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, April 24, 2014

wood sorrel

When I was a little girl I would take my books and journals into the woods. There was this magical spot with wild grapes, thick vines, blackberries, and a mossy floor to lie upon. I didn't need much more that this setting and words on a page. In this spot, I could be anywhere, in any time. Sometimes I was an Indian (I had not learned to say "Native American" yet) living off the land and other times I was Laura Ingalls Wilder searching the prairie for beauty. I had a creek for water and it was filled with crawfish. I would pop the wild grapes and berries into my mouth as I read about things like drying meat for pemmican.

Sometimes I made fairy salad with bits of things I knew were edible. Violet flowers, mint leaves, dandelion, and what I called "fairy bells", but now know as wood sorrel. It's a delicate yet decadent mix while on a mossy carpet with a daisy crown upon your head.

The Fresh Cut at Kimball House

I no longer live near the magical spot but the taste of wood sorrel always reminds me of carefree days of unbridled imagination where I made bouquets of lilacs, daisies, and violets. So yesterday when Miles Macquarrie handed me a chartreuse-colored cocktail with pureed sorrel called The Fresh Cut, I became Laura Ingalls and squealed "sorrel tastes like springtime!"

Wood sorrel is of the genus Oxalis, meaning "sour." A first nibble of wood sorrel tastes pleasantly tart and lemony with a slight feeling of what I call "spinach tongue," that sticky, weird feeling caused by oxalic acid. Raw or cooked, wood sorrel is bright and fresh.

Wood sorrel grows from mid-spring to fall in shady areas of undergrowth. It consists of three heart-shaped leaves on a slim stem and is often confused with clover, which has oval-shaped leaves. The leaves can be green, red, or purple but always grow three to a stem. Flowers can be yellow, white, or pink. The creeping perennial is dainty with long, slender stems that only fully extend in the shade. Sorrel is so delicate that the leaves fold in when in direct sunlight or during storms and the leaves and flowers close up when it is dark.

All parts of wood sorrel are edible: leaves, stems, flowers, and seed pods (which I called "fairy bananas" as a child). There are no poisonous look-alikes but those with kidney problems or gout should avoid eating because of the high oxalic acid content. Wood sorrel is high in vitamin c, potassium, and a great source of iron. Many have sojourned into the woods for sorrel to cleanse their bodies of heavy metals. I just think it tastes delicious. It is great raw in salads, almost eliminating the need for dressing with its zing. The leaves are wonderful in smoothies or as a pot herb. To make a lemony tea: pour boiling water over leaves and flowers and let steep for a few minutes. Mmm spring.

"A year is made up of a certain series and number of sensations and thoughts which have their language in nature. Now I am ice, now I am sorrel."

                                                     - Henry David Thoreau, Journal, June, 1857

Monday, March 31, 2014


I picked up these greens from Woodland Gardens at the new Freedom Farmer's Market at the Carter Center.
Dandelions are one of the first spring greens to appear and also one of the most nutritious leafy vegetables. Their bright, somewhat bitter, and fresh leaves are a welcome mitigation from winter's starch-laden and preserved foods. Often used as a spring tonic, dandelion greens are rich in vitamins A, C, E, D, K, as well as copper, potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium. They are higher in beta carotene than carrots and higher in calcium and iron than spinach. They are also a great source of protein and fiber. Beyond vitamins and minerals, dandelion greens have properties that support digestion, reduce swelling, and act as an antibacterial.
notebook sketch
All parts of dandelion are edible: the leaves, flowers, stems, and root. They emerge from January to May and are best at this time. "Best" is an understatement. I wouldn't want to eat bitter dandelion greens any time other than spring. The younger the plant, the less bitter and more tender. New fronds are almost sweet and are more nutritious. There are ways to lessen the sharpness of the leaves beyond simply using younger leaves in early spring. Process them with some sort of naturally occurring fat (nuts, seeds, oils...). They make a great pesto. Blend them in a smoothie with fruit. Grill them as you would romaine or sauté like spinach. The leaves also make a great green for sandwiches.

Dandelion leaves are smooth and green and grow in rosettes from the roots. The edges are indented in large "teeth." It is wonderful to purchase greens from farmers' markets but foraging has an advantage- the crowns. The crown is the knot-like bit sitting upon the taproot just where the leaves meet it. It is kind of artichoke-y and contains the flower buds. Always remember to gather dandelions only from ground clear of road run-off or chemicals.
 The roots of dandelion are often dried, roasted, and ground as a coffee substitute or even added to cookies and cakes. I find them best like any boiled vegetable. Clean, peel, and chop the root and  boil the slices roots for 5+ minutes. Add salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil.

Those bright, happy flowers we made headdresses of as children (well, I did) are more than just spots of sunshine in the grass; they are quite tasty. Dandelions have composite flowers. Hundreds of tiny ray flowers make up the "flower" we see. From this, we make dandelion wine, natural dyes, vinegar, battered and fried flowers, or add the bright petals to spring salads. Or for a fun spring cocktail or soda, try making dandelion flower syrup:
Dandelion Flower Syrup
2 cups petals (tightly packed)
2 cups sugar (can use honey as well)
2 cups water
juice of 1 lemon (optional)
  • wash flowers and remove petals
  • cover with water
  • bring to a boil for 1 minute
  • remove from heat
  • let steep overnight or for several hours
  • strain
  • add sugar and lemon
  • boil then reduce to simmer for 1 1/2 hr
  • decant in bottle or mason jar
  • use in place of simple syrup

 This prolific "weed" is the scourge of suburban lawns but no matter how many chemicals are doused upon this source of nutrition, medicine, and burst of cheer, it remains. The dandelion's fortitude reflects upon its prowess.
Perhaps the best part of the dandelion is when the flower goes to seed and hundreds of tiny parachutes send them far and wide with our wishes. Make a wish, you.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Valentines Lego necklaces for Press On

Here is a fun, lovely, and charitable way to celebrate your love for Valentines Day. These our necklaces are sterling silver and the heart is your clasp - you literally 'PUT THE PIECES TOGETHER FOR CHANGE' each time you wear your necklace, as 40% of the proceeds goes towards Press On To Cure Childhood Cancer. The sterling chain totals 16" in length with the bricks, and the sterling silver charm is double-sided with the charity of choice details. The charm next to the heart denotes the cause and you'll find that wearing it is an invitation to an elevator pitch. People will ask you about the necklace and you then have the opportunity to tell them about a cause CLOSE TO YOUR HEART.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Second Helping from The Giving Kitchen

Start looking today for Sweetwater Brewery's limited release of Second Helping, a collaboration with Staplehouse's Ryan and Jen Hidinger. This was The Giving Kitchen's entry and first-place winner  in Sweetwater's "Brew Your Cask Off" on November 9, 2013.
This beer was created to pair well with food and it succeeds. I tried it with roasted sunchokes at Kimball House on the dreariest of days. I am no beer expert, but it was fantastic. The beer and the food brought out the best in each other. Second Helping has a beautiful amber color and a biscuit-y, maltiness (using these words, I realize I hang out with beer geeks a lot). It's hoppy- I read there are 5 types of hops involved. It has this lovely, botanical, piney flavor from the juniper berries Ryan included. The next time I sip it, I will pair it with Ryan's beloved wings.
I love Second Helping because it is delicious, because Ryan and Jen created it with Sweetwater, and because all profits from the beer’s sale will be donated by United Distributors and Sweetwater Brewery to The Giving Kitchen. What is the Giving Kitchen? It is the most beautiful thing to come from hope and love. TGK is dedicated to lending a hand to people from the hospitality industry who have hit a time of crisis.
So raise a glass in happy memory of a life cut short but with an indelible impression. Cheers, Ryan.
*A list of metro-Atlanta places to find Second Helping can be found at the end of Bob Townsend's beautiful article in AJC Food and More here.

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.