Category Archives: Specialty Shops

Celebrating the Grilled Cheese at Whole Foods Market – Durham

The beginning of Fall always gets me excited about comfort foods like soups, roasts and seasonal salads. One thing that always makes me smile though is a good grilled cheese sandwich.

The beauty of the grilled cheese is it’s simplicity. “Grilled cheese can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They can be devoured on their own or paired with soup; jazzed up or dressed down – it really doesn’t matter, they taste just as good” says Eatocracy.

Whole Foods Market Vertical CMYK Logo copy

Whole Foods Market in Durham is celebrating fall by grilling cheeses! Learn how to grill cheese, taste the season’s best cheese and try different grilled cheese sandwiches at the Whole Foods Market’s quarterly Cheese Night event on TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 from 6-7:30 p.m. TONIGHT!!!!

You can also win a $50 gift certificate to Whole Foods Durham by commenting on this blog post. Details  listed below.

This event is free and open to the public and a great way to introduce kids to new and fun ways of creating their perfect grilled cheese. Let your kids sample a few cheeses and pick out their favorites. This gives them ownership over their sandwich and are more likely to try something new.

“We will taste a unique selection of delicious grilled cheeses and pairings. This event is FREE to the public, so come join us and learn what happens when heat meets cheese!,” says Whole Foods representative.

Whole Foods Cheese

Whole Foods Market Durham, Cheese Monger Ashley Cooper has this to say ; “A good grilled cheese should be melty, gooey, and provide contrasting flavors. On a simple grilled cheese, the best way to accomplish that is by pairing a base cheese to provide substance – such as Seaside Cheddar – with a slightly more flavorful cheese such as Gruyere for additional kick. Always use slices – never shreds – as it results in a more even melt and a better consistency.”

Ashley recommends the following combinations for Grown Up Grilled Cheeses:

“Always start a grilled cheese with your favorite bread – a rustic Ciabiatta alwas provides a nice combination of substance and flavor, and makes for a great presentation. Get creative with your components – I really enjoy pairing Gruyere – a complex rich and creamy cheese – with a simple fig spread and caramelized onions. Or Seaside Cheddar – a sharp, mature British Cheddar – with a local pepper jelly.”

Ashley Cooper is the Associate Team Leader of the Specialty Department at Whole Foods Market Durham. She’s received certification as a Certified Cheese Professional from the American Cheese Society, a title held by only 406 cheesemongers in the United States.

As for “grown-up” grilled cheese,” the possibilities are endless. Here are a few that popped to mind. Creamy havarti with blue cheese and fig jam. Aged extra sharp cheddar with apple. Fontina, Gruyere, Heirloom tomatoes and pesto spread. Gruyere and caramelized onions with a side of beef jus (think French onion soup in grilled cheese form). The list of combinations is endless and there is no right or wrong. That’s the beauty of grilled cheese! YOU OWN IT!!

Now is the best part, join the fun and tell me what creative ways you would make your perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Leave your comments below for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to Whole Foods Market Durham. Winner will be picked at random and announced Friday at noon. Just in time for your weekend shopping. Deadline to enter is 10am Friday, September 19.

More from the Whole Foods Market Durham Cheese Department can be found here.

The Perfect Grilled Cheese (Courtesy of Whole Foods Durham)

Grilled Cheese and Tomato on Multi-Grain Bread

Grilled Cheese and Tomato on Multi-Grain Bread

Simple. Sublime. A textural masterpiece. From college hotplates to 5-star kitchens, few foods offer such a combination of approachability, ease of preparation and sheer unadulterated yumminess. Delicious in its purest form and accommodating enough to welcome a broad range of party-crashers (Granny Smith apples, anyone?), the GCS is a joy to make and devour. Here are some basic guidelines for perfect grilled cheese sandwiches every time.

Grilled Cheese and Tomato on Multi-Grain Bread

Grilled Cheese and Tomato on Multi-Grain Bread

The Bread

Of course many breads work quite well, but a favorite is nice, long oblongs of rustic country bread. Something with backbone, maybe a little chewy, with a crunchy crust.

The Cheese

Good melting cheeses include: Gruyère, cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, gouda or Havarti. Grate your cheese. It melts more evenly and is a great help when you want to blend cheeses—say a nice, melty Gruyère with a bit of tangy blue. Let the grated cheese come up to room temp before cooking.


Think of things that go great on a cheese board: figs, ham, sweet pear or tart apple slices, balsamic-marinated veggies, chutney, honey—arugula or other spring greens are nice if added inside after the sandwich is done.


It’s important to spread a generous layer from edge to edge for that uniform golden crunch.

The Pan

Non-stick if you have one—you won’t have to use quite as much butter. A pan with a heavy base is great too, for an even heat.


Low-medium—you don’t want to blacken the bread, just golden it. Plop the sandwich in when the pan is heated up. No more than two minutes a side. Gentle pressure with a spatula helps move the heat into the center where the cheese is.

Bonus points: Once both sides are done, use a tong to hold sandwich edges to the griddle. This gives the oozed cheese that savory cooked crunch.

Preheated Oven

If cheese hasn’t thoroughly melted (don’t be afraid to open the sandwich up and check), pop the sandwich in the oven, pre-heated to 300, for about five minutes. The bread won’t overcook, but the cheese will melt completely.

For variations on the theme, take a look at all these grilled cheese recipes.

There’s nothing quite like melting, grilling or searing cheese! On your next Whole Foods Market visit, please stop by and chat with one of our cheesemongers. They are experts who love talking cheese and will happily give you a taste of any of our cheeses!

And don’t forget to come taste and sample at our next Cheese Nights. This one focuses on Grilling Cheeses. Tuesday, September 16th, 6:00 pm—7:30 pm. It’s free!

Happy Eating,


Yes, We Can! All Day Canning Jubilee at Whisk, May 17th

Contests, Free Demos, Class with Pickles and Preserves author, Andrea Weigl, and more…

Whisk is hosting a daylong canning jubilee on Saturday, May 17th in the Cary kitchen store, located in Waverly Place shopping center. The event is a celebration of how and why we continue to can our food in the 21st century!

Whisk logo

Interest in home canning is resurging and Whisk is dedicating an entire day to this social, healthy, and tasty pursuit. While technically there is no longer a need to “stock up for winter”, we still persist in canning. Why? Says Whisk employee and local canner, Karen Bosse: “With canning you are able to capture your garden and the goodness of the local farmers’ markets – there’s tremendous flavor, ingredient control, and zero waste.”

The day-long event is headlined by News & Observer food writer and Pickles and Preserves author Andrea Weigl who is teaching an ‘Introduction to Canning’ class. Participants will prepare three recipes from Weigl’s book and learn how to can safely at home. This participation-style class runs from 2pm-4 pm, costs $49, with online registration at

pickles and preserves


Sadly this class is sold out  but be sure to pick up a copy of Andrea’s book. I just made her Habanero Pepper Jelly this weekend and it was a huge hit at Mother’s Day brunch. I served it along side grilled chicken but it also pairs very well with pork, fish and grilled vegetables. All the recipes in the book are worth a try.

Habanero Jelly use

There will also be a local Canning Contest that day, with free entry and terrific prizes from Whisk. The two contest categories are Jellies, Jams and Preserves, and Pickled Vegetables. Submissions must have been canned within the past 12 months and must be made using North Carolina produce. Whisk customers will be able to taste and vote for their favorites, and canning contest winners will be announced on Facebook.

Andrea's Pickles

Photo courtesy of Andrea Weigl

Free tastings and canning demonstrations will be offered throughout the day. In addition, all canning supplies will be 20 percent off on May 17th. Visit the store Monday through Saturday, 10am-6pm; and on Sunday, 12pm-5pm. For more information about Whisk and to see a complete listing of its cooking classes, visit

Other upcoming classes with Andrea include :

• 11 a.m.-2 p.m. June 7, Durham Spirits Co., 311 E. Trinity Ave., Durham. hands-on cooking class, $59. Details.

• 6 p.m. June 25, Southern Season, 201 S. Estes St., Chapel Hill. demonstration cooking class, $40, Details.

• 10 a.m. June 28, Sur la Table, The Streets at Southpoint, Durham, hands-on class, $69. Details.

Happy Canning


Second Annual Flora and Food Truck Series

Fairview Garden Center to host second annual local food and local plant series on the following Saturdays…March 29, April 19 and May 17 …11am – 2pm

With local weather warming up to the 70s for Saturday, get out your gardening gloves, whet your appetite and then head to the Fairview Greenhouses & Garden Center, Inc. for the second annual “Flora and Food Trucks” series beginning this Saturday, March 29 (and Saturday April 19, and Saturday May 17) from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM at 8224 Holly Springs Rd. in Raleigh. The Fairview Garden Center hours of operation are 9 AM to 6 PM Monday through Saturday, Sundays 1 PM to 5 PM

The Flora and Food Trucks series promotes the idea that local food and local plants go hand in hand. Event attendees will have the opportunity to attend classes on vegetable gardening, herbs, perennials and container gardening.


“Last year was a great success!” says Susan Tower of Deliicious, “What a beautiful atmosphere to bring friends and family to enjoy local food!”

“With the winter we’ve had, everyone should be anxious to come out, get some flowers to brighten up their lawns and have some lunch outside from the great local food trucks,” says J West of Sarge’s Chef on Wheels.

The events are family friendly and admission is free. The food trucks will be charging their regular prices for the food offered. Food trucks attending this Saturday are: American Meltdown,
 Chick N Que, 
Sympathy 4 the Deli,
 Sweet Traditions by LeAne. 

Other participating food trucks are Chirba Chirba, Deli-icious, Dump Pho King, Jam Ice Cream, Mama Dukes, Only Burger, Sarge’s Chef, Sweet Stacey Cakes, and Will & Pops.

Guests can find out more about the event and food truck details by visiting

Happy Eating


Pan Fried Swordfish Steaks with Lemon

At the beginning of February, Locals Seafood kicked-off with their 1st annual Winter Seafood Jubilee, a series of North Carolina winter seafood-centric events and promotions taking place in NC’s Triangle region throughout February.

The Winter Seafood Jubilee kicked off with the “3 on 3 at the Winter Seafood Jubilee,” taking place during the first three weeks of February. Locals Seafood recruited three “social media foodie gurus” to participate, a challenge where each guru is responsible for one week in February and given three different species of winter seafood to cook and showcase to you. Kristen Baughman (@knbaughman) showcased her creations the first week, Kim Alexander (@trianglelocalista) the second week and now the torch has passed on to me (@durhamfoodie).

The first of my “3 on 3″ challenge, I went with a New England Clam Chowder Pizza made with the Bogue Sound littleneck clams I was given. With the help of my stepson this pizza turned out fabulous. It was an experience I will never forget. For my next choice I made a Seared Trout with White Wine, Lemon, Caper Sauce served with  a side of mixed greens tossed in lemon juice and olive oil. My husband and I devoured this dish and left only empty platers behind.

For the last of my “3 on 3″ challenge I was left with a swordfish steak. This is a thick dense cut of fish, and one I often refer to as the “steak of the sea.” Like a good steak, you don’t want to do too much with it. Originally my thought was to broil it in the oven, but after purchasing a new set of stainless steel pots and pans decided to pan fry it instead. This was the easiest of the three dishes and from start to finish took only about 20 minutes. My husband declared it the best of the week. Locals Seafood, we are your new favorite swordfish customers. =)

Swordfish Steak

Swordfish Steak


1 Locals Seafood Swordfish Steak

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

2 Lemons


In a ten inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot. (I usually test out the heat by flicking a few drops of water of water in the pan. If it sizzles, it’s ready)

Salt and pepper filet and add the fish to the pan.

Cut lemons in half and squeeze juice in to the pan. (I did this to incorporate lemon flavor in to the fish during the cooking process)

Cook each side about 5 minutes each. I cut my filet in half after the first flip to see how done it was). Most fish I don’t normally cook all the way through, however with swordfish I do.

Serve swordfish with a side salad of mixed greens (I used a left over  kale salad I had on hand mixed in with some arugula, green onions and cheese) topped with a touch of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. This salad can be made while the fish is cooking.

Finished SwordFish

In my previous post I mentioned that any leftover white wine, lemon and caper sauce could be frozen to use at a later date. I pulled out one of the sauce cubes, melted it in the microwave and topped a small amount over my portion of swordfish. Delicious! These last two recipes of the week are extremely versatile and can be used with most ypes of fish.

Swordfish Steak topped with leftover White Wine, Lemon Caper Sauce from the Seared Trout Recipe

Swordfish Steak topped with leftover White Wine, Lemon Caper Sauce from the Seared Trout Recipe

Now off to Locals Seafood you go. And be sure to ask them about species of fish you may not have cooked with before. They are very friendly folks and always happy to offer suggestions for new things to try and how to best cook them. I know I’ve never been disappointed.

Happy Eating



>> MAP

Raleigh State Farmers Market
Indoor Market Shoppes
1201 Agriculture St
– Thursdays • 10am-4pm 
– Fridays • 10am-4pm
– Saturdays • 10am-4pm
– Sundays • 11am-3pm

Chapel Hill Farmers Market
University Mall
– Saturdays • 9am-12pm

Western Wake Farmers Market
Carpenter Village – Cary
– Saturdays • 9:30am-12pm

LoMo Market
Farmers Market on Wheels!
30+ stops/week thru-out Triangle

Bella Bean Organics
Home delivery service

Seared Trout with White Wine, Lemon, Caper Sauce

At the beginning of February, Locals Seafood kicked-off with their 1st annual Winter Seafood Jubilee, a series of North Carolina winter seafood-centric events and promotions taking place in NC’s Triangle region throughout February.

The Winter Seafood Jubilee kicked off with the “3 on 3 at the Winter Seafood Jubilee,” taking place during the first three weeks of February. Locals Seafood recruited three “social media foodie gurus” to participate, a challenge where each guru is responsible for one week in February and given three different species of winter seafood to cook and showcase to you. Kristen Baughman (@knbaughman) showcased her creations the first week, Kim Alexander (@trianglelocalista) the second week and now the torch has passed on to me (@durhamfoodie). It will be my job to highlight another three ways to incorporated local seasonal NC fish/seafood into your everyday cooking routine. Let the fun begin!!

I started my “3 on 3″ week with a New England Clam Chowder Pizza which with the help of my stepson, turned out fabulous. For my next choice I decided to go with the trout fillets and do a high heat sear and top it with a white wine, garlic, lemon, caper sauce and serve it with a side of mixed greens tossed in lemon juice and olive oil.

I love fish but must admit I usually don’t go for skin on filets. I actually prefer whole fish that I can stuff with an array of herbs and citrus and bake it. Thanks to Locals Seafood my eyes are wide open to the possibilities of various varieties of fish and cuts. Wait until you see what I plan for the swordfish =)

This was a fairly easy dish to prepare, though the prep took more time than expected. I used a recipe from the Martha Stewart for a Cod with Herbed White Wine Lemon Sauce as my base and built on it from there. I made notes under each portion of the recipe with my changes. The recipe called for four fillets and I had only two so I ended up with extra sauce. Not a bad problem to have as you can freeze the extra sauce in ice cube trays to use at a later date. To do this, fill your ice cube tray with remaining sauce and let freeze. Once frozen place cubes in a freezer bag and store to use in future recipes.



  • shallot (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • lemons (2, juiced and 1 sliced into 14 inch thick rounds)
  • 6 tbsps unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 1/4 cup capers (roughly chopped)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1 cup herbs (loosely packed mixed fresh, parsley tarragon chervil dill and thyme roughly chopped)
  • codfish fillets (6 ounces)

NOTES: I added 1 large clove garlic, diced fine and used parsley, dill and thyme and chopped them in my food processor.



Combine shallot, wine, and lemon juice in a small skillet; set over high heat. Bring to a boil; simmer until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in butter, capers, 1/4 teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper, and 3/4 of the herbs. Set aside; keep warm.

Finished Sauce

NOTES: I added the garlic in with the shallot, wine and lemon juice. Before adding the butter and capers I did a taste test after it had reduced down and didn’t like the amount of shallots. I felt like it was too much so I drained the sauce through a fine mesh seeve and added it back to the skillet with about half the shallots. 

Fresh Trout


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add 3 tablespoons sauce. Season both sides of fillets with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Arrange fillets and lemon slices in skillet; sprinkle with some herbs. Cook until fillets are golden, about 4 minutes. Turn, sprinkle with remaining herbs, and cook until fish is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Serve with lemon slices and remaining sauce.

Seasoned Trout

NOTES: I used a cast iron skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil heated over medium/high until glistening. I wanted the trout to sizzle when I placed it skin side down in the pan. I sprinkled  the tops of the filets salt and pepper and used no lemon. I seared the skin side to a light golden brown then flipped them over until down. The timing was the same as in step two.

Final Trout

This was a great dinner. It is extremely helpful having the folks at Locals Seafood showcase seasonal fish from our NC fisherman. I buy from them often and am most certainly looking forward to more clams and trout fillets. Don’t be scared to ask them about fish you may not have cooked with before. They are super friendly and will happily explain the various species and how to best prepare them. Thanks Locals Seafood, you guys ROCK!!!

Happy Eating!



>> MAP

Raleigh State Farmers Market
Indoor Market Shoppes
1201 Agriculture St
– Thursdays • 10am-4pm 
– Fridays • 10am-4pm
– Saturdays • 10am-4pm
– Sundays • 11am-3pm

Chapel Hill Farmers Market
University Mall
– Saturdays • 9am-12pm

Western Wake Farmers Market
Carpenter Village – Cary
– Saturdays • 9:30am-12pm

LoMo Market
Farmers Market on Wheels!
30+ stops/week thru-out Triangle

Bella Bean Organics
Home delivery service

Dave and Buster’s Cary – Fun, Food, and Fabulous Games!

When Johanna asked me if I could cover the Dave and Buster’s Cary media day, I may have clapped my hands and squealed.

I have very fond memories of hanging out at the Dave and Buster’s in Atlanta as a visiting young adult- the combination of arcade games and mixed drinks was a potent recipe for fun. I wondered if it would be as much fun as a “grown-up” or if my memories were simply bright from the sheen of youth and alcohol.

Spoiler alert: I was *not* disappointed.

Dave and Buster’s newest location is at Cary Towne Center (@DaveBustersCary on Twitter), right off Highway 40. At 29,000 square feet with over 140 games, it’s a huge, fun-filled location with something for everyone of all ages.

Our first mission of the day was a tour of the space. I was lucky to be in a tour group with some entertaining folks- John from Triangle Explorer (@triangleexplorer), Lauren from Yelp NC (@YelpNCtriangle), and Ron from Foodalicious Follies(@foodaliciousNC).

Dave and Buster's Cary sports bar

Dave and Buster’s Cary sports bar

The first stop on our tour was the sports bar area. It boasts three huge TVs devoted to sports. The sports bar will also host trivia on big event nights. If you win, you get to play Dave and Buster’s “Spin ‘N’ Win” game, with prizes ranging from 10% off your entree to a $25 Power Card (the Power Card is Dave and Buster’s reloadable game card, used to play every game in their game room.)

Dave and Buster's Cary cocktail and beer bar

Dave and Buster’s Cary bar

The bar was our next stop. We were assured that the bartenders would be mixing with lots of flair, and with over 80 cocktails on the drink menu, that’s plenty of opportunity for them to show off their amazing skills. Beer fans will be happy to learn that the 10 draft beers on tap include Winston-Salem favorite Foothills brewery. Also to note for beer lovers is their signature “Beer Tube”- a 100oz large test tube filled with beer. At Dave and Buster’s, pitchers are for sissies. The bar also has plenty of screens for more sports watching (and I heard that they will be showing UFC in the bar, so get ready, fellow MMA fans!)

@TriangleExplorer plays Fruit Ninja

John (@TriangleExplorer) tries his hand at Fruit Ninja.

Then it was on to everyone’s favorite stop- the game room. Dave and Buster’s has every type of game imaginable- Vegas style coin games, virtual reality games, arcade style games (including Pac Man!) and old-fashioned games (including my personal favorite, Skee Ball.) Kids are welcome at Dave and Buster’s until 10pm with a parent or guardian, and Wednesday all games are half-price, something this mom was glad to hear. We had a blast burning up our Power Cards with games like Fruit Ninja (from the popular app), Big Bass Wheel (much like the big wheel from The Price is Right), four player air hockey (I’d never seen this version before, and it’s so much fun to play) and the Giant Claw (a *huge* version of the traditional claw game- I even won a big stuffed frog to bring home to my sweetheart!)

Dave and Buster's Winner's Circle prize room

Excellent prizes to choose from in the Winner’s Circle!

If you don’t win at the Giant Claw, don’t worry- for many games, you win tickets. Dave and Buster’s has an amazing selection of prizes in their Winner’s Circle prize room. You can even save up your tickets by having them transferred to your Power Card and use them for the biggest prizes, like an electric guitar or an iPad.

Events room at Dave and Buster's Cary

Check out that beautiful mural of Yates Mill Pond.

After we wore ourselves out with all that competition, Dave and Buster’s gave us a preview of their menu in one of their private events rooms. These events rooms can seat up to 100 people comfortably and are equipped with big screen TVs for A/V presentations, making it a great choice for events such as corporate team-building exercises. The events rooms at Dave and Buster’s Cary have a wonderful mural of Yates Mill Pond.

Desserts at Dave and Buster's

The chocolate cake was my favorite.

The menu was traditional pub grub like spinach dip, pigs in blankets, spicy potato chips, and french fries. The real standout was dessert, with favorites like Bananas Foster and a rich chocolate cake. I’ll be grabbing a big dessert before my next gaming session to give me extra energy!

specialty cocktails at Dave and Buster's

Dave and Buster’s specialty cocktails

They also featured several of their specialty cocktails, each with a lovely presentation. Some, like the D&B TNTea (their Long Island iced tea), come with a take-home glass.

virgin Cherry Berry mojito at Dave and Buster's

virgin Cherry Berry mojito

If you don’t drink alcohol, no worries- the bartenders are happy to prepare many of their drinks without the alcohol. I had a virgin Cherry Berry Mojito, and which was pretty as well as delicious. It was not too sweet, and had a pronounced lime flavor that I loved.

As we left, many of the employees we’d met during our tour thanked us for coming, which was a really nice touch. I had a great time at Dave and Buster’s Cary location, and I can’t wait to take my family back for a visit. Thanks, Dave and Buster’s!

Gabrielle Kaasa Gabrielle is a proud Durhamite who enjoys cooking almost as much as eating. When she’s not in the kitchen, Gabrielle enjoys photography and adventuring with her partner, Bill, and son, Noah.

Gift Guide: Part One


I started jotting down notes for what to include in my 2012 gift guide several weeks ago and quickly realized that we are utterly spoiled rotten with the abundance of local food products, cookbooks and specialty shops etc available to us. Not to mention the many non-local products that I can’t seem to live without. That being the case, I narrowed it down and finally ended up with a 3-part (possibly 4-part) series of ideas for what to get your favorite foodie this holiday season.

I’ve broken the list up by food products, books and specialty stores for easier categorization. The lists will be posted every couple of days over the next week. Please add-on in the comment section anything you feel has been missed with a link to that particular site for easier navigation…….and shopping.

My first list consists of items that easily fit into a stocking or gift bag.


Big Spoon Roasters: I am a peanut butter junkie. I eat it on toast with jam or bananas and honey, with apples and celery or simply by the spoonful. With the candle01introduction of Big Spoon Roasters handcrafted nut butters (made from scratch right here in Durham, North Carolina) I am truly in heaven.  The five flavors of butters are made using carefully selected nuts and wildflower honey sourced from local farmers who share the commitment to quality found in each jar. Each small batch is roasted, ground, and packaged while still warm to produce nut butters that are uniquely fresh, delicious, and nutritious. For information on where to purchase locally, or on-line go here.

The Blackmere Company: Delicious handmade foods made from authentic English recipes, using the finest local farm cream and butter and seasonal produce. You will find traditional English cakes, tarts, lemon curd, shortbread, hand-made jams and chutneys, savory herb butters, fresh soups and more, all made right here in North Carolina. An especially delightful treat is their “Devonshire Delight,” their handmade version of English clotted cream. It is rich, buttery, nutty and slightly sweet, perfect for slathering on fresh from the oven scones for a weekend brunch.

bow02Cackalacky (kak-uh-lak-ee): Born in Chapel Hill, this zesty sauce, made using NC sweet potatoes, works as a dip (just swirl it in some sour cream), topping (over eggs, potatoes, beans, pizza, etc) or marinade (chicken, pork, steaks, you name it). Personally I am a fan of pouring it over a whole chicken or pork butt and letting the meat cook low and slow in the crockpot for a delicious weeknight meal. And never a soup or chili goes without a healthy dose of it either. For an extra stocking stuffer pleaser, be sure to add a jar of their newest product; Cackalacky Spice Nuts.

Escazu ChocolatesFrom bean to bar to confections, this locally owned chocolate shop in Raleigh is whipping up award-winning treats everyone will love. My personal favorites include the Good Food Awards winning Dark Goat’s Milk and Cerenero bar or the Punmpkin Seed and Guajillo Chilli bar. The handcrafted truffles and confections are stunning and beautiful and you can choose an assortment of your favorites chocolates to be packaged in an eco-friendly gift box handmade from cocoa leaves for a nice touch.

Farmers Daughter:  Indulge in the flavors of the season, pickled  or preserved,stocking08 all made using locally sourced ingredients.Founded in 2007 by April McGreger, who learned the art of preserving at the elbows of her mother and grandmother amidst a rural farming community in Mississippi.  Farmer’s Daughter seeks to promote the value of sustainable, small-scale agriculture as well as traditional, handmade methods of preserving. Award winning products include Bourbon’d Figs, Spicy Green Tomato Pickles and Strawberry-Honeysuckle Preserves (which by the way pairs very well with Big Spoon Roasters nut butters).

French Broad ChocolatesJust a short trip up the road to Asheville, NC and you will find another source for delectable chocolate treats. Look for handcrafted truffles, caramels, brownies, chocolate bars and pastries all made using local and organic ingredients. When in Asheville, a stop at the Chocolate Lounge is a must for enjoying a desert or two, while sipping a fine wine or frothy beer. For a sublime holiday gift, give the one you love a 6 or 12-month chocolate subscription. Each package may include a truffle assortment, gourmet caramels, brownies or other delights.

ornament01Guglhupf: The Dresden-style Christmas Stollen is so popular during the holiday season, I highly recommend placing an order on-line to ensure your loaf of this spectacular bread. Christmas Stollen is a dense leavened bread made from a sweet dough with citrus peel, raisins, almonds, and a complex blend of spices. Dipped in butter and rolled in sugar (which seals the loaf and gives it a protective coating), the Stollen is finished with powdered sugar which looks like snow. It’s the perfect hostess gift. I posted a blog about the process of making the famous stollen last year. Go here to read it.

Lusty Monk Mustard: Heading back up the hills of the Appalachian Mountains, we stop once again in the artisan town of Asheville, this time for mustard. The slogan “Indulge, Repent, Repeat” perfectly defines these fresh-ground handcrafted mustards. As the they say “Once you meet the Monk, you can kiss mediocre mustards goodbye, and say hello to a new world of hearty food. No more boring sandwiches. Bratwurst has never been so heavenly. It’s the pretzel’s best friend, the cook’s secret weapon, the perfect companion for lovers of spice and heat.

Miss Jenny’s Pickles: Yup, we’re back to those things preserved. And how canwreath03 we not delve into a jar of local pickles made right here in our NC backyard. Started by Jenny and Ashlee, as a means to an end to the economic down turn that landed them unemployed, these two ladies picked up their proverbial skirts and, using Maw Maw’s (Jenny’s Grandmother) recipe, set the bar for delicious, high quality pickles. I am wildly addicted to the Jalapeno Salt and Pepper, but all four flavors are worth seeking out on-line or in a store near you.

Nello’s SauceMade from scratch, in small batches, Nello’s Sauce is naturally, vegan friendly, cholesterol free, gluten-free and low sodium. While all that is just fine and dandy, and good to know, it is the flavor of this tomato sauce that won its place on this list. Simply made from vine-ripened whole peeled plum tomatoes, Sicilian sea salt, pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil, it is the perfect sauce to dress any pasta or pizza or for dipping homemade meatballs and fresh crusty bread.

Sling Shot Coffee: Perfect for the coffee lover, this cold brew coffee is hand brewed and bottled in small batches in Raleigh, North Carolina. The coffee is candy-cane14made using only two ingredients — quality, in-season, organic coffee beans roasted locally by Counter Culture Coffee; and filtered tap water. If you’re anything like me, than your day doesn’t begin until after that first cup of coffee and I often make mine Sling Shot. Sling Shot is available in 16 ounce bottles of both ready-to-drink and concentrate options.  You can find it locally in various stores and restaurants or online.

TOPO DistilleryHad-crafted vodka, gin, & whiskey, created from scratch, using only organic Carolina wheat and botanicals distilled in a copper pot and columns from a 5th generation German still maker. Your Bloody Mary will never be the same. For the Whiskey lover in your life, don’t pass up on the Age-Your-Own Whisky Kit. Look for the spirits and kit at your local ABC store.

Hope you enjoyed this first part to my gift guide. Be sure to check back in a few days for my list of must have cookbooks and food related books.

Happy Eating