Friday, August 31, 2012

NC Blueberries, Sandy Creek Farm Style, Lexington

I wasn't looking for blueberries when I went to Sandy Creek Farm. I was looking for mushrooms. I drove down an extremely steep gravel driveway, thinking to myself, I wouldn't want to get stuck here in a rain shower. Just then I saw a flash of lightning and heard the boom of distant thunder.

Outside of the Farm Store on Sandy Creek Farm, Lexington, NC
I planned to pop into the farm store, grab some mushrooms and go before the driveway became a waterfall. Inside, I saw many reasons to stop and linger. The place was full of nick-nacks from homemade jams to garden supplies and T-shirts. There was a fridge filled with pasteurized goat cheeses, eggs, and berries. But there were no more mushrooms. They had sold out earlier in the week.

Inside the farm store on Sandy Creek Farm,
Lexington, NC
I called my husband to see if he wanted some goat cheese instead.
CRACK went the sky as a bolt of lightning hit a nearby field. He wasn't sure he wanted any goat cheese.
BOOM continued the thunder.

"OK, no more time," I told him, "I'll just get some berries."
I thought about getting just a pint because I was travelling. But then, I thought, I probably wouldn't be back through this area any time soon.

GROWL the storm said, the shop shook, and I made up my mind.
"I'll get a quart of blueberries," I said, "and a jar of honey," scrambling for a lone jar of wildflower honey on the shelf behind me. I paid for my purchases, said a quick good-bye, and managed to get into my car just as the sky exploded above me.

I was right about the driveway. It was a full blown waterfall by the time I got to the top of it. When I got back to my hotel room, two hours later than I expected, I treated myself to a large bowl of blueberries. They were amazing, the best I'd had all trip and worth every scary second.

Sandy Creek Farm is located at 3160 South NC Hwy 150, Lexington, NC, 27295
Phone (336) 853-8834   Their website is


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Florida Chefs Delight Farm-To-Table Style at Small Farms Conference, Kissimmee, Fla.

Four prominent Florida farm-to-table chefs gathered in Kissimmee, Florida, this July to meet farmers. They gave up a Saturday night of sales to cater the Small Farms & Alternative Enterprises Conference. They were looking forward to the advertised "networking event to make new acquaintances," where they planned to make business deals with new farmers.

Chef Dak of Pizzeria Oceano, in prep-kitchen
 at 2012 Small Farms Conference, Kissimmee, Fla.

Chef David A. Kerprich, who prefers to go by Dak, of Pizzeria Oceano restaurant (Lantana, Fla.) sources local Florida ingredients for his pizzas. "It's amazingly hard to source locally in this area. You have to be committed to it. The reason I came, was to source local ingredients better," said Chef Dak. He travelled over four hours to get to the event.

Pickled Florida Sturgeon fish dish from
 Pizzeria Oceano at 2012 Small Farms Conference,
Kissimmee, Fla.
He had a French bread slice stacked with pickled Sturgeon (Sarasota sourced), drizzled with smoked cream, topped with Lake Meadow Naturals sourced herbs, and crowned with Florida pickled beets. He also had a Florida mango salad (from Kiss-Im-Mee's Green Place Farm and Chef Dak's garden, Fla.) that went so fast I was not able to get a picture.
Chef Tony Adams, Big Wheel Provisions, serves devilled
style Lake Meadow Naturals eggs, 2012 Small Farms
Conference, Kissimmee, Fla.
Florida pork belly & avocado on
sticky rice, Big Wheel Provisions,
2012 Small Farms Conference,
Kissimmee, Fla.
Chef Tony Adams of Big Wheel Provisions (Orlando, Fla.) makes a point of including at least one Florida ingredient in every dish he serves. "Local sourcing is a huge reason why we are here. There's going to be so many producers here. It's like a toy store," said Chef Adams. He brought his whole food truck into the dining hall.

He served six different styles of devilled eggs made with 12-hour old Lake Meadow Naturals (Ocoee, Fla.) eggs. He also had a sticky rice dish made with deep fried Florida sourced pork's belly, sesame, and Florida avocado.

Chef Darwin Santa Maria, Darwin's On 4th, in prep-kitchen
at 2012 Small Farms Conference, Kissimmee, Fla.

Florida rock shrimp and Peruvian
mashed potato dish from Darwin's
On 4th, 2012 Small Farms
Conference, Kissimmee, Fla.
Peruvian Chef Darwin Santa Maria of Darwin's on 4th Restaurant and Brewery (Sarasota, Fla.) is a relative newcomer to the Florida farm-to-table restaurant scene. He is currently working with a Florida farmer who is growing some Peruvian ingredients.
Travelling over two hours, he was looking forward to networking with more Florida farmers at the evening's event.

He served a delicious Peruvian mashed potato dish topped with Florida rock shrimp, tangy Kalamata olive sauce, and Florida micro-greens. He also had a Florida sourced beef dish and some craft beers.

Chef Greg Baker, Refinery Restaurant, serves pulled
pork dish to 2012 Small Farms Conference attendee,
Kissimmee, Fla.
Chef Greg Baker of The Refinery Restaurant (Tampa, Fla.) travelled over three hours to get to the event, getting caught in Highway-4 traffic on the way.

He sources from a lot of Florida farmers but when he can't, he sources from sustainable providers. He came to event to support local farmers. He served a delicious Florida alligator Ceviche and a pulled pork dish.

As the dining hall doors opened, attendees poured in, and music from a live band started. The food was wonderful but the volume of the music was not. It was too loud and drowned out any possibility of conversation between the chefs and the farmers.

At the end of the evening, I asked the chefs if they planned to return next year and most said only if their schedules permitted it.

To find out about the 2012 and upcoming Small Farms and Alternative Enterprise Conferences you can go to

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mother's Day At Paradise Farms, Homestead, Fla: Vegetarian Brunch

Paradise Farms is the perfect place for a vegetarian Mother's Day brunch. There is excellent organic food, company, and surroundings.

Gabriele Marewski explaining how the farm was designed
using Feng Shui methods, Paradise Farms,
Homestead, Fla.
German born Gabriele Marewski, owner of Paradise Farms, is a lover of certified organic and biodynamic growing practices. She bought the five-acre, former avocado grove back in 1999. Her certified organic farm now grows for and sells to top gourmet restaurants in the Miami area.

Entrance to Paradise Farms, Homestead, Fla.
My husband and I snagged the last tickets, at $65 a person, for this year's Mothers' Day brunch. The day was warm and breezy. When we arrived ice cold glasses of herbal tea were offered to us. They were made with ingredients from the farm like lemongrass and mint. Then the edible tasting tour started.

Marewski talking about the edible, blue, Clitoria flower,
Paradise Farms, Homestead, Fla.
Marewski said she had 52 edible flowers on the farm. She encouraged us to try as many as we wanted. The tour ended at a covered dining area at the center of the farm. Chef and caterer (Broadwings Catering), Kira Volz was waiting for us. 

Fresh yogurt with Florida mango puree, granola, and
Florida strawberries, Paradise Farms brunch,
Homestead, Fla.
She had a choice of two first courses: yogurt with mango and granola or yogurt with granola and strawberries. Chef Volz said all the ingredients were sourced locally in Florida. Mango mimosas were offered to sweeten the experience.

Field greens salad with edible flowers, Paradise Farms
brunch, Homestead, Fla.
Next was a spring mix salad with edible flowers and a light vinaigrette dressing. Unfortunately, the salad at my table was full of sand so it was hard to eat.

Heirloom tomatoes, caramelized onions, oyster mushrooms,
pea shoots, and fresh goat cheese crumble, Paradise
Farms brunch, Homestead, Fla.
Next was an sweet heirloom tomato, caramelized onion, oyster mushroom, and pea-shoots salad with creamy chunks of crumbled cheese.

Sweet squash stuffed fresh pasta with micro-greens and
shaved cheese, Paradise Farms brunch, Homestead, Fla.
Following this dish was fresh handmade ravioli stuffed with sweet squash, topped with spicy micro-greens, and finished with salty, shaved, hard-cheese (from Hani Khouri's goat farm, Homestead).

Orange zest cake with strawberry puree and fresh cream,
Paradise Farms brunch, Homestead, Fla.
And finally for dessert we were treated to a moist, orange zest cake with fresh cream and strawberry puree.

Chef Kira Volz checking plates at Paradise Farms
brunch, Homestead, Fla.
Chef Volz impressed me with her use of local ingredients and light use of salt in each course. She was very knowledgeable about the local farm-to-table food scene in Florida, and was eagerly looking for more farmers to source from.

I can hardly wait until the next growing season starts (November 2012), so I can have another brunch with Chef Volz at Paradise Farms.

If you want to get in on a brunch or dinner, book early because seats go fast. You can call (305) 248-4181 on M, T, Th, F from 8:30 - 4:30 pm OR go to their website to learn more

Friday, August 24, 2012

Indigenous Restaurant, Sarasota, Fla: Dessert Locally Sourced

Indigenous Restaurant impressed me this past spring with their Florida sourced dessert. It was sweet corn ice cream with chili and lime topping.

Florida sweet corn ice cream with Sarasota chili and
lime topping, Indigenous Restaurant, Sarasota, Fla.

According to my server, the cream came from Dakin Dairy Farms (Myakka City, Fla), the chili and lime came from Sarasota. The sweet corn was also from the Sarasota area.

It was a very refreshing, slightly sweet dessert, and was the perfect ending to a partially locally sourced main meal.

I look forward to more locally Florida sourced meals from Indigenous in the future.

If you're ever in the Sarasota area, check them out for dinner at 239 S. Links Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236
Phone 342-706-4740

Monday, August 20, 2012

Childress Vineyards, Lexington, NC: Dry Southern Wine

My search for southern wines brought me to Childress Vineyards and Winery in Lexington, North Carolina. It was extremely rainy the day I swan into their tasting room 31 minutes before closing. I was looking for dry wines to take to a party. The cashier directed me to some chardonnay and then stopped, asking, "Would you like to taste the wine before you buy it?"
I, of course said, "yes."

Tasting and showroom at Childress Vineyards, Lexington,
North Carolina

She told me to hold on a moment, and went to talk to the wine pourers at the bar.  When she came back, she said one of the ladies was willing to stay a bit past closing so I could try some dry wines. But first I had to pay $15 for a Barrel Select tasting (including a souvenir glass).

I tried 2010 Chardonnay, 2010 Pinot Gris, Pinnacle, 2009 Cabernet Franc, and La Vie Del Blanc (a dessert wine). I had two favorites, the 2010 Chardonnay and 2010 Pinot Gris. The Chardonnay was very drinkable with a light citrus finish. The Pinot Gris surprised my palette with flavors of lavender, and Bosc pears.

My least favorite was the dessert wine because it was too sweet for me.

I bought two bottle each, of my favorites, and went back out into the rain storm. My party friends didn't know that North Carolina was producing wines. They were pleasantly surprised by the wines from Childress.

If you want to visit Childress Winery they are located at 1000 Childress Vineyards Road, Lexington, N.C.   Phone 336-236-9463
Or go to their website

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hickory Nut Gap Meats, Asheville, NC: Cured Delight

Hickory Nut Gap Farm specializes in delicious locally sourced cured meats. Located in North Carolina, this farm raises their own animals on certified organic fields.

Ryan Sitler of Hickory Nut Gap Ranch, West Asheville
Tailgate Market, Asheville, NC

I met Ryan Sitler, Hickory Nut Gap's farmers' market salesman, at the West Asheville Tailgate Market. "We use celery salt in our salami instead of synthetic nitrate salt," he told me.

They sell many types of cured pork products like bacon, pepperoni, and prosciutto. They also sell pastured poultry, and grass-fed beef products.

I could taste all their attention-to-detail practices in the hard salami classico. It reminded me of European cured meats with a perfect balance of fat to salt to meat ratio.

According to their website, 12 years ago farmers Jamie and Amy Ager started running the business, shortly after graduating from Warren Wilson College. Their practical studies in international farm practices has sculpted the business.

The farm is open to the public from Wednesday to Saturday. In season, they have organic u-pick berry picking fields.

To find out more, you can go to their website
or visit them at 57 Sugar Hallow Rd, Fairview, NC    Phone (828) 628-1027

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Locally Sourced Crab Dish: Sth Florida Style

Golden crab, fished in Florida, tastes just like sweet New England crabs. This past green-market season, I bought some crab from the Offshore Crab Company Inc. It had been cooked in Old Bay seasoning.

Florida fished Golden crab from Offshore Crab Company Inc.,
on Kai Kai Farm greens, with Rosa Fiorelli's Blanc Du Bois
wine, South Florida

I served it cold with a locally grown green salad (from Kai Kai Farm and Grove) with a glass of Florida grown and produced Rosa Fiorelli's Blanc Du Bois semi-dry white wine. It was delicious.

To contact Bruce Hartwig of Offshore Crab Company Inc., you can call him on (754) 246-0578 or email to

Friday, August 10, 2012

Green Man Brewery, Asheville, NC: Al Fresco Brewing

My husband and I came across the Green Man Brewery while on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina. It was located a bit away from the tourist crowds and seemed to be occupied by locals. The parking lot was a gravel-strewn yard, on a slope, next to the brewery. It was a hot day and we were looking for an air conditioned room but instead we found an open-air seating area with over-head fans, a few dart boards, and one of the most eclectic bars we had ever seen.

Green Man Brewery, Asheville, N.C.
Behind the bar, in the dark recesses of the building, were steel brewing vats holding fresh brewed beer made with Asheville water.

We paid $5.50 for a beer sampler, four 4-oz glasses of beer, to share. First we sipped a sweet smelling, light Summer Wheat beer that smelt just like fresh flowers. The next one, an India Pale Ale, smelt like honey drenched roses sprinkled with melted butter. It tasted as good as it smelt.

There was also an Extra Special Porter that smelt like burnt bread and was a bit too bitter for our tastes. The last sampler was a Porter that smelt and tasted like chocolate had been added to it. It was delicious.

We stayed after our samplers were finished, and talked to a local about other breweries in the area. He told us about the Wedge Brewing Company and gave us directions.

For more information about Green Man Brewery you can visit  them at 23 Buxton Ave, Asheville, NC  28801 , Phone 828-252-5502. Their tasting room is open seven days a week from 4-9pm during the week and 3-10pm on weekends.

Or you can go to their website

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rosa Fiorelli's Vineyard-To-Table Dinner, Bradenton, Fla.

Vineyard dinners are something you'd expect in California or Europe but not in South Florida. But this past March, Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard and Winery in Bradenton, Florida, had their first vineyard-to-table dinner. They invited local culinary arts students to cook, local organic farmers to supply ingredients, and local people to consume the four-course meal.
Manatee Technical Institute culinary arts students prepare
first course at Rosa Fiorelli's vineyard-to-table dinner,
Bradenton, Fla.
Rosa Fiorelli produces fresh Italian-style table wines without added sulfites. They use organic-growing methods and hand pick their grapes.

Europen-hybrid Venifera bunch
grapes at Rosa Fiorelli's Vineyard,
Bradenton, Fla.
Their wines are made with European-hybrid Venifera bunch grapes and American native muscadine grapes, they grow on 10-acres of land.
Spicy Italian sausage and artichoke flatbread, Rosa Fiorelli's
Vineyard-to-table dinner, Bradenton, Fla.
A pre-vineyard tour appetizer, made of spicy Italian sausage (TransAtlantic Sausage Co., Sarasota) on artichoke flatbread topped with purple basil and oregano (Geraldson Community Farm, Bradenton), came with semi-dry Rosato wine (Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard, Bradenton).

The vineyard tour took just over half an hour and included a walk through the winery. Inside the winery building, our guide told us they used food-grade plastic barrels with bags of oak chips, instead of oak barrels, to age their wine.
Chef Dana Johnson talks about the wines to be served
during Rosa Fiorelli's vineyard-to-table dinner,
Bradenton, Fla.
Back at the outdoor dining area, Chef Dana Johnson, a pastry and baking instructor at Mantatee Technical Institute in Bradenton, told us he chose not to use Rosa Fiorelli wine in the dishes because he felt it would compete too much with the Rosa Fiorelli wine in the glass.  
Goat's milk cheesecake with papaya salsa at Rosa
Fiorelli's vineyard-to-table-dinner, Bradenton, Fla.
The first course was a tangy Goat's milk cheesecake with candied walnut crust and papaya salsa (from Chef Johnson's garden, Sarasota). This was paired with a spicy, Carmel colored Conquistador blush wine.

Arugula, mustard greens, and watermelon radish salad on
flax seed cracker at Rosa Fiorelli's vineyard-to-table
dinner, Bradenton, Fla.
This was followed by a spicy arugula and mustard greens salad (Geraldson Community Farm, Bradenton) topped with crunchy watermelon radish, all resting on a flax seed cracker. It was drizzled with a Florida honey (Richard's Foodporium, Sarasota) vinaigrette. Semi-dry white Blanc du Bois was served with this course. Unfortunately, the strong flavors of the salad overpowered the fruity flavors of the wine.

Pork Tenderloin with rainbow beets,
Rosa Fiorelli vineyard-to-table
dinner, Bradenton, Fla

The main course gave diners a choice of two dishes, either thyme grilled pork loins or coffee and stout rubbed short ribs. Both were served with the Red-Noble semi-dry muscadine wine. The pork loins were tender and came with a side of sweet yellow and purple beets.

Coffee and stout rubbed short ribs with rainbow
swiss chard at Rosa Fiorelli's vineyard-to-
table dinner, Bradenton, Fla.
The gravy covered, coffee and stout rubbed short ribs were succulent and tender. They were served with rainbow colored Swiss chard (Gamble Creek Farm, Parrish) and Florida grown marjoram. The ribs went very well with the Red Noble wine.

Dessert played with the traditional idea of chocolate mousse. It was made with Dakin Dairy Farms cream (Myakka City, Fla.) and curry. Then it was covered with a milk chocolate shell, set on a sweet cracker, drizzled with Bourbon vanilla cream, dotted with raspberry coulis, dusted with gold, and topped with a crispy caramel wafer. All the flavors went together beautifully. It was served with a very strong flavored Red Muscadine dessert wine.

Chocolate and curry mousse with raspberry coulis,
Bourbon vanilla cream, caramel wafer, and gold dust.
Rosa Fiorelli vineyard-to-table dinner, Bradenton, Fla.

This vineyard-to-table dinner was worth the $65 per person ticket cost.
The Culinary arts students from the Manatee Technical Institute of Bradenton cooked each course with the help of Chef Dana Johnson and Chef Valencia Mitchell (both of Savory Scenes, a catering and cooking class company).

The dinner’s featured local Florida producers from: Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard (Bradenton),TransAtlantic Sausage company (Sarasota), Gamble Creek Farm (Parrish), Geraldosn Community Farm (Bradenton), Dakin Dairy Farms (Myakka City), Richard’s Foodporium (Sarasota), and chef Dana Johnson's garden.

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Regionally Sourced Breakfast: Fla, GA, And NC Style

Pecan, sorghum syrup, pancakes topped with Florida grown mint, is a great breakfast. Washed down with a glass of ruby-red grapefruit juice makes it a fantastic breakfast. 
Sorghum syrup, pecan, pancakes with Florida ruby-red
grapefruit juice

The pecans were purchased in Vienna, Georgia at Ellis Bros. Pecans Inc. The wood-fired sorghum syrup came from Dogwood Hills Farm in Weaverville, North Carolina. The tart ruby-red grapefruit juice came from Indian River Select, Florida (a favorite of mine). And the chocolate mint garnish came from my herb garden in South Florida.

The whole wheat flour came from the mid-west. The pasture-raised eggs came from a farm in Texas. And American grown and produced applesauce was used instead of oil.

I just want to say one thing about Indian River Select grapefruit juice. On hot days, I semi-freeze it until it just starts to form ice crystals. Then I stir it up and eat it with a spoon. It is a deliciously balanced tangy, sweet, and slightly bitter frozen treat.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Weber Haus Cachaça: Brazilian Environmentalism, Updated

At the 15th Americas Food and Beverage show last year, I tried some delicious Weber Haus Premium cachaça.  Pronounced ca-cha-sa, it is a liquor made from crushed sugar cane juice and is often classified as rum. But according to the Brazilians it is not the same thing.

Evandro Luis Weber of Weber Haus, at 15th Americas
Food and Beverage Show, Miami, Beach, Fla.
Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey
Weber Haus is an environmentally friendly Brazilian company harvesting sugar cane when its green instead of burnt like in South Florida. They convert the first 10 percent of the cane juice to ethanol to power plantation vehicles. After distillation, another 10 percent of the liquid gets sold to a perfume factory for scent binding.

Evandro Luis Weber, the company owners' son, told me through an interpreter, there are 5000 companies in Brazil that make cachaça. His company started making theirs in 1948 and it is considered the best tasting.

I had to agree after I tried his three-year aged Premium Black Label style. It was aged in French Oak for 18 months and then in Balsam for another 18 months. It had a rich vanilla and tropical flower scent that continued into the flavor. It was very smooth with a sweet finish.

They also produce a certified organic style, aged for three years in Brazilian Oak. It smelt like freshly pressed sugar cane juice rubbed with oak. And it tasted exactly like it smelt. Weber told me half of his cane fields were certified organic.

By the end of my conversation with Weber, he had poured me a sample of nearly every cachaça he produced. Thank goodness I only took small sips of this 40 proof liquor.

The Premium Black Label was my favorite. Unfortunately, I have not found any South Florida restaurants carrying it. I might have to travel to Brazil to get more.

If you want to learn more about Weber Haus cachaça, and can read Portuguese then go to:

Updated May 2014

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mooresville Ice Cream, N.C: Local Ingredients

I got a delicious surprise when I tried Deluxe peach-flavored ice cream. It tasted like sweet-cream butter, or like grass because that's what the best tasting butter tastes like.
Mooresville Ice Cream Company, Mooresville, N.C.

It was hot when I stopped at the corner of Highway 801 and 150 in Mooresville, North Carolina. I was looking for ice cream preferably with peaches--it was the season. There was a one-window ice cream shop at the back of the parking lot.

As I bought a two-scoop cup of frozen cream I asked if the peaches were local.
"I don't know," said the attendant, "I don't make the ice cream, I only sell it." She directed me to the main store in town but I didn't have the time. I had to get back to my hotel to meet my husband.

I licked and slurped my fast melting cup of ice cream as I drove. And then it struck me--this was the best tasting peach ice cream I had ever had.

Wow, I cheered inside my head, this is fantastic. I'll have to get some for my in-laws. Then I realized I couldn't remember the name of the shop or the name of the brand, so no ice cream for them.

I returned to the one-window shop three days later with my husband. But the shop was closed. The business next door gave us directions to the main store downtown. It was called the Mooresville Ice Cream Company and it sold Deluxe Ice Cream (the same brand I ate a few days before).

Inside the Mooresville Ice Cream Company shop,
Mooresville, N.C.

The saleswoman said the Mooresville Ice Cream Company started producing Deluxe ice cream in 1924. The present owner's family has a dairy farm where they source their milk and cream. They support local farmers by buying their fruit for ingredients.

We got some more ice cream--peach of course--and continued on our culinary tour of North Carolina.

To learn more you can visit them at 172 N Broad Street, Mooresville, NC  28115   Phone: 704-664-5456
Or go to their website

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Florida Estates Winery, Land O'Lakes, Fla.

Florida Estates Winery in Land O' Lakes is part of a 3,600-acre working ranch. Most of the wines are made with juice from their Panhandle, Florida, vineyards. They have been selling Muscadine and Vinifera Hybrid wines for 11 years.

Florida Estates Winery, Land O' Lakes, Fla.
Bill Maher, the vintner (wine maker), was very knowledgeable and chatty. He filled my head with wine facts and fancies as I sipped a selection of dry wines. He tried to get me to try some sweet ones but I politely refused.

Tasting bar of Florida Estates Winery, Land O' Lakes,

He teaches wine appreciation classes at the winery each month, and has a radio show every Thursday from 7-8 p.m. called All About Wine

Florida Estates Winery wines, Land O' Lakes, Fla.

I bought a bottle of semi-dry Plantation Red wine made with 80 percent Florida grown Vinifera Hybrid bunch-grape juice and 20 percent California grape juice.

The wines have varying amounts of sulfites in them which means their shelf life is from four to five years. Florida Estates Winery has many more sweet wines, made from Muscadine grapes, than dry wines.

To find out more about this winery you can visit them at 25241 State Rd 52, Land O' Lakes, FL  34639.  Phone 813-996-2113

Or you can go to