NC foods this past Saturday, and the art-filled venue provided a colorful setting for some fabulously flavorful local foods. I was able to visit with old friends and new, as well as taste some of their offerings, including Lisa Shively's hearty taco soup made with one of her new Soup Kits.
Her Quick Meal Mixes are already a big hit, especially with busy Moms who want to serve great-tasting homemade meals without having to slave in the kitchen for hours.
BBQ sauce, spiked with just enough fiery ghost pepper to make a fiery-foods fan smile (but not so much that you need to reach for a fire extinguisher). They also offer a medium-heat, gently-smoky Cherry-'Potle BBQ Sauce along with milder versions featuring peach or orange for a hint of sunny sweetness to complement the savory barbecue flavors.
Nephew's new Haba Java BBQ dry rub was also available for tasting, and I enjoyed its creative blend of salty & sweet with just a touch of peppery heat and a sprinkling of coffee--yes, coffee!-- which I bet adds a rich, earthy robustness to chicken, meats and anything else rubbed with this seasoning before cooking. Unlike other commercial rubs, this dry rub didn't have a pronounced "chili powder" flavor, which makes it much more versatile and usable on a greater number of foods. And despite the habanero, the heat was quite gentle and probably won't offend more delicate palates.
I was hoping for a better photo of Nephew's sauces and sampling table, but they were assigned a somewhat unfortunate location next to some, ummm, "interesting" art sculptures (or perhaps they were molded from clay?) that I didn't deem appropriate for this family-friendly blog. As a result, I had to strategically select and edit the photos that I took, to keep them consistent with what my readers are used to seeing here.
Located nearby was a display of jams, jellies, pickles and preserves made from NC-grown fruits and vegetables and made by D'Vine Foods. Two gracious ladies had a bountiful array of these old-fashioned products available for tasting, and it was good to know that these items are part of the regular offerings available for purchase at the Carolina Artists' Colony. The fig preserves were marvelously rich and succulent, as was another fruit jam (pomegranate?) served on top of a little dollop of cheesecake filling on top of a vanilla wafer cookie (the kind normally found in banana pudding). This dainty morsel would be a great little item to offer at a ladies' tea or as a party snack.
Wanting something savory again after indulging in a few sweet treats, I headed over to Miss Jenny's Pickles, where Ashlee was sampling all four varieties of their award-winning all-natural pickles: Signature Salt & Pepper, Traditional Bread & Butter, Jalapeno Salt & Pepper, and Habanero Bread & Butter. These pickles are thick-cut and crunchy, with the right balance of tartness and spice (and sweetness for the bread & butter varieties) just like an old-fashioned homemade or gourmet deli pickle should be.
My hands-down favorite is the Habanero Bread & Butter pickle: It starts off mildly sweet but finishes with a big peppery punch that's unmistakably habanero. Thankfully, however, your mouth won't keep burning because the heat subsides soon enough, leaving you craving another pickle, or another bite of the sandwich, burger, wrap or salad you're enjoying them in. Miss Jenny's Habanero Bread & Butter Pickles recently won the 2012 Good Food Medial in the pickles category, and this prestigious national honor is well-deserved.
My final stop was dessert at Mrs. Picky Fanicky's Foods, where Mrs. Picky herself was sampling her blue-ribbon winning MmmMarmalades, including Apple Pie MmmMarmalade (which really does taste like Grandma's apple pie in a jar), Peach Cocktail MmmMarmalade (a sunny blend of summery peaches with a tropical citrus twist), and her new Sundae MmmMarmalade, which is my current favorite: Luscious ripe strawberries combined with a little pineapple and a dash of vanilla for a decadently sublime marmalade that's perfect for spooning over ice cream or cake, enjoying with biscuits or pancakes, or even stirring into a bowl of hot oatmeal like I did yesterday morning.
If you've tasted any of these fine North Carolina products or if you made it out to Sanford on Saturday, please leave a comment and tell us what you liked most!