The first food memories of a New York City chef are the makings of legends, and that’s where we start with On the Pin Episode 3: Grits, Crawfish, and Bourbon Cocktails. Up first, co-host and Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley dives into the episode with longtime friend chef Sarah Simmons of City Grit and Birds & Bubbles. Download the Foursquare app and save this list for details on all the bars and restaurants mentioned in Episode 3.
Simmons cites the layers of flavors she experienced while eating the shrimp and grits at Crooks Corner, in Chapel Hill, N.C. as her earliest food memory. The experience influences her menu even today: at Birds & Bubbles (one of the 15 Best Places for Fried Chicken in New York), the shrimp and grits pays homage to a one of the South’s top chefs, chef Mike Lata, at the helm at FIG and The Ordinary, in Charleston.
Nine meals in one day? That’s just a typical travel schedule for Simmons, who recently traveled to L.A. for 10 days and ate at 75 restaurants. Her top choice was Alimento, where her tip is to order the lamb belly, tortellini, and the rice pudding.
Crawfish: The classic Southern springtime dish that symbolizes the change of season. Simmons’ gave us a brief on her Birds & Bubbles crawfish étouffée; in her version, she sweats the onion, green pepper, and celery—the Southern cooking holy trinity—throws in garlic, adds the “secret spices,” slow cooks tomatoes, adds shrimp sauce, and tops it all with the crawfish right before the dish is served.
Rose’s Luxury, in D.C., was the greatest recent dinner for Simmons; she and 40 other chefs were in the capital for the No Kid Hungry campaign, and stopped into Rose’s twice for the popcorn soup, pork sausages, and more. On April 27th, Simmons will be cooking at Taste of the Nation, the organization’s annual event, and—bringing it full circle—she’ll be serving crawfish étouffée.
As for Crowley, his recent best meal was at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Pocantico Hills, New York, about an hour north of Manhattan. Sit at the bar for a three-course meal, or do the entire multi-course experience with wine pairings. An early reservation—say 5 p.m. on Friday—means you have plenty of time to explore the farm grounds. In Brooklyn, two other new favorites are L’Antagoniste and the nearby Casablanca Cocktail Lounge.
Enter Southern Living deputy editor Jennifer V. Cole to the On the Pin podcast. Several years ago, she enthusiastically ingratiated herself into Birmingham’s culinary scene, a cannon that’s changing with restaurants such as Highlands Bar & Grill, with its French influence, and El Barrio, which combines Mexican flavors and southern soul.
“If your house doesn’t have a porch then it ain’t smiling,” says Cole, and she should know. Her porch has become a bourbon salon for preeminent chefs, from Thomas Keller to Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia restaurant in Louisville, KY. Her favorite bourbons are Bulleit, W.L. Weller 12 Year, and she loves Husk as a great place for trying small bottlings, cocktails, and punches.
In a new version of the Newlywed game, Foursquare asked chef Simmons to answer three questions, which were later posed to Jennifer Cole.
Question 1: The best breakfast dish in Charleston:
- Chef Sarah Simmons: The Big Nasty (a chicken biscuit) from Hominy Grill.
- Jennifer Cole: A slice of coconut cake from Peninsula Grill, or the fried chicken biscuit from Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit on Upper King.
Question 2: Best detour between the South and New York City:
- Chef Sarah Simmons: Head to Hog & Hominy, in Memphis.
- Jennifer Cole: Stop for Nashville’s hot chicken, at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, or try the hot chicken pizza at Two Boots Nashville. (For more, Foursquare has an entire list of the 15 Best Places for Fried Chicken in Nashville.)
Question 3: Favorite cocktail in the South:
- Chef Sarah Simmons: Bourbon neat at Husk.
- Jennifer Cole: Sazerac with a lemon twist from Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, in New Orleans. Find more New Orleans cocktail options here.
Looking ahead to early May, podcasters have Kentucky Derby is on the brain (the race is May 2nd). According to Cole, it’s all about the hats, but mint juleps are center stage for most. It’s an excuse to get gussied up and bring out your julep cup (the shapes and designs are different based on your state). And we end the podcast with Cole’s best, most recent meal: soft-shell crabs and razor-clam ceviche back at FIG, Charleston, SC. All, thanks for listening!
To see the list of all bars and restaurants mentioned in the podcast, download the Foursquare app and save the list here.
By Sarah Spagnolo, Foursquare’s editor-at-large