Ian Boden, The Shack 

photo: sarah petras

photo: sarah petras

The first time I met Ian Boden, I thought he was quiet. Really, I don’t know what I was thinking, but it was probably because I met him minutes before an event where he was going to serve close to a hundred people in an hour. He was focused, and it’s that kind of focus that has garnered him two, two,  James Beard nominations, all from a little spot called The Shack in Staunton, Virginia. That’s a 26-seat place in a town in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley, so you know it must be good. Especially since you can’t see a menu online, especially since you probably have no idea where Staunton is, and especially since you’re more than likely not sure how rye berries are even supposed to taste or that lettuce could even be a soup. Relax, Ian knows what he’s doing. Although he wasn’t born to it, he’s channeling Appalachian heritage through the plate, filtered through fine dining experience and his Jewish heritage. If that still doesn’t make sense, once again, just imagine relaxing and having a good meal that surprises and satisfies. Ian has been cooking since he was 13, and although he has many opinions on the theory of cooking and how to approach it, he never forgets his focus to bring people together over a meal. We’re all welcome at his table.

Episode 92 >

Bill Smith, Crook's Corner

photo : crook's corner

photo : crook's corner

At Crook’s Corner on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, NC, the morning soundtrack is a little radio above prep tables and the chatting of cooks as they fill the restaurant. There are deliveries, phones occasionally ringing, and morning greetings, including one in Spanish you’ll hear in this episode. Bill Smith -- the James Beard nominated chef of a James Beard America’s Classic Restaurant, author, music aficionado, and someone who sees something he doesn’t agree with and does something about it -- yeah, that Bill Smith whose 300 rock n’ roll T-shirts are in the Southern Folklife collection at the University of North Carolina, he made me a pot of coffee and invited me to sit in the dining room for a chat amid the morning work. We’d celebrated him the night before at Terra Vita Food & Drink Festival’s Tribute Dinner (which sold out by the way), and so we’d supped on pickled shrimp, collard soup, tomato gravy, and so much more, dishes made by chefs from across the region who cooked to pay tribute to him. Meet Bill, and you’ll soon understand people like him for much more than his iconic pimento cheese, honeysuckle sorbet, or those soft shell crabs. He’s a humble and down-to-earth bad ass whose heart is so kind. At one point during this chat, I had to stop the interview to compose myself after he said his kitchen wasn’t fun anymore. I would hate this for any chef, but knowing how Bill loves his work, it made me cry.

Episode 93 ›

 

 

Gregg Allen & Katie Allen Bolner, A Bar N Ranch

Photo: a bar n ranch

Photo: a bar n ranch

Well, it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and if you’re like most Americans, you are whining about having anything other than turkey. Well, I got you covered. Here’s the beef (sorry, I just had to say that. Milennials, youtube this Wendy’s reference, ok?) Anyway, it’s a beef-centric episode with A Bar N Ranch from Sherman, TX.. I met Gregg Allen and his daughter, Katie Allen Bolner, at the recent Chefs for Farmers event in Dallas, TX then headed to the ranch, which is storybook, it seems, especially for a woman from the Carolinas. Rolling hills under white overcast skies were dotted with black cattle, each sporting a bright tag in its ear. Dusty gravel roads crisscrossed the land past varied structures, feed trucks, fences, and occasional ponds. This is the home of Texas Wagyu beef, and since I’ve been seeing Wagyu showing up on a lot of menus lately, I wanted to learn -- and taste -- more. The ranchers hosted a delicious beef brunch after a tour of the ranch, and it was one of the best meals of the whole weekend, especially the beef bacon. The next day we reconvened at The Adolphus Hotel in Dallas for a chat and a sip of whiskey.

Episode 94 >

The Southern Fork Holiday Bites #1: Thanksgiving Wines with Patrick Emerson of Curated Selections
photo: stephanie burt 

photo: stephanie burt 

Tis the season, so it’s time for a little gift from me. This is the first installment of The Southern Fork Holiday Bites, and fittingly, we start with bites at all, but bubbles, literally, as I join Ep. 58’s Patrick Emerson of Curated Selections to sip champagne and other varietals that would be great for a Thanksgiving table. The key is to think beyond turkey, and we do that, sitting in his warehouse office to sip and discuss everything from wine regions to price to what to serve with that green bean casserole.