Pizzeria Vittoria Napoletana

Pizzeria Vittoria Napoletana

For several months the foodies of Savannah have patiently waited to see Chef Kyle Jacovino’s next move. Some were even scared he might take pack up his chef knives and take his genuine food far away from Savannah. Those same foodies—including myself—were ecstatic to learn that Chef Jacovino opened the doors his very first restaurant, Pizzeria Vittoria Napoletana, last week. Just look for the line around the shipping containers of Starland Yard, and you will find his new spot.

Instead of taking a deep dive into the nuances of Jacovino’s superiorly crafted and cooked pizza, I wanted to get his perspective on the culmination of his dreams coming to fruition. Because it goes without being said Chef Jacaveno puts out the best pizza in our Ghost City.

The true sign of an authentic pizza craftsman is when you look around a pizzeria and see that patrons have not left a single piece of the crust behind on their finished plate. When the base that holds the sauce and cheese taste just as good as sauce and cheese, you have a product created by a master.

The menu features a few favorites from Chef Jacavino’s days at The Florence, and is the only local pizza spot that is hand tossing dough made with dough created with handmade yeast starter. By the way, his pizza has sold out every night since opening last week.

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Q: Why did you want to open a Pizzeria?

“After The Florence, the idea was always to try and get the pizzeria open. It took a lot longer than expected. Originally I was going to try to do it in the Starland Dairy and that fell way behind, timeline wise. I didn’t see any real opportunities coming my way,so that is when I started shopping around in San Francisco, the Atlantic, and eventually back to Philly. That is when Pila [Sunderland] caught wind of that, and he approached me about Starland Yard. At first I was like nah, I don’t do food trucks I do brick and mortar, and they told me we will build you brick and mortar out of shipping containers.”

Q: After your menu at 1540, why open a pizza spot?

“Everything about The Florence was my dream restaurant. From handmade pastas and pizzas—those were always my two favorite things. You can find interviews with me way back in Atlanta. There is an interview with me that I did when I was twenty-three and the question was, what do you want to open? And it was only about a pizzeria and pasta. When Florence was going good the first year, I was like let’s follow up with a dope pizzaria. We were selling so much pizza at the Florence it was insane.”

Q: What is the mission?

“To make great pizza, and make everybody happy, and myself happy. I think the mission is to be excited about food again. To be really excited about the neighborhood I am in. Like I said, I always wanted to be back in Starland, and I think the mission is to let people know that I finally have a real neighborhood spot that they can come to and hangout. It is one of those spaces where I want to be able to cook pizzas and also be able to go out and talk to customers.”

Q: How did you pick your oven?

“That was a no brainer. The one at The Florence was a Neapolitan builder, from Naples as well. The original oven that I wanted at The Florence is the one I have now, but back in the day, about six or seven years ago, the guy that I have now, he did not have the right licensing to sell in America.”

Q: How did you create the menu?

“It was pretty simple. It was a lot of stuff I made at The Florence and spruced up. A lot of the stuff that has been close to my heart for a long time. It is everything I love about food.”

Q: What sets your dough apart?

“We are the first ones, for sure, in Savannah. We do all natural fermentation so there is no commercial yeast in our dough. It sounds kinda nerdy, but I compare it to why kombucha is kombucha and why everyone loves kombucha; because of the probiotic in the fermented tea. If you take that same idea and put into what we do with our yeast. That is how we make our yeast. It is pre-fermented flour.”

Q: Are you using a certain ratio of flours to create your starter?

“Yea, spelt and 00 flour”

Q: Where are you sourcing your ingredients?

“We are doing flour from King Arthur as well as Anton Mills in South Carolina. We are also trying to seek out another awesome mill outside of Utah but we do not have that yet.”

Q: Can patrons expect any events?

“I would like to do some sort of family meal like I did at 1540. I think the inside would be awesome for that since it is only fifteen seats. To be able to do a one seating at fifteen people. I can still do some of my pastas. I will be able to do homemade manicottis and all that kind of stuff, and bake it in the oven and serve it family style. I would really like to do something like that, but that is going to take a little but of time.”

“I would love to do some beer diners down the road. We have probably the best neighbors in the world, Two Tides. Their beer is so good. I would love to do a beer dinner with them.”

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Moodright’s, Savannah’s New Hip Spot

Yesterday marked the grand opening for Moodright’s, an opening which I have been following for quite some time along with so many other locals. Moodright’s is Savannah’s first duckpin bowling alley (in quite a while) and cocktail lounge, and its location makes it the closest bowling alley to the historic district. Since the end of 2018 owners Chris Moody and Steuart Wainright hit the ground running to open the wateringhole.

Chris Moody and I have no relation. So I assure you, with the utmost confidence, that this is a totally unbiased article.

So what is duckpin bowling you ask? Put simply, a condensed version of the classic with a ball that weighs around three pounds and pins that are a quarter of the size of normal ones. That means the lane is shorter as well.

Moody invited me to try some drinks and my hand at the fractionary sport. He happily answered all of my questions about the retro inspired bar. The story goes, according to Moody, “My partner, Steuart Wainright (hence the name Moodright’s), and I wanted to create a neighborhood destination that encouraged engagement. Starland was key in the concept of Moodright’s as we wanted to stray away from your typical large scale ‘bowling alley’. This is more of a bar with bowling. Steuart also does not drink alcohol, and he wanted a place that offered more than typical bar activities. All are welcome!”

A true neighborhood bar means a friendly face pouring drinks and reasonable prices to boot. “Steuart and I made sure to be fair on the pricing considering we are a neighborhood spot. We also wanted to differentiate ourselves by offering specials that are fun, engaging, and not normally seen,” Moody told me. Because of the downtown location, patrons can save on cab fare yet still get the same low priced beers that are normally served by the pitcher under the fluorescent lights of an outdated bowling lane.

There are four lanes tucked perfectly together within eyesight of the bar.“While our lanes are not regulation by duckpin standards, we saw mini duckpin bowling as a way to offer gaming in a unique, intimate, and laid back way,” explained Moody.

If bowling is not really your thing, you can entertain yourself with pool or darts—or bingo according to Moody: “We will host Bingo regularly on Tuesdays from 8pm-10pm, and we have a Wednesday League Night planned for the fall.” Personally, I normally find myself at the local Veterans of Foreign War for a good bingo night, but I have a feeling that with such a laid back yet snazzy spot I have found myself a new spot for the exclamatory game.”

Of course I asked about the decor. The building once housed a music store and now looks nothing like its past. “Our decor was sourced over the past few years from friends and family, thrift stores, antique stores, etc. We put a large amount of effort into putting this place together, so each piece was hand selected to give it the vibe we were looking for,” Moody explained.

The Starland District has seen quite the resurgence of happening bars and Moodright’s is another on-trend addition to the area. Moody made one thing very clear to me, “We are not a craft cocktail bar (please go to Lone Wolf!), but we wanted to offer a few fun house drinks. I was the primary creator of the menu. Jackson DuMouchel assisted with the layout and branding, and Carter King (Futurebirds) drew the illustrations and primary logo.” The Pabst Blue Ribbon mural painted on the bricks outside of the building was created by Ham Smith

I think Moody is just being modest because everything I tasted acted as the perfect lubricant to loosen your wrist before chucking a tiny ball down a lane. Just like the atmosphere, the drink menu is not fussy.

One of my favorite beer variations is offered by Moodright’s, the Michelada, an ice cold Tecate smothered in hot sauce, worcestershire, tajin, and lime. Refreshing yet spicy, a drink to really confuse the senses.

The last time I popped in, I tried the Border Lord. A sweet and smoky cocktail made with mezcal, lime, aperol, and Fanta poured over ice. Order one to follow the Michelada, the syrupy orange soda coats your tongue to cool it down.

Similar to the last two, The Sea of Cartezz, has a south of the border note. It is a bubbly drink mixed with salty tequila, peach grapefruit soda, tajin, and a squeeze of fresh lime.

For those who favor less savory drinks, a rotating features slushie will be available. Ideal to help cool down during Savannah’s confusingly steamy fall months. Last week’s slushie was gin and tonic inspired.

House Specials include The Begger’s Banquet which is one slushie, one beer, a pack of cigarettes, and two rounds of bowling. $8.00 gets you two fingers of G&B scotch and a classic gold watch. For two less, $6.00, Moodright’s will provide you with a cheap beer of your choice and a shot. And finally, if you are truly stretched but still want to be a part of the party, the Bogan allows you Fosters to share for $5.00.

Food is not on the menu at Moodright’s but Moody and Wainright are looking out for those patrons that need some sustenance after a few rounds. Moody explained,“No food, but we are planning to partner with Lone Wolf on coordinating food trucks to offer meals on a more consistent basis.” Stop by for a drink, then a game, and finish with a food truck out front.

If you can, drop by this week and check out the hip joint for yourself. And if not, do not worry, the duo plans on hosting plenty of events in the future. According to Moody, “We are joining Lone Wolf for their 1 year anniversary party. No events planned for the immediate future, but do have a few things in the works. Keep a lookout on our Instagram.” Moodright’s Instagram handle is @moodrights.

Muscadine & Ricotta on Rye

Muscadine & Ricotta on Rye

Do you know what a muscadine is? It is okay if the answer is no, considering most southerners would answer the same.

My childhood included a giant muscadine vine in the back yard, and most years it produced plethora of the juicy fruits. We had so much fruit growing in the backyard, my mother and I even tried our hand at making muscadine wine. It may have turned out a little on the vinegary side.

A muscadine is the south’s version of a grape but gooier and a bit more tart. They are in season right now and can be found by the carton full at your local farmer’s market. I naturally scooped up more than I could reasonably use in one recipe because finding them inspired me to create.

You can eat them like a grape, but after years of tasting the unique fruit, I can advise you that straight off the vine is not the best option. Roasting them at a high temperature breaks down some of the fibrous material and subdues the chewy fruit. It also adds to the overall flavor since by roasting you are caramelizing the natural sugars.

You can do a lot with a raw or roasted muscadine, but for this years bounty a muscadine toast sounded like an interesting option. A quick call to one of my all-time favorite Savannah restaurants, Cotton & Rye, and I scored a gigantic warm loaf of fresh baked rye bread.

The last ingredient I selected to round out the flavors was fresh, creamy ricotta with a squeeze of lemon.

I think you will find this recipe simple, unique, and quite delicious. Since muscadines are so unique and often difficult to find, I would love to hear you ideas on how to use the fruit.

Muscadine Toast

The finished toast on a tray

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound of Fresh Muscadines
  • 1 Small Loaf of Rye Bread, sliced
  • 1 Lemon
  • 250g of Fresh Milk Ricotta
  • Flake Salt
  • Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. First prepare your ricotta. Zest and juice the lemon then combine with the ricotta. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Rinse the muscadines and allow the to dry.
  4. Place the muscadines on a cookie sheet, then coat with olive oil and salt and pepper.
  5. Roast for approximately 20 minutes.
  6. While the muscadines roast, prepare the bread.
  7. Toast the rye bread in a toaster until golden brown and crispy.
  8. Slather each toast with prepared ricotta and three to four roasted muscadines.
  9. Finish the toast with a sprinkle of finishing salt.
  10. *Optional, you can also finish the toast by sprinkling over microgreens.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/08/27/muscadine-ricotta-on-rye/

For another childhood southern recipe click here.

 

Fig Jam Two Ways

Fig Jam Two Ways

Before moving to Savannah, I had never eaten a fig. I had never even had access to a fig. That all changed with my husband’s family.

My husband grew up with a fig tree in his grandmother’s yard. And to say the least, his family adores figs. Despite the family access, I personally have found it difficult to locate fresh figs when they are in season each year. I look and look, hoping to score a container of the soft sweet fruit to bake with.

As you can imagine, anytime I actually spot them in the store…I go a bit crazy. This year when I purchased more fresh figs than I knew what to do with. I ended up with more than I could reasonably cook with.

What does any true southerner do with an excess of fresh summer produce? Jam it or can it. That ways in the depths of a cold grey winter (which does not happen in the low country) you can whip out a jar of preserved summer stock to warm your bones.

There were so many fresh figs in my kitchen, I was able to make two batches of fig jam. One traditional, but with brown sugar instead of white, and one a little jazzed up with a hint of chai tea. The subtle warm flavors of chai is the perfect accompaniment to the fresh sweet fruit.

Making jam is easy. You combine everything into a pot and let it simmer away until ooey gooey and cooked down. If you do not feel like taking on the heavy burden of canning the jam, you can always freeze it for up to six months.

For another fig recipe click: here.

Fig Jam Two Ways

the pot of cooked jam

Ingredients

  • 2 Pound of Fresh Figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Brown Sugar
  • Juice from 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/2 Cup of Water
  • For the Chai Fig Jam:
  • Add 3 Bags of Chai Tea

Instructions

  1. For the traditional fig jam:
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, figs, sugar, and lemon.
  3. Over medium heat, bring up to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for one hour.
  5. Placed finished cooled jam in jars to can or freeze.
  6. For the chai fig jam:
  7. Start by steeping the tea bags in the water. Bring the water to simmer over medium heat then turn the heat off. Allow the bags to steep for ten minutes.
  8. After steeped, add your remaining ingredients.
  9. Over medium heat, bring up to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
  10. Simmer for one hour.
  11. Remove the tea bag before placing finished cooled jam in jars to can or freeze.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/08/15/fig-jam-two-ways/

Readee’s Bees

Readee’s Bees

As a carpenter turned bee whisperer, Read Nichols, the owner of Savannah’s Readee’s Bees, is a dedicated, hardworking purist that started his small business over a decade ago.

He said it best when I sat down with him to learn all about the pure Southern gold he sells around town:

“I got into it to serve the public the best honey in Savannah. The best!” Although Nichols gained experience working with bees growing up in West Virginia, he got back into the bee business while working at Hunter Army Airfield.

A co-worker who had worked with bees got with Nichols to transfer some bees onto his very own property on Wilmington Island.

From there things grew by the gallon of honey, which is easy to do when a producer takes as much pride in his product as Nichols does.

Within the first year of business, Readee’s Bees was accepted to sell his product at the Forsyth Farmers Market. “I sold all of it the first day,” he chuckles.

“I started the bees out here at the house, and I got ten or fifteen hives out here, and it was really good until the mosquito sprayer came,” Nichols recalls.

“Three years in a row they came and annihilated my bees, so I moved them over to South Carolina. Ever since then it’s been blasting off. We have over five hundred hives over there now, separated in maybe six or eight different lots.

Readee’s Bees’ farm sits next to a wildlife refuge in South Carolina, which is why it produces wildflower honey—a type that can be said to be his signature

Wildflower honey is the result of bees who come in contact with—as you probably guessed—wildflower nectar.

“A lot of people misunderstand about honey, that you put flavors in it. You cannot flavor honey unless you want to flavor it,” he explains.

“The only flavors I have are the cinnamon and peach cream honey, and that is it. The other honeys are all actual natural nectars that come off of the flowers that the bees bring back, they put it into the hive, and they turn it into honey. It takes one bee to go get it and bring it back to another bee who transforms it into honey and puts it into the hive,” Nichols says.

So if you buy orange blossom honey you can expect the natural flavor to come from the nectar of the orange blossom plant that was close to the bees’ home.

As for the rest of the honey sold by Nichols, he carefully sources the honey from only the best grade A farms around the country.Tupelo, sourwood, blackberry, blueberry, cotton honey, orange blossom, clover, and buckwheat are the other types of honeys bottled locally. Each type has its only subtle variance of texture, color, and flavor.

The buckwheat I sampled was almost like molasses, thick and pungent, while the wildflower had delicate floral notes.

After his quick success at the Forsyth Farmers Market, Nichols was given the opportunity to provide his honey to local restaurants and stores around Savannah.

Going through the proper channels, Readee’s Bees gained its wholesale license through the Department of Agriculture. He designed his own one of a kind processing trailer, which was approved by the Department of Agriculture, to kickstart the growth of his business.

To this day, Nichols works in that same trailer where he hand pours every bottle of honey and hand cuts each square of honeycomb. Nichols showed me his process.

Large wood frames stuffed with honey comb, delivered directly from his South Carolina farm, are brought to his processing property, where he perfectly measures out each square and slices them before packaging the dense rich comb into its individual container.

Inside the trailer sits an extractor where he places honeycomb to be rapidly spun and all of its sticky sweet syrup removed. Gallons of floral natural honey line the walls, ready to be poured into their individual bottles then labeled. All of Readee’s Bees’ honey is pure raw unprocessed honey.

100% honey means just that, nothing else is included. I ask Nichols how he achieves his pure natural gold, and the answer is far from simple.

Getting truly pure honey into a bottle means controlling the environment in which the bees live. If the bees come into contact with hummingbird feed, the processed sugar syrup can ruin the honey.

The bigger the property to keep the hives, the less likelihood interference from outside sugars can occur. Some farms have at least fifty acres to ensure the utmost purity.

If you have ever purchased honey that crystallized soon thereafter, it is often the result of buying impure honey. Nichols explains, “When one molecule of sugar gets in a five gallon bucket, it is history.”

The boutique bee company has a few extremely unique and original products. The jalapeño honey is extremely popular, with its expertly balanced heat followed by sweetness to cool down your palate.

The peach and cinnamon cream honeys are hand mixed by Nichols, and are a top secret recipe. The peach is made by combining a peach extract which results in a honey spread that smells like fresh peach ice cream.

For the bee pollen, according to Nichols, “The pollen comes off of the flowers, which is balled up on the bee’s legs. We collect it also. The bee goes through a finger catch in the front hive, it [the pollen] drops down onto a tray, and we collect it everyday.”

Since 2007, Read has been selling his honey at the Forsyth Farmers Market. And unless he is sick, you can find his booth on any given Saturday morning. He sources to several local restaurants including The Grey, Husk, and Elizabeth on 37th.

But if you would like to find it in a store, try Brighter Day, Lucky’s Market, or Fresh Market.

Original Article

Prosciutto + Pistachio Salad

Prosciutto + Pistachio Salad

Last week I gave you a simple recipe that used seasonal local ingredients. My Onion, Fig, & Feta tarts used cheese from a local goat farm and seasonal fresh figs. And although the tarts are extremely delectable on their own, I created them with the intent to include the pastries as part of a larger meal that is just as simple to prepare as the first portion.

Fig pastry recipe is here: Onion, Feta, & Fig Tarts

If you have thumbed around my blog, for even a second, you will notice that it is filled with hearty southern food and decadent baked goods. I am not a one trick pony, I do (quite often) make healthy(ish) food. I swear you can find a salad recipe some fifty posts ago.

Like my fig tarts, and this recipe uses fresh local ingredients; plus, you can whip it up in a dash. My homemade salad dressing, which sets any salad apart, is made with local Savannah honey and white balsamic for a punch.

I crisp of some salty prosciutto and sprinkle over pistachios. Served on the side, which add sweet and savory notes, are the fig tarts posted last week.

This one is a dinner party show stopper (along with well cooked protien) or a satisfying weeknight meal that is better than that frozen pizza we always go to.

Pistachio & Proscuitto Salad

Pistachio & Proscuitto Salad

Ingredients

  • For The Dressing:
  • 1/4 Cup of White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of Honey
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 of a Lemon
  • For The Salad:
  • 1 Cup of Shelled Pistachios, toasted
  • 4 Ounces of Prosciutto
  • 1 Pound of Spring Mix
  • 2 Onion, Fig, & Feta Tarts Per Person

Instructions

  1. The day before, or a few hours before, make the salad dressing.
  2. In a mason jar, combine all of the dressing ingredients.
  3. Vigorously shake.
  4. Place the dressing in the fridge until ready to use.
  5. To make the salad, heat up a medium skillet and fry the prosciutto until crispy.
  6. Drain cooked prosciutto on paper towels.
  7. Make each salad by topping them evenly with pistachios, crumbled prosciutto, the dressing, and 2 tarts.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/07/25/prosciutto-pistachio-salad/

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A Story about Savannah’s Native Yaupon Plant

A Story about Savannah’s Native Yaupon Plant

EVERY SAVANNAHIAN has had his or her fair share of sweet tea. However, long before the sugary cups of brown “Savannah Water” were served alongside deep fried seafood treats, the natives of our area enjoyed the taste and healing properties of yaupon—a leafy plant that has been brewed for a very long time.

Luckily, Savannah has two visionaries bringing back the use of the ancient plant.
Owners Lou Thomann and Lori Judge are true pioneers in the world of Savannah’s native yaupon holly. What started with a dream has now turned into Yaupon Tea House & Apothecary.

I was lucky enough to sit down with the pair and enjoy Yaupon Tea House & Apothecary’s ceremonial brew exactly as the Native Americans once did.

“Different tribes would share the tea, and it would create a bond. When Oglethorpe came to Savannah, Tomochichi gave Oglethorpe a cup of this tea,” Judge told me.

As we shared the light, earthy, warm tea, Thomann, who could be considered a self-taught expert on the subject, educated me on the history of yaupon.

On a getaway to Ossabaw Island with the owners of Service Brewery, the two were introduced to the yaupon plant by John “Crawfish” Crawford who, according to Thomann, is one of the most knowledgeable naturalists in the coastal area.

After hand picking and brewing fresh tea over their campfire, Thomann instantly fell in love with the tea and its history.

Thomann returned home and immediately began researching the native holly.

“It opened up this whole world; I realized that this is a huge treasure. This was the most sacred plant in North America amongst indigenous people for thousands of years, and nobody knows anything about it. We started making little tea bags, hand picking it, giving it to people, going to charity events serving it,” explained Thomann.

He started small by harvesting the native plant and distributing it in different forms—tea bags, bottled tea, and more. I’m sure that most locals are very well acquainted with his tea company and its products, ASI Tea Company, even if they may not know it.

The next phase of growth for Thomann occurred with implementation of two yaupon farms, one in Metter, Ga., and one in Florida.

“We have ten thousand plants that we planted. We are doing it in row crops to see if they can be grown that way because right now it is just grown in the wild,” Judge says.
Thomann elaborates:

“The farm in Metter is the research farm. The entire farm is not growing yaupon. We are growing probably about fifteen acres. We first started harvesting yaupon on Heard Island, which is a little barrier island off of Darien, and we propagated,” he says.

“We were genetically selective with which plants looked good and healthy. We propagated them, and we planted about ten to twelve thousand of those plants on the farm in a row crop. No one has ever done that before.”

As America’s only indigenous source of natural caffeine, the yaupon plant has magical properties. Beyond caffeine, the plant contains theobromine, an alkaloid of the cacao plant.

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Together the two natural stimulates give drinkers a slight boost while imparting many believed health benefits such as better digestion, lower blood pressure, and immune-boosting properties.

Thomann‘s goal is to further explore the many benefits of the tea. “We were just awarded a phase two USDA small business innovation research grant, which is to study the feasibility of yaupon for food,” he tells me.

They are pushing even more by reaching for a National Institute of Health grant, which will catapult the duo and their local farm to work towards clinical trials, the purpose being to document the true health benefits of the magical plant.

The most recent, but not final, phase of expansion for the two is their official storefront, which opened April of this year. Sitting inside beneath a large open sunlight that fills the space with warmth is a tall busy yaupon tree that the two brought from their farm.

While Thomann is the yaupon master, Judge has begun to study up on herbalism. The Teahouse has brought the two together, through its mission to recreate traditional uses of yaupon and share natural yaupon products with local Savannah.

Tourists and locals can stop in and enjoy their ceremonial tea—just like I did. The brew is served in a handmade replica of Cahokia civilization’s ceremonial cup.

As the in-house expert on the subject, Thomann tells me the story. “It was one of the largest settlements of Native Americans in the 1700s or 1800s; it was a bigger city than London, as a comparison. In that village they found earthenware similar to this with yaupon and cocoa residue in the cup that was tested. They found it in thousand year old cups.”

Again, honoring the native traditions of yaupon, Yaupon Tea House serves Cocoa Yaupon Tea.

If you feel it is just too warm to drink your tea hot, iced is the modified classic southern version. Yaupon Tea House sells house blended functional teas to take home and brew yourself.

On tap are two original and exclusive yaupon brewed organic kombuchas, which vary from time to time and are available by the cup or by the growler.

“Yaupon has natural sugars, probably in the saponins, so when you make kombucha you do not have to put in as much sugar to ferment it,” Thomann explains.

As for the layout of the apothecary in Yaupon Tea House & Apothecary, on the right of the store you will find rows of exclusive and unique to the store products. The tea house sourced high quality small artisanal businesses to work with and create the unique wellness products.

Customers will find things such as handmade yaupon soap, CBD and yaupon blended products, essential oil balms, facial steams, seasonal skincare products, and much much more. Yaupon pairs well with CBD because, much like CBD, it has natural anti-inflammatory properties.

By blending yaupon with other natural plants and herbs, Yaupon Tea House is offering items that contain ingredients that harmonize and boost the properties of each ingredient.

The hardworking duo will keep pushing. Thomann said it best when he told me that they “are going to start lectures. We are looking for people in the health and wellness space to do either workshops or lectures.”

Savannah gets its own Food Truck Park

Savannah gets its own Food Truck Park

By now the rumors of Savannah’s first food truck park have been confirmed. One may even say dispelled because what is actually coming to Savannah’s Starland District is so much more than a food truck park.

If you drive through the bustling Starland District, you will not miss the expansive space which now holds stacked shipping containers. These containers make up the spot that will soon be called Starland Yard. The creators, which include Guy Davidson, Pila Sunderland, Niko Ormond, John Benhase, and Ava Pandiani, wanted to bring locals a shareable space that would bring all of the Starland District (and Savannah) together.

The focus is local fool and local art plus the accumulation of community to create a truly local Savannah experience.

Q: Tell me the story of Starland Yard.

A: The whole idea was that Starland District, for a long time, has had this dream of the come up: It is going to be great, this is going to be where Savannahians hang out, this is going to be where all these restaurants are going to be, it is going to be all of these different stores. For me, when I first moved here four years ago, my first job was at the Florence, so I heard that all the time: if we get one more restaurant down here, if there is one more thing to do down here, it is really going to happen. Then the Atlantic opened and that was great. But anyone who lives here knows that it has always been maybe this time, maybe now. I think this [Starland Yard] is the push that is really going to make it happen. Between us and Victory North, this is really making [Starland] a destination.

Q: What are some of the features that are going to be included?

A: We have a covered area that can be a private event space. We can hold up to fifty people just in the top. So we are thinking weddings, we are thinking if you want to have your corporate party for something or someone is retiring, you can have your own space.

We can fit four trucks in the rainbow drive area. And just as easily we can flip one to face [the event space]. If your group just wants Pie Society’s food truck, you can close [the event space] off easily and make it to where you can still see everyone.
There is going to be a kids area. It is going to have four foot walls so the kids are not running into trucks. If you are a parent you can sit in a covered area, you can have your kids running around. They can eat a hot dog, have a view and a beer. The idea is to make it very comfortable for everyone.

We will have bocce and cornhole. Things like that for people who want to drink a beer and play a game.

There is another container in the back that will have televisions. There will be televisions there but not the bar. If you want to watch a UGA game on a Sunday there is a space for you to do that. Then the bar isn’t just sports bar vibe.
Jimmy from the Butcher is doing a big mural. We have been talking to a few other artists. Part one is we want [Starland Yard] to be inclusive of the community that we are in. Especially when we are hiring, we want everyone to feel like this is their space, and they can come here. Part two is we want it to represent local artists too, which is important. That is the vibe of Starland so we want to keep that going.

Q: How will Starland Yard work?

A: We are going to be a cashless, and when I say cashless it is with an asterisk—of course some insist people on paying with cash. A cashless establishment so you can come here and open a tab immediately [at the entrance]. So now Starland Yard has my credit card swiped in with my name and my number. I can now go to Vittoria and get a pizza and put it on the tab. I can go to the bar and get a drink and put it on the tab. I can go to Pie Society, get a blueberry cobbler and put it on the tab. The exit will be on the other side of the entrance, so when people are coming out they will checkout, they will get one check, and they pay at one time.

The one exception to the rule is that Kyle is quasi-independent. If you want to come in and just get a pizza then leave, we will still check your ID to make sure you are 21, but if you just want to pay at Vittoria you can.

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Click here for original article

New York’s the Fat Radish comes to Savannah

New York’s the Fat Radish comes to Savannah

VEGETABLE forward with meat options—surely a first for Savannah, to say the least. Not only a first, but a first in all of the right ways.

Natalie Freihon and Phil Winser are part of the team that runs a very successful restaurant in New York City, The Fat Radish. The idea is simple: seasonal locally sourced ingredients presented in a simple yet masterful way.

The next step for the Fat Radish came naturally by expanding to serve as the managing partners at Basic Kitchen in Charleston, S.C. There, Executive Chef Nick Wilber joined the team and they branched yet again to our changing town to bring even more innovation.

Savannah’s The Fat Radish opened last week and brought with it a noteworthy buzz and beautiful food.

I sat down with Freihon while the restaurant was still a construction zone to learn about the team’s vision and their story.

Freihon, a Los Angeles native and New York local, informed me, “New York is a very tough market as everyone knows. However, what I found is that by moving down south and starting to work in Charleston, that there is a real opportunity to be on the ground when it comes to developing the hospitality community.”

Since the team looked towards Charleston and began operating a second restaurant there, I asked Freihon why they branched towards Savannah, a sister city that is further south and less developed.

“I really like the dichotomy between Charleston and Savannah,” she says. “I reference it a lot to people that are in New York that Savannah is kinda the lower east side to Charleston’s upper east side of New York, and our restaurant in New York is on the lower east side. This kind of community, with a lot of young people, that is a bit more diverse, I find inspiring.”

To say the least, the food at The Fat Radish is inspired. Inspired by the South, the British roots of Winser, the farmers who provide the produce, the community of Savannah, and by the people and chefs who run the restaurant.

We have seen it time and time again here—Southern food served as a revamped version of the old, tired Southern fare. The difference in The Fat Radish is that while presenting food that nods to the South, the restaurant pays respect to the ingredients and where those ingredients came from. This isn’t your grandma’s Sunday supper.

“We don’t like to be overly fussy with our food,” Freihon elaborates, “We try to keep less than five ingredients on the plate. If you are getting great ingredients, you really don’t need to fuss over them.”

And although the primary focus of The Fat Radish is to bring sustainable farm fresh food to the locals and tourists of downtown, just as much mindfulness is put into their meat options.

I want to talk about the most memorable vegetable dish (at least as it was super memorable for me). The reason is simple: I can’t think of a time that I have eaten a carrot and thought that I really loved it; I probably withstood it at best.

The true test of good food is whether or not you want to eat it again and again, and these carrots I could eat for eternity.

The sweet root vegetable is cooked to absolute tenderness. Pungent goat cheese goes hand in hand with sugary vegetable, and benne seeds are added for crunch.

As a local, I have eaten more fried oysters than anyone should within their lifetime. You can find them almost anywhere in town, the good, the bad, and the greasy.

A simple dish in theory, but when done right, fried oysters can be one of the most sumptuous parts of any meal. Yet, all too often the delicate meat is over battered and over fried.

The Fat Radish’s oysters are so delicate they almost disappear as you eat them. Other than with a deft hand and expert precision, I’m not sure how The Fat Radish pulls off a fried oyster that melts like butter once you place it on your tongue. You will find a light cucumber salad and crème fraiche paired with the mollusks.

The Scotch Egg puts every legitimate Irish pub in town to shame. It is a staple dish that has been on the menu since the beginning, which means you can find it on the menu in New York.

Generously wrapped in sausage, the center features a sumptuous soft boiled egg. The sausage is coated in breadcrumbs before receiving a hard cook.

The cornichon, a small tart French pickle, is something I would never think to add to a scotch egg, but I will now never eat a scotch egg without one. The tiny little sour vegetable cuts through any heaviness that you would find from an egg covered in sausage.

I saved the absolute best dish to talk about last. The Pastrami Brined Chicken Schnitzel. It puts our Southern fried chicken to shame.

By first brining the chicken, the end result is a tender and moist white meat that could make you pass on even the best cooked steak. The schnitzel batter is light yet crisp, while the pickled vegetables served with the bird is the perfect counterpart to the bone sticking meat.

I did not forget to ask (and sample) the cocktails—one of the more important menu items for locals. Freihon, the creator behind it, tells me, “We are doing a cocktail program that is very similar to New York. It represents the same ethos that our food menu represents in that we try to make them simple, delicious, and fun, use local ingredients that we source locally and we try to make it low waste.”

The team wants to bring change to Savannah, and in their few short weeks of operation have already implemented more than this town has seen in a long time.
I look forward to seeing what The Fat Radish brings to our community and how it will also inspire others within the neighborhood.

Original article is here.

Lemon & Pineapple Sage Chess Pie

Lemon & Pineapple Sage Chess Pie

The history of the chess pie is debatable. Many contribute its origin to England, but those who have lived in the south their entire lives know it is as southern as peach pie.

To describe the many variations of chess pie that I have tasted, I would sum up the experience as a pecan pie without the pecans, and in their place, a little bit of cream. Just like a pecan pie, chess pie is one of the easiest pies you can make. Almost impossible to muck up.

A flaky tender crust sits at the base of the custard-like filling. And because the filling is so neutral, you can flavor the pie with almost anything.

Chess pie is sometimes referred to as buttermilk pie or vinegar pie.

For my summer version, I went with lemons and fresh pineapple sage from the garden. The custard is made using fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. I add in pineapple sage by seeping cream with it and using it throughout the recipe.

This recipe comes from my mom’s favorite community cookbook and gets an update. Here is another recipe that I did the same thing with.

I always make my own pie crust because the taste is so much better than store-bought. A ratio of half butter and half lard is my preference for fat. You are your own baker, so use any recipe for a crust that you like or even use a premade one!

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Lemon Chess Pie

Lemon Chess Pie

Ingredients

  • For Pie Crust:
  • 2 1/2 Cups of Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 Cup of Cold Lard
  • 4 to 8 Tablespoons of Ice Water
  • For Pie:
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 2 Cups of Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of Yellow Corn Meal
  • 1 Tablespoon of Flour
  • 3 Teaspoons of Grated Lemon Zest
  • 3/4 Cup of Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 Cup of Melter Butter
  • 1/4 Cup of Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Cup of Pineapple Sage

Instructions

  1. First make the pie crust.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the crust.
  3. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter and lard. You want the crumbs to resemble various sized beans.
  4. Once the crumbs are at the desired size, pour in 4 tablespoons of the ice water.
  5. Gently begin to press the dough together to form a ball. If more water is needed ad it.
  6. Once you have a ball of pie dough formed, divide it into two.
  7. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and allow them to rest for at least one hour in the fridge.
  8. Save the second ball of dough for another use.
  9. After the pie dough has chilled and rested, begin making your pie.
  10. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  11. Roll out one of the balls of dough, on a well floured surface, to a 12 inch circle. This is for a 9 inch pie pan.
  12. Place the pie crust into the pie pan, then form edges to your desired design.
  13. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust, then weight it down with parchment paper and pie weights.
  14. Bake the crust for approximately 15 minutes.
  15. Once baked removed the crust from oven, remove the pie weights, and set aside.
  16. Make the pie filling.
  17. Steep the pineapple sage in the heavy cream by placing the two in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Steep for approximately 10 minutes, and do not allow the cream to come to a boil.
  18. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  19. In a mixing bowl, combine your sugar, flour, and cornmeal.
  20. Stir the eggs into the dry mixture, one at time. Mixing each until well combined.
  21. Whisk in the melted butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1/4 cup of the steeped cream.
  22. Pour filling mixture into the pie crust, and bake for 1 hour.
  23. If your pie crust starts to brown, cover with foil.
  24. To finish the pie, whisk the remaining steeped cream until a medium stiffness whipped cream is formed.
  25. Spread whipped cream over the top of the cooled pie and garnish with chopped pineapple sage.
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Savannah Smokehouse: The newest BBQ to hit Savannah

Savannah Smokehouse: The newest BBQ to hit Savannah

BONE-STICKING barbeque for a low price that you can get downtown—that’s the aim of Savannah Smokehouse BBQ & Brew.

David and Christine Cutlip and their family quickly set themselves apart as serious restaurateurs in this bustling town. They first opened Below Zero, inspired by a trip to Thailand, which was followed by Savannah Seafood Shack, and now Savannah Smokehouse.

For the new digs, David drew inspiration from his love of cooking barbeque at home. He also spent some time cooking while serving in the Air Force.

The restaurant sits in what used to be Super Taste and before that a music store. When Savannah Smokehouse got into the place, they lucked out and found the original beautiful brick of the building hidden behind layers of wood and drywall. A bit of art adorned the walls by local SCAD student Jessica Jiang, and the space completely changed.

 

The giant music shaped sign outside of the restaurant is original as well. David explains that it’s only one or two original signs left in the historic district.
Even the long line of taps behind the counter that pours Georgia made craft beer is artful. What better way to wash down the smoky sweet food than a frosty glass of local brew?

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Hired to back the team in the kitchen and collaborate with David on recipes is Chef Curtis Morris. They came up with and make almost everything in house, even the super-secret dry rub used to coat the meat.

The team even put a ton of thought into what they would use to cook their meaty meals. Savannah Smokehouse uses a Southern Pride smoker which circulates the smoke. This cuts down on the ventilation needed during the cooking process, ideal for a downtown restaurant.

As for how they cook the food, David says, “Everything is smoked daily. The big meats, like the brisket and the pork butt, are going to be smoked overnight. We put them on in the P.M. and then when we arrive in the A.M., the suckers are good to go. Nice and juicy.”
The choice in wood used to permeate the meat is hickory. It gives the low and slow cooked pork a mild smoky sweetness.

All of the sides are made from scratch, and the barbecue brigade took some time and effort to get every one just right. You can expect the BBQ classics like mac ‘n’ cheese, good Southern cole slaw, vinegary collard greens, beautiful baked beans, hearty Brunswick stew, and fluffy, slap-your-mama cornbread.

Keeping true to the Lowcountry, the restaurant included red rice as well. It’s worth mentioning that the baked beans are meatless for those patrons that do not eat meat.

Even the French fries stood out, made fresh to order and finished with a sprinkling of Savannah Smokehouses’ secret and signature dry rub. Once you try one, you’ll undoubtedly be unable to stop yourself from eating the entire serving.

For David, creating the menu was a no-brainer. “We just wanted good traditional barbeque with a little bit of new funky things. That’s why we have the cornbread bowl on the menu and the Southern egg rolls,” he says.

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For your meal, start with the Southern BBQ Egg Roll—a small plate on the new menu. They were so delectable, I wasn’t very graceful when I sat down with David to eat the finger-licking food and to talk about his new spot.

Two giant egg rolls are stuffed with tender smoked pulled pork and briney braised collard greens. On the side you will find a traditional sweet sticky chili sauce.
As I hogged all of the egg rolls, I was sure to tell David how surprised I was that the deep fried rolls were not the least bit dry. I attribute it to the use of the expertly cooked low and slow cooked pork jammed inside.

Another amazing small plate (perfect for sharing if you are feeling generous) is the Cornbread Bowl. Two oversized slices of cornbread sit as the base. Piled on top is a heap of mac and cheese and pulled pork. A light sprinkle of green onions and a dousing of peach barbeque sauce are included as the finishing touches.

 

If you can fit a bit of each item onto your fork, your bite will have a little bit of every flavor you want: savory, sweet, salty, smoky, and spicy.

For your main, there is no other option than the Sampler For 2. It embodies what Southern food is all about, sharing your food with those with whom you are sharing your supper.

This gargantuan meal is served on a sheet pan which comes stacked with your choice of four meats and three sides. And of course there are slices of cornbread thrown in too.

Just like any true barbeque fan, brisket will always be one of your first choices. For the remaining three meats, I say go for the smoked turkey, smoked sausage, and the ribs.

The smoked turkey stood out compared to the other meats. To serve sliced turkey that is as moist as the brisket it sits next to is no easy feat. And this brisket ain’t no joke.

As for the three sides, truly anything you pick will accompany all of the meats like peanut butter and jelly (or peas and carrots for you Forrest Gump fans).

If you are feeling stingy, and do not want to share your food, a classic barbeque sandwich is ideal for you. But I do insist you get their fries as your side.

David plans to keep innovating the menu and pushing himself and his team more and more everyday, especially considering it is only been a few weeks since Savannah Smokehouse opened.

He says that not only will Savannah Smokehouse push their menu to be better and better, but he hopes that they will keep growing into other avenues.

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Meeting the Family Behind Bootleg Farm

Meeting the Family Behind Bootleg Farm

SOUTHERNERS think of one thing when they hear the word “bootleggers”: Moonshine.
We all have a story or two of a friend of a friend that can get true mountain-distilled corn liquor. At least that’s what we say.

In reality, the only true bootleggers around Savannah don’t deal in the hard stuff. Their trade is in the soft stuff: goat cheese.

Bootleg Farm is small local family-owned farm that makes and sells handmade goat cheeses. They have approximately fifty acres for their 140 goats to roam and graze, keeping things as natural as possible. Their herd consists of Nubian, Saaenen, and Snubian, a cross between the two goats. Their goats, unlike many other farms, are true dairy goats.

If you have visited the Forsyth Farmers Market or eaten at one of our popular local restaurants, such as Husk and Green Truck, it is likely that you have had Bootleg’s products.

The duo who run it, Wendy and Richard Cowart, do not limit themselves to just one type of goat cheese. They are cranking out varieties from manchego to ricotta.

I met Richard at the Forsyth Farm Picnic, where they set up to let guests meet their “kids.” After speaking with him for awhile, he was gracious enough to allow me to schedule a visit to his farm. Once there, I spent the afternoon learning about his and Wendy’s trade.

Bootleg, the name and the story, comes from how Wendy and Richard started their family business. What started as a hobby and a small operation, with a few goats and the desire to explore making cheese, quickly turned into a profitable business after their cheese became popular at the farmers market in Rincon.

The problem was, they were making cheese that was unregulated and uninspected. So after lines started forming at the market for their cheese, the Department of Agriculture called.

After calling the Department of Agriculture back Richard realized he was bootlegging cheese. The name stuck and the family decided to go legit.

And now Richard tells me that they “are the area’s only Grade A dairy, and, along with that, [they] are a Grade A manufacturing plant also.” Which means Bootleg Farm is licensed through the Department of Agriculture.

But the Bonnie and Clyde duo started with honest intentions.

“The girl I married twenty-five years ago turned into the woman that wanted to make cheese. That’s how I got into it. We both came from agricultural based families,” Richard recalls.

“I met her at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, down in Tifton, Georgia. That’s where she was from. She was in the nursing program, I was in the forestry program, and we met and here we are today,” he says.

“We bought some scrub goats for another piece of property we lived on just to have some goats. Then she decided, ‘I want to make cheese, I want to make some butter,’ stuff like her grandmother did. So we upgraded from a brush goat type herd to dairy goats.”

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Although Wendy had roots in cheese and butter making, almost everything she has done is self-taught. Richard took his background in building to build the farm a dairy processing plant.

Next to a small barn sits the manufacturing area, which takes the milk straight from the goats into the needed vats. The process starts, as to be expected, by milking the goats.

Typically we are milking in the mid-60’s [head of goats] range, and we are doing 30-35 gallons per day,” Richard says as we walk through the farm.

Bootleg pasteurizes the milk themselves in-house before using it to create many variations of aged cheese offered around town. Walking me through the dairy processing facility Richard explains, “We use low temp and a longer period, we think that is gentler on the milk. It doesn’t remove all of the milk that high temperature pasteurization does.”

After pasteurization, the cheesemaking begins. Each cheese requires its very own process: different times, temperatures, and cultures. Wendy is the expert at every single detail.

The milk is separated into whey and curds, and the curds are used to make and form the cheese. Richard has even found a way to use up the leftover whey, so no part of the product is wasted.

Bootleg has two separate rooms for and aging their cheeses and for storing the cheese at the correct temperature once it stops ripening. I could happily live in those storage rooms lined with various farm fresh yet aged chèvre, gruyere, cheddar, and mozzarella.
The feta is as authentic as it gets. Keeping with a more traditional method, Bootleg’s is made from goat’s milk.

The use of goat milk, instead of cow milk, lends a bolder flavor that is expected with the tangy, slightly salty, soft cheese. If you have not yet tried Bootleg’s feta, go for it first because it is by far their most popular.

Along with the feta, I took home a hearty size wedge of sweet and nutty aged gruyere. The earthy cheese is perfect on its own, or paired with any of Bootleg’s cheeses artfully arranged on a cheese plate.

As for the goats, they are all just as friendly as Richard and Wendy. “They are all named. The collars are for my benefit; Wendy can call them by name,” Richard smiles.

The farm also has chickens, who provide a good many eggs to the Sentient Bean.

I finished the tour by asking the bootleggers what they are considering for the future. According to Richard, “Wendy will continue to make different varieties of cheese. We are going to look to expand out marketplace. Our marketplace right now is Savannah, Statesboro, St. Simons.”

Stop by the Forsyth Farmers market almost any Saturday to grab any of Wendy’s handcrafted milk creations. Be sure and tell Richard I said hello.

Original article is here.

 

Savannah’s Newest Pop-Up: Eden Supper Club

Savannah’s Newest Pop-Up: Eden Supper Club

BREAKING BREAD at the dinner table is the ultimate unifier. The passing of good food across a bountiful spread knocks down walls and creates community.

Sitting down for a reservation at a local hotspot does not always give patrons the opportunity to connect within the community. The chefs remain in the back, cooking away, while patrons enjoy course after course that is meticulously created by those chefs. The relation between the two remains distant, at best.

The same can be said about patrons of a restaurant. It is rare that you find a community table or the opportunity to connect with your fellow foodies at a restaurant. I am the first to admit that I am too often guilty of linking with only those seated at my dinner table.

Last month I purchased tickets to a brand new pop-up supper club in Savannah—Eden Supper Club—and after attending the inspiring feast, I have cataloged the supper club as one of the few places in town that affords guests the opportunity to connect with the chefs, fellow patrons, and the food that is served.

Creator of Eden Supper Club, Chef Jared Jackson, started the unique dinner experience with a purpose that goes beyond the food that he is creating and serving. “I started a supper club because I wanted to create something that other young chefs and go getters could use as a platform to be creative and let their ideas finally have a voice — an opportunity to build a network and community of creative bodies who wanted to do something different,” he explains.

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“The idea is to expand this beyond just the kitchen and into something that strengthens the cord between the smaller farmers and a new market of opportunity for them. The idea is just about connection.”

The new supper club entails all of the characteristics of popular pop-ups found all over the country: a secret location, a surprise set menu, and food that you can only get for one night; yet it is so much more.

I would summarize the Eden Supper Club experience as going to your coolest friends house to enjoy an intimate and thoughtful dinner created by expert hands, instead of that one friend that can “kind of” cook.

Chef Jackson explains his creation better than I can by saying that “each menu honestly starts with an idea surround the season we are in. This last Eden we had was based on the idea of spring through the eyes of Eden. The birth of a new season, which leads to the rebirth of new identity and new ideas.”

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The night began with a cocktail inspired by a snow cone and a big beautiful cheese plate for sharing.

All of the cocktails were created by Andi Osby, including the first snow cone like drink called the Low Country Sipper. The thoughtful details executed throughout the night were evident in the use of the “Fancy Parker’s” chewy ice poured into the Low Country Sipper, which emulated the childhood experience of eating a snow cone.

After relaxing with the first drink, gorging yourself on cheese and meat, and introducing yourself to the strangers you would soon share a meal with, the guests were asked to pick a community table to have a seat. Although sharing a meal with someone new is always apprehensive at first, sitting at a big table and sharing a meal with new faces is how food brings a community together.

The first course (and my favorite) was presented as a hearty bowl of gooey yet al dente Anson Mills Carolina Gold risotto speckled with fresh north Georgia field peas. Atop the pile of exquisite rice sat a perfectly poached quail egg and a crispy point of Auspicious Bakery baguette.

I cannot decide which part was more enjoyable, savoring the soul filled Low Country Risotto or watching Chef Jared Jackson and Chef Evan Bruen work in perfect unison like an expertly timed orchestra to create the thoughtful locally procured dish.

 

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The night continued with the main, Georgia Plums and Cream, and was followed a delectable dessert called the Garden Doughnut. For the main, a roulade was created with mushrooms rolled inside of tender chicken. The dish featured locally gathered ingredients like fiddlehead fronds, king trumpet mushrooms, and a mystifying savory plum sauce.

Here is Chef Jackson’s explanation:“Some of the best time sourcing ingredients has been foraging for mushrooms or edible flowers,” he says.

“Our good friend Ancil, with Swampy Apple Seed at the farmers market, who not only grows his own, but does mushroom walks and teaches people about foraging and truffle hunting, collaborating with people in a way that’s long lasting and bigger than what’s on the plate. It’s about sitting next to someone you don’t know, and enjoying a conversation about something bigger than the little bubbles we normally exist in.”

The dessert was a show stopper. Two oversized handmade doughnuts graciously shared a bowl with blackberry compote, smoked vanilla gelato, and a hibiscus and rose espuma. The finishing course could only be described as an expertly crafted inside out doughnut.

To round it out, again creating an experience, Osby paired the dish with a coffee inspired dessert cocktail called the Java, Java, OK…

Before we left that evening, full of food and fellowship in true Southern supper fashion, I made the decision that I will buy tickets to the next available pop-up. If after reading this you feel the same, Chef Jackson can tell you what the next Eden Supper Club will entail:

“This next Eden is really about building a community. It’s geared towards our fellow food and beverage peers (although anyone can grab a ticket from the website) because we wanted to take a second to say thank you to us.”

Link to original article.

An interview with James Beard Award Winning Chef Mashama Bailey

An interview with James Beard Award Winning Chef Mashama Bailey

SOMETHING big happened last week. Something bigger than you or me, and something that is guaranteed to change the way people view Savannah as a culinary haven.

On May 6, Chef Mashama Bailey, Executive Chef of The Grey, was awarded a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.

The entire Southeast!

Chef Bailey, like many before her, began on a path riddled with encumbrances and naysayers.

I speak for many locals when I say, historically Savannah has not been the most welcoming when it comes to new food; and to be brutally honest, the perspective on food in Savannah has been muddled at best

As a historic town rooted in Southern tradition, the foundation for local and farm fresh food has always been present —at least until fried chicken buffets and fried seafood platters turned Savannah into a campy food destination for tourists.

The resurgence of restaurants and true Southern cuisine has been slow, at best, here. Unlike many of our now well-respected neighboring food destinations, which have put themselves on the culinary map of go-to food tourism hotspots, many say that Savannah just hasn’t quite made it there yet.

The rebirth of the food in our sister cities is not the result of a singular cause or event, but it can be said that certain historical events speed up the change.

For Charleston, Hurricane Hugo acted as the mechanism that wiped the city and made way for a big change in its culinary community. Hurricane Katrina is said to have done the same for New Orleans.

As for Atlanta, the 1996 Olympics served as the catalyst for change that helped the city become a cultural destination for food in the South.

Thankfully Savannah has not experienced a catastrophic event that forced our hand to recognize that we have the framework needed to become great. Instead our city has slowly chugged along implementing change as slowly as molasses in January.

At least that’s how it was until Chef Bailey returned to her hometown.
When Chef Bailey returned to Savannah to open up The Grey, after spending years honing her skills, she kept her head down and focused on the food she believed in.

Taking inspiration from a foremother of Southern cuisine, Edna Lewis, Chef Bailey set out to preserve history through her kitchen.

Her vision and determination is exactly why she became one of only three chefs in Savannah to be awarded a James Beard. Keep in mind the last was 19 years ago.

She was gracious enough to sit down with me and discuss her experience:

When you first stepped into a professional kitchen, did you ever think you would be where you are today?

“No, absolutely not. The first kitchen I stepped into that was professional was called the L Cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was a cafe that had two parts: one part was a coffee part where you got breakfast, pastries, and coffee, and the next part was more for dinner. We had a microwave; we didn’t have quarts and pints. We would use leftover containers that sour cream came in and we would wash them and reuse them. I was there for a very very short period of time, but it was the very first kitchen that I worked in while I was going to culinary school. I am a career changer so I decided to just throw myself into something, and I wanted to see if I could work in a restaurant. In this little crappy kitchen I fell in love with the industry.”

How did you feel about your second nomination?

“This time around I felt really honored. I think last year I was scared and nervous, and I didn’t feel worthy. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the room. I think that this year there was a little tinge of nervousness. But, I felt really honored because all of the people on those lists are such good cooks, they are such good chefs, they are such good leaders that even to be in the same conversation as them is really the point. That is enough for me.”

Who went to the award ceremony with you?

“Johno went, his wife Carole, my parents, and me. There were five of us.”

What were you thinking as you were waiting for the announcement?

“I don’t know. I was drinking from a flask while I was waiting. I had a flask of tequila.
I sort of blocked everyone out. Adrian Miller was behind me. He is a cookbook author, and he is really awesome. He sat right behind us and he taped the whole thing. It’s on YouTube: ‘Mashama wins the Beard.’ It is kind of beautiful because he actually caught the moment of it. The thing I feel bad about, I thought about it after and before I knew there was a video, I was like, “I don’t think I hugged my parents.” Carole was the first person I hugged, Johno was the second person because I made a beeline to get out of the spotlight.”

Did you prepare your speech?

“No. I wrote down my parents, Johno, Edna Lewis, the James Beard Foundation. I just wrote down these names and words so I would not forget anything, but I did not prepare a full-on speech.”

What did your parents have to say?

“They were just like wow, you know. They were really disappointed last year. I don’t think we were disappointed last year, I think we just had to put on a face to be like it is okay everyone, it is totally fine. It is really a rite of passage. I think last year they were really bummed, and I think this year they were really happy.”

What did Johno have to say?

“I couldn’t make it out through his tears.”

Did you cry with him?

“I didn’t cry until a little later honestly. When I gave him a hug he was just like, “Congratulations, I am so happy for you.” He really just said congratulations over and over. Then I spoke to him later on after the awards were over and we were out in the lobby, and we both started kind of tearing up then, because it started to set in that this is something that not only I accomplished but we accomplished. On stage I said he was my backbone. Johno will throw down for anyone in this restaurant. He is the most loyal person I know. I think a lot of his vision and a lot of his drive is why we are where we are. Even when you think I am going to rest a little bit, he is like “But you didn’t finish this?” or “You didn’t do that.” There is always more to do for him. I think it is really nice to learn from someone like that.”

What’s the one piece of advice to cooks or chefs stepping into a professional kitchen for the first time?

“One of the pieces of advice that I received was to make sure that you love it. I didn’t know what that meant. When I first decided to cook, I think I was very interested in it and I thought I was very capable of it. It took me until I really had to work hard to fall in love with it. So, making sure that you love it is something that you have to ask yourself. No one else can tell you that. Know your history, read, know who the chefs are, know what the competition is, learn from people. And be kind.”

Original article is here.

Forsyth Farm Picnic

Forsyth Farm Picnic

MANY Savannahians are unaware that a large dairy farm once operated behind Tennessee Avenue. But for many locals, like myself, the piece of property that used to be the Roberds Dairy Farm has served as a historic and memorable addition to the city.

Where cows once roamed, locals now play. I myself have spent many hours walking my dog around the sprawling acreage. The property itself is a vast piece of land that still holds remnants of its dairy days, including the original dairy processing building and fenced-in fields.

The once abandoned dairy plant now holds the work of sculptor Matt Toole. A portion of the field is occupied by the bounty of Victory Gardens, and you can even find Pegasus Riding Academy hosting classes there.

For others this space has served as a unique place to take pictures, take a walk, or even lay to rest the dog that you used to walk around the marsh riddled property.

The Forsyth Farmers’ Market is another organization that has added to the value of the old Roberds Dairy Farm. Once a year the Forsyth Farmers’ Market hosts a fundraiser event in the fields of the beautiful farm—The Forsyth Farm Picnic.

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I first discovered the Forsyth Farm Picnic after being handed a flyer at the Forsyth Farmers’ Market several years ago, I purchased a ticket as soon as I got home and put away my groceries.

And since first attending the event, I make a point to calendar the gathering as soon as the dates come up on the website.

I spoke with the Executive Director of the Forsyth Farmers’ Market, Jeb Bush, to learn more about the once-a-year event I look forward to so much.

The Farm Picnic is a yearly event that was created to support and raise money for the mission of the Forsyth Farmers’ Market. Although the money raised from ticket sales benefits the local market, the small price of the ticket makes it feels as though you are actually gaining all of the benefit. For a small ticket fee guests get to spend an afternoon on a picnic blanket eating local food, sipping local beer, and listening to local music.

As Bush explains it, “The picnic started five years ago as special event for the ‘friends of the market.’ However, we felt like this was not being inclusive to the community. We changed it during the second year to be open to everyone. This will be our fifth year.”

The first thing I do when I arrive is scope out the perfect shaded spot to spread out my blanket, it is usually close to the music. This year the band was The Hypnotics. I then grab an ice cold beer to sip while I wait in line for food, which runs out rather quickly.
The line for food was just as long as the sprawling line of food. Picnicgoers are given a wide range of options from well established restaurants around town.

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Bush says it best: “The food is always the highlight of this event. There are 11 different restaurants participating this year. We have El Coyote,The Grey, Pacci, Atlantic, Husk, Cha Bella, Green Truck Pub, Kayak Cafe, Sentient Bean, Bull Street Taco, and Savannah Square Pops. We also have the local cupcake brigade bringing great cupcakes.”

Come for the charity, sit for the music, and stay for the food. At this small local event it is easy to get lost in the breezy weather of spring, sitting chatting with your friends, and eating farm fresh food.

There is one criteria for a restaurant to be featured, Bush says. “All of the restaurants that are participating are farm to table.”

It’s difficult not to get one of everything, and truly the only thing that stopped me was the loss of available room on my plate. Options included carnitas from El Coyote, fried rice that was peppered with fresh farm vegetables, gooey macaroni and cheese, vinegar soaked greens, tofu with an orange glaze, mushroom pate on toast, three types of fresh baked bread, a much needed light salad, and decadent cupcakes.

Even though there was plenty of sweets to go around, I could help myself but grab a locally handmade popsicle from Savannah Square Pops. This year’s options included their Milk N’ Honey, Tart Lemonade, Strawberry Balsamic, Black Cherry Peach, Cookies & Cream, Peach Mango, and Strawberry Lemonade. Without thought, I ordered a Milk N’ Honey, the perfect silky sweet balance to my tangy sangria.

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Brighter Day provided fruit for red sangria, easy for sipping under the moss laden trees that surround the bustling cow pasture.

Service Brewery, as they have for the past few picnics, serviced patrons with their locally brewed beers. The selection was between one of their fundamental brews, the Ground Pounder pale ale, and a brand new Research and Development peanut butter banana beer that featured cayenne, toasted coriander, and lime.

Service Brewery has been supporting the Farm Picnic for sometime, so selecting the Picnic’s featured beer was a no brainer. Even Miss Zoe Dog and Sophie, their Instagram-famous pups, made it out to the Picnic to hang out with all of the patrons of the festival.
For non-drinkers, this year Perc Cold Brew was available along with tea and lemonade.

If you did not get enough doggo kisses from Miss Zoe, there were plenty of goats hopping around the field. Bootleg Farm, a local goat farm that creates their own artisan cheeses, set up a mini petting zoo with several off their farm friends.

Support from the city along with time has only made the picnic swell in size. This year grew even larger and featured kids crafts from Loop It Up Savannah and hayrides from Pegasus Riding Academy.

Every year I attend the event only seems to grow in scale. If you missed this year’s Picnic, you can mark your calendar for next April and buy tickets online through www.forsythfarmersmarket.com

Original article is here.

My Favorite Sushi on Tybee: Raw Ingredients

My Favorite Sushi on Tybee: Raw Ingredients

OUR port city boasts a wealth of seafood. You can get it grilled, blackened, fried, steamed, whole, on the half shell, or filleted.

Even as much as there is available in our local sea of seafood, not every fish is seen as desirable. The biggest concentration of fishy fare is on Tybee Island, which is as to be expected.

And with so many options, it can be seemingly difficult to decide where to shake out the sand and fill your belly after a long day at the beach.

For the past few years, Raw Ingredients has made that choice easier, I would argue in an undebatable way. Raw makes it much easier for seafood aficionados to rendezvous with fresh fish expertly rolled into creative sushi. Marshall Stevens and Ian Davis opened the joint, eventually bringing in Marshall’s brother Myles Stevens to act as the Director of Operations. The idea was to fill a large hole that was present in the restaurant market of Tybee.

Myles tells the me tale of Raw Ingredients.
“They were working in the surf shops, hustling, and had all of these different ideas,” he says. “This building became available, they were across the street working, and the owner of the building was like, ‘Hey guys, I am going to put this building up for lease.’ They brainstormed and decided to open a sushi restaurant.”

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But before opening the doors, Marshall and Ian gained experience by working at various sushi restaurants. The rest was history—everything fell into place and Tybee was never the same.

When you have the love of your locals, success comes easy on Tybee, which becomes apparent in the slow months when all of the tourists have packed up their beach bags and headed back inland.

The idea is to “put out high quality food and in a place where you are comfortable being. Where you can come in, be yourself and relax, and enjoy yourself and still enjoy high quality food,” says Myles.

As for the menu, the most important part of any good shop, it was a collaborative effort, and according to Myles, “also testing the competition, seeing what the competition is doing, then taking what they are doing and adding our own flair.”

I remember the first time I discovered Raw, picking up a Create Your Own Bowl at the end of a long, salty day on Tybee. And since trying it for the very first time, several years ago, the store has only extended its menu into bigger and better options.

Myles says they “didn’t [expand the menu] the first two years. We had a solid menu then added some other things like the Hide Tide and the Spring Roll.”

As one of my favorite menu items, which you will still find on the menu featured along with a few new Create You Own variations, making your own bowl is a great starting point for newcomers.

The available ingredients to pick include twelve different proteins, all of the classic sushi options of course, a plethora of vegetables to layer in, and a choice of sauce to finish it all off. The caveat is, it is extremely easy to go overboard with all of the quality options—but who is judging?

Why not add in multiple sauces and all of your favorite sushi proteins, especially considering “almost all of the sauces are made in house,” as Myles says.

My typical bowl includes shrimp tempura, spicy kani (crab), seaweed, avocado, carrots, spicy mayo, and eel sauce.

The same ingredients can be placed on top of a salad, rolled into a burrito, or handcrafted into a sushi roll you can name after yourself.

If you do not want to create your own, instead relying on the expert’s hand, you will find classic sushi rolls like the California, Spicy Tuna, Spider, and Philadelphia on the menu.

There are the Simple sushi rolls like an Avocado, Cucumber, or Salmon roll, and finally the best options of all of handcrafted rolls—the Special rolls.

The Special rolls are where the store really showcases its unique perspective and style, which you probably already gathered from the the walls that are covered in rotating hand drawn art by Jessica B., a good friend of the restaurant.

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My favorite roll is the Flamingo Roll. Its bright colored soy paper wrap makes it easy to ascertain where the roll got its name. Spicy crab meat, avocado, eel, and tempura shrimp, make up this satisfying work of art. For me, there is not a better combination of ingredients that you can put inside of a roll.

Taken as a whole, the flavors that fill your mouth are spicy, sweet, fatty, nutty, and finally umami from the fish—a sticky, sauce-covered creation that I dream about. Ingredient-wise, it is relatively close to the Create Your Own Bowl I order.

The High Tide is filled with shrimp, cheese, and fresh avocado then topped with salmon before the entire roll gets a bake. The tiny touch of baking the finished roll changes the flavor profile of the entire dish, illustrating the distinctive style of Raw.

Keeping with the imaginative theme, the Chathamite is yet another roll that is unique to the store. It features fried shrimp, and rightly so. Alongside the shrimp sits cucumber, a summer fruit that can be found on so many southern tables. The final touch is a topping of spicy tuna and seaweed.

There is much more to come from the cool cats at Raw. The sushi team is set to open a brand new spot next door Ripe Ingredients. The new joint to maintain the cool laid back attitude of Raw while offering high quality and well made smoothies, sandwiches, wraps, and more.

I know I will be keeping an eye out for its inception this summer and stop by to grab a light lunch to take with me to the beach.

Original article is here.

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Savannah’s Most Loved Food Family – Big Bon – Expands To Bagels

Savannah’s Most Loved Food Family – Big Bon – Expands To Bagels

A BODEGA is a small grocery store, a place where you can stop in grab beer, wine, and snacks in a pinch.

Now Bodega means a small local storefront that turns out woodfire bagels right here in our town.

The Big Bon family started out with a truck and a dream, albeit a truck with a large wood fire pizza oven on the back. Most locals have devoured Big Bon Pizza’s pizza at various locations around town, wherever Big Bon had parked its oven.

Kay Heritage and her daughter Anna started their adventure with Big Bon Pizza in 2016. A speedy success, the duo decided to expand their woodfire resume to include bagels with the opening of Big Bon Bodega at the beginning of April.

They also added a new team member to the family, Charlotte Masters, Creative Director. The result is the cumulation of the Heritage’s southern Korean roots and Masters’ well deserved art degree into the newest spot that locals are flocking to.

“The purpose of Big Bon is to equip our young team members with business and life skills. And as Big Bon Pizza team started to grow in numbers, we needed a home base where we can expand our purpose and to connect with our community closer in a permanent structure. Big Bon Pizza will continually remain intentionally mobile and do wood fired bagels at the Bodega,” Masters says.

Though the on-the-go pizza oven is incredibly convenient and accessible, for food this delicious, brick and mortar is the best thing that could happen for customers. It’s not often you find the Big Bon mobile oven without a line three bumpers down, so it’s great for patrons to have a place to sit down for a solid meal without standing in the street.

Going out on a limb, I’ll assume that everyone has at least tasted the delicious pizza pies that Big Bon has been pumping out for the last few years. But if you thought those slices of heaven were great, just wait until you see what else they have in store.

Masters and the crew are pumping out bagel sandwiches that will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about the doughy circles of deliciousness.

“Our bagel recipe is inspired by Montreal style wood fired bagels. The recipe is based from our great friends in DC area, Call Your Mother Deli, they were so generous to share their recipe. We brought it home and tested and refined it with the help from friends at Mate Factor. We wanted to make our bagels truly unique by using local raw honey and molasses in our dough and boiling water,” Masters says.

I was able to grab a few bagels although the first week Bodega opened they maintained a line around the block. Don’t be scared by the crowds—they’re there for a reason.

The expansion of a pizza company into bagels may seem odd, but once you have one of these little halos of yeasty perfection, you’ll understand why the owners decided to move in that direction.

The best part about Bodega’s artisan bagels is the light finish of smoke that is imparted through it’s cook in the big woodfire pizza oven that sits in corner. That’s something you don’t normally get with a bagel, and, let me tell you, the charry chew of a smoky bagel was something that I didn’t know I needed.

Obviously the options for what you can order are endless—you can get a plain bagel, a bagel with a smear, a dozen, or a bagel sandwich. And let me be the first to tell you that these bagel sandwiches aren’t like anything you’ve had before.

The thought that went into each and every option is clearly tasted with every bite. I would say there’s something for everybody, but not everybody can take the flavor bombs that Bodega is pumping out of their woodfire cannon.

Patrons have the option to buy a single bagel, a half dozen, a baker’s dozen, or—in my opinion the best way order a bagel—as a sandwich.
After looking at the menu, I couldn’t be swayed from ordering the Spicy Mama. I would recommend getting it on a sesame bagel, but any of the artisanal bagel options work perfectly.

Fork tender pork bulgogi, Korean style barbeque meat, sits in the middle of the sliced and toasted bagel along with crunchy peanut slaw and a gooey, fiery kimchi cream cheese. The finished sandwich encompasses all flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and ultra savory umami.

The kimchi—a staple Korean dish made by fermenting vegetables with spices—is a “nod to Kay’s heritage, pun intended, we will be featuring Kay’s family Kimchi recipe in jars for sale at the Bodega.” Masters confessed when I inquired as to the origin of the store’s special recipes.

On the sandwich list you will also find The Donna—a turkey, avocado, and bacon option, which tastes perfect on an everything bagel.

On the more classic bagel shop side of the menu you will find the Lox and Schmear. It is a hearty dish created with delicate smoked salmon, sharp red onion, cucumber, arugula, and house made lemon caper cream cheese.

The Veggie meets all the needs of non-meat eaters. This sandwich features vibrant pickled purple beets layered with sprouts, radishes, and spiced walnuts. In the place of cream cheese, hummus is slathered on.

I will encourage everyone to try multiple options because each sandwich has its own unique flavor profile and each is worth tasting.
As I mentioned at the start of this thing, the new store, or bodega, goes way beyond bagels.

Masters explains, “Bodega itself will house not only delicious wood fired bagels, sandwiches, and yum-yums, but also featuring local specialty foods like Libbie Summer’s Yum Yum Smile Shop products, and Hale tea, healthy pick up snacks and local craft beer and wine. The Big Bon team wanted to have more than just a bagel shop, from the start so we designed our small space to be thoughtful and transformative so we can open it up at night to host local creatives and special pop up dinners.”

Original article is here

Savannah’s Oldest Bakery,Gottlieb’s, Starts Dinner Service

Savannah’s Oldest Bakery,Gottlieb’s, Starts Dinner Service

THERE ARE certain restaurants that could be designated cornerstones of Savannah’s food scene. For a BLT salad you go to the Olde Pink House, for ice cream it’s Leopold’s, and for decadent oversized baked goods, specifically for me the caramel roll, Gottlieb’s Bakery is the choice.

At least that was the way until a few weeks ago, when Gottlieb’s decided to expand their repertoire to include brunch on Sunday and dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.

The second I heard, I zoomed over to check it out. I visited on a Friday evening, and sat down to chat baked goods with Laurence Gottlieb while his brother Michael Gottlieb cooked dinner in the back.

The rest of the patrons filled the side of the shop where Laurence bakes, sitting at the actual tables where he rolls out his dough on every early morning. Eating at this table provides an experience that allows you to daydream of kneading, twisting, and filling pastries while you eat.

In the back sits a modest kitchen in which Michael impressively cranks out dish after dish for the influx of patrons that fill the family shop.

The fourth generation Gottlieb brothers re-opened the more than 100 year-old bakery and brought their own experience and tastes to the table.

“We are slowly incorporating old school bakery products into the mix as well as having fun creating new bakery items based on inspiration from old family recipes,” Michael elaborates.

The two work together like peas and carrots—Laurence the baker and Michael the cook. With their powers combined, the resulting food is well thought out and prepared exquisitely.

Most locals know and love the institution that has been Gottlieb’s Bakery, so speaking to the quality of their food didn’t require many questions on my end; the reputation speaks for itself. I was, however, curious to learn why the family bakers decided to expand to dinner service.

Michael explains, “Dinner was brought on by our desire to showcase our passion for food influenced by bakery products and ingredients found around us. Baking is our second calling (well first really as we grew up in the bakery), working in kitchens serving fun foods is where Laurence and I both started in our careers.”

Just as surprised as I was to learn about the ever growing and changing bakery, I was surprised to find a well rounded menu. You’ll find anything from fluffy gnocchi coated in pesto to an earthy roasted mushroom burger.

Up close of the mushroom burger

Michael educated me on how bakers with a lifetime of experience go about creating a savory dinner menu:

“Laurence and I talk about weekly bakery production and see what items, doughs or desserts will be floating around and then the menu is created based on those influences. We also look at seasonal products that are coming into play and showcase those based on our menu writing experience,” he says.

To create each recipe, old or new, the process is simple according to Michael:

“The dinner and brunch items are based on our love of food, travel and past work experiences. We enjoy a free flowing menu that incorporates foods from all over. Currently we are having fun creating and paying homage to our favorites and the challenge of recreating a dish that would normally cost $30 plus in a more formal setting but figuring out how to serve the same quality at a $15 – $17 price point,” he says.

I started with a shareable dish, the Foie-nut. For this rich starter a warm sticky sweet donut is served with seared Hudson Valley foie gras. A hint of texture is added to the outside of the velvety delicacy.

The salty/sweet combination is finished with a sprinkling of nuts and a sticky sauce. Foie and doughnuts is what chicken and waffles wants to be.

It is the right time of year to find soft shell crab featured on the brand new menu. Gottlieb’s offers theirs spewing over its bun.

The bread—tender with a chewy outside—was the perfect vessel to deliver the meaty flash fried soft shell crab. As you bite into the sandwich, the expertly baked bread gives away just enough to let the crab shine. The finished sandwich had all the textures and flavors of a stellar deli sandwich but with a salty fare flare.

The Grilled Charleston Cheese Curd Sandwich was recommended to me, probably because it is one of the more unique items on the menu. Creamy curds are paired with a spicy sweet apricot horseradish and floral herbed olive oil. The dish comes together like an upscale sandwich version of that pepper jelly covered cream cheese party dish that so many locals make.

In lieu of staple Savannah shrimp and grits, the brothers serve red fish over creamy grits with basil and a corn cream. The fish is well seasoned, cooked delicately, and serves as the perfect counterpart to its base of custard like ground southern corn.

The mushroom burger will make you forget meat. A gigantic slice of mushroom is layered with charred onions and sharp melted cheddar between the same handmade bun that serves the crab.

The best part of my meal was how warm and welcoming the Gottlieb duo was. Their hospitality truly pays homage to the legacy that is the Gottlieb family.

The restaurant does not have a liquor license, so don’t forget your favorite bottle (or two) of wine to pair with your meal. You can replace the empty space in your bag with a take home box full of fritters, cookies, and danishes.

Click here for the original article.

Georgia Brunswick Stew

Georgia Brunswick Stew

Today marks the day that I institute some changes for my blog. Lately I have been very inspired to learn more about the history of Southern cuisine, which forms the basis of my food history and influence.

I cannot list one specific reason as to the inspiration, but a slew of events accumulated over the last few months that pushed me here. Getting an invite to the private screen of Netflix’s Chef’s Table episode on our local chef, Mashama Bailey, was the starting point.

Next came the discovery of the Southern Foodways Alliance (here is there website) which documents the history of southern cuisine. I quickly became a proud member.

Not long after I visited with my dad and my Uncle Dusty (who is Cajun) and naturally fell into conversations about food of each of their regions. It seems as though I always fall back on or lean towards making food that has roots in the south.

Finally, I have realized that as a food writer in Savannah, I should educated myself more on the food I am writing about as to bring my readers some knowledge of their region.

To implement this change, I am going to start with a dish that I ate all the time growing up. When you live in certain parts of Georgia, semi-rural, there are only so many restaurants available. Most are chain restaurants like Long Horns or McDonalds, so the legitimate food selection is scant at best.

Birthdays and certain holidays resulted in eating out at the ‘fancier’ restaurants or the local mom and pop restaurants that the entire family loved. On our short list of go-tos was Wallace Barbeque, a shack of a BBQ restaurant that serves pulled pork by the pound with a bowl of vinegar-based barbeque sauce on the side. It is loved so much by my family that anytime my Uncle Dusty visits Georgia from his home in Louisiana, Wallace Barbeque is his first stop.

Like any good Georgia barbeque restaurant, Brunswick stew is readily available on the menu. As a result I have eaten gallons and gallons of Brunswick stew in my lifetime.

Brunswick stew is a hunter’s stew which combines any meat that is available, sometimes even squirrel, with any vegetables that are locally available. The result is a bone sticking stock that is chock-full of sustenance.

It is also important to note that Brunswick stew recipes change by the region. Georgia’s versions is traditionally sweeter due to the use of a barbeque sauce poured in the stock. Virginia’s version just uses a tomato base.

A good point of reference for the difference in each region’s Brunswick stew is the Southern Floodway Alliance’s Community Cookbook. It lists a recipe for North Carolina Brunswick Stew. I could not find one for Georgia. Instead of using a sweet barbeque sauce like in my recipe below, the recipe calls for the combination of ketchup, vinegar, and sugar.

Regardless of the region, the modern Brunswick stew features two meats, pork and chicken. Gone are the days where most southerners used what they caught or what was readily available on the farm to cook. The surplus of local supermarkets has made placed cheap meat in every home.

The recipe below is merely a starting point. I based my recipe on the countless bowls of Brunswick stew I ate growing up. You can switch out the vegetables, lookup versions from other regions or just throw in anything that suits the moment.

A big pot of hearty brunswick stew and slices of bread

Georgia Brunswick Stew

On overhead view of the big pot of stew and bowls

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound of Smoked Pork Shoulder
  • 4 Boneless and Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 16oz Bag of Frozen Lima Beans
  • 2 32oz Boxes of Chicken Stock
  • 1 Sweet Onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 14oz Cans of Stewed Tomatoes
  • 2 14oz Cans of Creamed Corn
  • 3 Medium Russet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 Cup of Sweet Barbeque Sauce, or more to taste
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Instructions

  1. I start this recipe by saying that everything is to taste. Add more barbeque sauce at the end if you preferer a sweeter more pungent barbeque flavor. As for the chicken stock, I start with one box then add more towards the end of the recipe to get the stock thickness I desire.
  2. Place a heavy bottom soup pot or a Dutch over over medium heat, and pour in one tablespoon of olive oil. Sautee the onion until caramelized and translucent.
  3. Place in your chicken thighs, then pour over enough chicken stock to cover the chicken.
  4. Bring the chicken stock up to a boil, then reduce the heat down to medium-low. Cover the pot with a lid and cook the chicken thighs for 30 minutes.
  5. After the chicken has cooked, pour in your remaining ingredients. Turn up the heat as long as necessary to bring the stew back up to a simmer. Once at a simmer you can reduce the heat back to medium-low.
  6. Add as much chicken stock as necessary to get the stew to your desired thickness.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. I cook the stew for at least one hour to allow the potatoes to soften. The longer you allow it to cook the better it gets.
  9. Serve with sliced white bread or cornbread.
  10. *For an even easier version, combine all of the ingredients into a crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours.
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If you do not feel like making stew at home, here is my recommendation on a good local bbq spot.

My Favorite Cake Pop Shop in Savannah: Sweet Whimsy

My Favorite Cake Pop Shop in Savannah: Sweet Whimsy

HAVE YOU ever had famous cake pops? I have and I am never going back.

Unfortunately for me, I did not discover the professional (and television worthy) cake pops of Sweet Whimsy Shop until this year. I assure you, I have eaten my weight in cake balls to make up for lost time.

As a licensed cottage bakery, Sweet Whimsy Shop has been providing the Savannah area with unique and artful cake pops for some time and eventually made a star studded appearance on The Late Late Show. Impressively, Sweet Whimsy’s TV debut happened only three short years after opening shop doors.

Owner and master creator Becca Aronowitz quit her full time job as a middle school teacher in 2012 to begin her journey as a bakery owner. Her background in art has served her well.

“I’ve always loved creating, in any form, and I think I identify more as an artist or maker, than a baker specifically. I began taking after school art classes as a 7 year old. I have degrees in art education, and I was an art teacher for several years,” she explains.

The result is a bakery that focuses on ensuring each resulting product is a work of art. As far as cake pop art goes, she’s Andy Warhol.

Aronowitz takes the time to hand sculpt each and every cake popsicle before decorating them by hand. The attentive attention to detail is what sets her art on a stick aside from all other cake pop makers around the lowcountry. Each finished contoured, compact cake is worthy of the Louvre.

To create the luscious lollipops, Aronowitz mixes the perfect ratio of tender, moist cake with homemade frosting.

“I’ve always been committed to using scratch-baked cake & frosting for my cake pops. Many cake pop makers use boxed mixes and canned frosting, but I believe my creations should taste as good as they look, and if you’re going to make something as labor-intensive as a cake pop, shouldn’t it be worth consuming?” Aronowitz elaborates.

Using the correct amount of cake and frosting is extremely important. Too little frosting and the cake pop will be dry, crumbly, and difficult to shape; too much frosting and the resulting goodies will be overly sweet and taste only of icing.

Sweet Whimsy Shop has it down to a science. Every single lolli has a tender, slightly moist center that reveals itself upon chomping down on the crunchy outer shell of the treat. The cake itself melts in your mouth, allowing the flavoring of the pop to flood your palate.

After the cake and frosting is mixed, Aronowitz portions out each ball of cake. Then the cake ball is individually hand sculpted before being dipped into a chocolate shell.

I ask Aronowitz how she comes up with each inspired design, and she tells me, “Most of my ideas and designs are created in response to client requests. Sometimes a client will present a photo of a cake pop design she’d like reproduced. If that’s the case, and it’s not one of my designs, I try to customize it to avoid copying and I credit the original creator whenever they can be identified. Sometimes the client has a theme or general vision, and I try to create a cake pop collection that will coordinate with the theme, or realize the vision.”

For my set of cake pops, I asked that she make anything she felt like making. Aronowitz designed and delivered the cutest set of avocado, llama, taco, and cactus cake pops. The avocados are the newest addition to Sweet Whimsey’s portfolio.

Past designs have included anything from a thanksgiving turkey to taxi cab. I even found cake designed to look like a margarita glass on her website.
Inside each of my personal pops were the shop’s signature flavors, Yummy Vanilla Cake and Decadent Chocolate. Aronowitz told me that the vanilla and chocolate are the most popular flavors. The chocolate was my personal favorite.

Customers have the choice for a mix-in of sprinkles or candy into their design. Kiddie Party Mix is a vanilla cake with rainbow sprinkles layered in and the Chocolate Rainbow Explosion features chocolate cake with rainbow sprinkles.

Reese’s peanut butter cups fill the Vanilla Reese’s and the Double Chocolate Peanut Butter includes chocolate with peanut butter and mini chocolate chips. My next order will definitely test out one of the Reese’s inspired creations.

I ask Aronowitz if Sweet Whimsy offers any other special flavors. “I also offer seasonal flavors, like Green Velvet for St. Patrick’s Day. During September, October, and November, I offer Pumpkin Spice. It’s made with real pumpkin and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and it’s so good! Cozy Gingerbread was introduced this winter, after a test-taste vote during one of my pop-ups in November. I can also do custom flavors, like the Blonde Velvet I made for a friend’s wedding. It’s a red velvet recipe but made without the dye; I like it better that way!”

Sweet Whimsy Shop is constantly designing and creating, like any true committed artist. The success of the cottage shop has pushed Aronowitz to expand to other mediums.

“Cake pops are still the majority of what I make, but I am slowly expanding to include other small, very cute treats. The focus will always be on edible art that is whimsical, created with precision, and great-tasting. I have figured out how to do that very well with cake pops, but the vision extends further,” she says.
To be expected, just as much detail and finesse into all of her new treats and flavors.

If you take a peek at her instagram, @sweetwhimseyshop, you will find chocolate covered Oreos (with decorations of course), rice crispy pops, and many other brilliantly designed and decorated confections.

Original article is here.

Strawberry Cheesecake Rice Crispy Treats

Strawberry Cheesecake Rice Crispy Treats

Last week I posted a new recipe for homemade Cheesecake Marshmallows, and I wanted to share the recipe of how I used the mallows because the flavor is so unique.

The recipe for the cheesecake flavored marshmallows can be found here.

I created this recipe some time ago. I started with strawberry Rice Krispie treats that I created for my nieces and nephews. To make simple strawberry flavored Rice Krispie treats, all you have to do is use plain marshmallows in lieu of these cheesecake flavored ones.
The natural progression for strawberry cheesecake Rice Krispie treats came when I decided to attempt to make my very own homemade marshmallows.

Like most recipes, it is simple to make your own flavor or version by switching out some of the ingredients. You can create or use any flavor marshmallow you like, and the same goes for the freeze dried fruit. Make banana flavored Rice Krispie treats by using freeze dried bananas. Or even thrown in some vanilla wafers to make banana pudding Rice Krispie treats. Maybe that will be my next recipe to post.

The good news is that this recipe is extremely simple, so any level of cook can make it. It is also a really great recipe to make with your kids. I hope it inspires you to come up with your very own uniquely flavored Rice Krispie treats.

Three finished treats stacked high on a plate

Strawberry Cheesecake Rice Crispy Treats

A stack of pink rice crispy treats

Ingredients

  • 6 Cups of Rice Crispy Cereal
  • 2 Tablespoons of Butter
  • 10 Ounces of Cheesecake Flavored Marshmallows
  • 1/2 Ounce of Freeze Dried Strawberries

Instructions

  1. Prepare a 9x9 baking pan, or size of your choosing by spraying it with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Pulverize the freeze dried strawberries with a food processor. Once strawberries are a fine powder, place the powder in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Pour the cereal into the same mixing bowl, and mix together the strawberry powder and cereal. Set aside.
  4. In a small sauce pan, heat butter and marshmallows over medium heat. Stir with a rubber spatula until the butter and marshmallows are fully melted and combined.
  5. Pour marshmallow mixture over the cereal mixture and mix until fully combined.
  6. Pour the finished mixture into your prepared baking pan, spreading until even on top.
  7. Allow the treats to set up for at least one hour before slicing and serving.,
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/04/03/strawberry-cheesecake-rice-crispy-treats/

JThomas Kitchen

JThomas Kitchen

DURING MY four year college tenure, my course load required completion of a marketing class.

One of the important principles of marketing is to never rely on word of mouth, instead opt for instituting a marketing plan. And while as a business owner that very well may be true, as a food writer nothing can be further than the truth.

Word of mouth is something that I follow and trust (especially in Savannah where most news worth hearing travels fastest that way). If you do not have the love of your town and locals are not talking about your food, then you shouldn’t be reading about it.

When I have multiple people go out of their way to tell me about a place that they love to frequent, I instantly add that restaurant to my list of places to share.

JThomas Kitchen is one of those stores that locals kept bringing up, so I decided to head down to the location myself and find out what all the fuss was about. Owner and Chef Joshua Thomas was kind enough to tell me his story and of how JThomas came to grace our Southern town.

His culinary journey began in Savannah, where he was born and raised, working with his dad at a local restaurant. He spent a lot of time in many Savannah restaurants before receiving his own classical training through culinary school.

Chef Thomas plating chicken and waffles

“I said this is what I want to do, so I went to Johnson & Wales and got a bachelors degree. I hopped around and worked for some really great chefs that have taught me alot,” Chef Thomas gladly told me.

When he returned to Savannah, Chef Thomas furthered his career and opened his highly successful catering business—JThomas Catering & Events. Eventually, as space become available, Chef Thomas decided to expand his business to include a lunch counter with soups, salads, and sandwiches.

It was no surprise that lunch service was a huge success, so Chef Thomas expanded again, and now his business includes a restaurant with dinner service.

So how does a Chef approach his dinner menu after running a successful catering business for so long? Chef Thomas explained it to me without hesitation:

“Our menu is kinda fun, what we have done is taken simple food and made it really good.”

Everything I ate during my visit was just that, extremely well executed dishes by an expert hand. Chef Thomas wasn’t wrong either—the menu is really fun.

Although Chef Thomas’ approach is simple, his menu has something for everyone. He elaborated, “You can come in for dinner and get anything from bolognese to a hamburger, but we are doing it the old school way by grinding the meat, seasoning it and patting it. We make the pasta, make the sauce, and using the classical french techniques that we were taught in school.”

chicken and waffles with cream

I insist that you go straight for the Chicken ‘In’ Waffles. Chef Thomas offers guests his take on classic Chicken and Waffles dish by putting the chicken inside of the waffle.

Brined and sous-vide chicken is flash fried in waffle batter then served floating on a cloud of whipped maple syrup that has the consistency of marshmallow fluff. To round out the flavor, the dish is finished with a smoked paprika oil.

You will be satisfied with any main course that you pick, so try one and come back another day to try something different.

The Braised Beef Shoulder is slow roasted for two full days before arriving at your table. You could look at the tender hunk of meat and it would fall apart.

The beef tastes of nostalgia from your mother’s slow cooker, yet is refined with a slathering of sticky sweet root beer syrup and foundation of silky whipped potatoes. Scattered about, your fork will find an array of roasted vegetables like green beans, carrots, and potatoes, just like you would find at the bottom of any home cooked roast.

Red Snapper was the Fresh Catch the day I stopped in for my meal. To ensure the filet of fresh fish is served with an extra crispy skin the kitchen removes its skin then hard sears the filet at a very high heat, which creates its crunchy outside.

Red Snapper ontop of a corn rissotto

Inside, the giant steak of red snapper remains juicy and delicate. The generous portion of fish is served resting on top of a hill of creamy risotto that is peppered with roasted corn. To finish the dish, a heaping pat of scampi butter is added to balance the lean fish on your palate with a little fat.

Chef Thomas recognized the desire of Savannah locals to find a good steak on the menu. He has include three essential cuts, a filet, new york strip, and a ribeye.

The USDA Prime Beef Filet is served steak house style, sizzling hot with just the right amount of butter resting on top. Unlike many steak houses, Chef Thomas takes the time to well season his steak which adds to the steak’s crust which is created through proper cooking techniques. My favorite part of the dish was his use of an extremely unique black cherry demi-glace that was deeply rich.

You get a choice of Chop House sides with each steak. Every single option includes the same finesse used for all of Chef Thomas’ creations including Gouda Mac and Cheese. Need I say more?

Dessert may be the hardest thing to choose. The rows of baked goods behind the store’s glass display cabinet that sits in the dining room is staggering. Cookies, cakes, and bars are just a fraction of the items you will find on JThomas Kitchen’s overflowing bakery counter.

Beyond the food, the most impressive aspect of my visit was watching Chef Thomas interact with the influx of patrons that called him by name, all while he was cooking in a busy kitchen.

Watching Chef Thomas greet so many patrons as if they are old friends confirmed that everything I had heard was true, and it screamed Southern hospitality. I promise my confirmation had nothing to do with the enormous amount of food I devoured.

Original article is here.

Cheesecake Marshmallows

Cheesecake Marshmallows

Marshmallows are one of those things that I have always wanted to make at home. But when it is so easy to just buy a bag of pre-made marshmallows at the store, why take the time to do it yourself? Have you ever tried a homemade marshmallow? There is no comparison! Making them yourself is totally worth it.

The homemade version is fluffier, lighter, gooier, and even more so of all of the things that everyone loves about a marshmallow. And after making my very first batch (successfully might I add), I concluded that it is not very hard at all. The only troublesome part is dealing with the extra sticky freshly made mallows.

The second benefit to making them at home is that you can flavor your confection with almost anything. I found a bottle of cheesecake extract on Amazon and it arrived in two short days. Click here for the extract.

And finally, you actually get to see what is in your food. Instead of pumping yourself with processed store-bought stuff.In a few short days, I will post my recipe on how I used these little clouds of cheesecake heaven. Until then, just eat them by the handful.

The marshmallow being coated is powdered sugar

Cheesecake Marshmallows

Up close of the marshmallows after being sliced

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup of Light Karo Syrup
  • 0.625 Fluid Ounces of Cheesecake Extract
  • 3 (1/4-ounce) Envelopes of Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1 Cup of Water
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • Approximately 1/2 Cup of Powdered Sugar

Instructions

  1. Prepare a 9x9 (or something similar) baking pan by coating it in cooking spray then powdered sugar. Be sure to shake out any excess sugar. Set aside.
  2. In your stand mixer, pour in 1/2 cup of water then sprinkle over the gelatin. Allow the gelatin to bloom while you prepare the rest of the recipe. Be sure to attach your whisk beater.
  3. In a small saucepan combine the karo syrup, sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup of water.
  4. Heat over medium heat, cooking until the candy reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit or soft ball stage.
  5. Once at the desired temperature, remove the mixture from the heat and allow the bubbles to dissipate.
  6. With your stand mixer on low, slowly pour the candy mixture into the bowl.
  7. Once the mixture is full incorporated, turn the speed up to medium. Whisk the mixture for approximately 10 minutes or until the mixture folds back onto itself in a thick ribbon.
  8. After the mixture is at the desired texture, beat in your cheesecake extract.
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Smooth the top of the mixture with wet hands.
  10. Allow the marshmallows to set for at least 4 hours before slicing.
  11. After slicing, coat eat marshmallow in powdered sugar to subdue their stickiness.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/03/27/cheesecake-marshmallows/

 

Savannah’s one stop shop for all things brewed:

Savannah’s one stop shop for all things brewed:

THERE IS now a one stop shop for all things brewed: coffee, tea, kombucha, cider, and more importantly beer and wine.

In the thick of an up and coming part of town, the new restaurant and beer garden Brewed SAV sits right off Habersham near 34th.

The casual destination for locals is the creation of Douglas Galloway and Amy Livingood. The two came together through a mutual love of craft beer after meeting at the Savannah Climbing CoOp.

If you stop by the brick building on a breezy March Saturday afternoon, like I did last week, an ice cold frothy beer straight from the tap is a must.

Livingood is the expert on the offerings of Brewed Brews so I will let her explain what is available from their taps.

“We have 16 craft regional taps, but started our launch with all Georgia craft beer. Georgia was the last state to change brewery laws to allow breweries to sell directly out of their tap room,” she says.

That development is a game changer in that it allows breweries the revenue in house to experiment and grow.

“Georgia’s beer scene is a new frontier after the law changes, and we expect a lot of awesome new ones to open in the near future!” she says.

I am a fan of darker, more robust beers so I went for the Arches Brick & Maple, a nutty caramel brown ale. The list has something for everyone—IPAs, sours, stouts, lagers, and more.

For true Southerners, good iced cold tea is just as important on a hot afternoon as is having a cold one. Keeping with the brewed theme, and paying homage to our Southern town, Brewed Brews recognized that including the leafy steeped drink was a must. Just as much thought was put into the selection of teas, the same care was taken in selecting the keg behind each tap.

Livingood explained the selection to me.

“We met John Arnold from Hale Tea Company through James Spano after picking out our coffee roast. I wasn’t into tea until I moved to Savannah where I realized why everyone craves an ice cold tea on a hot afternoon,” she says.

“I trust James Spano’s taste and immediately found perfect loose leaf teas to create long process toddy teas, and it’s become one of the more surprising and creative parts of Brewed that we hope to continue to build on as summer approaches.”

Finally, the drink menu has a wide selection of coffee concoctions: The most important drink of the morning, especially when you have had too many libations.

The Hot Toddy is unique to Brewed SAV, and as told by Livingood, “I discovered concentrated iced toddy coffee in college when I was trying to maximize my ability to study and work at the same time.”

As for the coffee itself, the menu uses locally roasted Cup to Cup coffee, and the blend of coffee used by the store is dubbed Camp Coffee.

“When we started looking for a local roaster to partner with,” Livingood told me, “we fell in love with Cup to Cup’s earthy and chocolate note small batch roasts and I perfected our ‘camp coffee’ on one of our many 6+ hour road trips to climb in Chattanooga where I would wake everyone up the next day to a kick in the pants cold brew coffee to help us all hike as fast as possible and send all the routes and still have energy for a beer around the campfire after.”

If you sit too long throwing back drinks and watching soccer on their big screens, you will definitely want to order some snacks.

Go for the Obatzda Spread which is served with Auspicious Bakery pretzel crackers. Obatzda is a Bavarian dish made by combining multiple cheeses and spices. Brewed Brews makes theirs with brie and paprika (because paprika makes anything taste amazing). You will be tempted to shovel this dip into your mouth by the spoonful.

Do not expect to find just a few simple bar snacks. According to Livingood, “Our menu falls in line with German beer hall offerings. We have cheese spreads, cheese and meat boards, and are getting our pretzel crackers, country loafs, and focaccia from Auspicious Baking Company. A crowd favorite this first week has been our pimento cheese spread that we offer with pretzel crackers from Auspicious or as our ‘Hard Working Lunch’ special as a no crust sandwich paired with a Coors Banquet. The pimento recipe is a family recipe from the Matthews that Smith was kind enough to share with us.”

The Hard Working Lunch is a hand-cut, round white bread sandwich jammed with Southern pimento cheese and a vine ripe slice of red tomato. To wash it down, the tray of food is served with a tallboy Coors Banquet Beer.

Every baked item within the four walls is baked by Auspicious, which means you will find a large assortment of expertly baked pastries at all times in the pastry case.

I couldn’t resist taking home a Nutella filled Poptart home to have a treat for later.

Even if you don’t need an excuse to go sit at Savannah’s newest casual local beer house, at any time you can find a fun event or great game being hosted by the team at Brewed Brews.

Apricot Roasted Chicken

Apricot Roasted Chicken

There are often extremely difficult moments in life—days during which you feel as though you will not be okay. In the end, time will heal almost everything, but waiting seems impossible.

In those moments, food plays an important role for many. Personally, I gravitate towards homecooked meals that warm and ease my soul.

Two weeks ago I made the difficult decision to let go of my dog and best friend of 13 years. Although I know it was the correct decision to ease her suffering, it was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. My friends and family really stepped up to be there for my husband and I. The showering of food (and booze if I am being honest) kept my home full while my heart was empty.

I cannot think of a more soul warming meal than roasted meat and a couple of sides. A meat and two or three (or four) is a staple southern meal. Growing up, dinner most nights included meatloaf, country fried steak, pot roast, salmon patties, or pork chops.

So when you go through something difficult you often lean towards bits of nostalgia—the good moments. A full plate of love-filled food is a plate full of nostalgia for me. A lot of my childhood consisted of sitting in the kitchen with my mother as she cooked me dishes from the heart.

Although she never roasted chicken like this, I think this recipe is easily one that you can add to your repertoire of food to cook and share with others. The preparation calls for an arrangement of vegetables at the bottom of your roast pan and a slathering of sweet sticky apricot preserves. The result is a juicy home roasted chicken with a slight Asian flare.

I am going to leave this recipe here because it is my hope that you share a homecooked, heart-filling meal with friends or family. Even if you are not going through your own battle, and just want a good meal, this dish will serve you well. Now get in the kitchen and make memories.

Apricot Glaze Roasted Chicken

Apricot Glaze Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole Chicken
  • 1 Bunch of Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Jar of Apricot Jam
  • 2 Yellow Onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 Lemon, halved
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
  • 2 Cups of Chicken Broth, and more as needed
  • 1/3 Cup of Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Cup of Dried Apricots, sliced in half
  • 5 Tablespoons of Butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare the chicken by patting it dry with paper towels.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper into the cavity of the chicken then stuff the chicken. Add in one half of the lemon, half of the whole fresh thyme sprigs, two cloves of garlic, one half of one onion, and approximately six dried apricots.
  4. Coat the chicken in juice from the remaining lemon and in olive oil, rubbing them into the skin. Generously sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper then tie the legs together with cooking twine.
  5. In the bottom of the roasting pan place the remaining onion, apricots, and thyme. Pour the chicken broth over the vegetables.
  6. Finely chop the remaining garlic, and sprinkle approximately 3 cloves worth over the chicken broth.
  7. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan.
  8. Place the roasting pan on the middle rack in the oven to roast.
  9. You will initially roast the chicken for 15 minutes at 450 degrees before turning the temperature down.
  10. While the chicken initially roasts, prepare the glaze.
  11. In a small saucepan combine the jar of apricot preserves, butter, red wine vinegar, and remaining chopped garlic. Mix until everything is combined and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the glaze from the heat.
  12. After the initial fifteen minutes has passed, reduce the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and baste your chicken with its first coating of apricot glaze.
  13. If the pan ever becomes dry, add in more chicken stock.
  14. Glaze the chicken every 15 minutes, cooking the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  15. Once the chicken reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest before serving it.
  16. While the chicken rests, create a sauce to serve with it.
  17. Combine any drippings from the pan with the remaining glaze and heat in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  18. Reduce the sauce until it reaches the desired thickness or is reduced to approximately half. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/03/21/apricot-roasted-chicken/

Savannah’s First Farm to Truck Food Truck: Strangebird

Savannah’s First Farm to Truck Food Truck: Strangebird

AIRSTREAMS are super cool, but an Airstream that sells seasonally inspired food all around Savannah gives this one quite a leg up on the rest that I’ve seen.

The 26-foot 1967 Airstream Ambassador I refer to is the newest food truck to take our town by storm. Strangebird, the sister food truck to Bluffton, S.C., restaurant FARM Bluffton, has quickly become a grub mobile that I seek out anytime it comes over the bridge.

I think it’s fair to call Strangebird Savannah’s first farm-to-truck establishment.

Strangebird Chef and partner Brandon Carter told me the story of how the truck came about.

“We’re an extension of FARM Bluffton. We purchased the Airstream as a way to test out new concepts, do off-site catering and as a way to do community outreach events. Strange Bird is our new baby and we’re super excited about the possibilities,” Carter says.

How exciting is it for Savannah to get its own taste of one of Bluffton’s most popular food destinations?

The Strangebird truck is the first Airstream I have encountered in our port city, naturally making me curious as to why the team settled on a tin trailer.

“We bought one to fix up and then came across this one, which was already converted. We couldn’t pass up the offer. We wanted to have greater mobility so we could bring our experience to different venues. We like the airstream because of the aesthetic,” explains Chef Carter.

The foodies who seek out our new local restaurant on wheels can expect a constantly rotating menu that uses only the freshest farm ingredients.

According to Chef Carter, “We have an extensive network of farmers and artisan producers that we use at Farm. It made sense to continue supporting the people who support us with Strange Bird.”

A guest being served from the truck
Some of the purveyors include well known and loved local farms like Canewater Farm, Georgia Olive Farms, and Rainwater Mushrooms.

Because the ingredients used are locally sourced, the root of each menu always has a southern side. The use of butter beans in lieu of pinto beans as the base of their refried beans demonstrates just that.

A past menu even had a fried bologna sandwich, which is something I always relate to the truly Southern, and handmade tater tots.

Bringing on extreme nostalgia, the inner child in me almost cried upon discovering I had missed the fried bologna sandwich, a treat that is so often prepared for family by Southern grandmothers.

The ingredients themselves are not the only consideration put into the creation of each menu by Chef Carter.
As he puts it, “We create menus based on what’s growing and where we’re popping up.”

As more vibrant and readily available produce becomes available with the warmer months, it will be thrilling to see the new dishes that are created.

Another important question I wanted answered was how the title Strangebird came about.
The answer is simpler than you think.

“Our chef de cuisine Burns Sullivan has been experimenting with a marinade for our grilled chicken. It combines flavors from Sichuan Guaiwei seasoning [this translates to ‘strange taste’ so you can see the connection] and jerk. It is unbelievably good grilled on charcoal,” says Carter.

Past menus have included a Strange Chicken Taco, a Green Chorizo Taco, and a Cauliflower Macha Taco.

Their chicken taco is plated with cool cabbage, tender beans, punchy onions, and a creamy white barbecue sauce.

The spicy chorizo taco is cooled by the addition of pineapple and cotija, and finished with onion and avocado. And as for the cauliflower taco, peanuts are added for crunch along with cabbage, onion, and avocado.

One of the trucks latest pop ups was at Service Brewery for the brewery’s release party of their Old Guard beer. I was not lucky enough to taste their signature Strangbird chicken when I caught the truck at one of its latest stops, but everything I was able to try was stellar.

As I sat sipping my beer, I kept hearing other patrons rave about the Crispy Beet Taco that was available on their menu that night. Although I am a self-admitted beet basher, I figured it was worth a try.

A close up of the beet taco
I quickly jumped up and order some tacos. Because the price was so reasonable, two tacos for twelve bucks, I figured even if I did not love the beet version I would not be out much.

Well, it was a penny well spent. The vibrant purple beets that sat on top of the fresh corn tortilla were crunchy and roasted to the point of sweetness.

Sprinkled over the top were deep fried corn kernels, fennel, cilantro, and a smear of avocado. This was as balanced as a taco could ever be, crunchy, creamy, salty, and sweet.

My second taco choice was the Carnitas Taco, because I wanted to opt for a bit more tradition. Cotija and a sofrito adorned this little round treat. The non-traditional portion, the use of sliced rounds of carrots and a sauce that is dubbed “your mom sauce.”

For my side I was immediately drawn to Grilled Street Carrots, Strangebird’s take on street corn which is also known as Elote. Colorful rustic carrots are chargrilled until fork tender then served smothered in a white barbecue sauce and cotija cheese.

The overall effect is a treat that reminds you of an earthier version of the classically decadent dish.

I expect that a brand new menu will roll out at their next stop, which shouldn’t be too far into the future.

Original article can be found here

Double Cookie Birthday Cake

Double Cookie Birthday Cake

I am positive after reading that title you are asking, “What the heck is a double cookie birthday cake?” It is a creation from my own head. A vanilla cake stuffed with eggless cookie dough then coated in a cookies and cream icing, i.e. double cookies.

The idea started with last years birthday celebration for my husband. His all-time favorite cookie is a snickerdoodle, so I made him a triple cookie birthday cake. It was literally three different layers of cookie smothered in a salted caramel buttercream icing.

My Triple Cookie Cake recipe can be found here.

For his birthday this year, I wanted to keep the theme going for my husband. So instead of three layers of cookie, I made three layers of classic vanilla cake; the cookie portion would come in with the icing and stuffing (making it only a double cookie cake).

To finish it off? An optional drizzle of creamy rich chocolate ganache and a big ball of cookie dough.

The finished result is a classic vanilla birthday cake that everyone knows and loves jammed with those nostalgic cookie flavors of your childhood.

Double Cookie Birthday Cake

Double Cookie Birthday Cake

Ingredients

  • For the Eggless Cookie Dough:
  • 3/4 Cup of Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 Cup of Chocolate Chips
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup of All Propose Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons of Whole Milk
  • For the Icing:
  • 2 Sticks of Butter, Softened
  • 4 Cups of Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Sleeve of Oreos, crushed
  • For the Cake:
  • 2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 2 Cups of Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cups of Cake Flour
  • 1 Cup of Buttermilk
  • 1 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of Baking Powder

Instructions

  1. Start by making the cake layers. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans then set them aside until ready to use.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In you stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This takes approximately 3-4 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl mix together the wet ingredients; the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  5. In a separate small bowl sift together the dry ingredients; the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  6. Starting with your wet mixture, pour in 1/3 and mix over medium speed until fully combined.
  7. Next add in 1/3 of your dry mixture, mixing until combined.
  8. Continue adding in your wet and dry mixture, alternating, until your finish with the final 1/3 of your dry mixture. Mix on medium speed until the batter is fully combined.
  9. Divide your cake batter evenly between the three cake pans.
  10. Bake the cake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. After baking, allow the cakes to cool completely before assembly.
  12. While the cake layers cool, create your eggless cookie dough.
  13. In your stand mixer, on medium speed, beat together the softened butter and the brown sugar until light and fluffy. This should take 3-4 minutes.
  14. Add in the flour, milk, and vanilla beating until combined.
  15. Add the chocolate chips, mixing in by hand.
  16. Set the dough aside until ready to use.
  17. Make your icing by creaming the butter in your stand mixer.
  18. Gently pour in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Mix fully before pouring the next portion.
  19. Once the icing is nice and whipped, pour in the salt, milk, and vanilla. Mix on medium speed until fully mixed.
  20. Finally, pour in the crushed oreos and mix until the oreos are incorporated throughout the icing.
  21. Assemble your cake by spreading a layer of icing between the first two layers, the cookie dough should go in the middle, and another layer of icing over the top layer.
  22. Any leftover cookie dough can be used to decorate the top of the cake.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/02/28/double-cookie-birthday-cake/

The Diner Bar at The Grey

The Diner Bar at The Grey

Being a food writer, I’m often confronted with the question, “Which restaurant do you recommend?” As you can imagine, that question has never proffered a straightforward answer.

There are so many variables to consider before lending proper advice: price range, cuisine type, location, ambience, the list goes on. What I can tell you is that my list of contenders almost always includes the same cornerstone group of restaurants, the places I’ve visited multiple times and where I’ve always experienced a consistent dinner service.

The Diner Bar at The Grey has perpetually stayed on my shortlist of go-to’s. The reason is simple—The Diner Bar, which sits at at the front of the old Greyhound station that houses The Grey Restaurant, gives patrons a laidback taste of The Grey without the need for a reservation or a more formal dining experience.

Last year, when I sat down with owner John O. Morisano for an interview on The Grey’s latest venture, The Grey Market, he revealed to me that The Diner Bar would soon be changing its menu.

Although disappointed because I would be losing access to my favorite fried chicken sandwich in all of town, I was elated to have the opportunity to try even more delicious recipes from the mind of truly talented executive chef and Morisano’s business partner, Mashama Bailey.

For those who have had the chicken schnitzel sandwich over at the Diner Bar, do not fret—the new menu of the Diner Bar features Chicken Biscuits & Gravy. Now your list of favorite Savannah chicken biscuits can squeeze in a new contender.

The biscuit is textbook, delicate and fluffy, and includes whole grain mustard that is slathered on top. The idea is to cut through the richness of the oversized crispy chicken thigh that sits between the decadent Southern biscuit that would surely make your grandmother proud.
I asked Morisano about the change and his explanation expedited my grieving of the schnitzel.

He said, “When Mashama and I started The Grey the thing we said is, the thing we want to be known for is not being known for anything. We did not want to have that dish that people came for and you lived in fear of taking it off the menu. It is called the ‘riot dish.’ You take it off and it causes a riot.”

As a lover of all things food, his response excited me. Avoiding a stagnant menu not only keeps the kitchen engaged, but it excites the customers as well. Knowing you’ll receive a consistent experience with the team at The Grey means that you should feel comfortable letting go of your go-to menu item.

Morisano explained the second reason behind the change in menu at The Diner Bar. “The idea was to use ingredients that we have in-house, so that we can streamline the food we are making for the [The Grey] dining room with the food we are making in The Diner Bar.”

Originally The Diner Bar ran its food service with just the charcuterie station and a few other things. As time passed, and the restaurant group became more successful, the ability to expand the menu of The Diner Bar opened.

The Tartare Tartine, a beef tartar created with dry aged beef that is served with crusty house baked sourdough and pickled ginger, is the perfect dish to get a taste of The Grey without the need for a reserved table.

You will find a more refined version of the beef tartar on the dinner menu of The Grey, but as Morisano puts it “this is a down and dirty, slap-it-on-a-piece-of-toast version, and it is delicious.”

My favorite story told by Morisano is how new menu item the Big Dog, a chili, slaw, and mustard smothered beef
One of the new menu items, the Big Dog, named after a rather memorable incident in which a disappointed patron had a few choice words for Morisano, consists of chili, slaw, and a mustard smothered beef hot dog.

Morisano explained that Chef Bailey never considered adding a hotdog to the menu until she tasted the hotdog that sits at the base of this dish.

The Spicy Fried Oysters is a Lowcountry play on Nashville hot chicken.

“The hot oysters are the hottest thing that Mashama has ever had on a menu anywhere. It is a ridiculously delicious plate of food,” Morisano told me, and I am confident in his word on it.

The crispy fried oysters are served with milk bread to cut through the heat of Chef Bailey’s comeback sauce.

A few things have stayed the same at The Diner Bar. The Diner Bar offers raw oysters from all over the eastern American coast. The presentation is simple, a wedge of lemon and mignonette.

With such fresh, clean-flavored oysters the accompaniment does not have to be over the top. I recommend starting your meal with a dozen of each kind offered, especially considering Morisano told me that their raw oyster happy hour is back on the menu.

The cocktails rotate seasonally, but the care and attention placed into each luscious libation has not changed. No matter which cocktail list is available, you will find a happy hour prices until 6 p.m. and a weekly wildcard cocktail offering.

During my last visit I was able to try the Blush wildcard cocktail, a delicate refreshing pink adult beverage shaken with gin, Campari, vermouth, and lime. Past wildcard cocktails have included a spin on a negroni and a spin on the bijou.

Just like our last meeting, during this sit down Morisano filled me in on yet another changing menu. The Grey Market launched a new menu last week.

The first thing Morisano mentioned was the burger—“We are changing the burger around. We are messing with the ratio of beef to bun,” because as Morisano explained it, “What makes the perfect burger is the perfect ratio.”

Other notable new options at The Grey Market include their potato wedges turned into disco fries, lamb birmingham, a pan perdue, and a rotisserie chicken flatbread.

Also, I would be remiss to not mention Chef Bailey’s appearance on the Netflix series, “Chef’s Table” premiering Feb. 22.
You may want to make your reservations or belly up to the Diner Bar before then. Something tells me that it may get a little more difficult to get in after that.

Original article is here.

Seasonal Citrus Salad

Seasonal Citrus Salad

Citrus was put on this earth to help get everyone through the cold winters in the south. You see us southerners, especially in the low country, thrive in thick sticky heat. The second the temperature drops below 70 degrees, madness ensues.

Around the same time the winter blues make us yearn for a day on the boat and some warm salt air, citrus comes into season. A little fresh vitamin C pick me up always helps make the long winter nights seem shorter. Every time I peel a juicy ripe orange I am immediately reminded of sipping a Mai Tai by the pool.

If you look in my pantry this time of year, you will always find a mound of sumo oranges. My husband loves to bring them home to me as a treat, unless I really need some chocolate.

This recipe came together by walking around my local market and picking out what was ripe and in season–citrus. And of course I included sumo oranges.

I love a recipe that is a simple-to-make showstopper. When you use really good in-season ingredients it does not take much work to make the finished dish taste good. All together this Seasonal Citrus Salad took around ten minutes to throw together, and the result was one I was proud to serve to my friends for dinner. This salad would also be a lovely addition to any brunch or breakfast.

Because this recipe is seasonal, you can use any citrus that is available near you. Please do not feel constrained to use what I have listed, go out and grab your favorite winter citrus.

Seasonal Citrus Salad

Seasonal Citrus Salad

Ingredients

  • For the Dressing:
  • 2 Tablespoons of Honey
  • 3 Tablespoons of Reduced White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon of Tahini
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • For the Salad:
  • 1 Pomelo Citrus
  • 2 Sumo or Tangelo Oranges
  • 2 Oranges
  • 1 Grapefruit
  • 1/2 of a Red Onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 Cup of Pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 Cup of White Vinegar

Instructions

  1. First make the dressing. In mason jar, combine all of the ingredients for the dressing, cover with a lid, then shake until well combined. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl cover the sliced red onion with the white vinegar. Set aside to allow the onion soak in the vinegar and soften its flavor.
  3. Peel and slice all of the fruit.
  4. In a large bowl combine the sliced fruit, drained onions, and salad dressing. Mix until well combined.
  5. Top salad with chopped pistachios and serve immediately.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/02/17/seasonal-citrus-salad/

White Chocolate Mousse Tart + Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Sauce

White Chocolate Mousse Tart + Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Sauce

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope your day is filled with joy and love–even if that means cuddling your dog a little extra.

I did not plan on posting for Valentine’s Day. That all changed when I watched the latest episode of Kids Baking Championship. I watch almost any baking show available.

On the last episode, the challenge was to create a tart with crazy ingredient. Pink peppercorns were one of the ingredients given to use. So, laying in bed, watching these kids kill it in the kitchen I thought, “I can do that!”

Strawberry, chocolate, and a little spice from peppercorns just seemed like the perfect Valentines combination. So the stars aligned, and this recipe would be the perfect one to post on Valentine’s.

Also, I knew my husband would love it. Two birds, one stone.

The tart itself is nothing crazy–simple dark chocolate pate sucree (crust) sits on the bottom with a swirled airy white chocolate mousse to full it. The crazy comes in with the sauce for the top, cooked down fresh strawberries with pulverized pink peppercorns.

Pink peppercorns work perfectly with fruit because they are much more floral than normal black peppercorns. They also have less of a peppery bite.

Finished tart ready to be served

This is not a beginners recipe so as always I want to give you a few tips to help:

  • Creating a light mousse only takes a few ingredients and proper technique. You use both meringue and whipped cream. To create a perfect meringue use room temperature egg whites and ensure there is not even a fleck of egg yolk in the whites.
  • Folding is how your incorporate meringue and whipped cream into the chocolate. Folding is not like whisking or stirring. To fold you gently cut down the middle of your mixture with a spatula, then fold over one half of the mixture over the second half. Repeat until everything is blended.
  • Always chill your tart shell before rolling it out, fit the shell to the tart pan once cooled, and also chill again before baking it once it is fit into the tart pan. This will prevent shrinkage.
  • Always poke holes with a fork in the bottom of the tart dough to prevent it from puffing during baking.

White Chocolate Mousse Tart + Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Sauce

A slice of tart with sauce on top and a bite taken out

Ingredients

  • For the Crust:
  • 1/3 Stick of Cold Butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/3 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 3 Tablespoons of Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 Cup of Powdered Sugar
  • 1/8 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Large Egg
  • For the Mousse:
  • 6 Ounces of Good White Chocolate
  • 1 1/4 Cups of Whipping Cream
  • 2 Large Egg Whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 Teaspoon of Cream of Tartar
  • For the Sauce:
  • 1lb of Fresh Strawberries
  • Juice from 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon of Pink Peppercorns
  • 1/4 Cup of Sugar

Instructions

  1. First create the tart dough.
  2. In a food processor combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Pulse until the ingredients are combined.
  3. Next add in the cold butter. Pulse the mixture together for approximatley 15 seconds or until the mixture resembles chunky sand. You want the butter to be in shape of various sized pebbles.
  4. Add the egg into the food processor and mix until combined.
  5. Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and form it into a ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and allow it rest in the fridge for one hour.
  6. While the dough chills, create your mousse.
  7. In a double boiler over medium heat, combine 1/4 cup of the whipping cream with the white chocolate.
  8. Stir continually until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Once smooth, set aside to allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes.
  9. Next make your merigue by combining the egg whites and cream of tarter in a stand mixer. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
  10. Place the meringue in a seperate bowl, and then clean the mixing bowl.
  11. Make the whipped cream by combining the remaining heavy whipping cream and the vanilla extract in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until stiff whipped cream forms.
  12. In a large bowl, fold 1/2 of your meringue into the white chocolate until it is fully incorporated. Fold the remaining 1/2 of meringue into the mixture.
  13. Next fold 1/2 of your whipped cream into the merigue and white chocolate mixture until it is well combined. After fully combined, fold in the remaining 1/2.
  14. Cover and allow the white chocolate mousse to rest in the fridge while you finish the tart crust.
  15. After the tart dough has chilled for one hour, place your dough on a well floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll out your tart dough into a sphere that is two inches larger than the tart pan you plan to use.
  16. Place the tart dough into the pan and pressing it in. You want to form the dough to the pan completely then trim off the ends. Poke the bottom of the tart pan with a fork.
  17. Place the tart pan in the fridge to allow the dough to cool while you preheat your oven. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  18. Once the oven is heated, line the dough with parchment paper then fill it with pie weights.
  19. Bake for 20 minutes.
  20. Allow the crust to cool completely before filling it.
  21. While the crust cools, create your strawberry sauce.
  22. Rinse, hull, and slice your strawberries into large chunks.
  23. Place the strawberries into a small saucepan along with the sugar and lemon juice.
  24. Heat the mixture over medium heat until it reaches a boil.
  25. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the strawberries to cook for 20 minutes.
  26. While the strawberries cook, grind or pulverize the pink peppercorns into a course powder.
  27. After 20 minutes is up, remove the strawberry sauce from the heat and stir in the pink pepper. Set the mixture aside to cool.
  28. Finish the tart by smoothing the white chocolate mousse into the chilled tart shell. Then, allow it to set up in the fridge for at least one hour.
  29. Slice and serve the tart with the stawberry sauce.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/02/14/white-chocolate-mousse-tart-pink-peppercorn-strawberry-sauce/

A close up of the tart

Spicy Kitchen Sink Cookies

Spicy Kitchen Sink Cookies

The concept of a kitchen sink cookie is simple: you put everything in but the kitchen sink. It is one of those recipes that works with almost anything and everything you have in your baking pantry. This means it is a great recipe to keep in your pocket when a baking emergency comes up, i.e an impromptu party or impromptu house guests.

For my version of kitchen sink cookies I use a combination that I find is well balanced, salty, sweet, and spicy. For salt I throw in pretzels and kettle cooked chips, kettle cooked so they retain their crunchiness. The sweet comes from butterscotch and chocolate chips. Finally, the spicy from some chipotle roasted peanuts.

If you do not have spicy peanuts you can throw red pepper into the cookie mix, roast your own peanuts in a spice mixture, or simply use plain peanuts.

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The cookie base for the recipe is heavy in brown sugar and butter, which results a gooier more buttery cookie. In my book, the ultimate cookie is one that is cooked on the outside and still gooey on the center. The trick to a perfect texture is twofold, chilling the butter before baking and under baking the cookie. I take the cookies out of the oven when the edges just start to brown then I let them cool on the cookie sheet.

Chilling your cookie dough before baking it prevents the butter from spreading too much during baking. If the butter spreads too much the finished cookies will be thin and not thick and tender.

This recipe would also be delicious as a chocolate chip cookie using only chocolate chips as the add-in. And of course, I recommend a large glass of ice cold milk to accompany your fresh out of the oven warm cookies.

This cookie may be the strangest, most delicious, and well balanced cookie I have ever eaten.

For more tips on cookie making, see this post.

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Spicy Kitchen Sink Cookies

A stack of baked cookies next to a glass of milk

Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks of Butter, softened
  • 1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup of Sugar
  • 2 1/2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Cup of Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 Cup of Butterscotch Chips
  • 1 Cup of Kettle Cooked Chips
  • 1/2 Cup of Pretzels, crushed
  • 1/2 Cup of Spicy Peanuts

Instructions

  1. With your stand mixer on medium speed, cream together your sugars and softened butter. Mix until well combined.
  2. Next add in the eggs and egg yolk. Pour in eggs one at a time, mixing until well combined.
  3. Add in the vanilla extract, mixing until well combined.
  4. In a bowl combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  5. Pour the flour mixture into mixing bowl a little at a time. Continue to mix cookie dough until fully combined.
  6. Once cookie mixture is fully mixed, add in the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pretzels, chips, and peanuts.
  7. Mix the cookie dough over low speed until the add-ins are broken up and well distributed. This should take no more than 1 minute.
  8. Cover the cookie mixture well and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. This will prevent too much spreading.
  9. While the cookie dough chills, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fairenhiet.
  10. Prepare each cookie sheet with a layer of parchment paper.
  11. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden on the edges. If you are baking more than one cookie sheet at a time, it will take approximately 15 minutes for the cookies to bake.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/02/12/spicy-kitchen-sink-cookies/

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The Ultimate BLT

The Ultimate BLT

A bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is one of those dishes that instantly triggers nostalgia for me. A good BLT is one of my mom’s favorite foods, which means so often growing up she would throw together a BLT for our supper.

Her recipe did not require special ingredients or fancy techniques, just a bit more care. She would quickly pan fry some bacon, which she usually had on hand in the fridge, slice some tomatoes from the garden, and slather toasted white bread with mayo. After watching her prepare countless sandwiches I realized what made her homemade version my favorite version. Aside from the addition of love, my mom seasoned every layer of her sandwich with salt and pepper.

First the mayo is lacquered on the bread then hit with a sprinkling of seasoning, the next layer is added and seasoned, and so on. As you can imagine, building a sandwich with tomato that has a sprinkling of salt and pepper far exceeds a sandwich with plain tomato.

And although I feel that you can never go wrong with classic BLT, I wanted to push the limits on what a BLT can be. With that in mind, I did not want to change the backbones of the sandwich by adding or using a bunch of random things. In the south people love to throw a fried green tomato onto a BLT in an attempt to heighten the recipe–I was not about to do that.

My approach is to amplify the already existing ingredients of a BLT. Add some garlic to the mayo, use better tomatoes, etcetera.

I use this Balsamic Onion Jam recipe to make the jam I use on the sandwich.

A few notes:

  1. Garlic confit can make you very sick if you do not cook it and store it properly. I recommend using it immediately and if you want to save it, freeze it.
  2. I purchased a loaf of homemade bread from a local baker. I recommend opting for a better bread than normal sliced bread from the grocery store.
  3. The true secret to making any BLT so much better is to salt and pepper every layer, even your smear of mayo.
  4. Finally, bake your bacon. This is a trick I learned during my short time as a line cook. Most restaurants place bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake it instead of pan frying it. It keeps the kitchen cleaner (bacon grease does not spatter everywhere) and you are able to tend to other things in the kitchen while the bacon bakes.

An Ultimate BLT

All of the prepared ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Pound of Thick Sliced Bacon
  • 8 Slices of Country White Bread
  • Balsamic Onion Jam, link to recipe can be found above
  • 1 Head of Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup of Mayonise
  • 1 Head of Romaine Lettuce
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions

  1. First, bake your bacon. Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange your bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan, or two if needed. Bake for approximatley 45 minutes, or until bacon is the texture that you like.
  2. While the bacon cooks, make the garlic confit. Peel the garlic cloves. In a small saucepan, combine your olive oil and peeled garlic.
  3. Heat oil over medium low heat. Cook garlic until soft, approximate 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Once your bacon is cooked, remove it from the oven and let the bacon drain on paper towels.
  5. With your cooked garlic, make your garlic aioli. Finely chop 3 cloves of garlic. Combine the chopped garlic with the mayonnaise and a pinch of salt and pepper. Store the remaining cooked garlic for another use.
  6. Rinse off lettuce and tomatoes, then set aside to dry.
  7. Slice the Romain lettuce into bread size pieces. Slice the tomatoes.
  8. Toast your white bread.
  9. Smear each piece of toast with maynaoise, then salt and pepper the mayonnaise.
  10. Next place on your romaine, then a layer of bacon, and a layer of tomatoes. Salt and pepper your tomatoes.
  11. Spoon over your balsamic onion jam. Finish the sandwhich by topping it with a piece of bread with mayonnaise.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/02/09/the-ultimate-blt/

 

 

The Newest Bakery in Savannah: Mad Mac’s

The Newest Bakery in Savannah: Mad Mac’s

My favorite kind of article to write is the one where I stumble upon a new place—literally.

Several weeks ago, while walking through Wright Square after lunch, I noticed an open sign in the space that once occupied Our Daily Bread.

Intrigued, I immediately walked in and asked the lady behind the counter, “What is this?” She promptly responded, “Mad Mac’s Bakery.”

A quick glance around and my eyes were filled with colorful French macarons, cookies, muffins, and everything in between. I knew immediately I wanted to write about my lucky find.

That lady turned out to be Dee Gibson, mother to owner of Mad Mac’s Bakery, Logan McDonald. While I was in the bakery buying more baked goods than I could stomach, we chatted quickly and without hesitation set me up an interview with McDonald.

I was elated, because a second trip to Mad Mac’s would give me an ample excuse to buy even more sweet treats, which I did.

During my first visit I purchased a six pack of macarons. The price is quite possibly the best in town — you get a half a dozen for only ten bucks.

A few of the flavors I took home included Mexican hot chocolate, confetti, and pistachio. Each macaron had a textbook execution with a light crunchy shell that gives way to a tender and chewy inside.

I also grabbed a few Cup Cookies, which was by far my favorite cookie offered at Mad Mac’s. Cookie dough is mushed into a muffin pan before being baked. The result is a baked good with the perfect cookie texture—a crunchy shell and an ooey gooey soft cookie center. The Cup Cookies have everything you could love about a well baked cookie warm out of the oven.

Mad Mac’s did not stop at simply baking a cookie. Each cup is topped with a hefty piping of soft buttery icing. The chocolate chip was my favorite (mainly because I feel as though a chocolate chip cookie is the ultimate cookie), but the snickerdoodle was just as scrumptious.

I am told by McDonald that the Heath Bar Cup Cookie is their most popular. A third trip may be in order to hunt down the Heath Bar version.

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When I returned to learn about Mad Mac’s from McDonald, I first asked him several questions about the place, then purchased a few more treats to round out my experience.
My first question was, “Where does Mad-Mac’s come from?” McDonald shed some light saying, “My last name is McDonald and McDonald’s is already taken, and of course it works with macarons.”

Of course, I then followed with a series of questions about his recipes and all of the baked good available.

McDonald is the great-grandson of Mabel Francis Potter of Mabel’s Cupckae Emporium. Baking and working with Mabel’s, the idea of Mad Mac’s was not a new one, and had been thrown around before. When the storefront became available, McDonald seized his opportunity to branch out from his family.

Although McDonald is doing his own thing, he explains, “A lot of the recipes come from my great-grandmother Mabel Francis Potter with the cupcake emporium. I am have a little bit of a different take, keeping her naming going and modernizing it a little bit.”

I next ask McDonald about all of the macarons since French macarons seem to be the cornerstone of the store. He tells me that they “make them in house and a lot of places do not…we are constantly making new flavors. We probably have around thirty flavors of macarons.”

Even though there are enough variations of macarons to make anyone happy, the second case of treats in the store is well round and rotates like the macarons.
According to McDonald, “the menu changes, but you can always expect it to include French macarons.”

Because of the ever-available macarons, my second visit I decided to take home some cookie sandwiches and a muffin. The muffin did not make it home.

I never eaten a muffin and expect to be totally wowed. Was I pleasantly surprised with the muffin from Mad Mac’s? Yes. Completely taken aback.

I state this without hesitation—the apple muffin at Mad-Mac’s was one of the most enjoyable muffins I have ever eaten. Large chunks of apple added into the batter make the finished muffin so moist it is almost sticky.

Somehow a super-fine and delicate cake crumble is created by their recipe. McDonald also mentions having a berry and mango filled muffin available as well. The addition of mango into a classic berry muffin highlights his modern take on his family recipes.

As for the cookie sandwich, like all of the other treats in the mountain of baked goods I tried, it was heavenly. Inside of two classic chocolate chip cookies you will find a slathering sweet silky icing. The Red Velvet Cookie Sandwich is a deep dark red cookie with coated with a white glaze and filled with a classic frosting.

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Finally, the case had a Magic Bar, which McDonald says has been extremely popular with patrons. It is created using graham cracker, coconut, chocolate and a few other things. “It’s a gooey coconut chocolate bar. It is glorious,” McDonald says.

McDonald plans to open a comic book shop in the back of the bakery. Which begs the question—why open a comic book store in a bakery?

McDonald elevated my wonder by saying, “Whenever I go into a comic book store it is almost a scary thing. It is a dark place with water dripping down the ceiling. I always wanted to have a high end comic book store.”

Patrons can expect the paper portion of the storefront to open its doors between March and April.

Original article can be found here.

Chai Milk Cake

Chai Milk Cake

Being able to bake a cake is the cornerstone of becoming a good baker–especially an at-home baker. But if you are anything like me (I have been baking since my teenage years), you may feel as though you have baked every type of cake there is. After enough time you start pulling away from baking the same old cakes, and bake new and exiting things. At least until a new and exciting cake idea comes along.

A few weeks ago I read about the idea of a milk cake and was thrilled – I found a cake I have never made before.

The concept is simple. Much like a tres leches cake, you bake a dense cake then soak it in flavored milk. The result is half custard, half super moist cake. The milk mixture for the soak is similar to that of a tres leches, but you take the time to flavor the cream by heating it up and steeping it.

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Like many of my recipes, you can steep the milk with anything. Any tea, honey, cinnamon, vanilla–the list is endless.

Within the last year I have started to like chai tea. The spicy flavors of chai tea steeped in the milk soak would be the perfect balance to a sweet and sticky cake. I carried the flavor of the chai tea into the topping for the cake.

Again, this cake would pair well with many toppings, whipped cream, caramel, and most fruits. I chose to make a fig, apricot, golden raisin compote to keep with the theme of warm winter flavors.

After testing the recipe out, I served it at a quaint little dinner party last weekend. I normally find fault in my own baked goods but could not find much fault in this cake. The cake did not last through the weekend.

Chai Milk Cake

Milk being poured over the finished cake

Ingredients

  • For the Compote:
  • 2 Cups of Water
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Honey
  • 1 Chai Tea Bag
  • 1/2 Cup of Dried Apricots, quartered
  • 1/2 Cup of Dried Figs, quartered
  • 1/2 Cup of Golden Raisins
  • 1/2 Vanilla Bean
  • 2 Tablespoons of Whiskey
  • For the Cake:
  • 2 Sticks of Butter, softened
  • 1 Cup of Sugar
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 1/2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 of a Vanilla Bean
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Cup of Whole Milk
  • For the Soak:
  • 1 - 12 Ounce Can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 - 15 Ounce Can of Evaporated Milk
  • 1 Cup of Heavy Cream
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 5 Chai Tea Bags

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, honey, and 1 chai tea bag. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Next stir in the raisins, figs, apricots, whiskey, and the scrapings from the inside of the vanilla bean.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the mixture for 5 minutes before removing the tea bag.
  4. Cook the mixture for an additional 10 minutes, or until the liquid turns to a light syrup.
  5. Set the mixture aside to cool before serving.
  6. For the cake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and set aside for later.
  7. In your stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This takes about 5 minutes.
  8. Slowly add in the eggs, one at a time, until fully combined and the mixture is fluffy.
  9. Combine all of your dry ingredients, then slowly sift in one-half of the dry mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until combined.
  10. Next add in the milk, vanilla extract, and the scraped inside of the vanilla pod. Mix until combined.
  11. Finally, add the remaining one-half of the dry mixture, mixing until fully combined.
  12. Pour the cake batter into your prepared cake pan and bake on the middle rack for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  13. Once your cake is baked, remove it from the oven and let it cool.
  14. While the cake cools, prepare your chai milk soak mixture.
  15. In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients for your milk soak.
  16. Over medium heat, bring the mixture close to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Allow the tea to steep uncovered for 10 minutes.
  17. After they have steeped, remove the tea bags from milk mixture.
  18. Turn out your cake onto its serving tray. Gently pour your milk mixture onto the cake.
  19. The soak will not fully absorb initially, so spoon any extra soak back onto the cake before serving.
  20. Serve the cake with the compote. The cake will last one day.
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Finsihed soaked cake topped with compote

 

Leoci’s is back in Savannah: Leoci’s Mercato Italiano

Leoci’s is back in Savannah: Leoci’s Mercato Italiano

There’s something about Savannah that keeps people coming back. Whether a multi-visit tourist, a student that comes back here to live after being away at college, or a soldier looking forward to their station at Hunter Army Airfield, the charm of Savannah seems to get a grip on folks from all walks of life.

Luckily for Savannah, there’s a name among those come-backers that you may recognize, and he’s brought back with him his incredible and locally famous Italian cuisine—Roberto Leoci.

If you’ve lived in Savannah for any length of time, the likelihood of you having eaten Chef Leoci’s food or seeing his sauces in the local Whole Foods on Victory Drive is pretty high.

Upon closing up Leoci’s Trattoria in 2016, Leoci wanted to do a bit of traveling. After going from New York to the Carribean and everywhere in between, Chef Leoci decided to come back to Savannah and open up a new restaurant—Leoci’s Mercato Italiano.

My very first question to Chef Leoci is—why come back? I should have been able to guess his response: Family is a huge part of Italian culture. As he held his son he smiled and said, “I came back to Savannah for my son Nico. It is my first child, and I was very excited and wanted to be part of his life.”

Be not confused, Leoci’s may have a new name and a new location, but much of the same food you knew and loved at Leoci’s Trattoria is reflected in some way on the new menu at Leoci’s Mercato Italiano.

Leoci told me that “the menu is very similar. Every Chef evolves and gets better and better. If you do it year after year, you get better and better. There are classic dishes I have been doing and they are more refined.”

Although the new menu is similar, yet refined, the new name Leoci’s Mercato Italiano is not. As you probably guessed, the Italian translation of mercato is market, and the new restaurant features just that.1X4A0218In the dining room you will find an entire wall filled with Leoci’s handmade and unique items to take home. Strawberry rhubarb jam and peach jalapeño jam are just a few of the unique creations stacked for sale.

Keeping with the theme of the neighborhood Italian market, Chef Leoci told me that the ingredients are sourced from the areas surrounding where we live, “Hunter Cattle, Vincent Baker Farms, Southern Swiss Dairy, and some stuff I go to the market and get.”

The dinner menu features almost any type of pasta you can imagine, yet every pasta dish is created with a bit of flare. You cannot go into Leoci’s Mercato Italiano and expect to simply see spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna. (But if that’s your thing, Leoci has you covered too.)

Almost every single pasta available is created by hand. Leoci explained the process:
“We have an extruder from Italy, and we extrude all of our pastas. The only pasta we do not do is the angel hair pasta. It is fun because you get to do any flavor you want.”

To me, this is what makes Italian food legitimate—if they make their own pasta, and the pasta is good, the dishes are going to be much more authentic, and “authentic” is a great word to describe these pasta dishes. Keeping with tradition, the recipe for the Italian restaurant’s pasta uses semolina flour unlike many versions which use all purpose flour.

The final result is a pasta that is slightly chewier, which is ideal to stand up to a coating of hearty sauce.“It is more al dente than people expect because semolina is a harder grain,” Chef Leoci told me.

If you cannot find something new on the menu or have already tried it all, I suggest going for a daily special. “My specials that I do are dishes that I work with my peers [to create] or [other] Chefs that I look up to. Some of the dishes are my take on what I learned from them.”

There were two pastas on the specials menu when I stopped in for lunch. A salmon orecchiette paired with a cream sauce and spinach, and pasta tossed in a red sauce and jammed with green beans and Hunter Cattle sausage.

I also asked Chef Leoci how he uses the beautiful giant red woodfire oven sitting in view from the dining room, his response was “there are only three pizzas on the menu because I use the woodfire oven for everything else.”1X4A0230The Brick Oven Olives and the beets in the Burrata Salad are just some of the items you will find on the menu that are charred in the woodfire oven.

During my visit, I tried the Margherita Pizza, a traditional Italian pizza made simply with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. The crust was chewy on the outside yet tender inside, with a heavy char from its bake in the woodfire oven.

A huge amount of sweetness was lended to the dish from the tomatoes. As you bite into a slice the fresh torn basil cut through the richness of the cheese.

The Quattro Formaggi is a white pizza that is served with creamy mozzarella, nutty parmesan, tangy Gorgonzola, and delicate ricotta cheese over the top.

Finally, the last pizza on the menu is the Arugula e Prosciutto. Leoci’s version is created using a tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, arugula, and sweet and salty prosciutto di parma.

Much like the rest of the menu, the dessert menu features traditional Italian desserts like cannoli and tiramisu but you can also find something like Leoci’s sinfully delicious chocolate layered cake.

So, if you’re in the Southside area and wanting some traditional, authentic Italian food, don’t forget about Leoci’s new spot in Twelve Oaks Shopping Center. The address may be on Abercorn Street, but when you walk in the doors, be prepared to be transported by the love and aroma to a quaint Italian kitchen in Sicily.

Original article can be found here.

 

How to Make Fish Stock

How to Make Fish Stock

This past weekend my husband and I hosted a dinner party. On the menu we had an entire grilled grouper stuffed with lemons and herbs. The fish was so large we had to chop off the head so it would fit on the big green egg.

What in the world can you do with a leftover fish head? Luckily, for Christmas I was given the newest James Beard cookbook Waste Not. The idea behind the book is to use your kitchen scraps instead of throwing them out. The idea to make my very first fish stock was a no brainer.

This recipe is truly easy. Once you see how easy it is, you will not go back to using store bought stock.

The best part is that you can make the stock then freeze it. One fish head makes a very large batch of stock, and there is no way you will be able to use it all immediately. I let my stock cool, then placed it in sealed containers and into the freezer immediately. I hope to post a yummy recipe using the stock I made very soon.

Read more about the book Here.

A few tips about making your own stock:

  • A fish head or the bones from one fish is enough for one batch of stock.
  • Remove the gills from you head, if you do not it will make the stock taste awful.
  • This recipe is more of a guide. You can throw anything into the mix: shrimp shells, different herbs, carrots, celery, etc.
  • If your finished stock is milky or cloudy you need to throw it out.
  • I will warn you, making fish stock will stink up your house for a bit.
  • Fish stock freezes extremely well and tastes exactly the same after freezing.

Cooling jar of strained homemade fish stock

How to Make Fish Stock

How to Make Fish Stock

Ingredients

  • 1 Fish Head
  • 1 Onion, peeled
  • 4 Mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon of Salt
  • 1 Small bunch of Thyme

Instructions

  1. Rinse your fish head well. Make sure all of the slime is off before using the head or your stock will taste bad.
  2. In a large soup pot put in the fish head and pour in enough water to submerge the head.
  3. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, pour out the water.
  4. Place fresh water in the pot with the fish head, filling until the pot is 3/4 full.
  5. Place the rest of your ingredients into the pot.
  6. Over medium heat, bring the water to a low boil.
  7. Once at a low boil, reduce the pot to medium-low heat then simmer, with a lid on, for one hour.
  8. Strain the stock with cheese cloth once cooled.
  9. Use immediately or freeze until use.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/01/28/how-to-make-fish-stock/

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

I will be the first to admit that I am not a professional baker. I have baked for many, many years, but am in no way at the level of professional. I have just as many bad days in the kitchen as good ones.

This is especially true when it comes to yeast. Yeast is my kryptonite.
Anytime I go into the kitchen with plans to bake yeast risen bread, I am fully prepared to have the bake come out wrong. The silver lining is that you can always learn by messing up.

This past weekend may have been my worst weekend in the kitchen to date. I decided to challenge myself by attempting a Babka. A Babka is a traditional Jewish sweet yeast risen bread that is swirled with chocolate or cinnamon. The bread dough itself is basically a brioche dough. Technically speaking, it is medium of the difficulty of yeast breads.

Three days and four attempts is what it took to get this recipe right. I threw out two doughs and one finished loaf before the fourth and final loaf came out soft and pillow-like. So you do not make the same mistakes, I wanted to share what I learned from my experience. What else is a blog good for?

As for the filling, (per usual) I did not want to take the traditional route. My husband’s grandmother gave me a some homegrown lemons. Her lemon tree yielded for the first time this winter. Lemon is the perfect pick-me-up during the cold months when we lack sun and fresh ingredients. I juiced and zested them, combined them with softened cream cheese, then rolled the mixture up into the dough. My poor husband had to go to the store to get me more cream cheese after I threw out my third attempt.

The finished loaf is delightfully sweet, with a hint of tang. I think a glob of raspberry jelly would adorn a slice of fresh baked lemon cream cheese babka perfectly.

Several slices of lemon cream cheese babka sitting on a wood tray

What I learned throwing out three batches of babka dough:

Batch one and two:

  • Always check your yeast. Yeast will last in the fridge, but of course not forever. Instead of wasting your time making an entire batch of dough to only realize that it will not rise, take the first 5 minutes and make sure the yeast you are using is alive. It is simple, always bloom your yeast in warm water or milk (depending on the recipe). If it sits for 5-10 minutes and it is not bubbly…your yeast is bad. If it is bubbly…it is living!
  • Make sure your ingredients are not cold. If you know you are baking with yeast, set out your eggs, flour (if you store it in the fridge), etc in advance to ensure it is they are room temperature. Cold items will slow down the growth of your yeast. Just like a warm environment will speed up the yeast’s growth.

Batch three:

  • Kneed your dough for longer that you think. Let me explain: Written recipes have various times for kneading dough with a stand mixer. Truly you can only tell when a dough is ready by touch or sight. Just because a recipe says knead for 5 minutes, does not mean that dough will be ready to rise after 5 minutes of kneading. It is easiest to tell when a dough is ready by kneading it by hand. If that is not you (me either), then you must look at your dough to see if it has been kneaded enough. If the recipe says the dough should “pull away from the bowl and form a soft smooth dough”, then make sure it does just that. Otherwise your finished bread will be more like cake than bread.
  • It often takes longer than the recipe says to let your dough double during a rise. Each home and each region is different. For example, I live in the deep south where it is humid. So during the summer it may take less time for my dough to rise. Right now it is dead of winter, and it took a bit longer for my dough to rise to double. My house was very cold. The moral of the story–watch your dough and only move on to the next step when the dough has actually doubled. Do not simply let it sit for the time designated in the recipe.
  • This is babka specific. Some methods call for slicing your rolled up dough down the middle then twisting it. Next, you stuff it into your bread pan to allow it to rise. The finished loaf has exposed filling on the top. The slicing method works great for certain fillings, but not all fillings. Cinnamon sugar or chocolate are ideal, cream cheese is not ideal to cook exposed to the heat of your oven. For my version I used a different method, I did not slice the dough. I rolled it up then twisted it together before placing it in the loaf pan. This way the filling stayed inside of the bread without being directly exposed to the heat of the oven. Consider the method of babka rolling you want to use based upon the type of filling you stick in your babka. Literally you can stuff anything inside a babka, sweet or savory.Upclose picture of the inside of the lemon swirrled babka

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

Sliced loaf of babka being presented by the baker on a wood serving board

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 3 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup of Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of Warm Milk, between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Yeast
  • Zest from 1 Lemon
  • 1 Stick of Butter, softened
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Salt
  • For the filling:
  • 1 Eight Ounce Block of Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1/4 Cup of Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl bloom your yeast: Pour in warm milk then sprinkle your yeast over the top. Do not stir. Allow the yeast to bloom for approximately 5 minutes, or until small bubbles form.
  2. While you yeast blooms, prepare your stand mixer. In the mixing bowl, with a dough hook attached, combine your flour and sugar.
  3. After you yeast has bloomed, pour it into the flour mixture. Turn you stand mixer on low and allow it to begin mixing.
  4. Next add in your eggs and vanilla. Mix until it all comes together. If the mixtures looks too dry and crumbly add in more milk.
  5. Turn you mixer up to medium and add in your butter one tablespoon at a time. Let each piece of butter fully incorporate before adding the next. When you are ready to add in the last piece of butter, pour in your salt as well.
  6. Knead the dough on medium speed for approximately 10 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl forms.
  7. Place the finished dough in a bowl that is coated in cooking spray, then spray cooking spray over the top of the dough. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  8. Allow the dough to rise, in a draft free place, for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  9. While you dough rises, create your filling.
  10. In a small bowl, zest and juice your lemon.
  11. Next, whisk in the remaining ingredients to the lemon filling until the mixture is smooth and fully combined. Set aside, covered, until ready to use.
  12. Once the dough has doubled, gently turn it out onto a heavily floured surface.
  13. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to create a 16x12 inch rectangle.
  14. Spread your lemon cream cheese filling onto the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch space around the outside of the dough.
  15. Starting at the short side, roll up your dough like you would a jelly roll. Press the ends into the roll to seal.
  16. Fold your roll in half, then twist the halves around itself at least four times.
  17. Place the loaf into a greased bread pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise to double. At least 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  18. Once doubled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fairenhiet.
  19. Bake the bread for 30 minutes on the middle rack. After 30 minutes, bake it for an additional 30 minutes covered in aluminum foil to avoid over browning.
  20. A thermometer in the middle should read 190 degrees. If after an hour of baking the middle is not done, cook the loaf for an additional 10 minutes.
  21. Let bread cool before slicing.
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