Food & Libations

The Oscars of the Food Industry

It’s no secret that the world currently has an overabundance of celebrity chefs. They put their name on everything from spatulas to dog food. In this day of blogs and YouTube, anyone can aspire to achieve celebrity status and acquire their own show (and a cult following) on the television channel that’s wholly dedicated to food. You could even say that the celebrity chef movement spawned an onslaught of celebrity psychologists, celebrity doctors, and celebrity dog trainers.


But long before reality TVbefore cooking was even a form of entertainmentAmerica was not a place that came to mind when people thought of sophisticated gastronomy. It took pioneers such as Julia Child to bring America to the forefront of gourmet cooking. Although many consider Child to be the first celebrity chef, it was a man named James Beard who hosted the first-ever televised cooking show. 
Many know his name, but few know much about him. Born in 1903, Beard emerged from a culture of microwaved TV dinners, Jell-O molds, and Spam. He was raised in the Pacific Northwest by his self-sufficient English mother, who taught him to cook the seafood and wild berries that they gathered themselves from the Oregon beach.


A fierce student of the theater, he lived abroad for several years to pursue his dream of acting at his mother’s encouragement. After eight years of failing to break into theater or movies, Beard was forced to learn to make money some other way. He started a catering business that later blossomed into a food shop called Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc. He then began what was to be a prolific career writing cookbooks (he would publish over twenty-five of them before his death in 1985). Upon his return from the war in 1945, Beard jumped right back into the culinary world, appearing on NBC in America’s first cooking show. 


“This is Sarasota Unbleached Flour. Let me tell you what unbleached means. It means untouched, unartificial, unfooled with, untampered with, unmessed with, unfiddled with, uncorrected, unperfected,” a stout James Beard matter-of-factly touts to the camera. 
This commercial for Sarasota Flour encapsulates just what made James Beard such an icon. He was one of the first to shake America from its lazy slumber of canned food and baking mixes. Some have described this period as “the death of food.” Companies had discovered the gold mine that was the American housewife and the result was a movement of factory farming, fast food, and processed food that America has yet to fully recover from. Beard railed against the idea that easy is always better. He suggested buying produce when it’s in seasona common sense idea that was revolutionary in a time when “organic” was just thought of as a type of chemical compound. 


As his ideas gained popularity, Beard established the James Beard Cooking School, with locations in New York City and Seaside, Oregon. He spent the remainder of his life writing cookbooks, traveling, and tirelessly teaching others his concepts of good food, ethically prepared with fresh ingredients. He was eventually recognized by the New York Times as the “Dean of American cookery” for his efforts in coalescing American cooking traditions into a national cuisine.


Upon his death, Julia Child urged Peter Kump, a former student of the James Beard Cooking School, to purchase Beard’s Greenwich Village brownstone and continue Beard’s legacy. Although its purpose has expanded over time, the James Beard Foundation’s core principles have remained the same as was originally stated by a press release on the day it opened in 1986: “to provide a center for the culinary arts and to continue to foster the interest James Beard inspired in all aspects of food, its preparation presentation, and of course, enjoyment.”


The foundation now hosts over 250 events annually, featuring bourgeoning chefs from all over the world. It also launched the James Beard Awards, considered to be the food industry’s highest honor and called by Time magazine “the Oscars of the food world.” For more information about James Beard or to see the James Beard Foundation’s calendar of events, visit the foundation’s website at jamesbeard.org. 

Chasing a Four-Generation Dream of Traditional Malt Whiskey

In Scotland, whiskey is both an artform and a part of daily life. Distilleries can be found in every nook and cranny of the country. The tastes of this spirit vary with the style and distillation process, and favorite brands are unique to personal likes and dislikes. During a recent visit to the region of Speyside, Scotland, I fell in love with a traditional single malt whiskey.


Benromach’s story is as legendary as its whiskey. A four-generation family ambition to own a distillery came true in 1993, when the Urquhart family of Gordon & MacPhail purchased Benromach to create a true handcrafted single malt whiskey. The passion for this liquid runs deep in this family, dating back to 1898 when John Urquhart started working with Scottish distiller Gordon & MacPhail. In 1915, John was named a senior partner, and the pipeline dream of owning a family distillery was born. 


His son Michael, who joined him at Gordon & MacPhail in 1933, worked hard in perfecting the single malt essence of days past. Benromach opened its doors in 1898, however when the Urquhart family purchased the distillery in 1993, it had sat empty for ten years. It was a clean canvas to create the masterpiece that the heritage of Benromach represents. 


With the use of copper stills and local Romach Hills’ spring water, the family set out to do something unheard of today, making whiskey by hand. At Benromach, they believe in a manual distillery. Every process is done manually by feel, sound, taste, and sight. Nothing happens with the machinery if the distiller does not make it happen. The process is unique to the distillery and instills a sense of pride in the makers and the product. 


Benromach uses the finest malted barley grown in Scotland, along with a combination of brewer’s yeast and distiller’s yeast in their recipes. They took what is known as a classic Speyside whiskey recipe and made it their own.


It’s obvious while touring their facility and conversing over a tasting that whiskey is their breath of life. In speaking with Distillery Manager Keith Cruickshank, his eyes brightened and spirit poured out with his words. The product packaging and the earth floor that stored their hand-filled casks offered simple, classic elegance and a natural feel that tugged at my heart and taste buds. 


Fairly new in terms of Scottish whiskey distilleries, they are certainly making a name for themselves, and were the first to create an accredited organic whiskey. With barley purchased from a local farm and environmentally friendly casks, the soft bourbon-esque whiskey has been a hit. 


My favorite single malt at the tasting was Benromach’s 15-year whiskey. Its maturity, smoky whisper finish, and deep color from the sherry cask offered a bit of dark fruit taste up front. Its sister, the 10-year, offered a stronger smoke in the nose and could be considered a good entry-level whiskey for those trying the Scottish heritage liquid for the first time.

 
Traditional single malt whiskey is not a commonly produced product. Blends can mature faster, offering income to distillers two or three times faster than a single malt. The Urquharts stand by the integrity of the single malt, the process, and their commitment to their values. 
Whiskey is the Urquhart’s calling, their life’s work. Each new generation to join the family business are custodians of the legeacy of their whiskey process. ◊
 

Late Summer Soiree Spirits

Fall in the mountains is nothing short of phenomenal, but we’re hanging on to summer as long as we can with these tempting cocktails.

Grey's Hound Cocktail

Inspired by the greyhound cocktail, The Market Place Restaurant of Asheville looked to their spring and summer gardens’ fresh rosemary to create a spin on a classic. This light cocktail is easy to drink, refreshing, and tastes great too!

2 oz Grey Goose vodka
1/2 oz rosemary simple syrup
2 oz Ruby red grapefruit juice
lime wedge
rosemary sprig

Method:
In a mixing cup, combine ice with vodka, lime wedge, rosemary simple syrup, and grapefruit juice. Shake vigorously and pour into an old-fashioned glass and garnish with a rosemary sprig.
 

Kiki Colada

There is nothing quite like freshly squeezed Key lime to beat the heat of summer. A Floridian favorite, the kiki colada was made famous on Casey Key in Florida. Many refer to the frozen cocktail as a Key lime colada. Keep calm and rum on!

1 oz Liquor 43
2 oz vanilla rum
1 ½ oz Key lime juice
1 oz cream of coconut
1 ½ oz pineapple juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup ice 

Method: 
Combine the ingredients below in a blender. Prepare margarita or martini glasses by rubbing lime around the edge and dipping the rim in graham cracker crumbs. Divide blended yumminess into two glasses and garnish with slices of lime.


The Market Place Restaurant
20 Wall Street 
Asheville, NC 28801
828-252-4162
www.marketplace-restaurant.com
Twitter: @chefbillyd / @marketplaceavl
Instagram: @chefbillyd
@market_place_avl
 

 

Italian Bloody Mary AKA Red Snapper

The ‘Bloody Mary’ is a classic cocktail with a storied past - legend has it that the Bloody Mary was created in the New York style bar “Harry’s” in Paris somewhere around 1920. Americans were flocking to Paris during Prohibition, as were émigrés escaping the Russian Revolution. Americans were requesting the “tomato juice cocktail” (simply tomato juice in prohibition days), while Russians brought along what most considered a tasteless spirit, vodka. 

At the request of his customers, Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot, Harry’s bartender, began experimenting with the two ingredients, and the Bloody Mary was born. It took a few years to catch on, however by 1933 Americans were asking for the “Red Snapper” across New York. The vintage classic became the Bloody Mary many seek to enjoy over a weekend brunch. 

We discovered a favorite version in our own backyard. 

Asheville, North Carolina’s Strada Italiano and Social Lounge, has created their twist on the classic cocktail. 
 

4 Easy Steps to Strada’s Italian Bloody Mary

Muddle 3 fresh basil leaves in a cocktail shaker. 
Pour vodka over ice in a pint glass and add house Bloody Mary mix. 
Dump into shaker with muddled basil, shake,  and transfer back into pint glass. 
Garnish with pancetta wheel, fresh mozzarella, grape tomato and fresh basil leaf. 

Tip: Ask for a piece of bacon to accompany this alluring craft cocktail.