Last Thursday, Charlotte Fresh and hubby had the honor of attending the most incredible local meal, hosted by Monticello Restaurant at the historic Dunhill Hotel and Grateful Growers Farm. The theme was “Local Swine Meets Italian wine,” and locally grown ingredients were featured throughout the meal. Executive Chef Chris Jakubczak of Monticello Restaurant and Guest Chef Cassie Parsons of Grateful Growers Farm & Harvest Moon Grille, together with their team, provided an extraordinary experience for the diners. The evening was also an opportunity to host a silent auction to raise money for Slow Food Charlotte delegates to attend Terra Madre 2010 in Torino, Italy. All I can say is, when the opportunity comes around for this kind of Farm-to-Table fresh dinner again, you don’t want to miss it!
Monticello Restaurant and the Dunhill Hotel pulled out all the stops. As we arrived for the Reception in the lobby, we were greeted with a friendly glass of prosecco, chosen by Nicola Biscardo of Nicola Biscardo Selections. Passed hors d’œuvres included two delicious selections: Warm Goat Cheese & Strawberry Croquettes and Cassie’s Pork Pâté. I loved them both, and would not have thought to put strawberries in the croquettes. How innovative!
We had to save our appetites, though, because there was a four-course meal ahead of us. Natalie Veres of Grateful Growers Farm invited me into the kitchen to see the action before it really got busy, and I was able to snap some shots behind the scenes. (Sometimes it’s lucky and fun to be Charlotte Fresh!)
Dinner was an incredible lineup of local pork and local produce. Guest pastry chef Brian Sigmond (who makes some of my favorite cookies through his Local Boy Bakery) made awesome fried bread that tasted like fresh donut holes. First up for the entrée was Executive Chef Chris’ “Eight Hour Braised Pork Belly Roulade with Honey Glaze, Greens, and Kohlrabi with Beet Vinaigrette.” We’ve had pork belly before, and it’s always soft, but this was melt-in-your mouth. When you finish this dish, you look down and wonder where it all went. This was paired with a Trebbiano, Piane Di Maggio.
Next, we had “Hickory Laced Guanciale with Carbonara of Housemade Egg Tagliatelli, Mushrooms and Peas.” A smoky dish with rich noodles, this was paired with Chardonnay Friuli, Banear d’Aba.
When we didn’t think we would have room for more, Cassie’s dish came up. “Tre Maiale Raviolis – Braised Neck, Sweet Italian Sausage, Prosciutto, with a Spring Vegetable Ragù.” Yum. Giant ravioli stuffed with pork – what more could you ask for? Paired with Primitivo, San Nicola. (If you’re not familiar with Primitivo, you might recognize Zinfandel which is its genetic clone – both have a characteristic peppery taste when from warmer climates.)
And finally, Chef Chris wowed us with the “Pork Shank Confit and Roasted Root Vegetables with Strawberry Gastrique and Demi Glace.” But it was the presentation on this dish that was the kicker. Chef Chris played with some molecular gastronomy techniques and created “caviar” out of fruit juice, sodium alginate and calcium chloride. You get a reaction when you combine these additives, and liquid can form tiny spheres for a cool presentation. This feast for the eyes and palate was paired with Barolo Classico, Virna.
Dessert was a surprise since it wasn’t on the menu. It was housemade vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce topped with a piece of honey bacon brittle, and a strawberry and basil compote on the side. I have to say I didn’t know what to expect biting into the bacon brittle, but it was awesome. The saltiness of the bacon, reminds me of salty peanuts in brittle, or the touch of salt you get in a salted caramel. It really does work!
This delicious meal would not have been possible without the local farms who provided the fresh ingredients:
- Pork – Grateful Growers Farm – Denver, NC
- Honey – Avery Farms – Lincolnton, NC
- Lettuce Greens – Barefoot Farms – Charlotte, NC
- Bok Choi – Laughing Owl Farm – Goldhill, NC
- Cilantro & Kohlrabi – Rosemary Pete – Charlotte, NC
- Green Onions – Lloyd Lewis Farms – Fallston, NC
- Green Garlic & Arugula – Small City Farm – Charlotte, NC
- Carrots, Beets, Yellow Squash & Zucchini – Barbee Farms – Concord, NC
- Mushrooms – Reg’s Farm – Charlotte, NC
- Mushrooms – Landis Farms – Concord, NC
- Eggs – Freedom Farms – Newton, NC
- Goat Cheese – Bosky Acres– Waxhaw, NC
- Strawberries – Davis & Son Orchard – Lincolnton, NC
Please support these farms and other local farms by visiting your farmers’ markets. Now, some markets are even open during the week, so you don’t have to wait for the weekend! (Check out Atherton Market on Tuesdays from 11:30am-6:30pm, and Matthews Community Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays from 11am-1pm.)
Fresh meals like these with fresh food can only be enjoyed as long as we support local farmers and their efforts. Slow Food Charlotte is a local chapter of a national organization that works to connect farms to markets, to support local farms and to celebrate local and heirloom food. Please show your support, join today and get involved to help to keep our fresh, local food sources viable.
Thanks to everyone at Monticello Restaurant & the Dunhill Hotel, Grateful Growers Farm, Nicola Biscardo Selections, the partner chefs and the local farms for a beautiful time. For more pictures from Thursday’s event, please see Charlotte Fresh’s facebook album.