Local Restaurants Celebrate North Carolina Sweetpotatoes
Throughout the month of September, the N.C. SweetPotato Commission has honored National Hispanic Heritage Month with Fiesta de Camotes. The celebration highlights Hispanic restaurants and bakeries throughout North Carolina that have created special dishes featuring sweetpotatoes.
According to the commission, North Carolina has been the No. 1 sweetpotato producing state since 1971. The USDA reports that the state harvested nearly 95,000 acres of sweetpotatoes in 2016, nearly 30,000 more acres than the combined harvest of three other top producing states — California, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Locally, San Juan Café, 3314 Wrightsville Ave., and Savorez, 402 Chestnut St., have created menu items for Fiesta de Camotes.
Billy Quetel, chef and owner of San Juan Café, said he was eager to participate in the campaign when contacted by the commission. Quetel said the flavor and texture of sweetpotatoes make them an ideal ingredient to work with in conjunction with Latin flavors.
“I also love to support our local growers,” Quetel said.
Quetel created a barbecue pork chop served with mashed sweetpotatoes (shown at right) and sautéed mustard greens for his featured dish.
He was also given a batch of fingerling sweetpotatoes from a local farmer, which he incorporated into a sweetpotato mousse for a dessert special.
“I’d never seen fingerling sweetpotatoes before,” Quetel said. “They were super sweet and great for desserts.”
Sam Cahoon, chef and owner of Savorez, created a sweetpotato and Black Bean empanada as well as a sweetpotato bisque with coconut and chipotle and sweetpotato guacamole.
These items will remain on menus through the end of the month, and Quetel said customers should be on the lookout for a number of new fall dishes at San Juan Café such as a chili-rubbed New York Strip, empanadas with grilled veggies, goat cheese and a spicy pepper puree, an a fall salad with green beans, radish and roasted shallots in a sherry vinaigrette.
More information on the N.C. SweetPotato Commission and recipes from Fiesta de Camotes are available online.