Last Saturday, June 29th, Durham’s American Meltdown brought the fromagaholics out of the woodwork—hundreds of them—all set on attending the first annual Artisanal Cheese Fest held at The Cookery.

Vendors included Chapel Hill Creamery, Cultured Cow Creamery, Elodie Farms, Hillsborough Cheese Company, Goat Lady Dairy, Holly Grove Cheese, La Farm Bakery, A Southern Season, Weaver Street Market, Whole Foods, and Cookery members Milk and Honey Bakery and This Little Piggie Charcuterie. All provided free samples, demos and more. There was also a bar and the American Meltdown’s food truck.

Paul Inserra, American Meltdown owner, says his idea for the event came from attending the American Cheese Society’s Cheese Show in Raleigh, geared toward professionals in the industry.

Inserra saw room for a public cheese event that was casual, fun and affordable. With free admission and samples, the Artisanal Cheese Fest hit the mark and has gained serious momentum. Inserra estimates that roughly over 600 people attended the event.

He says he knew that with all the buzz around it, the event would be more than what the team expected; but, the line around the block was a surprise.

“The event exceeded my expectations as far as numbers go,” says Inserra. “There are always things to improve on, but it went so well because we had great team members to work with. We met our vision of what we could do.”

Inserra says partnering with The Cookery was excellent. He also credits the many vendors who he says were willing to take a chance on the new event and who brought tons of samples.

“Everyone was so responsive,” says Inserra. “It was great to see people we knew from the food truck and a crowd from diverse locales coming together for a great culinary event.”

The Artisanal Cheese Fest will be an annual event, so expect to see even more next year.

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The American Meltdown has been busy getting down to business. In addition to June’s event and its regular food truck, the entire crew traveled to Los Angeles’s Center Studios to compete in the Grilled Cheese Invitational this April. The team competed with over 100 groups and placed third in the event.

What’s next from the American Meltdown? Look for their pop-up restaurant coming to Chapel Hill soon. It’s sure to be another amazing American Meltdown production.

Written for my column, The Artisanal Orange: http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-artisanal-orange/when-cheese-gets-edgy/

Photo courtesy of the American Meltdown.

What’s sweeter than honey? A taste of your hometown’s honey. As the buzz builds around the worldwide honey bee crisis, Marty Hanks, owner of Just Bee Apiary in Chapel Hill, has created a fundraiser to bring awareness to honey bees in Orange County.

Hanks’ Hometown Honey Taste Off has hives located throughout Orange County. Building on the premise that honey bees stay within three to five miles of their hives, Hanks has created a way for Orange County locals to literally get a taste of their hometown.

Just Bee Apiary

The hives are publicly situated at sites including: atop Tyler’s Restaurant, the Saxapahaw General Store’s garden, TOPO Distillery, the Abundance Foundation, Crawford Farm and others.

The fundraiser aims to sustain honey bees in the local community. It also supports Just Bee Apiary by helping provide needed tools for the chemical-free apiary and educational materials for the community.

The apiary faced a 60 percent loss in its livestock (yes, bees are considered livestock) in 2012. Reports estimate the national honey bee loss in 2012 was between 31 and 40 percent. Colony collapse disorder (CCD), malnutrition due to monocrop planting, reduction of wildflowers and other pollinators, varroa mites and other issues are decreasing colonies throughout the U.S.

“Honey is a liquid time capsule of Mother Nature’s fingerprint of every community,” says Hanks. “Every year we have different amounts of rain and sun, different climate influences. This produces a different honey each year. It’s the rarest food source. We need to preserve it because it tells a human story, our story.”

You can support honey bees and Hanks’ apiary by donating to his fundraiser here. But you’ll have to be quick, the fundraiser ends July 11, 2013.

Just Bee Bees

“Let’s look at our town in a way we never have before—through taste. Protect your source by supporting organic farmers and foods, planting pollinating plants and buying your honey from local beekeepers,” says Hanks.

Hanks is not alone in his love of honey. Local beekeepers range from hobbyists to commercial production apiaries, says David Bailey of Bailey Bee Supply. Bailey keeps apiary owners stocked from his Hillsborough store, the only beekeeping supply store centrally located in North Carolina.

“You can support your local beekeepers by educating yourself on honey bees. A good way to star tis by avoiding pre-emergents for your lawn. Bees can mistake these granules for pollen and take them back to the hive, harming the whole colony. You can also plant pollen and nectar-producing plants when planning your landscaping; for example, use blueberries instead of a hedgerow,” says Bailey. (Click here for Bailey’s list of these bee-friendly botanicals). “And, of course, you can buy local honey.”

Local honey and other honey bee products can be found at Bailey Bee Supply and the Carrboro Farmers’ Market as well as at other local farmers’ markets and stores.

Bailey has seen an encouraging upswing in beekeeping. He says the average beekeeper used to be in his or her forties or fifties, but now parents come in with their kids to get outfitted for apiary adventures.

For budding beekeepers, there is community support available. Bailey Bee Supply offers classes to help beginners get started. Beekeepers can join the community with the Orange County Beekeepers’ Association.

All of this is in just in time for National Pollinator Week, recognized June 17-23. Participate in Pollinator Week with tours and programming at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill.

The honey bee crisis stems out to national concern over food supply and the economy. Hanks and Bailey agree with the “1 in 3 bites” estimate that states that one in every three bites of food consumers in the U.S. eat is pollinated by honey bees. Start local and help save Orange County honey bees.

Written for my column, The Artisanal  Orange: http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-artisanal-orange/local-taste-sweeter-than-honey/.

(Photos courtesy of Marty Hanks.)

Orange County, North Carolina. The real OC. Okay, so maybe there aren’t actually groves upon groves of oranges, but Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas bring to mind a Faulkner-esque image of Southern landscape. Honeysuckle-scented air, wisteria-draped arbors, dilapidated farmhouses, picket fences, cows out to pasture, rusted pickup trucks. And in the summer, the heat. The humid, heavy heat.

But there is more to this quintessential Southern town. The University of North Carolina has diversified the population and brought culture to new highs. Carrboro’s hip, laid-back style provides an atmosphere of creativity and artistic freedom. Orange County’s outskirts balance culture with natural beauty and agriculture.

The culmination of this juxtaposition? An amazing profusion of artists and artisans, often unsung in their own community. From apiaries to perfumers to herbalists and outsider artists, Orange County seems to be a creative hotspot. In true Southern style, these artists and artisans are low-key, slow to self promote. This column, The Artisanal Orange, aims to introduce residents and visitors to these neighbors–the artists and artisans among us.

So I’ve been a bit absent from my site. Okay, completely absent. It’s been on my list but hasn’t quite made it to the top in a whirlwind of a new job (not so new anymore) and new yoga classes.

Yes! My daughter, Sophia, and I will be teaching two classes at Triangle Yoga in Chapel Hill, NC. Parent-Tot Yoga begins Friday, June 21 and we take over the Monday Postnatal Yoga class beginning June 10. We are looking forward to this experience and it has connected us to great organizations and people in the community. Gaia Herbs of Brevard, NC has donated samples of items such as their Lactation Support tea to pamper new moms. And Sophia and I will donate $1 for every parent/babe duo who comes to any of our classes to Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization whose mission is empowering people to prevent child sexual abuse. Please join us to do yoga, feel good and do good. 

I’ve also been picking up some freelance writing and editing work in various fields, including alternative energy, healthcare and culture. It’s nice to explore new topics and a variety of them at that.

I’ll be posting some of my arts and culture columns here, so check back soon for an update. And if you have suggestions of arts, culture, yoga or women’s issues events or topics to cover in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC area, please contact me!

The definition of “home” as a physical place, or even a psychological space, can be indecipherable in literature such as Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Each character embarks on an independent search that is still heavily informed by collective issues like family, history, nation, identity, geography, borders, gender, and more. In fact, in contemporary  U.S.-Caribbean literature the concept of home is often a central element of identity. How can one know one’s self if home can not be identified or found?

The structure of Diaz’s novel is quite interesting as it takes the reader through time with generations of familial characters in each chapter.   The relational focus, along with the footnotes that give readers the education on Caribbean history that they may have missed in school, lends itself to a feeling of Carl Jung’s collective unconscious holding all that is and was in the Dominican impacting the characters’ lives.

Check back for my next post where I’ll further explore a single character’s search for home.

My name is Kim Zdanowicz and I am a writer and editor in Chapel Hill, N.C. I have written about literature, geography, feminist theories, migration, theories of home, and cultural trends. My literary focus is on Latin American Caribbean literature and contemporary African American literature. I’ve also written poetry and short stories. I have a B.A. in Creative Writing and English from Appalachian State University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This academic and cultural writing is what I do for fun.

My day jobs have generally been in the communications, marketing and public relations field and ranged in industries from art to health to robotics. I also freelance write and edit on these topics and enjoy the work. I love delving into a topic and researching.

Oh, I’m also a certified yoga instructor. Check back soon for my reflections on my most recent read: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

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