Over the Fourth of July weekend, we stayed at Hard Labor Creek State Park, our first time camping in Georgia. The boys went fishing in our canoe in the lake that was 10 feet from our campsite. Unfortunately, our popup camper had a leak and after two nights of torrential rains, we went home – soaked to the bone, but a few fish richer!
Last night, I sautéed the crappie and bass in dry vermouth, buttery spread, and fish seasoning. I put the catfish in an egg wash, “breaded” them with crushed Kettle Brand Potato Chips (gluten free breading!), and pan fried them in buttery spread. Paul and I ate the fish along with sautéed wild chanterelle mushrooms he and Nathan found in the woods near our campsite. Nothing yummier than living off the land!
When people ask me where I’m from, I have to ask if they want to hear the long or the short version of the story. If it’s the long version, I have to explain that I was born in Manhattan. I spent my childhood on the Jersey Shore. Then I lived in Southern California in my teens and 20s. Then I moved to Colorado and lived there for nearly two decades except for a few year’s detour to the Chicago area, where my son was born. Then I moved to the Athens, Georgia area where I’ve lived for a year now.
Am I a Jersey Girl/Colorado Gal/Chicago Super Fan/Southerner? I don’t know, but I can tell you is that these days I’m a Yankee who’s fallen in love with a southern city – Athens, Georgia.
To most people Athens is a college town with a football problem. It’s also a politically conservative town with a church on every corner. Yet many people want to “keep Athens weird” by supporting the Classic City Girls roller derby team, the Human Rights Festival, and cheering the drag queens and the local Star Wars club in the holiday parade. In addition, since Athens is home to R.E.M. and the B-52s, , there’s a huge alternative music scene here, but people in the “Classic City” like their old time bluegrass and classic music, too.
For me, what I love best about Athens is the lively food scene from the farmers’ markets, to Top Chef Master winner Hugh Acheson’s two restaurants in town (The National and 5&10), to the smaller ethnic eateries, like Kelly’s. Even with the fantastic foodie scene, people here in Athens went nuts when Steak N Shake came to town. Sigh.
So what’s this Brunswick stew, country ham, and grits loving Yankee gal supposed to do but embrace it all?
Pictures from around Athens
The folks at FUZE and Glam asked me to highlight some of the unique facets of our hometowns on Instagram using the hashtag #FUZENation. Here are a few of my favorite shots:
Farm 225 – Local/Seasonal/Sustainable. Wonderful.
Thanks to FUZE for sponsoring my photo journey of Athens!
FUZE. Never just one thing.
Disclosure: Compensation was provided by FUZE via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of FUZE.
It’s rare that I write about anything but food, health and occasionally travel here at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet. But I had to share seeing the wonderful JD McPherson last week at the world famous 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia. Not only that, but the band stayed at my home for a couple of nights, while they played Atlanta.
You see, Paul and I are good friends with JD’s bass player and producer, Jimmy Sutton, from when lived in Chicago a thousand years ago. (Or so it seems.) Having the guys staying with us, getting caught up with Jimmy, and seeing the band reminded me of the days before we had kids – and weren’t too old to stay up all night dancing, chatting, eating, and drinking. Sigh.
At George’s Lowcountry Table in Athens, Georgia, you can get two dozen oysters for $12 on Tuesday. I like my oysters raw, but they also chargrill them.
The National and Ciné's Dinner & A Movie happens three nights a week, Sunday through Tuesday. It’s a great way to try out celebrity chef Hugh Acheson’s The National restaurant for a reasonable price. Plus it makes a great date night since the Ciné movie theater is just next door. You can check out the latest Dinner & a Movie menu here and the Ciné movie schedule here. Make sure to make reservations by calling 706-549-3450. The National is at 232 W Hancock Ave. in Athens, Georgia.
Last month, I attended the Buick Encore Lifestyle Event in Atlanta as the “plus one” of my friend, Eileen Calandro, the Chief Mom Connector of Mom Central. She was invited to test drive the new Buick Encore before it hits dealerships in February, 2013.
I was looking forward to spending time with Eileen while driving a luxurious crossover around the Atlanta metro area including a stop at a local Toys “R” Us to shop for the Toys for Tots program. However, I was just about out of my mind that we would meet celebrity chef and Top Chef Season 10 judge, Hugh Acheson at his restaurant, Empire State South, and tour the Love is Love urban farm. Have fork will travel!
Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens
Driving through suburban Decatur, Georgia, you’d never know the Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens is there. Yet over 15 years ago, the housing development East Lake Commons was built to include a working, organic farm. The farm grows a surprisingly wide diversity of crops, enough to accommodate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
Our Buick Encore Lifestyle group met with farmer, Joe Reynolds, who showed us around while explaining how the farm manages planting, irrigation, composting, and crop rotation. Joe also told us that the Love is Love farm has a close relationship with many Atlanta restaurants that provide the vegetable scraps for their impressive composting piles. In turn, the farm sells them organic, hyper-local produce, big bags of which we loaded into our Buick Encores to be cooked up for our dinner at Empire State South.
The farm tour was fascinating and I loved Joe’s passion for local, sustainable organic farming. It made me wish I lived closer so I could take advantage of their CSA.
Dinner at Empire State South
After a quick stop back at Twelve Atlantic Station at our gorgeous suite (complete with a full kitchen), Eileen and I were driven in one of the Buick Encores to Empire State South for dinner. Our group hit the bar for cocktails, appetizers and charcuterie. I had two unique cocktails, Orchard Punch, a bourbon drink, and Death on the Moon, made with absinthe. The charcuterie was marvelous, and I’d order it again as a meal, along with a glass of red wine.
Then it was off to a private dining room for a cooking demonstration from Hugh Acheson! He was as funny, personable and down to earth as he appears on Top Chef. He told us a story about appearing on a food panel with Paula Dean. While he likes Paula a lot, he doesn’t agree with her that Southern cooking means fried foods and tons of butter and sugar. Instead, his philosophy is cooking with traditional foods grown in the South, in a modern, sophisticated way.
While he demonstrated his Turnips and Their Greens Risotto (recipe included below), Hugh told us about the Southern goodness of Carolina Gold rice and making your own chicken stock in the slow cooker. (Loved that tip!) We sampled the risotto along with our dinner.
First course was Local Lettuces with roasted Brussels leaves, beets, pickled carrots, ESS fromage blanc, and served with a crisp sourdough. Second course was a choice of Roasted Georgia Trout, Chicken Roulade, or Prime Ribeye. (I had the rib eye, which was served rare with celery root and bread gratin, roasted kale with shiitakes, and a shoyu vinaigrette.) For dessert, we had Meyer Lemon Parfait clementine, bergamot brioche, candied cranberry, and sweet potato sorbet.
Eileen and I agreed it was a fabulous meal. I can’t wait to go back to Empire State South with my husband!
Turnips and Their Greens Risotto
- 3 small hakurei turnips
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup minced yellow onion
- 1 cup Caroline Gold Middland's broken kernel rice
- 4 cups homemade chicken stock
- 2 cups finely chopped turnip greens
- 1/2 cup finely grated (rasp) Parmagiano
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon finely cut bias cut onion top for garnish
- Very thinly slice the turnips. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and set aside. These will finish the risotto.
- Warm your chicken stock in a pot and place a ladle in it. Keep this on the back of the stove. Place a good pot on the stove over medium to medium high heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add the minced onion bulb and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the onion is translucent but not charred at all, about five minutes.
- Add the rice and lightly glaze the rice. From the moment the rice goes in, the is about 17 minutes to completion, so keep an eye on the clock. You should be stirring a lot but no need to stir all the time.
- Start adding the stock, about a cup at a time and stir and cook until the stock is absorbed. Then add more. Repeat. After a while you will see this luxurious, starchy liquid surround those little rice kernels. This is good. After about 15 minutes taste your rice. it should have a slight crunchiness to it but you have to soothsay what it will taste like after two to three more minutes as it sits in the bowl before consumption.
- Let's finish this up. Add the butter and the parmesan - and stir well to fold those beautiful finishes into the risotto. Then add the turnip greens to wilt them into the risotto. It's done. When it gets in that bowl it will set up well. Spoon into shallow bowls and garnish with the raw turnips and some more Parmagiano.
- Serving size: 1/4 of recipe
More about the Buick Encore Lifestyle Event
Eileen posted about the Buick Encore and our Toys “R” Us shopping spree for Toys for Tots at Luxurious, Affordable Design with the New Buick Encore at Mom Central’s blog. If you love cars and auto design, you'll love her post.
Don't forget to check out the Buick Encore, too! My favorite color is Ruby Red with the Saddle interior. What’s yours?
Disclosure: I was invited to an all expenses paid editor’s trip by Buick. I also received a signed copy of Hugh Acheson’s cookbook, A New Turn in the South, and some promotional items. All photos except for the Empire State South collage were provided by Buick. All experiences and opinions are my own.