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Bagel Palace isn’t re-opening yet—but there is hope

Inside the now-defunct Bagel Palace in Toco Hills

Courtesy of Manny Klein

Bagel Palace—the beloved New York-style bagel shop that closed in Toco Hills a few years ago—may be resurrected, but not just yet.

Owner Manny Klein closed the restaurant in 2018 after the property was purchased and the new landlord allegedly planned to double the rent, he says. Since then, Klein says he’s been looking for a new location in the area; however, he has yet to find one that meets his needs.

Fans of the restaurant got excited a couple of weeks ago when Tomorrow’s News Today spotted the name Bagel Palace on a permit for a space in the Shamrock Plaza shopping center in Decatur. Klein says he has been negotiating with the plaza management “on and off for one-and-a-half years” but has not yet signed a lease.

“The rent was high, and the space is not the greatest configuration to open up a store,” he explains. “Also, Publix is in the shopping center. We used to make a lot of baked goods like Danish and rugelach. That was going to be constricted because we wouldn’t be allowed a bakery case.”

He says they wouldn’t be allowed to serve alcohol and or build a drive-through window, either, but were discussing the possibility of having patio space.

Shamrock Plaza co-owner Dale Holmes of T C Holmes & Son LLC says his team struggled to get county approval for patio seating in the space and that DeKalb is “even more restrictive on drive-through lanes than they used to be.”

“We’re all trying to look after our interests the best we can,” Holmes says. “It’s just part of doing business.”

Despite the roadblocks, Klein says he’s still considering Shamrock Plaza, while also looking at other spots around the city, from Chamblee to Buckhead to Decatur—ideally, one with a patio.

“It’ll be the same sit-down and take out we had in Toco Hills,” he says. “The debate was wait service versus self-serve. I’m leaning [toward] waitstaff.”

He admits the COVID-19 pandemic made him pause before committing to anything.

“Right now, with the virus, we don’t know what’s going to happen. To invest now would be a little premature,” he says.  “I feel terrible because our customers are family. We had 60,000 hits on our Facebook page the weekend we closed.”

“Hopefully, the economy will pick back up and businesses will flourish again,” Holmes says.

Rathbun’s and Krog Bar were going to close. COVID-19 just accelerated it.

Chef Kevin Rathbun
Chef Kevin Rathbun at Taste of the NFL 2018

Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for Taste Of The NFL

Sadly, permanent restaurant closures are becoming more and more commonplace as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll. But unlike many local restaurants, Rathbun’s and Krog Bar did not close directly due to the pandemic. Chef-owner Kevin Rathbun says the virus did accelerate the closures by a few months; however, the chef’s 17-year-old flagship American restaurant and nearby wine bar were due to shut down in early 2021 regardless because of a lease dispute.

“Rathbun’s was my first restaurant. It was a good run,” Rathbun says.

Asana Partners purchased the land from on which Rathbun’s and Krog Bar reside from Paces Properties in 2018. According to Rathbun, the company plans to knock down Krog Bar and build a circular driveway.

“They had a vision, and I wasn’t in it,” he says. “My restaurants were doing okay. I probably should’ve done a 25-year lease, but it was my first restaurant, and I didn’t know if it was going to work.”

After unsuccessfully attempting to renegotiate his leases, Rathbun agreed to close in 2021. When COVID-19 hit, he decided to close early and focus on reopening his other restaurants, BeltLine-adjacent Kevin Rathbun Steak and KR SteakBar in Peachtree Hills.

“I’m humbled by how long I was there and how many great patrons and employees I had,” he says.

Fans of Rathbun’s and Krog Bar, fear not. Rathbun plans to open adaptations of both spots eventually. We spoke to him to learn more.

How did COVID-19 impact the timeline for the closure of Rathbun’s and Krog Bar?
I was going to announce [the closures] at the end of Q3 and throw a bunch of parties. That’s the sad part—I was going to go out with a bang. At the end of March, I said let’s just go ahead [and close]. Asana wanted to get started with the redevelopment anyway. Who knows how long this thing is going to last?

It’s sad that I had to furlough employees who worked for me for 15 years. I lost about 140 employees, but they each got about $1,000 from an employee relief fund I raised from gift card sales. (Customers can redeem those gift cards at KR SteakBar and Kevin Rathbun Steak in the near future.)

What will the new Krog Bar look like?
I own the steakhouse property—10,000 square feet and the grass across from Ladybird. I’ve had renderings done on [building] a deck. Krog Bar was 750 square feet. I might do an indoor/outdoor Krog Bar with a deck next to the steakhouse.

Where and when will you reopen Rathbun’s?
I’m looking for real estate to do something a little more approachable in price point. Most of my stuff was kind of higher end. I live in Morningside. I drew a 6-mile circle around my house and anything in that radius will work for me. I’ll probably wait 6 months to a year to see how this plays out and then go buy a building somewhere.

How will the concept change?
I’ve often wanted to do fried chicken like I grew up with in Kansas City. I led [former Buckhead Life Southwestern concept] Nava. Mexican food is one of my favorite things. I’ve done barbecue. When you find a space, you have to look at what’s around it, what the area might need, and who you’re not going to piss off.

A lot of local chefs have been tweeting about the closure of Rathbun’s. It seems like you’ve created quite the community! Would you consider partnering on your next venture?
I’ve been in Atlanta for almost 25 years almost. I have a lot of friends. Peter Kaiser is my partner on Kaiser’s Chophouse. I’d do that again with some other people for sure. If I found a young guy who needed something . .  . I like that format.

What kind of safety procedures are you implementing when KR SteakBar and Kevin Rathbun Steak reopen in early June?
It’ll be a combination of curbside and dine-in. I might even start curbside first. I’m putting the numbers together. We’re looking at 30 to 35-percent capacity. We’ll follow the guidelines with social distancing, masks, and gloves. I’m looking into some Plexiglass [dividers] to put on the kitchen line. I’m watching what these other people are doing. I get calls from regular customers all the time asking when I’m going to open. If we can get back to a break-even point or a little over that, and can do it safely, I’ll be happy.

What you think the future will hold for the hospitality industry?
I think the curbside is alive and well. If [scientists] find a vaccine, that could turn the spigot back on. [The pandemic’s impact on the industry] could be a blip on the radar, or it could take some time. I don’t have a crystal ball. It’s unfortunate; there will be a lot of restaurants that won’t come back from this, but people will probably do some pretty creative things. You wouldn’t have to have a big space anymore—you could open up a kitchen with a drive-thru.

Deborah VanTrece of Twisted Soul adapts to COVID-19—by launching a chicken pop-up

A Different Kind of Chick
Georgia Chick marinated fried chicken

Photograph courtesy of A Different Kind of Chick

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, chef Deborah VanTrece decided to shut down her modern soul food restaurant Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours before it was mandated. She tried offering meal kits. She attempted a pay-what-you-can concept to use up leftover inventory. But, she says, “those were short-term answers.”

So, she changed direction. On May 2, she launched a pop-up concept called A Different Kind of Chick that offers a curated menu of Springer Mountain Farms chicken entrees and sandwiches available for takeaway and delivery. It features items like the Morning After Chick (fried chicken with vanilla waffles and maple bourbon syrup), the Skinny Chick (herb and garlic-marinated grilled chicken breast), and the Spicy Chick (a po boy with jalapeno jack cheese, grilled onions, and remoulade). “Side Chicks” include sautéed farm vegetables, three-cheese macaroni, and garlic mashed potatoes.

Chef/owner Deborah VanTrece

Courtesy of A Different Kind of Chick

A Different Kind of Chick operates out of Twisted Soul (1133 Huff Road Northwest) Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. To-go orders can be placed by calling 404-350-5500 or emailing ldlane0820@gmail.com. Delivery is available via Zifty.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do,” VanTrece says. “It‘s not as expensive, and it’s still showcasing food we’ve done throughout our existence.”

We spoke with her to learn more.

The Well Traveled Chick is half a peri-peri grilled chicken served with chimichurri.

Courtesy of A Different Kind of Chick

How did you come up with the idea for A Different Kind of Chick?
It was 2013 or 2014. I had been catering for years. I thought about how I would cook all day but not eat anything. I like having quick options that are still potentially healthy. A lot of people eat chicken.

When I decided I wanted a brick and mortar, I put feelers out. The restaurant space that came to me quickest was in Decatur. It wasn’t what I would’ve chosen for A Different Kind of Chick. It was a little nicer—an atmosphere for a more refined dining experience. So, I did a quick pivot [to Twisted Soul Cookhouse].

Why did you decide now is the time to bring A Different Kind of Chick to life?
It had been sitting on the backburner. It was a takeaway-type concept with limited seating. It’s slow food fast, where you order at the counter and have limited contact with service people. Those seem to be the restrictions put upon us as we move into the future.

What safety measures have you put in place?
We have markers on the floor to keep six feet between customers. We’re distancing in the kitchen as well. We have one area for ordering and another for pickup. There’s a host outside who can take orders and payment from your car. Everyone is masked and gloved.

How was the first weekend?
I was really nervous, but it was fun. Saturday, we did 70 orders! It’s about 50-50 with regulars and new people. I think we all need something exciting to break up what’s becoming mundane. The Georgia Chick (Southern marinated fried chicken) is the most popular because it’s a signature item on the Twisted Soul menu.

How long do you plan to continue A Different Kind of Chick?
We’re going to keep it going. We’ll increase the days it’s offered. When we get back to our regular dining scene, we might take this concept and transition it to another space. We’ll also continue our Fish Fry Fridays—we’ve had a lot of success with that since COVID-19 began.

What are your plans for reopening Twisted Soul?
Twisted Soul will be back the way it was. We’re going to keep our eyes on the science and adjust accordingly. When we restart dine-in, we’ll do some Twisted Soul Tuesdays. I’m also writing a cookbook that’s basically a reflection of the food I make at the restaurant. It will be released in the spring.

Read more: VanTrece and her wife Lorraine Lane run Twisted Soul together, but now that the pandemic has taken hold, VanTrece works in the restaurant while Lane looks for grants and loans to apply to. For our upcoming June issue, we talked to them about how the pandemic has impacted both their business and their relationship.

View the full menu below. (Tap to enlarge.)

Talat Market is finally open (for takeout)—and it’s selling out immediately

Talat Market chefs/owners Rod Lassiter and Parnass Savang

Photo by Bailey Garrot

After three years of pop-ups around Atlanta, chefs Parnass Savang and Rod Lassiter are opening their brick-and-mortar Thai restaurant, Talat Market, in Summerhill tonight. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Talat will serve takeout only Wednesday through Sunday “for the foreseeable future,” Savang says. The restaurant, named for the Thai word for “market,” will serve creative Thai-inspired fare using local ingredients.

“Prior to [the] pandemic, we had a different vision for our restaurant,” Savang says. “With this happening a month before our opening, we had time to brainstorm a different way to open that’s still true to us, exciting, fun, and delicious.”

Inside Talat Market

Photo by Bailey Garrot

The duo will prepare a maximum of 45 meals per night—each meal is $50 plus tax and is meant to be shared between two people—with preorders available starting at noon two days before intended pickup. And fans of the former pop-up are eager—Friday’s meals sold out in just seven minutes, and Saturday and Sunday’s meals sold out in five. (Be sure to log on Monday right at noon to place an order for Wednesday pickup.)

Each meal includes four savory dishes, jasmine rice, and dessert. For now, the dishes include pork broth with pork and shrimp sausage, glass noodles, wood ear mushrooms, and garlic oil; red curry with grilled asparagus, pineapple, spring onion in coconut cream; crispy pork belly with garlic chili sauce; crispy rice salad with beets, lettuce, and red chili jam dressing; and a grilled banana sticky rice dessert.

“Each set is carefully curated,” Savang says. “I put myself in the guests’ shoes and think about if I’d like [to eat] these dishes at home.”

Beverage director Adrian Fessenden-Kroll

Photo by Bailey Garrot

Lassiter says the duo hopes to add a vegetarian option next week, and eventually a la carte items. Though Talat doesn’t yet have its liquor license, bar manager Adrian Fessenden-Knoll is selling cocktail kits sans alcohol for $6. Current offerings include a Pandan colada with fresh coconut cream, pineapple juice, Pandan leaf, and Thai basil. All patrons have to do is add gin or rum and shake with ice.

Patrons are asked to call the restaurant when they arrive in the parking lot, and their food will be delivered curbside.

“[Doing pop-ups], we’ve been thrown into so many situations and have gone to so many people’s restaurants and had to adapt to what they had. This is another challenge for us to adapt to,” Lassiter says.

Inside Talat Market

Photo by Bailey Garrot

One of the benefits of opening after the pandemic began, Savang says, is they didn’t have to furlough any of their staff. They are currently operating with a total of five team members.

“We get to get our feet wet first,” he says. “Plus, [by doing preorders], we know how busy we’ll be. We can fix problems a lot faster.”

As one might expect, opening a restaurant during a pandemic adds additional costs. “We definitely ate into our opening budget with about $5,000-$6,000 in unplanned expenses,” Lassiter says. “We had to get third party inspectors into the space when the city was shut down, and spent about $1,000 on compostable takeout containers.”

He added that the team also stocked up on masks, gloves, and ASW Distillery hand sanitizer.

However, the food remains true to the original Talat concept. “The dishes are not that different,” Savang says. “We were going to have 12-14 items total. We had to cut the menu in half, but we didn’t make any sacrifices as far as quality goes.”

“I’m ready to make takeout food for a while. It’ll be another year, probably, before we do dine-in,” Savang says.

How Atlanta restaurateurs have championed the work of street artists

Atlanta restaurant murals
At MTH Pizza in Smyrna, an old school–style mural dominates the dining room.

Photograph by Martha Williams

The street artist known as Mister Totem, who, as a teenager, honed his fantastical 3-D style while painting with influential Bronx muralists TATS Cru, has long made Atlanta his canvas—and counts members of the city’s food scene as his early benefactors. “In the ’90s, I painted everything,” he recalls of his hometown. “I’d walk the street in Atlanta carrying my book of work. I’d talk to all of the restaurant owners.”

Unlike a lot of other business owners at the time, restaurateurs—at least those in certain intown neighborhoods—appreciated his work and invited him to paint their walls. “Sometimes, I’d get paid; sometimes, I’d ask for a tab,” Totem says. “Yes, it was good exposure, but it wasn’t necessarily about the exposure. It was about the friendships we made.”

Those relationships include ones with the late Ria Pell of Ria’s Bluebird, Riccardo Ullio of Fritti, Clay Harper of Fellini’s and La Fonda, and Marco Blue of Marco’s Pita. Totem wound up painting murals for all of their restaurants. “Back then, it was different. We were [considered] weird, tattooed freaks,” he says of graffiti artists and restaurant people. “We were there for each other.”

Stephen Gannon, Ria’s current owner, recalls that in the restaurant’s early days, Totem was “a friend of ours with a ‘residency’ in Krog Street Tunnel. Now, he gets paid a bunch of money [to paint murals], but back then, we were just friends helping each other out.”

As Totem went on to gain art-world success (including 98,000 Instagram followers and a recent commission from music-streaming company Pandora) and as Atlanta’s street-art scene earned international acclaim (thanks in part to the years-long efforts of nonprofit Living Walls), the city’s restaurant community—and its art—evolved. Stuffy white-tablecloth establishments were replaced with more casual, convivial, communal dining rooms. And more and more restaurateurs began enlisting street artists to modernize their spaces.

Atlanta restaurant murals
The Chris Veal mural on building that houses Edgewood Pizza

Photograph by Martha Williams

Neighborhoods like the Old Fourth Ward and East Atlanta Village helped lead the charge. The oft-painted exterior wall of the Sound Table has been graced with ambitious murals such as Felipe Pantone’s psychedelic contribution to OuterSpace Project 2016 and, as of March, Greg Mike’s Super Bowl–themed, SunTrust-commissioned Atlanta Falcons composition. [Update: In July, the Falcons mural was painted over with a Black Futures Matter mural by artist E. L. Chisolm. The mural project, which was updated every few days with calls to “end black murder,” “end medical apartheid,” “end mass incarceration,” and “end fake history,” was curated and organized by Tiffany LaTrice, Chisolm, Liliana Bakhtiari, and Brandon Sheats.] At that same intersection, Boulevard and Edgewood, there’s ample eye-catching street art. Chris Veal’s pop art–styled, Lichtenstein-influenced Rush Hour adorns the side of the building that houses Edgewood Pizza. Across the street, murals of both Stacey Abrams and Colin Kaepernick decorate the facade of the bar Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium.

Atlanta restaurant murals
Interesni Kazki’s mural at Argosy

Photograph by Kristina Sooy

Over at Argosy in East Atlanta Village, Shaun Thurston’s massive closeup of an owl beams down from the restaurant’s interior back wall. Outside, along one of Argosy’s lengthy exterior walls, Thurston painted a fairytale-ish and even more humongous mural of a dragon battling a fox. On the flip side of the building, there’s a wildly colorful surrealist scene by Ukrainian art duo Interesni Kazki. And just up the street, the interior of culinary-world daredevil Octopus Bar is dominated by a mural of a red—you guessed it—cephalopod. The painting, Octopus Bar owner Nhan Le says, is part of the restaurant’s DNA. “It creates a certain energy.” It also sends a message: “We don’t have any rules or boundaries—we can do and cook whatever we want.”

Octopus Bar
Octopus Bar

Photograph courtesy of Octopus Bar

These days, it seems more new restaurants than not are touting murals by local or national artists. Newly opened Junior’s Pizza in Summerhill, Buena Vida Tapas & Sol in Old Fourth Ward, and Boxcar in the West End boast murals with a modern aesthetic. At MTH Pizza in Smyrna, Hawkers Asian Street Fare in Old Fourth Ward, and Slim & Husky’s on the Westside, the murals lean more toward old-school graffiti.

Atlanta restaurant murals
Hawkers Asian Street Fare

Photograph by Martha Williams

That’s also true of the artwork inside two-year-old Ms. Icey’s Kitchen & Bar just north of Decatur. Owner Sim Walker hired graffiti artist Roxanne “Lucy” Correll to infuse some “New York urban culture” into his Caribbean-meets-Southern restaurant on Clairmont Road. Walker grew up in New York City, but his family hails from Jamaica.

Atlanta restaurant murals
Roxanne “Lucy” Correll’s mural at Ms. Icey’s Kitchen & Bar

Photograph by Martha Williams

Walker expressed interest in something “simple yet animated” using black and white tones. The result was a multilayer mural of the restaurant’s name in bubble letters. “It looks like something you’d see on subway cars,” Walker says.

And it instantly conveys the restaurant’s historic-minded identity while fulfilling a modern obligation. “We’re living in the social-media era,” Walker says. “I wanted to make sure that with every picture someone took, the person looking at that picture would know where they were.”

This article appears in our April 2020 issue.

Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan from Varuni Napoli’s Luca Varuni

Eggplant Parmesan from Varuni Napoli“This recipe has been passed down from generation to generation, and it’s definitely a favorite of our guests,” says Varuni Napoli’s chef and owner Luca Varuni. “In Italy, we used to make a big tray of it to share with the family, so this recipe is perfect to enjoy over a relaxing family meal at home.”

Ragu sauce

¼ large yellow onion
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ can San Marzano tomatoes (2.5 kg per can)
4 ½ tbsp Italian tomato paste
1 ½ tsp basil
1 ½ tsp salt

Peel the onion and sauté the onion in extra virgin olive oil. While the onions are cooking, pass the tomatoes through a tomato grinder. When the extra virgin olive oil is hot, add the crushed tomatoes.

Add the tomato paste, salt and basil to the extra virgin olive oil. Let the tomatoes cook for 30 minutes on low heat while stirring occasionally. (Remove the onions after 15 minutes.)

Tips: Make sure the heat is not too high—you don’t want to burn the sauce. There shouldn’t be any chunks of tomatoes. You want a smooth, non-watery consistency. The sauce should be a dark red, crimson color.

Eggplant Parmesan

1 small eggplant
3 tbsp Pecorino Romano
1 ½ cups of fresh mozzarella (½ cup per layer)
2 tbsp salt
1 cup Ragu (¼ cup per layer)

Clean the eggplant and remove the stem. Cut the eggplant vertically making each slice 1/8 inch thick.

Fill a bowl with water and place the eggplant slices in the bowl with 2 tablespoons of salt. Make sure the slices are fully covered by the water. Let them soak for a few minutes. Take the slices out of the bowl and dry each slice completely. Fry the slices for two to three minutes. The slices should turn a light golden brown color.

Preheat oven to 500°F. Spread 1⁄4 cup of Ragu sauce on the bottom of the pan. For the first layer, use one full slice of eggplant. After, cut one full slice of eggplant in half and place on top of the first full slice of eggplant. Make sure to cross the first full slice with the half slices. Place another full slice on top. Cut another slice in half and layer on top. The first layer should have one full, two halves; one full, two halves. Cover each layer with ragu sauce, Pecorino Romano, and mozzarella. There will be three layers of eggplant, each with ragu, Pecorino Romano, and mozzarella.

Place pan in oven and at 500°F and cook for 10 mins. Once outside of the oven, cover with ¼ cup of Ragu, some Pecorino Romano, and one basil leaf. Let the dish cool before serving.

Recipe: Bolognese from Mission + Market’s Ian Winslade

Mission and Market bolognese recipe“To me, nothing says comfort food like pasta, and right now, we could all use a little extra comfort,” says Ian Winslade, executive chef at Mission + Market in Buckhead. “This particular Bolognese is so much more than a simple meat sauce, and on top of that, it’s accessible and easy for anyone to make at home.”

Ingredients for Bolognese sauce

2 lb ground beef
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
12 oz canned tomatoes
½ cup tomato paste
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup red wine
¼ cup port wine
½ cup sweet soy sauce
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp sea salt

Instructions

Sauté the beef and drain very well. Then sweat the vegetables until the onions are translucent. Sweat the tomato paste for three minutes with the meat and vegetables, and then add the tomatoes after crushing them.

Add the rest of the ingredients into the mixture and stir well. Then braise in a thick bottomed pan, covered, and cook in an oven for an hour at 375°F. Remove from the oven, and once it has cooled, remove the fat and adjust the seasoning with salt to taste. Serve over rigatoni pasta or pasta of your choice.

Recipe: Rice pilaf and kebabs from Yalla’s chef Todd Ginsberg

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Yalla
Ranch Labne at Yalla, the restaurant that inspired this recipe.

Photograph courtesy of Yalla

“When I think of a versatile pantry staple, I think of rice,” says chef Todd Ginsberg, who owns The General Muir, Fred’s Meat and Bread, Wood’s Chapel BBQ. This dish is based on the food served at his fast-casual Middle Eastern restaurant, Yalla. “It’s a comforting dish that elevates use of a pantry staple with only a few ingredients,” he says.

Ingredients

75 grams diced onions
30 grams butter
200 grams rice
300 grams water
Pinch salt
2 pounds ground beef or ground lamb
1 onion
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges
Sumac (optional)

Sweat onions in butter. Add rice, water, and pinch salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and place into 400-degree oven for 18 minutes.

Food process onion until finely chopped. Mix with cold meat. Form around skewers or roll into roulade. Chill. When ready to cook, season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium high heat, ideally in an oiled cast iron pan, until meat is at 145 degrees Fahrenheit or desired doneness.

Plate kebab over rice, sprinkle with sumac, and garnish plate with lemon.

Recipe: Chonchos from Gunshow’s Kevin Gillespie

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Kevin Gillespie Conchos
Photograph by Angie Mosier

“The chonchos are a fun spin on something everyone loves,” says chef Kevin Gillespie, who owns Gunshow and Revival. “I make them every Saturday during college football season, and they are my most requested party food among my friends.”

This take on pigs in a blanket (“choncho” means “chubby” in Spanish, Gillespie says) has a humble base—Pillsbury crescent roll dough. “You know it’s classy when you start with that,” Gillespie jokes. Then, “Just slit some smoked sausages, stuff them with Jack cheese and jalapenos, and then wrap them in the dough. Brush with garlic butter and bake the little piggies. A final sprinkling of cheese and smoked paprika is the gourmet touch.”

“During times like this, it’s nice to have a little fun when you can,” Gillespie says.

Ingredients

3 tbsp butter
1 tsp chopped garlic, about 1 small clove
8 oz spicy smoked Cajun sausage or kielbasa, casing removed
4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, cut into ¼ by 1 ½-inch slices
1 long jalapeno pepper, sliced into thin rings
1 (8-oz) tube refrigerated crescent roll dough
1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese or other mild cheese
1/4 tsp smoked paprika

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the garlic.

Cut the sausage into 2-inch lengths. Split each piece of sausage lengthwise down the middle, stopping just before you cut all the way through. Hold the sausage open and stuff with 1 slice of Monterey Jack and 2 slices of jalapeno.

Remove the crescent rolls from the tube and separate into triangles. Place 1 piece of sausage lengthwise on the wide end of each piece of dough. Fold the ends toward the center, burrito style, and roll to completely cover the sausage. Pinch the edges of the dough closed. Place on the baking sheet, brush each roll with the garlic butter, and sprinkle with the cotija. You’ll need to press the cheese into the dough using your fingers.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the smoked paprika, and serve warm.

Notes from Chef Gillespie

Use Conecuh sausage if you can. It’s a high-quality pork sausage sold all over the United States. Or use any good-quality, coarsely ground smoked pork sausage the size of a fat hot dog.

These snacks are perfect for eating during a football game or at a cookout. You can prep them ahead, refrigerate them, and cook them just before serving. If you have leftovers, heat them on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven. But don’t wrap or cover them while heating or they will get soggy.

For bite-size portions, cut the crescent roll triangles in half. Split the 2-inch lengths of sausage completely in half lengthwise, and then split the halves just down to the skin so they’ll open up. Stuff with a smaller piece of Monterey Jack, some jalapenos, wrap, and bake as directed.

Recipe: Brown butter blondie from Tiny Lou’s pastry chef Claudia Martinez

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Tiny Lou's Claudia Martinez Brown Butter Blondies
Brown butter blondies

Photograph courtesy of Claudia Martinez

“Most of these ingredients for the blondie are common in the everyday pantry,” says Claudia Martinez. The pastry chef at Tiny Lou’s serves a dressed up version of this recipe at the restaurant—the Ode to Blondie, named for the Clermont Lounge icon—with white chocolate namelaka, PBR caramel, and cream cheese ice cream. “This recipe is a great classic dessert,” she says, “a childhood memory that’s rich and gives a small, sweet escape.”

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 ¼ cups brown butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp lemon juice

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside. In a KitchenAid bowl with a paddle attachment, paddle together the brown butter, brown sugar, and sugar until completely fluffy and light in color.

Slowly add dry mix into mixture on low speed. Add eggs one by one. Once incorporated, add lemon juice and vanilla. Mix on high until incorporated.

Pan spray and place parchment on a half sheet tray and spread evenly. Bake on 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with your favorite ice cream or caramel sauce. Yields one half-sheet tray (18×13).

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