Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Crisscrossed cookies bring memories of resourcefulness


Beans and cornbread. Buckwheat cakes. Black coffee.

There are so many foods that are our favorites because of nostalgia — maybe more so than flavor. Sure, these foods taste good. But what really makes them special is that they remind you of your grandmother, or your first date with your spouse, or childhood lunches.

Take, for me, Exhibit A: The Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookie.

What is this you may ask? Well, it’s a simple peanut butter cookie made with just a handful of ingredients and topped with a fun crisscross pattern made with a fork.

Simple. Easy. And definitive of my childhood years.

I’ve never been talented in the kitchen. I’m a great eater, not so much a cook. But this simple recipe was something even I could follow as a child — and continue to make well into my adult years.

I would grab a chair from the dining room and prop it next to our refrigerator. In the cabinets above the refrigerator was a treasure trove of recipe books, cards and magazine clippings. I would thumb through them until I found the recipe card for my beloved peanut butter crisscross cookie.

I would gather the handful of ingredients we would always have on hand: peanut butter, eggs, sugar, baking soda. Mix them up. And then my favorite part: I would take a fork, dunk it in the flour container and squash the cookies with the back of my utensil — longways, then sideways. And, finally, I’d wait the excruciating 8 to 10 minutes until they were baked golden-brown.

This treat was so special for a few reasons: I could actually make it all on my own and I was able to make it with the ingredients we had available. That concept, even at a young age, was so fun to me.

One of the things I most value about Appalachian food culture is the inventiveness and ingenuity of people who worked within the means of what they had available to create rich, delicious meals that were rooted in their culture.

Peanut butter cookies, of course, are not that. But what they have demonstrated to me, in a small way, is that quality of resourcefulness. And, I gather that many of the dishes we hold near and dear to our hearts were built upon the same concept.

Many of those nostalgic favorites were likely based on foods that could withstand harsh seasons and mountain conditions. They were foods that were plentiful in our region, and thus became meals we associate with our childhoods or special occasions.

Eating a fresh-baked peanut butter cookie that I lovingly and painstakingly created all on my own is one of those foods for me. Dipped in a glass of ice-cold milk, that cookie is more than just a cookie: It’s a look inside my childhood and my values.

Candace Nelson is a marketing professional living in Charleston, W.Va. She is the author of the book “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll” from WVU Press. In her free time, Nelson blogs about Appalachian food culture at CandaceLately.com. Find her on Twitter at @Candace07 or email CandaceRNelson@gmail.com.

Dunbar Edition: Graziano's Pizza Express

Grazianos - Dunbar

There's nothing quite as comforting as a big, hot slice of pizza oozing with cheese.

Grazianos - DunbarGraziano's is one of my favorite pizza shops locally, so I made a trip to Dunbar to try the last of their locations (first in downtown Charleston, then one in South Charleston).

Grazianos - DunbarI called in an order for a cheese pizza with mushrooms and a Sicilian salad.

Grazianos - DunbarYum! The Sicilian salad had green beans, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers & kalamata olives marinated in olive oil and wine vinegar.

Grazianos - DunbarAnd it came with this tasty little roll. What's your favorite pizza place in town?

Graziano's Pizza Express Dunbar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, March 18, 2019

Pies & Pints' Sweet Corn Pizza

Street Corn pies & pintsHave you tried this new pizza yet?

Street Corn pies & pintsThe seasonal Street Corn Pie is ,ade with corn, tajin and fresh jalapeños, finished with parmesan, lime, cilantro, scallions and chipotle crema. It's now available at all Pies & Pints locations!

Street Corn pies & pintsGotta try it!

Charleston Edition: Rock City Cake Company

Rock City

Rock City is a super creative bakery in Charleston that recently moved locations further down on Capitol Street.

Rock CityI thought that warranted another visit.

Rock CityThis location is HUGE, with various levels, making it perfect for performances and events.

Rock CityAnd the cooler is stocked with all kinds of amazing sweets.

Rock CityI am continually amazed at the variety every day.

Rock CityAnd they're items you won't be able to find anywhere else. 

Rock CityFrom unique flavored cupcakes and cake pops to chocolate-covered fruit and strawberry shortcake bars.

Rock CityI got a little bit of everything - including a fruity pebbles rice krispy treat, cake balls and more!

What's your favorite thing to get?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

New Orleans, LA Edition: Emeril's New Orleans

Emeril’sYou've probably heard of Emeril Lagasse. The over-the-top chef and TV personality cooked in New Orleans and opened a handful of restaurants here.

Emeril’sI went to Emeril's New Orleans to get my BAM on.

Emeril’sI was seated at the bar area, which overlooks the kitchen. It's actually pretty cool. So cool, in fact, that the guy sitting next to me looked over at me and said "how amazing is this?" and I was like, "yeah, this is pretty amazing."

Emeril’sWatching the chefs churn out dishes is like an elaborate dance - each choreographed to the station he is manning.

Emeril’s Restaurant is chef/restaurateur Emeril Lagasse’s famed flagship restaurant housed in a renovated pharmacy warehouse in New Orleans’ Warehouse District. Since opening in 1990, Emeril’s has been a definitive force in contemporary New Orleans cuisine and has earned rave reviews and accolades for nearly 25 years, including Esquire magazine’s “Restaurant of the Year” and Wine Spectator’s “Grand Award” for 14 consecutive years. At the helm is chef de cuisine Douglas Braselman, who works closely with Chef Emeril to push culinary boundaries and deliver bold and diverse flavors for a one-of-a-kind dining experience with unparalleled service and a festive unpretentious setting.
First, of course, bread! So much good bread - focaccia, cornbread, mmm.

Emeril’sAfter looking over the menu,  I went with the appetizer: "Smoked Exotic Mushrooms" with
housemade Tasso Ham, Angel Hair Pasta, and Pecorino."

Emeril’sIt was small, but packed a ton of flavor.

Emeril’sAnd, I did dessert: Emeril's Banana Cream Pie - Graham Cracker Crust, Caramel Sauce, Chocolate Shavings. Just wow. So good.

Emeril’sHave you been to a celebrity chef restaurant?

Emeril's New Orleans Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

New Orleans, LA Edition: Commander's Palace

Commanders Palace

This bright blue building is home to Commander's Palace, one of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans.

Commanders Palace
Commander's Palace, nestled in the middle of the tree-lined Garden District, has been a New Orleans landmark since 1893. Known for the award-winning quality of its food and its convivial atmosphere, the history of this famous restaurant offers a glimpse into New Orleans' storied past and has been the go-to destination for Haute Creole cuisine and whimsical Louisiana charm. The winner of seven James Beard Foundation Awards, Commander's Palace has evolved into a culinary legend. 
Commanders Palace

When Ella, Dottie, Dick and John Brennan took over personal supervision of the restaurant in 1974, they began to give the splendid old landmark a new look both inside and out including painting the outside the iconic "Commander's Blue." 
Commanders Palace
Now under the watchful eye of co-proprietors Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan, the Brennan family's dedication to perfection has never wavered. A steady parade of renowned chefs - Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Jamie Shannon, and now Tory McPhail - have made Commander's Palace the world-class restaurant what it is today and its leading-edge Haute Creole cuisine reflects the best of the city.
Commanders Palace
The menu features high-end takes on traditional creole and cajun food.

Commanders PalaceTo get started, I was served this little shrimp palate cleanser.

Commanders PalaceAnd, then, of course, we are going with bread.

Commanders PalaceI could really get used to this at every restaurant. Crusty, soft inside and smooth whipped butter. Mm-mm-mmmm.

Commanders PalaceAnd then, I was served this cheesy/garlickly bread that was perfect for dipping in the soups I ordered.

Commanders PalaceI went for the "Soups 1-1-1" so I could try the famous "Commander's Turtle Soup,: which is rich veal stock simmered slowly for 72 hours with minced snapping turtle, holy trinity & pressed hen's eggs. It's finished tableside with aged sherry. But I also got to try two more: the soup du jour and gumbo.

Commanders PalaceThe turtle soup was heavy on the sherry, so I tasted that more than anything. But, it wasn't bad. The gumbo was not unlike the previous ones I've had. And the soup of the day was creamy and delish.

Commanders PalaceI also ordered the "Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé “The Queen of Creole Desserts”" which I put in before the soup because it takes quite some time to prepare. But it was so worth it. It was light and jut melted with the cream sauce. It was like eating a delicious pillow.

Commanders PalaceI bet that's the first time you've read that. Anyway. How do y'all feel about turtle soup?

Commander's Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, March 15, 2019

New Orleans, LA Edition: St Roch Market

St Roch Market

Everyone knows I love a good city market.

St Roch MarketIt's such a cool gathering space where you can relax, get some work done and get a tasty bite to eat.

St Roch MarketAt St. Roch Market, there are a ton of great vendors. Let's go!

Coast Roast
This place had delicious coffee, including this iced coffee.

St Roch Market

St Roch Market

St Roch Market

St Roch Market

Fete au Fete
This is southern cuisine done right. I ordered "Trash Grits," because of course - creamy cheese grits with smoked pulled pork, grilled onions, smoked gouda, siracha sauce, and a poached egg. Wow.

St Roch Market

St Roch Market

St Roch Market

St Roch Market

Bittersweet Confections
The "caramel trio" that I got from here will haunt my dreams for life. And that cheddar scone was good, too!

St Roch Market

St Roch Market

St Roch Market

St Roch Market

St. Roch Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato