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,

a+h

Cinnamon Sugar Churros with Black Winter Perigord Truffle Honey

Hello lovebugs. We hope your week was a sweet one and that you took time to love on someone, and do something you love for yourself.

This week, he pulled his snowboard back out and hit the snowy slopes of Western, NC to catch some air …and his breath.

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I also headed west for a slumber party with some dear old friends… and played dress up with this munchkin….

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And for Valentine’s Day we holed up at home to catch each other up on the latest while he taught me how to make this…

citrus salad

lobster tails with truffle butter

{Butter Poached Lobster Tails with Warm Truffled Potato, Asparagus and Sous Vide Breakfast Radish Salad with Mascarpone & Preserved Lemon }

Mmm…truffle butter, truffle honey, truffle salt… truffles truffles truffles are all the rage in the Littell house these days. But not just any truffles will do here. We love the decadent winter black perigord truffle products from our new friend Jane Morgan Smith of Truffles NC.

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Lately imaginations have been running wild as Harrison, Chef Susi Gott Seguret and Jane have brainstormed on all things truffle deliciousness. It’s all for an upcoming Truffle Dinner to benefit the Backpack Program of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.

The BackPack Program aims to address childhood hunger in rural communities by providing 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.

It’s a program that’s near and dear to Jane’s heart and in addition to hosting this annual Truffle Dinner, she has pledged to donate a percentage of her annual sales to help feed hungry children.

This year’s benefit dinner will be hosted on Feb. 23rd at the open and airy Beta Verde Farm, owned by the passionate and creative mother-daughter duo, Margaret and Salem Norfleet Neff. There, guests will be treated to five dishes made with truffles, demos and select wines. Jane will be on hand to educate us all on truffles and why they grow so well in our area. It’s sure to be a memorable evening of learning, savoring and community building. We hope you will join us!

Truffle Trifecta Invite

In the meantime, here’s a peek at one of the many truffle inspired creations from our house that would be so easy to recreate in yours. All you need is a little of this

Cinnamon Sugar Churros with Black Winter Perigord Truffle Honey
{Adapted from recipe by Daisy Martinez on FoodNetwork.com }

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 to 5 eggs
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Black Winter Perigord Truffle Honey to drizzle

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Directions
1.    In a medium saucepan, heat 1 cup of water, your butter, sugar, vanilla and salt over medium-high heat until the edges of the liquid start to bubble. Add the flour all at once and stir briskly with a wooden spoon until well mixed and no lumps of flour remain.

2.    Remove saucepan from heat. Add (4) of the eggs, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon or a whisk. The dough should look soft and glossy and keep a “hook” shape when the spoon is pulled from the dough.  If not, beat in the last egg.

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3.    Scrape the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.

4.    Pour enough canola oil into a deep heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) to fill 1-inch. Heat over medium heat until the tip of the handle of a wooden spoon gives off a slow steady stream of tiny bubbles.

5.    Carefully pipe the dough into the oil, forming roughly 6-inch churros. Pipe only as many churros into the oil as comfortably fits. Overcrowding the pan will result in soggy churros (yuck!)

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6.    Fry, turning once, until golden brown on each side.

7.    Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining dough

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8.    Put the sugar and cinnamon in a paper bag or large mixing bowl. Drop a few churros in at a time and toss until coated.

9.    Drizzle your truffle honey on top to finish. Best to eat your churros as soon as possible – so dig in and enjoy!

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With love and truffles,

a+h

October Farm to Table Supper at Stauber Farm

“They bumped into one another and it was like a bolt of lightning struck.”

This, according to Mrs. Taft, is how the idea for our first farm to fork dinner in North Carolina came about.

The “they” were Harrison and Dr. Charles Taft. The two had always had the idea of a Stauber farm dinner in the back of their minds. And when their paths continued to cross when we arrived back to North Carolina we knew it was inevitable. A supper (as we say in the south) must be held.

For us, Stauber Farm is a dream. It’s a picturesque backdrop perfect for continuing the work we were doing in Vermont with our dear friends at Sandiwood.


So when Dr. Taft proposed our first farm dinner at Stauber, we let loose of our busy schedules and dove right in.

Charles and Lamar Taft are the owners and keepers of the historic rolling farmstead dating back to the 18th century and located just outside Winston-Salem. Since purchasing the Stauber Farm over 20 years ago, they have worked to maintain its historic integrity and keep with sustainable practices to preserve the land and home. They have also introduced heritage breed animals for breeding and market including St. Croix sheep which are among the American livestock breeds threatened by extinction. It is the hope that more breeders will recognize the excellent qualities of the St. Croix through their efforts and that they will produce them in greater numbers and the breed will have a chance at survival.

The Tafts were so warm in welcoming us into their world. Over bowls of lamb stew and candlelight we exchanged stories from Vermont, passion for sustainability and good wholesome food and a love for the community that only food can build.

As the hosts they pulled together a tremendous guest list of like-minded folks to share in this trial run. We watched the list grow from 10 to 20 to 30 and finally settle around 40 to be served. We were overwhelmed by the instant enthusiasm. We had a short window to plan and we were humbled by the generous support of friends and family who volunteered to “do anything” to help get this first dinner off the ground. We love you guys. Thank you.

In addition to supplying Harrison with freshly processed roosters and tender lamb, the Tafts shared sweet potatoes, kale, tomatoes and greens.

They also put Harrison in touch with other farmers including Issac at Harmony Ridge Farm and Cynthia at Billy Place Farm.

We used thick cut bacon given to us by Meadow Family Farms, earthy shiitake mushrooms from Myers Mushrooms, freshly baked bread from our good friend Jim Dumont of Bread Men, and roasted almond gelato from our girl Ciska over at Café Gelato. We also paid Lillian at West Bend Vineyards a visit for bottles of her perfectly paired wines.

A tremendous thank you to everyone for your contributions! We’re proud to say that everything on our menu, except for a few minor elements and a couple of Vermont cheese and butter favorites (we had to represent!) were sourced from within a 50 mile radius. And most of the ingredients were sourced straight from our supper’s guests.


The sense of community, a newly discovered community in North Carolina, energized us. And Lord knows we needed that energy on Monday as outlying winds from Hurricane Sandy foiled our cooking and setup plans. But it’s moments like those … you know when you are two hours out from your guests arriving and your dining tent is deemed unsafe ….or when the grill will not seem to hold heat to properly cook for 40 important guests…. that you really cherish that community that supports you. Everyone rose up and created the loveliest plan B – like it was always meant to be.

{Sweet Potato Galette with confit tomatoes, braised Stauber lamb, Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese & breakfast turnip}

{Kale Spanakopita with Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese, shiitake mushrooms, and ricotta}

{Sweet Potato Gnocchi with brown butter, sage, butternut squash, preserved lemon, crispy kale & Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen blue cheese}

{Butternut Squash & Apple Soup with nutmeg creme fraiche}

{5-Grain Oat from Bread Men}

{Smoked Whole Delaware Roosters with homemade green tomato & pear jam}

{Grilled & Roasted Stauber Farm Bone-in Leg of Lamb with a West Bend red wine reduction & mint gremolata}

{Pairing two classics: Braised Greens & Braised Cabbages with Meadow Family Farms bacon and sherry vinaigrette}

{Roasted Roots: sweet potato, beets, turnips, carrots, onion, radish & kolrabi from Harmony Ridge Farm, Billy Place Farm & Stauber Farm}

{Coffee Service featuring Krankies Coffee}

{Butternut Squash, Pumpkin & Salted Caramel Bread Pudding topped with whiskey creme anglaise & Cafe Gelato’s roasted almond gelato}

That evening, as the candlelight flickered and the platters were eagerly passed around five scattered tables snuggled indoors….

As friends hurried around the rooms with smiles and serving trays and worked back to back in the petite historic kitchen… we were reminded.


Warm camaraderie. Good Food. Big Laughs. Cherished Times.

This is what we’re here for. This is what we love to do.

Until we celebrate the community that food builds again,

a + h