When I go so long between blog posts, I usually depend on the trail of photographs captured on my phone to remember what I’ve been up to. And each time I delve down into those archives, I am grateful for what I find.
As summer turns to fall, I find I’ve been welcomed to many feasts.
At the end of August, there was the first-ever Charlotte Food Fight, organized between the Piedmont Culinary Guild and the local chapter of the American Culinary Federation. The former is a new nonprofit started by Charlotte-area chefs, farmers and food artisans to create a network in support of the local food chain. The latter is part of a national organization best known for its certification program for professional chefs.
The event was held in the kitchens of the culinary program of the local community college. Each side presented an amuse bouche, appetizer, main course and dessert. They were plated at different stations, with guests circulating at will, and able to enjoy a North Carolina wine paired with each dish.
Naturally, I volunteered my way in, and so did Miss Chef. She is a member of both organizations, while I proudly wear my 4 PCG t-shirts any chance I get.
Photo credit Heidi Billotto
Once our volunteer duties were done, we were free to get in on the fun. Here are just a few highlights of “my” team. (Hey, I don’t give a toss about sports, so why not back these guys/gals?)
That’s just one station above, with four chefs working elbow-to-elbow. No attitudes here.
This next photo is of the PCG’s appetizer, but I failed to get a description. I remember that’s crab meat on top of a panna cotta, and popcorn shoots as a garnish, but that’s all I remember. This is from one of the chefs I admire most, Paul Verica of Heritage Food & Drink. His plating is beautiful.
This was the main course…simplified, it’s pork with squash purée and chimichurri. Of course, there’s a lot more in there, like pork belly. But whatever…yum.
I’ll save you all the buildup and say the PCG blew the competition out of the water. The chefs, though pretty damn tired, were exuberant about their victory.
The event was themed like a prizefight, thus the gaudy championship belt. In the ensuing months, it has made the rounds to all the establishments of the competing chefs. Ironically, as I happened to be in the last establishment this afternoon for lunch, I was asked to fetch it. So right now it’s in my living room.
I feel like a winner!
In September I was also invited to the first in what is hoped to be a series of food + art events, created by CLTure, an online entity I’ve done some writing for. It featured another of my favorite chefs, Luca Annunziata of Passion8 (who incidentally, invited Miss Chef to the initial meeting of what turned into the PCG). He was paired with a local artist, Alexandra Loesser, and asked to create dishes based on five paintings commissioned for the event.
Turns out, they share a fascination with blood.
The artist’s current focus is on showing the contrast of beauty and brutality in nature. We tend to prettify it, thinking that “natural” means peaceful and harmonious. Nope, not always!
We got a little break with dessert, thankfully. Just a simple sweet potato panna cotta. Blood free.
Somewhere in between those two events, I attended a PCG get-together at a local rum distillery.
And just this past weekend, Miss Chef and several of our friends took part in the South End Chili Cookoff.
It was a very Fido-friendly event. I think it’s organized in conjunction with a local firehouse. For a city with mostly cat sports mascots, Charlotte really loves its dogs.
I had to head off to work shortly after this started, but Miss Chef’s team didn’t win anyway so I guess I didn’t miss much.
And that pretty much takes me up to today which, though being a Tuesday, is kind of my Friday. So I’m about to kick back and enjoy a little R&R.
Right after I figure out what’s for dinner.
For those keeping up with my writing career, I just had another cover story published, about the place of local food at the big regional farmers market in Charlotte. You can read it here.