Tag Archives: Cooking

FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ, SOUTHERN FOODWAYS, AND VIVIAN HOWARD

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Last Friday night, we hosted our second “Friends of the Café” dinner, which also served as our first Piggy Bank Dinner fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA). Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer restaurant and the Peabody-award winning television series A Chef’s Life traveled to The Factory from North Carolina for an evening of delicious food, cocktails, much laughter and lively conversation, and music, performed by friend and songbird, Shonna Tucker.

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Vivian’s show, A Chef’s Life, focuses on regional food traditions and explores classic Southern ingredients. Friday’s dinner highlighted the story of our own local farmers and their fresh ingredients, with Vivian’s Eastern Carolina twist.  Each course was accompanied by a wine pairing, chosen by Harry Root (Bacchus Incarnate) of Grassroots Wine.

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I love what Christi Britten—one of our dinner guests and the author of Dirt Platewrites in her review of the evening:

Pretty much, Vivian Howard gives a damn. She gives a damn how the food she serves is raised, prepared, cooked, presented, eaten, enjoyed, and thought about. She gives a damn about her community’s food culture and wants to suck up as much knowledge as she can about where their food comes from and how to make it. She gives a damn about the farmers that work hard every single day to feed a community as well as their families.

She has, with her own hands, butchered whole animals to use from snout to tail in her restaurant. She speaks with a tone of reverence and authority over the food she creates. And basically she is a food medium. She is confident, yet humble and puts us all into a place where we can visualize the care taken to prepare what we put in our mouths.

This farm to table dinner celebrated local farms and Southern food culture by bringing together the summer bounty into one meal among a diverse community of eaters.

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DIY SFA APRON

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In honor of our upcoming “Friends of the Café” dinners (which are also Piggy Bank fundraisers for the Southern Foodways Alliance), Alabama Chanin is offering a DIY SFA Apron kit, with a portion of the sales going toward the SFA.

I keep a selection of half-aprons and full bib aprons on a hanger inside the closet door of my kitchen pantry. Depending on the task at hand (and whether or not Maggie and/or flour are involved in the recipe), I may opt for the additional coverage of a full apron. I cannot count the number of times that I’ve looked down to see that I should have grabbed an apron before starting a kitchen task.  I remember both of my grandmothers wearing aprons habitually and often think that an apron is a great addition to every task in life—especially with the addition of a small pocket. This full apron is unisex in design, so I can use it – but it will also work well should I be able to convince my son Zach (who has recently been helping us in the café) to come over for a cookout.

This DIY Kit comes stenciled and ready-to-sew with one of our A. Chanin Long Bar Aprons in Natural and medium-weight cotton jersey for the appliqué (you choose appliqué and embroidery floss color). We will also include basic instructions for embroidery and construction techniques. A whipstitch was used to outline the logo’s letters and the outer circle. The individual shapes were stitched using backstitch negative reverse appliqué. For detailed instructions on these techniques, refer to Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.  

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COMMUNITY COOKBOOKS (AND COOKS)

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Community cookbooks – collections of recipes gathered by churches, women’s societies, rotary clubs, and other regional clubs and foundations – have been the foundation of home kitchens across America for decades. These collections often present an air of nostalgia, using old-fashioned techniques, offbeat ingredients, and occasionally include really great anecdotes. They are—in their best versions—a direct reflection of the region of their origin and an admirable labor of love. The recipes are seldom fancy, and most often highlight the kind of meal that is made in an average kitchen on an average evening by an average cook who finds an epiphany of enlightenment in a great recipe. Even more captivating is the community cookbook filled with family recipes passed down from prior generations and lovingly shared with the community at large.

Caxton Press in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania published what is believed to be the very first charity cookbook in 1864, during the time of the Civil War. This assortment, titled A Poetical Cook-Book, by Maria J. Moss, was filled with foods common to that era, like leg of mutton, mince pies, johnnycakes, and hasty pudding. The book was sold to provide funds for field hospitals and aid wounded soldiers.

Many, like the ones I was given by my mother, grandmothers, and aunts, are overflowing with sense memories of a location and an era. While similarities exist among the cookbooks, there are distinct differences between what the women of the Virginia Eastern Star were making in the 1920s and the dishes prepared by the late 1960s Junior League of Coastal Louisiana. Regardless of the when and the where, there is copious information on what the (mostly) women were like in each specific time and place. The ingredients tell a story of rural vs. urban landscape and wealthy vs. working class cooks. If a recipe called for a pinch or a handful, you might assume that the writer was a seasoned home cook who learned passed down recipes and perfected dishes by taste, not by measurement. If a recipe was “eggless” or “butterless”, you might suppose that it originated during wartime, when certain foods were rationed.

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VIVIAN HOWARD’S BLUEBERRY BBQ CHICKEN FLATBREAD

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Blueberries have made their way to peak season here in Alabama. While they have many health benefits, their taste and convenience are equally valuable. Ever since Maggie and I planted a bush in the backyard, there are days that we eat them by the handful. Recently, we’ve been serving a variety from our local farmers’ market along with our café’s crepes (a not-so guilty pleasure).

Today in the café, we debut our monthly menu curated by Peabody award-winning chef Vivian Howard. Vivian provided us with an array of seasonal, flavorful dishes from her restaurant Chef & the Farmer, including the (absolutely) delicious recipe below – Blueberry BBQ Chicken Flatbread.

Stop by the café during the month of July to experience tastes from Vivian’s repertoire, as well as beloved recipes from The SFA Community Cookbook. Also, make plans to join us on the evening of July 25 for A Piggy Bank Dinner fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance, featuring Vivian and friends.

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The recipe below is straight from Vivian’s kitchen at Chef & the Farmer. Come and enjoy our version for lunch at The Factory Café, or recreate the dish in your home kitchen.

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THE FACTORY CAFÉ CHEF SERIES: VIVIAN HOWARD

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I feel a certain kinship with Vivian Howard, even though we’ve never met. We both left home at an early age, finding big lives and successful living elsewhere; we also both followed our inspirations as they directed us back to our regional homes, where we’ve found hard-won fulfillment. Vivian works with food as her medium, much in the way that Alabama Chanin works with cotton jersey. She explores regional food traditions and seeks to translate them into a modern light.

We are thrilled that Vivian Howard will be the featured chef for the month of July in our café, and also visiting us here at The Factory on July 25th for our second “Friends of the Café” Piggy Bank Dinner, benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance.

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HOT AND HOT TOMATO SALAD

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This month, we launched our “Friends of the Café” Dinner Series with James Beard award-winning chef Chris Hastings. When searching for like-minded chefs and restaurants to collaborate with for our ongoing chef series in the café, Chris was one of the first people who came to mind. His dedication to locally-sourced ingredients is something we value highly here at Alabama Chanin, and it was wonderful to see (and sample) his work at The Factory.

A big hit of the evening was the Hot and Hot Tomato Salad, a fresh and colorful take on an old Southern favorite: succotash. Guests watched in awe as Chris and members of the Alabama Chanin team put together mouthwatering layers of the tomato salad. The special version of the salad presented at our dinner was topped with fresh Alabama Gulf shrimp (and bacon), and served with fried okra on the side.

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TOMATOES WITH BASIL + GOAT CHEESE

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Nothing tastes like summer quite like a fresh, home-grown tomato. In fact, I embark on a tomato sandwich diet each summer. While I’m still patiently waiting for my own garden plants to get ripe enough for picking, I’m enjoying the vegetables from my CSA share each week (and of course, our locally-sourced café ingredients).

Good tomatoes don’t need to be dressed up to be delicious. But, it can be difficult to source really great tomatoes – just another benefit of buying local produce and knowing your farmer. Unfortunately, most tomatoes that you find in chain grocery stores are there because they survived the journey; they were the toughest and able to maintain nice color and shape in transit. Tomatoes bred for shape, color, or endurance don’t always have the best flavor.

Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club, whose recipes are featured in our café this month as part of our ongoing chef series, understands that delicious produce offers complex flavors. When you take the time to find quality ingredients, they shine on their own, without too much fuss.
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THE FACTORY | THIS WEEK 6.9.2014 – 6.13.2014

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“The act of sitting down with friends over a great meal while bragging about our dogs, taking stock of our good fortune, and passing along to our children the value of our traditions, land, resources, and importance of conversation is what we call ‘memory cuisine.’”
–Chris and Idie Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club Cookbook

The Hastings describe “memory cuisine” as experiences that feed the soul—occurring at any number of events with family, friends, and food—that prove profound. It is our hope that we can provide you with (most) everything you need at The Factory for a morning or afternoon (or evening) filled with laughter, friends, and memory cuisine.

Hoping that you have a great week and that we see you soon,
xoNatalie

Here is what we have going on at The Factory Store + Café this week, Monday, June 9  – Friday, June 13:

STORE
This week, we celebrate the arrival of summer with One-of-a-Kind Indigo. Explore our online selection of 100% organic cotton jersey indigo-dyed garments, beginning Monday.

Also, don’t forget to take advantage of our Father’s Day Gift Guide this week, available until June 13th at midnight. The selection features a variety of ready-to-wear and DIY garments, cookbooks from acclaimed chefs, and literature on the art of creating and design to help customize that special gift for dad.

Store Hours
Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm

TOURS
Stop by any weekday at 2:00pm for a guided tour of our space, including The Factory, the Alabama Chanin production and design studio, and Building 14.

CAFÉ
We are excited to resume The Factory Café Chef Series this Wednesday. Come enjoy fresh, local ingredients in dishes inspired by James Beard award-winning chef Chris Hastings.

Also, this Thursday we are happy to host Chris for our inaugural “Friends of the Café” Dinner Series. Come join us for cocktails and a three-course seafood dinner; then, stick around for a book signing and a brief dialog with the chef.
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DIY MEN’S PIG APRON

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Long gone are the days when dad took no interest in the kitchen and left the cooking to other members of the family. These days, many fathers are foodies or wine experts or whiskey connoisseurs—or all three. Here, a neighborhood group of fathers regularly challenge one another in unofficial competitions over who can make the tastiest fried chicken, ribs, or barbecue. They compare knives and talk marinades and rate craft beers.

Years ago, fathers and grandfathers who cooked may have viewed apron usage unnecessary. My own father rarely cooked during my childhood (I was well-fed by my mother and both of my grandmothers), but he does still join me in the kitchen each New Year to help prepare Hog Jowl, Collards, and Black-eyed Peas (the holy trinity of the south). And yes, I have also lent him an apron to wear on these occasions. These days, the visibility of celebrity chefs and barbecue pit masters – all wearing aprons – has made the apron dad’s new must-have accessory. In fact, my son, Zach, who is a chef (and a now a father) has quite a collection of aprons which I’m sure have served as giant bibs, stain concealers, makeshift blankets, and impromptu cleaning rags.

This Father’s Day, we recommend that you try your hand at the all-new DIY Men’s Pig Apron. It is an easy project for sewers of all experience levels and the basic embroidery techniques make it a good way to involve kids in the gift-making process.

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