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Bless our Hearts - New Zealand bans automatic weapons 1 week after a mass shooting. Nothing is done in the U.S. after...

Trio of culinary talent raises money for Hurricane Florence relief

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By Christina Ruotolo
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

I moved to Greenville over twenty years ago and shortly after in 1999, Hurricane Floyd happened. It devastated our community and changed the way we deal with disasters in general. If I have learned anything since then, it’s that our community is resilient. When we get knocked down, we get back up, clean up the mess, and help build each other back up. When Florence hit eastern North Carolina this past September, Pitt County got back into go mode and started pulling resources together to help those that were affected by yet another hurricane.

Last Tuesday night, I attended a hurricane Florence pre-concert fundraiser event that combined a trio of talented culinary & musical superstars that served up their delicious food & music to help the community come together to raise their plates and raise money for disaster struck areas. For many of us, food and music are two things that have the ability to move us, make us laugh, cry, jump up and down and everything in between. This event did just that and did not disappoint.

Close to one-hundred people attended the Sammie with Sam & Friends event that was held in Harvey Hall in the Murphy Center overlooking the East Carolina University football field. Cellist Joe Kwon, part of the widely popular NC-based Avett Brothers folk band, was greeter as waves of excited patrons piled in and lined up to start with a cool and refreshing beverage at the bar, including the fruit filled aptly named hurricane drink. Once everyone got their drink, they pulled out their cameras and sidled up to Joe, Vivian Howard and Sam Jones for a few laughs and a photo. Chatham Rabbits featuring duo Austin and Sarah McCombie added their upbeat NC folk style music in the background.

Once I had a drink and my photo with Joe, I started with the Sam Jones food station. Sam Jones is an eastern North Carolina barbecue pit master whose family has been firmly planted in the community for generations. His family owns the famed Skylight Inn in Ayden and he is the owner of Sam Jones Barbecue in Winterville. He is one of the kindest and most humble people I have ever known, always helping those in need and offering up his fantastic barbecue to the masses. Earlier this year, he was at an event in Raleigh with Vivian and Joe. They went out to dinner afterwards and put their heads together and came up with a plan to create an event in Greenville mixing their talents and raising money for their towns that were affected by hurricane Florence. This is where the seeds for this event sprouted. “It was a collective effort and important for us to come back to our stomping ground and give back to the community that has shaped each of us and helped us get to the places we are today,” Jones says.

Jones decided for this event he would serve a dish that he calls the Rule Breaker. He says a lot of people would come into Skylight Inn and ask for their barbecue over cornbread instead of a bun. That is where this “rule breaker” came from. Start with a hunk of thick cornbread, slice it in half, pile barbecue inside and add some slaw. Serve this with baked beans and macaroni and cheese. If you know Sam Jones’s food, then you know how tasty his whole hog barbecue is. It’s heaven on a plate. Pair that with macaroni swimming with cheddar cheese and baked beans that are savory and meat filled, and you get a perfect plate that has the south written all over it. It was good to the last bite, but you knew that already.

Next folks lined up to continue the food tour with Vivian Howard. She is owner of Chef & The Farmer in Kinston and has her own cooking show on PBS called A Chef’s Life. She is a local food celebrity putting her spin on southern farm favorites like collard greens, butter beans, okra and other fresh produce keeping eastern North Carolina on the food map. Her home-grown roots have planted themselves in our community as well reminding us to go back to the land and the soil and seek out the goodness that fresh, local produce provides. Vivian gives that produce wings and in doing so she has securely positioned herself as a NC foodie who gives life to food and also gives back to the community she still calls home.

Howard says she is excited this is the first time she was able to come together with Sam in their own neck of the woods and Joe to raise money for ENC “Eastern North Carolina has really suffered from hurricanes and floods and it’s our responsibility to help, to do what we do love, cook and show we care,” Vivian says.

Vivian prepared appetizers for the tables for the beginning of the event including homemade deviled eggs and a nut rolled cheese balls adorned with pear preserves and crackers. The deviled eggs were creamy and luscious and a divine southern bite. The cheese ball was rolled in pecans and spices and was cool and savory paired with the sweet pear preserves.

For Howard’s main course, she made a sandwich that mixes unique southern ingredients for a truly flavorful experience. Start with fried breaded chicken, place it atop a sweet roll glazed with a miso mayo, add a large slice of yellow persimmon and a mound of kimchi relish. This sandwich had a spicy kick from the kimchi, a sweet, apple-like tartness from the persimmon and the sweet roll and cool mayo. Unique and balanced.

For the musical part of this dynamic trio event, there is musical foodie Joe Kwon, an accomplished cellist with the Avett Brothers folk band. He was born in South Korea but moved to the United States shortly after. He was a musically inclined child but ended up graduating from UNC Chapel Hill with a computer science degree. A few years into the working world, he quit to pursue his love of music and we are all glad that he did. He lent his vocal and musical skills in multiple bands over the years and joined the Avett Brothers in 2006, appearing on their 2007 album, Emotionalism. Ever since then, he has been a full-time touring and recording member of the band. His vibrant sounds are what the band was looking for and he is now considered part of the family.

After the pre-concert picnic fundraiser, several thousand people attended the benefit concert featuring three bands; Valient Thorr, Future Islands, and the Avett Brothers. It was a wonderful event and raised thousands of dollars for hurricane Florence relief for our community. If you did not have a chance to come out and meet Vivian, Sam, or Joe, check out Chef & The Farmer in Kinston, Sam Jones Barbecue in Winterville, or download some Avett Brothers music. Eat some great food, listen to some great music and support your local community.

Tid Bits

Krispy Kreme is spicing up the season with two limited-edition offers in some of America’s favorite flavors. The Cinnamon Swirl Doughnut and S’mores Hot Chocolate debuted in shops on Monday, November 12th. These limited-time features will be in shops through January 2019.

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