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Mom’s Apple Pie Company of Leesburg, Virginia will Warm Your Heart & Soul

2 Nov

Mom’s Apple Pie Company is a cool little place. They have been here quite some time and have garnered a good bit of national attention. Deservedly so. Southern Living called Mom’s Sour Cherry Crumb Pie the “best we have ever tasted.” Tall praise, indeed. The pies are certainly well made and a lot of the fruit/produce is locally grown (from rhubarb to raspberries). Avis Renshaw is Mom. She has been at this for more than 30 years now (they started back in 1981).

Pumpkins and Gourds out front scream Fall — and Halloween

Pie racks display pies and baked goods while they cool down

These juicy apples come from orchards in Winchester, Virginia

Apples at Mom’s are fresh, delicious …. and affordable!

Pie by the slice – this way you can taste more than one variety!

Sour Cherry Crumb Pie is one of Mom’s most popular varieties

I decided on a Bourbon Walnut Pie (above). Bought the whole thing and brought it home for the entire family to enjoy. It was quite a hit and only survived a couple days. It was especially sublime when briefly heated up in the microwave and topped with vanilla ice cream. The pie’s center was nice and moist, not gummy at all. It really dislike pies when the texture reminds you of that white, goopy kindergarten paste. Something about that is just plain nasty.

My Bourbon Walnut Pie (seen above) — ready for its close-up. The walnuts were fresh tasting and you could detect just a hint of booze. Not overpowering at all. Shoot, they could probably booze it up a little more. But, hey, they’re the experts. The crust was just fine, although I am quite sure they are no longer made by hand. Mom’s massive output of pies and baked goods (especially this time of year) has likely forced them to make this minor concession. But never fear, folks! This, as my always-hungry brothers might say, is “One Fine Pie!”  

Macaroons (pictured above). Its even fun to say. Far better to put in your mouth. Mom’s makes an excellent one. They will even dip ’em in chocolate (see below) if you prefer them dressed up a bit. I’m a total sucker for coconut. Sweetened. Unsweetened. In pies. In ice cream. In candy bars. On cakes. I think you follow me by now. Put me on a deserted island and I’m good. Just make sure there are plenty of coconuts around. You can leave the face-painted volleyball at home (random Tom Hanks reference).  

Chocolate and Coconut. Together. Like a Mounds bar – only better

Mom’s Apple Pie Company is good any time of year. If you can’t make it to my home state of Virginia, they can send a taste of the Old Dominion to you. Pie prices range from about $13 to $17 each plus shipping. A small price to pay for such a wholesome, sweet treat. It’s just like Mother’s Love – only in pie form. When it comes to this pie, I cannot tell a lie.

MOM’S APPLE PIE – 220 Loudoun Street SE, Leesburg, VA

(703) 771-8590; www.momsapplepieco.com

***Open 7 days a week***

Lauterbach’s Chitlin’ Circuit History Deserves Great Praise & a Wider Audience

28 Aug

Preston Lauterbach is a friend of mine — going back to my days in Memphis. Great guy, he is. And he knows a thing or two about music — and good eats. I was pretty impressed when he first mentioned that he was undertaking this project. It’s a big topic. But also a topic that has not been well documented in the recent past.

All that being said, I am even more impressed by the finished project. This is a well-researched and entertaining story. Preston has a way with words. His method is hip and engaging. He educates without sounding like a professor. I buzzed through this book in no time flat. I had long thought that I was well versed when it came to this shadowy corner of rock n’ roll history. Boy, was I wrong. So many wonderful nuggets of knowledge to be found — and savored.

This is a tasty pot of musical stew – and one I would suggest you dig into.

A definitive account of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in black America, this book establishes the Chitlin’ Circuit as a major force in American musical history. Combining terrific firsthand reporting with deep historical research, Preston Lauterbach uncovers characters like Chicago Defender columnist Walter Barnes, who pioneered the circuit in the 1930s, and larger-than-life promoters such as Denver Ferguson, the Indianapolis gambling chieftain who consolidated it in the 1940s. Charging from Memphis to Houston and now-obscure points in between, The Chitlin’ Circuit brings us into the sweaty back rooms where such stars as James Brown, B. B. King, and Little Richard got their start.

With his unforgettable portraits of unsung heroes including King Kolax, Sax Kari, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Lauterbach writes of a world of clubs and con men that has managed to avoid much examination despite its wealth of brash characters, intriguing plotlines, and vulgar glory, and gives us an excavation of an underground musical America. 34 black-and-white illustrations

http://www.amazon.com/Chitlin-Circuit-Road-Rock-Roll/dp/0393076520

Chef Rick McDaniel Authors “An Irresistible History of Southern Food”

28 May

Chef Rick McDaniel is a good friend and quite the authority on Southern eats. Check this book out if you love all things related to Dixie-style grub and folklore. You might learn something and pick up some classic, tried-and-true recipes to boot. Now I don’t see any harm in that, do you??? Buy it today at Amazon.com (see the convenient link found below).

The South has always been celebrated for its food—a delectable blend of ingredients and cooking techniques connected to the region’s rich soil and bountiful waters. And oftentimes what makes a recipe Southern is as much a state of mind as it is a matter of geography—Southerners simply decide a particular food is Southern, and that’s that.

From the earliest days of settlement, when colonists struggled to survive on a diet of dogs, cats, rats and poisonous snakes, to an era defined by sumptuous dining that blended European, Native American and African cuisines, Southern food truly stems from a unique tradition.

Respected Southern food historian and chef Rick McDaniel explores the history of over 150 recipes, from Maryland stuffed ham to South Carolina chicken bog to New Orleans shrimp Creole, without forgetting the meal’s crowning glory: dessert.

www.chefrick.com

www.historypress.net

http://www.amazon.com/Irresistible-History-Southern-Food-Black-Eyed/dp/1609491939/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1306601848&sr=1-1

A Few Bytes about Willa’s Bites

16 Apr

I first learned about Willa’s Traditionally Southern Shortbread Bites while I was reading a recent issue of Taste of the South magazine. I was intrigued enough to reach out to Willa’s owner via Facebook. Gotta love modern technology, y’all. But, as those close to me know, I’ll take bites over bytes any day of the week.

As it turns out, Eric Rion (the top dog at Willa’s) is a really cool cat. We have much in common and I am looking forward to meeting him in person one day soon. Preferably over grilled oysters and cold brews at Wintzell’s.

Caution: The tasty objects appearing in the above picture are smaller than they appear. But not to worry, friends. Good things come in small packages. Good things like wheat flour, real butter, real sugar, vanilla extract. No additives, preservatives, or artificial ingredients. Most products making these claims today taste, well, tasteless. Not so with Willa’s Bites. These little babies pack a sensational 1-2 punch of flavor and texture. They are melt in your mouth good and gone far too fast.

Willa’s Bites come in a plethora of flavors. Eric was kind enough to send us 8 varieties to sample. Shortbread Bites, Lemon Pecan Bites, Gingersnaps, Key Lime Almond Bites, Chocolate Macadamia Bites, savory Spicy Cheese Bites, Praline Bites and Mocha Almond Bites.

But please don’t ask me which one is my favorite. That’s like asking me to name my favorite Beatles song. Try as I may, I just can’t arrive at a satisfying answer. Let’s just say they are all divine. Close your eyes, toss a dart, flip a coin, spin the bottle — you cannot, I repeat, cannot go wrong. My wife the purist loves the Shortbread Bites. My son Travis raves about the Gingersnaps and Spice Cheese Bites. Me? I told you NOT to ask! Please!!!

Get some Willa’s Bites now — and you can thank me later. I have a pretty good idea for a thoughtful and delicious “Thank You” gift! Wink, wink. (;

Willa’s Shortbread – Madison, Tennessee 37115

www.willas-shortbread.com ; 615.868.6130

Lunch at Aunt B’s Country Kitchen

16 Apr

We sometimes joke about places being “out in the boondocks.” Sometimes it’s just a loosely used expression. But there are other times when the description fits perfectly. The latter is the case with Aunt B’s Country Kitchen. They are technically in Theodore, Alabama (a Mobile suburb – and I use the term suburb very loosely here).

The exterior of Aunt B’s place looks like someone’s home. And I guess that is the point. The owners want you to feel comfortable. The estate is a restored 1901 farmhouse. It’s pretty hard not to feel relaxed in settings such as this. Only the small, circular Coca Cola sign above the front screen doors tip you off that this might actually be a real place of business.

The period dinner bell at Aunt B’s is a nice feature — not sure how much use it actually gets. I would imagine youngsters would give the rope a strong tug whenever they visit with their families. There are a few wooden picnic tables in the front yard. Not a bad place to eat out if the weather is conducive.

Aunt B’s front porch is a peaceful place, for sure. I was almost expecting Sheriff Andy Taylor to grab a seat and begin strumming his six-string. The stacks of soft drink bottles almost gives the joint a general store feel.

Once inside the dining room, you’ll discover that Aunt B’s is slightly more uptown than you originally thought. The shelves a plum full of gourmet food products — sauces, jams, jellies, pickles and mixes. It’s all top quality stuff and the variety offered is impressive. But don’t look for any bargains here. Prices are comparable to most kitchen specialty/gourmet stores across the USA.

I found a seat at a quiet 2-top near the back of the restaurant. An old cast iron stove beckoned beneath a massive flat screen TV. Quite the juxtaposition, wouldn’t you say? I was happy to find that the tube was tuned to Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel. Tony was in Chicago and it looked like fun. But I was quite content to be dining with Aunt B’s near the Alabama coastline. I gazed out the back window at the sprawling green pastures and tall pecan trees that had obviously been here for a very long time.   

I placed my order for the Cajun shrimp stuffed pork tenderloin lunch special. It was in front of me in a flash. Now that is sometimes a good thing and sometimes a not so good thing. It appeared freshly sliced and the stuffing looked (and smelled) amazing.

It tasted just as good — although I must add that the large pork medallions were not exactly piping hot. That aside, the dish was a smashing success – thanks in great measure to the stuffing. I’m not sure exactly was in it. I asked but didn’t exactly get a detailed answer. Shrimp, Cajun spices, some chopped veggies – that’s about all the manager was willing to share with me. I could have sworn I tasted some tasso or andouille, but I was told I was off base on that guess.     

My side of stewed squash was really fine too. There just wasn’t enopugh of it. I found myself wishing that Aunt B was a little more generous with her portions this particular afternoon. The squash had been bathed in sweet onion, butter, and herbs and tasted much like the squash I often prepare at home in the Spring and Summer months.

My entree also included a mound of cold macaroni salad. This is one of my favorite picnic foods, especially if it’s nice and cold and not totally drowned in fatty mayo. This side was nicely conceived and quickly scarfed down.

It was now time for dessert and I was ready for some sweet potato pie. The choice was not easy. Aunt B was also offering a Strawberry Shortcake and I was wavering a bit. But I stuck to my guns and I was repaid with a slab of pie that was, well, sticky. And gooey. And not exactly what I was hoping for. It was far too sweet and had a very unpleasant gummy texture. A cross between pie and chewing gum. Should have gone strawberry!

But let’s not finish on a downer. This is a cool place and a welcome addition to the Greater Mobile area dining scene. And it’s actually only about a 20 minute drive from Mobile’s I-65 and I-10 interchange. Aunt B’s is open for lunch only on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday thru Sunday hours are 11 am – 4 pm and 5 pm – 8:30 pm.

Dinner options listed on the take out menu include Baked Chicken and Dressing, Crooks Corner Shrimp n Grits, Pecan Crusted Chicken, Shrimp Creole and Chicken n Dumplings. Sides listed were highlighted by Roasted Butternut Squash, Tomatoes Rockefeller, and Asparagus with Deviled Eggs. Now how can a true Dixie Dining devotee resist all that?

So take a drive out to the country — the Country Kitchen, that is.

Aunt B’s Country Kitchen – 3750 Bay Rd, Theodore, AL

251 623 1868; www.shopauntbs.com

Gulf Coast Foodways Organziation is Officially Unveiled

24 Mar

 

Gulf Coast Foodways is a new community of foodies on a mission to preserve and promote the rich culinary culture along the US Gulf Coast through education, events, documentaries, seminars and more. Gulf Coast Foodways will be a member driven organization and we’re currently looking for charter members and sponsors.

How exactly are we going to do all of this, you ask?  Through the development of thematic maps and tours, we can drive food tourism to our region. Through video documentation, we can capture and show off the unique culinary culture of our coast.  Cookbooks and published compilations of local food writings and treasured family recipes will draw attention to the traditional foodways of our area. 

We plan to hold periodic meetings for members to make connections and network. These events will include guest speakers on local topics and you can always count on a good meal or two along the way. Our annual symposium weekend is now in the initial planning stage.  Hotel and restaurant industry members will always benefit from the trails, meetings, and symposiums.

We’d like for you to play a key role in the creation of this tasty “gumbo.” 

 Your annual membership or sponsorship will:

 *Help finance research projects

*Promote food-related businesses along the Gulf Coast

*Document local traditions & businesses preserving them

*Promote and grow food tourism along the Gulf Coast

*Underwrite any necessary administrative costs

 In return, your benefits will include:

 *Bi-annual e-newsletter

*Profile feature on the Gulf Coast Foodways blog: www.gulfcoastfoodways.wordpress.com 

*10% off all Gulf Coast Foodways event registration

*Priority registration for events

*Discounts at participating restaurants/shops

 We urge you to join this worthy cause today.

Contact Eileen or Gary Saunders at gulfcoastfoodways@yahoo.com.

***Pass this note along to your friends and LIKE us on FACEBOOK.

Hot Club of Cowtown Does Bob Wills Proud

10 Jan

Great new CD — first rate Western Swing from Austin, TX trio.

Check it out, y’all!

HOT CLUB OF COWTOWN

Since their first recording in 1998, Austin-based Hot Club of Cowtown have grown to be the most globe-trotting, hardest-swinging Western swing trio on the planet. The first American band to tour Azerbaijan, they have opened stadiums for such artists as Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and continue to bring their brand of Western swing to a wide range of festival audiences all over the world. But for guitarist Whit Smith, fiddler Elana James and bassist Jake Erwin, it has always been about staying true to their roots.

Remaining willfully out of the musical mainstream, Hot Club of Cowtown have created an international cult following for their sonic personification of joy and unique sound inspired by their namesakes: “Hot Club” from the hot jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli’s Hot Club of France, and “Cowtown” from the Western swing influence of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

Though Wills’ pre-WWII recordings have always been the fundamental inspiration for Hot Club of Cowtown’s repetoire and style, it has taken the band a dozen years to fully honor the King of Western Swing. A fortuitous tour in England in the spring of 2010 led them to London’s Specific Sound studio, where they spent two days recording a 14-song marathon of Bob Wills tunes. The result, What Makes Bob Holler, is a tribute to the American music icon, respecting Wills’ legendary music while putting Hot Club’s own signature on each song. “We have been meaning to make this album for a long time,” says James.

“This is music from the days when guys toured and sat on a bus with no air conditioning, no real food, for days. We heard a story of a fiddler the Wills band picked up in California and by the time they had driven to the Midwest, he was dead and nobody even knew his name. They pried his rigor mortis’d body off of the bus and left him under a lamppost somewhere in Kansas,” says James, “It was a different time. These guys were pretty hardcore.”

What Makes Bob Holler presents the most convincing evidence yet that Hot Club of Cowtown may be on to something. By digging even deeper into their roots and refusing to modernize, the band offers up one of their most exciting recordings to date. The disc is an imaginative pairing of obscure B-sides with some of Wills’ most popular work. Tunes like “Big Balls in Cowtown” and “Stay a Little Longer” are numbers that “people always love when we play them live,” says James, “so it was was a no-brainer to gather them into a record.” Others, like “Osage Stomp” and “The Devil Ain’t Lazy,” might not be as well known, but they are in the spirit of what originally attracted Smith and James to this music. “We’re playing what knocked us out about Western swing in the first place — the early fiery energy and jazzy improvisations,” says James.

What Makes Bob Holler may have taken two days to record, but the band has played these songs on tour for years. The album reflects the same spirited live vibe and offers the band a terrific platform to show off their ace musicianship and flaunt these inspirations: Smith’s hot electric guitar played through a vintage 1936 Gibson amplifier, James’ sometimes gorgeous, sometimes frenetic fiddle, and Erwin’s jaw-dropping slap bass, all mixed with three-part harmony vocals.

Smith (Cape Cod, MA) and James (Prairie Village, KS), originally met through an ad in the classified music section of The Village Voice in 1994, and played together in New York City before relocating to San Diego in 1997, where they spent a year playing for tips and building up their repertoire. By 1998, they had relocated to Austin, Texas and in 2000 added Jake Erwin (originally from Tulsa, OK) on bass, finalizing the Hot Club’s lineup.

Like any scrappy modern band, Hot Club dwells between the daily grind of touring and the euphoria of its live shows. Years of crisscrossing the USA in a silver Ford van through a landscape where local traditions are becoming more and more diluted, and modern life more electronic, have galvanized this Texas trio who are more devoted than ever to keeping their music sincere, free of irony, and focused on a simpler time.

What Makes Bob Holler arrives on the heels of 2009’s more eclectic Wishful Thinking, an Americana radio Top 100 album lauded by the Austin Chronicle’s Jim Caliguiri as “the Cowtowners at their peak,” and David Eldridge, in the Washington Times, as “one of the year’s most unexpected listening pleasures.”

While What Makes Bob Holler focuses exclusively on Bob Wills music, Hot Club of Cowtown’s live show will remain an engaging mix of what the band does best — whatever moves it at the moment, setlists be damned. “We have faith in the system that is the band. This energy that we plug into and it takes us away,” says James. Smith describes their shows as “like a rock ’n’ roll show . . . people pick up on the energy and the sincerity.”

“What the trio has is a rare thing,” says Smith, “There’s a chemistry that’s unmistakable.”

As Bob Wills might say, “Aaaaaaaaaah Haaaaaaaaaaah!”

www.hotclubofcowtown.com

Callaghan’s Irish Social Club in Mobile, Alabama

2 Jan

Callaghan’s is without doubt one of my favorite hangouts in Mobile. I have lived in the area for almost 2 years now and it took me a while to find my way here. That is not unusual. In fact, I have met Mobile natives who don’t know where it is. Shame. Because once you find it, you certainly won’t forget it.

It doesn’t look gangbusters from the outside. It is, after all, a rather boxy, 1920’s era building (once a butcher shop). But there is a certain charm to be found in it’s somewhat plain Jane exterior. It may have something to do with the surrounding neighborhood, which consists of a cluster of historic homes and cottages dating back to the early and mid 20th century. Callaghan’s is the centerpiece of the community — and has been for many decades.

Here is an example of a neighborhood cottage across street from the pub.

Here’s another one. They are so cool — and really not that pricey either.

Daily specials at Callaghan’s — always worth a look. Creativity still lives here.

Outdoor patio seating is a good call at lunch — if the day’s weather permits.

Our dining table – filled with old Mobile memorabilia from days long past.

They make one of the best burgers in Mobile – and they have awards to prove it.

Funny — and true!

Irish Curse on wall at Callaghan’s. The walls are filled with eye candy like this.

Callaghan’s Chicken Philly — my go-to sandwich for lunch. It is served on delicious, fresh baked bread and filled to overflowing with chunks of chicken breast, onions, green peppers, and tons of good cheese. I typically order this with a side of housemade chips or Callaghan’s tart cucumber salad. They brew really good iced tea too. It’s always a good call (sweet or unsweet) if you’re working or if it’s not yet 5 pm. I must admit that this line of thought isn’t always in vogue at Callaghan’s. Mobile is a fun loving city and, for many, work can always wait until tomorrow.

John “JT” Thompson is a terrific host and you will feel like a regular upon your first visit. The atmosphere is so warm and cozy, they’ve got HD TVs all over the place, and you’d be surprised at all the first rate musical acts they are able to consistently book here. Robert Plant even stopped by for a pint or two after playing a recent show in Mobile with his Band of Joy. That should give you an idea about Callaghan’s worldwide reputation. ESQUIRE magazine ranked them one of the best bars in the USA. Doesn’t surprise me a bit. I just hope the rest of Mobile doesn’t find out about them. I feel like I’m on the right side of a well kept secret and, selfishly, I’d like to keep it that way. At least for another decade or two.

www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com

Our Return Visit to Apalachicola, Florida

2 Jan

The Coombs House Inn (above) was once again our home base on this brief visit to the FL panhandle. Apalachicola is Florida’s seafood capital and the Coombs House, along with the historic Gibson Inn, is a great choice for overnight accomodations. Lizette, our hostess this go around, was very helpful — from booking our stay to serving breakfast to offering up local dining tips.

Asian accents inside the Coombs House Inn. It is a tastefully decorated estate.

The Raney Room — our accomodations for the evening. Comfortable!

Our breakfast of Egg Souffle, fresh fruit, & hash browns. This picture doesn’t do it justice. It was delicious — especially on an unseasonably chilly, overcast morning along the Gulf Coast. We were also on the receiving end of some tasty snacks and good wines during their Saturday evening guest reception.

That Place Off 98 was suggested by Lizette as a favorite dining spot for locals. It once was on Highway 98, but is now relocated to downtown Apalachicola. The name stuck — that must mean people liked it. Right? It looked cozy enough, so we hit it for lunch on a Saturday afternoon. It was something of a late lunch for us and the crowd in the dining room was light. Guess that’s to be expected since they were missing the weekday business crowd.

The doors were decorated for the holidays. Beautiful colors, huh?

The dining room at That Place Off 98. A casual place – as is Apalach in general.

Panhandle Stew — the highlight of my meal. In fact, I might even say the dining highlight of the entire trip. Yes, it was that good. Think a really good clam chowder … minus the clams … plus loads of taters, carrots, and fresh Gulf fish. Huge chunks of fish rising out of the creamy stew like gigantic icebergs of moist, flaky deliciousness. The cup was not enough. I needed a bowl. Check that — I should have ordered a bucket full. Amazing stuff. If only I could score the recipe.

“Oysters Apalach” with garlic and parmesan cheese. Small but mighty in flavor.

The Hole in the Wall Raw Bar was our dinner destination. Cool little place — and I do mean little. It is very clean inside and the help made us feel right at home. We were seated at the tall boy tables in the center of the dining area. A young couple next to us were already hard at work peeling the shells off some freshly boiled shrimp.

Menu specials at Hole in the Wall. The price was right for raw oysters!

I started with a very meaty cup of gumbo. It was delicious … especially after adding a dash of salt and a splash of Tabasco sauce. They sure don’t skimp on the ingredients. Much like my Panhandle Stew earlier in the day, the gumbo at Hole in the Wall featured huge chunks of meat and vegetables. Really hit the spot on a bone chilling evening.

Eileen ordered this delicious boiled shrimp platter. Just $10.95 for all this!

Gator mural inside The Hole in the Wall. A fine example of coastal folk art.

Little Mom & Pop seafood markets like this can be found all over the region.

The Owl Cafe is another popular downtown eatery. Maybe next trip???

The main entry at the Owl Cafe. Nice looking place for dinner & drinks.

Don’t miss this wonderful antique store. It is chock full of nautical delights.

Vintage scuba helmet — glub, glub, glub. Would look great on my mantle piece.

Life preservers — not the candy kind — but still SWEET!

Other nautical finds to be discovered at The Tin Shed in Apalachicola.

This old graveyard is directly across from the Coombs House Inn.

Another old seafood market. My colorized version for added affect.

Sunset over the Apalachicola Bay — such a lovely part of Old Florida!

www.apalachicolabay.org

Divine Bakery Treats in the Heart of Cajun Country

17 Nov

Keller’s Bakery is a morning “must-do” in downtown Lafayette, LA.

Even the paper bags are old school at Keller’s Bakery.

Keller’s shows their support for the UL-L Ragin’ Cajuns football team.

These unique Walnut Macaroons immediately caught my eye. Deee-lish!

Nothing like a nutty macaroon and a cup o’ cafe chaud!

LeJeune’s Bakery (circa 1884) is a landmark in Jeanerette.

LeJeune supplies much of the bread for the surrounding community.

The Jeanerette locals like to meet and eat at The Yellow Bowl.

Bread pudding is a popular treat at eateries throughout the region.  

Told ya they were a historic landmark!

The most exquisite pastries were found at Lafayette’s Poupart’s Bakery.

http://www.poupartsbakery.com/