Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Restaurant News: Cotton and Rye taking shape; Betty Bombers flies again; New meat and three steams up in Garden City.

Zach Schultz
Cotton and Rye is rising from rubble of the gutted location that last housed FORM. Managing partner Zach Schultz led a walk-through of the site for me and laid out a clear vision for this new project. The artist’s rendering here shows the streetscape – but does little to indicate the level of build out Zach and his partners are undertaking. A bumped out back will house a shiny new kitchen, complete with a wood-fired grill. Seating in the former drive-thru lanes will be screened to soften passing traffic and a seating
area behind the drive-thru will allow lounge-style setting and access to a simple, innovative bar menu. Zach perfected his culinary skills in the hot, frantic kitchens of Miami Beach and hints toward an amazing menu for Cotton and Rye. Stay tuned for staff announcements and a firm opening date – tentatively projected for mid-year.

Betty Bombers is flying again! The invite-only opening Monday night played to a packed house and gave Chef Seth Musler and his expanded team a challenge. Same good stuff as before…and a few new dishes. I also poked a head into the refurbed American Legion Bar. The new bar top overlaying military patches is cool –and the beer is still cold. Congrats on the reopening!

Gears and Grub, a meat-and-three joint, is open at 309 Main St. in Garden City. It’s on my list, the fried chicken and meatloaf look like winners. Serving Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Follow along on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

48 Hours in Charleston

Sometimes, it’s less about the destination and more about a change of scenery.

That was the motivation behind a two-day stay in nearby Charleston, S.C. It’s one of our favorite get-away cities – and one we visited more frequently when my oldest son, Allen, was an undergrad at the College of Charleston.

Allen introduced us to some of his favorite haunts and we found plenty of our own. The city, founded nearly 100 years before Savannah, has a lively and edgy culinary scene. Here, the phrase “farm-to-table” is an expectation; chefs are in homage to Southern tradition with a flair for modern expression. It’s hard to find a serious restaurateur who is not canning their own veggies, making their own pickles and curing meats in open view of the steady stream of diners.

The eye-opener among all of the restaurants on this trip was Callie’s Charleston Biscuits. With a King Street storefront barely 8-feet wide, this little join is bustling with guests who jockey for one of 8 seats but are content to scurry away with a pair of Callie’s piping hot biscuits. Biscuits make up most of the menu, from plain to filled with sweet flavors or savory ingredients. On our visit, there was a grits bowl – but frankly, this place is all about the biscuits. Biscuits are served as a pair, and my duo of black pepper bacon biscuits was a bit of a surprise. I anticipated bacon sandwiched into a biscuit, but what I found was finely diced pepper bacon integrated into the biscuit dough. Yes! Great idea…hearty, filling and delicious. Here’s the menu.

We have a couple of “musts” when we visit the Queen City.

I always enjoy a stop at Bessinger’s BBQ on the way into town. Situated on busy Savannah Highway, this landmark BBQ restaurant is famous for its classic South Carolina mustard-based BBQ sauce. A jumbo sandwich and order of beer-battered onion rings is enough for Ms. T.J. and I to share – and we still leave a few bites. Bessinger’s incorporated the sauce into the ‘cue – not my favorite presentation – but it’s not over sauced. Fans of Bessinger’s sauce can take some home – but the bottle or by the case.
It was a rainy weekend, damp and cold. Our apartment was a couple
of blocks off King Street and north of Calhoun, so we used car service Uber to scoot around. One such trip took us to dinner at our favorite old-school meat-and-three joint, Jestine’s Kitchen. Here, you will find classics: Collard Greens, black-eyed peas, fried chicken. These and other Southern staples are dished out with gracious service and an occasional, “Sweetie, how’s your dinner?” Everything on this menu hits the mark and arrives piping hot and in generous portions. Save room for dessert – we did – and shared a piece of Jestine’s coconut cream pie.

Sunday brunch found us at dining nearby the apartment at The Grocery. Usually

a dinner-only destination, on Sunday, The Grocery open for brunch with a unique, inviting menu. I chose chicken and biscuits with gravy, which is finished in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven. Ms. T.J.’s Green Eggs and Ham featured a pair of poached eggs rolled in herbs and seasoning, then flash fried – poof, green eggs. I found the flavor the eggs a bit off-putting, but score chicken and biscuits with high points. A perfectly crafted house-made Bloody Mary mix adds welcome zing to the ubiquitous morning cocktail. Adjoining parking makes The Grocery easily accessible.

Any time I travel, I try to seek out local brewpubs with a good track record for food. That’s exactly what I found at Edmund’s Oast, situated about three miles north of downtown. The large complex can accommodate more than 200 diners and has a 5-barrel brewhouse. Four 10-barrel fermenters keep beer flowing to provide a half-dozen of more hose-brewed beers. Nearly 50 taps offer a comprehensive selection of often hard-to-find craft beers – and also dispense a keg wine and a pair of keg cocktails.

House cured meats are the other huge attraction at Edmund’s Oast. We shared a cured charcuterie board – and then each had beautifully built salads to round out the meal. I sampled three beers, including house-made brands including Edmund’s Oast Olde Ale – a brown ale aged in French oak barrels -- and Edmund’s Oast Bourbon Barrel aged Nameless City – a 9 ABV black wheat ale aged in Willet Bourbon barrels.

The balance of the trip included plenty of napping and snacking at the apartment – and a rainy afternoon walk about the South Carolina Aquarium.

There is, of course, plenty more to see, do…and eat in Charleston. It is a city with rich history, diverse and compelling architecture and world-class shopping, entertainment and dining. For more info on a Charleston getaway, click here.

Story and photos by Tim A. Rutherford

Friday, November 14, 2014

Everyting you need to know about making Thaksgiving dinner in one place

  Set your kitchen timer: Thanksgiving is two weeks from today.
  Dust off the Pilgrim couple salt and pepper shakers, polish the silver and brace yourself for your “favorite” relatives. The day we celebrate in symbolic thanks for the survivors of the Plymouth Rock landing is a day filled with food, family and fun.
  What? You’re stressed? No way!
  I’ve dusted off my “Thanksgiving for Absolute Beginner (Or Woefully Disorganized)” guide in plenty of time to help your through the day. This download includes a shopping list, recipes for an entire meal and even a cue sheet to help you hit the table hot – even you don’t have a 10-burner Wolf cooktop with double ovens.
  Among the recipes is a plan for smoking a turkey breast. I know frying the bird is trendy – but I really love the flavor and the outdoor time I get to spend smoking my bird with a combination of hickory and applewood chips.
  The secret is planning and organizing. Get the shopping done early, prepare mise en place for each course (fancy French term for “everything in its place”), follow the cue sheet and prepare for an easy family meal.
  Take a deep breath, give thanks that you do not have to hunt down and slay your meal and…enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Christmas All Through the South" captures the region's seasonal spirit

  Capturing the beauty, nostalgia and heart-felt meaning of Christmas is something Southerners take very personally. It is fitting that the editors of Southern Living would manage to tie it all into one tidy and well wrapped package – a new book entitled,” Christmas All Through the South.” 
  The hefty volume is packed with the big, straightforward photography that Southern Living is known for. The editors embrace tradition – and traditional imagery – to present more than 400 mouth-watering food images, halcyon views of exquisite Southern holiday destinations and photos that may conjure a memory or two of your own Southern Christmas. Savannah’s light-draped Broughton Street – a throwback to old-school downtown decorating – gets a peek – as does the landmark fountain in Forsyth Park. 
  From the lavish dazzle of Asheville’s Biltmore Estate to the simplicity of Lowcountry style, “Christmas All Through the South” inspires with ideas for travel, decorating and, of course, dining and cooking. No Southern Living book would be complete without recipes and menu ideas and these are not overlooked. 
Carrot Cake Pancakes, see
recipe below.
  Dessert ideas to cocktails – or even a full celebratory menu – there are far more than a season’s worth of recipes to entertain with and enjoy. From savory Cumin-Spiced Black Eyed Pea Dip to Spice-Rubbed Turkey Breast, the main dishes and sides include familiar favorites and new takes on classic Southern ingredients. 
  Christmas is not complete without sweets – you’ll find everything from cookies and cakes to a Chocolate Cream Martini recipe. 
  The book is destined to become a holiday tradition – the book you reach for to get “in the spirit” or to spruce up your holiday d├ęcor. It’s a book that is filled with ideas; a book that can be practical or just a great read about Southern Christmas tradition. 
  “Christmas All Through the South” is available at many of the major retailers and bookstores. The 400-page volume has a suggested retail price of $40 – but is already deeply discounted. Click to buy Southern Living Christmas All Through The South: Joyful Memories, Timeless Moments, Enduring Traditions on Amazon.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Makes about 24 pancakes • Hands-on 40 min. • Total 50 min., including cream topping

Use the small holes of a box grater to finely grate the carrots by hand; if you use a food processor, the carrots will be too wet, making the pancakes dense and less tender.

13⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
11⁄2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. table salt
2 cups buttermilk
1⁄3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated carrots (about 1 lb.)
1⁄2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1⁄3 cup chopped golden raisins
Mascarpone Cream
Garnish: carrot curls

1. Stir together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk and next 4 ingredients in another bowl. Gradually stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in carrots and next 2 ingredients.
2. Pour about 1⁄4 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot, buttered griddle or large nonstick skillet. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked. Turn and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until done. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and keep warm in a 200° oven up to 30 minutes. Serve with Mascarpone Cream.

Note: When using a griddle, heat it to 350°.

Mascarpone Cream
Makes about 21⁄2 cups • Hands-on 10 min. • Total 10 min.

1 (8-oz.) container mascarpone cheese
1⁄4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream

1. Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl just until blended. Beat whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

If it's Sunday...

  It’s a dish that makes comedians get a laugh. It’s the recipe that every mom knows. It’s the plate full of goodness that epitomizes comfort food.
  It’s – meatloaf!
  Plate a slab of meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans and all seems right with the world. That’s what I did for T.J. and I on the weekend, with what I’m calling “Sunday Afternoon Meatloaf.”
  I adapted an Ina Garten recipe – adding celery and garlic – and bumping up the quantity so we could have leftovers for lunch. Garten’s recipes are always right on the money and yield great results.
  Her addition of chicken broth helps make sure this big ol’ loaf stays moist.
  Hungry? Click here to get the recipe for “Sunday Afternoon Meatloaf.”