Sunday, February 26, 2017

New Raleigh cooking competition finds chefs battling for vintage Corvette Stingray

Appetizers included a deconstructive bisque and Mexican-style mushroom Gnocchi.

By Jen Primrose  | February 26, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

It didn’t seem that long ago when Raleigh’s chefs were coming out from the kitchens they call home to compete in what was once the Got to be NC Competition Dining. The dining series was the creation of entrepreneur Jimmy Crippen. Along with Got to be NC and Pate Dawson Foods, the series brought sixteen chefs into the light with nightly battles until a winner was crowned in a bracket-style cooking showcase.
Sadly, the year 2016 saw the flame from the gas-oven grills finally shut off for good. It was a good run, bringing attention to local Triangle chefs such as Dean Thompson of Flights restaurant in North Hills and Ryan Conklin, the chef at Rex UNC Healthcare – who was an underdog and won it all back in 2015. And it was a lot of fun!

With Competition Dining now in the rear view mirror, a brand new dining series has entered the market. Starting its inaugural night on Monday, Feb. 20 at 1705 Prime Catering in Raleigh – Cooking for a Classic has come to see if it can hold its own to a gone, but not forgotten brilliant idea.

Duck breast with sweet potato and beet puree and braised pork with slaw and sweet potato.

In this new series, a concept brought to light for the Lucy Daniels Center, is trying to raise money for the children who go to the Lucy Daniels Center in Cary. Just like Fire in the Triangle, Cooking for a Classic has brought in 16 chefs to battle in the same bracket-style battle as the previous contest. But instead of winning a coveted red chefs jacket, a check for $2,000 and various other culinary prizes, these chefs will be battling for a vintage 1969 Corvette Stingray. A quick search on the internet puts a car like this in the value of $29,000 to $34,000. Not too shabby.

The competition has many similarities, while still trying to remain new. In Competition Dining, chefs were given a secret ingredient they learned about the same day as the competition. Personally, I thought that was a brilliant concept. It kept the chefs on their toes, and showcased how crafty they can be in only a few hours time.

Chocolate cake with sour cherry glaze and peanut butter-chocolate and banana cake for dessert.

With Cooking for a Classic, the chefs get to create whatever they want, but are given a budget. The budget is a great way of keeping the chefs from collecting all the Matsutake mushrooms, Kobe beef and Beluga Caviar they can fit in their baskets. But in this new showcased competition, I was able to find out my entire meal prior to being served my first drink pairing. I've been to a couple of the previous cooking contests, and preferred the anticipation of the secret ingredient and what's coming out next to my table.

The one thing Cooking for a Classic added, which I liked the concept of, is each of the six courses also had a drink pairing. On the opening night, I was treated to various drinks such as hard cider, Mexican beer, Spanish red wine, California Chardonnay, spiked hot chocolate and Irish Coffee. And that’s included in the cost of your ticket. Not like some other events where you have to add an additional cost to have a libation pairing with your meal.

Drinks included a spiked hot chocolate with cherry whipped cream and an Irish coffee paired with desserts.

Night one featured Chef Dean Thompson, of Flights, who was crowned champion of two Fire in the Triangle competitions, squared off against Chef Rich Carter of Catering Works. First thought in my mind was, 'I should be able to easily tell the two apart in this contest.' But that wasn't the case. Each course we sampled at the table had its share of critics, but good and bad. Which, to me, is fun to hear what everyone thinks.

Related Story: Fire in the Triangle: Center Stage with Chef Dean Thompson

From a creative presentation of soup to a succulent duck breast to a downright tasty spiked hot chocolate – it was a fun night out. And in the end, I was quite shocked when the winner was announced as Catering Works Chef Carter. Did the best chef win? I'm not sure. But the best chef of the night did prevail. Chef Carter has moved onto the next round along with Sitti restaurant's Chef Donaldo Guzman (Feb. 21 winner) and Chef Eric Gephart of Kamado Grille (Feb. 22 winner).

At the end of the night, six plated courses, six beverages by two chefs and 100 percent of the net proceeds benefiting the Lucy Daniels Center, you can't go wrong. The competition runs through March.

For ticket information, go to

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Raleigh candy-makers win Good Food Awards

Geraldine and Dan of GerDan Chocolates started crafting candies back in 2011


By Jen Primrose and Dathan Kazsuk | February 22, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

Chocolates today have been an ever changing facelift of keeping this sweet treat up to par with the latest and obscure ingredients to keep us coming back for more. Recall the days when peanuts, rice krispies or nougat was risque? Well, in this new world of chocolate you can add just about anything. We've seen everything from bacon, beer, popcorn, sea salt and ginger put into our chocolates.

And even here in the Triangle we have gourmet chocolate shops such as Videri and Escazu which raise an eyebrow with their delicious morsels. We here at Triangle Around Town love both those places, but our actual favorite chocolate confectioneries in the Raleigh-area is GerDan Chocolates.
GerDan have infused beer into caramels in their Brew Chews, dipped thick-cut bacon into milk and dark chocolate, infused Gin in with chocolate and even made zombie bunnies just in time for Easter!

The brainchild of Dan and Geraldine Doren, GerDan Chocolates got its start back in 2011. 

The two first met at a pizza joint in Solana Beach, California and moved to North Carolina back in 2001 when properties got to expensive and California was becoming way too crowded.

We recently met up with the two to discuss their story.

You moved 2,500 miles from California to North Carolina back in 2001. Then a decade later you decided to get into the "candy" game. How did that come to fruition? We had friends who were chefs and owned catering companies. They were always saying how difficult it was to work with chocolate and challenged us to try and make some truffles. Once we got the hang of it, we could make chocolates for parties and as gifts. Both our family and friends urged us to start selling them, so we did. So one day in 2011, Geraldine went out and took orders for several hundred dollars worth of chocolates – and GerDan was born. Later Geraldine took an online chocolate course at Ecole Chocolat and graduated from its "Professional Chocolatier" program.

One of the first times we ever tried your product was sampling a Brew Chew where you infused local beer or a heavily-hyped beer into caramel. How did the two of you come up with that idea? Dan is a homebrewer, and that's how he came up with the idea of putting beer into our caramels. He thought up the name Brew Chews while we were in San Diego – infusing beer into our candy and chocolates. We make so much more than beer infused confections, but that is what we have become known for. A few bottle shops around the Triangle carry them such as Greenway Beer & Wine. 

Related Story:  Raleigh's bottle shop, Greenway Beer & Wine, shares a passion and vision for wine and beer

GerDan recently won an award from the Good Food Awards for your Gingerbread Caramel. How did you find out about the Good Food Awards and go about submitting your product? We have known about the GFA for several years, and in 2016, decided to enter one of our caramels. We had to fill out the entry form and submit it. Then the GFA sends you instructions on where to send your sample. We submitted our entry and hoped for the best, since this was our first competition we have ever entered. When we got the first email advising us we were a high scorer – we were stoked! We saw the list on its website of who the panel of judges were in the "confections" category, and have to say it was an honor to be selected as a finalist, let alone a winner. The judges ranged from cook book authors, candy makers, to buyers for large stores.

                                                                 C/O GERDAN
And you won! GerDan actually beat out the likes of Raleigh's Videri Chocolates in that category and got your first award. Tell us how that felt and going back to California to take part in the awards ceremony in San Francisco? It was awesome! The ceremony was held at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. All the winners in each category went up on stage at the same time. Nell Newman (of Newman Organics) placed the medal around Geraldine's neck, then Alice Water (Chez Panissse) as well as Winoan Laduke (an environmental activist) thanked her as well. After the ceremony there was a reception where we got to taste samples of all the winning entries in each category. There was so much food to sample, and it was great. 

                                              C/O ANGIE WOODARD
What would you say is the most obscure creation you have ever made? Our most obscure creation is our Posset cups. It is based on an old English hot drink recipe dating back to medieval times. It uses beer or wine to thicken the cream. Posset is mentioned in Shakespeare plays such as Hamlet and Macbeth. Nowadays, it is a popular dessert in England, similar to a syllabub. We've also used purple sweet potato and tangerine Pate de Fruit to tomato ice cream. We would make fun stuff at the Farmers' Market when we were a vendor to celebrate a particular vegetable or fruit. 

What can we expect from GerDan in 2017? New chocolates and caramels? Something completely different? Certainly, but we will always make our best sellers like sea salt caramels, bourbon pecan and pistachio Brigadeiros to name a few. We're working on adding gummy candies. Our big news is that we will be moving our production to Double Barley Brewing in Smithfield in March. With both of us focusing on chocolate/candy making full time, we plan on doing more pop-up markets and events in both Smithfield and in Raleigh.

Keep up to date with GerDan Chocolates at their blogger site here.

If you or someone you know would like to be featured in a monthly Five Questions With, please send an email to

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Yadkin Valley wineries pair wine with food for annual event

By Dathan Kazsuk & Jennifer Primrose | February 13, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

We enjoy red wines. We also enjoy getting out of town, leaving the hustle and bustle of Raleigh behind for the more laid-back life of North Carolina's Yadkin Valley. We also like food – who doesn't? So, of course, we wanted to get our tickets for the second year in a row to the annual Yadkin Winter Reds Food & Pairing Event and get the heck out of dodge!

The event took place the weekend of January 28-29 inside 6 different Yadkin County wineries. Tickets for the event were $25 per person, and that entitled you to a 2-ounce pour of a signature red wine at each winery, which was also paired up with a tasty snack.

The wineries included during our weekend jaunt in Yadkin Valley included Cellar 4201, Divine Llama, Flint Hill, Sanders Ridge, RagApple Lassie and Hanover Park. It was a good opportunity to chat with some of the wine makers again over some wine and food.

Below you can check out their food and wine pairings we tasted over the weekend.

RagApple Lassie
RAGAPPLE LASSIE | At RagApple Lassie, we tried the Syrah served with a tenderloin beef slider. The slider had a mayo cream as well as a thin slice of a Granny Smith apple. This was our first stop of the weekend.

Sanders Ridge
SANDERS RIDGE | Sanders Ridge paired its Cabernet Franc with a Pimento cheese beef slider. The Cab Franc had a little "smokiness" to the wine, which paired well with the grilled beef in the slider.

Hanover Park
HANOVER PARK | Hanover Park was our last stop of our first day. There we sat down with co-owner Amy Helton and talked shop while we had a Tuscan bean soup paired with Michael's Blend – a red blend featuring Cab Sauv, Cab Franc with small amounts of Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. After the pairing we went to the main room for a tasting.

Related Story: Hanover Park made it on our list of best wineries we've been to in 2016. See who else made the list!

Day one of Winter Reds come to an end.
Day one was in the books, but not before we made a stop at Elkin's newest brewery, Angry Troll. There we met with one of the co-owners while sampling a flight of four of their beers. We thought each beer was true to its style – so this was two thumbs up for us.

Cellar 4201
CELLAR 4201 | We start off day two at Cellar 4201 where we had The Warrior paired with a smoked chili rubbed pork tenderloin. The Warrior is a red blend with hints of cherry and vanilla. We decided to do a full tasting afterwards, since it's been a year since last time we visited.

Divine Llama
DIVINE LLAMA | At Divine Llama, they paired the Merlina, a blackberry Merlot, with a chocolate cake. We both enjoyed the pairing, and it was the only winery during the weekend that paired a wine with a dessert. After the pairing, and the gracious hospitality, we ordered a glass of the In a Heart Beat and went to visit the llamas down the path.

FLINT HILL | Our final stop of the weekend ... or at least as far as the Winter Reds event goes. There we had a chicken and bacon pasta with spinach and tomatoes in a garlic cream sauce. That was paired with the Chambourcin – which we really like. After that tasting we decided to stick around for a full tasting, which was offered at a discount to Winter Red participants. How can we say no?

RELATED STORY: Leading off our Winter Reds weekend we spent that Saturday morning at Winston-Salem's Foothills Brewing for the release of its much sought after Sexual Chocolate. 

If our trip sounds fun, that's because it was. But it's not too late for you. The Yadkin Winter Reds is split into two weekends. The upcoming weekend takes place on February 25-26, and will feature the following Yadkin Valley wineries: 
Brandon Hills, Dobbins Creek, Laurel Gray, Shadow Springs and Windsor Run Cellars (which features some pretty good fortified wines).

Monday, February 13, 2017

In The Kitchen: Pork Chops and Vegetables in time for Valentine's Day

The massive Tomahawk Pork Chops tasted superb 
with the addition of the Herbs de Provence.

By Dathan Kazsuk and Jennifer Primrose | Feb 13, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

The two of us decided to spend some time in the kitchen this past Sunday to put together an early Valentine's Day dinner we thought we'd share with you. This was a nice meal, and relatively easy to make. Pair it with a nice red wine that's sitting in your wine cellar, a nice bouquet of flowers, and you can have yourself a romantic dinner with your significant other.

I made my way to the local butcher's market and picked up some tomahawk pork chops at $6.99 per pound. At home I put the chops out and got them up to room temperature while coating the meat with Herbs de Provence from our favorite spice shop in town, Savory Spice Shop located inside Lafayette Village.

An assortment of veggies and a 2013 Vineyard 36 Foundation Cabernet Sauvignon.

We thought an assortment of roasted vegetables would be a nice accompaniment to the pork, so put together an assortment which included some red potatoes, baby carrots, red onions, parsnips and a couple rosemary sprigs.

For dessert, Jen made some homemade brownies and substituted the water for some wine. But not just any ordinary red wine. She used a dessert wine from Laurel Gray Vineyards out of Hamptonville, North Carolina. The wine, called Encore, is infused with black raspberries with just a hint of pure milk chocolate. It really added a nice flavor and moistness to the brownies.

Chocolate brownies with the addition of Laurel Gray's Encore 
black raspberry dessert wine.

We then paired the pork and vegetables with a bottle of Foundation from Vineyard 36 out of Napa Valley. Foundation is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and is a big, deep wine – perfect for a romantic dinner at home. If you look at the label of Foundation, it sort of resembles at hockey rink, but that should come to no surprise, because two of the members of this winery are Carolina Hurricane's goalie Cam Ward and former Hurricane blueliner, Tim Gleason.

Now, as far as preparing the meal. We pre-heated the oven 350 degrees and placed the pork in a platter and placed it in the oven for 40 minutes. With the vegetables, we mixed in a half cup of olive oil along with some salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence, placed aluminum foil over a 8"x8" casserole dish and baked it alongside the pork for 40 minutes as well.

With a robust wine such as the Foundation, we opened the bottle over an hour before serving so it was able to breath – and then enjoyed the wine in two Riedel glasses. The mixed assortment of flowers was a nice touch, as well as our two girls, Sleestak and Waffles jumping up on the table to try to help themselves to our food.

Afterwards, we ate a couple brownies while sipping on the rest of the Encore wine. We did notice the "fruit" flavor of the wine had mellowed, making the wine taste more like a liquid Tootsie Roll – but that wasn't a bad thing when paired with brownies.

The final product of our pre-Valentine's Day dinner.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Possible plan for "Mystery Dinners" coming to Raleigh soon

By Jen Primrose and Dathan Kazsuk | February 9, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

We at Triangle Around Town love a good meal. So when we were asked by our friend Kristen Baughman of Tabletop Media Group to take part in a media dinner at More. Kitchen & Bar for what is coined as its #MoreMystery Dinner – we were game!

We were asked to fill out a food survey with around 10 questions. What is your favorite ethnic food? What are your favorite spices? Where is your favorite restaurant? Your choice of protein? And so on and so forth. At the end of the survey, we both submitted our answers to More. Kitchen & Bar where Executive Chef Scott Phillips collected the data.

Then, on the night of February 7 we arrived at More to find out more about this new concept and what the chef had in store for us.

The two of us were joined with fellow blogger Meg Here and There and Instagram blogger Wicked Baking. We were then seated by More General Manager Dylan Zachman, who started to tell us about our evening.

With all four of our surveys in, Dylan, along with Chef Phillips crafted a 4-course meal using bits and pieces of all four of our responses and paired them up with a selection of fine wine. Our first course was Tuna tartare with forbidden rice, tomato-cucumber vinaigrette along with some sesame pasta chips. The tartare was paired with a Charles Bove Touraine Rosé. The pairing started off great. Who doesn’t love a sparkling Rosé wine paired up with some Tuna tartare? The best part was scooping the tartare onto the sesame pasta chips to add a nice crunch to our first course.

The second course then came out - Poached flounder with  olive oil poached leeks, grapefruit buerre blanc and shaved fennel-edamame relish. This was paired with a 2015 Charles Bove Vouvray. This was probably my favorite pairing of the night. The flakiness of the founder and the buerre sauce teamed up perfectly with the high acidity of the wine.

By our third course, chef Scott Phillips made his way to the table to introduce himself and answer any questions we may have. Which we did. He then went on to introduce us to his Confit Rabbit "pot pie" with glazed potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, peas with a roasted shallot cream, Sichuan peppercorn and flaky pastry bite. This was paired up with a 2014 Kruger-Rumpf Riesling. The wine was nice and blended well with the cream sauce of the pot pie – but in the end this was probably our least favorite of the four courses.

For the final course we were introduced to a slowly braised short rib with glazed carrots, pearl onions, rice and tomato broth. The ribs were so tender you were able to cut it with a fork. It was paired with a 2012 Yann Chave Hermitage, and the earthiness of the wine went well with the beef.

For dessert each one of us had a Malted Milk Truffle with caramelized Rice Crispy dust – which also paired well with the rest of the final wine.

Now, if our dinner sounded amazing, it's because it was. But if you are looking to do something similar, both Zachman and Phillips say this is in the works for future patrons to More. Kitchen & Bar. 

The cost of the four-course meal which includes the wine pairings will be anywhere from $60 to $65, and you must allow at least 72-hours advance notice upon turning in your questionnaire for Chef Phillips to put together your own personal #MoreMystery Dinner. Please be aware that these mystery meals will be for between 4 to 8 people maximum to get the full dining satisfaction you rightfully deserve.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Birdsong Brewing spreads its wings into the Triangle

                                                                                                                                                   Photo c/o Poprock Photography
Starting Monday, February 13, Birdsong will be available to retailers, bars and restaurants across the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill-area with an initial target list of 40 accounts.
The decision to move into a new market isn't that foreign, says Chris Goulet, Birdsong principal owner. Birdsong has been available in the region through a handful of loyal accounts that have driven across the state to pick up beer for years, he says. "Those pick-up customers have shown how successful the beer can be in that market and it's also clearly the next largest craft beer market, after Charlotte, in the state," he says.
Initially, the beers available in the Triangle through Artisan Beverage Group will be Birdsong's four year-round beers – Free Will Pale Ale, Lazy Bird Brown Ale, Higher Ground IPA and Jalapeño Pale Ale – as well as the main seasonal and possibly small amounts of limited releases, Goulet says.
The growth in Eastern North Carolina comes on the heels of a triumphant year for Charlotte's third oldest and third largest brewery. "Initially the Triangle introduction will be smaller (than South Carolina), account wise, but we anticipate that the Triangle market has a lot of potential over the long run," Goulet says.
In 2016, Birdsong celebrated its fifth anniversary and expanded distribution to South Carolina. That success is in part attributed to the brewery's notable focus on quality product, customer experience and philanthropy.
The brewery, with its 30-barrel brewhouse, is ready to accommodate the growth, Goulet says. "Depending on how we progress against our current forecast, we're expecting roughly 400 to 500 barrels in additional volume."
The growth will eventually bring with it an expanded workforce, he says. Birdsong expects to hire sales representatives to support Western North Carolina, South Carolina and the Triangle.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

2017 Triangle Wine Experience: Wine Dinner at Provenance

By Jennifer Primrose | Feb. 10 , 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

Note: Provenance restaurant has since closed since we visited for the Triangle Wine dinner last year.

One of the highlighted events of the Triangle Wine Experience are the approximately 32 wine dinners going on around the Triangle on the same night. These dinners took place on Thursday, February 2, where some of the best chefs in the Triangle are paired up with some phenomenal wineries to create masterful cuisine for guests.

We were fortunate to attend our first winemakers dinner this year which took us to Provenance at Sky House on E Martin Street in downtown Raleigh. Provenance is a farm to table restaurant relatively new to downtown Raleigh. This dinner was sponsored by Bill Hamlin of Hamlin Companies who was a gracious host to all who entered that evening. As we arrived, we were greeted by the Executive Chef/Operator, Teddy Klopf, who ensured the evening was picture perfect, or should we say, tastefully perfect!

The evening began with a sparkling wine reception as everyone arrived and mingled and as we, Triangle Around Town, played paparazzi with the cameras! One thing I look forward to during this fundraiser is to actually learn more about the charity so we were pleased that Ken Place, director of operations for TWE, introduced us to David McGowen and his wife, who are parents who have benefited so much from the Frankie Lemmon School. David now serves on the board and both spoke to the group to tell their story.

David McGowen and his wife pose for a photograph.
We were treated to a four-course meal, each paired carefully with wines from Three Sticks and Ram's Gate Winery, both from Sonoma, California. Each of the winery's representative spoke about the wine and its paring throughout the evening.

I had personally never heard of either winery before this evening and may have found some new favorites as well. Knowing I am not a fan of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, I was still pleasantly surprised by the caliber of both these varietals poured during dinner.

Both Three Sticks and Ram's Gate, I've learned, focus primarily on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes in the Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast and Carneros AVAs. Three Sticks has also been considered by some as one of the top 5 vineyards in Sonoma. 

In fact, the theme we noticed throughout this 3-day event is the emergence of the Pinot Noir. We walked away from this weekend with a new appreciation and love of this grape - as well as two bottles - and a possible new blog as we delve into the world of Pinot's.

Related Story:  2017 Triangle Wine Experience: Sip, Shop 'n Sign

All in all, we had a fantastic time and were so fortunate to be able to experience one of these dinners. Both the food and wine were phenomenal!

Click here for more photos from the Provenance Wine Dinner.