But in your local Whole Foods refrigerated case is another easy all-natural option that offers 14 varieties of chicken sausages with 70 percent less fat than pork sausage, without nitrates, preservatives and artificial ingredients. In full disclosure, the good people at Al Fresco All Natural Sausages sent me a few of their products to try out, but I wouldn't share this with you if they weren't pretty darned delicious. Well, actually, I didn't share them with anybody because they were so good. Sorry about that, Dana and Nicki.
Available in both breakfast and dinner varieties, Al Fresco sausages don't set out to pretend to be pork products. Lower in fat, they clearly aren't going to have the same mouthfeel as a good, greasy Jimmy Dean patty. Instead they depend on combinations of natural flavors and textures to make up for their lack of fat. I particularly enjoyed the appple maple breakfast links, which did not have the artificial maple flavors that characterize cheap breakfast patties.
Dinner sausages come either fully cooked for convenience or fresh so you can boil them like a brat and finish them on your grill. Two varieties, the spinach and feta and the sun-dried tomato with basil were standouts among the fully cooked options. I've worked both the spicy chipotle and hot Italian uncooked varieties into recipes with none of the diners at my table noticing that I'd used a healthier alternative to pork sausages. Pretty sneaky.
Seems the football playoffs occasion a spike in finger food consumption. With Buffalo wings and other hot chicken wings at the top of the list.
Anyway, as the party host or hostess, you should know that prices may be affected or you may have trouble locating wings, or enough wings. Unlike a decade ago, the silly rhyme, "Ain't no thang but a chicken wing" isn't true anymore. Come Superbowl Sunday, it's all about the wing.
What Sharon and Mike Braden loved was ... Creole food, in particular, the seafood pies that Mike's surgeon father made back in Louisiana. How good are they? So good Mike baked them to court Sharon. So good Sharon ended 30 years as a vegetarian to eat them. And, well, because she really liked Mike.
Sharon, a hospital clinician for 25 years, and Mike, an programmer and software developer, have taken the methodical approach to their business, but obviously, it's based on a shared love for the pies, and how they've seen others marvel at them. "I just love watching people take the first bite," says Sharon.
If you haven't tried a Doc Braden's Seafood Pie that's a terrible oversight. Because a surgeon developed the 3-inch pies to have the perfect crust-to-filling ratio so there's a bite of the flaky, lard-kissed crust in every bite of pie. Sharon and Mike are sourcing the shrimp, crab and crawfish from from the United States. Doc Braden's has the HACCP food safety certification from the FDA. The kitchen has a production protocol. The pies are baked in small batches of about 60. They have four Weight Watchers points each. The Bradens do all the delivering themselves.
And they're just devastatingly good, each bite with a bit of rich crust and the fresh, clean taste of seafood with a touch of butter and not much else — everything on the ingredient list is something you've heard of.
The pies are available at Produce Place, Butcher's Block, Grassland Market and the Urban Market in the Viridian, in accordance with the original plan, which was to get the pies into retail stores. But farmers' markets have been good for business. In fact, that's where a typical Bites reader most likely discovered Doc Braden's. They sell the pies hot on Saturdays (!), and in the warm months, they sell at farmers' markets in 12th South, Forest Hills and Richland Park. Louisiana Seafood in the Nashville Farmers' Market carries the pies.
I'd like to defend myself regarding the holiday party at which my dinner was seven bourbon balls and two — although it may have been three — glasses of Champagne.
I had entirely coherent conversations, was able to locate and also put on my own coat. Went home with the right person, in the right car, and didn't drive. Those are all worthy accomplishments after a supper of bourbon balls and Champagne.
And also, I located some vegetables. There was a very pretty vegetable plate — love poring over a good vegetable and dip tray for for new ideas and flavors.
And look what was on the tray! Samphire! And why not? Salty, crunchy and fleshy samphire can definitely hold its own on a vegetable tray. For dipping, it's a little slim, but a thin dip would work.
Samphire isn't a vegetable you see every day, so I asked the hostess, who called it "sea beans," perhaps from the color and crunch of steamed green bean.
I meant to ask where it came from, but there was all that Champagne. Who has encountered the sea bean/samphire, and where?
Bathtub Gin sells beautiful jewel-like jars of jams and spreads in flavors you've never even dreamed of: rum raisin-mission-fig, peach brandy-blueberry, elderflower liqueur-blackberry, peaches & cream. Or get a last bit of summer in their few remaining strawberry and tomato products. Buy the spreads alone, or buy a gift basket that includes their jams, condiments from Perl Catering (see below), cheese from The Bloomy Rind, and Dozen bakery baked goods. It's like a dream of a local gift basket. (Gift baskets include spreaders and other noshing tools, plus pretty packaging.) The jars are a generous 11 ounces for $10-12, plenty for spreading on toast and making yogurt parfaits and a little extra for flavoring a cocktail.
O.Liv Body Bar in Edgehill Village (750-3701) uses Greek olive oils and sea salt in some of its luxurious treatments, and sells the same Greek olive oils, sea salt and olive oil soaps — plus balsamic vinegar — at exceptional prices.
Taste the difference that freshness makes in cornmeal and grits with Falls Mill stoneground cornmeal and grits. Falls Mill, in Belvidere, Tenn., operates a century-old water wheel powered by the nearby creek to grind corn and wheat into cornmeal and flour. Falls Mill corn products are usually available at Whole Foods and Produce Place, or order from the company.
Walker Creek Toffee out of Alexandria, Tenn., got the Scene staff's chomp of approval recently for its addictive buttery crunch and alluring burnt sugar flavors. Order half-pound or 1-pound tins or vacuum packs from the website.
Also toffee-flavored, but with natural mellowing agents, is Prichard's Private Stock Rum ($80) Turn a Saturday drive into a shopping trip and tour of Prichard's Distillery in Kelso, Tenn. Get a kick out of the schoolhouse-distillery, then take home a prize: a bottle of Prichard's Private Stock Rum, aged 10 years in charred oak barrels and only available at the distillery.
The cookies, often individually packaged and handed out on airline flights, are pretty addictive, and a package of two has never been enough to satisfy me. Some people may also recognize Biscoff as the maker of Anna's Almond or Ginger Thins, which I usually buy on trips to IKEA (the cookies are made in Sweden). The scarcity of these cookies often leaves me wanting more, and now I have sweet relief in the form of a deep jar of SPREAD!
This jar is identical in size to a peanut butter jar, and the creamy stuff is similar in color. Did I mention it has fewer calories than peanut butter, is vegan, and comes in smooth or crunchy? Although my mom found this treasure on vacation in Florida, I learned on the website that it is usually sold at Whole Foods, World Market, Fresh Market, and Harris Teeter. I would give World Market some time to refresh their stock, as I may have bought all of the jars available over the past weekend. I am seriously giving jars of Biscoff Spread as Christmas gifts. It's that good.
At first I had a hard time imagining what else it could be used for other than dipping with apples or eating with my finger straight out of the jar. But then my mom emailed me a link to recipes on their website! These will definitely be Christmas gifts to to less-important friends who do not deserve a whole jar of spread (I doubt they will mind).
You see it here: crunchy-tipped golden shreds of roast pork, seasoned mayo and pickle. Instead of a Cuban loaf, this is made like a panini which is a better solution than grilling, as the result is crisper and less oily.
I love a Cuban sandwich mostly for the rich roast pork and the tang of Swiss cheese, mustard and pickle.The Latin Wagon's sandwich omits the usual sliced ham. Ham on a pork sandwich always struck me as much of a muchness, so its absence doesn't bother me.
It does brings up a topic that's always lurking in my head: How many of the basic elements can be missing from a dish and it still retain that identity? For instance, if a banana split is missing the whipped cream, but has everything else, you'd still call it a split. But what if it's a split banana plus ice cream and whipped cream? Is it still a split? Or does should it have sauces?
At the other end is fettuccine alfredo, which over years on restaurant menus accumulated a multitude of toppings: my favorite example was blackened chicken over spinach fettuccine alfredo. I would argue that it's no longer fettuccine alfredo; it's blackened chicken over creamy green pasta.
Generally, what's your pet peeve in the "identity crisis" of menu items? And more specifically, is a Cuban a a Cuban without the ham?
Lines were long as people not only sampled the wares, but took the time to interact with the artisans and learn about their products. I saw a lot of commerce going on as well, so hopefully the companies who exhibited will consider the event a financial success for them and return next year as the event gets even bigger.
An old Night Market stalwart and a newcomer in market were two of my favorite treats of the evening. Sarah Souther of Bang Candy Co. set up her Prosecco bar like she does at almost every night market and poured delightful cups of the Italian elixir flavored with some of her Bang Co. syrups. WIth a line that was at least 20 people deep all night long, the winsome Sarah kept a smile on her face while she kept the people happy by mixing up sparklers that employed her array of add-ins. Particularly popular were prosecco with ginger/rosemary, habanero/lime and "syruprisingly," celery.
The national media has also taken notice of Bang Candy Co. as she was featured in a nice writeup by Garden & Gun's "Talk of the South" e-newsletter. Good for Sarah!
My other favorite find was Ron Marks and his AtlantaFresh Artisan Creamery, a two year old company that is the only producer of Greek yogurt in the southeast. They make all their products in small batches and use only milk from local hormone-free cows. This fresh milk is delivered the day that it comes out of the cow and is processed into AtlantaFresh's delicious yogurt products within a few days.
Mumbo Jumbo Seasonings first caught my eye at foodblogSouth, where area vendors got a lovefest from a very attentive bunch of food writers.
The "Mesa" was the first blend I tried, and its precisely balanced flavor combination and high-grade Mercan Chilean roast chilies, ingredients so fresh they were still slightly moist. A sample of the "Elegance" packed a whiff of lavender in the herbes de Provence, coarse pepper and sea salt. Java blends pulverized coffee with cayenne, cinnamon and chili for is rib-ready and an instant steak solution. "Everyday" is an all-purpose alternative to salt-heavy seasoned salt. They're super-fresh, high-grade blends made with an expert's palate, and they're really something completely different.
"We knew we didn't want to be on the shelf next to McCormick," is how Suggett phrases the product's niche. The problem isn't finding what to do with them — it's having enough time to discover all the ways you could put them to work.
So I asked Suggett. She uses the Mesa in bloody marys (brilliant!) and on popcorn, Elegance on grilled fillets and on asparagus. Her toddler eats the Java on cucumber slices, while Mom uses it for grilling pork, yielding a crisp, coffee-cinnamon crust. She slow-cooks brisket in the "Everyday" and onions and nothing else.
It's not as if I didn't plan for pests: Mine are under bird netting, which is pinned to the ground in most places, and surrounded by cat fur. It worked against rabbit and deer, anyway.
Once the tomatoes were gone, something began chewing strips from the lower one foot of the stalks, so now all the tomato plants are dead before I harvested a single tomato. Mother Nature, you're welcome!
Really I shouldn't complain — the befurred rodent of the sciuridae family can do much worse: It's estimated that 17 percent of all damage sustained by the fiber optic network is caused by squirrels. I definitely think some bounty-hunting is in order. It's for the public good!
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