Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Hope you are all surrounded by family, friends, and good food!

I'm off to start the roast beef and Yorkshire puddings! (More on that later!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pimento Cheese: My Latest Food Obsession

Pimento Cheese is an iconic food in the South. Most Southerners have idyllic childhood memories of eating Pimento Cheese Sandwiches on a hot summers day. This is one food that most people are passionate about, I've heard few negative comments about Pimento Cheese. My recent run in with the stuff at the Happy Tomato Cafe in Fernandina Beach has sparked my latest food obsession. Lucky for you, you don't have to live in the South to eat it, and it couldn't be easier to make. Ingredients:
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Mayonnaise (Dukes is THE only mayonnaise in my opinion!)
  • Jarred roasted peppers, chopped
  • Olives, chopped
  • Hot Sauce (Cholula rocks my world)
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

Mix it all together:

You have probably noticed that I don't give measurements. That is because you really don't need them. You can make this with any amount of cheese you have on hand, though you will probably want to use at least one 8 oz block to start with.

Put cheese in a mixing bowl and add a little bit of mayonnaise to bind. Stir, if it seems dry, just add a bit more.

Next I add the chopped pepper (pimento) and olives. For 8 oz cheese, I use about 1 whole pepper from a jar of roasted peppers. Adjust to your taste. This also goes for the amount of olives you use. I just use a few olives to enhance the flavor, but not overwhelm the taste of the cheese mixture.

Once the pimento and olives have been mixed in, add a few dashes of hot sauce and fresh cracked black pepper to taste. Mix well.

At this point, some like to process the mixture in a food processor to blend into a smooth mixture and create more of a uniform taste. I like to keep mine rugged. The good thing about Pimento Cheese is that there really is no right or wrong way of making it, add or omit what suits your taste buds. I've seen many recipes that call for chopped dill pickles or absolutely no extra add ins at all. In true Southern fashion, just have fun with it and enjoy!

What to do with Pimento Cheese?

Pimento Cheese is traditionally used as a sandwich spread. In fact, the Pimento Cheese sandwich is the official food of the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Served with a little chopped sweet onion and some watercress, this is a sandwich even non-sandwich lovers can't resist. You could also use it as a dip for chips, or even top a steak with it.

A new favorite of ours is to have it on a pulled pork sandwich. You'll have to excuse the quality of my photos (or lack there of), my priority was getting to the main event of delighting my taste buds:

The next night we had it on a burger. That was divine! Seriously divine. My one tip would be to put the cheese on the top of the bun, then add lettuce, tomato, pickle, etc. so that the cheese does not come in direct contact with the burger. I put the cheese directly on the burger and the heat from the meat melted the cheese, causing most to run off. Yum, can't wait to try that again!

Spicy Boiled Peanuts at the Palace Saloon ~ Fernandina Beach

Centre Street on Fernandina Beach is the very well preserved main corridor of this lovely Victorian seaside Island.
One of our favorite places to visit is the Palace Saloon. The Palace Saloon proudly boasts itself as being Florida's oldest continually operating saloon, serving suds under that name since 1903.
The interior completely fits in with the Victorian exterior feel of Centre Street. The staff and local patrons are very warm and welcoming, making you feel completely at home.
My main goal for the day was to stop and buy some boiled peanuts from a roadside stand on the way home. Jane's trip wasn't going to be complete without trying the Southern staple of boiled peanuts. While I've never been a fan, it had been 20+ years since I had tried them so thought it would be fun to experience them together. On the way up we had passed a few stands, some of which advertised spicy boiled peanuts. As a lover of all foods spicy, I thought this might make a more palatable option. Our wait was over when a man entered the saloon with a basket selling none other than spicy boiled peanuts!

At first bite, Jane wasn't completely convinced. Its mainly getting over the initial sock of the texture, being softer like a bean instead of crunchy like we're used to eating peanuts. After a few bites, we were all hooked. They were amazing*. The heat level was just right: enough to compliment the peanut but not too hot. Between the four of us we happily polished off the bag.
We liked them so much that we flagged the man down that was selling them and bought some more to take home with us. If you are in the Centre Street area of Fernandina Beach, be on the lookout for this man and give his spicy boiled peanuts a try, you'll be glad you did!

* If you like hummus, chances are you will like boiled peanuts. They reminded me a bit of hummus, only in a shell. Saying that, I don't think I would like plain boiled peanuts nearly as much, the flavor of his boiling brine completely made these peanuts a success.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Happy Tomato Cafe ~ Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island

The first week of November was very exciting for me. My friend Jane (from Cakebook) came over from England to visit us for 10 days. Our friendship formed 10 years ago over our mutual love of food and we've been great friend ever since. While I haven't seen Jane in 4 years, there is rarely a day that passes that I don't speak to her in some way; e-mail, Facebook - it's amazing how you can keep in touch these days. We had been planning what to do for months and seemed to come up with a Southern food theme. We took a trip up to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island (close to the northern boarder of Florida's east coast) and had great expectations of a lovely Southern lunch.

Noon rolled around and we were in search of somewhere to eat. While on the way to a place on 3rd Street I wanted to try, our noses were treated to the most heavenly, smokey BBQ smell. It was a good thing the place I wanted to go to was closed for the day, as it gave us no choice but to follow our noses back to the Happy Tomato Cafe...
The cafe itself is in a small wooden building with an outside deck...
... and courtyard seating...
We had a quick look at the menu and got in line as the place was quickly filling up. This place seemed to be very popular with the locals, which is always a good sign.
My Dad and James were with us and there was one item on the menu that caught all of our attention: THE WORKS. The Works is a pulled pork sandwich with pimento cheese! Yes, pimento cheese!!! This isn't the sort of thing I would eat on a daily basis, but it did sound good and we were on vacation after all. It's not everyday I get to have lunch with Jane! We were all very happy with our choice. The Works is served with a side of BBQ sauce (I highly recommend the Mustard based sauce) and dill pickles. Jane ordered a side of coleslaw, which was also very good.
Enjoy a close up glimpse...

The sandwich was so filling there is no way I could have eaten anything else. Sitting outside on a sunny day with great company was the icing on the cake. I can't wait to go back!

The Happy Tomato Courtyard Cafe & BBQ

7 S. 3rd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

(904) 321-0707