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, September 11, 2012

Wish: My favorite local things

Someone on twitter mentioned that there were only 104 days until Christmas today. I wasn’t ready to entertain the thought until I thought of Wish parties. Each year during the holiday season a group of girlfriends and I gather for a fun night out and exchange gifts. Sometimes we set a limit and sometimes there is a theme. My favorite evening was when the gift to bring was a re-gift of a piece of jewelry or accessory that you just didn’t wear but loved. I came home with a gorgeous scarf that came with a story. I gifted a necklace that was so pretty but had never been worn.For years it sat lonesome in a box in my bathroom drawer. Now I get to see it regularly on a friend who adores it. Besides giving a loving home to things we couldn’t let go of otherwise, the narrative behind each gift was the best part of the evening. When I host a Wish party this year, I am going to combine the stories with a basket much like Oprah’s favorite things episode she used to produce. Each guest will bring a number (depending on the number of guests) of their locally made favorite item. Everyone gets one of each and goes home with a basket full of goodies. My ideal basket:

Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill Cheese
This creamy, buttery, and smooth cheese with a thin bloomy rind and golden color is similar to Camembert. Jersey cow’s milk gives it the gorgeous color and I am convinced being made with love gives it its taste. Sweet Grass Dairy is a family owned and operated farm in Thomasville where the cows live as cows should and cheese making grew out of new found joy at a cheese-making class. It’s delicious, local, and sustainable.


French Broad Chocolates Vanilla Bourbon Caramel
True perfection. They had me as a loyal customer at our first meeting a couple of years ago but my intense love for Jael and Dan Rattigan stems from their business plan: "To explore our perpetual lust for culinary creativity through the medium of chocolate. To create a beautiful space and a beautiful menu; to witness the emotional impact of our creations on our patrons; to further hone our place in the community and lighten our environmental impact, all the while living as decent human beings." Many business owners say things like this this, but Jael and Dan actually have achieved their objectives. I love everything about French Broad Chocolates, from their meticulous sourcing, their Willy Wonkaesque factory harnessing the sun to roast the beans, to the lovely packaging. My friends know of my great love and make sure to stop for me each time one of them is in Asheville. My favorite confection right now is the Vanilla Bourbon Caramel filled with Knob Creek bourbon. Sweet, rich and at the same time a lil smoky from the bourbon. Runner up: Lavender & Honey truffle with local lavender & wildflower honey and  Peruvian dark chocolate. It is layered bits of the Blue Ridge Mountains wrapped up inside of exotic dark chocolate. You can smell, taste, and feel the lavender bits and the honey. Pretty sure it tastes like sunshine and bluegrass too.

Emily G’s Berbere Sauce

Inspired by a spice mixture that is the flavor foundation for Ethiopian cooking, Emily G’s Berbere Sauce makes grilling or crock pot dinners easily exotic. Super inspired by the spice combination, Emily woke with the flavor in her head and worked all day crafting a batch that eventually became this sauce. The “love” that is printed on her jars can be tasted. She tries to create jams, sauces and relishes simply, naturally, and with the best ingredients available. I can’t wait to get my hands on a jar of pear honey which came about after she tasted an amazing pear from South Georgia and dreamt up a slow cooked, thickened version of it with just a hint of honey. It’s much like how her Emily G’s story began- a mom (who also happens to be a classically trained chef) on a strawberry picking play date in Lawrenceville with buckets full of fresh berries. The play date turned into a jam making day. This is how Emily’s grandmother from Alabama did things. When you have a fresh ingredient in excess, you put-up. Friends and family loved what they tasted, wanted more, and Jams of Love was born.

If her curry ketchup collaboration with Rosebud is ready by the holidays, I might put it in my wish bag too.


Southern Gal Bath and Body
These are luscious lip balms that I use every day. I have one in my purse, one in my car, one in the kitchen, and one right next to me at my computer. It began with a crafting whim at making soap and has grown into a full bath and body line. Tricia’s soaps are beautiful, creamy, and have lasting scents. Making them allows her to be an amazing mom at home. For the holidays this past year I bought soaps, candles, scrubs, and lotions for everyone from Southern Gal Soaps/ Bath and Body.

Beautiful Briny Sea Salts
Beautiful Briny Sea Salts are made here in Atlanta. I especially love the truffle salt and the lavender salt. The blends are made with hand harvested salts from around the world and certified organic herbs. All ingredients are sourced from the growers with sustainability as a focus.  More importantly, they are incredible delicious.

Garlic Clove Foods: Gluten Free Garden Pilaf
The D’Angelos make delicious, healthy, and quick cooking foods a family affair with Garlic Clove Foods. Everyone pitches in to produce blends made with a combination of 100% Whole Grains (Quinoa, Bulgur & Millet), Vegetables, Legumes and natural herbs and spices.  The Gluten free Garden Pilaf is a mixture of organic millet and organic quinoa with vegetables, herbs, and spices. I love being able to gift something made near my home by a family trying to bring better food to everyone's table. My gluten free friends will love it!

Phickles Pickles: Rasta Beans
Phickles Pickles began in 2009 in Angie Tillman’s home kitchen and has since moved to a facility in Athens. The entire family pitches in from the filling of the jars, sticking on the labels, and delivering the boxes. Each jar is hand packed with locally sourced veggies and fruit. I love all of the pickles but Rasta Beans are my favorite of the bunch. Rasta Beans came about as a gift to a local Athens restaurant that served a few dishes with jerk seasoning. They now have quite a cult following. Rasta Beans are not always available but she will make them to order. Look for Angie and her sweet booth adorned with heirloom linens at farmer's markets and local shops.

H & F Bottle Shop Bloody Mary Mix
It’s not a spicy mix but that is easily remedied with the addition of hot sauce and a few of those Rasta beans mentioned above. I love the mix’s  brightness and thickness. The mix begins with hand-milled tomatoes, not juice, but tomatoes and includes hand-squeezed lime juice, Worcestershire, horseradish, Trappey’s hot sauce, celery seed, and cream Sherry. The bottle encourages you to add to it what will make your bloody Mary best for you. I absolutely love the handwritten batch date on the label.

Pine Street Market Cured Meats
Pine Street Market meats begin with local pork from Berkshire hogs from Gum Creek Farms in Georgia. Humanely raised pigs forage off the land using a rotational grazing method without antibiotics, pesticides, or herbicides. CIA trained Rusty Bowers is a skilled craftsman in the art of salumi. His house-cured meats made on site in Avondale Estates and aged in custom-built, climate controlled curing caves. My favorites are the speck and the applewood smoked bacon. My kids call it the “good bacon” when they are asking for it.
NaturAlmond Almond Butter

When Jamie Foster couldn't find almond butter in stores that could compare to her grandfather's, she began making her own. With the enlivening support of friends and family, NaturAlmond was born and continues to grow in Chamblee, Georgia. Handcrafted using just two ingredients, roasted almonds and sea salt, it is both delicious and nutritious.
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Jack Rudy Tonic
This small batch cocktail syrup made in Charleston is gorgeous in apothecary bottles with letterpress labels. Besides quinine, the tonic is composed of a blend of lemongrass, orange peel, sugar, and citric acid. It is concentrated and can be used as a sweetening agent for a cocktail or traditionally as “tonic water” with the addition of fizzy water. I confess that I have yet to try it but I have had stellar cocktails from Brooks Reitz at Fig Restaurant in Charleston. What’s not to love about a handcrafted tonic from a southern gentleman who named his product for his grandfather?

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