Tag Archives: The Factory

THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 8/52 | 2019

“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.” ― Rosa Parks

At the heart of the crusades for equality and justice that African-Americans have fought decades for are the activists and organizers, and often those vital roles were undertaken by women. The third post in our series honoring Black History Month celebrates those fearless, dedicated, and inspirational ladies.

“Coretta Scott King and the Civil-Rights Movement’s Hidden Women”

Ethel Payne on the Journal

Ella Baker

“Female Activists Behind the Black Power Movement”

Amelia Boynton on the Journal

Donna Brazile

“The Many Lives of Pauli Murray”

Wagatwe Wanjuki on the Journal

“1977: Poem for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer” by June Jordan (read more about Fannie Lou Hamer here)

In Alabama: The Freedom Quilting Bee

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 7/52 | 2019

“The artist creates the material that we look back upon as part of history. ” ― Roy DeCarava

As Black History Month continues, we explore some of the supremely talented women who have, across the decades, created beautiful, thought-provoking, and enduring works of art through the mediums of painting, quilting, sculpture, performance art, and photography.

Painting

Loïs Mailou Jones

Laura Wheeler Waring

Alma Woodsey Thomas

Quilting

Bisa Butler

Sculpting

Alison Saar on the Journal

Barbara Chase-Riboud

Maren Hassinger

Performance Art

Senga Nengudi

Photography

Carrie Mae Weem

Florestine Perrault Collins

In Alabama: Folk artist Bernice Sims, “painter of life as she lives it.”

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@ Alabama Chanin
Find the perfect gift for your valentine in our gift guide, complete with chocolates, jewelry, and luxurious fabrications.

@ The School of Making
Check back on the Journal later this week for an update to our Custom DIY programming.

@ The Factory Store + Café
Make sure to keep an eye on The Factory Café’s take-home meals here. Sweet and savory items will be available each week.

THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 6/52 | 2019

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” ― Michelle Obama

February 1st ushered in Black History Month in the United States. In celebration, each week this month we will be focusing on inspiring African-American women in the realms of art, education, and activism. This week though, we explore and celebrate a few of the men and women who, from the civil rights era to modern day, have left a lasting impact on our society through the mediums of poetry, art, photography, and song.

“I, Too” by Langston Hughes

“Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

Artist Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series

Lawdy Mama, by Barkley L. Hendricks

The Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March, 1965, photographs by James Karales

Black in America: a photography series by Michael A. McCoy

Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

In 2018 rapper Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize for Music

In Alabama: Poet Sonia Sanchez was born in Birmingham in 1934. Read her poem “Haiku and Tanka for Harriet Tubman” here.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 5/52 | 2019

“Society as a whole benefits immeasurably from a climate in which all persons, regardless of race or gender, may have the opportunity to earn respect, responsibility, advancement, and remuneration based on ability.” ― Sandra Day O’Connor

On January 29th, 1926 Violette Anderson became the first African-American woman to practice law before the Supreme Court. To mark the anniversary of Violette’s groundbreaking position, we take a closer look this week at inspiring and pioneering women in the field of law.

In 1870 Ada Kepley became the first woman to graduate from law school

“No Shrinking Violet: the Accomplishments of Violette Neatley Anderson”

Their own stories: interviews with the female Supreme Court Justices

Diane Humetewa, the first Native American woman to serve as a federal judge

“Black Girl Magic” in Texas courtrooms

The first female justice of the peace, Esther Hobart Morris

The first openly gay chief justice in United States history, Maite Oronoz Rodríguez

Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, is the youngest chief prosecutor of any major American city

The pioneering women in legal fields across the globe

In Alabama: Mahala Ashley Dickerson, the first female African-American lawyer in Alabama

Maud McLure Kelly, the first female lawyer in Alabama

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 4/52 | 2019

“How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, you shall reap what you sow… How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” ― Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We have written extensively about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over the years and his unwavering convictions towards justice, peace, and equality.  (You can find a few of our posts here, here, here, and here) In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, we’re sharing a few of Dr. King’s most poignant speeches and books.

April 28, 1963: “I Have a Dream” – Washington, D.C.

Why We Can’t Wait

March 25, 1965: “Our God is Marching On!” – Selma, Alabama

Strength to Love

April 14, 1967: “The Other America” – Stanford, California

Where Do We Go from Here, Chaos or Community?

April 3, 1968: “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” – Memphis, Tennessee

In Alabama: The Dexter Parsonage Museum, home of Dr. King and his family from 1954 to 1960, in Montgomery.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 3/52 | 2019

To set the tone of our new Collection release, we explore our color theme: blue. And not just any blue—it’s a vibrant possibility of the color.

The color blue: A history from Egypt to now

On the Journal: Anna Atkins + Cyanotypes

Two hundred years of blue from Brainpickings

Blue highways

10 artists and their blue periods

How Animals Hacked the Rainbow and Got Stumped on Blue” from NPR

On Instagram: Arctic blues

10 surprising facts about the color blue

In Alabama: Andrew Moore’s Blue Alabama on The Bitter Southerner

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@ The School of Making

New: Mending Matters (with a lot of blue denim, too)

Last Chance Kits are available until next week as we make way for new designs.

We announced our 2019 dinner lineup last week. These special events always sell out, so reserve your seat today.

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ANNOUNCING FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ 2019

It has been five years since we began our Friends of the Café dinner series here at Alabama Chanin. Take a look back on our Journal for a look at the experiences created by the generous chefs who donated their time for these fundraising events. This year’s events will certainly be as special and we look forward to sharing them with our community family.

We sold out this month’s Supper Club with chef Ramon Jacobsen. The next Supper Club will take place Thursday, April 11th and will be part of The Gathering, our annual community picnic. The event will be hosted by and featuring our café team. Look for more information soon on the Gathering—a weekend of workshops and special events.

This April, we have also planned a special Friends of the Café dinner with renowned former Crook’s Corner chef Bill Smith as part of the Project Threadways Symposium. The dinner is scheduled for Thursday, April 25th and will benefit Project Threadways.

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On Thursday, August 22nd, we will welcome chef Cheetie Kumar of the Raleigh, North Carolina restaurant, Garland. She was James Beard-nominated in 2018 for Best Chef Southeast.

We will be announcing details of our October 10th dinner soon, as we are making plans with a surprise guest chef. But the date is saved and tickets are available here. All of these events tend to sell out so we suggest getting a seat soon.

Look for profiles on each featured chef on the Journal, in preparation for each event. Tickets are on sale on The Factory’s events page or in-store at The Factory. Choose to join us for one or many of our dinners.

Here’s to a bountiful year around the table!

P.S.: We’re hosting a Dim Sum Cooking Workshop on Valentine’s Day. Participants will learn to cook traditional Dim Sum meals such as sticky rice balls, dumplings, and pork buns. This workshop has limited space, so be sure to get your tickets soon.

THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 2/52 | 2019

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” ― Neil Gaiman

To start the new year off with the most positive and enlightened mindset possible, we set out to find inspiring and thought-provoking essays and podcasts. This week we share a few of those with you.

Joan Didion’s “On Self Respect” can be found in Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Invisibilia from NPR

“Once More by the Lake” by E.B. White, originally published in Harper’s Magazine in 1941, has been reprinted in One Man’s Meat

On Being with Krista Tippett speaks to Maria Kalman – “Daily Things To Fall In Love With”

James Baldwin’s autobiographical collection of essays, Notes of a Native Son, can be found here

The Greater Good Podcast from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

Annie Dillard’s essay “Total Eclipse” first in appeared in the magazine Antaeus and was later added to Teaching a Stone to Talk

Code Switch from NPR

In Alabama: “The Moth” on the Journal. Listen to Natalie’s “200 One-of-a-Kind Shirts” story on The Moth here.

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@ Alabama Chanin
Look forward to a collection refresh next week filled with modern silhouettes and bright new colors. In the meantime, find last chance styles here.

@ The School of Making
A new year means new workshops to look forward to from The School of Making. Browse through our workshops and events page and start planning your trip.

@ The Factory Store + Café
The Factory Store reopens Tuesday, January 8th with a fresh look and new layout. Join us for Saturday Brunch from 10am – 2pm. We missed you last weekend.

NEW HOURS
Tuesday – Friday
10am – 5pm

Saturday
10am – 2pm

Monday
By Appointment

Please note our hot kitchen is closed, and we will no longer offer our daily lunch service. However, our café cooler is fully stocked with picnic-style and to-go lunch options and baked goods for easy self-service. The cooler will remain stocked all week, giving you the option to stop by at any time to eat in the café or take it to go and enjoy at home.

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FIVE YEARS OF FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

The Slow Food movement and its principles have inspired Alabama Chanin’s commitment to slow fashion. We take their mission of Good, Clean, Fair to heart, as we attempt to make responsibly, grow connections in our community, and espouse sustainable practices. In order to further these beliefs, we look to build relationships with others who want the same basic things. One of the most gratifying and successful ways we have built these communities is through our Friends of the Café dinner series. It is nearly impossible to believe, but this series is now five years old. Over the years, we have been lucky to host the following chefs and their teams:

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2014: Chris Hastings, Vivian Howard, Ashley Christensen, Jim N’ Nick’s BBQ’s Nick Pihakis and Drew Robinson

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2015: Lisa Donovan and Angie Mosier, Anne Quatrano, Rob McDaniel

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2016: Frank and Pardis Stitt, Rodney Scott, Adam Evans, Sean Brock

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2017: Scott Peacock, Ashley Christensen, Asha Gomez

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2018: Steven Satterfield, Rebecca Wilcomb, John Currence with Eric Solomon, Kelly English and Cameron Razavi

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We have also hosted Pableaux Johnson for his Red Beans and Rice Roadshow and began a Supper Club series, featuring our own café chefs and other community food experts.

To honor the element of community that is central to our mission, the proceeds from each of our dinners have been donated to the Southern Foodways Alliance. Our company feels a kinship with the SFA and Natalie has a personal connection to the organization, so partnering with them is a natural fit. We hope to continue our relationship with the organization for years to come.

We will be announcing the lineup for our 2019 Friends of the Café dinners and other café events next week. Stay tuned as Alabama Chanin makes a place at the table for each of you.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 1/52 | 2019

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.’” ― Alfred Lord Tennyson

The eve of 2019 has inspired us to explore food traditions from around the world that are said to bring prosperity and luck to all those who partake on New Year’s Day.

Soba noodles bid goodbye to a year gone by and welcome the new year that is just beginning: Japan

Hoppin’ John, with African and West Indian roots, brings good luck and prosperity: American South

Cotechino con Lenticchie is eaten for wealth and good fortune: Italy

Las doce uvas de la suerte (the 12 lucky grapes), eaten during the twelve strokes of midnight, promise good luck in the new year: Spain

Kuku Sabzi is said to bring abundance and fertility: Iran

Pancakes, foie gras, and champagne are eaten during le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre feast for good luck: France

In Alabama: “The New Year Trinity” on the Journal

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 51/52 | 2018

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.” ― Bob Hope

The signs of a Christmas season in full swing are all around us: homes and Christmas trees are decorated with colorful lights, dinner menus are underway, presents are wrapped, suitcases are packed, and guest rooms are ready for family on their way. This week, as we relish this special time of year, we are sharing some of our favorite holiday posts, projects, and recipes from the Journal as well as gift ideas from our Holiday Shop and The School of Making.

DIY Holiday Projects:

Tree Skirt

Find wreath instructions here, here, here, and here

Stenciled Table Runner

Holiday Stocking

Etched Candles

Favorite Recipes:

Winter Vegetable Farro Risotto

Chicken Stew

Buttery Turkey and Pecan Cranberry Relish

Burnt Honey Sweet Potato Salad Dressing

Homemade curacao and a few cold-weather cocktails

Sweet Treats:

Potato Candy

Snow Cream

Pecan Trees

Ginger-Molasses Cookies

Natalie’s Apple Crisp

Holiday Memories:

Reflect, Rejoice, Renew

Christmas carols and a holiday playlist

Beautiful Things

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 50/52 | 2018

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” – Mother Theresa

We’re two weeks away from Christmas and everything is a buzz at Alabama Chanin. Our Bldg. 14 team is humming along on the sewing machines. Our artisans are steadily working out in the field. Our fulfillment department is organizing orders for holiday delivery. And our Factory sales team has decorated the store and café with evergreen and white poinsettias.

This season—this year—has flown by, and we are overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received from all of you. We wish we could see the reaction of everyone who is given an Alabama Chanin or The School of Making gift this holiday season. Thank you for making our mission possible. Thank you for spreading the good word.

THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN 49/52 | 2018

“The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others’ burdens, easing others’ loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of the holidays.” ― W. C. Jones

The holiday season is officially upon us. Cultures and religions across the United States and the world celebrate their own holidays with vastly different but equally important religious and cultural significances. This week we explore a few of those celebrations.

November 19 to November 20 – Mawlid el-Nabi

December 2 to December 10 – Hanukkah

December 8 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception

December 8 – Bodhi Day

Dec. 21 – Yule (Winter Solstice)

Dec. 25 – Christmas  

December 26 – January 1 – Kwanzaa

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 48/52 | 2018

“Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways, it can change someone else’s life forever.” ― Margaret Cho

Giving Tuesday, a response to the consumerism that surrounds the holiday season, has been celebrated since 2012. Founded as a way to give back to one’s community, both local and global, the Tuesday following “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” is a time of charitable giving that embodies the true spirit of the holidays. This week we explore the history behind Giving Tuesday and the many ways that giving positively affects others as well as ourselves.

Giving Tuesday

Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact, founders of Giving Tuesday

Read about Giving Tuesday on the Journal here and here

Nest: supporting the handwork economy (including our own Bldg. 14 when our work together began in 2015)

“How to Get the Most Bang for Your Charitable Giving Buck”

Global Giving connects you to nonprofits across the world

“5 Ways Giving Is Good for You”

Give back to your community through the Citizen Corps

GreatNonprofits: a “leading platform for community-sourced stories about nonprofits”

In Alabama: The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 46/52 | 2018

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” ― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

In a world where the news is filled daily with tragedies, injustices, and strife of one kind or another, we tend to forget the enormous impact that even the smallest act of kindness can have. In celebrating World Kindness Day November 13th, we hope to remind ourselves (and our readers) of the power in warm gestures, volunteering, and simply being kind to one another.

Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nye

#WorldKindnessDay

The World Kindness Movement

“Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts”

“Asante Sana” on the Journal

Find volunteer opportunities in your local community and with the Red Cross

Kindness and stewardship to the land; volunteer with the U.S. Forest Service

The power of kindness

In Alabama: Alabama Association of Habitat for Humanity

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 45/52 | 2018

“The attractions of ceramics lie partly in its contradictions. It is both difficult and easy, with an element beyond our control. It is both extremely fragile and durable.” ― Isamu Noguchi

Founded in 1948 by Edith Heath and her husband Brian, San Francisco-based Heath Ceramics have long been creators of functional and beautiful tableware and home goods. Current owners and creative directors Cathy Bailey and Robin Petravic have helmed Heath since 2003. Under their guidance, Heath has stayed true to Edith’s original vision while ensuring sustainability and impeccable craftsmanship in their striking and modern designs. Alabama Chanin is proud to launch a new partnership with Heath Ceramics on Sunday. This week we honor Heath by exploring the company’s history, their values, and looking back at past collaborations.

“Sustainable Collaboration: Heath Ceramics” on the Journal

Heath Ceramics in Kinfolk magazine

“Heath Ceramics Celebrates 70 Years of Modern Design”

Heath tiles on Instagram

See our past collaborations with Heath here , here, and here.

Explore Heath Ceramics through their blog

Cooper Hewitt National Design Award recipient in 2015

“Heath Ceramics + Alabama Chanin” on Design Sponge

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THANKSGIVING PICKUP

We all dream of a homemade Thanksgiving dinner, but sometimes (and these days more often than not) we get swept up in the busyness of life and find ourselves scrambling to put together a last minute meal. For our Shoals community, The Factory Café is offering Thanksgiving Pickup again this year.

Our menu includes Thanksgiving favorites like Cornbread Dressing, Sweet Potato Casserole, Baked Mac + Cheese, and Cranberry Sauce – all made from scratch in our kitchen. If you’ve been tasked with providing dessert, we’ve got those too. Choose from a list of sweets that includes autumn treats like Carrot Cake + Cream Cheese Icing, Natalie’s Apple Crisp, and Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Download the complete menu with prices here.

Call 256.701.8667 or email events@alabamachanin.com before 5:00pm on Wednesday, November 16th to place your order for pickup on Wednesday, November 21st. If you live in The Shoals, we’ll even deliver your dishes to you.

Give us a call, sit back, make merry, and enjoy.

Photo courtesy of Abraham Rowe.

COZY CORNER @ THE FACTORY STORE

“Certainly work is not always required of a man. There is such a thing as sacred idleness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.” – George Mac Donald

As the weather gets cool and crisp and the days get shorter and darker, we are instinctively encouraged to cultivate idleness. We head indoors to sit by the fire with loved ones, warm mugs, books, and games—or venture out for a vividly-colored walk in the woods. Our sales team has been inspired by those feelings and has created a new “cozy corner” at The Factory Store that houses everything you’ll need for an indulgent autumn and winter season.

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You’ll find waffle-knit blankets, sweatshirts, and socks for lounging in comfort from our newly launched Leisure Collection.

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Fill the rest of your downtime with new tunes from Single Lock Records. (We’re loving Erin Rae, Lera Lynn, and Cedric Burnside right now.) The store has a fully stocked bookshelf with everything from cocktail guides, field guides, and tomes filled with inspiration. And craft a cocktail from Jack Rudy while you’re at it.

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Pair a Heath Ceramics mug with Askinosie Sipping Chocolate or a bag of The Factory Blend Coffee and settle in.

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NOVEMBER + A SUPPER CLUB

Our inaugural year of The Factory Supper Club is drawing to a close (with two more left), and it has allowed us to showcase talented, local chefs and provide a unique experience for our guests.

In November, The Factory Café is bringing in chef Fatin Russel of Odette, a beautiful dining establishment in downtown Florence that focuses on creating unique dishes with new flavors and traditional techniques.

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Fatin is from the southern tip of Malaysia and her diverse heritage has roots steeped in Malay, China, Java, and India. Food has always played an integral part in Fatin’s life. She graduated from culinary school in 2013 and came to the United States for a cultural student program. While working at the kitchens at the locally esteemed Marriott Shoals Hotel in Florence, she met her future husband.

After completing the cultural student program, Fatin moved home to Malay to work and help her mother with a baking business. Two years later she returned to Florence to marry Christopher and now works at Odette. Fatin is passionate and proud of her culture, and we can’t wait to taste her menu. She’ll be joined in the kitchen by chefs Josh Quick and Ramon Jacobsen of Odette and our café team.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 41/52 | 2018

“One of the greatest pleasures of my life has been that I have never stopped learning about Good Cooking and Good Food.” ― Edna Lewis

For the past 20 years the Southern Foodways Alliance, or SFA, has “explor[ed] the diverse food cultures of the changing American South.” Their Fall Symposium, held this weekend in Oxford, Mississippi, is in its 21st year. A few members of the Alabama Chanin team are excitedly attending and in honor of their trip, this week we take a deeper look at the SFA and their mission of preservation and expansion of the culinary heritage of the South.

What is the Southern Foodways Alliance?

2018 Southern Foodways Fall Symposium

Alabama Chanin’s Friends of the Café Dinner Series, benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance

Gravy Audio

The SFA Guide to Cocktails

Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place with the University of Georgia Press

The Potlikker Papers by John T. Edge

Community Cookbooks on the Journal

“Shoals Chicken Stew”

Become an SFA member or make a donation

“What Americans can learn from other food cultures”

In Alabama: “Pork Ribs and Politics: The Origins of Alabama Barbecue”

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CREATIVE PROCESS: JESSICA ULLOM OF HAWKS AND DOVES

Jessica Ullom is the founder and brains behind Hawks and Doves (named after her favorite Neil Young album), a fabric and leather goods company based out of North Carolina. It first began when Jessica (or Jess) started crafting goods inspired by items found at flea markets. As a collector (or “borderline hoarder”, as she describes herself), she found herself drawn to vintage textiles—feed sacks, old blankets, army canvasses—and was searching for a way to repurpose them.

Her grandmother, Inez, taught her to sew when Jess was young and Jess was drawn to use the sewing machine again. One day, she made a pillow out of an old feed sack and her friends loved it. She made more and put them up for sale at a flea market—and they sold out within five minutes. She realized she may have something profitable in her hands.

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As she continued to make pillows, Jess began to experiment with making tote bags, as well. She expanded to making with leather and gradually learned the craft of manipulating a whole new material. Like Alabama Chanin goods, Hawks and Doves items are truly built for a lifetime. They are intended to go and travel with you in your daily life because they are made with care and with knowledge. According to Jessica, “Our leather goods are made with oil tanned leather. This means that the hide is already treated with oil and wax. This tanning method keeps the leather conditioned for a long time, you will only need to treat it every once in a while. Choose a good leather conditioner or oil and test it in a small inconspicuous spot on your bag before fully treating it. Oil tanned leather will age with you, and just look better after every wear!”

While head Executive Pastry Chef of Ashley Christensen’s restaurant, Jess’ husband Andrew requested she begin making knife rolls so that chefs could safely tote their valuable tools from place-to-place. Other chefs began requesting their own and, with their help, she created a leather knife carrier that sells out time and again.

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Earlier this year, Jess and Andrew opened Union Special Bread, a pop-up bake sale in Raleigh, North Carolina, which focuses on handmade bread leavened with natural cultures, alongside a line of croissants and other pastries made using fresh and local ingredients.

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Name: Jessica Ullom
Age: 33
Creative Medium: Leather and Textiles

Alabama Chanin: What makes you curious?

Jess Ullom: I am a naturally curious person, always wondering how things are made, how things work, how others think.  Two years ago I had my son, Gus. Now, as I watch him discover and encounter the world, I find myself soaking up that infectious, joyous curiosity.  It is a wonderful gift to be able to live out the small things again and look at things with big and wide eyes.

AC: What do you daydream about?

JU: A “quiet life.”  As a little girl, I never had dreams of grandeur and the one thing I can remember thinking about quite often was wanting to live in a house on rolling hills, with my baby, and my hair in braids – growing my own food, drying my own herbs.  As a kid, my mom would take me to an herb shop called “The Sunshine Store,” and if this dream could have a scent, the smell contained in that little space would be it.  Now, as I sit here on my computer, simultaneously checking my phone, and listening to music on a Bluetooth speaker I find myself still yearning for that disconnected quiet life.

AC: How important is education to your creative process?

JU: I received my BFA in Photography from CCAD in 2008.  As a leather and textile worker, I am obviously not fully utilizing my photography degree, yet without that education I know I would not have been able to develop Hawks and Doves into what it currently is.  Art school allowed me to take chances, push my own boundaries and, in many cases, it forced me far outside my comfort zone.  I’m not sure if that speaks more to experience or education, or is it education from experience?  I think education can come in many forms and it does not necessarily have to live within brick walls and hand you a piece of paper as you exit.

AC: What parts of your work seem the “heaviest” and the “lightest”?

JU: Since I am a one-woman business, the production and actual ‘running’ of the business are the heaviest.  There are a lot of skillets in the fire at all times and it is easy for those tasks to build up and take over everything.  Design days almost feel like ‘free days’ right now, and I so look forward to them!

AC: Does the creative process differ when you are creating for commerce vs creating for the sake of creativity?

JU: Absolutely. Since my products are made to be worn, used, and sold, I am always thinking about how they will function in another person’s life. This awareness of having another person wear and utilize your product inherently influences the creative process.  This is also my business, my income, and how I support our family, so I want to design and create things with the intention of selling them.  Sometimes I create things for myself, or to fill my own need, and then find out that is also a need of others. THAT is a great feeling and really feeds the inspiration tank.

AC: What makes you nervous?

JU: (Everything, ha!)  The ups and downs of running your own business are enough to make even the most Zen individual a complete wreck.  Deadlines, social media posts, emails, production, emails, stock sourcing, emails, replying to messages, and did I mention emails?!  The day is never done and the list is never complete, THIS makes me nervous – the ‘how am I ever going to finish it all?’  Add on top of that my phone dinging seven times a day with what could very possibly be an earth-shattering news update – these days there are also many things OUTSIDE of the business that make me nervous.

AC: Is there something that can halt your creativity? Distractions, fears, etc.? Have you found a way to avoid those pitfalls?

JU: The minutia of running every aspect of a business yourself can really get in the way of creativity.  A few years ago, as I was deep in the weeds of trying to figure out how to get this business off the ground and grow my audience, I remember thinking, “wouldn’t it be great if someday I can have a successful business by just making one leather bag?”  Now, I find myself eating those words on days when I’m sewing 40+ Porter totes! Crossing things off the list, filling and packing orders, and generally completing things, keep my locomotive going and I’m able to see creative/free days at the end of the tunnel.  I’m not sure if utilizing creativity as a reward is a good or bad thing, but right now it’s working, so I’m just going to go with it.

AC: Do you critique your own work?

JU: ALWAYS.  I am constantly making notes of changes to be made after I see someone out in the world wearing a H+D bag.  Since leather is something that ages as you wear it and, in many ways conforms to the life you live, it’s great to be able to see the way someone’s bag has patinaed and shows the marks of their life.  Finding someone you trust to give you honest critiques is hard to find and when it is found it is such a gift.  Since I am such a small business I am able to edit and make changes on the fly.

AC: Are there parts of your life that you always make a priority? That you struggle to make a priority?

JU: Right now I think I’m in the struggle that all young parents face, the classic work/life balance.  It is very hard to find the right balance where I do not feel guilty for neglecting H+D (my first baby) and also not feel guilty for neglecting my actual child.  I suppose it will come, and until it does, I’ll be trying very hard to navigate through the struggle!

AC: Where does inspiration come from? Where does inspiration live?

JU: For me, inspiration for H+D lives in real life.  H+D bags are built for life and built to last.  The needs of life spur inspiration and, as my life has changed (becoming a parent), I now recognize those small needs even more –  i.e. you need a bag strap long enough to swing onto your shoulder with one hand when you have a baby in the other hand.

(This project is made possible in-part by a fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.)

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A LOOK BACK: JOHN CURRENCE + FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ

In August, The Factory Café hosted James Beard Award-winning chef and fellow Southern Foodways Alliance lover, John Currence, for a special evening that combined savory with sweet and included personal touches to each dish. We were also joined by renowned wine importer Eric Solomon, who created original and clever wine pairings.

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The meal featured a wide range of dishes—everything from a vegetable course to a hearty steak dish. Passed starters included chicken liver pate on grilled bread with pickled egg mimosa and kheema pao, a spiced lamb dish served on a sweet roll; the portions of the roll were so generous that some guests found themselves sharing the bread dish. The starters were served with a young Spanish rosé, certified organic from an organic vineyard.

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The first course, a sweet corn soup with marinated blue crab was a nod to Currence’s mother and her proficiency in the kitchen—particularly with seafood. It was paired with a rioja blanca made from organic and biodynamically farmed fruit, and it had both a warmth and vibrant acidity.

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Next came a celebration of grilled summer vegetables, served with a side of Middle Eastern spiced homemade yogurt. This dish was particularly special to Chef Currence, as it was made using a vinegar made from his late mother’s champagne. The diners were emotional, as this is not something he uses for just any dish or any crowd. Solomon explained that the rioja blanco served with the vegetables was a limited-production wine, so this dish was especially meaningful for our guests.

Bone-in beef ribeye accompanied by a flavorful chimichurri it was accompanied by a velles priorat, a wine with powerful flavor—perfectly paired with steak.

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The fourth and final course was a Mississippi mud pie, a hearty finish to the third course accompanied by prosecco with Jack Rudy Elderflower tonic.

Thank you to John, Eric, our team at The Factory, helpers from the community, John T. Edge, the SFA, and all our guests who came together to create a beautiful evening.

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For those who were not able to attend the dinner (or for the lucky guests who were), we are offering a giveaway of John’s book, Pickles, Pigs, and Whiskey, signed by the chef. To enter, follow @alabamachaninfactorycafe, like the post on @alabamachaninfactorycafe, and tag three friends on the comment.

The giveaway ends at 11:59pmCST on October 5th and is open to US residents 18+ older. One lucky winner will be announced the following day and will receive a signed copy of Pickles, Pigs, and Whiskey to add to their culinary library.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 40/52 | 2018

“Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.”Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel Prize-winning neurobiologist

As October ushers in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are inspired to look back over the decades to the female doctors, chemists, biologists, and researchers who devoted their educations and careers to research and discoveries that have advanced medical understanding and treatments. This week, learn about 10 of these phenomenal women.

Anita Roberts: molecular biologist

Dr. Helen Brooke Taussig: Lasker Award and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient

Eva Vertes: microbiologist

Alice Ball: chemist

Gerty Cori: biochemist and first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Dr. Esther Zimmer Lederberg: pioneer of bacterial genetics

Dr. Elizabeth Wayne: biomedical engineer

Mina Bissell: biologist

In Alabama: Dr. Hadiyah Green, cancer survivor and Alabama A&M University graduate, “is determined to beat cancer — with lasers.”

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BRIDAL + EVENING REDUX

Over the years our Bridal Collection has evolved from designs intended for wedding attire to a broader collection of formal, special occasion, and evening wear. And now you’ll find a new way to get acquainted with our Bridal + Evening offerings through an updated section of our website. Everything that we create has a custom element to it—in true made-to-order style. And our Bridal styles are no exception. Create your perfect gown by choosing the most complementary fit with your favorite textile design and work with our team to customize the entire garment.

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Visit our new Bridal + Evening page to learn about custom gowns, featured designs, and our additional services offered through The Factory Store.

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Contact our Bridal associate at ac@alabamachanin.com to inquire about custom services or call 256-760-1090 M ­– F from 8:30am – 4:30pm CST and ask for Bonnie.

CROP STORIES: THE SWEET POTATO

Crop Stories is a food-based magazine, with each issue focusing on a particular ingredient. Its fourth edition highlights sweet potatoes—histories and how-tos, stories of real people who work the land, and a whole mess of delicious recipes. According to editor Andre Gallant, the magazine wanted to seek out diverse narratives and writers. “What we hope most is how the stories presented in the following pages begin to complicate or discard any idyllic notions of farming in the American South. We share the same love for what draws others to the field—independence, soil that nurtures, a rustic gastronomy—but we refuse to blot out difficult topics like race, class, gender, and age, that permeate every aspect of modern life.”

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Within this 144-page fourth edition, you will find a history of the sweet potato, different types of sweet potato, tips on growing the crop, including tips on handling pests, and stunning photographs—some by friend and collaborator Rinne Allen. Perhaps most moving are the stories of the people trying to make a living off the land: local independent farmers, slaughterhouses, why Black land matters, and farmers getting by in The Sweet Potato Capital of the World—Vardaman, Mississippi. Of farmer Loyd Lewis, who owns and operates a roadside vegetable stand, Keia Mastrianni writes, “In an instant, it is clear what inspires Loyd Lewis to work each day. The farm is an extension of himself; an identity so tethered to the land, it’s as deeply rooted as the trees that shade the property.”

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Editor Gallant said, “So far we have not followed a formula. We are making this up as we go along, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s something I like to tell the team, who often turn to me to understand the rules of the journalism/publishing world. I say, ‘There are no rules to what we are doing.’ We aren’t Bon Appetit or Modern Farmer. We’re inventing the identity of this thing with each issue.” Crop Stories encourages readers to get to know their farmers and know there is a story behind everything they consume, but it also aims to get the average person more comfortable with ingredients and with cooking new things. Above all, it pulls no punches about farming life, all while celebrating the crops produced.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 39/52 | 2018

“Wild is the music of the autumnal winds amongst the faded woods.”William Wordsworth

This past Saturday, September 22nd, brought the Autumn Equinox to all of us in the northern hemisphere. Though it doesn’t quite feel like Fall here in Alabama yet (almost), the changing of the seasons has us looking forward to savory meals, cozy outerwear, crisp air, and a mosaic of colorful leaves. In honor of the first day of Fall, this week we share a few of our go-to cool-weather wardrobe pieces, favorite recipes, and a bit of history on Autumn holidays from around the world.

The East Asian Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the Moon Cake Festival)

Roasted Pumpkin + A Recipe for Soup

“Michaelmas: The Day the Devil Spit on Your Blackberries

Fresh Ginger Layer Cake

The Autumnal Hindu festival of Navratri

Pecan Trees

“’Leaf Wonder’ In A World Of Changing Forests”

In Alabama: Alabama’s Fall Color Trail

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 38/52 | 2018

“This ‘ethical fashion,’ this ‘sustainable fashion,’ that complies to what fashion really is, that is borne out of passion, skills, heritage, artistry, and bravery, is fashion. “Orsola De Castro

Alabama Chanin returned to New York Fashion Week this year with a private showing at the Bowery Hotel. This return inspired us to looks back on our history, from Natalie cutting up and sewing back together her first T-shirt in New York to Alabama Chanin’s present-day Family of Businesses. With entries dating back 12-plus years, our Journal posts act as stepping stones of that history. Explore those with us this week.

Alabama Chanin at Fashion Week, featured in WWD

One Woman’s Testament to Needle and Thread

A Commitment to Cotton

The School of Bauhaus + Creative Process

Collection: An Evolution

An Alabama Chanin Family of Businesses

The Factory

The History of Workshops

Bldg. 14

Nest + Alabama Chanin: Partnership for Learning

In Alabama: “Billy Reid and Alabama Chanin’s Homegrown Cotton” in T Magazine

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 37/52 | 2018

“At the deepest level, the creative process and the healing process arise from a single source. When you are an artist, you are a healer.”Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen

Art can be as haunting as it is beautiful. It can be a reprieve from fears and traumas or the catalyst that forces you to face them. Art is cathartic, for both the artist and viewer. This week, on the 17th anniversary, we explore the works of art created in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.

9/11 Peace Story Quilt: Faith Ringgold and New York City students

Dear Jeff…: Virginia Fitzgerald

9/11 Series: Donna Levinstone

Untitled artwork appearing in Tribeca: Banksy

IX XI: Ultra Violet

Tumbling Woman: Eric Fischl

Never Forget 2: Busser Howell

Gesture: Manju Shandler

Fallen: Doug and Mike Starn

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DIY STENCILED TABLE RUNNER

Sharing good food and good company with friends and family have brought some of our best memories over the years, at both The Factory Café and at home.

Holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve (which will all be here before you know it) allow you to open your own home to family and friends to share fellowship and some of your favorite recipes.

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At the heart of those holiday meals is a welcoming table. The School of Making created a simple and eco-friendly decorating option for our café tables: a DIY stenciled table runner.

This table runner works up quickly; simply cut a piece of 18” wide kraft paper the length of your table (or use the width and lengths of your choice). Using our Textile Paint, an airbrush gun, and your favorite School of Making stencil, paint the design all over the paper, at each end, or however your creativity guides you. Let the paint dry completely and the runner is ready to use.

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You could also utilize your own stencil or paint a design free-hand. To reduce waste, for your next gathering flip the paper over and stencil a new design on the blank side.

We chose the Variegated Stripe and Aurora stencils for the designs shown above.

Share how you plan to stencil your table runner and some of your family’s favorite recipes in the comments below.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 36/52 | 2018

“Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”Dolores Huerta

From the right to vote to equal pay, women have never shied away from fighting for the rights inherently owed to them. Whether it’s worker safety, job protection during and after a pregnancy, or the myriad of other issues faced by working women, activists, organizers, and union members have, for decades, fought for fairness and equality. Explore some of the most influential women in the labor movement.

“Raises, not roses:” the 1981 San Jose strike

“Black Women Built That: Labor and Workers’ Rights”

Ai-jen Poo is the Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)

Working women around the world, in pictures

Dolores Huerta, activist, and co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association

“The Complicated History Behind the Fight for Pregnant Women’s Equality”

Status of Women in the States: Women in Unions

In Alabama: As an organizer of the Southern textile factory worker movement in the 1930s, Eula McGill was a member of the Women’s Trade Union League and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Union.

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A LOOK BACK: JULY’S SUPPER CLUB @ THE FACTORY CAFÉ

For our July Supper Club, The Factory Café invited chef Josh Quick of Florence’s Odette to helm the kitchen with chef Ramon Jacobsen and their team. John Cartwright of Rivertown Coffee Company—who partnered with us for our May Supper Club—joined them in the kitchen. The evening was filled with summer harvest bounty.

Odette is located in downtown Florence, where owner Celeste Pillow has created a beautiful dining establishment in service to our community. Like The Factory Café, chef Josh Quick works with Alabama producers and growers to create unique dishes that emphasize new flavors with traditional preparations. Their General Manager, Kristy Bevis, who helps run the show, once catered our workshops (before the café was open) and contributed cocktail posts for our Journal some years ago.

For over 10 years, John Cartwright has created Florence’s favorite breakfast and lunch spot by combining good coffee, food, and the community at Rivertown Coffee Company, which locals simply call “Rivertown”. Like us, John works with Muletown Roasted Coffee to source his roasted beans. Rivertown knows no strangers, and they welcome anyone and everyone. Their motto: Coffee for all.

Odette and Rivertown are two staple establishments in downtown Florence that are more than just restaurants; they create unique dining experiences and spaces for our community to gather, collaborate, support one another, and enjoy good food and conversation. We were proud and honored to host them in our very own kitchen. Enjoy a recap of the evening’s dishes below.

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We like to start out each dinner with craft beers (Monday Night Brewing’s I’m on a Boat and Trim Tab Brewing Co. IPA) and a seasonal cocktail, the Endless Summer – a fizzy and fruity libation with peach, juniper berries, and prosecco. Pickles, chicken skin sandwiches, and blackberry-glazed bacon were passed with cocktails.

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Blackberry BBQ Glazed Molasses Bacon with Crispy Shallots and Chives

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Left: Chicken Skin Sandwiches on Potato Bread with Arugula, Tomato, and Hot Sauce Mayo. Right: Summer Pickles

The rest of the evening carried on with everything from braised beef, Peruvian chicken smoked on the Traeger Grill, and summer vegetable salad with ham and ranch, and cabbage rolls.

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Summer Vegetable Salad with 16 Month Ham, Ranch, and Herbs

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Grandma’s Cabbage Rolls

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Left: Bluewater Creek Farm Braised Beef with Sweet and Sour Tomatoes, Two Brothers Farm Rice, and Smoked Eggplant Puree. Right: Peruvian Smoked Chicken.

The night ended on a sweet note with Crème Fraiche ice cream topped with grilled Chilton County Peaches, spiced pecans, and honey from Eastaboga, Alabama.

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Grilled Chilton County Peaches with Crème Fraiche Ice Cream, Spiced Pecans, and Eastaboga Honey

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All floral arrangements at The Factory are created by Susan Rowe— friend, stylist, floral designer, and colleague in the café. She helps make The Factory beautiful. Follow along with Susan and her arrangements here.

A big thank you goes out to Celeste, Josh, Ramon, the team at Odette, and John for all their hard work. And as always, these events wouldn’t be what they are without the help of our local and regional farms – especially, Bluewater Creek Farm, Sonlit Meadows Farm, and Cottonwood Farm.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 35/52 | 2018

“Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the materials.”Anni Albers

To mark the 10th anniversary of the release of Natalie’s Alabama Stitch Book, this week we focus on exceptional women in the world of handcrafts. Thursday on the Journal, be on the lookout for Swing Skirt DIY Kit inspiration (it’s our most popular pattern ever).

“Feminist, socialist, embroiderer:” May Morris

Pioneering fiber artist, Lenore Tawney

Lithuanian artist Severija Inčirauskaitė-Kriaunevičienė utilizes cross-stitch on non-traditional objects to make statements on society

Anni Albers on the Journal (and more #womenartists)

Lisa Smirnova’s Studio of Modern Embroidery

Crochet artist, Olek

Professor, artist, and quilter Faith Ringgold

Dee Clements and Studio Herron

Artisan Embroidery at Alabama Chanin

The traditional Japanese kimonos of dyer and weaver Fukumi Shimura

In Alabama: “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend”

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 34/52 | 2018

“I know nothing of man’s rights, or woman’s rights; human rights are all that I recognize.”Sarah Moore Grimké

On August 18, 1920, women were granted the right to vote in the United States. This past Saturday marked the 98th anniversary of that momentous shift in American culture, politics, and society. This week we honor the fearless, forward-thinking suffragettes who fought not only for their own rights but for the liberties of the countless women who would come after them.

A timeline of the United State’s women’s suffrage movement, from 1869 to 1992

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex:” 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The Library of Congress’ National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection

The Declaration of Sentiments, signed at the First Women’s Rights Convention, held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York

The National Association of Colored Women and women’s suffrage

“The Mother Who Saved Suffrage”

National League of Women Voters’ handbill

“Long-Lost Letters from Suffrage Pioneers Discovered”

The Silent Sentinels

Modern-day women’s movements: #MeToo and Time’s Up

In Alabama: Alabama Equal Suffrage Association

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SUMMER VEGETABLES + BUTTERMILK-HERB DRESSING

Summer is the season of vegetables, whether from your local farmers market or your backyard garden. And there are countless summer veggie recipes on the Journal, like this one for a Southern Antipasti, the beloved Tomato Sandwich (the secret’s in the homemade mayo), or a Grilled Vegetable Quiche.

At The Factory Café, we eagerly anticipate each summer when fresh vegetables are in abundance. And while they are delicious on their own, we love any excuse to accompany them with our Buttermilk-Herb Dressing. Perfect on salads, sandwiches, or as a dipping sauce. Find the recipe below.

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BUTTERMILK-HERB DRESSING
Makes one quart

1.5 cup sour cream
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup Duke’s Mayonnaise (or the mayo of your choice)
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chives, chopped
1 tablespoon dill, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Mix all wet ingredients together. Mix in fresh herbs until combined well. Serve in a Weck Juice Jar (available at The Factory).

Lead image: Fresh vegetable delivery from Sonlit Meadows Farm

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 33/52 | 2018

“Alabama Chanin has evolved into a community… a company of farmers, fabric makers, artisans and our customers who support what we do.”Natalie Chanin from the archives: W Magazine, 2011

With the excitement of a new Collection at the forefront of our minds, this week we take a few moments to reflect on all Alabama Chanin’s collections and how, though different, each serves a unique aspect of our customers’ lives and embodies the heart of Alabama Chanin: sustainability, quality, and beauty.

Collection: The classic Alabama Chanin collection creates styles for everyday wear. Through thoughtful design, Natalie and our team have created a grouping of styles that are modern essentials that are meant to last a lifetime. The collection celebrates both hand and machine-sewn artisan methods of manufacturing, even creating “hybrid” garments that marry the two craft forms into one garment. You’ll find our Core Essential styles alongside embroidered and decorated garments.

Bridal + Evening: Bringing sustainability and beauty to some of life’s most treasured moments, Alabama Chanin has been creating bridal gowns and special occasion attire since 2010. From classic silhouettes like the Guinevere Dress to elaborately hand-embroidered pieces like the Lauderdale Dress, our special occasion pieces transcend trends. The collection can be worn to a variety of events throughout the seasons and the heirloom-quality gowns will be passed down through generations. In 2016 we introduced customer-favorite bridal styles to Custom DIY, allowing you to create your own one-of-kind garment for your most special day.

Leisure: The Leisure Collection, created in 2017, ushered in a new facet of Alabama Chanin: clothing for the home that fosters a sense of comfort and wellbeing. Robes, nightgowns, tanks, leggings, and underpinnings crafted from luxurious, organic cotton and waffle-knit fabrics form a curated collection of relaxation. (Look for updates to Leisure later this fall.)

Cook + Dine: Striving for sustainability in all aspects of life, the Cook + Dine Collection allows us to bring American-made goods to the table and kitchen. Tableware, like placemats, coasters, and napkins are assembled, from start to finish, by one of our skilled machine sewers with 100% organic cotton and canvas. Artisan-made aprons and potholders are paired with beloved cookbooks. Cook + Dine is also a space that has allowed us to collaborate with businesses like The Commons and Hawks and Doves, and to work with like-minded artists, near and far.

Personal Stylist: “Impeccable service” is one of the eight Guiding Principles of Alabama Chanin. Whether you are purchasing an heirloom skirt or a machine-sewn cardigan, impeccable fit and modern styling are what we guarantee to each of our guests. To ensure this, we recently added a Personal Stylist service for our Collection. If you have questions about fit, design details, care instructions, or need recommendations for adding to your current wardrobe or what styles fit best with your lifestyle, our Personal Stylist is only a call or email away.

Shop the Alabama Chanin Collections below:

Collection
Leisure
Cook + Dine
Bridal + Evening

Call our Personal Stylist at 256-760-1090 to schedule an in-store appointment and fitting.

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REBECCA WILCOMB + FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ + A SUMMER SOLSTICE COCKTAIL

In June, The Factory Café hosted James Beard Award-winning chef Rebecca Wilcomb for an evening of savory and sweet dishes with an Italian-Cajun spin, complete with a specialty cocktail and wine pairings.

The dinner began with a Summer Solstice cocktail (find the recipe at the end of this post) made with peach and Prosecco, and the passed starters included everything from shrimp, to crab melts.

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Beef with Anchovy and Olive

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Shrimp Spiedini

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Toasted Crab Melts

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Chickpea Fritters with Caponata

The first course, a chicken tortellini in a rich broth, was served for the first time outside of a family setting and dedicated to Rebecca’s grandmother, Giannina. The pasta was paired with a young Pinot Noir Rosé, light and summery.

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Giannina’s Tortellini

The second course highlighted pork belly from our friends at Bluewater Creek Farm, and Open Blue Cobia and was served with an Italian rice salad, Lunchbox peppers, and charred okra.  A Petit Selve with cherry notes complemented this course

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Bluewater Creek Farm Pork Belly

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Hand pies filled with summer fruit like blueberries, figs, and peaches were served warm with whipped cream, and accompanied by a crisp, sparkling Rosé from Argentina and cold brew coffee.

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Below, our events coordinator shares the recipe for the featured cocktail of the night:

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SUMMER SOLSTICE

2 ripe peaches (Chilton Co. Peaches are our favorite)
1 bottle Prosecco
1 teaspoon sugar
6 fresh mint leaves

Place the peaches and sugar in a food processor and blend until smooth. Press the mixture through a sieve and discard the peach solids. Give the mint leaves a smack on your hand and rub the edge of a flute with them. Add about 2 tablespoons of the peach puree into each flute and fill with chilled Prosecco.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 32/52 | 2018

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”Malala Yousafzai

With the first day of school just a few days away here in Alabama, our minds have turned toward inspiring teachers, optimistic students, and to the opportunities provided by a quality education. This week we decided to explore some of the most forward thinking teachers and professors across the country (and across the decades) and to share a few women from our #womenwhoinspire series whose educations were at the core of their influential and life-changing work.

Homage to a Teacher on the Journal

Maria Montessori

#womenwhoinspire: Jane Goodall – Ph.D. in Ethology

Jesmyn Ward: Novelist, award winner, and professor at Tulane University

#womenwhoinspire: Rachel Carson – Master’s degree in Zoology

Maja Mataric: Professor of Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Pediatrics at the University of Southern California

#womenwhoinspire: Calina Lawrence – Bachelor’s degree in Performing Arts & Social Justice

Kathy Reiche: author, television producer, forensic anthropologist, and professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte

#womenwhoinspire: Vivian Malone Jones – Bachelor’s degree in Business Education

Sangeeta Bhatia: physician, bioengineer, and professor at MIT. Watch her TED Talk here.

#womenwhoinspire: Ava DuVernay – Bachelor’s degrees in English Literature and African-American Studies

In Alabama: Carrie Tuggle, educator and children’s welfare advocate

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ERIC SOLOMON + FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ

North Carolina-based wine importer Eric Solomon started his career in spirits as a bartender in Great Britain. The rock and roll drummer was a quick study and was sponsored by the Institute of Masters of Wine, excelling in their rigorous coursework until his UK student visa expired. Once back in the states, he found work as the director of fine wines for a Fortune 500 wine and spirits company and eventually became involved in wine importing, where he currently focuses on Spain and the south of France.

Eric was recognized as Robert Parker’s Wine Personality of the year in 2002 and in 2006, Solomon was awarded Best Importer of the Year by Food and Wine Magazine. He has been a James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Eric has chosen wine pairings for our upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner featuring John Currence. Here, we had the opportunity to ask Eric some questions about himself and get some information on the wines we will be enjoying at the dinner.

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AC: For our readers that may be unfamiliar with the subject, can you explain a little bit about what you do? 

ES: Many people have romantic notions about being a wine importer. Don’t get me wrong, I get to see, taste and experience unforgettable things but there is also a lot of travel, sleepless nights, overindulgent meals and challenging conversation. My passion for discovering the next great wine, and the scouting promising talent, makes it all worth it at the end of the day. Also, who would hire a rusty but enthusiastic rock drummer at this point? 

AC: When did you first develop an interest in wine? 

ES: It began in London in the late 1970s when I walked into a wine bar looking for a job since being a drummer for several rock bands wasn’t as lucrative as you would think. 

AC: Is there a specific quality in a wine producer that lets you know they might be a good match for European Cellars? 

ES: The classic wines of France and Burgundy, in particular, have always informed my taste in wine. This surprises a lot of people since my focus is on Spain and the south of France but balanced, thrilling and vibrant wines can be made in even the warmest sites. I seek wines that engage both your palate and mind, wines that evoke the place from where they come and wines made as transparent as possible. 

AC: Currently, how many producers do you work with?

ES: I currently work with about 100 producers in France, Spain, Switzerland, Macedonia, and Chile. 

AC: Are there regions that you are currently focusing on, whose vineyards are producing new or more inventive varietals?

ES: Quite the opposite, I look for ancient varieties and old vines and those who have rediscovered and nurtured them back to life! What is old is new again. There are more and more wines being created from indigenous varieties and the cutting edge of winemaking is guided by how wines were made centuries ago – concrete and clay amphorae are some of the “newest” addition to cellars these days. 

AC: Your company slogan is “Place Over Process.” Can you explain a little bit about what that means? 

ES: If a wine doesn’t taste like the vineyard it comes from, then I’m not interested in putting my name on the back label. Place Over Process is just a simple way of explaining terroir – the unique stamp of soil, vine, and climate which makes it unique.

AC: Many people just browsing for wines purchase based on interesting labels more than anything else. Are you involved in advising producers on branding and how important is branding in your marketing process?

ES: I import a small group of wines that represent some of the best values in the United States. For these custom cuvées, I’m involved in the entire process from selection of vineyards, winemaking, blending, labeling, and marketing. I want to make sure that as many Americans get a chance to try these wines as possible. But the majority of the wines I import are the same as you would find in Europe. This doesn’t stop me from sharing my opinions about an ugly label or an awkward name.

AC: What resources do you recommend for those who are wine novices, but want to learn more about the subject?

ES: The easiest way to learn about wine is to trust your palate. Drink what you like, but keep trying new things. After that, find a retailer that you can trust. It may cost a little more but these people are like librarians for wine.

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AC: Anything else you’d like us to know about you?

ES: Maybe if this wine importer gig doesn’t work out my fall back plan is to return to drumming. Know of any bands looking for an enthusiastic but somewhat rusty drummer? Musical references are The Who & Led Zeppelin…

AC: What can we look forward to at the Friends of the Café Dinner?

ES: Wines from growers you’ve never had before, from grapes you’re not familiar with, or places you couldn’t place on a map – and along the way some stories from my travels. It’s rumored that the stories get better as the evening goes along, so get a sitter! 

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 31/52 | 2018

“Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.”Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson

Unlike relationships we are born with, like parents, siblings, and cousins, our friends are completely of our own choosing. Without any pretense or obligation, they are the people we choose to share our life with. They unselfishly offer comfort, encouragement, understanding, and laughter. In honor of these most-special people (and in recognition of International Day of Friendship on July 30th), this week is all about friendship to give you all the good feelings.

July 30th: International Day of Friendship

Friendship from Krista Tippett’s On Being Project

Make your own friendship necklaces with Alabama Studio Sewing + Design

An Unlikely Friendship;  a documentary on the comradery between a female civil rights activist and a (former) leader of the KKK

Friendship Chairs on the Journal

“11 Unforgettable Female Friendships in Literature”

Bring your friends and join us for the First and Third Tuesdays sewing groups, hosted every month at The Factory.

In Alabama: Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell

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ANNOUNCING JOHN CURRENCE, ERIC SOLOMON FOR AUGUST FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ DINNER

Renowned chef John Currence was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, but has become a veritable institution in his adopted hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. John currently runs City Grocery—which he opened when he was 26—and three other restaurants: the “upscale downhome” Boure, French bistro-meets-Mississippi café Snackbar, and his homage to the most important meal of the day, Big Bad Breakfast. Big Bad Breakfast has expanded to five locations (including one in Florence), with a sixth on the way.

Over the last decade, the James Beard Award-Winning Currence has earned national recognition not only for his inventive and grounded restaurant group but also for his activism. He uses his platform as a chef to ask hard questions and demand action against injustice. Currence sees food as a vehicle for discussion and the communal table as a place where substantive conversations can be held. During these politically divisive times, John is willing to speak his mind when he sees a wrong that should be righted; he takes stands where others in the heart of the South may not. (Follow John on Twitter for lively debate.)

John has published two cookbooks, Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes From My Three Favorite Food Groups (and then some) and Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day. Today we announce John as the chef for our upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner. John will be collaborating with wine connoisseur extraordinaire Eric Solomon on the August dinner. (Look for more about Eric in the coming weeks on the Journal.)

This week, John took the time to answer some questions and, as always, he does not hold back. For this and dozens of other reasons, we are proud to call John a friend.

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AC: You got a bit of a non-traditional start in the culinary world, not attending culinary school and working just about every job you could – from cooking on a Gulf Coast tugboat to bakeries and butcher shops. You earned your spot working under the legendary Bill Neal and Brennan family. Has that journey influenced your style of cooking?

JC: I believe that every point in my life influences my food, as I know they do every chef I know. The journey to “becoming a chef” is entirely misunderstood. It is about gathering all of those moments and distilling from them exactly what the story is you are trying to tell through your food.

AC: Alabama Chanin is active in the Southern Foodways Alliance, an organization that is also near to your heart. Why do you think it is so important to study foodways? What can looking at our communal past tell us about ourselves today?

JC: Our food, to a larger degree than most people recognize, illustrates our history and tells our story. No part of our country is richer in story or more misunderstood than the South and with the flattening of the world through the internet, overnight deliveries from anywhere on the planet, immediate communication, preserving those foodways and documenting their history and celebrating their significance has never been more critical. These are all things that could/would be easily washed away with the proliferation of corporate chain options and the evaporation of mom and pop venues rooted in those stories and history

AC: You were instrumental in helping to rebuild the New Orleans institution Willie Mae’s Scotch House after it was virtually destroyed by Katrina. This seems like a great example of how embracing shared foodways can create cultural change. What did you take away from that experience about people and about our shared histories?

JC: Working to drive the Willie Mae’s project to an end was simultaneously the proudest and most challenging/heartbreaking moment in my life. Had we not gotten involved, that little gem would have both failed to exist and would have fallen over into a heap of timber. We managed to save a restaurant that prior to the storm, NOBODY was aware existed, for the most part and people NEVER ventured into Treme to try, but by the end of our efforts, through the media attention given to the project, it immediately became one of the cult food destinations of NOLA. The friendships that were cemented in those hours inside that building, the understanding of the absolute need to save that little space and the opportunity to make a difference after an event like the flood of the city touched us all in the same way and, I like to think, gave everyone who came to help the pride of adding their names to that place.

AC: You are known for being outspoken politically and a bit of an activist. How do you reconcile that with your calling to bring people to the communal table? Does it make that mission easier or harder?

JC: We have NEVER been more polarized in our opinions/feelings/beliefs as we currently are and getting people to the table has never been more of a challenge. The greater issue now is that we are being led down a path where civility, decorum, truth, decency, dignity, and compassion/empathy are not just being pushed aside/buried, but they are being ridiculed as weaknesses or declared unpatriotic or entirely unimportant, at the very least. The volume of conversation has been turned up as loud as it will go, nobody is listening to what anyone else has to say and avarice rules the day. The current culture of fear-mongering by a certain segment of the population at the expense of the voiceless who carry the load of the nation’s daily workload obligation or those who exist on the fringe, is disturbingly misguided.

The flashes of the darkest moments of American history we are seeing today in the way that immigrants, members of the LGBT community, and intellectuals are alienated and demonized is astounding and terrifying. There has never been a time when we more desperately needed to breathe deeply and consider who we are and what we want to be. America, today, is quite simply, the worst version of itself it has ever been. By listening to each other we can begin to fix that. Sadly, we seem just has happy convening moments like Charlottesville in order to “preserve our heritage” or excusing tragedy like [the shooting that occurred at] Marjory Stoneman Douglas in an effort to “protect our second amendment rights” than we are to sit down and try to understand the roots of the issues that create those flashpoints. And what is worse is that we continue down this sinister rabbit hole, convinced that the struggle through all of this is what is defining us as “Great Again.” We are the worst joke on the current world stage and it will take all of us working together to right the current wrongs.

AC: When the immigration debate began in earnest, you posted a sign at your restaurant saying that everyone was welcome there. You also hosted a “Mexissippi Supper” to support the Mexican-American community—who are known to be essential to restaurant culture and operations. Can you explain why it is important to be openly active, in addition to working behind the scenes to effect change?

JC: Inaction is tantamount to complicity. I was raised to do the right thing, no matter the consequences so, given a platform and a microphone, I will always do just that. The people who work in our restaurants (and I speak for all of the chefs in my immediate circle of friends) are our family. THEY are the ones who give our clocks the ability to tick. To fail to speak up on their behalf, in my mind, is as significant a betrayal as one could deliver. On my own I am nothing. It takes a team of people to make any one of our restaurants work and I feel an obligation to defend my people, as I would my own daughter. When our people are well-taken care of, they are happy. When they are happy, we all prosper. When we prosper, we have the ability to nourish our communities and when we do so, we enrich the lives of the people living in them. This is the significance that is given the least amount of attention in what we do. All of that starts with taking care of our people which starts with simple gestures of respect, like taking the opportunity to speak on their behalf even though it may potentially have an adverse effect on business.

AC: Do you think that the concept of Southern food has been appropriated by people chasing trends? What is the most important thing about Southern food that most people eating at a new-school Southern restaurant would not know? And do you feel responsible to “keep it real”, so to speak, in your kitchens?

JC: As a society, we shamelessly jump trends and try to ride them through to prosperity. Southern food has certainly been a victim of that cultural appropriation, but because of the unending cultural and regional diversity of what Southern Food actually “is,” the purloined versions stand out as nothing less than cartoonish. I don’t think that we have ever thought of what we do as “keeping it real” as much as trying to maintain a dedication to the quality of ingredients and honesty of the narrative of our foods. Cooking in season and with the ingredients made available to us locally create a roadmap to that end. Examining the influences different populations have had on the landscape of our food with those ingredients is the journey we try to lead, but celebrating the beauty of our individual ingredients and showcasing the elemental beauty is the ultimate endgame.

AC: You’ve tackled subjects like poverty and hunger. There are reasons those problems are pervasive in the South, which you have spoken about. Is this a problem that can be tackled at a grassroots level? Is this a political conversation or a “communal table” conversation?

JC: The South has always been fraught with social and financial challenges. Dedication to addressing the issues on all levels here and elsewhere in the LONG TERM is the only way we will change things. We have allowed the well-being of our children, particularly those in greatest need, to become part of the political tug-of-war. Our children’s education, health, and well-being is not partisan fodder, but it has been hijacked and pitted in that light. We have to stand up and make this a non-negotiable if there is ever to be any hope of a brighter future.

AC: We’ve spoken with Hugh Acheson about helping children learn to make healthy choices in life and in the kitchen—which he does by creating curriculum that can be adopted in schools. Do you think starting these lessons early can really make a difference, or is the culture of immediacy too pervasive?

JC: Giving children hope, showing them that there are choices that fall into their hands and planting seeds early is the only way to counteract the extraction of hope.

AC: What is your earliest food-related memory?

JC: My great grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies.

AC: Do you remember the first dish you ever cooked by yourself?

JC: Potato Chip-Crusted Fried Chicken and Pigs In A Blanket for my family when I was 8.

AC: What is your most reliable go-to ingredient that you always keep on-hand in the kitchen?

JC: Bourbon

AC: What was your last truly great dining experience?

JC: A pot of the best seafood gumbo I ever made, on Sunday after last year’s SFA [Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium]. My mom and I worked over the pot all day long and agonized over EVERY detail. It was perfect and it was the last meal we ever ate together.

AC: In a culture where fast and easy solutions often prevail, what do you think is most important for home cooks to focus on? And what should they avoid buying when pre-packaged, if at all possible?

JC: Find the joy in cooking. Try to take in the fact that you are sharing an immensely personal moment when you prepare something and share that thing with someone you love. Consider “why” it is that you cooked that thing and what the story is behind why you cooked what you cooked. Just buy good ingredients. Make the time and share your love.

AC: At Alabama Chanin, you can often find music influencing the mood and the workflow in the studio. Do you play music in the kitchen and, if so, what is your favorite music to cook by?

JC: Music is arguably the biggest influence on my entire life. I am rarely without it. (I am listening to Exile On Mainstreet as I write). The list of what I love is too long, bizarre and complicated to say one thing or another is “favorite.” Different moods have different needs. I can go from The Stones to Soloman Burke, to the Clash, to Simon and Garfunkel, to John Paul White without the blink of an eye. These days I am back to spending a lot of time with early Springsteen (first three records plus Nebraska) but without provocation, I might switch to Minor Threat or Husker Du. Toots and the Maytals are a safe place, as is pre-pop Fleetwood Mac and any Elvis Costello…or Presley.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 30/52 | 2018

“Cooking well doesn’t mean cooking fancy.”Julia Child

The bountiful harvests of summer make simple, fresh dishes, made from in-season vegetables and fruits, possible. Pair these with staple meats and seafood and summertime is sure to be delicious. In honor of this warm weather fare, this week is all about summer-eats.

Blackberry Farm’s Green Tomato Pie

Hot and Hot Creamy Shrimp and Grits

Summer recipes from The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Fried Peach, Blueberry, and Strawberry Pies

A recipe for Southern Antipasti

“The Evolution of American Barbecue”

White BBQ Sauce

Edna Lewis’ Fried Chicken

Short Stack Editions (also available in-store at The Factory)

Hot and Cold Tea Cocktails

Root to Leaf: Steven Satterfield

Secrets of the Southern Table: Virginia Willis shares the foods of the south

In Alabama: John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast in Florence

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 29/52 | 2018

“Travelling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station’.”Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

Road trips are a very sensory and immersive method of traveling. Unlike a plane, which only offers a patchwork view of the land below, road trips allow you to take any turn of your choosing, to pull off onto the side of the road and admire the view, to explore nature in each new place, and to visit the landmarks and restaurants that make up the community you just entered. This week find inspirations for your own road trips with some of our favorite travel-themed Journal posts and a bit of history on the guides that help you find your way.

12 Maps That Changed the World

Travel: Natchez Trace

Postcards from America

Travel: Nashville

Trains: Alabama to San Francisco

Travel: Birmingham

Back Road Vernacular

Charleston, South Carolina

Mabel Dodge Luhan House, New Mexico

For all your stops along the way: Field Guides

In Alabama: Alabama Road Trips

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 28/52 | 2018

“I found I could say things with colors and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”Georgia O’Keeffe

Our lives are full of and, in many ways, dictated by color. We express ourselves with the color of our hair and clothing. The vibe of our home can be decided by the color of the walls and decor. Colors instruct us when to drive through an intersection and where we can park our cars. Though this practicality is vital to daily life, color also welcomes us to explore our imaginations and is an indispensable medium for artistic expression. This week we take a deeper look at what exactly “color” is and the effects it has on our lives.

“The Magic and Logic of Color: How Josef Albers Revolutionized Visual Culture and the Art of Seeing”

Color Theory

How do colors affect our mood?

Color on the Journal

Pantone Color of the Year

Read about one our favorite colors, Indigo, on the Journal here, here, and here.

How sight and color affect taste

“Frida Kahlo on the Meanings of the Colors”

Alabama Chanin’s fabric and textile paint colors

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 27/52 | 2018

“I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”Susan B. Anthony

On the heels of Saudi Arabian women’s newly attained right to drive and just a few days away from the United States’ Fourth of July celebration, “independence” is on the forefront of our minds–more specifically female independence. This week we take a deeper look at the amendments, acts, and organizations championed by countless brave women across the decades that have made it possible for the modern woman to live with a sense of independence and grant the power to wield control over her livelihood, body, relationships, and political voice.

“The Butterfly Effect: Female Independence”

The Equal Pay Act of 1963

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” – The 19th Amendmend

“How Planned Parenthood Changed Everything”

“It is an important mission of Alabama Chanin to bring as much work as possible…to our local artisans who are able to work from their own homes, run their own businesses, and be in charge of their own lives and families.”

UN Women

Nest: Women’s empowerment in the handworker economy

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

Violence Against Women Act

Where does your state stand?

In Alabama: July 4th is a much-anticipated holiday here at Alabama Chanin. Explore a few of our favorite memories from the Journal here, here, and here, and Natalie’s recipe for Savory Star Biscuits here.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 26/52 | 2018

“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” – Annie Dillard, The Living

With summer underway and warm evenings, relaxing weekends, and long-awaited vacations offering the perfect opportunities to slow down and catch up on reading, this week we share a summer reading list—filled with classic works by native Alabamians.

Their Eyes Were Watching God: Zora Neale Hurston

All Over but the Shoutin’: Rick Bragg

Women, Race, & Class: Angela Davis

Crazy in Alabama: Mark Childress

Rosa Parks: My Story: Rosa Parks, with Jim Haskins

Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions: Daniel Wallace

If the Legends Fade: Tom Hendrix

South to a Very Old Place: Albert Murray

Tongues of Flame: Mary Ward Brown

The World I Live In: Helen Keller

To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee

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FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: REBECCA WILCOMB MENU PREVIEW

We are counting down the days until James Beard award-winning chef Rebecca Wilcomb is in house for the second dinner of our 2018 Friends of the Café Dinner series. To add to our excitement, Rebecca recently sent the menu for the night. It’s infused with Italian accents, a nod to her family history. You won’t want to miss this.

Rebecca will kick off the evening with crab melt, chickpea fritters and Caponata, beef with anchovies and olives, and shrimp spiedini.

The first course will be Giannina’s tortellini. The second course, served family style, will feature porchetta from Bear Creek Farms and grilled cobia with Calabrian chilies, served with an Italian rice salad, marinated peppers, and a charred okra salad.

The night will come to a close over summer fruit hand pies. If that sounds as good to you as it does to us, please join us.

THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 25/52 | 2018

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees…I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The summer solstice (or equinox) in the northern hemisphere brings the longest day and shortest night of the entire year. It has been celebrated for millennia as a time of new beginnings, fertility, and fruitful harvests. With the solstice happening Thursday, this week we explore fascinating landmarks and celebrations that honor the summer equinox, across the United States and the world.

History behind summer solstice celebrations

The summer solstice at Stonehenge: England

The Festival of Saint Joan: Spain

Solstice marker at Puerco Pueblo: Arizona

Intihuatana, “hitching post of the sun”: Peru

Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt: Utah

Summer solstice fires: Austria

“Woodhenge:” Ohio

The Sun Dance: The Great Plains, United States

In Alabama: Midsummer Night’s Eve on the Journal

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2018 SUPPER CLUBS (+ A PLAYLIST)

In 2017, The Factory Café introduced The Factory Café Supper Club, a new type of dinner series prepared in full by Chef Ray, our café team, and members of our local culinary community. The dinners feature multiple courses with wine and beer pairings, specialty cocktails, and a low-key, unique atmosphere. This year the café team has hosted several Supper Club dinners, each featuring a different type of cuisine.

For Valentine’s Day, guests enjoyed a romantic, Italian-style dinner complete with house-made pastas, meatballs, and tiramisu.

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Grass Fed Meatballs with Red Sauce

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Fettucine Alfredo

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Tiramisu

For March’s Ala-Mex Supper Club dinner, Chef Ray partnered with John Cartwright of Rivertown Coffee. The evening included favorite Mexican dishes with a southern spin (hello, tamales with collard greens).

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Sweet Potato Tamale with collard greens, Hominy, Salsa Macha

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Tri Tip Colorado with cucumber, radish, bibb, and herbs

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Michelada – Modelo, lime, spices

April kicked off the 2018 Friends of the Café Dinner Series with Steven Satterfield and was followed by a French-inspired May Supper Club. Think escargot in herbed butter, steak with pepper sauce on a bed of Swiss chard, cheese platters, and toasted pound cake with strawberries and lemon cream—accompanied by this great playlist (below).

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Burgundy snails, butter, and herbs

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Bonnie Blue Farm Cheese selection from Waynesboro, Tennessee

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Toasted Pound Cake with strawberries, tarragon, and lemon cream

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 24/52 | 2018

“One of the greatest gifts my father gave me—unintentionally—was witnessing the courage with which he bore adversity…He was always unshaken, completely tranquil, the same ebullient, laughing, jovial man.” – Ben Okri

By the time Father’s Day was proclaimed an official holiday in 1972, it had already been unofficially celebrated for 63 years—since Sonora Smart Dodd, who was raised by a single father after her mother’s untimely death, was inspired by a Methodist sermon to commemorate a day that would be dedicated specifically to fathers. With the holiday a few days away, this week we honor the admirable fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, and all the men in our own lives who have raised us, inspired us, and positively affected our lives in a myriad of invaluable ways.

Jackson Pollock’s letter from his dad

“I want them to remember that they were loved.” Two fathers’ experiences with foster care.

The data behind stay-at-home-dads

Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden

“Doing the Best I Can. Fatherhood in the Inner City.”

The history of Father’s Day on the Journal

Martin Luther King, Sr. on his son’s death

Portrait of my Father Wilhelm Kahlo by Frida Kahlo

Find ready-to-ship gifts for dad in our Cook + Dine section, like Sean Brock’s Heritage cookbook or the Smithey Cast Iron Skillet.

In Alabama: “Beef for Father’s Day”

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 23/52 | 2018

“The white T-shirt is like a blank canvas – eternally versatile.” ­ Edward Enninful

Whether stark white and paired with jeans for the epitome of cool or emblazoned with a bold political statement, the t-shirt has held a special place in the hearts of most since Marlon Brando donned one in1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Styled from old-fashioned union suits and originally produced for the U.S. Navy as a protective layer under their uniforms, the t-shirt has risen from an undergarment to a tool for personal expression.  From its history as a canvas for culture and individuality to kits and techniques to craft your own personal garment, this summer is all about the t-shirt for us.

The Clean Tee—which launches next Tuesday—is our consciously crafted series of classic t-shirts made in our Bldg.14 manufacturing facility. In anticipation, we share inspirations and stories about this classic wardrobe staple.

“The T-Shirt: A Rebel with a Cause”

“How Statement T-Shirts Unite Black History, Culture, and Fashion”

The T-Shirt Book by Charlotte Brunel

“Travels of a T-Shirt” on the Journal

With three sleeve options and six colors to choose from, our Rib Crew is perfect for any season or occasion.

“That one can live with air and love:” the Air Love Tee

Create your own tee with our T-Shirt Top Kit or a Custom DIY Kit.

DIY T-Shirt Modifications on the Journal

Give an old tee new life with Shibori, Ombré, Ice Dye, and Tie Dye instructions

In Alabama: Tee Jays and the Sweetwater Mill

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Q&A WITH CHEF REBECCA WILCOMB

Rebecca Wilcomb has worked for and under the tutelage of several renowned chefs, including Keith Pooler at Harvest and Ana Sortun at Oleana, both in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Even so, it is safe to say that she has found a place to truly shine at Herbsaint in New Orleans, Chef Donald Link’s flagship restaurant.

After moving to New Orleans in 2008, Wilcomb worked the line at Herbsaint under Link and Chef Ryan Prewitt, eventually taking over as chef de cuisine in 2011. There she is able to combine the rich Louisiana food culture with her family’s Italian culinary heritage. Her dishes feel both personal and rooted in a sense of place. A member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, Rebecca works closely with local fishermen, farmers, and purveyors to maintain the highest possible level of freshness and quality. In May of 2017, she won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South, and soon she will be overseeing our upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner. We took the chance to speak with Rebecca in anticipation of the event.

AC: What drew you to New Orleans? And how has its unique and varied food culture impacted your way of looking at food?

RW: Honestly, I moved to New Orleans to escape winter. I was living in Boston at the time and just couldn’t stomach another long, cold stretch. New Orleans just kind of called to me. It’s so rich with culture, food, music, art…at the time it seemed so exciting. Ten years later, it still fills me with that same feeling. Life is really celebrated here. I can’t imagine being anyplace else.

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AC: You stepped into renowned chef Donald Link’s flagship restaurant, Herbsaint. Did you feel any pressure to put your own stamp on the place? What did you want to shine through on your menu?

RW: Herbsaint is a special place. For me, being a good steward and maintaining the standards set by Donald was very important. Part of that is pushing hard every day—grinding it out. When you do that, your stamp naturally gets put on a place. It becomes a part of you, and you of it. I’m not a planner; I let things happen organically. The only goal I had for the food was to stay true to the ingredients and to myself. What ended up shining through on the menu was an expression of who I am and where I come from. From my first dish on the menu of blistered chilies with whipped feta and fried lemon, to lamb lasagna, to beef with anchovies, to ceviche—every dish has come from love. The chilies were an ode to Oleana, a restaurant I worked in as a young cook and was deeply influenced by. The lamb lasagna is a labor of love—the love of a granddaughter for her Nonna. The beef with anchovies is a reflection of my deep pride in my Italian heritage.

AC: With the growing challenge to a male-based culinary culture, do you see yourself as a role model for women in professional kitchens? What are the biggest challenges for women in the industry? How does an organization begin to tackle those challenges? (We know this is a big question!)

RW: Geez. Well, this is a big question, and I hope is something that continues to be a part of the dialogue for a long time. We should never stop talking about how to make the world a better place. It’s important for women and men to make good choices. Choose to work for people who have a strong moral compass and treat their employees well. Choose to speak out against injustices and unfair practices in the workplace. Choose to work hard every day and treat those around you with respect. I’ve always worked for people and companies who treat their employees well. Tackling big challenges isn’t an issue if you start out doing the right thing. We as women have found our voice, and people are listening. Poor behavior can no longer be tolerated.

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AC: What is your earliest food-related memory?

RW: I remember being very young and in Italy for Christmas, and seeing my Nonna cut the head off of a goose and a corn kernel falling out of its neck.

AC: Do you remember the first dish you ever cooked by yourself?

RW: Pasta with tomato sauce. I loved making that when I was a kid. It was easy, and I couldn’t mess it up.

AC: What is your most reliable go-to ingredient? What do you always keep on-hand in your home kitchen?

RW: I always have good olive oil. I start and finish everything with a good olive oil.

AC: Do you have seasonal favorites? How do you incorporate seasonal foods into your menus?

RW: I have so many seasonal favorites. I especially love greens—turnip greens, mustards, arugula, lacinato kale, cabbage, spinach—I could eat greens with every meal. Braised, grilled, fermented, pickled—they’re the best. We have a company forager and have built a vast network of farmers who grow awesome things for us. Most of our meat, fish, produce, dairy, and rice come from people in our community. I try to use as much as possible from our neighbors.

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AC: When was your last truly great meal/dining experience?

RW: I went to Mosca’s a few weeks ago. It’s this old-school Italian place outside of New Orleans. The food is straightforward and delicious, the staff is welcoming, and you get to play your own music on the jukebox. It’s a really special place with a lot of history.

AC: In a culture where fast and easy solutions often prevail, what do you think is most important for home cooks to focus on? And what should they avoid buying when pre-packaged, if at all possible?

RW: Basic technique. If home cooks learn the basics, cooking becomes that much more fun. Don’t ever buy pre-packaged gnocchi. They are terrible.

AC: Like Alabama Chanin, you are an active member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. What drew you to the organization and what does it mean to you?

RW: I was introduced to the SFA by Donald Link. The organization is filled with people passionate about the South and its history. I’ve always been interested in the history of things and where stuff comes from. The SFA examines and preserves our history, and considers our future while saving a seat for everyone at the table. Knowing where we, all of us, come from is vital to understanding who we are. And who we are is not only what we eat and drink, but also why we eat and drink what we do. The SFA is a very important piece of who I am as a chef in the South.

AC: At Alabama Chanin, you can often find music influencing the mood and the workflow in the studio. If you have music in your kitchen, what is your favorite music to cook by?

RW: I really like listening to Buena Vista Social Club and Gypsy Kings while cooking. I need something upbeat. Opera, rock, hip-hop all make the list. My new favorite is Kendrick Lamar—his music is really great. Rarely do I put on anything mellow.

AC: Congratulations on your James Beard Award! What was it like hearing your name called?

RW: Thanks! It was surreal. I just didn’t think I stood a chance of winning. It was quite a shock and a very special moment.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 22/52 | 2018

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

The (unofficial) start of summer is here, especially in Alabama where we have already seen days that top 90 degrees. To help you get a head start on your summer plans, this week we share dinners and workshops happening at The Factory (and beyond), a few of our favorite summer cocktails—perfect for afternoon barbecues or late nights on the patio with friends—and the histories behind summer-time holidays.

June

Flag Day: June 14th

American Flag Quilt on the Journal

Cocktail: Strawberry Rosemary Prosecco

July

Independence Day: July 4th

Before the Parade Passes By on the Journal

Cocktail: The Margarita: A Plea for Tequila

August

National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day: August 4th

How to Bake the Perfect Cookie on the Journal

Cocktail: Tiki Drinks

In Alabama: Chilton County peaches

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STEVEN SATTERFIELD RECAP

We couldn’t have asked for a livelier kick-off to our 2018 Friends of the Café Dinner Series. James Beard award-winning chef Steven Satterfield joined us in house and created a flawless meal.

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Steven started the night out with rye biscuits topped with sweet butter and country ham, radishes with whipped feta and a pesto drizzle, and crispy gougères fired in a cast iron skillet to create a crisp crust around a soft, cheesy filling topped with tatsoi aioli. The hors d’oeuvres were paired with the Strawberry Bliss, made form a combination of Rosé Prosecco, Jack Rudy Elderflower Tonic, Strawberry, and Basil. Our friends at Blackberry Farm provided their Classic Saison and Boundary Tree beers for the evening.

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The first course featured a vibrant spring pea soup, served with lightly seared dumplings and a bright Gruner Valtinen Kamptal. Next came a chilled spring vegetable salad topped with fromage blanc and green garlic breadcrumbs, and paired with a refreshing Cotes du Rhone Blanc with notes of apple and vanilla.

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The main course was served family style and spotlighted Guinea hens from White Oak Pastures, served with a dijon jus and bitter greens. Steven paired the chicken with mushroom and foraged-nettle polenta and his favorite Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco from Vietti.

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The fourth and final course was a strawberry + buttermilk cake trifle served with a Brut Champagne and topped with pansies from Natalie’s garden. The strawberries were grown at Berry Farm in Tuscumbia, just across the river from Florence.

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Special thanks go to Steven Satterfield, Forest Kellogg, and team, Bluewater Creek Farm, Blackberry Farm, Bonnie Blue Farm, and St. Florian Fiber Farm. Stay up to date on all events happening at The Factory by liking us on Facebook or following along on Instagram.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 21/52 | 2018

“The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift.” – Laurie Colwin

Last week, The James Beard Foundation held their annual awards ceremony (it’s like the Oscar’s for the food world). Chefs and friends of Natalie were both nominees and winners. Our congratulations to Frank and Pardis Stitt who won Outstanding Restaurant for Highlands Bar and Grill; to their pastry chef Dolester Miles who won Outstanding Pastry Chef, and to Lisa Donovan who won Best Personal Essay in Journalism. We have been fortunate to have had both Frank and Lisa cook with us at The Factory Cafe, so in their honor, this week we feature friends, collaborators, and inspirations from the culinary world.

Alice Waters, Chez Panisse, and 40 years of sustainable food

“The Evolution of Ashley Christensen” (read more about Ashley and her capsule collection with Alabama Chanin on the Journal)

“Julia Child, Like You’ve Never Seen Her Before”

Asha Gomez “connects the dots of cultural cuisines”

Cherry Bombe Magazine’s “Tribute to Judith Jones”

Lisa Donovan’s poignant contribution to the #metoo movement

Edna Lewis, the chef “who placed Southern cooking in the pantheon of great cuisines”

Vivian Howard’s Emmy-winning series, A Chef’s Life

Angie Mosier’s Butterscotch Pie

James Beard Award winner and visiting chef, Rebecca Wilcomb

In Alabama: The Alabama Food Frontier, Development of Cuisine, 800 to the Present

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 16/52 | 2018

“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.” – Barbara Shelley

Earth Day, which has been celebrated in the United States on April 22nd for the past 48 years, serves as a reminder to us to treat all aspects of the Earth—water, land, sea, air, flora, and fauna—with kindness and with consideration for future generations. With this sense of stewardship in mind, this week we explore the female conservationists, activists, explorers, and healers who made it their lives’ work to safeguard our planet.

Nobel laureate and founder of the Green Belt Movement, Wangari Muta Maathai

Mardy Murie, “grandmother of the conservation movement”

Lakota tribe member and environmental activist JoAnn Tall advocated against uranium mining and nuclear weapons testing on tribal lands.

Rachel Carson on the Journal

TED Talk with legendary ocean researcher, Sylvia Earle

The first African American awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, Margie Richard

Dr. Sangdeaun Chailert’s Elephant Nature Park in Thailand provides protection and rehabilitation for abused Asian elephants.

In Alabama: “Our goal is to save the places that matter most to Alabamians so that we can pass along our rich and unique natural heritage to those who come after us.” – The Freshwater Land Trust

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And we want to say thank you again to everyone who participated in The Gathering—guests, friends, family, the Alabama Chanin team, and artisans. And to Steven Satterfield and team, Leigh and Cliff Spencer of Alabama Sawyer, Karl and Sarah Worley and the Biscuit Love team, Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and Brooks and Ben Reitz, Cathead Vodka and Pat Floyd, 116 E. Mobile, Mountain Valley Water, Blackberry Farm, and White Oak Pastures for contributing to the unforgettable weekend.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 15/52 | 2018

“A community is made up of intimate relationships among diversified types of individuals—a kinship group, a local group, a neighborhood, a village, a large family.” – Carroll Quigley

As we prepare to host friends, family, Shoals locals, guests from afar, and our making community for The Gathering this week, we were inspired to explore our own community’s rich history of music, architecture, and beloved landmarks.

“The Alabama recording studio where music was never segregated:” Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

Add to your playlist: The 20 Best Songs Ever Recorded in Muscle Shoals

The Rosenbaum House on the Journal

Explore the history of the University of North Alabama, whose Florence campus was designed by the Olmsted brothers, sons of Central Park designer, Frederick Law Olmsted.

Tom Hendrix’s Wall; a “tribute to a Native American’s journey home”

The trees of Ivy Green, birthplace of Helen Keller

Florence native and Father of the Blues, W.C. Handy

Utilizing ancient Roman and Greek architecture, Wilson Dam is the “only neoclassical – style dam in the TVA system”

In Alabama: Alabama Cotton on the Journal

Find these (and more) in our Travel Series on the Journal.

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THE FACTORY + ALABAMA CHANIN | 14/52 | 2018

“I think the degree of a nation’s civilization may be measured by the degree of enlightenment of its women.” – Helen Keller, “My Future as I See It,” Metropolitan Magazine, 1904

Throughout history women have been leaders, organizers, and advocates against injustices of many forms; from voting rights to racial and gender equality. As the final post in our series honoring Women’s History Month, we explore some of the most influential female activists in American history.

One of the “most important, yet least-known activists in American history,” Dolores Huerta

Feminist, Gloria Steinem

Dr. Dorothy Height, civil rights leader and former president of the NCNW

“Activist and American Revolutionary,” Grace Lee Boggs

Sarah Deer, advocate for Native American survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence

Black Lives Matter co-founder, Patrisse Cullors

Alice Paul, suffragette

In Alabama: “She’s a special lady, a working-class lady, and a fighter.” – Michelle Obama on equal pay advocate and Jacksonville native, Lilly Ledbetter.

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THE GATHERING: BISCUIT LOVE BRUNCH

Karl and Sarah Worley’s restaurant concept Biscuit Love had its beginnings in an Airstream trailer food truck named Lilly. From those humble first steps, the Worleys have now opened three brick-and-mortar establishments in the Nashville, Tennessee, area that can attract lines of customers, hungry for biscuits and other Southern fare. Sarah and Karl are a husband and wife team, both of whom hold culinary degrees from Johnson & Wales. Together, they have tapped into something genuine, by focusing on ingredients, technique, and community. Biscuit Love locally sources as much as possible, serving dishes that make both Nashville natives and tourists feel at home. The Biscuit Love team will be a part of our upcoming annual picnic and gathering, so we spoke with Karl as a way to introduce the company to the uninitiated.

AC: Who taught you how to make biscuits?

KW: I watched my grandmother as a child. I never took the time to learn from her, unfortunately. I taught myself as an adult.

AC: Almost every biscuit maker has a special family-based story around their biscuit recipes. I think that is the same case with you. Would you like to talk about that?

KW: I think biscuits are one of those personal things. My grandmother’s drop biscuit recipe is the same for me. It takes me back home every time I make them.

AC: Both Karl and Sarah have culinary degrees from Johnson & Wales. That being said, how did the simple biscuit become the centerpiece of your business?

KW: Sarah was the brilliant one behind that, but I believe it speaks to so many southerners personally. We are honored to carry on the tradition.

AC: You started as a food truck? What gave you the idea and the gumption to serve biscuits from a food truck?

KW: Yes…a borrowed one. (Thanks, Jason.) Sarah told me my hot chicken (before the craze) idea would never work! She suggested biscuits, and I liked the idea of serving sandwiches from a food truck!

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AC: You now have 3 locations and your restaurants often have a line of customers willing to wait quite a while to get inside. How did you make the decision to expand?

KW: #Blessed! We had always wanted to see where the business would go. We love what we do, and think we have built a platform to have Biscuit Love locations in a few areas!

AC: Why do you think you have been able to cultivate such community support?

KW: We serve honest food! We try to serve amazing Southern food that touches something in a person’s soul.

AC: A biscuit may seem like a simple offering, but making a truly great biscuit is an art. Do you have any secrets to share or tips to improve biscuit making technique?

KW: Use GREAT ingredients, cast iron is your friend, and pick a recipe and keep perfecting it. It is like riding a bike. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but after you do, you don’t forget how!

AC: You also serve other classic Southern dishes that are simple but elevated. How do you decide which dishes make the cut?

KW: I usually begin with an idea, and work to get a dish out for Sarah and our family to try. I am not afraid of honest feedback as to if the dish should hit the menu. Sarah is a great visionary of if the dish will work and how to better execute it!

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AC: Basing your entire business around a biscuit seems like a risky undertaking, and yet you have been undeniably successful. How do you balance trend and tradition, and how do you think you are able to appeal to both tourists and locals so successfully?

KW: I think breakfast is one of those meals that naturally makes people happy. We didn’t go into it with that in mind, but I am glad we chose the breakfast space for that reason.

AC: I imagine it can be tricky to navigate running a business with your spouse. How do you negotiate those hurdles? Or, has it been a natural fit for you?

KW: We are still learning every day. If anyone has pointers, I am all ears. We are learning to work in our strength areas and know when to hold tight to what is important to each of us. We try to be a little better every day with it!

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AC: At Alabama Chanin, it is essential to our product that we create relationships with our makers and choose the right sources and suppliers. What part does this play in your philosophy?

KW: It is one of the things we are most proud of. We still source around 50% of what we use locally. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Forming partnerships with people who have amazing products and being able to actually call and talk to my vendors is a big reason I love the business. We have seen some of our vendors grow as we grow, which is an amazing feeling!

AC: How many biscuits would you estimate that you serve on an average Saturday?

KW: 3500… Whew, that is a lot of biscuits from 5-6 dedicated people!

AC: And is it true that you don’t use an electric mixer for your biscuit dough?

KW: Never… you have to feel the dough to know what it’s telling you!

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COCKTAILS @ THE FACTORY

Visiting chefs contribute cocktail recipes for our Friends of the Café Dinner series—now in its fourth year—with chef Steven Satterfield.

For The Factory Café’s new Supper Club series (learn more here), our in-house team creates their own unique cocktails. We’re sharing the recipes from our 2017 Harvest Dinner below. Impress friends at your next gathering, or make and shake and bring in another weekend. Either way, cheers.

MUSCADINE VINE

1 oz Muscadine Simple Syrup
2 oz prosecco
3 oz white wine
.5 oz lime juice
Mint for garnish

Yield: 1 cocktail

Mix all ingredients together and garnish with mint.

MUSCADINE SIMPLE SYRUP

Mix equal parts fresh, whole muscadines, granulated sugar, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until muscadines become soft and break open. Remove from heat, strain syrup, and allow to cool completely.

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CIDER SPARKLER

1 part Singin’ River Cider (or your hard cider of choice)
1 part sangria (1 bottle red blend wine, 1 cup orange juice, juice of 1 lime)
1 part prosecco
Cinnamon sugar rim

Yield: 1 cocktail

Moisten and dip the rim of a glass in cinnamon sugar. Add cider and sangria to glass and stir, top off with prosecco.

Stay up to date on all events happening at The Factory on our Events page.

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THE FACTORY SUPPER CLUB

The Factory Café’s 2017 Fall Harvest Supper was one for the books. For last October’s dinner, chef Ray showed off his skills in the kitchen (and on the grill). Our café team also presented another beautiful Valentine’s supper last week and, after a great response from our community, is excited to announce a new dinner series: The Factory Supper Club.  This series is a perfect pairing to our ongoing Friends of the Café Dinners.

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Our fall menu featured favorite staples, enhanced by the smoky flavor of The Factory Café’s new Traeger grill. The evening started off with passed appetizers and a specialty cocktail. Conway Cup oysters were served with cocktail sauce made from Harvest Roots Kimchi, and deviled eggs (sourced from St. Florian Fiber Farm) were paired with Harvest Roots Curtido. Autumn Me Crazy was the drink of the night and featured red sangria mixed with cider from local brewery, Singin’ River Brewing Company, in a glass rimmed with pumpkin spice sugar.

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The first course included chicken wings from Joyce Farms, smoked in the Traeger, and served with a north Alabama classic—white BBQ sauce and pickled celery. Toasted ciabatta bread was topped with Bonnie Blue goat cheese, roasted carrots supplied from Bluewater Creek Farm, and a lime-carrot glaze. We were introduced to Bonnie Blue—who makes award-winning cheeses from their farm in Waynesboro, Tennessee—at our local farmers market this year. An Oktoberfest brew from Madison, Alabama, Blue Pants Brewery paired perfectly.

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Next came a salad of local lettuces, turnips, and beets, harvested from our friends at Bluewater Creek Farm, and a Burnt Honey-Sweet Potato Dressing made with honey from Sourwood Honey in Savannah, Tennessee. Sourwood honey is extremely aromatic with a distinctive rich honey flavor. The Sourwood tree is common in the Appalachia region and blooms in late June through the month of July, during a period when few other flowers are blooming. The salad was served alongside Vila Nova’s Vinho Verde.

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Pork from Bear Creek Farm was smoked in the Traeger Grill and served up with Ferro Verde from Anson Mills and a turnip puree, with turnips from Bluewater Creek Farm. The dish was topped with muscadine BBQ sauce and paired with White Hart’s Pinot Noir.

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The fourth and final course was the sweetest. Mississippi Sweet Potato Cake was served with a Semolina Pudding and citrus and Gruet’s Demi Sec.

It was a night to remember, and we couldn’t have done it without all our partner farms and purveyors. Thanks especially to Harvest Roots Ferments, St. Florian Fiber Farm, Joyce Farms, Bluewater Creek Farm, Hines Family Farm, Sonlit Meadows Farm, Bear Creek Farm, and Bonnie Blue Farm. Another thank you to Melissa Bain with Alabama Crown—who assisted with all the beautiful wine pairings; Susan Rowe for the lovely flowers; and thanks to Traeger Grills whose wood pellet grill gave our courses a beautiful flavor.

Follow The Factory Café on all our social media channels, check out all of our upcoming events and workshops from The School of Making.

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ANNOUNCING THE GATHERING 2018

Each year Alabama Chanin hosts a community picnic—a time for employees, artisans, collaborators, supporters, and members of the community to gather and celebrate. It gives us the opportunity to say hello to each of you, spend time together, and give thanks for the beautiful work and support we receive throughout the year. What started at Lovelace Crossroads (Natalie’s home and original production office) transitioned into an annual spring open house at The Factory.

This year we’re switching it up a bit with an expanded series of events at multiple locations across the community. The four-day event kicks off with our first Friends of the Café Dinner of 2018 featuring chef Steven Satterfield, benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance on Thursday, April 12th. We’re eager to welcome the James Beard-award winning chef from Atlanta to set up shop in our kitchen.

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Events continue Friday with a Custom Design Workshop at The Factory and an evening cocktail workshop hosted at 116 E. Mobile, a local venue and event space run by our friends at Single Lock Records. The cocktail workshop is in collaboration with friends Brooks Reitz of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and Cathead Distillery. Participants (must be 21 or older) will learn to expertly craft their own cocktails while enjoying libations and small bites.

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Saturday will include a series mini workshops on embroidery, stenciling and design customization, a BBQ lunch celebrating our talented artisans, a booth with our friends from Bluewater Creek Farm, the history of the company with Natalie, a stenciling booth, tours of The Factory, and a special Swampette tour of Shoals music venues. The weekend will wrap up on Sunday with a family-style brunch (two seatings) featuring Nashville’s famous Biscuit Love.

The Gathering 2018 will take place Thursday, April 12th through Sunday, April 15th. Mark your calendars and plan a long weekend with us in the Shoals.

We’ll highlight our collaborators Jack Rudy, Cathead, and Biscuit Love on the Journal in the coming months…stay tuned.

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WEEKEND ITINERARY

Thursday, April 12th
6:00pm  Friends of the Café | Steven Satterfield

Friday, April 13th
10:00am  Custom DIY Workshop
11:00 – 2:00pm  Lunch @ The Factory
2:00pm  The Factory Tour
6:00pm  Jack Rudy + Cathead Cocktail Workshop @ 116 E. Mobile

Saturday, April 14th
9:00am – 10:00am  One-Hour Embroidery Stitches Workshop
10:00am Doors Open
10:30am  The Factory Tour
10:00 – 2:00pm  Stenciling Booth
11:00am – 12:00pm   One-Hour T-Shirt Workshop
11:00am  Lunch + Artisan Recognition
1:00pm  History of the Company with Natalie
2:30pm  Swampette Tour (Pre-registration required.)

Sunday, April 15th
10:30am  Biscuit Love Brunch: First seating
12:30am  Biscuit Love Brunch: Second seating

ANNOUNCING 2018 FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNERS

In 2018, we will mark our fourth year of our Friends of the Café charity dinner series. A look back at our Journal reveals the incredible chefs that have generously donated their time and resources to raise money and awareness for important causes.

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Our first dinner of 2018 is scheduled for April 12th and is hosted by Steven Satterfield of Atlanta’s Miller Union, author of Root To Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons, and 2017 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Southeast. The Thursday night dinner will kick off our community picnic weekend—three days of special events and workshops celebrating our community (more details to come)…

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Our May 10th Spring Harvest Supper highlights our very own café chef— Ray Nichols—and will feature the freshest ingredients from local and regional farmers and purveyors.

On June 21st, we will welcome Rebecca Wilcomb, chef de cuisine at Donald Link’s flagship restaurant, Herbsaint, since 2011. In 2017, she was also honored with a James Beard Award for Best Chef: South.

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Tandy Wilson will oversee our final dinner of the year, on October 21st. Tandy opened City House restaurant in Nashville in 2007 and was named Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2016.

Find more about each of our featured chefs on the Journal. Visit our Events page to purchase tickets to our upcoming dinners. Tickets are limited and are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.

We’re looking forward to meeting you at the table!

ALABAMA CHANIN – REDBEANS ROADSHOW

PABLEAUX JOHNSON + RED BEANS ROAD SHOW

We’re bringing a piece of New Orleans to Florence this January, as we collaborate with photographer/food and travel writer Pableaux Johnson for a special supper hosted at The Factory Café.

Appropriately called Red Beans Road Show, Pableaux’s pop-up dinner series shows guests Louisiana hospitality and is held in a casual family-style format, creating a unique and interactive dining experience. The dinner encourages conversation between guests and for phones to be left in bags and pockets—the perfect post-holiday pick-me-up.

The Red Beans Road Show series was inspired by Johnson’s grandmother’s dining kitchen table. He found himself in possession of it—remembering the days of his childhood. The table was resurrected and became a gathering place for Johnson and his friends. Why red beans and rice? It’s historically a meal of convenience and traditionally made on Mondays (laundry day). It’s a simple dish that’s satisfying, warm, and inviting.

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Pableaux spends his time traveling the country cooking up these suppers, entertaining, and photographing his native New Orleans (look for more on that later on the Journal). Pableaux’s photographs will also be on display at The Factory for a limited time.

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INTRODUCING CHEF RAY NICHOLS + FALL HARVEST SUPPER

The Factory Café continues to grow, change, and evolve—just like the menu that it serves each day. The café has seen three incredible chefs come through the kitchen since its opening in 2013, and today we want to introduce you to our head chef, Ray Nichols, and welcome him to the team.

Ray—who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but raised here in Florence—shares our care and dedication for this community. After graduating from Auburn University, Ray changed his path of going to law school to pursue dreams of cooking for a living. Ray started with chef David Bancroft at Amsterdam Café, then moved to Nashville to work with chef Sean Brock at Husk. He trained under Philip Krajeck at Rolf & Daughters in Nashville before returning home to work as line cook and then sous chef at local favorite, Odette. Ray’s love of cooking stems from the simple love of eating, and he focuses on creating simple, flavorful dishes by utilizing local and seasonal ingredients while maintaining a positive and memorable work environment for those who surround him.

The supper will feature heritage-breed pork from Bear Creek Farm served alongside organic fall vegetables from Bluewater Creek Farm, Hines Family Farm, and Sonlit Meadows Farm.

Highlights from the menu will include specialty cocktails like a Cider Sparkler and the Autumn Me Crazy – made with smoked sweet potatoes. Chef Ray will also be firing up our new Traeger Pro Series 34 Grill with a wood fire to create grilled and slow-smoked dishes for the evening.

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Stay up to date on all events at The Factory on Facebook, Instagram, and our Events page.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

RECAP: ASHA GOMEZ + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

In our grand finale for the 2017 Friends of the Café Dinner Series, Asha Gomez and her team hosted a lively and lovely evening, sourcing from our local farmers in combination with her own collection of spices.

In My Two Souths, Asha states, “I call my style of cuisine ‘two Souths cooking.’ Its flavors and dishes are characterized and rooted in my deep affection for the resourcefulness and soulfulness of cooking in both my mother country India, in the far southern state of Kerala, and my chosen home in American’s southern, culinary-savvy city of Atlanta, Georgia.” The dinner was the perfect culmination.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

Cocktail hour kicked off the evening with the “Muscadine Vine” created by our Events Coordinator, Anne Ryan, and made with muscadine syrup, prosecco, lime, and mint. Wines selected by Anne Ryan and Melissa Bain were accompanied by Blackberry Farm’s newest addition, canned craft beers.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

The passed hors d’oeuvres included Black Pepper and Black Salt spiced roasted cashews, Fry Bread with mint chutney and quick pickled carrots, and curry chicken samosa pockets. The mint that was used in meals throughout the dinner was picked fresh from Natalie’s garden.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

The first seated course was a brightly colored Sunday vegetable stew ­with a creamy, coconut base and chunky vegetables.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ + FRIENDS OF THE CAFE

The second course of Asha’s dinner was Kerala fish curry, served on a bed of kichadi grits and tempered mustard oil. Kidachi is a rice, lentil, and butter comfort food seasoned with ginger and leek and found throughout India. Asha’s version substitutes stone-ground grits from Anson Mills. A fillet of catfish from Simmons Farm Raised Catfish in Mississippi was served atop the bed of grits.

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The third course was Asha’s take on Beef Biryani. Asha described this rice dish as a “celebration dish” comparing its creation to American pit masters.

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The fourth and final course—Asha’s Three Spice Carrot Cake, one of her most widely loved desserts and a tribute to her mother, was the perfect end to the evening.

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A big thank you to Asha and her team (including her son, Ethan), The Factory Café team, the Southern Foodways Alliance, and to all the local farms and purveyors who helped to make this dinner so special. Be on the lookout for more events coming in 2018.

P.S.: Find some of these dishes and much more in Asha’s cookbook, My Two Souths.

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THE FACTORY ON ALABAMACHANIN.COM

The Factory opened to the public in November of 2013 with our flagship store and accompanying café. The Slow Food movement has informed much of our work, and so we envisioned a space where the two merge—slow food served fresh and slow design made locally. We hope you’ll be able to visit us in our community of The Shoals and explore our world.

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The Factory Store has its own presence on our website for guests who wish to plan time to take advantage of our in-store Shopping services—including private appointments, custom orders, Bridal dresses, and registries. We’ve had visitors from across the world walk through our doors, and we’ve love to host you next.

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We have a strong belief in transparency—of methods, materials, supply chain, and practices—and we’ll show you how we design and manufacture on a guided tour of The Factory. We offer group tour packages including lunch and a workshop. If you can’t visit just yet, take a virtual tour of our operation.

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Our Events calendar aims to offer unique experiences for and in our community. Look for sewing and cooking workshops, farm-to-table dinners, design lectures, and other enrichment and creative learning opportunities.

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Check back on the Journal tomorrow as we highlight The School of Making on AlabamaChanin.com, and on Friday, Bldg. 14.

Give us a call if you have any questions along the way: 256.760.1090

THE NEW ALABAMACHANIN.COM

In fashion, graphic design, art, architecture, and other creative mediums, designs evolve and change with time. The same is true for website design (and technology)—and with that idea in mind, today we are over-the-moon to announce the launch of the newly designed AlabamaChanin.com.

What began as a conversation about AlabamaChanin.com over a year and half ago, is realized today online.

Like any proud parent, this is something we’re really proud to share.

We want to thank all the team at Hugo & Marie—our website design and development team of over five years. They’ve created a beautiful place for us to call home while connecting to our global community.

Take a look around.

Use our Site Map to help find your way.

Tell us if there are any hiccups. We’ll be spending the next few days working through the kinks.

Tell us what you love. Tell us what we can do better.

Look at it on your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone (yes, it works there too).

Oh, and we’ve launched a new Collection too.

Navigate Alabama Chanin, The School of Making, The Factory, and Bldg. 14.

Happy Day. Happy Exploring.

xo from all of us @ Alabama Chanin

P.S.:  If you’re still having trouble navigating the site, email us at orders@alabamachanin.com or call us at 256-760-1090.

If you have frequented our site recently, we suggest refreshing your web browser’s cache to make sure you have the most up-to-date information from our site.

Visit this site to learn how.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ + GOLDEN POTATO CROQUETTES

ASHA GOMEZ + GOLDEN POTATO CROQUETTES (@ THE FACTORY)

The Factory Café team is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Asha Gomez for her sold-out Friends of the Café dinner tomorrow night. It’s our last in the 2017 Friends of the Café Southern Foodways Alliance benefit series—but café chef Ray Nichols will be cooking a Fall Supper on October 19th.

The Factory Café served Golden Potato Croquettes from her James Beard-nominated cookbook, My Two Souths, from August 29th to September 1st. We loved the taste of Asha’s Indian-inspired Southern dish.

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Asha’s dinner will feature a four-course meal, including dishes like Sunday Vegetable Stew, Kerala fish curry, Beef Biriyani, and Three Spice Carrot Cake, with cocktails, wine pairings and brand new beers from our friends at Blackberry Farm.

Thanks to everyone who joined us this year (and the past 3 years) to support Alabama Chanin, The Factory Café, the SFA, our team, and our community. Look for the 2018 dinner schedule in January.

Stay up to date on dinners, and all other events hosted at The Factory by visiting our Events page and joining our mailing list.

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ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN DINNER RECAP

Our most recent Friends of the Café Dinner, helmed by Ashley Christensen and her team, was another memorable milestone in our ongoing friendship and professional relationship. We have always proclaimed Ashley to be a badass, and she proved herself worthy of the description, once again. She has dedicated such an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources to charity and her team has clearly perfected their approach to these kinds of events. They arrived ready to go, unpacked, set up shop, and executed their plan to perfection—seemingly without breaking a sweat.

Ashley also worked with a combination of her own suppliers and our local purveyors to obtain both protein and produce. Ashley finalized her menu once the availability from local farms was confirmed, to ensure she was using the freshest local ingredients available.

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Cocktail hour included wines selected by Grassroots wine purveyors and our Events Coordinator, Anne Ryan Cavin, who also created the “Summer Cindy”—named for the tropical storm. The cocktail included Prosecco, Jack Rudy Grenadine, and fresh rosemary, provided by Bluewater Creek Farm. Both Grassroots and Anne Ryan worked closely to pair each course with a complementary wine.

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The passed hors d’oeuvres included blistered Shishito pepper from Bluewater Creek Farm, with toasted benne seeds and lemon; fried green tomatoes (again, from Bluewater Creek Farm) with Alabama jumbo lump crab salad; Hook’s three-year cheddar pimento atop Bluewater Creek cucumbers; and a sweet corn mousse shooter, made with North Carolina corn and piquillo pepper.

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Ashley’s first seated course was a salad of local lettuces and vegetables with roasted garlic and buttermilk. The lettuce and ground cherries were sourced from Bluewater Creek Farm and the radish and squash came from Hines Family Farms in Killen, Alabama. The buttermilk dressing was not in any way overpowering and the fresh vegetables were able to shine through. The first course was paired with a Hirsch 2015 Gruner Veltliner, a dry white wine with hints of pepper and pear—Natalie’s favorite.

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Based upon Ashley’s recipe and guidance, chef Ray Nichols and The Factory Café staff prepared heirloom tomato pies with spicy microgreens and a sherry vinaigrette for the second course. We have enjoyed our fair share of tomato pies, but this one briefly quieted the room—which then erupted with discussion on texture and flavor. The tomatoes and spicy microgreens came from Bluewater Creek Farm and the Buttermilk Cheddar Cheese from East Tennessee’s Sweetwater Valley Farms, Ashley’s choice of cheese to complement the pie.

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The third, main course was also served family style. A charcoal-grilled ribeye from Bear Creek Farm was topped with chimichurri, charred Bluewater Creek walking onions, and green horseradish crème fraiche. (Pattypan squash that was cooked over coals was substituted for our non-beef-eating diners.) Ashley brought ingredients to prepare her turn on a classic marinated summer succotash. The second side dish was by far the biggest hit of the night: Poole’s macaroni au gratin, a near-legendary dish in Ashley’s repertoire. We are guessing that diners will seek out the recipe in Ashley’s cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories From a Modern Diner. This course was paired with a 2014 L’Orangerie de Carigan Cadillac, an earthy Bordeaux with hints of blackberry and cherry.

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The fourth and final course of the evening was a coffee panna cotta made with Counter Culture Coffee, Irish whiskey caramel, and North Carolina pecan granola crunch topping—served in a wide-mouth mason jar. The dessert was perfectly paired with a 2012 Dirk Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage Port.

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Ashley’s commitment to fresh, local ingredients, community-based dining, and sharing stories around the family table was evident in each well-considered dish. After dinner, she also shared stories and signed copies of her cookbook, well into the evening. We are honored that Ashley Christensen has become a treasured member of the Alabama Chanin extended family and we were proud to see her so readily embraced by our community.

The upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner featuring Asha Gomez, also benefitting the Southern Foodways Alliance, is sold out—but you may contact us if you would like to be placed on our waiting list, should additional tickets become available.

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Thanks again to Ashley Christensen, her amazing assistant, Charlotte Coman, our Factory Café staff, and our supportive community.

ALABAMA CHANIN – Q&A WITH CHEF ASHA GOMEZ

Q&A WITH CHEF ASHA GOMEZ

Several months ago, we introduced you to Asha Gomez—chef, innovator, author, and charity ambassador. After beginning her career as a professional chef in Atlanta, she realized the inherent similarities between Southern cuisine and the dishes she prepared in her birthplace of Kerala, India. This presented her with the unique opportunity to explore both food histories and the communities that can be built when we recognize our cross-cultural similarities. Her cookbook, My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen, does not take a food fusion approach; instead, it offers a new style of cooking that embraces food traditions from both cultures and finds common ground in sometimes surprising ways.

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We recently spoke to Asha about her history, her thoughts about modern cuisine, and what she has in the works for the future.

AC: What is your first food memory? Do you remember the first dish you cooked by yourself?

AG: The very earliest memories I have of food revolve around mangoes and mango season. My great aunt Rita Netto stored straw-lined baskets full of mangoes in a darkened room off her kitchen behind cobalt blue doors. Even as a small child, I adored the mangoes’ spectrum of colors: bright red, radiant yellow, pinkish orange, deep purple, and delicate soft green. Eating fresh mango, I imagined the succulent flesh must taste just like sweet sunshine. It is that same sense of delight and discovery of simple yet potent ingredients that inspire me today.

Typically, in Kerala households a daughter’s role in the kitchen is largely supportive, guided by her mother. As a teenager, when my skills had advanced enough for my mother to trust me with preparing a whole meal, I was both nervous and excited. For my first solo meal, I chose to prepare a rabbit dish, and even after all these years, I still select rabbit for family meals. For my inaugural dish, I decided to venture away from my mother’s standard and frequent rabbit curry and chose a fried rabbit rendition. Her heartfelt after-dinner praise of my efforts remains my earliest and perhaps, my greatest culinary triumph.

AC: What inspired you to become a chef?

AG: I guess you might say that childhood memory may have lit a spark in me, though I didn’t heed the call until many years and a whole other career later.

AC: What motivated your move from Kerala to the United States?

AG: My parents migrated when I was really young.

AC: What are the most important things about cultural identity, food, and simple childhood memories of your life in Southern India that shape you today? In a sense, you have two homes—one in India and one in the United States. What most connects you to Southern India?

AG: I found a kinship between this concept of hospitality in the South and the way I was raised to treat guests that is just part of my cultural DNA.

AC: You have spent a great deal of time and energy working toward ending hunger worldwide. What inspired you to become involved in this cause?

AG: I feed people for a living, and people come to me to satisfy their hunger. I felt that it’s a travesty that only those who have the means and access can do so, and when there is so much abundance in our world there are too many who go to bed unable to satisfy such a basic human need.

AC: We have noticed that chefs often donate time and energy to charitable causes and organizations. Do you think there is something specific about those who work with food or local farmers and suppliers that inspires community involvement?

AG: More and more today, chefs have a voice that people listen to and respect. We have an opportunity to change the way people interact with and make choices about the food they buy. As chefs, we can use our time in the limelight to be the voice for those whose needs aren’t always heard, and we can find ways to help locally in our own communities and reach out to others doing good work. My fellow chefs are truly a passionate community of human beings.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHA GOMEZ Q+A

AC: Your James Beard nominated cookbook, My Two Souths, illustrates that classic Southern food and dishes from Southern India share many of the same qualities. When did you first come to this realization? What key elements are most prominent in their similarities?

AG: It was after many years of an abiding appreciation for the culture and cuisine of both of these places that I have called home that the thoughts and ideas to marry the two evolved. Although they seem like separate universes, surprisingly, I found their shared aspects—a warm, humid climate, abundant produce varieties, expanses of rice acreage, and busy coastal communities, along with a spirit of sharing, a gift for entertaining and storytelling, a talent for creating bounty out of an often-modest pantry, and a sincere embrace of simplicity—blend easily in my South-by-South cuisine.

AC: How can we best encourage home cooks to explore ingredients that might initially be unfamiliar to them?

AG: [That is] essentially what I explored in my book: this idea of taking familiar, classic staples and infusing them with unexpected spices to unlock flavors and enliven the palate. By using accessible dishes like biscuits, pies, and beignets to show home cooks new and fresh takes on classics will hopefully motivate them to reach across to the under-explored side of the grocery aisle.

AC: It seems that Indian food is occasionally simplified in American restaurants. Are there things that frustrate you about how Indian food is viewed and prepared in the United States? What would you most like for people to know about authentic Indian cooking?

AG: Every cuisine in the world has what I call high-low cooking. Indian cuisine is 5,000 years old and is the culmination of many diverse influences and layers of sophistication in what presents. And yet in America, we are only accustomed for the most part to view Indian food in terms of a buffet line or in the cheap eats section.

The way Indians cook at home is vastly different from what is represented in mainstream restaurants. I take exception and considerable umbrage to the notion in some circles that culinary innovation happens primarily in a Euro-centric milieu.

AC: What ingredients most inspire you?

AG: Local produce that is best in each season and the introduction of spice to make the ordinary extraordinary.

AC: What was your last true great dining experience?

AG: I recently experienced a meal at Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia. It was a mind-blowing experience. So much heart and so much soul in the culinary story that revealed itself before my eyes and taste buds.

AC: What do you do when you are not in the kitchen?

AG: l love traveling. I’m often planning food experiences around the places that I travel to.

AC: At Alabama Chanin, you can often find music influencing the mood and the workflow in the studio. What is your favorite music to cook by?

AG: Music, like food, adds so much sweetness and texture to our everyday lives. My musical tastes are pretty eclectic and vary depending on my mood. The soundtrack of my life includes Leonard Cohen, k.d. Lang, Bollywood/Sufi, Prince, Ceasaria Evoria, to Willie Nelson and so many more.

AC: You seem to juggle so many diverse projects. What is on the horizon for you?

AG: I have a new web-based series of cooking classes called “Curry and Cornbread”. It is a subscription-based service that offers one new recipe per week. Curious home cooks can also purchase videos individually. It is an easy way to learn more about new cuisine and cooking techniques that is not intimidating.

FOURTH OF JULY LOVE

We love you all. We love the Fourth of July. We love our staff. We love for our staff to spend time with their families. In celebration of Independence Day this year, The Factory, the Alabama Chanin offices, and our production studios will be closed today, July 4, 2017. Some of our staff will celebrate by spending time on the Tennessee River and barbecuing with family and friends. Maggie and I will be eagerly awaiting fireworks and participating in our yearly neighborhood parade.

Here are some ideas on how to get ready for the weekend festivities:
Decorate 4th of July napkins
Sip a Strawberry Rosemary Prosecco Cocktail
Make (and share) a cobbler
Dress your best in one of our Made in the USA 
garments (we’re sporting our favorite shades of blue…) 

Happy Birthday America (coming soon).
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN'S HOMEGROWN TOMATO PIE @ THE FACTORY

ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN’S HOMEGROWN TOMATO PIE @ THE FACTORY

In honor of our recent Friends of the Café Dinner with chef Ashley Christensen, The Factory Café is featuring a tomato pie recipe from her cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner. Ashley’s Homegrown Tomato Pie will be available from June 27th – July 1st (or until we run out of tomatoes), with lunch served from 11:00am – 2:00pm each day and Saturday Brunch from 10:00am – 2:00pm.

In her cookbook, Ashley notes, “You’ll need to bravely stack the ingredients just a bit higher than the edge of the piecrust. Have faith: it won’t overflow.” We were daring and added an extra layer of sliced tomatoes to the top.

P.S.: Don’t miss our other events happening at The Factory this summer by visiting the Events page. Lucy Buffett will be at The Factory on July 27th for a book-signing of her brand new cookbook, Gumbo Love. And Asha Gomez, our featured café chef for the next (sold out) Friends of the Café Dinner on August 24th, will be signing copies of her latest cookbook, My Two Souths, following her dinner.

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ALABAMA CHANIN – ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER SERIES

2017 FRIENDS OF THE CAFE + ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

This year’s Friends of the Café dinner series has been a gratifying success, as we once again have worked with some of the most talented and knowledgeable chefs in the South to raise funds for the Southern Foodways Alliance. Our upcoming dinner will be hosted by James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen, a longtime friend who has volunteered her time for our dinners in the past.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE 2017 ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

Alabama Chanin’s relationship with chef Ashley goes back a number of years, as she partnered with us during one of our Makeshift conferences, in a conversation connecting “Love and Raw Materials in Food, Fashion, and Design”. Ashley spends an impressive amount of time and energy on charity work and educational initiatives, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for her community. (Southern Foodways director John T. Edge has estimated that Ashley’s impact on the organization’s bottom line is so substantial that it covers at least one employee’s annual salary.) She also works in outreach programs—everything from child hunger, to arts in education, to participating in the Fatback Collective with her fellow food ambassadors.

All of this reflects Ashley’s embrace of collaborative making. At Alabama Chanin, we share many of the same goals that Ashley holds dear—sourcing responsibly, uplifting our community, elevating makers and creators, developing close relationships with those in our supply chain, and creating spaces where we can celebrate and advance those ideas.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE 2017 ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

We are excited to announce that we will continue our collaboration with Ashley, creating a capsule collection inspired by her chef’s jacket and sense of style. (Launching next week.)

Ashley will also be signing copies of her book Pooles: Recipes and Stories From a Modern Diner. We look forward to seeing you soon and to sharing more of our collaboration with Ashley.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FIRST AND THIRD TUESDAYS

FIRST + THIRD TUESDAYS

Join us on the first and third Tuesday of every month for our sewing group meetup. The spirit of making that this group brings to The Factory each month is contagious—as is the joy of visiting with friends and sharing projects.

First and Third Tuesday of each month
8:30am – 11:30am

Alabama Chanin @ The Factory
462 Lane Drive
Florence, AL 35630

Contact office@alabamachanin.com or call 256-760-1090 for more information.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FIRST AND THIRD TUESDAYS

FRIENDS OF THE CAFE + SCOTT PEACOCK

We are constantly surprised and honored by the talented and generous chefs that agree to be a part of our Friends of the Café dinner series. A look back through our Journal shows just how many brilliant individuals have traveled to our corner of Alabama and offered their time, energy, and creativity for a good cause. As part of this year’s series, we were able to accomplish something we were not sure was possible: coaxing legendary Southern chef Scott Peacock out of semi-retirement to prepare a truly special dinner that we won’t soon forget.

When planning his menu, Scott insisted on a couple of things that sound simple at first glance: the ingredients must be fresh and they must be good. Luckily, we already partner with a number of farmers and vendors that provide us with the freshest local and organic products. But we also sought out some new and trusted sources that could provide us with the freshest ingredients—because when Scott says fresh, he means FRESH. That means that the menu was not 100% finalized until he knew exactly what he’d be working with—and each dish he presented proved his philosophy to be right, again and again.

Cocktail hour featured a specialty “Plum Blossom” cocktail concocted by our Events Coordinator, Anne Ryan, and combined Prosecco with plums that Chef Zach preserved last year, and garnished with violets that Natalie foraged. We asked Scott to select beer from his favorite brewery, and he selected Orpheus Brewery in Atlanta, as it is owned by the son of a close friend. Each course was also accompanied by wine pairings that we chose by working closely with our distributor to get the right complement for each course.

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The passed hors d’oeuvre course included iced oysters that Zach sourced, served with Miss Edna Lewis’ spicy dipping sauce; Blackbelt Pineywood sausage brought in by Scott; fresh buttered radishes from Bluewater Creek Farm; tomato toast with canned tomatoes and fresh goat cheese from Humble Hearts Farm; and soft boiled eggs from Cog Hill Farm, atop garlic parsley sauce.

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Scott’s first seated course was a salad of morning-gathered watercress, wood sorel, and violets. And when we say “morning gathered”, that is no exaggeration. The greens were delivered that day by Heirloom Harvest and the watercress and wood sorrel was foraged early that morning by Natalie at a local aquifer and a friend’s farm. If diners did not understand the importance of truly fresh ingredients before, this dish left no doubt. The greens were flavorful and delicate and almost melted in your mouth; we have never witnessed such a reaction to a simple salad before—and we may never again.

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For the second course, Scott prepared what he called “Straddle Stew”, because we were straddling two growing seasons—using fresh produce from the last harvest alongside ingredients from the first harvest of this season. The dish included chickens from Cog Hill Farm, organic kale, chard, and shallot buds from Alchemy Farms, turnips from Bluewater Creek Farm, and fresh bay from Scott’s garden. (If you’ve never eaten a just-picked carrot, I guarantee it is a game changer.) The stew was served with Dorothy Peacock’s hot water cornbread made with Pollard’s extra-fine cornmeal from Hartford, Alabama.

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We were delighted to have Angie Mosier and Lisa Donovan working alongside Scott and our staff in the kitchen and they provided helping hands and fresh ingredients. The dessert course was sweet cream biscuits made with buttermilk that Lisa sourced from Cruze Farm, topped with fresh strawberries that Angie brought from Red Earth Organic Farms and Woodland Gardens.

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One of the most remarkable connections we made through Scott was our introduction to Will Dodd and his non-profit organization Heirloom Harvest. With their motto, “Food from down the Road,” the organization’s goal is to improve the food economy in Alabama as a way of addressing and improving socio-economic conditions. They partner with small, independent farmers to help with planning, warehousing, sales, marketing, distribution, and communication with customers—with the goal of getting those fresh and local ingredients into restaurants and stores throughout the region.

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We could not have been more grateful to have Scott Peacock co-host this dinner with us. Our guests recognized how special the evening was; it really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share an intimate dinner with an influential but humble artist.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SFA FRIED GREEN TOMATOES + SHRIMP REMOULADE

SFA FRIED GREEN TOMATOES + SHRIMP REMOULADE

In celebration of National Shrimp Day on May 10th, The Factory Café will serve Fried Green Tomatoes + Shrimp Remoulade made with Royal Red Gulf shrimp for lunch next week. With a recipe from the SFA Community Cookbook, this dish will be available from May 9th – 12th.

Natalie and the Alabama Chanin team constantly draw inspiration from the Southern Foodways Alliance—which has been pioneering important work in the ways of Southern food culture and the role it plays in our Southern history for almost two decades. We look to the SFA Community Cookbook for classic recipes shared by their members (including Natalie).

ALABAMA CHANIN – SFA FRIED GREEN TOMATOES + SHRIMP REMOULADE

Combining all these favorite flavors into one dish, the recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes + Shrimp Remoulade is found on page 41 in the SFA Community Cookbook. Get a copy of the cookbook and make it yourself at home or stop by The Factory and try chef Zach’s version.

(It is also no secret that Alabama Chanin fully embraces the tomato as a warm weather essential—see countless recipes here.)

ALABAMA CHANIN – TACOS + CINCO DE MAYO @ THE FACTORY

TACOS + CINCO DE MAYO @ THE FACTORY

Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) is the anniversary of Mexican President Benito Juarez’s victory against the French at the attack on Puebla da Los Angeles in 1862. After the Mexican-American War, the country was nearly bankrupt—so President Juarez was forced to default on debts with France, ruled by Napoleon III. Juarez rounded up a force of 2000 men who defended Puebla from 6000 French troops. After an all-day battle, the French finally retreated. Juarez lost less than 100 of his men; France lost 500. This symbolic victory bolstered support for the Mexican government and resistance against French imperialism. Six years later, France finally withdrew from Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Mexico occur mainly in the state of Puebla and include parades, battle recreations, and street festivals. However, the day isn’t a federal holiday—so for many Mexicans, Cinco de Mayo is just like any other day of the year.

As Mexico’s neighbor, the United States celebrates Cinco de Mayo as a way to recognize Mexican heritage and culture. In the 1960s, Mexican-American activists began promoting the day as a way to increase community pride. The United States adopted the holiday and now celebrates it more vigorously than most Mexican natives. In fact, Americans consume more alcohol on Cinco de Mayo than on almost any other day of the year. Los Angeles hosts what is believed to be the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world, with parades and events more elaborate than those in Puebla, Mexico. Taco stands, parties, margaritas are all included.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TACOS + CINCO DE MAYO @ THE FACTORY

While we were host to Patagonia’s Worn Wear Truck in 2015, chef Zach made tacos for a brunch taco stand at The Factory. He’s recreating those dishes at The Factory Café by serving up tacos next Friday for Cinco de Mayo. Look for three versions: shrimp, carnitas, and pollo rojo, with house-made tortillas and all the trimmings. The shrimp are Royal Red, sourced from the Gulf, the pork comes from our friends at Bluewater Creek Farms, and the chicken is from Joyce Farms.

Drop in for lunch and enjoy them with one of our regional craft beers (Straight To Ale’s Monkeynaut IPA pictured here) from 11am – 2pm from Tuesday, May 2nd – Friday, May 5th.

P.S.: Select embroideries in the Alabama Chanin Collection are inspired by Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, who has been written about extensively on the Journal.

ALABAMA CHANIN – WAFFLES FOR SATURDAY BRUNCH + A HISTORY

WAFFLES FOR SATURDAY BRUNCH (+ A HISTORY)

It’s hard to imagine that something as commonplace as the waffle didn’t make it big in the United States until the 1960s—especially when its origin dates back to ancient Greece. The earliest waffles were called “obelios” and were cooked between two hot metal plates. Sometime during the 13th century, Europeans started stamping the cakes with motifs ranging from family crests, landscapes, and the characteristic grid pattern.

It was the Belgians, though, that perfected its recipe into something so delicious that their waffles were eaten by themselves – much unlike the loaded breakfast waffles Americans eat today. The Belgian waffle, originally known as the Brussels waffle, made its debut in America at the 1962 World Fair in Seattle. Not long after, Maurice Vermersch (a native Belgian) catapulted the waffle’s popularity at the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair. The crispy and airy waffles were sold one of two ways: plain, or with strawberries and freshly whipped cream. The Vermersch family held their waffles to the highest Belgian standards. They refused to provide silverware to their customers, as that was not how waffles were eaten on the streets of Belgium.

Here in America, Belgian waffles have become a staple in diners and on breakfast menus. When compared to authentic Belgian waffles: where they lack in flavor in texture, they make up for with toppings and garnishes.

ALABAMA CHANIN – WAFFLES FOR SATURDAY BRUNCH + A HISTORY

We’re serving up our own version of Belgian waffles at The Factory at brunch on Saturday, March 25th for International Waffle Day. We prefer our waffles with put up blueberry sauce, maple syrup, and freshly whipped cream. Pictured here on Heath Ceramics with our Top-Stitch Placemat in Dove, an Organic Cotton Jersey Napkin, vintage silver, and a Weck Jar.

P.S.: Find breakfast and brunch recipes, including a variation on the Belgian Waffle with hot dogs, chili, and slaw in John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast.

ALABAMA CHANIN - LIFE SKILLS WITH HUGH ACHESON - PHOTO CREDIT - RINNE ALLEN 1

LIFE SKILLS WITH HUGH ACHESON

Hugh Acheson is a practical man. He’s witty and inventive, too, but he has the ability to cut through nonsense like a hot knife through butter. Hugh opened his Athens, Georgia-based flagship restaurant 5 & 10 in 2000 and followed in 2007 with a second space, The National. He has since opened the Atlanta-based Empire State South and Spiller Park Coffee, and The Florence in Savannah, Georgia (now closed). He is a six-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef Southeast and the 2012 winner of that award. His wry humor, paired with a natural storytelling ability, makes him unintimidating to the at-home cook—resulting in a growing library of cookbooks, including A New Turn in the South and The Broad Fork, two of our favorites from recent years.

A New Turn in the South won the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Cookbook in the field of “American Cooking” in 2012—and we often reference the book’s “Message About Community”. Hugh wrote:

“The small steps that you take as a consumer are multifold: Shop at your farmer’s market, buy local crafts and art, frequent local independent restaurants, buy locally roasted coffee, buy native plants, learn how to garden, don’t eat overly processed foods, know the person who raises your eggs. This has nothing to do with a political stance and everything to do with a community stance. I am not a fanatic, just a believer. I believe in the place we live and in finding ways to make it great every day. I am endlessly enamored of my local sphere, my community.”

When we spoke with Hugh recently, we asked him to expand a bit on the roles of sustainability and community in his life. “I think the idea of sustainability should be compared to a life of hiking and camping: ‘Pack it in, pack it out. Leave it as nice as when you went in.’ I think we need to think about generations way beyond our own and think what legacy we can leave them. As for my food journey as it relates to my community, I am constantly intrigued by being involved. If I was a dentist I would feel the same way but as a chef, I have a connection to the community through food and can highlight the importance of sustenance and availability in many different ways. I like that ongoing journey.”

Though he is a native of Ottawa, Canada, Hugh has lived in Athens for over two decades and is more knowledgeable of Southern food history and traditions than most born-and-bred Southerners. His thoughts on Southern food culture speak to its potential and its true history, and he is quick to point out the differences between “real” and “fake” Southern foods. “We honor Southern food by cataloging the stories and recipes of the past and the present. We pay homage by realizing that the vast majority of Southern food came here as a product of slavery. It is a painful history of food and nourishment but it is a story that should be told. I think the Jim Crow era of Southern food with the Aunties and the Pitty Pat Porches is luckily coming to an end and has been replaced by a truly intellectual look at tradition and legacy. Southern food is not a bucket of fried chicken and biscuits, but rather a celebration of the agrarian richness that has provided for us in a seasonal way for so long. I would rather hear about Southern food from Edna Lewis than Paula Deen.”

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Our dear friend, collaborator, and sometime-muse Rinne Allen has worked with Hugh on several projects and she clearly has a deep admiration for him. She remembers, “We all really bonded over this project [A New Turn in the South], as corny as that sounds—we worked on it for a very long time which normally does not happen in the world of cookbooks. (Normally, they are condensed into a very short time frame.) Our group met every other week for almost a year at Hugh’s home kitchen to cook and take photographs. And then most days we would sit down and enjoy the food afterward and that, really, was the best part of the project…that kind of camaraderie that comes from sharing food, as well as sharing in such a good project.” She speaks of her experiences working with Hugh as incredibly collaborative. His thoughts on collaborating with her are equally as fond. “Rinne is the most delightful collaborator. She is an endlessly fascinating person with so many skills and mediums to express her art. Collaboration should be about a meeting of minds and ideas that work together. Always collaborate with people you think are smarter and better than you! Leave your ego at the door and listen and appreciate what they bring to the table.”

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A couple of years ago Hugh unexpectedly took on yet another project when one of his daughters shared with him what she’d been learning in her Family and Consumer Sciences class: how to take prenatal vitamins, baking Red Velvet cupcakes from a boxed mix, cooking canned pastry dough wrapped in bacon. Hugh saw what he considered to be a missed opportunity, mostly resulting from a lack of resources. As a strong advocate for his adopted hometown and a supporter of public schools, he saw a chance to partner with his local school district and help revamp curriculum to address real-life issues and provide students with practical skills for living and succeeding that they could carry into adulthood. That collaboration resulted in the creation of Seed Life Skills, a non-profit designed to teach concepts that students can retain and employ throughout their lives. “Seed Life Skills is a rewriting of curriculum to make it contemporary and retainable. It is like life skill merit badges of urban homesteading: poaching an egg, making a vinaigrette, reading a lease, sewing on a button, fixing a toaster, debating a simple premise, understanding debt. It is meant to empower kids to be better suited to tackle the endless hurdles in life. A Happy Meal doesn’t really require skills.”

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After years of advocating for more education in the “living arts”, we understand Hugh’s frustration that most people don’t know how to do things or make things anymore. Part of our mission at Alabama Chanin has been to support the reintroduction of those practical skills that were once essential to life but have become casualties of convenience. We want to renew and instill respect for these skills (sewing, farming, cooking, etc.) and demonstrate their true value. We asked Hugh to share some thoughts and advice on how to continue that journey—and whether programs like Seed Life Skills could be applicable to other disciplines, like ours. “Just realize that everything is STEAM and STEM applicable. List out the ten most important skills that you use daily that have fallen by the wayside in current culture and then whittle those down to basic lessons that engage with a kid who really, despite everything we hear and are told, just wants to LEARN. Teach them what you know.”

Because of his growing expertise in this area, Hugh has partnered with the National Head Start Association to serve as their Healthy Living Ambassador—visiting Head Start programs nationwide to speak with children and families about the importance of preparing nutritious meals and raise funds to enable Head Start centers to build their own gardens. All of this AND he is finishing up work on his fourth cookbook, The Chef and the Slow Cooker which, in a way, is extending his Seed Life Skills curriculum into the adult kitchen sphere. “People want to get back in the kitchen, but they’re terrified of getting back in the kitchen; they’re terrified of cooking from scratch” he recently said. “So we need them to find the tools that make that easier for them and it’s kind of a segue. It’s getting them back in there, slowly but surely.”

We tossed a few more questions Hugh’s way, so enjoy…

AC: You are the chef/partner at five different restaurants. How do you balance your roles at each of them? And what parts of your personality or POV does each reflect?

HA: My POV and personality matters little hopefully. Restaurants are run by a team of people, assembling together to produce great food and beverage with great service and style. I merely curate the ideas, and then triage the daily routine. As you grow in business you have to hire people better and smarter than yourself and trust them with responsibility and leadership. And naps. Naps are important.

AC: Your second cookbook, The Broad Fork, celebrates vegetables and offers home cooks ways to use ingredients from their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box that they might not be familiar with. What are your favorite vegetables to highlight each season?

HA:

winter: cabbage

spring: peas

summer: tomatoes

fall: apples

AC: What sort of advice do you have for CSA subscribers working with unfamiliar or challenging ingredients (other than purchasing The Broad Fork)?

HA: Google it! The web is a resource for ideas and information.

AC: What are the best ways to engage kids in the home kitchen?

HA: Cook with them from scratch. Kids are sponges. Talk about where and why and how.

AC: What is your earliest food-related memory? Do you remember the first dish you cooked by yourself?

HA: I made paprika-cheese toast when I was 4. Wasn’t very good. But I was proud.

AC: What was your last true great dining experience?

HA: At home. Roasted chicken with local rice, turnips and chow chow. It made the family smile.

AC: At Alabama Chanin, you can often find music influencing the mood and the workflow in the studio. What is your favorite music to cook by?

HA: Depends on the day, but I have been listening to a lot of Archie Shepp these days. Jazz is great to cook to.

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Images courtesy of Hugh Acheson. First and fourth images by Rinne Allen. Portrait of Hugh Acheson by Emily B. Hall.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOUSE MADE OREOS @ THE FACTORY

HOUSE MADE OREOS @ THE FACTORY

Some people dip them in a tall glass of milk; some separate the creme from the chocolate cookies and eat them separately; some smother them with peanut butter—and others just enjoy them plain. You can even find deep fried versions at carnivals and fairs. The Oreo cookie is an undeniable American classic.

In April of 1912, the National Biscuit Company (soon to be known as Nabisco) created a trio of what they termed the “highest class biscuits”. Included in this set of cookies was the Mother Goose Biscuit, the Veronese Biscuit, and the Oreo Biscuit. The first two cookies were quickly discontinued but the third, the Oreo Biscuit, was exactly what people were craving and is just as popular today.

Described as “two beautifully embossed chocolate-flavored wafers with a rich creme filling at 30 cents per pound,” the original Oreo closely resembled the modern cookie we love. The design embossed on today’s chocolate wafers first debuted in 1952, altered slightly from the original motif. Throughout history, cookie fanatics have theorized (without much evidence) that the various designs embossed on the Oreo represented everything from the Knights Templar to the Freemasons. Mystery also surrounds the cookie’s name. Some guess that “Oreo” comes from the French word for gold, and others claim that the name is a nod to the Greek word for mountain.

ALABAMA CHANIN – HOUSE MADE OREOS @ THE FACTORY

No matter the name, since the debut of the cookie over 100 years ago, Nabisco has sold over 450 billion Oreos, making it the best-selling cookie of the 20th century. March 6th is National Oreo Cookie Day, and we’re celebrating by serving up our own version of homemade Oreos and Oreo sandwiches made with house-made Oreo ice cream at The Factory Café from March 6th until March 11th. Stop by for one (or three).

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

2016: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Some years fly by and others seem to drag on forever; 2016 kept us at a steady pace at Alabama Chanin. We have been able to focus on refining our methods and more deeply developing our different avenues of work—from the design team to workshops to collections and collaborations. It is possible that 2017 could be a year of major transition across our country, so before life gets more hectic, we would like to look back and appreciate what we accomplished in the past year.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We added an important member to our design team, Erin Reitz, who brings a fresh point of view and is helping us expand our way of thinking about design. In addition to her work as a designer, Erin and her business partner Kerry Speake own The Commons, a Charleston-based shop selling American-made home goods. Through The Commons, the two developed their own line of tableware called The Shelter Collection. We partnered with their team to create The Shelter Collection @ Alabama Chanin and we think it works perfectly alongside our collaborative collection with Heath Ceramics.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

In May, we launched Collection #30. Our ongoing partnership with Nest helped us understand how to best integrate our machine-made garments into our larger collection, and we folded our basics, essentials, machine-made, and handmade garments together into one cohesive group. The collection featured Coral, Maize, and Pink color stories, highlighted Art Nouveau-style floral embroideries, and included an expanded selection of our popular new knitwear pieces. We also introduced new garments, including updated tunics, jackets, and pants. Our collection of home goods also expanded, with new selections in canvas and more machine-sewn kitchen textiles.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

As part of The School of Making, last year we launched the Host a Party program that offered our DIY customers the opportunity to organize their own sewing parties for friends and family. The positive feedback we received allowed us to expand our offerings for the upcoming year. In 2016, we also began our Build a Wardrobe subscription service, which released four new garment patterns to participants—one each quarter. The program’s goal is to help to makers expand their handmade, sustainable wardrobes based on each individual’s personal style. This coming year, Build a Wardrobe features the Factory Dress, Car Coat, Wrap Dress, and Drawstring Pant/Skirt; subscribers can join at any point in the year.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We also launched a collaboration with Spoonflower—a North Carolina-based web company that allows individuals to design, print, and sell their own fabrics—that allowed us to create custom Alabama Chanin organic cotton jersey. The first run of our limited-edition, pre-printed fabric sold out almost immediately, but look for more printed offerings to cycle in and out.

As part of our expanded workshop offerings, Alabama Chanin hosted its first workshop abroad, at Chateau Dumas in Auty, France. In addition to our sewing curriculum, we were able to explore ornate interiors and architecture, shop at unique markets, and experience woad dyeing for the first time. The weeklong event was picturesque, and we hope to be able to offer another similar event soon.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

The Friends of the Café Dinner series continued to expand with dinners co-hosted by Sean Brock, Adam Evans, Rodney Scott, and Frank Stitt. The 2017 season has already been announced.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Recognizing that our team is a top priority, we continued to invest in our staff this year through special staff development programs and updated policies that encourage everyone to have a work-life balance. We use Zingerman’s and Patagonia as examples to create a company culture that is conducive, not only to our employees but to the community and environment. From documenting our processes to ensuring that our information is open source and accessible company-wide, we work to preserve the stories, methods, and history of the company while making way for new ideas and improved ways of doing.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

There is so much in store for Alabama Chanin in 2017. We hope that—if you have not already—you will sign up for our mailing list and newsletter and follow along on social media for updates. Wishing all of you a safe New Year, filled with love, care, hope, and empathy.

P.S. – The grids shown here are a gallery of the promotional postcards our team made for The Factory and images of various events and programs over the course of the year. What a great year—and so much to look forward to in 2017.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN INSTAGRAM: @ALABAMACHANIN

THE YEAR IN INSTAGRAM: @ALABAMACHANIN

This year was a busy and productive year for all of our divisions at Alabama Chanin. The School of Making and The Factory teams worked hard to introduce new and expanded programming for our customers. Our design team launched new home items and Collection #30, which produced some of our most intricate and beautiful garments yet.

It was a year of change with new team members, office rearranging, organizing, goal setting (and exceeding), and a lot of personal and professional growth along the way. We’re proud of our team, and we’re grateful to do what we do every day. We look forward to the fresh start a new year brings, and we hope you’ll continue to follow along on our journey.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN INSTAGRAM: @ALABAMACHANIN

Follow us on Instagram to see our design and production studio, Building 14 manufacturing facility, new garments and products, what inspires us, and more. And check back on the Journal tomorrow for a full recap of our year.

Happy New Year to all,
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSTAGRAM: @ALABAMACHANINFACTORYCAFE

INSTAGRAM: @ALABAMACHANINFACTORYCAFE

2016 brought a lot of change and growth at The Factory. Our team worked hard to provide our community with fresh, creative lunch specials, seasonal cocktails, special events, and an expanded catering program—making this our best year yet. Thank you to all of you, near and far, for visiting us at The Factory. We feel the love daily, and we truly appreciate your support of our mission to share local, sustainable food with you.

For the most up-to-date information from The Factory Café—including menus, daily specials, and a peek into our kitchen—follow @alabamachaninfactorycafe on Instagram. And if you’ve visited us, please share your experience using the hashtag #alabamachaninfactorycafe.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INTRODUCING ASHA GOMEZ

INTRODUCING ASHA GOMEZ

Yesterday, we announced the lineup for our 2017 Friends of the Café dinner series. Visiting chefs Scott Peacock and Ashley Christensen are familiar to our Journal readers, and today we want to introduce Asha Gomez—our guest chef in August.

Asha Gomez is an Atlanta-based chef who combines influences from her birthplace in Kerala, India, with those of her current home in the American South. The region of India where she was born is known for its Dutch and Portuguese influences, and the cuisine is distinctly different from what we consider traditional Indian food. As a child, Asha’s mother and aunts taught her how to cook using ingredients that arrived via the city’s trading port and traditional Kerala ingredients like asafoetida, a spice derived from a ten-foot-tall plant related to fennel.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INTRODUCING ASHA GOMEZ

Gomez and her mother emigrated to the United States when she was 16. As a teenager in Queens, New York, she gained experience with professional cooking, assisting her mother with her catering business. In 2000, Asha and her husband moved to Georgia, where she felt an immediate kinship with the Southern hospitality that reminded her of her birthplace in Southern India. She became known in the community for her Keralan meals and founded the Spice Route Supper Club, where she hosted small groups of diners in her own kitchen. The supper club’s popularity eventually led Asha to open her first restaurant, Cardamom Hill—a fine dining establishment that was named one of Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants, was one of Southern Living’s 100 Best Restaurants in the South, and was a James Beard semifinalist in 2013 for Best New Restaurant. Its signature dish, Kerala fried chicken (her mother’s recipe), is well known and loved among Atlantans. In July 2014, she voluntarily closed the restaurant to spend more time with her family.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INTRODUCING ASHA GOMEZ

In 2013, Asha opened Third Space, a warm and inviting event venue that she calls a “culinary conversation.” The project allows her to have a more ideal work-life balance. The venue offers cooking classes in a home-style kitchen with Gomez and guest chefs. The space is intimate—with a 10-seat counter and 12-seat dining room—and allows participants to build relationships with their expert collaborators. For her, the classes are a return to the more intimate cooking style Gomez prefers with patrons. Third Space also hosts corporate events and small, private dinners.

Asha’s second restaurant, Spice to Table, opened in 2014 and is a fast-casual Indian patisserie connected to Third Space. At Spice to Table, Gomez and her staff plan their daily menu based off of finds at one of Atlanta’s many farmers’ markets. It has been named one of Zagat’s 12 Hottest Brunch Places in the US and one of the 25 best new restaurants in America by GQ Magazine. Here, she combines the best of South India with the American South by taking a classic Southern dish and amplifying it using Indian spices like clove, cardamom, and fresh peppercorns in her carrot cake. While managing these two ventures, she also acts as a Chef Ambassador with CARE, a non-profit that provides emergency relief and long-term international development projects.

In October, she published her first cookbook, My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen. The cookbook tells the story of how she blended her Indian heritage with her American home, to create a new style of cooking. As with her other endeavors, My Two Souths presents a platform for Gomez to share her love and knowledge of the world’s cultures as it relates to food. Gomez thoroughly prepares readers to cook by including a glossary detailing the origins of and ways to use ingredients. Throughout the book, she provides a further glimpse into her life with images of food, family gatherings, and her trips to the farmers market.

ALABAMA CHANIN – INTRODUCING ASHA GOMEZ

THE SHORT STACK COOKBOOK

We have been fans of Short Stack Editions since they published their first short volume in 2013. Each edition is hand bound with bakers twine and focuses on a single ingredient, offering 20 – 25 clever and approachable recipes written by a variety of chefs, food writers, and cookbook authors. To date, 24 editions have been published which, together, act as a well-rounded recipe guide that encourages experimentation, discourages food waste, and offers something for just about every palate.

With these ideas as the foundation, publisher Nick Fauchald and editor Kaitlyn Goalen invited 27 soon-to-be or current authors of Short Stack Editions to participate in their cookbook, The Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients that Speak Volumes. The cookbook (which is not a compendium of recipes from the individual editions, but an entirely original collection) uses the same types of bold colors and smart graphics seen in the individual editions to create a volume that is truly a work of art. Unlike the individual editions, The Short Stack Cookbook includes colorful photographs of finished dishes.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SHORT STACK COOKBOOK

The book focuses on 18 meticulously selected essential ingredients—including honey, eggs, and brussels sprouts—to create over 100 new recipes that encourage the audience to develop new skills through practice. Each ingredient has 8 to 10 different recipes unique to the cookbook that celebrate the best things about each ingredient and also challenge readers to see those same ingredients in a new way.

It’s important to note that the level of involvement varies depending on the recipe. For weeknights when you’re short on time, we recommend recipes like the Smoked Mozzarella & Sage in Sourdough Carrozza. When you have more time to experiment, try the Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos, which would work well for dinner parties.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SHORT STACK COOKBOOK

The Short Stack team accommodates all levels of home cooks. They provide helpful information on sourcing ingredients, storing, substitutes, and food pairings. Additionally, the authors included thoughtful suggestions—like hints on kitchen equipment and event-specific menus—throughout the book. The Short Stack Cookbook encourages home cooks to have fun while exploring new ways a single ingredient can exceed expectations.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE SHORT STACK COOKBOOK

Find The Short Stack Cookbook.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

In 2010, American Express founded Small Business Saturday as a way to help small businesses gain local attention, and in turn, more customers. Small Business Saturday falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday—two of the biggest (and busiest) shopping days of the year, occurring at big box retail locations and e-commerce platforms, respectively. The day encourages consumers to make an impact in their neighborhood and community by shopping at small businesses instead of major retailers. Over the past several years, this shopping day has grown into something of a movement. Small Business Saturday has been officially recognized by the U.S. Senate, and politicians all over the nation (including President Obama) have expressed their support. Each year, more and more communities and businesses get involved and promote the importance of shopping “small”.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

It is the hope of all those participating that this, the seventh year of Small Business Saturday, is the biggest one yet. The Factory not only offers to you our own collection, collaborations, and DIY fabrics and notions, but highlights the work some of our favorite local and regional artisans, musicians, and purveyors plus our full-service café.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

We hope to see you on November 26th and appreciate your support of our small business. We’ll have extended hours and will be offering 10% off brunch, special in-store savings, giveaways, complimentary sweets and beverages, and more.

Shop small this holiday season. Supporting small businesses in your community is one of the most important things you can do as a consumer.

 

LEFT ON THE CAFE TABLE

As part of our zero waste mission, we upcycle menus from The Factory Café into notepads that we use around the office for meetings, or to write thank you notes on. We stencil and cut the paper into quarter sheets and place them on our café tables with pencils for our guests’ convenience, as well.

Since we’ve begun this practice we have received dozens of notes from our guests; some people write lovely comments, but others leave us sketches or doodles, poems, kind words—and some of our littlest guests leave us handprints traced in pencil. These are small gifts, but we find them remarkably personal and delightful.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LEFT ON THE CAFE TABLE

What these notes (and other gifts) say to us is that our community feels comfortable in our space—and even if we don’t know you personally, you still feel connected enough to share a little piece of yourself. We did not initially realize how great an opportunity the café would provide us to invite people into our creative space, but we are so grateful for what it has become.

Since opening in 2013, The Factory Café has proudly offered a menu of organic, locally grown and produced vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Whether it is through the atmosphere we encourage or the food we provide, the café has been and continues to be a place of community and kinship. We hope locals and out-of-towners alike will gather here to share food, stories, and laughter. And when you stop by, we hope you will leave us your own unique message to let us know you were there.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LEFT ON THE CAFE TABLE

Follow The Factory Café on Instagram @alabamachaninfactorycafe for lunch and brunch updates. And leave us some love with #leftonthecafetable.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LEFT ON THE CAFE TABLE

ANNOUNCING: FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ DINNER WITH ADAM EVANS

If you’ve attended some of our past Friends of the Café Dinner events, you may have seen Adam Evans’ face in our kitchen, working beside both Frank Stitt and Rob McDaniel. A constant student of his craft, he was quoted as saying, “Any time you get a chance to work with someone who is the master of what he does, you should seize that opportunity. Maybe it’s a new technique you discover—whatever it is, you’re getting the experience in a shorthand version. You take something from each chef, learn it and then interpret it in your own way.” Luckily for us, Adam has graciously agreed to lead his very own team for the next event in our series, once again benefitting the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Though he has worked with some of the most talented chefs in America and earned numerous accolades, Adam Evans was born and raised right here in the Shoals. Family time in the kitchen—cooking fish caught in local waters or vegetables from his grandfather’s garden—fostered his love of seafood and fresh ingredients. Adam graduated cum laude from Auburn University in 2002 with a degree in psychology, but he ultimately found his calling while working summer jobs in local restaurants. After graduation, he began working as chef’s apprentice at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama.

Shortly thereafter, Adam moved to New Orleans, working for the Brennan family at Bacco before earning a spot at La Petite Grocery in 2004, when the restaurant earned an esteemed “Four-Bean” review in the Times-Picayune. In May of the following year, Adam moved to New York City, becoming sous chef at Craft—Tom Colicchio’s flagship restaurant. He was sent back south again to open Craft Atlanta/Craftbar where, as chef de cuisine, he established a Southern-inspired menu that focused on local ingredients. During his time at Craftbar, the restaurant received a four-star review from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was named Best New Restaurant by Atlanta Magazine.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ANNOUNCING: FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER WITH ADAM EVANS

Eventually, Adam moved on to work with Chef Ford Fry at JCT. Kitchen & Bar (where he was named a StarChefs Atlanta Rising Star), and was quickly chosen to open Fry’s highly anticipated seafood restaurant, The Optimist. He brought to The Optimist years of experience with seafood—including the fish he caught as a child and the bounty of fresh fish and shellfish he worked with in New Orleans. At The Optimist, Adam built relationships with Gulf Coast fisheries and emphasized use of sustainable seafood, sourced responsibly.

In its first year, The Optimist was listed by Bon Appetit as one of America’s Top Ten Best New Restaurants and Esquire Magazine named it Restaurant of the Year. During his time as chef, The Optimist received an impressive number of accolades from publications like Food & Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Adam was nominated for Food & Wine’s “People’s Best New Chef” in 2015 and earned a nod as Best Seafood Restaurant in the U.S. from Travel + Leisure.

Most recently, Adam joined restaurateur Jonathan Waxman as chef-partner at Waxman’s first Atlanta eatery, Brezza Cucina—a new venture in Ponce City Market. The restaurant focuses on seasonal dishes in a rustic, Italian style.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ANNOUNCING: FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER WITH ADAM EVANS

THE GRAPEFRUIT MOTHER

If you’ve perused a drink menu in any upscale bar over the last few years, you’ve come across at least one drink made with shrub. Shrub is a mixture of fruit (or ginger), vinegar, and sweetener that was a favored drink among early settlers to the Americas. Read more about Shrubs and Switchels here.

Our friend Meredyth Archer has taken what was once considered a medicinal cordial and created a new line of drinking vinegars called MOTHER shrub.

From her website:

“Meredyth Archer first encountered drinking vinegar as a child growing up in West Virginia, when she would drink a mixture of vinegar and honey with her grandmother. Years later, she came across a recipe for raspberry vinegar in The Old Virginia Cook Book, from the late 1800s, a hand-me-down from her mother-in-law. She remembered the sweet and tart taste from her youth and decided to make a batch. Many shared batches later, MOTHER shrub drinking vinegars was born.”

For our weekly drink special, we’ve chosen Meredyth’s grapefruit-flavored shrub paired with fresh thyme and Prosecco. Join us for Saturday Brunch and a glass (or two) of The Grapefruit Mother at The Factory Café. You’ll also find a selection of MOTHER shrub flavors for sale at The Factory along with a delicious selection our of local, house made fare.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE GRAPEFRUIT MOTHER

THE GRAPEFRUIT MOTHER

2 tablespoons grapefruit shrub
4 drops maple syrup
4 ounces Prosecco
Fresh thyme

In a 6-ounce glass, combine grapefruit shrub and maple syrup. Fill glass with Prosecco and garnish with fresh thyme.

P.S.: If you can’t find a great shrub locally, The Kitchn has a simple recipe for a fruit shrub you can make at home.

BEVERAGES, BUBBLY, AND BRUNCH: THE GINGER

We’ve been playing and experimenting with cocktails for Saturday Brunch at The Factory. This week we’re highlighting one of my favorites, The Ginger, made with Tippleman’s Ginger Honey Syrup.

ALABAMA CHANIN – BEVERAGES, BUBBLY, AND BRUNCH: THE GINGER

Enjoy our recipe. Mix together:

5 ounces of your favorite Prosecco or Champagne
1 teaspoon Tippleman’s Ginger Honey Syrup
1 slice blood orange

Serve in our 6 oz Etched Glasses with an organic cotton Cocktail Napkin.
Enjoy.

See you at Saturday Brunch,
xoNatalie

Photos by Abraham Rowe

FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ: INTRODUCING FRANK STITT

Last week, we introduced pitmaster Rodney Scott and the care and expertise he executes in the “whole hog” process. His prowess for pork and bar-b-que balances quite nicely with Frank Stitt’s skillful translation of Southern ingredients. (I’ve witnessed it first-hand at an SFA Symposium.) Though their kitchens may look different from one another, both Rodney Scott and Frank Stitt understand the importance of local and sustainable ingredients. Both men have practiced the principle as a way of life—not as a trend.

As for Frank, we have professed our love for the man, his wife Pardis, and his work many times. Frank grew up near Florence, in Cullman, Alabama, but went away for college—eventually studying philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley and learning from Alice Waters in the kitchen of the legendary Chez Panisse. It was Waters who introduced Frank to food writer Richard Olney, who was in need of an assistant. From San Francisco, he and Olney traveled extensively, landing in the French countryside. Stitt spent time learning about regional French cuisine, harvesting grapes in the south of France, even meeting food legends like Julia Child and Simone Beck.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: INTRODUCING FRANK STITT

Eventually, Frank returned to the states with the idea to open his own restaurant in Alabama—bringing with him ideas and techniques he’d learned on his travels. His idea was to incorporate his love of French cooking techniques with southern ingredients. Though Birmingham was not yet a well-known food center, he felt that it had potential to become one. Frank first opened Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1982. He followed up with Bottega in 1988, Bottega Café in 1990, and Chez Fonfon in 2000.

It was at Bottega that Stitt met Pardis, who was managing the dining room. Pardis Stitt co-owns and manages front-of-the-house operations for all four restaurants and Frank credits her eye for detail as an essential component of their business and their philosophy of sourcing products thoughtfully and locally.

In 2004, Stitt released his first cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill. His second cookbook, Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair With Italian Food was released in 2009. Both remain frequently used staples in the Alabama Chanin library. In 2013, Highlands Bar and Grill was nominated (for the 5th consecutive year) by the James Beard Foundation for the Outstanding Restaurant Award. Stitt received the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2001, and was nominated in 2008 for Outstanding Chef. Chef Stitt received the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2006.

Since the beginning of his cooking career, Stitt has been a fervent believer in sustainability and the use of local produce. His grandparents were farmers, and he spent his childhood planting, harvesting, and eating homegrown vegetables. This personal experience, combined with the philosophies of teachers like Alice Waters, cemented his belief that it was possible, beneficial, and important to promote local and sustainable agriculture. He uses produce from area farmers at each of his restaurants, whenever possible. Today, Frank and Pardis are outspoken proponents of the Slow Food movement and Frank is a standing board member of the Jones Valley Teaching Farm. Their influence in the Slow Food community extends beyond the community and the region, to chefs nationwide.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: INTRODUCING FRANK STITT

We cannot exaggerate our excitement at seeing what these two food legends will create when they join forces. The Friends of the Café Dinner featuring Frank Stitt + Rodney Scott, and benefitting the Southern Foodways Alliance, will be held at the Factory Café on March 24, beginning at 6:30pm. This event sold out in record time, and we look forward to the special evening. If you missed out, we have a few more dinners in our 2016 line-up and suggest reserving your spot in advance: May 21st Spring Harvest Dinner and October 8th Friends of the Café Dinner with Sean Brock.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: INTRODUCING FRANK STITT

P.S.: Back in 2005, Robert Rausch photographed Frank (and his crew) as part of The Kitchen Project: People We Love with the Recipes They Love. The photo at top is one of our favorites of Frank—wearing one of our shirts.

All photos here from Robert Rausch and thanks to Angie Mosier.

FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ: INTRODUCING RODNEY SCOTT

On March 24th, we will be hosting our first Friends of the Café dinner for 2016 featuring Rodney Scott and Frank Stitt (see more about that below). At first glance, Frank and Rodney may seem like they exist on opposite ends of the spectrum:

Rodney is an absolute master of barbecue—what the uninitiated might consider “working man’s food.”

Frank is known for his French, Italian, and Mediterranean-inspired dishes and his lovely cookbooks.

However, they are of the same mind when it comes to making locally-sourced Slow Food and preserving southern food traditions.

Rodney Scott and his family have been serving pit-cooked barbecue from their Hemingway, South Carolina, restaurant for over 30 years. Scott’s Bar-B-Que was founded in 1972 by Ella and Roosevelt Scott, who still run the restaurant with their son Rodney serving as Pitmaster. Rodney, who cooked his first whole hog at age 11, is a perfectionist of his craft—but, by most descriptions, a laid back perfectionist.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: INTRODUCING RODNEY SCOTT

Like any good artist, Rodney places great importance on materials—not just methods. Barbecuing a whole hog, pit-style, takes an incredible amount of wood, which Rodney and his family cut themselves. They use oak, hickory, and pecan and keep a large reserve on their property. But keeping the Scotts cooking is a community effort; if a neighbor’s tree falls down, they always call the Scotts to cut it and cart it away.

The community is part of the entire Scott enterprise. The idea of “locally sourced” may be relatively new to many restaurants, but the Scotts have always sourced local pigs—and they rely on local labor and materials throughout their process. A local meat market butchers and delivers the hogs; Rodney works alongside local builders who weld together his custom burn barrels, fashioned from scrap metal piping, truck axles, and other repurposed materials.

These barrels are used to burn the wood down to coals, which are shoveled and spread evenly across his barbecue pit—over and over, throughout the entire evening it takes to roast a whole pig. The whole pigs are butterflied and laid out across a grate covering the pit. Rodney insists the smoke this pit creates is the key to the product. And though he humbly says that cooking a pig isn’t hard to do, those who have tasted Rodney Scott’s pulled pork know it takes a special talent to create such unique flavors.

In 2013, the Scotts’ wooden cookhouse burned to ashes two days before Thanksgiving. Rodney did not waste a moment, putting together burn barrels as soon as the fire was extinguished. He told our friend Billy Reid, “Yeah, the same day the pits burned, the fire department told me I could set them up in the back. I had four hogs left that didn’t get affected at all (by the fire) and I just went with that and I sold those until I ran out. You can’t stop. It’s like tripping and falling down. When you’re walking and you trip and fall, the first thing you do is you get back up. I felt like we fell and I just jumped right back into it and got started.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: INTRODUCING RODNEY SCOTT

Rodney’s brothers and sisters in southern cooking—The Fatback Collective—rallied, creating the Rodney Scott Bar-B-Que in Exile Tour to raise money for a rebuild. And so, he drove portable versions of his burn barrels from state to state, creating a loyal fan base along the way. With the funds raised, Rodney and the Collective built a new pit room—and the important work continues. (Joe York and the Southern Foodways Alliance made one of our all-time favorite documentaries, CUT/CHOP/COOK, about Rodney. Watch it here.)

More here on chef Frank Stitt.

Photos courtesy of Angie Mosier

FILM SCREENING @ THE FACTORY

If you follow along on the Journal, you know that Alabama Chanin is a long-time supporter of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Over the years, we have joined together for countless partnerships, events, and projects: Natalie barbequed dresses for their 2012 Symposium; we created an apron in their honor; we even supplied costumes for their collard green-themed opera. Their values supporting the preservation of Southern food culture and history align with our mission of cultural sustainability in our community. And we always love a good story.

Since the opening of The Factory in 2013, we’ve hosted eight dinners in our community space. Many of these dinners have been, in part, fundraisers for the SFA (along with Alabama Gulf Seafood, The Fatback Collective’s Fatback Fund, and Jones Valley Teaching Farm), featuring guest chefs from all over the South who, themselves, are also avid supporters and members of the SFA—Vivian Howard, Ashley Christensen, and Chris Hastings, to name a few.

On February 25th, we host a new type of event at The Factory: our first-ever film screening, showcasing some of our favorite SFA documentaries.

ALABAMA CHANIN - FILM SCREENING AT THE FACTORY 2

Along with a rich musical history, growing local food movement, and burgeoning restaurant scene, Florence is home to the University of North Alabama. UNA has an award-winning Public History Program that collaborates with the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area to help communities preserve and interpret their pasts. The heritage area was officially designated by Congress in 2009 and includes six counties of north Alabama’s Tennessee River water basin. We will host the evening in partnership with the University of North Alabama and its Public History Center. Caroline, a member of our media team (also a senior at UNA), is spearheading the project as part of her Public History program to exhibit the way that food has influenced southern culture and history.

As part of this partnership and with thanks to the Southern Foodways Alliance, Alabama Chanin will show a selection of short documentaries produced by filmmaker Joe York for the SFA. Joe is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker and a graduate of Auburn University with a B.A. in anthropology. He received an M.A. in Southern studies from the University of Mississippi and has produced over 30 short films for the SFA.

Join us, on Thursday, February 25, as we celebrate our region’s past, present, and future—and its great food—through film. Tickets are $5 and must be purchased in advance. Beverages and apéritifs will be available for purchase from The Factory Café. Doors open at 5pm. There will be a short introduction, followed by the films, lasting until 7:00pm.

P.S.: You can support the SFA at any time by becoming a member here.

FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER SERIES

I spent quite a lot of time over the holiday season digging into some of my favorite cookbooks. This was sparked on by several things:

  1. My son, Zach, and I started talking about what we want to accomplish with The Factory Café in 2016 and got side tracked talking (for a very, very long time) about our very, very all-time favorite cookbooks.
  2. We finally finished organizing our company library—including the growing cookbook section. (See the P.S. below about our organization system of choice.)
  3. I read La Mere Brazierwhich made me want to get out all my favorite cookbooks and start reading them all over again. (I adored Eugénie Brazier’s story of her childhood and rise to kitchen fame in the introduction.)
  4. I looked back on all the good work Alabama Chanin has been involved with in 2015. I’m super proud that I (and all of our team) got to work with great chefs like Angie Mosier, Lisa Donovan, Rob McDaniel, and Anne Quatrano (Queen Anne) at The Factory—and also with the likes of Cheetie Kumar, Anne Quatrano (again!), and Gabrielle Hamilton organized by Ashley Christenson for the Southern Foodways Alliance Femme Fatale Dinner at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville. (Yes, 2015 was a great year.)

With these delicious moments and meals in mind, we’re gearing up for our 2016 Friends of the Café Dinner Series. Some details are still being finalized, but there’s no doubt: it’s going to be another fantastic year.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER SERIES

We’re starting out of the gates on March 24th with Frank Stitt (Highlands Bar and Grill, Chez Fon Fon, Bottega, and Bottega Café in Birmingham, Alabama) and the famous (and infamous) barbecue pit master, Rodney Scott of Hemingway, South Carolina. This promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Frank has already sent along some menu ideas that include not only the gorgeously roasted meats from Rodney, but also foraged specialties like dandelion, henbit, asparagus shoots, and chickweed.

After that we’re hosting our first-ever Spring Harvest Dinner on May 21st, featuring local and regional harvests from farmers and purveyors alike—curated by our chef (and my son) Zach and our amazing team at The Factory Café.

In August (date TBD—most likely the second or third Thursday), our (now annual) Shindig Dinner—in conjunction with Billy Reid’s Shindig—features Shoals-native, Atlanta-based chef Adam Evans (formerly of The Optimist, now with Brezza Cucina in the Ponce City Market). This dinner becomes more popular every year, so be on the lookout for the event announcement.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER SERIES

Sean Brock (McCrady’s in Charleston, Husk in Charleston and Nashville, and Minero in Atlanta and Charleston) will be joining us for a Fall dinner on October 8th. Details will unfold as the season rolls into focus.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER SERIES

See you here. See you there. Happy 2016 from all of us @ The Factory and Alabama Chanin
xoNatalie

P.S.:  To organize our growing library, we wound up using Libib—one of the apps we originally investigated. It was one of the highlights of 2015 to see our library come to life, beautifully displayed in the design studio, organized perfectly by theme, with books standing straight and tall like little soldiers, ready to go out and change the world.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

New Years’ Eve is a big (if quiet) night for me. It’s been a long time since I was that girl that danced until sunrise. These days I’m much more into getting up at sunrise, writing, scheming, drinking coffee, and, on some days, simply cleaning house. That being said, I’ve very often had big changes happen in my life around the turn of the year—is it that way for everyone? One year I moved to Europe. Another, I moved back to the U.S. In 1981, I went into labor (although Zach stubbornly wasn’t born until days later). Like I said, big nights and life-changing events.

I took advantage of this past New Year’s Eve simply for that quiet time to reflect and plan. 2015 was a BIG year and, while 2016 is moving towards being another BIG year, I’m also planning to, well, plan less. Not that I want to DO less but that I want to do more of what I love to do in between the other things that I want to do.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

I work less but work more efficiently.
I make time to write and exercise and take pictures.
I cook more dinners at home from the great cookbooks that I love so much.
I spend more time walking dogs and jumping on our (new) trampoline.

That’s it.
xoNatalie

It’s a good thing that we’ve got such a great team at Alabama Chanin because this is what we have going on in the coming year:

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

January
The new year kicks off with our Build a Wardrobe program and the launch of the Maggie Dress pattern. Remember to share all your projects across social media using #theschoolofmaking and #buildawardrobe2016. (You can purchase Build a Wardrobe at any time throughout the year.)

The Factory has updated hours for 2016. We’re open Monday – Friday from 10am – 5pm and Saturdays from 10am – 3pm. Find what’s on the daily menu here and directions here.

In addition to new hours, we’re also moving our Sip + Sew to select Saturdays (January 30th, April 30th, July 30th, and October 29th) throughout the year. On January 30th, bring your sewing projects, have a glass of wine (or two), and work with friends.

The Alabama Chanin pop-up shop at Citizen Supply in Ponce City Market runs through January 31st. If you’re in the Atlanta area, pay us a visit and shop our exclusive collection, garments, accessories, and home goods.

On January 29th, Natalie travels to Athens, Georgia, home of the University of Georgia (and the studios of Rinne Allen, Rebecca Wood, and Susan Hable), for a lecture on “Design, Making, and Meaning”. The lecture will be held at 5pm and is open to the public.

February
Look for the launch of Collection #30 (if all goes as planned) with fresh styles and additions to our Home collection.

We are partnering with the University of North Alabama to launch a film screening at The Factory. Our first screening will be February 25th and will focus on Southern Foodways Alliance films made by documentary filmmaker Joe York.

March
In early March, we will have new A. Chanin styles to add to the list of our favorite staples. Also look for a new Bridal collection as wedding season approaches.

Our first 2016 Friends of the Café Dinner is Thursday, March 24th with acclaimed chefs Frank Stitt and Rodney Scott. The evening includes cocktails, four courses, and wine pairings. Frank and Rodney will prepare a one-of-a-kind collaborative menu, curated especially for the event.

The following day, March 25th, we host a Two-Hour Workshop at The Factory. Work with Natalie and our team to learn the basics of sewing and start on your own project.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

April
April is the month for our next Sip + Sew Saturday on April 30th. We will also introduce new DIY kits, plus our second garment for Build a Wardrobe: the Alabama Sweater Top.

The month closes with participation in Southern Makers in Montgomery, Alabama. Details to come.

May
Our first Studio Weekend Workshop takes place at The Factory from May 13 – 15. You’ll spend the weekend working with Natalie and our team on the project of your choice.

The Factory Café team is organizing our first-ever Spring Harvest Dinner on Saturday, May 21st. This dinner benefits our partnership with the non-profit organization Nest. Chef Zach Chanin is already planning the four-course meal with organic and locally-raised ingredients and wine pairings.

June
June will bring new products and projects for our A. Chanin machine-sewn line and our DIY collection.

Our annual Classic Studio Week Workshop at The Factory, scheduled for June 6 – June 10, is already filling up. Spend the week immersed in the Alabama Chanin philosophies and learn the garment creation process from our team.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

July
We’ve planned to launch additions to Cook + Dine, plus a few surprises throughout the month. Take a break and enjoy your summer vacation. Natalie and Maggie embark on their own European vacation for a few weeks.

The Walking Cape, the next in our Build a Wardrobe projects, releases at the beginning of July—in time to get it finished for cooler weather.

August
Natalie wraps up her travels in France, where she is teaching a week-long workshop at Chateau Dumas from August 6 – August 13. (We had an overwhelming response, and this workshop is already sold out.) Look for more on-the-road workshops coming soon.

Another Collection (#31) will be on the horizon soon.

Chef Adam Evans will helm our annual Shindig Kick-off Dinner at The Factory. The date for this event has not yet been announced, but we will let you know as soon as details are finalized (normally the second or third weekend in August).

September
As everyone returns to their regularly scheduled, post-summer programming, we will be gearing up for the holidays with more A. Chanin styles and a new DIY collection.

Natalie’s design fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts wraps up in September. Throughout the year on the Journal, she will be sharing insight and inspiration from talented creatives across many industries.

Be sure to join our mailing list to receive daily Journal updates.

ALABAMA CHANIN – LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016

October
On Saturday, the 8th of October, we will host our final Friends of the Café Dinner with chef Sean Brock.

October also begins the final quarter for Build a Wardrobe, with our Full Wrap Skirt as the project.

From now until the end of the year, we will be working on holiday projects, parties, promotions, and events, and already have great things in store.

November
A Fall Harvest Dinner (as follow-up to our Spring Harvest Dinner) is slated for November of 2016. Stay tuned for more information coming this spring.

The Factory will host a Studio Weekend Workshop (our final workshop of 2016) from November 11 – 13.

December
All-things Holiday…and before we know it, it’s 2017.

THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Looking back on 2015, it’s clear that this was the year of collaboration for Alabama Chanin. We expanded upon work that we have been creating with others for many years, added major new initiatives with new partners, and built upon our partnerships across all parts of our business. Partnership has always meant growth for Alabama Chanin—physical, fiscal, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional. As always, we want to thank each of you who made 2015 one of profound development—with more to come.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We introduced our Collection #29 that features brand new garment styles and stencils. Our design team drew inspiration from vintage books, patterns, and textiles to create unique silhouettes and colorways. The collection saw an extension of our hand painting technique—which we experimented with as part of our indigo dyeing processes. It also allowed us to introduce new techniques—like our triple-layered technique, new styles—like the versatile Half Skirt, and a new organic textile—French Terry.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEWALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We also updated and expanded on our line of Wardrobe Essentials, which includes a selection of both hand- and machine-sewn items that can be mixed and matched in a number of colors and classic silhouettes to fit your personal style and lifestyle. Use these as the basis for building your own sustainable wardrobe that will last you for many years.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEWALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

In July, Natalie and Maggie took a cross-country train trip on the California Zephyr to San Francisco as they traveled to the Alabama on Alabama exhibit hosted by Heath Ceramics at their Boiler Room venue. The month-long exhibit featured work from Alabama Chanin, Butch Anthony, John Henry Toney, and Rinne Allen. It also featured one of many pop-up shops that traveled across this country this year, including stops in Austin, New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Natalie was honored with an artist fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts that is allowing her to explore the source of creativity—and how each person’s approach may impact the final outcome. She has spoken to a wide range of artists on their creative processes, including Rinne Allen, Cathy Bailey of Heath Ceramics, Rosanne Cash, and Chef Anne Quatrano—with more to come in this series.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEWALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

The Factory Café has been working hard to grow its offerings with a diverse menu and a new beer and wine license. The café continues to bring the community inside Alabama Chanin to share meals or to make things at our Sip + Sew (with a new scheduling to come in 2016) and First + Third Tuesday sewing and socializing gatherings. We continued our popular Friends of the Café Dinner Series, which brought in Lisa Donovan and Angie Mosier to collaborate on a brunch to benefit Jones Valley Teaching Farm, Rob McDaniel of Springhouse Restaurant as part of a Piggy Bank fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance, and Anne Quatrano as part of the Oxford American/Southern Makers dinner. This series brings nourishment to us in so many ways—sharing meals with old friends and new, and raising money for worthy causes. Look for more events in the coming year with incredible talents like Rodney Scott, Frank Stitt, Sean Brock, and more.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEWALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Regionally, we have partnered with Little River Sock Mill to make our custom line of Alabama Chanin socks and DPM Fragrance in Mississippi for our Alabama Chanin Grapefruit + Watercress candles. On a larger scale, we were also able to expand our longest collaboration—with Heath Ceramics—with our Indigo and Bird’s Nest patterns. They allowed us to take our experimentations in our indigo dye house and translate those into our expanding collection. The line includes new designs in many variations of the color indigo and introduced our newest Bird’s Nest etched pattern.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We had a unique opportunity to work with legend (and heroine) Stella Ishii and her company 6397, turning overstock from their production processes into one-of-a-kind throws, unlike anything we have ever made before. Also, Alabama Chanin was honored to continue working with Patagonia on the Truth To Materials project, reclaiming discarded Patagonia jackets into warm patchwork scarves. The Patagonia Worn Wear Repair Truck made a stop at Alabama Chanin back in September to repair well-worn and well-loved garments for free.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Perhaps our most ambitious and wide-spanning collaboration has been with Nest, a non-profit that works with artisans across the world to build sustainable businesses with a positive social impact. Our partnership with Nest, formed under Alabama Chanin’s educational arm, The School of Making, hopes to reverse the trend of outsourced manufacturing that has impacted our region for decades. With Nest’s partnership, we are expanding our Building 14 machine-manufacturing division and implementing training and education at The Factory. As we move forward, we want to create new opportunities for those in our community to learn new techniques and update their skill sets—so that we may once again be a strong force in America’s textile industry.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

This year, we launched Alabama Studio Sewing + Patterns, which allows us to offer more new patterns than ever to home sewers. It provides instructions and suggestions on how to customize Alabama Chanin garments to fit your personal style or fit needs. We developed new and improved ways of delivering patterns to our DIY customers and have begun offering patterns never before sold to the public, like our Unisex T-Shirt and Natalie’s Apron.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

All of this brings us back to our growing and evolving partnership through The School of Making with makers in the global community. As we have grown the educational arm of our business, we have seized as many opportunities as possible to broaden the circle of participants in the making process. This year, that includes the introduction of Host a Party. Anyone who wants to gather 6 or more friends can organize their own Alabama Chanin-style sewing party. Guests get a 20% discount off of their DIY kit and the host receives a kit for free, in exchange for providing sewing instructions and hospitality.

As we move into the New Year, join us for our upcoming Build a Wardrobe series, which will build upon the format we established with Swatch of the Month—but will help you customize one (or more) garments in each quarter of 2016. We also have a full slate of workshops planned, including one at Chateau Dumas in France, as well as new products for Cook + Dine and A. Chanin. New collaborations are in the works, and the possibility of working on a new book is on the calendar in the coming months.

Keep up with us throughout the year by following the Journal and signing up for our mailing list and monthly Newsletter—and here’s to a prosperous New Year for all.

Thank you for following along with us,

Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

P.S. – The grids shown above are a gallery of all of the promotional postcards our team made for The Factory and various events and programs over the course of the year. We’re proud of the beautiful year we’ve had and are excited about what the new year holds.

Follow along on social media and on our Journal with the hashtags:
#theschoolofmaking
#swatchofthemonth
#buildawardrobe2016

THE HISTORY OF BLACK FRIDAY

For many Americans, “Black Friday” (the name given to the Friday after Thanksgiving) marks the beginning of the holiday season. It’s a day largely associated with fanatical shopping and savings. While some people dread the thought of Black Friday shopping, many get excited—even camping out at stores the night before to get the best deals. A lot of people scoff at Black Friday, but others have made it part of their family’s holiday traditions. How, exactly, did it begin? Truthfully, the day we now call Black Friday began as a car crash—or, really, a string of them.

Back in the 1950s, Philadelphia police officers created the term in reference to the number of traffic accidents caused by extra shopping traffic on the weekend after Thanksgiving. In fact, the two days after Thanksgiving were called Black Friday and Black Saturday by the traffic cops in the City of Brotherly Love, where the annual Army/Navy football game was played on that Saturday afternoon. The shopping traffic, in combination with the influx of people arriving for the football game, meant a decidedly unpleasant amount of roadway chaos and overtime for the officers; reportedly the police force even called in the police band to direct traffic. According to CNN, “It was a double-whammy. Traffic cops were required to work 12-hour shifts, no one could take off, and people would flood the sidewalks, parking lots, and streets.” City merchants adopted the term to describe the long lines of shoppers at their stores—and it became sort-of an inside joke for the people of Philly.

Many believe that Black Friday is named in reference to business profit; in other words, it’s the day that sales revenues move from being “in the red” to “in the black”, in accounting terms. But this usage only began in the early 1980s, once Black Friday had been embraced by retailers as an official shopping event. Stores are known to offer incredible bargains and many have begun opening in the wee hours of the morning. Recently, the trend among more aggressive retailers has been to open at midnight—or even stay open all night from Thursday evening.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF BLACK FRIDAY

Truthfully, there has been a bit of a Black Friday backlash in the last few years, particularly directed toward more aggressive retailers who demand much of their employees over the holiday weekend. While most companies cannot afford to close on such a big shopping day, outdoor equipment retailer REI plans to close all stores (and even its website) on Black Friday this year. Our store at The Factory will be open, but for reasonable hours from 10:00am – 5:00pm on Friday—and from 10:00am – 3:00pm for Small Business Saturday. And in an effort to reflect our genuine love for the holiday season, the café will also be open to promote gathering and fellowship. We want shoppers to visit with us, to slow down and enjoy the day—and to celebrate the beginning of a season filled with camaraderie, good food and drink, and real meaning.

We will be offering savings online and in-store for Black Friday and over the weekend. The truth is that, as a small business, we depend on the income that Black Friday and other holiday sales bring. It keeps our lights on; it helps us pay our employees; it helps us continue to design and produce great, long-lasting products. If you spend your money with us, you are supporting a growing community of makers. Your purchases provide work for our artisans and our team of employees. You are making a difference, and we appreciate every customer and every single purchase.

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE HISTORY OF BLACK FRIDAY

 

ON DESIGN: HARVESTING AMERICA

As many of you know, artist and photographer Rinne Allen has been a friend and collaborator for years. In our recent profile of Rinne, we told a little of her personal story and highlighted her incredible light drawings. In addition to her work with chef Hugh Acheson, magazines like Selvedge, and her own site Beauty Everyday (shared with Kristen Bach and Rebecca Wood), she has also worked with Alabama Chanin as a photographer for our Alabama Studio Book Series, our collections, our website, and our Journal.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGN: HARVESTING AMERICA

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ON DESIGN: WORKING FOR SOCIAL CHANGE

The design world is filled with innovators making products that can impact the human experience for good or for ill. The idea of designing and making with positive, spirited intention is growing far beyond its early influencers like Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio or the now defunct Architecture for Humanity—inspired by Mockbee’s project. Today, AIGA—one of the oldest and largest professional design organizations—has an entire program dedicated to Design for Good. Design leader John Bielenberg created the innovative and influential Project M that is always generating creative solutions to real design challenges. (See Project M’s Pie Lab in Greensboro, Alabama, for an example.)

One of our earliest “social” collaborations was with an organization called Goods of Conscience, whom we worked with on some of our first indigo dyeing experiments. This was quite a few years ago, when design and social change were words that weren’t often used together. It was one of the early examples in the textile industry we encountered that proved the two ideas could exist together and elevate one another.

All design has social impact, but good design focuses on people as fundamental to the products they make. Designers have a remarkable ability to influence how we communicate and with whom, what we think about, what is relevant, and how social and economic power balances might be restructured. When designing for the good, effective ideas, methods, and products can better a society and humanity. Nest, the non-profit organization we’ve partnered with through The School of Making, has fostered successful initiatives by building deep relationships with the global makers with whom they partner—collaboratively building sustainable solutions to the greatest needs within communities where artisan craft stands to create positive, long-lasting change.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGN: WORKING FOR SOCIAL CHANGE

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FRIENDS OF THE CAFE, SOUTHERN MAKERS, + OXFORD AMERICAN

When the company that became Alabama Chanin began years ago, we didn’t have (or didn’t know how to find) many kindred spirits—those who were enthusiastic about celebrating uniquely Southern craft traditions. Years later, we look around and see so many individuals and organizations who have taken up the banner for Southern craft, culture, foodways, and paths to the future. It is heartening to see individuals of all ages embracing what makes the South so unique and challenging us all to break new ground and connect the great things about the past into the present (and future).

The Oxford American has been around for over 20 years and has been an inspiration for our entire writing team. Their annual Southern Music Issue, which focuses each year on a different state (and includes an actual CD) continues to spotlight perhaps-forgotten artists alongside emerging musicians to give a complete picture of regional music. The Best of the South editions bring attention to new and established Southerners doing great work in areas from art to food to politics—using poetry, art, music, and spectacular narratives and essays. Natalie always finds a good story to bookmark or a quote or picture to share with the staff.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: SOUTHERN MAKERS + OXFORD AMERICAN DINNER

Southern Makers was founded in 2013 and is a two-day event celebrating Southern creativity and innovation by bringing together handpicked talent for one fantastic gathering. We have been honored to participate in these gatherings and have found other craftspeople who believe that the Slow Food, Slow Design, and maker movements are not trends, but reflections of Southern culture, past, present, and future. In past years, Southern Makers has taken place over one weekend in Montgomery, Alabama, but in 2016 it will expand to more cities in Alabama and beyond.

The Oxford American has partnered with Southern Makers as part of this growth. In an attempt to spread the word about Southern Makers and the makers who participate, the Oxford American site will feature a revolving selection of Southern Maker-approved goods in their online store and will occasionally profile the makers behind those goods. Additionally, the two are offering a Maker Box as a subscription odd-on. In the coming weeks, those who purchase an annual subscription to the Oxford American will be offered the opportunity to upgrade their subscription to include the Maker Box option. Subscribers will receive a box with a curated selection of goods from Southern Makers participants—including Alabama Chanin.

ALABAMA CHANIN – FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: SOUTHERN MAKERS + OXFORD AMERICAN DINNER

Together, The Oxford American, Southern Makers, and Alabama Chanin present the upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner with Atlanta-based Chef Anne Quatrano. The event will take place on Saturday, October 24 at The Factory Café. The cost of the event includes cocktails, dinner, and the very first Maker Boxes created by Oxford American and Southern Makers. Reservations must be made in advance.

WORN WEAR TRUCK IN THE HOUSE

Patagonia’s Worn Wear truck and team arrived in Alabama and to The Factory yesterday morning. They’ve set up in the parking lot and brought fabrics and machines to repair your existing gear. As a bonus, they’ve also brought a slew of jackets that they’re giving away so we can learn to make our own repairs.

WORN WEAR IN THE HOUSE (13)

I scored this black down jacket which is shown below before repairs and after.

WORN WEAR IN THE HOUSE (3)WORN WEAR IN THE HOUSE (1)

Of course, we added some Alabama Chanin touches. Lucky bonus: I found this tidily rolled dollar bill in the right pocket of my jacket.

WORN WEAR IN THE HOUSE (4)The Worn Wear team will be at The Factory today from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm (get there early to get your jacket). Zach and our team are cooking up tacos and more to celebrate.

Grab a jacket, a taco and a beer, and join come us…
xoNatalie

SUMMERLAND: ANNE QUATRANO

A year ago last week, I wrote about Anne Stiles Quatrano and her cookbook, Summerland on our Journal. I mentioned how we were waiting for the perfect time to host her for our Friends of the Café Dinner Series.

We are excited to (finally) announce that Anne will be joining us in October at The Factory, as the guest chef for our Friends of the Café Dinner. This dinner will celebrate a new collaboration between Southern Makers and the Oxford American Magazine. (Look for more about this special evening on our Journal coming soon.) The event will bring together makers, artisans, and creatives from all across the southeast region—like-minded individuals making the South an amazing place to work, eat, play, and create.

This week I will be making the four-hour drive from Florence to Atlanta to spend some time with Anne, as we work on a special collaboration for the upcoming dinner. I can’t wait.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SUMMERLAND: ANNE QUATRANO

So today, in honor of the exciting announcement, we revisit Anne and Summerland:

James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur Anne Quatrano is enthusiastic about food and community—passions I admire and write about often here on our Journal. Around her home-base of Atlanta, Georgia, she is referred to “Queen Anne” and is the city’s “undisputed Grande dame” of the farm-to-table movement according to The Local Palate. It makes sense; Anne owns and operates six of Atlanta’s most celebrated restaurants, including: Bacchanalia, Quinones at Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Provisions To Go, Floataway Café, and (newly-opened) Little Bacch.

Anne was raised in Connecticut and attended culinary school in California, where she met her husband and business partner, Clifford Harrison. After school, they relocated to the East Coast, but decided to journey to the South in the early 1990s. Anne had family from Georgia, and Atlanta seemed like the perfect Southern city to make their home-base, as it was becoming a cultural and culinary hub at the time. Although they work in Atlanta, they live on Summerland Farm near Cartersville, Georgia, a property that has been owned by Quatrano’s family for five generations. Anne makes the 80-mile roundtrip to commute to Atlanta every day, because she “can’t imagine living anywhere else.” Summerland is where she and Clifford grow and source food, host gatherings, and delve into true Southern hospitality.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SUMMERLAND: ANNE QUATRANO

Much to our delight, Anne has released a book of recipes celebrating the South, sustainable food, and life on the farm. Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating Southern Hospitality focuses on eating seasonally, and each chapter is associated with a specific month, kicking off with September—perfect timing. I’m looking forward to trying her October cocktail, the Mint Julep. Anne notes that “many people think of the mint julep as a spring or summer drink, associated in particular with the Kentucky Derby. But the brightness of the mint with the warmth of the bourbon is just as appropriate for the fall.”

Summerland is filled with beautiful photography of the farm and food, and features hundreds of mouth-watering recipes perfect for entertaining. When browsing through the book, I was jealous to see that Anne and Clifford have an Airstream trailer on the farm just beyond their peach orchard. (It has long been a dream of mine to own an Airstream—the possibilities are endless: home office, design space, or just a good spot to read a book and nap.) Anne serves cocktails to her guests from her Airstream and has even built a makeshift patio for the trailer from wooden pallets. She is resourceful in every way.

Anne’s recipes offer up ultimate comfort, and any home cook should be comfortable following her simple approaches for creating delicious menus. She even offers bread and base recipes in the back—a very useful resource.

ALABAMA CHANIN – SUMMERLAND: ANNE QUATRANO

You can purchase Summerland here. Reserve yours today, as our dinners have been selling out quickly. More to come in the following weeks about our upcoming dinner…

FRIENDS OF THE CAFE DINNER: ROB MCDANIEL

My initial introduction to up-and-coming Alabama chef Rob McDaniel came through my son, Zach. Years ago, Zach was traveling home from a Doo-Nanny celebration and stopped for brunch at a restaurant along Lake Martin in south Alabama. The unimposing atmosphere and spectacular meal he found at the SpringHouse restaurant had him hooked. He raved for weeks about his meal—and said that he wanted to return there someday to work and study with the executive chef, Rob. (And about a year later, he did.) Since that time, Chef Rob has become a friend to both our immediate family and to the Alabama Chanin family. In fact, we hosted a One-Day Workshop at Springhouse a few years ago.

Rob is a graduate of Auburn University, and honed his culinary skills at the New England Culinary Institute. He has worked alongside Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club, and with the folks at Jim ‘N Nicks BBQ. As a sous chef, Rob learned to apply his culinary know-how to southern food and its methodology. In 2009, he became executive chef at SpringHouse and began to create his own southern food story. Rob has been named a James Beard award semifinalist twice, and in 2014 SpringHouse was named one of the Best 100 Restaurants in the South by Southern Living magazine.

FRIENDS OF THE CAFE: ROB MCDANIEL

Be it food or fashion, we share similar views on sustainability, supporting local economies, and the art of taking things slow. We also share a love for the good things happening at the Southern Foodways Alliance. Rob will be creating the menu for our next “Friends of the Café” Piggy Bank Dinner at The Factory on August 27, benefitting the SFA. The dinner is also serving as the kick-off for Billy Reid’s annual Shindig here in the Shoals.

The menu for the evening includes field pea fritters, tomato gazpacho, grilled okra and eggplant, and Chilton county peaches. Needless to say, we are excited to kick off our dinner series once again.

For more information, visit our Events page.

CELEBRATE

Celebrate: v. 1. Publicly acknowledge (a significant or happy day or event) with a social gathering or enjoyable activity.

Independence: n. The fact or state of being free from outside control; not depending on another’s authority.

We hope that you take time this weekend to soak in the sweetness of independence that we’ve been granted and celebrate with friends, family, and your community. Make some treats, share the love.

In observance of Independence Day this year (and to allow the Alabama Chanin team time with their loved ones), The Factory Store and Café, the Alabama Chanin offices, and our production studios will be closed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 3-5, 2015.

xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

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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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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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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MAKESHIFT DINNER SERIES (PAST AND PRESENT)

Last year, we launched our Friends of the Café Dinner and Factory Chef Series, which was quickly established as part of our Makeshift initiative. As with most things here at Alabama Chanin, the idea evolved over time from an interesting idea into something bigger. In 2015, we are continuing to host Friends of the Café dinners, combined with a corresponding workshop series—a branch of The School of Making. The series will combine our celebration of slow, sustainable, and inventive food with our ongoing conversations on craft, design, food, making, and community.

The initial idea for this series was simple—each month, The Factory Café would feature seasonal dishes inspired by regional chefs (or restaurants) that shared our values of celebrating place, artisanal craftsmanship, and good food.

MAKESHIFT DINNER SERIES (PAST AND PRESENT)

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ON DESIGN: THE HISTORY OF STENCILING

Our On Design conversation in December focused on the practice of stenciling—including examples of designs throughout history and various techniques used over time. Stenciling is at the core of our Alabama Chanin collections; currently it is the sole means by which we transfer decorative patterns onto our fabrics. We have explored DIY stenciling in our Studio Book series, and are even offering a one-day workshop on the topic next year.

The use of stencils dates back over 37 thousand years, as evident in Neanderthal cave art found in Spain. These paintings are outlines of hand prints; it is theorized that Prehistoric man or woman would place their hand against the wall, and then blow finely crushed pigment around it. These stencils were accompanied by shapes from the natural world and daily life: animals, hunting scenes, and ritual all figure prominently.

ON DESIGN: THE HISTORY OF STENCILINGPhoto by Stephen Alvarez. Link through to see the color version and see more of his caving photos here.

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THE FATBACK PIG PROJECT

Being intimate with the obstacles of implementing Slow Design, we are inspired by how the Slow Food movement has successfully encouraged us to pay attention to the food we eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced. And, it’s beautiful—and even more inspiring—how the conversation has quickly moved beyond the concepts of sustainable farming and organic produce to sustainable livestock farming and animal husbandry. Will Harris of White Oak Pastures has been a leader in the crusade to raise livestock using traditional, multi-species grazing rotation, with no hormones and antibiotics since the mid-1990s.

It’s been said that it is not necessary to be a “pig” in order to raise one. These days, our friends at the Fatback Pig Project are proving just that by producing sustainable pork right here in the state of Alabama. This initiative, initially formed as a collaboration among Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q co-founder Nick Pihakis, chef Donald Link, John Michael Bodnar, and Mike Bodnar, is working to create a network of Fatback Farms—farms that produce heritage breeds of pigs.

THE FATBACK PIG PROJECT

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ON DESIGN: THE SCHOOL OF BAUHAUS + CREATIVE PROCESS

In October of 2014, and as an extension of our Makeshift initiative, we began a new series of events and conversations called On Design. This series explores art, design, makers, relationships, and how those who create can elevate craft in general. Natalie hosted our inaugural event, which was an exploration of the school of Bauhaus and the creative process. While it’s no substitute for being there in person, here are some of Natalie’s thoughts from the presentation. Feel free to share your own thoughts and join the conversation.

From Natalie:

When making plans to expand The Factory beyond a space used solely for manufacturing, I initially imagined a place for our workshops to be housed along with a kitchen for catering. We now have a beautiful space for working and making, as well as a kitchen that accidentally developed into a weekday, lunch-only café that works in-service to our store and design + manufacturing facility.

This space has further developed into a place for the community to meet over tables and food and design and conversations and (hopefully) more.

I grew up in the community of Central, which is about 10 miles west x northwest of The Factory, as the crow flies. I grew up in a time when there was very little art in the school curriculum, but there was still much making being done in the home. My grandmothers and grandfathers planted gardens, raised cows, put up tomatoes, made bread, tatted lace, and made their environments as beautiful as possible with the resources they had available. This work came to inspire my entire work history and the space known as The Factory today. I always said that I went to the art school of “Pinkie and Blue Boy.” Those were the only paintings that hung in our home as I was growing up. These, along with several other paintings, with names like Tyrolean Hof, and Jesus on the Rock, were always in the background, subtle inspiration for our daily lives.

ON DESIGN: THE SCHOOL OF BAUHAUS + CREATIVE PROCESS

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IN PROCESS: BUILDING 14 FINISHINGS LIBRARY

When we first opened our Bldg. 14 division in July of 2013, we learned quickly that there was still SO MUCH to learn. So, with the concept of The School of Making firmly in place, we began at the beginning to work on a set of finishing examples for our Bldg. 14 machine-made division. Like our Alabama Chanin Library of hand-embellished fabric swatches, this library documents the capabilities of the machines, folders, and attachments we have available in the factory and the endless variations and combinations that create everything from collars to hems and in between.

In 2015, and as we fold our MAKESHIFT programming into The School of Making, we foresee many more conversations about design, fashion, DIY, and community. And, of course, we will continue sharing the evolution of our manufacturing systems—including this new sort of maker’s library—to explore their part in the larger making process.

IN PROCESS: BUILDING 14 FINISHINGS LIBRARY

Photos from Abraham RoweAngie Mosier, and Rinne Allen

#makeshift2015

IN PROCESS: BUILDING 14 FINISHINGS LIBRARY

2014: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

With 2014 coming to a close and a brand new year upon us, it is time to reflect on all we’ve accomplished—slow in design, but rapid in growth—during the past year. But first and foremost, we want to thank each and every single one of our supporters, friends, collaborators, partners, and everyone who has made 2014 the success that it has been. Without you, none of this would be possible.

Organic Cotton

No feat was as challenging—or as rewarding—as our organic Alabama cotton adventure. From a seedling of an idea to the harvest of pillowcases full of beautiful, white cotton, the success of this project is one of our proudest achievements. Not only were we able to physically see the fruits of our labor, we were also able to see the rewards of sticking to our ideals: sustainability, community, education, open-source sharing, and transparency in method.

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OPEN FOR BUSINESS

The notion of the five-day workweek was introduced in the early 20th century in New England, as a way for Jewish workers to observe the Sabbath. This idea slowly spread to factories across the nation—mainly due to union demands. Department stores were also gaining popularity during the late 1800s and early 1900s and, once the 40-hour workweek became standard, more and more people began to spend their newly established weekends shopping in the city.

As weekend and holiday shopping became a popular pastime, big department stores began to construct window displays with the intent of luring shoppers inside. These creative and festive displays originally introduced the notion of “window shopping.”

Some of my favorite memories as a child were Saturdays with my grandparents and cousins on trips “to town,” window shopping, strolling the sidewalks, lunch at Trowbridge’s Ice Cream Bar, and catching up with friends and neighbors. When we began talking about a Saturday opening and lunch at The Factory, these childhood Saturday memories came to mind.

After a successful year of weekday commerce (our one year anniversary was November 18th), The Factory Store and Café are now open for business each Saturday. My daughter Maggie, who doesn’t yet know what it means to “work”, is excited to have the chance to help in the café. We are grateful to our staff who have rearranged their schedules to allow for Saturday opening, and to all of our guests who made a visit last Saturday. Please join us for brunch each and every Saturday for an ever-changing and evolving menu.

Thank you to everyone who made this first year a roaring success. We are grateful for each and every visit and hope to see you again soon.
xoNatalie

OUR HOURS:

The Factory Store
9:00am – 5:00pm Weekdays
10:00am – 4:00pm Saturdays

The Factory Café
11:00am – 2:00pm Monday – Saturday

 

ON DESIGN: THE EAMES + MID-CENTURY DESIGN

Join us this Monday at The Factory for the second lecture in our conversation series: On Design. Last month, Natalie spoke on the Bauhaus and the creative process. This month the conversation continues with a lecture about Charles and Ray Eames, husband and wife designers, and mid-century design. We’ve been finding inspiration from the timeless furniture, interior, and design details featured in Mid-Century Modern, by friend Bradley Quinn.

On Design is part of our ongoing Makeshift conversation about design, art, business, community, and much more. As one of our educational initiatives, the lecture series falls under the umbrella of The School of Making, a new arm of the Alabama Chanin Family of Businesses. We continue working to give The School of Making an active voice in our local community, our state, and the making community, at large. We hope you will join the conversation. Open-to-the-public with limited seating, the cost includes admission, participation, and a cup of The Factory blend coffee, a cold drink, or tea. Registration required.

On Design: The Eames + Mid-Century Design
Makeshift multimedia presentation by Natalie Chanin

November 10, 2014 10:30am – 11:30am
The Factory @ Alabama Chanin
462 Lane Drive, Florence, Alabama
Open-to-the-Public with Limited Seating
Registration Required $7.00

Look for more information on this and other upcoming Makeshift events on our Journal and/or join our mailing list. ON DESIGN: THE EAMES + MID-CENTURY DESIGN

FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ + JIM ‘N NICK’S BAR-B-Q

The t-shirts for Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q read, “You can smell our butts for miles”. This was certainly the case on Friday, October 10, as their giant meat smoker nestled up to Alabama Chanin’s front entry and sent out the signal for our final “Friends of the Cafe” dinner of 2014, featuring chef Drew Robinson and Nicholas Pihakis. The two were in town—along with members of the Fatback Collective—to provide lucky diners with an exclusive, elevated barbecue experience.

Good People Brewing Company provided craft beers for each course. The Birmingham, Alabama, based brewery showcased a few of their “Ales from the Heart of Dixie.” There may not be a dinner more currently in demand across the United States than beer and barbecue; on this night, we had the best of best.

FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ + JIM 'N NICK'S BAR-B-Q

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THE HISTORY OF WORKSHOPS (+ NEW GROUP RATES)

Quite a few years ago, I loaded up the car with scissors, needles, and an array of other sewing supplies and took a trip with a group of friends and fellow stitchers to a women’s prison facility (at their invitation, of course). My friend Kyes had organized this meeting in the hopes of developing a program within our Alabama Prison system for training life and job skills. The scissors wound up staying in the car for security reasons, but the experience was life changing. The intent of the day was to show these women—on their way out of prison and back into the “real” world—how to hand stitch and work together. We wanted to help them see that they could make something beautiful with their own two hands and, at the same time, perhaps challenge all of our preconceived notions about our neighbors and the world at large. It’s fair to say that I walked away from that day and the experience a different person. At that point, I’d begun to realize that education was going to be an important element in the life of my company. I wanted to help others understand how essential “living arts” are—and what it would mean if we lost connection to those skills and our shared history.

Slowly, Alabama Chanin added stitching workshops to our traveling trunk shows. We scheduled intimate one-off events that were as much about storytelling as they were stitching (as Blair Hobbs famously exemplified with her “granny panties” story years ago). We were creating a community through making. It was happening. And so we committed to this enterprise of creating communities for makers, of building workshops both here at The Factory and across the globe. Alabama Chanin and our customers have become part of one another’s lives in ways I never imagined; we’ve made lifelong friends, helped create wedding gowns, hosted classrooms of college students, and traveled across the country. I’ve met some of my personal heroes through sharing ideas on making and sustainability.

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FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ DINNER FEATURING JIM ‘N NICK’S BAR-B-Q

Join us at The Factory on October 10th for the last “Friends of the Café” Dinner of the year, a fundraiser for the Fatback Collective’s Fatback Fund, featuring Drew Robinson and Nicholas Pihakis of Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q.

The evening will include cocktails and a four-course meal with craft beer pairings. The menu features regionally and sustainably-sourced fare, like Pickled Gulf Shrimp, Fatback Pig Project Porchetta and White Oak Pastures Guinea Hens with vegetables from the Jones Valley Teaching Farm.

Friday, October 10, 2014 6:30  Cocktails 7:30  Dinner

$88 per person (includes drinks and dinner) Purchase tickets here. Pre-paid reservations must be made in advance online or in-store. Casual attire

Alabama Chanin @ The Factory 462 Lane Drive Florence, AL 35630

For more information, contact Alabama Chanin: +1.256.760.1090

PICTURES TAKE YOU PLACES | THE FACTORY

Him and Her

Phillip March Jones says, “Seeing is everything. But it takes practice.” Expanding our collaboration with Phillip, we asked him to take a look around our studio as part of a new and ongoing travel series—and an extension of his daily photo blog Pictures Take You Places.

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“During my last trip to Florence, Natalie asked me to take some pictures of the re-imagined Factory with its new shop, café, and production facility. I spent an afternoon wandering around the building, amazed at what they had accomplished but also bewildered by this seemingly impossible marriage between a literal factory and the sophisticated, comfortable aesthetic that is Alabama Chanin. Chandeliers hang below fluorescent tubes, soft pieces of dyed cloth are hung to dry against corrugated metal walls, and plant shadows grow over the cracks in the asphalt. I love the idea of this great big metal building in Alabama, all dressed up and ready to go.”

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ON DESIGN: A MAKESHIFT CONVERSATION SERIES

Beginning  October 13th, 2014 and as part of our ongoing Makeshift conversation, Alabama Chanin will host a series of discussions and lectures about design, art, business, community, and plenty of other topics. Events will be held at the Factory on the second Monday of each month. The format will shift, depending on topic and presenter, but you can look forward to informal talks, multi-media presentations, and hands-on workshops.

Makeshift began over three years ago as a conversation about design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—how they intersect and how each discipline elevates the others. Since its beginnings, we have expanded the conversation, discussing how making in groups can build relationships and communities, all the while examining what the design community can learn from the slow food movement.

ON DESIGN: A MAKESHIFT CONVERSATION SERIES

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FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ, SOUTHERN FOODWAYS, AND ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

Alabama Chanin’s Friends of the Café Piggy Bank Dinner for Southern Foodways Alliance, featuring Ashley Christensen, was a singing success last Thursday. Not only did the ingredients sing on the plate, but our diners have adopted the habit of singing to our featured chefs. This time, Ashley Christensen was serenaded with a round of Happy Birthday after an enthusiastic round of applause for her inventive take on Southern cuisine.

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THE HEART: JULIEN ARCHER

I met Julien Archer when he was only sixteen, in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I was leading a workshop at the Visual Arts Center there. He was a creative and enterprising sophomore in high school who had already started a screen-printing business (and had designed shirts for the venue where we were holding the event).  A few years later, I was reintroduced to Julien at our first Makeshift event in New York City. He was living there at the time and expressed that he was ready for a change. So, I laughingly replied, “Move to Alabama!”

The two of us kept in touch and, several months later, he attended a Studio Weekend workshop at The Factory with his mother (and sometimes Alabama Chanin Trunk Show hostess). During that weekend, I had dinner with the two of them and offered Julien a three-month apprenticeship here in Alabama. Surprisingly, he accepted and – two years later – he is still here. A prolific member of our design team, he also works as a pattern maker and helps manage operations at Building 14.

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FRIENDS OF THE CAFÉ, SOUTHERN FOODWAYS, AND VIVIAN HOWARD

Last Friday night, we hosted our second “Friends of the Café” dinner, which also served as our first Piggy Bank Dinner fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA). Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer restaurant and the Peabody-award winning television series A Chef’s Life traveled to The Factory from North Carolina for an evening of delicious food, cocktails, much laughter and lively conversation, and music, performed by friend and songbird, Shonna Tucker.

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Vivian’s show, A Chef’s Life, focuses on regional food traditions and explores classic Southern ingredients. Friday’s dinner highlighted the story of our own local farmers and their fresh ingredients, with Vivian’s Eastern Carolina twist.  Each course was accompanied by a wine pairing, chosen by Harry Root (Bacchus Incarnate) of Grassroots Wine.

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I love what Christi Britten—one of our dinner guests and the author of Dirt Platewrites in her review of the evening:

Pretty much, Vivian Howard gives a damn. She gives a damn how the food she serves is raised, prepared, cooked, presented, eaten, enjoyed, and thought about. She gives a damn about her community’s food culture and wants to suck up as much knowledge as she can about where their food comes from and how to make it. She gives a damn about the farmers that work hard every single day to feed a community as well as their families.

She has, with her own hands, butchered whole animals to use from snout to tail in her restaurant. She speaks with a tone of reverence and authority over the food she creates. And basically she is a food medium. She is confident, yet humble and puts us all into a place where we can visualize the care taken to prepare what we put in our mouths.

This farm to table dinner celebrated local farms and Southern food culture by bringing together the summer bounty into one meal among a diverse community of eaters.

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IN PROCESS: OUR NATURAL DYE HOUSE

The process of starting our own dye house began with an exploration into the materials and methods that involve the chemistry of dyeing. That exploration began with indigo.

In its natural form, indigo is a tropical, leafy shrub and a member of the legume family, and a version of the plant is native to our own Alabama climate. The wide range of blue shades that this ancient plant can produce as a dye has made it one of the most popular (and successful) dye plants throughout history (and present day).

Alabama Chanin has experimented with indigo and other natural dyes for years, and recently set up two dye vats in-house, that we can better produce our classic Indigo colors here at The Factory. Diane, our head seamstress (and now head dye master), is overseeing the project with the assistance of Maggie, one of our studio team members. The vats were set up with the help of Zee Boudreaux — a friend we met during our time at Penland — who has spent time studying indigo and other natural dyes.

Zee worked here in our studio with Diane and Maggie during our beginning phase and generously answered a few questions for us about indigo and his experiences with natural dyeing.

AC: How did you first become involved with natural dyes?

ZB: In 1995, I was traveling and met a weaver/dyer who introduced me to textiles; she wasn’t using natural dyes, but my established environmental awareness and love for traditional processes led me to look for a natural dye class. I found natural dyer Cheryl Kolander and attended one of her workshops. I even apprenticed with Cheryl after the workshop. Seeing natural color come out of the dye pot for the first time was all it took to lead me down this path.

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DIANE’S NATURAL DYE HOUSE

About four years ago (to my dismay), Diane Hall, our head seamstress and studio directress, turned in her five-year notice. However, as her retirement grows closer, it has become evident to all of us at the studio that we will continue to see her around The Factory after her “official” retirement.

Diane has developed a passion for natural dyeing—in addition to sewing, pattern making, etc. She first encountered natural dyeing with indigo during our workshop at Shakerag in 2012. Her experience there with the renowned dyer Michel Garcia left a lasting impression. Last summer, while our entire company was writing a 10-year vision, Diane wrote that she envisioned a natural dye house here at The Factory and volunteered herself as the head dye master after her retirement.

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After that simple act of writing our vision, the dye house miraculously began to take shape.

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EARTH DAY + RECYCLING

“Don’t throw anything away. Away is not far from you.”

The quote above hangs in our studio as a reminder that each action we take (no matter how big or small) impacts our environment. Designed by our friend Robert Rausch a few years ago, the simple quote was stamped on an event invite as a means to provoke thought about what people use and, consequently, throw away each day. At Alabama Chanin, we are taking strides to become a zero waste company—where the results of one production process become the fuel for another. It is our continuing goal to maintain a well-rounded, (w)holistic company that revolves around a central theme: sustainability of culture, environment, and community.

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Not only do we reuse and recycle each scrap of fabric, but we also participate in other sustainable and environmental practices on a daily basis. We recycle paper and cardboard, collect and save glass in the café, compost all food waste, repurpose scrap paper, plant trees, and are even starting a garden at The Factory. Waste not, want not.

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APRIL PLAYLIST 2014: AROUND THE STUDIO

For April’s playlist, we’ve gathered some of our favorite songs to share with you. These artists are on constant rotation at the studio (and in the store and café), and serve as daily inspiration for us as we work.

We believe these musicians are producing beautiful work and we know you will love them as much as we do:

St. Paul & the Broken Bones – “Call Me”
A new favorite, from their recently released (debut) album, Half the City. (In case you aren’t familiar, St. Paul and The Broken Bones is a soulful band, recalling the sounds that put Muscle Shoals on the map.)

Pine Hill Haints – “How Much Poison Does It Take”
Alabama “ghost music,” from one of the longest-running bands of the Shoals.

Rosanne Cash – “A Feather’s Not a Bird”
The beautifully- composed opening song on Rosanne’s latest record, which follows her from Florence, Alabama, to Arkansas. In it, she sings of “going down to Florence, just to learn to love the thread.” Read more about Rosanne and The River and The Thread here.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “Alabama Pines”
This song by Shoals native Jason Isbell has become an unofficial Alabama anthem.

Lauderdale – “Dressed Like the Devil”
Southern rock with strong Americana influences, Lauderdale has been making music in the Shoals for nearly a decade.

Dylan LeBlanc – “If The Creek Don’t Rise”
Singer/songwriter Dylan LeBlanc collaborated with music legend Emmylou Harris on this beautifully haunting track.

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JACK-O-LANTERN FARM + COMMUNITY-SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE

As most of you know, Alabama Chanin strives to support local farmers whenever possible—especially now that we’ve opened The Factory Café and are sourcing local and organic ingredients for all of our dishes. Our kitchen manager, Arron, has built a strong relationship with our friends Steve and Connie Carpenter, who operate nearby Jack-O-Lantern Farm. Each week, Steve delivers the freshest local produce to our kitchen, which Arron incorporates into our seasonal menus. Steve also picks up bags our Factory Blend Coffee and house made granola that he then sells at his farm, just across the river. Watching Arron and Steve collaborate these past few months has been a wonderful (and educational) experience.

Jack-O-Lantern Farm is getting ready to launch their 2014 Community-Supported Agriculture box program—and The Factory will be a pick-up location beginning Friday, May 16.

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TWO-HOUR WORKSHOP + AFTERNOON TEA

Our first workshop of the year is this Friday at The Factory in Florence. It’s not too late to register and spend the afternoon with Natalie and the Alabama Chanin team. Registration closes at noon on Wednesday, February 26.

This workshop is suited to beginner and experienced sewers alike. Work with Natalie and our Alabama Chanin DIY Kits to create a project from our Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. DIY Kit options for this workshop include one of the following projects: scarf, T-shirt, set of four tea towels, set of four placemats, baby blanket, onesie, apron, or journal.

After the workshop, join us in The Factory Café for Afternoon Tea (a selection of gourmet sandwiches, savory pastries, Southern-inspired sweets, and an assortment of teas and coffees). The cost of the workshop includes materials, instruction, afternoon tea, stories, and laughter.

Friday, February 28, 2014
1:30 pm – 4:30 pm

The Factory
462 Lane Drive
Florence, AL 35630

THE HEART: JENNIFER RAUSCH

Shortly after my move from New York to Alabama, I was sitting alone at our local Italian restaurant, reading magazines. After a while, a couple who’d been sitting across the room approached and introduced themselves to me. That couple, Jennifer and Robert Rausch, quickly became fixtures in my life; they’ve remained integral members of my Alabama family since that day.

These days, you can find Jennifer overseeing the day-to-day operations of the new flagship store and café at The Factory. She agreed to work with us at just the right time. The company was growing and I needed someone I could trust to help me make decisions that were thoughtful and confident. Growing a company can make one feel vulnerable; having an old friend there for support (especially one with an incredible work ethic) put me a bit more at ease.

She moves effortlessly between tasks and has a real desire to connect with everyone who walks through our door. This genuine approach, coupled with her wicked, infectious laugh, drew me to her initially and continues to make me smile, calm me, and draw me out of my shell when I become too introspective. She is practical and doesn’t hesitate to offer her opinion, even to play devil’s advocate in tough situations.

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SNOW DAY (IN NORTH ALABAMA)

Due to icy roads and winter weather, Alabama Chanin and The Factory will be closed today.

We are asking all of our friends, family, and team members to stay safe, stay warm, and to make snow cream (at home).
xoNatalie

AN ALABAMA CHANIN FAMILY OF BUSINESSES

Those of you who have followed Alabama Chanin for years know that this company was built around the concepts of expert craftsmanship, beauty, function, and utility. Focusing on using sustainable, organic, and local materials and labor, we have committed ourselves to producing quality products made in the USA.

As we grew, the company developed a life of its own that emerged as a multi-fold organization—while staying true to the original mission and business model. We encouraged organic growth, without forcing ourselves to fit into a traditional mold. We recently began referring to what has emerged as the “Alabama Chanin Family of Businesses”—a heartfelt nod to the Zingerman’s approach and their Community of Businesses. Each of our divisions has individual specialties, yet all fall under the same mission established for Alabama Chanin. Our philosophy guides each arm and we all work together toward the same goal: creating beautiful products in sustainable ways that enrich our customers, community, and co-workers.

From our mission statement:

At Alabama Chanin, we preserve traditions of community, design, producing, and living arts by examining work and life through the act of storytelling, photography, education, and making.

Thoughtful design. Responsible production. Good business. Quality that lasts.

A guide to our growing family of businesses:

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Alabama Chanin—the heart and head of our family of businesses—began early in 2000 with the creation of hand-sewn garments made from cotton jersey fabric—and retains the same intention and integrity today. Heirloom pieces are made from 100% organic cotton, sewn by hand through a group of talented artisans who each run their own business, in their own time, and in their own way. The company strives to maintain sustainable practices—across its disciplines—and create sustainable products, holding ourselves to the highest standards for quality.
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A MONTH IN INSTAGRAM: JANUARY 2014

It’s hard to believe January is almost over. It has been an incredible month here at The Factory (and beyond), and I am looking forward to what the rest of 2014 brings…
xoNatalie

THE YEAR AHEAD

As 2013 was a great year for Alabama Chanin—one full of new projects, studio expansions, awards, good times with friends, travel, workshops, and bringing ideas and visions to full fruition—we are equally excited about the upcoming events for 2014 (stay up-to-date by subscribing to our mailing list).

Our newest Collection will launch online at the end of this month, along with our line of machine-sewn garments under the label A. Chanin.

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2013: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Looking back at what we have accomplished this year at Alabama Chanin, I feel nothing short of overwhelmed. With the help of many friends, Alabama Chanin has grown in ways I only imagined. Our company is the best it has ever been, and will only get better. Over the summer, and on the heels of Camp Bacon at Zingerman’s, I wrote a 10 year vision for the company—a peek into what I wanted for the future of our family of businesses. Many of the things I envisioned happening years from now were accomplished by this year’s end, with much hard work, dedication, occasional pains of labor, trial and error, and the true grit and determination of our team. All this growth and success doesn’t come from nowhere, after all.

It is hard to believe that so much has happened in the past year. While we are busy wrapping up our year-end Inventory Sale here at The Factory, it is nice to take the time to reflect on all the projects, people, and places we have experienced in just twelve incredible months.

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