Hi! I’m Amanda, and I write about my adventures with food and cocktails at www.lemonbaby.co. I’ve lived in the Northeast (Brooklyn and metropolitan Boston), the Northwest (Libby, Montana) and the South (Charlottesville, Tallahassee and currently Mobile, Alabama). I discovered a love of food as a child, and taught myself how to cook, by poring over (and practically memorizing) Martha Stewart’s Entertaining from 1982 (hate to date myself here, but I’m almost as old as that cookbook). My parents once came home from a night out to find me wrapping snow peas around shrimp. In college, I discovered Amanda Hesser (of NYT and Food52 fame) via her memoir Cooking For Mr. Latte, and, in me, a food writer was born.
I spent most of my childhood in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. After meeting the love of my life and earning my B.A. in English Literature from Florida State University, my sweetheart and I moved to Libby, a town in Northwestern Montana. In Montana, I taught high school English, co-owned a catering company, and wrote a food column, Local Flavor, for the newspaper. After a destination wedding in 2006 and almost four years of gorgeous mountain views, we decided to seek a change of scenery (and a Master’s degree in English for me), and we found ourselves settling on the Gulf Coast. Our son was born in 2012, and we just welcomed a daughter in the fall of 2015. I teach full-time at the university here, and I spend as much of my free time as possible in the kitchen and behind our home bar. We bought 104-year-old house and renovated it extensively, and we can often be found sitting on our front porch with a cocktail in hand. I love to travel, and I can’t wait to share my culinary and cocktail adventures (both near and far) with the Girls on Food readers.
It’s National Bacon Day! Actually, there has been some confusion about when National Bacon Day actually is, and after some research (Googling, really) we’ve come to the conclusion that bacon is so ridiculously awesome that you can celebrate it today, and September 2nd, and December 30th. How cool is that? But back to the task at hand: (first) National Bacon Day!
The first college football games are a few short days away. What better way to celebrate this porky food holiday than with this delicious take on the classic jalapeño popper? No need to pull out the greasy deep fryer; these spicy, salty, cheesy bites of goodness are baked in the oven.
The lobster roll is an institution. There are two (very opposing) schools of lobster roll thought: Connecticut likes theirs hot, drenched in melted butter, and Maine likes theirs chilled with mayo. Boston apparently likes both, for you can find them either way in the city. Having grown up with Maine style, the lightly-mayonnaise dressed cold roll seems more classic IMHO, but honestly, who in their right mind would pass up hot buttered lobster? I’m an equal opportunity lobster enthusiast.
To satiate my lobster roll craving just in time for National Lobster Day on June 15, I head to James Hook & Co., a tiny shanty on the waterfront of the Seaport district. James Hook sells wholesale and retail seafood (live lobsters, crabs, an impressive array of fresh fish) as well as a limited menu of grab and go items like rolls, crab cakes, and chowder. It’s an unassuming trailer on the waterfront of the Boston Harbor. Don’t expect table service, and be prepared to wait in line. Fortunately, the line moves quickly thanks to the seasoned pros working the counter.
Lobster rolls come in large ($23.99) and small ($18.99). For both, a generous helping of chilled, lightly mayonnaise-dressed lobster salad nestles within the belly of a toasted, split-top hoagie roll. James Hook serves a lobster roll in its most unadulterated glory. There is absolutely nothing attempting to compete with the succulent lobster or crusty bread; no herbs, no celery, not a leaf of lettuce–not even butter, which I’ve always thought essential to the bun but I didn’t even miss. (I can’t believe I just said that. Butter is my jam.) It’s just pure lobster heaven. If you’re ever in the Boston area in the summer, treat yoself to this purist lobster roll.
After the heavy, rich foods of winter, I like to hit the reset button on my system by eating (a little) cleaner. Chia and flax seeds are sprinkled into my oatmeal and I’ll take a shot of wheatgrass (maybe more than one) daily. With summer just around the corner, I was seriously excited to see FOY Superfoods open up shop on Dauphin Street.
FOY, or Fountain of Youth, is Mobile’s first “Cold Pressed Juicery & Superfood Bar,” according to their website. Their menu is eclectic and offers energy bowls (yogurt-based bowls with fruit); super bowls (rice or salad-based bowls with or without protein) hummus, nut butter, and avocado toast; tacos; “grack” (their homemade oat-free granola with seeds, dried fruit and maple syrup); smoothies; fresh juices, and more.
On the Harry Potter Superfan scale of one to ten, I’m probably an eight and a half. I’ve never written Harry and Hermione love story fan fiction or tattooed a snitch on my body, but I did go to every single midnight book release party, wand (aka knobby twig) in hand. There’s something about Rowling’s world building that just captured me, from the clever beginning to the poignant end. (more…)
New Orleans is a city like no other. Part raucous party, part historical gem, it is no surprise the lifestyle media powerhouse Thrillist chose this locale for their sixth “Hotel Thrillist”: a weekend of the best food, drink and entertainment the selected American city has to offer. Thrillist decamped from New York this past weekend, took over the illustrious Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street, and enlisted the renowned Cajun/Creole chef, John Folse, (of Restaurant R’evolution and the Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine fame) to kick off the weekend with a party to beat the band. (more…)
I am a sucker for a food fundraiser. To me, there’s no better pairing than excellent food and a good cause. On Wednesday, Mobile Baykeeper (the Gulf Coast’s non-profit environmental organization dedicated to preserving and protecting Mobile Bay) and their Young Advisory Council hosted Bay Bites Food Truck Festival at Cooper Riverside Park in downtown Mobile. Tickets were $15 per person, which included admission and three draught beers from Sweetwater Brewing Company (Sweetwater 420). Nine trucks attended, and food items ranged from $3 to $14. Although I didn’t get to taste everything offered (despite desperately wanting to), with the help of some friends (Daryn, Christine, and their 5-year-old, Violet), we managed to do some damage.
First up was Kraken Catering Co., who had an impressive menu. I couldn’t resist the “Grown-Up Grilled Cheese,” ($8) which boasted two slices of grilled Texas Toast filled with Provolone, Gouda, caramelized figs, and beef brisket.
One of my favorite sandwiches is a ham and brie with fig preserves on a French baguette, and this was pretty much its Southern cousin. It was a lovely balance of sweet and savory, and the sandwich itself was pressed to perfection. There isn’t anything worse than a soggy grilled cheese, and Kraken’s was crunchy in all the right places, with quite a lot of oozy cheese and soft, sweet figs.
Next up was the BBQ Brisket Plate from Smith’s Catering ($10). In the South, barbecue is king, and it’s no surprise the lines for this truck were long (actually, the lines were long for every truck). The brisket was tender (but still held together when forked) with just the right amount of smoke, and ever-so-slightly sweet.
After all the savory, my sweet tooth was announcing itself in a big way. Violet and I were excited to see Frios Gourmet Pops in attendance. Their deal is homemade popsicles, and one cool thing about them is that they source locally-grown fruit whenever they can. I was torn between Watermelon Mojito and Blackberry Ginger, and it was Frios itself that urged me towards the latter. You really cannot go wrong with a Frios homemade popsicle ($3.75 each or 4 for $14), but this one was spot on. Sweet, tart blackberries pair perfectly with the earthy spiciness of ginger root, and it made me want to figure out in what else other than a popsicle I could marry the two flavors. Blackberry-Ginger hand pies, anyone?
My excitement continued when I saw that Von’s Bistro, one of my favorite downtown lunch spots, represented at Bay Bites. Their best dish (in my opinion) is the “5 Spice Pork Bahn Mi” ($7) with 5-spiced pork, sliced cucumber, pickled daikon radish and carrots, cilantro, jalapeños and a unique, spicy cream sauce. It’s a riot of sweet, sour, spicy, savory flavor, is absolutely amazing, and I could eat one for lunch every day of the week.
Despite a typical Southern summer thunderstorm an hour before kickoff, Bay Bites Food Truck Festival was a roaring success. I hope they raised plenty of money to protect and conserve our waterways, and I look forward to next year’s fundraiser. I’m pretty sure the best strategy is to go with a posse and send one person to each truck to order several items at once. The long lines kind of prohibits pick-and-choose ordering (my weakness). All in all, it was a fantastic chance to get acquainted with some of our city’s newest food trucks.
Because it’s (somewhat) socially acceptable to take photos (but usually not bites) of people’s food, here are a few items I got to see but not taste: