Category Archives: IN THE KITCHEN

ALABAMA CHANIN – WHITE BARBEQUE SAUCE

WHITE BARBEQUE SAUCE

Barbeque lovers are often staunch proponents and defenders of their favorite preparation, favorite meat, and favorite sauce—or lack thereof. Just as there is an entire range of styles of barbeque (everything from pulled pork with slaw to smoked chicken to a plate of burnt ends), there is a whole spectrum of barbeque sauces. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of sugary red sauces; but as an Alabama native, I must wholeheartedly profess my love of our native white barbeque sauce.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with this particular variety of sauce, as it is a North Alabama specialty. But, it is a staple of almost every barbeque restaurant in the area and has found its way to our tables and local grocery store shelves. White sauce is a tangy condiment made of mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper. While that might sound a little odd to the uninitiated, those in the know are evangelists for the stuff.

While white barbeque sauce has been served in the area for years, local lore suggests that Bob Gibson of the legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, invented it in 1925. Bob worked for the L & N Railroad Company, but would host barbeques on the weekends, smoking meat over a hickory pit in his backyard. Eventually, his food became so popular that he quit his job at the railroad and opened a proper restaurant.

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ALABAMA CHANIN – SHAKEN + STIRRED

SHAKEN + STIRRED

With Father’s Day quickly approaching, this month’s cocktail post from our Nashville-based cocktail expert Jesse Goldstein discusses the importance of an often-overlooked component of boozy drinks—water. Want to know when to shake and when to stir (or the perfect cocktail for celebrating the fathers in your life)? Read on. From Jesse:

It was in 1806 that The Balance and Columbian Repository first defined the word “cocktail.”  Simply defined, it read that a “cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” For those with a keen eye, you might recognize this as the basic recipe for a classic Old Fashioned cocktail. But what I think of when I read that is what most people take for granted in a cocktail; the water. Besides booze, water is perhaps the most important ingredient in any cocktail, imparted usually through the use of ice. The correct proportion of water in a drink can help make it more palatable. Too much simply waters it down. So how do you get it right?

The key, I’ve learned, is all in preparation. Cocktails are made in more less two manners—shaken or stirred. Yes, there are some that you simply build in a glass, but for the sake of argument, let’s put those in the “stirred” category. With one simple rule, you can look at the ingredients of a cocktail and know which method is preferred.

James Bond always seemed like such a badass when he ordered his “martini, shaken, not stirred.” But what I’ve come to realize is that he was doing it wrong. Of course there’s room for personal preference, but if you’re like me, you like having some rules to go by. So here it is; if a cocktail has fruit juice or syrups, shake it. If a cocktail is only comprised of spirits, you stir it.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SHAKEN + STIRRED

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ALABAMA CHANIN – JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM GATHER BRUNCH

JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM GATHER BRUNCH

Last Sunday afternoon, we hosted a brunch—part of our Friends of the Café | Makeshift Dinner Series—to benefit Jones Valley Teaching Farm, an organization that works with students and within schools to create and supplement healthy food curriculum. Jones Valley’s Good School Food program encourages students to buy into the concept of “good food” by learning about where it comes from and how it can benefit their families and communities—beginning in early childhood through high school graduation.

This year, Jones Valley took a unique approach to fundraising; as part of an initiative called Gather, twenty-two restaurants and individuals hosted dinners on Saturday, May 16, with all ticket sales benefiting the farm. The following Sunday, Alabama Chanin hosted the very first Gather Brunch to wrap up the weekend’s festivities.

ALABAMA CHANIN – JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM GATHER BRUNCH

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GATHER BRUNCH + Q&A WITH JVTF

Two weeks ago we introduced Jones Valley Teaching Farm and the work they are doing with schools and in classrooms across Birmingham. With programs like Good School Food, Farm Lab, and Seed to Plate, they are providing food-based, hands-on, experimental education and design-thinking strategies for students in Pre-K to 12th grades. Their practices are sustainable (in more than one way), thoughtful, and all-around good.

While the organization began in 2001, many of its programs, like Farm Lab, are new and have seen (planned) growth in the past few years. To cover expenses that come with the design, building, and staffing of such programs, Jones Valley is working to diversify their fundraising efforts.

One of their most successful fundraisers is the annual Twilight Supper, held each fall at the farm. The weekend of May 16th, they are introducing Gather Dinners – a series of events held across the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama – as a spring counterpart to the fall event.

Gather-Brunch-JVTF

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ALABAMA CHANIN – JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM

JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM

I first heard of Jones Valley Teaching Farm around 2003. The farm was still a small plot of land located close to The Garage, in Birmingham, Alabama. I drove down one cold winter day to have lunch with (then director) Edwin Marty. There was one hoop house, and running water, and not much else—yet. It was ambitious, and it felt like the beginning of something special.

Later, I heard much more from Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q co-founder Nick Pihakis and chef Drew Robinson. Those two so fully believe in the farm’s mission and methods that they back up their beliefs with fundraisers and hands-on support. I am also convinced that the organization can make real difference in the community.

Since my first visit in 2003, Jones Valley Teaching Farm has grown and moved to downtown Birmingham. Since 2007, the organization has expanded their farm and their scope with a focus on educating students, visitors, and community gardeners on how to grow real, healthy food. Today, the farm is a hub of downtown green. The farmers on site use both established sustainable and experimental practices, with the goal of developing a flourishing ecosystem in the heart of a bustling city. They currently grow over 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers and offer their produce for sale on-site and at local farmers’ markets—generating over $45,000 in sales in 2014 alone.

ALABAMA CHANIN – JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM

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ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ: LISA DONOVAN + ANGIE MOSIER

FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ: LISA DONOVAN + ANGIE MOSIER

Sometimes when you meet a kindred spirit, you feel that connection immediately. It’s safe to say that I felt that bond when I first met Angie Mosier a dozen (or so) years ago. She laughs in a way that draws you in immediately—you just have to know what she’s laughing at. She also throws a mean party and anyone who has ever been in attendance knows what a real good time looks (and sounds and tastes) like. She is Southern in so many ways—she can cook, bake, and mix cocktails; she can spin an engaging tale; she has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Southern food, but she is no wilting flower.

I was lucky enough to collaborate with Angie on the second book in the Alabama Studio Series, Alabama Studio Style. She leant recipes, guidance, food styling efforts, and all-around support. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I couldn’t have written that book without her. Angie is a talented writer, photographer, stylist, and cook in her own right. She documents food, but also the people behind the food—the ones who keep our Southern food traditions alive.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ: LISA DONOVAN + ANGIE MOSIER

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IN THE KITCHEN: RAY EAMES

IN THE KITCHEN: RAY EAMES

…the role of the architect, or the designer, is that of a very good, thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests—those who enter the building and use the objects in it. – Charles Eames

Our favorite Eames quote above is now on our café tables, the production cutting room, and displayed front and center on our design room inspiration board. I looked at the pages above and tried to imagine what Charles and Ray would have served in their gorgeous mid-century kitchen. The kitchens of my 1960s childhood were inspired (through trickle-down design) by Charles and Ray Eames—who sought specifically to target the needs of the average American family.

And the American family was changing from the mid-1950s through the 1960s and 1970s. Where cookbooks in the 1950s advised women to have dinner ready for their husbands when they got home from work, moving into the 1960s they began to offer recipes for busy moms. You could now make dinner by opening cans and boxes of prepared foods. That meant a lot of casseroles and inventing creative ways to use canned foods like soup, tuna, and even SPAM. The food fads of the day leant a sense of the exotic and the exciting to the dining room. Fondue, Chinese woks, Julia Child’s advocacy of French cooking, and…all Jell-O everything—brought about food inventions the likes of which had never been seen.

For those who want to relive the good old days of Chicken a la King, ambrosia or gelatin salads, meatballs with grape jelly, onion soup dip, cheese balls, or Baked Alaska, we recommend visiting Mid-Century Menu or, my personal favorite, White Trash Cooking—for a treasure of Jell-O based recipes.

For everything else, we defer to the queen of the Mid-century kitchen: Miss Julia Child.

Learn more about the Eames, Mid-Century design, and the love the kitchen, purchase Eames: Beautiful Details, pictured above and now available from our online store. (Natalie’s personal copy shown here photographed by Abraham Rowe)

CANNING CALENDAR

CANNING CALENDAR

The process of canning and preserving is just one of the “living arts” that we are thrilled to see making a comeback. This year at The Factory Café, we have set ourselves the goal to “put-up” as much of the bounty of summer as we possibly can. (Not to mention my plans for my own backyard.) Our kitchen staff is constantly searching for ways to further source organic and local ingredients. Part of that solution means growing herbs, tomatoes, and other vegetables on-site; canning as much locally grown produce is another.

Last summer we made my Gram Perkins’ recipe for 14-Day Pickles for our café Egg Salad and, unfortunately, ran out of pickles by November. This coming summer we plan to, well, make better plans.

We are starting with the canning calendar below to save our harvest at its peak and preserve only the freshest garden fare. (Please note, the calendar below is tailored for the Southeastern U.S., but you can look for more specific information on your region or zone on The Old Farmer’s Almanac website.)

Find more information and resources on home canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. We also recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life for further inspiration.

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HISTORY OF BRUNCH (+ SUNDAYS)

HISTORY OF BRUNCH (+ SATURDAYS)

Brunch has become such a widely adopted part of the American culinary experience and like so many food traditions, its existence cannot be nailed down to one exact moment. There was no year B.B. (before brunch) and no A.B. (after brunch) but food historians and brunch experts believe that the meal originated in Great Britain’s hunting culture. Large, multi-course breakfasts were prepared for sizeable hunting parties and included pork, eggs, fruit, pastries, and other hearty foods. However, it is possible to pin down the origin of the word “brunch”, which is obviously a combination of the words “breakfast” and “lunch.” It was first printed in an 1895 Hunter’s Weekly article by Guy Beringer titled, “Brunch: A Plea.” In the article, Beringer argued against heavy, post-church Sunday meals, in favor of a lighter meal during the late morning hours—one that encouraged a cocktail or two. ”Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” Beringer wrote. ”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

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HOT AND COLD TEA COCKTAILS

HOT AND COLD TEA COCKTAILS

For this month’s cocktail selection, contributor Jesse Goldstein focuses on something that most Southerners hold dear: a glass of tea. Here he provides us with both hot and cold options that are delicious and simple to prepare—for one or for a whole group.

From Jesse:

When most think of tea and cocktails, the first thing that comes to mind is a good hot toddy. There’s nothing wrong with a classic, but if that’s the extent of your use of tea in cocktails, you’re missing out on a beautiful spectrum of flavors just waiting to be incorporated into all types of boozy beverages.

For me, a great cocktail must have balance. This most commonly comes in the form of balancing boozy sharpness with sugar and citrus, but even that can still fall flat on the palate. Think of a well-balanced cocktail like your favorite meal in a restaurant. The spices and seasonings enhance the main ingredients that make that dish so memorable. When it comes to cocktails, freshly brewed black, green, and herbal teas can impart bright herbal notes and bitter tannins that supplement just a few simple ingredients and compliment many spirits.

If you’ve read the previous blog post, Reclaiming Church Punch, you know that teas have a place in cocktail history. Much like the punches of yesteryear, these new tea cocktails can also be made in large batches for entertaining—or just a lazy weekend afternoon on the porch with friends. Just be sure to always start with fresh, high-quality teas and chill them prior to making iced cocktails.

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