A Feast Fit for a King: Chef Val Domingo Cooks Up an Elvis Beer Dinner at Meehan’s Public House Thurs. Jan. 26!Posted on: Jan 23rd, 2012 By: Anya99
Kool Kat of the Week: Half-Baked’s J.J. Tomlinson Dishes About Casseroles as the Ultimate Retro Holiday Comfort Food and Shares a RecipePosted on: Dec 21st, 2011 By: Anya99
When picking a Kool Kat for this week, we thought a long time about the ingredients for a Retro Christmas in the South which had to make us think of food. And being the south, that means not just a ham or a turkey, not just sugary cookies—but a feast fit for an extended family with a seemingly endless supply of casseroles made by your mom, your grandma, your aunts and maybe nowadays a male relative or two as well. That tasty thought led us to two Atlanta chef/entrepreneurs Lee Bradshaw Johnson (Dog Days doggie daycare) and J.J. Tomlinson (The Fickle Manor boutique) who this year co-founded Half Baked Casseroles, a Buckhead bakery specializing in the quintessential seasonal comfort food.
Traditionally, casseroles became a winter staple because they put good and long-lasting use to winter vegetable and meat staples like potatoes, sweet potatoes and pork—or in my Finnish mom’s case, rutabagas and liver (No, casseroles aren’t just a American holiday tradition!). At Half Baked, Lee’s and J.J. give recipes handed down from their grandmothers a modern twist, with fresh ingredients, no preservatives and all-natural, antibiotic-free, hormone-free meat. The dishes are prepared for convenience, oven-ready or frozen. They come in recyclable pans in three different sizes, and most bake in 45 minutes or less. Larger sizes are available upon request for special events or a hungry family. Half-Baked even delivers for a small extra charge or mails gift casseroles to nonlocal family and friends. And if you want to fill out the entire holiday feast, the menu also includes yummy appetizers, soups and desserts!
In the spirit of the season, ATLRetro asked J.J. if she’d tell us a little bit about what Christmas casseroles mean to her, what customers are hungry for in the holidays and the lucky side of a special New Year’s treat cooked up to bring you luck in 2012 and even share a recipe!
As a child, my grandmother was the chief cook, and I can’t remember a Christmas without casseroles. My personal favorite was the sweet potato casserole. Every time I smell it, it brings back a picture of Grandma’s holiday cooking.
How did you both get the idea of a casserole specialty bakery, and why do casseroles seem to have such staying power?
We got the idea for frozen casseroles after my business partner Lee had a baby. She received some casseroles as gifts from friends. Everyone is so busy these days, and we are always in need of quick dinners.
We’re guessing you’re pretty busy this week. What menu items are most popular this holiday season?
We are slammed this week! Many people are buying appetizers for drop-in guests. All casseroles, appetizers, soups, bread and desserts can be frozen up to three months, too.
Which casserole hasn’t been as popular but folks really ought to try it and why?
There doesn’t seem to be an item on our menu that people aren’t buying. That may be because we thought long and hard before we opened in order to have a variety that would be appealing. The word-of-mouth aspect has been wonderful. It seems that friends are telling each other about their favorites. Of course, there are also many different tastes and we seem to have something that will appeal to most everyone.
What’s the deadline to mail or schedule a delivery for a gift casserole?
We will try to accommodate your requirements for a gift casserole, but as a rule, we need at least one day’s notice.
You don’t just bake casseroles, but appetizers, soups and desserts. What other holiday delights do you recommend to start or finish off a meal.
My recommendation for the holidays is that you try our pecan pie. It’s crustless, so those calories are saved for the extra rich filling—and maybe some vanilla ice cream to top it off. We also have gluten-free casseroles.
Finally, we understand you’re cooking up a special dish for New Year’s celebrations called the Hoppin’ John Casserole (black eyed peas, collard greens, rice, and pork). Why should we put it on our menu and will it bring us good luck?
Southern tradition says that eating Hoppin’ John on New Years Day will bring you good luck and financial rewards all year long. We can’t guarantee that, but you’ll feel mighty lucky when you taste this dish.
1 bag of dried of black-eyed peas
1 stick of butter
1 chopped onion
16oz of cooked collard greens
2 ham hocks
10 cups of cooked white rice
1/2 cup hot sauce
2 tablespoons of sea salt
Soak black eyed peas overnight in water. Drain peas. Add onion, hot sauce, ham hocks, butter, and salt to peas in crock pot. Cook for 8 hours on high. Take bones from ham hock out of black eyed peas. Combine rice, collard greens and black eyed peas into a pan. Cook in oven on 350 for 30 minutes.
When ATLRetro heard that The Sugar Dolls were throwing their 2nd Annual Day of the Cupcake party on Saturday Oct. 8, we couldn’t think of a more delicious way to officially kick off our latest weekly feature, the Wednesday Happy Hour & Supper Club. While a holiday just for this Retro sweet sounds scrumptious enough, this quintet of beautiful bakers (Alexis Gorsuch, Lena Kotler, Crystal Chambers-Goggin, Jessika Cutts and Kelli Graham) has cooked up an entire day of activities, starting from noon to 7 p.m. at Sacred Heart Tattoo in Little Five Points and then continuing late into the night at Java Lords ($5 cover; proceeds to Atlanta Bully Rescue). They’ve tempted you with everything from boobalicious chocolate confections to flaming strawberries at Blast-Off Burlesque shows, Mon Cherie spectaculars, Rockabilly Luau, but Saturday will be all about celebrating the cupcake through activities, art and music. You’ll lick your lips for cupcake-inspired games, a Sugar Skull decorating room so you’ll be all set for the Day of the Dead, tasty tattoos, live bands (including Six Shot Revival, The Sneaky Hand and The Claymores), karaoke, burlesque, pin-up hair-styling with Cherry Dame, a pin-up contest and, of course, cupcakes!
In fact, the idea of spending a day celebrating this timeless treat made us so hungry that we asked the Sugar Dolls if they’d be so sweet as to add ATLRetro to the menu as a sponsor. We’re thrilled to say that we passed their taste test, especially since we’ll be serving up a tasty new look at the end of this week, courtesy of Derek Art, too. That it’s Anya99’s birthday two days later is just icing on the cake, and she really loves icing, so while you’re dropping by for cupcakes, be sure to say hi. We’ll also be selling our first batch of ATLRetro T-shirts, so if you dig what we’re doing, consider buying one and supporting our humble efforts to keep Retro Atlanta alive.
With an all-day event, it’s sometimes hard to know when’s the best time to show up, so we asked Alexis to clue us in on all that’s cooking on Saturday. Of course, we couldn’t resist a few questions about the perennial appeal of the cupcake and the secret recipe behind the Sugar Dolls’ secret origin and success.
For a while, cupcakes seemed to have a bad reputation as being cheap alternatives instead of a real cake and mostly just for kids, but lately this quintessentially Retro treat is not just back in style, but as The Sugar Dolls have shown, can come in all sorts of creative flavors, even in adult versions such flaming with a drop of liqueur. What do you think accounts for their comeback?
Trends in fashion loop around so many years and I have been told on numerous occasion, it is due to nostalgia. “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” By Coco Chanel. So what is more nostalgia than food, needless to say sweets? You nailed it on the head with the fact that cupcakes are Retro, but aside from that they have given us a sweet and simple way to step back to the past yet enjoy where we are and look forward to the future! I love how some of our sweets take me back to being a little girl, but the same cupcakes are the most elegant wedding display or engaging party favor. So much diversity in these simply amazing treats and people are really starting to recognize the possibilities and fun at reasonable budget. So honestly it is a nice handful of things that has really allowed these sweet cuppies to bloom into their own world.
Thank you, we are pretty fond of the name too! Well, baking is such a sweet family tradition for so many folks, and all of the Dolls have some great memories and continue to make them together and with our families. We all met at different walks in our life but seem to have come together to make something bigger than ourselves. We want to share our love and experiences with you, and baking is the sweetest outlet to share those things and give in the many ways we would like.
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Welcome to the first Wednesday Happy Hour and Supper Club. Starting in March, check back for the latest news, reviews and features on Atlanta restaurants, bars, lounges and nightclubs with a Retro location, menu or attitude. ATLRetro also will search the city for the most authentic and delicious retro or retro-inspired cocktails and recipes, or teach you how to make it at home.
Soon I’ll be posting our first major restaurant feature in which Dante Stephensen provides a tour of some of his favorite artifacts decorating the walls at Dante’s Down the Hatch. I remember when I first visited Dante’s at Underground Atlanta as a child and the sense of anticipation and mystery when I descended down the stairs into a giant coffin to find myself on the deck of a magnificent sailing ship. Combine that with live jazz music and fondue and you have the perfect example of a mid-century theme restaurant, conceived with care and creativity rather than the artificiality of many of today’s chains. In the 1980s when the old Underground closed (look for an upcoming Lost Atlanta feature revisiting its uniqueness, too), Dante moved the restaurant to Buckhead and rebuilt it even bigger and better. If you haven’t eaten there lately or you’ve never been, it’s a true Retro treasure.
Also in the works is a feature on Livingston. While Livingston has only been around for a few years, it’s located in the opulent art-deco Georgian Terrace Hotel. I’ll be asking Chef Zeb Stephenson about how its Retro location influences his recipes, giving a sneak preview of its current seasonal menu and sipping a few cocktails, too.
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