On Sunday, at Briar Chapel in Chapel Hill, you can taste original recipes from 48 of North Carolina’s best chefs, brewers and distillers, all involving 1,000 pounds of Chatham County peppers in a competition for the best sweet, smoky or spicy dish. Entries include Piedmont Restaurant’s pork posole verde with pickled tobago relish, Rise Biscuit and Donuts‘ padron sour cream donut with tobago icing, Herons at the Umstead Hotel’s lamb pierogi with pepper kraut, and Fearrington Granary’s pork belly BLT with red pepper jam. In the competition for best beer or drink, sip from an assortment of libations, like a specialty pepper cask beer from Carolina Brewery, Crude Bitters and Sodas’ red bell-and-tobago bitters or lime-cucumber-habanero soda, and YesterYears Brewery’s Anaheim pepper-infused Oktoberfest.
Though one of the largest culinary competitions in the state, the festival offers more than just gourmet food. Local nonprofit Abundance NC, which focuses on local agriculture and sustainable fuels, uses festival proceeds to support 200 farmers in and around Chatham County. A new addition to this eighth edition is Pepperpalooza, where kid friendly activities offer hands-on education about local agriculture through creative workshops and imaginative storytelling. Attendees can also enjoy local artisan booths, acrobatics, the crowning of the PepperFest King and Queen, and music by Americana group The Stacks, Durham singer-songwriter Brett Harris, and Carrboro’s The Grand Shell Game. The festival takes place at Briar Chapel, one of the Triangle’s largest green communities.
Pepper Festival 2015 runs 3–7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27. Tickets cost $30–$35.