Thursday, September 18, 2014

September is North Carolina Wine + Grape Month #NCWine

September is North Carolina Wine & Grape Month.

North Carolina currently has over 120 wineries and 400 grape growers.
NC-produced grapes and wine makes the state the 10th largest producer of wine in America. North Carolina is also home to the nation’s first cultivated wine grape, the scuppernong (the official fruit of the state of North Carolina!), which is a variety of the muscadine family. On Friday, you will be able to read and see a little bit more about Scuppernong grapes here on Nik Snacks.

The month of September is nearly over, but now is the best time for NC wine events and more.

Muscadine grapes are noted for their superior antioxidant and other properties, compared to other grapes. My grandma used to make muscadine wine and keep it in bottles on top of our refrigerator. Well, most of the wine turned to vinegar, but the few bottles that weren't vinegar actually turned into something good. Varietals from Duplin Winery and Woodmill Winery are two of my favorites. That being said, I've made a new drink using muscadine wine.

My new favorite drink is something I've created call a Southern Lady.

There is another drink called a Southern Lady or a Southern Belle that is made with Southern Comfort or other bourbon spirits, but this drink is made with muscadine wine.

Two parts muscadine wine
One part cake flavored vodka
Top with club soda

It's sweet, fresh and just as polite and demure as can be.

Curious about this grape? Want to take a little road trip? Well, the 10th Annual Muscadine Harvest Festival in Kenansville, NC takes place September 26-27. Nearly 50 wineries will be present for you to sip, sample, taste and find out all about muscadines, scuppernongs and all kind of grapes in between. has a monthly calendar of events at NC wineries, and other information, too. Check it out.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Opposites Attack: A novel

Summer isn't over yet. 

I don't care that the kids are back in school, that the leaves are starting to change (just a littlelittle bit) that Halloween candy has taken over the Back-to-School shelves. 

The summer got away from me and I didn't do anything summery. Really. I did not go to the beach, have a honest-to-goodness romantic fling, go swimming or even do much day drinking on the front porch. The only summer-like thing I've done, of which I am proud, is read. I managed to go to the public library and pick up a few bestsellers and read to my heart's content.

Back in the Spring, local author and my foodie friend, Jo Maeder gifted me a copy of her latest book, Opposites Attack. I kicked off my summer reading with this!

It's a romantic comedic novel about a nearly 30-something human girl person, Alyce, who travels to the South of France to put her love life on hold, immerse herself in a new culture, a new language and unbeknownst to her, to find herself. Along the way, she is embraced by an unexpected cast of characters and finds refinement and finesse through cooking. Alyce is forced to choose between what she thought she wanted and something totally different. 

The novel is a great read that had me lol'ing for real and gasping aloud at the many unexpected plot twists and turns. Not wanting the story to end, it didn't have to with the handful of authentic recipes printed in the back of the book, inspired by provencial France.

For my local friends and readers:  Jo Maeder will be at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, N.C. on Wednesday, October 15 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM for book signings and general literary frivolity.

Buy this book

If you purchase a copy of the book, you can receive an Amazon Kindle edition for only 99¢!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

$20 Challenge [Pickled green beans + tomato gazpacho + fried egg sandwiches] #dcfarmkt

To prove that you can eat locally grown food AND stay within your grocery budget, the Dixie Classic Fair Farmers Market and the City of Winston-Salem is sponsoring the $20 Challenge twice a month  through September 2014.

I will stage a live cooking demonstration in which I will prepare a meal for a family of four for $20 using ingredients I buy at the market that day.

Did you not make it to the market on Saturday? Watch the $20 Challenge on WSTV-13 on Time Warner Cable (Channels 74.3 and 1303) OR subscribe to the City of Winston-Salem's You Tube channel. 

This week I made pickled green beans, tomato gazpacho and tomato & fried egg sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise aioli--because you can't have a tomato sandwich without mayonnaise.  

I'm probably going to get lambasted for this, but I cannot stand Duke's mayonnaise. It's too sweet and the wrong kind of tangy, to me. I'm a Hellmann's fan through and through. They don't don't call the company Best Foods for no reason! It's easy to see how simple it is to make your own, but tomato sandwiches aren't complete without mayonnaise of any kind.

This week I also visited Camino Bakery at Dixie Classic Fair Farmer's Market and as you can see in the video, I act like I've never heard of or seen the place before. Total FACEPALM. In reality, I am at Camino Bakery a few times a week. I'm there so often, when I'm not, people get worried. I go for the Krankies coffee and I stay for the free wi-fi.

To watch $20 Challenge on You Tube, 
click HERE: 

Pickled anything is good to snack on. Be it green beans, okra, jalapenos, onions or kippered snacks, they go great with sandwiches, beverages, or on their own. The brine solution I use to make these beans is sweet, yet spicy with onion-y undertones. Recipes are merely guidelines and you can use fresh or dried herbs and different seasonings to achieve a tasty result. Try fresh or dried dill, sage, marjoram, and juniper berries for a different flavor.

I've been asked about the unusual lid I used to close my Mason jar. It's manufactured by ReCap Mason Jars. The idea debuted to a successful Kickstarter campaign and the caps are spill-proof and BPA-free, can turn your jar into a drinking glass, storage container or something else completely different. ReCaps are available for Widemouth and Regular-mouth Mason Jars, too. Go to for more info and buy your own set!

Pickled Green Beans

1lb fresh green beans
1 1/4 cups water
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon onion powder
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Sanitize one 1 quart jar with a ring and lid. Slice or snip 1/8 inch off each end of each green bean. Pack green beans into the jar so they are standing on their ends.

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil and stir in the vinegar, salt, sugar, onion powder, peppercorns, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and let the sugar and salt dissolve. Once that happens, take the saucepan off the heat. Ladle or pour the boiling brine into the jar, filling to within 1/4 inch of the top. Seal jar with lid and ring.
Let the jar come to room temperature before opening and enjoying your fresh, pickled beans. Alternatively, place your jar in the refrigerator after the jar is room temperature and enjoy the beans for up to 6 months.

This gazpacho has become one of my signature dishes, I think. I make it multiple times each summer to rave reviews from everyone who has had the opportunity to sample it. I've been asked if it can be heated to make a hot soup. Of course it can! I don't recommend it though: the subtle fresh flavors of the tomatoes and cucumber will probably be ruined by the heat and the slight caramellization of everything will just make it a wet, soupy mess. But that's just my opinion. Remember: recipes are merely guidelines.

Tomato Gazpacho

4 large red tomatoes
1 small cucumber
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons diced bread
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste 
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a blender or food processor until blended and thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle in granulated sugar, season with salt and pepper and with the processor running, slowly pour in the extra-virgin olive oil.

Homemade mayonnaise aioli
Makes 1 cup
1 large egg
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a blender or food processor, add egg, vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend to combine and with the processor running, slowly add olive oil. Add, a few drops at a time, to the egg mixture, until all oil is incorporated and mixture is emulsified (If mixture separates, stop adding oil until mixture comes together, then resume adding oil). The mixture will lighten in color,  thicken and reach a pudding consistency when complete. If the sauce is too salty or vinegary, add more oil.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Special Event: Toast And Jam at Twin City Hive #wsnc #myws

You like Toast and Jam.
I know you do.
Guess what?

NEXT Sunday at Twin City Hive in Winston-Salem, you will be able to have the best of both worlds.

Mark your calendars, add it to Google Calendar, it's going to be an epic event.

So what's this toast & jam about?

In May of 2014, The New Yorker published this:

"Artisanal toast...represents our intensifying obsession with and fetishization of food. Every meal is special and important, every dish should be elevated, revered, and broadcast—even something as pedestrian as toast."

Yes. It's the newest hipster trend to hit the large cities with large populations of hipsters. Winston-Salem is not a metropolis, but boy do we have our hipsters! And boy, we do we like our toast. We are a bread-making, coffee-drinking, music-playing town. Toast & Jam will highlight the City of Arts and Innovation in an artistic and innovative way.

Come taste and see the artisanal toast bar with several types of locally-sourced, handmade breads, jams, jellies, honey and other toppings paired with local coffee roasters such as Krankies Coffee, Counter Culture Coffee and Beans Boro Roasters.

Key Ingredient

Sit and listen to the cool tunes and voice stylings of some local musicians and singers. It's really going to be a fun time. For more information, call Twin City Hive at 336-653-9924 or email

Friday, August 15, 2014

$20 Challenge [Country Gumbo + Skillet Biscuits] #dcfarmkt

To prove that you can eat locally grown food AND stay within your grocery budget, the Dixie Classic Fair Farmers Market and the City of Winston-Salem is sponsoring the $20 Challenge twice a month from now through September in 2014. I will stage a live cooking demonstration in which I will  prepare a meal for a family of four for $20 using ingredients I buy at the market that day.

This week I was joined by renowned local chef and owner of Springhouse Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar, Chef Tim Grandinetti. I don't keep it a secret that Springhouse is my favorite restaurant in Winston-Salem. I'm a little biased when it comes to eating great food and receiving great service at a place. The 'House is tops for me. Along with that, I respect and revere Chef Tim. It was truly an honor to have him on the show and as my sous chef for the day. It's too bad I wasn't planning to create anything difficult. I could have REALLY put him to work! Ha!

Screenshot of the show!

Did you not make it to the market on Saturday? Watch the $20 Challenge on WSTV-13 on Time Warner Cable (Channels 74.3 and 1303) OR subscribe to the City of Winston-Salem's You Tube channel.

So what did we make this week? Country Gumbo and Skillet Biscuits

gumbo with andouille sausage

I won't reiterate it much here, but gumbo and biscuits are both very important to me. The ultimate comfort food.

Country Gumbo

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped green pepper (or yellow squash)
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups lima beans
1 cup corn kernels
1/4 lb andouille or other smoked sausage, sliced or minced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 to 4 bay leaves
6 cups water or stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot. Whisk in flour and continue to stir constantly—either with a whisk or a wooden spoon—until roux turns a deep, dark chocolate brown (or another shade of your liking). This should take around 30 minutes. If you sense that your roux is in danger of burning, reduce heat immediately and continue to stir.

Once roux has reached desired shade, carefully stir in onions, squash, and celery, and continue to stir about 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to wilt. When the vegetables hit the roux, be careful of the cloud of steam. Add salt, cayenne, and sausage, and continue to cook about 5 minutes.
Rip and add bay leaves and stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Add andouille and continue to simmer uncovered for thirty minutes to an hour. Adjust seasoning. Thin out with more stock or water if necessary. Serve with/over white rice, if desired.
Skillet biscuits
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon butter
2 cups of self rising flour 
3/4 to 1 cup cold buttermilk

In an 8-inch cast iron skillet, melt the oil and butter over medium high heat. Meanwhile, add only enough buttermilk to the flour to form into a thick dough. 
Use a wide a spoon to drop dough into the hot skillet. Cover and reduce heat to between medium and medium low. Cover and cook until the bread browns on the bottom, then flip over and cook until browned on the other side. 

To answer a few questions I've received:

*I did not chop or slice the gumbo because the pods were already so small. I like to work smarter, not harder.

*Biscuits in a pan or a non-stick skillet will still work--they just won't get the crusty brown tops and bottoms like a cast iron skillet.

*I forgot to buy green peppers for the trinity! There was nothing I could do about it, so I just did without. That happens sometimes! Not having the peppers did not detract from the flavor.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Springhouse Luv Luv Festival 2014

It's one of the most wonderful times of year! Dr. Brownstone's Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival is upon us in Winston-Salem! I attended the five days of deliciousness in 2012 and 2013 it was a week of amazing food, meeting amazing people and enjoying the creative menus of world-renowned chefs using lots of local produce, local products and local craft beers, wine and spirits.

Chef Tim Grandinetti, culinary powerhouse who you may have seen on the latest episode of $20 Challenge or even on Chopped Grillmasters, holds this annual event where he invites all of his chef friends to cook, make menus together and celebrate each chef with amazing menus and fun times.

Wouldn't you like to call up your friends and say, "Hey, would you like to come to my house for a week or as many days as you can, and cook all week long?"

That's exactly what Luv Luv Festival is. Each night and each course is paired with select wines, cocktails and there is also live music. This year Springhouse  has partnered with the non-profit organization, Reap More Than You Sow Community Gardening Project, Inc. to help support and support its mission here in Forsyth County. Every place setting had packets of seeds. I'm not a gardener, I leave that up to the experts, but I might throw a few seeds over the fence and see what happens...

The first night of Luv Luv featured Kansas City Barbecue Society Champion, World Food Championships competitor and Food Network Grill Master Doug Keiles along with Winston-Salem Chefs: Chef Shane Moore of Foothills Brewing; Chef Mark Grohman of Meridian Restaurant, & Chef Timothy Grandinetti of Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar.

The first course was presented by Doug Keiles. Before I met him, I knew I liked him.
And that is all you need to know about him.
But on the real: I met him in 2013 during the World Food Championships. He placed 2nd in the Bacon category and he'll be going back to Vegas in November to vie for number one.

So, the food! To the left: A mini BLT. The B is Doug's signiture bacon. It's rubbed with one of his signature rubs and smoked for over FIVE DAYS. FIVE. And to say that the bacon was thick cut would be an understatement. It was a half-inch thick and was amazing. The tomatoes and the lettuce and the mayo on the profiteroles distracted me from the bacon goodness, but it was delicious nevertheless. To the right: Bacon Jam with Sriracha aioli. This was my favorite part of this course. It was salty, it was a little spicy, the umami of the bacon knocked every thing else out of the park.

The second course was presented by Chef Shane Moore of Foothills. This pretty little seared scallop sat on top of an arugula salad and a corona of dried cherries was decorated with bits of raw yellow squash, for color. I have a love/hate relationship with scallops, but this one was tender and delicate in all of the right places. I could have eaten four more of these and been perfectly fine.

Instead, I filled up on oysters and clams from the Rappahannock Oyster Co. boys. Outside on the patio, Travis and Bernie were shucking and jiving (OKAY, I'm lying--they weren't jiving. Joking, but not jiving) and I was thrilled to see them set up when I got to the restaurant.

I took this pic last year. Same clams, different day.

They were back again and I couldn't resist slurping and sipping and swallowing these babies. Honestly, these are the best oysters and clams I've ever had. Do yourself a favor and have some shipped to your house. It will be a life-changing food experience for you.

The next course is part of a series I like to call: Dude Food. Food for dudes who like it simple and easy and in their mouth quickly.

Presented by Doug Keiles, THIS was the best piece of meat I've ever put in my mouth. I'm not even playing. The filet was perfectly cooked, to a medium rare and it was so soft, I cut it with my butter knife. I'm not even joking. The bacon was the complete opposite of the first bacon, as it was sliced very thin and it was almost like a grosgrain ribbon, with striations of meat and fat marbling through the piece of pork. I have to admit: I got a little but misty-eyed. Underneath that ribbon of bacon was a nodule of cream cheese whipped with diced jalapenos and Doug's Hot Salt, for seasoning. If there had been an announcement that there would be no dessert, I would have been completely satisfied.

Dessert was presented by Chef Tim Grandinetti and it was a simple chocolate cake with a florette of chantilly cream. Every good chef has a go-to chocolate cake recipe in his back pocket and this was one. By the end of the night, it was dark and I tried my best to photograph the cake in all its glory, but this is as glorious as it got.

All in all, the night was Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival Lite. It had stormed earlier and the ground was damp outside, so there was no outdoor tent action going on and everyone was split into three separate dining rooms, and that broke up the momentum and the spirit of the event too. I did, however, see multiple groups of people who were once tour-goers of mine on my Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours. That was definitely a highlight, for me, of the night.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Recap: Food + Wine Conference 2014 #FWCon

It's been over two weeks since I've returned home from the annual Food & Wine Conference in Orlando, Florida and I'm still glowing from the whole experience.

Picture courtesy of Sunday Supper, LLC
If you recall, last year I was the winner of the Dixie Crystals Brownie Dessert Contest and I have been able to meet some amazing people and do some amazing things since my win. In 2014, I had the fortunate opportunity to be the Dixie Crystals Brand Ambassador for the Food & Wine Conference. I could have have been more thrilled to take pictures of EVERYTHING and wait with sugared breath, to find out this year's winner. Before any of that took place, I had to have a little fun, right?

Friday evening we the conference kicked off with a "Blogger Blend" sponsored by Gallo Family Vineyards. It was essentially a meet & greet that unveiled the NEW Gallo Family Riesling, for the FIRST TIME! Talk about "popping bottles"... I have a great story about that later on.

Refreshing and very sweet, the new Gallo Family Riesling is redolent with peach, pear and apple flavors.

I can't resist a Step and Repeat backdrop at an event. Do I look red carpet ready?

Go Riesling, go Riesling, Go!

One of the reasons for attending conferences, whether they be for work or for pleasure, is to meet people. I met my new blogger friend, Teresa, and I could not have been more thrilled. She emailed me a few months before the conference to let me know that she saw my face on the conference website and that she was excited to meet me and most importantly--start her own food blog!

Fast friends
I also got to reacquaint myself with Emily Ellyn of Cupcake Wars and Food Network Star fame and Whitney Miller, winner of season 1 of MasterChef. I met them both when I competed at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas last Fall. I think it was Julia Child that said,
"People who love to eat are the best people..." 

That's right. I second that motion.

I spent time snacking on celery with Duda Farms, taking my fair share of Cabot cheese, relaxing by one of the Rosen Shingle Creek pools, gathering Gallo Family wine to take back home and recreating a Sunday Supper recipe in my hotel room!

So as much fun as our action-packed weekend was--the one thing I was looking forward to was Sunday Supper with all of my new blogger friends and finding out the winners of the Dixie Crystals Brownie Dessert Contest! And DRINKING ALL THE GALLO FAMILY WINE. There was a full glass of wine with each course. 

The winning brownies:

First place: Bittersweet Chocolate Balsamic Strawberry Swirl Brownies from Jenni Field of (Jenni is another NC blogger! We're like American Idol winners, hailing from the same state in back-to-back seasons)

Second place: Raspberry Brownies with White Chocolate Icing from Liz Berg of That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Third place: Caramel Macchiato Brownies from Betsy Cohen of Desserts Required

Left to Right: Betsy Cohen, Jenni Field, Liz Berg

I have personally been acquainted with all three ladies since last year or  before. It was truly an honor to be able to stand up on the stage with them and enjoy their creations. It was also an honor to represent Dixie Crystals in this special way. I hope that these ladies will be able to leverage their wins in fantastic ways, just like I was able to!