Where to Savor Our Favorites from the Got to Be NC Festival Year-Round | Food
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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Where to Savor Our Favorites from the Got to Be NC Festival Year-Round

Posted by on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 10:31 AM

click to enlarge Tonya's Cookies' signature White Chocolate Pecan Crisps - PHOTO COURTESY TONYA'S COOKIES
  • Photo courtesy Tonya's Cookies
  • Tonya's Cookies' signature White Chocolate Pecan Crisps
For one weekend each May, the N.C. State Fairgrounds becomes the happiest place on earth for fans of local food. From May 18-20, the fairgrounds were home to the annual Got to Be NC Festival, which celebrates the agricultural bounty that’s grown, caught, raised, and made in North Carolina and the imaginative, hard-working farmers, artisans, and others who create them.

Ensconced in our sterile, wifi-enabled world, it’s sometimes hard to remember that North Carolina began as and continues to be one of the most agriculturally profitable and diverse states in the nation. According to N.C. State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina agriculture and agribusiness bring in seventy-six billion dollars a year and employ almost 650,000 people. But each spring, the Got to Be NC festival serves as a delicious reminder.

As far as foodies are concerned, the best of the festival is the Homegrown Marketplace, which is ground zero for more than one hundred food and drink producers to show off and sell their goods. Vendors also offer generous samples of their creations. To do my due diligence, I attended on an empty stomach to spotlight some of our favorites and find out where you can sample them year-round.

White Chocolate Pecan Crisps
Many know that Tonya Council is the granddaughter of the late, great Mildred Council, founder of Mama Dip’s iconic, eponymous Chapel Hill restaurant. She also owns her own business, Tonya’s Cookies, which features her signature light, crispy cookies in flavors like white chocolate pecan and peanut brittle. You can find Council’s cookies and baked goods at her shop, Sweet Tea and Cornbread, in Crabtree Valley Mall, where she also sells items produced by several other Got to Be NC participants.

Seasoned Collard Greens
Even people who are notoriously collard-averse (like myself) love Carolina’s Choice Foods' collard greens. They’re a little bit sweet and a touch spicy, and their texture strikes the perfect balance between tender and crisp. They’re also meat- and dairy-free, so vegans and vegetarians are welcome. Jars can be purchased at Bulldega Urban Market in Durham, NC Specialty Shop in Wake Forest, and Sweet Tea and Cornbread in Raleigh.

Sweet Tea Jelly

D'Vine Foods was on hand with its dizzying array of jellies in unusual flavors like moonshine, corn on the cob, and sweet tea. I may drink my iced tea unsweetened, but sweetened tea jelly is the way to go. The sugar-to-tea ratio is just right, with the sugar acting as the perfect foil to the slightly astringent tea. D’Vine also produces jams, juices and ciders, and marinades and dressings. You can find an assortment of its products at Carlie C’s IGA in Durham and the Raleigh Farmers Market.

Spicy Cheese Straws
Ginny O's cheese straws are a regular fixture at the festival, and for good reason. They are the Platonic ideal of a cheese straw; a flaky, buttery pastry with a deep, cheesy flavor, a spike of heat, and enough salt to linger on your tongue, compelling you to eat just one more. Their cheese straws come in attractive black-and-white striped packaging, making them perfect for gifting. Bonus: they also have a gluten-free option. They can be purchased at Whole Foods and Sweet Tea and Cornbread.

Brazilian Cheese Bread
This year a new business had tongues wagging. At Hillsborough's Cheese Bread King, Brazilian transplant Flavio Oliveira makes Brazilian cheese bread. The walnut-sized nubbins are moist and cheesy inside with a tender-chewy crust. Look for it in the frozen food department at most local Compare Foods.

Maple Glazed Pecans
Another discovery was Farrell Farms, whose maple-glazed pecans are an ode to flavor balance. Every single flavor—pecan and maple, sweet and salty—manages to shine without one dominating the other. The nonprofit business also donates 100 percent of its profits to assisting children in need, benefiting organizations such as the Methodist Home for Children. Farrell Farms’ sweet and savory nuts are available online and at many Builder's Discount Centers, including the locations in Wendell and Henderson.

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