Friday, September 30, 2011

Southern Living Taste of Charleston, SC coming up!

The Yum Diary is hitting the big Southern Living Taste of Charleston next Saturday and Sunday, October 8 + 9, 2011 at Boone Hall Plantation in Charleston, SC! (#SLTOC @Southern_Living)

I'm so pumped about the restaurant scene in Columbia, SC; over a dozen chefs make it a priority to buy from small, sustainable local farms on a regular basis. This farm-to-table movement is larger in Charleston thanks to the great tourism revenue down there, so I always enjoy checking out the Lowcountry dining scene to see what cool ingredients are being specially grown for restaurants.

I went to Boone Hall on a lark with my dear friend, filmmaker & food writer Chrissy Loader (@LemonadePie on Twittah), in '09 and fell in love with it. Tis a rad place to visit. 

Boone Hall is still family owned, and it's been "continuously growing and producing crops for over 320 years."

 Beautiful grounds, not too manicured...

 Cool old farm equipment in pristine-ish condition...

 Hidden paths...

A groovy motorized surrey tour through the woods and pastures...

And one of the longest, most beautiful allees of live oak trees in all the land.

The allee is actually on the National Register of Historic Places. Cool, right?

I am quite stoked. (Thank you to Southern Living for the complimentary ticket!) Here are some press images from prior Taste of Charleston events:

Want more info? Go here:

If you go, hit me up on Twitter and let's hang out! The Shop Tart is going too, so you can bet that we will be

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Basil walnut pesto! Harvest time. Slow Food potluck today!

Now that it's gotten cooler here in Columbia, South Carolina, I'm ready to harvest most of my sweet Genovese basil!

I've been cutting the flowering tops and seeds off of my plants for months, encouraging them to get bushy and full instead of leggy and gone to seed.

The tops make an easy, fragrant base for small floral arrangements, and the leaves will stay fresh in water for well beyond a few days in most cases.

I've been making these with zinnias from my garden all summer to put on the new communal bar table at Motor Supply Company Bistro in the Vista, in fact!

Just in time to make pesto for the fun, casual Slow Food Columbia potluck at the Indie Grits Festival launch party this afternoon, 4-7pm at Five Points Pub!

Our chapter of Slow Food USA is contributing potluck dishes to the party as part of the national "$5 Challenge" initiative to "Take Back the Value Meal."

Here's a link to a recent Washington Post piece featuring a Q + A on the $5 Challenge with Slow Food USA President Joel Viertel:

Slow Food Columbia was pretty stoked to get the whole first page of the Life & Style section of The State newspaper recently, thanks to Slow Food-friendly writer Susan Ardis! Did you see it?

Notably, Slow Food Columbia members and friends try hard to adhere to Slow Food standards when cooking potluck meals for our events. The Washington Post piece sums it up nicely:

"It needs to fit the mission of slow food, which the group defines as 'food that is good for those who eat it, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet.' As Viertel told me, 'We want to challenge people to cook slow food for the price of fast food."

The way we loosely define "Good, Clean and Fair" food when we're doing potlucks at Slow Food Columbia -- a volunteer-run nonprofit -- is that each dish should contain at least one major ingredient that was locally sourced and, ideally, produced sustainably and/or humanely.

There's an amazing sustainable food scene growing here in South Carolina, so it gets easier and more economical to cook this way each time a farmer or grocery store decides to walk the walk and spend the extra time and money required to be more green, eco-friendly, environmentally sound, sustainable, organic, or however you like to word it.

My favorite pesto recipe comes from The Silver Spoon cookbook. It's simple and super flexible. Good news considering I am a chronic recipe fudger.

Pesto is wonderful in particular for recipe fudgers, as the ratios are very forgiving should you shift them in a wanton fashion.

My Rather Inexact Walnut Basil Pesto Recipe
Makes a sh*tload + freezes beautifully

I make 4 batches at once, based loosely on the above recipe.Then I freeze 1/2 cup - 1 cup at a time in Ziploc freezer bags or freezer-safe jelly jars.

TOASTED WALNUTS, chopped (or any nuts you want: pine nuts, pistachios, brazil nuts, pecans, whatever!)
First, I toast 3-4 cups of whole walnuts, which yields 2 cups of coarsely chopped walnuts. Toasting releases their oils, making them more delicious and delightful. It also makes them more susceptible to rancidity, so use them soon after toasting! Put them in the food-processor and jam down those nuts coarsely.

Then I use the Cuisinart and shred a big hunk of good parmesan cheese to yield 3-4 measured cups. The recipe says to use a lot of parm, but I am a little more conservative and end up using half that. Rosewood Market, Columbia's only independently owned natural foods store and sustainable foods deli (hello, lemon-butter wild salmon on Mondays!) has good prices on better-than-decent Argentine Parmesan, which is way cheaper than the admittedly superior Parmigiano Reggiano.

The better quality the olive oil, the tastier everything will be. 3 cups or so for a 4x batch. This is proven fact. The crummy olive oil at big-box groceries is nowhere near as floral, green, and delightful as high-end olive oil. THAT SAID, I'm trying to stick to the Slow Food $5 Challenge, so I'm going with the big tin of Earth Fare organic EVOO. It's just fine.

SALT, kosher or sea salt + PEPPER, fresh ground
A good pinch of each
Iodized salt doesn't hold one tiny candle to the subtle majesty of kosher salt. Kosher salt is also cheap as can be! I learned from the Zuni Cafe cookbook (SF institution of New Mediterranean cuisine) that kosher salt is less potent per portion than other salts, so adjust accordingly. Sea salt is lovely, too, but stronger.

100-150 leaves, e.g. 12-15 good, loose handfuls
Basil is ridiculously expensive in stores. Happily, it is ridiculously easy to grow giant bushes of it, given that you have a lot of regular sun and are willing to water it every few days during dry spells. I harvest not by pulling or cutting the whole plant; instead, I snip the tops for arrangements and grab bunches of leaves from the sides and pull, leaving the small, baby leaves that are just peeking out of the stem joints to grow into more delightful basil for my table.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New York City & Columbia South Carolina -- Not So Different After All

Earlier this year, my brilliant business partner, Debi Schadel, started forwarding me a Seth Godin blog post every so often -- when the content serendipitously matched a macro dialogue we had just been having on best practices, client relations management, etc.

Sitting by the pool during a recent strategy meeting with one of our fiercest new interns, Kat Baxter -- a big proponent of reading Seth's Blog -- I was finally convinced to subscribe to Seth's daily posts of macro-view business wisdom.

Today's post on Seth's Blog is great, in particular, not just because of its graceful nod toward 9/11, but mainly because the golden glow emanating from the city of Columbia, SC is a hot topic right now in just about every conversational circle I encounter.

Excerpt from

"I got to thinking about why New York City attracts so many tourists, more than just about any city in the world. Not because of natural wonders or even outdoor sports activities. It might be because:..."

[And then Seth lists a litany of super cool things about NYC. Click that link and read the whole list! It is quite terrific. After the list, he continues:]

"...The thing is, here can be anywhere. There are New Yorks going on in towns large and small, in companies big and tiny and in families that support and respect at the same time they embrace and encourage difference..."

"...But now more than ever, I believe we have an obligation to stand up, stand out and to do work that matters. Wherever you are, there's an opportunity to be different, with respect."
Think about this in relation to your city, especially if you happen to be one of my South Carolinian brethren.

Image courtesy
Are you standing up and standing out? A lot of you really, really are. And it's making a huge difference in quality of life for everyone around you.

I am so inspired by my colleagues, friends, family, clients, mentors and heroes on a daily basis. Something Great is happening. And we're all a part of it.

So what do we do about getting that Confederate battle flag off of the S.C. State House grounds? It's holding up economic progress for our city, while convention after convention declines Columbia as a location because of the flag.

Seriously, y'all. What can we do?


Friday, September 9, 2011

Captain D's into Captain D-Licious

Recently, I was hard at work on a project with no time to think about eating. My brother, considerate fellow that he is, brought home extra lunch with me in mind.

He does that sometimes, without asking. It is super cool.

On this particular day, he brought a fried seafood platter from Captain D's.

Now, I am a food snob for sure, so I was like this:


However, I was also starving, having worked through breakfast and now lunch.

Remembering a trick The Shop Tart and I had pulled a couple of times (once for a party with some fried risotto, and once at the beach with some venison burger), I went to the yard and got some shiso leaf.

It's a weird, basily, minty herb they put on spicy tuna rolls out in California (which is why I grow it here, cause I want to be fancy, y'all).

So I figure it's good with anything else you'd put on a sushi roll, like Sriracha chili sauce, tamari/soy sauce, and spicy mayo. (Vegan chipotle mayo from Rosewood Market, in fact.)

Which, let's face it, are all such great condiments anyway that you could put them on a donkey foot and it would be a terrific snack.

So, funny thing: contemplating making donkey foot* sushi  suddenly made the idea of Captain D's sushi bites really rather palatable in comparison.

So I went for it.

And indeed, they weren't bad!

Et voila, the "Captain D's into D-Licious lunch" was born.

*No offense, lil donkey.

P.S. Donkeys = Democrats. Obvi I've started thinking about election season 2012! I'm sticking with my man Obama.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Homemade French fries, mandolin-style!

Um, just found my Borner mandolin slicer. And I have homemade ketchup from last week. And Wil-Moore ribeye steaks. And it's a national holiday.