Posts from the “raves and reviews” Category

Mexican Coke

Posted on March 2, 2012

Across the South grocery stores are introducing a Mexican product that is reaching cult status. A product as American as well… Coca-Cola.  Only this time more “authentic” than the ones you can buy in your local corner mart or vending machine.  Mexican Coke’s main appeal is not only the old fashioned bottle and logo but, it’s use of real sugar as a primary sweetener. Since the early 1980’s most American colas changed their primary sweetener from cane sugar to high fructose corn syrup.  This move was in part to save money as well as insure a longer more stable shelf life. Seems there is a growing segment of the population is now calling out for “old glory” in the form of a Mexican bottle…

What kind of biscuit do you like?

Posted on March 1, 2012

I am a life-long Southerner, and I have to say that biscuits are breakfast staple!

I like a warm, fresh buttermilk biscuit with a spicy sausage patty and a shot of hot sauce.  I want my biscuit crisp on the top and bottom and tender in the middle.

Now you can have a bad biscuit:  They can be too dry, doughy and under cooked, or — worst of all — burned on the bottom.

I’ll never forget a visit to my Yankee aunt’s house.  Bless her heart, she decided to cook me a “Southern” breakfast.

The biscuits were starchy and burned on the bottom.  Someone forgot to tell her how to season her iron skillet.  The sausage patty was like biting into a greasy hockey puck.  I won’t even tell you what the grits were like.  I try to block it out.  It was bad.

Being the true Southerner that I am (you fellow Southerners know what I’m talking about) I just smiled and chewed and tried my best to look like I was eating manna from Heaven.  There was no dog to slip the biscuit to.  I don’t think a dog would have been interested.

There are all kinds of biscuit combinations:

You can put jelly on them, bacon on them, gravy on them, ham on them, eggs on them, sausage on them, chicken on them, steak on them… I feel like Bubba Blue! I don’t think “scrimps” and biscuits mix for breakfast though.

So what kind of biscuit do YOU like for breakfast?

Heck, down here we can have them any time!

You can have biscuits on the side with fried chicken, with vegetable soup, use them as dumplings… Stop me!

A Pretty Darn Good Pepper

Posted on February 4, 2012

I am a creature of habit. Every Saturday the routine is the same: As the sun rises over the 80 or so tents at Pepper Place Farmers Market, and the chef’s demo ends, I say my goodbyes and prepare for my weekly sojourn to Bottega Cafe. I settle into the corner banquette and reflect on my long week of blogging, Tweeting, and talking food. After a morning of running around the market I need to hydrate, so I order my customary tap water, I really wish systems like those on WaterSoftenerGuide.com would be more prevalent and the norm, but alas here we are. A plate of warm focaccia appears on the table. The sun reflects harshly off a meticulously arranged line of flatware in the window,…

A CookBook for the ages

Posted on June 23, 2011

Those of you who follow this column regularly could rightfully accuse me of being fixated on the subject of comfort food.  Guilty as charged. I, like most people, cook what I crave.

Saveur’s cookbook, The New Comfort Food: Home Cooking from Around the World, is a new “must have” for every kitchen. Numerous books come to my desk each month, this one made me stop, look, and cook.

The editors of Saveur, the award winning food magazine, and its editor-in-chief James Oseland, have brought together a collection of more than a hundred of the world’s most beloved home-style dishes and drinks. Accompanied by first-person stories from some of Saveur’s most acclaimed writers.

We are treated to visually stunning photos of amazing dishes that satisfy not just an American palette, but with the turn of each page one gets to experience home cooking from around the world. Now, this is food to satisfy the soul: gooey mac and cheese, slow-braised Provencal-style leg of lamb, silky Chinese stir-fry noodles, deep-fried catfish and tagliatelle with a rich ragu bolognese. We meet the cooks, families and communities who crave and cook these wonderful dishes. Sure, we may like the American classics, but today our view of comfort food is more eclectic than ever. The New Comfort Food is based on the simple idea that home cooking is the foundation of all great cuisines no matter where on Earth home happens to be.

Foodimentary Fact:

This is a cookbook to read. On a recent evening I found myself, surrounded by my tolerant family, reading aloud the recipes and stories. An animated discussion followed about foods we’ve tried, what we like to cook and, best of all , what we really crave. A memorable evening which has led to many “comforting” meals.

Keller to the Rescue

Posted on June 20, 2011

When rumors of a new Thomas Keller cookbook began to c irculate earlier this year, I struggled to contain my heady excitement. I carefully rearranged my cookbook collection, carving out space next to Keller’s previous luscious tomes—The French Laundry Cookbook, Bouchon, and Under Pressure—well-worn and gathering dust in a sunlit corner of t he kitchen. All were published by Artisan under the critical eye of the amazing editor Ann Bramson, and all garnered awards and praise from the foodie community. But while I greedily devoured every page—enjoying the writing, the sumptuous photography, and the thrill of being vicariously in the kitchen with America’s leading chef—what I didn’t do is cook much from these books. I found them variously too complicated, too intimidating, too exotic…

Taking the Bait!

Posted on March 4, 2011

Taking the Bait!

By John-Bryan Hopkins
MyRecipes-LiveBait-Image On a recent trip to New York City, I found myself searching for some semblance of home. And for me, home is anything that says The South. I love Manhattan—the lights, the sounds, and the smells, but like Dorothy says, “There’s no place like home.” In the shadow of the Flatiron Building, I see it: an old Coca-Cola sign with the words “Live Bait” scrolled across it. In the window, promises of beer and BBQ beckon. I can almost taste the sweet tea with a hint of lemon and smell the smoky spices in the air. As I cross the restaurant’s threshold, I’m struck by the authenticity. I feel like I am walking into my beloved Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile. Neon beer signs, bumper stickers, and old car tags—it’s all here. The only thing missing is the cigarette smoke (no great loss). As a kindly waitress led me to my table, I half-expected to hear a Southern accent. She wasn’t the real thing, but my drawl quickly assured her that my roots are planted below the Mason-Dixon line.

With a beer and sweet tea on its way, I set my sights on some down-home cooking. First to arrive were hush puppies and crab fritters with a spicy rémoulade. It’s hard to mess up fried cornmeal batter, so I wasn’t surprised when they proved to be very close to what I find at home.  The real test would be the BBQ. Just thinking about BBQ makes my mouth water and sends me back to Homewood, where you can smell Demetri’s from a mile away. Mouth watering, I ordered a pulled-pork plate with coleslaw. Unfortunately, the meat lacked that wonderful hickory flavor, and the BBQ sauce tasted as if it came straight from the bottle. The coleslaw was only OK. Not terrible, but just shy of home. Even though the BBQ didn’t transport me back to the South, the experience, atmosphere, and crab fritters made it well worth the stop. (I even took some fritters back to my hotel; they were that good.)

I am always intrigued by perceptions of my home when I’m far away from it. Live Bait is about as close to authentic as you can get in the Big Apple. After speaking with some of the staff and patrons, I found that the place is a guilty pleasure for a lot of New Yorkers. They love the food and the relaxed mood Live Bait projects. I guess it proves that not only can you find a little bit of home when you are out of town, but that most people appreciate a little Southern style—even in the big city.

The Best Egg and Olive Sandwich in Town

Posted on March 4, 2011

You can’t be a Southerner unless you at least know someone who makes themselves an egg-and-olive sandwich. I have no doubt that Clairee in Steel Magnolias probably had one wrapped in wax paper and tucked in her purse. So these are the ingredients that make it such a delicacy: Egg salad: boiled eggs, mayonnaise (BAMA brand), pinch of salt.  That’s it! Mayo is the binding agent for the eggs!  It’s the south–you can put mayo on cookies and it tastes good.  I have a feeling my “Ode to Mayo” blog entry is coming soon… What brand of mayonnaise do you like? Sliced green olives:  The olives bring a saltiness and meatiness to the sandwich. Wheat bread:  Two slices per sandwich and toasted, thank you Lettuce: one piece of Bibb lettuce.…

May The Pasta Be With You, Y’all

Posted on January 10, 2011

In my exploration of all things food, cookbooks come at me in all directions. Professional cooks, food personalities, and the occasional “accidental” foodie—some of my favorites— land on my doorstep daily. I try my best to read through as many as I can. Here’s a story that really caught my eye: Italy through the eyes of an Alabamian.  This book let’s you live vicariously with an Alabamian exploring all things Italian. The intoduction told me all I needed to know. After a trip to Italy in 2001, author Mark Leslie returned to his home in Alabama, but he couldn’t get the splendor of the country out of his head. In 2005 he returned to Viterbo, Italy, immersing himself in a cooking and intensive language…

A Stitch in Time

Posted on January 1, 2011

Exploring food is about being completely open to whatever comes your way. I am always surprised by how many people don’t talk about the food in their lives. Diets, quick and easy recipes, the next food trend, you name it, but when it comes to that fundamental bond that one has with food, well good luck. Most find this idea filed under sentiment and place it in the forward paragraph of a cookbook along with thanks to the editors and love for the family. The other day I found myself thumbing through the pages of Natalie Chanin’s new book, Alabama Studio Style and found Foodimentary treasure. Natalie Chanin’s clothing has been celebrated in fashion circles for years. She spearheaded what was to be the…

Ad Hoc At Home A Thomas Keller cookbook designed for you and me.

Posted on January 1, 2011

When rumors of a new Thomas Keller cookbook began to circulate earlier this year, I struggled to contain my heady excitement.
I carefully rearranged my cookbook collection, carving out space next to Keller’s previous luscious tomes—The French Laundry Cookbook, Bouchon, and Under Pressure—well-worn and gathering dust in a sunlit corner of the kitchen.

All were published by Artisan under the critical eye of the amazing editor Ann Bramson, and all garnered awards and praise from the foodie community. But while I greedily devoured every page—enjoying the writing, the sumptuous photography, and the thrill of being vicariously in the kitchen with America’s leading chef—what I didn’t do is cook much from these books. I found them variously too complicated, too intimidating, too exotic and, in the case of Under Pressure, requiring too much expensive equipment for the average home chef.

So when I got my hands on Keller’s newest, Ad Hoc at Home, I read it cover to cover in one night, propped up in bed until the wee hours like a giddy teenage Twilight fan. Ad Hoc is every bit as stunningly produced as The French Laundry, with one critical difference: This is a book designed for you and me.

Chefs’ recipes are often labor–intensive processes and pages of ingredients that are then whittled down by erstwhile editors into something that, while more accessible to home cooks, yield results that only vaguely resemble that can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head dish you ate in the restaurant.

Though Thomas Keller is perhaps most famous for his culinary innovation and meticulous preparations, Ad Hoc—Keller’s family-style restaurant in Yountville, California—serves comfort food that runs the gamut from American classics like fried chicken, bread pudding, and short ribs to traditional favorites like duck confit and herb-crusted rack of lamb.

The recipes are accompanied by step-by-step instructions that focus on core culinary techniques and basic ingredients. With Deborah Jones’ artful photographs, illustrated how-to spreads for dummy–proof chicken trussing or pork loin preparation, and clever “Light Bulb Moments” to demonstrate tricks of the trade, readers find themselves gaining confidence in basic skills and relaxing under the steady tutelage of America’s best chef.

Keller’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken is a standout example of what makes this book special. I started a day ahead, brining the chicken, cutting it into the precise 10-piece basket, frying without setting the kitchen on fire, and even executing an elegant chef-style garnish—herbes frites. (That’d be French for “throw herb sprigs into hot oil, then feign modesty as friends and family gasp in wonderment at your culinary prowess.”) Best of all I had fun, maybe the most fun I’ve had in the kitchen in years, accomplishing something that was easy but technically perfect and sort of astonishingly delicious. This is the recipe you serve with a smile to your nobody–can–do–it–like–I–do mother-in-law.

A lot of cookbooks come across my desk, but Ad Hoc At Home is this year’s must-have. It won’t be joining its beautiful cohorts in that sunlit kitchen corner—this one won’t have time to gather dust.

Slow Life in a Tuscan Town

Posted on September 30, 2010

At Foodimentary I am always searching for the most interesting, unique and innovative expressions of the world and art of food. Douglas Gayeton’s Slow: Life In A Tuscan Town has all these traits in spades. This triumphant book uses photography and storytelling in a way that transcends all book genres. It’s part cookbook, part essay, part memoir, part photography book, and a total joy. It is without a doubt the highest expression of the art of book publishing. My first reading of this book was a revelation, staying with me. Gayeton reminded me that the simple life does indeed exist. For several hours I felt part of an honest, exuberant journey, as I explored a quiet oasis in the Tuscan hills amidst a world…

Mary Mac’s Tea Room Cookbook

Posted on September 6, 2010

Someone asked me the other day if there was a Southern cookbook that one’s grandmother would have used. I had to think. Although there are many nationally known and used cookbooks that come to mind. My grandmother would have not recognized the “fancy” recipes found in most. Then like manna from heaven, a cookbook reached my desk that may just fit the bill, Mary Mac’s Tea Room. The author and owner John Ferrell brings together over 100 classic recipes from this venerable institution of Southern comfort food. Favorites such as Fried Okra, Country Ham with Redeye Gravy, Peach Buttermilk Pancakes, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Caramel Cream Cake. Among the delicious recipes you’ll find interesting photographs of famous diners and the marvelous…

Barefoot Cooking

Posted on August 26, 2010

Are you looking for an easy to follow cookbook with tried and true, never fail recipes? Here is the cookbook for you Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa; Back to Basics. This may perhaps be the only cookbooks that I have cooked every recipe at least once. Almost always with complete success. Always good honest food designed to bringing out the flavors. Ina’s forward says it all: “When I talk about getting back to basics, I’m not talking about simple mashed potatoes or a plain roast chicken. What truly fires my imagination is taking ordinary ingredients and cooking them—or pairing them—in a way that “unlocks” their true flavors. This book is about how to cook the simple ingredients you can find in a grocery store and…

Bam!

Posted on August 26, 2010

Food books, cookbooks, even food memoirs, arrive on my desk daily. Most end up being piled in stacks marked; interesting, not interesting, and, the biggest pile, redundant. This being said you might find it surprising that Foodimentary would pick a best selling, food network superstar on the top of our Summer reading list. Emeril Lagasse’s Farm to Fork, Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh is simply well done. Recipes to live by with simple to make and—best of all—an honest, easy approach to shopping seasonal fruits, meats and vegetable. HarperStudio, Lagasse’s “boutique” publisher says it all: “Farm to Fork, Emeril’s new series of cookbooks, brings out the “green” in Emeril with recipes that will inspire cooks, new and old, to utilize organic and locally-grown produce. Emeril…

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules

Posted on August 26, 2010

My bedside stand is usually littered with stacks of cookbooks, chefs’ memoirs, and gastronomic nonfiction that constitute my I–swear–I’m–going–to–get–to–that–next piles. I love to curl up with great food prose for an hour or so before I fall asleep, as a sort of vicarious midnight snack. As a man of short attention span, I find myself thumbing through one book or another, underlining things here, dog-earing pages there, and generally skimming the goodness from each book. It’s the only way to attack such a daunting—and growing and, increasingly, leaning—tower of reading material. But this month, I let the others gather dust and became utterly engrossed in Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. It’s an accessible set of food commandments, delivered with Pollan’s signature wry humor and a…

Slow Life in a Tuscan Town

Posted on June 2, 2010

At Foodimentary I am always searching for the most interesting, unique and innovative expressions of the world and art of food. Douglas Gayeton’s Slow: Life In A Tuscan Town has all these traits in spades. This triumphant book uses photography and storytelling in a way that transcends all book genres. It’s part cookbook, part essay, part memoir, part photography book, and a total joy. It is without a doubt the highest expression of the art of book publishing. My first reading of this book was a revelation, staying with me. Gayeton reminded me that the simple life does indeed exist. For several hours I felt part of an honest, exuberant journey, as I explored a quiet oasis in the Tuscan hills amidst a world…

B-Metro Magazine: Do Di Yo's

Posted on November 9, 2009

George Sarris talks to John-Bryan Hopkins about how a new restaurant gets its name. “Do-di-yós. What does it mean? Quite a lot, actually. Let me explain,” says George Sarris “My mother made the best chicken with orzo when I was growing up in my small Greek village. Here’s how she did it: First, she cut the chicken into eight pieces, making sure to keep some breast meat on the wings. She went to the garden for fresh onions and garlic; she took extra virgin olive oil from an urn in the kitchen. Then with these ingredients and some salt and black pepper, she braised the chicken until it was brown and the house smelled wonderful. Next, she added five chopped fresh tomatoes to the…

B-Metro Magazine: Do Di Yo’s

Posted on November 9, 2009

George Sarris talks to John-Bryan Hopkins about how a new restaurant gets its name. “Do-di-yós. What does it mean? Quite a lot, actually. Let me explain,” says George Sarris “My mother made the best chicken with orzo when I was growing up in my small Greek village. Here’s how she did it: First, she cut the chicken into eight pieces, making sure to keep some breast meat on the wings. She went to the garden for fresh onions and garlic; she took extra virgin olive oil from an urn in the kitchen. Then with these ingredients and some salt and black pepper, she braised the chicken until it was brown and the house smelled wonderful. Next, she added five chopped fresh tomatoes to the…

  

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