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Repost: Put A Egg On It’s Cake Project

27 Jan
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Photo by Sarah Frances Keough

In the middle of this nasty New York winter storm, I’m reading like Hermione Granger and missing the warmth of the South more than ever. I’m particularly pining for my trip to New Orleans with Put a Egg On It, which taught me more about cocktail making and my own passion for food than any old stack of books. Read up on how people party in the Crescent City.

Setting the Record Straight on American Barbecue

13 Jun

This is a pretty fantastic summary of regional differences in Southeastern American barbecue. Even if it’s dramatically tipped in the favor of Texas. The Carolinas still have the best sauce.

BBQ Regional Map

Via Vox, where there are 40 other fantastic infographics and maps about American food.

Like this one about the density of Waffle House restaurants:

Waffle House Density Index

TBT: Weekend in Carolina

12 Jun

So this isn’t much of a throwback, but here’s a photo recap of my weekend in South Carolina. I headed down south for a very full family itinerary (brother’s high school graduation, Dad’s birthday). It was an awesome weekend of smoking foods, grilling foods, eating foods, Led Zeppelin, long drives, and even a visit to the Thirsty Beaver, Charlotte’s version of a Nashville honky-tonk. These are a few photos taken on iPhone from the 4-day trip.

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Saw this almost immediately out of the gate at Charlotte Douglas Airport

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Grilled cantaloupe with fresh mozzarella and parsley

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Reid’s Fresh Farm Stand, Highway 521

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Shrimp & grits, cooked with my brother and sister on their last day of school

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This is Smoke, an outdoor cat my family has unofficially taken in (or out)

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Rolfe Neigenfind @ The Common Market, Plaza-Midwood

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Assorted jukebox selections at the Thirsty Beaver, Charlotte’s honky-tonk dive

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Me and my brother’s tangible excitement before Phillip’s high school graduation

Maté Con Sentido

23 May

I remember the first time I tried maté while living abroad in Buenos Aires with a host family. The Guzmans introduced me to a number of traditions, and I showed them cheese grits and hot sauce. Cultural exchange just goes better with pepper sauce.

My two daily meals with the family were distinct: breakfast would be toasted pan con miel with long conversations about everything my host father, Alejandro, saw wrong with Argentinian politics. We’d often get engrossed in our chats, and I’d have to make the 25-minute walk to class in 15 minutes. Dinners were pizzas or gnocchi, with three kids and a mom trying to keep everyone in check (my 12-year-old sister loved to spar with my 13-year-old brother about boys at school; I loved to debate Brüno Mars’ musical legitimacy with her). It was a microcosm of chaos. That’s one human characteristic that doesn’t stop at borders.

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Wine Tasting and the Talking Bush That Saved My Life

2 Apr
While clowning around, Becky, myself, Lau, and Veronica found some wild horses.

While clowning around, Becky, myself, Lau, and Veronica found some wild horses.

Here’s a story I wrote for Vine Pair, an email newsletter devoted to wine education, terminology, and slashing the snobbery of wine drinking:

http://vinepair.com/wine-memories/lost-mountains-wine-country/

2014 Michelin Guide reveals 67 starred NYC restaurants

26 Oct

The 2014 Michelin Guide, a red index of fine dining restaurants, just released it’s New York City list today. Sixty-seven restaurants in the Five Boroughs earned one or more of the Michelin star, a mark of excellence, ranking from one (a good place to stop on your journey) to three (worth the journey itself). The criteria for Michelin stars is over 100 years old, meaning the They’re coveted, and once they’re won, the prestige changes the restaurant profoundly, with chefs gaining pressure (or destroying themselves) to hold onto the honor.

The New York division of Eater.com released a fantastic map and visual list of places with the honor.

I’ve only been to four (Casa Mono, wd~50, Public, and The Spotted Pig, which doesn’t really count because I only got a beer and a bar snack). The others were fantastic highlights in the most diverse eating city in America. It’d take a lot of saving to try more, but according to the Guide, it’d be worth every penny. The Michelin Guide also provides a Bib Gouramand list, which sums up places that are great and don’t break the bank.

Looks like I’ve got some eating to do.

“A Shot in the Dark”

24 Jul

This past weekend, I went to see my friend Sean for his bachelor’s party in Orangeburg, South Carolina. The last time I hung out at his farm house in the middle of a corn field, I had just finished my sophomore year. It was a story-worth weekend, and I even wrote a contest submission for Oxford American. The prompt was “what drives life in the South,” and my response follows the photo jump.

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I showed up here when I was a kid, uprooted from Wisconsin’s suburbs and planted in a town of 5,000 with a goat pen steps from my porch. This new “home” didn’t have comic stores, professional baseball, or grand libraries. My closest friend was 50 counties away. All the same, something inviting but risky in the South defined how I grew without bounds, like untended blackberries.

On my drive home from college, I pass the Super 8 Motel where I spent my first night in South Carolina. I had a Happy Meal and swam in the hotel pool, on the cusp of a new life. Honestly, I felt like barfing all over the concrete. Later that night, Dad and I scoped out the new house. Grass this thick was in stories about the prairie.

My nerves eased up during our walk between some low-hanging trees. I don’t remember Dad saying much in these quiet moments, until two small shadows bounded towards us.

“Hey, what’s your name? I’m Kimber. This is my brother, Trevor,” a little voice jittered.

I half-swallowed, “Um, Tommy.”

“Y’all moving next door?”

I had no idea what she said.

Dad saved us: “Uh, yes.”

“Great! We’ll be seeing you later,—bye!”

The welcome committee shot off, and two years of cowboy games, green onion picking, and folk songs on rubber band guitars followed.

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“Cover an ear: it’s really fucking loud.”

With spindly fingers, I lugged a Smith & Wesson .38, targeting a plastic pot. Bangs were in my eyes, ragged skinny jeans on my legs. Sean, the other ranger, had stubby fingers and a stained “Drive By Truckers” shirt on. His girlfriend, in black, crossed her arms. My cowboy game had grown up a little.

Sean, unlike me, spent his whole life here, from childhood in West Virginia to college in South Carolina. Adventure permeates everything he does, from making curry or teaching. Though 3 feet taller, he’d be a kindred spirit to Trevor and Kimber. One adventure with him brought everything to full circle.

I had finished my sophomore year of college, a fractured time with sagging houses, first cigarettes, heartache, and lots of cooking. I loved it. That summer, I went down to Sean’s farmhouse in Cameron. Strangely enough, it reminded me of Grandma B’s house in Illinois: old around the edges. From the moment I felt the wispy grass, though, I felt whisked to my first impressions of the South.

We and Poppa Phil ate Duke’s Barbecue: a bottomless pit of hash n’ rice and mac n’ cheese, where the “healthiest” choice was cole slaw, but a place where I connected to something greater. The table wine was sweet tea, never more than three-quarters empty. It felt like a home I never lived in with a family I had just met.

We walked among Cypress tress, joking about growing up. Later, fueled on mint juleps, we blared our favorite songs, with Sean on guitar and me on a detuned piano. Hopefully, everyone within a mile could hear us. I’ve never forgotten firing those pistols, the deadly with Sean and the imaginary with Trevor.

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After that trip, the South meant more than I realized. Before then, a farm symbolized backwards living and barbecue was meant for ceramic plates. Getting older, I got nostalgic for these things I had only experienced as an outsider, and I’d be naïve if I said the South wasn’t wistful.

The South is also a sweaty barbecue box, 12-bar claw hammer picking, and a connect-the-dots collection of mosquito bites. Like any place, it has its faults, but the bonuses are gems. Most importantly, it’s a place for growing, from the fields to the people. And there’s always a good story.