‘Uber’ local supper

January 17, 2010 at 12:41 am Leave a comment

By Carol Peppe Hewitt

Sustainable grub doesn’t get any better than the food served at 3CUPS in Chapel Hill last week-end.

Farmer-Chef Doug, Rachel, Lyle and Tami

The Pittsboro -based PiedmontBioFarm and the Abundance Foundation created a three-course meal, and 3 CUPS provided the wine pairings from organic family-owned and-operated small vineyards located in the Italian Piedmont, our “sister” region, for an “Uber Local,” utterly delicious Sunday Supper.

The evening began with Piedmont BioFarm’s own roasted peanuts, grown right in Pittsboro, and “shelled by ‘with child’ labor,” according to the menu. That would have been Rachel Burton, a founder of Piedmont Biofuels, and a few months pregnant, who spent Sunday afternoon shelling peanuts. Nearby the Piedmont Biofarm interns and Abundance cooking team had a riotous time chopping veggies, baking tarts, washing greens, laughing and chatting as they all created a feast in the Eco Industrial Park kitchen.

Jay at 3 CUPS had chosen 3 fabulous wines. The first came with the soup course, a 2007 Icardi Cortese L’Aurora. The Tobago Black Bean Soup with Bradshaw and Violetta sweet potatoes and mixed sweet peppers was Doug Jones’ creation, the new CFSA Farmer of the Year who owns and runs Piedmont BioFarm. Doug is a farmer’s farmer. If you want to talk selective seed saving, soils, plant breeding, growing conditions, and more, Doug is your point man. He planted dozens of different pepper varieties last year. One of his lines of Asian collards is now available through Fedco, and it appears one of his peppers will be available at Seeds of Change. The flavor of the Tobago peppers was new to me and gave the soup a wonderful smokiness.

Next came “Willette’s Pink Big Tart.” The beet and goat cheese tart was Willette’s idea and was full of Early Wonder Beets, mixed heirloom carrots, local goat cheese, crushed pecans, parsley, local eggs, and the option of “Neville the pig” bacon from Pickard’s Mountain. Tami had started the tart crust at home, under the watchful eye of the family pie-dough king, Arlo.

Back in the Eco Park kitchen, Lyle had scrubbed six bunches of beautiful baby beets (imagine, picking beets in January!) and I had roasted them along with the peanuts. Patty, Willette and Jenny, interns extraordinaire, had loaded the filling into Tami’s tart crusts and baked them. Curtiss P Martin, (photo credit well-deserved) shot the prep and dinner.

Once at 3 CUPS the team morphed into wait staff, plating and serving their creations to nearly 30 eager guests. Alongside the tart was a Mixed Green Salad and what a mixture! Creasy greens, chickweed, baby lettuce and spinach leaves and young mustard greens, were topped with crunchy Jerusalem artichokes tossed in a light dressing Willette had also invented. Really puts those sorry bagged greens mixtures that come from CA to shame.

Each table had a plate with two breads, Braided Polenta Bread and Honey Wheat Bread made with Lindley Mills stone-ground flour, local eggs, milk, and honey and baked by Lynette, a talented local baker. Our second wine was another fabulous Piedmont red, a 2007 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso, served by the gracious 3 CUPS staff, Mimi and Kate.

Last came Mrs. Scurlock’s Sweet Potato Pie. Doug had provided his ginseng sweet potatoes, the butter was from Homeland Creamery, and on the surface was a sprinkling of shiny slightly crystallized sugar. It occurred to me that maybe we might have asked her to use less of this imported ingredient, and then I tasted it. This was what wars had been fought over, and I’m glad we won. It was exquisite, and the crust was perfect. With the dessert we drank another red wine, 2005 Chionetti Dolcetto di Dogliani San Luigi. Again the flavor worked perfectly with sweet potato.

Even the centerpieces were uber local. Local pottery dessert bowls held a few sprigs of Doug’s beautiful purple kale, a couple of shiny bright orange togabo peppers, and a handful of the multi-colored corn kernels that had been ground down to produce the cornmeal for the cornbread that had been served with the soup course. Baked in piping hot cast iron pans of bacon grease from the Pickard Mt bacon in the tarts, the classic Southern cornbread was crispy, greasy and fabulous!

So how were the reviews? As Christine had pushed her last bite of Willette’s Pink Big Tart around her plate I heard her lament, “I don’t want it to end” to her friend Deverre, who nailed the dessert. “I just want to dive into the sweet potato pie and live there.“

And she was not alone. Cathy and Joseph said it was the most local meal they’d been to yet. Kelly Stack, had heard of Piedmont BioFarm through her “food justice” work. That ‘s a new term for me, and I like it. She thought Mrs. Scurlock’s Sweet Potato Pie was the best she’s ever had. “Everything was so good!”

Don and Pam, long-time 3 CUPS customers and new of Doug’s CSA, said they didn’t know their favorite farmer was also a chef! That’s ok, neither did most of the rest of us. They thought the best thing about the evening was Doug ’s apron!

I’m ready to do it all again.

Great food, wonderful wines, and interesting company.

It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Chopping beets.

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Entry filed under: Carol Peppe Hewitt, Sustainable Farming, Sustainable Food, Urban Farming, Whole Food/ Locavore Eateries. Tags: , , , .

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