Music City Magic at Nashville Food and Wine Festival

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Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon        or not at all.  

-Harriet Van Horne

 

Music and food have always possessed the remarkable ability to take us back to a certain time or place. A single line of a love song from our youth can give us a rush of emotions. In much the same way, the smell of cornbread baking in your grandmother’s cast iron skillet can bring a wave of nostalgia so strong you’d swear it’s almost a religious experience.

So it is no surprise that two days of incredible music and food held in the beautiful city of Nashville, TN, made for a very cool weekend. Add the fact that the founders of the Music City Food and Wine Festival, the southern rock band Kings of Leon and world-renowned chef Jonathan Waxman, brought together not only the best chefs in the Southern culinary scene right now but also a superstar lineup of musicians who paid homage to country music’s classics at the Harvest Night celebration. The harmony of the two sent foodies and music lovers like myself over the top.

The two-day festival was held in Nashville, the city that has historically gained its reputation by being the Mecca of country music.  But what really makes Nashville the perfect backdrop for this festival is the reinvention of the city’s culinary scene. The city was featured by Food & Wine magazine recently for its “booming Music City food scene,” and is attracting a breed of young chefs who are breathing life into a tired food scene.  Their energy compliments the established chefs who are preserving their deep-rooted culinary heritage while embracing new culinary trends.

The mutual admiration between the culinary and music worlds was evident over the course of the festival. Panels of chefs shared their love of music and the role it plays in their creativity. The musicians returned the love by showing their support for the culinary arts.  You can get the impressive line-up of chefs and musicians at MCFW 2014 here.

The passion of which Van Horne spoke in the quote above was apparent in the work of the artists on display this past weekend. They all approach their respective crafts “with abandon” and are committed to preserving and improving these art forms so that we all can continue to be moved by their magic for years to come.

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Chef Tyler Florence

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Chef Tim Love from Texas teams up with Kings of Leon drummer, Nathan Followill, to talk about the art of burning food.

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Sweet potato hummus with pecan sage pesto

Andy Ticer manning the birds.

Chef Andy Ticer manning the birds.

Always creative and fun ideas pouring at the Tito's table.

Always creative and fun ideas pouring at the Tito’s table.

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Hunter Hayes owning the stage.

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Caleb and crew saying good night.

 

Photos by Evelyn Savage

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End

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Today is the official first day of fall. The signs of summer’s end have been around for a while now though. The days are shorter, the air is crisper, leaves are turning and falling from the trees.  As sad as I am to see summer end, autumn has always seemed like the season of change for me.  A time for new beginnings.

As the Roman philosopher, Seneca The Younger said (…or maybe it was the 90’s band, Semisonic…), “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

So before we completely close the door on summer and celebrate a new beginning, here’s one last look at some of Summer 2014’s finest moments.

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As soon as the kids were out of school, we kicked off summer with a trip to the Water Color and Seaside on the Gulf of Mexico. These white sands and emerald waters will always feel like home.

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Smile.

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Familiar walk in Seaside.

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Summer Concert Series at the Seaside Amphitheater with live music from The Dirty Guv’nahs

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Soaking in the view of Nantucket harbor before dinner.

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Madaket…everyone’s favorite beach!

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Great Point Light

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Summer memories being made with the best of friends.

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Auld Lang Syne in ‘Sconset is one of the oldest (and sweetest) houses on Nantucket and was built around 1675.

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Gorgeous sunset with friends in Chatham, MA

 

Photos by Evelyn Savage and Susan Scarborough 

Music City Believer

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I’m so excited to be heading down to Nashville this weekend! My friend Evelyn and I are off to the Music City Food and Wine Festival to get our fill of great music and great food.  Famous for its legendary music scene, the city is also showcasing an exploding culinary culture by bringing in world-renowned chefs and up-and-coming stars in the food industry to the Food & Wine Festival. Even though Nashville’s festival is one of the newest on the scene, be assured the promoters (who happen to be none other than Kings of Leon band members), are going to set the bar high with their two-day celebration of Southern food and music. Check out how the Followills got involved in the festival in the most recent issue of Garden & Gun Magazine here.

Believe it or not, Nashville will be hosting two huge festivals at the same time this weekend. Along with MCFW 2014, the Americana Music Festival and Conference, which the New York Times is calling “the coolest music scene today,” is being held Thursday through Sunday.  Not only is it jam packed with some of the best musical talent from the South and beyond, it goes deeper by offering educational “seminars” from music industry insiders to give a leg up to aspiring musicians.  North Carolina natives, The Avett Brothers,are headlining the festival Saturday night but every day is filled with an unbelievable line-up of 160 artists performing in 11 venues around Nashville.

The Music City is going to shine this weekend and I can’t wait to take it all in!

 

Garden & Gun Jubilee 2013

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This past weekend I attended the first ever Garden & Gun Jubilee in Charleston, SC.

G&G’s inaugural celebration of Southern tastemakers was a huge success.  It was held in Charles Towne Landing, a 663-acre state park which preserves the site of the first English settlement in South Carolina. The natural setting was the perfect backdrop for bringing the pages of the magazine to life with experiences such as fly-fish instruction, a litter of adorable Boykin Spaniel puppies and insanely good Rodney Scott BBQ.

For four years, the magazine has hosted a Made In The South competition, allowing many of the region’s most talented artisans to showcase their crafts.  This year, G&G brought the winners together to form a marketplace just in time for the holidays. From trunk shows featuring creative leather goods and one-of-a-kind sporting gear to tents filled with fascinating antiques and mouthwatering Southern-made foods, the folks at G&G set the bar high for next year.

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Photography by Evelyn Laws

Why Charleston is America’s Favorite City

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For the third year in a row, Charleston has been selected as America’s favorite city by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler.

In this month’s issue, Charleston native Christian L. Wright asks herself the same question I ask every time I visit the Holy City: why don’t I live here?

Backed by hometown credentials and an honest perspective, the author paints a beautiful portrait of this jewel of the South. You can check out the article here.

It’s a timely read as I sit on a runway waiting for my flight to Charleston.  My daughter and I are on the way to Garden & Gun’s Jubilee, a holiday event celebrating the best of the South. It will also be my daughter’s first time in Charleston. I’m so excited to be sharing this city that I love with her. And if she is anything like her mother, she will feel tugs on her Southern heart strings and start wishing she lived here too.

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Photography by Evelyn Laws

Music To Your Mouth 2013

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It’s a damp, frigid day in New England–the kind that makes your bones hurt.

But right now, I’m warming up little by little.

I’ve got some hot cocoa and one of my favorite Nashville Indie bands, Moon Taxi, cued up as I browse through pictures from my most recent trip down South.

Last weekend, I attended the ultimate Southern epicurean experience: Music to Your Mouth. The annual festival sponsored by Audi is held in the pristine low-country waterfront resort, Palmetto Bluff, and features the region’s best cuisine, libations, and artisan crafts.

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The spanish moss-covered destination sits on a 20,000 acre preserve on May River in Bluffton, South Carolina.  It’s the perfect setting for this celebration which is described by the event promoters as a “gathering of culinarians, winemakers, growers, and artisans, brought together to accentuate the abundance of ingredients from surrounding waters, woods and local farm.”

It was my second time experiencing MTYM but it certainly won’t be my last!

Here are a few shots that capture some of the magic of the weekend.

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Photography by Susan Scarborough and Doug Landis, a Southern gentleman (via California) and honorary SXNE photographer.

In New Orleans, the More the Merrier

“New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.” Mark Twain

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Photography by Evelyn Laws

The New York Times had a fascinating piece today on the ever-evolving culinary scene in New Orleans.  Nearly eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Crescent City, the restaurant industry is booming and reflecting a richer city.  You can take a look at the article here.  And if you are making your way to the Big Easy soon, check out my list of favorites here as well as a list from USA Today of some of those new and notable restaurants.

Southerner’s Guide to the Good Life

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This week I found myself in a state of Southern bliss at Billy Reid‘s hip Soho clothing store hanging with friends, eating fried chicken and deviled eggs and drinking Kentucky bourbon.  Not exactly a typical night in Gotham, but then again it is not every night Garden and Gun magazine has a launch party in Manhattan for their recently published  The Southerner’s Handbook.

Photo courtesy of Billy Reid

Photo courtesy of Billy Reid

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The rustic setting adorned with Billy Reid’s fabulous clothing line and leather creations set the scene perfectly for the southern bites provided by Seersucker, the Brooklyn-based restaurant which has been satisfying southerly cravings for years.

The featured book, a tutorial on Southern culture starts by discussing why our culinary heritage matters and ends with what lies beneath the Great Southern Novel.

So whether you were are born and bred below the Mason-Dixon Line or just somewhat intrigued by your friends who were, this guidebook is a must.

Feeding My Soul

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In an earlier post, I professed my undying devotion to my favorite Southern grown comfort food: peas.  Luckily for me, one of my friends (one who has forever solidified her ranking on that list) managed to make her way to New England with a cooler full of freshly shelled field peas.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  There were zipper peas, lady peas, purple hull peas. I began the process of freezing these gorgeous little gems right away.  I was sure summer would pass without my feeling the sensation of cool peas running through my fingers.

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But one bushel of peas and 25 freezer bags later, I was set for the winter. I can cure my cravings for a pot of gorgeous, earthy green peas any time I want!

And to celebrate my gift and properly thank my friend,  I decided to make a southern-inspired meal fitting of these emerald legumes. I went straight to the godfather of southern food, Frank Stitt, and his Bottega Favorita cookbook for inspiration and came across his version of slow-cooked short ribs with gremolata and green olives.

That was a no-brainer.

The rich, tender beef braised in red wine and herbs paired perfectly with the peas and creamed potatoes.

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And for desert, I threw peaches into my go-to blackberry cobbler recipe from the Blackberry Farms cookbook.  If you haven’t tried it the recipe,  then you haven’t had the thrill of experiencing how the fresh lime zest melds with the peaches and berries.  And the buttermilk dough dropped on top is just heaven.

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It was a long day in the kitchen. But as dusk set and the sound of crickets floated through the screen doors,  my family sat down to enjoy this fresh feast of southern food.

I was so grateful.  I was grateful for the chance to do what I love…to be able to cook dishes from summers of my youth. Grateful for family to share them with, and grateful for friends who travelled a long way with big coolers to make it possible.  I was not only able to eat a meal that tasted this divine, I was also able to feed my soul.

Big Buckets of Time

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I recently came across a wonderful article in the back of Southern Living written by the Pulitzer-Prize winning author, Rick Bragg. Reading the article was remarkable because it was on the back page of the magazine and my two kids never let me get all the way through a magazine these days! But Mr. Bragg’s article was also special because it struck such a nostalgic cord in me.

Rick writes of a childhood filled with endless summer days that seemed to last forever. Especially days that were spent jumping in puddles, chasing frogs and squishing bare toes through mud.  He described those days as a period in his life when “time came in big buckets.”

Oh how I wish I could get my hands on one of those buckets again.  Even during the longest days of summer when the sun is still peeking through the trees at 8:00 pm, the days seem to fly by at lightening speed.

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I still remember my childhood filled with hot, humid Southern days stretching to fit in most everything I wanted to do. My brother and I rode bikes down country roads, caught fireflies in Mason jars, and played make-believe in the woods using water-logged branches floating in the creek and pretending the pliable pulp was “chicken” for our imaginary chicken salad.  (Obviously, my foodie inclinations were formed early.)

Another favorite pastime was running outside at the end of an afternoon shower and shaping balls of wet South Carolina dirt (and probably a little red clay) into mud pies. My muddy little hands produced impressive numbers of these earthy delicacies.  More than giving me more dirt under my nails than one bath could cure, these soggy moments formed memories of days spent with just my imagination and, on some summer days, an unexpected surprise or two.

I can still vividly see my mom coming home from her weekly hair salon appointment (looking so pretty with her 1970’s up-do) and bringing around a bright blue wading pool for my brother and me.  It was heaven in the back yard. Our surprise even came with a little slide built in.  We couldn’t wait to throw the water hose in our new plastic pool and find a way to escape the scorch of the sun. We somehow even managed to float on our backs in just a few inches of water.

These days, my children and I still catch fireflies in Mason jars just like I did so long ago (except we run a rigorously enforced catch-and-release program). And family days are still filled with riding bikes, running in the rain, walking barefoot through the mud and creating their own little make-believe universe.  Whether they know it or not, Kate and Jack  are now creating their own endless summers to share with their children. Maybe the collection of all their memories will come along with one of those big buckets of time that Rick, you and I long for in the August sunset of yet another fading summer.

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Lucy’s Canvas Keeps It All In The Family

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I love it when I stumble across creations that fall right in the heart of southXnortheast.   Daily Candy recently showcased this collection of adorable preppy canvas bags made right up the road in Massachusetts.

The brother-sister team at Lucy’s Canvas is doing great work while keeping it all in the family by carrying their mom’s craftwork into the 21st Century.   Whether in the Disco Days of the 1970s or the vintage revival of 2000’s, these bags are always in style.

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Lucy’s Canvas nostalgic bags  appeal to the 80’s prep in me but also transcend generations by drawing in customers like my 10 year old daughter, Kate, whose favorite bag is Purple Passion.

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This awesome “dream team” product not only spans eras: its handiwork crosses into my two favorite regions. Their bags are made with canvas from Big Duck Canvas out of Winder, GA and the webbing comes from All Island Webbing in Huntington Station, NY.  And all bags are made by hand in Everett, MA.  It is truly a SXNE creation that is perfect for a day on the beach or a day around town!

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Photos by Lucy’s Canvas

Send Peas, Please

ImageThere is much to love about summers in New England. There’s the waves of blue hydrangeas, summer days in shorts and summer nights in sweaters. Lobster rolls in restaurants by the shore and Red Sox baseball at Fenway Park. And just like down South, the sweet smell of honeysuckle fills the early evening air as kids chase fireflies with Mason jars.

But there’s one thing New England can’t provide and the thought of that usually takes my southern heart below the iced-tea line.

I miss peas!

That’s right. I miss the produce that can only be found in the hot and humid climate of the south.  I miss all the varieties of field peas grown in the deep south.  Purple hull, crowder, white acre and zipper peas.  Part of me just loves the buttery, creamy goodness of those delicate legumes and another part of me longs for the memories associated with those peas.

In my family, growing our own fruits and vegetables was a part of our culinary heritage.  Not only did we prefer the taste of our homegrown produce, it was cheaper and was something our family did together. Whether it was being awakened by my dad to pick peas at 6am before the summer sun became unbearable or walking through rows of orchards with my mom filling our baskets to the rim with sweet juicy peaches, I made a connection with who I was and where I came from.

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I can remember many summer days spent shelling peas until my thumbs were stained and tender.  It was a family affair where my grandmother, dad, brother and I would shell the peas while we watched the Braves lose another ball game and my mom would be in the kitchen bagging the peas up for freezing.

For the last three summers, I have resorted to having freshly shelled peas shipped up to New England overnight on ice. Bailey’s Produce and Nursery in Pensacola, FL has always been my go-to.  A little expensive, I know, but we all have our guilty pleasures. Somehow, having those little quart bags of green jewels in my freezer whenever I need a fix is worth every penny.  During a power outage two summers ago, my first concern was saving the peas.  I’m pretty sure I confused a few of my friends up here with the intensity I showed in saving my Southern imports.

But my need for peas is far more than a food craving. It is a part of me. A part of who I am. A connection to my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who have been gone for a while now.

So, its time to call my friends and family and order up another care package from Dixie.  I’m ready for a shipment of peas, please!

Pictures from Bailey’s Produce and Nursery.

Go to Jackson, MS to “get a helping of all things Southern” and where “the servers are as sweet as the tea.”

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Photos by James Patterson for The New York Times

In today’s travel section of the New York Times, Laura Tillman takes us through Jackson, MS in 36 hours . She highlights the cultural, historical and culinary richness of the City of Soul.  June is the month you can celebrate the life of civil rights hero Medgar Evers with a historic tour and film festival. Or pay homage to Jackon’s literary heritage by visiting Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Euroda Welty’s house and by heading up to Lemuria Books, a Jackson institution for over 38 years.

And of course, the Old South’s traditions always seems to return to the table.  The Times piece celebrates Jackson’s eclectic food scene in a city landscape that combines old-school soul-food diners with impressive new restaurants that highlight sophisticated Southern cuisine.

Check out the entire feature on Jackson here.

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea

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The long, cold New England winter has made the first taste of spring all the sweeter. Of course, spring did not come to me. I had to chase it down in Northwest Florida. And that was no easy task. But three cancelled trips, a stomach bug and ear infection later, I am sitting on the back porch listening to the waves crash on the Gulf of Mexico.

Heading home to the panhandle of Florida has not just warmed my body, it’s warmed my soul. I have soaked up every last ray of sunshine and love during this vacation. I’ve missed the slower cadence, laughter with family and friends, sugar-white sands, fresh Gulf seafood, eye-popping azaleas, slamming screen doors and sweet tea. (Thank you Martha Foose for the best cookbook title ever.)

The down-home feel and sense of belonging when I come home is not exclusive to the South. Beachside villages and towns along the Atlantic seaboard from Sag Harbor, L.I. to Bar Harbor, Maine have been calling families back to the New England coast for generations. Clam bakes, oyster roasts and days spent on the water around weathered cottages remind me of days and nights along Gulf Coast beaches like the one that is framed by Highway 30-A.

Southerners have been flocking to South Walton for one hundred years. My own family has been going there now for over three decades. The tradition continues again this year as Kate and Jack celebrate their spring break from school along the same stretch of beach highway their parents did before the first Seaside cottage was built.

I have no doubt that a generation from now, their children will be slamming screen doors, gulping sweet tea and playing in the same snow-white sands.

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Nothing Ordinary About the Holy City’s New “Temple of Seafood”

As I head to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival this weekend, it seems only fitting to pay homage to one of the Holy City’s most talented chefs, Mike Lata.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to try Chef Lata’s latest culinary offering, The Ordinary. This Charleston restaurant stands as a shrine to the fresh and fabulous Lowcountry seafood. The James Beard award-winning chef partners with hometown fishermen to cultivate the  best tasting seafood in the region. Combine that with Lata’s creative and seasonal preparation and you are sure to enjoy one of the memorable dinners you have had in some time.

My fondness for Chef Lata is only increased by the fact that he is a true SXN’oreaster, with a food career that began in Martha’s Vineyard where he overcame his aversion to seafood. Lucky for us! Lata then took his passion for cooking and love of local food sources to the South where he created two great culinary establishments, FIG and The Ordinary.

You can discover more about Lata and The Ordinary in the latest issue of Departures Magazine.

Photography by Evelyn Laws.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

The Oscars have arrived and all the excitement and anticipation of Hollywood’s red-carpet event will be played out tonight.

It’s not surprising the biggest box office year in history brought with it some great Best Picture nominations. Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, and Beasts of the Southern Wild have grabbed headlines and made millions.

But tonight SXNE will cheer for Beasts of the Southern Wild, the breathtaking work inspired by Southern screen-writer, Lucy Alibar, who co-wrote the screen play.

Lucy was raised in Monticello, a small town in the Florida panhandle. Her fundamentalist Southern roots provide the flavor of this Southern folklore masterpiece. The story portrays and the strained relationship with her ill and sometimes abusive father. It’s also about her struggle to survive in a storm-ravaged community in the Mississippi Delta. The tale includes fantastical ancient beasts, “aurochs”, and hardships and heartbreak visited on a six-year-old girl.

Ms. Alibar’s own story has taken a remarkable path, too. After high school, she moved to New York, studied at NYU, and struggled as a starving artist. The big break came as her screen play was nominated at Sundance. Now, Lucy Alibar is basking in the success created with her long-time friend, co-author and producer, Behn Zeitlin. I think Alibar is the sentimental choice of ex-pat Southerners everywhere who will cheer for this fellow southXnortheasterner tonight…and for a long time to come.

Husk, Where Have You Been?

I must say, I am getting pretty darn excited about going to Charleston for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival (CFWF). Just like Music to Your Mouth, I will be surrounded by some of the greatest chefs in the country.

One of those chefs, Sean Brock, recently had a restaurant ranked in the top 3 of the country by Bon Appetit. It’s no surprise his restaurants receive such accolades, considering the star chef running them has been given the James Beard award for “Best Chef Southeast”, winner of Food Network “Next Great Chef” and competed on “Iron Chef America.” Chef Brock has been in this business for a long time now and has built a reputation of not only preparing the most mind-blowing dishes but of leading the movement of heritage foods preservation and refining the farm to table efforts now sweeping the country.

I was in Charleston recently with my partner in crime, Evelyn, and paid a visit to Mr. Brock’s establishment, Husk. It was an early Sunday brunch on our next to the last day in the city. More importantly it was (gasp) our first time in. We moved quickly after scanning the menu and did what any two proper Southern girls would do…we ordered one of everything.

Okay, maybe not one of everything, but more than enough. Our waiter suggested her favorites and we picked some other irresistible dishes. The first course included three appetizers (we weren’t messing around). We had the trend-setting Fried Chicken Skins, Pimento Cheese crostini, and the Kenutckyaki glazed pig ear wrapped in lettuce and served with orange marinated cabbage slaw with toasted peanuts and cilantro. Yep. You heard nothing after glazed pig ears, did you? I was a little skeptical about them myself, but the older I get the more open I am to trying new things. (Not ready for the lamb “fries” just yet, though). All of the first courses were equally divine but my favorite was the Pimento cheese crostinis.

Our next course was the classic low-country dish–shrimp and grits, offering a less than predictable and delicious version that was a lovely surprise with every bite . It was a marriage of creamy charred scallion grits and sweet corn, peas, and bacon in a bowl with plump red shrimp thrown in there, all topped with a poached egg.

Incredible.

When we decided it was time to leave Husk–they weren’t going to bring us any more food–we paid our bill and left by the way of the wall-sized blackboard in the foyer listing all local sources for their foods. Quite impressive, as were the shelves of canned vegetables stacked neatly in front of the open kitchen.

I was so pleased to finally eat at Husk. We loved the whole experience and can’t wait to see what the Chef whips up for the wine and food festival in a few weeks!

Photography by Evelyn Laws.

Chowing Down in the Big Easy

Not only are those ‘49ers and Ravens fans coming into NOLA during the most festive time of the year in New Orleans, they are stepping into a town where great food is as sacred as Mardi Gras.

Since I’m not attending the game, I’ll be doing the next best thing by preparing some of my favorite Cajun recipes. Maybe some chicken and sausage jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, muffalettas, and a little BBQ shrimp…

But, for those of you who are looking to eat out in New Orleans this weekend, here’s links to some of SXNE favs in NOLA:

Cochon Butcher (930 Tchoupitoulas St.) for the most amazing sandwiches set in a cozy little butcher shop/bar. They also have a seriously rich pancetta mac ‘n cheese. (Reserve a table here.)

Mother’s (401 Poydras St.) claims to have the world’s best baked ham. Maybe so, but if you don’t try the Ferdi’s you will never forgive yourself.

Domenica (123 Baronne St.) will take care of you in a big Italian way with their signature pizzas by rising chef Alon Shaya. (Reserve a table here.)

Central Grocery (923 Decatur St.) has bragging rights on the world’s best muffulettas.

Lüke (333 St. Charles St.) was voted best raw bar in New Orleans last year but I have it on good authority that John Besh serves up one of the best burgers in town, too. Anything that has Allan Benton bacon piled up on top has to be good. (Reserve a table here.)

What are your suggestions? Email us or tweet @southxnortheast #NOLA.

Happy Super Gras!

The Big Easy has never been one to shy away from a party. Or two. That’s why it comes as no surprise that Super Bowl XLVII is sandwiched in the middle of Mardi Gras. Some are even dubbing it “Super Gras.”

No doubt in my mind, New Orleans is capable of juggling both. The city spent three years prepping for what might be the largest tourist event in the history of NOLA. They are expecting nearly a half-million visitors. And I think each will be pleased with what they find considering the Crescent City was voted “Best American City to Visit” by Travel + Leisure magazine.

So, good luck my friends in NOLA and Laissez les bons temps rouler!


Photography by Evelyn Laws