fiddlehead definition

fid·dle·head [ fídd'l hèd ] (plural fid·dle·heads) noun
Definition: edible fern shoot: the coiled frond of a young fern, often cooked and eaten as a delicacy

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

JCT Kitchen lunch

(Photos by Thomas James Photography & Video Productions)
On a very wet and dreary day a trio of foodies sought refuge in a self described southern bistro. Out of the rain and into the impeccably designed space of JCT Kitchen we were refreshed and renewed and ready to have our palates awakened by chef Ford Fry and Chef de Cuisine Brian Horn. As always, nothing was amiss. Food, service and atmosphere did not disappoint.

Sharing all of our dishes allowed us to experience more flavors. Family style is the way to go especially in a bistro serving traditional southern food (with flare). First up, JCT salad-romaine, green beans, spiced pecans and apples. This is usually served with a buttermilk dressing, but I opted for a lighter vinaigrette which enhances the flavors more. I was already aware that JCT makes every effort to acquire fresh from the farm ingredients that are local and my first fresh bite proved as much. Enter a glass of St. Supery Sauvingnon Blanc and the salad reached new heights. Napa Valley St. Supery is crisp, velvety (how can it be both? dunno but it is)and a go to wine for salads and spicy food. It is very fruit forward, zero oak. I always taste something different with this wine; Sometimes pear, sometimes apple and always mineral notes (which I love). There is a scent/taste (you know, when you taste a smell or smell a taste) that is floral, grassy. Tastes of outside like honeysuckle off the vine.

We also tried the Shrimp and Avocado salad with fresh Georgia white shrimp. This was a perfectly composed salad of bibb lettuce and fresh herbs, shrimp, avocados and a lemony vinaigrette. The shrimp were incredibly fresh, perfectly grilled and popping with flavor. About this time Ford came to our table to see how our food tasted. He really is a nice guy. He cooks great food, creates great restaurants, supports local farms AND he is a good guy. We only wished Brian Horn had been around today so we could say hi.

Pimento cheese toast came next and we all agreed that this was a hearty serving. The table was silent as we feasted on the thick toast piled high with perfect pimento cheese and fresh arugula. Were those shaved sunchokes on top? I saved a few pieces of my bread for what was next.

I have heard a lot about the angry mussels at JCT but I have never ordered them until now. I knew that Ford sourced his bacon from Alan Benton and that alone meant it would be delicious. The bacon is house cured and perfect alone but in a sea of serrano chiles and the juice of the mussels it melts in your mouth. The mussels were great, fresh, not overdone but what I really remember is the smoky bacony-serrano sauce that we sopped up with the crusty, rustic bread. When our server took away the bowl there was not a drop left.

We headed out the door with a lemonhead in hand to face the dreary day with full bellies and happy taste buds.

JCT Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 24, 2010


I am craving rhubarb. "Rhubarb," such a funny word. I decided to read about it. Details about rhubarb have been recorded since ancient China (2700 B.C.). In ancient times it was used medicinally for its purgative effects as well as aiding in digestion and improving appetite. By the 18th century, it was grown for culinary purposes in Europe and the U.S.

Rhubarb is a perennial with large fleshy rhyzomes. It has large leaves with long thick stalks called petioles. It is rich in vitamin c and dietary fiber.

This is all good and interesting, but for me rhubarb tastes like summertime. Hot? Thirsty? Tear off a huge stalk of rhubarb and you are instantly rewarded with a tart, juicy snack. Sure you can make it into pie, jam, jelly or even a cocktail but the best part is straight off the bush.

There is a great recipe for rhubarb pie in Jannette Haase's book "From Seed to Table":

Fresh Rhubarb Pie
Servings: 6-8

2 9” pie crusts
6-8 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup flour
1 tsp grated orange rind
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C). In a large bowl, mix together rhubarb, flour, sugar, orange rind and eggs. Place in one pie shell and cover with the other. Seal the edges and brush with butter if you wish. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 F (175 C) and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until pastry is golden. The moisture content of rhubarb depends upon the amount of rain it’s had, sometimes the pie can be quite runny but the juices are delicious so I never worry about it.

My craving came out in a quick chat to Jake Rothchild of Jake's Ice Cream. He said "would you be open to a combo of strawberry/rhubarb?" Sounds good. I said "do you think it will need something for texture? Graham cracker crumbs, perhaps?" He said "are you thinking what I'm thinking? StrawberryRhubarb Piescream?" And then he made it. I will be heading down to Jake's at Irwin Street Market to try some summertime. I am hoping it will taste like my youth which is what I fear I am craving more than rhubarb. I scream, you scream, we all scream for piescream!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

chicken with roasted poblano-cilantro cream

What is for dinner tonight---Chicken with roasted poblano-cilantro cream sauce. I'll get the cilantro fresh from the garden but there are not any peppers yet. I woke up with this craving for poblano cream and need to make it happen. Hoping to find some early sweet corn to top a microgreen salad from the garden. Seasonal fruit, sauvignon blanc and the patio will round it out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

what is a weed?

"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I ran across this quote in my journal and it reminded me of a day when I saw a roadside filled with cornflowers (chicory) on a morning excursion only to have it mowed down by late afternoon when I drove by again. Mowed down because they are weeds. But what if cornflowers are not weeds to me? What if they are the loveliest of flowers, the color of my favorite crayon in the box of 64?

How can they be considered weeds when they are the essence of delicious Community Coffee? Chicory (Cichorium intybus) frissee is a spicy addition to a salad as well.

Another roadside beauty is Queen Anne's lace, often mowed over without thought. I love that it has such an in interesting history to it's nomenclature. As a little girl, I always thought it was named after a fancy queen who wore lacy dresses and once pricked her finger on a thorn, dripping a drop of blood on the flower. She was so very special that from that day on, all the flowers grew with a red dot in the center. When I googled it seems there are many stories.

Queen Anne's Lace is not only beautiful, it is tasty and good for you. Also called wild carrot, it's root tastes like...wait for it... a carrot. They can be eaten as any root vegetable or in soup and are packed with vitamin A1, B1 and B2. The flowers can be fried for a tasty, pretty treat. It can even be made into a delicious jelly.

Dandelions are often viewed as a noxious weed by some and an endless source of outdoor entertainment by others (who hasn't made a wish on a dandelion?) Who knew they are a tasty and healthful salad green nutritiously filled with vitamins A &C, iron, and more calcium than spinach. They are commonly used as a salad green, but can also be braised, stewed, and sauteed. This much maligned "weed" has edible roots, flowers and greens.

I could go on and on. Wood violets--love to place them on top of the buttercream icing of a chocolate cupcake. So pretty.

Sweet peas, chickweed, day lilies, purslane, clover... The terms "beautiful flower" or "noxious weed" are subjective points of view imposed on plants. I try to stay clear of the good or evil outlook and instead seek out the positive. Caterpillar? Butterfly? Come have a salad with me. I won't judge you or the ingredients.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cochon 555 atlanta

( photos by Thomas James Photography)

I hummed Pink Floyd all afternoon.

I had the privilege of attending Cochon 555 in Atlanta this weekend and I am still dreaming of the flavors created by the invited chefs and wineries. Cochon 555 is the brainchild of event planners Brady Lowe and Carolina Uribe. This coast to coast 10 city tour invites 5 chefs who are supporters of local food and who support the heritage breed. Pigs are locally sourced from sustainable heritage breeds. Need to brush up on what "heritage breed pig" means? Click here for a great article describing heritage breeds as a rough equivalent to organic. Brady hopes this tour's purpose will be "building new relationships between chef and farmers." Along with the 5 chefs and 5 pigs are five wineries that are family owned.

I arrived at the swanky W hotel in Buckhead at 3:30 for the VIP "meat and greet" held on the 16th floor pool area. First stop, a 2006 Evenstad Reserve from Domaine Serene. This Willamette Valley Pinot Noir was smooth and round with notes of spice, berries/cherries and cedar had a long finish and was perfect with pork. BLT Steak had a beautiful offering of super fresh bluepoint and greenpoint oysters that tasted of the sea. Next was a stunning array of cheeses and accompaniments, notably Emily G's jams. The light shown most brightly on a mason jar filled with perfect slices of Benton's bacon. My first pork of the event and it was perfect!

After a chat with the affable Mr. Lowe I ventured out into the sun to see the butchering demonstration. We watched the talented knife skills of chef Craig Deihl of Cypress break down an entire guinea hog for charcuterie. I had a few more oysters, another glass of Domaine Serene and another slice of lamb salumi before we headed down to the 4th flour for the competition.

The lowdown on Cochon 555:
5 of the best regional chefs, each with a 125 heritage breed pig
5 family wineries join to showcase their wine
foodies, food critic, fellow chefs and bloggers indulge
guests and 20 professional judges determine the winner based on presentation, utilization and best flavor

I rode the elevator with a writer, photographer and cheese trays. We were all having such a fun experience and we had not yet entered the competition. On our way, I was thrilled to run into Taste network's Carolina Uribe and talk a little about the event and its vision. The 4th floor space was industrial-spacious with open ceilings, cement floors, sunlight streaming in from three sides. I reached for a glass for wine tasting and delighted in seeing tiny piglets in each one. It's the simple things.

I chose a 2006 Columbia Rediviva of the Stones from Buty Winery from the Walla Walla Valley. This cabernet syrah blend, much to my liking, was dominated by syrah. It was earthy and like the description, sensuous. I tended to go back to this spot throughout the evening. I began my quest for pork, where some chefs offered one choice and others offered 13.

Kelly English (“2009 Best New Chef” by Food & Wine Magazine) of Restaurant Iris in Memphis smoked a Gloucestershire Old Spots breed from Freckle Face Farm in AR for 24 hours and created 700 banh mi tamales. What a fantastic start. The tamale, topped with coleslaw and pork cracklins was spicy, smoky and a mix of Asian and Mexican flavors.

I made my way over to Mike Lata of FIG restaurant in Charleston. His food is ridiculously delicious, sustainable, locally acquired and seasonal. I'll admit I have created a weekend vacation around reservations on more than one occasion. He's also a really cool guy. Lata presented 10 cohesive offerings from his Tamworth breed from Keegan-Filion Farm in SC. Nestled among the sunflowers were the following dishes: Banh mi pickled ramps, headcheese and liver pate; corn hogs with rhubarb ketchup (presented in lovely paper cones), boudin blnc chow chow, pork skin "ala parmegianno" polenta, bbq ribs with coleslaw, pork belly with watermelon pickles, crispy trotters gribiche, lard crackers (pig shaped even!) with pimento cheese, porchetta tonnato and bourbon lard caramels. You could really see and taste the amount of effort and creativity that went into this oblation of pork. My favorite was the crispy pork trotter and I could have eaten 10. Lata said that he expected this to be the next trend in food. His diners love them. I visited Lata's space many times for another pimento cheese and another bourbon lard caramel. Praise the lard, those were delicious.

Next to Lata's area was the Hirsch Vineyards tasting. The lovely Jasmine Hirsch poured me a glass of Bohan Dillon “Family Blend” Pinot Noir. This smoky, tobacco tasting wine really brought out the flavors in my next couple of dishes.

Todd Mussman of Muss and Turner's serves food that is always fresh and local. I like his restaurant because I can go in jeans and flip flops and have amazing seasonal food and an incredible wine without any fuss. Todd had a Yorkshire hog from Gumcreek Farms in GA. You could smell the smoky pork from a distance and that is what drew me over to him. Todd handed me his "entire pig in a bowl" which was smoked roasted porchetta over smoked pork consomme with bitter herb salad and ham jerky. It was delicious, smoky, satisfying.

We headed back towards Hirsch Vineyards for the wine and also so my companion could talk with Jasmine again. I stopped at the Anne Amie Vinyards table for another pinot. Boyd Pearson poured me a glass of the 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. It was dense, heady, mushroomy, herby and complimented the smoky meat perfectly. I would quickly be back for another glass.

My next stop was with last year's prince of porc Kevin Rathbun of Rathbun's and Rathbun Steak. He looks amazing by the way. Kevin had a Berkshire hog from Riverview Farms in GA. My first bite/slurp was a steamed pork dumpling in 5 spice consomme. Meh. It was good, but simple compared to dishes I have eaten at Rathbun's. I then took a bite of the pork belly flan. Others around me were a little hesitant, saying that they do not like the consistency of flan and can't imagine it with meat. When I say this was mouth-watering goodness, it is an understatement. My palate was awakened by a combination of flavors it had never experienced. Like a fine wine, I rolled the flan around on my tongue. It was smooth, smoky, with notes of cherry, chocolate and had a nuttiness i later found to be candied cashews. This was my favorite dish of the event. Hands down.

Meanwhile, Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats San Francisco held everyone's amazement as he broke down an entire hog neatly. I couldn't help but hum Weird Al Yankovich's "Like a surgeon."

Moving over to Sean Brock's station, I was in awe. Artfully settled before me on straw were 13 treats. Sean comes from McCrady's restaurant in Charleston, a favorite of mine not just because they are ecologically sensitive (check out their recycling, local and sustainable, but because Sean's food is delectable. Sean chose an Ossabaw/berkshire cross from Ecofriendly Foods in VA. and turned out such creative dishes that they were disappearing as they were laid out. I stood next to chef Kevin Gillespie and wanted to chat with him more, but really wanted to lay my hands on Sean's bites. First off, I had the pork fried funnel cake with pork lard sugar. Have I said "praise the lard" already? Well, can I get an amen? Next, a "noodle" bowl where the noodles were made from pork skin cut very thin. The johnny cakes topped with braised bacon, a quail egg and whipped sorghum were a hot ticket. I heard from a judge or two that liked this the best.
He had pickled red hot sausage, an incredible coppa pastrami with secret sauce, bibb letttuce and pumpernickel, a creamy pork liver over soup, chicharrones even. I loved the pastrami, but my favorite was actually the garden radishes with braised fatback wrapped on a stick. It was farm to table and to my mouth.

To say that I was satiated at this point would be an understatement, but wait, there's more. Guest chef Nick Melvin of Parish rolled through the crowd with an entire roasted pig that had been injected with 12 pounds of hamhock butter. Sandwich bread and sauce was provided and as he began chopping the crowd dug in. Parish is a staple for me and I inched closer for a bite. Much to my delight, Nick picked up "the best part," dipped it in sauce and hand fed it to me. Incredibly good.

The event came to a close with a presentation of gifts and bourbon to the 5 chefs. Guests were treated to Benton's bacon brittle with chocolate covered chicharrones. I think I will dream of this sweet and savory concoction for quite a while. We waited anxiously for the prince of porc announcement and the winner was...Sean Brock. Sean gave a touching thank-you speech and held his trophy high. His prince status enables him to compete in the Aspen Food and Wine Classic on June 2oth where someone will be crowned King or Queen of Porc.

On to the afterparty.....

Cochon 555 Upcoming dates:
4/24 Des Moines IA
5/2 Washington DC
5/16 Portland
5/23 Seattle
6/6 San Francisco
6/6 Aspen Food and Wine Classic

Bording Pass Shiraz

Not only did the whimsical packaging entice me to impulse buy this wine, but the little review taped to the bin read "...and notes of bacon or smoked meat." It's on. How could a libation have a great review with a bouquet of blueberries AND bacon? I was intrigued to say the least.

I was a little leery to open such a gimmicky wine and expected it to be a victim of great packaging per usual. The first pour revealed a dense, almost inky red color. I did faintly smell the roasted meat scent I read in a preview. Interesting.

The wine was delicious and layered with jammy bacony flavor. It just doesn't sound right to write that, but it worked. The finish was short but as I sipped, I got more mineral notes (which I love) and even cocoa. It contains 5% Viognier which gave its density a floral lift.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Farm to Table at JCT Kitchen

I jumped at the chance to attend JCT Kitchen's Farm to Table & Back dinner for so many reasons. JCT has a commitment to fresh, seasonal, local ingredients that are whipped up European style with southern flare. The dining room is so very pretty, upscale and down home at the same time. 100% of the proceeds of this dinner were to benefit Georgia Organics, an organization that is trying to integrate healthy, sustainable and local food into the mouths of Georgians. If that is not reason enough, Hugh Acheson, four-time James Beard Best Chef Southeast finalist and chef/partner of 5&10, The National and Gosford Wine in Athens was the guest chef for the evening.

My dinner companion and I were greeted and seated in a cozy candlelit table next to a table with a writer and companion working on a review for a local paper.It was entertaining to talk with them because they had so many food aversions but were still terribly excited by the food. Chef Ford Fry came by to welcome us and thank us for giving to a cause that is near and dear to his heart.
We were given the gorgeous menu reminiscent of the elegantly rustic promo. The table next to us said "ooh pretty!" and talked about the font for a while. Our beautiful taste arrived an we stared. A luscious, plump Brunswick ruby red shrimp nestled in buttermilk dressing with chopped celery, micro greens and UGA caviar left a lingering impression on my palate. I loved my first bit of this sustainable caviar, but the celery was the ingredient that rounded out the dish for me. Such a simple, overlooked ingredient made this dish come alive for me.

Next was She crab soup with sherry and hard boiled egg served with a glass of Frogtown MRV 2006. This rhone blend was softly layered with notes of pear and honeysuckle and perfectly complimented the soup. THE SOUP! I will order she crab soup if ever it is on a menu and I can honestly say this was the best I have ever had. It was so full of sweet crab that I could have eaten most with a fork. This was my favorite moment of the evening.

The second course arrived with a La Craie Vouvray. Coming off of my she crab high I was presented with beets--happy, happy girl. This roasted carrot and beet salad with feta was so simple with pulled together freshness. The cumin vinaigrette gave it added zing and punch. The Loire vouvray was fresh, young and had a minerally crispness; a perfect compliment. The apricot aroma was what I was commenting on just as the evening's chef, Hugh Acheson arrived at our table. His enthusiasm for the evening, the food and the mission was intoxicating. We held his charming company at our table as long as we could. We chatted about our meal and his upcoming venture Empire State South. I am brushing up on my bocce ball for the opening in August. Word on the street is that Parish chef, Nick Melvin will be chef de cuisine. What an amazing duo they will be.

A 2007 Girasol Cabernet arrived to head off our third course. This was a big cab that lusciously delivered toasty oak, cassis, hints of chocolate and lingering cherry notes. It was a pleasant surprise alongside the smothered pork chops over grits with morels and ramps. I like to pair cabernets with pork. Who says pork goes better with a pinot? The pork chops were good. Don't get me wrong, the chops were gorgeous and perfectly seared, but the stars of this dish were the morels and ramps. They admirably highlighted the beneficiary of this dinner, Georgia Organics. Nothing beats fresh seasonal ingredients for sublime taste as well as a connection to the earth.

We finished our meal with a lovely Mrs. Dulls shortcake with a spring fruit compote and whipped cream. Being a transplanted southerner, I had to look up Mrs. Dulls. Henrietta Dull had a popular cooking column in the Atlanta Journal Constitution where she created authentic dishes in a traditional style. She was so popular that her recipes were compiled into a cookbook with menus to boot. She died in 1964 at the age of 100. The AJC said her book was "the standard by which regional cooks have been measured since 1928." Wish I had known all of this while I was enjoying the shortcakes, for I think they would have tasted even better. Our cheers to a great evening came by way of a Castelier cava from Spain. A perfect ending to a perfect dinner.

The next Farm to Table and Back dinner at JCT Kitchen is July 15th with guest chef Chris Hastings of the Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham. I will see you there!

*photos from Melissa Libby

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Release the Kraken!

I saw this rum at the local liquor store. Not only does it have a delicious review, but it shouts out for a theme party to celebrate it. I love the illustration on the label and the Victorian era bottle. How can you not drink from a bottle that says “As seen through the eyes of imagination?" Look at these pretty plates and cups from Anthropologie that could accentuate the table.

What to serve? Calamari?

What to wear? Pirate gear or homoerotic Clash of the Titans togas?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Irwin Street Market

A brilliant concept from innovator, Jake Rothchild is in town. I have yet to check out The Irwin Street Market, but I will this weekend. I love the concept of being an incubator of sorts and allowing start up creations to blossom. This is a gift to our city. Someone's passion or hobby can turn into a full-time job or business with the help of the market and it's community kitchen. I just listened to his interview on gravity free radio. I loved how excited he got about losing one of the popular vendors because they "graduated" and made it to the big leagues. Jake is lovely.

I remember how a few years ago he created a special ice cream for my son's birthday party at Jake's. "Funky Monkey" was a delicious treat but also a very special gift for my boy.
Had to throw in a photo of the monkey cake I made. His "hair" was made of individually placed chocolate jimmies. The chocolates were monkeys-in-a-barrel that linked together. I only had one mold so I was making monkeys for days.

concrete to cauliflower

When I read today's article in the AJC about the new Edible garden at The Atlanta Botanical Garden, my head began humming Joni Mitchell. "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot..." Essentially, the Botanical Garden is a tree museum but this museum took a parking lot and returned it to nature, paradise if you will. Visitors will now be able to see food in it's natural state. We have become so disconnected from our food. If you have ever seen Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, you have witnessed school-aged children unable to name fruits and vegetables. I'm not talking about rutabagas or durian, but tomatoes. Tomatoes! Kids could not identify tomatoes.

The new garden opens Saturday, May 1. There will be a visitors’ parade across the Canopy Walk, led appropriately by Atlanta’s Seed and Feed Marching Abominable. Who better to usher in the slow food movement at our beloved garden? My membership has expired but I plan to renew it today out of love and respect for a great idea. Soon local chefs with a love and respect for local, sustainable foods will show us the farm to table way, chefs like Linton Hopkins, Kevin Gillespie, Hugh Acheson, Billy Allin, Ann Quatrano, Clifford Harrison, Scott Serpas, Jay Swift, Shane Touhy, Todd Mussman, Ford Fry and Nick Melvin to name a few.

Let's hope schools start making plans for field trips for hands-on learning. First stop, tomatoes.
*field bag can be found on Etsy here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reader's Choice

Vote now for your favorite spots in Atlanta in The Sunday Paper's readers Choice Awards. Click here to vote. My picks were pretty easy.]

best overall: Ecco, Woodfire grill (tie)

best new restaurant: Empire State South (I'm betting on it)

BEST LOCAL CHEF: Kevin Gillespie, Hector Santiago (tie)





BEST SOUTHERN: South City Kitchen



BEST DESSERT: flourless chocolate cake with olive oil and sea salt-La Tavola








BEST BARTENDER: Hadi Joyce, Wisteria

BEST PATIO: Six feet Under (rooftop, but patio nonetheless)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Threadhead upcycle party

The coolest gathering happened this weekend. The underground group known as The Threadheads took the daily posturing to a new level with an assignment involving more than mere words and photographs. This time we were given the task of finding a piece of art at a thrift store and creating a new piece from it. Knowing our group, said piece would be a bit twisted. The art turned out amazing! From this we realized that just as we love each other through endless email banter on the thread site, we like each other in person as well.
So I guess there is truth to the book Consequential Strangers which poses that the people in your life who are sort of supporting characters are actually crucial to your happiness. It is because they keep you grounded by offering unbiased advice and comfort. Consequential strangers are part of our continuum of relationships, of mutual give-and-take that affects the quality of our life.

Friday, April 9, 2010

(spoons can be found on Etsy here)

Garden is planted. Farm to table is more than just talk now it's what's for dinner! We'll see how this goes. In the garden: many varieties of tomatoes, red peppers, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers (why? really I find them too hot), red beets, shorty carrots, cucumbers, leeks, rosemary, thyme (parsley and sage needed here), lavender, chamomile, basil, cilantro (or coriander, call it what you wish). Nearby we have two types of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Couldn't find a bacon bush. Anyone have one?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

find a beautiful place and get lost

This beautiful screen print from slidesideways inspired me while perusing Etsy. Get lost is what I did. Without worries, cares, appointments or hesitations I got lost in wonder and beauty. I walked in the woods with the eyes of a child and felt grateful for the beauty of spring. I highly recommend reconnecting to the world like this.

Right here in Atlanta spring is bursting. It only looks like this for a while. Go get lost somewhere.