Friday, March 25, 2016

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is Back!

It's about that time folks - time to light the fire. The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is coming back, and with a new format that's sure to shake things up.

We'll no longer battle restaurant and restaurant - instead, chefs can create a "dream team" and partner with another top dog chef to up their chances of sweeping the competition. I'm so excited by this idea and can't wait to see the indubitably strong pairs.

I already have a few dream team scenarios in my head, so I'll just have to wait a few more weeks to see if I'm right - the battles kick off in Durham on April 18!

Check out the full press release below and visit their website for more info and to get a discount on pre-sale tickets!

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Announces 2016 Schedule with Battles in Six North Carolina Cities

Interactive Chef Tournament Launches Dream Team Concept for the Ultimate Dining Experience

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the state’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, is back for 2016 with a total of eight tournaments across the state, each made up of four chef teams vying for the local title. The touring competition will have dual brackets in both Raleigh and Charlotte, and one tournament in each of Durham, Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Wilmington. It all culminates in October with the Battle of Champions to name a statewide victor.

Applications for chefs interested in competing are currently being accepted for all locations. This year, the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is switching formats to allow chefs to create All-Star Dream Teams. The change allows chefs from different restaurants to partner together to create their three-person team, upping the potential caliber and creating a more fun and competitive atmosphere for all.

“We’re excited to introduce this new Dream Team concept that will further showcase the immense culinary talent and agriculture in North Carolina with the 2016 Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series,” said Jimmy Crippen, Competition Dining Series founder and host. “Our mission is to connect and celebrate with foodies across the state through this dynamic, entertaining culinary experience. We look forward to sharing unique chef collaborations with our diners to make for an unprecedented year of highly competitive events with innovative dishes like never before.”

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series battles include two chef teams each preparing three courses centered on a featured ingredient that comes from a North Carolina farmer or artisan producer. Featured ingredients are revealed to the chefs the morning of the dinner event and must be used in every course. Ticketed guests get in on the action, savoring the full-service, six-course meals without knowing which chef prepared which plate. Alongside culinary and guest judges, diners rate each dish using an interactive app, ultimately determining who moves on to the next round and who goes home.

The 2016 Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series dinner battles will be held in:

  • Durham: April 18, 19 and 21
  • Winston-Salem: May 22, 23 and 25
  • Greensboro: June 20, 21 and 23
  • Raleigh (two brackets): July 11, 12, 14, 18, 19, 21 and a finale to name one Raleigh champion July 24         
  • Charlotte (two brackets): Aug. 8, 9, 11, 22, 23, 25 and a finale to name one Charlotte champion Aug. 28 
  • Wilmington: Sept. 19, 20 and 22

The six winners will move on to compete in the Battle of Champions at the end of the year. Since Raleigh and Charlotte teams must compete in an extra battle to win their local title, these chefs will receive a bye for the first round of the championship.

Tickets to attend an interactive dinner battle are $59 to $69 each and will officially go on sale for each series once that local bracket is announcedDiscounted pre-sale tickets for all tournaments are available now for $10 less than standard pricing at Tickets are expected to sell out quickly, and people interested in attending are encouraged to signup for the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series e-newsletter for the most recent ticket updates and news.

All chefs are invited to apply to compete in any of the six tournaments. The application and a complete list of rules are available at

About The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series
The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, Certified Angus Beef®, and local and regional partners throughout the state. The goal of the series is to celebrate North Carolina products and agriculture, and to showcase the culinary ingenuity and talent across the state. For more information, visit or get in on the conversation at and @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


My very first trip to Osteria in Greensboro was right after they opened. I remember the food being pretty good and the entire experience being just fair. I blamed the kinks they were still working out. I wasn't in any hurry for a return visit. Upon my most recent trip, it's safe to say said kinks are gone. The food is sensational and they're doing incredible business - you'll want to make a reservation before you pop in on a random Wednesday!

Big ass prawns!
The wine selection is ample, and servers do a nice job recommending wines pleasing to your palate. Delicious homemade rolls - sourdough, I'm thinking - are warm, and served with a salty white bean, onion, carrot and basil chutney. It's easy to make this a little sandwich and inhale it. Osteria offers a standard menu as well as several specials. It's wise to order selections from both. Appetizers feature some of the freshest seafood around. 6 large prawns are simply grilled head-on, and a squirt of lemon brings out the sweetness. Grilled octopus is served alongside grilled fingerling potatoes, white beans and roasted tomatoes. The octopus was a little chewy, but the accoutrements made up for it.

Charred Octopus with Fingerlings
I just adore a crepe. At Penny Path Cafe in High Point, you can find them filled with cookie dough (be still my heart!) and at Osteria, they are filled with artichokes, spinach, peppers, ricotta and parmesan cheeses, and served with mixed greens and a tangy roasted red pepper tarragon sauce. This dish is scrumptious. However, the show stopper appetizer was two tender grilled scallops served on a sea of beurre blanc (white butter sauce), with roasted plums and a plum reduction. HOLY SMOKES. The texture of the scallop is exactly like the tender plum, and the beurre blanc is so rich that the tartness of the fruit is a perfect way to cut through it. This was the best thing we tasted all night (and we tasted a lot).

Divine Scallops with Plums

Pappardelle with Salmon
When you're at an authentic Italian restaurant, you can suspect that the pasta is made in-house. The pasta dishes we ordered reminded us of how fabulous fresh, homemade pasta really is. Pappardelle is uber thin and practically dissolves in your mouth! The thin ribbons are served with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, spinach and grilled salmon in a delightful broth. Hint - use some of the homemade bread to sop up the broth. Scungilli Arrabbiata will not only test your Italian speaking skills, but your self-discipline too, as this is easily a serving for 2+ people. A huge, steaming hot bowl of strozzapreti noodles (long corkscrew shape) is served with a spicy tomato sauce and fresh sliced Conch. How freaking cool is that? Conch?! The slightly briny flavor of the meat reminded me of a mussel, and it's texturally a bit chewy like a clam. It's a delightful dish.

Scungilli Arrabbiata, aka Strozzapreti with Conch
Branzino is a European Sea Bass, almond-encrusted, and served with some sensationally creamy Mascarpone Risotto. Did I mention that shrimp and roasted cherry tomatoes are also featured in this risotto? It's seriously outstanding and insanely rich. You get two filets of the fish, and you'll want every bite to mop up the beurre blanc it's lying on top of.

Almond-encrusted Seabass with Mascarpone Risotto
I'm not a huge fan of Italian desserts, so I wasn't too keen on the Decadent Chocolate Cake, which was more like a chocolate lava cake minus the liquid center. It was too gummy for me, like a flourless cake, which is probably how it should be listed on the menu. The housemade gelato it comes with though, is an entirely different story. A sweet vanilla gelato is swirled with black cherries and tastes like icing. I didn't have an ounce of room left until I tasted it, and then I found plenty of room. 

Give Osteria a visit if you haven't been, or if it's been a while since you last went. They are clearly doing something right - every table was packed at 6pm on a Wednesday. For the most part, service is very good, but more frequent checkbacks and a quicker serving pace would make a great evening outstanding. Regardless, you will enjoy the cuisine.