Friday, May 27, 2011
This week the river crested at 57.1 feet --more than 14 feet above flood stage and more than a foot over the record set in the city in the Great Flood of 1927. The crest represented a new high-water mark since records began in 1827. They don’t call it the Mighty Mississippi for nothing. The river was carrying 17 million gallons of water per second and farm land, homes and livelihoods were washed away in it. It’s been a sad, tough spring in Mississippi.
The morning the crest was predicted I realized that history was being made only 45 miles from my home and in my lifetime, hopefully, we would never see the likes of the flood of 2011. So I called my father --the one who is responsible for the troublesome “adventure genes” I inherited – and didn’t have to do much talking to convince him to hit the road and see the Mississippi River crest at Vicksburg. We wanted to see history….and well, we wanted to eat fried chicken.
Besides fried chicken, the best thing about Walnut Hills is the round “lazy-Susan” style tables where you sit with folks you’ve probably never met. By the end of the meal after fighting (politely) over fried chicken and sharing delicious macaroni and cheese, fresh vegetables, rice and gravy and banana pudding –just to name a few dishes – you swap names and phone numbers and make plans to meet again at the same table.
Floods…friends…and fried chicken. And the river rolled on.
Walnut Hills is open Monday - Friday from 11:00 a.m. till 9:00 p.m. with the Round Table served till 2:00 p.m. Ala carte is served till 9:00 p.m. On Sunday, they are open from 11:00 a.m. till 2:00 p.m.. The bar is open Monday - Friday nights. Closed on Saturdays. 1214 Adams Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi. 601-638-4910.
Monday, May 23, 2011
|Noah New of the Viking Cooking Team fries catfish|
in the Street Cart Pavilion
There was bountiful bourbon, crazy cocktails, a gracious plenty of bacon and killer pimento cheese. There were seminars, panels, cooking demonstrations and a late night street cart event just in case your “food high” was waning.
Viking provided the kitchens and the Festival rounded up 61 acclaimed Southern chefs and culinary leaders to cook on them. The Viking Cooking Team was front and center in their custom rig ready to feed the masses of chefs and culinary enthusiasts. They hosted a pre-fest barbecue at the Jewell Horse Farm on Thursday. Folks couldn’t get enough of the Hog Wings (tenderly smoked pork shanks glazed with the team’s award-winning barbecue sauce), crispy fried US farm raised catfish or team member, Pat Irvin’s famous Rice Dressing. A festival favorite was the daily (and late into the night) Street Cart event with Viking Cooking Team right in the center of the fun where they provided a crowd-pleasing smoked jambalaya.
Check out the website: http://atlfoodandwinefestival.com/. And if you’re looking for the ultimate Southern food experience, don’t miss next year’s event.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
|Shaved Asparagus Salad with Parmesan|
New York is just a daydream away today. I’m fully recovered, thank you, and grateful that I was able to participate in the Academy Awards of my industry. I’m still sorting out the meals and food memories but the one that’s on my mind is a dish I enjoyed sitting at the counter at Eataly, the 55,000 square foot Italian Food Emporium on 5th Avenue (more on that later). It was a sublime Shaved Asparagus Salad and eating it was like tasting spring. Just before trying to recreate the dish from my faulty memory, I remembered that Eataly is owned by Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Bastianich so there was a good chance this salad came from one of their restaurants . I found the recipe hiding in plain site in Mario’s cookbook Molto Gusto. The version served to me included a few blanched fava beans to add yet another flavor and texture. I hope you’ll try my favorite bite from the Big Apple.
Shaved Asparagus with Parmigiano-Reggiano
From: "Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking" by Mario Batali
• 2 pounds medium asparagus, tough bottom ends snapped off
• 3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, coarsely grated
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 2 tablespoons warm water
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• Maldon or other flaky sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
Using a Benriner (Japanese mandoline) or other vegetable slicer, or a vegetable peeler, thinly shave the asparagus, making long diagonal shavings.
Put the Parmigiano in a large bowl and whisk in the lemon juice and warm water. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the oil to make a loose emulsion. Add the asparagus and toss gently to coat. Season with salt if necessary and with pepper and serve.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Chef, restaurateur and author Robert St. John is not sitting idly by. Known for his creative, courageous and continued fight against hunger Robert is headed for Smithville next week with a truck load of food to boost their rapidly dwindling food supply. He is challenging each of us to contribute to the effort so he can send a second truck. Robert St. John is a force of nature and is not easily deterred by hurricanes, tornadoes or any stumbling block that might try to get in his way. Whichever path he chooses...I am usually close behind along with his cadre of friends and supporters.
Extra Table, his amazing food charity that partners with restaurants, is feeding people all over Mississippi. The idea is so simple it's astounding. It all started with a simple concept: What if every restaurant in Mississippi had an extra table to feed the needy? Working with giant food distributor Sysco, Robert developed a series of healthy "food bundles" that are packaged together and available for qualified food pantries, soup kitchens and mission kitchens. The bundles of various sizes are ordered by participating restaurants on their regular Sysco food orders and delivered by Sysco to the charities once a month. Robert personally picks up all administrative expenses so 100% of donations go to purchasing food. While restaurants have been the backbone of Extra Table, individuals may contribute by writing checks to one of two Community Foundations who serve as bankers for the project. All of next week's Extra Table bundles are being diverted to Smithville. We hope you'll help Robert and the people of Smithville by contributing to our efforts of filling a dire need by filling that second truck.
Please take a few minutes to read Robert's May 3 column on the Smithville effort at http://www.robertstjohn.com/ . If you want to learn more about Extra Table visit http://www.extratable.org./
Donations may be made by mail or on-line through the Greater Jackson Community Foundation http://www.cfgreaterjackson.org/ and the Greater Pine Belt Community Foundation http://www.pinebeltfoundation.org/.
Notation should be made on all donations -- check or on-line -- that the beneficiary is Extra Table.
Thanks to all of you for reading this blog and considering a donation. And thanks to Robert for mobilizing us.
The food community has always taken a leadership role in championing hunger causes. Feeding our fellow man is a worthy calling indeed.