It’s all for you, Gentle Reader

Chef James is going to be very proud.hook-and-larderChef 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.


A rare sighting of Casey, the state fair mascot, in the wild.

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACaptain 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWoody’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.


The pimento bacon cheeseburger egg roll. OMG.

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 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI 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!


It won’t look like this for long.  Soon it will be shoulder to shoulder.

Thanks for your time.

The five people you’ll meet in the kitchen (and the one you should be)

No matter what, everybody’s gotta eat.

I don’t care who you are, if you want to keep walking around on this rock, you need to eat.  No exceptions.

But everybody’s different and the kitchen is where these differences come into stark relief.

I have identified the five main types you may run into:

1.)There’s the cook I call “Persnickety Pierre”.This guy can do no cooking unless he is working from a recipe that is practically Byzantine in its complexity.  Every step must be related in intricate, painstaking direction.  Food that should take 30 minutes takes an hour and a half because Pierre can’t keep himself from repeatedly opening the oven to check on the proceedings.

His kitchen is so sparkling clean you have to wear sunglasses in it.  There are enough cleaning chemicals in the cabinets to hold chemistry class.  He has a diverse wardrobe of Hazmat suits.

If he cooks for you, the food probably won’t taste terribly good, but you can be confident of never contracting a food-borne illness at his table.

2.)At the polar-opposite is Lady Laissez-faire.This self-taught, self-proclaimed chef cooks constantly.  There are only two problems.

She can’t be bothered to actually read through a recipe.  Her favorite expression is, “Don’t worry; I got the gist of it.”

No dish is ever truly finished, she never knows how many it will serve, and doesn’t have a clue how to save her leftovers, of which she always has many.

Her other characteristic is a lackadaisical attitude toward substitutions.  Honey for maple syrup is perfectly acceptable.  But Lady L has run amuck.  She will blithely sub out cayenne pepper for paprika, fish sticks for fresh shrimp, and once, in a pinch, gummy bears for mushrooms.  It may rarely be edible, but it’s always original.

3.) And there’s “Can-do Man”.

This is what happens when you consume too many chemicals.

If it doesn’t come in a can, box or bag, he’s not interested.  Kits are where it’s at.  Our guy eats so many preservatives in his food that he will be dead ten years before he starts to decompose.


4.) There is also the cook I call, “Finger-on-the-pulse-diet chef”.This miss eats no gluten, carbs, animal fat, refined sugar, or dairy.  If there’s a new diet out there, she has done just enough research on it to be misinformed.  She generously imparts her knowledge with everyone, whether they want it or not.  Priscilla firmly believes that bad diets are the root of all society’s ills.

High cholesterol?  White food’s off limits.

Insomnia?  Go paleo.

Color blind?  Eat capers and licorice, together.

Flat feet? No food with the letter “R” in it.

The funny thing is, our girl has acid reflux, eczema, and could stand to lose 15 pounds.

5.)Our final cook is called “The Frat Boy”.There are two kitchen tools upon which Biff relies.  One’s his microwave; he can heat up Spaghetti-o’s and pop popcorn like a champ.  The other is his telephone.  He’s on a first-name basis with every take-out place in town.  He built a tool shed from pizza boxes.  His fridge contains only beer and duck sauce.  He named his dog “Raman”.

And lastly I hope, you.

Know your recipes, and keep your kitchen clean.  But don’t be too uptight, and feel free to get creative.  Short cuts are ok if used sparingly.  Learn something about nutrition and try to eat right.  And once in a while, take the night off and order in something yummy and a little naughty. Above all, keep cooking, and have fun.

Thanks for your time.