Most of us have tapped into our mad scientist personas in the kitchen on more than one occasion. We've basted, infused, fried and stuffed all sorts of foods in hopes of making a creative culinary experiment palatable.
Those of us who have succeeded understand the urge to compete. For two quirky foodie friends, this meant taking the showdown on the road. The Food Experiments hit Durham on April 15 as part of a multinational tour calling all home chefs to compete in an amateur cook-off. Each city has a theme. For Durham, the contest is dubbed The Carolina Pork Experiment. Brooklyn Brewery is sponsoring the competition.
Theo Peck and Nick Suarez, both culinary school graduates, launched the idea after their own kitchen rivalry proved too strong to ignore. They realized friendships are often forged the same way—over stovetop competition.
Motorco Music Hall will host the contest, in which local home chefs have the chance to sport their best pork dish.
You can enter the contest at thefoodexperiments.com/tour/durham. The grand prize is a trip to Brooklyn Brewery to compete in the national championships. Other prizes include Le Creuset and Anolon cookware, cash and a case of local Cackalacky Spice Sauce.
Judges include Angus Barn Chef Walter Royal (who famously defeated celebrity chef Cat Cora on Iron Chef America in 2006), 100.7 FM's Kitty Kinnin and local food blogger Johanna Kramer (@durhamfoodie).
"I've been a pig lover for as long as I can remember," says Kramer. "I am sure we will see plenty of ribs and pulled pork, which is great, but I hope to see some more obscure items, too. Deep-fried pigs' ears, anyone? In terms of flavor, I'm hoping the contestants play around with their spices and marinades to incorporate local ingredients—Cackalacky sauce, chocolate from Escazu, nut butters from Big Spoon Roasters or Nello's tomato sauce come to mind, but there are many local options to consider."
(Insider tip: Kramer says she can't stomach chitlins.)
Foragers, we have great news: You get your strawberries early this year. Planted in the fall and growing through the winter, local strawberries are already ripe. Farms such as Vollmer Farm in Bunn (vollmerfarm.com) are opening this week for public picking.
"I picked three 5-pound buckets of my early variety strawberries already," says organic strawberry grower John Vollmer, who has been harvesting the berries since 1993. He says this is the earliest he has ever picked them. To find strawberry patches near you, visit ncstrawberry.com.
Get your tickets now for Homebrewed Raleigh (www.raleighcitymuseum.org/homebrewed_raleigh_3.shtml), set for Saturday, April 21, from 1–4 p.m. or 5–8 p.m. at the Busy Bee Cafe, 225 S. Wilmington St. The festival features top-notch home brewers, a panel discussion at noon and a brewing class at 4 p.m. Tickets are $25–$30 for each three-hour block and are available by calling 919-832-3775. Proceeds benefit the Raleigh City Museum.