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

Thursday, January 31, 2013


I was out of town for last weekend's Team Hidi benefit for chef Ryan Hidinger and I felt my distance immensely. I longed to be in the space filled with collective hope and love. I wished to be able to send what was in my heart to Ryan and Jen. The closest I could get, being 1000 miles away, was texting back and forth with those present. I cried viewing the screen shots of my favorite chefs and servers giving to a man and a cause dear to them. I sobbed along with the video of Ryan speaking. I cheered when I found out they raised over $100,000 and then cheered some more when it surpassed $200,000.

Since learning of Ryan's cancer diagnosis and seeing the Atlanta community reach out and band together, I too have more hope within my soul. Togetherness is a powerful, transforming tool. I have great love for the men and women organizing benefits for Ryan and standing alongside him for the duration of this fight. I believe in the power of hope and love.

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.” 
--Emily Dickinson

This is a list of some pretty great Atlanta businesses who helped:
Floataway Cafe
Muss & Turner's / Local Three
4th & Swift
Brick Store Pub / Leon's Full Service
Taco Mac
STG / Bocado
Miller Union
No. 246 / The Optimist
Double Zero Napoletana / The Iberian Pig
Restaurant Eugene / Holeman & Finch
Empire State South
Cakes & Ale
Greg Hardesty with Recess in Indy
Six Feet Under
Honeysuckle Gelato
Fox Brothers BBQ / The Big Tex
Six Feet Under
Miso Izakaya
One Eared Stag / Holy Taco
Cardamom Hill
Pine Street Market
Woodfire Grill
The Sound Table
Emily G's Jams

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

100 Mile Dinner: Winter on the Lake

On a mild winter evening in January, I paused to take in the scenery of the picturesque Lake Avondale. The night was calm and quiet and I kind of let the stillness set in.  I thought of the recipient of the evening’s ticket proceeds, Ryan Hidinger, a beloved chef fighting a devastating diagnosis. Before I reveled in the food and fellowship that 100 Mile dinners always bring, I wanted to consciously dwell and hope. I saw another person standing on the porch and wondered if they too were caught up in emotion.

The hosts of The Avondale Community Club greeted me with such southern charm and the band Tonestar was already harmonizing in the foyer. Arianne Fielder’s welcome drink, Musk-u-dine-local, was in my hand- sorghum infused Muscadine wine from Chateau Elan with rosemary, soda, and pickled blueberries from Phickles Pickles out of Athens. Just a few seconds in the door, I encountered people I had met at another 100 Mile dinner. Loved this

The tables were set . Tiny vases of flowers and pretty menus awaited diners.  I chose a seat at random and wondered who would be next to me when I returned.
Forced meat stuffed trotter with sausage and bacon pate. I would have been happy sampling here all night.
Rusty Bowers really is a "meat magician.'

The set up for the Southern Smorgasbord was pretty perfect- a stone patio surrounded by pines, next to the glimmering lake. I am not just throwing our adjectives here. The lake was sparkling in the moonlight. It was cool enough to feel like “Winter on the Lake,” but mild enough to not need a jacket. Very  nice for mingling and sampling. So many things to nibble on. There was even a selection of Nick Melvin's homemade pickles. His pickled carrots are the best pickles I have ever had. I didn't have any this evening. I just remember from the last time I tasted them. That good. Wish I had taken photos and had descriptions of all of the offerings. One spoon was topped with crispy chicken skin. One was a play on a reuben. They were going fast.

A fellow diner said “If I could eat salad like this, I would eat it every day.”

People began wandering inside and taking their seats. This is always the fun part, getting to know your table mates. “So what brings you to a dinner like this?’ and “Have you been to a 100 Mile Dinner before?” My seat mates were enchanting. We only stopped talking to listen to the chefs and mixologists describe their offerings. I wanted to put them in my pocket and take them with me.

Rusty Bowers of Pine Street Market and Nick Melvin of Garden District welcomed us with excitement and joy and Nick spoke about how the dinners are to showcase seasonal, local food and “in a way, educate people that this is the way it should be done.”  He quickly brought the tone down to purpose. Nick spoke eloquently and purely from his heart about his dear friend (and a friend to many in house), Ryan. We were dining to celebrate eating locally and appreciating our food’s sources but also to uplift Ryan.

The first course arrives along with a colorful cocktail. Daniel Chance of Campagnolo introduced Duck Two Ways: “roll mop” pickled duck breast and duck sausage accompanied by an herb salad, truffle honey mustard, and bacon marmalade. I used different herbs from the salad with each bite of the sausage which had pine nuts, juniper, pepper, and fennel included. I especially loved it with celery leaves. The Darby Farms duck breast was brined, seared, and pickled similar to a pickled herring preparation. It was insanely good.

Pairing so perfectly with the juniper in the sausage was our cocktail from Arianne Fielder of Seven Lamps: 13th Colony gin, Sweetwater IPA reduction, Savannah Bee Company Tupelo honey, ruby red grapefruit soda, and blackberries.

Jason Kemp of The Family Dog described our next sip, a 2009 Voignier from Tiger Mountain Vineyards as having “a little bit of funk.” I completely agreed. I also tasted a minerality I could only believe comes from the granite outcrops of the north Georgia Mountains. Voigniers are great food wines, especially with root vegetables .

Enter Rusty and Nick’s Celeriac Buttermilk Soup. The Blue Ridge trout were cured 24 hours then cold smoked and flaked into a celery leaf salad. Also in the luscious bowl of celery root soup were smoked trout roe in mustard oil. This dish could go on my last meal wish list. The flavor combinations and textures were powerful and really played off one another. I want this to be on a menu somewhere.

Our third course presented by the effervescent Terry Koval of Wrecking Bar Brew Pub was beautiful Scotch ale braised beef cheeks with root veggies and parsnip puree.  I heard so many diners say “what’s a cheek? Where is it from?” A cheek is well, a cheek; or more specifically, the fine grained facial muscle of a cow. The cheeks were super tender ( no small feat when you think of how strong a cow’s facial muscles must be from chewing all day) with a hint of the braising liquid flavor. I loved knowing the cheeks were from Moonshine Meats in Athens, a farm that uses this statement:  Moonshine Meats is just meat the way it should be: raised on pasture by producers who have a deep sense of humility, humanity and awe for both animal and land. I loved the baby carrots, turnips, and rutabagas- soft but not too soft, and left in their natural state as opposed to cubed. I could have eaten a bowl of the parsnip puree.
The dish paired so nicely with the Colin’s Wee Heavy Scotch Ale from Wrecking Bar and Brewery. The beer, named for Bob the brewmaster’s son, Colin, is a malty, rich, warming with chocolate undertones ale that was aged in bourbon barrels. It’s a masterpiece and such a wonderful brew for a cold winter’s night. Bob Sandage, founder of Wrecking Bar, was even in the house.

The final dish of the evening came with an introduction from delightful Layne Lee of Sweet N Sinful Bakery. She said it had always been a mission of hers to get her equally delightful sister to try squash. Who would have thought to put butternut squash in a cobbler? Sweet, light and warm, the cobbler sat on top of sage ice cream. I watched her sister eat it and watched Layne beam.

Jason Kemp ended our night with the perfect nightcap: Ivy Mountain apple brandy with warm Mercier Orchards apple cider and allspice dram. So good. It could only have been better if were were outside next to a campfire.

The band came from the foyer to wish happy birthday to a guest, play, and sing amongst us. It was a really fun moment. They encouraged us to dance. I was sad the night had to end. I was satiated but wanted the conversation to continue. My table mates were interesting, fun, and thrilled for this sort of dining experience. Each course we tasted together brought forth lively conversations, anecdotes, and funny stories. We laughed. We even shed tears over a shared experience.
We tasted the seasons and the local offerings of Gum Creek Farms in Roopville, Flat Creek Lodge in Swainsboro, BesMaid Garden in Decatur, Serenbe Farms in Chattahoochee Hills, and Moonshine Meats in Athens. We didn't start a revolution or change the world but we ate a delicious five course meal sourced from 100 miles and further discussed a better worldview on sourcing food. We didn't just eat, we conscientiously placed value on our foodstuffs and how they arrived at our table. For this conversation, I am grateful to The 100 Mile Dinner and the chefs and farmers who provided a forum.
I left with hugs for my new friends and for the chefs and servers who put on such a great night. My anticipation for the next 100 Mile Dinner in March along with Nick’s restaurant, Garden District, is already beginning. I walked gently into the night. Seeing the lake and moon again made me take pause and send good thoughts out to Ryan.

For Team Hidi info, click here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Celery Root

Someone recently asked me about my favorite seasonal offering during winter. The ugly duckling of the vegetable bin, celery root, summarily came to mind. It is no surprise that the
knobby, warty, barnacle- like root is overlooked for sexier edibles of wintertime. Visually repugnant it may be, but I still recall my first taste. I was an angsty teen walking through a mall where a restaurant show was happening. Someone handed me a white paper cup with something mushy in it and something crispy on top. I can’t remember the crisp part, but I remember the shazam! moment when I tasted the puree. That entire season I asked every restaurant if they served celery root to no avail. To this day, a taste of celery root brings back the memory of a moment in time that really sparked food adventurism in me.
Celery root or celeriac (sometimes also called knob celery, turnip related celery, or Verona celery) is one of those vegetables you wonder aloud about at the farmers market with “what made the first person eat this?” It is not appetizing to look at. Still underrated in the U.S., it is widely used in Europe and has been since the Middle Ages. It even gets a mention in Homer’s Odyssey as “selinon.” Pretty sure the horses were eating it, but you have to start somewhere.
Celery root is the cousin to carrots, parsley, parsnips and anise- root vegetables that you eat either for their tips or their root. It is developed from the same wild species as stalk celery but it is cultivated for its root, not its stalk. Its flavor tastes like a fusion of celery and parsley and smells similarly. To me the taste is redolent of the earth-soil, but it in delicious way. It is delicious and a hearty non-starch replacement for potatoes. It is also remarkably storable, remaining fresh 1-2 weeks in a refrigerator and longer in a root cellar. I love root cellars. Remember to trim the leaves from the root before storing.
Root cellars are one of my favorite things

Before making its way onto European and Western Asian dinner plates, it was used mainly for medicinal and religious uses. I have read this in many books and descriptions about celery root but have not uncovered which sort of “religious uses” these were, unless aphrodisiacs and crowns of celery root leaves to cure hangovers are religious uses. For this is how the ancient Greeks used it. It is widely revered for its calming and analgesic properties. The Chinese used it to stabilize high blood pressure and much of Europe used it to detoxify the blood and eliminate intestinal parasites.  The jury is out on whether celery root will cure your hangover or your love life, but celery root is extremely low in calories (1/2+ 20 calories), high in fiber, nonfat, and rich in vitamins A, E, & C, Potassium, Phosphorous, and Carotene.
The root can be mashed, boiled, roasted, braised, sautéed, added to thicken soups and stews, sliced for salads, and even French friend. It is as versatile as our beloved potato but ever more nutritious and tasty. Look for firm tubers without lots of discolorations. Smaller roots taste better. Larger roots are woodier and better for long stewing or roasting. Remember to allow for about ¼ of it to be discarded as you peel off the thick outer layer. A knife works better than a vegetable peeler to “peel” the outer layer. Don’t discard those yummy leaves. They have the highest percentage of vitamin c. Use them to flavor soups, sautés, and salads. I have even made a quick pesto of them.

Boiling the chopped root

My favorite way to prepare celery root is with a simple puree. I peel, cut into cubes, and boil the root in half milk & half water for about 20 minutes. Drain, saving some of the liquid, then puree with a hand blender with some of the reserved liquid. Top it with a piece of trout and a few of the leaves.
Celeriac Remoulade is a classic French dish similar to coleslaw where the root is peeled, grated, placed in lemon juice, and dressed in a mustardy mayo. You can even pickle celery root using a simple dilly bean recipe. Hughsli sells a yummy looking celery root-kohlrabi mixture I would love to try. Empire State South here in Atlanta often has a celery root soup with candied hazelnuts that is pretty outstanding. I also used to love the celery root gnocchi from Hector Santiago at the recently closed Pura Vida. Check out this recipe by Hugh Acheson in Food and Wine for Creamy Celery Root Skordalia where he uses celery root in place of traditional potatoes.
Photo from  Best Emerging
I really want to make this recipe of Celeriac with Moscatel Grapes, Burnet, and Toasted Hazelnuts from Ollie Dabbous (whose restaurant Dabbous is on my bucket list).
I asked a couple of chef friends their favorite way to prepare and eat celery root.  Nick Melvin of the soon to be Garden District likes to do a celery root remoulade brown butter puree. Zeb Stevenson of The Livingston and Proof & Provision likes to make a celery root gratin. So many possibilities. I am going to try latkes with the celery roots I have on hand or celery root cake. Yes, cake (from Gotham in New York).