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Wilmington restaurants shine in statewide competition

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RALEIGH -- Three first-place winners were announced recently from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Best Dish in NC competition, and two of those three were from Wilmington. Catch, known for its signature seafood dishes, won in the category of Casual Dining, while Deluxe, known around town for its eclectic menu and its celebrity guest list, won in the category of Fine Dining. While both restaurants are located in the same city and both are known for their mouth-watering cuisine, the similarities don’t stop there. Catch and Deluxe both share a common staff member, Keith Rhodes. Keith works for Owner/Certified Chef Scott Haulman as the executive chef at Deluxe. Keith is also the owner of Catch, which he opened with his wife Angela in November of 2006. Keith and Scott have teamed up at Deluxe to create a one-of-a-kind menu and a steaming hot recipe for success, while Keith’s commitment to Catch has quickly made it one of the more sought out stops in Wilmington. However, in all of their success, both Keith and Scott have remained loyal to local fisheries, farms, and markets in order to obtain the freshest ingredients possible—no doubt giving them a competitive edge in this year’s competition. For this year’s competition, Catch featured a complete menu of dishes showcasing North Carolina products from area farms, markets, and companies. Judges and restaurant goers alike were able to choose from dishes such as North Carolina Lump crab cake on yellow curry potato salad with micro greens; a sweet potato salad with goat cheese, organic spinach, blueberries, shaved coconut and blueberry Thai basil dressing; or an entrée of broiled mahi fresh from coastal North Carolina waters. Deluxe also featured a complete menu of dishes showcasing North Carolina products. Dishes such as Sneed’s Ferry littleneck clams, Tom ka soup which feature NC river prawns, or NC red grouper paired with steamed asparagus and fingerling potato-jumbo lump crab hash were all included on this summer’s menu. And if any room was left, desserts such as the NC blueberry-white chocolate bread pudding were also available. The Best Dish in North Carolina competition, sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and its Goodness Grows in North Carolina program, encourages all restaurants to add creative flavor to local cuisine. Now in its second year of existence, the statewide competition officially determines who serves the best fare in North Carolina. The competition was created to recognize and reward the efforts of restaurants and chefs who use North Carolina products regularly in their menus and to increase public awareness of the quality of food, restaurants, and chefs here in North Carolina. Keith will be presented both of his 1st place awards during the Paula Dean Show in Dorton Arena at the North Carolina State Fair on October 17, 2007. Three mystery judges from the food industry visited each finalist’s restaurant and picked this year’s winners based on the featured dishes’ use of North Carolina products and ingredients, creativity, feature and promotion of the dishes, presentation, and of course, taste. The three lucky judges were able to sample a variety of delicious North Carolina cuisine from all over the state. To see pictures and descriptions of this year’s winning dishes visit www.goodnessgrows.org and follow the links for the Best Dish in North Carolina competition.

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