Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer of Jar Love Garden Party

Toren Anderson can throw a party! Having never met her in person before, I didn't realize, but now I know. This past weekend Mr.. AT and I went to a party at the gorgeous home of Bill Musso and Brian Cooke to sample recipes from Toren’s upcoming cookbook, Summer of Jar Love. I’ve always been a big fan of eating peanut butter straight from the jar, but clearly I had no idea what kinds of delicious treats could spring forth from a simple glass jar.

First let me say this house was stunning. Turns out Bill Musso is principal and lead designer at Musso Design Group, so surprise surprise the man knows how to put together a gorgeous home. We had spent the morning looking at houses so that we too could join the ranks of homeowners, but this place was so out of our league it was crazy. A perfect setting for a garden party if I ever saw one.

Top Atlanta Chefs, including soon-to-be Top Chef Las Vegas star Hector Santiago from Pura Vida, new Parish Chef Nick Melvin and 30 Tables’ Chef Daniel Chance were all there serving up delectable treats from the book’s recipes…and you guessed it, they all were served in jars!

C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar was on hand to serve up cold beverages on what proved to be a very hot and sunny Sunday afternoon. Alas we missed out on the quick-to-run-out Pimm’s Cups, but a glass of sangria took the edge off of slowly melting into a puddle of my former self.

With so many heavy hitters there, I was surprised that my favorite dish of the day was actually a play on the Irish ploughman’s lunch from Chef Judith McLoughlin from The Ulster Kitchen, an Irish gourmet food company. Never heard of it? Wikipedia describes a ploughman’s lunch this way:

A ploughman's lunch (often just called a ploughman's) is a cold snack or meal originating in the United Kingdom, comprising at a minimum of cheese (usually a thick piece of Cheddar, Stilton, or other local cheese), pickle (called "relish" outside the UK), such as that made by Branston, bread (especially crusty bread, which may be a chunk from a loaf or a bap), and butter.

This version layered apple celery salad, bread and Irish cheddar to make an oddly satisfying snack. Granted it was a bit messy to eat because you had to scoop up the fruit from the bottom to get a moister bite, thereby spilling crumbs everywhere. But still, I could completely envision eating this as comfort food.

A layered curry was light and tasty, too, and it was so beautifully presented. I particularly liked the cooling yogurt on such a scorching day.

Alas, much like on tonight’s Top Chef episode, Chef Hector Santiago’s dish fell a bit short for me. His calamari confit was too fishy and chewy for my taste. From what I hear, though, others loved it, so it’s all a matter of taste. Regardless, Hector was charming to chat with, and I look forward to seeing him cooking with “heart and balls” on Top Chef this season.

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Of course the day wouldn’t have been complete with jarred desserts. Little known fact – I hate lemon flavored desserts. Many have tried to convince me that I am missing out, but seriously I find them wholly disgusting. There’s just something about the flavor that tastes fake and reminds me too much of air freshener or the like. I love lemonade, and even actual lemons, but blech, you can keep the lemon meringue. The jarred lemon dessert here looked lovely, but I took a bite and was once again reminded that my hate for lemon desserts will never change. Mr.. AT, never the picky eater, ate every last bite of it! I stuck to Toren’s jarred version of blackberry cobbler and thought it made great use of my favorite summer berries. Sweet and light…yum!

All in all, a lovely day with equally lovely people and an interesting conceit for a cookbook. I look forward to finding out what other delicious treats come in jarred form! Sign up for jar recipes and updates at www.thatthinginajar.com.

Some more pics of the day:

The chefs strike a pose

Another jarred delight - Pickled Okra, Baby Shrimp, Fried Capers and Silver Queen Corn from Rosebud


Parish’s Chef Nick Melvin


30 Tables Chef Daniel Chance was on hand to support Chef Nick Melvin. How nice is he?

Country Ham Salad topped with a Curried Fig Chow from Parish’s Chef Nick Melvin

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