My parents were in town visiting recently, and I wanted to make a special dinner. Lobster is an expensive ingredient, but life is short and sometimes, one must indulge. Continue reading “Southern Coastal Heaven: Lobster Mac & Cheese”
Have you ever been in a ground beef rut? I found myself there recently when the ultimate question came up: What’s for dinner? Continue reading “Hearty Hamburger Soup for the Soul”
New Year’s Day is here, and every good Southerner knows what that means: It’s time to cook up a hearty meal that echoes the good vibes a brand new year can bring: luck, prosperity and cash flow.
With the biggest food holiday of the year just days away, I’ve got three side dishes to enliven your family feast. Each recipe offers something unique: 1) a family tradition, 2) a restaurant-inspired side dish and 3) an original. From sweet to savory, I’ve got you covered! Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving at home or traveling, cook up one of these Southern sides, and you’ll have everyone chowing down with gratitude. Continue reading “Three Thanksgiving Side Dishes For Your Family Table”
Bowens Island Restaurant
Charleston, South Carolina
In my short six months as a Charlestonian, I’ve learned one very accommodating notion about the food scene: The Holy City offers a dining experience for every frame of mind. Without a doubt, diners will find their every hearts’ desire–Want high-end fare, served with keen attention to detail on white tablecloths to the tune of jazz music? How about brunch in a funky roadside dive or on the porch of a historic Victorian home-turned-culinary delight? Maybe it’s serenity you seek in the natural surroundings of the Lowcountry–a place where you can gaze upon the marshlands while sinking your teeth into the ocean’s bounty. Chucktown has it all.
While hand-crafted cocktails and perfectly plated entrées are a luxury, sometimes just the taste of crunchy fried shrimp or a good hush-puppy dunked in cocktail sauce and chased by a cold glass of sweet tea does the trick. On a warm Friday night recently, I found such a place: Bowens Island Restaurant. Down home and casual as can be, you’d never know it existed (the restaurant has no website or Facebook page) unless you had a little insider insight.
Just as traffic breaks free on the way out to Folly Beach, visitors will notice a large spray painted sign which points the way down a washed out dirt road to 1870 Bowens Island Rd. Take this road slowly, not just to avoid a flat tire, but because you won’t want to miss the glorious mansions on each side of the road, flanked by shade trees and grandiose Southern porches.
You’ll stand in line to place your order. It can be a long line, because people are willing to wait for good food. I met some friends there around 7 p.m. on a weekend, and we waited about 10-15 minutes.
Views of boats motoring up to the docks, the smell of fresh-caught seafood and the sun setting over the water will keep you pretty entertained. Not to mention the anticipation of at least 10 local brews on tap.
There’s not a bad seat in the house–or outside “the house” for that matter. Take your pick of where to rest your weary bones: Indoor dining room, indoor bar, or outside on the deck facing the water. Should you pick inside, be forewarned, there’s no air conditioning. Ceiling fans and the natural sea breeze keep the air circulating. The dining room is a bustling place. Waiters come barreling out of the kitchen with trays of hot fried seafood, hollering the name on your order.
Orders are served in recyclable cartons with plastic utensils. A big roll of paper towels sits on each table. The menu has everything from fried and boiled shrimp to in-season oysters and fried chicken tenders. The food is well seasoned, hot upon arrival and for those blessed to have eaten a lot on the coast, familiar. Unlike a large percentage of Charleston dining establishments, there won’t be an item on this menu you can’t pronounce or an ingredient you have to question. Hush-puppies, french fries and coleslaw come with just about everything. The “Big Ol’ Seafood Platter” is the most expensive thing on the menu, coming in at $19. Simple, and Some Kinda Good!
If your idea of a night on the town is a laid back, no fuss Lowcountry experience, this is your spot. Open six nights a week from 5 – 10 p.m., you can bet I’ll be there again soon, sipping on a cold Corona.
Now based in Charleston, South Carolina, Georgia native Rebekah Faulk is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” she is the former Statesboro Herald food columnist and past host of the television program Statesboro Cooks. From 2012 – ’14, she appeared regularly as Celebrity Chef at the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market and wrote as a guest blogger for Visit Savannah and The Local Palate. In addition, Faulk’s work is published in Moments magazine and Connect Statesboro. Her culinary accomplishments are recognized in two publications: She is a featured alumna in Georgia Southern Magazine (Spring ’14) and the “Go Girl!” in Moments magazine (March 2104), a tabloid for Moms and Modern Women. To learn more, visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk.
Valentine’s Day is well on its way, and if you find yourself without a restaurant reservation, or simply prefer to have a romantic night at home, I’ve got a three course restaurant-quality meal that’s Some Kinda Good and easy to prepare. What’s more romantic than setting the mood in your own home, and cooking next to the one you love? Continue reading “Table for Two at Home”
“After Ruth died and the railroad stopped runnin’, the cafe shut down and everybody just scattered to the winds. It was never more’n just a little knockabout place, but now that I look back on it, when that cafe closed, the heart of the town just stopped beatin’. It’s funny how a little place like this brought so many people together.” – Ninny Threadgoode, Fried Green Tomatoes
On a beautiful fall day recently, my mom and boyfriend, Kurt, ventured to have lunch at the Whistle Stop Cafe, made famous by the 1991 movie “Fried Green Tomatoes,” a comedy-drama based on the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Though the movie plot is set in 1920’s Alabama, the filming took place in Juliette, Georgia. It’s one of those films that every Southerner can relate to; every character in the movie is identifiable as one’s own family member. The cafe was everything I’d imagined it would be: country with a wide front porch complete with rocking chairs and large ferns, inviting in a way that reminds you of a simpler time and place, and authentic with a menu that proclaims Southern culture and cultivates deep-seated food memories in the hearts and minds of every diner.
We drank sweet iced tea served in Mason jars with big wedges of lemon and bit into the crunchy, highly anticipated Fried Green Tomato appetizer to the tune of Hank Williams Jr.’s “Country State of Mind.” The hand sliced green tomatoes were battered and fried to perfection, and you could see flecks of black pepper in the coating. Served with made-from-scratch radish sauce, it tasted much like a spicy Thousand Island dressing, though the waitress was tight-lipped with the recipe. We placed our orders — Country Fried Steak with mashed potatoes and gravy and Brunswick stew for Kurt, Yard Bird Tenders with collard greens, grilled squash and zucchini for mama, and the Fried Green Tomato Burger featuring Swiss cheese, lettuce, onion, bacon and radish sauce, with sweet potato fries for me. What I loved most about the menu was how the Fried Green Tomato was elevated — featured in an appetizer, a salad, a sandwich and on a burger, the restaurant’s name is not in vain. Prices ranged around $9 an order to $22 for a full rack of Smoked Baby Back ribs.
For dessert, we split a slice of seven layer lemon cheesecake with vanilla bean ice cream. The cake was moist and light, with tangy sheets of lemon filling between each layer. Other dessert options included peach cobbler, pecan cobbler, apple dumpling and chocolate bread pudding.
The once general merchandising store-turned-cafe still contains an antique file system loaded with old yellow tickets from the past along with the meat block, cash register, meat scales, wood heater, safe and other items used from 1927 to 1972. Movie memorabilia and local history also adorn the walls. Folks sit on bar stools at the u-shaped counter top in the center of the restaurant, or in tables and booths. The floors squeak and ceiling fans keep the air flowing.
The wait staff wear t-shirts that say, “Get Fried at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” and bustle about welcoming tourists and locals.
If you’ve never seen the movie, watch it. If you’ve never read the book, read it. And if you’ve never eaten at the cafe, plan a trip. You’ll be glad you did.
Good food and good company, that’s what it’s all about!
Get my recipe for Farm to Table Fried Green Tomatoes.
Shrimp and Grits: The Lowcountry staple has been around for more than 100 years and you can hardly visit a restaurant these days without seeing it on the menu. In 2011, Shrimp & Grits was the most popular dish served at weddings across the United States.
The cookbook, Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, says the first printed copy of the original recipe, titled “Shrimp and Hominy,” was located in the 1930 edition of Two Hundred Years of Charleston Cooking. Many variations of the recipe exist today, but one thing is certain: a recipe is only as good as the quality of ingredients.
We’re especially blessed in Statesboro to live in the coastal plains where wild Georgia shrimp is easy to come by and Georgia farmers are aplenty, producing those healthful vegetables like sweet red bell pepper and jalapenos that accompany the special sauce in my shrimp and grits recipe. Statesboro is even home to Freeman’s Mill–stone grinding grits and corn meal daily. Here’s a tip: When cooking grits, always take the opportunity to layer in depth of flavor. Instead of using water, try milk or broth. I love the creamy texture milk gives grits and the flavor of them when they’re cooked in chicken or beef broth. That special touch takes the dish from mediocre to restaurant quality faster than you can say “Go Eagles.”
Whenever possible, shop local. Nothing beats sitting down to a meal grown on Georgia ground, planted by the hands of people in our own community and supporting the local farmers. One visit to the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market, and you’ll be well on your way to cooking my recipe for Shrimp & Grits with a White Wine Sauce featuring Hunter Cattle Company’s hardwood smoked bacon and Prosser’s Wholesale Shrimp in Brooklet.
Open every Saturday from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market is chock-full of everything you need to get cookin’.
Here’s my recipe. Enjoy!
Shrimp & Grits with a White Wine Sauce
- 1 pound of Prosser’s Wholesale Wild Georgia Shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Freeman’s Mill Stone Ground Grits or (Jim Dandy Grits in pinch!)
- Chicken Broth, heavy cream for finishing
- 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese per every two cups grits
- 6 Slices Thick cut, Hickory Smoked Hunter Cattle Company Bacon
- Half of 1 medium Sweet Vidalia Onion
- 1 Large clove of Garlic, minced
- 1 Medium Red Bell Pepper, diced
- 1 Jalapeno Pepper, minced
- 2 Tbs white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Old Bay Seasoning
- Green onion or chives for garnish
Cook shrimp in about 2 Tbs. of olive oil until they turn pink. Season with Old Bay. Cook grits according to package directions using the appropriate amount of chicken broth, depending on the portion size you’re serving. Season grits with salt & pepper, then add butter and stir in Parmesan cheese. Stir in a splash or two of heavy cream for added richness. Meanwhile, cook approximately six slices of bacon. Drain on paper towels. Pour off bacon grease, reserving 2 Tbs. to sauté vegetables. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring. Add garlic last. Once vegetables have married together, deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add heavy cream and let come to a simmer, stirring constantly. To plate, spoon grits in a bowl, top with white wine sauce and surround grits around the perimeter of the bowl with about 10 shrimp per serving. Garnish with green onion or chives.
Wild Georgia Shrimp & Summer Corn Chowder
All summer I’ve been wanting to make Shrimp and Corn Chowder, and today, I did it. Aside from peeling the potatoes and shucking the corn, the recipe requires little to no effort other than stirring and simmering. Pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay, turn on some good music and settle into your kitchen. For me, eating a meal like this with vegetables that are in season and locally sourced, is ultimately satisfying. Some recipes suggest frozen potatoes and corn, but I find I appreciate the meal so much more when I’ve worked a little to make it happen. The crunch of summer’s sweet corn with salty bacon and starchy potatoes come together in complete harmony with wild Georgia plump shrimp. Creamy and pleasing to the eye with great texture, this dish epitomizes Some Kinda Good!
- 3 slices of hardwood smoked bacon
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 2 bunches of green onions, chopped
- 1/2 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
- 2 large baked potatoes, peeled and diced
- 3 ears of fresh, summer corn, sliced off the cob
- 3 sprigs lemon thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 quart 2% milk
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Old Bay, for seasoning shrimp
In a large skillet with a high rim, cook bacon on medium-high heat. Remove the bacon, but leave the grease. Stir in the celery, green onions and Vidalia onions, potatoes and corn. Add the thyme, bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Stir in the flour until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the milk, then cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce the heat to medium low and gently simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
Season the shrimp with Old Bay. Stir in the shrimp and cook until opaque, about 4 minutes. Season with salt. Divide among bowls and sprinkle with green onion and chopped bacon. Serve with Italian bread.
Two of my best friends recently took me to dinner at a place more than 153 miles inland from the Georgia Coast located in my hometown of Augusta, Georgia. They promised it would be “right up my alley” and said I should “be prepared to blog about it.” Though it’s been open since I was nine years old, that Friday night was the first time I’d ever heard of it or set foot through its doors. Tucked away in a small community at the west end of Walton Way, Rae’s Coastal Cafe transported me to the islands the moment I stepped inside, perpetuated only by the best Key Lime Pie Martini I’ve ever had, and a house salad that rivaled my go-to Caesar and sailed away with my heart.
The cafe touched on every indicator I consider noteworthy about a restaurant: 1) It’s independently owned, 2) The local, casual atmosphere was well done–coastal but not in an obnoxious way, 3) The food was excellent and 4) The service was informed.
Meet our waitress, April. Servers have the ability to make or break a dining experience and if they’re on point, nine times out of 10, your visit will be too. April was well-informed on the menu items, at the ready with refills, and intuitively aware of when to ask if we were ready for the next course or if she could take our empty plates. As a first time visitor, she sold me on the house salad when I routinely ordered a Caesar, and I’m so glad I took her word. Super friendly and seemingly happy to be at work, April enhanced our meal and represented Rae’s expertly well.
There on the table, much to my surprise sat a product from good ol’ Statesboro…Braswell’s Vidalia Onion Steak Sauce. That made this Statesboro food writer proud.
The meal began with fresh-baked rolls, served with spreadable butter, followed by Rae’s Famous House Salad, known as an Augusta favorite. A simple combination of fresh greens and tomatoes tossed in a homemade dressing, the salad is plated in a cold, pewter-like bowl and topped with crunchy croutons made in-house. It was everything one could hope for–light, tangy, crunchy and refreshing.
I ordered the Blackened Mahi-Mahi, a healthy 9 oz. fillet topped with Cajun spices, seared in a cast iron skillet and served with new potatoes. April informed me that Rae’s uses the same spices on the fish as in their famous Jamaican Jerk Chicken. The Mahi-Mahi had the perfect kick to it and together with the buttery potatoes, I was happy and satisfied. My friends shared the special that evening: Carolina Mountain Trout with crisp green beans and new potatoes. For dessert, we tackled a slice of Chocolate Cheesecake made with Kahlua and drizzled with raspberry syrup. Other tempting menu items included Coconut Fried Shrimp, the Crabmeat Sandwich (yes, that’s right. Not crab cake, crabMEAT!), the Dolphin Sandwich and Filet Mignon. Chicken, steak, seafood…they do it all!
It’s a good thing that I no longer live in Augusta because I would have to have this drink in my life every day. Rimmed in a graham cracker crust, the Key Lime Pie Martini was the most balanced blend of sweet and tart I’ve ever experienced. It was like drinking pie. Move over Malibu Bay Breeze, there’s a new sheriff in town.
Dining at Rae’s Coastal Cafe felt like an episode of Cheers. The owner, Walter, makes his way through the restaurant greeting guests and shaking hands. You’re bound to run into someone you know there. It’s a comfortable place where people go to enjoy good food and good company…after all, that’s what it’s all about!
Special thanks to these two (who just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary!) for a wonderful evening out. Y’all know me well.