It’s Getting Haute in Winston

Jiliana Dulaney, owner of Haute Chocolate in Winston Salem, has a great thing going. Her chocolate shop on Burke Street showcases unique flavor combinations, like pumpkin curry. Each truffle is inspired by an experience or person that Jill has encountered. Just as the flavors work together to highlight their best features, Jill and Winston-Salem bring out the best in one another. Jill will offer her perspective on foodie entrepreneurship in part 2 of this interview, but first, she opens up about herself, including her deep dislike of mayonnaise.

Starting with the basics:

Occupation: Chocolatier and Owner of Haute Chocolate in Winston Salem. Where are you from?  Chicago, Illinois. When did you move to North Carolina? September 2006. My parents had moved here because my dad took over a new sales territory. They loved it here, and I was like “Oh, I’ll try it out and see what happens.” I thought I was going to hate it, and I gave myself six months to save up money to go back to Chicago. That never happened… I met my husband a week after moving here. He’s the reason I stayed. 

What do you love best about North Carolina? Probably the weather, and the fact that you  can go to the mountains or the beach within just a few hours, even though I don’t get to enjoy that as much as I used to.

What type of music do you listen to when you’re cooking in the kitchen? It varies. It’s a lot of angry girl music, like Ani DiFranco and Metric. And sometimes I’ll listen to Nicki Minaj or Dead Mouse – it just depends on my mood. But when I’m in the kitchen working, I need music.

Top 5 favorite foods? (anything goes) (1) Number one would be my grandma’s spaghetti sauce. Even though she’s not alive anymore, that would be my number one, hands down, of all time; (2) I love Thai food and Indian Food, like Pad See Ew and Vegetable Korma; (3) Meatloaf. I don’t know why, but there’s something about it; (4) Obviously chocolate; (5) Cupcakes and desserts.

What is your comfort food? Ice cream. I like coffee and chocolate ice cream.

Are there any foods you won’t eat/try? Oh… no insects or brains, for sure. I’m not really into seafood, so probably nothing seafood-related. And I hate mayo, mustard and ketchup. Anything that those three in it, I will throw away.

What is the last memorable meal you’ve eaten recently? I would say it was probably when my sister, my friend, Carla, and I went to Sweet Potatoes for dinner after a cupcake tasting we had here. We just had so much fun. It’s just nice to have good girl friends – and a sister, obviously.

The ingredient you currently can’t stop using is: Probably cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spices. I love cinnamon; I put it in everything.

You have a day with absolutely no obligations. How do you spend it? I would probably waste part of the day sleeping, laying in bed, or watching TV. I recently took up golfing. My husband has been teaching me, so we would probably go out to the driving range. And then we would go out to dinner.

What kind of cooking do you do at home? I don’t do this often, but I’d do a three-course meal. First there would be lettuce wraps, like PF Change’s, for the appetizer. One of my favorite things to cook at home is potatoes des faire (fancy name for scalloped potatoes), and Lemon Chicken Paillard. I’d try to make Crème Brulee for dessert. We used to go to Print Works Bistro a lot, because we got married at Proximity. And they had that [chicken and potatoes], and I was obsessed with it. That dish was actually the inspiration for my Lemon Rosemary Truffle. 

What are some cooking challenges or techniques you would like to tackle? Making Crème Brulee. I’ve never even tried it, and I know it’s not the easiest thing in the world to make. And making croissants – I’ve always wanted to know how to make a croissant. I don’t think it’s necessarily hard, but rather it’s the time that it takes to make them. But man, they’re so good.

Who is one person you’d love to cook with? My husband. And we do cook together. I usually do the side dishes and he does the main course.

Carrboro Farmers’ Market Potluck Dinner

I am still full. My friend, Colleen, who has masterfully organized TerraVITA, a foodie festival three years running, took on a fundraiser for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market the Thursday before the main TerraVITA event. Twenty of the best chefs around brought dishes to share in a potluck style. The picnic was outside at the market at night, and, though it was cold, we had a wonderful time. But I am still full.

Aaron Vandemark, from Panciuto in Hillsborough, brought parfaits of crisped beef, white sweet potatoes, and cole slaw. It was meaty, fresh, and delicious. Kevin Callaghan, from Acme, brought deviled eggs, squash pickles* [see recipe below], and some of the best macaroni & cheese ever. And speaking of mac & cheese, Jimmy Reale, from the Chapel Hill Country Club, made pimiento mac & cheese… amazing. Vimala Rajendran, from her Curryblossom Café, brought lovely spiced rice and braised butternut squash. Andrea Reusing, from Lantern, brought pork that had been steamed in banana leaf… ridiculously good. There were fantastic meatball sliders contributed by Adam Rose from Il Palio. And on and on and on. For dessert, I enjoyed Bill Smith, from Crook’s Corner’s, banana pudding, and a sweet and fresh muscadine cobbler from Saxapahaw General Store’s Jeff Barney.

Taste Carolina’s Chapel Hill/ Carrboro food tours have been visiting the Carrboro Farmers’ Market just about every Saturday for the last four years, where we arrange for substantial tastings with farmers and vendors. We see all these chefs roaming about, picking up boxes of goods, and chatting with each other, the farmers, and the market-goers. Many times a year the chefs offer cooking demonstrations or tastings at the Market. The Carrboro Farmers’ Market is over 30 years old and often mentioned as one of the best in the country. People love it, and it showed at this dinner.

I rolled home and was asleep a few minutes later. A few hours after that, I woke up and thought that I had never been so full in my life. Later on still, I woke up and couldn’t feel my feet. The food had turned my circulation to sludge, I guess. It was a little scary, but nothing a few glasses of water didn’t cure.

My post-picnic diet lasted a couple of days, but I was fully back by Saturday – at TerraVITA, where I did it all again, just with different dishes. There was less mac & cheese but more pate and chocolate – and plenty of wine.

Acme’s Summer Squash Pickles
1 gallon summer squash, sliced in half moons (not too thin)
6 cups finely sliced sweet onion
1 gallon apple cider vinegar
1 quart water
1 gallon sugar
2 cups pickling spice (recipe follows)
1/3 cup salt

Mix sliced onions and squash in a large bowl. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and toss. Place onions and squash in a large colander and cover in ice (this helps keep the pickles crisp). Place where it can drain.DSC_0380

After icing the squash, put remaining ingredients into a large non-reactive pot and bring to a simmer. Let aromatics simmer for 30 minutes or so to flavor the vinegar. Strain vinegar mixture and clean pot of any of the pickling spice that may be stuck to the sides. Discard used spices.

Put squash mixture into the non-reactive pot. Add vinegar. There may be more squash than vinegar, but don’t worry. The squash will release water as it cooks. Stirring occasionally, bring back to a simmer and cook briefly. Squash must not be raw but also should not be stewed. Tasting is the only way to know. Adjust salt if necessary.

For us, these are refrigerator pickles. But they can be put up like traditional pickles to enjoy year round.

Pickling Spice
(Store bought is fine and probably cheaper for the home cook. But you will need to add turmeric to intensify the color of the pickles and possibly red pepper flake to give intensity.)
3 T allspice berries
3 T black peppercorns
3 T coriander seeds
2 T hot red pepper flakes
3 T mustard seeds
1 T ground nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks, broken
2 T whole cloves
½ cup bay leaves, crumbled
¼ cup fresh ginger, minced
2 T turmeric


An Interview With Scott Maitland, the Man Behind Top of the Hill

It’s not hard to miss Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. The restaurant, located at the corner of East Franklin and Columbia Streets, has become an iconic part of the quintessential college town.

Top of the Hill’s proprietor, Scott Maitland, recently launched a new business several years in the making, He and his staff are producing vodka, gin and whiskey at TOPO Distillery. The distillery, located on West Franklin Street, boasts world-class equipment, and the spirits are made with local, organic ingredients.

We talked with Scott about entrepreneurship and his venture, but first we’ll get know him better. Check back later this week to learn more about Scott and TOPO, and about Esteban, TOPO’s spirits guide.

Starting with the basics:

Occupation: Owner of Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery, and now TOPO Distillery. What is your hometown? Chapel Hill, N.C. When did you move to North Carolina? I moved to Carolina 20 years ago, but when I was 15-years-old, I knew that I wanted to live in the South. I was lucky enough to go to West Point and then, after I got out of the army, I got a full scholarship to law school at Carolina. I’ve been here ever since.

What do you love best about North Carolina? Do you have a couple of days? I like the people, the culture, the energy – it’s aggressive but hasn’t forgotten its past – the beautiful topography and the location itself. I immediately felt at home. And then I really loved being here and wanted to stay. I love Chapel Hill and Carrboro particularly, but I also love the state of North Carolina.

What type of music do you listen to when you’re cooking in the kitchen? Last night I was cooking to Chatham County Line. When we are distilling we do different things. It’s eclectic.

Top 5 favorite foods? (anything goes) (1) I love my mom’s cooking. I don’t really like it in general, but my mom’s corned beef is fantastic. She makes unbelievable meatloaf. I’m a comfort food person. I appreciate food, but when I think of friends and family, I think of comfort food. I try to recreate dishes that I grew up on, but with a modern twist. (2) Truffles. I am kind of mad about truffles. (3) Scallops. (4) Chocolate Chess Pie – again my mom’s cooking. At the end of the day I like foods that bring back memories of friends and family. (5) Mexican Food, specifically tacos al pastor.

What is your comfort food? Putting the distiller twist on it, I’m not sure it’s food. A nice IPA or gin martini will typically cure all.

Are there any foods you won’t eat/try? No. So, it’s weird because I never used to eat Brussels sprouts until about last year. But I think I’ve had them three nights in the past seven days.

What is the most memorable meal you’ve eaten recently? My mother-in-law has a huge garden, and she brought a whole bag of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and onions. And I made this great salsa/relish out of it all. I served that on top of salmon that my wife and I poached and paired it with fingerling potatoes. And then my mother-in-law also gave me fresh parsley, which we crushed with kosher salt for the potatoes. That was it. Simple. Nothing really fancy, and we paired it with a nice Vouvray. We sat on our back porch – we have a beautiful backyard – and enjoyed.

The ingredient you currently can’t stop using is: I just got this grinder jar of everyday seasoning from Trader Joe’s. It’s got coriander… I find myself putting it on everything.

You have a day with absolutely no obligations. How do you spend it? Having two kids (3 1/2 year old Kailey and 20 month old Austin), I don’t know if I can remember those days. But I think that I would definitely play a round of golf. And come back and cook dinner with my wife and have cocktails and dinner on our back porch.

What are some cooking challenges or techniques you would like to tackle?  My challenge in the TOPO Distillery is all about being local and organic. I’m really trying to figure out the local supply chain for my botanicals found in the gin. Specifically, I’m trying to find a way to source local juniper berries. It’s ironic because all the botanists believe that the juniper berries originated in this area. I want to create some kind of community harvest where people get it out of their own yards. But then everyone is concerned about organic certification. So, at any rate, these are the challenges of making a local gin. We also want to make a rum out of sorghum.

Who is one person you’d love to cook with? I think it would be fun to cook with Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery. He is the author of Brewmaster’s Table. Seems like an interesting cat.

When Cheese Becomes Reliable (Part 2)

When we asked Patrick Coleff how he got into cheese and ultimately opened Reliable Cheese, he says he just “fell into it.”

It all started when he was working in Cleveland as a legal publishing selling assistant. At night, Patrick worked as a line cook to make some extra money. “I hated my day job so much and loved my night job,” Patrick recalls. “I knew I wanted to get into the food business.”

Soon enough he was moving his wife and three cats to New York City, where he started culinary school. After working in a catering kitchen and a gourmet sandwich shop, he took a part-time job at Murray’s, where he discovered his love for high-end cheeses.

Did you always want to start a business? Probably not. I mean, I had the idea that I would like to own my own cheese shop. While living in New York, I was working at this small cheese complex, but when I moved here, I found there was nothing like that. All the cheese counters were in these large places, and I don’t like working at big, corporate places. I was either going to open a shop or get out of the cheese business altogether. But selling cheese is something I’ve proved to be good at.

Do you/did you have other ideas of businesses you want/wanted to start or that you think someone else should start? Any that you’d be willing to share? The one idea that I had that seems like it will be happening is an old-school butcher counter. People come in here and say that we have cheese and bread here in Durham, but no old-school butcher. There is a place that is opening that is going to be a butcher counter and sweet shop. They’ve been doing events at The Cookery recently. I don’t think they have a space yet, but they are at least making motions to make that happen.

I would also love to see an actual neighborhood grocery. I know the Durham Co-Op is supposed to be open in forever and a day. There are a lot of people that shop here and work and live in downtown Durham, but there’s nothing downtown if you need to get produce. When we first opened, people would come and ask for vegetables, but I said no – we are sticking to meats and cheeses.

What’s the best thing about owning a business? One of my favorite things is not only helping customers but also meeting a lot of cheese producers. I would say that is my number one favorite thing. And meeting all the people whose products I carry at the shop. Then, also being a business owner.

Any failure or hardship that you’d be willing to share? The biggest hardship for this place was definitely finding start-up money. Food businesses are inherently risky. We don’t have a lot of collateral, so we weren’t able to get bank loans. We had to get very creative with funding the business from the start. You’re supposed to start with a year of capital, and we definitely didn’t have that.

We’ve been open a year now and it’s all thanks to our customers and the people around here that have come to support this type of business.

Our current hardship: balancing prepared foods and the cheese counter. We are separating these. I was recently in delis in New York examining how they did it. They have different stations: cheese stations and prepared foods stations. Here at Reliable Cheese, it’s tough because we were doing everything on two small cutting boards.

The first time people said they wanted tables, we said no. But at the end of the day, it’s hard, if not impossible, to make a business work off of just cheese sales. There’s very little mark-up for a perishable product. Prepared foods like sandwiches are great for us; it’s what keeps the business going when cheese sales aren’t as great sometimes. If that means adding a few tables, we will add a few tables.

What’s the best piece or two of advice you would give to entrepreneurs just starting out? Shoot. I mean, a lot of people come in here from other businesses, and I’ll talk to them and offer advice. I think probably the thing I’ve learned with the shop is to be flexible. Your perfect vision of what you want is probably not going to happen. You have to adapt to what you want and what people expect from you. And a good space is always important. We purposely chose this space because it was bigger than what we needed so we would have room to grow. I’m really we did that.

What do you like best about owning a business in the Triangle? In Durham, specifically, it has been the support of all the local business owners. Before we opened, Fullsteam agreed to start offering our cheese plates. Phoebe from Scratch let us use our kitchen. Rue Cler helped me moved my deli case into the store. All the help form the other local business owners has been great.

We are working with Dos Perros on collaborating. I really like the collaborative spirit. There’s not that sense of competition, but rather a sense that one of us succeeding is all of us succeeding. We know downtown Durham is on the upswing. As these new businesses come, their success is success for all of us.

What is your biggest challenge? Just having enough time in the day. I’m looking into having a business manager. Right now, it’s just me, from filing taxes to selling cheese and working behind the counter.

The hardest part is making enough time. I have to balance the time I spend here with seeing my wife and kids at home. I don’t see them as nearly as much as I’m used to. Things don’t get done as quickly as I’d like them to get done.

Anything else you would like to share? It’s been a crazy experience for us in the year we’ve been open; I am continually surprised by the support we’ve received.

Part 2: Nut Butter Guy Becomes Nut Butter Business

After getting to know Mark Overbay in a previous post, we shift our focus to his business: Big Spoon Roasters. Once he became a regular selling his nut butters at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market, Mark began to expand his business. In recent months, he decided to leave his job at Counter Culture Coffee to pursue Big Spoon full time. Big Spoon Roasters currently sells a variety of nut butters, energy bars, roasted peanuts and, if you catch them at the right time, delicious baked goods and treats, like their peanut pecan oatmeal cookies.

The company is named as a tribute to his dad, Gary, who earned the nickname of Big Spoon when Mark was six years old. One day, Mark found him in the kitchen eating peanut butter straight from the jar with a tablespoon. Mark quickly shouted “Big Spoon” and the name stuck. It’s Gary’s nickname to this day. And now Big Spoon has become more than just a nickname; it’s Mark’s passion and livelihood.

Did you always want to start a business? Yes, I’ve known it for a long time. Part of it was a discovery process (the business side), the other part of it is I’ve always loved creating things – especially with food and cooking. For a long time I wanted to have my own food business, I just wasn’t sure what it would be. Would it be a product I make or would it be a restaurant? It thought about both a lot.

Do you/did you have other ideas of businesses you want/wanted to start or that you think someone else should start? Any that you’d be willing to share? I think that there should be more food business incubator kitchens; that was a business idea I had to do here. The Cookery has mastered it, and it’s fantastic. There are only a dozen of these incubator kitchens around the country. There are many, many opportunities to start businesses like The Cookery across the United States.

I also have a lot of restaurant and store ideas. Exotic fruit importing. In America, we eat a lot of fruit, but we eat very few types of fruit. There are thousands, literally thousands, of amazing fruits in the world that aren’t imported. The varieties of bananas around the world alone would astonish you.

What’s the best thing about owning a business? Owning a business is the best and worst thing. You’re constantly making decisions, driving the decisions. It’s wonderful to be able to act on your creative impulses and see them come to life. But at the same time, you also feel the pressure of succeeding when it’s your investment on the line.

Any failure or hardship that you’d be willing to share? The biggest challenge is getting people to think about peanut butter beyond the stale, sweet paste that we’ve all become familiar with. Instead, people need to think about peanut butter as a fresh, hand-crafted food experience.

What’s the best piece or two of advice you would give to entrepreneurs just starting out? Believe in your product. Be courageous.

What do you like best about owning a business in the Triangle? The diversity and curiosity of the community is great. People here are generally excited and willing to try new things. And there’s a great network of entrepreneurs.

What do you like best about being a part of the food community here? I’m constantly inspired by original farmers, chefs, and food artisans in the North Carolina food community. The energy and passion around local food is as strong as anywhere in the world – and I say that without any hyperbole. I think people, particularly in the food community, are truly connected to agriculture, to where our food comes from, and they are interested in making that connection all the way to food lovers. That’s so important to the integrity of our food system. This area has shown a lot of leadership in that area for the rest of the nation.

What is your biggest challenge? Right now it is production capacity. All the nut butter is made – roasted, ground, jarred – by me. If this business is going to succeed, we will need to make more nut butter in a short amount of time.


An Interview with Mark Overbay: The Nut Butter Guy

As you wander the Carrboro Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning, you can’t help but notice Mark Overbay and his handcrafted nut butters. Today, we want to introduce you to Mark, the man behind Big Spoon. Later this week, we’ll share more about Big Spoon Roasters and the story behind Mark’s business.

Occupation: Owner of Big Spoon Roasters.

Hometown: Kingsport, TN.

Moved to North Carolina: In 2006 from Washington D.C.

What do you love best about North Carolina? That’s tough… There’s a lot a good stuff here in North Carolina. It’s difficult to answer, but I love the people, the climate, the music, the ocean, the mountains. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather live.

What type of music do you listen to when you’re cooking in the kitchen? Well, I love music. My tastes are all over the place. Right now, I love the Black Keys, Gillian Welch, Hip-hop, Old R.E.M., and Louis Armstrong. My dad was a guitarist, and I grew up playing drums in our house. 

Top 5 favorite foods? (anything goes) 1) Black Twig Apples with Peanut Butter 2) Roast Chicken 3) Summer Tomatoes with Salt 4) GREAT coffee (it has to be great) 5) Collard Greens.

What is your comfort food? Ice Cream –  Specifically coconut milk ice cream with nuts and dark chocolate.

Are there any foods you won’t eat/try? Not really – I was a volunteer in the Peace Corps in Zimbabwe, and moth larva was one of the local foods. I feel like most things here are pretty tame compared to that. For a long time in my life I had mayonnaise phobia, but once I had the homemade/restaurant versions, I came around.

What is the most memorable meal you’ve eaten recently? When Megan, my fiancé, and I cooked dinner for my parents, we had Cane Creek Farm sausages on the grill with cabbage slaw – the cabbage was from Bluebird Meadows Farm – and pea shoots were from Four Leaf Farm.  That was followed by Megan’s homemade peanut butter cups.

The ingredient you currently can’t stop using is: Sea Salt.

You have a day with absolutely no obligations. How do you spend it? I’d go on a run with Megan [pictured above] and our two dogs, Riley and Rioja. Then, brunch at Parker & Otis, followed by a bike ride. Probably then, I’d buy ice cream and go to a matinee movie. And then homemade dinner and dessert at home.

What are some cooking challenges or techniques you would like to tackle? I’d love to master authentic Japanese sushi. It’s something I’ve never really done much of.

Who is one person you’d love to cook with? I’d love to cook with my great-grandfather Woodrow Williams. Before he passed away, I was very close with him but I wasn’t really of cooking age. But he was a great cook, awesome in fact. He was sort of an improvisational Southern, American cook. He knew how to catch trout, clean it, and then fry it on the river bank. He also made amazing biscuits and fried chicken, and he could can any vegetable. He’s definitely an idol.