South Charlotte

On the menu: Dorm cooking 101

Young Chef's Academy will offer a “College Survival Series” Tuesday and Wednesday to help rising college students learn to prepare quick, easy, healthy and tasty food after they leave home.

It will also cover how to set up a basic kitchen, including guidelines for choosing and properly using cookware, appliances and pantry items. Proper food handling also will be discussed.

The menu of meals prepared during the class includes: chicken spaghetti, mini meatloaves, pizza in a pita and frozen hot chocolate.

The two-hour classes start at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $40 for the first day, or $70 for both.

Reserve a spot: 704-541-8868.

Canning Day approaches

Saturday is canning day at the Matthews Community Farmers' Market.

Customers can learn more about ways to preserve the harvest during a 9 a.m. program at the market on North Trade Street in downtown Matthews.

Chef Joseph Bonaparte, dean of culinary education at the Art Institute of Charlotte, will teach customers simple recipes for freezing and pickling. Market vendor Pam Arthur of Happy Valley Garden will talk about how to properly can fruits and vegetables.

Next week's guest chef is John Matthews of Blue restaurant in uptown.

The market opens at 7:15 a.m. Details: matthewsfarmers market.com.

Inner-city kids benefit

Vintage Wine Cellar, owned by Kevin and Ingrid Howard, recently raised more than $1,300 for the New Leaf Foundation.

They auctioned a 10-person wine dinner that included a custom menu and live entertainment, and hosted a raffle. Vintage is in the Toringdon shopping center on Johnston Road.

The foundation helps inner-city families in Charlotte and was created by Ballantyne teenager Laura Gennings.

Details: www.NewLeaf Found.org or 704-544-2724.

Help Victoria Fund

A benefit for the Help Victoria Fund will be at 7 p.m. Friday at the South Charlotte Banquet Center, 9009 Bryant Farm Road.

Victoria Martinsen is a Ballantyne area resident who has a rare form of pediatric cancer.

The entertainment will include live jazz and R&B music, a talk from WBTV anchor Molly Grantham and a performance by comedienne Michelle Miller Harrington. Auction and raffle items include sports memorabilia, a Caribbean cruise, hot air balloon rides, jewelry, spa packages, a coffee of the month club membership and original artwork.

Tickets are $100 in advance and $125 at the door.

Details: 704-969-0490 or www.caringbridge.org/visit/victoriamartinsen.

Her cheese always pleases

Pimento cheese had better be good enough to eat straight off a spoon when it costs $5.99 for a small container.

One taste of the Augusta's Creations brand reveals that it's a good investment. Next time I'll buy two bowls; the first doesn't last long. It's creamy and soft enough to spread on crackers or a slice of white bread (aka traditional Southern style) but still has enough texture to it that you know there's real cheese in there. And the flavor is tangy without being overwhelming. It dressed up a grilled hamburger beautifully.

I first wrote about Suzie Lowe's new gourmet food business in the fall, when she launched it from the kitchen of her Stonecrest area home. (Augusta is her middle name.)

Now her pimento cheese is available at Harris Teeter locations across southern Mecklenburg and at Reid's Fine Foods. It's also available by order at gift shops in south Charlotte, including Social Butterflies and Surroundings, and is served by McIntosh's Steaks and Seafood on South Boulevard.

Lowe grew up cooking with her mother and sisters and says she's happiest in the kitchen.

“I'm the type of gal who's happy taking a cookbook to bed to read,” she says. “I get so much satisfaction out of finding a good recipe and making it my own.”

I asked her what makes her recipe unique. She said only that she uses top quality cheeses and grates them herself. The rest is top secret. She says the best compliment is when folks say her pimento cheese “is better than their mama's.”

Suzie Lowe will be at the Southern Women's Show in September. She launched Augusta's Creations there last year.

Details: www.augustas creations.com or 704-364-3898.

Comedy joins theater menu

The Pineville Dinner Theater is now hosting regular comedy shows in addition to regular theatrical productions. It's at 10403-J Park Road.

Details: 704-544-0607 or www.Pinevilledinnertheater .com.

Chef's in food and wine gala

Ballantyne Resort Executive Chef Kirk Gilbert will participate in the 2008 Food & Wine Celebration in Milan, Ohio, on Tuesday.

The benefit for Veggie U features gourmet cuisine from chefs across the U.S., wine from top American vineyards and cooking demonstrations.

Gilbert's menu for the event includes Romanesco veloute (a cauliflower dish), butter poached Spider Crab, chilled anise udon noodles and golden pea tendrils, tea smoked currant and teardrop tomatoes, sour cream and long onion pound cake and candied fennel.

Gilbert, a Cleveland native, manages a staff of 39 culinary professionals, a stewarding team of 12 and the purchasing and receiving team at the Ballantyne Resort. He previously worked in the U.S. and Virgin Islands, including at the Bitter End Yacht Club in the British Virgin Islands.

He also has worked at the Sea Island Company's Beach Club and the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company. He says one of his favorite jobs was assisting his brother, chef Kenneth Gilbert, in 2006 and 1999 dinners at the renowned James Beard House in New York City.

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