Friday, August 9, 2013

Now my New Blog at

Thanks so much to everyone who has read and supported this, my first blog, throughout the years.... I haven't posted here in sometime, but have started a new blog you might want to check out and follow - you can now find more food and restaurant articles, recipes, restaurant reviews, culinary videos and lists of all my current cooking classes at my new blog at
Hope to see you there - Cheers!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Eat Here Now - Dining in Lake Lure and Chimney Rock NC

A Birthday Surprise!
I had no idea where we were headed, only that it was a three day getaway planned my husband, Tom  Billotto as a way to celebrate my birthday.
Our travels took us to a beautiful little cabin in the mountanside that surrounds Lake Lure - Sugar Bush cabin was our home away from home for the better part of last week.

While the cabin was beautifully appointed and we could have cooked in - we opted for the most part to dine out exploring lots of little restaurants in the area.

Our first lunch was at Larkin's on the Lake and we sat outside on a deck at water's edge - my burger was great and Tom's blackened fish sandwich equally satisfying - needless to say we made short work of the sweet potato fries that accompanied each sandwich.

That night we ate in - a big salad of mixed greens from Tega Hill Farms we brought along in the cooler served under the stars on the cabin's lower deck.

Next lunch at Medinas Village Bistro on Main Street in Chimney Rock - a hightly recomended spot, everything here is homemade and delicious and we would most certainly go back again. I enjoyed a homemade clam chower with a pressed Cuban sandwich while Tom opted for the fish sandwich special - both very nicely done.

After some exploring and antiquing around town we walked into the Lake Lure Inn and Spa - and enjoyed a slice of history in the gorgeous old lobby. We spent about an hour just looking at the antiques and old magazine aricles framed and on the wall . Built in 1928, these old beautiful walls had a lot of stories to tell and we both thought it would be a fun place to stay next time we are in need of another get away.

This time we opted to come back for dinner and while our plans were to enjoy a drink at the bar and then go into the dining room, we wound up eating at the bar as well enjoying the company of several locals and a very friendly bartender who after hearing it was my birthday, brought a slice of cake with candle for our dessert..
The food was good but the surroundings were even better and the company made for an entertaining evening.

Dinner on Thursday night was the icing on the birthday cake. A gorgeous restaurant and Inn call Esmeralda's. Located just past the little downtown of Chimney Rock, this is another place we would both love to stay sometime.
Dinner was superb - starting with an amuse of a wonton stuffed with cheese and served with a chili sauce; then an order of fried oysters and fried green tomatoes, and a tasty bruschetta with cilantro, tomatoes and slightly spicy chopped peppers atop a two bite toast.
I enjoyed the roast quail and Tom the mountain trout as entree - both perfectly done.



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Heidi Billotto Cooks - April and May Cooking Classes in Charlotte NC

Anyone can cook,
Let Heidi Billotto show you how to make it Fun!
On the Farm Cooking Classes with
Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto
Make plans now to join Mindy and Mark Robinson of Tega Hill Farms and Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto at the farm on Saturday April 27 from 2-6 pm for a fabulous On the Farm cooking class and farm tour!
tega hill
The class will start with an aperitif and an hors d'oeuvre as we begin the fun and fascinating walking tour of this unique farm comprised of hydroponic greenhouses - then we'll settle back among the microgreens for a Springtime Hors D'oeuvre and First Course Cooking Class featuring everything in season at Tega Hill Farms, lots of other local product.
Plus as as added bonus in this class, we'll enjoy a special guest appearance from Sophie Bingley of Pour Olive, an artisanal olive oil shop on East Blvd in Charlotte.
Sophie will bring along a host of current harvest extra virgin olive oils and artisan balsamic vinegars for us to cook with, to taste and to purchase to take home and enjoy.
We'll prepare four different dishes in class and our good friend Josh Villapando from The Sorting Table on 7th in Uptown Charlotte will provide wine tastings for each dish.
The class promises to be a spectacular way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Class participants will be able to purchase produce and microgreens from the farm while you are there. Wine, olive oil and vinegar will also be available for sale.
Cost is $75 per person - payment by cash, check or credit card
To make your advance reservation, simply email Heidi at and she'll get back to you with the details
in the greenshouse

Cooking ON THE FARM with
Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
My unique On the Farm Classes are held at various farms in and around Charlotte.
Each starts with a walking Farm Tour and then we settle into the farm kitchen to cook with whatever is in season.
You really just have to experience these classes for yourself, there is indeed something quite special about being on all these local farms...
Class size is limited depending upon the size of the farm. After the farm tour, we cook and eat and drink and you and your fellow classmates can watch or lend a hand if you'd like and together will learn to chop, slice, simmer and saute along the way.
On the Farm classes in April -
Saturday April 27 - Tega Hill Farms Hydroponic greenhouses and microgreens PLUS Sophie Bingley from Pour Olive will be joining us for this class to talk about current harvest extra virgin olives oils and artisan balsamic vinegars with all the great greens at Tega Hill Farms - its going to be spectacular!
2-6 pm. Cost $75
Email Heidi to make your reservations
On the Farm classes in May -
Saturday May 4 -a great alternative way to spend this Saturday if you are not into all the golf taking place in town. Come to class at New Town Farms for a Country Italian theme - featuring Sammy's own recipe for Family Piza night pizza - don't miss it!
11 am - 4 pm. Cost $75
Email Heidi to make your reservations
Saturday May 18 - Windcrest Farm Organics - cooking striaght out of the certified organic greenhouses with whatever Mary has in season! veggie and herb plants will also be available for sale at class. 11 am - 3 pm. Cost $75
Email Heidi to make your reservations
NEW - Saturday May 25 -11 am - 3 pm. At Chester Farms - I am very exicted about this newsest addition to my On the Farm class line up - Chester Farms
produces eggs of all kinds from chicken eggs in a rainbow of colors to quail and duck eggs and we'll be cooking with them all. Taste the difference and enjoy cooking with local eggs!
Cost is $75
Email Heidi to make your reservations
On the Farm classes in June -
NEW DATE - Saturday June 1 - On the Farm at Proffitt Cattle Co, 3-7:30 pm Cost is $75
On the Farm classes in July -
Saturday July 20 - New Town Farms
11 am - 4 pm Cost $75
Never to soon to make your reservations - we'll plan menus as time gets closer and we have a better idea of what is available for harvest.
May At Home with Heidi Cooking Classes
Here's how it works:
May class descriptives follow...
cooking class You and your fellow classmates can watch or lend a hand if you'd like and together will learn to chop, slice, simmer and saute along the way.
It's always a blast! Classes are held at my South Charlotte home in my kitchen. Once you make your reservations I will send out directions to our home,
pat and heidi Wine parings with every dish, recipes packets and wine notes for each class participant. Cost is $65 - $75 per person. Class size is limited - your advance reservations via email gets you on the class list and advance payment confirms your space in class
Tip Top Tapas
Wednesday May 8
6:30-9:30 pm
Cost $65
Tapas in my estimations a fine way to dine for spring and summer - lots of little plate of lots of delicious meats, seafoods, chicken and veggies - all prepared with Spanish spice and flavor. Spanish and South American wines to go with each dish - delish!
Springtime Hors D'oeuvres
Tuesday May 14
6:30-9:30 pm
Cost $65
A whole new menu of Springtime flavors to try out for your next dinner party or the next time you need food to served with cocktails on the patio. Five great hors d'oeuvres -four wine pairings and an aperitif upon arrival.
Grilling out
Sunday May 19
2-5 pm
Cost $65
Come and learn all the ins and outs of cooking out of doors on your backyard grill. We'll do beef, chicken, seafood, veggies and of course my infamous Grilled Krispy Kreme doughuts - wonder what wine Josh will pari with that dessert?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


These first few weeks of February give us plenty of reason to celebrate - from the Superbowl to Chinese New Year, Mardis Gras to  Valentines, this season offers plenty of opportunities to cook up a storm!
With Mardis Gras right around the corner, I thought this recipe for Shrimp Creole would be a fun one to serve to your Fat Tuesday party guests -Enjoy and laissez les bonne temps rouler!!
Recipe from Heidi Billotto, Charlotte Culinary Expert

For the Marinaded Seafood:                   
½ cup canned Asian coconut milk
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup lime juice
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. freshly minced garlic
2 Tbsp. fresh minced cilantro
3 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined or use a mix of your favorite seafoods or an equivalent amount of chicken

For the Creole sauce:
2 Tbsp. your favorote extra virgin olive oil from Pour Olive on East Blvd.
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped garlic
2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onions
1 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup celery, chopped
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cans organic diced tomatoes with the liquid
3 Tbsp. tomato paste in a tube or tomato powder from the Savory Spice Shop
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 stalk fresh thyme  (or 1 Tbsp. dried thyme leaves)
4 Tbsp. ground coriander
4 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
1 bunch green onions, chopped
½ cup canned Asian coconut milk
2 Tbsp. Pickapeppa sauce

Begin by marinating the shrimp or seafood. Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a plastic container or stainless steel bowl. Add shrimp. Toss well to make sure that shrimp are well coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

For the Creole sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or saute pan over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add onions and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add bell peppers, celery and fennel and sauté for 2 minutes more. Add jalapeno, tomatoes, tomato paste and stock. Season the Creole with bay leaves, thyme, 2 tablespoons ground coriander, 2 tablespoons cilantro, salt, black pepper and sugar.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour or until vegetables have cooked down and liquid has reduced to create a thick sauce. Stir occasionally.

Add green onions, coconut milk, Pickapeppa sauce and the remaining coriander. Heat through and reserve.

 Just before serving:

Place shrimp, seafood or chicken and marinade in a large saucepan and heat over medium high heat until shrimp turn pink and begin to curl.  Remove from heat; spoon over a bed of rice and nap with Creole sauce. Sprinkle with remaining chopped cilantro.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter Weather Stuffed French Toast

If you have too much bread and milk in anticipation of the winter storm, perhaps this recipe for Winter Weather French Toast is just what you need.....
Local eggs, cheese and sausage make it a practically perfect recipe!
French Toast with Sausage and Cheese

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto



1 lb. local sausage, browned ( or you can use vegetarian sausage patties as well)

1 container plain Bosky Acres goat cheese

½ cup Ashe County super sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup whole milk

3 local farm eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large croissants

4 Tbsp. butter or a flavorful extra virgin olive oil


Slit croissants in half lengthwise to make a pocket but do not cut them completely in half. Stiff each with a patty of browned sausage (or crumbled browned sausage) and some of each of the cheeses. Press together lightly to close. Whisk together the milk, eggs, and salt. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for a bit on each side; and then place in a sauté pan with hot melted butter or olive oil.

Brown toast on both sides. Keep warm in oven until ready to serve.

To make a sweet version of the same, add a bit of vanilla and local honey to the egg mixture. And stuff the croissants just with Bosky Acres honey and walnut goat cheese.

Toss fresh fruit in peach or orange liqueur.  Cook the stuffed croissants as directed above. Top toast with fresh fruit and enjoy!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

In Praise of the Braise

 I prepared this recipe this morning live on Charlotte Today - Jan 17  with co host Romona Holloway - great fun, easy to do, and the  video includes lots of helpful tips.

Recipe follows, but first a few ingredient notes - Buy great local pork from A Way of Life Farm a the Yorkmont Regional Farmers' Market on Saturdays in Charlotte.
Or this recipes also works well with chicken, stuffed or unstuffed - I love the local birds from New Town Farms -  usually available on Saturdays at the Matthews Community Farmers' market -  and from Windy Hill Farms at the Atherton Mills Market in Southend - open five days a week.
All of the dried spices in this recipe are available at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend - my favorite place for spices and seasonings. As for olive oil, I suggest extra virgin current harvest - take your pick from the selection at Pour Olive on East Blvd. Tell 'em Heidi sent you !

Here is the link to the video from Charlotte Today - simply click here
Here we go...
Stuffed Braised Local Pork Chops
By Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

 4 bone-in pork chops, cut thick enough to stuff, prepared with a slit or  little pocket cut through the side of the chop -

For the marinade:
1 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp.  Pour Olive extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2  bay leaves
1 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
6 juniper berries, lightly bruised or 1/4 cup gin

For the stuffing:

1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
2 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence
2 whole garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
2 eggs
1 cup panko bread crumbs

 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups stock (half beef and half chicken combined)

Marinate the chops for several  hours, turning it occasionally. Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature; remove chops from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Strain the remaining marinade and reserve.
While the chops are marinating, prepare the stuffing. Chop the garlic to a fine mince with some salt and pepper. Combine with remaining stuffing ingredients until the mixture has the consistency of a paste. Fill  the pocket you cut in each chop with an equal amount of the stuffing mix. Season the outside of each chop with coarse sea salt and  coarse black pepper or Heidi’s hot pepper blend ( available at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend).

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or stovetop to oven pan. When the oil is hot and aromatic, sear the chops on both sides until nicely browned. Remove the chops and deglaze the pan with the reserved marinade.

Return the chops to the deglazed pan and add enough of the broth blend to come one-half of the way up the side of the meat. Cover the pot and place it in a 325 oven for about one and a half hours, basting the chops at 20 minute intervals.

To serve, transfer the chops to a serving platter or individual plates. Strain the liquid from the pot into a small saucepan and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half. Strain sauce of any fat. Serve over soft polenta rice or mashed potatoes.