A cake tasting with The Topiary Cake Design

A cake tasting with The Topiary Cake Design

While attending a specialty-coursed dinner at Cotton and Rye a few short weeks ago, I found myself sitting at a table with several foodie strangers.

As the night progressed and the alcohol flowed, those strangers quickly turned into acquaintances through our shared love of food and baking. We bantered back and forth, over food and about food, and the conversation quickly changed to baking as I learned more about my neighbor, Calley Sholder, the owner and baker of The Topiary Cake Design.

It was brought to my attention that the seating arrangement was intentional. Cotton and Rye’s Chef Zach Shultz and his girlfriend Caroline Bradley think highly of Sholder’s baking skills and arranged the meeting.

As an at-home baker of many years, I was quick to take the opportunity to write about a fellow baker since I know just how difficult it is to be successful in the oven.

Chef Shultz and Bradley were correct, The Topiary creates utterly delectable yet beautifully layered cakes — two qualities that are so often not found together when purchasing a cake for a special occasion.

It is extremely difficult to maintain the moistness of a layered cake without compromising its design, because the more moist the cake, the less sturdy the finish will be.

Sholder began her cake journey after moving down to Savannah from Rhode Island. She struggled for several months to find a job with any local bakeries, so Sholder did the brave thing and started her own.

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It was divine intervention that made Sholder take her first step, and as she put it “I finally got a catering job, but it made me realize that I wanted to focus strictly on specialty cakes. In 2018, the Topiary Cake Design was born.”

My favorite flavor of The Topiary was The Corn Field Cake. A cake that is completely original and nothing like a cake that I have tasted before. I enjoy seeing and tasting unique flavor combinations that bakers come up with, partially because it inspires my own baking.

The flavor combination and recipe is Sholder’s own creation. She proudly told me the story behind the cake: “In high school, I had my own cupcake business. My sister and I were experimenting with unique flavors. Because we were living in the south in Mobile Alabama, we thought why not do a cornbread inspired cake?,” she recalls.

“We wanted to make sure that the cake was not as coarse and dense. It still had to have that lightness that all cakes have…I would honestly say this is my specialty.”

A cornmeal and flour mixture is used to create the delicate cake that taste like a distant cousin to sweet Southern cornbread. In between each layer you will find tart raspberry compote and a hot (as in spicy) honey buttercream. The hot honey is created by cooking red peppers into the honey.

Although Sholder described the cake as rustic, while I was eating a slice, I have to disagree. The overall finish and flavor of the cake is a culinary dream, completely balanced without being oversweet. I would describe the cake as sophisticated yet southern.

Another fruity favorite is the Blackberry Chip, a super moist blackberry cake created with fresh seeded blackberries, vanilla, and chocolate chips. Each layer of vibrant violet cake is filled with silky smooth vanilla Italian buttercream.

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Sholder explained the origin of her unique layered treat: “My blackberry chip is a play on Black Raspberry Chip from Graeter’s Ice Cream in Cincinnati, Ohio. As a kid, I would always get their ice cream and that flavor was by far my favorite. I decided to use blackberries instead of black raspberry to put a slight twist on it.” Adding a slight twist to things seems to be The Topiary’s calling card.

All of the frosting slathered onto every cake is created using the same method. Sholderd told me, “I make Italian style buttercream which means you cook sugar and water on the stove to make syrup, then whip it into egg whites. Once it is cooled you add your butter. Even though this technique takes the longest amount of time, it is better than any other frosting you will taste…It is not overly sweet but so silky smooth!”

The Cookie Dough Cake is one that I am certain will appeal to everyone alike. Sholder browns butter before adding it to the cake batter, creating a brown butter cake. This takes a typical vanilla cake base to the next level by adding an extra note of taste, which is reminiscent of the deep butterscotch flavor found in the base of a chocolate chip cookie.

Sholder doesn’t stop there — she adds even more cookie flavor with a hearty layer of eggless cookie dough jammed in between each cake round. The final addition is her classic vanilla Italian buttercream.

The most modern flavor was The Creme Brûlée Cake. Soft white cake is seasoned with a wisp of fresh vanilla bean. The use of vanilla bean creates a more floral experience of vanilla flavor than just using extract alone.

Sticky homemade caramel is painted onto each cake before it is filled with airy vanilla bean buttercream. The moistness of this cake is created with the use of lots of sour cream and butter.

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Finally, the last cake slice I ate was The Chocolate Lover, my all time favorite traditional cake flavor. Like all of the cakes I tasted, this one was as moist as the last. Light layers of deeply flavored chocolate cake are layered with rich chocolate buttercream.

Although this cake is a take on a classic flavor, the overall finish was far from a classic chocolate celebration cake; this was moist and had the correct balance of chocolate.

The Topiary is not just limited to cakes, they also offer cake pops and plan on expanding to more desserts in the future. Sholder even mentioned the desire to expand into ice cream creation.

Original article can be found here.

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Why Rhett has become my favorite new Savannah restaurant

Why Rhett has become my favorite new Savannah restaurant

River Street has commonly been a place many locals avoid because of the saturation of tourists. And though most locals love what tourism brings to the community, they love their own local watering holes more. 

Many days it seems as though there are more new buildings popping up than tourists roaming the streets of the Historic District. So it never comes as a surprise to see a shiny new hotel joining the ranks among the others in town.

A true surprise is to find a delicious new restaurant nestled inside one of the many downtown vacation spots, especially one that sits near River Street and will quickly become a new favorite for many locals.

Rhett, on the lower floor of The Alida Hotel, opened its facing doors only a few short weeks ago. Although there has been no official press release, the word has been that many locals already adore the beautiful restaurant. 

Director of Restaurant and Bars Arthur Sertorio sat down to chat with me before my meal, and explained the menu: “It is a pretty simple menu, it does not have that much selection but we really focus on the quality of the ingredients. All of the ingredients we get we get them from local vendors, and we are pretty proud of that. On top of that we make everything from scratch.”

The House Made Ricotta is a dish I have not stopped speaking about since the day I visited. In fact, I went back a second time to eat it before this article ran. 

Upon your first bite you can taste the care that was placed into creating this dish. ”We make our ricotta from scratch. We press and we filter the cheese, we add some Georgia olive oil, and some za’atar spices to it,” Sertorio elaborated as we chatted. 

Creamy is an insufficient term to describe the texture of the delicate homemade cheese. The delicate cheese gives way to the fresh grain flavor of the bread, resulting in a bite that taste as though you are sitting on the porch of a farmhouse.

Just as gentle as the cheese is the addition of za’atar seasoning—the appropriate amount is used so it does not overwhelm the flavors of the cheese and bread.

Luckily for patrons, the ricotta is featured on the menu two ways—for breakfast and as a starter. You can try this amazing dish no matter the time of day, and for breakfast you can expect the addition of seasonal fruit preserves. 

The Fried Cauliflower is Rhett’s homage to the south’s love of fried food, by elevating the fried dish through balance of flavors. The dish almost does not taste fried, but we Southerners can spot any fried dish from a mile away.

Sertorio summed up the dish perfectly: “We wanted to add something that is a little more refined. We have a cauliflower puree on the bottom and we add a lot of zest of lemon to fight the fatness of the dish.” You will also find a showering of briny fried capers which gives you palate a jolt of salt with each bite. 

The final starter I devoured was Rhett’s take on macaroni and cheese, the Macaroni Gratin. As someone who has made and eaten a shipping container’s worth of the staple Southern side, I can state with confidence that Rhett’s version did not disappoint.

“We did a lighter version of it [macaroni and cheese]. The Monet cheese is like a bechamel sauce…we made it the french traditional way, super light, and we add flavor with the thyme bread crumbs on top,” Sertorio told me in explaining the starter. 

As for the pasta, which may be the best part of the plate, it is made in house without eggs. Which also helps reduce some of the decadence, resulting in a more balanced dish. 

My favorite part of the menu, besides the food, is the use of the term Supper to  describe the entrees available after 5 pm, it is a wonderful nod to the southern touches added to many of the dishes. 

For Supper I recommend you step out of your steak or fish comfort zone and try the Celery Root Dumpling. The menu describes the dish as “country captain” flavors, which actually means the dish includes a coconut curry butter, Fresno chilis, pistachios, apple, and fresh parsley.

The celery root inside of the dumpling, which is more southern than Asian, adds a nuttiness to the finished dish. And although there are a ton of ingredients, every single one has a place in the dish, working together as one but still distinguishable as an individual element. I would call this entree magical. 

The most Southern dish on the entire menu is the Roasted Pork, a large portion meat and three. Juicy herb crusted slices of roasted pork sit atop a Stone Mountain sized heap of roasted fingerling potatoes, fresh jalapeños, and tender fermented collard greens. A large sprinkling of boiled peanuts, a thick cut slab of bacon, and a beef sauce is used to finish the dish.

To ferment the collard greens featured in the entre, leftover whey from the process to make the ricotta is used. As for the sauce, Rhett attempts to waste very little and uses caramelized beef scraps to create the gravy. 

I have not forgotten about the most important part of any meal—the drink pairings. The wine list was created by Sertorio, and features a well rounded yet concise group of wines.

“We try to go on the origin of the grape, so if you are going for Pinot Grigio we usually try to get the Pinot Grigio from Italy,” Sertorio told me. 

A homage to Savannah, the Savannah Smash is the cocktail on their list that I will order time and time again. Bourbon, rainwater Madeira, lemon, peach shrub, and a large bundle of fresh mint are combined to create the cocktail. The hint of peach is just enough to cut through the throat-grabbing flavor of the bourbon.

Original article can be found here.

The New Menu at World of Beer

The New Menu at World of Beer

World of Beer has been a Savannah staple for more than seven years by offering over 500 brews from around the world and stellar sports on the televisions in-house.

The store has been so successful that they opened the doors to a second location in Pooler in 2014.

Beer and sports make for a perfect pairing, but food and beer can be only be described as soul mates. Until recently, patrons of the World of Beer location downtown were allowed to bring in their own grub but could not purchase food directly from the store. That has now changed.

The New Year has brought a brand new menu to the Broughton Street World of Beer that includes burgers, tacos, bowls, shareable starters, and a ton of specials. Because I cannot resist sampling a new menu, I stopped by last week to scout it out. To say the least, I was not disappointed with the options available on the pub style menu.

I asked General Manager Philip Crump how World of Beer pulled off adding food to their menu as buildings within the historic district often lack the space needed for a restaurant kitchen: “Through new ownership and extreme renovation, the Savannah location of World of Beer was able to incorporate a kitchen,” he told me. “It has always been our mission to bring delicious food and excellent craft beer to our customers. We are excited at the opportunity to now provide both to the public.”

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As for creating the food menu, the “menu was designed by our corporate culinary expert, David Belliveau. David crafted the menu to represent the numerous beer styles that we provide,” Crump said.

“Each item, spice, and sauce is made in-house, most with beers incorporated directly into their recipes to reflect the love and care that goes into the craft beer we pour daily,” explained Crump.

You read that right—not only do they serve beer but they now incorporate various beers into the food itself.

The most popular shareable item is the German Pretzel. It comes dripping with butter and hanging on a stand because it is too large to fit on the tray on which it is served. A sight for sore eyes, the tender yet chewy-shelled oversized pretzel is finished with a sprinkling of coarse salt and two dipping sauces.

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I feel like I need to warn you, the pretzel could fairly feed four people, do not make my mistake and try to tackle the Everest-sized bread alone.

If I have not convinced you to order the pretzel then let Crump do it. He told me that the German Pretzel “has outsold every item on the menu almost certainly because of the house-made brown ale beer cheese paired with it. Our other popular menu items include the Black and Bleu Steak Flatbread Pizza, the Chimay Burger with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and aged Chimay cheese, and our Beef Barbacoa Street Tacos.”

For my main, I went for the Beef Barbacoa Street Tacos because I know of no other place in our low country town that offers them. Barbacoa tacos are a specific type of taco that can be found in Mexico. The meat featured inside is cooked low and slow over an open fire and oranges are incorporated to tenderize the meat.

Although it is not possible for World of Beer to fully adhere to the traditional method of cooking barbacoa, they came very, very close. The pork is braised for several hours before it reaches your plate as tender as any meat that you’ve ever had in your life. The pork is so delectable I would have been just as satisfied eating it on its own.

Putting their own twist on the traditional taco, World of Beer serves their version with fresh sliced avocado, crisp lettuce, chopped cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, roasted corn and tomato salsa, and a drizzle of sriracha lime aioli. The finishing touch is a quick grill to the flour tortilla to deepen its flavor.

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Other taco options include mahi mahi, beer battered shrimp, beer brined chicken, chipotle ground beef, and blackened chicken.

For lunch you can get the tacos and side item for less than eight dollars, or you can wait until Taco Tuesday and get them for even less. Crump told me about all of their specials. “We offer daily lunch special items including a ‘Pick 2’ option in which one can pick and entree and a side for either $7.99 or $8.99. We eventually intend to add some items to the menu and incorporate a brunch menu after the New Year.”

Beyond tacos, the new menu features a build your own burger plus two specialty World of Beer Burgers, the Chimya and the Beerunch Burger.
Four different sandwiches, three various flat breads, and three unique bowls can also be found on the menu. For the health conscious, several scrumptious salad options are included as well.

With so many beer options it may be difficult to select the appropriate hoppy drink to accompany your meal, but World of Beer thought of that problem and addressed it.

Crump explained “Each item on the menu has paired beer-style accompanied with it to provide the perfect palate. Because our taps rotate so often, there is never a fixed beer for each item, but our brilliant bartenders can help each individual pick the right craft beer to match their meal.”

Taking Crump’s suggestion, I asked the bartender to recommend a beer to accompany my mammoth pretzel. She first inquired as to my preferred type of beer, stout and ales, and then brought me a sample of her stellar suggestion. The limited release Highland Cold Mountain Spiced Ale was deeply flavored but did not overpower the subtle nuances of the pretzel.

Original article is here.

Chocolate Stout Bundt Cake

Chocolate Stout Bundt Cake

Just as fast as they went last year, the holidays are upon us again. Although my waistline hates it, my heart gets excited to bake and cook as much as humanly possible over then next few months.

Which means this week, I have been testing recipes so I can bring the perfect dessert to our Thanksgiving feast. When coming up with recipes I like to take classics and add a slight twist, so a macadamia nut pie, instead of pecan, was on my list to try out. I will post the recipe soon.

This past weekend we had some friends over for a laid back night (but also so I could test out my pie recipe on them). Filet, truffle mashed potatoes, rosemary focaccia, and a few stout beers later, we were almost – almost – too full to eat pie. We still ate it though. And I am happy to report that the pie only needs one or two tweaks.

The next morning, waking up full and happy, I realized I had a bit of my stout beer left over. I do not like to waste food, so it was the perfect opportunity to throw a second dessert contestant into the mix. For some reason I could not get the idea of a stout bundt cake out of my head, so I began baking.

An upclose picture of the salted caramle glaze

I used a Dutch process cocoa powder, which is darker than the normal stuff, because I had it leftover from a previous recipe that I tested. Also, the use of cake flour would be perfect to lighten the dense texture of a chocolate bundt cake.

The only issue was deciding on what to top the cake with. Flavor contenders included espresso, caramel, and more chocolate. My husband does not love chocolate cake, so I landed on caramel to ensure that he would like this cake. The last touch, a little salt in the caramel to cut through the very decedent flavors.

This recipe turned out better than I could have imagined, and I didn’t have to change a single thing in the recipe. This may be one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever baked, and I will definitely proudly take it to our festivities on Thursday.

Confession: As soon as the cake was cooled and I snapped a few pictures, I ate a slice for lunch. That is the reason there are so few pictures in this post.

…I ate a second slice after dinner that night.

A slice of chocolate cake with salted caramel on top

Chocolate Stout Bundt Cake

Chocolate Stout Bundt Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Cup of Good Stout Beer
  • 3/4 Cup of Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
  • 2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Cups of Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 3/4 Cup of Sour Cream
  • For the Salted Caramel Glaze
  • 5 Tablespoons of Butter
  • 1/2 Cup of Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup of Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons of Stout Beer
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Cup of Powdered Sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare your bundt cake pan by greasing it then coating it in cocoa powder. Be sure to shake out any excess cocoa powder. Set the pan aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt your butter.
  4. Once the butter is melted, remove your butter from the heat and whisky in your stout beer, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder. Set the mixture aside to cool.
  5. In another bowl, sift together your sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda.
  6. Starting with your dry mixture, whisk in 1/3 of the mixture into your cooled butter mixture. Whisk until fully combined.
  7. Next whisk in one egg, followed by the next 1/3 of your dry mixture. Mixing until combined. Whisk in your sour cream, then the last portion of your dry mixture, and finally your last egg. Mix until well combined.
  8. Pour your batter into your prepared cake pan.
  9. Bake the cake on middle rack for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  10. Let the cake cool on the counter for at least one hour before glazing.
  11. While cake cools, prepare your glaze.
  12. In a small sauce pan, combine your brown sugar, butter, cream, and salt.
  13. Cook mixture over medium heat until it reaches a boil.
  14. Once at a boil cook the mixture for an additional 3 minutes, stirring constantly. You want to make sure all of the brown sugar cooks into the butter, so you do not have a grainy caramel.
  15. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool for about 15 minutes.
  16. Once cooled, sift in your powdered sugar then whisk in your stout beer. You want the mixture to be thick yet pourable. You can add more powdered sugar if needed.
  17. Once the cake is completely cooled and removed from the pan, pour your glaze over the top of the cake.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2018/11/19/chocolate-stout-bundt-cake/

Toasted Barrel

Toasted Barrel

I can’t think of two more delicious items than cheese and bourbon. Everyone (save a few picky eaters) loves rich, decadent flavors that deliver the paradigm of what Southerners have been taught that good food is supposed to be.

Luckily for Savannah, Michelin Star-trained Chef Thomas Ciszak felt the same. Last weekend marked the beginning of his ideal whiskey/cheese mash-up with the opening of the low country’s newest casual dining bar and restaurant—Toasted Barrel. Toasted Barrel is the creation of delectable food maestro Chef Ciszak.

As Chef Ciszak put it, “Toasted Barrel is an ideal place to enjoy a cocktail or a light meal, featuring fresh, [and] delicious ingredients.”

The location is perfect for locals and visitors alike. The artfully decorated restaurant sits on the corner of Oglethorpe and Montgomery, within the SpringHill Suites and just a short stroll from the new Cultural Arts Center.

If you have not figured it out by now, “Toasted” refers to the long list of toasted sandwiches and dishes available on the menu, and “Barrel” represents the over forty available high-end bourbons.

The stand out cocktail for me was the Smoky Deal—a bacon-infused bourbon-based mixture. Head bartender Jordan Sox explained how the insanely unique infused dark liquor is created:
“We take bacon fat and we take Four Roses bourbon, we put them together and we freeze it.”

The mixture is, of course, strained before it is used, and the final flavor tastes like the most concentrated (and delicious) maple bacon essence you’ve ever tasted. Overall the finished cocktail tastes like a smokey sweet bourbon dessert.

The recommended sandwich pairing is the Bacon Schmelz—because one can never have too much bacon in their life.

One Hot Cucumber is the ideal cocktail to balance the richness of each gooey cheese sandwich. Citrus forward and piney Hendrick’s gin is combined with fresh lime and light coconut water for a smooth and easy-to-drink companion that pairs well with a lot of Toasted Barrel’s rich, savory sammies.

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The Monkey Barrel was created by Sox for the grand opening of Toasted Barrel. “It is a variation on a daiquiri, but with overproof Jamaican rum, Four Roses bourbon, creme de banana, and fresh lemon juice,” Sox explained as I sat at the bustling and beautifully adorned bar.

The reason for the addition of bourbon into a rum drink is due to Toasted Barrel’s focus on bourbon, but the additive is not anything but complementary to the base drink.

As the name would suggest, the grilled cheese selection is robust. I am confident in saying there is a toasted masterpiece perfect for any toasty dairy connoisseur.

Chef Ciszak selected Auspicious Bakery bread to adorn each one of his cheese filled artworks, and as anyone who knows grilled cheeses knows, the bread is extremely important.

Starting at the very top of the list, the Classic Cheese grilled cheese sandwich is just as bold as any of the unique combinations listed on the menu. Often times the simplest dishes are the most difficult to execute well, but The Toasted Barrel has simplicity figured out.

A river of melted cheddar cheese flows between slices of buttery grilled Auspicious toasts, and the robust serving of cheese inside is created by the use of double the amount of cheese of one of their other sandwiches. Simple yet well seasoned, this rendition is the quintessential toasted sandwich.

Fluffy scrambled eggs, sweet sausage, and sharp cheddar cheese make up the Breakfast Melt. Any good cook or chef knows just how difficult a good scrambled egg is to perfect, yet Chef Ciszak has done so. The succulent eggs add moisture to the spiced sausage and salty cheese.

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My favorite was the Toast “Monsieur,” a grilled cheese upgraded with salty sweet maple glazed ham, ultra savory gruyere cheese, and tangy grain mustard. The grain mustard serves to add texture and cut through the richness of the ham and cheese combination.

I saved the Crispy Goat for last because it could almost be dessert. Fork tender roasted beets come layered with sticky fig jam, tart balsamic, and velvety chèvre cheese. Any earthy flavor of the beets were cooked away with the roasting leaving behind a delicate root vegetable that held up well to the sweetness of the fig jam. Chef Ciszak’s use of balsamic vinegar rounded out all of the sugary notes, while the smooth chèvre cheese brought the entire dish home.

If you do not end up trying multiple sandwiches, a side item or two accompanies any main dish properly.

I grabbed multiple servings of Toasted Barrel’s Hand Cut Fries, and I do not know which tasted better, the fries themselves or the sriracha mayonnaise accompanying them. The Belgian style fries, cut thicker than most, are pillowy on the inside, crisp on the outside, and speckled with just the right amount of salt. The mayonnaise was not too spicy, instead working to coat the mouth with silky savory taste of sweet vinegary pepper.

When you find the Tater Tots listed on the menu of sides, do not be fooled into thinking you will be served modest rounds of white potato. Chef Ciszak created his own version using sweet potatoes and parmesan cheese. Tender, tiny pillows of silky sweet potato are fried until they have an outer shell of crunchy goodness. The petite crunchy clouds are then served with salty and nutty parmesan cheese to balance it all out.

Finally, because what is a grilled cheese without tomato soup to dunk it in, the restaurant offers their San Mariano Tomato Soup accompanied with five spice croutons as a side item.

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Like any succulent homemade tomato soup, their version is thick with seasoning and spices visibly floating about the savory soul warming concoction. The five spices on the crouton only deepen taste of the vivacious dish.

Original article is here.

 

Ultimate Cornbread

Ultimate Cornbread

Officially, it is the time of year for parties, potlucks, family gatherings, and anything in-between. Fall is the time of year that I love most, mainly because all of the festivities gives me an excuse to cook – as if I needed one. For most cooks, the love of cooking comes from sharing your finished dish with others.

But with all of the doing and making everyone gets a bit tired, which is where quick and easy recipes come into play. A home cook can never have too many delicious quick recipes, the kind you lean towards when in a pinch or too busy to really put work into a dish.

A homemade batch of cornbread can easily fill in the gaps for any potluck or gathering. For me, the problem is that making perfect cornbread is not something I have mastered – until I came up with this recipe.

There are many schools of thought on cornbread; some like is sweet, some like it course, some like it filled with things, etc. Personally, I love the sweet version that comes straight from a box. I grew up eating sweet skillet cornbread, so anything short of what I grew up with was was never good enough.

Until this recipe, I did not know out how to make sweet cornbread that stayed together when sliced. And because everyone has their own preference in cornbread, I wanted to include as much in one recipe as possible…creating the ultimate cornbread.

My version uses honey as one of the sweeteners along with fresh sweet corn on the cob stirred right in. To balance everything out, fresh jalapenos are added for a little heat. Finally, smoked cheddar cheese is grated over the top to add a final layer of umami. As the cornbread cooks, the cheese becomes bubbly and browns on the top of the bread.

The best part, the dish takes only 15-20 minutes to mix together and bake – perfect for anyone in a pinch or just plain overworked.

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Ultimate Cornbread

Ultimate Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Melted
  • 1 Cup of Cornmeal
  • 1 Cup of All Propose Flour
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Cup of Honey
  • 1/4 Cup of Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 2/3 Cup of Milk
  • 3 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 Corn on the Cob, kernels removed from the cob
  • 4 Ounces of Smoked Mild Cheddar, grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare a medium cast-iron skillet or 9x9 pan by greasing it.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together all of your ingredients except for your cheese. Mix until fully combined.
  4. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
  5. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of your batter.
  6. Bake the cornbread, on the middle rack, for 15 minutes.
  7. Slice and serve warm.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2018/11/06/ultimate-cornbread/

 

The Black Rabbit

The Black Rabbit

If you have lived in Savannah for any time at all, it is likely you have noticed the unique black rabbit art painted on the metal door of a building that sits on Barnard Street.

Time and time again I have driven by that very spot and wondered, “What could be behind those rolling doors and who is responsible for the artwork?”

Well, my questions were answered in September. As a food lover, I could not have been more excited with the news that The Black Rabbit bar and restaurant opened its doors—big metal garage doors—to the public.

The surrounding district has gained another unique and approachable joint whose aim is to cater to locals. The responsible parties are partners David Hutchison and Patrick Zimmerman.

The story began about fifteen years ago when a friend of Hutchison spotted the building that now holds The Black Rabbit, which was originally a two-stall store front.

“The building literally had been a salon, a cobbler, a hotdog stand, a record store, and there was a vintage picker,” Hutchison explained as I waited for several sandwiches to come out of the kitchen.

Hutchison’s family purchased the building, and he quickly opened a gallery and intended on filling the second side of the building with a coffee shop. After several years of sitting unused, Hutchison began looking for a business partner to start building their local spot, and that’s where Patrick Zimmerman came into the mix.

The building received its name as The Black Rabbit over ten years ago, when Hutchison commissioned Miguel, a traveling artist from Texas, to paint the black rabbit on the door of the building.

As for business partner Patrick Zimmerman, he is no stranger to the local food scene. He has worked behind the scenes at both Betty Bombers and Butterhead Greens Cafe. So as you can imagine, the sandwiches he is currently putting out are nothing short of delectable.

“We wanted to keep [the menu] pretty straightforward,” Zimmerman said in explaining his thoughts behind creating the new menu. “I was going for kinda comfort food but also stuff people would like, even vegetarians.”

Let’s start at the very top of the list—the Smoked Turkey sandwich. Perfectly toasted sourdough bread that is perfectly buttery but not greasy encases paper thin slices of salty smoked turkey, melted havarti cheese, and Zimmerman’s Asian inspired pepper jelly.

This sandwich is destined to be a local favorite, simply because I know just how much Savannahians love pepper jelly. The twist on this sandwich is Zimmerman’s recipe for pepper jelly. Taking inspiration from Asian cuisine, his sauce is more balanced than classic pepper jelly.

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Each type of pork on the Three Piggies contributes its own flavor profile to the sandwich, while working in harmony, creating one of the juiciest deli sandwiches I have ever tasted.

“We have a little fun, like the Three Piggies with Spam, pit ham, and sliced pork shoulder, which you do not see very often,” Zimmerman told me.

I understand that using juicy as an descriptor to explain a cold cut sandwich is odd, but the juices of the pork actually ran down my hand as I chomped down. Although included, this cold stack does not need mayonnaise to lubricate any dryness that usually comes from fresh bread.

To balance the sandwich, fresh thinly sliced onions are layered with a thick cut of tomato and crisp lettuce. The cherry on top is the extremely soft bolero bread that encases the entire thing. Gottlieb’s Bakery is responsible for all of the bread used at the The Black Rabbit.

For a side with your sandwich, I would opt for the in-house pickled vegetables, which come as spicy or regular.

“Radishes, green beans, turnips, carrots, onions, and garlic,” are cooked “real straight forward with sugar, salt, vinegar, peppercorns, water, and bay leaf. I add jalapeños for the spicy one,” Zimmerman explained when I asked how he makes his pickled vegetables.

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More on the Southern side is the cucumber, tomato, and onion salad. It is just like the bowl of garden fresh onions and tomatoes you will find included on the dinner table during many Southern meals. The idea behind this side was to offer something lighter to complement the hearty sandwiches.

Finally, the German Potato Salad is available as a side. For his version, Zimmerman cooks the onions tossed with the tender potatoes in bacon fat, which results in an additional layer of flavor.
The Black Rabbit also offers dessert—King of Pops popsicles or a big slice of cheesecake from Fork & Dagger.

As for what readers, especially locals, are probably wondering the most about, the specialty cocktail menu is concise and to the point. You will find one cocktail for each type of liquor and nothing more.

No matter what your preference you will surely be satisfied with the preparation for that type of liquor. Even more so, you will be especially satisfied after reading the price of all of the house created and made cocktails.

Being a fan of bourbon, I opted for the Grandpa’s Kisses, a title that makes perfect sense after reading the ingredient list. Both bourbon and scotch are blended with apple brandy, honey, and bitters. Served in a crystal old fashioned glass, the profile of the dark liquors are prominent yet rounded out by the addition of sweet apple and aromatic bitters.

Zimmerman and Hutchison were kind enough to let me try the Room 225, a gin cocktail that is made silky by the use of sunflower seed orgeat, a nut milk.

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The cocktail is shaken with lemon juice and a few dashes of bitters before being poured into a coupe and adorned with lemon rind. It is fragrant and subtly flavored, a cocktail that would tempt you into drinking it all night.

Next year, patrons will have the opportunity to grab lunch at The Black Rabbit when Hutchison and Zimmerman expand their hours to become reachable to the entire neighborhood.

Original article is here.

 

Maple & Burnt Cinnamon Cakes

Maple & Burnt Cinnamon Cakes

After reading the title, you may be asking yourself–what the heck is burnt cinnamon? When I first heard of it, I thought the same thing. Of course I was curious to know what it tasted like, so baking time ensued after a short deliberation on how to use it.

I will say this–making burnt cinnamon is one of the easiest things ever. You literally take a cinnamon stick, place it on a sheet pan, and torch it with a brulee torch. Voila! You have burnt cinnamon.

Charring the outside changes the flavor of the cinnamon. It mellows it out and adds roasted chocolatey notes. It only changes the flavor slightly, so you can use it in any recipe that calls for cinnamon.

I am hooked. I will probably forever char my cinnamon before adding it to a recipe.

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After it is charred you can grate it yourself, or steep in it milk to transfer the flavor. For this recipe I did both.

Since the air is so crisp and cool out, completely unlike the low country, I wanted to use a few falls flavors. Do not get me wrong, I love pumpkin but I wanted to stay clear of it as a fall flavor. Maple seemed ideal, and would be easy to impart into any recipe as the sweetener.

I created these tiny cakes by baking them in a maple leaf cake mold. You can bake the batter in any miniature cake mold or bake the entire cake in a bunt cake pan. I recommend a bunt cake pan, if you go big, because the batter results in a denser cake.

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Maple & Burnt Cinnamon Cakes

Maple & Burnt Cinnamon Cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 Stick of Butter, softened
  • 1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1/2 Cup of Maple Syrup
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/2 Cup of Milk
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Flour
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Cup of Powdered Sugar

Instructions

  1. Burn the outside of your cinnamon stick with a torch. Set aside to cool.
  2. Once cooled grate 1/2 teaspoon from the cinnamon stick and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine your milk and cinnamon stick. Bring to a low simmer then cover and let steep for approximately 15 minutes. Set milk aside to let cool before using.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and prepare your cake pan by coating it in butter then flour. Be sure to shake out the excess flour.
  5. In your stand mixer, cream together your butter and brown sugar. Beat on medium for approximately five minutes or until light and fluffy.
  6. While the butter mixes, prepare your dry mix. In a bowl mix together your flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and grated burnt cinnamon. Set aside.
  7. In another bowl, whisk together your eggs, 1/4 cup of milk, vanilla, and maple syrup. Set aside.
  8. With the stand mixer on low, mix in 1/3 of your dry mixture. Next, mix in 1/3 of your wet mixture. Continue alternating between wet and dry, ending on the addition of the final 1/3 of your we mixture. Do not over mix.
  9. Pour your batter into the desired pan and level off. If using mini cake pans, only fill each one until 2/3 full.
  10. Bake your mini cakes for 20 minutes. For a full cake, it should take approximately 45 mintues to bake. To check doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake and if it comes out clean the cake is baked.
  11. Remove the cake(s)from oven and allow to cool completely before glazing.
  12. To create the glaze, combine powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon milk. Whisk together until smooth, add more milk as needed if glaze is too thick. You want the glaze to resemble a thin paste.
  13. Glaze the outside of a large cake by pouring the glaze over the cake. For the small cakes, you can dunk the tops into the glaze.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2018/10/24/maple-burnt-cinnamon-cakes/

Coyote Oyster Bar

Coyote Oyster Bar

Last week marked the end of a saga for El Coyote’s team—Brad Syfan, Chef Tony Seichrist, and Executive Chef Landon Thompson—with the opening of their latest storefront, Coyote Oyster Bar.

When the doors of El Coyote opened just this year, they promised not one, but two additional food concepts for Savannah to enjoy within the large industrial building. You will find the chic yet beautiful oyster bar at the very top of building overlooking the west end of Victory Drive.

I asked owner Brad Syfan, who is experienced in running local seafood restaurant the Wyld Dock Bar, why open another seafood spot?

“We love raw seafood and felt like doing something to showcase that passion, that was definitely something we definitely wanted to do,” Brad said.

Since the brand new restaurant is an oyster bar, you must try at least one type of oyster offered. For me, I ordered every mollusk on the menu.

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Six different varieties are available served raw and on the half shell. Two types, the May River and Helena Salt, come from South Carolina.
Both of these oysters stood up to their northern counterparts on the tray, and could easily put the South on the map for offering quality briny and fresh oysters.

A bit further north in Virginia, you will find the Blackberry Point Oysters. They are sourced from the waters of the Northwestern Prince Edward Island before arriving at your table in Savannah. They will stand out among the others you order, because they are characterized as being larger and plumper than most.

The menu currently also offers oysters from Massachusetts, the Nasketuckets, and Maine, the Moon Dancer. Both of these variations are a flavor house of clean salty juice that can be attributed to their cold origins.

Finally, the Beausoleil oysters are from the coldest waters of them all—Canada. The characteristics of these highly prized oysters are meaty in size yet clear in taste.

To be expected, the raw oysters are served with a mignonette, lemon, horseradish, and cocktail sauce. The tin of crackers, made by Auspicious Bakery, are delicious on their own and rich in flavor because of the addition of lard.

Before ordering my first course of raw oysters, I was sure to select a specialty cocktail that would work in harmony with the subtleties of oysters in the raw. The Forsyth Park Picnic was a homerun, and tasted almost as delicate as the saltwater delicacies.

White rum is infused with lime then paired with grapefruit and blanc vermouth. The final touch is a skewered Luxardo cherry, which was the heaviest flavor of the entire cocktail.

All twelve of the craft cocktails offered at Coyote Oyster Bar were created by Syfan himself. He told me the “twelve unique craft cocktails were made especially for the upstairs and priced so that everyone can come try a thoughtful, meticulously made drink.”

The Isle of Hope Afternoon is Syfan’s “riff on a Caipirinha,” he elaborated as I glanced through the lengthy cocktail list. The addition of aperol sets his version apart, and makes the overall flavor of the cocktail reminiscent of a those red snow cones many Savannahians enjoyed as kids at Seaweeds after a hot summer day on Tybee Beach.

Because my husband grew up on Bonaventure Road, he insisted on ordering the Bonaventure Fox. I would describe this cocktail as a twist on a classic Old Fashioned, the twist being the use of Japanese sake alongside rye bourbon and cherry.

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“The Oysters Wyld are something we’ve played with for a long time. They are simple but so delicious. Roasted oyster with fresh thyme, garlic, and bacon fat flash roasted and served hot,” Brad explained, but he forgot to mention the fresh lemon that is served with the dish as well.

Although topped with ultra savory and rich components, the delicate sea-flavored meat of the oyster sitting underneath its topping is not lost. The combination hinted at the flavor of a scampi but with a crunch on top, which was the best part of the entire dish. The texture of the topping was like that of a streusel you would find on top of a blueberry muffin but the taste was much more savory.

The menu has the largest selection of crudo that can be found around town. Crudo, a preparation of raw seafood dressed with oil and/or citrus, is one of those dishes that I order anytime I am lucky enough to find it on a menu. I devoured two of the three preparations, the Fluke and Hamachi. The final option was the Tuna Crudo.

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The Fluke Crudo was served with an arrangement of apricot, coconut milk, thai basil, and green chili. Taking your first bite, you will experience the silky, subtle characteristics of the raw white fish. Next the the slight tinge of pepper hits your tongue before being swept away by the sweet and creamy coconut milk.

The sweetness of the apricot works with the sweetness of the coconut milk, while the apricots tangy notes lift the dish up. The last sensation to coat your nose and palate are the floral notes of the fresh Thai basil.

The Hamachi Crudo is just as delicate as the Fluke Crudo, but the flavors are balanced by a completely different combination of ingredients. Hamachi is slightly fattier and a richer fish, but it still maintains all of the delicate characteristics of a white fish. The raw preparation is served with a topping red Serrano peppers, pickled pineapple, cilantro, and ginger.

The most surprising dish of all was the Salmon Tartare. I can almost guarantee that most local menus offer some version of salmon or tartare dish that you have tasted or seen before. This oyster bar’s Salmon Tartare is unlike any tartare or salmon I have sampled before, which is attributed to one ingredient—green apple.

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The pungency of the green apple hides any “fishy” qualities of the salmon, especially considering salmon can have a bit of an oily taste. What remains in the dish are all of the mild flavors that most love about the fish, tangy crisp apple, acidic lime juice, and fresh green cilantro.

The large crostinis, served on the side, add a bit more fattiness that some may want with how incredibly bright and light the dish is on its own.

Original article is here

Cherry Upside-Down Layer Cake

Cherry Upside-Down Layer Cake

This year was a big year for me—I turned the big 3-0. I know, by no means is thirty old, but it has taken some time for me to get used to the idea. That is the reason why this post is so late. My birthday was several months ago.

Almost every year for my birthday, I make myself a cake. My opinion is who better to do the job than yourself? Personally, I do not like super sweet, sugary cakes. I can count the number of cakes that I have truly enjoyed on one hand. So, the challenge this year was to make a balanced, grown-up cake; something truly representative of my new age.

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One trick to cutting down on the sweetness of a cake is to replace traditional icing with whipped cream. The use of tart fresh cherries would also help to counter balance the sugary cake layers. The overall result was perfect, a light, sophisticated, and beautiful (in taste and look) cake.

This recipe forgoes traditional livening ingredients, baking soda/powder, and replaces them with folded in egg whites. Which means you will need to be a bit more careful with your bake.

I used three eight inch cake pans for my version, which created pretty thin layers. If you like thicker layers, I recommend switching the eight inch pans for three six inch pans.

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Cherry Upside-Down Layer Cake

Cherry Upside-Down Layer Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks of Butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 Cups plus 1 Tablespoon of Granulated Sugar
  • 6 Eggs, divided into yolks and whites
  • 2 Lemons
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Almond Flour
  • 1 Cup of Cake Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Cup of Fresh or Frozen Cherries, pitted and sliced into halves
  • 2 Cups of Heavy Whipping Cream

Instructions

  1. Prepare your cake pans by buttering and flouring them, then placing a round of parchment paper on the bottom of each pan.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In your stand mixer, whip together your butter and 1 cup of granulated sugar. Beat on medium speed for approximately 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  4. While your butter whips, in a small bowl combine 1 1/2 cups of sugar, both flours, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Mix until combined, then set aside.
  5. In another small bowl, whip together 6 egg yolks, the juice of one lemon, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  6. With the stand mixer on low, add in 1/3 of your wet mixture, followed by 1/3 of your dry mixture. Continue alternating and adding until everything is combined.
  7. In a separate stand mixer bowl, beat together your egg whites and 1 tablespoon of sugar until stiff peaks form.
  8. Working in thirds, gently fold the whipped egg whites into your cake batter. Set aside.
  9. In a small bowl, mix together your cherries, the juice of one lemon, and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Pour the cherries onto the bottom of one cake pan, then spread into one even layer.
  10. Divide and spread the cake batter evenly among your three cake pans.
  11. Place the pans in the oven and bake for approximately 30- 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  12. Once baked, remove cakes from oven and allow to cool, on a wire rack, for at least one hour before layering your cake.
  13. While the cake cools, prepare your whipped cream.
  14. In your stand mixer, combine the heavy whipping cream, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Beat on medium speed until the mixture forms firm whipped cream.
  15. Build the layer cake by layering each level with whipped cream. The last layer should end with cherries on top.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2018/10/12/cherry-upside-down-layer-cake/

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