Well over two weeks ago, the Vietnamese community rang in the lunar New Year, or Tet, with a lively celebration at St. Joseph's Vietnamese Catholic Church. The two-day festival brought thousands to the church grounds for a festival that celebrated culture, family, faith and food. I won't lie, I was there for the food.
The selection was a feast for the senses. Tables of Vietnamese delicacies lined the main tent from one end clear down to the other with nary an empty spot in front of each vendor. Families sat around large round tables eating and talking over the blaring entertainment coming from the fellowship hall. Vietnamese singers dressed in dazzling evening gowns and tuxedos performed for the captivated crowd while children and adults played games midway-style in the adjacent tent.
I met up with Kseniya Martin (@inthequeencity), a Twitter buddy cum real life friend, for our inaugural food adventure. Choosing what to eat was a tad overwhelming. We paced the tables trying to sort out our strategy and decided to share a few plates. We settled on Chao, a Vietnamese rice porridge filled with liver and blood sausage. The soup is served with a spoonful of black pepper, fresh chives and crispy onion bits. We also got a plate of Banh Tom, sweet potato and shrimp fritters which came with a side of Do Chua, Vietnamese pickled vegetables (carrots and daikon) and a fish sauce for dipping. For dessert was Che Nhan Nhuc, a beverage/dessert made of water infused with pandan leaves and filled with logans(similar to lychee), lotus seeds, seaweed and gelatin.
The best and most unexpected fun of the day was the Pho Eating Contest which my brave new buddy, Kseniya, decided to enter on the fly. Contestants were challenged to eat as much of the contents of a nine pound bowl of pho over the course of eight minutes. There was some stiff competition including the Mouth of the South, a gargantuan professional eater who gave a gross display of his
gluttonous prowess. The audience was both amazed and horrified. Kseniya whom I assume is always a lady did the best she could, taking diminutive sips and daintily tackling the giant bowl of soup. In the end, she was first loser but the day was a win in my book.
To read more about the wonderful food and deep faith of the Vietnamese community in Charlotte, check out this post in Creative Loafing
where I discover the heart of the church and the soul of its famous noodle soup.
Anyone who has hung around me for a millisecond knows that I prefer homegrown and handmade to store-bought any day of the week. If I want mayonnaise, I make it. Salad dressing? Watch me emulsify! Chocolate cake? Bowl licking ninja right here.
I coo and whisper to the rows of vegetables in my garden and go to great lengths for food. Ask the Mister about the time I cooked down ten pounds of tomatoes for the teensiest jar of tomato conserva
. Who cares that I found it necessary, the day before we were flying out of state, to spend the evening hand-cranking tomatoes through a food mill and then cooking it down for HOURS on multiple baking sheets that never fully recovered from the experience. And, did it matter that the hours of simmering and baking amounted to a mere thimble of tomato-ey goodness? No! That kind of insanity canNOT be bought, bottled or sold at the local grocery.
So, when I spent the week meeting with a handful of hardcore at-home brewers of a fermented tea called kombucha, I felt a little kinship because, you know what? I get it. I love like that.
These people are cut from the same cloth as me. They treat their kitchens like a mystical den of creation, a sacred space where berries are rendered into jewel-toned jars of comfort, where revelations happen over a simmering pot of sauce or, in their case, a fizzy jar of fermented tea. Theses people are loving on their home brews like a mama bear loves her cubs.
Kombucha brewers become quite attached to the lifeblood of their beverage, a gooey pancake called a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast or, SCOBY for short. I snapped a few behind-the-scenes pictures to record the gelatinous pride and joy of these quirky folks.
Read the full story at Creative Loafing Charlotte
Left to right: SCOBY "hotel" and an aerial view of a growing SCOBY
Left to right: Ken Newbill sharing his famous "Ken-bucha", Brewing a batch, SCOBY gone wild
I love taking risks and having things work out better than I ever imagined. Hence, this super awesome giveaway for my Charlotte peeps thanks to the kindness and generosity of a bunch of old ladies.
I spent half the day with the lovely and hardworking Greek ladies of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral preparing thousands of pastries for the biggest event of the year- The Yiasou Greek Festival
. The festival is one of the largest Greek festivals in the Southeast and a Charlotte staple, attended by thousands of Charlotteans who look forward to the event each year. I went for the first time
last year and was, of course, enamored with the pastries. Big surprise, right?
Today, I got a behind-the-scenes look into the intense labor of love and community that is put into this massive baked, fried, honeyed and powdered-sugared feat. It is nothing short of amazing. I will share more of this story with you over on WFAEats
in a couple days.
Upon leaving, the ladies lavished me with a Greek cookbook compiled by the women of the church (for a happy marriage, they said) and tickets to the festival which I want to share with my Charlotte readers. I have two pairs of two tickets for the Yiasou Greek Festival which begins this Thursday, September 13 and goes through Sunday, September 16.
Here are the details....
To enter, please do one of the following:
Once you have done the following, leave a comment below letting me know you have done so
and tell me your favorite Greek food item
. Please include a working email address
so that I can notify you if you are the winner. PLEASE NOTE
: This is for Charlotte residents only. I will select a winner at random on Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m.
On Tuesday night, I attended Eating Local in the New South
, an event at the Levine Museum of the New South promoting the local foods movement here in Charlotte. Nearly 200 guests of all ages showed up to enjoy a down home local spread by Mert's Heart and Soul
and a talk given by two women firmly rooted in the local foods movement. Kristin Davis, extension agent for the NC Cooperative Extension
and Cassie Parsons, executive chef at Harvest Moon Grille
and owner of Grateful Growers Farm
shared their personal stories, how they came to know local food and the way in which it has impacted their lives.
Guests gathered in the atrium for an incredible Southern spread featuring Southern fried chicken, Grateful Growers NC style pulled pork, green beans, decadent macaroni and cheese and mini-loaves of cornbread. I opted for the pulled pork since all of the tables set for dining were full and I couldn't quite figure out how to gracefully navigate fried chicken while balancing dinner in my lap.
Check out my dope plate...
Dr. Tom Hanchett, staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South, opened the talk with a fun Q & A session about Charlotte's torrid history. Guests asked questions (Who's Sharon anyway?) and learned interesting tidbits about our beloved Queen City.
We were then introduced to Kristin Davis, extension agent for the NC Cooperative Extension. Davis is responsible for educating the public about local food, food safety and farmer's market outreach. She shared her journey to wellness and stressed the importance of eating local and educating others about why local food matters, particularly relating it to the dramatic improvement in her own health.
Davis was once sentenced to the early onset of diabetes and through dietary changes alone, altered her grim medical future for the better, receiving a clean bill of health just one year later. Today, she shares a passion for local food with people like Cassie Parsons, who she called a "trailblazer" in the local foods movement.
Parsons, a chef, farmer and self-proclaimed pork peddler, joined the conversation relating her passion for the "forgotten arts" and knowing where our food comes from. Parsons herself has contributed $400,000 to locally produced food and briefly touched on the positive economic impact that can happen when a community buys local. Davis and Parsons both encouraged the crowd to rally support through education, involvement and dollars to local farmers.
The message was clear. Local food awareness is steadily gaining a presence and the community plays a great part in its continued momentum. A number of organizations are joining the cause to support these endeavors . Davis says that the NC Cooperative Extension is making local food awareness their flagship cause this year and have already launched the 10% Campaign
to build the local food economy.
Want to stay informed? Check out the Mecklenburg Friends of Agriculture
If you've never been to the Depot at Gibson Mill
and love anything collectible or vintage, you must go. It is one of my favorite places to find treasures in the Charlotte area and it never disappoints. I'm typically there for a minimum
of three hours bumbling about, digging through baskets and collecting inspiration from every nook and cranny in the place.
It's a sprawling 85,000 square feet of vintage pieces, furniture, dining sets, clothing, jewelry, tchotchkes, records, collectibles, ephemera and things you never even knew you wanted . Prepare to be amazed and maybe even slightly overwhelmed. Before my first visit, a friend told me to "pack a lunch" and "wear some sneakers." She was right. The Depot is one bad mammajamma!
These pictures were taken from my last visit when I had the pleasure of going with my buddy Brooke
, who had never been there before. I really can't decide what's better, digging for treasures for hours or bringing people there for the first time and seeing their eyeballs pop out of their head. As you can see above, Brooke scored a lovely repurposed peach side table for her adorable home
. I was on the hunt for vintage details for my wedding and ended up leaving with a Turkish Kilim rug and vintage postcards
. NOTE: If you go into the Depot without a plan, be prepared to leave with a Turkish Kilim rug or something equally off-course.
That being said, I'm never mad when I leave the Depot. It's one of my happy places. If vintage is your thing, here are a few other local "spots" to check out- Oak Street Mill
, Sleepy Poet Antique Mall
and Downtown Mooresville
I am so excited to share a sneak peek of what will likely be a staple "spot" for vintage clothes and stylish notions come tomorrow. The traveling trunk show known as the Frock Shop
has found a permanent home in the MONA (Museum of Neighborhood Art) building
, a local art gallery and studio space, which sits happily on the corner of Central Avenue and Hawthorne in Plaza Midwood. The Frock Shop Style Lounge fits perfectly into the renovated space which already houses a delightful assortment of locally made art, jewelry, sculpture and other Charlotte-centric goodies
I was introduced to the Frock Shop and the adorable Caroline Cook-Frers last year by friend and proverbial shopping instigator, Nikki Mueller
, who dropped in on one of Caroline's trunk shows hosted at Eco-Licious
. That day, we arrived early and got our own sneak peek shopping experience before the droves of women came in to devour the racks of well-curated clothes and accessories. I found my most favorite pair of red vintage flats along with an armful of one-of-kind clothing. I was hooked and have been stalking, I mean, following
Caroline and the Frock Shop ever since.
The Style Lounge is charming and the MONA house itself is laid out in a way that invites exploration. Natural light floods the space, the wood floors creak with character and the handcrafted archways gently lead you from one carefully curated area to the next. Caroline has put the same care into her new space as she does with her collection of handpicked clothing and accessories. The drippy chandelier that hangs above the Style Lounge is her grandmother's, the wallpaper is vintage and the mirrors that adorn the space are bright and colorful. It's all the perfect accessory to her unique collection. Have a look!
Frock Shop Owner, Caroline Cook-Frers
: Frock shoppers that visit the Style Lounge will get first dibs on all new arrivals before it hits Caroline's online shop
and ongoing trunk shows.
The Style Lounge opens to the public tomorrow with a Grand Opening celebration beginning at noon until 8 p.m. MONA is located at 1200 Central Avenue. I'm thinking I'll be there quite often. Maybe the handsome MONA owners, Dan and Brian will be so kind as to let me pay rent. Happy Frocking!
Isn't this work amazing?
I had the opportunity to catch the Sheila Hicks
retrospective exhibit at The Mint Museum
and fell in love with this woman's colorful work. Boy, did she do some WORK! Fifty years of it.
Heavily influenced by South American textiles and weaving techniques, Hicks works with handcrafted linen dyed by hand and creates stunning visuals with color and scale. One of her pieces, "Mega Footprint Near the Hutch" extended 50 feet from the ceiling of the Mint down three flights to the lobby floor. Truly amazing.
If you're in the Charlotte area, the exhibit is here for one more week, closing on January 29. Catch it if you can!
Here some other links from my week worth noting...
hits the Queen City this week. Get your tickets!
This computer movie
made me happy. The way you click determines how the story will go.
Purchased this delicious Greek Yogurt
made right next door in Atlanta. Local and handmade, my favorite.
You had me at nutella
looks like my cuppa coffee.
for aspiring bloggers (like me!)
R.I.P. Etta James
I hope you had a lovely weekend. I can't believe January 2012 is almost a wrap. I'll be turning 31 this week. Eep! Looking forward to a homemade dinner from the Mister and beginning the next month of the Inside Job
. Happy reading!