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FRIDAY, SEPT. 5, 2008

CONTACT: Matt Tunnell, foodservice marketing specialist
NCDA&CS Marketing Division
(919) 733-7912 or

Three Hendersonville restaurants take top honors
in 2008 Best Dish in NC competition

RALEIGH – Hendersonville appears to be a Mecca for award-winning local cuisine, as three area restaurants – Blackwater Grille, Inn on Church Street and La Riserva Ristorante & Wine Bar – have been named as some of the top eateries in the state by the Best Dish in NC contest. 

For the second year in a row, the Blackwater Grille has been named first runner-up in the Casual Dining category.  Located at 1715 Brevard Road., chef/owner Scott Adams featured a unique combination of local products that included Blackberry Summer Salad, Hunter’s Style Mountain Rabbit and a Napoleon of Mountain Berry Ice Cream and Nut Cakes. 

In downtown Hendersonville, chef/owner David Sparacino of La Riserva Ristorante & Wine Bar and executive chef Michael Atkinson with the Inn on Church Street battled each other and six more restaurants in the state for the Best Dish in NC crown in the Fine Dining category. 

La Riserva was named first runner-up with Sparacino using local ingredients for his Italian-inspired menu of Zuppa D’Argosta, Insalata di Spinaci, Frutti di Mare con Polenta, Arrosto di Maiale finished off with Mela Cotta for dessert.  The Inn on Church Street was second runner-up. Atkinson’s menu consisted of Carolina Seafood Chowder, Heirloom Tomato Bread Salad, Sweet Potato Griddle Cake topped with Pecan Crusted Pan Fried Quail, his Signature Trout Cakes and Susan’s Peanut Butter Mousse Pie. 

The Best Dish in North Carolina restaurant competition is the official restaurant contest of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and its Goodness Grows in North Carolina marketing program.  The competition, open to all restaurants in North Carolina, determines which restaurants serve the best fare North Carolina has to offer.

“While the food is the main element earning points, it’s not the only ingredient being measured by the judges,” said Matt Tunnell, NCDA&CS foodservice marketing specialist. “Each restaurant is also judged on how well they promote the local cuisine being served.”

Restaurants compete in two categories, Fine Dining and Casual Dining, with a potential to earn a total of 100 points from each of three judges. Menus are judged on five categories: Feature & Promotion (0-15), Creativity (0-15), Plating & Presentation (0-20), Taste (0-30) and Use of N.C. Products (0-20).  Each restaurant could feature one to five courses, with the main ingredient of each course being a North Carolina commodity. 

Restaurants sent in entry forms from January through March.  Eight finalists were chosen in both fine and casual dining based on their use of N.C. products, creativity and their marketing plan for promoting the dishes entered.  Six food service professionals, three in each category, served as judges and visited each finalist as mystery shoppers between May 1 and Aug. 1. 

The Best Dish in NC 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 in North Carolina.  Awards will be officially presented before the Bobby Flay cooking demonstration at the N.C. State Fair on Monday, Oct. 20.

To download photos and descriptions of this year’s winning dishes, visit and follow the links for the Best Dish in North Carolina competition.



NCDA&CS Public Affairs Division, Brian Long, Director
Mailing Address:1001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1001
Physical Address: 2 West Edenton Street, Raleigh NC 27601
Phone: (919) 733-4216; FAX: (919) 733-5047

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