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Filtering by Tag: wine

Wine + Food Q&A: Insider Edition

Suzanne Pollak

A. K. lives with Jason Stanhope, chef at FIG, and their son Leo. [Photo by John Boncek]

A. K. lives with Jason Stanhope, chef at FIG, and their son Leo. [Photo by John Boncek]

Living with JBFA Winning Chef Jason Stanhope

Q&A with A. K. Lister

Q: Who does the cooking at home?

A: Jason makes our 1.5-year-old son Leo an omelette almost every morning while I have my coffee and get ready, as leisurely as possible. Otherwise I am the home cook, relying on “one pot wonders” like soups, stews, or curries that can be stretched to feed us all for a couple days. I really do look to so many of Suzanne’s tried and true recipes for hearty meals that will fill up hungry people.

When friends are coming over for dinner, I tend to start with an idea then ask J a million questions until he finally takes over and makes it look and taste more amazing than I ever could.

What time does Jason come home at night?

He’s usually home by midnight but I try to be fast asleep by then. Leo, on the other hand…

How often do you eat at FIG?

I would say once or twice per month, but at least half of those meals are “take out” after our pre-service visits with J and mainly include Carolina Gold Rice and vegetables for Leo and something I’m supposed to taste test. #Blessed !

What is your favorite food to eat at FIG?

Oh man, I love the pate. It’s not something I order every time because I think it’s better suited for sharing with a table, yet too many people I’ve met have been burned by bad pate. Even if you do love it, pate for one seems like an intense order. FIG’s is the very best anyway, made with such carefully sourced ingredients and practiced technique, then served with gently toasted brioche! Piquant dijon! Perfect pickles, a little salad, fruity mustard according to whatever is at the height of its season. Fun fact: it’s the only recipe FIG doesn’t seem to share, maybe because nobody’s homemade version turns out quite like theirs.

I could go on...

How does a chef’s life (hours, physical strain, food expertise) impact a partner?

As with any partnership, the lifestyle comes with ups and downs. J’s hours at the restaurant are so long but I’ve learned to appreciate having time to do my own thing. I’m never disappointed to see him, that’s for sure, and we search for little ways to carve out some QT here and there. Learning how to balance our parental duties is a bit more complicated but I think we are calibrating as best we can.

Has Jason ever given you cooking lessons?

Not exactly, but he has given me a million indispensable tips over the years. I wouldn’t know how to hold a knife correctly if it weren’t for him. I would probably still be overcooking my eggs.

What have you learned from Jason, in terms of food? Have your culinary tastes changed since you have met?

We actually met when I worked at FIG as a host while in college, so I think we were both already on the trail of good food and followed our mutual interests from there. J’s style of cooking is all about finding the purest expression of an ingredient, and he works so hard to source only the best product. The motto goes something like, “Don’t F it up!” That’s pretty inspirational for a girl who grew up eating nothing but well-done meat and canned vegetable casseroles at all of our family get-togethers. Now my goal is to make J proud when I cook all my fave soul food dishes with righteous ingredients and as much integrity as I can muster.

Does Jason have pet peeves in regards to food prep or serving or meal times?

Yes! When he does cook at home, he likes to sit down and enjoy the food at exactly the right moment, temperature, place, etc. In a perfect world, I do too. But I am so bad about trying to do one last thing before I eat, whether it’s cleaning the kitchen or situating Leo for maximum food (and wine) enjoyment. Mom probs! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What do you cook for Jason?

Again, I’m always whipping up a big soup or stew. We seldom eat dinner together but I like to know he has a respectable midnight snack option when he gets home -- even if he ends up making a turkey sandwich instead.

What are your culinary rituals at home?

Breakfast is our family meal. Sometimes I get frustrated with myself because I end up feeding Leo popcorn and yogurt on the couch for dinner. The days are long and can feel lonely at the end; I lose start to lose my fight for civility. But I know that no matter what the night holds, we can look forward to being together in the morning, sitting (mostly) at the kitchen table while we eat our eggs, toast, coffee, cereal, juice, fruit, etc., musing on the the day or week ahead. It’s so ordinary but can be a beautiful ballet through a certain lens, i.e. if we’ve all had enough sleep.

What do you serve guests?

Tagine has historically been one of my favorite party foods! J gave me a beautiful pot for it couple years back and it makes for such a spectacular, and yet so secretly simple, feast.

Lately though, we serve guests a “party size” version of whatever we are having for breakfast or brunch (including XL omelettes) because it’s a much easier meal to host when you have a toddler who needs to go to bed on time.

What Charleston restaurants do the two of you like to go to, or do you go out? Any favorites elsewhere?

The only honest answer here is Bagel Nation on James Island for a breakfast sandwich. That might sound kitschy but we truly love it and almost always make a bagel run for guests staying with us. They cook the eggs just right every time.

We like to try something new when we have the chance to go out for a real date, and Charleston is never short on recently opened restaurants. Last great meal happened at Chubby Fish. And Renzo is still on my list of places to try...

Is Leo tasting odd, advanced, or unusual foods for a toddler?

His first real food was gravy two Thanksgivings ago. He had truffles on his omelette yesterday and liked it. He will try most things really, although rice is his most favorite so far. Hands down.

Does Leo hang out in FIG’s kitchen?

Yes, he loves to visit Papi at work! And his Uncle JoJo, and the rest of the wonderful FIG crew. Plus, he is spoon-fed all the rice he can eat while there. It’s like his personal heaven.

What is your motherly or Jason’s fatherly advice on getting kids to try a new food?

My advice is to avoid making a big fuss over eating any one thing. If a kid tries something and refuses, don’t bat an eye. But also don’t be afraid to serve it to them again, because I’m learning that tastes do change. I like to put a new food on Leo’s plate whenever possible, right next to a reliable standby. I’m sure the days of him demanding nothing but buttered noodles will come for us, too. I just hope I can stick to my guns and keep serving up greens.

I think J would say here: take your time, do use your hands, and don’t forget to chew.

How much of your conversation revolves around food?

Food is the greatest common denominator. Everything revolves around food!

The Stock Broker

Suzanne Pollak

Stock is an ongoing project at Chez Host of the Dean while she is on vacation in the South of France. This household wakes up each morning to the smell of stock simmering away on a back burner while the host, a dedicated amateur cook, swims laps and bikes miles, already having started his stock at sunrise. He repurposes last night's roasted guinea hens or quail bones, and any left over wine* in today’s stocks -- not one iota wasted in his kitchen. His liquid ratio is half water half wine (red, rosé or white, but definitely some red to add body.) 

A few hours later, when today’s stock from yesterday’s roast is strained, the stock becomes a foundation for gravy, a liquid for stew, a spoonful to flavor salad dressing. Even though these bones have already roasted and simmered they are not thrown away. They have more flavor to give! After straining the stock, the Stock Broker pours boiling water over the bones, and even more nourishment and flavor is released; this liquid is the beginnings of tomorrow’s stock.

*The very first night eleven diners consumed twenty bottles of wine. Not sure if any was left over for the making of stock. 


Suzanne Pollak

The definition of FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.

Are you suffering from FOMO? The Charleston Academy is particularly designed to cure this contemporary malady. Suffer no more! Learn how to build a beautiful and rewarding life so that YOU will start living the life that OTHERS fear they are missing. This is not rocket science, people. With a little guidance and hand holding from the Dean, paths will open that you may not have envisoned for yourself. Relationships, experiences, living spaces, free time, balance, behavior, social ease -- there is nothing we can't improve. The Acadmey is a cure all for this ailment of FOMO. Our solutions:

Step One: Subscribe to periodic newsletters and weekly blogs. Frequent tiny tips are easy to digest, like spoonfuls of great tasting medicine.

Step Two: Plan a social engagement that is easy as PIE. Here's one that will mark you as a person with her/his very own style. We will keep it a secret that you borrowed the Academy's Cliff Notes to stake your territory as the person who knows exactly what to do and is confident enough to pull off something original. 

  • Bake a Summer Pie. Make your own crust, throw in some sugared and spiced Summer peaches, buy some vanilla ice cream, whip some fresh cream. Email the Academy if the way to whipped cream is a mystery! You are giving your guests a choice on how to gild their lily, their piece of pie, in addition to showing off your culinary skills. 

  • Invite a group. Not just your posse. Make sure you invite a person you want to get to know better.  Our tip: schedule last minute (day of or day before) so you only gather people who really want to come. Two important truths you must pay attention to (1) whoever comes is meant to be there and (2) do not freak out that your current crush didn't show up. Word will get around on how cool, original and fun your pie party was. Next jump up you will find yourself turning people away. They will all have their own cases of FOMO. 

  • Set a table/sideboard/porch table/kitchen with the pies, forks, cool dessert size plates, bowl of hand whipped cream, another of ice cream, a pitcher full of sunflowers or tall greens cut from outside, wine glasses...and don't forget napkins. 

  • Play these tunes to set the mood for dessert, from musical wizard Alex Collier* and finally...

  • Serve this wine, which our favorite sommelier Femi Oyediran** describes as "a late harvest wine from South Africa that easily contends as being one of the greatest sweeties out there. Made from the Muscat grape, it is a must-have on the dinner table at the end of a meal. A charming combination of orange peel, honey, and exotic spice, Vin de Constance is the perfect match for peach pie you didn't know you were looking for!"

***These dudes are the definition of cool, and you will be too when you follow our advice. You will be well on your way to making others a little envious of your life, parties and style. You are erradicating FOMO from your life, but possibly spreading it to others. Oh Well, we can only help those who follow the Academy! 

How to Hibernate: 5 Wine Collecting Tips from Femi Oyediran

Suzanne Pollak

The annual Charleston Wine + Food Festival is finally less than a week away! No better time to add a few choice labels to your cellar than when you're popping bottles left and right like a regular Bacchanal. Keep your eyes on the prize. Whether you collect wine for personal enjoyment or a long-term investment, our favorite Visiting Professor Femi Oyediran has a few tips to put you on the right track:

1. Trust your taste.

Invest in classics from the regions you already know you enjoy -- i.e. if you love Chianti, try an age-worthy wine such like Fontodi's Vigna del Sorbo, or another great Sangiovese-based wine from Brunello del Montalcino.

2. Research your Investment.

In order to build a cellar that will grow as an investment, stay on top of the labels garnering attention from critics and magazines and/or doing well at auctions. Look to reputable sources for deals on both new and older vintage wines. Pay attention to up-and-coming winemakers; hold onto those wines and watch your investment grow.

3. Create a strong collection.

Buy at least three bottles of the same wine at a time, in different vintages when possible.

4. Store properly.

Get a wine fridge! This will give you control over the environment you keep your wine in. Otherwise, store your wine in cool pockets of rooms in your house (55 degrees F.) where there is little light. Keep bottles on their side, not upright, to prevent cork spoilage.

5. Embrace technology.

Every wine ages differently. Pay attention to apps on your phone like Delectable to see how others are doing with vintages you own. If you don't plan on selling the wines, invest in a Coravin device, which allows you to taste the wines in your cellar without actually opening the bottle.