Myers Park Country Club is usually one of the most exclusive addresses in Charlotte. But it opened its doors to a group with more widespread appeal Tuesday: Food makers from all over North Carolina who hope to get a little business from the Democratic National Convention.
“Charlotte Goes Local” was sponsored by food broker Southern Foods, which is based in Greensboro but provides food to caterers and chefs across the state.
The show was designed to show caterers and event planners what’s going to be available for them by that big party week in early September.
“It’s going to be high-volume for three days,” said Denis Dronne of Joyce Foods, which supplies the Ashley Farms chicken products used by restaurants. “I’m trying to give them ideas for high-quality N.C. products.”
So yes, there were displays of everything from country hams to pork cheeks and samples of foods like Lusty Monk mustards and Spinning Spider cheeses from Asheville.
But not all of the food makers were from North Carolina, and not all of the N.C. foods were what you might expect.
James Boyden came from Ohio to show off pre-made party foods like coconut shrimp and bacon-wrapped water chestnuts from a company called Pirom’s. How many shrimp does it take to feed a political delegation?
“Hopefully a lot,” he said, laughing.
Bob Brown was operating a display of Daniel Boone Inn country hams from Goodnight Brothers in Boone. Brown isn’t sure how much local food actually will play a role in convention events. When the DNC was in Atlanta in 1988, he says, local restaurants didn’t get that much extra business because delegates mostly ate in their hotels.
But as a Charlotte native, he’s hoping conventioneers who do venture out will find more than they expect.
“We were a big (chain-restaurant) market,” he says. “We’re finally getting more eclectic.”
Based on some of the companies displaying their wares at the country club, there already are surprises in store. For instance, curry was scenting the air from Kerala Curry, an Indian foods company from Pittsboro that proudly displays its “Goodness Grows in North Carolina” sign from the N.C. Department of Agriculture.
Next to Kerala, a table was covered with artful three-colored pastas from Drake’s Fresh Pasta of High Point, while Kate Lachance Brun was handing out samples of her fresh micro-sprouts from Lucky Leaf Gardens in Harrisburg.
Not every caterer who wants to use local products may be able to find them, said Sasha Shreders, Southern Foods’ cheese specialist. He was presiding over a long table covered with fine cheeses. Of the 30 or so on display, only a half-dozen were from North Carolina.
While North Carolina is one of the leaders in Southern cheesemakers, there just isn’t enough volume to handle it all, Shreders said.
“Most local cheesemakers just make enough for their local market.”