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, March 26, 2013

Yard 54 Brunch

The notion of an underground brunch club is a brilliant niche to tap into. Underground supper clubs have been a rage of sorts around the Atlanta food scene for a few years, undoubtedly due to the rise in social media networking. The brainchild of  James Martin of The Burger Coalition and Twelve Supper and Chef Rawle Fraser of Muss and Turner's and previously Commune Supper Club, Yard 54 is a brunch-based twist on the pop-up underground restaurant that brings together people and fresh ingredients to one of Atlanta’s great neighborhoods. The meals are limited to 6-8 people and are intended to be as much about making new acquaintances and opening new conversations as they are about new tastes.
Print from TwoCardinalDay

This past weekend Yard 54 had a soft launch at the home of Chef Rawle Fraser in Reynoldstown. The awkwardness of entering an unknown experience quickly passed as guests were handed tiny Mason jars of bubbly. Conversation flowed much like the prosecco as the collection of six guests arrived and mingled. Yard 54 always begins with a reception until all guests have arrived.

Almost immediately talk turned to local food. A train rushed by and we discussed the Yard 54 logo. “Yard” reflects fresh--the freshest ingredients possible, perhaps from one’s yard. The lettering emblematizes the nearby train yard. "54" references the address of Chef Rawle's home on the corner of Wylie and Chester. Such careful attention to detail heightened interest in the forthcoming menu.
The first bite was placed on the table as soon as everyone was settled. Two gorgeous wooden platters of deviled eggs with dill and anchovies nestled in a bed of arugula. Not only was the plating clever and lovely, the deviled eggs were perfection with the addition of slivers of anchovies.

The next plate was a veritable symphony of tastes and textures. Luscious, tender beef carpaccio, crusty grilled sourdough, Mache salad with shallots, Parmesan, a charred meyer lemon vinaigrette, smoked mustard seeds, and thin slivers of candied meyer lemon. The candied meyer lemon gave this dish the sweetest zing.

When the bowl of Nieman Ranch sweet tea braised pork cheeks was placed before each diner, heads bowed to take in the wafting but subtle smokiness emanating from the smoked Logan Turnpike grits. It was at this moment that one of the perks of an intimate brunch experience was evident. Chef Rawle heard us asking "I wonder how he smoked them?' and gave us step by step instructions on how to recreate them. Bowls were soon emptied of the tender pork, smoky grits and jus, lacinato kale chips, and vanilla pear compote. This dish was a triumph. When asked about pairings, Chef Rawle noted a favorite book, The Flavor Bible, as the most helpful resource for unexpected flavor pairings. He wants to be able to explore and introduce patrons to new and different things, perhaps with offal or under utilized cuts of meat with Yard 54.

Our sweet course was a beauty: Lemon bar with raspberry sauce, house made fromage blanc, and lavender honey. The individual ingredients were tasty and fresh and once combined, proved heavenly. The perfect buttery crust really stood out. Again, Chef Rawle stepped from the kitchen and went through the steps of how he made the fromage blanc and then his technique used when infusing honey with lavender.
Yard 54 launches April 20th. To sign up for the mailing list go here or email You can also find Yard 54 on Facebook and Twitter (@Yard54). Expect interesting and original menus (never eggs and sausage) and a guaranteed convivial atmosphere. Also expect to build a relationship with who is cooking your food. Yard 54 will alternate between coursed menus and family style menus. Sporadically they will do dinners as well but brunch will be the focus initially. Yard 54 wishes to bring back communal conversation to dining with the freshest ingredients and sometimes unconventional dishes in an intimate atmosphere with accessibility to the chef  while he is prepairing courses. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Trout Lily

Hiking through the woods this week, I came upon a field of trout lilies. Not only was the spectacle beautiful, but it signals the imminence of spring. The bright yellow trout lily is among the first flowers to bloom in spring.

Trout lilies thrive in damp, open woodlands with moist, rich, and loamy soil and bloom just long enough to usher in spring. The flowers open up in the morning and fold their petals in at night. The perennials disappear by early June and lay dormant until late winter when they return.
Photo from NY State Dept of Environmental Conservation

The name "trout lily" comes from the resemblance the mottled-with-purple leaves have with the speckling of brook trout. Some call them dog's tooth violets because of the shape of the tubers--like, well, a dog's canine. The emerge at around the same time as violets. My photo on top shows a wood violet flowering at the same time.

Trout lilies live in colonies spread vegetatively underground. The colonies can be large and very old and often form dense groupings of which only some flower in a given year. Trout lily flowers don't bloom until about the seventh year. Seed dispersal occurs by myrmecochory, which, in simpler terms means, by ants. Each seed has a small appendage called an elaiosome attached. This protuberance contains a food like substance that is super attractive to ants but has nothing to do with germination. The ants carry the seeds, eats the elaisome, discards the rest, and a flower grows. A symbiotic relationship with bumblebees also exists. This early start of the trout lily enables pollinators like bumblebees to begin establishing their underground nests and colonies. When I took the photo of the lily, a bumblebee was on the flower nearest to it.

Many wildflowers have edible underground parts, including the trout lily.The leaves can be eaten in a salad or as a pot herb. I am not a fan but would eat them in an emergency. The corms, or tubers, however can be eaten raw or any way you would treat a root vegetable. Slice them over a salad or parboil them for a mini potato-like experience. The only way I have tried them is fresh from the ground. They taste a bit like a water chestnut to me. Keep in mind harvest sustainability when foraging for things like these tubers. It wouldn't take many foragers to wipe out a colony.

Erythronium Americanum illustration from my journal

Trout lily lore holds many stories of medicinal uses. It has been documented as a fever reducer, a preventer of swelling, poultice, and even used for contraception in Cherokee and Iroquois histories. A tea of the leaves was made for fevers. Even Roman soldiers were said to have used parts of the spring beauty to treat corns and foot problems.

I am happy to just gaze at the nodding bright yellow flowers and dappled leaves and smile for the coming of spring.

 I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. ~John Muir