Food that makes memories

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The story below is a preview of our November / December 2021 issue. For more stories like this subscribe today. Thank you!


Restaurant owners and chefs share their favorite family vacation memories.



It’s the season again.

It’s time for harvest colors, then Christmas red. Drumstick Dash and Dickens parties. It’s the season for the 10 extra items on your to-do list, and somehow it seems 10 hours less a day.

But there, at the end of the lists and shopping and always in a hurry, is the meal. The call to the table for communion and feast. Whether it’s the pre-game cardboard plate or the main event of the porcelain serving bowl, it’s our culinary traditions that hold us firmly and center us in the midst of all the other hustle and bustle. Each year they patiently wait and quietly invite us to taste and see all that is really good, fair and beautiful in our lives.

It is in this spirit that we share with you the culinary traditions of some of our region’s beloved restaurateurs and chefs. We asked them what culinary traditions they hold dear; these smells, tastes and memories at the center of their family, bringing them to the table.

Jason & Carolyn Kiser, Blue Cow Ice Cream

“Our favorite holiday cooking tradition revolves around the pre-game aspect of Thanksgiving. While waiting for the turkey, we sip Bloody Marys while eating fresh Rappahannock oysters – grilled and raw, along with fries and a dip. Every year my dad makes a giant bowl of his classic clam dip. We usually participate in our pre-game feast around a large piece of plywood placed on two sawhorses in the driveway. This is where the oyster shelling is done for our large crew. We’ve always had this clam dip and the Bloody Mary tradition. Oysters came into play about 15 years ago now. But the rest [of the tradition] we’ve been doing as far as I can remember.

–Carolyn Kiser

Bob Rotanz, Mac and Bob’s Restaurant

“What I usually do on Christmas morning is bake cookies with sausage sauce, homemade applesauce and bacon. The key is that I make the sausage sauce with seasoned flour from Big Spring Mill in Elliston. The seasoned flour totally makes the sauce. I started this tradition when my daughters were young. I cooked this breakfast for them every time they had a slumber party.

–Bob Rotanz

James & Dawn Ferroni, Restaurant Remini

“James’s family history is Italian and a big part of his family tradition is the feast of the seven fish. It’s a six to eight course dinner made with seafood only eaten on Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas Day, they eat prime rib. On the first Christmas of our wedding, James threw a huge feast combining his Italian Catholic heritage and our new blended family, making all of our kids the favorites. Twelve years later, this tradition continues. James does all the cooking. It makes lamb, prime rib, crab cakes, casino clams, ham and all the trimmings – baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, broccoli casserole, and macaroni and cheese. It’s a bit of everything.

–Dawn Ferroni

Nathaniel Sloan, bloom

“One of our favorite holiday cooking traditions is Grandma Dorothy’s Turkey Tetrazzini. A staple for generations now, Grandma’s tetrazzini conjures up warm memories of nourishment and comfort. One of the many aspects that I love about this tradition is Grandma’s dedication to the “no waste” culture of her generation. Even as a child, I was inspired by his ability to turn “leftovers and gizzards” into a nourishing meal for our whole family. She gained this appreciation growing up in downtown Chicago during the Great Depression. There, Dorothy learned at a young age not to take any ingredients for granted and to be eternally grateful.

-Nate Sloan


Want more fond memories of chef and restaurateur vacations? Read the full article in our latest issue, on newsstands now, or for free in our digital issue linked below!


The above story is taken from a preview of our November / December 2021. For more stories subscribe today or check out our FREE digital edition. Thank you for supporting local journalism!

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