A few weeks ago I was invited to Chapel Hill for the launch of the Our State Magazine April issue, an issue that focuses on food in the great state of North Carolina. The party was at Crook’s Corner, the famous Chapel Hill restaurant that is home of one of the best adaptations of Shrimp & Grits around (the recipe that taught me everything I know about loaded grits), and the flagship of Chef Bill Smith’s culinary empire.
The menu was simple and reflected the food showcased in the issue- benne, deviled eggs, house-cured ham on fresh biscuits, and a cocktail that I thoroughly enjoyed- a gin martini made with Cardinal Gin. Cardinal Gin is distilled in Kings Mountain in small batches and has all the intricate and delicate flavors you hope for with a bottle of nice gin. This is not the gin you blend with a heavily flavored mixer- this is a gin that you sip and let speak for itself.
I’m pretty terrible at cocktail parties, I get anxious and awkward and have to resist the urge to hide in a corner and just watch. This cocktail party was no exception, especially because everyone seemed to know each other and I felt like the odd duck out. But I didn’t drive two hours to sit in a corner so I got out there and mingled, and I’m so glad that I did. I met a ton of great people, made some good connections, and got to talk about one of my favorite things- Southern food- with other enthusiasts.
This issue is really fantastic. I always love Our State and the stories that it culls from across the state, but this one spoke especially close to home with stories about Morehead City and small community potlucks. It also gave me some ideas for new places to visit (like Yadkin Valley) and recipes to try (benne!).
The party was also a huge success in that I got to talk to some of the magazine staff about Tasting North Carolina, an opportunity I’d been hoping to have since I dreamed the project up. It just so happens that they loved the idea of the project and wanted to partner, so for the past few weeks we’ve been going back and forth with different ideas. Without further ado I’m excited to say that starting in May Our State will be publishing the entire series on their newly formed blog. The recipes will be posted on both Our State and B&S which means, hopefully, more people reading, more people loving, and more people sending me recipes. Next up in the series? A trip to the North Carolina Pickle Festival in Wayne County.
Southern Gin Cocktail
Adapted from Crook’s Corner
3 jiggers of gin
1 jigger of triple sec
Splash of bitters
Orange peel for garnish
Combine all three liquors in a tumbler with ice. Shake and strain into a glass, garnishing with orange peel.