We’ll be open on Memorial Day for brunch 10am – 3pm, and we’ll be closed for dinner. Have a great weekend!
Meet Blanton’s Single Barrel, our May Whiskey of the Month! The original single barrel bourbon, Blanton’s. Begun at Ancient Age Distillery (Now Buffalo Trace) by Elmer T. Lee, Colonel Blanton’s apprentice, when he decided to begin bottling bourbon from a special warehouse his mentor had discovered aged whiskey better than any other spot on the grounds. Even within that special warehouse, the lots in the center would age better still. Colonel H. Blanton would entertain friends with barrel selections from this special spot, and the logical result was to begin bottling a premium bourbon selected from the very best barrels and bottling them from single barrels, rather than blending lots as was the standard practice until that time.
Blanton’s is a complex, smooth bourbon with strong vanilla and caramel aromas, smoky wood and cocoa notes, a smooth, honeyed palate, and rich black tea on the finish, with spicebox notes both on the nose and throughout the palate.
Every environmentally aware chef can surely cite an “aha!” moment, when we first realized the awesome consequences of our daily buying decisions, which inevitably leads us down the road less traveled, that being the way in which we think first of our stewardship responsibilities over the land and sea, before profit. Most people don’t know this about chefs, but besides being (hopefully) creative, we’re numbers folks. We have to sweat the numbers – what we pay, what you pay, what it costs us to turn the food we buy into something that’s compelling to you, from what’s on your plate to the culinary and service skills that got it there, and the physical venue in which to serve it. Yet, the decision to travel down the path of sustainability isn’t a difficult one. In fact, once you’ve had the “aha” moment, it is the only choice.
Most of us that have been conscious of our environmental decisions for many years can cite multiple “aha” moments, and three of my most significant own recent “aha” moments have come via my association with Chef’s Collaborative and relate to sustainable seafood, from the Gulf Coast Shrimp industry to the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fishermen’s Shareholders Alliance and the importance of supporting good players in bad industries, to the plight of the Menhaden.
Most recently I’ve experienced an “aha” moment surrounding the concept of “trash fish,” and yet again the inspiration is Chef’s Collaborative. I first heard the term used a little bit differently – “garbage fish” many years back and the cook who used the term to refer to some monkfish (since over-fished and now recovering) got dressed down hard for referring to food as garbage. Yet, the term persists as many fish species are not regarded as marketable (even lobster, a long, long time ago was mostly used to feed the labor) even though they are packed with nutrition not to mention delicious. Personally I’d love to see humanity’s history and experience with the ocean inform us to the ends that we begin to value everything the ocean can give us, and not just a few “hot” species. Over the years we’ve seen once-abundant U.S. cod stocks plummet, and many other once-disregarded species such as Patagonian toothfish a.k.a. Chilean sea bass, redfish, monkfish, and skate rise to popularity and then suffer overfishing.
Fortunately, improved marine surveillance technology combined with the expertise and vigilance of non-governmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and Shedd Aquarium, these species of fish were able to be saved before they suffered the ultimate fate, and improved monitoring together with cooperative fishing communities has seen their fisheries become more sustainable, though the work is just beginning.
We can learn from our experience with lobster in particular, but also oysters, that what was once shunned by tastemakers can one day become the ultimate delicacy when a new tastemaker is making the calls. What can we learn from this? That one cook’s trash is another cook’s treasure. When we can look at all species of fish as desirable and marketable, we open up many possibilities for enjoyment, and also spread our growing appetite for fish over far more species, taking pressure off those that face special challenges, whether it’s a long reproductive cycle, slow growth rate, or overfishing due to consumer popularity.
May 20, with sponsors Monterrey Bay Aquarium and Shedd Aquarium, we are hosting a special “Trash Fish” dinner as a benefit for Chef’s Collaborative. I have been humbled by the group of chefs working to make this dinner happen:
Bruce Sherman, North Pond
Paul Kahan, Blackbird, Avec, Publican, Big Star
Erling Wu Bower, Avec
Sarah Stegner, Prairie Grass Cafe
George Bumbaris, Prairie Grass Cafe
Patrick Sheerin, Trenchermen
Michael Sheerin, Trenchermen
Paul Virant, Vie, Perennial Virant
Laura Piper, Trattoria No. 10
Paul Fehribach, Big Jones
Tickets can be purchased at Chef’s Collaborative’s web site here, with all revenues going to benefit Chef’s Collaborative’s work to increase environmental awareness in our industry. It’s a goal of Chef’s Collaborative to make sustainability second nature to chefs everywhere, and our oceans are as precious a resource as we have. Working together, we will set out seven courses of lesser-known, underutilized species you may never have seen on a menu before, much less tasted. We’ll show you that not only are these fish not trash, but they are delicious in their own right and worthy of discovery. Just as lobster was once seen as garbage to feed the help and is now enjoyed as one of the oceans’ greatest delights, you will see that fish such as bonita, triggerfish, speckled sea trout, and even Asian carp and smelt can sing like a siren.
If we are successful, this dinner will be the beginning of the end of the term “trash fish” and begin a new chapter in our relationship with the seas, in which we view every gift of the ocean for what they are – delicious and nutritious food upon which civilization can stand anew, in which species such as bluefin tuna, red snapper, and yellowtail can take a break from runaway demand as we learn to cook and enjoy our abundant stocks of fish such as the ones we are preparing for dinner.
Take a look again at that roster of chefs. I’m humbled that these proven badasses are eager to share this story with you, but I’m not surprised. These chefs care and time and again, they’ve put their precious time and resources on the line to make a difference. Please join us as we plot a new course for the future of seafood.
April 18 we are proud to host a special Piggybank Dinner to benefit The Southern Foodways Alliance with James Beard Award-winning authors Matt Lee and Ted Lee in celebration of their awesome new cookbook, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen.
This one is especially dear to our hearts, because while they bring their own refreshing spins to such classic dishes as hoppin’ john and she crab soup, you’ll read about historic dishes of Charleston as they bring new life to lost classics like chewy and crunchy groundnut cake, salsify oysters, and the 19th-century standby, syllabub. We thought this was a great fit for our cooking here at Big Jones because their approach gives proper nod to history and heritage, while never being shy to break new ground, always in a way that seems perfectly natural. In this dinner, you’ll get to sample some of their New Charleston style in kumquat sparklers and collard green sandwiches, while also experiencing some ancient Charleston gastronomy in their adaptations of dishes such as peanut and oyster stew and syllabub, a dish I’ve been dying to serve at Big Jones for years.
Matt Lee and Ted Lee’s cookbooks are especially useful for home cooks because their experience is almost entirely cooking from home – they’re not restaurant people and that’s a good thing, because they understand the peculiar challenges of home cooking. After attending their first Cookbook Boot Camp, I can attest that their recipes are some of the most carefully written and tested, edited and retested, recipes out there. You can count on their recipes working. More important, you can count on their recipes being delicious.
You can purchase their cookbook on Amazon, or even better, check out their catalog including their other cookbooks and special Southern delectables from their Boiled Peanut Catalog at mattandtedlee.com. We also will have books for sale at the dinner, and Matt and Ted will be signing. You can purchase a book during the cocktail reception or bring your copy in for signing.
I’ve written many times about The Southern Foodways Alliance, and could not be more excited to be working with Matt and Ted on a benefit for one of my absolute favorite organizations. 50% of your ticket price goes to The Southern Foodways Alliance to continue their work to document, study, and celebrate the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. As they state in their mission statement in which we join, “We set a common table where black and white, rich and poor — all who gather — may consider our history and our future in a spirit of reconciliation.”
I grew up in a family which still cooked at home and came together at the dinner table every evening, which was a time to hang up our differences (and with six kids in our family, there were many differences!) and take repast and nourishment while pondering our day as one family. Perhaps it’s this concept of food not only as sustenance but as a common bond of trust and reconciliation in my own family that led me to adopt the Southern Foodways Alliance as family – at SFA events this spirit is very much alive; in fact it is central to SFA’s mission.
Please join our family for an evening of great food and drink, meet two of our favorite food authors, and enjoy something special that pervades every SFA event – great company. According to tradition, seating will be at communal tables, though service will be plated.
Thursday April 18, 2013
6:00 Cocktail Reception and Book Signing
Kumquat Champagne Sparklers
Rock & Rye Cocktails
Collard Green Tea Sandwiches on Sally Lunn
Shad Roe Spread on Buttered Toast
Henry’s Cheese Spread on Savory Benne Wafers
Peanut and Oyster Stew
Pickled Shrimp with Fennel Nestled in Butter Lettuce
Smothered Pork Chop with Hoppin’ John and Brussels Sprouts with Benne and Bacon
Grapefruit Chess Pie
Syllabub and Macaroons for the Table
Paired wines TBA
$100 per person includes tax, gratuity, and a $50 donation to Southern Foodways Alliance
For reservations, call 773-275-5725
Meet our April Whiskey of the Month: Elijah Craig 12 year! Come in for a taste, Bourbon Society members, bring your passport and we’ll pour you a complimentary glass!
Smoky, crisp, and smooth, this bourbon is the namesake of the Baptist minister who first aged whiskey in charred oak barrels in Kentucky in the late 18th century. Best enjoyed neat. Cigar box and honey aromas dominate, with vanilla, tea, and hints of charcoal. This classic bourbon is a great discovery as a moderately priced tipple with the hallmarks of a well-aged whiskey.