Bourbon And Beef Benefit

Last Thursday evening Acre restaurant in Auburn, Alabama hosted a “Beef and Bourbon Benefit” to help the victims of the March 3rd EF-4 tornadoes that devastated the Beauregard and Smiths Station communities in Lee County, Alabama. The 170 MPH tornadoes took the lives of 23 people in the community and left many others without their homes and their belongings scattered for miles. With the combined efforts of a spectacular team of chefs and their crews, the Beef and Bourbon Benefit was able to raise $34,000 in one evening! These funds will be handed over to the MEND program at the East Alabama Medical Center. This program was established after the storm devastation to help the victims with the challenges they are going to face as they rebuild their lives. As their website states their mission is, “To ensure that all affected by tragedy and disaster are able to fully recover physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually”. The Mend program combines the resources of local service organizations, civic groups, national organizations, and churches to not only allow better communication but also a better allocation of efforts to the victims during times of disaster.

The chefs that graciously donated their time and culinary talents to the evening, were the following: David Bancroft  of Acre, Jeffrey Compton of Acre, Caleb Fischer of Bow & Arrow, Leonardo Maurelli of Ariccia Cucina Italiana, Robby Melvin of Southern Living, Robbie Nicolaisen of The Hound, Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse, and last, but certainly not least, winner of Top Chef Kentucky 2019, Kelsey Barnard Clark of KBC in Dothan, Alabama.  Also contributing to the night’s success was the beef that was featured in all the dishes, Brasstown Beef. Their cattle farm is based out of Franklin, North Carolina, and their motto is that “Extraordinary Care= Extraordinary Beef.” Between the extreme care raising this beef, and extreme care shown in cooking it, it was by far some of the best beef I have ever had in my life. I could cut it all with a fork. Also sponsoring the event was Woodford Reserve of Kentucky and Red Clay Brewing of Opelika. Two of the live auction items during the dinner were two rare bottles of the Master’s Collection of Woodford Reserve. Also, two private wine dinners (one to be hosted in Auburn and another in Dothan) with Iron Chef winner, Chef David Bancroft, and Top Chef  Kentucky winner Chef Kelsey Clark of Dothan cooking, and John Mark Davis of International Wines pairing the wines, were auctioned off at much success! Other sponsors for the evenings’ event were the Auburn/Opelika Tourism Bureau, the Hudson Family Foundation, Southern Living, and the CALIFORNIA Wine Company by Phipps Family of Wines.

As the event started, guests were allowed to order cocktails from the bar, or participate in beer and bourbon tastings in the small private room off the right of the entrance of Acre. Being passed around also during this time were the dill pickle biscuits with a Dijon mustard and crispy piece of ham created by Robby Melvin of Southern Living. Also scattered around the dining area were Mason jars of David’s Beef Jerky. The jerky was delicious, tender, and had the perfect amount of kick. David’s cuisine is known for his signature touch of spice. Once we were all seated more starters came out which included Robbie Nicolaisen’s highly elevated black-eye pea hummus. This was no traditional hummus. In addition to the traditional elements of a hummus, black-eyed peas were used, tender beef cheeks were added, Georgia olive oil was used along with a local goat cheese, green tomato chow-chow, and benne served with za’atar spiced fry bread. This dish was so satisfying. I thought this definitely would be a great addition to a tapas style menu, as this hummus would be the perfect accompaniment to a few beers with friends. Jeff Compton prepared a delicately delectable beef heart tartare that consisted of diced raw beef heart, beef fat fried shallots, caper vinaigrette, topped with a duck egg yolk and black truffle aioli, and was served with benne crackers.

Prior to the start of the remaining dinner, which still consisted of six more sides, three more main dishes, and two desserts, Chef David Bancroft introduced all the participants and the sponsors for the evenings’ event. Each chef was welcomed to the dining room with applause and cheer. There were guests in attendance from as far as a Texas and several had made the trip up from Dothan to see their town favorite, Kelsey Clark.

After the introductions and gracious thanks to all the sponsors, a tsunami of food began flooding our table. The entire dinner was served family-style; meaning that all the separate dishes were on their own plates and were passed around the table and shared. The first shared side to come out to the table was a herb roasted wild mushroom dish comprised of the wild mushrooms, brown butter, Manchego cheese, and beef fat bread crumbs, created by Robby Melvin of Southern Living. Next was a flash fried cauliflower dish created by Leo Maurelli of Ariccia Cucina at The Hotel at Auburn University. I had never had a flash fried cauliflower that I could recall. It was slightly crispy, and the feta aioli along with the capers and mixed herbs, made this a cauliflower dish I would want to see on my plate again. Chef Leo also was responsible for the Extruded Creste de Gallo Mac & Cheese, that was full of savory garlic butter and herbed migas. No sooner had I served myself some of the cauliflower when a small cast iron kettle was placed on the table brimming with Rob McDaniel’s braised butter peas with ham hocks, lemon, and chives. They were incredible! I hope to see many of more of these butter peas in my future visits to SpringHouse on Lake Martin. During the summers, their vegetable plates are to die for. Rob has a spectacular way of making scrumptious vegetables. To round out our already abundant spread, a Sea Island Red Pea gratin with smoked beef belly and cornbread crumble was concocted by Robbie Nicolaisen. Finally, the sixth and final side brought to the table were Jeffrey Compton of Acre’s Roasted Fingerling Sweet Potatoes with an amazing house cultured yogurt and carrot top chimichurri sauce. I had never had sweet potatoes served with any type of sauce. The tanginess of the yogurt, along with the chimichurri, made this a sweet potato dish I hope to see on Acre’s menu soon. It would pair perfectly alongside a filet or other cut of beef.

Even though we all knew that there was going to be an onslaught of food coming at us, it was extremely hard to pace ourselves throughout the dinner. All the dishes were beautiful executed, and all the flavors were on point. Even though we all probably could have left the table at this point due to being full, we still had the main dishes and desserts to come. The first main dish brought out was made by Kelsey Clark, a Lavender Rubbed Brasstown Beef Ribeye served with a cornbread panzanella and an arugula gremolata. Next was Rob McDaniel’s Hickory Grilled Brasstown Beef Filet served with a celery salad and a danish blue cheese vinaigrette. Finally, Caleb Fischer’s smoked brisket with a street corn relish and arepas were served.

For dessert, Kelsey Clark made the most beautiful Georgia Olive Oil and Cornmeal Cake with beef tallow buttercream, whipped corn cream, and bourbon macerated strawberries. It was delightful and made me excited for the pending summer strawberries in my future. Caleb Fischer created a Bone Marrow Chocolate Pudding with a marcona-cocoa nib crumb, preserves, and micro sorrell. It was reminiscent of a pot de creme if you have ever had one of those. Very decadent and rich, and beautifully presented.

By the end of the meal, most of our table was no longer sitting. We physically could not sit any longer. I can only recall one other time in my life when I have felt so full, and that was after days of eating and drinking our way across Napa and Sonoma. What an awesome evening enjoyed by many, that will benefit many in the Lee County community.

Bourbon and Beef Benefit 2019- Helping feed the Lee Co. Tornado Victims.
Dill pickle biscuit with crispy ham and Dijon butter. -Robby Melvin
Black-Eyed Pea Hummus with spiced beef cheeks, green tomato chow chow, goat cheese, Georgia Olive oil, benne, served with za’atar spiced fry bread. – Robbie Nicolaisen
Beef Heart Tartare with duck egg yolk, black truffle aoili, beef fat fried shallots, caper vinagarette, served with benne cracker. – Jeff Compton
Flash Fried Cauliflower with feta aoili, capers, & mixed herbs. – Leo Maurelli
Roasted Fingerling Sweet Potatoes with house cultured yogurt, and carrot top chimichurri. – Jeff Compton
Georgia Olive oil and Cornmeal Cake with beef tallow buttercream, whipped corn cream, and bourbon macerated strawberries. -Kelsey Clark
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From (L-R) Rob McDaniel of Springhouse, David Bancroft of Acre, Leo Maurelli of Arricia, John Mark Davis of Internatioal Wines and Craft Beer, Caleb Fischer of Bow and Arrow, Kelsey Clark of KBC in Dothan, Robby Melvin of Southern Living Magazine, Robbie Nicolaisen of The Hound, Steve Whitmire of Brasstown Beef, and Jeffrey Compton of Acre.

Bow & Arrow

We had the exciting experience last night of getting to be some of the first few diners at Auburn’s newest culinary addition, Bow & Arrow.

Upon pulling into the parking lot you could smell the aromatic wonders of the smokers cooking a variety of meats. The design of the restaurant is warm and inviting. The ambiance is that of a hunting lodge, with a woman’s softness added. There are big buck trophy’s adorning the walls, all from local hunters.

When you walk in the front of the restaurant you are greeted by the visual sights of a tortilla machine cranking out freshly made tortillas, and then a feast of meats as far as the eyes can see. The restaurant is counter service in style, and family-style sharing of food is encouraged.

At the beginning of the order line, you will begin by selecting your meats.  There is a butcher that will cut them to order for you. To choose from there were brisket, turkey, pork shoulder,  chicken, ribs, jalapeno cheddar link sausage, and the Bow and Arrow original link, which was my personal favorite. You can order as many things as you want. We were in a group of six people and we chose to order several things and share our trays family style as suggested. We tried an array of the meats, and for the sides, we had the potato salad, mac & cheese, tater tot casserole, creamed corn, camp beans, butter beans, and potlicker greens. I think the only thing we missed was the corn cabbage slaw. Everything was very delicious and flavorful. There was an entire bar of sauces, relishes, and other dressings for the meats that I missed out on. I know several of our friends were raving on the white sauce. There was not anything that we did not enjoy. Standout favorites being the tater tot casserole, and the creamed corn.

We had fun sharing dinner with our group of friends, and the evening temps were mild enough that they were able to open the garage-style doors that line one side of the dining room that led out to a picturesque lit picnic table style seating area.

Listening to David Bancroft share his enthusiasm about the cultivation of this restaurant, and all the care and attention to detail that was paid to every single element, you cannot help share in his excitement. It was a wonderful evening shared with “friends and family” and we cannot be happier for our friends, David & Christin Bancroft and Caleb Fischer on this new venture. I truly felt the presence of Lord throughout the evening, I know they will all be blessed  and will be able to bless many others through your delicious food!

Beautiful iron work done by John Howell.
Hand-crafted bow and arrows. 
The buffet line. All the servers were so friendly and excited to serve.
Big Buck Hunter games will bring out your serious side. 😉
I think he covered all bases with this plate. 
 (L-R) Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse, John Mark Davis of International Wines, and David Bancroft of Acre & Bow and Arrow.
Adorable outdoor seating area that can be opened up to the dining area.

Downtown Auburn Family Supper

On a warm spring evening residents of Auburn and Opelika gathered in downtown Auburn for the first ever Downtown Family Supper. We had previously attended a similar event in downtown Dothan a few years back, and I was really excited to see the idea brought to the “Loveliest Village on the Plains”. Tichenor Avenue, between College Street and Gay Street in downtown, was blocked off for the evening for this special event. Farm tables and sparkly lights were lined down the center of the street for the most picturesque scene. The dinner was served “family style” which is comprised of large portions passed and shared among the tables. The weather couldn’t have been better, and the night was overall blissful.

Six of downtown Auburn’s chefs came together to create the food offerings.  The dream team was comprised of  (in no particular order) David Bancroft & Caleb Fischer of Acre, Leonardo Maurelli and of Ariccia Trattoria, Scott Simpson of The Depot, Robbie Nicolaisen of The Hound, Miguel Figueroa of Amsterdam Cafe, and Patrick Gallagher of Hamilton’s on Magnolia. They all donated their talents & time for the evening, along with much of their restaurant staff also volunteering their time to help with the serving of the food and wine. All the proceeds from the supper will benefit the non-profit organizations, Downtown Merchants Association and Nourish Alabama. Nourish, AL was created through a partnership between Hornsby Farms and Pediatric Associates of Auburn with a mission of providing food insecure families in Lee County and the surrounding community with healthy nutritious foods and the tools to prepare them. This dinner with out a doubt embodied, in so many ways, the great community we are so fortunate to live in.

Each attendee enjoyed a five course meal, wine, and entertainment by Martha’s Trouble. The wines for the evening were Hahn Pinot Noir and Flint & Steel Sauvignon Blanc. Both wines paired really well with all the dishes served. The Sauvignon Blanc was especially nice with the Togarashi tuna poke prepared by Scott Simpson of The Depot and the bright beet salad prepared by David Bancroft of Acre. The Hahn Pinot Noir was particularly good with the incredible, fall-apart Heritage Farm pork ribs with the watermelon molasses prepared by Chef Robbie Nicolaisen.

Every dish that was served was incredibly delicious and every bite was thoroughly enjoyed. All efforts that went into making this inaugural event special were above and beyond. Although Auburn is changing in many ways, the core of who we are as an Auburn family is strong and unwavering. Proud to be a part of this place we love calling home.

The tablescape for the evening.
Chef David Bancroft adding the secret sauce to his brussel sprout salad.
What an appetizing menu!?!
Amazing collaborative effort! Go team!
Chef Scott Simpon’s Tuna Togarashi Tuna Poke.
Chef Scott Simpson of The Depot on Mitcham Avenue downtown Auburn.
Chef Bancroft’s golden beet salad, sultanas, fried peanuts, and mint.
Chef Bancroft’s shaved brussels sprouts, peach vinaigrette, smoked bacon and blue cheese.
Chef Miguel Figueroa’s chicken chicharrones with a garlic mayo ketchup.
Chef Robbie Nicolaisen’s roasted carrots, pepper jelly, burrata, and pistachio dukkah.
Chef Patrick Gallagher’s signature macaroni and cheese.
Chef Leo Maurelli’s extruded pasta primavera, local veggies, arugula, and pecan pesto.
Chef Figueoa’s pineapple upside down spiced rum cake with piña colada buttercream.

 

Wine selections for the evening, Hahn Pinot Noir and Flint & Steel Sauvignon Blanc.

Hornsby Farm Spring Harvest Dinner

Last night we attended the Spring Harvest Dinner at Hornsby Farms in Auburn, Alabama. The farm is a short drive from Auburn,  located just south of town off College Street. After turning off the main highway, you make a short drive down a dirt road and you land in what feels like the middle of the country. The weather was mild and enjoyable, and there was not a cloud in the sky. The beautiful orange and blue sunset sky that is the embodiment of life on the plains was a beautiful backdrop for the commencement of our evening.

The chef for this particular dinner was Caleb Fischer of Acre in Auburn, Alabama. The chef for these dinners rotates around, and we were really pleased to have to opportunity to enjoy some of Caleb’s cooking. He is currently the Chef de Cuisine at Acre, and he will be the Executive Chef at their new restaurant Bow & Arrow when they open later this year. We were able to celebrate a little bit Caleb making it to the finale of the Spring Baking Championship on the Food Network last evening. I know the entire community has enjoyed watching him succeed in the competition, and cannot wait to see what other great things are in the future for him.

All the food that was served for this event came directly from the farm, including the pork. Truly farm to table. Hornsby Farms grows over one hundred varieties of fruits and vegetables on their farm year round. They offer weekly produce basket deliveries in the local area. They also work with many of the local restaurants that you may have dined in, such as, Acre, Moores Mill Club, Amsterdam Café, and SpringHouse, to name a few. We were able to tour the farm prior to dinner, and I really enjoyed getting to see all the chickens, ducks, pigs (Okra and Squash), and hear Josh tell us about what he had planted for the upcoming summer months.

After the sun had set, we all gathered around the barn. The Hornsby family welcomed everyone out for the evening, and Chef Caleb discussed his preparation of all the food we were about to eat. It was interesting to hear his story of harvesting the pig and the care and consideration they took in the butchery of the animal. The event was very reminiscent of a boucherie in Lousiana, which Caleb made reference to, full of food, libations, and fellowship.

Along with the savory pork we were served stewed cabbage with radishes, succotash full of limas & corn, a roasted cauliflower and broccoli crudité salad, and very tasty dirty rice. Instead of providing the traditional, typical sauces served with barbecue, we were offered a variation of their farm made jams and jellies, my favorite being the peach habañero jelly. I also put a dollop of the jelly in my succotash, like you would a chow- chow. The meal was soulfully delicious and getting to know all the other people at our table made the evening that much more interesting.

For dessert, Caleb finished the meal with a cornbread cake with strawberry preserves. The cornbread cake was divine, and Caleb incorporated some of Beth’s Sweet Heat Pepper Jelly into the strawberry mix, adding a little bit of a surprising heat to the dessert. The only thing that could have made it better, would have been a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

As the night dwindled down we gathered around the bonfire while we finished our desserts and sipped on what wine we had left. I could have stayed in that exact spot all evening if my schedule would have allowed. The peaceful silence, cool air, and the starlit skies almost made me want to consider farm living. If you ever have the chance check out Hornsby Farms and all the wonderful things they have to offer!

Beautiful skies over the farm.
Farm tables made by Josh Hornsby.
Campfire seating area.
All food, minus the pig, this evening was cooked in cast iron on the open fire.
This little piggy went to market.
Happy plate full of dirty rice, succotash, pork with Beth’s pepper jelly, cabbage with radishes, and broccoli & cabbage crudité salad.

Iron Chef Wine Dinner

Last evening we were able to attend the Iron Chef Wine Dinner at Acre in Auburn, Alabama. David Bancroft, chef and restaurant owner, won the Iron Chef battle on the Food Network back in December. Our community could not be more proud or happy for him, his family, and his team. The dinner featured a five course menu based around the dishes that helped David win the competition on Iron Chef. Tickets for this event sold out in minutes. We felt very fortunate to be able to attend.

The wines paired with each course were from the Honig Winery out of Rutherford, California. Michael Honig was in attendance and spoke about the winery and the wines that were paired with each course. I was lucky enough to visit this picturesque winery with my husband a few years back. We attended a wine dinner in their vineyards for the summer solstice. It is an exquisite property, and I strongly encourage you to visit if you are ever in the area.

Cocktails started at 6 PM. Guests were welcomed into the dining area by servers carrying trays of the first wine pairing, which was as 2017 Napa Sauvignon Blanc. This was paired with a short rib tartare, which was served on a crostini with an oyster mayo, lime, and radish greens. They were also passing around a delectable lagniappe David had prepared, a Conecuh sausage and oyster donut with a cheesy mustard sauce on top. They were absolutely divine! I hope to see these on the menu in the future.

The dinner was assembled in the bar area of the restaurant.  Two long tables were lined up in a farm table style setting. We had a great time getting to know our companions at the table who shared our love for food and wine. Christin, David’s wife, did an a marvelous job with the decor for the dinner. I loved the personal touches used for the place cards. They were Honig wine corks that had been halved and held the place card for each seat. The flowers arranged down the center of the tables were exquisite. C. Wayman Floral & Events  did the floral arrangements for this event, and also keep the restaurant regularly styled with beautiful bouquets of flowers. I have been a long time follower of theirs on social media and have always admired their striking floral designs.

As everyone took their seats, Christin welcomed and thanked everyone for attending. David came out and talked about the preparation for all the dishes. Listening to him describe his food is absolutely captivating. You can easily see and hear his excitement for his thoughtfully constructed dishes. He is genuinely excited for you to eat his food, and the excitement is contagious. Caleb Fischer, the Chef de Cuisine at Acre and future Executive Chef at the soon to open sister property Bow and Arrow, spoke on the final course, the bone marrow pots de crème. Caleb is also a local celebrity. We have thoroughly enjoyed watching him compete on the Spring Baking Championship, also on  Food Network. We hope he can too bring back a win for our hometown!

For the second course, we were served David’s famous Alabama tamales. He makes them with a sweet potato masa, spicy chorizo, and wraps them in collard greens, versus the traditional corn husk. On this particular evening, he had the tamales atop a bed of a melon vinaigrette. Listening to him describe the preparation of the vinaigrette had my mouth watering. The delicate sweetness of the melon vinaigrette paired perfectly with the spiciness of the chorizo. The 2016 Rutherford Reserve Sauvignon Blanc paired sublimely with these flavors as well.

The third course was a St. Louis style rib that had been coated in a chicken skin streusel and blackberry preserves. Being a true southerner, they won my heart at chicken skin; Yummy, crispy chicken skin. These were by far the best ribs I have ever had. The deep, rich flavors of the preserves coating the rib, and the subtle crunch of the delicious chicken skins were mind blowing. This course was the introduction to the red wine pairings. The pairing for this courses was a 2015 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

The fourth course consisted of another style of rib, a slow smoked beef short rib. The wine pairing for this dish was my favorite of the dinner. The bold, robust flavor of the 2014 Bartolucci Cabernet Sauvignon stood up to the rich, complex flavors of this rib dish. The beef rib was covered in a roasted beet gravy and Alabama morel jam. There was a little bit of raw celery and peas atop the rib that added a little extra crunch and texture to the savory, fall-apart rib. The beet gravy and morel jam were out of this world good! I hope these two items will be a mainstay on the menu at Acre as well.

The final course was a heavenly dessert, which was paired with a 2016 Napa Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. The dessert was a bone marrow pots de crème that had a toasted hazelnut sprinkled atop a lemon curd with a red ribbon sorrel garnish. This pairing and dish was the favorite of our dinner companions. The bright lemon was subdued by the bone marrow, and the hazelnut crunch on top added texture to the dish. Caleb really has a knack for making incredible desserts.

We had a delightful evening at the Iron Chef Dinner. The food and wine pairings were sheer perfection. We enjoyed getting to meet the other diners and share with them our love of food and wine. We are so proud of Acre and their team. They do an exemplary job of demonstrating true Southern hospitality, and we are truly blessed to have them in our community.

Beautiful tablescape.
David Bancroft (right) and Caleb Fischer (left) talking about the menu.
Michael Honig talking about his winery and wines.
Short Rib Tartare.
Conecuh sausage and oyster donut with a cheesy mustard sauce on top.
Alabama tamales.
St. Louis Style Rib with chicken skin streusel.
Personal touches!
Slow Smoked Beef Short Rib.
Bone Marrow Pot de Crème.
(L-R) David Bancroft of Acre, John Mark Davis of International Wines, Michael Honig of Honig Winery.