On May 14th I was excited to once again be a judge and special guest at Competition Dining’s Fire in the Triad! This was no ordinary Fire in the Triad battle, but the quarterfinal battle between Chef Mark Grohman and team of Meridian Restaurant in Winston-Salem and Chef Chris Russell of B. Christopher’s restaurant in Greensboro (formerly of Burlington), NC.
Meridian Restaurant is a local favorite here in Winston-Salem, for good reason. Though I haven’t had a chance to visit B. Christopher’s restaurant in Greensboro yet, the samplings I’ve had of Chef Chris Russell at Fire in the Triad battles are great incentives to put it on the top of my list to visit next time I’m in town. A great bonus to these events is hearing the chefs’ backstories.
Secret Ingredient: Chestnut Flour
Most all of the North Carolina foods for Competition Dining are provided by Southern Foods. The secret ingredient for this battle was High Rock Farm chestnut flour. High Rock Farm is located in Gibsonville, NC. As one with family members with gluten allergies, I, for one, was excited to see the creative ways the chestnut flour would be used. However, neither chef seemed too thrilled about the chestnut flour challenge, as it was the first time for both using the flour, but they both stepped up for delicious and creative results in this “Iron Chef”-style competition.
First Course: Poached Lobster and Andouille Sausage, High Rock Chestnut & Cheese Grits, Chestnut Flour Tempura Asparagus (B. Christopher’s).
This savory Southern dish was a big hit at our table. You’ve never had cheese grits like this, but the chestnut flour made them a welcome and hearty compliment to the spicy Andouille sausage and the chestnut flour coated asparagus tempura was a delicious surprise.
Second Course: Little River Crab and Mascarpone High Rock Chestnut Pyramid, Red Oak Chestnut Battered Lobster Claw, Melted Leek Fonduta, Chive Oil (Meridian).
The “pyramid” dumpling was a creative use of the chestnut flour, and though tougher than your usual flour pasta, it had great flavor. But the use of the chestnut flour in the Red Oak beer batter for the lobster claw was a favorite and no one was complaining about a second course of lobster!
Third Course: Jamaican Jerk Style Pulled Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork, High Rock Chestnut Jalapeño Corn Fritter, Jicama, Fennel and Red Cabbage Slaw (B. Christopher’s).
Presentation was lacking in this dish, and I think the scores showed this, but the delicious savory-sweet jerk pulled pork made up for it. Although the description of the corn fritter sounded great, it was a little disappointing, while the red cabbage slaw added nice color and crunch.
Fourth Course: Grilled Herb-Marinated Venison Loin, High Rock Chestnut Spaetzle, Chestnut Roasted Carrots, Red Wine Coriander Reduction (Meridian).
Schlemiel, Schlimazel, Spaetzle & Venison Incorporated! What is spaetzle? Folks at my table wondered, even after tasting it. Literally, “spaetzle” means “little sparrow,” but “culinarily,” it is a type of egg noodle or dumpling found in German, Austrian, Hungarian and Swiss cuisine.
The chestnut flour spaetzle was a nice, hearty – though chewy – complement to the beautifully presented venison and roasted carrots, though the venison was the star of this dish. My venison was quite rare while another tablemate’s was quite well-done. Still, this dish was a favorite at my table, myself included. The red wine coriander reduction was a saucy cherry-on-top.
Fifth Course: Chocolate High Rock Chestnut Cake, Fresh Mint Ice Cream, Chestnut Whipped Cream, Bing Cherry Sauce (B. Christopher’s).
This dessert was like an upscale ice cream sandwich, complete with fresh minty ice cream between two slices of thin, firm slabs of chestnut flour “cake.” Everyone was impressed and I thought it would be hard to beat… until it was, in my opinion – despite the fact that this dessert received the higher score between the two.
Sixth Course: High Rock Chestnut Opera Cake, Bourbon Caramel, Cheerwine-Raspberry Coulis, Coffee Buttercream (Meridian).
Let’s talk nut cake. I was very impressed with the chestnut flour opera cake. I’ve made and had lots of cake made with gluten free flours, mostly almond. So, I’m very aware and accept that any cake made with nut flour is going to be denser and grainier, rather than the fluffy processed wheat flour versions to which we’re accustomed. Perhaps this is why I was more impressed than other guests at the great job Chef Mark Grohman did in making this cake as fluffy as he did, and preventing the dryness that usually comes with a nut flour cake, with the layers of coffee butter cream. The bourbon caramel was so good we discussed bottling it at my table and the only bad thing about the Cheerwine coulis was that we wished there was more. (I confess, I “sopped” my sauces up with my cake, a practice I usually strictly reserve for my biscuits alone.) Both desserts were wonderful, but I was surprised this one didn’t rank higher.
As our host, Jimmy Crippen, thundered, “It almost always comes down to the dessert!”
But this time, Chef Grohman and his crew from Meridian Restaurant still achieved sweet success and prevailed despite their dessert score. Congratulations to Chef Mark Grohman and Meridian on your delicious win!
Competition Dining Fire in the Triad runs through June 2nd. For tickets and more information, visit competitiondining.com.
Kristi Johnson Marion
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2010. Kristi Johnson Marion hails from Mount Airy, NC and has called Winston-Salem home for 20 years. She's received Smitty's Notes Best of Winston-Salem "Mover & Shaker/Local Scenester" Award. She loves the variety of friendly locals she gets to know through sharing their stories here at Forsyth Magazines. Kristi also enjoys spending time with her kids, the arts, reading, cooking and the martial art of Krav Maga.
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2015 and editorial and public relations coordinator since 2017. Born in Texas, Megan was brought to North Carolina when she was only two months old. A recent graduate from Salem College, Megan has a degree in communication with a minor in history. She has a toy poodle named Gidget and, in her spare time, she loves cooking, music, reading and travel. Megan has also spent time in film, having appeared in two movies – an independent production and as an extra in studio film. “I love listening to an interviewee’s story and then sharing it with the community. Everyone has a story to tell, and I’m glad I can be a part of it,” said Megan.
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2006. Originally from Pfafftown, Carolyn now calls Clemmons home. Carolyn was a model for 20 years, and for five years, she was a hand model for Bojangles’ print and television advertising. She has a degree in journalism and psychology. Carolyn’s day job is as a pharmaceutical sales representative and, in her free time, she enjoys cooking, the arts and traveling. “I love learning about the businesses and people in my community who are making a difference in big and small ways, many of whom I am blessed to write about in my articles,” said Carolyn. Carolyn is also the magazines’ resident go-to writer when it comes to anything with animals. She has three dogs and loves all wildlife.
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2008.Denise hails from Gastonia, but grew up in Kernersville. With two brief stints living in other states (Texas and Ohio), Forsyth County kept calling her home, where she plans to stay. Denise has a grown son, Charlie, and shares her home with husband, Wayne, a local drummer. Denise loves her coffee and also loves animals, especially cats. In her spare time, Denise is an active volunteer for Proverbs 31 Ministries and serves in several capacities. Denise also writes a faith-based blog, MyGraceFullLife.com. On writing for Forsyth Magazines, Denise said, “I am so blessed to be a part of this incredible team, to meet these wonderful local business owners and to interact with our super-supportive readers!”
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2009. Meghan Corbett grew up in Winston-Salem. She graduated with honors with a degree in mass media communication and a minor in journalism from NC State University. She married her high school sweetheart, Will, in 2008. Meghan and Will, along with rescue dogs Moze and Charlie, welcomed a baby girl to their family in 2016. Meghan loves to shop, read and take vacations. In fact, she’s been to Disney World 13 times and never gets tired of it! Meghan writes for all four titles in the Forsyth Magazines family and serves as backup editor. When asked what she loves about her job, Meghan said, “The people I get to work with! It is an amazing job where you feel supported throughout every aspect of your life.”
Bio coming soon.
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2017. Debbie Barr earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Pennsylvania State University and her master’s degree in health education and promotion from East Carolina University. She is a master certified health education specialist (MCHES) with interests in work site health promotion, Alzheimer’s and dementia education, health literacy, and Christian growth. A versatile writer and enthusiastic speaker, Debbie is the author/co-author of four books, more than 600 disease-specific patient education articles, low-literacy employee benefits materials, medical education scripts, and newsletters for English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers.
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2010. A Winston-Salem native, Elisa now calls Charlotte home where she works as a middle school English teacher. Elisa has two degrees – communication studies and Spanish as well as a master’s in writing. She lives with her dog, Bella, who is a Lhasa Apso and enjoys antiques, arts, music, reading, traveling and baking (though she says she cannot cook). “I love working with such a talented and ambitious team,” said Elisa. “I like the flexibility I receive when pitching new story ideas.”
Keith grew up in southern Virginia before moving to Winston-Salem with his wife, Cindy. He has a master’s degree in business administration from High Point University. Keith and Cindy have two children as well as their pet Maltese. In his spare time, he enjoys photography, reading, spending time with his family and travel. He’s also an ultimate sports fan and enjoys attending live events from college to pro. He writes “The View from My Section: A Father’s Perspective” column each month sharing his insights on parenting. When it comes to Forsyth Magazines, he said, “I enjoy working with people who genuinely care about providing a quality magazine that unites the community and celebrates family life in this area. It’s easy to stay excited in an environment that recognizes and appreciates the contributions you make every day.”
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2016. Debbie Linville lives in Winston-Salem, and this native Floridian is married to Mark. Together, they have two grown children. While both kids are married, Debbie is content with furry grandchildren (at least for now). Debbie has a Ph.D. in Literacy Education. Her natural love for reading has motivated her to write her own two children’s books as well, enabling her to cross off a goal on her bucket list! “I love the opportunity to meet others in the community,” said Debbie. “This is a great platform to share my passion and expertise with readers!”
Kristi J. Marion
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2010. Kristi Johnson Marion hails from Mount Airy, NC and has called Winston-Salem home for 20 years. She’s received Smitty’s Notes Best of Winston-Salem “Mover & Shaker/Local Scenester” Award. She loves the variety of friendly locals she gets to know through sharing their stories here at Forsyth Magazines. Kristi also enjoys spending time with her kids, the arts, reading, cooking and the martial art of Krav Maga.
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2012. Lisa is originally from Maryland and, after living in New York, Colorado and Texas, she’s proud to finally call North Carolina home. Lisa shares a home with her husband of 10 years, Kevin. Together, they have daughter, Sayre and their angel-son, Finn who lived two years. Their family also includes two dogs. Lisa has a degree in education and, as such, writes many educational articles for the magazines. Lisa enjoys traveling, is an avid reader and gardener and has done extensive work on her family’s genealogy. When it comes to writing for Forsyth Magazines, Lisa said, “I love writing spring themes in winter, back to school articles in the heat of summer, and, best of all, starting to anticipate the Christmas season in October.”
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2012. Originally from High Point, Martie now calls Greensboro home. She has a degree in journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill and is a Carolina girl in every sense of the word – she loves Carolina basketball! Martie works for Randy McManus Designs and has two grown sons, Beau and Matthew, who are the light of her life. She has a dog (Lucky) and cat (Dusty) and loves to travel, read and listen to music. “I love the camaraderie of the women involved and the women we reach,” said Martie. “This is a great outlet to promote the success of small businesses.”
Forsyth Magazines Writer since 2016. Savannah Norris is from Fayetteville, NC though she now calls Clemmons home. She joined the Forsyth Magazines team in the fall of 2016 as a student intern. Though her internship ended in December, Savannah was invited to continue as a contributing writer. She will graduate from high school in 2017 with plans to attend college in the fall. Savannah has a Jack Russell mix named Sophie and in her spare time, loves to sing, play guitar, and surf.
Forsyth Magazines Intern and Writer since 2016. Mallory Harmon is originally from Rock Hill, SC and once spent a full year on a family RV road trip, when they visited all 48 states in the continental US! Mallory is home-schooled and will be graduating in 2017. After graduation, she will follow in her two older sister’s footsteps and attend Covenant College in Georgia. Mallory will major in journalism. She is the author of two columns in Forsyth Magazines — FORsyth Teens by Teens in Forsyth Family and A Day in the Life of… in Forsyth Woman. In her spare time, Mallory enjoys reading, writing, acting, and watercolor painting.
Forsyth Magazines Writer since 2017. Sara Wiles has called Winston-Salem home for most of her life. She has a bachelor degree in communication from East Carolina University, with a minor in geological studies. Sara is married to Evan and in her spare time, she enjoys cooking, arts and crafts, dancing, gardening, music, and travel. Sara is also a blogger. Her page is SaraFromScratch.wordpress.com and on it, she explores fun, DIY recipes for healthy eating and meal prep!
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2014. Stacy was born in California but spent her life living all over the world! She even went to school in Hong Kong. With a bachelor’s degree in education, Stacy is one of our educational experts, sharing her years of experience in early childhood, elementary and adult education, and family matters with our readers. Stacy has been married to Steve Leighton for 28 years and, together, they have a daughter and son (Samantha and Tucker). Their family shares their home with a Weimaraner and cat. Stacy enjoys all things DIY, including home and furniture restoration, as well as practicing yoga, reading, writing and illustrating. Noted for her delightful wit with engaging content, Stacy is a definite reader favorite.
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2011. Originally from Washington, DC, Susan now calls Winston-Salem home. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in journalism and spent a term at Christ Church College, Oxford University. Susan and her husband, JC, have three daughters, Erin, Britton, and Meghan (who is Forsyth Magazines’ senior staff writer.) She loves working with her daughter, Meghan, as well as the Forsyth Magazines’ staff. Susan relishes her role of grandmother and caring for her two rescue pups – Duncan and Matilda. She loves to travel and on a recent trip visited China and climbed the Great Wall. “It is a privilege to work on these wonderful publications and to write such a variety of articles,” said Susan.
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2017. Originally from New York, Taryn grew up in Florida and moved to Winston-Salem in 2014 and has loved the city ever since. Taryn is a lifelong DIYer, creative business coach & public speaker with a heart centered on serving women who have a vision for their business and their life. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design & Marketing and is the founder of One Crafty Miss, LLC a brand that brings motivation, encouragement and community to creative women building handmade businesses. When she isn’t at home on a weekend watching Netflix with her husband, Leo, and fur babies, Luna and Izzy, you can find her rummaging through thrift shops or going to craft fairs and flea markets. Taryn’s favorite thing about writing for the magazine is being able to connect with so many amazing people in the community and create pieces that resonate with its readers.
Forsyth Magazines writer since 2012. Vonda was born in Greensburg, KY. With a father who worked for the railroad, she grew up in several areas including various parts of Tennessee and Alabama. Eventually, Vonda relocated to North Carolina and has called Winston-Salem home for almost 40 years. Vonda has a degree in English and media communications and recently retired from HanesBrands after 37 years. She joined the Forsyth Magazines team a few years ago at the encouragement of her daughter, Denise, who serves as project manager. She enjoys traveling, knitting, cooking and reading (most of all, reading about military history). “I love the variety of articles (including human interest, historical, informational, local businesses, service organizations and humor),” said Vonda.
Graphic designer since 2016. Aron Daniels is originally from Charlotte, NC and currently lives in Greenville with his wife Amy and their two adorable boys, Elijah and Malcolm. Aron earned his degree in graphic design from Western Carolina University. Aron enjoys reading, photography, drawing, computer games, and camping. On working for Forsyth Magazines, Aron shares, “I love the variety about my job. We have a great team in place and with the diversity of each design project, I stay moving and creative all the time!”
Graphic designer since 2016. Laurie Dalton calls Lewisville home! She shares her home with her husband, Jeff. She is 2/3rds of the way to an empty nest, with one grown son, one son currently at Appalachian State, and the third still in high school. Laurie graduated from UNC-Wilmington and has brought a fun, open and airy design style to Forsyth Family magazine! In her spare time, Laurie enjoys spending time with her boys, kayaking, and training her new puppy, Sierra.
Forsyth Family editor since 2009. Forsyth Family Editor, Tim Sellner, was born and raised in Detroit, MI before ultimately relocating to Winston-Salem. Tim has a Ph.D. and is a retired professor of German studies at Wake Forest University. He and his wife, Vicki, have been married for 47 years, and they have three grown children as well as a Siamese cat. Tim enjoys collecting art and antiques, and spending time researching family genealogy. His research has helped him realize that two of his grandchildren are descendants of the Massachusetts Pilgrims and Native American heroine, Pocahontas. On editing for Forsyth Family, Tim said, “The people are wonderful to work with, and it keeps my mind active. I also think the magazines provide a great service to the county.”
Forsyth Woman content editor since 2005. Born in the heart of country music, Kim Beane hails from Nashville, TN, though she now calls East Bend, NC home. Kim has a law degree from Wake Forest University and is an original member of the Forsyth Magazines team. Kim and her husband, Jody, have been married since 2002, and have two dogs and three horses. One of her horses, Raven, was once a popular featured columnist in Forsyth Woman and Forsyth Family magazines. Kim loves her role as content editor and, in her words, “being a part of something that touches the community.”
Alexis was born in the Philippines on the Subic Bay US Naval Base and grew up in Connecticut. She attended Brigham Young University in Utah where she earned a degree in communications. She and her husband, Scott, have been married for 16 years, and they eventually settled in Winston-Salem. As a busy mom of four children, Alexis also enjoys playing tennis, shopping and serving in her church and community. She also loves to travel and read. In regards to working for Forsyth Magazines, Alexis said, “I love the chance to work with local companies and help them tell their stories. I also love the flexibility and the unique opportunity this job gives me to be home with my children during these precious years. It’s truly a dream job! And the women I work with are unbelievably supportive. So blessed!”
Forsyth Magazines account executive since 2009. A Winston-Salem native, Heather graduated from Salem College with a double major in English and communications and took graduate classes at the UNC-CH School of Journalism. She has the dual role at Forsyth Magazines of both account executive and writer of the popular Forsyth Family column, “Out and About in Winston-Salem.” She is married to Ron Spivey, and they have a son, Jackson. In her spare time, Heather enjoys reading, photography and travel. “I love working with our team, and the flexibility it gives me — it allows me to spend quality time with my family.”
Forsyth Magazines account executive since 2016. Morgan Bralley grew up with Forsyth Magazines… after all, her mother is Forsyth Family publisher, Robin Bralley! After graduating from East Carolina University with a degree in recreational therapy, Morgan moved home. Morgan is making plans to return to school to study occupational therapy as a complement to her first degree. However, for now, she is enjoying the opportunity to work with her mom for a bit. Morgan is also passionate about volunteerism and mission work. She is preparing for her second mission trip to the Dominican Republic in 2017, which is being funded through a side-business she shares with her sister, Sister Act Pallet Signs. In her spare time, Morgan loves spending time with family, especially when they travel to Treasure Island, Florida!
Forsyth Magazines account executive since 2012. Tamara Bodford is originally from Hudson, NC and now divides her time between Lewisville and Lake Norman. She and her husband, Paul, have been married for 23 years and their children, Zack and Katie, are both students at NC State University. They have a Bichon named Chuck. Tamara has a degree in psychology from UNC-Charlotte and enjoys reading, travel and loves to watch football. Tamara sells advertising for all four titles under the Forsyth Magazines umbrella and said, “I love interacting with the best clients, publishers and co-workers I could ever imagine!”
Publisher (Forsyth Family)
Forsyth Family publisher since 2007.Robin grew up in Clemmons and has called it home all her life. She has a degree from High Point University and, after finding herself downsized from her marketing position in corporate America, Robin joined forces with Forsyth Woman publisher and friend, Keela Johnson to launch Forsyth Family. She and her husband, Tim, have been married for 27 years and share two grown daughters, Briana and Morgan, as well as a new son-in-law, Briana’s husband, Jonathan! Robin and her family are avid Carolina Panthers fans and enjoy going to the movies and summer concerts. She is also an active member of Sunrise United Methodist Church and volunteers for bimonthly bread pick-up to support the Clemmons Food Pantry. Regarding her favorite thing about Forsyth Magazines, Robin said, “It’s hard to narrow it down to one specific thing, but meeting all the wonderful people I come in contact with and being a small part of local businesses’ success is top of the list!”
Publisher (Forsyth Woman)
Keela Johnson — the one who started it all. Keela is originally from Winston-Salem and has lived in Clemmons for the last 30 years. She and husband, Tim (the recently retired owner of TJ’s Body Shop), have been married since 1984 and, together, they have two grown children, Brooke Eagle (who is a part of the Forsyth Magazines team and Keela’s right arm) and Tanner who is in college at UNC-Wilmington. After being downsized from her position at L’eggs, Keela found her entrepreneurial spirit and, without any publishing experience or background, she began Forsyth Woman. Two years later, she launched Forsyth Family with friend and business partner, Robin Bralley. In 2011, she launched Forsyth Woman Engaged! and, in 2015, Forsyth Community. While the magazines are her true passion, Keela enjoys spending time at Lake Norman with her family and friends, a good glass of wine and the Carolina Panthers!