The Farm to Fork Picnic at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden will showcase the very best of the region

 By Sydney Hennighausen

September 12, 2018

Harmony between fresh, local food and restaurants has not always been familiar on restaurant menus. Cooperation between the two, along with unity between chefs and farmers has recently become something diners really crave. Thanks to organizations like Center for Environmental Systems (CEFS) and the Piedmont Culinary Guild (PCG) along with purveyors and chefs, this is becoming a growing reality for Charlotte’s culinary scene.

Founded in 1994, the CEFS vision has always remained the same: “to create a center for the study of environmentally sustainable farming practices in North Carolina.” Now, they partner with different organizations not only in North Carolina, but across the country. CEFS and the PCG are working together to bring you the best food that our state has to offer.

PCG Food & Beverage Symposium at Johnson and Wales University

To further encourage a culture of better eating, the Farm to Fork Picnic was created over ten years ago in Raleigh. Now, in partnership with the PCG, Charlotte will host its first Farm to Fork Picnic at the serene Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont on Sunday, September 23. From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., you’ll be able to taste small bites created by local chefs and farmers at 24 stations set up throughout the beautiful gardens. Together, farmers and chefs will collaborate to bring you mouthwatering local flavors while showcasing the seasonality of the food grown in the Piedmont area.

After working in a large-scale institution and sharing resources with a main street chef, Kris Reid recognized a unique opportunity for the industry to work together. In 2012, she united 30 local chefs and purveyors to start the PCG, a non-profit 501(c)(3) built on three distinct pillars: sharing resources, educating those in the area about the collaboration between farmers and chefs, and creating regional recognition for culinary and agricultural innovation. Because of Reid and the PCG, culinary professionals are working to preserve the flavors of the region with events like the Farm to Fork Picnic. Reid believes our area has so much to offer, and that Charlotte has the potential to become a pinnacle of culinary innovation. “There’s no reason that the Piedmont of the Carolina’s can’t be the Piedmont of Italy, and Charlotte be the crown of that,” Reid said.

Sensoria Food & Wine 2018. Photo: Jonathan Cooper

Farm to Fork Picnic will also be raising money for agricultural grants that will be given directly to small farmers. “It’s a huge impact for our smaller growers when they have the opportunity to buy a piece of equipment or build a piece of infrastructure they weren’t previously able to. It’s a great opportunity to make some huge impacts and strides so we’re very excited about that,” said Reid. It’s shaping up be an epic food event, “the biggest exhibit of unique flavor experiences that could only happen right here.” 

Here’s a little bit of what to expect from the chefs and farmers at the Farm to Fork Picnic:

James Beard Award semi-finalist (Best Chef: Southeast) Chef Paul Verica from The Stanley Restaurant in Elizabeth will be cooking with Nicole Burnette of Rogue Farms, a local hydroponics farm. They’ll be serving a gluten-free chicken thigh with Rogue Farm hemp, kale, apple, pear, butternut squash and hot pepper garnishes. 

Ashley Boyd, the pastry chef at Dilworth restaurant 300 East, is partnering with Katherine Belk at Wild Hope Farms to bring you a butternut squash blondie served with goat yogurt, maple, vanilla and toasted grains.

Sensoria Food & Wine 2018. Photo: Jonathan Cooper

From A Way Of Life Farms in Rutherford County, NC, Sara Jane Davis and Executive Chef of Stagioni, Andrew Dodd, are creating gnocchi made with sweet potatoes straight from the farm, paired with braised toscano kale, pickled lunchbox peppers, smoked sausage topped off with spicy microgreens, pea shoots and parmesan cheese.

Jamie Barnes of What The Fries food truck and Soul Food Sessions will be preparing stone fruit braised beef short rib with summer veg and a bone marrow cornbread. Jamie Ager from Hickory Nut Gap will be his companion providing Chef Jamie with his feature: the short rib.

Chef Michael Bowling, co-creator of Soul Food Sessions in Charlotte, is working with Tiffany Lackey of North Corner Haven in Lancaster, SC to create a North Corner Haven grilled savory and sweet sausage bread pudding with a warm demi and a petit green salad.

Chef-owner Jonathan Fortes of Flipside Café will be utilizing fresh peppers of Green Meadow Acres to create fried pimento cheese stuffed peppadew, Trinidad barbecue remoulade and pepper chow chow.

Esteban McMahan of TOPO Organic Distillery at PCG Food & Beverage Symposium.

Alongside the chefs and farmers will be a variety beverage vendors throughout the garden. Free Range Brewing, Muddy River Distillery, Catawba Brewing, Dover Vineyards, TOPO Distillery, Old North Shrub, Red Clay Cider Works, and many more will be on hand serving up their very best seasonal concoctions.

The Piedmont Culinary Guild inspires local food artisans to work together, creating more opportunities for restaurants and chefs to go right to the source and find great food that is also environmentally conscious. Now that more and more restaurant-goers are pushing to see the names of neighborhood farms on menus, this alliance comes at the perfect time. The Farm to Fork Picnic is a place to see hard local work come to fruition, while being together with friends with great fare in the beauty setting of Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens.

Tickets for Farm to Fork in the Garden are $85. Children 12 and under are free, and tickets for young adults (13 – 20 years old) are $50. Learn more about Center for Environmental Systems (CEFS) and the Piedmont Culinary Guild (PCG).

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