Monday, December 5, 2011

Rattle & Hum

Where does a good drink come from? An obvious answer would consist merely of a list of ingredients. While we take pleasure and pride in sourcing small-batch liquors and local fruit to create our cocktails at Restaurant Eugene, each drink is equally a mix of ideas, themes, and sensuous evocations as it is well-stirred potables. Just as Proust’s madeleine can hardly be reduced to flour and sugar, the cocktails that find their way on to our list spring from the memories and imaginations of our barkeeps.

Bartenders Gabe Bowen and Michael Searles at Restaurant Eugene Bar.

In that enchanted and pensive time between late autumn and winter, rainy skies and frosty nights conjure desires for spice and warmth. Those were the elements that bar manager Michael Searles had in mind when he began to compose the Resurrection Fern. This homage to the hot toddy calls forth a scene Searles describes as those precious walks through the woods just before it’s too cold for a stroll, when fungal, ginger aromas hang in the air.

The drink begins with hum, a botanical rhum that will make you sing. The creation of renowned mixologists Adam Seger and Joe McCanta, this inspired spirit contains fair-trade hibiscus, ginger root, green cardamom, and kaffir lime. Using hum as his base, Searles riffs on Georgia's mountains and forest with Applejack, Ellijay Galas, a pinch of wood fennel, and brewed English Breakfast.  To allay any concern that the tea might tip the drink on the scale of tannins, he decided to add a little butter – fans of hot buttered rum will approve of this move.  Once all of these elements are stirred and smooth, he garnishes with a swath of lemon peel, a tiny bouquet of wood sorrel tucked in the middle. On these long cold nights ahead, let us keep you warm – we promise to revive your mind, body and soul with the Resurrection Fern.

Beets Me

It was only a matter of time before the Restaurant Eugene barkeeps would shake up a liquid allusion to Tom Robbins’ classic novel, Jitterbug Perfume.  In the book, the protagonists travel through time and space in a quest for immortality and the perfect fragrance.  Said fragrance is designed to mask the musk of a stinky goat, the demi-god, Pan.  Restaurant Eugene's K23 – the technical name of the book's perfume – vies for olfactory attention with goat cheese.

Like a good jazz combo that flies on brass and anchors on bass, good perfumes consist equally of bright floral notes and warm earth tones. If this also sounds like the mix of a distinctive, delightful drink, that’s exactly what Gabe Bowen was thinking when he developed the K23. He knew he wanted to make a beet cocktail, so the challenge became figuring out what other elements would be necessary for an alluring potion, especially one that has to stand up to pungent cheese.

Roasted, muddled beets take a dip in an ounce of Bulleit bourbon; a splash of orange juice lends acidity and evokes orange-glazed beets; a dash of smoked-onion sorghum gives piquant sweetness; Strega, a classic Italian liqeur, hints at caraway and toasted fennel.  All are shaken and strained into a flute with an orange peel, then topped with prosecco.  Voila!  This is the K23, a drink that’ll make you want to dance the jitterbug.  Stop by Restaurant Eugene soon to try the K23 with some of our favorite goat cheeses from around the southeast, including Atlanta's own Decimal Place Farm.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Heirloom With a View

How do we pass on a legacy? 

When most people hear the word ‘hierloom,’ they probably think of their grandmother’s pearls or their grandfather’s watch. For some, the word might conjure images of bulging tomatoes or unique breeds of turkey. We believe all of these are important things to preserve. Just as Wendell Berry declared eating to be an agricultural act, we think that what we eat says something about our values, and what we want to hand down from generation to generation. This is why we’re so excited to announce a new heirloom wheat bread from H&F Bread Co.: the Red Fife Wheat Bread.

Friends of local farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants will recognize Anson Mills as our purveyor of delicious grits and other high-quality, hand-milled products. It’s an honor to use one of their heirloom varieties of wheat in this new bread.

Our friend Glenn Roberts, the founder of Anson Mills, has an adventurous spirit that is carefully juxtaposed with a reverence for tradition. In 1998, Roberts walked away from a 30-year career as a historic restoration consultant and restaurant and hotel designer, bought four native granite mills and 40 chest freezers, and began operations in a big metal warehouse behind a car wash in Columbia, South Carolina. He trekked back roads in search of lost or all-but-lost varieties of corn, wheat and rice.  One of Roberts’ first discoveries was a single-family hand-select corn varietal known as “Carolina Gourdseed White” that dates back to the late 1600s. Thanks to his diligence and dedication, dishes that might have been lost forever are now restored to pantries and kitchens throughout the southeast and across the country.

As our head baker Rob Alexander says, baking bread is about “preserving traditions,”  which is particularly resonant with this new bread, a batard made from Red Fife wheat.  This grain, offered by Anson Mills, originates in the mid 19th century.  The wheat is first found in Saskatchewan in the late 1840s, although some historians believe that a Scottish nobleman discovered it as early as 1732. By 1870, it was commonly grown in the Canadian prairie, in New England and throughout Appalachia. During this time, Red Fife wheat also became a staple in the states of Kansas and Texas as well.

Red Fife is grown as a spring wheat in areas where the winters are harsh, but does quite well as a winter wheat in the southern U.S., due to the mild autumn and winter seasons that the region is typically known for, according to Roberts. Roberts finds the wheat is much less bitter than the flour used to make bread found in most grocery stores—the taste, he says, is very similar to honey.  Red Fife bran also has a thinner consistency than most conventional varieties of wheat, and a naturally higher mineral content . Mr. Roberts recommends eating a slice of Red Fife wheat bread with pure buckwheat honey and quality butter.

The expertly baked Red Fife wheat bread also is a perfect accompaniment to holiday meals, the ideal vessel for a turkey sandwich, and a great way to start your day. You can find a loaf (or baker’s dozen) of this baked treasure at the many farmers markets where H&F Bread co. sells every week or you can place a special order at our shop today by calling 404.350.8877.

Beyond the value that Mr. Roberts' efforts have for horticulturists, farmers and gourmands around the world—no small company, to be sure—Anson Mills’ vigilance is a boon to families and eaters everywhere. We show our love and live our values through what we share, and there are few better things to share than good food (nothing against pearls or pocket watches).  How do we pass on legacies?  At the table, or course, with friends and family over good food.  The Red Fife Wheat is no exception.  You have to eat it to save it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

This Side(s) of Paradise

There are certain truths about Thanksgiving that are, shall we say, self-evident: that all Rieslings were created to make time with family more enjoyable, and that certain side dishes are as important, if not more so, than whatever bird, Turducken, or Tofurkey graces the center of the table. Year-round at Restaurant Eugene we are as meticulous and impassioned about the background singers that support Ribeye rock stars and Sea Bass divas, so it should be no surprise that composing the perfect potato dish or dinner roll brings Chef Hopkins as much excitement as getting the turkey to that quintessence of golden brown.

Some of you might be surprised to learn that one of Chef’s favorite Thanksgiving sides features canned soup as one of its key ingredients. While most of the cooking at Restaurant Eugene is a symphony of time-intensive preparation that brings together notes from a slower South with the finesse of classical French cuisine, it is important to remember that one of the first, chief champions of French-American cooking, Julia Child, loved the convenience offered by canned cream of mushroom soup. Child was a tremendous influence on Chef Hopkins and his mother, and the question What Would Julia Do (WWJD?) continues to guide imaginations in kitchens everywhere. Thus, his recipe for Wild Rice Casserole With Mushrooms (which you can also find in the current issue of Garden & Gun is one part delicious nostalgia to two parts inventive seasonality.

Having grown up in Atlanta, Chef has had a long relationship with Coca-Cola, that heavenly addition to cakes and cocktails. It lends a little fun to that old stand-by, cranberry chutney. Turkey without cranberry chutney would be like Marvin without Tammi, and Chef’s chutney without Coca-Cola would be an aria without a soprano – that fizzy sugar is what makes the dish sing.

Wherever you spend your Thanksgiving, whatever sides you prepare, we hope you have time to savor the things that bring you joy. We are thankful for you, and offer a few of Chef Hopkin's recipes as a token of our gratitude.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

Wild Rice Casserole with Mushrooms

1 cup wild rice, cooked according to package directions
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 tbsp. minced onion
2 tbsp. minced 
green pepper
8 oz. white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 can condensed cream 
of mushroom soup
1 cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. dried tarragon
½ tsp. curry powder
Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

In a heavy-bottomed ovenproof pot over moderate heat, melt butter until foamy and sauté onion, pepper, and mushrooms until softened and aromatic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in soup, cream, and spices. Add cooked rice, stirring to combine, and transfer to preheated oven. Bake until soup and cream are absorbed and the rice thickens, about 40 to 50 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Cranberry Coca-Cola Chutney
(Serves 8)

6 oz. fresh cranberries
6 oz. dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 cup Coca-Cola
1 pinch kosher salt
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring often until berries
have burst and mixture has thickened, about 15 minutes.

Will keep in refrigerator for 3 weeks, serve slightly cool.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Herbin' Outfitters

Herbin’ Outfitters

Have you ever had more herbs than you’ve known what to do with? At Restaurant Eugene, we welcome such an embarrassment of riches as it poses an exciting challenge.  The other week Rashid Nuri delivered a delightful bevy of herbs from Truly Living Well Farms on Auburn Avenue.  Rather than throwing out bunches and bunches of marvels from the herb garden, our chefs decided to enhance our pantry with house-dried basil, marjoram, oregano, and sage.  What didn’t become chiffonade was hung from a shelf to wear the wondrous dress of time. After a week or so, what had been supple, soft green leaves were transmuted to brittle paper --- crinkles of deliciousness.

Just as our overall enterprise strives to preserve southern food traditions with more than a dash of innovation, this dynamic deployment of herbs demonstrates Chef Hopkins's steadfast dedication to being good stewards of what we have. Norman Wirzba, a professor at Duke Divinity School who writes about food and faith, says “When our eating is mindful, we celebrate the goodness of fields, gardens, forests and watersheds, and the skill of those who can nurture seed…into delicious food.” So let’s celebrate!

Here is just one dish yielded from our new herb pantry – we hope you’ll stop in soon to try it, and also encourage you to cook and eat with your friends and family home. And stay tuned – next week we will take a further look at Truly Living Well Farms, the source of these herbs and many other items regularly found on our menus.

Rutabaga and Celery Root Gratin

1 lb. rutabaga or purple-top turnip
1 lb. celery root
2 cups cream
1 lb. Gruyere
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch sage
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. black pepper
1)    Peel rutabaga and celery root and shave on mandolin to 1/8th inch thickness.
2)    Simmer cream with herbs, salt, and pepper.
3)    Shingle alternating rutabaga and celery root in a buttered casserole dish. Ladle some of the herb-infused cream onto each layer, just enough to coat. This should make about 5 layers. Grate gruyere on top to cover.
4)    Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until cheese is golden tan and layers are tender throughout.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake (But Not That Often)

When Chef Hopkins isn’t busy blazing trails on the Atlanta food scene, fighting for our good food culture, or planting a school garden, you might find him in the aisles of a farmer’s market or grocery store with his family.  Chef is as dedicated to making sure his family eats well as he is to pleasing the palettes of diners at Restaurant Eugene and Holeman &  Finch Public House. You can read a little more about his passion for serving good food at home in Fanae Aaron’s new book, What Chefs Feed Their Kids.

In these pages, readers will find a number of delicious dishes to prepare for themselves and their children, as well as the guiding philosophies employed by some of the country’s best chefs as they make decisions for their restaurants and their families.

“Food is family,” Chef Hopkins declares. Just as his own sense of what’s delicious and fitting for the table was cultivated by his mother, Priscilla Holeman Hopkins and grandfather, Eugene Holeman - names that may seem familiar – Chef Hopkins hopes to pass food values along to his children. One way he accomplishes this by giving the children input into family meals. “When we go to the farmer’s market…we’ll give them some money and they’ll pick some things.”

Preparing a meal together – from the sourcing of ingredients to setting the table to cleaning up afterward – is an educational tool and a way to bond. Living a diverse food life is what Chef suggests to build a child’s palette and celebrate both cooking and eating. His methods appear to be wearing off. His youngest has already created something called a Cobbydo sauce, a combination of soy and Worcestershire sauces with mustard mayonnaise added for a bit of spice.

Here is just one of Chef’s family friendly recipes to be found in the book:

Savory Waffles

2 cups waffle and pancake mix (Chef Linton makes his from scratch, but you can use your favorite brand)

2 eggs

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup grated Gruyere or similar cheese

1.    Preheat oven to 200 degrees Farenheit and place a waiting plate to warm inside. Heat a waffle maker until a flick of water beads and bounces around on the device's surface.

2.    Prepare the waffle mix, adding eggs, milk, oil, salt, and pepper, and mix until just combined, adding more milk if the mix is too thick. It should be the consistency of pudding. Then fold in the cheeses.

3.    Lightly butter the waffle maker and spoon judicious dollops of the mix onto the center of the hot waffle iron and spread just a bit. The mix will spread when the lid closes and expand as it cooks, so adding too much will be a bit messy as it bubbles out the sides.

4.    As the waffles finish, use a fork to lift them off and put them in the oven to stay warm while the rest are made. Waffles are best served warm. Freeze any leftover waffles to enjoy later.

Chef also recommends modifying the batter to incorporate seasonal herbs and spices, and folding in your favorite local meats and vegetables to make something of a waffle sandwich.  

Look for a copy of the book at A Capella, our bookselling partner in Little Five Points (

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dinner with Dave Miner - Monday, November 14th

Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley

At Restaurant Eugene, we are lucky enough to meet many wine makers in the course of daily business.  Dave Miner is one with whom we have developed a close friendship.  We feel very proud to introduce our guests to Mr. Miner and his celebrated wines.

Established in 1998 in the Oakville appellation, the Miners have quickly developed a stellar reputation for producing wines of character and depth in a number of varietals.  The hard work and intelligent winemaking of Dave Miner and his family have produced several world renowned wines.

We are pleased to be hosting Dave for a winemaker dinner on Monday, November 14th.  Guests will no doubt enjoy the opportunity to meet our good friend Dave and discuss his vineyard and methods for producing such joyous wines, while tasting them and enjoying a four course dinner prepared by Chef Hopkins.  We begin at 6:30 with a reception and passed hors d' oeuvres.  We dine at 7.


2009 Viognier, Simpson Vineyard

terrine of foie gras, luxardo gelee and pain au levain

spicy cole slaw

georgia 'caviar' with cornmeal blini and clabber


2009 Chardonnay, Napa Valley
wild shrimp, sapelo clams, apalachicola oysters and crab sunchoke barigoule

2009 Pinot Noir, Rosella's Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands

aromatic poached carolina pigeon, cornbread-buttermilk puree, strawberry glazed beets & giblet gravy


2007 La Diligence Syrah, Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley

roast pork with crackling, sea island red peas, winter greens and red eyed sorghum pork jus


2007 Merlot, Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley

acorn-sweet potato-coffee streusel & milk with ganache

Reservations Required.  Limited Seating.
Please call 404.355.0321

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ode To Butter

It makes savory dishes pleasing to the palette, and adds an inimitable richness to desserts. Whether cold, hot, or somewhere in between, butter has transformative power.  Perhaps it's because butter itself is the result of something more like transmutation --- white liquid milk into golden, creamy heaven.
We love butter so much at Restaurant Eugene that we've started churning our own, and serving butter courses every night to accompany our various breads.  But that's not all.  The contemplation of perfecting house-made butter actually led Chef Hopkins to write this ode.  In the style of Keats, it's Chef's attempt to capture in words everything Vollon did with paint, and what we all feel with that first bite of the sweet, creamy, salty wonder that is butter.

Ode to Butter

Thou still unravished bride of promises
a child of art and craft
fixed with many suitors eyes
born of Thracia from capra and aries
reaching perfection with the cow

bursting from chicken kiev
laced with chive
my first experience
a joy I still recall

Vollon,  still life's master
Conjured you in 1875
Escoffier's contemporary,  he knew who you were:
a foundation.

In ancient India you were clarified into one of their most elemental of foods.
GHEE,  sanskrit for "bright"
you are an ancient offering to the gods and burned in holy lamps and funeral pyres

beaten out of cream
kneaded and shaped
salted to preserve
fresh, room temp-there is no need to refrigerate you

as the poet Seamus said
you are "coagulated sunlight"

sunlight transformed by the cow
from the seasonal hue
cool and spreadable I taste your season,
bright, fat and herbal in spring and summer when
fed on clover and fresh grass
in the winter you taste of hay and grain

ulia became Julia when met with your aroma
commingling in a pan with shallots
many people don't know that you actually lighten a dish
small knobs stirred into reduced stock
mouthfeel, richness
the dish which is missing something
is quickly set right

Would French cuisine exist without you?
Chef Point in '37, manned the stoves at La Pyramide writing
"Butter! Give me Butter! Always Butter!

So versatile are you
clarified to remove the milk
you saute at high heat
whole at low flame you perform a feat of magic:
you emulsify with yourself

the water, milk solids and fat,
a whisk, some coaxing
a smooth warm sauce is born, beurre monte
a little wine vinegar and shallot ... beurre blanc

toasted till hazelnut brown; noisette
darkened to almost burnt dark black; noir
worked into eggs: hollandaise and bernaise

asparagus, broccoli, and legumes
they all cry out for you

Pastry without you is unimaginable
your melting between the million layers is the puff
pate brisee, pate sucree,
cookies and cakes all begin with creaming
you and sugar

the South?
fresh churned from cream with a  second gift; buttermilk
whose quality is determined by how many of your children float across the surface
spread on warm biscuits with sorghum
a small knob in a bowl of grits
steaming hot sweet potatoes with you on top
bread & butter pickles tell us how they should be eaten
sweet, sour and unctuous
butterbeans are named in your honor
creamy like you when cooked right
glazed with you and black pepper

Who has not thought of you when you are not around?
hungry and romantic
blamed for a multitude of sins
doctors who decry you are often found at your back door

new science has shown;
you ain't all that bad.
in fact, your very nature may be good for the fabric of our brain

I knew that already

Think not of others. 
Margarine, unworthy imitation, it has no song
Lard, Schmaltz Oil.
they are not so universal
nor so simple and complex

an infinite story

I place you in an ancestral cast iron pan--
my grandfather's
watch you glaze across the black surface
when the bubbles foam and begin to subside
it is an invitation

add the minced onions and sweat
the beginning of so many journeys
from gumbo to perloo
I always begin with you

Come try Chef's house-churned butter at Restaurant Eugene soon.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Old World Tools in a New (Old) World Kitchen

Step into the kitchen of Restaurant Eugene or Holeman & Finch Public House, and you’ll find any number of interesting tools --- old world and new --- all equally essential to the craft. One of Chef Hopkins’s latest is the Fabio Leonardi MR9 1 HP Tomato Milling Machine from Bologna Italy. Fabio Leonardi made the first tomato crusher in 1917, the same year Fabio Leonardi Bologna was founded. Many familiar staples on grocery shelves and dinner tables, from tomato sauce to ketchup, would be unimaginable without the advent of Fabio Leonardi products. It’s a tool custom made specifically for turning raw tomatoes into a crush of juicy pulp. A visit to the Leonardi website is truly a new old world experience. When was the last time you saw navigation links like “meat grinder” “sausage stuffer” and “tomato grinder?”  

At Restaurant Eugene we believe everything should contemplate tradition, knowing that at its' core, tradition is a means to pass the best in life from one generation to the next. We also have top of mind, that everything can be improved upon --- even, and especially ketchup and those other grocery shelf staples. It is precisely for this reason that we have the Fabio Leonardi MR9 1: so that we can provide the best of old and new to our guests.

Perhaps you enjoy spending five minutes trying to get ketchup to come out of a bottle. We mean no disrespect to your tradition, but we think ours tastes better. The Fabio Leonardi is here to help us make more (and better) ketchup as well as Bloody Mary mix and other tomato sauces. Other mills handle 5 pounds a minute. The Fabio Leonardi churns through 20 pounds a minute. This might not help you get a 10 o’clock burger at the Public House, but it does guarantee you’ll find plenty of home-made tomato-based goodness while Restaurant Eugene or H&F way. You can now pick up our Bloody Mary mix at the H&F Bottle Shop. Meanwhile, come check out our milled makings, and other delectables old and new at the restaurant soon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cooking Up Good Vibrations

The name Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor conjures smiles in culinary and literary circles alike. On Tuesday, August 23rd, those two circles formed a veritable venn diagram at Restaurant Eugene, as Chef Linton Hopkins, an avid reader, hosted Smart-Grosvenor – she insists everyone call her Vertamae –  for the latest dinner in our “Eugene Author Dinner Series.”

Vertamae is best known as the author of Vibration Cooking: or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, recently reissued by The University of Georgia Press with a new foreword by Psyche Williams-Forson. Referring to the book, Williams-Forson concludes, “Each time I read it now, I put it down with a sigh and think to myself, Ah done growed ten feet higher jus’ readin’ ‘bout you…Vertamae.” Guests, including poet and Emory professor and archivist Kevin Young, Joe Dabney, author of The Food, Folklore, and Art of Lowcountry Cooking, and Atlanta-based singer Virginia Schenk,  got high on stories Smart-Grosvenor shared from her travels, her stint as a “Space Goddess” in the Sun Ra Arkestra, and her childhood in South Carolina.

 Recollections of her mother, who worked as a domestic, formed the basis of her book Thursday’s and Every Other Sunday Off: A Domestic Rap. Long before The Help captured the imaginations of readers and moviegoers, Vertamae was telling it like it was. A poet and frequent contributor to PBS and NPR, she is equally captivating whether she’s discussing a poem by Baraka, the best way to cook greens, or American politics. She once wrote a letter to Time magazine after it ran a piece that dismissed soul food as tasteless and ‘a fad.’  She ardently defended “the short-lived fad that brought my ancestors through four hundred years of oppression.” Elsewhere she insists, “Cooking is a creative thing. Cooking is one of the highest of all the arts. It can make or break life."

 As Williams-Forson notes, “Vertamae… is herself regardless of time and place. Rather than limit herself to being a writer, commentator, performer, mother, culinary artist, or friend – she is all of these things at once and in contradiction.” John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, has acknowledged that Vertamae is ‘very important.’   

In the acknowledgements to Vibration Cooking, Vertamae thanks several musicians, including “John Coltrane and Miss Billie Holliday for singing and playing everyday as I sat in my corner in the kitchen, trying to get my thing together.” Chef Hopkins got his thing together over some hush puppies, souse with hot sauce, and champagne compressed watermelon. The puppies were paired with a low country punch consisting of Myers rum, Coca Cola reduction and fresh lemon. Dopff & Irion’s gorgeous Gris complimented Jamaican style fish escaviach over a bed of red rice with garlic. This was followed by another low-country favorite, crab cakes with late summer succotash. The main course was steak with beautiful black sauce, onion pie & greens a la shepp. For dessert, palettes were pleased with coconut custard pie, sassed up by Marchesi di Gresy’s marvelous Moscato.

The title of Vertamae’s underground classic comes from her philosophy, in life and in the kitchen. “When I cook,” she writes, “I never measure or weigh anything. I cook by vibration.” If you’re looking for good vibrations, pick up a copy of this indispensable work of literature, and head for the bar at Restaurant Eugene. Vertamae (the Latin root words that give us ‘Vert’ mean both green and truth) will delight your soul, and our chefs and servers aim to do the same.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Foie Gras - Our Story

Over the past five month's Restaurant Eugene and Holeman and Finch Public House's Chef Linton Hopkins has been targeted for harassment and protest by the Animal Protection and Rescue League because of our choice to include foie gras on our menus.  The first complaint from Rebecca Weston came in March and stated that if we did not immediately remove foie gras from our menu we would be subject to protest, but that if we did remove it, positive reviews of our restaurant would be posted on Yelp.  This felt a little coercive, but nonetheless, prompted us to do some soul searching.  Sourcing and ingredients are very serious matters here.  Chef Hopkins is steadfastly opposed to the industrialized farming of animals, as well as vegetables for that matter.  

We had multiple conversations with our foie gras farmer, Guillermo Gonzalez, to be sure we felt comfortable with his animal husbandry and other practices.  Chef revisited his culinary school field trip to Hudson Valley Foie Gras.  We conducted thorough research into the issue, invited our guests and staff to give their input, read the book The Foie Gras Wars, and reached out to our chef and restaurant friends to see how they felt about foie gras and the APRL accusations that it is inhumane.  We reviewed the APRL literature, including their video.  We spoke to experts around the country about foie gras, and the APRL.

Here is some of the information we received from Guillermo:

A Day in the Life
Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare, and utilizes humane techniques in the raising and feeding of ducks. Ducks are never individually caged and are allowed to roam free range.
The ducklings are received when they are one day old. They spend the first 5 - 8 weeks in a barn, under heat lamps and on bedding of wood shavings while they develop their feathers. They walk about, flap their wings freely, and have access to all natural feed and water. Once they have enough feathering, they are brought out to the walnut orchards, where they continue to roam free range for about two months. Here again, they have access to all natural feed (no hormones or antibiotics), water and shade.
During the final two weeks, they are housed in temperature-controlled barns, where they are kept in groups of about 12 ducks per pen measuring about 33 square feet. They are fed twice per day by the same feeder, using a pre-measured quantity of feed.
Natural Capacity
The first evidence of foie gras is found in ancient Egyptian history, some 45 centuries ago. In the wild, ducks and geese gorge themselves prior to migration in order to temporarily store fat in their liver and skin, which they use for energy during migration. The managed feeding in foie gras production utilizes the duck’s physiological capacity to transform the excess feed into fat and store it in the liver and skin.
Each feeding takes only a few seconds and the pressure applied has been studied to be non-injurious to the duck. A funnel is inserted down the duck’s esophagus, which deposits food as it is drawn out of the esophagus. Ducks do not have a gag reflex, throat or stomach, and the esophagus serves as a holding area for the feed while it is digested. The duck’s esophagus, as with any waterfowl such as the blue heron, which is able to swallow large, live fish, is expandable and pliable. For these reasons, the feeding is not harmful to the animal, as proven by scientific studies. Since the process of producing foie gras is physiological rather than pathological, the fattened liver, or foie gras, created by managed feeding, would return to its normal size if the process stopped.
Here are some photos of the Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras Geese.

After all this soul searching, we decided that we felt ok about farmer Guillermo Gonzalez and his Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras, and we wanted to dialog with the APRL to explain our position.  We scheduled a meeting with some APRL representatives in Atlanta, including Rebecca Weston.  Several people attended.  Chef Hopkins had ordered a copy of Dan Imhoff's coffee table book on CAFO's (a book we give to all of our young cooks) for each person and explained that he too felt strongly about animal welfare and good animal husbandry, and that as a result he refused to purchase any meat that was raised inhumanely, and that from his perspective the real battle was against industrial farms.  Chef Hopkins's explained the painstaking level of attention to detail that goes into all the sourcing at Restaurant Eugene and Holeman and Finch Public House.  He pointed out that many of the photos in the APRL literature also appear in the CAFO book and are attributed to industrial foie gras farms in Israel and France.  He also verified that each of the APRL representatives at the table was a vegan who didn't believe in eating meat of any sort.  Our hope was to excite this group into real action on a real issue.  We invited them to be a part of summit on good meat and share their perspectives with a wider audience.  We felt the meeting went well and our mutual points of sympathy were understood.

Unfortunately, this group would not be reasoned with and has taken a bafflingly myopic view of animal welfare.  When we reached out to them to discuss plans for the good meat summit, they questioned whether or not we were still serving foie gras.  Soon after, they showed up at Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House to protest foie gras.  Their posters and placards had the same photos of the Israeli and French industrial farms that appeared in the CAFO book.  They also had signs that read "Linton Hopkins is a hypocrite," "Restaurant Eugene is not green," and "Honk if you love animals."

In the end, it is a personal decision for everyone whether they choose to eat foie gras, oysters, bacon, broccoli, cheese, or peaches.  We are here to give you that choice every night, and to instill in you the confidence that we wouldn't serve it if we didn't believe in it.  We care deeply. We try hard, and we are always examining our practices in order to improve them.  We thank our friends and guests for their patronage and support, and we thank Rebecca Weston and the APRL for the opportunity to have a public discourse on foie gras.  We won't be bullied into making the choice someone else wants us to make, but we will always do our best to make careful, informed decisions.

Here is our public statement about the issue.

·       Everyone at Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House cares deeply about all of the food we serve at our restaurants, especially the quality of life and welfare of the animals which provide the meat for our menus.  We are vehemently opposed to concentrated animal feeding operations and only buy from farmers whose animal husbandry practices and ethics we know to be of the highest quality.

·       We recognize that an animal sacrifices its life in order for us to eat it, which is why our kitchens are dedicated to using every possible part of the animal so that nothing goes to waste.  In fact, at the Public House, an entire section of our menu is dedicated to “parts,” because we believe that the needless waste of animal life is profane.

·       We also recognize that eating meat is a choice that not everyone makes, which is why we devote entire sections of our menus to vegetables.

·       We believe in the rights of animals to have a healthy and humane life and death.

·       We also believe in the rights of people to choose to eat what they want.

·       We will not be bullied or coerced into making menu choices based on anyone’s extremist beliefs. 

·       Producing foie gras is legal and based on a 5000 year old tradition.

·       We have confidence in the practices of the American foie gras producers from whom we purchase our foie gras, namely Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras

·       We have met with the APRL and believe that they are misinformed about foie gras production in the United States. 

Thank you for reading this.  We hope to see you for dinner soon.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Summertime Standard - Soft Shell Crab

A few years ago, Chef Hopkins considered the "Tower of Crab" to be one of his signature dishes.   Guests raved about it, and we toy with the idea of bringing it back every now and then.   Whether or not in tower formation, you can bet that when the season is right and the fishmongers can deliver incredibly fresh soft shell crab, it will on our menu.  We thought guests might like to know a bit more about what a soft shell crab actually is...seriously, haven’t you ever wondered why their shells are soft? 

Actually, the term “soft-shell” refers to crabs that have recently molted their exoskeleton, and are therefore still soft. Most soft-shell crabs in the US are of the blue crab species and at their freshest from April to September. Folklore, says that the soft-shell crab season begins with the first full moon in May, which is when the blue crab fattens up and begins molting to accommodate its summer growth. This is how soft-shell crabs have become so closely associated with summer: it's the season in which they are the freshest and the largest. The extra fat makes soft-shell crabs particularly flavorful. 

The actual shedding of the shell can take anywhere from one to three hours. Once the shell is shed completely the crab must immediately be removed from the water or else its new shell will begin to harden again due to chemical reactions with the sea water.  Virginia and Maryland crabbers have a trick to telling when these crabs are about to molt: a pink dot, which is the new shell just barely peeking through the old one, appears on the crab’s back fin about one week before they “bust,” or shed.  There are five different sizes of soft-shell crab, determined by the width of their shell. They are whales, jumbo, primes, hotels and mediums.
The blue crab’s scientific name, Callinectes sapidus, means beautiful savory swimming.  We agree.  They are beautiful, and are known to have be sweet and tender, yet with a mildly tangy flavor.  We have just received a delightful shipment of jumbo soft-shell crabs from the Chesapeake Bay area, which will be fried in cornmeal and served with a cold cucumber cream soup poured tableside. 

Come enjoy a dressed-up summertime favorite.