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All photos by Bailey Richards.

When it comes to local food in Appalachia, we are at a moment in time. When a local farmer stood up on a Saturday night in  Hazard front of a dining room full of hungry diners and told us this, it was very easy to believe it.

Of course, we at WCN! have always been supporters of fresh local ingredients, with our collaborations with Old Homeplace Farm and Grow Appalachia and our inability to pass up a farmer’s market. But over the past year or so a huge burst of energy has built up around the people trying to figure out what’s next for the region, and local agriculture seems to have a place in our future.

Jason Brashear is one of the leading lights of this movement; his Community Farm Alliance seeks to bring local farmers together to get their products into local restaurants, school lunchrooms, and the hands of people who care.  Looking to seize this moment in time he put together Face 2 Food–a Saturday night food crawl with three locally-owned Hazard restaurants taking on locally-farmed ingredients.

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The night started with an appetizer platter at Jabo’s Coal River Grill with fried banana peppers, fried green tomatoes, and potato skins, all from local farms. The banana peppers at Jabo’s rank as one of the best dishes available in Hazard, IMO, and I was glad to see them here. The green tomatoes kept that green tomato crunch with a nice flavorful crispy coating. It was a great way to get the night started.

Next we moved on to the Big Blue Smokehouse for the main dish. Salads were punched up with some local tomato and cucumber; we thought it was a missed opportunity to go with their standard panel of dressings instead of a Kentucky-inspired offering like a bourbon vinaigrette or a sorghum mustard.

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The main attraction was a sirloin from Wolfe County’s Chop Shop, cooked in the BBS smoker. This treatment makes a cut like a sirloin get a little bit dry, but the smoke gave it an almost tangy flavor that went really well with the peppery coating. (They had planned to do this with ribeyes but couldn’t get hold of enough of them to make it work; I think the fattier cut would have both taken up more smoke and stayed more moist in the smoker, but the sirloin made me very happy.) It was paired with some fried local corn on the cob; the high heat of the fryer punches up the natural sweetness you get from good fresh corn, and it was a perfect side for the steak.

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The night closed out at the Treehouse with their always stunning cupcakes. Local mint and blackberries found their way into the icings, and a delicious blackberry lemonade was very welcome on a hot night.

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Are we at a moment in time? I certainly hope so. Places survive and thrive when people feel connected to them, and eating local food helps connect people to a place. Huge thanks to Jason and to all the farmers who made this dinner possible.

 
weber hand over grill

Photo via Weber

We guys like to think that the ability to operate the grill rides on the Y chromosome, held over from the primal days when we rubbed sticks together and used the ensuing blaze to roast a freshly-killed sabre-tooth. But a little experience with summertime backyard gatherings will tell you that some people have a better grasp of cooking over the fire than others.  Is it just magic, a touch that some people have and other don’t? Or can you learn to be a master of the flame?

This week on The World’s Only LIVE Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of), we’ll find out with Grilling 101! Jonathan will be joined by our friends Other Jonathan and Kristin, and he’ll teach them to up their grill game with some simple but show-stopping recipes. They’ll talk proper burger technique, easy grilled sides, glazing, and a stunning but foolproof grilled dessert.

We’ll also have a review of the Ale Share fest that happened last weekend at Highland Brewing in Asheville!

That’s Wednesday, August 5, 6-7PM on 88.7 WMMT-FM! If you have the misfortune of not being near Whitesburg you can stream it live here. And if you’re in town, come on by and join the Tasting/Dishwashing Panel.

Don’t miss it!

(Note: this is the last show of our summer semi-hiatus, as Jenny will be sitting this one out and Jonathan will be doing it solo. The Dynamic Duo and their witty banter will return in September!)

 

letcher farmers markerThe Farmer’s Market. It’s one of the best parts of summer. The produce! The music! The exciting changes in policy and practice that are turning Eastern Kentucky from a USDA designated Food Desert to a mecca of fresh, local, sustainable, delicious meals! Join us Wednesday, July 2, from 6-7 pm as we explore the wonders of the Letcher County Farmers’ Market. Learn how you can create a pantry that leave you poised to make the most of the summer’s bounty. Hilary Neff and Valerie Ison Horn, the amazing women of The Appal-TREE Project and Grow Appalachia, will join us and share the exciting things going on to bring good food to every body in our region. Tune in!!

 

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Saturday marked this year’s first trip to the Perry County Farmer’s Market, and unfortunately by 8:30 all that remained were some spring onions. But when life gives you tasty green things, as it so often does in the springtime, make pesto.

Take a bunch of spring onions, toss them in a little olive oil, and grill them on a medium-hot grill until the bulbs are soft and the outer greens are blistered.

Onions on the grill. Note slightly stale ciabatta roll being toasted for bread crumbs.

Onions on the grill. Note slightly stale ciabatta roll being toasted for bread crumbs.

Grilled onions. Don't be afraid of the char.

Grilled onions. Don’t be afraid of the char.

Once they’re cooled, put them in the blender or food processor with a handful of toasted almonds, some parmesan, one clove of garlic (don’t go overboard–let the onions be the star), salt, pepper, and olive oil. Blend until mostly smooth. Definitely include the charred bits of the onions.

Ingredients in the Vita-Mix. You may need to add a little water to make everything blend.

Ingredients in the Vita-Mix. You may need to add a little water to make everything blend.

Blended. It's probably better if it's not absolutely smooth.

Blended. It’s probably better if it’s not absolutely smooth.

Toss with hot pasta (plain old spaghetti is perfect for this) and top with bread crumbs and more parmesan.

The finished dish.

The finished dish.

Serve with a sauvingon blanc or a Vinho Verde.

You can do pretty much the same thing with anything green and tasty–especially garlic scapes, if you can get your hands on some.

 
Kentucky Monthly, May 2014

Kentucky Monthly, May 2014

Have you seen the May 2014 of Kentucky Monthly? Who is that on page 16 in their sexy Iron Chef poses?

Iron Chefs Jonathan and Jenny

Iron Chefs Jonathan and Jenny

The story, criminally, is not online, but get a copy while it’s still on the newsstands, and go check out all the other cool stuff at the Kentucky Monthly website.

 
The first Negroni of the summer, on my patio. Photo by the author.

The first Negroni of the summer, on my patio. Photo by the author.

It’s simple. Don’t get me wrong–I loves me a complicated cocktail. Twelve ingredients, and I haven’t heard of three of them? I’m ordering that, every time. But once you get over three ingredients or so or if it takes more than about 30 seconds to make, I kind of feel obligated to be wearing shoes while I drink it.

The Negroni doesn’t care about your shoes. Hell, it doesn’t care if you’re wearing pants. The Negroni knows that it’s a summer thing, and that when fall comes you’re going back to the brown liquors that will always be your true love, so it’s best if it doesn’t ask a whole lot of questions and just appreciates this thing for what it is.

No, really, it’s simple. Three ingredients, equal proportions, and you build it right in the glass–or, better yet, the pitcher.

It’s boozy. I know there’s probably a Buzzfeed article right now on 43 Low Alcohol Cocktails for Poolside Sipping, but it’s summertime, people–where the hell do you have to go? If you’re by the pool or (as I am currently) on the patio, you probably don’t have any real plans anytime soon. Why waste time getting tore up slowly? Do you think the kids are going to get less irritating as the afternoon goes on? Is that girl in the bikini on the other side of the pool reading the new John Grisham book going to get any easier to go talk to? No. Drink up.

It’s refreshing. Despite it’s booziness, it’s light and tart enough to quench your thirst. Yeah, you might still want to have a glass of water or lemonade after every third Negroni or so in the interest of hydration and hangover avoidance, but especially if you make it with plenty of ice, it’s a great hot-weather sipper.

A word on the ingredients: This is a good place for cheap gin–New Amsterdam is one of the best values in the liquor store. Save the good stuff for a martini or a gin and tonic, which are good anytime drinks.

Campari is the classic bitter component, but I like Aperol, which is sort of the Episcopalian to Campari’s Catholic. Other bitter liqueurs (like Rabarbaro Zucca) can be kinda sexy.

I like Cocchi for the vermouth, but Noilly Prat (or whatever cheap stuff you find) is fine. Carpano Antica is fantastic stuff, but it’s actually a bit much for this application–save it for Manhattans, or just have some on ice with an orange wedge and a splash of soda. Whatever vermouth you have, remember to keep it in the refrigerator and chuck it (or save it for the later drinks) if it’s over six months old.

The Negroni

1.5 oz (aka the bigger jigger) gin
1.5 oz sweet (red) vermouth
1.5 oz Campari, Aperol, or some combination thereof

Pour all these things into a rocks glass (or whatever). Add a little ice and shake it a little or stir it with a chopstick. Add more ice until the glass is full. Chuck in a lemon wedge if you have one, rimming the glass a little beforehand. Drink. Repeat until nothing is bothering you.

Better yet, scale things up to a pitcher (remember, equal parts, whatever the part is). Don’t put ice in the pitcher–keep it nearby in a bucket and add it to the glass as you go. Bring an extra glass for the girl in the bikini reading the John Grisham book on the other side of the pool–it gives you an excuse to go talk to her.

Tagged with:
 
Original source unknown.

Original source unknown.

America has never really embraced the midday meal. While our European counterparts have no trouble shutting down whole cities for three hours in the middle of a Tuesday for a wine-soaked feast, lunch for us is usually a quickly-acquired sandwich gobbled down at our desk. But what about a lazy Saturday? A staycation day? An unexpected snow day? Why not take the chance to turn the noon repast into something special?

We’ll talk about a couple of different approaches to lunch, and some recipes you can easily put together–including some ideas for remixing leftovers. Jenny will talk about lunchtime wines and Jonathan will reach back to the Victorian era for a perfect low-octane midday cocktail.

We’ll also be announcing our next WCN! Live! event, coming up on April 22!

That’s Wednesday, 4/2, 6-7PM, on 88.7 WMMT-FM. Stream it here. Don’t miss it!

 

Sweet Potato Dumplings

 

The audio is now available for our February episode, all about dumplings!

Click to listen, or right-click to save.

Thanks as always to our friends at WMMT for getting this posted for us.

 
Photo courtesy of the Michigan State University Cookery and Food Collection.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan State University Cookery and Food Collection.

As we were casting about for show ideas a while back, one of our dedicated Kitchen Angels said, “How about doing a series of shows where you….you know….don’t skip any steps?”

She was right, of course. Jenny and Jonathan have been at this whole cooking thing for a while, so our descriptions probably tend to take on the shorthand of the old hand. So this month on The World’s Only LIVE Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of), they’re going to step back and let the actual cooking be done by a couple of intrepid volunteers who are ready to up their kitchen game. In this first WCN! 101 episode we’ll focus on our favorite cooking technique–roasting–and guide them through the preparation of a simple but elegant meal that will wow your next dinner guests.

That’s Wednesday, March 5, 6-7 PM EST, on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg. You can stream it LIVE at http://wmmtfm.org, and we’ll have it posted here when it’s ready.

Don’t miss it!

 
The Bourbon Classic! Photo by Charlie and Ginny Tonic.

The Bourbon Classic! Photo by Charlie and Ginny Tonic.

The Bourbon Classic started in 2013 as an annual celebration of Kentucky’s native spirit, and it made its return to Louisville for a second year just a few weeks ago. The event featured a cocktail and small plate contest on Friday night, a series of Bourbon University classes on Saturday afternoon, and a grand tasting on Saturday night–an arduous weekend for even the most seasoned beverage enthusiast.

Such a bourbon-soaked weekend would be nearly impossible to recap in a linear fashion, because that’s not at all how I remember it. (An excellent Bourbon Classic drinking game: drink every time you hear someone say, “I’ve had a lot of bourbon.”) So instead, let’s give out some awards.

I’ll be doing this in three parts; later this week I’ll have posts about Friday’s press tour and Friday night’s cocktail/small plate competition. But we’ll start off with a few miscellaneous awards.

The Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams Award

This one goes to Michter’s 25-Year Rye. We were invited to an opening reception on Thursday night thrown by the good people at Michter’s, where their master distiller, Willie Pratt (a Hazard native!) was pouring from a bottle of this as well as their 20-year-old bourbon.

JP with Michter's master distiller (and Hazard native) Willie Pratt.

JP with Michter’s master distiller (and Hazard native) Willie Pratt.

What does rye distilled during the Reagan administration taste like? Heaven. More specifically, the spicy flavor of the rye itself was intensified, coming through the tons of oak and leather it picked up during that long stay in the barrel. When I heard that it retails for around $750 a bottle, my only thoughts were 1.) kinda worth it, and 2.) top me off.

Oddly, I didn’t feel the same about the 20-year bourbon. It was good, but I don’t think it had the balance of their younger, considerably less spendy offerings. I haven’t had a lot of very old whiskeys, but I’m guessing that bourbon is like a figure skater in that it has a delicacy that peaks in the teenage years, while rye is more like a downhill skier in that it improves as it picks up strength and subtlety well into its adulthood. (Yes, I am writing this while watching the Winter Olympics. Why do you ask?)

If anyone would like to set up a vertical tasting of Pappy Van Winkle for me to test this theory, the email is to the right.

The Reece’s Cup Award for Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together

This one goes to Kentucky’s bourbon-aged beers. Saturday’s Bourbon University featured a session on barrel-aged beers from Daniel Harrison, one of the madmen behind Lexington’s Country Boy Brewing (and tender of a truly spectacular beard), and Andrew Dimery, a gloriously nerdy brewer from Louisville’s Bluegrass Brewing Company.

Clearly, if I'm going to brew beer, I need to up my facial hair game.

Clearly, if I’m going to brew beer, I need to up my facial hair game.

These guys could go on the road. I don’t say this often, because my raging ADHD means my tolerance for even the most scintillating of classes and lectures is pretty limited, but this one could have gone on all day as far as I was concerned.

The pair spoke at length about what beers age best in a bourbon barrel and the long list of pitfalls associated with such aging, the hardest of which might be getting the bourbon barrels themselves. DH says that just a few years ago he could call up Buffalo Trace and get a truckload of old Pappy Van Winkle barrels that same afternoon, but barrel-aged beers have become so popular that getting any barrels at all requires the connections and coordination of your average Mafia hit. In fact, there’s a lot of science being done to figure out exactly what compounds the barrel imparts to the beer, so that big companies like Anheuser-Busch can fake it.

And why are Kentucky’s barrel-aged beers better than everyone else’s? Because we make the bourbon. Anywhere else the barrels have to be shipped, meaning they’ll dry out. A Kentucky brewer (with the right hookup) can drive to the distillery, get barrels dumped that day, take them back and immediately fill them with beer.

We got to try Country Boy’s excellent Black Gold Porter both unaged and barrel-aged, and BBC’s Bourbon Barrel Stout. This is a trend I can get behind.

Mmmmm.

Mmmmm.

The Ecclesiastes 1:9 Award for Something New Under The Sun

Let’s face it–”new” is not exactly the point of bourbon. It’s all about tradition and heritage and names of men long dead. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it can make for a whole lot of samples that blend together as the night goes on in a massive tasting like this one. It’s nice to see some of the established brands stretching out and trying different things, even when they don’t always stick the landing. A couple of experiments stood out to us, though.

Image via caskers.com

Image via caskers.com

Wild Turkey Forgiven has a great backstory–apparently some rye and bourbon barrels got inadvertently blended together at the distillery, and master distiller Eddie Russel thought the result was pretty tasty so he put it out there (the mistake thus “forgiven”). Like most bourbon-related stories, there’s a small chance it might even be true.  Whether it is or not, it’s a tasty whiskey–the bourbon smooths out the spicy rye character, and in the end it’s like a higher-rye bourbon (say, Bulleit) only moreso.

Image via Knob Creek

Image via Knob Creek

Knob Creek Smoked Maple comes from a category that’s hard to love–flavored bourbons. If you want your bourbon to taste like bourbon (dammit), it’s tempting to file these with the cotton candy flavored vodkas. A small sample bottle of another such bourbon that I came across recently said it was “best enjoyed as a cold shot”–quickly, in other words, and with the flavor blunted as much as possible.

We’ll let this one stand as an exception, though. It starts with regular old Knob Creek, though it’s unclear whether it’s aged all the way. The maple and smoke flavors are not subtle on the nose or the palate, but KC is a big fightin’-back bourbon, so the bourbon flavor still comes through. If you served this to me as a cocktail I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Later this week: people who make bourbon-related stuff, and a recount of the cocktail/small plate competition.