Monday, September 24, 2007

Viking Classic

Growing up in Hattiesburg, Miss. in the late 1960s and early 1970s I always looked forward to the Magnolia Classic.

The Magnolia Classic was a Professional Golf Association sanctioned event that was held in Hattiesburg every April opposite The Masters tournament in Augusta. Tom Watson and Nick Faldo played here but never won. Payne Stewart and Craig Stadler each won the tournament. Dwight Nevil won it twice.

Wednesday’s Magnolia Classic Pro-Am was an official school holiday in Hattiesburg. My friends and I worked as caddies to earn extra money. In its early days, the tournament attracted many celebrities. I watched Clint Eastwood try to hit a ball standing ankle deep in water on number 10. Robert Stack and Phil Harris played here. My friend Stan drove Jimmy Dean around with the task of keeping track of all of his jewelry.

Eastwood was only able to play a few holes. Female fans kept stealing his ball and eventually he called it quits.

I followed Glen Campbell around for a few holes and can remember being taken aback when he ducked into a Porta-Potty. At 10 years old I was amazed that celebrities actually used the restroom.

I remember in 1986— the last year I attended the Magnolia Classic— as the afternoon wound down and the day’s last groups were approaching the 18th green, someone busted out of the 19th Hole lounge yelling, “Jack Nicklaus just won the Masters! Jack Nicklaus just won the Masters!”

Eventually, the Magnolia Classic stopped booking high profile Pro-Am celebrities and the tournament moved to Jackson. It was sponsored by a bank and an insurance company. For me, it never held the appeal that those early days provided. These days I’m a cook, not a golfer.

In my absence the tournament has grown into a full-fledged, big-purse PGA event and is truly a feather in Mississippi’s cap. And to top it off, this year the Viking Range Corporation has stepped up to the plate as the title sponsor. And who said that food and golf were like chalk and cheese?

Mississippi Delta wunderkind Fred Carl, founder and CEO of the Viking Range Corporation has done it again. Viking is one of Mississippi’s premier industries and the one that I always brag about when dealing with people in New York and California. The marriage of these two great examples of what Mississippi has to offer makes perfect sense.

The tournament will feature plenty of golfing star power. John Daly, Steve Elkington, Jim Gallagher, Jr., and Davis Love III will be there. But leave it to Viking to bring out the culinary stars.

Viking has pitched a culinary tent on the Annandale grounds where chefs from all over the country will be performing demos for those who want to take a break from the action on the course (or for those who came to the event with a golf fanatic, but would rather eat).

Paula Deen’s sons, the Deen Brothers, will be performing a cooking demo, as will Mississippi’s own, Cat Cora, Food Network Iron Chef, and the Executive Chef at Bon Appetit’ magazine. A full list of the week’s chef demos can be found at .

Watercolor artist, Wyatt Waters and I will be hosting a dual demonstration at 1 p.m. on Sunday, the final day of the tournament. I’ll be preparing recipes from our soon-to-be-released cookbook, Southern Seasons, while Wyatt simultaneously paints a watercolor still life. I am not sure if we’ll have to whisper instructions to those in attendance, but I can’t wait to find out.

Caramel Brownies


1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, heated

In a small, heavy duty saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, stirring very often. Continue to cook until the mixture reaches a deep caramel color, about 10 minutes. As soon as this deep color is achieved, use a wire whisk and quickly stir in the warm cream. Return the caramel to a medium heat, and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Remove keep warm while preparing the brownie batter.

Brownie Mix

6 ounces Unsweetened Chocolate
1 cup Unsalted Butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Cocoa
1 tsp Double Acting Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Salt
4 large Eggs
2 1/2 cups Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 cup Pecans, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Butter a 9x12 inch baking dish

In a small heavy saucepot, melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool completely.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.

Using the whip attachment of an electric mixer beat the eggs on medium speed. While still beating, add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat for 2-3 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and pale. Add in the chocolate mixture and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and blend well using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Drizzle the caramel in rows lengthwise on top of the batter. Drag a pairing knife back and forth through the caramel lines. Bake the brownies for 25-30 minutes, or until the brownie pulls away slightly from the sides of the pan. Let brownies cool completely before cutting.

16 brownies

Donald Duck Orange Juice

As I sat at the breakfast table this morning I stared at my glass of orange juice and contemplated the beverage’s evolution.

As a child, orange juice was kept in a small can in the freezer. One opened the can, dumped the syrupy, icy, orange clump into a pitcher, filled the empty can with tap water, added it to the pitcher, stirred, and orange juice was born.

I was born in an era just before major changes in food packaging were implemented. I am sandwiched between milk delivered in glass bottles on the back door steps and milk purchased in half-gallon paper cartons in a store. In those days all orange juice came in a can, just like chicken came on a bone.

For centuries— before freezers and concentrate cans— one had to squeeze his or her own orange juice, if there were fresh oranges available. That is still an option today, though I don’t imagine many people do it.

Upscale grocery stores have machines that mechanically squeeze fresh oranges while you wait. The quality, as always, depends on the quality of the oranges used. Occasionally the orange juice squeezed from one of those grocery store robot juicers tastes a little like orange rind. Bitter.

Today orange juice mostly comes in half-gallon cartons. There are many options available. As a kid I had two options in the morning— orange juice concentrate or no orange juice at all— today I can have orange juice with no pulp, orange juice with a small amount of pulp, orange juice with a lot of pulp, orange juice with calcium added, orange juice with less sugar, with fiber, low acid, heart healthy… you get the point.

Actually there were three orange juice options back in the day: orange juice, no orange juice, or Donald Duck orange juice. Option three— Donald Duck orange juice— was an option that was actually worse than not drinking orange juice at all. It was bad.

Donald Duck orange juice tasted like grapefruit juice. I hate grapefruit juice. For some reason, back in the 1940s, the Walt Disney Company gave a license to an orange juice manufacturer to use the likeness of one of their top cartoon characters, Donald Duck, for use in a new beverage. The company then proceeded to put bitter tasting grapefruit juice in a can and market it as orange juice. For a company that has licensed everything imaginable, it is their oldest surviving license still in existence

The cans of Donald Duck orange juice always looked rusted on the outside and the product inside always had a faint taste of the metallic can.

Question: If Donald Duck orange juice tastes like grapefruit juice. How awful does Donald Duck grapefruit juice taste?

My mom bought Donald Duck orange juice every once in a while. I am not sure why. The Sunflower grocery store always had plenty of frozen concentrate on hand.

As I sat staring at my orange juice this morning— orange juice, by the way, that had been poured from a paper carton (medium pulp) — I reflected back on my first experience with Donald Duck orange juice. I was around eight years old. I was eating sweet rolls prepared by my across the street neighbor. I had asked for milk (the perfect sweet roll accompaniment). My mother poured orange juice, and not just any orange juice, Donald Duck orange juice.

It was the first case of taste-bud shock I had ever encountered. Taste-bud shock is when one thinks he is drinking a particular beverage, and there is an entirely different beverage in the glass. For example, your taste buds are ready to taste milk, your brain is sending signals all over your body— here comes some cold, delicious milk. Except it’s not milk, it is orange juice. Immediately your taste buds panic and your brain goes into sensory overload.

In my inaugural bout with taste-bud shock, my taste buds were bombarded with Donald Duck orange juice when they were expecting milk. That is a third degree taste-bud shock, skipping two steps altogether and going from milk expectancy to something that tastes like canned grapefruit juice.

We switched to Tang after that. I hate Tang, too, but next to Donald Duck orange juice, Tang is nectar of the gods.

Before long, we switched back to frozen canned orange juice concentrate and that is where we stayed until I moved away from home.

In my twenties I drifted away from orange juice, and by the time I returned to the fold, orange juice was being sold in cartons.

Sometimes we get caught up in romanticizing the “good old days.” Folks, there are no “good old days” when it comes to orange juice. It’s better than ever.

Today I drink orange juice that comes from a carton. And I don’t even have to open the carton and make a paper pour spout out of the corners of the top of the carton. The good folks at the orange juice manufacturing plant have seen fit to put a small plastic screw top on the top side of my orange juice carton. I shake and pour. No can, no grapefruits, no rust, and no taste-bud shock— just sweet, slightly pulpy, Florida orange juice.

Barbara Jane Foote’s Super Summer Tea

6 Tea Bags (regular size, or 3 family sized)
2 qts Boiling Water
1 1 /2 cups Sugar
6 oz. Can Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate
6 oz. Can Frozen Lemonade Concentrate
6 oz. Pineapple juice
Handful Fresh Mint
1 /4 tsp Cinnamon
1 /8 tsp Ground Cloves

Pour boiling water over tea, mint, cinnamon and cloves. Steep for 20 minutes. Strain into a one-gallon pitcher. Add sugar, stir until dissolved. Add juices and stir well. Fill pitcher with ice. Can be served hot or cold.

The restaurant business is full of chef/owners with atypical success stories.

The restaurant business is full of culinary twists on tried-and-true recipes.

The restaurant business is notorious for its 90-hour work weeks for owners who are willing to open on a shoestring and do what it takes— whatever it takes— to build a business.

The restaurant business is often responsible for preserving storied and historic buildings.

However, the restaurant business is not full of concepts or personalities which bring all of those components together in one time and in one place.

The California Sandwich Shop on Front Street in my hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss is probably the most historic and storied restaurant property within a 60-mile radius. For decades it operated in a small space across from the railroad station downtown. In 1996 it closed.

Several years, and a few failed restaurant attempts later, an atypical bagel baker came to town.
From a Greek immigrant to a Midwestern male model

A native of Iowa, Chris Hackbarth worked as a model on runways in New York and Milan before traveling to Hattiesburg to visit his homesick sister. The 24-year old immediately fell in love with the revitalized downtown area and logged on to the internet to find a potential investment property. The first business that popped up was a struggling bagel shop located in the building that formally housed the California Sandwich Shop.

Hackbarth purchased the business, moved his belongings from San Francisco into a loft apartment in downtown Hattiesburg, changed the name of the business to Southbound Bagel and Coffee Shop, and began doing the countless tasks that are involved in owning a business.

He had never worked in a restaurant or owned a business, but those were not his biggest challenges. Hackbarth had never made a bagel.

After several harrowing days and 500 pounds of dough later, the Southbound bagel was born.

I have never been a fan of bagels, though I love Southbound bagels. While having breakfast at Southbound the other morning, a friend walked by my table and said, “You know the bagels are good because the Yankees eat here.”

Hackbarth’s bagels are not the typical New York bagel. They’re slightly sweeter and a little lighter. In my opinion they are world-class and Hackbarth makes all 12 varieties from scratch every morning.

The breakfast menu offers several omelets, bagel sandwiches, lox, and rich coffee. The lunch menu offers several sandwiches using bread made from scratch in the tiny 400-square foot Southbound kitchen.

Actually, the limited space in the kitchen might be the reason that the bagels taste so good. Typically, bagel dough is boiled before being baked. A large boiler wouldn’t fit into Southbound’s tiny prep kitchen, so Hackbarth “made do” with a steamer.
The steamer might be the difference; Hackbarth thinks it’s the calcium content in the downtown water. Steam or calcium, either way, the Southbound bagel is not dense, and not bread like— it’s just good.

I am new to Southbound Bagel and Coffee Shop. A friend told me of a little café downtown that made great cinnamon rolls from scratch every Saturday morning. I thought it might be a great place to take my children. After eating a few bagels and a killer omelet, I was ashamed that it took me three years to discover the place. The kids and I decided to make our Southbound visit a Saturday morning tradition.

For the neophyte restaurateur who hit a homerun his first time at bat, the days have started to get a little shorter. “I get up at 5:30 in the morning instead of 3:30, like I did the first year,” Hackbarth says. Though that might change as the restaurant has started opening on Friday and Saturday nights from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. to service the late-night bar business in the downtown area.

The restaurant business is filled with hard-working success stories. The Greek immigrants who traveled to the South in the early part of the 20th Century set a lofty precedent with super-human determination and work ethic. They opened places like The California Sandwich Shop and thousands of others.

The baton has been passed to another generation. One, I am happy to say, that employs the 100-hour a week work ethic of our culinary forefathers.

As a fellow restaurateur, an avid customer, and the father of two cinnamon roll-loving kids (not to mention the husband of a woman who loves world-class bagels) I am rooting for the long-term success of Southbound Bagel and Coffee Shop.


1 stick unsalted butter 1 cup brown sugar 3 large eggs 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 tsp ground ginger 1 1 /2 teaspoons baking soda 1 tsp cinnamon 1 /2 teaspoon salt 1 /2 teaspoon ground cloves 1 /4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 cup molasses 1 cup hard ciderApple Icing for Topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 13 by 9-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper that has been greased.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. In a second bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, and nutmeg. In a third bowl, combine the molasses and hard cider and stir to dissolve. Add the dry ingredients and cider mixture alternately to the egg mixture, beating after the addition of each.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, approximately 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Cut into squares and top with Apple Icing.

Yield: 24 squares

Apple Icing

2 Tbl butter
1 cup apple, peeled, cut into small dice
1 /4 tsp cinnamon
1 /2 cup hard cider
1 1 /2 cup confectioner’s sugar

Melt the butter over medium heat and cook apples for five minutes, stir in cinnamon and cider and cook five more minutes until most of the liquid is cooked out. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Cool completely before topping gingerbread.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Banana Fanna Fo Felvis

Elvis is alive… on candy wrappers.

I walked into a convenience store yesterday and ran into the King of Rock and Roll.

Immediately inside the front entrance of the store sat a huge display of a newly introduced candy: Collector’s Edition Reese’s Peanut Butter and Banana Crème cups—the Elvis edition.

The Elvis edition peanut butter cup has a photo of the King on the wrapper and a ribbon of banana-flavored filling inside the candy bar. The peanut butter-banana cup seemed to be something that Elvis might have liked. Impulsively, I grabbed one.

Elvis’ favorite food was a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. Not the average meal fit for a king, but certainly fitting enough to be eaten in a jungle room outfitted with crush velvet furniture, shag carpeting, and the Memphis Mafia.

The photo on the candy wrapper was of the 1950s Elvis, not the late 1970s Elvis after he had eaten one-too-many peanut butter and banana sandwiches
I needed a drink to accompany the candy. I tried to think of what Elvis’ favorite beverage might have been but I had no clue. I narrowed my guesses down to a RC Cola or an Orange Crush. Ultimately, I thought that the orange flavoring might take away from the taste-testing of the banana and, since neither was in a small glass bottle, I opted for an RC.

Also, if I’m not mistaken, RC stands for Royal Crown, so it made perfect sense to purchase a royal beverage to accompany a candy featuring the King of Rock and Roll.

The chocolate-peanut-banana cup tasted mostly like a regular peanut butter cup except that there was a slight hint of banana flavor— similar to a banana popsicle.

A banana Popsicle doesn’t taste like a banana. It tastes like what the people at the Popsicle plant think a banana tastes like. The corporate chefs at Hershey, the parent company of Reese’s, must have been talking to the banana people at people at the Popsicle plant.

The Collector’s Edition Reese’s Peanut Butter and Banana Crème cup seemed like a candy that might have been initially conceived late at night on the Willie Nelson tour bus. It tasted like someone dipped a regular peanut butter cup into a glass filled with melted banana Popsicle juice. Realizing this, I came to the conclusion that Elvis would have loved the Collector’s Edition Reese’s cup.

Last year I filmed a television show at a place called Graceland Two in Holly Springs, Miss. Graceland Two is operated by a man who has dedicated his entire life to all things Elvis. For the purposes of the television program I had to do a cooking demo in the house. I prepared a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.

The sandwich was surprisingly good. I cooked it as one would a grilled cheese sandwich. I was told that Elvis’ cook spread a lot of butter on the outside of his sandwiches. I opted for spray margarine which is what I use when I’m preparing grilled cheese sandwiches for my children.

I cooked the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich on a George Foreman Grill which wasn’t around when Elvis was alive. However, had the grill been around in the 1970s, I’ll bet Graceland would have had one in every room. George Foreman looks like he might have scarfed down a few fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches over the years.

The banana in the sandwich I prepared at Graceland Two tasted like banana, not like a Popsicle. The peanut butter I used was Reese’s. It is, in my opinion, the best-tasting peanut butter on the market.

I have heard that Elvis liked to add honey or bacon to his fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. There is no word yet as to whether Hershey will be adding a Limited Edition bacon and banana-flavored peanut butter cup. Stay tuned.

S’more Squares

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 /4 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar

1 pound semisweet chocolate
1 /2 cup sugar1 1 /2 cups heavy whipping cream 1 1 /2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 jar Marshmallow Fluff (7 ounces)
3 cups marshmallows

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray the inside of a 9 x 13 inch baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press mixture firmly into sprayed pie tin, covering bottom and sides.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For filling:
Combine chocolate, sugar and heavy whipping cream and melt in a double boiler. Stir until melted. Pour 2 /3 of the chocolate mixture onto the crust distributing it evenly. Set in refrigerator and allow this layer to harden while preparing the second layer.

For the second layer, add the Fluff to the remaining chocolate mixture and mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour this mixture on top of the firm chocolate layer and spread it out evenly.

Using a wet, sharp knife, cut the marshmallows into thin discs (three discs per marshmallow). Arrange the discs on top of the chocolate marshmallow layer. Place in the freezer for 24 hours.

After the squares have been frozen, brown the marshmallows underneath a hot broiler. Allow to cool once more.

Dip a sharp knife into hot water and carefully cut into squares.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Yield: 24 squares