FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ, SOUTHERN FOODWAYS, AND VIVIAN HOWARD
Last Friday night, we hosted our second “Friends of the Café” dinner, which also served as our first Piggy Bank Dinner fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA). Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer restaurant and the Peabody-award winning television series A Chef’s Life traveled to The Factory from North Carolina for an evening of delicious food, cocktails, much laughter and lively conversation, and music, performed by friend and songbird, Shonna Tucker.
Vivian’s show, A Chef’s Life, focuses on regional food traditions and explores classic Southern ingredients. Friday’s dinner highlighted the story of our own local farmers and their fresh ingredients, with Vivian’s Eastern Carolina twist. Each course was accompanied by a wine pairing, chosen by Harry Root (Bacchus Incarnate) of Grassroots Wine.
I love what Christi Britten—one of our dinner guests and the author of Dirt Plate— writes in her review of the evening:
Pretty much, Vivian Howard gives a damn. She gives a damn how the food she serves is raised, prepared, cooked, presented, eaten, enjoyed, and thought about. She gives a damn about her community’s food culture and wants to suck up as much knowledge as she can about where their food comes from and how to make it. She gives a damn about the farmers that work hard every single day to feed a community as well as their families.
She has, with her own hands, butchered whole animals to use from snout to tail in her restaurant. She speaks with a tone of reverence and authority over the food she creates. And basically she is a food medium. She is confident, yet humble and puts us all into a place where we can visualize the care taken to prepare what we put in our mouths.
This farm to table dinner celebrated local farms and Southern food culture by bringing together the summer bounty into one meal among a diverse community of eaters.
For our cocktail hour, Vivian offered one of her signature summer cocktails: Cucumber Ginger Limeade with Cathead Vodka (generously donated by our friends at Cathead). The drink was paired with fresh watermelon and lime salt hors d’oeuvres, which quickly disappeared.
Prior to dinner, Vivian spoke about the impact that the SFA had on she and her husband, Ben, when they returned home to North Carolina and started their business. She explained how the organization encouraged her to find her true self and helped shape the person she is today. (You can learn more about her connection to the Southern Foodways Alliance here: Episode 5: Tomatoes—You Say Heirloom, I Say Old Timey.)
What is not to love about this mission:
The Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. We set a common table where black and white, rich and poor — all who gather — may consider our history and our future in a spirit of reconciliation.
Our first two courses were served family-style, with guests serving one another and passing dishes along the café’s farm tables. Chef Howard and the café staff prepared Cherokee Purple Tomato Toasts and Corn on the Cob with Citrus, Herbs and Pecorino Romano. Vivian encouraged all of us to keep smiling, even if we got a little corn in our teeth, since our neighbors would likely “also have corn in their teeth.”
The second course included two of the most popular plates of the night: Country Ham wrapped Peaches with Gingered Goat Cheese, and Charred and Pickled Patty Pan Squash with Basil Pesto, Fresh Mozzarella and Stewed Tomatoes.
Between courses, Harry Root highlighted each of the wine pairings, including Muscadet Sèver et Maine Sure Lie “Cuvée Harmonie”, Nicodemi Rose Cerasuolo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (a definite crowd-pleaser that delivered waves of fruit and spice, with a bright, citrus-lined finish), and Broc Cellars Valdiguié.
Vivian’s entrée was a modern take on a classic Southern dish—BBQ chicken (donated by White Oak Pastures), prepared the North Carolina-way (on the bone and from whole chickens broken-apart by Vivian’s own two hands earlier that day). The chicken featured her signature, house-made blueberry glaze, and was paired with Squash and Fontina Casserole. As everyone finished eating and plates were cleared (and as Vivian and the kitchen team prepared dessert), Shonna Tucker performed a selection of songs in her part-country, part-soul style.
And, finally, after dessert was served—Coconut Cheesecake Pudding, paired with Graham Crackers, Ginger Infused Melons and Macadamia Benne Seed Granola—our friend Josephine called for a standing ovation and a collective round of “You Are My Sunshine” as serenade to Vivian and the entire team.
Thank you to Vivian, the Southern Foodways Alliance, Grassroots Wine, White Oak Pastures, Cathead Vodka, Shonna Tucker, Angie Mosier, Jack-o-Lantern Farm, and everyone else who made the (sold-out) gathering a true success.
Find more information on our next “Friends of the Café” dinner (featuring chef Ashley Christensen) here.
And to find out more about becoming a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, click here.
Photos courtesy of Angie Mosier.
Third Mondays @ The Factory
Join us the third Monday of every month in our new expanded studio space to sew and socialize. Spend your morning working on your latest project in the company of fellow sewers. Share inspiration, encouragement, and fellowship. Coffee, tea, and light breakfast will be available for purchase from The Factory Café. Please bring your own fabric and sewing notions.
Monday, September 15, 2014
8:30 am – 11:30 am
Monday, October 20, 2014
8:30 am – 11:30 am
462 Lane Drive
Florence, AL 35630
For more information, contact: jennifer (at) alabamachanin.com or call +1.256.760.1090
GRAM PERKINS’ EGG SALAD + HOMEMADE PICKLES
My Gram Perkins passed down several recipes to me through the years. I keep most of them in a recipe book my mother compiled of family recipes. From Chocolate Pie to Thanksgiving dressing, Gram Perkins’ delicious Southern dishes continue to make their way onto my table—always tasting amazing, but not quite as good as when she made them.
One of the simplest (and most beloved) recipes she gave to me was for egg salad, featuring homemade Fourteen-Day Pickles (also known as sweet or bread-and-butter pickles). I think of it as one of the ultimate comfort foods. When I was a child, Gram Perkins often served it to me as a summer lunch or afternoon snack. I have vivid memories of sitting in her kitchen, watching her prepare her famous egg salad sandwich for me—always with extra pickles in a jar on the table.
After my Gram Perkins passed away, my granddaddy, lovingly known as Perk, continued making the famous Fourteen-Day Pickles. My mother carries on the family tradition today by gifting pints of these treasures every holiday season. Egg salad is definitely better with this homemade version but there are great bread-and-butter pickles available on the market today that you can use for your homemade egg salad. We recently taste tested the Blackberry Farm version and found it delicious.
No one really knows when egg salad itself was created, but it became a popular luncheon salad in the early 1800s, after French chef Marie-Antoine Carême invented mayonnaise as we know it today. A sister to tuna and chicken salad, egg salad is a nice option for those looking for a simple lunch, packed with protein.
We’ve started serving Gram Perkins’ egg salad in The Factory Café, complete with homemade pickles, made from her recipe. Stop by for lunch (new menu below) and try it on whole wheat sourdough toast, served with julienned honey crisp apples. (Trust me—the pairing of eggs and apples is delicious.)
GRAM PERKINS’ EGG SALAD
Yields 2 cups
1 1/2 cup whole eggs, hardboiled and coarsely chopped (about 5 eggs)
2 tablespoons Fourteen-Day Pickles—coarsely chopped (recipe below)
2 tablespoons lemon garlic aioli (see recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Chives, for garnish
Chop the hardboiled eggs and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped pickle, aioli, mustard, cayenne, and kosher salt. Stir using a whisk. Add in the eggs, folding them in gently using a rubber spatula. Garnish with chives, if desired.
Store refrigerated in an airtight container.
LEMON GARLIC AIOLI
Yields about 1 cup
1 whole egg
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Blend the egg, lemon juice, and garlic using a food processor or immersion blender on low speed. Gradually increase the speed, streaming in the olive oil until the mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
Store refrigerated in an airtight container.
GRAM PERKINS’ FOURTEEN-DAY PICKLES
2 gallons cucumbers—sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1 gallon water
1 pint salt
2 1/2 pints vinegar
4 quarts sugar
Pickling spice (see recipe below)
Canner and canning supplies
Wash cucumbers thoroughly and slice into approximately 1/4″ rounds. Combine warm water and salt and let cool to create brine. Place cucumbers into a ceramic pickle crock and cover with brine. Let cucumbers and brine stand seven days, making sure that they are completely covered with brine. You can place a plate on top of the brine to make sure that all cucumbers remain below the water line.
Pour off brine and add 1 gallon water. Let stand 24 hours.
Pour off water and add 1 gallon fresh water and a lump of alum the size of a walnut. Let stand 24 hours.
Mix sugar, vinegar, and a handful of pickling spice. Boil 3 minutes. Pour over cucumbers.
Pour off the vinegar mixture (cucumbers remain in container), boil for 3 minutes, and pour back over cucumbers. Repeat this process each day for 4 days.
On the 5th day, boil the vinegar mixture for 5 minutes. While boiling, place cucumbers in sterilized jars. Pour hot vinegar mixture over and follow instructions for canning to create a seal on pickle jars. Label and store in a cool, dark place.
Note: A half bushel of cucumbers makes approximately 2 1/2 gallons sliced cucumbers. Yields approximately 16 pints of pickles.
2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 bay leaves, crumbled
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
6 whole cloves
Mix all ingredients together in a sterilized jar and store in a cool, dark place.