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

Sunday, December 1, 2013

shop local advent calendar

Advent calendars are a fun way to count down to the big day of gift-giving. In my house, we were never into the chocolate or tiny toy variety. We have done a month of good things to help others, a month of fun things to do together, a month of Legos to build, and the like. For locally minded shoppers I have put together an advent calendar of some of my favorite products and small businesses I like to support.. What better way is there to shop than from the storefront of hopes and dreams, to reinvest in the community you call home?
I found a tree limb in the yard, spray painted it silver and planted it in a vase full of lentils and Christmas baubles. I found these neat printable numbers on They are fantastic because the size is the exact fit for the top of a Mason jar. A Mason jar advent calendar would be very cute and very fun to find small gifts or good deeds-to-do to fit inside each day. At our house, each number on this tree is a clue to where to find the gift or good deed. But here, each number coincides with a local favorite.

Day One

Beautiful Briny Sea Salts from Suzi Sheffield are a favorite hostess gift and stocking stuffer of mine. I have been a fan of the Truffle Salt and French Picnic but thanks to The Indie Craft Experience, I have a new favorite, the smoky Campfire. My favorite places to purchase are the Peachtree Road Farmers Market and Beehive. And neat-o information: The Lapsang Souchong salt on top of the hand cut ice on The Unsung Hiro at Miso Izakaya was a special commission of Beautiful Briny.
The Unsung Hiro at Miso Izakaya with ice topped with Lapsang Souchong infused sea salt

Day Two
Mike Lowery Illustration

Atlantan Mike Lowery has the cutest, silliest point of view. His work has been seen in galleries and publications across the globe. I am enchanted by his illustrations of things like charcuterie, birds (Gunther Vogelmeier is my favorite), and even beards.
This is what I purchased at The Indie Craft Experience this year.

Day Three
All natural, made locally with just two ingredients: almond and salt. My favorite way to eat it-- off a spoon, straight from the jar. I like to purchase mine from The Peachtree Road Farmers Market so I can talk with owner Jamie and pick up a bag of her almond flour. It is great to coat chicken or pork before frying or baking. Jars can also be found at Whole Foods and Star Provisions. Click here for an extensive list and a bit of history on Jamie's grandfather, her inspiration. It fits in a stocking; I know because I gifted jars last year.

Day Four
Doux South Pickles
Local, Organic, handcrafted pickles by Chef Nick Melvin. Inside each jar is more than tasty pickles, it's the continuation of a family tradition of pickling the goods from his family's garden n Louisiana with his mom. I get mine (my favorite: Honey Kissed Turnips) at local farmers markets (East Atlanta, Peachtree Road), but they can also be found at Alon's, Pine Street Market,  and Star Provisions. As Nick says, Stupid good. Doux South also ships!
Day Five
Erin Smith Art
Erin Smith creates sassy art from photos of relatives. I have given her cocktail napkins and bar towels as hostess gifts and as stocking stuffers to the delight of the recipients. My favorite place to shop for her whimsy is Heliotrope in Decatur but you may also purchase from her website.
Day Six
Emily G's Jams
Emily G's Jams are the perfect size for stockings. My favorites are the Pear Honey and the Pepper Vinegar. When I first tried the Pear Honey, I ate it with a spoon. It really is the perfect toast topper though. The Pepper Vinegar is used daily in my kitchen. It adds a zip and acidity to soup, my go-to breakfast. Emily's jams and sauces are all-purpose and the website includes a slew of recipes both sweet and savory for trying the mixtures. You can really taste the love in each jar.
Day Seven
Brother Journal
Brother Journal is a quarterly journal from Ryan Smith, Andrew Thomas Lee, and Alvin Diec with a specific focus on people who make "good, honest food the right way." The first issue beautifully traced the journey of pastured chicken from farm to table, chock full of all the good story bits. It really is a thing of beauty. Gift one here.

Day Eight
Phickles Pickles
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.
Day Nine
Pine Street Applewood Smoked Bacon

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.

Day Ten
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.
Day Eleven
Sweetgrass 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.

Day Twelve
Tickets to team Hidi 2.0 Benfit
This event, scheduled for January 26, 2014 again at King Plow Arts Center will be one of The Giving Kitchen's largest fundraising efforts. Get  tickets for the Giving Kitchen benefit with over 30 of the Atlanta area’s best Restaurants and Farmers, the city’s finest beverage bad asses and their libation inspirations, a wicked Live Auction and rocking music by Yacht Rock Revue and Big Mike Geier! Join the Atlanta community in surrounding Team Hidi with love. What a fun and delicious way to help The Giving Kitchen give back to our city's restaurant employees when crisis occur.
Can’t attend?  Consider making a donation to

Day Thirteen
Indigo Bath and Body Soaps
With soaps imbued with farm fresh ingredients from their farm and local farmers (from our farmer's markets) that you know and love, to the honey and beeswax raised in local apiaries, you'll find local ingredients in over 95% of Indigo Bath and Body products.  My favorite item is the Multi Fruit Antioxidant lip and eye balm. I keep it on my nightstand.

Day fourteen
Book: Buddhist Catnaps...

Buddhist Catnaps and Broken-Down Hymns is a collection of short stories by Decatur writer Tommy Housworth that I find witty, endearing, and honest. I get lost in the soulful characters and transported by the many references to music. Buy it. Read it.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

gumbo comfort

Gone. The saddest word in the language. In any language.
Mark Slouka
I miss him, my dad. I haven't taken his ring off since he died because it feels like he is circling me in the way his protective fathering did while he was alive. Alive; he is not alive. It has been four years and I still grapple with the reality that is his missing from the earth. That is how this blog was born. Words and doodles became a way for me to channel my grief. Nostalgia for the ones we love is often intertwined with food memories and food traditions. This along with music is very true for me. It is so very doleful to be constantly reminded of this man when songs come on the radio or I sip a cup of sake...or is it? Perhaps the love he showered on and instilled within me was so constant and full that it permeated all things, leaving traces and reminders of him for me to always see. These are the things that allow me to celebrate and remember him as I come to terms with losing him too soon. When the heart clenching grief strikes I cling to this thought. If he had not loved big, I wouldn't feel this way.
Music, words, and food are all conduits to my reminiscing. My dear friend Kevin Young writes so beautifully of all these things. His book Dear Darkness sings the mournful song within my heart all the while inspiring awe in foods and moments seemingly ordinary. I read his words often for the sheer mellifluousness of them and because I feel them to the marrow.
This weekend on the anniversary of the event that caused my dad's death, I opened up to "Ode to Gumbo." I have it written in a journal, written with the Blackfeet Indian pencils my dad once bought me because he thought I was a good writer. Forever connected, he and I.
Gumbo is chock full of goodness, steeped in history and tradition. I read an ethnography on a Louisiana gumbo cooker once and it stuck with me. Just as Kevin's ode points out "like life, there's no one way to do it, and a hundred ways, from here to Sunday to get it dead wrong." The day was brisk and so long when trying to not remember the date. So in Kevin's words "why not boil and chop." I read the poem again and cried over the words "I know gumbo starts with sorrow."
I turned the music up, set out my ingredients, and set forth my grappling. First I chopped.
"an entire onion cut open and wept over..."
I stirred my roux. And stirred.
"...with flour and water making sure not to burn."
When it was dark like chocolate I added my ingredients slowly, thoughtfully. The chicken, the Andouille, the duck, my mirepoix, the okra, the cayenne... It bubbled and I stirred. Gumbo becomes something greater than the sum of its parts after hours of simmering. Just as food is more than mere sustenance, but chock full of tradition, culture, and history. I started the rice in another pot. The chopping and measuring was comforting and mind numbing just as the clean up was. My dad never left a dirty dish in the sink, I thought as I gently washed my utensils. He is always here and he would like this sort of remembering.
Listen to Kevin read Ode to Gumbo.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fall Cocktails in Atlanta

On a spectacular day watching the sun set from my perch at Top of the Mark in San Francisco I talked with my bartender about fall and the autumnal drinks I love so. Gone are the fruity, pastel, light drinks of summer. On the fall inspired cocktail menus are rich, spicy, dark concoctions meant to warm one from within. "What is your favorite?" He asked. I told him about Navarro Carr from The Sound Table and his perfect Toronto. This is where we switched proverbial places and I tended to him, instructing each delicious step along the way to my go-to fall elixir. He stirred, tasted, and declared it simple, yet intriguing.

We arrived at the subject of Atlanta bartending when I flipped through a dog-eared copy of San Francisco Magazine and spotted Jason Rager who recently moved from Atlanta and his post at Holeman and Finch Public House to San Francisco's AQ. Rager's Manhattan was a favorite fall (and all year) cocktail of mine with 110 proof Willett rye, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, both Angostura and Regan's bitters, and a house-made cherry. I can never replicate it at home. Though he and Greg Best are gone, cocktails are still outstanding at this James Beard nominated Bar Program. The Ranier Expedition is a favorite of mine lately- High West Silver Oak, Imbue Petal and Thorn, Punt e Mes, Amargo Vallet (herbal, spicy liquor ), lemon bitters.

Top of the Mark Manhattan
Angela Manhattan at Miso Izakaya
My bartender tried his hand at a perfect Manhattan. It was good, but not a Jason Rager Manhattan or The Angela Manhattan Ronnie Le Claire makes at Miso Izakaya. The swizzle sticks were great though. San Francisco bars love their swizzle sticks. More swizzle sticks, more matchbooks, Atlanta! The conversation carried on and I talked about a fun week of trying fall cocktail menus in Atlanta with a friend. Follow along below.

Our cocktail adventure began with mixtress extraordinaire Kellie Thorn at Empire State South. I swooned over a Brief Encounter, all boozy with the strong spices of fall (Lion's Pride dark oat whiskey, Carpano, Antica Formula, barrel aged bitters) yet nostalgic for the summer that has gone  with a strawberry shrub from local strawberries of early summer. It was bewitching how it matched my enthusiasm for the coming cold at the loss of summer's bounty.

We moved to Abattoir for foie gras from chef Hector Santiago's Butcher's menu and a fall sipper. Bartender's choice: The Autumn Crisp from Ryan McLaughlin. It tasted like something you would want to sip from a thermos next to a fire and was gorgeous in the glass with a dried apple slice resting on the edge. Recipe here:

2 oz. American Spirit Whiskey
1 oz Cinnamon spiced iced tea (we use Harney and Sons)
1 oz Fresh squeezed Ellijay Apple Juice
¾ oz Honey Water (1 part honey to 1 part water)
2 bar spoons lemon juice
Dried apple slice - garnish

Combine all ingredients in a glass. Add ice. Add apple slice garnish.

From Abattoir we headed to Miso Izakaya to treat my out of towner to one of Atlanta's best cocktails: The Unsung Hiro. During the summer, it sips like a refreshing cooler but the magic of this concoction is its morphing ability.  The cool, crisp fall evening was equally matched by the rye, spicy ginger, and Lapsang Souchong infused sea salt that dances atop the hand cut cube of ice filling the glass. I declared this my favorite summer cocktail but I need to include it as a favorite fall sipper too.
Last stop for this particular evening is a favorite haunt- Proof and Provision. Small, dark, and undergroundish, you never know what kind of crowd will roll in here. Bartenders are solid, endearing, super creative, and most of all able to put up with whatever crowd floats in. See, across the street is the Fox Theater. I have witnessed dressed up for the ballet people ordering shots of Goldschlager (which P and P does not carry) and throngs of vest-wearing, PBR-ordering Mumford and Sons fans using words like "bespoke cocktail." The guys behind the bar don't flinch; they just roll with it. The crowd was weird this particular night but the drinks were solid. Fitting a fall evening as well as the end of a good day of sampling was The Firm Handshake, a menu staple. Redemption Rye, Leopold's Fernet, demerara syrup, bitters, and a smoky lapsang souchong tea-infused ice ball blend in perfect harmony of sweet and bitter.


As we walked into the stony cavern that is  Wrecking Bar, my friend from Las Vegas smiled and sat with "There is nothing like this in Vegas." I sipped a High West Campfire while he smiled happily with an  Elijah Craig 18 year. Behind the bar Ian Cox and Brian Ferraro kept the jokes coming while crafting classic cocktails. Ian made his Rye in the Dark, his mixture in the Taste of Atlanta Barcraft Competition. I will be ordering this perfect fall sipper with rye and Fernet for months to come.
sampling from the vast bourbon selection

We stopped at my favorite pre-Chastain spot before our concert, Food 101. The Goldentini was a nectarous barrel-aged mix of Troy and Sons Platinum whiskey, Lillet Blanc, and rhubarb bitters. It was perfect with the beef jerky chef Justin Keith shared with us as we discussed the merits of bevnaps at length.

Paul Calvert of Paper Plane has a Smith's inspired menu that blew me away. In a glass he managed to capture the essence of a song, the angst of youth, and autumnal flavors in one fell swoop. Big Mouth Strikes Again is a big mouthful of fall: bourbon, vermouth, cappalletti aperitif, bigallett china-china (made from sweet and bitter orange peels and spices), and bitters. Calvert arranges his cocktail menus from light to dark. This one lies appropriately on the bottom of the list. I have also had a few "There's a Light That Never Goes Out" this season. It never fails to delight my senses. The walnut paneled walls and comfy barstools never fail at soothing comfort either. Stepping into the space at Paper Plane feels at the same time habitual and enchanting, a perfect place to beguile time. We ended this evening with a walk through the tiny-light strewn courtyard to our cab.

The third evening was cool and we settled in for rabbit rillettes and cocktails at One Eared Stag which is a really cozy spot on a Sunday evening. I had a great autumn inspired drink but it was a bartender's choice so I don't have many details to spare other than Rye and cherry bitters, I think.

Final stop on our three day cocktail crawl is my new favorite in Atlanta, Kimball House. I am thoroughly  and profoundly enchanted with everything about Kimball House. I have frequented the many establishments that have held court in this building but none have filled the space with the grandeur it deserves. It is transportive stepping into Kimball House. On this particular rainy evening, the space was dazzling. I wanted to order caviar service and sip gin from the many vintage glasses as towers of oysters were presented. The outstanding oyster program is something that Atlanta has been missing. I look forward to seeing the menu filled with twenty or so fresh choices from around the US on Instagram each day. We didn't have any this evening but I did wax poetically about a night when I helped with a tower of fresh shells, each one shucked to perfection with no shell and ample sea water. This evening it was all about Miles McQuarrie's bar program and the nighttime ambiance that is the inside of an old train depot.

Mexican Razor Blade
We had a couple of Mexican Razor Blades-- tequila, sherry, lime, coconut, cinnamon, cayenne--spicy, smoky, and delicately layered with exotic flavors. The Bellman is another favorite with rye, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, and many bitters.

The Bellman
So we ended a weekend worthy of the word epic filled with the joys of life and sweater weather concoctions. Our three days of conversations were lifted with those who delightfully entertain behind the bar. I have a list of places and barkeeps we missed. I will leave that to our next adventure.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


I walked to find the meadow, to sink down into the grass, soak in the sun, and feel childhood pleasure. The grass was lush and brilliant green on this early autumn afternoon. The sky was a cloudless robin's egg blue, the type odes and songs are written about. Breaking up these jewel tones was an explosion of gold plumes softly swaying in the gentle breeze. Goldenrod, one of summer's last flowers.
I watched the bees alight on the blossoms, drinking the already honey-scented nectar. Animals and insects, attracted by the bright, showy plumes, drink the abundant nectar and collect the heavy pollen. Heavy pollen. Hear that? Goldenrod is not wind pollinated and even if it was, its pollen is too heavy and sticky. Poor goldenrod is always blamed for early fall allergy season but the real culprit is the plant that shares its bloom time with goldenrod: ragweed. Ragweed has the small greenish yellow flower heads and produces giant amounts of necessary tiny pollen to float in the wind. Fields ablaze with goldenrod do signal the coming of colder temperatures, but are not to blame for your sneezing.
Billy goat weed, Feverfew, and Goldenrod- a ruderal bouquet 
To most goldenrod is considered a weed. Well, maybe not in Kentucky where it is the state flower or Delaware where it is the state herb (who knew there were state herbs?). The perennial with single woody, hairy stems grow from 3 to 7 feet tall. Its narrow, dark leaves alternate between jagged and smooth edges. It multiplies by sending root runners which take root and start to grow new plants. Strawberries do this too. This is why there are usually clumps of goldenrod together. The bright flowers bloom in late summer to early fall. Because it can crossbreed with other plants, there are more than 100 species of goldenrod. Goldenrod is noticeable both because of its fiery bloom and because it is a ruderal ( from Latin rūdus meaning rubble)species, meaning it easily grows in poor soil or disturbed soil. These are the first to colonize after a forest fire or take over an abandoned lot.
Fun History of goldenrod:
  • Thomas Edison experimented with goldenrod when he tried to find a naturally occurring substitute for rubber at the request of Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. The rubber tree, which does not grow in the United States, provided the natural rubber used for tires up to that time and it was becoming increasingly expensive. Edison managed to get 12% rubber out of the plants. Henry Ford even made a Model T with tires made of goldenrod rubber and claimed the tires strong and long lasting. Eventually synthetic rubber was discovered.
  • Goldenrod was one of the plants used for tea after English tea was boycotted following the Boston Tea Party (1773). They called it "Liberty tea." It was also used after the Civil War when English tea was difficult to obtain.

The vibrant yellow flowers have long been a source of dye. All parts of the plant are edible and all varietals are safe. Goldenrod is of the genus Solidago which means "to strengthen" or "to make whole." Beyond tea, it has long been used medicinally for respiratory and urinary tract issues and to help ease pain. Tinctures and tonics have also been made to utilize goldenrod's antibacterial properties both internally and externally. Use the flowers for garnish. Cook leaves much like spinach or use in soups and stews. Use both the flowers and leaves to make a sweet, delicate tea with bright herbal hints and a fennel-like scent. It tastes a bit like sweet hay. The healing and calming qualities of this tisane can also ease emotional pain.

Fresh Leaf  Goldenrod Tea:

 Chop leaves and flowers
Steep, covered @T in 1 cup of boiling water (or 1T dry)
for 20-30 minutes

Enjoy while Sting sings Fields of Gold.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Asheville: The Asheville Wine and Food Festival Day 1

 Destination Asheville for a weekend of local food and mountain vistas.
In a mere 3 hours and 25 minutes my partner in crime and I arrived at The Renaissance in downtown Asheville. The drive was easy and beautiful with the mountains looming in the distance. We dropped off our belongings and hit the streets for a late lunch. The location of the Renaissance is perfect for the downtown restaurant, music, and art scene.

First stop: Curate
We sipped on a Garnacha blanco and feasted on jamón serrano fermin, jamón iberico fermin, jamón Ibérico de bellota, and croquetas de pollo.

 Second afternoon stop: French Broad Chocolate Lounge
We ooed and ahhed over all hand dipped French Broad confections (one of only a handful in the world to make truffles from bean to bar chocolate) and decided on a (giant) slice of flourless chocolate truffle torte. Then we made noises of extreme pleasure akin to an herbal shampoo commercial. It was that good.
Junction's The Local Sage cocktail- beautiful, layered, sage-y, delicious.
 Our event for the evening: Elixer- a craft cocktail competition of The Asheville Wine and Food Festival with 12 mixologists competing for the prize. The difficult part for these cocktail makers was the necessary inclusion of Angry Orchard hard cider in their glass. The event was lively and convivial. In addition to the cocktails in the competition, there were many local distilleries to sample. I had my first taste of Defiant Whiskey from Blue Ridge Distillery, a trend that colored my weekend.

View from judge Mackensy Lunsford's seat

Autumn in Asheville from OneFiftyOne a crowd favorite including Shrub and Co. Tart Apple Shrub and Troy and Sons Blonde Whiskey. Tasted like fall. I finished my glass and my friend Monica's.

Winner Kyle Beach from MG Road. His 100 Proof Heartache was a smoky, savory concoction worthy of praise with mescal, apple brandy, ginger, chili, lime... On Friday night I visited MG Road and asked him to make a few cocktails and talked about inspiration. He is Paul Calvert-esque behind the bar- charming, inspired, and clever with his ingredients. He asked my style and I explained in literary terms. What I received in return was exactly the flavor profile I was seeking.

Final stop of the night: The Imperial Life
A favorite of mine and on this night chock full of many of the bartenders who competed in Elixer. I was able to sit with good friends and eat Jacob Sessoms locally inspired food. We sampled much of the small plate menu full of all things raw, cured, and aged, like house-made charcuterie, artisan cheeses, raw oysters, sashimi, tartars. Cynthia Turner was a genius and a pleasure behind the bar. Another place where it is good to say "make me something with____ please." We strolled home under a giant moon satiated and happy.





















Thursday, August 22, 2013

Great New Foraging Book-- Wild Edibles by Sergei Boutenko

I read and purchase a lot of foraging/plant identification books and I definitely have a favorite. It is so old and dog-eared from being read and revisited over the years. I even purchase reissues for new little tidbits of edibles but cling to my old copy. It has always been my favorite, my go-to for identification and information. That is until this week when I received Wild Edibles by Sergei Boutenko. This book is clear, concise, and thoughtfully written for both novice foragers and those who know a thing or two.
My favorite page

This practical guide is chock full of photographs that clearly identify edibles with multiple shots for distinction. I have yet to encounter a book that does this so well. If words (like leaf shapes) are unfamiliar, the reader can flip to the back of the book to find drawings of common foraging words and diagrams. Included along with identification are uses, nutritional information (very detailed), helpful tips, identification tricks, cautionary advise about look alikes, and flavor. He also includes conservation and gathering etiquette.

The story of Sergei's lifelong adventure with wild edibles makes a great read as well. His enthusiasm for foraging and eating healthfully while respecting the earth comes through on every page. He ends the book with 67 recipes that are inventive with flavors and textures and allow for flexibility of wild ingredients.

Not a book reader, or want something hand to always have with you? Sergei created an app with identification techniques, photos, and nutritional information. Check it out here.