The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services held their Flavors of Carolina event yesterday, March 22nd, 2017 at the North Raleigh Hilton on Wake Forest Road. The Flavors of Carolina food shows have been helping North Carolina food companies connect with retailers, restaurants and food services since 1982. The purpose of the show is to encourage food buyers for restaurants, gourmet stores, food chains, and wholesalers to source NC products and produce. These are the people who decide what appears on shelves across the state, the country, or the globe! The exhibition area was chock full of North Carolina goodness from start to finish.
I arrived right in the swing of things, and was ushered into the vendor area efficiently, whereupon I immediately noticed very unique offerings that spoke to the heart of the state.
One of the coolest things for a foodie, chef, or home cook is trying different kinds of salt. It’s one of the best ways to liven up any dish without a lot of fuss. The Sea Love Sea Salt Company had a variety of salt flavors made with true NC sea salt. They’re based right on the NC coast at Wrightsville Beach. This was a delight to try, and the pure form has a fitting NC mellowness that is moderately intense but neutral enough to work with all kinds of dishes. The flavors were quite something to sample. My favorite was the citrus sea salt, but by all means pick your own.
Tastebuds Popcorn was a lot of fun! I absolutely had to try the Triple-Chocolate Salted Caramel. It was decadent and crunchy – a great combination for this popcorn-lover!
I had a chance to chat briefly with the Bros. Vilgalys out of Durham. Rim offered me a sample shot of the Zaphod, which I’d not had a chance to try yet. The Krupnikas is the original of their line. It is honey-based and quite sweet with real spices, and a crowd favorite. I liked the herbaceous tendency of Zaphod as well though, with some fruitiness in the mix.
Annelore’s bakery is a favorite at the NC State Farmer’s Market, and they had some beautiful German-inspired traditional (non-gluten-free) pastries to sample, as did quite a few others!
Honestly, I didn’t expect to sample much food at the event, as I’m gluten-free myself and have been for years, but boy was I surprised!
There were a ton of gluten-free vendors and food people on site! It was such a thoughtful and diverse lineup of people, and bodes well for the future of our food scene. I recently became aware of how much of a niche market this truly is when myself talking to others about gluten-free food. There are a lot of misconceptions out there. But it is exponentially more challenging to produce good quality, texture, flavor, and overall satisfaction. I wish everyone there well in their endeavors!
While I was chatting with the folks from Pamlico Shores, we discussed where their products can be found. Actually, more than one of the produce companies were sourced by Walmart! That’s nice to know. What they discussed though, was the desire to have a greater presence in more outlets across the spectrum, such as Harris Teeter, Krogers, and the like. This is something the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has been fostering with the retail outlet buyers meetings they’ve enabled, such as the Krogers meeting which was held at the hotel as well.
If you’re like me, one of the things that I look for first when food shopping is the point of origin – even if shopping for myself! I’d much rather buy from a NC regional or local farm, than out of country or out-of-state. It doesn’t mean the produce won’t be good. And we don’t produce every kind of fruit and vegetable there is, but we certainly have a bounty to choose from, and we can vote for change with our dollars as well. Supporting our local and regional food system is an important part of being a mindful consumer. But we have to let stores know this is what we want by supporting local products when we can at their outlets!
There was also a nice selection of BBQ sauce, spice rubs, country ham and sausages, and those lovely sweet potatoes! I’ll be doing a blog carnival this coming week featuring sweet potatoes 3 ways – with a some very talented food ladies! In the meantime, I’ve already got sweet potatoes by serendipity! Check out a few of the wonderful folks who came out and displayed the bounty, food diversity, and ingenuity of our lovely state:
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to double-back and speak with a couple of people, one was the gluten-free bread from Simple Kneads. I’d just finished a great couple of homemade Reuben-style sandwiches this past week, and the only thing missing was a really great pumpernickel.
Oh my. I’m not ashamed to say I completely geeked out at this table. I lost my cool, people. There were hugs and high-fives involved. I was fortunate to take some home, and it will be well-used. Trust me.
Speaking of not-to-be missed, it was truly great to see these folks!
Steven and Samantha Goff from Brinehaus were there with N.C. Beef from Shipley Farms. By the way, Mr. Shipley from Shipley Farms was nice as could be! The food was nice too! The beef tartare was fantastic, and the Goffs took it to the next level with the shortrib and potato salad plate – the smokiness from the shortib small plate was a nice contrast to the fresh, lively acid of the tartare appetizer. So the dishes were complementary, and it was delicious.
Lastly, our potent potable options have certainly exploded over the last several years! I spied Lonerider Brewery, Shelton Vineyards, and Covington Sweet Potato Vodka – who I voted most likely to succeed – at laughs. It is of course gluten-free, but did you consider that it is Putin-free as well? Yay for enjoying local, in the U.S.A.! H&H distillers out of Asheville had their Hazel 63 Rum on hand and were mixing samples. This was also a great choice for an afterhours beverage.
This was so much fun! I so love talking to people, meeting new folks, and learning more about our food scene in the process!
Thanks to these good folks for sponsoring our upcoming Flavors of North Carolina dinner by the Les Dames d’Escoffier International – NC Chapter coming up on April 6th!
I hope everyone has a chance to try some of the wonderful, earnest, delicious work our neighbors are doing! Also check the NC Department of Agriculture website for more Got to be NC goodness!
Bon Appetit and Cheers!