My Favorite Monday

If you’re ever out shopping and you see a crazy lady filling her cart with Brach’s pumpkins, Boo Berry and Franken Berry cereal, singing, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, and looking more like a demented Disney princess and less like a serious journalist, that’ll be me.

My birthday and dogwood blooms may both occur in the spring, but fall is my favorite season of the year.And the very best of all, the high holy days of the fall, is the North Carolina State Fair.  I love it like a diva loves drama.  I look forward to it all year long.

For the past few years, I’ve had a couple very minor roles in the fair of my own.  These roles may be minor, but my delight of them have been colossal.The Kid and I have begun working with Flavor NC host Lisa Prince in judging specialty cooking contests.  And as a writer, I’ve been invited to attend the State Fair media luncheon, the Monday before opening day.

In addition to receiving information about the fair from various state and local officials, it’s a showcase of new food that will be there.  An all-you-can-eat fair food buffet.

You heard me right, a bounteous feast of fair food, and we’re the first lucky lucky folks to indulge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday was that red-letter day.

One of my favorite savory items comes from last year’s winner of the best new item; Arepa Loca.  An arepa is a kind of pocket bread sort of thing.  It’s grilled crispy on the outside, split, and normally filled with a shredded beef, chicken, veggies and such.

Those locas son terifico.  The food is fresh, carefully made, and delicious.  The folks are friendly, kind, and very patient with the kind of person who can’t decide and doesn’t have a whole lot of arepa experience (that would be me).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis year they invented the arepa burger.  They filled the arepa with a moist tasty burger, tomato, onion, and those little potato sticks.  Then dress them with two sauces; a pink aioli, and a cilantro chimichurri-like concoction.  This was the item that intrigued The Kid most, and I was requested to make sure I try.

It’s kind of an odd combo.  I don’t even like cilantro.  But gosh this was good.  I don’t know how light this is, but it feels both healthy and indulgent at the same time.  And I could eat a stack of their fresh, crispy arepas as high as an elephant’s eye.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPastry chef, Lionel Vatinet, owns the astonishing bakery La Farm, in Cary.  Almost everything he makes is the best of its kind I’ve ever eaten.  His Carolina Gold rice bread is my absolute favorite bread.  His desserts are the stuff of dreams.  He makes his own potato chips, for cripe’s sake.

But he is also some kind of confectionary wizard.  Last year he made a life-long raspberry hater devour his chocolate raspberry whoopie pies.  I know, right?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis year, he made s’mores.  But these are not the s’mores of camping trips of yore.  The crazy Frenchman makes the Graham crackers and marshmallows from scratch.  Then he made chocolate ganache for dunking, and before it dried, sprinkled on candied bacon.

I’m not fond of the texture of marshmallows.  I love the flavor, but it feels like some kind of sentient sponge in my mouth and I just can’t. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut of course Chef Lionel’s treat was so good it transcended any gelatin weirdness.  I took one bite out of politeness, and Could.Not.Stop.Eating.  I foresee more s’mores in my future, and probably a few road trips to Cary after the fair.

Anybody wanna carpool?Thanks for your time.

Diary of a mad woman in a kitchen Part 2

Last week I related to you excerpts from the food diary that I faithfully kept for the entire year.

Before I continue though, I’d like to explain what a true Christmas miracle these columns are.

I’ve always loved to write, and the number one piece of advice to young writers is to keep a journal.

I’ve owned more diaries than I can count.  No dice.  Not one of them had more than ten or fifteen entries before it was set aside and forgotten.

Each new, pristine book was begun with the best of intentions.  I would be faithful and prolific.  This would be the one which would take.

But sadly, no.  The entries would be forced, stilted, and honestly; dull.

Until this year.  I decided to keep a culinary log with an eye to doing a column at the end of the year.  Maybe this is what kept me honest, and kept me coming back with new entries.

Whatever the reason, it worked:

July 2nd– It seems like every supermarket has all the fixings for a cook-out on sale.  Meat, condiments, chips, buns, and sodas are all reduced.  I am definitely stocking up the freezer.  It might be October before I have to buy hamburger or Kaiser rolls.

That lemon chicken is perfect.

July 11th– Petey, The Kid and I went over to Crabtree Valley Mall for lunch after a morning at the flea market.  We ate at Kabobi, in the food court.  When I haven’t visited for a while I tend to forget just how good their food is.  Lemon chicken, lentils and rice, grape leaves; it’s a Mediterranean wonderland.

July 23rd– Major bummer!  My favorite guilty pleasure while shopping at Brier Creek is to get a salted caramel milk chocolate candy at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company.  Stopped by today and was terribly disappointed to find they had changed the recipe.  The caramel is stiffer and much larger, which since each piece is sold by weight makes it about twice the price.

August 8th– Dined at Golden Corral.  They now have breakfast on the buffet all day.  And…they have cotton candy on the dessert bar.  Woo Hoo!

September 7th– Had a sample of Panera’s new green passion power smoothie.  Even though I think mango tastes like baby food, I really liked it.  And at only 200 calories, it’s an awesome lunch on the go.

September 28th– Lowes had a new brand (Promised Land) chocolate milk on sale.  I picked up the 2%.  It’s rich, yummy, and less than 150 calories per serving.

October 17th– Went to the wedding of one of my oldest, closest friends.  The reception was held upstairs at The Pit, in Durham (321 Geer St).  There was a gorgeous view of downtown, and the finger food served was delicious.

Later on the 17th– Swung be Mickey D’s on the way home.  The order was wrong and the fries were left out.  Joe Pesci was right in Lethal Weapon.  They will make you most displeased at the drive-thru.

November 3rd– Halloween candy is 75% off and Boo Berry cereal is half price.  I knew I loved the fall.

December 16th– Made Salisbury steak from scratch.  It was really easy, and very tasty.  Serve it in a divided aluminum tray in front of the TV and you’re six years old all over again.  All you need is footy pajamas.

December 23rd– I hope all the readers of the Henderson Daily Dispatch have the very happiest of holidays.

Thanks for your time.