Friday, September 30, 2016

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series - Battle of the Champions

It's championship time, y'all. The Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series is heating up with the Battle of Champions in Raleigh, November 11-20! This event will feature the best of the best, and you know these tickets will fly the moment they go on sale.

I love this event - all foodies would - and if you haven't been to a battle in your region, this is your last chance of the year to go! You'll serve as a judge at this 6 course meal, where two ingredients have to be featured in each dish. You don't know the ingredients until you're seated at the table and trust me, this year's ingredient combos have been pretty spectacular.

Tickets go on sale this Monday, October 3 at 7pm - and don't wait to purchase them! This is the hottest battle of them all. Get more information on where to get your tickets here and check out the official press release below!

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Announces Chef Bracket and Ticket Sales
for Battle of Champions in Raleigh Nov. 11 to 20

Raleigh, North Carolina – Sept. 29, 2016 – The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the Carolina’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, is gearing up for its Battle of Champions series in which six top North Carolina chef teams will battle it out to take home the coveted annual championship title. Foodies from around North Carolina and beyond are invited to attend the five live dinner events Nov. 11 to 20 in Raleigh, savoring the full-service, six-course meals and serving as judges. Tickets to these interactive battles go on sale Monday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at and are guaranteed to sell out quickly.

The six chef teams competing in the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Battle of Champions each won their local series to earn a place in the championship. The bracket includes:
·       Friday, Nov. 11 Dinner
o   Team Egg Heads from Durham: Scott Schabot, Keith Calise and Tad Balio, Another Broken Egg Café chefs.

o   Team Sedgefield Culinary Crushers from Greensboro: James R. Patterson III, Sedgefield Country Clubexecutive chef; Isaac Spencer, Sedgefield Country Club chef; and Tim Alston Sedgefield Country Club lead cook.

·       Saturday, Nov. 12 Dinner
o   Team Ceviche’s from Wilmington: Sam Cahoon, executive chef of Ceviche’s in Wrightsville Beach; and Edson Juarez and Eric Smith, sous chefs at Ceviche’s.

o   Team Vidalia Boom from Winston-Salem: Sam Ratchford, co-owner and executive chef at Vidalia Restaurantin Boone; Julius Kalman, Vidalia Restaurant co-owner; and Jason Walsh, Vidalia Restaurant chef.

·       Sunday, Nov. 13 Dinner
o   Team Radical Range Riders from Charlotte: Adam Reed, owner and chef at Sante' of Matthews in Matthews; Terra Ciotta, culinary instructor and chef at Artisan Restaurant in Charlotte; and Jess Cochran, culinary instructor at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.

o   Team Mirepoix from Raleigh: Franz Propst, executive chef at Peak City Grill & Bar in Apex; Ryan Summers, chef at Chef's Palette Restaurant and Bar in Cary; and Tom Halik, chef and proprietor at Main Street Grille Café & Bakery in Wake Forest.

·       Friday, Nov. 18 Dinner
o   Nov. 11 winning team versus Nov. 12 winning team

·       Sunday, Nov. 20 Grand Finale Dinner
o   Nov. 13 winning team versus Nov. 18 winning team

Each of the Battle of Champions dinner events, just as at all dinners throughout the year-long series, includes two chef teams battling it out preparing three courses centered on a featured North Carolina ingredient that is revealed only an hour before they start cooking that day. Unlike any other cooking competition, attendees vote on each dish using their smart devices, and ultimately help determine who moves on to the next round and who goes home. New to the competition this year, the creation of All-Star Dream Teams allows chefs from different restaurants to partner together for the three-person teams, upping the potential caliber and creating a more fun and competitive atmosphere for all.

“This year’s Battle of Champions is certain to bring dynamic competition and delicious food throughout the five dinner events,” said Jimmy Crippen, Competition Dining Series founder and host. “The level of culinary talent and exceptional creativity in each of our 2016 local series blew us away and we can’t wait to see what these skilled chef teams serve up in the annual championship. Foodies won’t want to miss this ultimate culinary showdown!”

As they move on to the Battle of Champions, the six chef teams will all compete for bragging rights and a grand prize of $4,000 in cash and prizes. Each winning team member will also take home a handcrafted chef knife by Ironman Forge and a 40-quart Grizzly cooler,compliments of Joyce Farms. All Battle of Champions events are held at NC State’s Dorothy & Roy Park Alumni Center located at 2450 Alumni Dr. in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Tickets for the Nov. 11, 12, 13 and 18 battles are $119 each, and tickets for the grand finale battle, Nov. 20, are $139 each. Learn more and buy tickets starting Monday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. 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®, Freshness from North Carolina Waters, Joyce Farms, Goodnight Brothers, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, ALSCO, Swisher Hygiene 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, or get in on the conversation at and @CompDiningNC on Twitteror Instagram.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Tessa Farm to Fork

How do I love thee, Tessa Farm to Fork? Let me count the ways. This place is less than a mile from my house and one of my new favorite restaurants in Greensboro. Tessa specializes in seasonal menus featuring locally sourced ingredients. Prices are reasonable, the space is bright and quaint, it's simple yet elegant. Service is great, and you can tell management knows what they're doing. I am so excited for them to be entering in their 8th month and can't wait to taste more from them.

Menus change fairly frequently, so I'll recap some of what I've sampled over the past month. At lunch, the Hickory Nut Gap Pulled Pork Sandwich piles a huge mound of savory pulled pork onto a brioche bun, where one side is slathered with whole grain mustard, and one side is spread with tangy blackberry jam. I adore the sweet and savory flavor combo this creates. Finally, a place that understands my condiment obsession! Sides are exciting, ranging from Broccoli and Bacon Salad to Curried Zucchini and Onions.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos
The Candied Beet Salad does honor to the vegetable, adding pickled onion, Thai basil and cashews for an Asian flare. When you add grilled shrimp, you get 7, and they have a nice charred flavor. The Seasonal Berry Salad combines plump blackberries and blueberries with almond chevre cheese and pork belly batons - a chewy and smoky "crouton". Tessa's housemade dressings are a nice change from your standard restaurant options. Orange, Carrot & Ginger or Cilantro & Sundrop anyone? Kudos to the chefs for thinking up such fun combos!

At dinner, Shrimp Tacos can be tempura or grilled (I prefer the latter) and chipotle greens (I'm thinking swiss chard) and a citrus aioli fill the corn tortilla. The greens could have been cooked a little longer, but who am I kidding? I'm a shredded iceberg lettuce on a taco kind of gal, and these are definitely more upscale. The Lemongrass and Purple Garlic Braised Beef is really just a tender beef brisket. Lots of savory flavor, but I missed the earthiness and umami from the promised ingredients. The cilantro, pickled onions, peanuts and butternut squash fries definitely made this dish exciting though!

Beef Brisket 
Brunch is killer, most notably the specials. I'm talking a Fried Oyster Benedict with 6 crispy oysters on a soft, buttery biscuit, topped with fried eggs and pico de gallo. This is one of the best brunch items I have ever had. I appreciated the biscuit over an english muffin, and fried oysters > Canadian bacon any day. Most entrees are served with roasted potatoes, like fried potato cubes, sprinkled with sea salt, and a housemade molasses-ey ketchup. Scrumptious.

Weekday breakfast begins at 7:30am, Tuesday - Friday. I order Huevos Rancheros whenever it's an option, and Tessa's rendition is excellent: housemade chorizo, pico de gallo, refried black beans, queso fresco and sunny side up eggs between a crisp tostada? This is my heaven. Pancakes are thin and not too sweet, so you don't feel guilty having 1 or 2. You even get complimentary seasonal mini muffins. This is the best place to start your day.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake
The pastry chef at Tessa slays desserts. Caramel Banana Cake is a pound cake studded with walnuts, and glazed with a light caramel sauce. The Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake with cream cheese frosting is adorned with a brown butter, salted shortbread cookie. It's insanely good. Check out the chalkboard for rotating options.

Beauty in simplicity and local, is what Tessa does best. I strongly suggest you check it out as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Light Between Oceans

Starring: Michael "my love" Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz 
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Running Time: 2 hours, 13 minutes
Rating: PG-13

I had been dying to see "The Light Between Oceans" since the debut of Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander as a real-life couple last winter. I knew their on-screen chemistry would be palpable, and I got teary-eyed each time I saw the trailer. When I realized Derek Cianfrance was behind this production, I was even more thrilled (Cianfrance directed the gut-wrenching "Blue Valentine" and the haunting but fabulous "The Place Beyond The Pines"). "The Light Between Oceans" is gorgeous - both the coastal lighthouse setting AND the leads - and if it hadn't come out too soon to really be considered for awards, I would expect acting, directing, musical score and cinematography wins.

Fassbender plays Tom Shelbourne, a widower hired to be a lighthouse keeper right out of World War I. He catches the eye of a local girl, Isabel, and their attraction and curiosity is instant. Isabel is a quick thinker, and finds her way into Tom's heart before he can even say "lighthouse." The two seem very content in their little home, isolated from the rest of the world, but to them, they are each others' worlds. You can feel their joy.

Two of Vikander's strongest scenes (and keep in mind, she steals every scene) portray her miscarriages. It is utterly heartbreaking, and Tom feels helpless. When a baby in a small boat washes ashore, it immediately lifts her spirits, while Tom thinks of the danger and consequences of not reporting this odd occurrence. Isabel's hold over Tom forces him into agreeing to keep the baby to raise as their own. Life continues to be good for this family, though we know it can't be forever.

Ultimately, the mother of the baby (now 4 years old) is revealed. Rachel Weisz is beautifully understated as Hannah, who assumes her husband and newborn were lost at sea. Clues lead the authorities to Tom and Isabel, and Hannah is reunited with her child. We feel for the little girl - she clearly does not want to be with a strange woman, but she was the victim of a kidnapping. Director Cianfrance does an excellent job of allowing us to see both parties' perspectives.

I absolutely adored this film. It's one of my favorites of the year. Eye candy, tears, goosebumps - this movie has it all. It reminds me how gorgeous Fassbender's eyes are, and how unstoppable Vikander is becoming in Hollywood. Go see this movie.