I’ve witnessed this fine food and beverage festival, founded and run by the gracious and energetic Colleen Minton, blossom from a decent-sized one-day happening to a three-day Southeastern to-do featuring classes, gatherings, and tastings from more than 45 food and beverage purveyors. I met people from around the Southeast coming to sample dozens of yummies from North Carolina chefs, wine makers and beer brewers. The providers of sustenance have one thing in common (other than offering quality nourishment) — they focus on sustainable products, meaning local farm fare that is grown with minimal chemicals.
Friday night’s East to West sit-down meal featured three of our state’s top chefs — Vivian Howard of Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, Cassie Parsons of Harvest Moon Grille in Charlotte (and a farmer herself), and Adam Rose of Il Palio in Chapel Hill. Offerings included collard dolmades with pork, confit of carrots and beets, Sunburst Trout fritters, rabbit three ways (ravioli, sausage, and confit), and collard green and country ham creamed Carolina Rice middlins with pickled collard stems and turnip roots. I’m having fantastic food-fueled flashbacks! We sat at long communal tables and ate family style, great for getting to know your neighbors, though I missed the aesthetic of plating dishes.
Saturday’s “Grand Tasting” proved equally compelling, and this time plates abounded, tiny ones and plenty of them with samplings too numerous to mention. Several fell into the meat and biscuit category, my favorites being Weathervane’s butternut squash biscuits with pulled pork, and Chapel Hill Country Club’s sausage biscuit with pimento cheese and collard pesto. Chocolate purveyors were sprinkled throughout, including my two favorite in the state, Escazu from Raleigh and French Broad Chocolates from Asheville. It being early afternoon and with no designated driver, I passed on the alcohol but enjoyed eyeing the microbrews, wines, and the state’s first all-local and organic spirits from Top of the Hill. Next year I’ll have to bring Bob.