Finding My Voice

Pardon Our Progress 3

Yes, I know it's been awhile, and I do apologize for that. Please don't think I have been ignoring you. It just seems that after years of hiding behind a computer screen, blogging to an oftentimes quiet and unknown realm, my creative juices finally started to wane, with any inspiration I did muster up being channeled away from this site.

I made plenty of excuses (does getting married in Malibu count?!) to conceal the truth, but in my heart I knew my fire was fading. Then, as if on cue, came the spark I needed to feed the flame. I'd always held an unspoken desire to teach cooking classes but if left to my own devices I would have never tried. So when the opportunity arose last year, I accepted. You never know if you can fly until you jump, so I decided to leap.

Looking back on that first class I just have to laugh, because boy was I shaking in my chef's coat. My standard issue Sur La Table jacket was super-sized and shapeless, just like when I played dress up in my daddy's pilot uniform, except this time it wasn't pretend. I was so terrified my students wouldn't take me seriously upon their first glance!

I've taught countless classes since that awkward first day, and I can assure you that now the only jitters I get are from one-too-many Nespressos. I'm even rocking a proper fitting chef's coat, and this one hangs in all of the right places. The only thing missing is my own nagging self doubt, which, thankfully, I expunged ions ago.

So where'd this newfound confidence come from? Because teaching helped me rediscover my voice! By interacting with real faces, some familiar and some new, I remembered why I fell in love with cooking in the first place...

Each class is different yet each class the same, strangers all self-consciously chopping and mincing their way through a recipe, glancing around hoping they're doing it right. But as the wine starts to flow so does the conversation, and finally their walls begin to crumble. Teams come together, sharing in their successes and learning from their mistakes, a new bond consummated as they finally break bread.

It's amidst these real-life episodes that I hone my role as commanding officer, head cheerleader, and goofy sidekick. Together — my fearless kitchen assistants by my side — we march into another day, another battle. It's here, at the center of the action, where I thrive, doing my part to unveil a few of the great kitchen mysteries. My hope is always this: that each student walks away more confident than before, better equipped to win a lifetime of culinary battles.

And while I find great joy in watching my students learn, teaching is so much more than that to me. The truth is that I myself have a lot to learn, and with every unique experience comes a new chance to grow. Some days require every ounce of my patience, while others require me to think on my feet. I may never know how a situation might unfold, but as the leader I must strive to preform at my best.

I am telling you all this because I finally feel a renewed sense of purpose. Becoming an instructor has allowed me to recharge my batteries and gather my thoughts, and to remember why I started this blog in the first place. There are so many new ideas I want to share with you here, because the thing is, I don't want Dixie Caviar to be "just another food blog." More than anything I want Dixie Caviar to be an online community, a food-loving, party-hosting meeting of the (Southern) minds. Are you in?

I am currently in the process of moving my content to a new platform, and I cannot wait to reveal all of the exciting changes with you. (Visual recipe index, what?!) Look out for a bigger, better Dixie Caviar in the very-near future. Stay tuned, and I'll see you guys on the other side!!

XOXO, Nealey Dozier (now Thompson!)

 

Valentine's Day: Gifts That Last

Valentines Day Gifts That Last - Dixie Caviar Why give flowers that die or candy to eat when you can give a Valentine's gift that will last a lifetime. Here are some lovely little things to share with your lover, gal pal, or — more importantly — yourself. (Walt, I hope you're taking notes!)

1. Succulents - If you're anything like me then house plants don't stand a chance. Thank goodness for succulents, which are so low maintenance even I can take care of them. The Sill is a super cool website that offers a variety of sizes and shapes for any style and budget. {Image: Say It With Succulents}

2. Framed art - Collecting art seems like such a grown up (not to mention expensive) endeavor. Thankfully there's an app for that! Gift a unique painting you discovered on Etsy, frame a favorite picture using Minted, or turn an iPhone photo into a watercolor work of art with Waterlogue. {Image: Minted}

3. Champagne coups - Sparkling wine will never go out fashion and neither will Gatsby-esque glasses. It doesn't matter whether you're drinking André or Veuve when sipping out of these delicate coups, because at least you'll be sipping in style. {Image: Sur La Table}

4. Delicate gold chain - Why wear your heart on your sleeve when you can where it on your neck? What could be more timeless than this simple gold necklace, which is just as lovely worn alone as it is layered with a few old favorites. {Image: Zoe Chicco}

5. Candles - I am absolutely obsessed with Glassybaby candles. Not only do the handblown votives come in hundreds of totally gorgeous colors, but part of the proceeds — almost two million to date — goes to help others in need. The only downfall? How can you ever choose just one! {Image: Glassybaby}

 {Watercolor heart image: OutsideInArtStudio}

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Chopped Salad & Creamy Italian Vinaigrette

2013_09_16-ItalianChoppedSalad-DCHave you ever spent months, years even, trying to replicate a recipe from a favorite restaurant? I've been trying to perfect this chopped salad since the day I first tasted it at my beloved red-sauce Italian joint in L.A., and I'm proud to say I think I finally nailed it. (Sans the red checkered tablecloths.) ...Continue reading at The Kitchn

Zac Brown Band: Legendary Musicians & Foodies!

Zac Brown Band

Have you ever had an 'oh-my-God, who have I become' moment followed just as quickly by an 'I wouldn't change my life for second' moment? As Walt and our buddy Matt bolted out the door the other night headed to an Allman Brothers concert, I jumped up to intercept them in the kitchen: "Guys, do y'all have some snacks packed? Do you need me to make something really quick? You're going to be boozing and there won't to be any decent food!" As I quickly loaded up a Tupperware filled with pulled pork wraps and chicken salad sandwiches, I couldn't help but acknowledge the difference ten years can make in a girl's life. 

I spent my formative teen years chasing Southern jam bands across the country (a perk of being a pilot's daughter) and eagerly awaited new tour dates to be announced with each upcoming season. I don't regret any of those crazy years, although there are probably a few unflattering photos lurking around I hope never surface. Thankfully, my idea of a good time no longer means sleeping in a stranger's bathtub, and a balanced dinner no longer consists of Jäger shots and a $1 grilled cheese. But you might imagine how I felt, though, when I found myself packing a freakin' picnic basket while my fiancé headed off to a show: to say I questioned my new reality is an understatement. (Even my mother, queen of hospitality, never made me a pre-concert snack pack, and I would have looked at her like she was crazy if she did!)

As I piddled around the house waiting for the guys to return, I suddenly fell deep into an existential crisis. Even though I was merely days into my thirties, my future as perky planner/OCD housewife was now staring me in the face. (And wait, what's that in the mirror I see? Did those wrinkles appear overnight?!) What was becoming of me, I wondered... Good things, as it turns out. Walt slipped quietly into bed later that night and gave my hand a squeeze. He whispered, "Man, who knew all that food you packed would be such good idea. If we hadn't had it we might not have made it out of there alive!" I closed my eyes and rolled over but this time with a smile. Turns out those sandwiches weren't a glimpse into my future as "high-strung wife," but just a sign that I am wiser now than I ever was. And thank God for that!

But just because my days of noodling barefoot in a fairy crown are behind me doesn't mean I don't kick back and enjoy a rowdy show every now and then. This time around though, it's gotta prove to be more than just a never-ending drum & bass solo. These days I need good food, better company, and maybe even some "yard games" to make a concert worth my while. Perhaps I am asking too much? Well if you ask Zac Brown (yes, the country music extraordinaire of Zac Brown Band fame), I'm not. Seems he already has my bases covered and then some!

I started listening to Zac Brown Band {ZZB} way back when I was a single girl living in Los Angeles. I had never really been a country music fan (besides the likes of Garth, Hank, Willie, Johnny, and June) but there was something about ZBB's spot-on Southern anthems that made me long for home like never before. In a city known for salads and supermodels, the mere idea of fried chicken and PBR had never tasted so good. I immediately knew this guy was different than the rest. But it wasn't until I returned South — with my very own Georgia boy, no less — that I began following ZBB's behind-the-scene endeavors. My interest was piqued when I discovered his campfire chili in food magazine and then got hold of his cookbook Southern Ground.

As ZBB's star rose, it was the buzz about their famous 'Eat & Greets' that really won my always-hungry heart. I mean, it's not very often you hear about a world-renowned band creating an environment in which they willingly hang out with their fans. I can honestly say that in all my years chasing after the elusive "backstage pass" hoping for a chance encounter with adolescent idols, I sure have never seen the musicians encouraging the mixing and mingling. (Well, except for a few pretty young things.)

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ZBB 'Eat & Greets' are an opportunity for their biggest fans to not only shake hands with the band, but to dine with them as well. Prior to every performance, up to 200 lucky folks get to enjoy a farm-to-table meal inspired by seasonal produce available in each city. At the helm of these feasts is Chef Rusty Hamlin, who operates out of a state-of-the-art mobile kitchen lovingly referred to as "cookie." Every menu is designed to showcase the very best Southern dishes using the very best local ingredients, all washed down compliments of another Southern staple, Jack Daniel's.

Luckily for anyone who missed out on ZBB's summer tour like I did, they are bouncing around the country this fall, including headlining appearances at the Southern Ground Music & Food Festivals held in Nashville and Charleston. The festival, a brainchild of Brown and Hamlin, brings together big-name acts with big-name chefs for the ultimate sensory (and savory) experience. I'm hoping to hit them up in Georgia, and I hope to see you there! (I'll bring the snacks if you bring the beer!) You can check out tour dates and purchase tickets here.

For some truly incredible ZZB foodie factoids, check out this totally awesome infographic sent to me by Amy at Vivid Seats, a Dixie Caviar friend and fan. Pretty freakin' awesome, huh?! And for more ZZB info, get their bio here and fun facts here.

Zac Brown Band: Legendary Musicians and Foodies
Please advise: this is not a sponsored post. I just really dig what the Zac Brown Band does.

The Dirty Thirty!

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It happened, y'all. I turned the dirty thirty! And despite a strange new interest in wrinkle creams, I'm feeling pretty damn good.

Walt managed to throw one doozy of a surprise party — his request to guests was to bring more food than I could imagine, and boy didn't disappoint. A sampling of the goods included cranberry chicken salad, shrimp cocktail, stuffed red peppers, Knorr spinach dip, baked spinach artichoke dip, feta dip, pulled pork roll-ups, brisket-bacon burgers, baked beans, brussels sprouts, Papa John's pizza, Funfetti cupcakes, and Alon's Bakery Midnight Cake! Holy moly, I'm popping out of my skinny jeans!

I think this epic animated E-Card from my mother adequately sums the day — and my life — up. Seriously y'all, this is one to watch! (It's a gastrotastrophe!!!)

Image source: Blue Mountain Cards

 

Recipe: Sweet & Savory Bacon Jam

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As a Southerner I know I'm supposed to pledge a certain allegiance to bacon, but I have to admit the "bacon-makes-everything-better" trend had me rolling my eyes after the first month or so. (And that was five years ago!) Then I made this sweet and savory bacon jam, and I'll be damned if I didn't want to slather it on everything from breakfast sandwiches to cupcakes. Yep, I turned into "that" girl... Continue reading at The Kitchn

Recipe: Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin

Teriyaki Pork DC-1Teriyaki pork tenderloin is total comfort food for me — it appeared in my mom's cooking rotation at least once a week when I was growing up, and it was always served with a side of yellow rice and a big green salad. Yes, it was the pre-marinated pork in a bag, and yes, it was delicious... Continue reading at The Kitchn

Southern Fish Fry, Nashville-style

Fried Catfish DC-1 I grew up frequenting catfish shacks on Sunday afternoons once church let out. My parents and grandparents were huge fans of the deep-fried "mudcats," but me, not so much. I always ordered chicken fingers and stole hushpuppies off my sisters' plates. It wasn't that I didn't like catfish, I just didn't think it was anything to write home about; this recipe definitely just changed my mind.

I took some inspiration from Nashville and bathed my catfish fillets in Tabasco before dredging them in a cajun flavored cornmeal mixture. The amazing crust shatters like glass thanks to the assistance of Wondra and cornstarch. The resulting catfish is complex, tangy, and just hot enough so you'll keep coming back for more. Pair the goodness with buttermilk coleslaw, beer-battered Cajun fries, and creamy-corn hushpuppies for a true Southern feast, and don't forget the ice cold beer!

Get the recipe at The Kitchn: Southern Fried Catfish

 

 

Restaurant Guide: Where & What to Eat in Atlanta!

When I first moved to Atlanta I started a (rather short) Word document on my desktop with a running list of restaurants where I wanted to dine. At the time the food scene here seemed rather lackluster compared to what I left behind in Los Angeles; I have to admit I was rather unimpressed. In the few short years since, Atlanta has really — and I mean seriously — come along. Thanks to a few key tastemakers and chefs acting as spirit guides, this wonderful Southern city has finally hit its culinary stride.

I am frequently asked by friends, students, and readers where folks should eat next in ATL (Floataway Cafe/anything by AQ is my first response) but instead of trying to spout off restaurants from the top of my head per usual, I figured I'd just go ahead and make my private document, well, public. For those of you interested, here ya' go.

I might add that by no means is this list comprehensive; it's just my up-to-date document of places to try and things to taste. I am constantly editing, adjusting, and adding to it, so check back often for more. Oh, and if you see an Atlanta restaurant you love that's not mentioned here, tell me all about it in the comments. Ideally this will become a crowd-sourced, one-stop-shop place for your next delicious dinner out!

UPDATE: THE MOST CURRENT RESTAURANT GUIDE IS LOCATED IN THE NAV BAR ABOVE!

 

WHERE (& WHAT ) TO EAT IN ATLANTA

(I have included a number of restaurants I have tried and liked in addition to those I want to try, with favorite foods mentioned when possible. Restaurants that weren't up to par are not included here. Those with a star* by their name are the ones I recommend the highest.)

NEW AMERICAN

StaplehouseKing + Duke Leon’s Full Service Aria Local Three 4th & Swift Gunshow The Shed at Glenwood The Optimist (seafood) Legal Sea Foods (seafood) Rathbun's Table and Main Seed Kitchen & Bar Muss & Turner's Serpas True Food BocadoMilton's at Crabapple Quinones Room Seven Lamps* - any cocktails by Arianne Fielder  Livingston Bacchanalia* - blue crab fritter The Octopus Bar* - lobster roll, oysters, cocktails Kaleidoscope - bloody mary, steamed buns Abbatoir* - cheese plate, charcuterie, cinnamon money bread Canoe* - buttered popcorn ice cream The Spence - oysters & pearls

 ITALIAN/MEDITERRANEAN

No. 246  La Pietra CucinaSotto SottoEccoBoccaLupoGio's Chicken Amalfitano La Tavola - tiramisu  Floataway Cafe* - pizza, pasta, toffee pudding, soft serve with olive oil & sea salt Valenza

SOUTHERN (UPSCALE)

 Cakes & Ale  Woodfire Grill  Restaurant Eugene  Bantam & Biddy  South City Kitchen  Serenbe (The Farmhouse/The Hil) Empire State South* - coca cola soft serve Holeman & Finch* - pimento cheese, burgers JCT Kitchen* - biscuits, brussels sprouts Miller Union* - daily grind burger, ice cream sandwiches Haven

STEAKHOUSE

 Hal's on Old Ivy  Kevin Rathbun SteakKR SteakBar  Chops Bone's

GREEK

 Kyma  Aria Cafe Agora* - mixed maza platter, gyro, baklava Mykonos* - gyro, fries, pineapple infused vodka, bread Grecian Gyro* - gyro

SPANISH

 Iberian Pig  Barcelona  The Sound Table (tapas, cocktails)

FRENCH

 Violete  Bistro Niko  Au Rendez Vous

ETHNIC

 Peter Chang’s Tasty 2/Tasty China  Sushi House Hayakawa  Penang (Malaysian)  Chef Liu  Rico’s World Kitchen (global)  MF Sushibar  Tomo (Japanese)  Nam Phuong (Vietnamese)  Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft  Woo Nam Jeong Stone Bowl (Korean)  Taqueria La Oaxaquena  Gu's Bistro (Chinese)  Honey Pig (Korean)  Rumi's Kitchen (Middle Eastern)  Cardamom Hill (Indian)  Bhojanic Indian)  Panahar* (Bangladeshi)

LATIN AMERICAN

 Nuevo Laredo  El Taco Veloz  Alma Cocina  Holy Taco  Taqueria La Oaxaqueña El Senor Taco* - fish tacos Taqueria del Sol - collard greens Bone Garden Cantina Rosa Mexicano* - guacamole, enchiladas verdes

SOUTHERN (SOUL)

 Greenwoods on Green Street  Busy Bee Cafe

ATLANTA INSTITUTIONS

 Mary Mac’s Tea Room  Silver Skillet  The Colonnade The Varsity* Dante's Down the Hatch

BURGERS

 Flip Burger  Yeah burger  George’s  Ann's Snack Bar Downwind's* Holeman & Finch* (Turner Field) Grindhouse Killer Burgers The Vortex Farm Burger Bocado

PIZZA

Antico

CAFE/DELI/MARKET

 The General Muir (deli) Star Provisions* - fried green tomato sandwich, shrimp po' boy, smores bars

BREAKFAST/BRUNCH

 Ria’s Bluebird Cafe  Tree House  Sun in My Belly  Buttermilk Kitchen (Hungry Peach)  Original Pancake House  Sublime Donuts  Home Grown  Highland Bakery* - fried chicken eggs benedict West Egg Cafe* - fried egg sandwich Horseradish Grill - fried chicken Murphy’s

BARBECUE

 Heirloom  Fox Brothers  Community* - beef ribs, macaroni & cheese

BAR/PUB

 One Eared Stag  Meehan's Public house Olde Blind Dog* - cheddar & ale dip, burgers The Clermont lounge* Northside Tavern* Hornsby's* Brick Store Pub*  Clay's* - buffalo chicken pizza

ICE CREAM

 Paolo's Morelli's Frosty Caboose* (sells Greenwood) Highroad Craft* (no storefront) Honeysuckle Gelato (no storefront) King of Pops

BAKERY/SWEETS

 The Pie Shop  Atlanta Cupcake Factory  Rhode’s Bakery  Café Intermezzo  Cacao Atlanta Highland Bakery* - cakes Alon’s* - cakes, eclairs

SPECIALTY FOODS/MARKETS

 Lucy's  Storico Fresco (homemade pasta) Savi Urban Market Star Provisions Bella Cucina

COFFEE

Batdorf and Bronson* Beaneology* Octane*

MEATS & DAIRY

White Oak Pastures Atlanta Fresh - yogurt Sweet Grass Dairy - cheese

WINE/SPIRITS

 3 Parks Wine  Brookhaven Wines Holiday Spirits* Green's Package* Perrine's Wine Shop* Total Wine*

 

Women's Health Summer Grilling Guide

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I am so excited to reveal my summer grilling feature in the June issue of Women's Health magazine. The guide is just in time for barbecue season and includes three easy (and healthy!) recipes, plus lots of tips for making outdoor cooking a cinch. Check out the full pdf version, or see the recipes below.

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(Amazing photos are by Travis Rathbone)

Recipe: Grilled Peppadews with Smoked Mozzarella

Stuffed Peppadew DC-1

Haven't jumped on the Peppadew bandwagon yet? Well it's time to hop on board! The fabulous Amelia Saltsman introduced me to the zippy peppers a few years back, and this preparation continues to be one of my favorite summer snacks. With only two ingredients, how could it not be?!

Check 'em out at The Kitchn: Grilled Peppadews with Smoked Mozzarella

Recipe: Smoky Gouda Pasta Salad

Memorial Day is just around the corner, so it's prime time to get your summer recipes in order. Pasta salad is one of my go-to warm weather dishes, and this version with smoked gouda, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and a creamy chipotle dressing might just be my (new) all-time favorite. I'm serious, y'all. It's amazing!

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Recipe: Pineapple & Ginger Mint Juleps

Pineapple Mint Julep-2These stunning juleps are just in time for Derby this weekend, but they're too delicious to only be enjoyed once a year. With my addition of fresh muddled pineapple and peppercorn-infused ginger syrup, this is the quintessential drink to carry you all the way through summer (and then some).

A word to the wise: if you drink these before 11 AM, like I did, make sure you've also eaten enough breakfast or I can't guarantee you'll make it past noon. They pack quite the whammy! Let the races begin...

Entertaining Ideas: How to Style a Crudité Platter

Let's talk about how to style a crudité platter. I serve some form of veggie appetizer at almost every party I host (like this Caesar Dip I made last week) and I'm always looking for new and interesting ways to arrange them. It doesn't take much to go above and beyond the typical store bought spread, I swear—just a cupboard raid and a quick stroll through the produce department...

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Obsession: Le Creuset Skinny Grill Pan

Skinny Grill One of the great things about teaching cooking classes is the chance to play with top-of-the-line cookware all day long. I'll admit that I'm a product junkie, and this job is only feeding the addiction. And even though I already have an extremely well stocked kitchen (some girls shop for shoes, I shop for appliances), there's always room for more.

My latest discovery is "The Skinny," a lightweight yet hardworking grill pan from Le Creuset. Of course I've always been a huge Le Creuset devotee—a bright red Dutch oven was my very first kitchen splurge years ago—so I know everything they produce is awesome, but leave it to them to create a sleek, powerful, and dare I say it, sexy, grill pan.

I christened some "skinny grills" during a recent Date Night class at SLT, and was in complete awe of the crisp, golden brown crust forming on our gorgeous ribeyes. I'll admit I totally dorked out in front of the students and got all goo-goo eyed over their steaks. I'm sure they thought I was completely absurd, but whatever, it was a damn fine sear.

So, my old grill pan is about to get the axe. Come Friday (er, pay day), me and the brand new "skinny" I'm bringing home will be grilling IN! Just thought you'd like to know...

 

Please advise: My "OBSESSIONS" are based entirely on personal opinion. I did not receive any compensation for this post and am 100% certain they have no idea who I am.

 

Recipe: Icebox "Cake Stacks" (via The Kitchn)

I've been making Nabisco's famous Icebox Cake for a few years now thanks in part to my friend Haley, but this time around I formed them into mini "cake stacks." They taste exactly the same, only now they're cuter! My "love babies" will definitely be showing up at all of my spring and summer parties (if I don't devour them all myself that is).

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