Interesting Find – Red Rocker Candy

You just never know where I am going to find my next Interesting Find.  This time, it was in the pro-shop at my favorite golf course, Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, VA.  Candy in a pro-shop, absolutely, what better energy snack during a round of golf!  The PGA, Director of Golf at Laurel Hill, Gene Orrico knowing I am a food blogger told me I must try Red Rocker Candy.  What a wonderful surprise of outstanding flavors, all packed in cute tins with resealable tops.  After I sent an inquiry to the owner, Sue Chaney, she generously sent me a wide selection of their products to sample.  What a great treat for on the course or off – a great hostess gift or tailgate snack.

 Below is a bit of history on her company:

Red Rocker Candy is based in the small town of Troy, Virginia. What started as a desire to make toffees and brittles as gifts for friends and family turned into the fulfillment of a life-long dream. “My vision is to create a company based on the old-fashioned values of family, quality products and a personal relationship with my customers”.

Hummus/Interesting Find – Lebanese Bistro, Burke, VA

We recently ate at a Lebanese restaurant in Burke, VA, Lebanese Bistro. It is a gem tucked away in a strip shopping center.  Roland and Maria, the owners, invited us for an unbelievable dinner.   It was so fun, I never saw their menu since they ordered all of their specialties for us to try.  Every bite from every dish was just great.  I must admit I ate myself into a “food coma”  you know what that is – when everything is so good you just cannot resist a bite.  Maria graciously shared her Hummus recipe with me after I mentioned how delicious their hummus was.  One note, she never uses canned chickpeas.  This was not new to me since I have made other recipes with dried chickpeas, but you might not be familiar with cooking with dried chickpeas.  Similar to other dried beans that you cook, you soak them overnight and then simmer them until done.  I think this step is the key to her wonderful hummus.  

Photo of the hummus served at the Lebanese Bistro 

 

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Hummus- Lebanese Bistro

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini sauce
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Process all ingredients in a food processor - Voila - exceptional hummus thanks to my friend Maria and the Lebanese Bistro, Burke, VA.


    To cook chickpeas - cover dried chickpeas with water to cover plus a few inches.  Cover and let sit overnight.  Drain and rinse.  Place in a saucepan and cover with water, plus a few inches, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 - 2 hours until soft.

 

Below are a few photos I took during dinner…

                                        

 

Interesting Find – Georgia Sourdough Co.

Those of you that follow my blog regularly know that I bake almost everything from scratch,  However, even I love to find great small batch companies that have mastered certain products.  When I came across the crackers from the Georgia Sourdough Co,  I knew I wanted to share these as an Interesting Find.  Each batch is hand rolled and cut from sourdough, baked and packaged.  I have tried the Sea Salt and Cheese crackers and both are terrific.  

When I inquired about the product, Tracy Gribbon sent me a quick note about how she got started in the business.  Below is a bit of our conversation.  As many have said before, you just never know what happens when you follow your passion – read below about how she got started in the cracker business.

I lived in NYC for 8 years and was a beverage director. So I filled my days tasting wines and writing lists. And due to a healthy R&D budget, my city and my tiny kitchen apartment- I spent most evenings out to dinner. I decided to move back to Atlanta in 2013 and moved into a house- it was 4x the size of my apartment for 1/2 the price. And it has an actual size kitchen. I took a few months to settle in and not work and I found myself baking a lot. On some prodding from my uncle- I made a sourdough starter. Just the old flour and water on the counter until it populated. I was convinced that I would bake my own fresh bread and life would be glorious! Only hiccup to that is it took me 18 months to successfully make a loaf of bread that was not a brick. So during that time I was experimenting with all sorts of sourdough things. I made chocolate chip cookies, coffee cake, pizza dough, biscuits, pie crust, etc. And I was making the Sea Salt crackers repeatedly. And i would just give them away to friends and family. 

I worked at a couple different restaurants for friends. But the jobs were different down here. And most required that I work at night and managing the floor- which I was not a fan of. I was part of a CSA with Greg Hutchins of Heritage Farms- and he had a little online marketplace where he sold his products and other local vendors. I brought him some crackers one day to see if he thought they could sell. His response was “watch out Nabisco! These are fabulous”. And so it began. And once we started the farmer’s markets stores started approaching us to sell the crackers in their stores. And we keep growing and we keep learning more and more about the healthful effects of sourdough. It’s so cool and I feel #blessed to be on this path. Life is pretty cool!

 What a fantastic story and I will tell you fantastic crackers, check out her website –  http://www.georgiasourdoughco.com/

And remember…..always follow your passion, you just never know what will happen!  

(When I followed my passion and started writing this blog for family and friends, I never thought in a million years that my blog would become a nationally recognized food blog and featured in Southern Living as one of their 2017 Favorite Food Blogs)

 

Southern Crab Nachos

You might wonder why I call these Southern Crab Nachos.  Well, it is because I added a layer of cheese grits!  I met Parker Hinson  from Old School Mill in Albemarle, NC. and he graciously gave me a bag of their stone ground grits.  After living in Texas for five years and making grits frequently, I can absolutely say these are the best grits I have ever had. I wanted to add a southern twist to my nachos and decided to add a layer of cheese grits.  The best thing about these nachos is not only does the top of the Southern Crab Nachos ooze with deliciousness of cheese and crab, the bottom chips scoop up a wonderful layer of cheese grits with the other toppings.  Each bite is so delicious you will want to make extras!

These grits are a find!  Check out their website http://oldschool.com  Here is a little bit on info on their mill:

Old School Brand uses the art of stone grinding grains into wonderfully pure meals, flours, and grits. Since those first products were made we have developed a line of foods and mixes that bring back all the rich goodness and flavor of centuries ago.

 

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Southern Crab Nachos

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Cheese Grits
  • 1 recipe Black Bean Relish
  • 8 - 12 ounces jumbo lump crab meat
  • 1 large bag tortilla chips (flour or corn)
  • 1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 recipe Avocado Lime Buttermilk Dressing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare grits and spoon over the bottom of your ovenproof serving dish. Top with layers of tortilla chips.  Spoon over the black bean relish, crab meat and cheeses.  Bake until hot and bubbly, 8 - 12 minutes.  Serve with a side of avocado lime buttermilk dressing.

 

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Cheese Grits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup stone ground grits
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Bring water and salt to a boil.  Add grits.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. 

 

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Black Bean Relish

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/3 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 lime, squeezed
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients.

 

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Avocado Lime Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime peel
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 4 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cut avocado in half and discard pit, scoop flesh into food processor bowl. Combine all remaining ingredients in the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to serve

Interesting Find – The Pit Stop Bar-B-Que

I always love it when I come across an Interesting Find in the most unexpected places.  Driving through Virginia horse county admiring the beautiful countryside we happened to come across The Pit Stop Bar-B-Que set-up in a parking lot at the intersection of Route 50 and Highway 15 in Aldie, VA.  What immediately peaked my interest was the long line that was queued up for BBQ.  You just know you have found a gem when everyone is waiting in line at this one stand.  Under four tents, with three large smokers, I met Ron Thomas the owner and leader of this wonderful BBQ stop.  We ordered their Chopped Pork Sandwich topped with coleslaw.  I will tell you this was no ordinary sandwich.  I should have known when they put forks in our bags to expect something special.  The sandwich was just overflowing with the most delicious pork and coleslaw.   There was no way you could pick this sandwich up, it was so delicious I savored every bite.  Ron also had me try his mom’s kale recipe with pineapple juice, outstanding!  This BBQ roadside icon is definitely worth the drive.  

The incredible long line….well worth the wait

Their menu….short, sweet and delicious

With the pitmaster, Ron Thomas

Interesting Find – Les Trois Petits Cochons/Three Little Pigs

When I attended ZooFari recently at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, I came across a booth serving the most wonderful pate’s and foie gras.  I have mentioned before that ZooFari (a fundraiser for the National Zoo) is an absolute foodie paradise with booths from some of the finest restaurants and food purveyors on the East Coast.  The Les Trois Petite Cochons -Three Little Pigs booth was definitely calling my name when I saw their assortment of pates at their booth. Over the years, when I attend food events, I have come to realize that not everyone is schooled in the area of food and various types of food.   I got a quiet giggle from this encounter: The two gentlemen in line behind me as I was waiting to try Tree Little Pig’s foie gras, were discussing with each other that they were interested in trying the fudge!  I thought – really gentlemen – this it not fudge! this is foie gras!   However, this story has come to my mind many times when I talk about food, food trends, and types of food.   I realize that not everyone has been exposed to culinary delicacies and as a food writer, I am always mindful to educate my readers and hope that everyone expands their palates and food adventures.

 I typically ask lots of questions when trying new things and many times I hand out my business card when discussing food or recipes.  Quitterie Peyran, French Marketing Associate for Les Trois Petite Cochons-Three Little Pigs reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in trying a few of their organic pates and foie gras.  As a side note: I receive many requests to review products and events however, my Interesting Finds are items that I have found and think my readers would be interested in.  I am very selective and I am not a marketing tool to feature just any product  You can be assured if something is an Interesting Find, I personally found the item and love it!   Les Trois Petite Cochons products are definitely an Interesting Find.  They generously sent me an assortment of their products and they were all outstanding.  One of the great things about their products is they are not something I would make at home but I love to serve them.  All were exceptional.  If you are a fan of foie gras and pates (or ready to expand your food adventures), check out their website.  

Les Trois Petits Cochons began in 1975 as a small charcuterie in Greenwich Village, New York City. Today it continues the tradition of handcrafting high quality, all natural pâté and charcuterie, offering a complete line of artisanal pâtés, mousses, terrines, sausages, smoked meats and other French specialties.

Interesting Find in DC – Radiator Pop-Up Bar and Restaurant at Mason and Rook

Pop-up you say?  One of the newest concepts around the country in all aspects of the food industry, is pop-ups.  Yes, short-term venues that might be here today and gone tomorrow.  From food stands to bars, these are some of the most unique venues you will find.  They are definitely worth searching out since you will find well thought out venues with short life spans, so you must go to them when you hear about them.  I was invited to the Kimpton Hotel in DC, Mason and Rook to check out their pop-up roof-top bar venue and have dinner in Radiator, their restaurant.  It was the most intriguing and delightful evening.   When you enter this boutique hotel, you travel via elevator to their tenth floor, and then walk up a flight of steps to their outdoor bar.  The venue has a killer view and the atmosphere was like we had stepped into a bar on the Hawaiian Islands.  The bar menu was Luau themed, the bartenders had on kukui leis and the view from the top was spectacular. From rum drinks to coconut shrimp with guava sauce, all prepared on the rooftop. I felt like I was back on the islands.  The crowd was thoroughly enjoying the beautiful surroundings and great bar.  We then went down to their restaurant, Radiator.  I will tell you, I have eaten at some the finest restaurants in DC, and the meal we had at Radiator I would list as one of the best meals I have had in DC.  Every small plate was perfectly prepared, from the bacon fat fries to the brussel sprouts with gram marsala yogurt, it was a mouth dancing night.  I must also mention the gnocchi with lolli pop kale, beach mushroom, truffle pecorino, and arugula pesto and the Wagyu bavette steak with salt-roasted potatoes, cipollini onion, and cabernet demi –  just spectacular. Hard for me to dissect every dish since every dish was so unique and delicious.  I can’t wait to return – those Bacon Fat Fries are calling my name!

Stoney Acres Farm/Pizza on the Farm/Oyster Mushrooms with Sherry Cream

It is always fun to step out of your local area and see what is happening across the country. Have you ever been to a pizza farm? This was my first trip to a pizza farm and I will tell you, it will not be my last visit.  During our recent visit to Central Wisconsin, I was determined to visit a local farm, Stoney Acres.  After searching the internet I found this farm as the one that fascinated me the most about this new concept.  If you are wondering “What is a pizza farm”?, it is a concept where you visit the farm and the pizzas are made onsite with fresh organic ingredients from the farm.  The wheat is ground onsite for the flour for the dough.  The toppings are fresh from the farm, the bacon is cured on the farm, the cheeses are from local cheese shops that make the cheese from the local dairies – you get the point – farm to table onsite.  Many restaurants boost that their dishes are farm to table, on the pizza farm they are from the farm to the farm table.  We arrived at Stoney Acres at our reserved time after driving through miles of beautiful country side and picturesque farm lands.  You bring everything you need (plates, napkins, utensils, and beverages)  and the pizza is made in handmade pizza ovens that cook pizzas in two minutes at over 800 degrees.  You sit at communal tables and we just happened to sit with the parents of the pizza maker and owner of Stoney Acres and their close friends.  It was a banner night for me since I found out how this concept transpired and many details regarding their operation.  I could go on and on about how fantastic the night was and how delicious the pizzas are – but if you are ever in WI and looking for a wonderful food adventure, this is one stop you cannot miss!

Enjoying our communal table at the pizza farm.

Tony Schultz (owner of Stoney Acres) with the pizza peel in hand.

Interesting Find – Scrambled, Greensboro, NC

Every once in awhile you run across someplace that you will always remember.  Scrambled is just one of those types of restaurants that I will remember and hope to return to one day.  As we were traveling through the south on our return trip home from the Masters this spring,  we stopped into Scrambled for breakfast.  After numerous searches on the internet, I decided that Scrambled looked like just the type of place to try and boy we were not disappointed.  You know the minute you arrive on a weekday morning and you have to wait 30 – 35 minutes, you have found a great place that the locals frequent.  We were greeted with the news of a wait, but also a waiting area and a delicious cup of coffee.  Time flew during our wait since I always seem to strike up a conversation and learn more about the restaurant and the local area.  I must admit, I told the hostess that I was a food blogger.  Once my husband and I were seated, we checked out their delicious menu and ordered a few of our favorites.  It was shortly after this that we meet Sarah Keith who owns Scrambled with her husband and chef, Chris Blackburn; she graciously offered to have us try a few of the menu highlights.  We had such fun, talking with our neighboring table mates and discussing the wonderful menu at Scrambled.  I tasted my way through the menu; just sitting here writing this post, I wish I had their fried green tomato eggs benedict sitting here next to me, or their meatloaf benedict, or their breakfast flatbread, or their pancake, or their…….. I think you get the picture.   Everything we tried was sensational.  Oh, did I mention their biscuits and homemade jams?  

Here I am with Sarah and Chris

Everything was just sensational!  I will head back to Greensboro just to go to Scrambled.

Cinnamon Waffles – I wish I was still at The Homestead!

My husband and I spent last weekend at The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA.  We wanted a weekend getaway and decided to head to The Homestead after many great reviews from friends.  After a long and winding journey through the western part of Virginia, we drove into the small town of Hot Springs and was greeted by the massive resort on our left.  I must tell you, after driving many miles through the country roads, I thought I had put in the wrong address into our GPS, because I just could not believe there would much civilization, no less a resort in the mountainous remote area we were driving through.)  How wrong I was, the town of Hot Springs and The Homestead are beautiful.  As you know, I am always looking for great food and interesting finds, I had to go no further than their breakfast buffet on Saturday morning.  Before we headed out for a round of golf, we had the most delicious breakfast buffet in their main dining room.  So many delicious choices, I could hardly decide what to select.  It didn’t take me too long to find Roderick making Cinnamon Waffles, a specialty at The Homestead.  What a delicious breakfast treat, along with a vegetable omelet and grits, a breakfast of champions for these golfers!  So, back to reality today and back to my kitchen.  I decided to make my own Cinnamon Waffle recipe this morning, what a great way to remember a great trip.  

Our view from the 14th tee box on the Old Course at The Homestead.

Roderick making Cinnamon Waffles

 

 

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Cinnamon Waffles

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat waffle iron.  Beat eggs until fluffy.  Add remaining ingredients and beat just until smooth.  Pour batter into waffle iron and bake until steaming stops, approx. 4 1/2 - 5 minutes.  Remove carefully.  Makes 3 - 10 inch waffles.