Check out my post from last year’s festival here.
You won’t want to miss the Counter Clockwise String Band‘s performance on Saturday at 12:45pm! Come out to support NC agriculture and listen to some amazing bluegrass!
Check out my nutrition/lifestyle coaching business Be and Eat Well
As I began my search to learn a little more about the food culture of the county I live in and now call home, I quickly realized that Wake County functions as a “melting pot”. While researching Forsyth and Lenoir counties, I zeroed in on a specific recipe that was near and dear to locals I spoke with. This wouldn’t be the case for Wake County, as it’s the capital and a collaboration of natives, re-locators and college students. I wasn’t sure how I was going to define a food or recipe to cover this expansive county.
My adventure started by reading an article in Our State magazine detailing North Carolina State University’s Howling Cow Ice Cream. Reading about the creation of this delightful treat lured me over to Talley Market on N.C. State’s campus to taste it myself. Gary Cartwright who is in charge of the Dairy Enterprise System at N.C.State was quoted in the article stating, “It makes people smile.” True indeed! So true I felt compelled to write a post about it. This ice cream has become so popular that it attracts North Carolinians to trek across the state and indulge in this heavenly dessert at the annual State Fair. After learning this I knew I wanted to incorporate this fresh, local ice cream into the recipe for Wake County.
While I continued my search in discovering the food culture of Wake County, I visited a couple of downtown venues, one being The Mecca Restaurant. This establishment was founded in 1930, relocated to it’s current location in 1935, and has been family owned while serving fresh veggies from the City Market ever since. While sampling a plate of fried chicken, Eastern NC BBQ, fresh veggies and blueberry cobbler, I spoke with John, a fourth generation Dombalis, regarding the family business and how he witnessed Wake County’s food culture evolve through the years.
The weeks flew by as I visited Raleigh’s Visitor Information Center, Cameron Village Regional Library, Meredith College Library and savored a wonderful lunch with a Meredith College Alum at Side Street Restaurant in Raleigh’s Historic Oakwood neighborhood. I then had the wonderful opportunity to meet Elena in Raleigh to learn a little more about the Southern classic dessert, Pound Cake. Elena’s grandmother’s brother, Ted, and his wife Ann opened their kitchen to us and helped us prepare an 100 year old pound cake recipe from Nanny, (aka Flossie), Ted’s mother. Ann and Ted told stories from moving around this great state of North Carolina and residing in Wake County. They shared pictures of their family tree and how they have family ties to North Carolina State University and Meredith College. Most importantly we learned how the pound cake was made “just right” and how it became a treasured family recipe.
After weeks of contemplating about a recipe choice for Wake County, I finally made up my mind. The pound cake was going to serve as a representation of Wake County’s “Melting Pot”. This meant I needed (and wanted) to obtain as many local ingredients as I could, while adding a little twist to Nanny’s recipe. Presently, Wake County has exploded with craft breweries while local coffee roasters are making their stance as well. Incorporating Wake County’s past food culture along with it’s present food culture was an important aspect I wanted to instill for this recipe. Using local ingredients is ever so important to me, personally and professionally. So, as you can imagine, going around and collecting eggs from Wake County residents’ backyard chicken coops (with permission!) was certainly not out of the question. Making phone calls to find Wake County butter, flour, spices, beer and coffee was quite successful, as I put together a “farm-to-table” version of this classic Southern recipe. Not only were the cake ingredients from Wake County, but to my delight, I came across a beautiful cake stand at the North Hills Farmers Market in Raleigh which was crafted by a Wake County potter.
As I wrapped up research for my “home” county, I couldn’t help but smile as I indulged in a scoop of Howling Cow’s Vanilla Ice Cream and a slice of Wake County Coffee Porter Pound Cake. My hope is that this recipe makes natives proud and eager to incorporate new ideas from the current and ever-changing food culture into classic family favorites.
Wake County Coffee Porter Pound Cake
Cake recipe inspired by Flossie (Caudell) Ballenger, Elena’s great grandmother
Glaze recipe inspired by Aubrey Cook from Martha Stewart’s “Best Bakers in America” series
3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature, plus 1-2 tablespoons for greasing pan (Jackson Dairy, Dunn, NC bought from State Farmers Market)
2.5 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs (Neighborhood chicken coops, Raleigh, NC)
3.5 cups sifted cake flour, divided (Powder Mill Grain and Baking Co. Whole Grain Cake Flour, Cary, NC)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mace (Penzeys Spices Raleigh, NC)
3/4 cup Porter beer with carbonation removed (Raleigh Brewing Hidden Pipe Porter, Raleigh, NC)
1/4 cup coffee (Oak City Coffee Roasters Kubum, Raleigh, NC)
1 teaspoon vanilla (Penzeys Spices, Raleigh, NC)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (Jackson Dairy)
1/2 cup coffee (Kabum from Oak City)
2 cups confectioners sugar
Ice Cream: Howling Cow Vanilla Ice Cream (North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC)
Measure ingredients before mixing. (can be prepped ahead of time)
Move oven rack to center of oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10 inch bundt pan thoroughly. Cream butter in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until very light and fluffy, scraping bowl often with spatula. Add sugar and continue creaming. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine baking powder, salt and mace in bowl with 3 cups of sifted flour, stirring to combine. Combine beer, coffee and vanilla in bowl and mix together. Alternate beer mixture and flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Add the 1/2 cup sifted flour last of all and mix until blended. Pour batter into pan, pound gently on counter top to release air bubbles. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done. Let the cake rest in the pan on wire rack for 20-30 minutes. Carefully flip cake over and let cool for at least 1 hour.
Melt butter in sauce pan over medium low heat. Once melted, add the coffee and turn heat to medium, stirring occasionally with wire whisk. Once liquid boils, gradually add confectioners sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stirring occasionally, let liquid return to a boil. Once boiling, continue to stir for a few minutes, until the glaze reduces and thickens. When glaze reaches preferred consistency, quickly pour the glaze over the cooled cake. (the glaze will harden upon cooling, work quickly!) Serve with Howling Cow’s Vanilla Ice cream from N.C. State. Enjoy with family and friends!
Optional: Pair with Oak City’s Kubum coffee or Raleigh Brewing’s Hidden Pipe Porter.
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What comes to mind when you hear the words “Eastern North Carolina”? Do you think of the famous vinegar based BBQ, slaw and football? Or perhaps memories of passing fields that stretch for miles with corn, collards, tobacco and okra while on your way to the beach? Whatever crosses your mind, there’s a pretty good chance food is involved. Lenoir County specifically, has a long, rich history of growing local food. While researching this particular county’s food culture, I had the opportunity to discover some of the state’s finest BBQ, engage with farmers on Saturday mornings at the Lenoir County Farmers Market and interview owners of highly respected restaurants.
Lenoir County includes Kinston, one of North Carolina’s oldest cities. This city was original named “Kingston” when it was established as the county’s seat in 1762. Kinston is where the Lenoir County Farmers Market is held on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Local farmers are eager to exchange stories and favorite recipes, celebrating their homegrown ingredients. Foods such as peaches, pork, okra and collards are just a few of the seasonal choices these farmers have to offer.
Not only does Kinston have a thriving farmers market but a top NC restaurant destination called Chef and the Farmer. Chef Vivian Howard has gained publicity nationwide with her Peabody award winning TV show, A Chef’s Life. After hearing Chef Howard speak at Meredith College in the spring of 2014, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to experience Lenoir County’s local produce offered at this farm to table restaurant. While spending a day feasting on NC BBQ, fried oysters from the Boiler Room, and succulent curried pork belly from Chef and the Farmer, Elena and I had the pleasure of talking with Chef Vivian Howard and discuss the food culture in Lenoir County. Vivian reminisced about growing up in Deep Run and explained how her mother prepared vegetables and grains to serve as the base of the meal while meat was considered a condiment. Foods such as butter beans, sweet potatoes, home canned peaches from the peach orchard were mealtime favorites, alongside the popular comfort dish, chicken and rice. Her family celebrated Thanksgiving with a whole hog BBQ and enjoyed locally caught fried fish on Fridays. Chef Howard continues to follow the southern food traditions she learned from her family as she creates the seasonal menu for her restaurant.
We also learned from Chef Howard that Fish Stew has become a Lenoir County favorite and staple in some local’s eyes, serving as a comfort food year round and especially on cold winter days. Just ask any Lenoir County native for their fish stew recipe. They may not reveal the secret family ingredient, but they will make sure to tell you the stew must be layered and not stirred.
If your wondering where to find this Lenoir County favorite, the fine family at Ken’s Grill & NC BBQ in La Grange, NC makes fish stew available to locals and tourists year round. Ken and his brother David run their father’s famed 1970 establishment offering whole hog BBQ on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a side of homemade slaw and hushpuppies. The menu consists of daily specials and various sides from the fryer, but Friday around 11am is when you’ll find a warm bowl of fish stew, served with crispy golden brown hushpuppies and fresh loaf bread available for purchase. Ken advised me to come in early for a bowl of stew, as it sells out quickly. This fish stew recipe was first prepared in 1980 by Ken’s father-in-law, Mr. Jones, who owned a fish market in Lenoir County. Ms. Kate was the cook who brought that recipe to life time and time again, preparing the stew at Ken’s Grill for decades. Ken chooses the best quality, local NC fish offered by Kinston’s own Reynolds Seafood Company. This family run fish market was started in 1960 and continues to provide the ingredients needed to prepare the stew, including friendly advice on how to layer the pot.
While you’re in Kinston, you will want to visit Sweetiepies, a new tasty addition to Kinston’s food culture. This cupcakery is owned by Ken’s wife, Teresa. She offers an array of colorful sweet treats that will surely want you coming back for more!
Whether you’re a native of Lenoir County, or passing through on Hwy 70, make sure to stop by these local establishments for a taste of this county’s unique food culture. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed! The recipe below is my variation of Lenoir County fish stew, using of course the freshest local ingredients. And please, Do Not Stir!
Photos above: paintings and photograph of Reynolds Seafood displayed on store front walls, photograph of menu board at Ken’s BBQ
Recipe inspired by Chef Vivian Howard, Kinston, NC, Ken’s Grill & NC BBQ, La Grange, NC and Reynolds Seafood, Kinston, NC.
Makes 3 quarts, serves 6-9
1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces (Reynolds Seafood)
1, 6 ounce can tomato paste (Reynolds Seafood)
1 large yellow onion, sliced 1/2 inch thick (Lenoir County Farmers Market)
5-6 small-medium red potatoes, quartered (Lenoir County Farmers Market)
Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
1 pound Rock Fish (Reynolds Seafood)
6 eggs (Cock-A-Doodle Farm, LaGrange, NC from Lenoir County Farmers Market)
Fry bacon in skillet. Pour bacon grease and bacon into 6 quart pot, heat on medium-medium low. Layer and add tomato paste, potatoes, onion, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to pot. DO NOT STIR. Add 6 cups water to cover vegetables. Bring to slow rolling boil over medium heat for 30-45 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, filet fish, removing as many bones as possible. Add fish to pot during last 10 minutes of cooking. DO NOT STIR.
After fish is cooked through, turn heat to medium low. Break eggs on the side of pot, gently place into stew one at a time. Let eggs set for 10 minutes. DO NOT STIR. When ready to serve, use a ladle to reach bottom of pot, scoop upwards to ladle into bowls. Always serve with fresh white loaf bread, just as the Lenoir County locals do.
Resources: Lenoir County North Carolina. About Lenoir County. http://www.co.lenoir.nc.us/history.html Accessed October 11, 2014.
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After a short hiatus, the project “Discovering North Carolina” is in full swing again and I am so happy to be able to share my experiences researching this great state. This is the first of three articles that will display the experiences I’ve had over the course of the past nine months and will leave you with three recipes, one representing each designated county. Check out my page Discovering North Carolina for project details and previous posts.
After attending the Got to be NC Festival and briefly learning about the Moravian culture, I continued my research for Forsyth County to gain a better understanding of its unique food culture. I browsed Old Salem’s website and corresponded with a couple of Forsyth County locals as I planned a visit to Old Salem Museums & Gardens. I was eager to stop by The Tavern for lunch to learn more about the traditional food and what life was like in this Moravian community.
Salem, NC, currently known as Winston-Salem, was founded in 1766 by a Protestant denomination seeking religious freedom who traveled from Bohemia and Moravia (currently known as the Czech Republic) to Pennsylvania and finally Salem, North Carolina. The settlers, known as Moravians, kept records of their lives, recipes or ‘receipts’ of what they ate, which allows for the Moravian food culture to be continued to this day.
I had the opportunity to bring my parents, who were visiting from Wisconsin, on a day trip to Old Salem. They were happy to browse through the Moravian history and culture as my father’s genealogy includes Bohemian heritage. As we eagerly waited for lunch at The Tavern, Lori who co-owns the restaurant spent some time with us discussing the Moravian food-ways they were striving to recreate. She expressed the importance of using seasonal foods, fresh produce from the gardens and using only items that would have been traded such as molasses and brown sugar in her pies and desserts. We also discussed her stance on using white or dark meat in the Moravian chicken pie, as this is an on-going debate among Forsyth natives. We sank our teeth into the savory grilled cornbread, crisp pear salad and flaky, tender, all white meat chicken pie. Dad enjoyed the fried chicken liver platter and we all savored each bite, embracing the sights and the sounds of the staff dressed in Moravian attire bustling around the hardwood floors. Our server enticed us with six mouth-watering dessert options to complete the meal. After a fairly quick decision, we smiled happily and let the luscious German Chocolate Pie and the warm, melt-in-your-mouth Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie consume us.
As we strolled around the town, Winkler’s Bakery was high on my priority list of places to visit. Before visiting Old Salem, I knew baked goods such as Moravian Ginger Cookies, Lovefeast Buns, Lemon Tarts and Moravian Sugar Cake were all favorites. Walking into the cool, brick building and being surrounded by the sweet aroma of yeast and sugar, we couldn’t resist sampling the sugar cake and sweet yeast roll. The interpreter dressed in his baker’s attire gave us a history lesson of how Christian Winkler bought the bakery in 1807 and discussed how each of the desserts were incorporated traditionally in holiday celebrations.
After choosing which sweet treats I wanted to take home with me, I had the opportunity to discuss the history of Moravian food with Joanna Roberts, Assistant Director of Interpretation at Old Salem. She discussed how sugar cake was known as a “Great Cake” in the 16-17th centuries, and later named “Sugar Cake” in the 19th century. A Great Cake was defined as any cake made from yeast, eggs, milk and butter. Sugar Cake was different in that it frequently contained potatoes, as most do to this day. According to Mrs. Hanes from Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies, the main purpose for using potatoes was to keep the dough moist and prevent it from drying out too quickly.
On the drive home I reflected on my experience at Old Salem and what I learned about the Moravian culture and food ways. The next step was to decide on a recipe which defined Moravian life. After much thought, I decided Moravian Sugar Cake would be the recipe of choice I would try my hand at making. After browsing through Preserving the Past, various recipes online and testing one recipe, I finally found a recipe that fit the buttery taste, soft texture and sweet flavor I was aiming for. Although Sugar Cake mixes and pre-made Sugar Cakes are available to purchase at Old Salem or Dewey’s, making your own from scratch brings the experience full circle.
Forsyth County may be known for being the home of Krispy Kreme, but the Moravian Sugar Cake has become a staple for holiday celebrations. Forsyth County and Old Salem have much to offer as they aim to celebrate their past heritage and unparalleled food culture. If you’re making your way to North Carolina during the summer or holidays, activities such as participating in a Lovefeast, learning the history of the Moravian Star or sampling the traditional Moravian fare may be just the ticket to embrace the unique food culture of this historical county.
Moravian Sugar Cake
Slightly adapted from Winklers Moravian Sugar Cake
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup water (110 degrees F)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
3/4 cup water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon whole milk
6 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1 tablespoon butter, sliced into bits
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup melted cooled butter
Pour yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar into warm water, stir with wire whisk until yeast dissolves. Set aside until liquid has foamed. Combine dry ingredients (sugar, instant mashed potatoes, salt, 1 cup flour) in large bowl and mix with wooden spoon. Add wet ingredients (3/4 cup water, yeast mixture, eggs, milk, butter) to dry mixture, stir to combine. Gradually add remaining flour to mixture and combine to form a soft bread dough consistency. (This is not intended to be kneaded.) Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat thoroughly. Place the one tablespoon of butter bits into dough. Let dough rise in warmed oven until it doubles in size, about an hour. Punch dough down, transfer and spread in greased 9×13 baking pan with 2 inch sides. Let rise for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Punch fingers into dough, making small holes. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 cup of melted cooled butter over the dough to cover, let dough rise 30 minutes. While dough is rising, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 13-14 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and is golden brown. Serve warm and enjoy!
Tip: Cake can be frozen and reheated in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.
Resource: The Town of Salem. http://www.oldsalem.org/learn/the-town-of-salem/ Accessed October 11, 2014. Updated March 3, 2015.
Lentil soup has been on my mind for the past couple months. For some reason, the thought of cooking lentils was intimidating, since my family didn’t eat them growing up and I was never taught how to cook them. To my delight, an article showed up in my email inbox entitled, “Lentil Soup Without a Recipe”. This was just the motivation I needed to start thinking about actually making this soup. While cooking soup on the stove-top is my usual go-to cooking method, I wanted to use my slow cooker to be able to leave it alone and bring that heavenly homemade soup aroma into my apartment while I worked. After browsing a few recipes, I was confident I’d be able to conjure up the exact soup I was longing for. I must admit, this was one of the easiest recipes and requires minimal prep. Feel free to experiment with adding your favorite vegetables and spices!
Easy Slow Cooker Green Lentil Soup
4 cups water
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups green lentils, rinsed
1 sweet potato peeled and chopped
3 carrots peeled and chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 bunches kale, washed and chopped
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
Add all ingredients to slow cooker except for kale and Italian parsley. Wait to add these until the last 10 minutes before serving. Set heat at low if heating for 7-8 hours, or set at high if heating for 4-5 hours. Serve warm with your favorite crusty bread or a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro!
Food for thought: Which is your favorite color lentil to cook with?