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Charleston Restaurant News Random Fodder

Charleston’s Own Megan Deschaine Wins National “Make It Exotico” Cocktail Competition

July 26, 2017

Earlier this summer, I had the honor of judging the USBG “Make It Exotico” cocktail competition at Mex 1 Coastal Cantina, at which the other judges and I crowned Megan Deschaine the Charleston winner for her take on a “margherita pizza-inspired margarita.” At the competition’s final round, held July 19 at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, a four-person judging panel crowned Charleston, S.C., mixologist Megan Deschaine the overall winner with her cocktail, “The Napoleonic Complex.”

#GirlBoss

Along with the trophy, Deschaine receives an all-expense paid trip to Exotico Tequila’s distillery – Destiladora González González – in Jalisco, Mexico. While there, Deschaine will visit the agave fields in the highlands of Jalisco and tour the distillery, which is located in the heart of Guadalajara.

“I think the partnership Exotico Tequila has created with the USBG is so enriching to the whole bartending community, giving us bartenders a platform to meet one another,” Deschaine said. “I am so excited to go to Mexico, because I actually paid for college with bartending, to be a Spanish high school teacher.”

Deschaine’s “The Napoleonic Complex” cocktail recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz. Exotico Blanco Tequila
  • .75 oz. lime juice
  • .5 oz. agave syrup
  • 4 dashes Bittermen’s Hellfire Bitters
  • 2 dashes Scrappy’s Celery Bitters
  • 1 ripe roma tomato, quartered
  • 8-10 basil leaves

Instructions:
Rim half of a rocks glass with salt and pepper. Muddle tomato quarters and basil in a mixing tin, then add remaining ingredients and shake vigorously with ice. Double strain cocktail into dressed rocks glass over one large ice cube. Garnish with a skewered mozzarella ball and basil leaf.

The USBG “Make It Exotico” cocktail competition invited mixologists from across the country to submit their best cocktail recipe using Exotico Blanco or Exotico Reposado 100% agave tequila as the base spirit. The six finalists competed against 47 other contestants in semifinal events in Nashville, Tenn; Philadelphia, Pa.; Denver, Colo.; Portland, Ore.; Seattle, Wash.; and Charleston, S.C.

As with the semifinal events, at the final round, finalists had a maximum of seven minutes to make their cocktails live for a panel of judges, who judged the cocktails on appearance, aroma, creativity, taste and overall impression. Judges included USBG professionals, tequila and cocktail experts, and local media personalities.

This is the kind of cocktail party you definitely don’t want to miss.

Earning second place was Elizabeth Powell with “Play in the Sunshine,” and in third place was Brandon Paul Weaver with “Piñata Punch.” The other finalists and their cocktails included Ryan Williams with “Bigly,” Katie Loeb with “Javelina,” and Nate Maston with “Beber Esta.”

The USBG “Make It Exotico” Cocktail Competition is organized by the United States Bartenders’ Guild and sponsored by Exotico Tequila. This is the competition’s inaugural year.

Random Fodder Recipes

Poogan’s Smokehouse Spiced Banshee Cocktail Recipe

August 19, 2016

I don’t usually drink cocktails when I’m eating BBQ (beer feels more right to me), but I was talked into trying one of the fabulous cocktails last time I visited Poogan’s Smokehouse, and boy am I glad I did! Their cocktail menu is varied to please any palate, and artfully crafted so you know you’ll enjoy whatever you order.

Photo Credit: Holger Obenaus

Photo Credit: Holger Obenaus

I was fortunate enough to get the inside scoop on one of their amazing cocktails, the Spiced Banshee (their take on a Painkiller). It features locally-made Striped Pig spiced rum, banana sherry, pineapple, housemade curry bitters, and nutmeg. Garnished with nutmeg and a few slices of banana chips, the cocktail offers the perfect balance of sweetness and spice made for sipping on the beach – or simply from an air conditioned barstool to escape Charleston’s humid summer weather.

Photo Credit: Tammy Davis

Photo Credit: Tammy Davis

In the words of cocktail ace (and beverage director at Poogan’s Smokehouse) Kyle DeGolyer,

“We wanted a tropical drink that didn’t fit the mold of the typical painkiller or pina colada. I glanced at a chef’s recipe one day and saw all of the spices that went into our dry rub and bbq sauces and that got me going. We don’t use an abundance of curry anywhere but that is where I ended up after figuring out the drink needed some body and spice. There weren’t any curry bitters readily available on the market and honestly the curry bitters are the best part. I have used them with gin and peaches, lime and scotch, you name it. It’s fun to see where a drink can go off of just one flavor.”

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz. Striped Pig spiced rum
  • .75 oz. banana infused sherry
  • 4 dashes housemade curry bitters
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice

Method

Shake hard and strain into a collins glass. Garnish with banana chips and cinnamon.

Photo Credit: Leslie McKellar

Photo Credit: Leslie McKellar

 

 

Giveaway Random Fodder

National Chicken Tender Day Giveaway!

July 27, 2016

National Chicken Tender Day: A saucy, totally-not-made-up holiday celebrated on July 27th every year. 

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This year, I’m doing a chicken tender lovers giveaway by offering you a $25 gift certificate to PDQ, a delicious chicken restaurant with locations in Greenville and Columbia (hopefully they’ll come to Charleston soon, because they are delicious).

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Even if you don’t win the giveaway, you can sign up for their Fan Club and receive 3 Free Tenders now through July 31! 

To enter to win the $25 gift card, comment with your favorite chicken tender dipping sauce, or go like my Facebook page (or do both for additional entries!). Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Product Review Random Fodder

Product Review: Southern Breeze Sweet Tea

June 10, 2016

In honor of National Sweet Tea day, I decided to review a cool new product I was introduced to whilst shopping at my local Publix store (where I always spend too much money…that’s not just me, right?). I’m a Southerner at heart, but it took me well into my college years to finally develop a love for the South’s great nectar: sweet tea. Although I’ve never been able to brew my own version that tastes as good as Chick-fil-a, that doesn’t stop me from trying (although I never seem to be able to get the sugar ratio right).

Like this kid.

Like this kid.

Which is why I was so intrigued when I learned about Southern Breeze Sweet Tea, which claims to “sweeten as you steep” so you don’t actually need any sugar. Even better, the teas are all zero calorie so I can drink as much as I want without worrying about breaking my diet! Excited, I bought all the flavors I saw to go home and try them. You start the same way you would with any other tea: boiling water.

I may not be a 5-star chef, but this I can do, no problem.

I may not be a 5-star chef, but this I can do, no problem.

Once you boil your 2-quarts of water, you let 2 tea bags steep for about 3-5 minutes.

*turns on Gilmore Girls*

*turns on Gilmore Girls*

Then you remove the tea bags. I put mine in the fridge for a little while to cool down a bit so it didn’t get too watered down when I added the ice. Once it’s cool, just pour over ice like your normally do and enjoy!

Ahhh... tastes like home!

Ahhh… tastes like home!

Here’s a rundown of the flavors, in order of my favorites:

Original Sweet Tea

There's no beating a classic!

There’s no beating a classic!

It has that classic flavor you look for in a sweet tea. Refreshing, cold, full bodied, and sweet enough to make you smile.

Raspberry

Fruity and delicious.

Fruity and delicious.

Raspberry tea is my guilty pleasure. I love the one that Turkey Hill makes because it has enough sugar in it to rot your teeth out immediately. This one has a similar flavor without me feeling like I need to brush my teeth immediately afterward.

Lemon

Think "Arnold Palmer"

Think “Arnold Palmer”

I like this one because it packs a pretty strong lemon punch. It’s a little stronger than just squeezing a lemon into your tea, but not quite as strong as an Arnie Palmie is. If you’re not a fan of lemon with your tea, I’d try one of the other flavors.

Peach

Like the Mario character, Peach tends to be my least favorite.

Like the Mario character, Peach tends to be my least favorite.

To be fair, peaches are one of my least favorite fruits (betraying my southern roots again), so this shouldn’t really be a surprise. I also felt that this was the one that tasted the least authentic. But that may just be my peach bias.

So many flavors, so little time.

So many flavors, so little time.

General comments: they use artificial sweetener, so your first sip has that tinniness that tends to come along with that (think about diet coke). Once you get past that, it’s delicious; you can’t even tell the difference. I’ll be bringing this along to Sean & Christine’s Annual Farmstravaganza Fourth of July party, so people can enjoy it regularly (or maybe with a little liquor mixed in).

**Note: I received free product for this review, but all opinions are my own**
Random Fodder Recipes

Molli Sauces Review

June 2, 2016

One of our goals for the summer is to try and cook more & post more recipes on the blog. We’ve been practicing honing our cooking skills by ordering Blue Apron to learn to cook with new techniques and styles. So when we were offered an opportunity to try Molli, a new brand of authentic Mexican cooking sauces available at Southern Season, we jumped at the chance to try cooking something new! We both tried the sauces and are offering our take below:

Molli Sauces

Yucatan Mojo Marinade

All of my favorite carbs.

All of my favorite carbs.

Dish: Grilled Pork with Fried Yucca, Tostones, and Rice & Beans

The Yucatan Mojo Marinade was described as being a “unqiue medley of European, Mexican, and Caribbean flavors.” The ingredients were simple, “Water, Fresh Garlic, Lime Juice, Orange Juice, Salt, Cinnamon, and Spices.” Although the website has a number of recipes available, I was really craving fried yucca, so we decided to create our own recipe. We marinated the pork overnight in the Yucutan Mojo Marinade and then put it out on the grill.

Big grill, little pork.

Big grill, little pork.

I followed a few recipes I found on Pinterest for the Fried Yucca and Tostones, put rice in the rice cooker, and opened up a can of black beans (which I added a few spices to in order to make it feel more homemade). It’s the easiest dinner I’ve ever made.

Even though deep frying things terrifies me.

Even though deep frying things terrifies me.

The pork was really juicy and flavorful and I liked that there was a nice hint of cinnamon and lime juice without being overpowering. Overall, I thought it was a perfect complement to our dinner menu, and since it was extremely easy to make, I can see myself making this a lot more over the summer.

yucatan-marinade

-Gallimore

Morelos Cooking Sauce

Why is Mexican food so hard to look pretty?

Why is Mexican food so hard to look pretty?

I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to read the ingredients of something and not see it wrap around the entire package. I’m excited that Molli is not only using natural ingredients, but they are also trying to stay as true to the authentic recipes. I love that each sauce/marinade comes from a certain region/area of Mexico and highlights a recipe from the area.

Dish: Beef Picadillo with Quinoa and Avocado

I cooked with the Mölli Morelos Cooking Sauce that’s based off of the State of Morelos, Mexico. The recipe I made was beef picadillo and was SO easy. I used a recipe that they suggested, but I modified it a bit (I didn’t have a potato and I cut it in half since I was just feeding me instead of 6).

Does anything smell better than cooking onions and garlic? No.

I had it with quinoa because I didn’t have any rice and I had a side of avocado because, AVOCA-DUH.

Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.

Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.

The ease of this dish alone would make me make it again. But the flavor was great, not too spicy even though it has chipotles in it. I think this dish would be great in a taco or with some eggs over it. One of the other recipes they suggest is Huevos Rancheros, which I bet would be delicious. I only used half of the bottle in this recipe, so I will definitely be using it in another recipe.

Flavorful without being too spicy!

Flavorful without being too spicy!

-Turnquist

Mexico City Cooking Sauce

Get in mah belly.

Get in mah belly.

Dish: Chicken Grillers with Spanish Rice

The Mexico City Cooking Sauce, made with Arbol chile and tomatilla was marketed as being “full of fire & spice,” much like Mexico City itself. Since I was really craving a wet burrito-type dish, and I had a lot of flour tortillas that I needed to use, this seemed like a match made in heaven. We sautéed chicken and onions in a pan and then simmered them with the Mexico City Cooking Sauce for about half an hour.

Simmering things is my favorite cooking method, because it is super easy and 100% effective.

Simmering things is my favorite cooking method, because it is super easy and 100% effective.

Once that was done, we divvied up the chicken/onion mixture into flour tortillas, folded them up, and put them on a hot cast iron skillet and used a grill press to keep them together while it grilled. We took them off after a few minutes and topped with some of the leftover sauce from the pan, along with some cheese, sour cream, and a squeeze of lime juice. We cooked the rice in the rice maker with a jar of salsa so that it got a pretty red-orange color. I had been a little worried about how spicy the sauce was going to be, but it ended up being very mild. I actually put a little hot sauce on the burrito to spice it up a bit. Although not as spicy as I thought it was going to be, the tomatillos gave the sauce a nice citrusy and sweet flavor which worked really well with the chicken.

Molli-Sauces

-Gallimore

All in all, we thought these sauces were a good find for making some easy and flavorful dinners. Using them as a base is a great start for a homecooked, Mexican-inspired meal. Check ’em out!

**Note: We received free product and compensation to try this product, but that does not impact the integrity of this review**
Events Random Fodder

Charleston Wine + Food Recap 2016: Culinary Village

March 11, 2016

I know I’m a little delayed, but I’m only just now recovered from my wine + food hangover. It was a jam-packed weekend and I only went to a couple of events! I can’t even imagine have a full-access pass (although that’s definitely on the list for next year). One of the events that I was most excited about attending was the Culinary Village. So, on Sunday, my parents joined me for a day that we were sure was going to be full of excitement and wonder and delicious food. Little did we know what lay ahead.

Here’s a photo blog showcasing how our day went down:

charleston-wine-and-food-11

12:00 – “Oh look! A photo booth! Let’s take a fun photo since we just walked in. None of us have eaten all day, so we should try to find some food right after this!”

12:00 - Oh look! A photobooth! Let's take a fun photo since we just walked in.

12:05 – “Oooooh, cocktails! Don’t mind if I do! And I should probably take one of each, just to test ’em out. Then we’ll find some food.” charleston-wine-and-food-2

12:10 – “No food yet, but I love Striped Pig! Might as well try these out, too. The striped Gin & Juice is so refreshing, but that Lowcountry Tea is STRONG. I smell some food coming up soon, so that’s good.”

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12:20 – “Matzoh ball soup is an….interesting choice for a festival. And boy, that’s a small portion of food. Oh well. It’s called the culinary village, so there’s gotta be more food around here somewhere!”

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12:30 – “‘Absentroux’? Is that like absinthe? Let’s try it and find out!”charleston-wine-and-food-5

12:35 – “Is that more food up ahead! Yes! It’s….broccoli salad? Uh… ok. It’s pretty tasty, but my head is feeling a little fuzzy, so I should probably eat like 3 of these.”

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12:45 – “Ooooh a winery! And they’ve got 5 different kinds of wine, so I should probably try all of them just in case.”

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1:00 – “Ooookay, I definitely need to find some food now.”

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1:15 – Is that pork and grits I smell? OH THANK YOU MIDDLETON PLACE, YOU’RE SAVING MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.”charleston-wine-and-food-7

1:25 – “Ok, I’m feeling a lot better now! I wonder what’s in the Baker tent. Oh, it’s drinks made with Tanqueray? Let me make myself comfortable.”charleston-wine-and-food-9

1:55 – “Ok, well that was fun hhahahahahaha. Food time! Mmm. I like hummus. How much hummus do I need to eat to equal an actual meal? Let’s find out!” charleston-wine-and-food-10

2:15 – Boy that hummus was delicious but I’m not sure it constitutes as food. Maybe there’s food in the artisan market! Oh, no food, but there are 6 different kinds of old-fashions made with Bittermilk, so…let’s give those a try!”

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2:45 – OH BREAD, THANK GOD.

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3:15 – “Oh hey, ice cream! Ice cream…with alcohol. *sigh* Well, YOLO.”

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3:30 – “Oh look! A beer garden…..Do you think Mellow Mushroom will deliver to Marion Square??”

charleston-wine-and-food-14

3:45 – “Shrimp & Grits, you complete me.”

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4:00 – “Guess which one of these people was supposed to be the DD? Hint: It’s the one holding the beer. Good thing there’s Uber!”

charleston-wine-and-food-15

4:30 – “Alcohol brings people together!”

charleston-wine-and-food-15

4:45 – “The line for the port-o-potties is too long, so I’ll just hang here for a bit.”

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5:00 – “Over already?! But I haven’t even gotten to the food yet! NEED CARBS.

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I’m glad Wine + Food only happens once a year, because I’m going to need that time to recover.

Events Random Fodder

Charleston Wine + Food Recap 2016: Havana on Hutson

March 7, 2016

My second ever official Charleston Wine + Food event was “Havana on Hutson,” hosted at Victor Social Club on Hutson Alley. VSC is part of the Holy City Hospitality Group, which also encompasses Vincent Chicco’s and Michael’s on the Alley (among others). Here’s the recap:

Havana on Hutson

Cuban-themed event at a Hemingway-inspired bar? Yes please!

Cuban-themed event at a Hemingway-inspired bar? Yes please!

I was really excited for this event because I love Cuban food, and I’ve yet to find any really solid Cuban food in Charleston (although I have found this amazing Peruvian place, which is about as close as I’ve come). We started off with strawberry mojitos (made with local Red Harbor Rum), which were tangy and sweet and fun.

Hello springtime!

Hello springtime!

There was also some great live Cuban music out in the alley way that was perfect for the ambience and the warm weather.

Can you think of a better place to spend a Saturday afternoon?

Can you think of a better place to spend a Saturday afternoon?

The food was also delicious and creative. There was a lobster ceviche served with a plantain chip, coffee-rubbed ribeye with chimichurri sauce, a mini arepa bite, and fried empanada balls.

testing

And they made up this nice plate for me to take a bunch of photos of. And yes, that is AN ENTIRE WOODEN BOARD FOR 4 HORS D’OEUVRES. I’m very important and special, y’all. 

On-site was Justin Buchanan, who spoke at Pecha Kucha (and told us that our founding fathers were basically all alcoholics), who’s also one of the founders of Red Harbor Rum (which is really smooth and easy to sip on, I highly recommend you pick up a bottle!). He’s super friendly and very passionate about rum. He also very kindly posed for a picture for me, even though I’m sure I creeped him out.

"This is for my uh....blog? Yeah, blog! I definitely have one of those."

“This is for my uh….blog? Yeah, blog! I definitely have one of those.”

They also had the guys from Southern Smoke bring their airstream-trailer-turned-smoking-lounge by for the event, and even though I don’t smoke and have no idea how cigars work (something about don’t inhale, but I’m not Bill Clinton, so I don’t know how that works). But it made me feel pretty cool just sitting in there and pretending to smoke a cigar, which also shows how effective the marketing campaign for tobacco has been, which is terrifying, but I digress…

But just tell me this doesn't look cool. Cancer shmancer.

But just tell me this doesn’t look cool. Cancer shmancer.

Overall the event was really fun, and makes me look forward to returning to Victor Social Club on a normal night.

About Me Random Fodder

Introducing Queen of the Food Age’s New Contributor

February 18, 2016

So, back when I started this blog in 2011, I had no idea it was going to become the behemoth that it is today. I was just a bored, broke, post-grad who wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life who started writing about food as a last-ditch effort to get her parents to give her an allowance while she found a real job. Since then, I’ve grown to over 5,000 views a month, over 1,600 Facebook fans, and I’m writing for amazing publications like Charleston Grit, Thrillist, Where Traveler, and Localeur (to name a few). I used to get 1 invitation every couple of months to attend events (I still remember my first one), and now I’m being invited to multiple events a week.

Like that time I was a judge at the Mac Off. #Humblebrag

Like that time I was a judge at the Mac Off. #Humblebrag

I’ve come to realize that I’ve spread myself a little thin and that I can’t give this blog the full attention I used to. My heart breaks every time I have to RSVP “no” to something (and not just for the free food…..although that is definitely part of it). In order to be more fair to you, my amazing readers who’ve supported me for so long, I’ve decided to add a contributor to help me out so that I can be in 2 places at once.

Introducing….

Sydney Turnquist

So glamorous.

She’s so glamorous.

Yes. Her name is Sydney, too, which I can’t imagine being confusing for any of you in the least. Sydney (or Tquizzle, as I like to call her) and I started off as coworkers and became really close over the past year and a half. Not only do we share the same name, sometimes I think we share a brain. We order the same foods, we text each other out of the blue at the same time (I’m not even kidding she just texted me as I was writing this), and we like almost all of the same things. (Seriously, she’s even dating a guy named Ben. I’m not making this up).

Less glamorous.

Less glamorous.

But as similar as we are, we also have a lot of differences, too. She’s a dog person, she loves Lilly Pulitzer, and pink is her favorite color. So I think she’ll bring a new perspective and a fresh face to this little ole blog of mine. She’s going to be integral as I continue to expand!

With cocktails in hand.

With cocktails in hand.

Enough about me, hear from the new girl herself:

Thanks for the intro OGS! (Original Gangster Sydney, she totally came up with that name for herself though, to be honest). I’m excited to be joining such an awesome blog with an awesome friend! I’ve always thought it would be fun to be a food critic, so I get to play that fantasy out now!

Since moving to Charleston in 2009, my palate has become increasingly more sophisticated. Seriously, I’m so picky now going to restaurants, I basically critique everything and compare it back to my favorite restaurants in Charleston (my family loves going out with me). I mean, let’s be real though. I would eat a grilled cheese and mashed potatoes any and every day.

I’m originally from Minnesota where I grew up with all different kinds of animals (we had pot-bellied pigs, horses, chickens, miniature horses, pygmy goats, miniature donkeys, dogs, cats, and even a llama at one point). From a young age, I’ve always been on or near the water so it only makes sense that I landed in Charleston. In my spare time, I love to go paddleboarding, surfing (I’m terrible, but trying to learn!), kayaking, and taking Ben and my two adorable dogs to the beach.

tquizzle-intro

I love all kinds of food, except for tomatoes and mushrooms. So if there’s a dish that’s heavy on those, sorry guys, can’t do it. My favorite cuisine is Asian (Thai is my jam). There was a period of time where I was a vegetarian, which then morphed into being a Flexitarian, but now I’ve come to see the light (as my friends would say) and eat all kinds of meat. I’ve become much, much more adventurous in my eating and will basically try anything once (I recently ate fried pig ears at Swig and Swine, they were surprisingly tasty).

I hope to continue the magic that is Queen of the Food Age and am thrilled to begin!

Random Fodder

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2016

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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I for one, could not be more excited for the new year. My 2015 was a pile of garbage, with a few diamonds mixed in, so I’m hoping that 2016 will be the opposite. Cheers to a diamond year!

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I have lots of goals for myself for 2016, but here are a few of the resolutions I’m making:

  • Learn Spanish
  • Cook at home more
  • Be better about posting restaurant reviews (not sure how that’s going to work with my previous resolution, but we’ll see).
  • Try something new that terrifies me.

 

Anywho, I’m off to drink a ridiculous amount of champagne.

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Happy new year!

Random Fodder

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2015

I hope you’re all having a happy and festive Christmas!

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This will be me all day after I finish opening presents:

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