Friday, March 11, 2011

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Amelia Sawyer

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Amelia Sawyer

Today's guest on Fridays, Feasting with friends is Cleveland native Amelia Sawyer.  She is the author of the wonderful, and very often, hilarious blog Chefs Widow.  Have you read this gem yet?  If not, oh please go add it to your reader.  It will bring a smile to your face for sure!  Along with her husband and Chef Jonathon Sawyer, they are the proud owners of The Greenhouse Tavern, named "Top 10 Best New Restaurant in America" by Bon Appetit Magazine.  Scott and I dined here for my birthday and our first date out since having Owen and immediately we fell in love with the place.  The atmosphere is cozy and warm and the food is not only local and fully sustainable, but to-die-for delicious.  It was a romantic evening and I am so thankful to these two for giving Cleveland such a special place.  We've decided that it is our definite new favorite restaurant and can't wait to go back and try out the new menu (it changes regularly per what is in season). Amelia is not only a writer and restauranteur, but also the mother of two beautiful children, Catcher and Louisiana.  These two are some of the cutest kids I have seen!

Their family is incredibly busy and I am very honored that Amelia was so lovely about doing this interview for me!  Thank you so much Amelia- you are a doll!  I can't wait to pop over and say thanks in person.  So for todays Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am proud to introduce you to Amelia Sawyer.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
right now I am really into two things: homemade veggie and potato chips using root vegetables and potatoes.  We have been getting lots of root vegetables from our CSA, Chef's Garden- radishes, sweet potatoes, etc. so they make great potato chips!  The second thing is condiments.  Most recently I made a batch of ketchup and next up is mayo.  My husband of course knows how to make these, but I want to learn myself.  

How about your least favorite thing to cook?

fish probably.  I don't cook it; I don't know when it is done.  I don't know when it is not done.  So I just don't do it!

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?

Mine!  After that I would say Lolita.  I actually would love to try out Stone Mad with Eric Williams from Momocho.  He is helping to redesign their menu.  But I want to try it out in the summer because their patio is rockin'. 

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?

The Troggs- With a Girl Like You
Stephanie Says- The Velvet Underground
Home- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zero's
Windowsill- Arcade Fire
Rumour Has It- Adele

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
I would choose to have a giant Italian feast cooked by my husband.

What are you currently reading?
I just finished reading Highlights Magazine with my daughter..... honestly I am going to be going on a cruise in a few days so I have been reading a book about all the different ports for the cruise line.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
Right now the mandolin for the potato chips and dehydrated veggie chips.  It's awesome.

beautiful potatos from Chef's Garden sliced and ready to become chips!

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Polenta with tomato sauce.  It's easy and my grandma taught me how to cook it.  It is a staple in Italy so I grew up eating it.  My kids love it plus it is a nice, healthy go-to dish.  It's so versatile!

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
Probably the culinary scene, it's pretty rockin'!  Yeah, it's pretty fantastic!   We are in the spotlight nationally for our culinary achievements.  My generation is choosing to stay here in Cleveland and help to rebuild the city and make it livable.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
I was so excited when I read this question because I have a story for you.... As a child my mom would make pimento and cheese sandwiches on white bread.  It was just cheese, pimentos, mayo and salt and pepper on white, but I loved it!  I haven't had white bread in ages, but I was recently thinking about how I loved this sandwich.  Well just recently I was eating at Greenhouse with my daughter Louisiana, and on the menu I see a Pimento and Cheese sandwich!  My husband had no idea that this was an old favorite of mine.  Of course I ordered it.  It was totally different, served on a baguette with roasted red peppers- but it was great.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Sound of Music
The Descent

What was your happiest moment in life?
I absolutely can't pick just one. There are a few.  Having both of my kids!  The best and the happiest following birth was when Jonathon called me to say he won Food & Wine "Best New Chef". It made the past 10 years validated. We worked really hard. I was so, so proud.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
We get a veggie delvery from Chef's Garden from Milan, OH. They just started this pretty amazing home delivery through FedEx. We are 90% process free, so our staples we get from Farmer Jones Farm or the restaurant. If I don't get it there I go to Heinen's and seasonally I like to go to the farmers markets for our meats. It is too hard to try and go there with young kids and strollers in the winter, so I save it for the summer.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Pizza! I can't go to New York anymore because all I eat is pizza.  Motorino is the best ever.  I also love Frannie's from our old neighborhood. Love, love, love.

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
My life. Is that too vague?! But I love it! We aren't normal, but it's awesome and I am proud of it. We take lots of risks and out of all that we have fun.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I want to learn to cook and perfect Pho Bao.

One word that best describes you is: Passionate

Print this Recipe

Fromage Blanc
Recipe by Chef Jonathon Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern

2 qt. Fresh Whole Milk (raw milk if possible, if not get organic and pasture fed)
1 cup Heavy Cream (local and pasture fed)
1 lemon juiced & peeled
Salt, to taste
1 Large Raw Globe Artichoke Split

In a large, heavy-bottomed, stainless steel saucepan; bring milk, lemon peel, artichoke, and cream to a scold (around 165 degrees). This should be done over medium heat, stirring the liquid only a few times with a flat wooden spatula (approximately 15 minutes). Pull saucepan off the heat and season with lemon juice and salt to taste. Allow to rest and return to room temperature over 15 minutes.

At this point the milk mixture should be separated (resembling curds & whey). Set up a cheese straining station with a colander or china cap line with double ply cheese cloth (or a coffee sock). Carefully ladle the curds & whey from the saucepan into cheese straining container. Allow hanging until desired texture is reached (30 minutes for cottage cheese like texture, 3 hours for ricotta like texture, & 24 hours refrigerated for true Fromage Blanc texture.)

Finish fromage blanc by whipping with a high quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh picked thyme.

Serve with grilled bread.

Finished fromage blanc can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Can also be served w/ jellies, honey, and fruit compote as a breakfast or dessert.

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