April 26, 2017
Carowinds – Taste of the Carolinas 2017
Are you ready for some great Carolina cooking? Of course! Who isn’t?! Since we couldn’t wait to #TasteCarolina, we of course visited on opening day.
Saturdays and Sundays from April 22 through May 14, the midway outside of Harmony Hall at Carowinds turns into a smorgasbord of cuisine from seven different regions across both North and South Carolina – because of course, Carowinds is Where the Carolinas Come Together!
Along with the 21 different Tastes (3 from each Region), new for the 2017 season is the addition of booths for local vendors of homemade/handmade goods from the Carolinas. We are not sure if these will be the same throughout the festival, but on the first day these included handmade candles, woven baskets and other crafts, and live demonstrations of chainsaw carving with completed works that could be purchased.
Also new for this year, many of the Tastes are being prepared fresh inside the booth while you wait! This means you may have to wait a couple of minutes to get your Taste, but it is absolutely worth the extra time! In previous years, the food had been prepared ahead of time and was taken out of warming trays when you ordered. Of course this is convenient for serving lots of people quickly, but certain foods can lose a little (or a lot) when it comes to flavor and texture that way. This year, your Mushroom Ravioli is sauteed as you watch, your Fried Catfish is not thrown into the oil until you order, and your Bourbon Chocolate Fritters come out crunchy on the outside, soft in the center, and ready to soak up the sauce when it is poured on immediately after cooking. Of course some items like cakes and barbecue have still been prepared ahead of time (you don’t want to wait half the day while they throw your ribs in the smoker *after* you order), but they have found a great balance and they were doing well managing the fresh cooking with the lines. It really feels like Carowinds has paid attention to the lessons learned from the past couple of years of this festival and made some excellent changes to make it even better.
These tokens are your passport to all of the Tastes. Each Taste is 3 tokens. There are also booths offering local North and South Carolina wines and craft beer – these are 4 tokens each (and the samples are good size – for craft beer, a full can or bottle). Sets of 3 tokens are $4, but the best value is a lot of 21 tokens for $24 (so basically 3 free tokens). If you want to sample each and every Taste (minus the alcohol), you would need 63 tokens.
In addition to the food tastings and local vendors, there are several other events scheduled each weekent. Each day of the festival features a vegetable carver, ice carver, and performances by the Carolina Band. Shag Dances are scheduled 3 times each day – learn how to do the Carolina Shag or just listen to the beach music and watch as others kick up the sand. Each weekend also has Featured Chef Demonstrations on the stage in Harmony Hall where they will teach you to make a Carolina specialty (though sadly, they don’t make enough for samples for everyone inside Harmony Hall). Tasting Classes are also held each day with Saturdays featuring a Carolina winery and Sundays featuring a Carolina brewery. These classes are held outside of Harmony Hall and are an extra charge and can be purchased at the Token booths on the festival midway.
We look forward to the Taste of the Carolinas each year and some of the changes and additions that have been made make this the best one yet. While we would love a little more variety from year to year (many items are repeats that have been around since the first year), the festival is always worth the trip. If you have the opportunity, don’t miss it – especially the Bourbon Chocolate Fritters! For more information, you can visit the Taste of the Carolinas website.
- Smoked Egg and Pork Belly Salad (Pictured above)
- Mushroom Ravioli with Wile Herb Butter
- Pecan Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Cream Cheese Icing
Upstate SC Region
- Sweet Potato Pop Over
- Spring Onion Bread Pudding with Pickled Peaches (pictured above)
- Butterbean Slider with Pimento Cheese and Arugula
Low Country Region
- Tomato Pie
- Peanut and Oyster Stew
- Bourbon Chocolate Fritter (pictured above)
SC BBQ Region
- Pulled Pork Spring Roll with Carolina Mustard Sauce
- Barbecue Roasted Corn
- Poached Peaches over Gelato (pictured above)
Outer Banks Region
- Frog Legs
- Fried Catfish with Calabash Hushpuppies (pictured above)
- Seafood Potato Croquette
- Beer Basted Pulled Pork Slider
- Barbecue Chicken Slider
- Barbecue Ribs
- Sweet Tea Glazed Chicken
- Crispy Shrimp and Grits
- Lady Baltimore Cake (pictured above)