Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pet Peeve

A friend’s recent post on Facebook dredged up a pet peeve of mine.  It’s still rankling around in my brain, so I thought I’d put it down here.  Not my usual subject matter, but when I started this blog six years ago, this was its original purpose.  (If you’d rather read about another amazing dinner event, click here to read the latest post on my food blog.)

Here’s the video that triggered my disbelief.  You can watch it or not; it’s a bland little instruction manual about folding fitted sheets.  It’s the very first line that caught my attention: “One of the biggest challenges you're going to face in your life is folding fitted sheets.”

Really?  I mean, yes, many people do spend their lives mystified by this modern convenience, but if it qualifies as a major event in your life history, you’re pretty darn sheltered!

This strikes a nerve with me because it resembles the kind of statements you hear on tv commercials all the dang time.  I think I’m particularly sensitive to them because, at an earlier stage in my life, I spent a surprising amount of time watching tv with no sound. 

It was mostly at the gym, where I preferred to listen to music while tracking miles on an elliptical machine stationed in front of a battery of suspended screens.  I might switch to a program that interested me, but was too preoccupied to bother channel-surfing, so got to watch plenty of commercials without their accompanying dramatic music or cheery narration.  Often, I had to imagine what intriguing product might follow shots of dimly-lit rippling sheets, or the fascinating conversation two people could be having to lead one of them to suddenly flourish a tube of medicated cream.

Once this separation of narration and image occurred to me, it was permanent.  So now, even with sound and picture running together, I still pay more attention than most to the smoothly delivered lines drilling into our nation’s subconscious day after day. Do any of these sound familiar?

“Now your pores can be practically invisible.”  Since when has it become shameful for women to display the fact that their skin is a living, breathing organ?  Are visible pores a sign of bad breeding or hygiene?  Do women who replace their skin with plastic become better sex partners?  Are wide pores on the TSA’s list of suspicious signs of terrorist involvement?  I must have missed a memo somewhere.

“Keep tiny hands germ-free and healthy.”  No.  Just, no.  Study after study has shown that children exposed to the horrifying messes of pets and—*gasp!*—the outdoors develop stronger immune systems and fewer allergies.  Yet the makers of disinfecting products continue to meet success with the message that keeping a white-tiled, sterile home is the only way a loving mother would raise her children.  (In spite of all the progress we’ve made, how many Lysol commercials feature Dad wiping down an otherwise spotless counter with a self-satisfied smile?)

“…the luxury and dependability you deserve.”  Really?  Do you know me?  Have you seen the dirty dishes on my counter, the projects on my desk I’ve been putting off, or the unanswered emails required difficult decisions?  It’s not like I’ve led the federal government to a new cost-cutting way of saving lives or feeding the homeless.  I’m not Ghandi, Warren Buffet or even Mary Poppins.  If my personal achievements aren’t relevant, it must be true that you believe anyone able to sit up and pay attention to a tv commercial is worthy of wearing a Rolex or driving a Bentley. So then, why don’t you just give me the damn thing, if I deserve it so much?

Go ahead, next time a commercial pops onto your tv, listen carefully to the assumptions it’s asking you to make.  With practice, you too might separate from the party line, and suddenly find that your list of “needs” gets cut dramatically.  As a bonus, you might even find some entertainment in these ridiculous sirens to our consumerist culture. 

Although I have to admit, my amusement is tempered with frustration when I realize how thoroughly brainwashed most of my fellow citizens continue to be.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Gather: Día de los Muertos

Last weekend was the fourth of Miss Chef’s underground dinners, completing the first year of our seasonal events.  There were a few differences from the other dinners.  First, after dissatisfaction with a couple of people she’d had running “front of house,” we decided I would give it a go this time.

Second, when she told me she’d settled on the Saturday right after Halloween, I said, “You do realize that’s the Day of the Dead.”  And she decided to run with it, the first time we’ve had a theme for a dinner.  Having taught Spanish for five years, I thought it would be a fun, adult way to take advantage of Halloween without overdoing it.

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I did up our Facebook and Eventbrite pages with bright colors and this vibrant calavera, and for the first time I sent out the announcements without worrying about whether we’d sell enough tickets to break even.

A week before the dinner, Miss Chef and I were getting a bit nervous.  In spite of many people telling us they were coming, we’d only sold four tickets.  She said if she didn’t have at least six diners, she would cancel it—something I hadn’t even considered since the early days of this Underground adventure.

Then, as always, tickets started selling two days beforehand.  When the dust settled, we suddenly had 22 paying guests to feed.  It felt glorious, right until I realized this just upped the challenge level all the way around.

Part of that challenge lay in the fact that for the first time we’d have to provide all the table settings.  So we took a trek up to Ikea, on the far side of town from us.  Since Miss Chef has always capped the dinners at 30 people, we needed 30 place settings.  Sounds straightforward enough, until you consider that she uses different plates for appetizers, soups, several courses and desserts.  Not to mention the various salad forks, dessert forks, soup spoons, coffee spoons, steak knives, water pitchers, coffee cups….

Anyway, an hour or two later, and we had blown almost all our revenue on hardware.

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Oh, and did I mention Miss Chef had bought a truck a few days before?  She’d been wanting to for years, just something small we could use for home-improvement supplies, yard projects and Gather.  When she doesn’t have a kitchen available, she uses our grill, so we needed a way to haul that.  And I can’t complain too hard at the prospect of getting compost or mulch by the truckload, instead of buying those stupid bags from Home Depot.

Anyway, back to Gather.  Our Día de los Muertos event was held at Atherton Market, where I’ve been volunteering and Miss Chef has added to her regular Saturday morning market route.  It was indoors, with plenty of space, and even offered a large sink we could do some washing in.  Our last site didn’t have any hot water available, and the cleanup was just this side of traumatic.  Fancy stoves we don’t need, but hot soapy water is a deal-breaker now.

As soon as Miss Chef had decided to adapt her menu to match the theme, I jumped in with the clever idea of providing blank sugar skulls for our guests to paint.  Lynn, our resident pastry chef, agreed to provide the colored royal icing for the decorations, and it fell to me to make the skulls themselves.  I ordered a mold off the internet and spent an afternoon making them…but then, with our numbers jumping at the last minute, I had to get up early to make a second batch  Saturday morning while Miss Chef was at the markets.

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Just two ingredients: sugar and egg whites.  I had no idea how many skulls I’d get out of one 6-cup recipe, so I bought a big ol’ 10-pound bag.  Turns out I only needed about 8 cups total.  Oh well, holiday baking season is just around the corner!

Just a tiny bit of egg white gets the sugar to wet sand consistency, enough to hold its shape when it pops out of the mold.

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It was all very easy, once I got the system down.  Of course, the cat had to inspect everything as I was working.

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Elbows Paws off the table, Princess!”

The reason I had to get up early for these is that, without a week’s worth of drying time, they had to bake at low temp for four hours to get properly rock hard.

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All in all, the whole project went off very well, and I was out of the real cooks’ way right on time.

Although, to be honest, time was in short supply…after a day of prep, we all left late for the market, and weren’t halfway set up when the guests got there.  For my first time as front of house manager, I felt I was doing a terrible job.  Fortunately, most of the guests are also friends, and with a few extra hands, we got everyone settled.

Sadly, I was a little late sharing the story behind the sugar skulls, and some of the guests were too happy sitting down with their first glasses of wine to go play.

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Miss Chef was feeling a little panicky too, but by the time the salad course came out, I had caught my breath and my stride and was able to start taking pictures.

This was before the salad dish, so not my photo—this is posole soup, which came with a little history, thanks to Miss Chef’s having taught the Latin Cuisine course a few years ago.  This traditional soup was eaten by the ancient Aztecs, as a side benefit of all the meat available after human sacrifices.  When the Catholic priests hit the scene, they insisted on substituting pork for human flesh, as it’s apparently the closest in flavor.  Yum?

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Next dish—scallops!

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22 plates, including one vegan and a gluten-free vegetarian, and no heat lamps!  The scallops were paired with a butternut squash purée and emperor’s rice.  Here’s a picture I stole from one of our guest’s Facebook posts, because I didn’t get one of the finished product.

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The beef course was coffee-molasses glazed flank steak with a black bean tamale, cilantro gremolata and crispy fried pepper bits.  The upright garnish is popcorn shoots.

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I would say this was the general favorite, as the diners sucked this down so fast I barely had time to refill water glasses before it was time to start clearing the empty plates.

Regardless of how tired our feet get or how much our backs may hurt, the guests always seem to have a great time.

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Lynn’s dessert was a cream puff with pumpkin and goat cheese mousse, a “swoosh” of chocolate and toasted pecan brittle.

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As if this weren’t enough, we had a special guest chef helping out, and he happens to be a self-described Chocolate Guy—he does some work with Callebaut chocolates.  So he put together an after-dinner treat that was so good, most of the guests actually found enough room after six courses to actually eat some of it.

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I was too busy clearing plates, filling water or trying to catch up with dirty dishes to hear what all of these were.  Actually, our Chocolate Guy had spent a good portion of the night washing dishes, which saved my bacon when we needed more dessert forks.  Still, gathering up all the dirty pots and pans, leftover food, remaining supplies, decorations and general trash was a daunting prospect.  By the end, it’s possible that some of our crew may have become just a little hysterical.  (Warning: loud volume, mildly improper language)

Today, almost a week later, we’ve just cleared the last of the clean dishes out of the living room, storing them away in the shed until next time.  Already the sore feet and backs are just a fuzzy memory, and for some crazy reason we’re actually looking forward to the next event in January.

Because when you live with a chef, crazy is catching.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What’s a pig picking?

I asked this question about three years ago, when friends of ours near Boone mentioned it as an annual January event.  It’s what Yankees like me would call a whole-hog roast, ie, kill a pig, cook it up, invite a ton of people to join you in a frenzy of food and drink.

Well, we were never invited to that January event, but this weekend Miss Chef and I enjoyed our second pig picking of the year.  This one was hosted by Lee and Domisty Menius of Wild Turkey Farms, about an hour away from us on the far east side of Charlotte.  Unlike the last one we attended, in Holy City, South Carolina, many of our friends were invited, so this was a true community event for us.

We showed up about an hour late, which is kind of right on time for these kinds of gatherings.  The hosts have done this a time or two before.

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We trundled over to the long line of tables set up to hold everyone’s side offerings.  Casseroles, greens, salads, beans of various colors and of course an overabundance of desserts, including pumpkin pie and s’mores cake.  Decadent.

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Almost immediately after room was cleared for Miss Chef’s slaw and my corn casserole, the line at the smoker was officially opened.

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I didn’t learn until the next day that there was a lamb in there, too.  You can see how I might have missed it, by the time I came through.

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We got to select whatever chunks of meat we pleased, then have it sauced before moving on to the sides.  Miss Chef and I found seats under an open shelter emptied of equipment for our dining pleasure. 

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We ended up sitting next to Carl and Leah Wagner, who have raised our Thanksgiving turkey for the past four years or so.  We chatted about turkeys, their youngest daughter’s first year in college and the band of coyotes that’s been coming closer and closer to their property this year.

After filling up on pig, broccoli casserole and loaded mashed potatoes, I felt like taking a turn around the property before stopping by the dessert spread.  On the other end of our dining field, a flock of chickens was enjoying the beautiful fall afternoon, getting in the last few bites before sunset.

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Miss Chef joined me as I headed in the opposite direction, where we’d seen a few pigs when we parked in the field on the other side of the Bobcat.  The pigs were out of sight behind a slight rise, but we did find the farm’s namesakes (sort of).

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They’re not exactly wild, though they are a little…odd.

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Lest you think these poor birds are crammed into a filthy, dung-filled crate, notice the trail of feathers in the background?  This entire enclosure is moved, probably at least once a day, so they have access to fresh grass and bugs.

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I wonder what the turning radius is on that vehicle?

Meanwhile, the pigs must have thought it was dinnertime, so they came wandering up the hill to say…well, this.

Yeah, these free-ranging Berkshires stand surprisingly tall and move more easily than their overbred, overfed pink counterparts.  I think the one on the left was a male propositioning a female on the right.  My nervousness seems to amuse him.

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We had nothing more to say to the pigs, so Miss Chef and I wandered back to the party, past a group of skittish lambs…who probably have good reason to be skittish.  They look about the right size for slaughter.  Sorry, guys, but at least you have room to run.

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As darkness fell, the grain towers were adorned with lights, and a steady stream of people made the short trek to their cars, fetching sweaters and blankets.

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And then, just as the chill threatened to turn to cold, the bonfire was lit.

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It’s awfully hard to get good bonfire photos with a cell phone…but a little post-production assistance helps a bit.

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The distance of these revelers from the fire itself should give you some idea of the amount of heat being put out.  If not, this shot of the tractor and barn up the hill is a good representation.  As they say on Instagram, #noflash, #nofilter.

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We hung around until the fire burned down to coals, the s’mores fixin’s came out, and most of the party had drifted away.  Eventually we too thanked our hosts with great sincerity and called it a night.  Even the hour drive home in the dark couldn’t erase my sense of grateful well-being brought on by a blanketful of stars and the smoky comfort of a warm fire on a cool night.

Yup, it was another one of those moments when I think to myself, “I must be doing something right.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Adventures in Food

Sometimes I fall out of the blogiverse from lack of inspiration, or from boredom.  The past two weeks have been the opposite.  I’ve been so busy having adventures that I haven’t had time to document them all!  An excellent problem to have, and one that I’m sitting down to rectify at 10:30 on a Wednesday night.

Don’t worry, there are lots of pictures.

As my professional/social network grows, I managed to get Miss Chef and myself invited to an oven party.  Perfect for a chef, eh?  The deal is this couple have an outdoor wood-fired oven that they fire up, invite all the neighbors, and have everyone make their own pizzas to cook up.

One of the guys is an artist, working in ceramics.  So the oven has a unique appearance, like a miniature Gaudi home imported from Barcelona.

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You can almost make out the name above the opening: Château d’Ough.  Get it?  It’s a pun on the French “château d’eau,” which is pronounced the same but simply means water tower.  We’re getting all European up in here.

The oven is surrounded by a lush backyard, complete with a huge dining table and granite-topped counters.  It’s a perfect place to gather on a perfect fall evening, so it’s not surprising that it was packed by the time the pizzas were going in.

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Of course, the lighting sucked for photography, but here’s a picture of dinner cooking.  Those foil packets on the right are two heads of garlic I brought for roasting.

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Miss Chef and I had a fun time, eating, drinking and meeting some new friends.  But that was just the start of our weekend.  Of course Saturday was full of markets, interviews and the like.  But Sunday was the big event.  The Piedmont Culinary Guild, a collection of chefs, farmers and other nodes in the local food network, was putting on its second annual Carved event, and Miss Chef and I were both volunteering.

We gather over 25 local chefs in one place, give them each a pumpkin and two hours to play.  The public pays to watch, vote and enjoy some free samples, music and other entertainment.  To be clear, the samples were of locally grown popcorn and pressed-on-site cider, not raw pumpkin.

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We set up two long tables, back to back, halfway down the market.  There were a whole lot of pumpkins to admire and vote on.  This one below was on its way to becoming one of the Wild Things from the Maurice Sendak book.

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This is a student at the Art Institute, who just happens to be from Thailand, where they take their fruit carving seriously.

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There were no restrictions on props, so there were clouds of dry ice, extra lights…

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…and even live fish!  This was my favorite, but it was unveiled very late in the proceedings, after most people had already voted.

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Halfway through the carving, I was dragooned into making announcements—“30 minutes left, buy more voting tickets and stop by our t-shirt table!”—so I didn’t get photos of all the finished products.  This next one ended up being the winner—it was labeled “Spooky Sushi,” and I think its popularity was due in part to the original way he broke the pumpkin down into a tube, which he then sliced into rounds.

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I don’t eat sushi, so I don’t get it.

After a 5-hour shift of hauling tables and chairs and standing on concrete flooring, I woke up sore and stiff on Monday.  But I didn’t have a whole lot of time to waste.  I had deadlines and interviews lined up all week (although my interview schedule keeps changing).  My weekly online stories had garnered the attention of a caterer we know who’s starting up another side business and needed some web content written.  So, bam, I’m a web content writer.  My first freelance contract!

Anyway, I had that draft due, along with my usual Wednesday deadline.  But I had to get them in early, because Wednesday was already packed, with a conference call and two foodie events.

The first event was in Miss Chef’s A la Carte class.  She asked Matt, a sous-chef whose family has a beef business, if he’d sell her half a cow and come in to show the students how to break it down.

Which he did.

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That’s 350 pounds of grass-fed beef.  Matt is more comfortable fabricating pigs, so he recruited another chef, Clark, to help him out.  Miss Chef and another instructor had to lend a hand, too.

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After an hour and a half with several knives and a couple of saws, they had this ready to store in the cooler.

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This is more or less what they call “primal cuts,” which the students will have to break down further into ribs, steaks, etc.  If they can buy entire animals or even primal cuts, they’ll save their future kitchens a lot of money.

My second foodie event of the day was on the opposite side of the food preparation scale.  One of our favorite restaurants, Passion8 (where we got to know Matt when he was sous-chef there), has moved nearer to uptown Charlotte, and tonight was their media night.  They invited all us important writer types to tour the new space, with a glass of Prosecco in hand and elegant hors d’oeuvres coming around.

Again, I had to fight with low lighting.  This is the main dining area—out of three—with the bar behind it.  There are lots of curtains used to separate different sections, which should also help with baffling sound in this high-ceilinged space.

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A view from the “mezzanine” area down to the bar, with the main dining room to the left.

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These were sweet potato chips with a squash crema and some stuff I can’t remember…

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…and this is the whole selection of hors d’oeuvres.  From front to back, tomato & shallot salad on olive oil cracker, braised chicken with apricot and sesame on lettuce, the sweet potato chip, braised pork on house-made foccacia and truffled shortbread with foie gras mousse and muscadine foam.

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Part of the reason I’m bothering with all the detailed ingredients is that tomorrow I have to sit down and write a concise couple of paragraphs about this opening for Creative Loafing.  It’s a quick turnaround time, but I’m feeling generous today, since they just came out with…

…my first cover story!

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Yup, 2000 words worth of freaky stories collected from some of my favorite chef friends.  Click the picture to read them for yourself.

And now, it’s off to bed.  Tomorrow’s another adventure.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Getting away, and coming back

After our unexciting weekend in Elkin last month, Miss Chef and I wanted to get back to our real mountain adventures and apple picking.  Usually we go for our anniversary, closer to the end of the month, but with her quarter break this past week and a full docket coming up later on, we decided to get out there while the getting was good.

As it turned out, Miss Chef had more preparation than usual for the upcoming quarter, so we really only had one day to play with.  We drove to Flat Rock late on Wednesday, then rose early on Thursday to head out to Skytop Orchard, where we’ve gotten apples the past 3 or 4 years.

It was foggy when we left the hotel, but by the time we arrived at the orchard and headed down—and up, and down—the slopes with our baskets, the skies were clear.  We managed to draw away from the multiple school and church groups full of excited children, and had the Cortland row to ourselves. 

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Most of the trees were picked out, or had only green apples within our reach.  We had to walk nearly to the end of the row before finding trees with ripe fruit low enough for picking, but in the end, we had more than enough to fill our baskets. 

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Then we had to carry them back uphill to the store to pay for them, along with several more varieties, to fill Miss Chef’s annual yen for apples.

After lugging a bushel of apples plus two gallons of fresh cider out to the car, we returned empty handed for our reward: hot, fresh apple cider donuts, plush an applelicious slushy.

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Yum!

The road down from the orchard is a steep, torturous drive, but having driven it several times made it easier to maneuver.  It also helped that the leaves haven’t turned yet, so I wasn’t distracted by gorgeous fall color.  Who knew I’d ever be grateful for missing the date?

Our next destination was Asheville itself.  We had an hour or so before our lunch reservations at—where else?—Cúrate.  We parked on the street, right next to this fun wall of inspiration.

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This wall has been here for years, protecting a fall-off between two buildings.  Turning it into an artful community conversation exemplifies the character of this city.

After lunch it was my turn to visit a new favorite.

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My name is Alison, and I am a chocoholic.  And I’m very okay with that.

The day was on the warm side, so we did a little “housekeeping,” to get a cooler and ice to keep our cider (and chocolate) from melting.  After a short break back at the hotel, we returned to Asheville for dinner at Rhubarb.  We’d been wanting to eat here since seeing their menu go up at their doorway on Pack Square, but they’d been closed the one other time we’d had a gap in our eating schedule.  Yes, when we travel, our days are planned around our meals.

I didn’t take any photos inside Rhubarb, but here are a couple I found on the web.

The entry area, with a simple, gaze-pulling display of wooden spoons.

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The main dining area is through that arched doorway, and this is the area where we were seated.

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I’m not sure of the story behind that rough wall, but I spent half the night trying to decipher the lettering barely visible in the patchy green paint.  All I got was “the.”  I think.

The food here is much like what we seek out at home—locally grown, creatively combined without too much manipulation.  Our two favorites were a rabbit-and-leek rillette served with house-made “sel-tine” crackers, and the “Autumn sharing salad.”  A dark green salad with goat cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds was built atop a roasted kabocha squash.  Miss Chef discovered this squash a couple of years ago, but we could never remember the name, always confusing it with kombucha, a fermented tea drink she’s brewed in the past.  Anyway, Miss Chef liked the salad so much she’s stealing the idea for a farm dinner she’s helping with next month.

Stealing is accepted practice among chefs.  I think sounds better if you use the words “inspired by.”

Friday morning we were up and out of the hotel, headed for home.  Miss Chef was anxious to get into the school to rework her menus and recipes—she’d been informed after finishing them earlier in the week that budget cuts meant she had to slash her food costs, a difficult prospect when you’re trying to teach fine cuisine with local product.  I stayed at home to unpack and reassure our pets that the world had not ended and they were not to be abandoned.

Also to prepare for a big Fancy Party.  The local paper I freelance for does an annual Best of Charlotte issue, with both critics’ and readers’ picks for everything from best barber shop to best farm-to-table restaurant.  I’d received a mailed invitation to the VIP pre-party, and thought it was a good opportunity to see my editor and meet some of the other staff.  You see, I met my editor once at a coffee shop back in May, and everything since then has been via email.  I’ve been asked in conversation if I know this editor or that staff writer; people must think I’m dropping off hard copies at the office every week.  I don’t even know where their offices are!

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Somewhere in this entertainment complex north of Uptown sits my editor.

Anyway, neither Miss Chef or I were looking forward to this gala event.  For me, it was mostly because of the cocktail attire.  I didn’t even think I had a dress anymore that would fit me, since I’d moved to mostly slacks or skirts at work.  Fortunately, I had unburied one in my closet, so felt more or less prepared.  But I was still groggy from our quick out-of-town trip, and neither I nor Miss Chef are particularly into small talk over drinks with folks we don’t know.

Sadly, the party lived down to and even beneath our expectations. There didn’t seem to be anyone filling the role of host, nor any plan for the event, aside from a few drag numbers that I mostly missed, due to the poor audio from the stage. I was expecting some kind of welcome, an introduction of the judging panel or an awards ceremony, but after the drag queens left the stage, there was nothing to watch but the crowd. 

Most of the attendees were young, see-and-be-seen professionals that continue to live the college party life after graduation. Miss Chef and I were both surprised not to know anybody there aside from the folks behind a couple of the food tables.The music was far too loud to carry on a conversation, so the idea of mingling and networking was just plain irritating.  I had a couple glasses of wine to help ease my irritation, but it was mediocre, and the only food was small bites from three of the nominated restaurants. Yes, the paper’s staff was nowhere to be found, while the honorees were asked to work the event!    

After an hour of sipping insipid wine and making ourselves hoarse trying to talk over the din, Miss Chef and I absconded for dinner elsewhere.  We went a few blocks up Tryon Street to The Wooden Vine, a tapas and wine bar we’ve enjoyed before.  I let Miss Chef do most of the ordering.

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My camera wasn’t focusing any better than my eyes, apparently.  At the top, from left to right you see locally-made burrata (seasoned ricotta inside a mozzarella skin), roasted brussels sprouts and braised short rib with hominy corn.  On the bottom, roasted potato, and tortellini with house-made ricotta .

Chef Nick, whom I recently interviewed for an upcoming “Chef Horror Stories” piece, was working his last weekend prior to leaving to open his own place.  He also had a big party in the back of the restaurant, so most of this was not up to his usual level.  The tortellini made me very happy, though.

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The pea sprouts are from Mindy at Tega Hills.  I delivered those pea sprouts here for a couple of weeks, back in June.  I love seeing the whole trajectory of food from greenhouse to plate.

After dinner we had an easy stroll about 4 blocks to the car.  Though small, Charlotte’s downtown area is really charming at night; much more bustling than the dead business blocks I saw growing up near Cleveland, and of course the weather here is much more benign.

I stopped to take a couple of pictures.

A fountain in front of Capital Grille…

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…and the top of the Hearst Tower rising in the mist, where Miss Chef searched to no avail for the Bat Signal.

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It had been a long day, and we both had to remind ourselves it was only that morning we’d arrived back from Asheville.  I was very happy to crawl into my own bed and lay my head on my own pillow.

And while Miss Chef crawled out of bed with the first glow of the morning sun, I stayed put.  Yes, this Saturday I skipped the markets entirely.

I guess that counts as vacation, right?