Downtown Statesboro is Alive with South & Vine Public House

UPDATE: South & Vine Public House caught fire on Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Owner Seni Alabi Isama has now opened a new restaurant in Statesboro called 441 Public Kitchen and Bar. More on the fire here: South & Vine Public House Burned But Not Broken. 


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South & Vine Public House
Statesboro, Georgia

Great things are happening at the intersection of South Main and West Vine streets in downtown Statesboro. Open for just four months now, one Georgia Southern alumnus and his team are making a big impact on the community, with a focus on flavor and a philosophy on fresh that you won’t believe until your taste buds live it. With more than 1,000 Facebook likes, South & Vine Public House is a food experience Savannahians will soon be driving to Bulloch County to discover.

wpid-20130601_193417.jpgYou won’t find the menu online because it changes daily based on ingredient availability and the owner’s intuition. No matter what’s featured, you can be guaranteed it will be made with local ingredients and cooked to perfection by Chef and Owner Seni (pronounced Shanney), Head Chef Stephen, who formerly worked at Emma’s Fine Dining & Lounge, and Sous Chef Sebastian, a Miami native.

This is a restaurant that gets it.

THE FOOD:


At South & Vine Public House, food is the main event. From Hunter Cattle Company beef, ground in-house, to the made-from-scratch ketchup and mayonnaise, these folks are really cooking. The menu features what’s in season, so when an item runs out, it’s all gone. Dine here if it’s flavor you seek, an appreciation for quality ingredients, beautiful presentation and healthy portion sizes paired with appropriate prices. Excellence reveals itself in each menu item’s texture, plating and taste.

THE BAR:

Happy hour is from 4 – 6 p.m. daily, featuring 25% off the entire bar and all appetizers.

THE ATMOSPHERE:

A casual environment, you’ll find a small vase of fresh flowers at each table and utensils wrapped in white linens. The restaurant has an open concept floor plan including a “window” into the kitchen, and a chalkboard placed behind the hostess stand highlighting daily specials. Seating includes tables, booths and a bar area overlooking South Main Street. Attention is even given to the clean, tastefully decorated restrooms (which I always appreciate).

THE STAFF:


The team at South & Vine is welcoming and knowledgeable about the menu. Owner Seni and his wife, move about the restaurant conversing with customers, making mental notes of names and faces. It’s a place guests feel comfortable and leave satisfied.

wpid-20130601_205406.jpgWe parted with this subtle note of hospitality, a hand-carved “flower vase” made of Walker Farms’ rainbow carrots, compliments of the chef.

South & Vine Public House on Urbanspoon

Crack This: Farm Eggs vs. Store-Bought

I’ve eaten eggs from the grocery store my entire life. I’m sure at some point in my childhood I’ve tasted an egg fresh from the chicken coop because my Grandpa raised chickens, but that was before my palate was experienced enough to appreciate the difference. It’s true that when you’ve never experienced better, you don’t know what you’re missing.

wpid-IMG_20130510_185756.jpgSo, when my good lookin’ boyfriend showed up at my door last week with one dozen, light brown and cream-colored farm eggs in one hand and a beautiful bouquet of flowers in the other (I know…keeper), I set my sights on cooking the eggs just the way a farmer recommended: in a little bacon grease with salt and pepper. I’ve never tasted anything like these eggs…it was pure eggstacy (had to do it!). Seriously, the flavor is out of this world, and sure to make you crack a smile (okay, okay). During cooking I found them to be more fluffy than a store-bought egg. Produced by free-range chickens, farm eggs are more nutritious because the chickens are able to roam freely and eat a natural diet. They contain no added hormones or fillers and are not processed. 

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wpid-20130520_195545.jpgOne meal that exemplifies comfort food for me and really lets the farm egg shine, is the tried and true bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. A fancy meal has its time and place, but it’s not always the five-star, fine dining plates that trip my trigger. Sometimes, a good ol’ familiar meal is the only thing I need to feel centered, satisfied and one with my kitchen again. Served with a side of cheese grits, breakfast for dinner has never been better.

Here’s how I make the classic McDonald’s biscuit-turned-sandwich at home:

  • Thick cut, hickory smoked bacon
  • Nature’s Own Honey Wheat Bread
  • 2 Farm Fresh Chicken Eggs
  • Blackberry Jelly (I used homemade jelly from the Amish country that I got from a quaint market, but Smucker’s works great if you don’t have that).
  • Kraft’s Sharp Cheddar Cheese, sliced

Cook three strips of bacon in a skillet on medium heat until just crispy (I like mine slightly underdone). Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour off some of the grease, reserving enough to cook the eggs, about 1-2 tablespoons. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl, season with salt & pepper. Pour the eggs into the pan and let set. Cook for about 2 -3 minutes on each side, flipping once for even browning. Meanwhile, slice or grate the cheddar cheese and toast two slices of bread. Spread toasted bread with blackberry jelly, then build the sandwich. Serve with a side of cheese grits for optimum enjoyment!

wpid-20130520_194926.jpgAnd remember, when building the sandwich, it’s all about good architecture! Somehow, the sandwich tastes better when cut into a triangle shape too. At least, that’s the way mama always sent me to school, with a neatly packed cut-in-half sandwich in my brown paper sack.

Have you ever tasted a farm egg? If so, how would you describe the difference?

The Best Crab Cakes in The World

Some folks say “Yum!” Some let off a long, low “mmmmmm.” Me? I praise the Lord. I mean, I have church. It’s the perfect bite that brings it out of me. It can happen anywhere–in a restaurant, at my mama’s table. When I taste it, the words just naturally roll off my tongue. Crunch. Thank you holy Jesus. Taste. Glory to your name Father. Swallow. Halleluiah. It’s not every time I eat, but when it happens, you’ll know. I raise my hands in praise and get the oddest looks from those around me. When I made these crab cakes, it happened.

This is what a crab cake should be. This my friends, is the best crab cake in the world. If heaven were a taste, you’re looking at it. Made up of lump crab meat and a few spices with only an egg white to bind everything together, the flavor of crab meat is the main event. No saltines, no breading–this is a true crab cake. Inspired by the King of the Lowcountry himself, the late beloved writer Pat Conroy, this recipe comes from “The Pat Conroy Cookbook.”

Any good cook will tell you, a beautiful meal starts with the finest ingredients. Prosser’s Wholesale Shrimp is a hidden gem in Brooklet, Georgia. It’s where the locals go to get wild Georgia shrimp, crab legs, crab meat and all the fixin’s for their lowcountry boils. It’s where I went to get my crab meat. Even while I shopped, the owner’s father was shrimping on the Southern seacoast.

At the Statesboro Mainstreet Farmers’ Market, I picked up some homegrown hot peppers and a bunch of garlic chives. I seeded and chopped the pepper, and it gave my crab cakes a nice kick and punch of color.

Combine one pound of lump crab meat with chopped pepper and garlic chives, then season with cayenne pepper, freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt.

Beat one egg white lightly and pour over the crab mixture.

Fold everything together gently. Once the crab meat has absorbed the egg white and is sticky to the touch, sift one tablespoon of all-purpose flour into the mix.

The recipe makes eight cakes. They are very fragile. To form the cakes, divide the crab mixture into eight balls. Then flatten each one slightly with the palm of your hand. Season each one with a little more kosher salt. Refrigerate the cakes for at least an hour.

Combine a teaspoon of peanut oil and about a tablespoon of butter in a skillet and let it get hot. This is the secret to a beautiful, crunchy crust.

Gently lay the crab cakes in the skillet. I put my first one in the pan as if it were a hamburger and it immediately crumbled. It’s all good though, because you’ll have eight chances to get it right. When you flip them, a small flat spatula will make the job easiest. Keep them very close to the bottom of the pan and be as delicate as possible. Not going to lie, flipping crab cakes is a stressful experience. Here’s the good news: they’re edible no matter what their shape. 😉

Serve them on a bed of greens with lemon wedges, a side of grits and a cold glass of sweet tea. It’s sure to be a lowcountry experience no matter where you live.


Recipe Recap
Excerpted from “The Pat Conroy Cookbook” by Pat Conroy copyright © 2004

Pat Conroy’s Crab Cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over and cleaned, with all shell fragments removed
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten (until just foamy, not stiff)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely snipped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons peanut oil
  • Lemon wedges

Cooking Directions

Place the cleaned crabmeat in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the egg white over crabmeat slowly, stopping occasionally to mix it through. When the crabmeat has absorbed the egg white and feels slightly sticky to the touch, sift the flour over crabmeat and sprinkle the chives, black pepper, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon of the salt evenly over the top. Lift the crabmeat from the bottom of the bowl, turning it over gently, to mix the ingredients without overhandling.

Separate the crabmeat into 8 equal portions and gently roll each between the flattened palms of your hands to form loose balls. Flatten slightly and transfer to a plate. Sprinkle both sides liberally with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking.

Line a baking pan with paper towels. Fry the crab cakes in two batches to ensure a crisp crust. Using a small (8-inch) heavy skillet that conducts heat well, melt half the butter and oil together until the mixture is foamy and begins to brown. Carefully place the crab cakes in the hot fat and fry until a crust forms, turning only once, about 2 minutes per side. (The fat should be sizzling hot, enabling a crisp crust to form before the crab absorbs the cooking fat. This is the Southern secret to perfect crab cakes.) A small pastry spatula (with a thin tongue) will make lifting and turning the delicate crab cakes a lot easier. Remove the crab cakes and drain in the prepared pan. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm while you make the second batch.

Carefully pour off the cooking fat from the first batch, wipe out the pan, and return it to the heat. Prepare the second batch of crab cakes using the remaining butter and oil.

Serve hot with lemon wedges. Makes 8 crab cakes.


New to Some Kinda Good?

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Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser 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, her 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.

Best Breakfast Buffet in Town

Sandcastle Cafe & Grill 
St. Simons Island, Georgia 

It was a sunny Saturday morning and 81 degrees when I strolled over to Sandcastle Cafe & Grill for breakfast in the St. Simons Island Village. By 9 a.m., many islanders and tourists had beat me there, already seated reading The Brunswick News, sipping on piping hot cups of coffee.  I made my way through the crowd and happily opted for indoor seating in the A.C.

The cafe opened in 1989 and has since fed many a hungry tourist and locals alike. With exposed brick throughout and an eclectic mix of decorations, the atmosphere is casual and the food comforting.

For just $8.50, you’ll get the “Glorious Breakfast Buffet” including just about any breakfast food you can conjure up. You’ll also receive unlimited pancakes, french toast and waffles. Or, feel free to order from the menu, where you can test your ticker with their signature Eggs Aorta–biscuits topped with gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage and cheddar cheese. Saving room for lunch? Try the lighter fare–the Fruit Plate with fresh seasonal fruit and homemade muffins. Check out the menu.

I got the breakfast buffet so I could pick and choose a few of my favorites–hash browns, fresh fruit, grits and sausage. The coffee mug was just the right size.

Guests help themselves to the wide array of buffet options. Sandcastle Cafe & Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don’t know of any other place on the island where you’ll get more for your money.

The fresh, cold fruit and orange juice are a welcomed relief from the summer sun.

Black and white images fill the long brick wall. Framed by the owner herself some 20 years ago,  the pictures depict St. Simons Island in the 1950’s and local families whose descendants still eat at Sandcastle Cafe & Grill today.

Located at the end of the strip mall in the St. Simons Island Village, the cafe faces the recently renovated Neptune Park and is just steps away from my favorite island feature…the pier.

After breakfast, or any meal for that matter, we always take a walk on the pier to see what the fishermen are catching, watch the shrimp boats or see if we can spot some dolphins swimming out in the ocean.

These are only some of the beautiful sights you might see on a visit to St. Simons. Pleasantly full from breakfast and feeling the sunshine on your skin, what a peaceful view.

Have you been to Sandcastle Cafe & Grill?

Sandcastle Cafe & Grill on Urbanspoon