Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I'm Finally Going to Pepper Fest!

I have wanted to go to this event for years, but something has always come up that's kept me from snagging tickets ($30 here)... until this year, y'all! Can you imagine how excited I was when my girl Cherith from Clairemont Communications gave me a buzz to ask to me to volunteer as a beer judge? Well dang, Cher... twist my arm, why don't ya? (PS: Thanks for the invite, giiiiiirl!)

Billed as, "(The Amazing Pepper Festival is) a celebration of sustainable agriculture, farmers, renewable energy, and the creativity of the Piedmont’s chefs, brewers and artisans. An afternoon of fun, food, children's educational workshops, breweries, distilleries, music and entertainment!", I'm pumped to make the 20 minute trek over to Chapel Hill for my first taste of the fest. Be sure to tune in on Instagram and see just how much heat this girl can sample in one afternoon.

So here's what you need to know - especially if you might be able to find yourself in Chapel Hill on the afternoon of Sunday, September 27th!

Tickets get you:

  • The most delicious pepper-themed dishes from some of the Piedmont’s best chefs and food artisans using locally grown and produced food.* (Alcoholic drinks not included - bring some extra $$.)
  • Live music - The Stacks are playing! Tania Elizabeth (of the Avett Brothers) and Andy Stack.
  • Participation in fun activities for kids and adults about local farms, renewable energy, and the abundance of great local food in and around the Triangle!
In addition to spending the afternoon enjoying flavorful, and occassionally spicy, dishes and drinks, you can feel pretty darn good knowing that all proceeds benefit Abundance NC

Who is Abundance, you might ask? They're "About Us" page reads: "At Abundance, we aim to be a hub of community resilience in central North Carolina, sourcing out the abundant local opportunities for us all to live and act sustainably, and bringing people together to exchange ideas and build the communities we want to live in." Quite simply put, the group believes: "We don’t have to rely on goods and services brought in from elsewhere to eat well or to live fulfilling lives. We have everything we need to create a flourishing and interdependent community, right here at home."

Local and sustainable. I am definitely down with that. Add peppers and afternoon cocktails? I'm in.

Hope to see y'all there! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Garner Ups Its Game

You'd think a small town like Garner would really embrace the local indy business movement, but the busiest places on the weekend are almost always chain concepts - that's why i'm really excited to share a few new places that are earning my local dollars.

Zin Yoga Studio & Wine Lounge
This business isn't as new as the following two (maybe around for a year or so, already?), but what Kara is doing here is pretty innovative. Yoga + wine = in one place. Get your yoga on at this Aversboro Square studio and then after class, enjoy samples of wine, indulge in a glasses, or take a few bottles of wine home to enjoy. Occasionally, Kara has even turned the studio into a pop-up dinner venue with featuring the culinary talents of Chef Joe from Backyard Bistro and the wine knowledge of Cory Sloan from Tryon Distributing. I've taken several yoga classes here with both Kara and Mary and have enjoyed all of them. And I love the variety of days and times that they offer classes. Sunday afternoon zen session? Yes, please!

And yes, of course, I've also sampled the wine and thoroughly enjoyed that too. :-) Check out the class and event schedule schedule online at Namaste, y'all.

The Beerded Lady Bottle Shop
Just down the street from Zin is The Beerded Lady Bottle Shop, Garner's first (and currently only) craft beer indy retailer! (Kroger grocery store doesn't count, kids.) Gal pal Adrianne and I popped in last Sunday after yoga to check this spot out. It had just opened that week, so they were still getting a lot of things worked out - like the right inspections and permits to be able to serve flights and ciders. All good things to look forward to as this new business grows. In the meantime, grab some friends, family and neighbors and taste your way through their draft menu - which is fun to do 5 ounces at a time... a unique offering I haven't seen before in this area. Read up on what's available at and then visit them in the 5th Avenue shopping center.

Click here for more pictures! (Note I have GOT to move this blog over to WordPress so I can create a nice gallery for these things!)

Krafty's Burgers & Brews
Also just opening last week is Krafty's Burgers & Brews in Garner's White Oak shopping center, next to the movie theater (where Shuck 'Em Shack used to be). Johnnie Bud and I stopped in last week at the friends and family event to wish owner Robert Stapleton well in the new venture. Keen observers might notice the bar is a carry over from Robert's original Napper Tandy's in downtown Raleigh that was located in Powerhouse Square. (Napper's has since moved to Glenwood Avenue, but Robert kept one of the bars and re-used it here.)

We were on a tight schedule when visiting and didn't get a chance to try any food from the menu, but are looking forward to getting back for a visit soon. There are actually quite a few vegetarian-friendly items for me, including a "build-a-burger" option that has a veggie burger base choice! No website yet, but check out updates from their Facebook page at

Click here for more pictures from Krafty's!

Are there any other new, locally-owned businesses in Garner that I need to check out next weekend? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

New Favorite: Chanticleer Cafe & Bakery in Cary

Having grown up just a few miles from the intersection of Tryon Road and Cary Parkway, I've seen a solid handful of businesses come and go from the corner free standing building in the Wellington Park shopping center. This is the first that I think has a real shot of lasting!

Chanticleer Cafe & Bakery is open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., and I've read that they hope to expand into evening hours, too. Visit them at 6490 Tryon Road in Cary.

I stopped in a few weeks ago to grab a quick lunch to-go when I was on that side of town and totally loved the Apple & Brie Panini (Sliced Apples and Brie Cheese with Dijon Mustard on a French Baguette) - although it was hard to pass up the Grilled Cheese option (Ashe County Cheddar and Monterey Jack Cheeses toasted between thick slices of white bread). I'm a sucker for anything with brie, but i'll probably order the Grilled Cheese next time I find myself over there for lunch - especially with fall approaching and it's a done deal if I can get tomato soup on the side. Both paninis and sandwiches are served with your choice of potato chips, cole slaw, pasta salad or garden side salad. I chose the potato chips and was pleasantly surprised to find that these are large, house-made chips. #NailedIt

Check out the full menu that includes breakfast and salads online at (Their website,, also offers separate menus for their coffee selection and bakery items.)

I asked for four sweet bakery items (manager's choice) to be packed in a to-go box to send home with my client who I was meeting with after lunch. The total bill for my sandwich and side, plus the sweet goodies to go, was less than $20.

Save Room for the Sweets!
On a second visit about a week and a half later for brunch/lunch, the Manfriend, my parents, and I all ventured around the menu. Johnnie and my dad both enjoyed breakfast sandwiches served with Ashe County Cheddar, eggs, and bacon on croissants. Mom ordered a salad and it was so large, she took half home for later. I ordered the Caprese panini (Italian Bread brushed with Olive Oil and filled with Basil, Fresh Mozzarella and Sliced Tomatoes) and although it was good and exactly what you'd expect with basil, mozz, and toms, the Apple & Brie still ranks above it for me.

This time around, we ordered a French Chocolate Silk Tart which was served basically as a mini-pie. Although the crust was a bit too tough to break with a fork easily, it didn't our four-some from cutting it up into smaller bites and devouring it. The chocolate silk was true to form - super light, yet rich, and a perfect end to the meal - even though we did sneak a few bites early after we sat down and were waiting for our sandwiches and salads. For all four of us, plus the single dessert, the total bill was about $40.

Each time I've been, there have been equal amounts of diners enjoying the outside seating as well as inside. I've never had to wait long and on each visit, the service has been friendly.

According to the N&O's food writer, Andrea Weigl, the bakery is owned by chef Craig Freeman, a longtime Raleigh caterer and owner of Edible Accolades.

If you're local, stop in soon and let me know what you think of this new local spot in the comments below!

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Recipe: Redneck Caviar

This is one of Johnnie Bud's absolute favorite things for us to have in the refrigerator so he can snack on it anytime, add it as a relish to burgers, or enjoy as a side item.

The best part about this dish is that it's really easy to modify based on what you've got in the freezer/cabinet and based on your personal taste.

Redneck Caviar
I large can of black beans, drained
1 small can of Rotel diced tomatoes and diced green chilies
I bag of farmer's market fresh sweet corn
1 bag of farmer's market fresh black eyed peas or pink eyed peas
2 green peppers peppers, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, chopped
1/2 purple onion, chopped
Fresh cilantro, to taste
Red wine vinaigrette, to taste

Mix everything and refrigerate overnight to let it marinate well - although you can start eating anytime, the onions are raw though and have a lot of bite until they've marinated. Since the corn and pink eyed peas were fresh from the farmer's market, I boiled them until soft and then cold-rinsed them before mixing everything together. If you buy canned, just drain and mix in.
Keep an extra bag of tortilla chips handy, this stuff is popular! (And perfect for fall tailgates.)

PS: We had green peas with dinner tonight and had some leftover, so I threw them into the big bowl of Redneck Caviar for extra color and another tasty flavor.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Cabin for CASA - And a Great Video Showcasing What CASA Does

A few weeks ago I was invited to the premiere of Blueforest Studio's inaugural "Blueforest Gives Back" non-profit video project. It was the first time I've heard about the great work CASA is doing in the Triangle, so I'm excited to share today both the video and an upcoming fundraiser event the organization is hosting that looks fun and won't break the bank for donors!

Watch the video here:

(Click here to view if you have trouble with the embedded player above.)

So, about that fundraiser they're hosting in September:

Join us for The Cabin for CASA 2.0, a Lynn Robertson DeMent Memorial Fundraiser! 
Thursday, September 17, 6:30-9:00 p.m. home of Rusty and Nella DeMent – 717 North First Ave., Knightdale, NC 27545 
Tickets: $40 each, or $75 for two 
Music and Libations Dinner by 42nd St. Oyster Bar Raffle and Silent Auction Included 
All proceeds to benefit CASA’s mission to develop and manage affordable housing, particularly for veterans and people living with disabilities. In 2014, the first annual Cabin for CASA raised over $30,000 to support CASA’s mission. Mark your calendars to join us this year!
Click here to buy tickets, support the sponsors of this event, and more at CASA's website.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Manfriend Meals: Mini-Meatloaf, Breakfast for Dinner Pizza

I had the chance to experiment with these two recipes the last few months and they are not just "Manfriend Approved", they are straight up "Manfriend Loved"!

Muffin Pan Mini-Meatloaf, Topped with Mashed Potatoes and/or Bacon
via Pinterest:
The original website,, lists lots of meatloaf recipes and I chose to go with the Paleo one this go around. It didn't disappoint and I felt like it was a moderately "healthy" switch to make on the manfriend... who didn't enjoyed it regardless of fad diet title. The only changes I made were removing the minis from the muffin pan and putting on a broiler pan for the last few minutes so all of the juices that had piled up would run off and to crisp the bacon. Manfriend even revisited these for leftovers on another day, so clearly that's a win.

The mini-meatloaf idea made serving, cleanup and storage a breeze!

Creamed Spinach & Egg Pizza
Another Pinterest hit:

I picked up raw pizza dough from our neighborhood pizza restaurant on the way home and even though the crust got a little away from me when transferring to the baking stone, this pizza tasted so good we didn't care what the squiggly edges looked like. This is rich, so serve it by the slice with a salad on the side... if you can resist eating the whole thing!

Enjoy, y'all!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Do This Next Weekend: Stamp Out Hunger

I'm pretty passionate about this topic because I personally feel that food insecurity and hunger are the most embarrassing issues facing North Carolina right now. We aren't lacking food. (Thanks, farmers!) We aren't lacking the money, resources, and science to solve this problem. (Like cancer, etc.) This is a fixable issue facing hundreds of thousands of NC families, children, seniors and individuals.

This is literally the easiest food drive you've ever participated in. Simply pick up some extra canned items when you grocery shop this weekend or next week and just leave the extras at your mailbox. So plan on joining in on Saturday, Nay 9 - no matter where you live!
How easy is it?
Pack a bag of food and set it by your mailbox on Saturday, May 9! Your local letter carrier will do the rest.
What should I give?
Check this list of most needed items and take it with you on your grocery shopping trip! (No glass, please.)
Where does my food go?
Although this is a national food drive, all donations made within our region come to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC. Donated items are provided to the more than 651,000 children, families, and seniors in our 34 counties who are food insecure.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Band Together Main Event 2015

I love live music. I love a great cause. And I have an especially soft spot in my heart for this event because it's where I fatefully bumped into Johnnie Bud just three years ago and our first date was soon after. #BandTogetherLoveStory right here, y'all.

Needless to say, you'll be seeing me on Saturday, June 27, when Band Together's Main Event takes the stage in downtown Raleigh at Red Hat Amphitheater with Michael Franti & Spearhead.

I hope you'll join me in helping Band Together reach their lofty, but attainable, goal of raising $2,000,000 for Step Up Ministries, a non-profit dedicated to helping low-income homeless individuals in the Triangle area become self-sufficient.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

SuperKids Capes

The MeFine Foundation is an NC non-profit that does a lot of good for children with serious illnesses. Check out how you can support this great program and their latest efforts below...

The Foundation has recently launched the SuperKids Cape program for children with critical illnesses. According to board member and all around good guy Richard Averitte, "The Me Fine Foundation wants to bring attention to these unbelievable little people and their superpowers by adorning them with garments fits for a superhero; so we provide them with SuperKids Capes."

Me Fine Cape in Action

The capes are hand-sewn by the Sewing Guild at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. They are customized capes that are awarded to a child after he/she undergoes a major procedure as part of their treatment, or upon discharge from the hospital. Me Fine is constantly in awe of the strength and determination of these kids, and the capes are a small way to recognize their inner superhero.

On Sunday, March 1st at the Oak City Comic Con Me Fine will have a table with information on the Foundation and the SuperKids Capes program. A donation of $20 will go to the purchase a cape for one of these brave children. In addition, the donor will have an opportunity to write a short message of encouragement on a MeFine card. Three cheers for Oak City Comic Con donating space during their inaugural event. On top of hosting an abundance of comic book professionals and the best local comic book stores and vendors from across the state, the Oak City Comic Con will be a great activity for family this weekend.

More details at Be cool and share this Raleigh event with fellow cool people.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Paw-fect Valentine's Plans

Only rookies will celebrate Valentine's Day on a Saturday night - instead, consider something fun... and for a great cause - that's happening on Thursday night: Bark & Wine with Your Valentine 2015

Celebrate Valentine's Day with a beer & wine tasting while surrounded by the cutest faces in town! (Bringing a date is completely optional.)

Fine wines, beer, tasty treats and wet puppy kisses await guests at the 10th annual Bark & Wine with Your Valentine

This unique, intimate event will be held at the SPCA Curtis Dail Pet Adoption Center in Raleigh on Thursday, February 12 from 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm. Sample 6-8 varieties of wine and and light fare to compliment the flavors for just $30.00 per person of which $5.00 is tax deductible.

Email Vanessa Budnick at or call 919-532-2087 with questions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Yoga + Wine... IN GARNER!

Yes, you read that wonderful combination right and I'm just as surprised as you are to find out it's only a few miles from my house.

I checked out a warm yoga class a few Saturday mornings ago at Zin Yoga Wine and I can't wait to get back in the studio soon. I hate to already be booked on Saturday and not making this great event, but it doesn't mean I can't share the details with you local readers...

Vino and Vinyasa Saturday, January 31st: 6 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

Yoga with friends, wine and chocolate will sure to make a memorable night out. The night will start with a long gentle practice and end with a glass of wine, delicious tapas, and Togomay truffles and gluten-free cookies. This is the true experience of Zin Yoga Studio and Wine Lounge.

$35/person. Must Preregister by Thursday 29th. (events tab to register)

Namaste, y'all. :-)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Manfriend Meals: Texas Caviar

Texas Caviar. Redneck Caviar. Southern Caviar. Redneck Salsa.

I've seen recipes of this variety called a lot of different names. No matter what you call it, or what combination of flavors you include, it's probably going to be ridiculously addicting.

While not a "meal", my manfriend would gladly make a meal of this recipe: Texas Caviar

A few cans of beans, several cut peppers, herbs, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and boom. Delicious mixed up in a bowl and no cooking required. Put it in the 'fridge for an hour and it's ready to go or leave it overnight to really marinate. We snack on it for days and while it doesn't last more than two days due to constant enjoyment, I'm not sure it would really even go bad for a few days long as long as you keep it chilled.

This is a tailgate must and a quick mix for anytime in between football seasons. It's delicious with tortilla chips, as a salsa/relish, as a side dish... practically any way.

Cheers, y'all!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Weekend Rental: Tammy

Ignore the ratings for Tammy and rent this movie for a dollar at Redbox this weekend - it was hilarious!

Johnnie Bud and I had a Redbox night this past weekend and picked this one because we're Melissa McCarthy fans - we enjoyed Identify Thief so we picked this one up without even seeing a trailer for it. What we had no idea we were in store for was the awesome cast that filled this comedy with a happy ending: Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Mark Duplass (recognized him from The League) and more... all so funny!

In typical Melissa McCarthy fashion, what made this movie so funny was her. Her lines, her body language, her expressions.

There was nothing incredibly intelligent about the movie, but I can't remember the last time I've laughed so hard, so many times in a movie.

If you're looking for a cheap laugh, this is the rental for you. Enjoy!

PS: It's not kid-friendly. Enjoy it for date night, not family night.

PS 2: Watch through the credits for a funny blooper!

(Image via

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Life Tip:

If you're like me and despise getting all of those "you're pre-approved" credit card offers in the mail (waste of printing, waste of money, waste of trees, waste of my time!), then this is a website you must check out:

What you need to know:
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Consumer Credit Reporting Companies are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers of credit or insurance that are not initiated by you ("Firm Offers"). The FCRA also provides you the right to "Opt-Out", which prevents Consumer Credit Reporting Companies from providing your credit file information for Firm Offers.
What this website does for you:
It allows you to opt-out of the selling of your information for this purpose for five years if you fill out the form on the website, which requires your social security number (submitted securely). If you take literally two extra minutes and the cost of a stamp, you can permanently opt-out via postal mail. I did this years ago and it has cut the crap in my mailbox in half.

So worth repeating - go to and get off those credit card offer mailing lists once and for all. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey

(image via

Johnnie Bud and I rented The Hundred-Foot Journey via the Google Play Movie store on Sunday night to try out our new Chromecast device (more on that in another post).

At just over two hours long, it was a little slow, but beautifully shot and made me super anxious to get back in the kitchen and whip up something that would clearly pale in comparison to the menus featured in this movie.

The basic synopsis is that a family from Mumbai moves to Europe, finally landing in France, and opens an Indian restaurant just across the street from a 1-Star Michelin-rated classically French restaurant. The young chefs compete, with two falling in love by the end of the movie, but while the story is predictable, the setting and photography were stunning.

I'm glad we didn't see it in the theater for $20, but it was a great rental on a lazy Sunday night.

If you're into food and not looking for an action-packed thriller, you'll enjoy this one.