(valentine's weekend. number 14.)
The previous fall I had read 'Look Homeward, Angel' by Thomas Wolfe, an epic coming of age novel from 1929, which covers the youth of one boy growing up in a fictionalized version of turn-of-the-20th-century Asheville, North Carolina. Many of the most memorable passages are from when the youth it eating smoking hot biscuits and syrup-thick coffee and sticky, tangy collard greens. This reading served as the initial inspiration for doing a Southern themed Secret Restaurant event.
We had some guests in town for this one, which was very exciting. Faith Griffiths, who does this thing (The Jubilee Collective) and has this band (Dana & Faith), had been doing an internship down in Eugene. So she came up with the friends she's been living with and our old pal Russell, who has helped with sporadic Secret Restaurant events before. Faith made the cake and Russ made the biscuits & the cookies– they both helped enormously with prep work.
Well whisky (Jim Beam white label) with a sweet tea made from Market Spice orange black tea, simple syrup, star anise, and lemon slices. We also had the option of adding grapefruit bitters.
Instead of turnip greens (the store which always carries them had sold out the night before), dressed and then crisply baked.
Blackening spices, hot pan fried. The only catfish they had at New Season's was from North Carolina, so I guess we favored authenticity over our usual efforts to be local/sensible.
"Buttered" Lima Beans
These remarkable large white lima beans (the real reason we all hated lima beans growing up is because we were served green 'baby' lima beans) were actually cooked with no butter, but possess the most remarkably buttery flavor (they're sometimes known as "butter beans"). They were slow cooked in a cast iron dutch oven for 6 hours.
Smokra, from Rick's Picks, in NYC.
Pretty much what you'd guess: pickled, smoked okra. Pretty awesome. For okra.
Made the authentic way with a stock made the night before, ignited by a dark roux (that shit took TIME), and finished with filé powder. We had crab bought from these guys who sell fish out of a cart (Flying Fish Company)– a great new fresh and local seafood connection for us–and jumbo prawns.
The biscuit recipe we've featured before, but made tinier, and with the dough frozen for a couple of hours during the prep work for the rest of the meal. They turned out extra flaky, being baked right before course two, and were served smoking hot.
Savory Bread Pudding
Made in Texas-sized muffin tins and featuring dried thyme from our friends' back yard, caramalized shallots and onions, insanely beautiful and insanely large local shitake mushrooms, baked mini yams, and a custard of egg and whole milk. The bread was from Grand Central (Como) and Fressen (Rye Baguette). Topped with red miso turkey-style gravy.
Butternut Squash Mash
One enormous, beautiful squash, a russet potato, a little bit of butter, a touch of Old Bay seasoning. Baked in multiple stages for about three hours.
Cooked with canola oil, a little mustard, agave syrup, and applewood smoked salt.
"Chicken Fried Steak"
A fake meat mixture based on a psuedo-meatloaf recipe that I made for a southern-themed practice Secret Restaurant, way back, one year ago, before we'd actually opened– including lentils, oats, SmartGround, onions, garlic, herbs..."Breaded" with bread crumbs made from fancy croutons I've been making out of heels of artisan loaves. Topped with the red miso gravy.
Red Velvet Cake
A classic old fashioned cake with beets and chocolate and cream cheese frosting. Topped with candied pecans and dried cranberries.
Soft, fluffy heart-shaped cookie on each place.
Roasted & ground chickory root blended with Stumptown's new Ecuadorian coffee. This coffee was chosen for its newness (arrived February 2011) and for the flavors mentioned in the description Stumptown gave it: "Ecuador Loja presents a sweet and clean composition of juicy cherry and apple in a cut that finishes with toasted nuts." Often these descriptions of beverages, particularly wines and coffees, can be too abstract for me– this one was right on, and its low-acidity was the perfect compliment for chicory.