Food news roundup

Eastertime is the time for ham, and the time for ham is Eastertime. And there’s a big ol’ one in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), along with other friends of ham. I’ve seen a lot of hunks of ham in photos recently. (See previous poem.) But…why do they look so unattractive? This one is dolled up with some fruit, so it’s OK. See it here.

There’s that hammy-ham-ham in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, too. Plus word on a gourmet rabbit dinner (on Saturday night; watch out, Easter Bunny) for $25K. Oh, yeah, John Grisham will be there, too. Read more here.

The Feed With Care column in the Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) details the rise in grocery stores that offer more products for people with food allergies. The author’s daughter is allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs and nuts, so she is always on the hunt for suitable products. Read more here. But no ham.

The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal writes about the new cookbook by Andrea Reusing, chef of Chapel Hill’s Lantern, here. And, yes, the ham is there, too. There’s no escaping it.

It’s the Return of the Ham in the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.). I tell you, the hams in these photos don’t look a thing like the ones my mother cooked for Easter. They’re not cylindrical. Anyway, there is yet another new Southern cookbook, this one by Martha Foose, and you can read about it here.

It’s a ham-free Wilmington (N.C.) Star News. There’s an interesting article on the struggles of the county’s oldest restaurant and how it manages to remain open in these times. Read more here.

Mega-maters and contraband pork

black cherry - photo from previous tomatopalooza

black cherry - photo from previous tomatopalooza

I had a big food weekend, and it’s taken until now to recover and tell y’all about it. On Saturday, I assisted with registration at Tomatopalooza, which drew more than 100 people in a drizzle at Apex Community Park. This annual festival of heirloom tomatoes is organized by Craig LeHoullier and Lee Newman. Craig sells heirloom tomato plants and has been involved in locating, saving and growing rare heirlooms for many years. Read more about them here.

I have attended for several years but felt obliged to help this time, since the article I wrote on the event for Our State magazine might have led to a flood of tomato fans. There were more than 160 varieties of tomatoes, ranging from pearl-sized Mexico Midgets to a Georgia Streak weighing in at 1.8 pounds (that’s for ONE tomato). Black Cherry won the popular vote for best tasting. The medium-sized, purple-and-green tomato is a perennial favorite, and I like its balanced flavor. It’s too small for a BLT, though. You need a big slab of tomato, preferably one with enough acid flavor to balance the richness of the bacon (in my opinion). It’s still hard to beat Brandywine or Cherokee Purple for a good BLT. I discovered that a big advantage of helping is getting to take home the leftovers, so I have been throwing a wide range of tomatoes into dishes ever since.

That night, the hub and I attended a birthday party. I will disclose neither the location nor honoree, because the hosts were serving smuggled pork product. They had visited Spain recently, and returned with a hunk of rare Iberian jamon, which they sliced with a generous hand. I’ve never seen this stuff around here. It’s like prosciutto, except deeper and richer, a little more fat and less salty flavor. It comes from a special breed of pig found only in Spain (our host said Spain won’t even let the DNA out of the country) and fed on acorns. I wondered how they got it back here – I’ve seen customs take food away from nuns, for goodness sake. The fresh-faced, young couple convinced customs that they were late for their connection, so the officers didn’t open the luggage. There they would have found a bouncing baby jamon wrapped in clothing. With fresh figs from their yard – ham heaven. But I realized that you’re really getting old when you’re more excited about ham than the joint that was passed around.