I did something really strange on Friday. A nut company hired a firm in Chapel-Hill to do some research on nuts, and I ended up participating in their Nut Focus Group at Southern Season. I arrived in time for a delicious lunch, during which we discussed how we liked to cook with nuts, what we think will encourage people to buy more nuts, and our favorite flavor combinations using nuts. After a lengthy discussion, the 12 of us participating were broken into 3 groups of 4 and asked to come up with several recipes using nuts. Then, the REALLY fun part. We were released out into Southern Season (a massive, super-stocked gourmet grocery, if you’ve never been) to gather everything we needed to create our dishes. We brought everything back to the test kitchen and were let loose. In other words, we were IRON CHEFS! It was so fun. My group made:
- Spring Tart with Cucumber, Caramelized Onions, Mascarpone, Dill, and Pine Nuts – I made a lot of this one, but the flavor combo was a collaborative effort.
- Breakfast Bar made with Dried Orange, Crystallized Ginger, Oats, Raisins, Almonds, and Ground Cardamon – But this didn’t hold together as well as we’d hoped, so we ended up putting it on Vanilla Ice Cream, and calling it “Better Than Breakfast Ice Cream”
- Mango Chili Chocolate Bark with Macadamia Nuts (That’s the one I was most responsible for, and it was AWESOME!)
- Orange Dream Brownies made with Ginger, Dried Orange, and Almonds (I actually had zero to do with this one – Brownies are yucky!)
So two particularly fun aspects of this adventure. First, the delightful JNFR was there. She is a special needs teacher, and was VERY good at herding us and keeping everything on track. She was definitely the Alpha that kept us focused so the creativity of our group could flow. Second, WE GOT PAID! Yes, they actually paid me $150 to give opinions about food and play Iron Chef. I can’t believe my luck!
The Day in Pictures: