In the spirit of Notes From A Kitchen (the 2012 James Beard Cookbook Award for Best Photography) I thought it might be interesting to share some of the creative and collaborative thought process in putting a menu together.
Once again, I have been able to partner with Patrick Emerson, the wine director for Maverick Southern Kitchens. Besides being one of the most knowledgeable oenophiles I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, Patrick is also an extremely passionate teacher, and possesses one of the finest palates I’ve worked with. Patrick and I sat down to taste a selection of Compass Box. Here’s how the discourse went:
- Patrick-Vanilla. First fill American oak. I’m thinking light brine as well. Oysters.
- Forrest-And smoke? Smoked Scottish salmon?
- Patrick-Some pop. Roe?
- Patrick-This demands a light earthiness. Beans, or legumes.
- Forrest-Peanuts? Some smoke?
- Patrick-Yes, but let’s not cloak their palates. And some salt, perhaps?
- Patrick-I’m really thinking of some spice here. Fried chicken. A light sweetness.
- Forrest-Definitely Fried chicken. With spice. Clove notes here.
- Patrick-Something wet. BBQ perhaps?
- Patrick-Now’s the time for BBQ. Peat. Smoke. Spice. We could easily go with grilled red meat, but I’m thinking BBQ. Spice. Unctuous fattiness. Smoke on smoke. And malt. Complex.
- Forrest-BBQ how? Surely not mustard here, or vinegar for that matter. Spice forward, yeah? Memphis dry rub?
- Patrick-Dry rub!
- Forrest- Malted Dry Rub!!!
- Forrest-Holy Cow! Super Orange! Where did that come from?
- Patrick-Right? I’m thinking of pie here. Icebox pie? And oats. That takes us back to Scotland.
- Forrest- But orange still, right? Creamsickle? Orange Julius? Big Orange.
- Patrick-Oat Crust.
- Forrest and Patrick-Done.
I took my notes and cogitated. I kept going back to those flavors – fried chicken, bbq, peanuts. How do you put all this into some sort of context? The single most amazing fried chicken I’ve ever had? Gus’s in Memphis, TN. The hottest chicken I’ve ever had? Prince’s in Nashville. Dry rub? Everyone knows about Rendezvous in that little alley down from The Peabody. Wet BBQ? Pat Martin’s beans with burnt ends. Peanuts? Boiled! Tony the Peanut Man, or Surry Peanut soup from Virginia.
I reflected on my own tastes and experiences. So frequently, that’s how I think about food, like Proust’s madeleines. I kept coming back to The South. I remembered crossing the James River on a ferry with my dad when I was young. About vanilla & butterscotch tasting country ham from Surry pigs, their fat amber hued from a diet of peanuts. I thought of the tradition of salt and sugar curing. I remembered a 10 year old boy finding the outlandishness of peanuts in a soup that probably pre-dated Washington. I thought about a summer I spent in western North Carolina as a kid, and the spillways at Sunburst. I thought a lot about the flavors and experiences I tasted in Tennessee that eventually led me back to Charleston. And I thought about how the deconstruction of creamsickle flavors are like those of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Go Vols!
Here’s our menu for The Old Village Post House Compass Box Scotch Whisky dinner this Wednesday, May 23:
Fried Oysters with Aioli
Sunburst Farms Smoked Trout
buttermilk Johnny cake, crème fraiche, Sunburst caviar
Boiled Peanut Soup
smoked ham hock broth, candied Tripp country ham
Fried Chicken, Hot Chicken
sorghum burnt ends baked beans, sweet corn “oysters”
Malted Dry Rub Duo: Baby Back Pork Rib and Belly
Anson Mills pencil cob grits, red eye reduction, grilled okra ratatouille
Creamsicle Icebox Pie
steel cut oat- graham cracker crust, candied citrus
Hope to see you Wednesday, if not soon!