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Review: Sorghum & Salt

I’ll save you the Google search. Sorghum is a drought-tolerant grain commonly processed into either sweet sticky molasses syrup or ethanol…quite the range! Apparently it’s cheaper to make ethanol from sorghum than corn so I imagine we will be hearing more about sorghum in the future. I am equally certain we will be hearing more about Charleston’s month-old restaurant Sorghum & Salt.

Chef Tres Jackson must have crazy wild dreams because I am not sure how else he could come up with his menu’s amazing flavor combinations. I usually like to do a little pre-planning before going to a new restaurant by reviewing the menu. But Chef Jackson’s menu demanded more than just a peek. There were all sorts of new Scrabble-worthy words.

Mizuna: an Asian lettuce with crisp green leaves

Shiso: another Asian lettuce that kind of tastes like basil

Garganelli: tubular pasta

Cremeux: dense pudding

Financier: almond cake

This is a menu written by a chef who doesn’t need to come up with clever names for his food. For example, his fried chicken isn’t called “I’m not chicken to order this fried chicken.” It’s called “Crispy Fried Chicken-Fermented Collards-Chili-Sweet Potato-Ginger Honey.” This is also a menu of items screaming to be shared with other adventuresome eaters. Luckily I was there with my husband and our foodie friend, Michelle. Neither one blocks me when they see my fork creeping toward their plates.

The menu is divided into Gardens & Grains, Meat and Fish, Larger Plates and Dessert. While we studied the menu to make our final decisions, we ordered the bread service which was a sharable loaf of brown sugar bread with pork butter. Yes, Chef Jackson combined pork with butter…which may make him eligible for sainthood. Then we each picked two items for our dinners and three different desserts.

Crispy Brussels sprouts, root vegetable bolognese and cured steelhead trout started off our meal. The order-again winner here were the Brussels sprouts. The cooking time on these must be measured in seconds because just a few more seconds and they would have tasted burnt. Instead, every bite had a crunch of smokiness  complemented with some feta and local buttermilk. (As an aside, I always appreciate when a menu correctly lists the vegetable as Brussels sprouts rather than the incorrect Brussel sprouts.)

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Brussels sprouts, bolognese and trout…oh my

Next up were the panzanella, a smoked carrot and lamb ragu and the aforementioned fried chicken. Now fried chicken would be the last thing I would order from this innovative menu but thankfully my husband ordered it. It was hands-down the best bite of the table. It was the true trifecta of good fried chicken: sweetness from local honey, heat from the chili and juicy, perfectly cooked boneless chicken. No remorse over leaving a tasty morsel trapped on the bone. The whole, golden, crispy, sweet/hot delicacy was devourable. The panzanella was definitely not your traditional Italian bread cubes-tomato type panzanella. It was a little on the fancy food spectrum but it was fun to try different flavor forkful combinations with the creamy ricotta, the sweet bread cubes and different types of lettuces. The ragu was a very rich dish and the serving was huge for something that wasn’t on the “Larger Plates” section of the menu.

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Panzanella

For dessert we ordered the beet cremeux, the blue cheese cake and the chocolate cake. The chocolate cake was the one dessert not on the menu but it’s definitely the one that should be put on the permanent menu. The beet cremeux was the texture of pana cotta and didn’t have a strong beet taste. Which I guess is a good thing in a dessert but I was hoping for a more intense flavor. The blue cheese cake had the opposite problem…it was TOO intense. It was reviewed by our friend as “something better served at the beginning of a meal with some crackers and a nice glass of wine.” It was more blue cheese and less cheesecake. We attempted to morph it into a dessert by combining it with the beet cremeux and then with the chocolate cake but it just didn’t want to grow up to be a dessert. But it would be an amazing first course. The chocolate cake, served with pistachio butter,  was the perfect ending to this meal and thankfully my husband knows how to share.

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Aptly named Cheese Cake… definitely not Cheesecake #allspacesmatter

Sorghum & Salt’s concept is to highlight local ingredients in innovative ways. This isn’t your typical farm-to-table restaurant. Chef Jackson is more of a “Buckle up, you farm fresh ingredients. I am about to take you for a ride.” Our server (server name on the receipt said Babes) was exceptionally friendly, knowledgeable, funny and charming which always makes a great meal even better. Chef Jackson even stopped by our table to welcome us and share a little bit of his story with us.

I will be keeping my eyes on their website to see when they change their menu each season so I can make a return visit. And as an extra bonus, I am pretty sure I will pick up some more Scrabble-worthy words.

I am Amy. And this is my feed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Noble Meal Fit for a King

Chef Jim Noble opened The King’s Kitchen & Bakery  in 2010 as a non-profit restaurant in downtown Charlotte, NC. Chef Noble’s concept is to provide job training and other life skills to folks who may need a second (or third) chance. He donates 100% of the restaurant’s profits to feed the poor. With all that goodness in the backstory, I seriously doubted that there was any goodness left for my plate.

I have never been so happy to be so wrong.

I was a guest at a group dinner.  We ordered from a pre-set menu, which is a good thing because I would probably still be there deciding what to eat. Chef Noble prepares southern cuisine with (mostly) local ingredients and he keeps the preparations simple and the flavors delicious. This isn’t fancy food with drizzles and smears on the plate. Who needs fancy when you can have your choice of: mouth-watering, juicy fried chicken named after someone’s Aunt Beaut, no-knife-needed pot roast or perfectly grilled Wild Alaskan salmon?

Side dishes were served family style in large bowls; generous mounds of black-eyed peas, smashed sweet potatoes and collard greens. Living in Charleston, I have had my share of those three classic sides. They can sometimes be over-prepared with someone trying a little too hard to make them something they aren’t. But these sides were prepared with limited ingredients so you actually tasted the black-eyed peas (rather than smoked ham), the smashed sweet potatoes tasted like sweet potatoes (rather than brown sugar) and the collard greens tasted like greens (rather than bacon). I did add a little hot sauce to the collards so they wouldn’t taste too healthy.

Like any good southern meal, we ended our meal with some dessert. The two choices were banana pudding served in a little mason jar and a three-layered coconut cake. I had the banana pudding which could have done without the large heaping pile of toasted marshmallow cream. But the pudding tasted homemade, the Nilla wafers weren’t soggy and who doesn’t love a dessert served in a little mason jar?

Was this the most memorable southern food I have ever eaten? Maybe not. Is it one of the most memorable restaurants I have ever been to? Absolutely. Will I be coming back to King’s Kitchen in July when I return to Charlotte? You betcha.

Maybe then I can find out who Aunt Beaut is and get her recipe for the pan fried chicken that everyone was raving about.

I’m Amy. And this is my feed.

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Fit for a King (or a Queen) Indeed

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Decisions…Decisions

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Happily Ever AFTTR

Most nights I am cooking for just me and my husband, John. Aside from having to finely mince onions so he doesn’t see them in his food, he truly will eat anything I put in front of him. His tolerance for new recipes is why I became confident in cooking after decades of only using recipes with a maximum of five ingredients.

While this blog is the first hobby I have ever had, John has had a lifetime of hobbies including reading about military history, collecting fire service memorabilia and working on his HO scale model train board. When I started obsessing about not having a hobby, he encouraged me to try painting the model figures for his trains. But that’s his “thing” and I am pretty sure I would go mad painting a figure on a 1:87 scale.

John includes his other hobbies on his train board with a few fire stations and a war memorial with cannons. He has also built two buildings incorporating our adventures together at home in Charleston and while on vacation. The first structure is a greenery green restaurant named AFTRR, Amy’s Farm to Table Restaurant & Market. It is loosely based on the Stono Market and Tomato Shed Cafe located on John’s Island minutes from our house and a few other places we have come across on our travels like the Franklin Mercantile Deli in Franklin, TN. Folks inside AFTRR are enjoying their lunch while the chefs are on a break on the back porch and a farmer is delivering some deliciousness from his pick-up truck. Next to AFTTR is a winery, Amy’s Winehouse, with friends enjoying a tasting amid vats of wine. The truck parked next to it is from the Napa Valley Wine Train that we went on a few years ago.

Model training and food blogging are pretty much solitary hobbies. But just as John includes memories of our life together in his hobby, I hope to do the same with this blog. I am pretty sure you will enjoy getting to know him but please don’t let him know about the onions.

I’m Amy. And this is my feed.

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Yes, I sing “Rehab” every time I see this.

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My happily ever after 

Welcome

My 2016 New Year’s Resolution was to find a hobby. I tried out a few hobbies last year and failed horribly on finding a hobby. I’ve never had one so thought perhaps I just wasn’t a hobby-kind of person.

My 2017 New Year’s Resolution was to finally do something with my iPhone photos. Organize them, delete them, edit them and even (gasp) print them. Not quite a hobby but very much needed.

While photorganizing I realized that food plays a major role in my life. When I am filled with joy is when I am enjoying a food experience. It could be a tasting meal that costs more than it should or a corn dog at a AAA baseball game. But the memory links between happy times and food are strong. And I want to remember both the happy times and the food.

I am Amy. And this is my feed.