Olivia Dish

Archive for the ‘South Carolina’ Category

So, Farro? So Good.

In Homemade, South Carolina on June 23, 2010 at 8:46 am
piccolo farro

Piccolo Farro

Last Saturday at the farmers’ market, I picked up the bag of piccolo farro as an afterthought.  I’d planned to buy Anson Mills oats and popcorn, both excellent.  The cute 11-year-old girl at the table tried to sell me some grits too, but I have a rather large bag of those in my freezer.

“Maybe I’ll try this,” I said, picking up the white-paper-wrapped package of farro.

“Everyone seems to like it except me,” the girl said, “ but I’m more of a pop tart person.”  Poor little one.  I proceeded to give her detailed instructions for making homemade blueberry tarts that taste even better than pop tarts, I promised.  She listened politely, even thanked me (though I suppose she was mostly just thankful when the spiel ended). So of course, I had to buy the farro.

Good, I suppose, that I am a blueberry-tart-recipe-spouting bore, since farro is fantastic. Who knew?  Maybe you did.  I’m sure plenty of people do.

And yet….try to find consensus on what farro is and you’ll start to wonder what anyone knows about it.  Is it spelt? Something else?

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Escape to Mushroom Mountain

In Fancy Farms, Homemade, South Carolina on June 5, 2010 at 10:21 pm
Mushroom Mountain

The trail at Mushroom Mountain

I want to grow mushrooms. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Today, I visited Mushroom Mountain near Liberty, SC, and left with baggies of spores and such. Tomorrow morning, my life as a mushroom farmer begins.

Maybe I should’ve seen this coming. My father had this idea, when I was a kid, that he’d take up mushroom hunting and train his four daughters in the foraging arts. My mother, fearing she would lose her entire family in a single afternoon, put her foot down. Absolutely not.  My father’s Field Guide to Mushrooms was shelved.

My relationship with mushrooms is nine parts my dad, one part my mom. I’m entranced, much as my father was, by their mysterious behavior, strange beauty, and of course, unmatchable taste.  But the one part that is my mother fears that mushrooms I forage will kill me.

When my friend Whit DeSpoon first presented me with golden, ruffly chantarelles he’d collected, it was my mother who took over my brain for a bit.

“I can’t eat those! You can’t eat those!” I shrieked.

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Lentil Soup: Good to Great

In Homemade, Markets, South Carolina on May 25, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Any old lentils will do, but the bacon makes it great.

I have no idea why I first decided to make “Hearty Lentil Soup” from the January/February 2004 issue of Cook’s Illustrated.

I’d had my eye on the Chocolate Bundt Cake recipe and its promise of “Rich, Moist, Chocolatey.”

I’d eaten lentils but had never cooked them before in my life. (We were more of a field pea/butterbean family when I was growing up, and it just hadn’t occurred to me.)

There I was, though, following Cook’s Illustrated‘s meticulous directions.  The soup was good, good enough that I made it regularly for the next year and a half.  I raved about it.  I served it to friends.

But the soup did not rise to the level of perfect until November 2005.  That’s when I went to the inaugural All-Local Farmers’ Market in Columbia, SC and  bought my first pound of Caw Caw Creek bacon.

Yes, like Mr. Frost’s road not taken, that bacon has made all the difference. Read the rest of this entry »

Better Than Pancakes?

In Homemade, Local Flavor, South Carolina on April 17, 2010 at 8:06 am
Anson Mills Oatmeal

Anson Mills Oats!

Despite what my mother is always telling me, I do not think breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I don’t eat it from a sense of duty—but for delight! I love French toast, bacon, sausage, waffles, eggs, corned beef hash, toast and pancakes. Dear, dear pancakes.

Once upon a time, someone nicknamed me Short Stack, because I seemed incapable of ordering breakfast without a short stack on the side.

Lately, I seem incapable of imagining breakfast without oatmeal.  This morning I walked into my kitchen and chose to make oatmeal OVER pancakes.  What is going on?

Quite simply, Anson Mills stone cut oats.

These are not the rolled and steamed flat oats pimped by a Quaker.  These are more of the pinhead variety—but they cook quickly and taste toasty-nutty.

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A Farm in the City

In Fancy Farms, Local Flavor, South Carolina on April 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm
City Roots

Welcome to farming in town

You can build an asphalt plant in the neighborhood. But want to put in an organic farm? That requires an exception to the Columbia, SC zoning law.

City Roots pressed on (or should that be plowed ahead?) and now, less than a year later, is growing vegetables and developing a market for, among other things, darling delicious sunflower sprouts.

“Yeah, it’s cool that we’ve created a market for something that wasn’t there before,” Eric McClam says, as I rave about the sprouts.

Eric partnered with his dad to start City Roots.  He was pushing a hand plow when I arrived for my tour.  He showed me what was growing on their acres tucked in between warehouses–rows of garlic, broccoli, lettuces–bee hives over on one side. He picked a few early strawberries for me to taste.

Then we went to the greenhouse, where my beloved sunflower sprouts were popping out all over.

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Cheeseburger All the Way

In Restaurant, South Carolina on January 25, 2010 at 10:08 pm
The Stop Light

The Stoplight near Hartsville, SC

Why are the hamburgers at places like this always so good?  Someone else at our table asked it—but I was thinking the same thing.

These are not fancy pants Kobe beef burgers on hand-made brioche buns.  This isn’t a “gourmet” burger chain.

I’m having a cheeseburger at a gas station. And it’s hard to say how it could be any better.

Stop Light burger

Want greenery? Ask!

So is it the beef? I’m guessing not, how about you?  I think these burgers are good, one, because they’re made after you order them, and not a minute before.

Then there’s the way they put it together.  At The Stoplight, “all the way” doesn’t have anything to do with vegetables: it’s chili, mustard and ketchup.  If you want lettuce, tomato or onion, you’ve got to ask.

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A Sprout to Love

In Local Flavor, Markets, South Carolina on December 5, 2009 at 12:36 pm
sunflower sprouts

Attempting to refocus: can any good come from sprouts?

I don’t like finding a pile of hairy alfalfa sprouts on a sandwich.

I’m okay with a few bean sprouts in a stir fry, I guess.

I’ve just never been a sprout person.

Last weekend, my friend Whit DeSpoon brought me a collection of items from the local farmers’ market.  He unpacked and presented–arugula, carrots, green bell peppers–pausing when he came to a small bag of green-leafed things.

“Sunflower sprouts, I don’t know about these,” he said, turning the zip lock bag over in his hand.  “Hmm.”

His little “hmm” said plenty to me: “Maybe I shouldn’t have brought these to you but what the heck. Try to keep an open mind but don’t get your hopes up. And please don’t go all persnickety on me, the way you do when they put raisins in your French toast.”

I didn’t get my hopes up. I did feel persnickety.  But I also felt obliged to give them a try. So later in the day, I pulled the bag out of my refrigerator to take a look.
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Carrots: Honey Underground

In Local Flavor, Markets, South Carolina on November 28, 2009 at 4:11 pm
bunch of carrots

The Celts' honey underground

A man bearing fresh produce is likely to win more points with me than one bearing roses.  I wonder if my friend Whit DeSpoon knows this.  He came by this morning, arms full of gorgeous stuff from the All-Local Farmers’ Market in Columbia–baby arugula, sunflower sprouts, and bunches of carrots, red and orange.

He was eager to show me the carrots in particular.  “Wow,” I said, “I love the red ones.”

“Did you know that most carrots used to look like this?” Mr. DeSpoon said singling out one of the reds, his brown eyes widening.  “I just learned this today. The Dutch started growing orange carrots to honor the Oranges, the ruling family. And that’s why we have orange carrots instead of red.”

I think I said “how about that” or something along those lines to indicate that I was impressed.  And I was.  But I was also thinking: is that really true?

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Honey-Fried Dreams?

In Restaurant, South Carolina on September 8, 2009 at 1:18 am
CIMG4412

Honey-Fried in Hartsville, SC

When I was a girl, a Yogi Bear’s Honey-Fried Chicken opened in the town nearest our farm.  Every time we drove by, I’d tell my mother how much I wanted to go there.  How, I reasoned, could honey plus fried chicken be anything but heavenly?

My mother, never careless with a penny, wasn’t buying–the hype or, it turns out, the chicken.  The place opened and closed.  I never got to try what I was sure would be the fried chicken that dreams are made of.

A month or so ago, for no reason that I can recall, I googled honey-fried chicken.  And what did I find?  That what appears to be the nation’s sole remaining Yogi Bear franchise was within easy driving distance.  I vowed to go there, dream deferred no more.

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Fried Chicken Two Ways

In Homemade, Restaurant, South Carolina on September 2, 2009 at 1:34 am
CIMG4335

They call this a snack?

CIMG4322

Dizzy makes gravy

It’s hard to beat homemade fried chicken cooked by a master, which my friend Dizzy Frummunger happens to be.  Like my grandma, Diz uses the slow-fry-not-too-much-oil approach.  He soaks the chicken in buttermilk, rolls it in White Lily, and fries it in a cast iron skillet.  After, he makes milk gravy with the crunchy bits.

You may never get to sample Frummunger fried chicken.  I’m lucky to get it once a year.

So here’s where Zesto comes in.

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