WRAL.com at the State Fair

Food, glorious NC food

Posted May 23, 2010 5:15 p.m. EDT

A friend of mine accused me of being a foodie, which I resisted because I don't go to fancy restaurants and I will happily have a baloney sandwich for lunch. But maybe I am a Fair Foodie, at least once a year. And thanks to the Food Expo I'm pretty sure I'm a Got to Be NC Foodie.

The first year of Got to Be NC, it seemed like every other booth at the Food Expo was a peanut product. Last year, there were some non-food booths and a little more variety. This year, the Expo is really hitting its stride with an entire section of wines and a variety of foods, though an overriding theme seemed to be barbecue sauce.

Backing up a bit... last year's Food Expo had some non-food booths that worked to fill the place up, but took away from the actual "Food Expo" part. Those booths seem to have migrated to the Dorton Arena (more about that in the next blog post) and  so the building was a little emptier -- in other words, there's room to expand. The space was well-used with most of the wineries having their own section in one corner and plenty of places for people to sit.

And there were lots and lots of new food offerings. Here are some products that I picked up from first-year exhibitors; in a few cases I've already gotten to taste-test them.

Grill Bully Seafood Cocktail Sauce -- {a href="external_link-5"}}http://grillbully.com/ -- Seafood cocktail sauce with a sweet, lingering horseradish kick. Last night I broiled up some  shrimp and served it up with Grill Bully and brown rice. It was a hit.

Imladris Farm Jams -- {a href="external_link-4"}}http://www.imladrisfarm.com/about_imladris.html -- Sugar, fruit, and pectin, that's all you'll find in these terrific jams. This morning's breakfast was a couple slices toast and some Berry Best Jam, which mixes blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries berries together. I'm looking forward to trying the blueberry and raspberry jam.

Elaine's Slices of Heaven -- {a href="external_link-3"}}Baskets and Beyond-- If you are on a diet, RUN. You will not be able to resist the Chocolate Peanut Butter Fantasy Bread. Elaine's Slices of Heaven has a variety of other breads too including less decadent like Sourdough, and completely decadent like Chocolate Coconut Almond and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut.

Chuck's Mango Tango Sauce -- {a href="external_link-2"}}http://grillmasterchuck.com/ -- My husband likes his barbecue sauces sweet and I don't, so I'm always looking for a compromise. Mango seems to do the trick; we both liked Chuck's Mango Tango sauce when we sampled it at the Food Expo. Chuck  actually has grilling sauces in several flavors and I got a few of the "sample size" bottles in addition to a big bottle of the mango flavor. I see grilling in my future if we have a rain-free evening in the next week.

Escazu Chocolates -- {a href="external_link-1"}}http://escazuchocolates.com/ -- I'm not sure, actually, if this was Escazu's first year the Expo. This Raleigh-based choclatier offers bars in a variety of flavors. The only one I've tried so far is the delicious (and strong) Beaufort Salt, which was 67% dark chocolate and sea salt. I'm saving the Pumpkin Seed and Guajillo Chili (74% dark chocolate) and the Chipotle Chili (also 74% dark chocolate) for family gatherings.

There are several things I haven't mentioned, like the blackberry cider (recommended) and taste-testing barbecue sauce right after drinking blackberry cider (not recommended.) I'm so glad most of the non-food stuff was moved out of the Expo Center. The variety here is terrific, and will only get better as the building fills up.