Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Counter Culture's Lem Butler claims fifth Southeast Regional Barista title

All photos ©Christy Baugh
Courtesy Counter Culture Coffee
Congratulations to Lem Butler of Durham, who won the Southeast Regional Barista Competition last weekend for the fifth time in his specialty coffee career. He is the head of wholesale customer support at Counter Culture's Durham headquarters and provides barista training for the Carolinas.

Butler, who has a caffeinated online presence as @sexyfoam, conceded at last year's event that he wanted to get back into the game.

"Nothing about this is easy," said Butler, who co-emceed's the event after retiring from competition. "But I've got to say, it's also hard to just stand here and watch. If this comes back to Durham," added then then-new father with a glint in his eye, "I might do it again."

Counter Culture also was represented in the Northeast category, where Sam Lewontin won using the company's coffee. Butler and Lewontin will advance to the US Coffee Championships, which will be held in February at Long Beach, California.


This is Mr. Butler’s incredible fifth regional barista competition win, his most recent coming in the 2013 season. Record keeping in the pre-Sprudge era of barista competition coverage is spotty at the regional level, but after consulting with a few informal advisors, we feel comfortable declaring that this win makes Lemuel Butler the winningest barista in American regional barista competition history. All five of his wins have come in the Southeast region for our partners at Counter Culture Coffee, adding to the company’s trophy case that includes a 2012 United States Barista Championship win by Katie Carguilo.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sheri Castle curates collection celebrating 50 years of Southern Living reader recipes

Chapel Hill cookbook writer and culinary teacher Sheri Castle will be the guest of Culinary Historians of Piedmont North Carolina (CHOPNC) at 7pm Wednesday at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. The event is free and open to the public.

Until last month, Sheri Castle had one cookbook published under her name, the exceptional The New Southern Garden Cookbook. Those in the industry, however, recognize her deft editing, demanding recipe testing and, above all else, ability to share great stories in countless ghostwritten cookbooks – several of which have earned high praise for celebrity clients.

Today, as the author of the Southern Living Community Cookbook (Oxmoor House, $29.95), she is sharing the spotlight with dozens of home cooks – who have been featured in the popular magazine over the past 50 years but, for the most part, have lived outside of the glare of culinary fame. To accomplish this, she examined more than 46,000 published recipes to feature ones that not only reflect the best of Southern cooking, but which also exemplify the era in which they were published and the region they from which they came.

Dates are not included in the book, but one can guess with clues like use of a woman’s formal married name, as in the case of Mrs. Denver W. Anderson of Tennessee, who made fried hand pies with reconstituted dried apples that recalls the old timey applejacks recently featured on A Chef's Life. While technology changes were covered enthusiastically when gadgets were novelties, the book features few recipes that require a microwave or call upon a slow cooker. Likewise, none deploy the once ubiquitous dessert topping Dream Whip. Recipes from male contributors suggest more recent issues.

Delightfully illustrated in the manner of vintage cookbooks, Southern Living Community Cookbook celebrates all that is good and wholesome – and rich and decadent – about Southern home cooking.  It also includes a handful of recipes from well-known chefs, including local legends Bill Smith of Crooks Corner, Sara Foster of Foster’s Market, Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery and Mildred Council of Mama Dip’s. It also features the most requested recipe in the history of Southern Living: Hummingbird Cake – a festive cream cheese-frosted layer cake with crushed pineapple, chopped pecans and mashed banana made famous by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro.

Sherri Castle
North Carolina is well represented in the collection, including the book’s first recipe, Spiced Pecans from Diane Butts of Boone. “That was pure coincidence,” says Castle. “My job was to pick delicious recipes that are reliable and reasonably easy to make.”

Except for its debut issue in February 1966, Castle says Southern Living has always featured reader recipes. Every recipe had to make it through the demands of Southern Living’s test kitchen before being accepted for publication.

Along with local community cookbooks – including those produced by churches and Junior Leagues as fundraisers – these publications empowered women as experts and wage earners at a time where few had jobs outside of the home.

“Some were what I could call heavy users, who mailed in recipes year after year,” Castle says. “I could tell where they moved over the years. There was one in particular, given the number of Air Force bases, that she moved because of deployments.”

Where ever they went, their Southern cooking traditions went with them. Southern Living’s reader recipes became a sort of touchstone for some who lived far from home. It’s a powerful notion, considering many of these recipes were submitted well before the advent of the internet.

“Mailing a recipe in was the social media of the day,” Castle says. “You couldn’t pin or post, but the intention was the same. They wrote the recipes in long hand and tucked them in an envelope. And they waited to find out if they made the cut.”

While Castle does not have any of her own recipes in the book, she wrote the introductory notes that give everything from deviled eggs and pimento cheese to butternut squash tortilla soup and bourbon slush their distinctive sense of place.

Castle has been gratified by the response of readers, who have found the recipes evocative of childhood or the aromas of a loved one’s kitchen.

“That’s exactly the reaction I hoped for,” she says. “It time travel. I hope everyone finds a recipe in there that provides a happy ‘aha moment’ for readers.”

Sweet Potato Pie with Rosemary Cornmeal Crust
From The Southern Living Community Cookbook: Celebrating Food and Fellowship in the American South. Copyright (c) 2014 by Oxmoor House. No reproductions or reprints allowed without express written consent from Oxmoor House. Recipe from the kitchen of Crystal Detamore-Rodman of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Makes 8 servings.

¾ cup all-purpose flour
                        @ Southern Living photo

½ cup plain white cornmeal
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup very cold water

1½ lb. small, slender sweet potatoes
3 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
3 tbps. butter, melted
2 tsp. finely grated fresh orange zest
1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  1. To prepare the crust, whisk together flour, cornmeal, powdered sugar, rosemary and salt in a medium bowl until well blended. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly, with a few pieces of butter the size of small peas.
  2. Sprinkle cold water, 1 tbsp. at a time, over flour mixture, stirring with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour onto a work surface. Gather and form into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap well in plastic wrap and will 30 minutes.
  3. Unwrap dough and roll between two sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap into a 12-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Fold edges under and crimp. Chill 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake crust at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, shielding edges with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour).
  5. To prepare the filling, place sweet potatoes on a baking skeet and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minute or until soft. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp into a bowl. Mash pulp until smooth. Discard skins.
  6. Whisk together eggs and granulated sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in milk, melted butter, orange zest, orange juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Stir in sweet potato pulp. Pour mixture into crust.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake 20 to 25 minutes more or until center is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Note: If you don’t want to prepare a homemade crust, you can add cornmeal and fresh rosemary to a refrigerated crust. Substitute ½ (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piece crust for cornmeal crust ingredients. Unroll onto lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. plain white cornmeal and 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary. Lightly roll cornmeal and rosemary into crust. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate according to package directions. Fold edges under; crimp. Proceed as directed, beginning with Step 5.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A most practical obsession: on canning with ‘Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry’

I sometimes feel there should be a special group for people like me – people who go to farmers markets and imagine all those peak season fruits and vegetables framed like lasting, fragrant and edible snapshots in glass jars in the upstairs closet, ready to be opened for off-season satisfaction that less-driven mortals will never know.

Yes, as I stand on my feet for endless hours because I could not resist the bargain box of local strawberries – or perhaps peaches, corn or okra – I imagine that others envy my industrious nature, my ability to convert fleeting flavors into preserves and sauces and pickles that will conjure sunshine on the darkest winter day. I keep count of my filled and empty jars with the sincere enthusiasm of an accountant, knowing whether I’ll have enough jam to give to friends at the holidays and enough sauce to last until tomatoes reappear.

Hi, I’m Jill. I am an obsessive canner.

It is a relief to know there are many others similarly affected by a one-time hobby that has grown such that my husband feels compelled to tell neighbors – who sometimes spy me through the kitchen window making just one more batch when most sensible people are deep in dreamland – that we are adequately stocked in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

My insistence that my penchant is practical, providing us the resources for both flavorful meals and appreciated holiday gifts, is a welcome and recurring theme of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving, the long awaited book by Cathy Barrow (W.W. Norton).

Cathy Barrow (Photo © Chris Hirsheimer)
I have been following Cathy’s eponymous blog for years, having discovered it through an online search for a canning advice, as well as her articles in the New York Times and Washington Post. I have made more of her reliable recipes than I can count and, after years of likes and tweets and direct emails – which include almost as much personal news as canning tips – am proud to call her my most cherished virtual BFF. 
I was thrilled to be invited to be a member of the Practical Pantry Posse, each of whom tested several recipes that made the final cut. (I still marvel at seeing my name next to these culinary luminaries in the book's kind acknowledgments.) I made a handful in the water-bath and pressure-canning chapters which, like others on preserving meat and fish and making cheese, include bonus recipes in which your projects will become a starring ingredient. As I wrote in my feedback forms, I found Cathy's recipes to be practically omniscient, providing expected yields and describing changes in consistency and appearance with reassuring accuracy.

Among my favorites are the Double Strawberry Preserves – which combines juicy fresh berries with intense dried ones; the tweaked final version is even better than the original – Strawberry Mango Jam, and the surprisingly simple Rugelach, in which any jam or preserve may be used. Her Whole Cranberry-Raspberry Sauce (see below) will surely make its debut at Thanksgiving and I plan to take advantage of pear season to make her Caramel Pear Preserves. The latter is a pectin-free version of a 2010 recipe posted to her website, which takes its inspiration from French canning expert Christine Ferber.

Double Strawberry Preserves, a must-make
from 'Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry.'
I also tested her exceptional Homemade Ketchup, which makes great use of other canning projects, including Tomato Puree, Plum Jam or Grape Jelly, Garlic Dill Pickles and Hot Sauce. I was tasked with preparing it with comparable store-bought ingredients, in case users wanted to substitute anything they did not have in their oh-so-practical pantry. With 18 ingredients and four hours of active cooking time, it may strike some as intimidating. But give it a try. You’ll quickly discover why, in our house, we call it Super Ketchup.

The only recipe I tried that did not work was one in which I requested the chance to experiment. After hunting for goat’s milk and finally finding it in a portion larger than what was needed, I decided to see if I could successfully make a double batch of Cajeta, Mexico’s tangy version of cinnamon- and vanilla-infused caramel.  Many canning recipes do not work when doubled, and unfortunately it’s true of Cajeta. After nearly five hours of slow bubbling and occasional stirring, the promising sauce suddenly and irreparably seized up. Spoonfuls before that tragic moment hinted at the lush flavor that should have been; the next day, I sadly scraped the sugary mess into the trash. Lesson learned.

Cathy’s publisher permitted recipes testers to share a recipe in a series of blogs to be posted today, which marks the official release of the book. You’ll find the posts online by searching for the hashtag #PracticalPantry. I am including her Whole Cranberry-Raspberry Sauce below, but if you’d like to peruse all of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, enter a comment below by 5pm Friday, Nov. 14. A winner will be chosen at random to receive a copy of the book.

Whole Cranberry-Raspberry Sauce
Reprinted with permission of Cathy Barrow and W.W. Norton from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry.

Makes: 5 half-pint jars
Active time: 1 hour

Over the years, I've heard many people complain about the horrid canned cranberry sauce they were served as a child. I have no such memories. These same people initially shun my glistening, ruby-red cranberry sauce, but quickly revise their thinking after just one taste. Tangy, sweet, fruity in November, when many fruits are only a memory, this is a welcome addition to any holiday meal.
If you feel the need to serve this as a mold, as though it had slipped from a can, just run a palette knife around the inside of the jar and slide the cylinder into a relish dish.

4 cups (28 oz., 800 g) granulated sugar
4 cups (32 oz., 950 ml) non-chlorinated water
Grated zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
4 cups (14 oz., 390 g) cranberries
1 cup (8 oz., 225 g) fresh raspberries
1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter (optional)

  1. Combine the sugar, water, zest and juice in your preserving pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the mixture is briskly boiling, carefully add the cranberries. The berries will burst when heated and may splatter. Cook until most of the berries have burst and the sauce is thickening, about 12 minutes.
  2. Add the raspberries and bring back to a boil that will not stir down. Boil hard to about 10 more minutes. Test the set using the wrinkle test of the sheeting test. Add the butter, if using, to clarify and clear the sauce.
  3. Ladle into the warm jars, leave 1/2-inch head space. Clean the rims of the jars well with a damp paper towel. Place the lids and rings on the jars and finger-tighten the rings.
  4. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.
The sauce is shelf stable for 1 year.

REMINDER: Be sure to submit a comment below by 5pm Friday, Nov. 14, if you would like a chance to receive a free copy of Cathy Barrow's Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry. The winner will be drawn at random and notified by email.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The right words are as important in food writing as ingredients in a recipe

What does it mean when a food writer declares a morsel as delicious? It is as tasty as something that is scrumptious? Does it approach the ultimate threshold of yummy? And if it does for me, will it for you?

Dianne Jacob
Such praise, however well intended, is evidence of lazy writing, says Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food. An admired coach for newbie bloggers and top-selling cookbook authors, Jacob shared inspiring advice during the 2014 International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle.

"Adjectives are the crack of food writing," she said, amusing a capacity workshop with a litany of irksome examples. "Do you need to say that a brownie is chocolately, or fudgy? Grainy would be informative but unfortunate."

Jacob urged attendees to make food come alive for readers by placing their transporting aromas and specific textures in the context of a "good story." It might not require the complete elements of plot, but a little intrigue, a dollop of discovery or the sometimes overwhelming rush of taste memory will keep readers salivating.

“Make your adjectives count,” said Jacob, reading an example that ookily described unappetizing foodstuffs as “slimy” and “murky.” “Those give people images,” she added, raising an arched brow as many of us swallowed uncomfortably.

Jacob urged participants to reflect the vitality they first felt upon experiencing the topic being written about. Actions helps readers move through text as surely as a diner enters a restaurant (what did it look like? smell like?), sits down (cold vinyl or warm brocade?) and considers the menu (elegant old school or a date-stamped copy on a clip board?).

Context is as important to the story as salt is to the soup. Sometimes, it’s even more important. Who hasn’t been caught up in the rapture of a simple vacation meal only to discover that, even with the same wine or illicit cheese, it tastes incomprehensibly dull consumed in your own backyard? Conversely, the grandmotherly warmth of stuffed cabbage from the freezer case can bring unexpected tears of joy at the office microwave.

“Writing, as you know, can be excruciating,” Jacob said. “But it helps if you have fun.”

Jacob said food writers have a special challenge of engaging readers without making them resent the rich experience you really had and the calorie-free one they vicariously consume as a result.

Of the writer’s voice and tone, she said, “It’s got to be you, but maybe you on a little too much caffeine. You have to be a little bit exaggerated to write well but not be obvious.”

Jacobs led the group through two writing exercises, each of which were drafted in about 10 minutes. She stressed the importance of fully engaging your senses to describe a food-related experience.

Several volunteers read their drafts, including me:

I walked through the throng with purpose, away from the tourist mecca of tossed seafood to a shop with equally beautiful, bluster-free fish. I gazed with envy at the clear-eyed salmon resting, unblinking, on a bed of shaved ice. I heard the pitch about how ginormous crabs, bound with rubber bands to restrict their randy behavior, could be on my doorstep within 48 hours.

But I knew what I wanted, and I wanted it now. I spotted my precious as soon as my shoes squeaked on the wet shop floor. It was in a separate case, tucked away for people who knew where to look – people like me, who earned some status from a confident purchase a year ago. It was something I intended to bring home as a thoughtful souvenir, but which I ate in private; snarfed, really. I failed to mention it when I showed off my swag at home like a child with an especially good Halloween haul.

I paid less than 5 bucks for four burnished strips of teryiaki smoked salmon – which tasted for all the world to me like fancy candy that should have cost far more. I felt bouyant and generous, giving a strip to a newly made friend. I chewed and strolled, pausing to take in deep draws of fragrant flowers and thinking how people back home, three hours ahead, my friends who live to eat local, could not imagine my satisfaction.

For information about Dianne Jacob, visit her website. For information about the 2015 International Food Bloggers Conference, click here

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chef Greene debuts elegant fall menu for Herons at The Umstead

Just a few months after he returned to the kitchen as executive chef, Steven Deveraux Greene debuted his fall menu at Herons at the Umstead Hotel for a group of local food writers Wednesday evening. His stunning creations, partnered with a quartet of desserts from new Pastry Chef Evan Sheridan, left little doubt that he is up to the challenge of running one of the state's most elegant and acclaimed dining rooms.

Sommelier Hai Tran got the evening started outdoors on the expansive terrace with a round of fall-friendly drinks, including twists on classics like the Manhattan and the Dark and Stormy -- the latter of which, dubbed the Dark and Stormier, was an especially smooth sip. 

The Umstead's outstanding service was in evidence as suited servers deftly delivered platters of Greene's artfully plated tasting courses. Most are featured on the new harvest-themed fall menu, albeit in larger portions.

Greene said he was particularly pleased with this dish, which was served in a fantastical glass bowl that emphasized its spare beauty. An arrangement of king crab and grape gazpacho relish was doused with a delicate broth of vanilla scented Iberico ham broth poured from small tea pots.  (On the menu, the crab is replaced with Scottish langostines.)

Greene showed good humor with his Poussin Corn Dog, a savory bite of battered, deep-fried chicken set atop a dollop of truffled mustard and peppery yellow arugula blossoms. He said the dish dated back to his first stint at Heron's, before he became executive chef across the street at the stellar An Cuisines.

The beef tartare's bite of fresh horseradish was tempered with lemon confit and tarragon and polished to a glossy sheen with what was described as a beet-dashi veil. A round of buttery brioche cleverly concealed PB, FG and J -- a decadent blend of peanut butter, foie gras and muscadine jelly.

The Lobster Agnolotti was a pocket of squid ink pasta warmed in browned butter and served atop creamed sunchoke. The curiously named Beet Toast was revealed as a moist slice of sorghum bread with a wedge of roasted beet lacquered with a dressing that included vinegar infused with long-leaf pine needles gathered from the hotel grounds.

The showstopper of the evening was the still-warm Calvander Custard, in which Greene mellowed the aged, raw milk Chapel Hill Creamery cheese with more truffle and topped it with slivers of celery and cubes of roasted apple. Lucky guests congratulated Greene on the triumph, which should not be missed when choosing from the menu.

Four bite-sized desserts followed, starting with a creamy persimmon pudding framed with pine nut brittle, candy cap sabayon and date glaze.  It was accompanied by a single macaron shell garnished with a chocolate filled with a luscious calamansi citrus gel, a curl of pomegranate molasses and dusting of edible gold leaf.

The tasting concluded with a creamy chestnut custard with fig jam and toasted milk, and the beautifully plated Autumnal Cake, an appealingly light square of pear cake with roasted pear and walnut powder. If you took your time and savored the latter in small spoonfuls, you were rewarded with the discovery of a golden scoop of caramelina mousse on the bottom.

Guests were sent home with a harvest basket filled with a pair of butternut squash and fresh herbs from the SAS Farm, a mini loaf of Autumnal Squash Bread, and Sheridan's recipe to recreate at home. 

Autumn Squash Bread
By Pastry Chef Evan Sheridan

4 oz/111g maple syrup
2.5 oz/75g sugar
1 whole egg
1.6 oz/46g vegetable oil
6.75 oz/190g pureed roasted butternut squash
1/4 tsp/2g baking soda
1/8th tsp/4g ground clove
1/8th tsp/4g nutmeg
1/8th tsp/4g fresh sage, minced
1/8th tsp/4g fresh rosemary, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the egg with the sugar, oil and maple syrup. Add in the roasted squash.

Sift the dry ingredients, then mix into the batter until just combined. Fold in the fresh minced herbs.

Bake in loaf pan coated with butter or cooking spray for 30-45 minutes or until the bread is firm on the top and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Little cookbooks, big results: Short Stack series has a Raleigh connection with Kaitlyn Goalen

Kaitlyn Goalen
(Indy Week photo by Jeremy M. Lange)
Increasingly, home cooks are forgoing expensive cookbooks in favor of finding recipes online or downloading interactive lessons to their e-readers. Why pay for milk, they reason, when they have free access to a highly productive cow?

Amid such frugal thinking, it may seem surprising that Short Stack—a collection of single-topic mini-cookbooks, handmade and stitched with peppermint-striped baker's string—would achieve success in the overstuffed culinary marketplace. These decidedly retro productions have charmed critics and attracted the participation of top cookbook writers and recipe developers.

Reviews have celebrated the creativity of New York City-based publisher Nick Fauchald, a former editor of Food & Wine, and the more than $92,000 the project quickly raised via Kickstarter. Interestingly, however, none of the ample praise has mentioned that Short Stack has roots in Raleigh.

Fauchald's co-founder and editor is Kaitlyn Goalen, who divides her time between Raleigh and Brooklyn. A former writer for Food & Wine and website Tasting Table, Goalen is the founder of Wild Yonder, a Raleigh-based foodcentric outdoor camp experience for adults. The 26-year-old has an even better reason for hanging around the capital city, however. She dates chef and restaurateur Ashley Christensen.

Goalen says she and Fauchald share a passion for vintage cookbooks, especially the giveaways that used to come with a bag of flour or the purchase of a new appliance in the 1940s and '50s. "Producing these small, beautiful, handmade books goes against everything in the industry," Goalen says. "But I think that's exactly why they click with people. You can look through one of these in 10 minutes and know what you want to make."

So far, Short Stack has published 10 titles, the most recent of which is Plums by Martha Holmberg. Previous topics include corn, honey, broccoli, sweet potatoes, grits, buttermilk, strawberries, tomatoes and eggs. Upcoming issues focus on apples and brown sugar.

While several volumes cover the same turf as the Savor the South series of single-topic cookbooks published by UNC Press, Short Stack is not Southern focused. And the slim collections include just 20 recipes each. "They are more like an author's love letter to a particular ingredient than a comprehensive cookbook," Goalen says.

Editions are sold online by subscription and for $14 each at select shops around the globe. Locally, they are sold at Parker and Otis in Durham.

Collection of Short Stack mini-cookbooks at Book Larder in Seattle
Short Stack already has a full roster of books scheduled for 2015 and is considering titles for 2016.

"We're trying to work on how to grow and keep the integrity of the project intact," Goalen says. "There have been times where we could have gone cheaper, or done things a little differently, but our success is validating."

With such a hectic work life, Goalen says she's glad to escape the city and enjoy a more relaxed pace in Raleigh.

"As someone who has only lived in giant cities before, I love it here," says the Los Angeles native. "People in New York seem burnt out, running on adrenaline and ambition. People I meet here are all incredibly engaged in something. They value the integrity of what they're doing and are passionate about collaborating.

"For me, having two communities feels really refreshing," she adds. "Some of our friends see us as having an essence of cool here in Raleigh. You know, cool people doing cool things at half the rent."

The mix of culturally savvy consumers and the natural beauty of North Carolina inspired Goalen to create Wild Yonder with friends Meredith Pittman and Heather Cook. The idea bubbled up while they were enjoying a few beers at the Wooden Nickel in Hillsborough.

"We thought about how great it would be to have a camp for grownups—with bourbon," she recalls with a laugh. "The next day we still were talking about it and decided to give it a shot."

Camps this season have featured games like Capture the Flask and a lesson in How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse. "Instead of nasty camp food", we had an amazing meal prepared in advance by Cheetie Kumar of Garland, Goalen says. Live music was provided by Phil Cook of Megafaun and upscale s'mores were made with handcrafted Videri chocolate. A planned sleepover experience last weekend was canceled because of low ticket sales (tickets were $200 and up), but Goalen is optimistic about scheduling several next year. "The ultimate goal is to set up a hotel that will be a full-time project," she says. A location has not been selected but likely will be in or near the Triangle. "It would be a place where we could have programs, but also be a beautiful retreat."

Excerpted from Sweet Potatoes by Scott Hocker. Reprinted with permission of Short Stack.

This bold soup is so simple to make, it's nearly absurd. The recipe is inspired by what we in the United States know at many Thai restaurants as tom kha. As David Thompson notes in his superb cookbook Thai Food, this soup is more like a distant member of the tom gati school, a collection of soups that feature boiled coconut cream. It's fiery, sweet, sour and rich, from both the coconut and the sweet potatoes. I purée the soup for a silkier texture, even though doing so is inauthentic. But then so is using sweet potatoes.

Serves 4

2 small Thai or other hot chiles, stemmed
1 large shallot (about 4 oz.), peeled and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 cilantro roots, scraped with the edge of a knife to remove dirt (cilantro roots are available at some farmers markets and Asian markets; if you can't find any, substitute 1/3 cup coarsely chopped thick cilantro stems)
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
One 14-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
1 medium sweet potato (about 10 oz.), peeled and cut into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt
1 tsp. tightly packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp. fish sauce
3 to 4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves

In a mortar, pound the Thai chiles, shallot, garlic and cilantro roots or stems together with a pestle until bruised (alternatively, pulse 3 to 4 times in a food processor).

In a large saucepan, bring the stock and coconut milk to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the chile-garlic mixture, sweet potatoes and 3/4 tsp. of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are extremely soft, about 15 minutes.

Using a handheld immersion blender (or regular blender), purée the soup until it's smooth. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids. Discard the solids and return the liquid to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer and add the brown sugar, fish sauce and lime juice. Adjust the seasonings, if needed; the flavor should be boldly sweet, salty and sour. Divide the soup among 4 bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

This post first appeared in Indy Week

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bialys: Loaf catches the eye of Bon Appetit

The bialy from Loaf has earned national appreciation. - PHOTO BY JUSTIN COOK
Indy Week photo of bialys from Loaf
n Durham by Justin Cook
This post first appeared in Indy Week on Sept. 24.
In my New Jersey youth, bialys were the sad, dusty cousin of the chewy bagel. Crowned with poppy seeds or the sticky goodness of not quite burnt onions, fresh-baked bagels released a pleasing genie-like waft of steam when torn. They achieved their full, God-given glory when spread with cream cheese and topped with lox and onion.

But the bialy? It did not receive the ritualistic schvitz bath in simmering water before baking. Even with its pocket full of melted onion, it sat forlorn on the plate, looking every bit like the confused Eastern European immigrant it still was. The only one in our house who appreciated its humility was my father, a child of the Depression who grew up knowing that what wasn't eaten today would be eaten stale tomorrow.
Thanks to artisan baking communities from Brooklyn to Berkeley, the bialy is enjoying a resurgence. A recent story in Huffington Post declared that today's bialy is "better than any bagel you've ever had."
That's a big boast, but Bon Appetit apparently agrees. The magazine, which bestows sales-boosting credibility to a handful of locally produced goods each month, featured a full-page beauty shot of bialys from Loaf Bakery in Durham in its September issue.
Manager Mary Turner recalls when Andrew Knowlton,Bon Appetit's globetrotting bon vivant, came into the shop last April with Mark Overbay of Big Spoon Roasters. Not long after purchasing a bialy, Knowlton posted a photo of it, stating: "I like finding a bialy outside of its native habitat. This was a good one."
"We recognized him, of course, and it was a thrill to see the post," says Turner, who tucks trays of fresh bialys in Loaf's temptation-filled display cases each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning. "A few days later, he asked us to send a box of them to his office to be photographed."
Co-owner Ron Graff first experienced bialys in New Jersey while earning a graduate degree in toxicology at Rutgers. About a year after Loaf opened in November 2011, they added bialys as part of their savory breakfast offerings.
"We thought about bagels but didn't want to mess with boiling" the dough, Graff says. "Initially people weren't sure what they were, but that happens a lot. They either haven't seen it before or don't know how to pronounce it. 'Oniontastic' was one of the words people used."
Graff is very much a traditionalist, so those looking for funky tweaks will have to look elsewhere. "I would hate for someone to have a bialy of ours and then go to New York and see that we were doing something completely messed up," he says.
Long the butt of sour humor—the scheming Max Bialystock of Mel Brooks' The Producers takes his name from the Polish town where bialys were first made—bialys are no longer something to laugh at.
Fulton Forde of Boulted Bread in downtown Raleigh also takes bialy making seriously. He has to, given that customers start lining up soon after the shop opens at 7 a.m. to grab a traditional bialy or his "Southern" version, which features country ham and cheddar. It sounds like something that borders on blasphemy, but it's just too darn good to complain.
Boulted Bread makes bialys every morning and keeps a batch of dough ready in case anyone comes in desperate for a fix. As at Loaf, they only take about 12 minutes to bake. Boulted's version, however, has a higher whole wheat content that lends an appealingly nutty flavor.
"We bake a lot of fancy things, but not everyone wants to eat croissants and sweets all the time," says Forde, who made bialys for several years at Asheville's acclaimed Farm & Sparrow Bakery. "These aren't entirely typical, but we do have people who come in for them every day."
Barrett Jenkins is among them. He prefers the traditional bialy and nibbles around the circumference to save the oniony center, which glistens with fruity olive oil, to savor "like dessert." Matt Wickwire, who painted the mural on their building, prefers the ham and cheese version. "I usually have a biscuit for breakfast, but this is so much better," he says.

Try A Bialy in Something Sweet for Rosh Hashana

While the bialy is not typically a food enjoyed as part of the Rosh Hashana observance—the Jewish New Year officially begins today at sunset—round foods are symbolic of unity, wholeness and eternity, good things to ponder when observant Jews ask to have their names once again written in the Book of Life.
Foods consumed during Rosh Hashana typically include apples and honey, which are intended as harbingers of a sweet year ahead. So this year, why not live large? Stop by Loaf Bakery and Boulted Bread for a fresh warm bialy, dunk it in some honey or add a dollop of apple butter. Whether you observe or not, it's a great way to start the day.