TerraVITA begins tomorrow evening at 7pm with a Chef’s Harvest Potluck fundraiser for the Carborro Farmers’ Market. The dinner will feature dishes from twenty top Triangle area Chefs and 100% of the money raised from ticket sales will be donated to the market for physical improvements to it’s current location.
For some of us TerraVITA begins at 8:15AM tomorrow morning (Thursday) with a farm tour. That’s why I headed to Chapel Hill this evening, checking in to The Siena Hotel so I’d be ready to go at zero-early-hundred hours. In the interest of disclosure, hotel costs are being shared by TerraVITA organizers and myself.
The greatest thing happened when I got to my gorgeous room!
First I notice a bowl of fresh fruit, including a blood orange that had been cut in half, making the entire room smell delicious, along with bottles of Spring and Sparkling Water.
That was great enough, but then I read the hand-written note welcoming me to Chapel Hill and the Siena, which ended with this:
“P.S. My wife and I had a great time at the Asheville Small Plate Crawl last February. Sincerely, Anthony”
What a surprise! I had NO IDEA the hotel’s General Manager had gone to the Asheville Small Plate Crawl co-presented by myself and the Asheville Independent Restaurant Assn.
I got on the phone immediately and thanked him, marveling at what a small world we live in.
Seeing as there will be food, food and more food over the next few days and I’d been driving for hours, I decided to have a light supper at Il Palio, the hotel restaurant.
Served warm, this Broccoli and Fontina Soup Amuse Bouche was lusciously rich and thick. Just the ticket to get those taste buds wanting more.
Comfort food was in order this chilly evening. Their small order Butternut Squash Ravioli ($13) did better than hit the spot. This was a terrifc take on a Fall classic, tasting more “earthy” than sweet, made with balsamic brown butter vinaigrette, amoretti cookie powder, shiitake mushrooms and chive. The mushrooms had been dried or baked, which seemed to concentrate the flavor as well as changing the texture to slightly crunchy.
My server thought the exceptional flavor was due to the amoretti cookie powder. I’m not sure. Whatever it was; cookie powder, a secret ingredient, or a combination of ingredients, this dish was above the ordinary – absolutely delicious.
A generous pour of Caposaldo Prosecco ($8) kept things light.
For dessert, a cute take on Pumpkin Bread Pudding ($8), made in a mini cast iron skillet with dulche de leche, caramel, cinnamon and nutmeg, topped with sweet potato crisps. After taking a few bites of this perfect-sized treat, I ended up putting the ice cream right on top so the flavors could mix.
As I was feeling warm, full and happy, I asked Beverage Director, Chetan Reddy, to discuss the various Ports and Madeiras on their after-dinner drink menu. What a wealth of information! Mr. Reddy was so enthusiastic about introducing me to something I hadn’t had before, he poured a lovely, generous taste of this New York Malmsey Special Reserve.
Beautiful, deep, layered flavors swirled in my mouth, lingering long after swallowing. Fabulous, but now I’m in trouble. I can see there’s no turning back. There will be more Madeiras in my future.
Rounding off the evening, another great (and kind of funny) thing happened. This woman came through the restaurant carrying two boxes of produce. When I smiled at her, she smiled back and said, “spinach”.
I later found out she was Colleen Minton, founder and producer extraordinaire of TerraVITA! We’ve been exchanging emails, but hadn’t met face-to-face. As she was leaving, she overheard something I said that made her come back and introduce herself. Chatting with her was the perfect way to top off a perfect evening.
My hiking boots are at the foot of my bed, ready for trekking around farms tomorrow. Can’t wait!