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East Coast USA, United States
Lowcountry porch sitter. Appalachian Mountain lover. Finger Lakes dreamer.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rewriting Background Noise, Lowcountry Produce Market & Cafe

Hum & Sizzle of a Busy Night
Back: Victor Varner & Fellow Musicians
Front: A very intriguing story
Lowcountry Produce Market & Cafe
Background noise in some incidents may be defined as a necessary physical element inserted into time. Much like the five physical elements of the environment~Air, Flora/Fauna, Soil, Solar Energy, and Water~it resides in a moment to create harmony. 

It may be a favorite iTunes playlist, the topical stimulus of a cable television show, the rotations of an oscillating fan in motion, the purr of a kitten or slumbering cat, the home fountain mimicking a trickling brook or cascading water fall, the hum or sizzle of a restaurant hive on a busy night, the air pressure stream of a CPAP machine or perhaps even the giggles of children playing over a baby monitor.

No matter the source we each have a tendency to fill air space with noise either on an intermittent basis or for an extended period of time. Individual preference dictates the application. The net result the same, when inserted one finds accord with the world around them.

I happen to apply it every waking hour. Don't get me wrong, silence cut by mother nature's hiccups, birds singing, insects clicking, frogs chirping, wind whipping, tidal water lapping, rain falling, it is ALL all right by me.  

My first recollection in the application of background noise was in college with a floor style oscillating fan to drown out the high pitch craze of my sorority suite mates in the wee hours of the morning.  The next, an occupational hazard of working in government affairs where CSPAN prevailed as king of the airwaves.  After that, a sequence of partners each with their respective snoring and sleep apnea disorders claiming the overnight hours. 

Fast forward to present day where National Public Radio with its wide variety of programming fills the space once dominated by legislative affairs, the evening hours are now shared in the comforting hum of a regular stint at a local restaurant where the music is grand, the conversations always aflutter, and the visual cues aplenty...and those delightfully quiet overnight shared with starry nights, prophetic dreams, pond frogs, a snoring dog and two resident felines.  

Background noise has slid into the role of a treasured constant companion.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wine Tasting, Plums Restaurant Bluffton

Found the time to slip over to Bluffton for an early hour wine tasting hosted by Plums Restaurant, featuring several of the wines in the portfolio of Advintage South Carolina.  

Wine Tasting, Plums Restaurant 10/22
I've always enjoyed Advintage's portfolio of product (wine and craft beer) as the company continues to represent an outstanding portfolio of boutique offerings, little known wineries and brewers (to me anyway) and foreign made brands (that I'd never discover on my own).  Add to that, the fact that the Advintage corporate culture oozes fresh insight much like the youthfulness of its demeanor.  Something about that, against the back drop of larger companies, just immediately earns my respect.  

What made this tasting unique is that these wines are featured in three venues run by the same restaurant group, Plums, Beaufort; Plums, Bluffton; and Saltus River Grill, Beaufort. Celia Strong (Bill's Liquor's & Fine Wines) who orders the wine for all three businesses poured for the tasting. The ten wine offering included: Urban Riesling, Alverdi Pinot Gris, Eidosela Albarino, Catena Tahuan Malbec, Peirano Merlot, The Guilty Shiraz, Simple Life Chardonnay, The Prisoner, Rombauer Chardonnay, Milton Park Shiraz. (I tweeted some comments during the tasting, you can check out that feed over at @HHI_FandB if inclined)

The Guilty, Vine Street Imports
Three wines (all reasonably priced) could very well make their way to my holiday table this year.  The three:  Urban Riesling (Germany), Catena Tahuan Malbec (Argentina), The Guilty Shiraz (Australia).  The last being my favorite of the evening. This post lacks food pairing notes.  Yes, that is indeed the case. The price to taste was reasonable and the event not promoted as a pairing function; thus, only a light nosh was provided to taste along with these wines.  I have no doubt that when next I dine at Plums or Saltus I'll find that perfecting pairing from their menus to accompany the luscious shiraz.  Or with my brisket at Christmas.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Women of the Round Table and Lemon Chutney

Single sex venues, the purposeful ones like sororities, all girl schools and colleges, garden clubs, and service groups have always intrigued me.  My interest probably dates back to my grandmother's active role in her local women's garden club, the YWCA, and statewide beauty pageants.  I joined a sorority in college mainly out of deference to her and my mother's insistence that it would be character building (and it was just that and an extremely positive experience that sustains many life long friendships today).

Save my twice monthly women writers group of ten people it had been quite some time since I participated in an all female function of great magnitude (200+ people). That changed last month.  I had the occasion to attend an all ladies forum to grab a quick photograph of a friend during a lunch time delivery of a key note address.  The occasion was a quarterly meeting of a women's group on Hilton Head Island (WAHHI) where local celebrity Orchid Paulmeier had been asked to provide remarks on her life, family, work and post Food Network Challenge Season 7 experience. All I needed to do was capture one photo with my iPhone. That was the sole purpose for my attending, but what came of that experience was something far more rich in texture than a picture taken for distribution via social media.

My immediate thought was to simply stand at the back of the room, snap the photo as Orchid's story unfolded at the podium and bail.  But that was not the way it was to be.  Upon arrival I was informed that the group would dine first and that the speaking part of the agenda would follow. I'm sure I sighed out loud at this news as it meant I'd be spending most of my time hanging in a lobby of a hotel known for its extremely decrepit WiFi service waiting for an opportunity to capture this single shot.  But that was not the way it was to be either.  A member of the group informed me that I would be joining the luncheon as a late notice from another member had left an empty seat at one of the tables and that it would be their pleasure to seat me as their guest.  I may have sighed out loud on that note as the reality had now set in that the rest of the day's plans would shift forward by a couple of hours.  It's not that I'm inflexible in shifting the course of my day nor that I was in any way opposed to attending, it's just that I had a window of time to take advantage of dog day care and several other meetings I'd planned this particular day.  All of which were remedied with several quick cell phone calls.

So, I was directed to seat myself at table 7. I note upon approach that the ladies at this table were fifteen plus years my senior so I immediately knew the conversation would be enlightening (rather I would have a chance at some positive dialogue with them as I fail miserably in settings where the conversation is dominated by kids and clothing)...I immediately went for the comical approach of sitting myself in the obvious empty chair at the table saying "Hello, I'm Ann-Marie Adams, the stand in for "Jane Doe," thank you for including me at your table." I was fortunate that the women who flanked either side of me took the responsibility to introduce me around the table to those nearest them and to seeing to it that I was engaged in the conversations around the table throughout the course of the meal.  Which leads me to this post.

Because no conversation with me excludes the discussion of food...I cover every imaginable angle of food...favorite local restaurants on Hilton Head, recipes, the food served at the luncheon, etc...all within the first thirty minutes of sitting at the table and somewhere along the way the woman sitting next to me (a former independent book store owner, whom I fell in deep like with immediately for her quick reference of book titles and clear recognition of several of the contemporary works I had the occasion to read) mentions that she and one of the other women at the table had enjoyed consuming a lemon chutney they'd made the year before.

Chutney, one of those amazing components that accentuates everything that it is paired with.  I lean toward the savory of spreads in my palate of preferences and the simplest difference between jam and jelly is that it tends to be savory in nature (that and vinegar).  I immediately request the recipe and she indicates she'll mail it to me.  By this point between the lively discussion and the promise of a chutney recipe I'd almost forgotten my purpose in presence at this gathering. Needless to say I secured the shot and was energized by the solidarity I'd experienced with these women (no longer strangers).

Seven days later the recipe arrives.  A photocopy of a recipe accompanied by a hand written note. The Lemon Chutney recipe hails from Laurie Colwin's book More Home Cooking in a section titled The Glory of Chutney. I scan the recipe and immediately note that the preparation seems very much like canning...reminding myself  approaching this chutney recipe would go well as my previous canning adventures have not always met with great success.   So the chutney gets made and then put away to rest for about a month or two to ripen.  I've already plotted it's first uses...with baked salmon, spread across toast points with cream cheese, and served with cottage cheese pancakes.

A round table of engaging women and a recipe in hand, some might say I'm rich indeed. I'd say the universe created a moment that continues to reap rewards.  That lemon chutney will make it to the table for the holidays, be given away as gifts and no doubt be copied again for some other endeavoring foodie.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Food Art, Maggie's Pub & Eatery

A remarkable evening at Maggies Pub & Eatery located in the serene setting of  Habersham.  Chef Richard Wilson and the restaurant team are tremendous hosts when celebrations call for fine food, friends and tunes on a Wednesday evening! A few courses to tease your palate...
Wasabi Peas & Carrot Foam

Quail Egg, Arugula, Ginger Saffron Cream

Smoked Caprese Salad

Sunday, October 7, 2012

No Longer Bewildered by Fennel

I can recall the first time I tasted fennel.  It was served in a private home in Montreal, Canada during what I can only describe as an extravagant Sicilian meal.

The hostess served raw slices on platters as an intermezzo between two courses of a nine course meal. My unsophisticated palate at the time initially mistook the white slices as onion and thought the platters were perhaps an accompaniment for a dish to follow.  As diners at the gathering began to serve themselves I quickly realized this is either a custom I'm going to have to enjoy for the sake of  my host or these white slices are something other than a white onion. Now having been raised in a simple home of Southern heritage I had seen my grandmother eat a raw onion to fend of some variety of ailment, but never for the pleasure of dining. The gentleman sitting to my left was quick to ascertain my hesitation and as he reached for the platter he whispered over my shoulder "it's raw fennel, it's good, tastes like licorice." As I exhaled my relief I garnished a few slices and delighted in the texture and flavor of the intermezzo.  Thus began my love affair with fennel.

I bought a fennel bulb from our local year round farmers market this week and set my sights on pairing it with a sweet onion I scored earlier from a local from the land~ranks right up there with sea shells collected along our shores as treasured commodities. I've sliced and sauteed fennel many times since my first encounter, but I found a recipe that called for browning to caramelize that I wanted to try. Simple recipe from Simply Recipes (via Pinterest): butter, olive oil, fennel and onion, salt and later dressed with fresh parsley, lemon and grated Parmesan.

It's all about the brown bits in this recipe, as is the case anytime one browns with butter. I took a Slowcountry route with this recipe (as recommended) and allowed for an additional thirty minute extension to the initial cooking time. The result, a lovely dish that can stand alone or find itself reconfigured for many additional pleasures~tucked inside tarts, spread across toast points, tossed with pasta, etc.

From a moment of bewilderment to a comprehensive appreciation for a flavor point that delivers itself raw or browned to perfection. Never boring.
Life Enrichment is like a travel and learn program...offering infusions that make every day life thereafter far more interesting! ~ Ann-Marie Adams, Reflections on a Meaningful Life