It’s not every day that you have a friend go into the food business, which is why I was so excited and exhilarated when my friend Hunter Hanger, the most charming Southerner that I know (when I just called him he answered: “As I live and breathe, if it isn’t Adam Roberts”), was opening up a food joint with his friends Betsy and John. But not just any food joint; a food joint dedicated to CASSEROLES. The inspiration came when Betsy’s mother was having surgery and “a dear friend from Macon” (to use Hunter’s phrasing) brought her a casserole from a casserole shop there. The gesture was so loving and kind that it really stuck with Betsy and when Betsy mentioned it to Hunter, they both realized that “nothing like that exists in Atlanta.”
At the time, Hunter and Betsy were servers at an Atlanta restaurant–Le Giverny–but pretty soon they’d worked up a vision of their own, a venue where people could buy small, medium or large-sized casseroles that are freshly prepared and then frozen so, when the moment arises, you can heat up a warm, comforting classic casserole to eat with your family or to bring to a friend. And now that vision is open for business! It’s called, fittingly enough, CASSEROLES and when I was in Atlanta in January, Hunter and Betsy cooked me some samples off the menu.
That particular night I was exhausted from a day of driving all over Georgia (this may have been the day Lizzie, my cookbook photographer, and I had driven up to Athens) so by the time I reached Hunter’s house, I was ready to eat.
And eat I did!
There was this classic tuna noodle casserole, made with egg noodles, mushrooms and topped with cheddar and bread crumbs:
There was a cauliflower and ham gratin with fresh cauliflower, Virginia ham, goat cheese and thyme:
Most intriguingly there was a salad made of ingredients that might frighten you when I say them, but believe my claim that they work surprisingly well together; it’s a throw-back to the “Leave It To Beaver Days” with lime Jello, spinach, onions and cottage cheese. (OK: I can see the look on your face as you read that, but just think: Julia Child made ASPIC, this is sort of the same thing!)
They’ve since tweaked the recipe to use lemon jello instead and it’s on the Casseroles menu as “Mrs. Hayes’ Lemon Jello Salad.” (And apparently, you can ask for a sample so at least try it.)
Finally, they made me their Cobbler’s Cobbler–an apple cobbler (this was winter) that’s now a peach cobbler on their menu because it’s summer:
And oh boy, that was good.
So as you can tell by my post, I’m so excited for Betsy, John and Hunter. I really wish them the best and if any of you are in Atlanta right now reading this, you have to pop in and say hello. Ask for Hunter and tell him that Adam from Amateur Gourmet sent you this way. Try the lemon Jell-o salad. Trust me, it’s good. Then buy a casserole to bring home for dinner and bask in the glory of comfort food made with love.
1393 North Highland Avenue
Suite 4 (Behind & Below)
Atlanta, GA 30306