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Posts tagged ‘cupcakes’

Episode 12 of Edacious – Food Talk for Gluttons.

11265012_947589145292940_401786430629120687_nEpisode 12 is live! Available at Edacious – Food Talk for Gluttons, on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and your regular podcast outlets. Remember how our grandmothers created different flavors of cake simply by mixing up whatever was in the pantry? Apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg would become an Apple Dapple Cake. Add black walnuts and it’s Nutty Apple Dapple. After talking with Laurie Blakey of Pearl’s Bake Shoppe in Charlottesville (and Richmond), I’m convinced this needs to become a thing. The next dessert trend.

Laurie’s love of cake comes from her grandmother, Pearl, who had a farm in Greene County. Laurie herself is from Albemarle, and first opened a Pearl’s in Richmond with partner Laura Condrey before tackling another shop here on West Main Street. Her commitment to quality and her concept of “Pearl’s Perfect” stems from her grandmother’s passion for baking and attention to detail.  And it’s not just cupcakes. Pearl’s creates scrumptious pies, tarts, macarons, cakepops, you name it! The “Yam Ham” biscuits (country ham and sweet potato) are not to be missed, and Pearl’s wedding cakes have won awards. Virginia Living named Pearl’s cupcakes the best in the state. Laurie firmly believes if you cannot do a perfect vanilla cupcake, you might as well not do any others, and after tasting it, I wholeheartedly agree.

Pearl’s is also dedicated to making sure customers with dietary needs enjoy her cupcakes by spending countless hours researching ingredients for her gluten-free and vegan options. One of the first awards earned was “Most Accommodating to People With Dietary Needs” and this award remains the most precious to Laurie. Her gluten-free and vegan options go beyond just meeting the requirements, but taste sinfully close to something loaded with butter and flour.

We spent so much time talking about our grandmothers, sharing stories, and pouring over old cookbooks some of which are pictured below. Laurie is an awesome storyteller in her own right, and her tale about her 7th birthday is one not to be missed. I hope you’ll join us!

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This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser.

Sally Bell’s Kitchen.

Last month I discovered Sally Bell’s Kitchen had made Saveur’s Top 100 for 2014. Their iconic boxed lunches have satisfied everyone from students to congressmen for almost 90 years! When you’ve been serving fierce boxed lunches that long, you tend to become ever so slightly beloved.

Seeing them on this hallowed list caused spontaneous chair dancing, which settled into a permanent grin which then grew into a gnawing of the gut as my stomach suddenly craved some of that damn good potato salad. Which evolved into nostalgia for said salad as I recalled scarfing it down last summer, which further reminded me I hadn’t yet written about it. For shame! To not wax poetic about Sally Bell’s Kitchen is a crime of the highest order.

I attended the Southern Foodways Alliance Summer Symposium last June. Now I’ve been writing since I could chicken scratch, and dabbling in food stories for about 6 years, but this was the first time since my newfound personal statement that henceforth all my food writing would focus on my Southern food heritage that I got to hobnob with like-minded folks as enthusiastic about deviled eggs and pimento cheese as I was. I couldn’t wait!

And when I heard part of the conference would focus on Sally Bell’s, I knew I was in the right place. You can’t grow up in Richmond as I did and NOT know Sally Bell’s. We would first view “Boxed Lunch” a short film created by Nicole Lang Key and Christophile Konstas of Pared Pictures, then enjoy a Sally Bell’s picnic lunch on the Valentine Museum patio. Nice.

The movie is a heartwarming portrayal of the Jones family who have owned Sally Bell’s since it opened in 1924. Many of its employees have also worked there for decades. Each boxed lunch comes with your choice of sandwich, deviled egg, tomato aspic, potato salad, a tiny pecan-topped cheese wafer, and your choice of cupcake, iced upside-down because you get more icing that way. Everything, including the bread and mayonnaise, is handmade and always has been. Lunchtimes are crazy with lines full of people who need lunch, VCU alumni back in town for a nostalgic taste, or suburbanites with a craving for potato salad. Sally Bell’s is old school. Meaning, when the food runs out, it’s out.

I ADORED “Boxed Lunch”. Did the ugly laugh when the owner’s mother said, “I’ve seen people cry because they couldn’t get a deviled egg.” During the holidays, lines snake out the door for the eggs as well as their famous potato salad, which is run through a grating device invented by the original owner. Some people go so far as to bribe others for a better place in line, all the while declaring how it just wouldn’t be Christmas without 5 pounds of Sally Bell’s potato salad now would it?

It made us all terribly hungry. The scramble to the patio after the Q&A was pretty hilarious. I was included in the thrall, the eagerness showing on my face like a Tex Avery cartoon. All that morning other attendees who knew I’d grown up in Richmond kept saying, “I bet you can’t wait for lunch,” to which I would shake my head and sigh.

Grabbing my white box tied with twine and packed oh-so primly, I claimed a shady spot beneath a tree. The white-hot day only amplified the quintessentially “Richmond” experience of having al fresco lunch in some hidden nook of Downtown, the smell of boxwoods filling your nostrils, the threat of sweat behind your knees if you didn’t eat fast enough.

I sunk my teeth into the pimento cheese, inhaled the potato salad like it was a healing serum, and crunched away on the cheese wafer. Saved the deviled egg for last, and promised to savor every bite of the cupcake later on. I photographed the whole thing, plastered it all over Pinterest, Foursquare, and Instagram, and bragged to all my Facebook friends that I was enjoying a Sally Bell’s and they weren’t Nyah! Nyah! Nyah! I was in Southern food HEAVEN.

And here is where I must make a confession. A sad, shameful, guilt-ridden confession. I’ve been lying to everyone. Because while I grew up in Richmond, I’ve never eaten a Sally Bell’s Kitchen boxed lunch. Not until that point. I’m so ashamed and beg your forgiveness and if I must I’ll hand over my “Richmonder-Born-and-Bred” card. My street cred as a Richmond food lover is officially shot.

I have no excuses. I went to VCU for undergraduate AND graduate school. I lived on West Franklin, less than 3 blocks away, for almost four years. I recall subsisting on ramen noodles, groceries from Hannaford’s, and splurging on pies from Naturally Pizza or subs from Stuffy’s. Going to Stella’s for dinner if I had a windfall. Later on I worked Downtown, but did I ever get a boxed lunch? Noooooo! Not even once. Seriously, what is the matter with me?! All those years without a Sally Bell’s. And I’m not even sure why. I do know by the time I’d gotten to the conference I shamefully hid the fact I’d never partook of the wonderful wares at Sally’s, instead hiding my shame in a pack of pimento-cheese-laden lies.

The shame I felt as I sunk my teeth into that first bite of homemade pimento cheese on soft white bread only tripled as I realized how awesomely delicious it all was. You mean I could’ve been eating THIS? I wanted to cry. Cry for all those times I could’ve gotten a Sally Bell’s but didn’t. Cry for all the deviled eggs that went into other mouths instead of mine. Regret for all those college days when I was poorer than poor and used a Friday pizza as a reward to say well done for getting through another tough week. All that time I could’ve been eating Sally Bell’s potato salad?! The wave of regret that washed over me almost knocked me over. I almost stole another boxed lunch as compensation.

Then I had a thought. You can never “taste something for the first time” more than once. It’s like that first high, always the best. It’s why addicts become addicts, chasing that first high and never quite reaching it. If I’d tasted Sally Bell’s Kitchen for the first time at 20, would I have swooned? Or just agreed it was a good lunch at a decent price? Would I have the appreciation I have for it now? Probably not.

Instead of the “first high” reaction, re-tasting the potato salad at 46 would have been nostalgic. An “I remember this!” moment, which is totally different. Just as sweet, but softer, not swoon-worthy, more floaty and dreamlike. A little sad. As Milan Kundera says, nostalgia is that childish notion of longing for things no longer there. That suffering you feel when you realize you can’t return to the past.

At 20 I was still able to eat my Nana’s homemade pimento cheese, my Muddy’s potato salad. My first bite may have been something like, “This is good, but Nana’s is better.” The whole aspect of how incredible this homemade food is would have been lost in my effort to defend family honor.

As it stands the reaction I had as a middle-aged woman to Sally Bell’s was a mixture of “first taste” and nostalgia. I swooned at my first taste and the more I ate, the more I became nostalgic. It made me miss the food of my grandmothers but happy to live in the now where the Jones family is still making boxed lunches. It’s not a lost art. No need for nostalgia girl, you can still get it.

Who knew potato salad could have you delving into philosophy and result in so much navel gazing? I suppose if it’s Sally Bell’s it can. I still regret not getting all those boxed lunches I could have gotten in college. But something tells me I ate Sally Bell’s for the first time this past summer for a reason. All things in their own time. With a side of potato salad.



Food Seen.

Food writer’s log of local food seen during for the first and second week of June 2012:

Got a wonderful package of thank you goodies from Monticello for helping out with the Founder’s Dinner back in April. Yeah, I know, THAT particular story isn’t up on the blog yet. I’ve been drafting, redrafting, and collecting my thoughts. This package puts the period to the end of that sentence. Two lovely signed cookbooks by Mona Talbott and the Lady Alice herself, as well as some delicious Mast Brothers Chocolate and heritage tomato seeds. Probably too late to get them in the ground this year. Next? First of two blogs up by the end of the week, promise!

Charlotte Moss posted a beeeyooootiful photo blog of the Alice Waters Monticello event. And not one teeny tiny picture of me. I was there I swear! And I have the anxiety dreams to prove it ;) Flowers and biscuits and cows, oh my!

Spent last Tuesday photographing and talking with the two handsome dudes behind Potter’s Craft Cider. Jennifer Marley of Cvillepedia and Cville Tomorrow stopped by parents in tow, we sampled, tasted, sampled some more then I took notes and chatted as the fellows filled barrels and took copious notes on several batches of cider that have been marinating quite a while. And yes, THAT post up soon as well. Their cider is crisp, dry, delicious and apple-y, perfect on a hot summer day. Wednesday’s supposed to be a scorcher. How about heading over to Beer Run in the afternoon to try it out. They’ll be doing a tasting from 5pm.

Moto Pho Co. has pushed back their opening to mid-July, which makes me by turns sad and happy. Not to sound like a spoiled brat cat, but I’m sad because I’ve been craving a huge honkin bowl of pho for months now, and happy because that means when it’s finally open it’ll be that much better. Guess I’ll just have to drown my sorrows in some Ren’s Ramen while visiting my relatives in NOVA for now…

The Hubby and I have officially given up on Around the World in 80 Plates. These contestants are Top Chef rejects, obviously. Sigh….guess we’ll have to pin our hopes on the new Nigella Lawson slash Anthony Bourdain cooking show. Between her innuendo and his sardonic wit, should be at least a tad more chemistry then ol’ Curtis Stone and Cat Cora. My friend Scotty had me howling when he envisioned Cat’s wardrobe manager. In his words, “The Feminization of Cat Cora” hasn’t been the LEAST bit successful LOL

Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes now has a maple-bacon cupcake! I said it before and I’ll say it again, Chef Craig Hartman would be mighty proud.

I’ve eaten six tomato sammies so far, but my local tomato stores seemed to have dried up momentarily. I’ve seen posts of huge beauties on the Richmond “Farm to Family” Facebook page. Are there any to be had in this area? I’m drowning in peaches, thankfully, but what about the maters? Which makes me want to say, don’t you just love this time of year? Peaches. Tomatoes. Corn. Sigh……..I adore summer.

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