If ever there were an event that touched all facets of my food geekdom, A Place at the Table, was it. Held this past Friday and Saturday in Old Town Rock Hill, the intimate gathering of curious souls and hungry guests was a collaboration between the Friday Arts Project
and the Longhouse Food Revival
, a traveling dinner series produced by the inimitable food writer, Molly O'Neill, and her team at Cook n' Scribble
I knew I was in for a special gathering simply by the caliber of folks who were involved, but what I didn't know was that the collision of bright young minds, seasoned intellectuals and open hearts would create the perfect storm for magic.
I was inspired. I was moved. I was provoked. I was fed.
Photo by Cameron Bunce
The weekend began with a photography exhibition called Coming Home
featuring the work of Cameron Bunce
, a member of the Friday Arts Project. Cameron captured everyday images of life within the group which amounted to a beautiful collection. The one above was my favorite, capturing the essence of home and a well-lived kitchen. I'm partial to the orange kettle, mustard S&P shakers and Kitchen Aid mixer since they also live on my counter at home. The lovely Rachel Klebaur prepared a fantastic spread of cheese and accoutrements for the early evening nibble.
Rachel Klebaur, Orrman's Cheese Shop
Between the exhibition and that evening's screening of The Man Who Ate New Orleans
, guests were encouraged to dine at nearby Erin's Restaurant
. Having made reservations for myself and three invisible friends, it was time to ask complete strangers to dinner. It wasn't hard. By dinner time, my meager and lifeless reservation blossomed into a round table of eight people, acquaintances and strangers, passing family style plates to one another, trading stories and sharing food. I couldn't have planned it better myself.
I opted to stay the night at the East Main Guest House
, the local bed and breakfast just up the street. I was so thankful to drive the quick mile down the road to lay my head down for the night. I was lulled to sleep by the intermittent moaning of the trains, the only sound Rock Hill made that night.
The East Main Guest House is the home of Melba Peterson, a long time resident of Rock Hill who runs the B&B with her son and daughter in law. We shared coffee together Saturday morning and she told me about the house, built in 1915, and how she never thought she would love her B&B so much that she would be there 22 years. Melba told me about her husband of 53 years, Jerry, who was a well-known weatherman in town before his passing two years ago. She told me how she went to college at age 46 and how her son in Mobile, AL is following in his father's footsteps. We drank two full cups of coffee and she let me take her picture. We hugged when I left and I promised Melba I'd be back with my husband. She promised me the Honeymoon suite.
Saturday was alive. The Yolk Cafe
awoke my palate with killer shrimp and grits complete with the crumbliest sharp cheddar cheese and verdant scallion pesto while the daytime series of panels and discussions fed the other part of me. Peter Reinhart gave a moving talk delving into the spiritual side of breaking bread with others. He drove the point that satisfaction is not experienced from food itself, but through it. Dr. Tom Hanchett
of the Levine Museum of the New South
discussed the New South with his philosophy of the salad bowl suburbs, the eclectic mix of new immigrants who are changing the look and taste of our growing city.
Lunch was an assortment of "York County tapas" so says Dan the Pigman, who graciously provided an 18-month old cured ham, sliced thick with homemade biscuits, deviled egg salad on hatch crackers, brussels sprouts and cast iron skillets full of pimento cheese. Attendees mingled and chatted and ate with their hands. A honeybee buzzed around snapping pictures with unsuspecting guests and we were sated.
Meanwhile, Dan the Pig Man prepared the sacrificial lamb for our evening meal. Purchased from a local Halal butcher, Dan steeped the lamb whole in a cooler with Greek yogurt and mangos for several days before ceremoniously mounting the lamb on a spit to be slow roasted for our dining pleasure.
The afternoon session, a roundtable discussion with Molly O'Neill, Peter Reinhart and Tom Hanchett was probably the most inspiring session for a writer like myself. Molly shared her ideas on creativity and the art of writing. She touched on the otherworldliness of inspiration, the channel we become when we get out of our own way. Peter Reinhart discussed the inconsolable longing that is our human condition. I soaked up every word, nodding like a bobble head. The panel spoke my language.
The final piece to the weekend, the Longhouse Food Revival brought us to the Arts Council of York County. Beautiful long tables set with mix-and- match vintage plates invited guests in for the final feast, a celebration of the bond forged between strangers, now friends, after a short weekend in Rock Hill.
Tamales and homemade guacamole whet the appetites of guest before a multi-media presentation was given by the Longhouse crew. Dinner was lively with guests happily buzzing on alcohol and togetherness. The spread was spectacular. Homemade tortillas, fresh mango, Hidalgo style barbacoa, smoked chicken and gorgeous lamb filled our plates. A jazz band played (loudly) and there was magic. New friends talked like old ones, lovers ate off each other's plates and to my left and right were my neighbors, people I had come to know over food and fellowship.
On left: Molly O'Neill and Stephen Crotts, Cook n' Scribble hand painted flag, Michelle Lamb of Bosky Acres Farm and Mary Jane Leach
Dessert was served in the side alley, a bubbling caldron of rich and smoky Mexican drinking chocolate. Guests reveled in their cups, sipping and tipping and scraping their mugs clean. For a moment, guests abandoned their outward enjoyment to engage in a private moment with their cup of chocolate. I believe there was magic in there too and, maybe, amphetamines.
It was a really special weekend for me as I had hoped. I did not attend for "networking purposes" nor for some particular self-motivated gain. I came for an experience, for the possibility of that magic moment that can occur when people break bread together. And, that is exactly what I got.
Terra of Cafe Terra Blog and Me!
Jarvis Holliday and his smooth hand modeling skills
Me and Kelly, the lovely Foodie Fresh!
Last week, my friend Terra
asked me if I'd like to be her "plus one" to an event. Plus one? I haven't heard those words since I was rocking a midriff and a penchant for stoli razz and club sodas with lime. I thought I'd best accept the offer lest I never, ever hear those words again. It turns out Terra was invited to an event by Chobani Yogurt
along with a handful of other local food bloggers. They've got fancy offices in Uptown Charlotte with a downright gorgeous industrial kitchen. Sixteen floors up, Chobani rolled out the red carpet and let a small group of us including my other lovely blogger buddy, Kelly Davis
, cook our little hearts out.
Stations were set up in the posh kitchen, each with a recipe and a TV-show worthy mise en place that had me practicing my on-camera speech. No, there weren't any cameras there. But, if there were...
Terra and I beelined to the spiced gingerbread cake. After all, she's the happy baker and I'm, well, I'm just a fat kid living in a 31-year old's body. I love cake, forever and always.
That night, we baked. We carried on. We made a mess. And we made a damn good cake! It was perfectly moist and pretty much the winner of the cooking contest I created in my head. I was able to meet some of my favorite digital acquaintances in person, like the Fervent Foodie
, food photographer Taylor Mathis
, nightlife guru and surprisingly versatile gentleman Jarvis Holliday
and the lovely Andrea Simon
. All in all, a great evening doing the things I love best- cooking and eating. Not bad for a Wednesday night.
What day is it? Can anyone fill me in? Honestly, I was a day ahead last week and now I'm a few days behind thanks to one of the greatest long weekends EVER. My bachelorette party weekend. I won't bother you with all the details. Okay, maybe I will.
But first, a few snaps from my special weekend....
Suffice it to say that I ate my way through the entire city of Atlanta with my bestie/maid of honor and a dear friend who drove all the way from Gainesville, Florida to surprise yours truly. It was everything a girls weekend should be- long talks, good food, pampering, shopping, slumber parties, couch snuggles with the best doggies alive (see Charlie and Maya above) and lengthy discussions about the meaning of life or at least, life right now.
I love my long-time girlfriends. They have seen me through the worst of times and the best of times and somehow they still love me anyway. I am so grateful to have these ladies in my life and, though, not all my girls were there, the spirit of the weekend was indicative of the love I have for all my gal pals. Okay, I had to gush for moment. Now, back to the food.
Did I mention the food
Atlanta has an incredible food scene. Each time I visit, I barely scratch the surface of all the good eats in town.
On the first night, my bestie prepared a home-cooked meal with the last of the fresh grouper filets she scored while visiting her foodie father in Sarasota. She made Grouper Granoba with a green bean and pepper saute along with her killer artichoke dip which is always a crowd-pleaser. Dessert that evening was Martha Stewart's tres leches cupcakes
topped with fresh cream and a dash of cinnamon. That became my late night snack. Every. Single. Night.
The next day, we went shopping and stopped for lunch on Buford Highway, the premiere spot for ethnic eats in Atlanta. This long stretch of road spans the globe as you drive from one end to the other with endless eateries and specialty markets. We decided on Vietnamese food and ended up at Nam Phuong
where we ate like queens for $40. My favorite was the green papaya salad with cilantro, basil, mint and fresh lime along with barbecued pork.
Later that night, we dined at a trendy new spot in Inman Park called Barcelona
. Our friend, Ben McPherson, also happens to be the Executive Chef and so the red carpet was rolled out for us in the form of endless tapas and hand-carved Jamon Iberico (pata negra
, which means "black hoof"), a famously Spanish cured ham that is salty and delicate with silky fats that melt in your mouth. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard. I also must comment on the exquisite heirloom tomato and peach salad dressed in red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt. It was a mouthwatering trio of tangy, acidic and sweet. After the barrage of small plates ended, we finished the experience with butterscotch flan and three spoons. Stick a fork in me.
After another night of revelry, we spent the next day in watching episodes of Being Erica
with lebanese takeout from Olive Bistro
and provisions from Whole Foods Market. Of course, on our trip to pick up takeout and snacks, we had to stop at Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand
for one of their infamous sloppy sliders with chicken sausage patties, cheese sauce, pickled jalapenos and special "comeback" sauce. Sloppy perfection.
Needless to say, I've been to the gym every day since I've been back and am fighting the urge to make a batch of tres leches cupcakes for myself and the Mister. I will leave you with a couple other favorite ATL spots that I hit up whenever I'm in town and wrap up this overdue blog post. San Francisco Coffee Company
- for my morning cup of joeRia's Bluebird
- My old faithful brekkie spotKing of Pops
- My favorite popscicle stand
Next time I'm back in the ATL, I'll be a married woman!
On Tuesday night, I attended Eating Local in the New South
, an event at the Levine Museum of the New South promoting the local foods movement here in Charlotte. Nearly 200 guests of all ages showed up to enjoy a down home local spread by Mert's Heart and Soul
and a talk given by two women firmly rooted in the local foods movement. Kristin Davis, extension agent for the NC Cooperative Extension
and Cassie Parsons, executive chef at Harvest Moon Grille
and owner of Grateful Growers Farm
shared their personal stories, how they came to know local food and the way in which it has impacted their lives.
Guests gathered in the atrium for an incredible Southern spread featuring Southern fried chicken, Grateful Growers NC style pulled pork, green beans, decadent macaroni and cheese and mini-loaves of cornbread. I opted for the pulled pork since all of the tables set for dining were full and I couldn't quite figure out how to gracefully navigate fried chicken while balancing dinner in my lap.
Check out my dope plate...
Dr. Tom Hanchett, staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South, opened the talk with a fun Q & A session about Charlotte's torrid history. Guests asked questions (Who's Sharon anyway?) and learned interesting tidbits about our beloved Queen City.
We were then introduced to Kristin Davis, extension agent for the NC Cooperative Extension. Davis is responsible for educating the public about local food, food safety and farmer's market outreach. She shared her journey to wellness and stressed the importance of eating local and educating others about why local food matters, particularly relating it to the dramatic improvement in her own health.
Davis was once sentenced to the early onset of diabetes and through dietary changes alone, altered her grim medical future for the better, receiving a clean bill of health just one year later. Today, she shares a passion for local food with people like Cassie Parsons, who she called a "trailblazer" in the local foods movement.
Parsons, a chef, farmer and self-proclaimed pork peddler, joined the conversation relating her passion for the "forgotten arts" and knowing where our food comes from. Parsons herself has contributed $400,000 to locally produced food and briefly touched on the positive economic impact that can happen when a community buys local. Davis and Parsons both encouraged the crowd to rally support through education, involvement and dollars to local farmers.
The message was clear. Local food awareness is steadily gaining a presence and the community plays a great part in its continued momentum. A number of organizations are joining the cause to support these endeavors . Davis says that the NC Cooperative Extension is making local food awareness their flagship cause this year and have already launched the 10% Campaign
to build the local food economy.
Want to stay informed? Check out the Mecklenburg Friends of Agriculture
I took more pictures in 2011 than I have in my entire life. My introduction to Instagram didn't hurt either. I took a moment to collect some of my favorites. From the looks of it, there was a whole lotta love. It warmed my heart to see it again. Love is really all there is. Look for it in the everyday. The beauty will find you. Promise. xoxo!
When I crossed the finish line at the inaugural Rock-and-Roll Marathon this past Saturday, I checked off one for the bucket list. This race was a culmination of weeks (17 to be exact) of hard work, not to mention, a personal accomplishment that represents the last few years of personal transformation for me. This was a super big deal on so many levels, honestly. I haven't felt so gushy since I fell in love with the Mister.
It was also my first time in Savannah. Although the race and recovery afterward kept it low-key, we still found time to enjoy some of the sights. Here's recap of our lovely marathon weekend:
Savannah is a city rich in culture and history and is rumored to be one of the most haunted cities in America. The buildings openly show their age, some appearing near ruin, yet there exists an eerie beauty that permeates the streets. We chose to stay on Tybee Island, a short drive across the Georgia marshlands, where we rented a cottage. Once checked in, we headed straight to the Expo to pick up our bib numbers and mingle with thousands of other excited runners.
We weren't that excited, really.
We took some time to walk along the riverfront and take in the pre-race excitement. To be honest, I was exhausted from an already busy week and was looking forward to taking it easy. We headed back to Tybee where we had our pre-race meal at A.J's Dockside
, a recommendation given to me by a former Savannah local. If you're ever in the area, be sure to get the crab stew. It was amazing.
I fell asleep eeeerrrly, like 8:30 p.m. early. It was good thing because we had an early wake-up call.
Rise and shine!
We had some difficulty getting to the start line due to poorly organized transportation from Tybee Island into Savannah. In fact, we had to go renegade by hitching a ride with a couple lady runners who just so happened to pull up at the right time. No big whoop, it was only our first marathon. No need to warm-up or take time wrap our heads around this monumental feat.
Despite the obstacles, we were hell bound on making it to the start. It certainly wasn't my preferred method of starting the longest race of my life, but hey...we made it albeit thirty minutes late. We sprinted to the start and hopped onto the course, a little ruffled but ready to run.
That's me in the hot pink shirt and white hat. chugging along.
26.2 miles is hard, I ain't gonna lie! I went through moments of doubt wondering "Why the hell did I sign up for this?!?" and broke down at the half-marathon point. But then, there were these beautiful moments filled with support and community and spanish moss and rock bands and I knew that everything would be okay.
Our toughest moments began around mile 18 and we endured a dreadful stretch of highway between miles 21-24, like "I would rather run a 5K on a bed of nails" kind of dreadful. It sucked. Nuff said.
Once we got through to mile 25, we were home free. I thought I'd be crawling to the finish, but I was exhilarated and so, so happy to finish. Check us out on the home stretch...
This is my uncontrollable, "I'm so happy to be done" face. It ain't pretty, but that's the real deal. Look at my swollen fingers. I like to think they're swollen with awesome.
I didn't spend too much time hanging out post-race because my legs wouldn't allow it. I was surprised at how my whole body hurt, even my shoulders. That's never happened before, but I guess when you run four plus hours, body parts are bound to rebel. I made it back to Tybee for a scalding hot shower, nap and generous slathering of Tiger Balm for my sore muscles. I smelled so purty.
Rest was short-lived because I had dinner reservations at Moon River Brewery
where I met up with some fellow bloggers. Unfortunately, the only blogging buddy
I knew didn't make it to dinner that night. That's alright, though, I made some new friends and got to connect with fellow runners.
Allison from Happy Tales Blog and her beau
Meghann, Ben and Katy
It was great to socialize with new people and fellow racers, but the Mister and I were off to a walking ghost tour so we took off early. I heard there was a delicious ice cream stop after dinner that we missed. For the record, I usually don't miss important events like ice cream.
Check out the posts from all the folks I met at our post-race dinner plus one from my "missing" buddy, Kelly.Kelly's Race RecapMeghann's Good TimesShirtless Ben's PRKaty's Half-Marathon
Overall, I had an amazing experience for my first marathon. I couldn't have asked for a better friend and running partner and the Savannah experience, minus the transportation debacle, was fantastic. I'll definitely be back to peruse all the wonderful antiques shops I spotted but couldn't quite get to and to capture all the beauty of the city. There's hella-good design going on in Savannah too. My poor legs and time constraints just wouldn't allow too much sightseeing.
I did, however, take some photos on Tybee which I'll share with you in a post coming soon.
Thanks for reading! Happy Tuesday!
I took a few pictures over the weekend whenever the mood struck. Here's what made me happy: colorful doors I spotted while on a walk, a toddler with the most awesome T-shirt, my DIY Saturday, running, the farmer's market, the Mister and the most awesome server who never fails to make us laugh during breakfast. Enjoy!
And my most favorite picture of the weekend.....
My fave server at Cafe 100, best flat top fade I've seen since 1990 and best Aaron Neville impression EVER!