How To Play it Cool When You Eat & Drink Too Much At The Annual NC Chef Showdown

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How To Play it Cool When You Eat & Drink Too Much At The Annual NC Chef Showdown

We’ve all been there, that moment in time when you realize you’re too uncomfortable to sit down, you can’t stand the thought of having another bite of food, your alcoholic beverage that is absolutely beautiful, has no curb appeal at all anymore, and all you want to do is put on your pajamas and think about what you’ve done,… and hope that maybe, just maybe, your food belly – coma like state, won’t last more than a few hours. Don’t lie to me, you’ve been here and you know it. 

This was me about two weeks ago and unfortunately, it wasn’t the normal acceptable excuse of, “The Holidays”. It happened to me on August 21st, 2017, on just your normal and average Monday. Even worse, MONDAY! The one day at the beginning of the week where everything you want to do is perfect, so you can set the precedent for the rest of the days ending in Y. Nope, not this week.

Food, and really really great food, is a privilege. Two weeks ago I was honored with the pleasure of attending my first NC Chef Showdown Event, and it was everything I had hoped it would be, and more. To be surrounded by some of the best mixologists, pastry chefs, chefs, food bloggers, and food industry leaders in one room, was a truly amazing experience. From the moment you walk through the door and grab your name tag, it’s on! Just like everyone else I was given 3 tickets; 1 to vote for mixologist of the year, 1 to vote for pastry chef of the year, and 1 for chef of the year.

Now sure, you don’t have to try everything available but, how is one supposed to cast an honest and true vote without trying at least one bite from everyone? I couldn’t cast my votes without knowing I did my part and taste everything so, that’s exactly what I did. I had my favorite gold sparkly skirt on, (pretending it was sweatpants), and I walked around and wined and dined myself like a true champion. The chefs were on point, the drinks were top of the line, and the desserts, those desserts made me feel like I myself, was a melting pile of chocolate. So creamy, so delicious, so meticulously planned and sought after, so perfect. 

The respect level for those in the restaurant industry will never be high enough if you ask me. Well, I’m biased because I am in the restaurant industry but, there is so much planning and prepping, testing, buying, rebuying and retesting, panicking, and trying not to panic, giving it 110% and knowing that pleasing everyone is the most impossible task on the planet, but yet, never giving up. It’s such a beautiful and specific process, and I have nothing but respect for everyone who wakes up every morning and accepts this challenge day in and day out. 

I survived my experience by smiling a lot, like, a lot! I also took small bites of everything to save as much room as possible. I drank some water too. I would try a chef’s dish, then a pastry dish, then hop on over to one of the mixologists stands and see what they had going on. After about 4 rounds of this, that is when “the game face”, really comes into play. It was a little warm in the event space, and as I looked around to browse the room I could see people fanning themselves and clinging to their bottled water, and that’s when I knew I wasn’t alone in this feeling.

Things to remember: Talk to people to distract yourself for a while, and mingle! There are so many fantastic people in this room every year, and to not mingle would be like buying a ticket and not eating! Also, pace yourself. (You’ll thank me for that note if you attend this event next year.) 

Now that I’ve share with you why I was beyond Thanksgiving full, and why it took me 24 hours to recover, I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed consuming my way through City Market to make this blog post possible. Thank you to the Hibernian for the opportunity to mingle with fantastic restaurant industry leaders at the NCRLA conference this year, and thank you to everyone at the NCRLA who made this conference possible. I have made many new friends these past two years and look forward to seeing everyone again next year in Charlotte, NC! 

To read more about the event and why you should attend year after year, click on the link below to visit The N&O Website, and get details about the Chefs and where they work! Chef Showdown N&O Article

Lastly, call an Uber or Lyft for a ride home, you’ll need a sober driver 🙂









All photos by Gillian Rose McLane

Joca’s Big Sexy Dawgs!

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Cold Beer & Meat Sweats Visits Jocas Dawgs in Raleigh, NC at Lafayette Village!

My friend Arlene and I have a Yelp! bucket list that we like to attend to about two times a month, minimum. Considering it’s the 4th of July, hot dogs or cheeseburgers were a must, and Jocas was at the top of the list, so off to Lafayette Village we went. I mean, look at these Dawgs 🙂 

Raleigh can seem so tiny, but yet so huge. My Yelp! bucket list grows each week, and it’s an amazing and delicious challenge to try and get to all of the restaurants this city has to offer.

We went to lunch on Monday July 3rd and it was slower than usual because of the holiday. Which, turns out, is great when you plan on doing a photoshoot before devouring all the Dawgs!

The outside and inside of Joca’s is very simple and straightforward. The menu is handwritten and hung on boards on the wall, and changes from time to time. (He was still finishing the boards when we arrived, so the Sweet Treats board was the only one up at the time.) 

I respect, love, and appreciate small and simple operations that produce large and powerful menus. I also loved the Coca-Cola cooler full of glass soda bottles; took me immediately back to my childhood. 

Let’s talk about these Dawgs!

My first instinct and immediate thought was; ORDER EVERYTHING ON THE MENU!!! Taking into consideration that ordering all the Dawgs probably wasn’t in our best interest, we went with our top 3 choices; The Campfire Dawg, The Mexi-Corn Dawg, and The Philly Cheese Dawg. 

The Campfire Dawg was everything you dream a hot dog should taste like. Nothing says Happy Birthday America!, like a Hot Dog wrapped in Bacon, smothered in Baked Beans, Queso, Joca’s Smoked Ale Mustard, Joca’s Chipotle & Honey Ketchup, and Sweet Relish. OH MY DAWG! This little tiny, enormous beast had so much flavor is was like getting punched in the face, but in a good way! 

(Side note; the Campfire Dawg comes with sweet relish but if you prefer a different relish, just ask because they have both!) 

The Mexi-Corn Dawg is unrealistic. It almost seems illegal by all rules of a good hot dog. First, I have never tried or wanted to try, lettuce on my dog. Second, I’ve never thought to put a corn dog in a tortilla, alongside veggies and cheese, and call it a day. I’ve been doing it all wrong. Life is so much better with corn dogs inside tortillas, covered in cheese, and smothered with veggies. Do not ever turn your nose up to a corn dog in a tortilla, trust me. 

I have to be honest, this picture makes me want to lick the computer screen. I mean, SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! This dog will change the way you think about dogs. On this glorious fire grilled tortilla, they layered a mixture of chopped lettuce, green onions, and freshly diced tomatoes, then topped it with an All Beef Frankfurter Encrusted with Sweet Corn Kernels, served it with a combination of Cojita and Queso Cheeses, and drizzled it with Chipotle Mayo. This is a real thing, and it exists in the world, and it happened to me yesterday!!!

It also came with Lime wedges because, why not? 🙂 I hope I have been able to express to all of you, just how enjoyable this particular dog was. What an experience! If you go to Joca’s and try this dog, make sure to tag #JocasDawgs and #ColdBeerMeatSweats because, I want to hear all about it!! 

The Philly Cheese Dawg is a game changer. I feel as if I’ve been to quite a few hot dog shops in my day, and no one has ever offered me sliced hot dogs, in the form of a Philly Sandwich. And now that someone has, I don’t know why all other hot dog shops wouldn’t follow suit?! I wasn’t sure what to expect, it was a love it or leave it type of situation for me, and I absolutely loved it!

The mixture of the sliced and grilled hot dogs with onions and peppers, Jocas Hot Pepper Relish, and melted cheeses on a Amoroso Hoagie Roll, was phenomenal. I know I wrote how amazing and delicious all of these dogs were but, in this case, I saved the best for last. If you don’t go with a friend, or just want to try one at a time, this is the one I would try. It’s so different, and the flavors and creativity dance around your mouth like… the Macarena on your tongue!! 

Unfortunately, we were too full to try a milkshake, or a piece of their “Million Dollar Pie” but, we will be back my friends, we will be back! Also, I love this sign, it makes me so happy! 

Lafayette Village has so much to offer! This place is such a beautiful and fun area, and is perfect for the whole family! (Click on the Lafayette Village link above to go to their website!)

Other places we visited yesterday in this area that I love are; Orrmans CheeseThe Chocolate Boutique, and The Olive Wagon .

*Don’t forget to check out Jocas Dawgs online menu so you can plan for your next trip! *

Pittsburgh, My Love

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Steel Town, USA!


My first love is Ohio. I was born and raised a Buckeye in the beautiful city of Columbus. I went to school in good ol’ London, Ohio but spent a fair amount of time in the city where my Dad, Granny, and Grandpa lived. At 18 years old, and a few months after graduating LHS, I packed my bags and headed off to Pennsylvania. 



The third college visit I ever went on was to The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and from the very first time I ever drove through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, I was in love. This is such a beautiful, magnificent, strong, proud, and hard working city, and I’m lucky to have spent eight years of my life here. I lived in the city, outside the city, moving every single year I was there, and it was exhilarating. Not having a college campus allowed for me to use the city as my playground, and I took advantage of that to a full extent. 




Dear Primanti Bros, I Love You.  


Again, I am obsessed with sandwiches… here is more proof. Unfortunately, the old saying, you never know what you have until it’s gone, is very true in this case. There are no Primanti Bros here in Raleigh, or in North Carolina, and I never thought I would miss them as much as I do! I was a regular to the location in Market Square, where I walked through every day, but the 24 hour location in the Strip District saved my life a few times 🙂 



I was 18 when I moved to the 412 and 26 when I left. When I look back I feel like I was such a child when I arrived; as any 18 year old feels when they move off to college, I thought I knew it all. Those 8 years changed my life. My family changed, friends, outlook on life, and my dreams and goals morphed into something I could have never imagined for myself when I was in high school. I made friends that turned into family. I fell in love, then out of love. I cried on Mt. Washington looking down and out at the city, more times than I can recall. It was always so soothing and peaceful to see the city lights reflecting in the Three Rivers. I also laughed, drank, and hung out on that mountain too many times to count. I am a better, stronger, more amazing person because of the time I spent in Pittsburgh, PA. 



Life can be hard. No one really talks about what happens when you graduate college; except for the getting a job, house, kids, marriage, etc., part. From the time I turned 22 until 26 when I left for Raleigh, was the most confusing time in my life. Not knowing what’s next, or where I wanted to be, or what I wanted to do, was an emotional roller coaster. The only advice I have is to be strong, and stay strong. Carefully select people to be in your corner that will help you recover every time you fall. I’m very lucky to have such strong minded people in my life, and if it weren’t for them and their pep talks, I don’t know how I would have survived. 




I often caught myself staring into the Three Rivers, gazing in amazement at how beautiful life was in this city. When the sun would rise behind the concrete jungle it was hard to look away, and when it faded on the water it was even harder to ignore. I was in film school so everything seemed like art to me at the time. The sun behind Mt. Washington, or the city lights reflecting in the water, it was all too surreal sometimes. 



Two days after we, The Steelers, won the 2006 Super Bowl is a day I will never forget. I had left my apartment in Allegheny Center, behind PNC Park, with multiple layers on because per usual, it was about 4 degrees, and when I got to the the 6th St. Bridge, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew there was going to be a parade I just didn’t understand or realize that THE ENTIRE CITY was going to be there. I did understand that “The Last Bus Stop”, was a really big deal, like huge, but I didn’t know classes were going to be cancelled because you literally couldn’t walk through, or drive, the streets that day. It was all very awesome. I bought a t-shirt from some guy on the side of the road, threw it on over my long, big black winter coat, looking like a ridiculous crazy person, and got as close to the action as I could down on 5th Ave. There were people in the trees, the parking garages were so full it looked like fans were going to start climbing up the side of them like mountain climbers, just to get a good view. You could see, and almost hear the people on Mt. Washington screaming from above. It was so loud, and I’d never experienced anything like it in my life. I have goosebumps right now as I write this, just remembering how loud it really was when 50,000 + people were all screaming, “Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go” all at the same time. And then we got to do it again in 2009, but this time it was for the Steelers, and the Pens. I picked the right time to live in Pittsburgh. 




I walked everywhere when I lived here. I walked over and through, across and under, so many bridges that I could probably do it blindfolded and still not run into anything. 




Sometimes when you love something, you still have to leave it. I am in love, and will forever love this city but, I had to go. This blog entry is important to me to pay homage to this city that I feel, helped raise me. It was rough, nitty and gritty, unforgiving, and beautiful all at the same time. It taught me to trust others, but not to be in denial of the truth. The streets and people walking them taught me that if the Steelers or Pens lost, it was going to be a rough and grumpy day. The traffic was the worst part. Understanding that it was going to take you an hour to get somewhere that was 15 minutes away, never set well with me. The food taught me to appreciate everything at hand, and that good food takes time. The food scene here also taught me that something cheap is just as good as something expensive, especially when you’re a struggling college student. Late nights in the South Side meant you stood in line at 2AM for french fries and gravy. (I never knew that was a thing until I became a Yinzer.) 



When you’re a cheese addict, and donut lover, Pittsburgh is definitely the place for you. Look at this cheese log! 



Also, if you’re trying “clean eating”, Delucas might not be for you. Their serving for 1 could feed a family of 4! I love this little diner, it’s been there forever, and everyone goes here, literally.  (Cash only, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)



Before I end this post I am going to leave you with a couple more photos, and a video. Market Square was where I walked through everyday to get to college, then where I worked those 4 years after college. I stared and photographed the glass castle obsessively, and took more pics with the Heinz Dino than I’m proud of. Rather it be Light Up Night, the 4th of July Fireworks, Steelers Game Day, or any ordinary night in this beautiful city, I still look back in amazement and joy that I was able to spend some of my life here, and call this place home. I love you PGH, I really, really do.