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.

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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.

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

Salted Caramel Filled Kouign Amann

Salted Caramel Filled Kouign Amann

My latest Connect Savannah food feature on The Topiary Cake Design (I will post the article this week) reminded me just how much I love to bake. So this week I told myself I would get back into the kitchen and practice what I love.

I am not going to sugar coat it–I have been slacking in the blog/baking/cooking department. The holidays drained me, especially considering how much of an introvert I tend to be. I truly have no excuse considering my Christmas decorations and house have been cleaned since the day after Christmas. Truly, I have just been lazy.

Going back into the kitchen needed to start with a bang. I have been baking since I was young, so an intermediate pastry recipe would be a great challenge.

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For those who do not know the difference in pastries verses regular baked goods let me explain. Unlike cakes, breads, or other common baked goods, making a pastry refers to a very specific type of dough or baked item that is created using a sweet dough. For example, when you make a pie crust for a pie, you are making a pastry. Other common pastries include croissants, eclairs, macarons, profiteroles, tart shells, and Kouign Amann. The dough for making a pastry is commonly made with flour, fat, sugar, and water, which you can see is very different than the dough for making a bread. The tricky part in making a proper pastry comes with the type of pastry for which you opt—for example croissants require a process called lamination. Lamination is the folding in of cold butter to create layers. It takes many hours and proper technique to succeed.

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You may be asking, what the heck is a Kougin Amann? By far it is one of the most delicious pastries put on this earth. Originating in France, the time consuming bite sized croissant and brioche cross is made with a ton of butter, which is to be expected with a French pastry. The end result of folding cold butter into your dough (laminating), then slicing it, coating it in coarse sugar, and smashing it into muffin tins creates a sweet crunchy flaky palm sized treat. The best part, the technique of using a muffin pan leaves a large hole in the center of the pastry, perfect for filling your Kougin Amann with anything you desire.

My selection was salted caramel. The butter used to create the layers of your Kougin Amann bring saltiness to the pastry, so why not complement the overall flavor of the baked good by amplifying its qualities with a salty-sweet filling.

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I will warn you, this recipe is not for a beginner. It takes patience and love to get through the process. I do not want to discourage anyone from trying the recipe, I truly hope you are inspired, even beginners, to try this recipe out. The only way to learn is to try. I could probably fill a dumpster with the amount of baked goods I have thrown out due to trying. You have to start somewhere.

 

Salted Caramel Filled Kouign Amann

a tray of finished pastries

Ingredients

  • For the Salted Caramel:
  • 1 Cup of Granulated Sugar
  • ½ Cup of Heavy Cream, room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/4 Cup of Water
  • For the Pastry:
  • 2½ Tablespoons of Dry Yeast
  • 1⅓ Cups of Warm Water, do not exceed 105°F
  • 4 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons of Salt
  • 1¾ Cups Of Salted Butter, cold
  • 1 Cups of Granulated Sugar

Instructions

  1. First make your salted caramel.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine your sugar and water then stir to combine.
  3. Heat mixture over medium heat, do not stir anymore. Cook it until the mixture has turned a deep amber, approximately 10 minutes.
  4. Once cooked, turn of the heat of the stove and whisk in your butter, cream, and salt. Stir until the mixture is smooth and fully combined, then remove it from the stove.
  5. Set the caramel aside, covered, to cool while you make your pastry.
  6. In your stand mixer, combine your yeast and warm water. Allow yeast to bloom for approximately five minutes.
  7. Attach your dough hook, then add in your flour and salt. Mix on low until combined and a dough begins to form.
  8. Turn the stand mixer speed to medium, and mix for five minutes or until dough shapes into a smooth elastic ball.
  9. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for twenty minutes.
  10. While the dough rises, prepare your butter block.
  11. Shape your butter into one mound, then shape and flatten the butter until it is a rectangle approximately 10x8 inches.
  12. Cover your butter in plastic wrap and place it back in the fridge to cool until you are ready to use it.
  13. Turn you risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
  14. Roll out your dough into a 16x10 rectangle. Place your butter block in the center of your dough.
  15. Fold the exposed edges over your butter as to completely enclose your block of butter. Next, roll the dough into a 18x8 rectangle.
  16. Fold your dough by thirds, like a letter, to start creating layers.
  17. Plastic wrap your dough, then place it in the fridge to allow the butter to get cold again. Let the dough rest for 1 hour.
  18. After the hour, place your dough back onto your floured surface and roll out into an 18x8 rectangle. Fold the dough again like a letter. Place the dough back in the fridge to let it rest for an 1 hour.
  19. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a 12 cup muffin pan by coating it in butter. Set aside the pan aside.
  20. Roll your chilled dough to a 17x13 rectangle, then slice off 1/2 inch from each end of the rectangle.
  21. Generously coat both sides of your dough with your 1 cup of granulated sugar. This will create the crunchy outside.
  22. Slice dough into equal 4x4 inch squares.
  23. Place each square into the center of each muffin cup.
  24. Fill each cup with approximately 1 tablespoon of your cooled salted caramel. Fold in the four corners of each square to meet in the center.
  25. Loosely cover the muffin pan and allow the dough to rise for another 20 minutes.
  26. Bake your dough for 25-30 minutes on the center rack.
  27. Once golden brown, remove from the oven to allow them to cool.
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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.

 

the Lone Wolf Lounge

the Lone Wolf Lounge

Although Savannah’s newest local watering hole, Lone Wolf Lounge, opened only a few short weeks ago, it has had no shortage of business.

Even before I stopped by the retro-tiki inspired lounge, I heard from several locals that the place was packed most nights.

This should not come as a surprise considering the owners, Tom Worley and Andrew Ripley, have years of experience working in the local service industry.

Worley began his eight-year local bartending career at the Bayou Cafe, and Ripley spent his time at the Sparetime, Cotton & Rye, and the Andaz. In addition to bartending, both owners have a background in playing music.

Being industry vets and seeing the ins-and-outs of running a bar caused the pair to begin discussing opening the bar several years before pulling the trigger on the Lincoln Street location.

As we sit at the bar chatting, Ripley tells me, “The idea was for us, although we worked with such great people around town, was to break free and do our own thing.”

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“We got it zoned first before we even signed the lease,” Worley explains, detailing the the history of the Lounge attaining its approval for use of the building as a bar.

The building was once the home of an insurance office, but now houses a local joint that transports you back in time when you walk through the doors.

“We liked this spot because it was kind of a time capsule. Joseph Muller was in this building in the ‘70s, and when he closed shop they locked the building with all of its stuff in it. It sat here for decades,” Ripley says.

He describes his vision for the bar’s ambiance:
“I wanted to have a Milwaukee neighborhood grandpa-style bar, just very comfortable. The other part of it you see in here is that Savannah is part of the Caribbean, originally it was part of the ports and the Caribbean economy. I wanted that feeling, when you come in here, that you are relaxed and on vacation.”

A beautiful U-shaped walnut wood bar sits in the middle of the room with a tower of high quality liquor sitting on the shelves behind it. The walls are covered in the original wood paneling along with some new palm leaf wallpaper and highly unique artwork.
Velvet curtains, leather, old lamps, and greenery are just some of the details incorporated into the space.

Ahron Mack, the builder of the Lone Wolf Lounge, constructed almost everything that can be found inside the joint. When he is not hammering away at the Lone Wolf Lounge, you can find Mack mixing drinks at Cotton and Rye.
When I ask about how they approached the menu, Ripley says, “I was trying to create a balanced menu that makes the best use of all of the stuff we have here.”

“Not everything we carry is like a magazine ad; we have really good stuff that you can get at a good price,” Ripley tells me.

I found the affordability interesting considering so many of the items used to mix their drinks are created by hand in-house, such as their grenadine, their tinctures, and their blends.

I was instantly drawn to The Glamorous Life because when seeking out tiki drink I feel that you cannot beat a straightforward, well-composed, classic daiquiri. The perfect version of this cocktail does not require a ton of frill or mixers, just a thoughtfully crafted mix. The Glamorous Life is just that, mixed properly to create a balanced drink anyone would love. Rum, lime, and sugar are the components used in the Lone Wolf Lounge’s recipe.1X4A9190

The Patient Zero is Ripley’s and Worley’s take on the tropical drink that is said to have started the tiki craze of the 1930s, Don the Beachcomber’s “The Zombie.”

The recipe for an original Zombie is said to use lime, rum, Grenadine, Angostura bitters, Pernod, grapefruit, and cinnamon.

The Lone Wolf Lounge makes this drink their own by adding banana, cardamom, almond, and the most important ingredient of all—rum. To be expected, it is served in a wooden tiki totem mug.

For those who want to feel like they are in affluent Malibu instead of our eclectic town, the Treating Objects Like Women should be your drink of choice. Served in a sleek tall glass tumbler, vodka, pomegranate grenadine, lime juice, orange juice, and ice make up this fruity yet refreshing drink.

You truly cannot select anything bad when choosing from The Lone Wolf Lounge’s House Cocktail list. And if you manage to drink through the entire thing, the (other) Cocktail list offers all of the usual tiki creations, such as a Pina Colada and a Hurricane.

The beer list is just as well rounded as the cocktail side of the menu, many of which are favorite beers of Worley and Ripley.

As Worley puts it, “if we don’t like to drink it, you probably are not going to find it on the menu.”

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What might be surprising is the care the pair took in selecting the wines offered at the Lone Wolf Lounge. Every available option of fermented grape would make any sommelier proud.

The Lone Wolf should only grow from here. Ripley and Worley plan on adding pool tables, darts, and the like to additional space in the back.

The future of the Lounge is stacked full, considering they are currently only using half of the space. The remaining half will bring much more to patrons in the near future.

For now, Ripley and Worley are happy running an establishment that aims to bridge local businesses together by offering a hangout where everyone around town can come together and get to know one another, all of course at a reasonable price.

Original article is here.

Cup to Cup

Cup to Cup

As with any city with a bustling business district and a lot of foot traffic, downtown Savannah is full of coffee shops. There’s a lot to be said for a coffee shop’s owner taking a liking to roasting his own beans. It allows for the craftsman to have an earlier hand in the process of bringing the cup-o-joe to your lips.

If you don’t know how much self-roasting coffee beans can do for a coffee joint, head over to Cup to Cup to see what I mean.

James Spano tells me that at Cup to Cup, “a continual favorite is the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe that has a great bright flavor with floral notes,” which shows exactly how thoughtfully produced Spano’s product actually is.

Other roast feature beans from around the world, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Brazil. No matter the bean, James roasts the coffee himself at his production space located on Wilmington Island in addition to being the “delivery boy, bookkeep, janitor, and salesman,” he explains.

As for the process, which takes about twelve minutes, James roasts the beans in a spinning drum heated with a direct flame. He controls the roast by controlling the airflow into the drum. To finish, the coffee beans are cooled on a tray allowing air to be drawn around them.

Although James’ primary focus is on roasting and providing quality coffee to Savannah, he always planned on opening a coffee shop to sell brews of his beans. James elaborates when I ask about his decision to open Cup to Cup Cafe in 2016 stating that “the idea was that I could start and run the roasters myself then as business improved invest in a retail setting.”

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Cup to Cup Cafe offers both traditional coffee house drinks, seasonal specials, tea service, and unique drinks that you can’t find anywhere else. Beyond beverages, you can buy a range of baked goods provided by multiple local bakers.

On Mondays and Tuesdays the baked goods are from Bakers Pride, Gottlieb’s is featured Wednesday through Friday, and Le Cafe Gourmet is on Saturday.

The most popular seller at the cafe “right now is anything iced,” which has spurred the store’s experimentation with “iced drinks this summer,” James tells me. One of their resulting creations is something that patrons have loved, the Coffee Tonic.

House-roasted and brewed espresso is shaken with ice then poured over tonic water. The drink has everything coffee lovers enjoy about coffee but with a lighter, bubbly feel. A perfect pick me up on a stereotypical Savannah day.

Some of the experimentation has included collaboration with local producer Capital Bee Company. James let me sample his newest creation, even though he was still working on it. Capital Bee Company provided Cup to Cup with a brand new honey that was pollinated from a blueberry bush.

James let me smell the honey, which overwhelmed my nose with the scent of fresh blueberries. He then took the fresh honey and combined it with their very own cascara, fruit from the coffee treat, syrup and bubbly water that is made to order.

The smell of the drink is just as strong as the honey itself, and it tastes just as it smells—of bright blueberries. As you wash it down, your mouth is next hit with the subtle cherry notes of the cascara and earthy hints of honey. Although made of sweet thick honey, the drink itself is light from the addition of effervescent bubbly water.

A second drink featuring Capital Bee Company honey is the store’s current seasonal special, the Cafe Miel. If you order this one you will receive a latte that is sweetened with Capital Bee clover honey and mixed with milk.

You can order this one hot or cold, but I wanted mine cold because of the hot weather. The drink has all of the classic flavors of a latte with the subtle addition of sweet floral honey.

On the more unique side is the Hop Tonic which is created with cold espresso and cascade hops mixed with tonic water. The unique combination adds the aroma of hops to the coffee spritzer.

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If hot coffee is your thing, I recommend trying a hot brew with the coffee of the day. I tasted a classic latte, brewed fresh and served with expert latte art created with frothed milk. The subtleties of the coffee are prevalent in the preparation, smooth and nutty without overpowering your palate with bitterness.

As for James, he loves “to drink a cup of black coffee…coffee has so many subtle nuances and flavors, I enjoy experiencing them without any additions.”

For those that prefer tea, Cup to Cup offers tea service brewed with your choice of locally sourced tea from Hale Tea Company. Even the cups were selected with care—Cup to Cup’s tea service includes classic floral china and a simple white teapot.

The available options include both the usual classics like black tea to more unique offerings like Darjeeling (that I was lucky enough to try with my tea service). The tea tasted slightly sweet with just a touch of earthiness, easy to drink without any addition at all.

Every third Thursday of the month, Cup to Cup hosts a free event that is open to anyone. The gathering includes free coffee tastings, discounts on drinks, and a little education about what James loves so much, coffee. The main feature, besides the stellar dark brew, is a new artwork for the month.

The shop allows any local artist who asks to hang their work on the walls of the coffee shop. Moving forward, Cup to Cup has become a part of the Art Walk where patrons can experience even more great local artists.

When James is not busy roasting coffee, working with local businesses, competing in coffee competitions, creating new drinks, out on a delivery, or running his quaint cafe, you can find him doing what he loves the most—working in the shop serving quality local coffee to local patrons.

Original article can be found here.

Smith Brothers Butcher Shop’s Supper Club

Smith Brothers Butcher Shop’s Supper Club

The ultimate way for a restaurant or store to showcase its skill and imagination is by hosting a supper club, a temporary pop-up restaurant with a specialty menu. A recent new kid on the block of Savannah’s thriving trend of pop-ups is the beloved local Smith Brothers Butcher Shop.

The idea behind their supper club is to not only allow Chef April Spain to experiment and showcase newly inspired dishes but to also feature food from Smith Brothers’ popular suppliers.

I was lucky enough to attend Smith Brothers’ second supper club, which featured Grassroots Farms pork and produce from Canewater Farms. Chef Spain created and prepared the four course meal, which also featured wine pairings with a theme of rosé.

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To start the evening, the supper club hosted a cocktail hour filled with various hors d’oeuvres and a paired rosé. The rosé, paired by Matt Roseman with Ultimate Distributing, was Rosé All Day—a sparkling rosé that you could literally drink all day.

The wine “comes from the south of France and is a wonderful way to start the day,” Matt explained to the group. I agree completely.

A big beautiful wood cutting board was covered in various cheeses, all of which can be found at Smith Brothers, and of course a selection of various crackers sat next to the plate.

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Thick cut Beetroot Cured Salmon was artfully arranged on the table. Unlike most smoked salmon, this was served in thick slices which lended a heartier feel to the delicate fish.

Overall, the smoke was as subtle as the texture of the tender salmon, and the fish itself was lightly sweet.

Paying homage to the popular hors d’oeuvre bruschett was Smith Brothers’ rendition of tangy goat cheese smeared over toasted bread rounds with a topping of candy-like roasted red grapes — an upscale version more suiting for its counterpart of pink wine.

Also among the accoutremonts were Grassroot Farm Fried Pork Belly Skins, basically a pork rind on steroids. The fried pork was served simply with a dusting of salt and pepper.

It’s an appetizer that would have been easy to eat in excess, like when you open a bag of potato chips and cannot stop.

IMG_8463My favorite of the snacks were the Canewater Farms’ Fried Padron Peppers, which upon the first bite tasted like okra —and us Southerners love our okra. The savory little waxy peppers were tender and with a deep roasted flavor, a heavy dose of flaked salt sprinkled on the outside hit your mouth with a tiny jolt. I found myself going back for more and more because they were so poppable.

The first course, a smoked fig salad with Canewater Farms candied peppers and fresh watermelon atop a manchego cheese crisp was like nothing I have ever tasted. The figs had a whisper of smoky flavor, just enough to cut through the sweetness. The manchego crisp gave the dish a deeply nutty profile, and the watermelon freshened everything up.

This was a first course that I could eat again and again. The pairing, Brotte Rosé Cotes de Rhone, was the perfect accompaniment to complement the sweetness of the fig and watermelon, “Rome valley is where this rosé comes from…and is a blend of Grenache and Syrah,” Matt told the table before we devoured the first pairing.

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Smith Brothers owners Robert and Brenda Anderson were present and welcomed everyone as the meal started. Robert introduced Canewater Farms’ co-owner Rafe Rivers who explained that they “farm about twenty acres of vegetables over in Darien, Georgia. We are certified organic and we grow vegetables for about 50 restaurants.”

The second course, a play on surf and turf, was a perfect summer dish for any dinner party. Grassroots Farm pork belly and pan seared sea scallops were presented atop a bed of vibrant summer sweet corn puree.

The corn reminded me of the creamed corn that many Southern mothers make, creamed not by the addition of cream but by scraping the husks to extract the corn’s natural milk. The scallops were prepared the way every local loves them — crusted with a tender center — and the pork belly was rendered ideally.

For the third and main event, a massive slab of slowly roasted pork loin supplied by Grassroots was presented with velvety polenta from Canewater, grilled peaches, and basil butter. Chef Spain, in a way that I am certain was magic, rendered the fat and skin of the pork in a masterful way creating the crunchiest crust while maintaining a succulent fork-tender center.

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The polenta was most surprising, and had a flavor similar to that of peach pie from the addition of vibrant summer stone fruit. The rosé, Le Rocher Des Violettes Rosé, accompanying the pork was much darker than the rest due to ratio of red wine used in the blend, ideal to stand up to an exuberant main course such as luscious swine.

Though I am certain no one at the table saved room to eat dessert, hesitation was quickly relinquished after everyone tasted how delicious the “stuffed french toast” was. Two slices of buttery lemon pound cake were prepared using the method you would apply to french toast, and stuffed with blackberry compote and rose macerated cherries. Plopped on top, a semi-savory herbed cream, Chef Spain’s way to cut through the classically bold cake.

The pairing of port, made from a rose to with the theme, was just as spectacular as the final course itself. Matt explained he picked a port from Portugal, Quinta Do Tedo Rosé Port, that is made from “red wine grapes fortified with brandy, and aged for only six months.”

I plan on returning for as many of these suppers as I can, and if you would like to join me at one of their future supper clubs, Smith Brother’s emails the details with their mailing list.

Original article is here.

The “Art of” Salon at Andaz Savannah and 22 Square

The “Art of” Salon at Andaz Savannah and 22 Square

THE ANDAZ Hotel and its featured restaurant, 22 Square, are not newbies to the local culinary scene. In fact, when I moved to Savannah a few years ago, 22 Square played a part in making my transition a bit easier.

It was one of the first restaurants I visited as a newly dubbed local, and it reminded me of some of the restaurants I adored and missed from home.

Savannah’s Andaz Hotel is not the only branch of the company’s hotel chain, and as part of the boutique hotels’ local flair, they host a Salon event to feature and partner with local members of the community.

The aim of each Salon, usually held quarterly, is to showcase local artists, chefs, photographers, and the like to the public. The Salon is free, open to everyone and anyone, and features interactive stations with each featured local.

For the latest Salon held at our local Andaz on June 28, the hotel showcased people from within the store. Sarah Menard, the director of sales, events, and marketing, told me that “instead of looking outside of Andaz Savannah [they] decided to partner with [their] colleagues that each have a very special talent.”

The Salon was dubbed the Art Of, and would feature demonstrations and talks from each artist.

The featured cocktail was inspired by a classic Pimm’s Cup, a Pimm’s liqueur-based cocktail made with ginger beer, cucumber, and citrus. For their version, the 1970 Cup, 22 Square featured locally made vodka from Savannah distillery 1970.

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Ikeda Feingold is the creator of Savannah’s 1970 vodka which includes nineteen different fruits, herbs, and botanicals. Jane Fishel, beverage supervisor at 22 Square, worked with Feingold “developing cocktails that highlight all nineteen of the botanicals and fruit that [1970] is infused with.”

For the cocktail at 22 Square, she said that they use “1970, fresh cucumber juice, and our house-made ginger beer, along with mint and lemon.” The idea behind the Salon’s signature cocktail was to feature a slightly reimagined classic.

The overall flavor of the cocktail was light and refreshing, one that would be easy to slurp down quickly while sitting on a porch on a hot southern summer day (or cruising the squares downtown on foot). Each ingredient worked together, the last not overpowering the next.

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Two main dishes were featured by Executive Chef Chris Cummer: smoked scallops and a quinoa salad. The inspiration for his menu was to be “refreshing, piquant, flavorful, and light — perfect for the dog days of summer,” Chef told me. After tasting the dishes I understood exactly what Chef Cummer was referring to.
The smoked scallop was the perfect bite of light yet briny seafood. To smoke the scallops, the chef uses alder wood, characterized by a light and sweet flavor that pairs well with seafood, and cold smokes them for approximately ten minutes.

At the Salon, Chef Cummer demonstrated the smoking technique as his feature. To finish the scallops Chef seared to give them crispy golden brown crust before being topped with avocado, Thai basil, candied bacon, and a sliver of Serrano pepper.

Naturally scallops are a seafood that have a buttery sweetness, the addition of avocado amplified the buttery notes of the scallop. Similarly, the candied bacon, both sweet and smoky, boost the same flavor profiles of the smoked scallop. The Thai basil brightened the dish, while the pepper cut through the fat so your palate was not overwhelmed by the full flavors of the beautifully composed dish.

For normal dinner service, the scallop is served under a smoked glass. Recommended pairing is a French 75, poured tableside into the glass used for smoking. Drinking the cocktail from the glass used to smoke and serve the scallop allows the connoisseur to take in the effervescence of the wood as the drink is enjoyed.
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Chef Cummer has his own garden on the roof of the Andaz, and I was lucky enough to receive a tour. As to be expected, some ingredients featured in the dish were grown in that very rooftop garden; specifically, the Thai basil and Serrano peppers.

A complete juxtaposition to the seafood symphony was the featured quinoa salad, and in no way was this salad something you would imagine being forced to eat to comply with your summer diet. The quinoa, which was prepared perfectly tender yet firm, was encased with a rose vinaigrette and tossed together almonds, blackberries, wilted greens, and pickled green strawberries.

Overall, the flavor was nutty, sweet, and tangy, all while being light yet hearty —a perfectly balanced dish to be expected considering Chef Cummer’s feature included a talk on balancing cuisine. The 1970 Cup, due to its refreshing profile, paired perfectly with both dishes.

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Local artist Jordan Smith, who also works at 22 Square, painted a unique piece of art as his portion of the Salon, the Art of Painting. The art included the three wise monkeys, a common theme that can be found throughout the rooms of the Andaz Savannah.

Smith also had small canvas and supplies for attendees to participate. If you are ever in the hotel you can see many of Jordan Smith’s original works hanging in the lobby and near the restaurant.

Tracy Scarlatti, a host at the front desk, presented the Art of Photography, not only taking photos of the event but giving guests tips on photography.

The Art of Florals was hosted by Ana Duggar, who assists in the banquet department, which not only discussed techniques for making a floral bouquets, but allowed guests to participate. Many attendees made their own flower crowns to wear throughout the event and take home.

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Through the year you can expect new and exciting Salons at the Andaz Savannah because there is no better way to bring a community together than through good food and drinks.

Wow Your Guests With A Summer Dinner Party

Wow Your Guests With A Summer Dinner Party

Fun fact: I used to be an event planner. I have this tendency to learn/do as many things as my body and brain will let me during one time. After planning my own, very large, wedding, I was approached by someone who saw my pictures and wanted me to plan theirs.

As an attorney, I quickly formed a business and dove in head first without a second thought. After my first, which was surprisingly a success, I was able to plan additional weddings. With time I ended the business because it was just too difficult to practice law full time, plan weddings, and do all of the other things I love (like this blog).

But, in my time spent planning events, I learned some key principals that are easily applied to at home events. I am a sucker for a good dinner party, and love having my friends over so I can cook for them. It is also a great way to test new recipes. What I do not love is spending the entire night in the kitchen while everyone else enjoys the fruit of my labor. So here are some tips on how to avoid that:

Disclaimer: these photos were taken before I had a DSLR.

  1. Find a Friend: What I mean by “Find a Friend” is quite simple…do not do it alone. Find a friend that loves cooking or hosting as much as you do and ask for help. The trick is to give them credit for all of their hard work. Having someone help allows you to split who will prepare what dish, and it cuts your cooking workload in half. And if they are not a big cook, then give them something else to do; pour the wine, light the candles, etc.
  2. Take it Outside: Do not feel like you have to have the party in your dining room. Think outside the box, of course weather and temperature permitting. I know in Savannah the gnats and heat can be unbearable, so you would not want to host your dinner party outside in the August heat, but there are plenty of other cities that have normal if not pleasant summer weather. Pop out some tables in the yard or on your porch. The best part of moving everything outside, your home will not get as dirty as it would hosting everyone inside.
  3. Use What You Already Have: Do not go out and spend a bunch of money on decorations. If you do not have a table cloth, use a blanket. If you do not have enough chairs, make everyone sit on the floor or use mismatched chairs.  As you can see in the pictures I included, all the décor for this dinner party I already owned. To have enough seating for everyone, I lowered the tables by placing them on cinderblocks and put blankets with pillows on the ground for comfortable seating. The point is that you have to improvise. Improvising will create a more unique and one-of-a-kind experience for your guests to remember.
  4. Set the Table: The same principle as the last tip applies. Do not go out and buy a bunch of fancy dinnerware for your party. Use what you have to set the table in advance, even if it does not perfectly match. Setting the table in advance adds to the overall look and feel of the party, and it will make it feel fancy (even if it is not). As you can see in the picture above, I did not have enough wine glasses for every seat at the table, so I used canning jars (which I already had in my cabinet due to canning from my garden every year). If you don’t have enough of anything, mismatching is fine. I would recommend setting the table by staggering the mismatched items, instead of lumping all of the matching items together. This will create the effect that the use of all different dinnerware was intentional.
  5. BYOB: Some people are of the belief that hosting a party means the host provides everything. But lets be real, we are adults and the normal practice is to bring a bottle wine for the host when you attend an event at their home. Do not ask your guests to provide all of the alcohol, but ask that each couple bring one bottle of wine that they would believe none has ever tried before. As each bottle is opened you can ask your guests to explain why they brought it,  which is a great conversation starter during dinner.
  6. Lighting: One of the best ways to set a scene is lighting. That does not mean you have to go out and buy lights or hire someone to hang lights. That doesn’t even mean you have to hang special lights. It just means cut out the big bright overhead light and add a few candles or only keep your lamps on. I suggest candles. There is a reason why nice restaurants have beautiful lighting — it adds to the overall experience. Giving your guests that experience is as simple as adding some extra candles to the table setting.
  7. Music: Just as important as lighting is music. There is nothing worse than a silent dinner, but equally as bad is a dinner with music so loud that everyone has to scream over it to speak. The aim is nice background music that goes with the theme or overall feel of the party. Personally, I am a sucker for the Mississippi Blues, and because we were drinking out of canning jars and sitting on the ground, the blues fit perfectly with the feel of the night. Either create your own playlist in advance or save and use a playlist from your favorite music streaming service. Before the party, make sure the speaker is charged and everything is setup and ready to use (at the correct volume level).
  8. Cook Ahead: This is your dinner party too, which means you do not want to spend the entire night in the kitchen. Plan a menu that includes dishes that you can make ahead, and heat or cook the night of. Preparing food in advance does not mean the food has to be any less delicious, it just means you are going to have to take a little extra care in selecting the right dishes.
  9. Do Not Begin Your Dinner Immediately: The point of a dinner party is to spend and evening with friends talking and enjoying delicious food. It would be horrible to put a ton of work into your party, and have it end just as quickly as it started. My suggestion? Let everyone mingle (with drinks) for sometime before asking everyone to sit. Not only does this allow you to finish a few things in the kitchen, but it keeps the party from ending early once everyone has eaten.