Chef James is going to be very proud.Chef James Clark is owner of the soon-to-be-opened food stall, Hook and Larder at the Blue Dogwood Public Market on Franklin in Chapel Hill. He’s also a friend who has made it his personal mission to mature my taste for seafood. I’m strictly a Filet ‘O Fish and Chicken of the Sea girl, which I think breaks his seafood-loving heart a little bit.
Well, today I ate six different denizens of the deep.
I had a date at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. It was the media luncheon, which introduced foods making their debut this year to the press. It was my first time.
Steve Troxler, as commissioner of the NC Agriculture Department, is the traditional host of the fair. Because of the historic flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew (help if you can, and let’s keep those poor folks in our thoughts), he was in the field today, assessing and assisting. His deputy, David Smith acted in his stead.
We met on the main floor of the Dorton arena. We were warned to come hungry because we would sample new foods that were to be offered at the fair. I prepared by eating a very light dinner last night.I should have fasted for 6-8 weeks.
Beginning with the seafood: N&T Concessions had shrimp bites which were a hit at my table, a few had seconds. The Ragin’ Cajun had a Low Country boil with corn on the cob, potatoes, sausage, and perfectly steamed shrimp with truly delicious cocktail sauce. They also offered light and tasty blue crab hushpuppies.Captain Nell’s had fresh crab dip, and ingenious claws in which the meat was breaded and fried with the claw still attached, which made a dandy handle. Their dip was warm, cheesy, and won best new food at the fair.
And then there was Neomonde, a Mediterranean eatery with a brick & mortar in Raleigh. On their menu were Phoenician fish and chips. The fish was Pollock, and delicious; perfectly fried with an extremely light coating. And the chips (fries) were tossed in Za’atar spice. Za’atar just happens to be the spice with which I am currently obsessed. It’s a mix of thyme, sesame, oregano, salt, and sumac; sumac’s a lemony, piney herb that Americans should eat more of. This mixture works on anything from dressing, to pork chops, to yogurt.Woody’s Wings (locations in Raleigh and Cary) and Chef’s D’lites took a couple of common sammiches and made them into egg rolls. Oh man.
Chef’s transformed a Cuban and Woody’s made my favorite item of the day; a bacon pimento cheeseburger. I’m going back, getting more.
And the dessert. La Farm bakery, a Cary institution and Mecca for carb-o-vores brought chocolate whoopie pies with vanilla and raspberry filling. They also had an interesting bread made with Carolina Gold rice. If the normal fare at the fair is a little heavy and common for you (who are you, anyway?), La Farm always brings it with awesome baked goods, and sandwiches full of gourmet delights.And ice cream: NCSU’s Howling Cow had caramel apple crisp, and the John Deere folks had Elvis; banana/peanut butter. I polished off a scoop each. I know, I couldn’t believe it myself. But I suffered through it all for you, Gentle Reader.I was warned; I came hungry, and even wore my eatin’ pants. But both me and my pants were supremely uncomfortable on that long ride home.
See you at the Fair!
Thanks for your time.