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SEASONAL BITES AND SIPS: The Cape Fear Literacy Council’s popular 12 Tastes of Christmas returns

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12 Tastes of Christmas is a fundraiser for the Cape Fear Literacy Council, and pairs bites and sips from local eateries and bars.

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Low literacy among adults in New Hanover County has been combated by the Cape Fear Literacy Council (CFLC) since its inception in 1984. The modest yet recognizable royal blue building on 17th Street serves hundreds each year.

NOT TO MISS: The 12 Tastes of Christmas to benefit the Cape Fear Literacy Council likely will be another sold out event at the Brooklyn Arts Center (516 N. 4th St.) on Dec. 11 . Photo by EJM Photography

NOT TO MISS: The 12 Tastes of Christmas to benefit the Cape Fear Literacy Council likely will be another sold out event at the Brooklyn Arts Center (516 N. 4th St.) on Dec. 11 . Photo by EJM Photography

U.S. Department of Education research shows low literacy is an underlying issue related to underemployment, poor health status and limited civic engagement. These and other social ills come at significant costs to individuals and society as a whole.

“The effects of low literacy cost the United States more than $225 billion each year in non-productivity in the workforce and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment,” says Erin Payne, director of fund development at CFLC.

To tackle low literacy requires volunteers and funding, which ultimately requires fundraising events. One of CFLC’s newest annual efforts, 12 Tastes of Christmas, quickly has become a favorite around the holidays. ILM foodies can flock to the Brooklyn Arts Center (516 N. 4th St.) for the third annual event on Friday, Dec. 11, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. The theme this year is “Ice Haus.” Think of it as a blue winter wonderland of sorts, says co-organizer of 12 Tastes, Nina Bays-Cournoyer.

All to benefit the Cape Fear Literacy Council, guests sample seasonal bites and enjoy sips of festive cocktails, as made by local restaurateurs and eateries. PinPoint, Palate, Caprice Bistro, Flytrap Brewing, Chops Deli, Wilmington Brewing Company, Yosake, Detour Deli, Twist & Stout, Costellos, Soulful Twist, Duck & Dive, and many more are participating in what is expected to be another sold-out event. Festivities will be complete with raffles, while DJ Free Waterfall will set the groove throughout the evening in fashionably festive attire.

encore talked to both Payne and Bays-Cournoyer about the new and returning vendors, what’s being plated up this year, and how the event helps combat low literacy in the Wilmington area.

encore (e): Erin, about how much does this event raise annually and what’s your expectation this year?

Erin Payne (EP): Last year, in its second year, the event grossed nearly $11,000—doubling what it made in its first year (2013). Our goal is to gross $15,000 this year. Income from special events, like the 12 Tastes of Christmas, account for 40 percent of revenues for the council’s $500,000 annual budget.

e: Can you tell readers more about some of the programming that their ticket purchase can help fund?

EP: In New Hanover County alone, an estimated 38 percent of adults read at a “basic” or “below basic” level (National Assessment of Adult Literacy). This means there are more than 60,000 adults whose skills are not good enough to do all they need to do for themselves, their families, their jobs, or their community. To combat the issues related to low literacy, Cape Fear Literacy Council provides personalized instruction for adults who seek to improve their practical and academic skills.

We offer two programs: Adult Literacy and English as a Second Language (ESL). The council individualizes curriculum through one-on-one tutoring and small classes that are learner-centered and learner-paced. By providing targeted instruction, we are able to help learners achieve their goals in a nurturing educational environment.

We also help adults earn their citizenship, complete high school equivalency, read with their children or grandchildren, and achieve other personal and academic learning goals. Each year, we touch the lives of about 500 adult learners.    

e: Nina, who are the new and returning vendors providing the tastings this year, and what do they bring to the table, so to speak?

Nina Bays-Cournoyer (NBC): We’ve kept a nice balance of old faves mixed with some new faces from ILM’s food and cocktail scene. New participants this year include Beer Barrio, Palate, Freaky Tiki, Detour Deli, Twist & Stout Cakery, PinPoint, Fork & Cork, Folks on Fourth, and Boombalattis. Some of the returning vendors are Caprice Bistro, Delish NC, Flytrap, Goat & Compass, Soulful Twist, and Chops.

e: Do you know some items that will be on the sampling menu? What can you tell us about the food and drink pairings?

NB: There are so many good ones that deserve mentioning…

For starters, Soulful Twist will have jalapeno pimiento-cheese tartlets, paired with Delish NC’s Ginger Rouge cocktail—an upscale take on a holiday sangria. Beer Barrio will bring their signature margaritas and homemade chips, guac and chicharones. For a heartier bite, Fork ‘N’ Cork will be on hand with a braised short rib mac and cheese, paired with a smoked honey bourbon cocktail from The Blind Elephant. Freaky Tiki will be offering a “Freaky Zombie” paired with Detour Deli’s spam, veggies and sriracha-mayo sandwich.

For dessert, Wilmington Brewing Company will pair a house brew with Twist & Stout’s Breakfast Stout chocolate. Pinpoint will have a gingerbread cake with Meyer lemon mousse, paired with a sip of Palate’s Amarocano. For a traditional take, Caprice will have a rum-based Holiday Treacle with French macarons. For a little flair, Boombalatis will have a double dark-chocolate ice cream paired with Costello’s peppermint white Russian.

And those are just a few of the pairings…

e: Who has donated raffle items this year? What are a few “hot-ticket” items?

NB: This is a new element this year. We’ve got gift certificates, style consultations, original art, tickets to the Wilmington Symphony, and even a gift basket of Dr. Awesome’s Hangover Formula.

e: Is there anything else new or different about this year’s event that sets it apart from the first two?

NB: Erin, Katherine Clark (my co-organizer) and I are so excited that this event has been so well-received as to allow us to do it for the third year in a row. We have tweaked a few elements to make it a better experience for our guests, including asking for more “bites” to sample from each vendor.

We strive to include new restaurants and bars each year to really show off the talents of our area’s chefs and cocktailiers. (Almost half of this year’s invited participants are new.) We also added the raffle to not only provide another aspect of giving but also to create exposure for even more local businesses.

e: What is “fashionably festive” attire? On a scale of “glittering party dress” to “ugly Christmas sweater” what should folks wear?

NB [laughs]: This is the beauty of the event. We have people in sequin gowns mingling with people in elf costumes—and we encourage both. All we ask is that guests be playful and bold in their fashion choice of festiveness!

e: How close are you to selling out again this year? Are there ever any tickets left to purchase at the door?

NB: As in previous years, we have a limited amount of tickets and the event is fairly prompt in its time slot. We encourage people to buy their tickets early ($30 in advance) and get to the venue when the doors open to take the most advantage of the party’s offerings. We may release a few tickets at the door ($40), but they will be limited in number.

For more details, or to purchase tickets to 12 Tastes of Christmas, visit

12 Tastes of Christmas
Friday, Dec. 11, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Brooklyn Arts Center
516 N. 4th St.
Tickets: $30 adv, $40 at door

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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