America's Test Kitchen experimented with putting tape over the stem scar, you should be careful with that idea. Plant pathologist Jerry Bartz of the University of Florida points out that sealing the scar too tightly,  particularly with something like paraffin, could interrupt the entry of oxygen into the tomato interior enough to create an anaerobic environment, which allows the growth of some dangerous bacteria.

Also, no one disagrees on the issue of refrigerating uncut tomatoes, which taste best at room temperature. Once you slice a tomato, you should move it to the refrigerator if you're not going to use it within a couple of hours.

How about you? How do you handle your tomatoes? And are you likely to change?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

One Great . . . potluck treat

You think you get embarrassed when a recipe doesn't work as expected?

I was delighted when my family's last name landed on the dessert list at our neighborhood block party. We're   lucky to leave in a suburb where the neighbors gather for a big party every year. And this time, I had a dessert recipe I wanted to try, a bar cookie version of one of my favorite candy bars, the sweet and salty Payday.

I put the recipe together that afternoon, then left it on the counter to cool while I grabbed a nap. Too bad the original recipe didn't suggest refrigerating it before you cut it. When I heard the party getting started outside, I  grabbed a knife to slice my bars - and found the marshmallow topping was still as soft as soup. I had to shove the pan  in the refrigerator and leave the house empty-handed.

A day later, the bars were ready and my marshmallow-crazy co-workers loved them. But I still owe an apology to my neighbors.

Payday Bars
1 (18.5-ounce) box yellow cake mix
1 egg
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 (10.5-ounce) bag miniature marshmallows
1 (10-ounce) bag peanut butter chips
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup salted peanuts

HEAT oven to 325 degrees. Mix dry cake mix with egg and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a greased 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
LAYER the marshmallows on the hot crust and return the pan to the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until the marshmallows are lightly brown. They'll be puffy but they'll still look bumpy, like the marshmallows they were. Press down on them a little with the flat side of a spatula.
MELT the peanut butter chips with the butter, corn syrup and vanilla in a small saucepan. Drizzle over the marshmallows, covering them as much as possible. Sprinkle with the peanuts while warm.
REFRIGERATE until firm and topping is set. Cut into small squares.
YIELD: About 3 dozen.