Former White House Pastry Chef Champions Kumquats

mesier2In the decade since he left his executive pastry chef post at the White House, Roland Mesnier has become renowned for divulging former first families’ culinary peccadilloes and second-guessing the executive kitchen’s current staff members, so it’s no surprise he favors fruit with bite.

“We are here to celebrate the famous kumquat!,” Mesnier proclaimed at the outset of a recent Southern Season cooking class.

Mesnier’s demonstration dessert menu included strawberry soufflé and Bailey’s Irish Cream ice cream (a recurrent hit at the White House, which made a big deal about St. Patrick’s Day even before a Chicagoan was in charge.) But it was the glazed kumquats preparation which allowed him to expound on his lifelong avoidance of artificial ingredients.

“I don’t like extract,” Mesnier said. “Don’t mention extract to me.” Continue reading

The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen Finalist For IACP Cookbook Prize

leebookThe International Association of Culinary Professionals this morning via Eater released its list of food writing award finalists, and — by virtue of alphabetization — Matt and Ted Lee lead the list.

The Lee Brothers were nominated in the Cookbook-American category for The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen. They’re up against Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes and Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Mad Hungry Cravings.

Although the Lee Brothers are the only Charlestonians among the nominees, finalists Anne Quatrano and Andy Ricker are headed here for the Wine + Food Festival.

IACP’s awards ceremony is scheduled for Mar. 15 in Chicago.

Cypress Hosts Hank Shaw Book Signing

Shaw_Duck Duck GooseIs there anything prettier in the meat-eaters’ diet than crispy duck skin? Shimmering with fat and patterned with post-pluck pimples, skin done right is basically the perfect ideogram for flavor.

If you’re tempted to disagree, you may need to pay a visit to pages 46, 106, 111 and 120 of Hank Shaw’s Duck, Duck, Goose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Ducks and Geese, Both Wild and Domesticated for visual evidence. There’s plenty of text devoted to the topic, too: The James Beard Award-winning Shaw is a waterfowl partisan — he confidently calls duck “the new pork” – but he’s especially smitten with skin.

“It is the skin that most distinguishes duck in the kitchen,” Shaw writes. “Crispy duck skin is one of the greatest pleasures of the dining table.” Continue reading

Blue Bicycle Welcomes John Besh

beshFor food lovers worried they won’t get their fill of John Besh when he signs books at Blue Bicycle next week — and just in time for Christmas — the New Orleans chef recently launched the Besh Box.

The subscription plan features a monthly shipment of kitchen tools, ingredients and recipes; the first edition includes pecans, vanilla beans, a pastry cutter, a dough scraper, dishtowel and Christmas ornament, among other Yuletide treats. Buyers can sign up for one, three, six or a full twelve installments for $660, which includes a copy of Besh’s latest cookbook.

“I thought it would be an insight, something really interesting to share who we are and what we do, with the world,” Besh told the Times-Picayune’s Judy Walker. Continue reading

Anne Quatrano Brings Her New Cookbook to Southern Season

quatAtlanta’s Anne Quatrano is such an accomplished restaurateur that it’s somewhat mind-boggling that she’s never before published a cookbook. But the chef behind Bacchanalia, Star, Provisions, Quinones, Floataway Café and Abattoir this month halted the confusion with Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality.

Quatrano this Monday will appear at Southern Season to promote her book, which is organized by month. According to Quatrano, November is the month for buttered rutabagas, yeast rolls and hummingbird cake.

““As one of the first restaurateurs to transform a reverence for traditional cooking into a fresh, modern style, Anne Quatrano has inspired and nurtured a generation of young chefs,” Charlestonians Matt and Ted Lee say in a blurb for the book. “After reading Summerland, we can say with certainty that our entertaining will never be the same.”

The free event starts at 4 p.m.

Mac-and-Cheese Expert Offers Judging Advice for Mac-Off

meltcoverAttendees at this weekend’s Mac-Off are likely to be exposed to a range of wild macaroni and cheese recipes by chefs trying to wow eventgoers — whose votes determine the People’s Choice title — with their creativity.

As an experimental mac evangelist, Stephanie Stiavetti strongly supports chefs thinking outside the blue-and-yellow box when concocting their entries.  But the co-author of the forthcoming Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, written with fellow freelancer Garrett McCord, says any version of the iconic dish should be judged primarily on the quality of its ingredients.

“Our highest priority for superb mac-and-cheese is fresh ingredients,” Stiavetti says. “And don’t cook the personalities out of them.” Continue reading

Southern Season Hosts Advocate of Attractive Vegetarian Dishes

Eat-Your-Vegetables-Joe-Yonan-CoverBecause restaurant review dinners tend to include their share of pork products, and because I’m taken with what area growers harvest in early fall, I’m in the habit of ordering vegetables at lunch.

Commendably, most Charleston restaurants list at least one all-veg plate on their midday menus, no counting the DIY assemblage of sides that’s typically available. But I’ve frequently found myself wishing that the plates amounted to more than meatless heaps. Even when restaurant vegetables taste great, they don’t look very pretty.

I put the problem to my friend Joe Yonan, who’s in town today promoting his new book Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook. I’m admittedly biased, but the book’s been a hit with my vegetarian roommate and her usually-carnivorous boyfriend. (I gave her the book as a peace offering soon after we met, suspecting she assumed someone who worked as a food critic would harshly judge her dietary choices.)

Yonan agrees that even chefs who’ve come around to the idea that dishes without animal flesh can be imaginative, compelling and nutritious often fail to appreciate the visual opportunities presented by produce. Continue reading

Holly Herrick Explains Cream Puffs and Eclairs in Latest Cookbook

Charleston cookbook author Holly Herrick is planning a number of local appearances to promote her new book, Cream Puffs & Eclairs, the second volume in The French Cook series.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, Herrick will be stationed at The Peanut Shop, 92 N. Market St., for a book signing from 1p.m.-4 p.m.  And on Sunday, Nov. 24., Herrick’s teaching a choux pastry class at Southern Season’s cooking school (although if you’d prefer to catch Herrick sooner, she’s leading a mother sauces class this Sunday at 2 p.m. The session costs $40.)

Herrick’s book will be released tomorrow.

Looking For Deli? Make It Yourself.

The-Artisan-Jewish-Deli-at-HomeA new generation of restaurateurs has reinvented nearly everything about the traditional Jewish deli: At places such as San Francisco’s Wise Sons and Brooklyn’s Mile End, the sandwiches are reasonably sized; the knishes and babka are handmade; the coffee is of high quality and the counter clerk’s more likely to pontificate about the origins of kugel than snap at a customer for speaking too softly.

What hasn’t changed, though, is the deli’s staunchly urban identity. Unlike other imported cuisines, which have popped up far from the immigrant communities associated with them, deli hasn’t strayed much beyond the very biggest cities.

Nick Zukin, founder of Portland’s revered Kenny & Zuke’s and co-author of the newly-published The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home, says he doesn’t foresee thoughtful deli sweeping the nation anytime soon. Continue reading

Edward Lee Brings Smoke and Pickles to Charleston This Week

edlee2It’ll cost $60 to watch Edward Lee demonstrate recipes at Le Creuset headquarters this Thursday, but the Kentucky chef’s planning to sign books for free.

Lee, while probably still best known beyond epicurean circles as a former Top Chef contender, is the author of Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen. He’ll cook from the book, which blends Korean folk traditions with classical technique, at a 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Guest Chef Series event at Le Creuset Atelier at Ripley Point; the admission price includes a copy of Smoke & Pickles. Online reservations are required.

On Friday, Lee will stop by the Le Creuset store at 241 King St. for a 5 p.m.-6 p.m. book signing. No reservations required.