Thursday, October 29, 2009

Upcoming Signings - Southern Farmers Market Cookbook

Here's some fun upcoming fall-themed signings happening this weekend:

Pumpkin 'n Spice at O'Hara & Flynn, 225 Meeting Street, downtown. Come get your "boo" on and dig into some pumpkin cookies and pumpkin ice cream prepared from recipes in the book paired with wines selected by O & F owner, Bruce Petty. Saturday, October 31 (Halloween!)3- 6 p.m. Author Holly Herrick will be signing and selling ($20) Southern Farmers Market Cookbook.

Wine Tasting and Book Signing, The Glass Onion, 1219 Savannah Highway, West Ashley.The Glass Onion will celebrate their featured wine for November, Hedges CMS - with a sampling on Monday, November 1, from 5 to 8 p.m. Co-Owner Sarah O'Kelley will offer a taste of this Washington red to all interested diners while Holly Herrick signs copies of Southern Farmers Market Cookbook.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Southern Farmers Market Cookbook

You can view and purchase my latest cookbook, Southern Farmers Market Cookbook (Gibbs Smith, June 2009)at this link:

Rick McKee Film

Mo' Pho at Party Kingdom

Though I've heard glowing things about this restaurant/kids party palace since it opened a few years ago, I've been reticent to visit. Once I made a pass, but it was closed. Also, I wasn't sure what the place was all about. It's brimming with Webkinz and jelly beans and has whole sections devoted to stuffed animals and pinball machines. From outside, it was almost impossible to tell that, behind the candy counter, there is a small window that opens into a big-flavored world of authentic Vietnamese cooking prepared by Vietnamese natives.

The fragrant aromas of cilantro and lemon grass mingle with the sounds of various games bells and whistles and laughing kids. It's a curious pairing, but one that works just right, especially after you settle into a brimming, steaming bowl of the restaurant's signature dish, Pho. An indulgent Vietnamese specialty that is hard to find in these parts (the only other place I've had a good bowl was at Basil, downtown), it's stellar at Party Kingdom. The two core ingredients, a mass of springy rice noodles and a layered broth, redolent with lemongrass, beef, and subtle backdrops of cilantro and garlic, are spot-one. Add the plate full of fresh condiments like bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, peanut sauce and a tongue-singeing hot sauce stir-ins that come with it, and you're set for a feast of epic flavor proportions. The Pho comes with either beef or chicken and for just $8, is a steal of a deal.

Seating is spacious and comfortable and service at the counter both professional and friendly.

Party Kingdom
1739 Maybank Highway, James Island
(843) 795-5701

Still Trucking and Still Smiling

It's hard to believe it's been four months since I began the odyssey of traveling through the South to promote Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. From August's scorching heat through October's mild autumnal chill, from Birmingham, to Wilmington and scores of places in-between, I've encountered so many inspiring people and stories from the people that get inspired by local, seasonal shopping and cooking and love farmers markets, just as I do.

I'd by lying if I said the adventure has not been tiring at times and that sometimes I've been downright exhausted, but then something happens to pick me up all over again and to remember why I wrote the book and why I believe in it so much. This happened twice this last weekend at two completely unexpected places and events.

The first was at the Charleston Farmers Market Saturday morning where I was shooting a video for a series of cooking demonstrations from recipes featured in the book. Even as I was reveling in the beauty and fragrance of the crisp bounty of fall apples at Owl's Nest Plantation's booth, a handsome young man with a boy's face stopped me. I remembered him from a signing a few months back. His basket was brimming with seasonal kale, turnips, apples, squash and more. He was having the time of his life and looked like a kid in a fresh produce version of a candy shop. He told me he had perused through the book that morning to plan his shopping based upon the season and some of the recipes he would use to put them to good use. Talk about making my day! That's exactly why I wrote the book - to help people do just that. And, to do it with such enthusiasm! My heart brimmed with warmth as I watched him virtually bounce away with his verdant produce cache.

The following day I was enjoying the last of The Preservation of Charleston's Home & Garden Tour on hauntingly beautiful Legare Street in downtown Charleston on an idyllic fall afternoon. Though I was strolling through beautiful gardens, food and cooking were the last thing on my mind. When, out of nowhere, a woman came running up to me. She had attended a signing I did the previous week at Snee Farm's Garden Club. She squealed with glee as she told me she had gotten so inspired from my talk about the real values and joys of shopping locally, she had headed to the Mount Pleasant farmers market that very afternoon and shopped to her heart's content.

It's stories like these, meeting the raptures of the rapidly growing universe of farmers' markets devotees, and shopping at them myself, that make the world that much brighter. And, it reminds me on those rare tired days on the road, that the work is very, very worthwhile, indeed.

Happy local shopping and cooking!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Charleston Chef's Table - Extraordinary Recipes from the Heart of the Old South

Just got my first ever copy of this cookbook, which will be released in January, 2010 (Three Forks). It's my personal love letter to Charleston's deliciously dynamic culinary scene and was written with the generous help of Charleston's most talented chefs and the inspiration of this beautiful, Southern belle of a city. Here's the cover!

Burgers and Burgers and Fries - Oh My!

Just when you thought you'd had some of Charleston's juicy-best burger offerings, a la Poe's, Rue, and Five Guys, along comes another gutsy burger joint serving up veritable whoppers of flavorful, beefy girth - Grindz. Though the one month-old, family-owned restaurant doesn't touch its aforementioned competitors in the fries or onion rings department (both here tasted and looked pre-fabricated), its leading the front of the pack in the greater Charleston burger department.

Hand-formed patties of house ground, rib-eye beef form 8 ounce, round, mini-mountains of deliciousness that would make Wimpy whimper for more and more and more. Piled atop a sturdy, fresh buttered bun and slathered with a wide assortment of condiments from chili to sauteed onions and mushrooms, these are highly effective hunger busters with easy $11 or less prices. Aptly named burger behemoths like "The Big Sloppy" (chili, bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, mushrooms, bbq sauce, fried onion straws, pickles, lettuce, tomato & homemade ranch dressing) and "Texas Hold 'Em (pepper jack cheese, bbq sauce, red onions, bacon, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato & homemade ranch dressing) give new meaning to the phrase big bite. The most brazen beef lovers among us are invited to layer on another 8 ounce patty for good measure.

Though there was nothing amusing about the passing of Amuse, the new resident of the former restaurant's West Ashley address provides ample reasons for burger lovers to smile. Wings, salads and milkshakes are all on the menu, but burgers at Grindz are the undisputed stars.

Grindz Burgers & Brew
1720 Sam Rittenburg Blvd, West Ashley
(843) 556-0257

Monday, October 5, 2009

WildFlour in Full Bloom

Lauren Mitterer, Chef/Owner of this brand new pastry shop, was walking her black lab, Calla, on the beach one day while musing what she might call her not-yet- conceived business baby, WildFlour. "I saw some beautiful wild flowers and I thought, hmm, that's it," says Mitterer.

Mitterer proved her talent for creating sumptuously simple desserts with witty word-play titles at Red Drum, where she worked as Executive Pastry Chef since the restaurant's opening day six years ago. Thus followed waves of praise and award nominations, including one from the James Beard House, and a loyal legion of local Mitterer fans, myself included. The creative powerhouse finally couldn't resist the urge to open her own shop, and did so just a little over a week ago, with the enthusiastic emotional and partial financial support of her close-knit family.

Charleston is now blessed with Mitterer's very own version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Hers is a much more maternal, feminine, and sane version, but chocolate at WildFlour, like in the movie, takes center stage in her myriad cupcakes, custards, cakes, cookies, sweet breads and croissants.

The diminutive shop situated where Spring Street and Percy Street connect looks, feels, and smells like an enchanted dollhouse. Pretty little puffs of cupcakes house flavors like vanilla, lemon curd and coconut or chocolate cake, hazelnut ganache, and raspberry and are topped with pastel and cocoa hued swirls of buttercream. They looked like dressed up edible dolls dancing to the beat of temptation even as they decorate the refrigerator cabinet situated temptingly in clear view upon entering the shop. On top of the counter, cookie jars are lined up like so many kids sweet-tooth dreams. Snickerdoodles, sugar and chocolate chip - the classic rainy day afternoon comfort cookies - are all on dazzling, disarming display.

The piece de resistance, however, is Mitterer's signature double chocolate cookie. Made with decadently dark bittersweet chocolate laced with nuggets of white chocolate, it is quite easily the best cookie in these parts, especially if it comes hot out of the oven as it did the moment I arrived. It screams for a glass of cold milk and a warm hug from momma.

Alas, cold milk is not on the menu, but you can belly-up to a soothing cup of steamed milk and a warm embrace from Mitterer seems available to all whom enter WildFlour. When she's not almost single-handily crafting her regular menu items, Mitterer pursues her second love (behind chocolate, that is), creating custom cakes for weddings and other special occasions. Savory scones and biscuits are at the ready if you're not feeling the need for sweet at Wildflour.

WildFlour Pastry
73 Spring Street, downtown

Mini- Blog Bites: Al di La Lunch, Mia P's Pizza

The once entirely celestial Al di La recently announced it's serving lunch in the charming bacaro and outside patio from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Having been at least thrice burned by rude, almost hostile service since former owner John Marshall's departure a few years ago, I was reluctant to return to check it out. But shades of eternal optimism, the changing shades of a new, cooler season, the prospect of lower lunch prices and sweet memories of Al di La's always heavenly food got the better of me. Indeed, the wheel seemed to take over along with my subconcious, virtually steering the car onto Magnolia Road when the initial destination had been the always yummy Glass Onion situated a little farther south on Savannah Highway.

Lunch proved to be impeccable. Great, friendly service from a gentle, non-hurried staff and the scent of smoke wafting from the wood-fired pizette oven quickly softened my armor into a molten self-admission that Al di La can be as sweet as it always was, especially during the less hectic daytime hours. Soups, salads, and mini-pizza's shine with fresh flavors and top grade ingredients, not the least of which is the house-made mozzarella. The prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula panini ($8.25) served with a small, fresh salad made for a perfectly delicious lunch. Prices are as gentle as the daytime service, ranging between $5 to $8.50. Throw in a glass of wine sipped underneath a merry Campari umbrella and you're inviting a sweet, Northern-Italian style nap quicker than you can say Ciao. Perhaps this kind of comforting and nurturing lunch bodes well for improved nocturnal service experiences. For more on prices, hours, menus, visit:

Mia Pomodori

There's been a lot of positive buzz on the streets about this tiny, young pizza shop that popped up on Charleston's hottest(seemingly all of a sudden!) restaurant corner at Cannon and Rutledge. A darling little spot owned by a Brooklyn native and his wife, it emits a wonderful stream of Italian aromas that mingle with Hominy's Southern and Lana's Mediterranean respective aromatic arsenals in a most wonderful way.

I've heard people rave about the Sicilian style pizza which has a very thick, very chewy crust. For me, it's a little bit too much and reminds me of eating an open face sandwich on a halved submarine roll. Opt for the thinner specialty pies which includes the usual suspects like margherita, bianca and carne ($16.99-$18.99, 16-inch) prepared with unusual amounts of love and sincerity from the small staff. Mia's most winning points have to be the intimate outside dining patio that feels more like a Charleston backyard/garden and a pungent, saucey red sauce. Pacing's a big problem and needs to pick up. It's painful to wait a full hour with an empty stomach while breathing in all those fabulous scents. For more information on the menu/hours, etc.

Culinary Cost-Cutting 101

Coupon Crazy

When I was a little girl, I marveled while watching my Great Aunt Frances sitting at her linoleum-topped kitchen table, cutting coupons from the daily newspaper in the tiny Kansas town she lived in until she was nearly 100 years old.

It seemed like such a waste of energy in order to save a few pennies on, what I thought, were probably things she wouldn't normally buy anyway. But, I was naive. She, a thrifty survivor of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, had her coupon system down pat and it's probably one of the reasons she made it through a long life of hard times, many of them spent alone.

The latest bout of monetary unpleasantness, however, has created a market for New Age couponing systems. The internet now has a number of hot coupon sites (I like which provide free, brand-name coupons and more if you select to register as a member. They're just a click, a printer, and five minutes away. In addition, many grocery stores' websites offer lists of daily specials. And, here's the kicker. Many provide selections from the kind of items you usually purchase, anyway. That was it for me. The last straw supporting my long-standing anti-coupon mindset finally broke its resistant back.

Harris Teeter's online specials shopping list became this list-hater's new best friend. I dipped into it with reckless abandon. With a little practice and increasing knowledge, I'm slowly forming my own semi-profitable coupon system. By combining the free manufacturer's coupons from sites like with a daily special shopping list constructed from Harris Teeter's web site ( , my handy VIC card, and an extra dose of concentration at the grocery store, I have scored some serious savings.

The best yet happened last week. Granted, it was a big sales day at the downtown Teeter. The store was offering buy one get one, two or even three, all over the place on big ticket items like beef, coffee and wine. Since I'm expecting company in a couple weeks, I decided to stock up on these and other staples. The net result was a whopping $67 total savings. In essence, I bought three weeks-worth of groceries for less than I usually spend in one week!

My heart raced with anticipation as I watched the basket cave with the weight of my cache and the numbers creeping slowly higher on the cash register. Then, as the cashier started calculating in the selected coupons, the numbers amazingly started going down. It was like getting on the scale after a week of gorging Haagen-Dazs only to find you'd lost five pounds. I was beaming. She was beaming and said, "You did good today!"

Admittedly, a follow-up trip to replenish the fresh vegetable drawer just one week later only yielded $10 in savings, but next time I'll do better. I'm on a coupon-crazed mission. Intelligent use of coupons and smart shopping add up to saving a lot more than pennies. And, I'm not in Kansas anymore.

One Plucky Chicken, Four Marvelous Meals

With grocery costs rocketing to the stratosphere, it’s imperative to save wherever you can at the supermarket without eliminating taste. In addition to reaching for reduced daily specials, what you buy and how you put it to use in your kitchen can happily translate to huge savings with bodacious bite.

In this era of grocery gouging, chicken can become your new best friend for just pennies per four ounce serving when paired with practical pantry staples like pasta and veggies. Low in fat, high in protein and exceptionally versatile, chicken marries equally well with the exotic (think truffles or saffron) to the humble (think roasted potatoes and rosemary).

For these reasons, it’s a regular menu guest at my house, where I pride myself on transforming a single, four pound chicken (preferably organic and purchased at a reduced rate) into four fabulous feasts for a group of four. That’s sixteen meals, folks! A four pound chicken runs anywhere from $6-$10 (depending on where and how you shop), throw in a little change for ingredients to flesh it out into a meal (4X), and you’re looking at less than $20. A night out for a family of four at any fast food favorite will set you back the same amount or more faster than you can say “heart attack”.

Gotcha? Let me tell you how it’s done!

Meal #1: This is the launching pad for the meal plan event(s) – a whole roasted chicken. Since it’s going to be transformed several times, keep the seasoning simple – ground pepper, a nice crust of coarse salt and a rub down with olive oil. Roast at 425 until done (about 20 minutes per pound) and top it with a few love pats of butter to sink deeply into the bird. Allow the roasted chicken to rest and re-absorb its juices. Cut the both legs and thighs away from the chicken (reserving warm). Cut the breasts away from the rib cage, cool and store in your refrigerator for later use. Serve both legs and both thighs with steamed vegetables and roasted potatoes for a satisfying, nutritional meal. Go ahead and prepare a pan gravy with a little roux, white wine, chicken stock, Dijon mustard and fresh tarragon to dress things up, but hold on to the carcass!

Meal #2: Start this after the roast chicken dinner to prepare for tomorrow’s old-fashioned and DELICIOUS chicken noodle soup. With a sturdy chef’s knife, cut up the reserved carcass remnants – the rib cage and spine – into four or five coarse chunks and put them in a two quart soup pot with a quartered onion, carrot, celery stalk and a clove or two of garlic to make an impromptu stock. Add a few peppercorns, a bay leaf and fresh thyme for added flavor. Bring it up to a boil, reduce to a slow simmer over low heat and forget about it for three to four hours. Allow to cool and refrigerate, covered, overnight.
About thirty minutes before you’re slotted to serve dinner, skim off any accumulated fat off the top of the stock, strain it, discarding all solids except any bits of chicken flesh. Finely chop an onion, carrot and celery stalk and sauté them in the same pot with a tablespoon of olive oil until softened. Season, return the strained stock to the pan and bring up to a boil. Add reserved chicken and about ¼ pound of dried pasta (flat noodles, spaghetti, linguini – your choice) and cook until tender. Serve with a drizzle of fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, or thyme will do) and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. A small, fresh salad and warm baguette make this a meal.

Meal #3: Chicken Salad Deluxe! This is where you can really have fun with chicken’s flavor/texture marriage versatility. Cut one of the reserved breasts into chunky, ½” cubes and toss in a bowl with coarsely chopped dried cranberries (or another dried fruit like figs or currants), coarsely chopped roasted almonds, fresh herbs, a dollop of Dijon, a dash of mayo and vinegar, salt and pepper and you’ve got a meal in minutes over a bed of greens. Other flavors that work in tandem with chicken include curry, paprika, cinnamon and almost any fresh herb imaginable. Make this your own!

Meal #4: Chicken Sandwiches Supreme! Again, versatility and imagination set the stage for show-stopping chicken sandwiches prepared with freshly roasted chicken breast. Go for the best quality bread you can find, from baguette to whole grain, and fill it with thinly cut slices of the remaining breast and toppings. One sliced breast will handily complete four sandwiches. Zip up mayo with fresh basil and Dijon mustard for a fresh, personalized sauce, top with a slice of red onion and crisp romaine. Go whole hog and add a few pieces of browned bacon and a slice of avocado if the mood moves.

Chicken never tasted so good for so little.