The annual Pepper Festival is coming up this weekend. Sunday October 2nd is the day!
A fun food festival featuring pepper themed eats. A ticket gets you access to walk the grounds from vendor to vendor sampling creative peppery eats from some of the best local chefs.
There will be savory dishes as well as some sweet creations too. Along the way you can stop at various beer, wine, soda and coffee stations. Beverages are not included in the price of the ticket.
Additionally, there will be an Eco-Fashion Show. Focus will be on independent designers raising awareness about sustainable solutions throughout the fashion and textiles industry.
Back to the food!
I interviewed one of the participants of the Pepper Festival, Chef Jason Smith, owner of 18 Restaurant Group (Cantina 18, Harvest 18 and 18 Seaboard).
Chef Smith was born in Raleigh (St. Mary’s/Wade) and raised in Raleigh and Wilmington.
He opened his 1st restaurant, 18 Seaboard, in 2006. Followed by Cantina 18 in 2010 and Harvest 18 in 2014. Currently he has a 2nd Cantina 18 restaurant in the works for the nearby town of Morrisville. He expects to open it in the 1st half of next year.
In all of his restaurants Chef Smith strives to source as much of the produce, meat, poultry and fish from local businesses as possible. Because he is such a strong supporter of local businesess, he commits every year to participating in the Pepper Festival. "Anything to help small and mid-sized farmers is important".
The dish Chef Smith will be serving on Sunday will be a smoked mushroom & pepper taco, topped with a summer pepper relish. It will be gluten-free and vegetarian.
In coming up with this pepper-themed dish, he decised to choose peppers people don’t often utilize in their cooking. Italian Frying Peppers and Lunchbox Mini Peppers, both of which are sweet in flavor.
So which chef's pepper-themed dish is Chef Smith looking forward to sampling while he's at the festival... He said all of them, but he is especially curious to try the dish Chef Charlie Deal of JuJu restaurant will be cooking up.
To learn more about Chef Smith's restaurants, check out the link below.
If you've never been to any of his restaurants, here are a few specific suggestions per Chef Smith.
Cantina 18: Braised beef short rib taco (Moore Brothers Natural)
Harvest 18: Any vegetarian offerings or Wood-fired grilled meatloaf. (Mills Family Farm)