It’s pumpkin spice season, y’all! I mean, fall. Bring on the granny smith apples, the bright orange pumpkins and multi-colored gourds, the cooler weather, football season and pumpkin spice everything. Lattes, coffee creamer, candles…oh my.
I have so many exciting things to update you guys on!! We’re just a few weeks away from the Food Network Star Season Premiere and the countdown is officially on. Continue reading “You’re Invited: Food Network Star Watch Party!!”
I moved to Savannah, Georgia just before Christmas last year, and began a new full-time job in March. When you work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the lunch hour is always a bright spot during the day.
It’s that infamous time of year in The Hostess City when everyone, no matter who your people are, becomes Irish for a day. Since I met and married a bonafide Savannahian, my life has never been the same. On March 17 each year, come rain or shine, we will don our green and orange, raise our glasses, pack our picnic baskets and join the hundreds of thousands of others in the Spanish moss-covered oak tree city of Savannah, Georgia.
In my mind, coastal Georgia and everything that comes along with it–like Lowcountry boil parties and oyster roasts–is next to Jesus. With my Holiday Cheese Ball in tow, I attended my first oyster roast in Savannah recently and ate my fill of the slippery, salty mollusks. The New Year’s Eve get-together was a fantastic way to say goodbye 2014 and hello 2015, while at the same time learning a thing or two about how the locals throw a sho’ ’nuff (sure enough) shindig.
Longtime Savannah food writer Martha Nesbit describes the scene at an oyster roast perfectly in her cookbook, Savannah Celebrations. “Singles or clusters are roasted over a sturdy piece of steel placed over a roaring fire. The oysters are covered with a burlap sack, which is hosed down; the oysters steam underneath. The oysters are ready when they pop open; the cooks have the responsibility of shoveling the oysters from the fire to the table, which is usually wooden, at least waist-high and unadorned.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!
The host and cook behind these bad boys was my friend Kyle Byrd. He grilled these oysters on the half shell with garlic butter, lemon, Worcestershire sauce, fresh herbs and hot sauce on the Big Green Egg. Some Kinda Good, what you talkin’ ’bout!
During the party, we also ate steamed oysters. My favorite way to eat them was with a dab of cocktail sauce on a Saltine cracker. Take a look at how Kyle and my good lookin’ date (two good ol’ Georgia boys) prepared them in this 15 second Instagram video:
And now, for seven pearls of wisdom I came across while researching oysters:
1. Nearly two billion pounds of these mollusks are eaten every year.
2. The saying “The World is Your Oyster” comes from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor: “The world’s mine oyster. Which I with sword will open.”
3. Eating four to six oysters a day provides a complete daily supply of copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. Oysters are one of the most nutritionally well-balanced of foods, containing protein, carbohydrates and lipids. The National Heart and Lung Institute suggest oysters as an ideal food for inclusion in low-cholesterol diets and an excellent source of vitamins.
4. Norwegian Rune Naeri set the Guinness World Record for the most oysters eaten in 2003: He devoured 187 in three minutes.
5. The largest oysters can grow up to three feet long in shell length.
6. Depending on the location of their cultivation, there are significant differences in the flavor profiles in the oyster. East Coast oysters tend to be more briny while West Coast oysters tend to be sweeter.
7. Almost all oysters can secrete pearls, but not all are valuable. The pearl oysters come from a different family than edible oysters.
What fun facts would you add to my list?
The evening I met the Queen of Southern Cuisine began in true Savannah style with cold beverages from the bar – Pinot Grigio for me and a Yuengling for my handsome – and live music – a classic Ray Charles cover song, none other than “Georgia On My Mind,” performed by two talented guys with their guitars and perfect harmonies. The lights turned down in the Lucas Theatre and this is what we heard:
They played two more songs, The Allman Brother’s “Ramblin’ Man” and “Chicken Fried” by The Zac Brown Band…perfectly appropriate before Paula Deen took the stage.
And then, there she was. After all the years I’d watched her on TV and imagined her voice as I read her books, there she was not more than 125 feet standing in front of me. She and her husband Michael came out dancing. Her son, Jamie Deen tweeted this photo from backstage which read: “Seeing Mom dance makes me happy.” It did my heart good to see them too, resilient and carefree – A stark difference from what the media would have us to believe. He twirled her around on stage as the audience clapped, hooped and hollered. I must admit, I got a little teary eyed, and nearly patted my boyfriend’s kneecap off in excitement.
Her boys, Jamie and Bobby trickled out some time after that. I was so star struck, I don’t remember them entering the stage. Immediately, it was as if I was seeing an old friend, hanging out with Paula and her family in their living room. There was no formality, no script to the show. Paula was the exact same in person as she is on television. When she spoke, she began recognizing faces in the audience, pointing out her new daughter-in-law to us all (Congratulations Bobby!), and acknowledging other friends and relatives that had come to see her. She is the personable, warm and sweet spirited woman I have grown to know and love, oozing with Southern hospitality and authentic drawl. Right away, she told us what we could expect from the show, with a funny interjection from Michael. Throughout the night, the tugboat captain was like a Parakeet, chirping witty things whenever the moment struck:
The night was filled with great audience interaction. At one point, Paula called a Look-A-Like up on stage. We played “Deen There, Done That,” hosted by “Bobby Chewbanks” dressed in full costume, complete with a wig and an old-fashioned sport coat. Later, Bobby told us a funny story about his Grandma Paul (God rest her soul), who lived to be 91. He said she use to take her medicine with a pull-tab Budweiser Tall Boy.
Paula spoke to a packed house. I don’t believe there was an empty seat in the Theatre. During the event, she cooked up three dishes with help from the family: a Georgia Peach Trifle, a Chicken Arugula Salad and Jambalaya. Next to meeting Paula, my favorite part of the show were the short video clips they shared. We got to see how Michael and Paula met and even got an inside look and mini tour of Paula’s beautiful home on Wilmington Island. Her rags-to-riches story was shared, including a look back at “The Bag Lady” days. Many audience members had eaten those first lunches.
After the show, I got to meet and talk with Jamie and Michael. Jamie was as nice as he could be. He looked at my boyfriend Kurt who is born and raised in Savannah–and took a double take. “Don’t I know you?,” Jamie said. Kurt replied, “I’m from Savannah. You may have seen me around.” Then Jamie said, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve poured you a glass of sweet tea or two.” CLASSIC!! You can’t make this stuff up.
Michael and Paula met because of Paula’s Shih Tzus, Sam and Otis. Me and Paula have even more in common than Southern, coastal cooking, y’all! I bet she’d love my sweet Shih Tzu, Ewok.
The moment finally came when I would have my chance to meet Paula. I received no special treatment, it was every man for himself. About the time I approached the stage, I heard her bodyguard say, “Okay, last one folks. Paula’s got places to be.” Panic set in. I couldn’t be in the same room with Paula and not at least try to get a photo. This opportunity may never present itself again!
Just before she walked off the stage, I managed to jump in and snap these three pitiful selfies. I also handed her a copy of “It Ain’t All About the Cooking,” and she quickly scribbled Paula on the inside cover. And just like that, she was gone. So close, but so far away. Will this lady ever know how much she’s influenced me in the kitchen? Will she ever know it’s my dream to cook with her? So much to say, so little time. I am a better cook because of you, Paula. Thanks for paving the way.
Paula, if you read this, know that your fans are so glad you’re “getting butter every day.” We never doubted you would.
Some Kinda Good Teams Up with Paula Deen LIVE!
During Tybee Island Restaurant Week, I had the privilege of meeting a fellow blogger–one of my longtime blog followers, and discovering a new place I had seen in the distance many times while crossing over the Lazaretto Creek Bridge, but had never taken the time to stop and explore. After a little menu research on participating restaurants, the Fried Strawberries at Coco’s Sunset Grille caught my eye and the marina filled with shrimp boats and sunset views lured me in.
Immediately, Coco’s has the feel of a fun and festive Florida vibe with its bright, cheerful paint colors and lively bar. While my boyfriend, Kurt and I were waiting to meet our friends, Jon and Lydia, we took a walk around the docks and saw the Bait & Tackle Shop and Kayak Rentals on the marina.
We kicked things off with a couple of Landshark Lagers and dove right in to making our selections. For just $25, the special menu offered choices in appetizer, dinner and dessert categories. In the appetizer round, we had our choice of French Onion Soup, a Shrimp Cake, Fried Green Tomatoes or Bacon-Wrapped Scallops.
For my main course, I ordered the Shrimp Cakes with sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes. This was something new for me. I had eaten crab cakes before, but never a shrimp cake. Cooked to perfection, the plump, wild Georgia shrimp were sweet within the seasoned breading and left me wanting more. Rustic including the red skins, the mashed potatoes sang on the plate. The house-made remoulade was mayonnaise based and one waitress commented, “I put it on everything. I even dip my fries in it.”
Other dinner selections included Sirloin Steak Marsala with scalloped potatoes and grilled asparagus, and Thai Tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies. Coco’s is the place to go for sophisticated flavors minus the fuss of fine dining.
The Fried Strawberries totally surpassed my expectations! After the delicious meal we’d eaten, this came as no surprise. Served with fresh, sweetened whipped cream and a pretty pink strawberry sauce, the fresh fruit was fried in pancake batter and rolled in cinnamon sugar. I can’t wait to recreate this experience at home. They were Some Kinda Good!
So much of a customer’s dining experience is affected by a restaurant’s environment. From the attitude of the staff to the sound of live entertainment and the tastefully decorated, clean bathrooms, Coco’s Sunset Grille is a place I will definitely return, especially in the summertime. Their website took the words right out of my mouth–“Just add an ice-cold beer…great music, and a few of your best friends, and you’ve got a recipe for Tybee living the way it’s meant to be.”
Special thanks to my fellow blogger and new-found friend, Jon, of “The SOG City Oracle” (SOG is abbreviated for South of Gandy). Though we’d interacted before in the blogsphere, our visit to Coco’s was the first time we’d met in person. He’d suggested a “blogger convergence” during Tybee Island Restaurant Week, and we had such a great time meeting (and eating!) together. On his Tampa, Florida blog, Jon shares his passion for food and more, with “only an occasional opinionated detour.” While reading “The SOG City Oracle,” you’ll appreciate his witty sense of humor, be enlightened by his Quote of the Day and you’ll come across several restaurants worth paying a visit.
Good food and good company, that’s what it’s all about!