Last week in Maine, I taught two days of cooking classes at Stonewall Kitchen’s Cooking School, alongside Warren Bobrow, author of Apothecary Cocktails, among other books. We had a blast. Warren shook up some beautiful cocktails with grilled fruits and a wide variety of interesting bitters, and, with lots of help from the Stonewall kitchen staff, I made a few dishes from my cookbook.
It was a lot of fun talking with New Englanders about deep Southern ingredients like okra, field peas, and collard greens. The first day, I made an heirloom tomato salad with field pea dressing and fried okra, a seafood gumbo filled with beautiful Maine seafood, and roasted figs with Grand Marnier, lemon, and mint. On the second day I made a peach, arugula, and goat cheese salad, a chicken, collard, and country ham saltimbocca, and buttermilk pecan ice cream. You can find the recipes in the book, but meanwhile here are a few shots from both days (click “read more,” below).
Last week, I taught two days of cooking classes at Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School in York, Maine. The classes were a lot of fun, the staff was incredibly helpful, and I met a lot of cool people and signed lots of copies of The New Southern Table. Speaking with New Englanders about cooking with hot-weather deep Southern ingredients was interesting; folks were surprisingly familiar with okra and collards, though field peas were another story.
But before getting into the cooking classes and all the restaurants I visited in Portland, I thought I’d set the stage with a few shots of the Maine coast.
James Beard award-winning chef and restaurantrepreneur Ashley Christensen is on a roll in downtown Raleigh. After winning Best Chef: Southeast this year, her flagship restaurant Poole’s Downtown Diner is humming, as are her four other places: Beasley’s Chicken + Honey (specializing in fried chicken), Chuck’s (specializing in burgers), Fox Liquor Bar (specializing in being a great bar), and Joule Coffee (a farm-y breakfast spot). Christensen has three new projects in he works a few blocks away: Death and Taxes, a wood-fired-inspired restaurant, Bridge Club, an event space and cooking classroom, and Aux, a commissary kitchen that will serve all of Christensen’s venues.
This week I had a couple of book events in Raleigh, so dropped by Poole’s for dinner, Joule for breakfast the next morning, then walked through her other downtown properties. When I walked into Poole’s, I couldn’t help but think back to sitting at the bar with law school friends a decade ago at Enoteca Vin, the downtown Raleigh spot where Christensen got her start with Chapel Hill chef Andrea Reusing (of Lantern Restaurant, also a Beard award winner). We’d hang out with Christensen for hours and talk food as guests dropped in and out at a leisurely pace. These days Christensen is harder to pin down, bouncing between projects.
Charleston, a town with many a restaurant opening these days, has picked up a doozie this summer. Leon’s Oyster Shop, on upper King Street, is raising the bar for casual (but impeccable) new Southern food in Charleston.
It’s all about simplicity, and the details. Brooks Reitz and Tim Mink have put their stamp on everything, from the seamless, warm design, to the way in which the three different fresh herbs in the Siam Salad are sliced.
I’ve been coming to the same house down here on the Panhandle (affectionately otherwise know as L.A., or Lower Alabama), since I was born. It has changed a lot (it’s no secret anymore), but I always love being back here for a feeling of nostalgia I get nowhere else.
Several of the recipes in The New Southern Table are inspired by summers here, like these Shrimp and Corn Fritters. They’re like hushpuppies laced with little bites of shrimp and vegetables, and take me back (in an updated way) to the dive seafood spots we relied on before the throngs of vacationers arrived.