We’re Baaaaaack!!!

So how long has it been friends? One, oh geez, TWO YEARS?!

How ya been? Wonder where we went?

I guess you could say life happened for us; just a few changes since we last spoke. We moved back to Vermont. Harrison took over a responsible restaurant with national acclaim. I worked for a young inspiring magazine helping their business grow. We then followed our hearts back to our hometown. And oh yeah, we had a kid. He’s pretty awesome. We’re pretty proud.






A lot has happened but we can honestly say that we are finally hitting a joyous stride as we lay down roots with our boy here in the place we always thought we needed to leave.

View of Pilot Mountain, MingleWood Farm, TowniesWS
And with that, we are taking a closer look at our new-again city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina over at our new site, TowniesWS.com 

Winston Salem, NC - TowniesWS.com


There, we will be showcasing the doers, makers and innovators that are helping to make our “little-city-that-could” shine. Of course there will also be seasonal eats from Harrison, photo essays from me, as well as some creative inspiration for all of you out there.

artist palette, TowniesWS.com

Homegrown Tomatoes, TowniesWS.com

Summer Tomato Beet Salad, TowniesWS.com


We’d love to have you follow along with us in this next chapter. Big plans in store. Here’s to the ride!

TowniesWS Logo

Q&A Tuesday: Tony Bono of Flora Ridge Farm

“You’ve heard of enlightenment, right,” he says.

“Well this is en-lettucement.”

A pause.

We crack up. The tour continues.

We walk through the greenhouses with him spouting knowledge, me with pad of paper and number two pencil in hand.

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I was spending the morning with Tony Bono of Flora Ridge Farm. It’s a hydroponic operation that he and his wife, Joy have run for over ten years in Mount Airy, North Carolina.

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By the elaborate setup, I had assumed Tony had always done this. But like a growing number of today’s family farms, Flora Ridge is a first (and possibly single) generational farm.

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“I started out in restaurants,” he shared. “My dad owned a popular sandwich shop in Pennsylvania, and I opened my first deli at 21. I make the best cheese steak sandwich you’ll ever taste!”

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But just as business was peaking, he decided to move on. “I was young and owning your own restaurant is so demanding.” It’s one of the reasons he has so much respect for his customers in the restaurant business.


He said he had held several jobs and endured a lot stress. One day he decided to follow what felt best, what he loved to do.

Flora Ridge is such a technical operation. It amazed me to find out he’s self-taught with a bit of help from his equipment supplier, Crop King.

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He said it’s “a lot of trial and error and a lot of investigation.” Sometimes you try growing something you think will be just great and then it doesn’t sell or it’s growing cycle is too long or the pattern of growth doesn’t work well with the setup.

“You have to keep adapting.” It reminds me of advice I was given to fail fast and not be afraid to fail often.


He hunches over to the ground. “Well, for starters, why do I want kill my back doing this when I could stand upright and work like this.”  He stands beside the waist-high growing tables.

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It’s doesn’t work for vegetables that grow deep like roots or high like corn, but for greens the man does have a great point.

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“Plus plants receive nutrients when it rains.” Here, they are continuously being fed hydroponically.

Also working in the greenhouse keeps his work schedule more consistent. Pouring rain or bitter cold weather doesn’t slow him down. He says “neither does a thunderstorm”.  I look around at the metal structure rods and tell him with a smirk that I would pass.

Tony and Joy start the plants as seedlings in rockwool cubes. Rockwool is a horticultural growing medium made from natural ingredients like volcanic rock. It gives seeds a moist, oxygen rich place to root without the need for soil.

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Each greenhouse includes an intricate filtration system that is monitored electronically. The system can even send Tony text alerts if anything, like PH, is off.

To harvest he pulls each row out and carries them out on his head. He swears it’s not as awkward as it sounds.

They harvest, clean the row and then start again.

More than seven varieties of lettuces and romaine are grown onsite, plus basil, arugula, watercress and spinach.

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“Spinach has been selling like crazy!” He continues to increase his harvested supply for farmer’s markets and easily sells fifty pounds in a single market. He’s been asked to grow spinach year-round to meet demand but, even in a controlled environment, he says it thrives best in cooler months. I picked up some for Harrison and I while I still could. (New spinach recipe coming later this week!)

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“Not to just grow what everyone wants you to grow.” Early on he learned that with the growing cycle lasting a few months, by the time it was time for harvest chefs had changed their menus and the item was no longer needed.

Although he is more calculated now, he still is open to growing specific items for some chefs and is working with Chef Tim at Spring House on a special crop now.


He says he loves the feedback and appreciation shared by customers at the markets, like “this is the best spinach I have ever had.” The growing process is also quite therapeutic for him.

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Farmers Markets

Farmers Curb Market in Greensboro

Reynolda Village Farmers Market in Winston-Salem, NC

Hickory Farmers Market in Hickory, NC


 Five Loaves CateringGuilford CollegeJeffrey AdamsMozellesMeridianPrimlandRyan’s Spring HouseThe Old Fourth Street Filling Station


Until we en-lettuce again,


Vegetarian West African Peanut Soup

There was this little café near the river. We used to walk there hand in hand.  We visited often. There were freshly picked flowers on the table and room for about 30. At night, candles flickered and glowed.


Their menu was concise and ever changing with the season. But the one constant was their focus on surprising (and tasty) soups.

It was there where our creative minds, which constantly bounce with ideas, found comfort and groundedness as we sat peacefully over two bowls of steamy soup.

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I think about that space in time often…

how there always seemed to be just one perfect table by the window waiting for us…

how the café’s size was intimate but its energy expansive….

and how the dining space was full of soft chatter and the tantalizing aroma of complex simmering soups.

While the café still remains by the river and ideas continue to fill up our heads, physically we’ve moved on.  But this week, my mind took me back there, to snowy Vermont.  And with those thoughts came cravings for soup. Flavorful spicy soup made with whole foods.

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So I pulled out this little gem of a recipe from Cookie + Kate and cooked it with love.

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This week, I hope you’ll take time to enjoy a quiet night with this simple soup with spicy notes… inspired by a little café called That’s Life Soup.


Vegetarian West African Peanut Soup
{adapted from a recipe from Cookie + Kate, original recipe from Local Bounty: Vegan Seasonal Recipes}
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch collard greens, ribs removed and leaves chopped into 1-inch strips
  • 3/4 cup unsalted peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste, or 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • Hot sauce, like sriracha (AKA rooster sauce)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts, for garnish
  1. In a medium stock pot, bring the broth to a boil. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and salt. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
  2. In a medium-sized, heat-safe mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter and tomato paste, then transfer 1 to 2 cups of the hot stock to the bowl. Whisk the mixture together until smooth, then pour the peanut mixture back into the soup and mix well.Peanut Soup-7
  3. Stir in the collard greens and season the soup with hot sauce to taste. Simmer for about 15 more minutes on medium-low heat, stirring often.
  4. Serve over cooked brown rice if you’d like, and top with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts.
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Until we simmer with spice again,

Truffles for Backpacks

More than $1,600 in truffles were consumed in the creation of this post.

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You should have seen them all, smelled them. There were loads of big beautiful Black Perigord truffles generously donated by Jane Smith of Truffles NC.

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It was all in support of the Backpack Program, a child hunger initiative created by the Second Harvest Food Bank. These truffles were the draw that brought more than 4o guests, two chefs, a local food writer and a team of volunteers together to raise more than $3,000 in three hours for food insecure children in our rural communities.

Truffles NC donates a percentage of their sales each year to the Backpack Program. This annual dinner was created by Jane to help increase those funds each year.

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We met Jane a few months ago at the Cobblestone Farmers Market and we quickly became raving fans of her truffle honey and truffle butter. We picked her brain for tips and nerded out on facts, like –

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  • Did you know the piedmont region of North Carolina is prime for growing truffles? The NC Department of Agriculture awarded grant money years back to encourage former tobacco farmers to transition to this newly transplanted, highly coveted crop.
  • On average, black perigord truffles sell from $60 – $100 an OUNCE.
  • It typically takes 8 – 10 years after planting the inoculated trees for growers to reap their first harvest (talk about patience! No wonder they’re so expensive!)
  • Trained dogs (or traditionally female pigs) are used to sniff out the truffles for growers. (Turtle might be getting a new day job.)
  • When Martha Stewart was looking to start a truffle growing operation, she visited North Carolina and Jane to get the expert scoop!

Last month, Jane and our new friends at Beta Verde reached out to see if we might want to help bring the Second Annual Truffle Dinner together.

Hmmm… let’s see… eat decadent truffles for a day while giving back and supporting Jane’s generous efforts. How could we resist?

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Chef Susi Gott Seguret, director of the Seasonal School of Culinary Arts in Asheville designed the evening’s menu and Harrison pitched in on execution. Margaret and Salem Neff, owners of Beta Verde and managers of the Cobblestreet Farmers Market, opened up their fantastic home and sourced almost all of the ingredients locally from nearby producers, including Harmony Ridge Farms, Gary’s Produce, Flora Ridge Farm, Grace Meadow Farm, Border Springs Farm, Carolina Mountain Trout, Camino Bakery and Three Sisters Bakery.

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Biltmore Estate graciously provided champagne to kick off the evening while Susi treated the guests to truffle rolling demos to get their hands dirty.

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Sanders Ridge Winery also joined us for wine tastings and bottle sales for proper pairings and to keep the good times flowing.

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The dollars raised will be used to provide elementary school children at risk of hunger with backpacks full of nutritious, child-friendly foods to take home over the weekends during the school year.

A special thank you to everyone who helped make this special night possible and bring Jane’s vision and mission to life.

And thanks to Michael Hastings for the great coverage in the Winston-Salem Journal here!

Until cook with new friends again,