Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's all happening.

I drove by 815 N. Chase St. yesterday around 10:00 am to see the cars vacating the lot of the mechanic shop. With only about 5 cars left and 2 about to drive away, butterflies started to fill my stomach and I understood that this is becoming really real now.

We have contractors giving us bids this week, and we could even start building as early as February 7, which is only 2 weeks away. 2 weeks away! Crazy. My days are filled with costing recipes, punching numbers into spreadsheets, getting quotes, looking at used equipment, trying out dishes for the menu, examining the virtues of this plate over that one and which fork is best suited for our use. Which pos system is the best for us? Which payroll company should I go with? How do I price items in our market component? Will our display cases put off too much heat? Will this ever work? These are the questions running through my mind minute after minute. It all comes so quickly, and the frenzy is quickly turning into a blur. Before we know it, it will be late spring and we will be putting blueberry bushes in the ground at the corner, arranging tables and chairs, receiving buckets of produce from our farmers and opening our doors to the fresh warm air and our wonderful community. I can't wait until this is all a reality, but for now I keep wanting to slow everything down so I can see it all more clearly.

I am balancing somewhere between overexcited and overwhelmed most of the time, but I know this will be such a great place, and I welcome it with open arms.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

beets & pears

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious...

The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip...

The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies."

Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume)

Inspired by Tom Robbins and the snow surrounding my house, I decided it was time to make the perfect winter lunch. Beet Soup with Dill Cream and Foccaccia topped with pears, caramelized onions and Bellissimo, a blue cheese from Greendale Farm. How heart warming it was to bite into the warm foccaccia and slurp up the bright purple soup while gazing out on a hawk gliding through the snow covered woods behind my house.

The foccaccia recipe was taken straight out of this month's Food & Wine magazine. Too perfect a recipe to alter, it can be found here.

Winter Beet Soup with Dill Cream

Serves 3-4

3 beets
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 c red wine
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 red potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 c + 1 tablespoon buttermilk
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 c sour cream
2 tsp chopped dill, plus a few sprigs for garnish

Oil a pan and roast the beets at 400 for about 20 minutes, until soft. Peel beets and dice.

Saute onion, carrot, celery and potato in a sauce pot until they begin to soften. Add tomato paste and stir to coat. Deglaze with red wine. Add stock, dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook until all of the veggies are cooked through and broth has reduced slightly, about 20 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and puree in the pot with a hand blender. Add in 1/2 c of buttermilk & orange juice. Continue to blend until smooth. Return soup to a simmer.

Ladle into bowls. Stir together sour cream, remaining buttermilk and dill sprigs. Place a dollop in the center of each bowl of soup. Serve.

Monday, January 10, 2011

snow day in the south

my little spotted snow foxes didn't know quite what to make of their surroundings.

Northerners scoff at those of us who live in the South when at first mention of impending winter weather, the grocery store shelves empty out and everyone settles into their homes to hibernate until the storm is over. Often "the storm" refers to a few scattered flurries or even just a cold gust of wind. Last night most of the northern half of Georgia was lucky enough to be graced with a white blanketing to tuck us all into bed. My husband and I were like little children awaiting Santa Claus. Neither of us could sleep and we kept sneaking away through the dark house to gaze at the glory that covered the woods and creek behind our house. The snow reflected all the light from neighboring houses and nearby streetlights, casting a pinkish glow everywhere, as if we were looking at a day-lit sepia photo rather than just out the window at midnight. By morning, five inches of snow covered everything and the whole state seemed to be shut down.

rosemary peeps through the snow. unfortunately, it is the only plant to make it through the winter in my ill-planned garden.

My husband and I ventured out late morning to see the new forms that everything takes when covered in snow. We met few others along our path. Kroger, Wendy's, the gas stations and Jittery Joe's were the only businesses braving the weather on our side of town. I learned on our walk that trekking in 5 inches of crunchy snow is good for the quads.

Upon returning home, I made a lovely pot of drinking chocolate with a dash of cayenne and cinnamon....mmmm....soul warming.

The best thing about the snow day is that it has given me a little extra bit of time to reflect on where this year is going for me. I have left Ike & Jane to focus full time on our up and coming business venture, and with the holidays following close behind my departure, it has seemed like things have been purely go, go, go since then. Days are full of meetings and phone calls, spent staring at a computer screen and touching base with lots and lots of people. I am so grateful to have such overwhelming support from everyone I have encountered.

In the past month, Heirloom Cafe & Fresh Market has gone from a great set of ideas to a beautiful set of plans, which will soon be followed by a wonderful community gathering place. DOC Unlimited has done an outstanding job putting together our plans, and has been very patient with us in this process, which is quite a learning experience for all of us involved. We passed through the Historic Preservation Board approval without much of a problem, and are almost finished working through the finishing touches with our plans approval from the city. The above drawing shows the southeast perspective of the restaurant, as will be seen from the corner of Boulevard and Chase St. More drawings, including the site plan and interior elevations can be found on the Boulevard Neighborhood Association page at this time.

We put up a facebook page and are ecstatic to have so many likes already. We have had a little bit of press so far, with mention on the blog from Full Circle Realty, the Flagpole and the Athens Banner Herald. We should have a website up and going relatively soon to help keep everyone informed and excited. It is being designed by the lovely and wonderful Megan Boling of Brown Parcel Press and Natasha Murphy. Megan also designed our logo, which can be seen above. She has also recently produced a gorgeous letterpress calendar inspired by her recent experiences running Three Centuries Farm in Sparta, GA. Check out her blog, Brown's General, when you get a chance to read about her adventures in learning the world of farming.

On Friday, I had the pleasure of taking a lovely stroll with Benji Anderson of Anderson Farms in Comer. This is the first contact I have had with potential suppliers for the restaurant, and I have to say I now know that meeting the farmers, seeing their operations and sampling their products is definitely my favorite part of this process. Benji walked me through his fields, pointing out all the different groups of pigs, each separate in age by about two months. Of course, I loved the little ones the most, but I was also charmed by the bigger ones that wanted to sniff me all over with their muddy noses and even tried to nibble on my blue jeans. He has gotten his operation off to a great start, and the pork he gave me to taste is phenomenal. I hope to form a great relationship with Anderson Farms and many other farms soon.

With the clarity of the step back a snow day allowed me to take, I can see that this year is going to be a phenomenal one, and I can't wait for it to roll in.