Reflecting on One Year with Wiser Time Publishing

I’ve been writing for Wiser Time Publishing for one year. That’s 26 published stories total about West Ashley and James Island food businesses. These businesses are either brand new ones to the area, or established ones that are growing, have new management, a new menu, an upcoming charity dinner, or other news.

I submitted another story just this week, I have feelers out with other businesses in the works, and I scour the internet daily for news of new openings and events. Sometimes just driving around and seeing what’s new pays off more. [Savannah Highway and Folly Road rarely disappoint with vintage automobiles, artfully hand-painted VW CamperVans, and otherwise unusual vehicles. And it’s nice to check in with the Coburg Cow and see what she’s wearing this month.]

If you did not already know, this blog has an About Me section (click the link to go there). It includes a slideshow of all the Wiser Time published pieces, the pieces as submitted are listed below that. Prior to Wiser Time, I was contributing to Eat This magazine. Prior to writing about food, I covered independent musicians live performances and recorded albums for Performer Magazine’s Southeastern edition. I have always been a music fan, but I do not play instruments or read music, nor do I sing professionally. I enjoyed learning about indie artists (who deserved more attention than they get), but I found I felt limited in my commentary as just a fan. It was an awkward situation where I felt If I’m not growing, I must be going. I had been a home-trained baker and cook from a very early age, so food writing was a more natural topic, and ultimately a better fit for me.

In my writing for Wiser Time, and even in creating the Sea Islands Dining Guide, I hope I have motivated residents and visitors to check out new places or discover ones that are new to them.

Traditional food critic pieces often take polarizing views. I write about food, but I am not a critic. I aim to tell readers about the people behind the business, their background in food, where they are from, what they are offering, what local businesses they used to get set up, where their produce is from if it’s local, and why you should try it at least once and make up your own mind.

You the reader know what you like or what sounds intriguing to your tastebuds.

You the reader know what your budget is any given night.

And it’s possible in reading my stories you may discover you and a chef or owner are from the same neighborhood in New Jersey, Maine, or Oklahoma, or Tokyo, for that matter. How cool is that?

I hope readers try the places out. I hope it becomes a new favorite, those readers would go back, and would even suggest it to a friend. With all the technology, media, and experts that exist, word of mouth from a friend is still strongest endorsement tool any business has.

I have seen too many eateries come and go. Hanging the shingle is just the beginning; restaurants need fans, and buzz, and regulars. Ideally they would interview with every paper, mag, and blog they could because each of those publications has different audiences. I am not sure that the new restaurants owners realize that. Communities need thriving businesses, employed workers, and a genuine feeling of community among their residents.

It is really awesome to see Downtown Charleston get so much national attention for its restaurant scene. I do think great places are opening up in the surrounding cities and boroughs** and they deserve some attention as well.

You do not have to go Downtown to get locally-grown food.

You do not have to be Downtown to eat well-crafted dishes from people who bring a lot of heart to what they do, whether that’s a burger, a slice of pizza or a hefty plate of Southern ‘fixins’.

You do not have to go Downtown to get craft beer.

And odds are, the parking is free, and there’s plenty of it.

I will close this post now. I need to go hunt down some future stories and do some baking.

**Mount Pleasant and James Island are towns. North Charleston is a city. West Ashley and Johns Island are part of Charleston.

Dinner At My One of My Favorite Restaurants: Home

I guess I am spoiling the glamorous mystery of this food writer’s life, but, surprise! I cook at home quite a bit, both weekdays and weekends.

On weekends and days off, we start the day with sauteéd bacon or sausage, over-medium eggs, pancakes or biscuits. I admit I use Pioneer Pancake Mix and frozen biscuits. For more unique flavors in the pancakes I’ve added sliced bananas and cardamom spice, or unsweet applesauce. Occasionally I will dally into omelettes or poached eggs.

For weeknight dinners, we regularly have:

Burritos: Seasoned ground turkey, diced tomatoes with chiles, and shredded cheese. The tortillas are warmed in foil in the oven. Sides are refritos (with a little greek yogurt and cumin added for taste), or rice. A great ready-made sauce for turkey is Frontera by Rick Bayless; it’s a a quick alternative to using dry or fresh herbs.

burritos

burritos2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better Butter Chicken from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo blogs and books, over a bed of cooked spinach. A ready-made sauce for this dish is here.

Chicken Florentine. I make a lighter version using chicken broth based sauce instead of the usual cream sauce.

Porkappleshallots

Pork Chops sauteed with shallots and granny smith apple slices is another quick-dinner favorite.

Now that it’s Fall, more oven-intensive meals are more inviting option. For instance, bringing homemade chili back into the lineup. I use 3 ground meats (pork, beef, chicken or turkey), kidney beans, diced tomatoes, diced yellow onion, chili powder and other herbs, diced white onions, and unsweetened cocoa. It’s all simmered for most of an hour in a big Dutch oven pot. More seasoning is added to taste. I serve baked cornbread on the side. One thing that’s great about chili is there are plenty of leftovers if you are a small family. It’s waiting to be warmed up for lunch or dinner for the next few days.

chili

I may also bake a whole chicken with lemon and garlic cloves in it. Rice will probably be on the side.

At least once a month, I mix and bake up a double batch of egg cupcakes, based on another recipe from Sarah Fragoso. Each time I make them, we’re covered for 2-3 weeks of a great go-to weekday breakfast in the microwave. Otherwise I enjoy greek yogurt with muesli on top, or cottage cheese.

If you are disappointed by cable networks’ personality-driven recipe books being tasty but not very healthy, I recommend Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo series, Julie S. Mayfield’s Paleo Comfort Foods, and Tosca Reno’s Clean Eating series. I am also very excited about books from PBS’ chef personalities, ‘especially the ethnic cuisines–Alamelu’s Indian, Ming’s Pan-Asian, Lidia’s Italian, and Newscancook’s Scandinavian foods. And that’s just four of many more shows that are on PBS. And if local caterer Brazilianuts ever writes a recipe book, I would pick that up as well; in covering regional charity dinners in Charleston on two separate occasions this year, I’ve learned there is so much more to Brazilian food than steak, and there’s so much more to learn about it. And I really love learning about foreign foods, especially when it manages to be tasty and healthy at the same time.

I am closing this post because I need to get cooking…

UPDATE: This post was originally created on 10/11/13. When I wrote it, I could only remember the name of the book and that the author was a really tall auburn-haired chef named Julie. Fast forward a month later, I discovered Julie Mayfield’s books had a blog so I updated that part of this post on 11/5/13.

Tip My Toque: Chef on a Shoestring 1997-2012 or dear CBS, Bring This Back!

Chef on a Shoestring was a series on the CBS Early Show:Saturday edition from the late 90s into the 2000s. CBS has changed up its morning hosts and format several times in the last 20 years. I fear this segment isn’t coming back anytime soon. As Americans struggle with obesity, unemployment, pinched family budgets, and food stamp funding cuts, the segment’s content is more relevant than ever.

According to its Wikipedia page, Executive Producer Hal Gressner was solely responsible for Chef on a Shoestring.

Each week, they would ask a high profile chef or TV food personality to make a 3 course dinner, for a family of 4, for under $40. 

In the 90s, they calculated the receipt onscreen, then showed that gorgeous, unbelievable-for-under-$40 prepared dinner. If that wasn’t enough, it was usually very healthy too—a little meat, and a whole lot of fresh veggies and herbs. And dessert wasn’t what I would call a diabetes bomb. To help the Share Our Strength charity, they produced a recipe book in 2001; a re-issue was published in 2004 (the link takes you to the Amazon page).

Some segments from the 2000s are available on Youtube, like Chef John Mooney’s Winter Comfort Food.

Saving money and eating well never go out of style. ‘So Chef on a Shoestring, I tip my toque to you, and hope you, or another series like yours, will return to the tv news “menu” sometime soon.