Sunday, August 30, 2015

30 August 2015

Finally, there's a hint of Fall in the air, and it was a beautiful weekend in Canton and North Georgia. Friday after work, I had a chance to catch up with my dear friends, Christi and Bruce Hinkley, for a cocktail at Downtown Kitchen. Summer has been so busy, and we both have been traveling a lot since Dancing for the Children. Afterward, I joined other friends at The Snug for a drink before we had an excellent dinner at Chon Ngern Thai Restaurant. This relative newcomer is located in the old Shoney's space, and their food is excellent. They also now serve beer and wine, so check them out if you like Thai food.

Saturday began, as always, with a trip to the Canton Farmers Market. It was a wonderful day for the market, and I scored onions, carrots, focaccia, spicy peanut brittle, parsley, sage and thyme from my friends at Whim-Wham Art Farm. I also found some pickled jalapeno and banana peppers, and a yellow watermelon. After the market, we ventured up to Mercier Orchard in Blue Ridge for lunch and to pick up a few cartons of their hard cider that Grant Design Collaborative recently designed for them. We have had a blast working on this and other projects with the Mercier team, and it will be exciting to see the hard cider in retail stores in the near future. I also picked up some other key ingredients for tonight's Sunday Supper at Mercier: Logan Turnpike Mills Course Cornmeal from Blairsville, apples and some of their amazing apple cider doughnuts. Of course, the Mercier Market was very busy, and if you visit them in a few weeks, be on the lookout for our new signage and apparel we designed for the market!

After enjoying some Mercier Hard Cider on their outdoor deck, we began our journey back to Canton via a couple of stops at two new vineyards in North Georgia's growing wine country. Our first stop was Chateau Meichtry in Talking Rock. We enjoyed a glass of wine and live music in their scenic outdoor courtyard. Mountain Valley Farm is very close by, so we stopped there next to pick up some grass fed beef and heritage bacon. Mountain Valley is a fantastic place to buy local, organic and grass fed beef and heritage pork, and their products are of the highest quality. Our last stop before dinner was Engelheim Vineyard in Ellijay where we got to observe their wine crushing process and interesting conversations with the owners. The wine was great, and the setting was charming. I highly recommend both of these vineyards for a tasting or a fun weekend excursion. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at 61 Main in Jasper. This lovely restaurant uses locally sourced products in all of their dishes, and the food is amazing! It is also worth the drive from Canton for lunch or dinner.

Today, I spent all afternoon in the kitchen putting all of my foraged ingredients to good use in tonight's Sunday Supper. The Fall-like weather inspired me to cook a pot of Italian beef stew. Mountain Valley's grass fed stew beef was delicious, especially when combined with Whim-Wham's organic carrots, onions and herbs. I used the Logan Turnpike cornmeal to make herb polenta, and I served the stew over the top. For an appetizer, I made a special treat for our friend, John Clark, who is a native of Wisconsin. Gene and Elly Hobgood just returned from a trip there, and they brought him one of his favorite things – cheese curds! So, I fried them for him, and they were just as delicious as he described them to be. Mercier Orchard inspired tonight's dessert, an apple bread pudding made from their apple cider doughnuts! I served it with Bourbon whipped cream, and it was divine.

Now, I'm looking forward to Fall and all of the delectable dishes and exciting projects the season will bring.

The Menu:

- Italian Beef Stew

- Logan Turnpike Mills Herb Polenta

- Whim-Wham Art Farm Parmesan Focaccia

- Mercier Orchard Apple Cider Doughnut
Bread Pudding

The Recipe – Mercier Orchard Apple Cider Doughnut Bread Pudding


1 dozen Mercier Apple Cider Doughnuts cut or torn into 1 inch pieces
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large Mercier apples of your choice: peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brandy
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
Bourbon whipped cream for serving


Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the doughnuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 10-15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until toasted and dry.

In a large skillet, melt the butter then add the apples and 1/4 cup of the sugar to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are golden and softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon. Remove from the heat and add the Brandy. Return the skillet to the heat and cook until the sauce is syrupy, about 1 minute. Reserve the butter sauce from the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the eggs and milk. Add the toasted doughnuts and apples, and toss until evenly coated. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the doughnuts to absorb the custard.

Butter a medium baking dish then add the bread pudding mixture. Drizzle the reserved butter sauce from the apples on top. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden. Let the bread pudding cool slightly, then serve with whipped cream.

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