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How to eat your way through Taste of the Carolinas at Carowinds

Taking place at Carowinds during the weekends of April 23-24 and April 30-May 1, Taste of the Carolinas brings together the cuisine from seven unique regions in North and South Carolina into one incredible gastronomic experience.

One thing is for sure – this isn’t your typical theme park fare. Each “taste” at Taste of the Carolinas is paid for with tokens that are purchased at the park. Each token costs you $1.33, and each taste will cost you between two and four tokens for a sample-sized portion.

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Armed with 21 tokens (I was hungry, don’t judge me), I wanted to eat my way through “Taste of the Carolinas.” Check out the menus, with my choices in bold:

Lexington BBQ menu

Beer Basted Pulled Pork Slider (4 Tokens)

• Barbecue Chicken Slider (3 Tokens)

• Barbecue Ribs (3 Tokens)

I don’t have a true BBQ allegiance, but lean slightly to the west’s tomato-based sauce. The slider was delicious and was accompanied by a small serving of red slaw.

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For my second course, I headed to Charleston.

Charleston menu

• Shrimp and Grits (4 Tokens)

• Sweet Tea Glazed Chicken (3 Tokens)

• Lady Baltimore Cake (2 Tokens)

When I saw sweet tea used as a glaze on the menu at the Charleston booth, I knew I had to try it. The glaze proved to be a very interesting, though very tasty, topping for the chicken.

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After two entrees, it was time for a side dish. I made my way to the “Upstate” Region.

“Upstate” menu

• Brunswick Stew (4 Tokens)

• Windy Hill Apple Cobbler (3 Tokens)

• Jalapeño Pimento Cranberry Cheese Ball (2 Tokens)

This was a MASSIVE scoop of pimento cheese. And by massive, I mean I needed a spoon, because the six crackers it was served with weren’t enough. My advice? Never underestimate the word “jalapeño.”

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I needed to cool down. It was time for a beer.

Featured craft breweries

• RJ Rocker’s (Spartanburg, SC)

• Palmetto (Charleston, SC)

• Benford (Lancaster, SC)

• Catawba (Morganton, NC)

• Green Man (Asheville, NC)

• Brewery 85 (Greenville, SC)

Each beer was 4 tokens. I had never tried any of the 13 available and picked RJ Rocker’s “Son of a Peach.” It was just what I needed after that pimento cheese.

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Then I got coastal.

Menu of seafood from the Outer Banks

• Poached Seafood Salad (4 Tokens)

• Fried Catfish with Calabash Hushpuppies (4 Tokens)

• Outer Banks Honey Gelato (3 Tokens)

The stars of this plate to me were the two Calabash hushpuppies, which had an excellent flavor.

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Running low on tokens, I stopped at the SC BBQ Region.

SC BBQ Region Menu

• Sweet Potato Popover (4 Tokens)

• Pulled Pork Spring Roll with Carolina Mustard Sauce (3 Tokens)

• Barbecue Roasted Corn (2 Tokens)

With the BBQ seasoning and butter marinade, the corn had one of the best flavors of anything I tried at “Taste of the Carolinas.”

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It was time for dessert. Luckily, I saved the best for last.

Asheville Menu

• Mushroom Ravioli with Wild Herb Butter (4 Tokens)

• Neese Sausage, Fig and Goat Cheese Popover (3 Tokens)

• Pecan Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Cream Cheese Icing (2 Tokens)

If you go to Taste of the Carolinas and enjoy things that are delicious, buy this. I can’t recommend it enough.

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I was out of tokens, and arguably more important, stuffed. Unfortunately, I had to skip the last booth at Taste of the Carolinas.

LowCountry, SC Menu

• Tomato Pie (4 Tokens)

• Seafood Gumbo (4 Tokens)

• Chocolate Bourbon Pie (3 Tokens)

If I had ordered here, I would have gone with the Tomato Pie. Both it and the Seafood Gumbo were receiving rave reviews.

“Taste of the Carolinas” also features live music on the Harmony Hall outdoor stage, and culinary demonstrations from national and regional chefs.

Charlotte-area Chef Alyssa Gorelick will appear on April 30, while Chef Jason Ziobrowski of InHarvest will appear April 23 and May 1.

For more information, visit www.carowinds.com/taste.

Photos: Andrew Stilwell

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