My newsletter readers (you do know I have a newsletter, right? Another one’s going out later today: sign up here!) went nuts last week when I shared a picture of my friend Brian’s red beans and rice and didn’t offer up a recipe. “Can you get the recipe?” one replied. “Where’s the recipe?” wrote another. “You owe $15,000 in back taxes,” wrote the U.S. government. I e-mailed Brian and he said he couldn’t help with the taxes but he’d gladly write up a recipe.
One meal. ONE MEAL. That’s all I really had time for when I went to Birmingham, Alabama this past weekend for Food Blog South. I got in late Friday night, spoke Saturday morning, had time for lunch (my ONE MEAL) then had the keynote, book-signing and after party to attend that night before flying back to L.A. the next morning.
I polled folks on Twitter and received many terrific suggestions; unfortunately, most of them were closed for lunch. Hot and Hot Fish Club: closed for lunch. Chez Fonfon: closed for lunch (at least on Saturdays). One suggestion, though, wasn’t only open for lunch, it seemed to be walking distance (more on that in a second) from my hotel. I settled upon Frank Stitt’s celebrated restaurant, Bottega.
I’m writing to you now from Emory Village, a flash from the past, as I prepare to speak to Emory Students at 2 PM, sign books at the Emory Book Store at 4 PM and then hustle over to Empire State South where I’m hosting a dinner at 6:15. There are still seats available, so, Atlantans, please come! Call 404-541-1105.
Now before all of this happens, I want to tell you about two incredible meals I’ve had so far since arriving in Atlanta on Friday. Let’s start with the brunch I had yesterday with Atlanta Magazine food critic Bill Addison at the One-Eared Stag near Imman Park.
Andrew Carmellini, in his new book American Flavor, shares a biscuit recipe that he calls “the world’s best biscuits.” This is a bold claim, even for a chef as revered as Carmellini, but in his defense, when he started serving biscuits (and fried chicken) at his pre-The Dutch Italian restaurant, Locanda Verde, the critics gushed. In fact, while working on a different book proposal, I called Carmellini to have him coach me through biscuit-making on the phone. The man knew his stuff.
Sometimes it’s nice to choose a theme for a dinner party. It makes it easier to pick an appetizer, a side dish, an entree and a dessert. At last week’s dinner party, the theme was The South (we had three Southerners in attendance) and I served up Rachel Wharton’s Pimento Cheese as an appetizer, the fried chicken from yesterday’s post, a homemade coleslaw on the side and then, for dessert, this here Hummingbird Cake.
Growing up, I hated mayonnaise and I hated cheese. Strange for a kid, yes, but the cheese-hatred had some basis: my dad hated it, so we never had it in the house. And I became so conditioned to hating cheese, it took me years (and a cheese-loving boyfriend) to get over it. As for the mayo, that was entirely my own thing: nothing repulsed me more. The gummy, gooey whiteness mortified me; nothing could ruin a sandwich faster than spreading mayo on it first. I could abide it in coleslaw and tuna salad because I didn’t see it go in, but a turkey sandwich with gloppy mayo on top? To this day, I’d say “no.” So imagine how repulsed I’d be if, as a wee lass, you’d presented me with a Southern delicacy known as “pimento cheese”–cheddar cheese mixed with mayo and chopped up pimentos. I might’ve, to use an elegant verb from my childhood, hurled.
[Hey, this is Adam The Amateur Gourmet. I’m on vacation in Barcelona, Spain and while I’m gone I’ve asked some awesome people to fill in for me. The first awesome person on the docket is the co-proprietor of one of the best bakeries in all of New York, Mr. Matt Lewis of Baked. I love Baked (see here) and I love their cookbook and I’m honored that Matt wrote this guest post. So thank you Matt–take it away!]
I have lived in New York for over 14 years now, but I still romanticize my time spent in the South. More specifically: Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Even more specifically, my alma mater The University of Alabama. By and large, I have many positive memories from this time. I specifically remember the inexpensive rent (I had an entire floor of a huge Southern home to myself for 300 bucks a month), the wide-open spaces, the Southern gentility, the sweet tea, and the food. I also remember waking up in a ditch 20 miles from campus after a night of acid (do people still drop acid?), vodka, and a bad Metallica cover band. But I digress.
The plan was for my usual roast chicken (which, by the way, you should only salt until it has a light coating: those who said it was too salty took my recipe too literally!) but then, as I was standing there in the grocery store, I spotted collard greens.
“My, my,” I said to myself in a Southern accent. “It’s been a long time since we here attempted fried chicken.” (You may remember that was a disaster). “And I done never cooked collard greens before. Why, I see a mighty fine supper in my future.”