NCRLA Chef Showdown Results


Mother Earth Distillery

Last Monday I attended the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA),  fourth annual NCRLA Chef Showdown at Angus Barn’s Bay 7 event space in Durham. It was a fun night of fantastic food and drink celebrating some of the best chefs and mixologists in North Carolina.

Twenty chefs from across the State were in the final running for the savory and sweet titles, judged by a panel of industry experts based on the presentation and taste of the dish as well as the best use and number of local North Carolina ingredients on each plate. Attendees also voted for their favorite dishes and drinks to determine the People’s Choice award winners for Savory, Pastry and Specialty Cocktail & Distillery.

NCRLA 2019 Chef Showdown Results:

  • Chef of the Year: Steven Goff, AUX Bar, Asheville
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Jamie Turner, Earl’s Grocery and Soul Food Sessions, Charlotte
  • Mixologist of the Year: Johnny Burritt, representing Apothecary Beverage Company, Asheville
  • Distillery of the Year: Apothecary Beverage Company, Asheville

People’s Choice Awards:

  • Savory: Cory Haigler, The Westin Charlotte, Charlotte
  • People’s Choice Pastry: Tie Whittaker, Buttermilk Boutique, Raleigh
  • People’s Choice Specialty Cocktail & Distillery: Jimmy Huyhn, representing Copper Barrel Distillery, Wilkesboro

For more information about the NCRLA Chef Showdown, visit



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Skyfest This Saturday at Johnston County Airport!


Photo courtesy of Skyfest

Skyfest is a community festival featuring professional aerial demonstrations including parachute team jumps, flyovers, helicopter rappelling, and other amazing aerial performances. There will be also be musical entertainment, static displays, food trucks, a beer garden and a kids zone.

Skyfest is this Saturday, October 12th from 10am-3pm in nearby Smithfield at Johnston County Airport. It is a FREE event but there is a suggested $10 donation for parking (benefiting Civil Air Patrol). For more information about parking and events scheduled visit

Skyfest Flyer.jpg

2019 Skyfest
 October 12, 2019 (10am-3pm)
Location: Johnston County Regional Airport
3149 Swift Creek Rd., Smithfield, NC 27577
Price: Free (parking $10 suggested donation)

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Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Comes to Life at DPAC!

S3 Arabian Nights Men. Photo by Deen van Meer

Ensemble ‘Aladdin’ North American Tour
(Photo by Deen Van Meer)

Last week SunTrust Broadway 2019/2020 season launched and took audience members on a thrilling magic carpet ride with the premier of ‘Aladdin’ at DPAC. My wife and I attended the Thursday night opening along with a packed house to see the hit musical, based on the 1992 animated film, come to life on stage with a delightful performance that is filled with all the songs you love and a few modern twists on the story making for an evening the entire family can enjoy.

The show is filled with vibrant colors, exciting ensemble dance routines, dazzling special effects and of course all the catchy songs you know from the movie. The plot of the Musical stays true to the film and its roots in the centuries-old folktales including “One Thousand and One Nights”. It takes place in the fictional middle eastern city of Agrabah.

The central characters of the story remain the same, with Aladdin (Jonah Ho’Okano), a poor but gracious thief – a diamond in the rough if you will, who falls in love with a confident and strong-willed Princess Jasmine (Keanaonalani Kekoa), who is being pressured by her aging father to marry to provide an heir to his thrown. Korie Lee Bloassey plays the scene stealing Genie that helps Aladdin to become a prince in order to win over Jasmine.

S2 Friend Like Me 2. Korie Lee Blossey (Genie) & Ensemble. Aladdin North American Tour. Photo by Deen van Meer.jpg

Korie Lee Blossey (Genie) & Ensemble. ‘Aladdin’ North American Tour
(Photo by Deen van Meer)

Every time Bloassey graced the stage all attention was on him, from breaking down of the 4th wall and imploring the audience to give him more applause (they did), to his show stopping rendition of “A friend like Me”, Bloassey and his laid back humor was the real star of the show.

The set and visual effects lived up to the high standards I have come to expect from Disney productions. The elaborate and colorful set designs made the city of Agrabah and the Sultan’s palace pop to life in dazzling fashion on stage. And the stunning magic carpet ride across a starry night in the dessert will leave you wondering how they pulled it off. In my opinion it is the highlight of the show and will leave you in awe of the magic & ingenuity of live theater.

It was also refreshing to see the Princess portrayed as strong character who struggles for autonomy as she tries to take charge of her own destiny, instead of a the tired damsel in distress trope. Some audience members may lament some of the animal characters being replaced by human counterparts for the stage production, but while there are a few adaptations like these to modernize the story and adapt it to the stage, I think the magic of the tale remains true and I think this production puts it together in a colorful show that will marvel audiences during its four week run at DPAC.

S5 Jonah Ho'okano(Aladdin). Aladdin North American Tour. Photo by Deen van Meer.jpg

Jonah Ho’okano (Aladdin). ‘Aladdin’ North American Tour
(Photo by Deen van Meer)

Disney’s Aladdin plays now through Saturday, October 26th at DPAC. A limited number of tickets are still available and can be purchased here:

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My Top Picks for October 2019


Wake Forest Dance Festival – October 5th

October 5th – Wake Forest Dance Festival
This Saturday the Wake Forest Dance Festival returns to E. Carroll Joyner Park. This event features both international and national performers and starts with education technical rehearsals in the morning followed by a festival performance that night from 5-6:30pm. Throughout the day, a walking tour of the park will feature dance performances showcasing works by emerging choreographers. For more information visit the event website here.

October 6th – Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo
Enjoy local food trucks parked across 11 city blocks along Fayetteville Street from 12-6pm. There will be seating for setup along sidewalks, 50+ Food trucks and Desert carts. You can view a full list of the trucks scheduled here.

October 10th – Tea Cup Gin at JB Duke Hotel
JB Duke Hotel, North Carolina’s contemporary lodging destination located on the campus of Duke University, recently announced its fall jazz series, Thursdays with Tea Cup Gin. The events will feature local band Tea Cup Gin at the hotel on Thursday, Oct. 10 from 5-7 p.m., recurring on Thursday, Nov. 7 and Thursday, Dec. 5. Special cocktails and a new fall food menu will be available to enjoy during the shows as well.


October 15th – Katie Parla Cookbook Pizza Party at Coronato Pizza
Katie Parla is traveling to Coronato in Carrboro for a special collaborative pizza party with Chef-Owner Teddy Diggs on Tuesday, October 15th. Parla is a Rome-based food and beverage educator and journalist who came out with a cookbook earlier this year, “Food of the Italian South.” Communal seating is available for the dinner with two arrival times: 5:30-7pm or 7:30-9pm. Tickets are $70 per person and are available on Eventbrite. Each ticket includes food, drink, signed cookbook, tax and tip.


October 22nd – Into the Fog at Beer & Banjos
Into The Fog is a great local band on the rise and features B&B alum, Mike Malek on banjo. These guys are powerhouses, so mark your calendars for some fall fun with Into The Fog! Free show at Raleigh Times Bar (7:30-10pm).

October 23rd – Taste of the Wild by Walter Magazine
Join WALTER Magazine in Transfer Co’s brand new event space as we honor the outdoors with a locally-sourced dinner. Locals Oyster Bar and Longleaf Swine BBQ are joined by Fullsteam Brewing and Wye Hill Brewery to discuss sustainability, wild-foraged ingredients and the importance of eating local. Enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a three-course dinner, beer and wine pairings, along with signature cocktails. Tickets are now on sale here

October 24th – Raleigh Fashion Fest
Shop ‘til you drop at Raleigh Fashion Fest, an inaugural fashion festival coming to downtown Raleigh’s City Market on Thursday, October 24, 2019 from 5-9pm. Celebrating fashion and food in both Raleigh and across North Carolina, the festival brings together more than 40 locally owned boutiques and vendors. Attendees can pursue and purchase a variety of clothing, shoes, jewelry, gifts, hair and beauty products and more for the ultimate shopping experience. Tickets are available now on Raleigh Fashion Fest’s website.

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Bull Moon Rising Ball – November 1st in Durham

Moon Ball.jpg

The Moon is coming to Durham over Halloween weekend. Bull Moon Rising is a free, once-in-a-lifetime four-day community event presenting Museum of the Moon, a mesmerizing and world-renowned touring installation by U.K. artist Luke Jerram. Through a fusion of science, art and true wonder, Bull Moon Rising’s presentation of Museum of the Moon will bring the community together to celebrate Durham’s 150th Anniversary, honor the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and explore themes of history, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Open 24 hours a day from October 31 through November 3, the breathtaking exhibit will be suspended over CCB Plaza in downtown Durham. This will make a great destination and “selfie” spot Halloween weekend. Museum of the Moon will also be home to numerous free events and performances for all to enjoy.

As part of the once-in-a-lifetime four-day community event presenting a giant, breathtaking replica of the moon, Bull Moon Rising is hosting a Bull Moon Ball fundraising gala at Unscripted Hotel Friday, November 1st.

Benefitting Durham’s Museum of Life and Science and local nonprofit Keep Durham Beautiful, the Bull Moon Ball will take place underneath the light of the “Museum of the Moon” installation, with music, dancing and heavy hors d’oeuvres included in the $125 ticket price. Attendees are asked to dress cocktail attire with silver moon touches, in honor of the moon theme and the best interpretation will receive a prize at the Ball. For more information and to purchase tickets visit

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