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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Trends in Carolina Cuisine

Posted February 22, 2007 9:15 a.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2007 9:51 a.m. EST

It's one of those events I really enjoy: serving as a judge for a chef's culinary competition at NC State University. I get to rub shoulders with some of the top chefs in the state including Daniel Schurr of the elegant Second Empire in downtown Raleigh.

While judging some outstanding recipes from campus chefs and those at Vaughn Towers (the winner) at Carter-Finley Stadium I asked Schurr about trends in Carolina cuisine. Schurr gave me three headlines. Carolina pork is taking off as a huge menu item with an explosion of French recipes on the scene. The future is bright for NC wineries. And look out for sweet potatoes. There is a major public relations push to put more recipes involving this versatile Carolina crop into various restaurants. Did you know that Johnston County leads the nation in sweet potato production?

By the way, pork was the meat chosen for last night's cook off. The winning Vaughn Towers chefs prepared pork braciolette with blackberry sauce, spicey Turner potatoes with rustic vegetables and wilted spinach. Like sweet potatoes the recipe options for pork seem endless.

As for the growing NC winery industry Daniel Schurr has a favorite. He says Childress Vineyards in Yadkin Valley is putting out some great wines especially chardonnay.