Thanksgiving in Nola 2014

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Going home to New Orleans for the first Thanksgiving since my grandmother’s passing wasn’t unlike going home for her funeral. The whole landscape felt different, as if the tectonic plates had shifted but the bayou still sank in the same way.

I knew not to expect anything except an emptiness, and a whole lot of food. And that, is exactly what I got. A low point was sobbing unexpectedly in my Aunt and Uncle’s bathroom and high points included spending time with my parents and finally being able to say I enjoyed the oysters at oyster night. It took me 21 years to like them!

While my Thanksgiving traditions will never be the same, I found myself appreciating the new traditions I’m starting unexpectedly. Since my brother moved back to New Orleans in May, we’ve taken our sushi dates with Dad in Maryland to Sake Uptown in Nola between just the two of us. He also showed me around his favorite bar, St. Joe’s, which is a much cooler version of the dive bar I love in Charleston but with blueberry mojitos and Nola hipsters.

It’s nice to say my brother is back living there, and that on my visits we can always have our sushi dates (and accidentally order flaming special sushi rolls).

P.S. – If you’re not familiar with my traditional Thanksgiving, my Thanksgiving plate is full of rice, corn, cranberry sauce, butternut squash casserole, turkey, and oyster dressing.

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Last magazine article for the Yard

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The second issue of the Yard came out today, and it wasn’t until I was holding it in my hands at our distribution tablewarehouse12 that I fully realized it would be the last time I would be doing all of this. I’m so used to the magazine deadlines, the restaurant outings, and the early morning distribution — and when I graduate in December I will unfortunately have to say goodbye, to all of it! The last features story I did for the magazine is called “Belly Up to the Bar.” I wanted my last piece to be something fun, and something different than I’ve done in the past. And since I am newly 21, a bar feature seemed like the right idea!

I wanted to incorporate food with bars, so my angle was “bars with bellies in mind.” Excuse the pun and title of the article, but sometimes, something is too perfectly cheesy to pass it by. In a span of only one week, my photographer Stephanie and I went to a different bar every day at around 5 pm to sip and snack (to use some words from the article!) Although nothing could be more fun to write about than bars, our meeting times were still scheduled, and still seemed like one of our to-dos.

ginjoint5But the minute Stephanie and I got there and ordered a drink, everything would come into place. We would talk about our days and she would take pictures and I would pretend to know something about styling food. Stephanie and I have become great friends, and I’m already missing those days together. We’ve joked that we want to keep using our opening line, “Hi, we’re from Cistern Yard News and we’re here to feature local bars…” over and over again, even off-duty.

Writing this article, and any article in the past for CYN, has given me a scheduled time to enjoy myself and my coworkers. It’s a little lack luster, but sometimes it takes a deadline to really get things happening and for me to get out and moving! I hope I’ll be lucky enough to work in an environment like this in the “real world” as well someday. And maybe they’ll pay for the food :p

Click here to read the story in full through ISSU.

Finally, fall break

Fall break always comes at the most needed time for most students, and definitely for me. By that week in the semester, I am definitely feeling broke, burnt out, and not exactly at my healthiest. Fall break brings long awaited hugs from my parents, dinners out, and most importantly: a fridge stocked with all my favorite treats, and liquids to drink besides water. Can you tell where my priorities lie? Below are some photos from my dining in and out, including sushi, Indian, homemade smoked salmon eggs Benedict inspired by a recent trip to Eli’s Table, and my first time at Paladar, a new “Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar” in Rockville. All this reminiscing has me begging for another break, which luckily comes in three weeks for Thanksgiving! New Orleans, New Orleans, I am ready for you. IMG_0598.JPGIMG_0606.JPGIMG_0611.JPGIMG_0621.JPGIMG_0640.JPGIMG_0635.JPGIMG_0634.JPGIMG_0658.JPGIMG_0663.JPG

(Photo by Stephanie Greene)

Big Gay Ice Cream article now online at CisternYard

Hello! Just writing to tell you I have a new article posted online over at my school’s student newspaper, CisternYard News. It’s called “Big Gay Ice Cream’s place at the Southern table.” This article was my favorite kind to write — it starts as simply event coverage, and then you find pieces along the way that develop the story into something you never thought it could say or be.

This time, I started with a trip to the Big Gay Ice Cream truck outside of Butcher & Bee last Sunday. When I got there, the line was so long I considered leaving and scratching the article all together. But I stayed, and this is what came out of it! In the process of researching Big Gay Ice Cream, I learned the real purpose of their journey was to attend the Southern Foodways Alliance’s symposium…and things went from there!

I’ve reposted it here, but please also view it online to help our website’s view count!

BIG GAY ICE CREAM’S PLACE AT THE SOUTHERN TABLE

BY CHRISTINA D’ANTONI

IMG_5019 I am by no means an ice cream gal, but when I found out that the Big Gay Ice Cream truck would be in front of Butcher & Bee for a few hours on a Sunday, I became one. This event would be unlike other partnerships between food trucks and local restaurants around town; the Big Gay Ice Cream truck is on its Southern tour, their second stop was Charleston and this wasn’t any old grilled cheese or banh mi truck we’re talking about. This was a truck named the most influential food truck in the country and the only truck ever invited to attend the James Beard House in New York. And the highest distinction? It’s an ice cream truck.

Ice cream is one of those incorruptible things that triggers a certain mindset — unless you were to drop it smack on the ground — then there might be some tears. Ice cream is pure, fast-melting fun, synonymous with childhood, bouncy balls and most of all, summertime. This ice cream state-of-mind is where Big Gay Ice Cream Co-Owner Douglas Quint found himself one summer, and how his now nationally known truck simply started. In an interview, BGIC Office Manager Patt Devery said that, “Doug wanted to do something weird over the summer, and an ice cream truck seemed like the weirdest fun.” And the “Salty Pimp,” the owners’ premiere soft serve cone, is about as weird and fun as it gets. Instead of using traditional names for their ice cream, the owners went to Twitter and came back with the current BGIC favorites including the “Bea Arthur,” the “American Globs” and the “Mermaid.” But the Salty Pimp? That was all Quint. In the opening line of his interview with Epicuriousity, Quint muses, “I’m still sort of shocked when I eat a salty pimp.” As for the truck’s name, it was something of a no brainer. Quint said, “I called it the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck because the whole thing seemed kind of gay. You know I was a middle aged guy in an ice cream truck that was going to sell high end topping in the streets of New York!”

Quint and his partner/co-owner Bryan Petroff started BGIC in 2009, and this year will mark their fifth anniversary selling soft serve — now with two stores in New York, and two up-and-coming locations in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. As a part of this anniversary, they decided to reacquaint themselves with their old wheels and drive down south — all for a very specific end-point in mind: their last stop would be to join the Annual Southern Foodways Symposium from Oct. 23-26, put on by the Southern Foodways Alliance in Oxford, Miss.

The theme for the SFA’s seventeenth symposium is “Who is Welcome at the Welcome Table?” and members plan to ask IMG_5035the gritty questions of inclusion that have been long side-stepped in this region, such as this: Does our “southern hospitality” include all ethnicities, genders and classes? Questions like these are currently being addressed head on, and in this particular circumstance, it’s all happening at the dinner table — pass the fried chicken, will you? As Quint says of the Southern tour and BGIC’s participation in the SFA Symposium, “Tighten your bible belts, it’s going to be a wild ride!”

According to the collaboration between the director of the SFA, John T. Edge, BGIC and the owners at Butcher & Bee, the ice cream truck’s Southern tour in is a sign of a movement towards this kind of inclusion, at least in the food industry. All members are seemingly both contributing and benefitting from this attempt, as BGIC develops flavors such as the “Pecan Gobbler,” as an addition and warm welcome on their southern tour to cities like our own, Atlanta, and Birmingham, Ala. And according to Butcher and Bee’s Randi Weinstein, BGIC’s presence in front of Butcher & Bee brought people out that didn’t yet know about B&B and their newly opened sister location, The Daily.

IMG_5078-2As I bit into my Bea Arthur, I had never appreciated the separate notes of an ice cream cone more — the chill of the soft serve, the dulce de leche, the crunch of the wafers — it all became worth it. In Quint’s piece with Epicuriosity, he said he feels “like ice cream is a universal food, you don’t need teeth to eat ice cream. So, you can be eight months old, you can be 108 years old, you can be the richest man in America, or you can be the poorest man, and you can afford [ice cream] with pocket change.” This universality of ice cream is what very apparently makes it so incorruptible —  it’s for everyone, and might carry along with it just what we need to usher in further ideals of inclusion and equality in the South: an ice-cream state of mind.I arrived at Butcher & Bee on the big, gay day at 3:30 p.m., and the line was not only stretched out to the edge of King Street, but was wrapped around The Daily and even in front of the shops next door. I got nervous — after all this, was I not going to be able to taste the flavors of the Bea Arthur, in all its vanilla wafer glory? As I stood there in line, I made the decision to wait, and I mean really wait — for over two hours, along with the dozens of heads in front of me and the frustrated newcomers trickling in behind. We all waited differently — I chatted with my ice cream-crazed friends, one woman popped open a bottle of wine and little kids ran restlessly all around B&B’s parking lot — Quint even made an appearance to appease us with some coffee giveaways. It was all quite comical, standing in line, jumping up and down on our knees and talking to strangers, everyone seeming to be like kids again, waiting in line for the ice cream man.

New article featured in The Yard, “Eating from Bay to Broad”

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted (is this not the most used WordPress intro in history?), but I have been busy completing my last semester of college as well as gearing up for this “real world” thing. If you’d like to see what I’ve been writing, check out my online portfolio, here. One of my favorite pieces as of late is the food article I wrote for my school magazine’s first issue this semester, “Eating from Bay to Broad.” I love my job at the school paper because I have the freedom to say, I want to try these three new places in downtown Charleston, and somehow make a story out of it. Somehow, I can always find some sort of connection, and this time, it was actually an intersection of streets. In Charleston, East Bay Street is known for its proximity to the water at the east side of the peninsula and for its warehouses. And in contrast Broad Street is known for its location at the base of the peninsula, and for a stately, hoity-toity kind of flare (that only gets more so South of Broad). In my article, I talk about the two streets intersecting (literally), which I don’t think has been really written about before. I’ve pasted all of the text and some of the photos from the article below, but also feel free to flip through a virtual copy of the magazine here. Flip to page 34.

EATING FROM BAY TO BROAD

By Christina D’Antoni

East Bay and Broad; these are the streets that shape our city. Geographically, they split the peninsula into boroughs, namely Ansonborough and South of Broad. Historically, they signify Charleston’s great centers of commerce and jurisdiction. And culturally, they define and complicate this beautiful city we live in.

King Street and Battery Park clog tourist pamphlets and receive notoriety for their commercial beauty and charm, but as we Charlestonians know, there is so much more to this peninsula held on the backs of these boroughs and their less nationally acclaimed locations.

Anyone can feel it, walking down King, Broad, East Bay or Meeting – that premonition that each side street passed is a missed opportunity, capable of both sunny sojourns and twilight secrets, a “maybe later,” a forlorn feeling. And this doesn’t stop at strolling, shopping or, of course, eating. There are restaurants and specialty shops from Bay to Broad that the neighbors know, and are waiting for you to visit…

EAST BAY

IMG_3940-300x200East Bay St., originally just “Bay,” has a certain marshy stillness to it, as if you drove and drove miles to the shore and you arrived to a quietness. But in Charleston, this happens in a matter of minutes and intersections. As you walk down Calhoun towards East Bay, there isn’t a single hint that you’re coming closer to the edge until you look straight ahead and the buildings start to grow larger and more sparse. East Bay and its surrounding Ansonborough have a subtlety found less so on the rest of the peninsula. There is no air of pretension or as many historic porticos, but there are wealths of local seafood and meats.

Making your way down the street, you’ll find that 289 East Bay is no longer painted the color of orange juice, but white with steel, now Ted’s Butcherblock sits back in a strip mall off East Bay, and looks anything but charming. But as you walk in, you see the packed cases of meats and realize you’re not just in any sandwich shop or deli. Owner Ted Dombrowski stocks the shop with cheese, artisanal bacon (for the bacon of the month BLT) and a selection of wines. The bbq pulled pork panini stands out as the customer favorite, with house-smoked heritage pork, cheddar cheese slaw and house bbq sauce. And of course, their gouda mac & cheese, stuffed into plastic cups on almost every customer’s table.

Making your way down the street, you’ll find that 289 East Bay is no longer painted the color of orange juice, but white with IMG_3946-208x300steel, now 167 Raw. CofC alumni, Jesse Sandole and Kyle Norton, opened their gourmet seafood market and cafe as a second location and companion to their family seafood market in Nantucket. Sandole states, “Charleston has an incredible food culture, [and] we wanted to bring the concept of a fish market/restaurant to town because it’s a bit different than what people are used to experiencing…we’re bringing in all the best seafood we can find from up and down the East Coast which makes for an exciting dynamic in our kitchen. Our menu is small and simple but by having the seafood case at our disposal we’re able to change it everyday.” And they do. Customers come by cars and by foot to 167 Raw to scope out the case and take home boxes of scallops or tuna poke and chips for dinner, or to serve as sides. Its Ansonborough’s neighborhood seafood jaunt, and it feels very at home there.

Broad Street is stately, there’s no denying it. Maybe it’s the large churches, or the Greek Revival of the Four Corners of Law, but most likely it’s because (at least historically) it has the broadest streets in Charleston. Art galleries feel dignified here, and so does really every building that seems to tower over you, making walking down the street a humbling experience.

IMG_3891-200x300Tucked onto Church Street, right off of Broad under a black awning is the very quaint fromagerie, goat. sheep. cow. The shop carries over 200 types of cheeses from both the U.S. and Europe, and with cheese lovers in and out daily, goat. sheep. cow. began to make a “sandwich of the day” to appease them. Patty Floersheimer, a co-owner, commented, “It seem[ed] to work as we did not want to become a sandwich shop but still wanted to give our clientele what they asked for.” Daily sandwiches with ingredients like Finocchiona, marinated feta cheese, roasted red peppers and local arugula are now hot-items at goat.sheep.cow., and while most of their sandwich customers “were regulars who live[d] and work[ed] in the neighborhood,” Floersheimer said, “Now we seem to reach well beyond these boundaries.”

A couple blocks away on Broad, Gaulart & Maliclet, known lovingly as “Fast and French,” is really anything but fast and plainly French. In an interview with Manager Lawrence Mitchell covering everything from gazpacho to the original founders’ philosophies, he divulged the nickname is less about the food and more of a play on a certain artistic lifestyle. Mitchell states, “We continue to want to be the place that people can come to every day.” At community tables with a total of 33 seats in house, there are “students, artists, tourists, and then you have jurors, clergy, and lawyers. We don’t stick to a category, but it’s really an interesting place where all that mingles…the whole place is designed as a social experiment – bringing people together.” With low prices (Try the Croq’ Monsieur for $4.10 or the O’Rye for $8.25), and a wide variety, Fast and French is 30 years strong and somewhat of a Broad Street institution. Mitchell said, “We’re always thinking about how to take care of the [Fast and French] building. We’re married to our building. We’d never leave.”

Thanks for reading! I’ve also changed the name of my blog to SABER, but am still keeping the “totastetoknow” url. This is a part of my movement towards posting more than just food posts here, and allowing this blog to be whatever I really want it to be.

Feelin’ lucky in Louisville

Last weekend I went to Louisville, KY to the AAMSE annual convention to witness my mom be sworn in as President of the society. While I was not thrilled about the location choice (previous sites: L.A., Montreal, I mean come on!), when I walked into the Louisville airport I was ready to embrace all things Louisville. I mean I even had one of those bendy headbands you knot on top of your head!

While I swear to you that my friend Leah and I “did” downtown Louisville in an hour and that there is not much for the confused tourist “around those parts,” I really did appreciate Louisville’s emphasis on farm to table. Yeah, I know, every city in America has been doing this for years, but something about farm-to-table in Louisville, Kentucky rings truer than in a swanky, contemporary restaurant like Graze in D.C. Maybe these KY restaurants know that, and they definitely got me.

In a hot minute I was hankering to try any fried or dark green thing on the menus because that seemed “Kentucky” to me. Unfortunately, I ate so many fried chicken livers that I may have to put them to rest. The indigestion they instilled in me (ha? nah?) is unforgettable. R.I.P. fried chicken livers :(

My parents kept mentioning the nice restaurants we would be eating at to probably boost my morale, and it worked. The two restaurants we dined at couldn’t have been more different, but they were both pretty great. The first, Harvest, was just as the name suggests: hearty, farm-to-table, but modern. I had fried chicken livers to start and then spinach-chard cannelloni which was, duh, deep fried.  Reaaal good. The next night, we went to Proof whose motto is “Dine with art at Proof.” Proof was hotel meets art gallery meets restaurant, and I think we were all confused by it. The menu was really exciting though, and I ended up ordering the charred octopus to start and chicken liver gnocchi for my entree. Did I mention I’m over chicken liver? Oh! And how can I forget the charcuterie plate. You know your mama loves you when she sees a charcuterie plate on a menu and tells you that you have to get it, and choose the selections. Sigh, how I am going to miss this life of luxury just a week from now when I am scrambling money for some Korean food at college.

Shout out to my mom, Susan D’Antoni, for being the best mom ever AND ruling the world in her career at the same time. Sometimes it takes your parent’s coworkers’ praises to realize how truly proud you are of them. While I don’t mention her often on this blog because she and my love of food aren’t inherently related (and therefore not subject to my mucky metaphors), please do know, that ambition to keep writing at 3 AM? I got that from her.

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Fried chicken livers (spicy shaved squash salad, buttermilk-chive sauce, micro greens) IMG_0632.JPG

Spinach-chard cannelloni (roasted chicken meatballs, toasted garlic-tomato jus, asiago toasts, crispy summer squash) IMG_0644.JPGCharcuterie plate

IMG_0645.JPGMy dad’s creamed corn soup

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Charred octopus (bagna cauda, lime, blue dog bread) IMG_0652.JPGGnocchi (masa harina, okra, oven tomatoes)

And the Nola food goes on

When I write a post about New Orleans, it can be dizzying. I don’t think there’s a single phrase quite like it that stirs up such excitement, memories, longing, and love for me. So to combat this as best as possible, I’m going to focus on a few key moments from my trip to New Orleans a couple weeks ago for my twenty-first birthday. Here it goes!

Cooking with Evan

When I go to New Orleans, all I really want to do is go out to eat. What else? But a few days into the trip and money spent,  and my brother Evan was begging to cook for me. I agreed, and we went to the grocery store together to pick out the meal. The grocery was a very meaningful part of both of our childhoods, and to this day the “grocery scent” of fresh produce and plastic is one of my favorites.

Watching my brother cook was both a fun and sweet experience. He blared music and I drank wine and snacked on mozzarella as I watched him, in an almost eerie way, become my dad in the kitchen. I almost couldn’t tell the difference between them two, watching Evan – the way he kept the dish-towel hanging loose out of his pocket as he cooked, how he danced about the kitchen frantically, giving me cooking tips the whole way. I was surprised at how touching it was to see my brother in his new apartment’s kitchen grown up right before my eyes. I felt overwhelmingly proud of him all of the sudden, as if that pride was coming more from my dad than from me. He cooked chicken with thyme and sauteed mushrooms, I was impressed. I’ll even forgive him for using gee instead of butter.

Shrimp, Grits, and Advice with Maria in the Bywater

I have a sophisticated foodie-goddess aunt of sorts named Maria, who was visiting New Orleans just when I was. She took me for brunch/lunch at Maurepas Foods in the Bywater. I admit it, I had no idea where/what the Bywater was. I try not to be hard on myself for not knowing these kinds of things, even though I was raised there and still call it home. I like to think of New Orleans as an unfinished puzzle that I have a few, very treasured and significant pieces to, but that there are so many more pieces I have left to acquire (and some I may never acquire, this is the mysterious and swampy New Orleans we’re talking about).

While I had kept in touch with Maria, this was the first time I had seen her in ten years, so of course a “state of the union” address was necessary (And by the state of the union, what could I mean but the state of “my so-called life?”) Talks like these where I discuss my present and future can be very frustrating to me, because they make me want to actualize everything I want to be and do in life, then and there. I think these talks are especially frustrating as a writer and over-thinker, maybe because these thoughts have already been reeling in my head. But I can’t discount the value in verbalizing your own struggles and plans to someone else, and getting their perspective on your, and their own life battles. That’s what this is all about, right? Over brunch, Maria gave me great bits of advice, including a great Oscar Wilde quote, a resounding “be patient,” and to remember that nothing has to be too serious, or too forever.

Oh, and I had kimchi shrimp and grits (with the heads on, it’s Nola after all) and it was the most delicious thing I ate the whole trip.

A Food Tour in My Hometown with Ms. Lacoste

My brother and his girlfriend suggested that we “do” something in New Orleans for my twenty-first, besides you know, getting into tomfoolery. It confuses me a little when people want to “do” things in New Orleans, when all I seem to have time for is eating, sleeping, and repeating. I was feeling a little arrogant the morning of the food tour, and was probably channeling my dad (the New Orleanian of all New Orleanians) in knowing I was about to get a tour of my hometown that I probably could have given myself. Ms. Lacoste, the tour guide, was a tough broad and I was worried this was going to be quite a one-woman-show (She even scoffed at my Kosher friend on the tour for not touching the shrimp).

But as I listened to her tell the the history of Antoine’s and Arnaud’s and Germaine Wells, I realized once again how much I don’t know about this city, and also, how much Ms. Lacoste reminded me of my grandmother. That was the moment my mood softened. Although she was much bossier than my Sweetie, they both had the same black orthopedic shoes, went to the same all-girls-Catholic high school, and walked with the same teetering from side-to-side, but still pushed forward with purpose. I spent the rest of the tour following Ms. Lacoste’s footsteps, asking her things I would ask Sweetie or any grandmother, and feeling like a granddaughter again. Oh, and I’m proud to say that my family’s mausoleum is on Ms. Lacoste’s food-history cemetery tour. Yep, that’s right.

Along with these moments there was Cooter Brown’s, muffalatas, hand grenades, snoballs, Cafe du Monde, ritual sushi, and the Nola food goes on…

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IMG_0542-0.JPGKimchi shrimp and grits

IMG_0556-0.JPGHomemade thyme chicken

IMG_0566-0.PNGMiso at Hana

IMG_0564.JPGRitual sushi