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20 October, 2010

TerraVITA: The First Biodynamic and Sustainable Food and Drink Fair of the Southeast

Posted in : chapel hill, Events, fearrington, Restaurants, Travel, Travel Guide for Chapel Hill, NC on by : The Gourmez

TerraVITA is the brainchild of Colleen Minton, who planned this big tent event to help promote better and more natural food and drink movements. The first was held this past Saturday at Southern Village in Chapel Hill and brought in regional restaurants with similar philosophies and wine and beer distributors from further afield. In line with Colleen’s food and drink philosophy, power was supplied by solar panels, all trash was appropriately sorted between compostable, recycling, and landfill with the goal of having a little actual waste as possible.

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Those yellow tags and friendly garbage sorters are becoming familiar sights at the Triangle’s food and environmental events!

For the admission price of $65 (full disclosure: mine was comped), event-goers had access to wonderful appetizers and nibbles from about 30 different restaurants, caterers, and farmers as well as a wine glass for sampling the offerings of about 20 different purveyors of wine, beer, tea, or coffee. The full list of participants can be found at TerraVITA’s website, and I’m certain I’ve gotten a few of the pairings of food offered and the restaurant they were prepared by wrong, so please send me your corrections, whether the mistake is here or at the full set of photos. Additionally, many fantastic items were available for silent auction bidding, such as a day of cheesemaking with Chapel Hill Creamery and dinner for two at Fearrington with an overnight stay at the inn.

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The silent auction clipboards

Proceeds from the auction went to Table, an organization that provides meals for free and reduced lunch students outside of school, and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, which works to help conventional farmers switch to organic methods. There were also several educational talks on subjects like making that transition and differences between traditional and factory winemaking styles.

Of course, for me, trying out food and drink is the priority! And honestly, I can’t say I disliked anything I tried, but I didn’t get too adventurous, even leaving Neal’s Deli cow tongue bites to others. Let’s say I still have bad memories of that head cheese from Farm to Fork. I did, however, try their pickled peppers and turnips.

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Those were some spicy treats! I discovered that tulip honey does wonders to cool down the after effects.

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Tulip Honey, by the way, is fantastic! I put it ahead of Haw Creek Honey’s clover and wildflower offerings.

When I first arrived, I made a beeline for Carrboro Coffee Roasters, because hello, I need my coffee!

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Along with Joe Van Gogh, I enjoyed having drip coffee done in proper fashion to get the best flavor from that method. It was a good call to include coffee roasters—one must be awake before one dives into the wine! I tried around 8 different wines in all, and definitely enjoyed the zinfandel from Bonterra and the Riesling from Gilles Louvet, I believe. It was much drier than your normal Riesling because it’s harvested in an organic manner without the addition of sugar as some houses do. I was quite intrigued by the sparkling cider on hand, but I don’t think I liked it in the end: it was very dry and tasted much more similar to a wheat beer than anything else to me. I’m not a beer drinker, though I do like to try it!

So much food! Here are many of my favorites, because so many were great.

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These were venison slices with a bitter green and, I think, cranberry sauce, on thin slices of brioche. It was awesome, especially the combination of textures—I wouldn’t have thought the lettuce would add so much but it really tied this offering together. Offered by Nana’s.

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Over at Watt’s Grocery’s table, Chef Amy was serving up goat cheese custard with sweet potato, pea shoots, and some sort of legume, and it was divine–another great example of textures making a dish unique and fun to eat.

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Chapel Hill Creamery offered up slices of their asiago, brie, and Carolina Moon cheeses, along with a dollop of pumpkin butter mixed with ginger. Wow, that pumpkin butter was awesome and the asiago and brie were great in combination with them. The Carolina Moon was a bit too strong for me, but great to try.

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On this plate were a couple of wonderful options: from On the Square, sweet potato chips with chicken liver gravy and deviled eggs with truffle oil and caviar on top; from Angelina’s Kitchen, some spicy chorizo quiches that I adored because spicy meats and eggs are my idea of heaven; and from Chef and the Farmer, a fun play on a dolmade using collared green leaves instead of grape ones stuffed with faro and sausage.

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For its sauce alone, 18 Seaboard’s lamb ravioli was divine, and I’m not even a fan of lamb. The sauce was so unique. It was sweet and cheesy but had some wonderful flavors that I still can’t pull out but smile remembering. The ravioli itself was too thick but still tasty.

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Bernardin’s from Winston-Salem offered some delicious tuna tartare on wonton crackers. I believe the tuna’s sauce had a touch of wasabi, just enough to enhance, rather than overwhelm, the taste. Adding that small amount of Asian coleslaw worked nicely.

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An interesting option that didn’t quite work for me but was wonderful in some other folks’ views was the shrimp pierogi from J. Betski’s. See those salt flakes? They looked gorgeous but took away from the flavor of the shrimp inside more than I’d like. Plus, with the oil puddle beneath the wrapping, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Pretty, though!

Surprisingly fabulous was the beef short rib and biscuit offering from Saxapahaw General Store.

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Some of you are questioning my surprise, since Saxapahaw has built up quite a reputation for fantastic food these days, but I didn’t think a biscuit and meat would be that inspired. But that was no ordinary biscuit! I don’t know what secret ingredients they added, but it had the look and feel of a heavy biscuit that just sinks to your stomach yet somehow tasted a million times better than those. The caramelized onions were a perfect compliment to both the bread and beef.

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Of course, I must end with dessert! The truffles from French Broad Chocolates of Asheville were so very, very good. The best were the maple ones sprinkled with smoked salt, followed closely by the rose, pistachio, and cardamom filled indian kulfi and the olive oil, orange, and sugared fennel. Having more is plenty of reason for a trip to Asheville. I can’t wait to try their drinking chocolates on some weekend getaway!

I found that tea was a great palate cleanser between plates and Kit Conway of Tea Chi knows her way around them.

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I enjoyed sampling a few of her offerings and the wonderful iced tea from Teatulia across the way.

In between gluttony, I listened to one of 3 Cups fine owners, Lex Alexander, talk about the differences between chemical wine concoctions and natural wines. He gave great insight into why 3 Cups aims for wines in the $12–$20 range from Europe, namely, that US wines of the same range tend to be more factory-produced and less of the soil.

Thanks for inviting me, Colleen! Here are some more pictures from the event. If you were a participant, and you aren’t on the blog, there may be pictures of you on my photo website as well. Please let me know if I get any ingredients or pairings of restaurants and offerings wrong!

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Lamby Joes from Six Plates.

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Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes and Sweet Potato Muffins from Organic Bakies.

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Prosciutto and Pepper Frittata (or something like that) from Early Girl Eatery.

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The Lucky 32 Crew.

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Goat Cheese Soufflés with beets and salad from Elaine’s on Franklin.

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Mimosa Grill’s offerings.

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Fearrington’s famed Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with tasty, tasty trout and beets.

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Heron’s Parsnip Soup with pumpkin seed gratin and maple butter sauce.

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0 thoughts on : TerraVITA: The First Biodynamic and Sustainable Food and Drink Fair of the Southeast

  • June 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Wow, I’d never read this until now but what a fantastic write up of this event! I’m toying with the idea of going, still unsure but this is definitely pushing me towards the Yes-zone.

    • June 9, 2011 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks for the compliment! If you’re looking to increase your understanding of sustainable practices and people nearby who follow them, then I’d definitely recommend TerraVITA, especially the more streamlined Sustainable Classroom they are planning for this year’s event. It sounds like it will be even easier to engage with speakers there and really educate yourself.

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