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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The Newest Bakery in Savannah: Mad Mac’s

The Newest Bakery in Savannah: Mad Mac’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original article can be found here.

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.