Monthly Archives: February 2014

Food Blog South 2014

Meetings happen every day.  Some meetings are inspiring.  Some not.  (No, I’m not talking about YOUR meeting.)  Sometimes the less useful ones are redeemed by the snacks or meals that are provided.  And every once in a while, all the elements line up just right – like the perfect storm, but in the positive.  For me, that means going to a food meeting.  Because I don’t just like writing about food, I also enjoy listening to others discuss food, reading what others write about food, and even hearing what others say about writing about food.  It’s my thing.  The bonus that comes to those of us who flock to food meetings is that there is a pretty high standard expected by the attendees.  In short, we eat well.

Such was the case at FoodBlogSouth 2014, not long ago in Birmingham.  The crowd was a mix of writers, photographers, and everything in between.  Some blog as a hobby and some have turned it into a career.  And from what I could tell, everybody was hungry.

By the end of the day, we were all gorgeous.

By the end of the day, we were all gorgeous.

Like any good food meeting, there was a pre-party.  Ours was hosted by John’s City Diner in downtown Birmingham.  I walked in to see a few familiar faces, but was quickly distracted by a table stacked with some of the South’s classic dishes.  Chicken and waffles – this was my first time to actually have this, and it will be a tough standard to beat.  Shrimp and grits – served in a little cast iron skillet, these grits had kernels of roasted corn mixed in, an idea I totally intend to steal.  Grilled onion dip – imagine the best onion dip you’ve ever had, then amp it up with chunks of charred onion – perhaps my favorite of the night.  Pimento cheese on little squares of toast – can’t beat that.  Homemade potato chips sprinkled with melted blue cheese and Alfredo.  Barbecue pork sliders.  And there was more, but I’m afraid if I keep going you’ll be on your way to Birmingham before you finish reading.  (Finish reading – then go.)

Classics from John's City Diner

Classics from John’s City Diner

The next morning the conference began with breakfast.  Urban Standard teased us with what appeared to be chocolate cake donuts topped with chocolate frosting, another donut with dark little bits of something-or-other, maple-pecan scones, and blueberry scones.  The chocolate was actually chocolate spice (not a bad combination) – my tongue easily discerned that.  The other donut was a post-taste mystery.  Not the little bits of berry I had assumed.  I recognized the flavor but had to get help from my neighbor to identify it as Earl Grey Tea.  Wow.  Down the table a bit The Fresh Market had some of the thickest, creamiest yogurt I have enjoyed lately, with fresh fruit and granola.  Then I listened to a couple of great speakers, learned how to take better pictures of food, and it was time to eat again.

Earl Grey showed up in a different outfit this day

Earl Grey showed up in a different outfit this day

Lunch featured Alabama Gulf Seafood.  I happily waited a long time in line for this – nobody was skipping this meal, catered by the Dixie Fish Company (again, from Birmingham).  The first dish was for the veggie lovers in the group – stuffed Portobello mushrooms with eggplant over red rice.  Next was triggerfish and crabmeat in butter sauce over Hoppin’ John (rice and black-eyed peas) and greens.  I’m pretty sure this was my first go-round with triggerfish, and certainly the first time I’d had grilled fish with Hoppin’ John and greens.  I hope it is not my last.  On down the table was the second shrimp and grits interpretation of the weekend – this time with a red theme: Royal Red shrimp, trinity (bell pepper, onion and celery, I assume), tomatoes and garlic over McEwen and Sons stone-ground grits.  Very different than what I’d had the night before, but I was on a roll.  And there were oysters.  Thankfully they were fried, covered in a hot sauce, honey and butter mix, and sprinkled with blue cheese – they called them the Orange + Blue.  It’s no secret I’m not an oyster guy, but with these I might be on the path to conversion.

Well worth the wait

Well worth the wait

So by this time I’m full, again, and need a nap.  But that’s not happening.  So I nibbled my way through the afternoon on Grey Ghost Bakery cookies – my second time to enjoy these, but my first time to try the cinnamon pecan and chocolate espresso flavors.   Big T crab and shrimp dips also helped keep me going.  Roland foods had puff pastry Twists and fruit Tartlettes.  Southern Living made biscuits.  And that was just some of what was available for nibbling.  Between sponsor samples and the “swag bag” we took home, I’m pretty sure I got my registration fee back in groceries.

Grey Ghost Goodness

Grey Ghost Goodness

When the day was done Fresh Market came back with a snack (meat and cheese tray and sushi) to hold us over until dinner at the after-party.  I had a Fresh Market once.  I miss it.

What the world needs now is a Fresh Market in my neighborhood!

What the world needs now is a Fresh Market in my neighborhood!

Thankfully I had about an hour or so between the snack and dinner, plenty of time to get hungry enough to eat again.  Good People Brewing Company hosted us, and Sunday Gravy NYC did the feeding.  The main dish was also called Sunday Gravy – tender chuck steak, pork shoulder, meatballs and sweet sausage in a red sauce over pasta.  Undoubtedly the meatiest pasta sauce on the planet.  Dessert was courtesy of High Road Craft Ice Cream – you know I had to stay around Birmingham for that.  They called it an ice cream sandwich, but it was unlike any other ice cream sandwich I’ve ever loved.  The “bread” was a little sugar bun – imagine a big donut hole, sliced and slightly heated on a flattop grill.  A scoop of Pistachio Honey Ricotta gelato in between, and a quick roll in praline pecans.  The ice cream sandwich bar has just been raised.

I'll have an order of Sunday Gravy and seven ice cream sandwiches, please...

I’ll have an order of Sunday Gravy and seven ice cream sandwiches, please…

It is good to eat at a food meeting with other food people (who tend to be very nice people, I might add.)  It is very, very good.


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Milk, Bread and Snow

There is a threat of inclement weather here in Mississippi tonight.  A THREAT.  I have seen photographic evidence that the bread aisle at a major grocery outlet has been purged.  I fear the same for the dairy department.  So what do you do with bread and milk when snow and ice keep you home for a few days (or in our case, until noon tomorrow)?  I pulled this out of the archives from January, 2011, in case you need some tips.


I tend to stay a little behind.  A case could certainly be made that this is due to my gift of procrastination, but we can discuss that tomorrow.  I live on the cutting edge of fashion, circa 1997 – that’s the year I got married, and my bride has been trying to bring me up to date ever since.  I am always leap years behind in technology.   We did buy a flat-screen TV, and one of my New Year’s resolutions was to get our 1998 VCR hooked up to it so we can watch all our VHS tapes.

I was behind yet again this week in preparing for the winter storm.  I saw a friend at Wal-Mart Friday who was traveling to Oklahoma on Sunday – that is, she said, if the snow doesn’t keep us from going.  I assumed she meant the snow in Oklahoma.  Then I heard Sid Salter talking about the mad rush Mississippians make to the grocery whenever snow is predicted, and how it would probably be gone by Monday.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I should look at the weather.  Sid probably doesn’t care if it’s snowing in Oklahoma.  Usually it’s my daughter who is calling the time-temp-weather number as soon as she arises, and she had not mentioned anything of a blizzard.  Then my wife went to the store to get some bread – not because of snow – we were just out.  She said the crowd was crazy – I was beginning to catch on.

I have always been curious about the near desperate race to obtain milk and bread prior to a storm.  First of all, what can you do with just milk and bread?  If the roads are so bad that I have to camp inside for a few days, what can I actually make with those two ingredients alone?  I know I am not the first person to ask these questions, but I have never really seen answers, either, so I decided to explore.

I began by “googling” my own brain.  The search results were limited.  Of course, there is the simplest of the simple: a glass of milk and a piece of toast.  That might work for breakfast for a day or two, but it could get pretty old three meals a day for the rest of the campout.  French toast is another, more exotic possibility – but it usually requires eggs.  Ditto for bread pudding, but let’s be honest: I do enjoy a good bread pudding from time to time, either sweet or savory, but is that really what people are planning to make with their precious milk and bread?

Clearly I did not have much luck rummaging around my own mind for milk and bread recipes, so I moved on to the world-wide inter-web and searched my favorite recipe site.   The first key words I tried were “bread and milk”.  The number one recipe was titled, believe it or not, “Bread and Milk”.  Being a copyrighted recipe, I won’t repeat it here, but it was extremely simple and only required a bit of sugar to supplement the basics.  The rest of the top ten was much more interesting: three bread puddings, two kinds of meatballs (plus one meatball sauce that didn’t even call for bread or milk), two canederli’s (Austrian style liver dumplings with speck), and a lasagna.  I wonder how many people clogging the aisles over the weekend were stockpiling ingredients for liver dumplings?  Seriously, speck?

Finally, just for kicks, I searched for “milk and bread”.  Again, at the top was the milk/bread/sugar dish, then two bread puddings, another set of meatballs, cretons (some sort of breakfast pork spread – really, Emeril?), Maid of Honour cakes, cinnamon rolls, two varieties of mac and cheese, and a sausage scramble that didn’t even call for bread.  Some of these sounded pretty good, but most required far more ingredients than just milk and bread.  The lasagna asked for twenty extras.  Wow.   And trust me, unless you keep the rinds from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese hanging about, it is unlikely you are making this lasagna during a snowstorm.

After doing this intensive research I’ve come to several conclusions.  One, I need to install the weather app on my phone.  Two, as long as I am risking life and limb to get to the grocery before the next storm, I should get eggs, too.  Three, since the snow began to fall I have had neither a drop of milk nor crumb of bread.  Finally, Austrians must really know how to shop for snow days – I went to the grocery last night, and they are still out of speck.

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