By Grace Williamson
Walking into Seabear, I heard a happy kitchen staff hard at work. The nautical-chic décor brought me to a high end seafood restaurant on the east coast, with an added ambiance only Athens can generate. I looked to the bar, where Noah Brendel, owner and operator, and Patrick Stubbers, executive chef, were hard at work. The two were so kind as to lend me their time to answer a mix of questions concerning oysters and the industry, their eclectic seafood menu, and the Athens local food community.
Seabear stands out from other locally owned seafood restaurants because it places a specific focus on oysters. Patrick was quick to agree: “the raw bar is definitely a highlight…we have a lot of folks who come in for a dozen oysters, and a grilled cheese sandwich.” Of course, Athens does not have a coastline rich with such delicacies, so bringing these oysters to the tables of guests is an involved process. Patrick describes, “As far as getting oysters in, and selecting them, we have a really great partnership with a couple different companies,“ he says. “Our rep Ronnie Bolton takes care of us unbelievably well.” In short, Ronnie compiles a list of the oysters that come in through her distributors. She then shares this with Patrick, he makes his selections. Patrick moved further in to the details, explaining there is a list of shared distributors, and they choose based on price and “regionality.” The oyster list will vary week to week, Patrick explains, “It just depends on who’s really flush, and who’s not.” In layman’s terms, this means the oyster list depends on which areas have a good harvest of oysters, considering both quantity as well as quality.
The location of oysters has a great influence on their taste, and size. Favorites among customers and staff at Seabear often come from Maine, and Massachusetts. “The whole Cape Cod area,” Patrick describes, “is a mecca for oyster growth. Usually they are a little plumper, and pretty salt forward.” While the regions such as Cape Cod may be well known for their oysters, there are also smaller farmers outside these regions that Patrick considers, “more boutique.” These smaller regions, he explains, are about, “smaller production, maybe a family running it, a couple brothers, or some friends.”
It is amazing that these oysters have the ability to link Athens with small businesses up the coast, and it creates a sense of intimacy. However, it is a mission of Seabear to promote the Georgia oyster industry, so some of Searbear’s oysters are, in fact, from Georgia. Patrick was happy to say, “We just sold out of 100 pounds of Georgia oysters. They are really tasty, and really great.” Unfortunately, the industry in Georgia, he adds, “isn’t quite set up to get them off the coast.” Noah interjected here, saying, “We are trying to let farmers know there is a demand for them…It falls on us to educate the consumer that these oysters are here, and they are good.”
Oysters aside, the menu at Seabear still has much to offer. Patrick and Noah have worked to create a brand of cuisine that is unmatched thus far, and speaks to every type of food lover. Because the menu is very shellfish based, the restaurant has a vegetarian niche. Many have heard of the Ramen Noodle Monday’s Seabear hosts, but not many know, Patrick says, “it is completely vegan friendly.” This Monday special is prepared for days in advance, and prepares a ramen dish for customers to enjoy just once a week. Noah added, “The avocado toast is a big hit, amongst the vegetarians. Also, it is very cleansing, and refreshing, and a nice way to start the meal here. It introduces you to flavors going into the menu.”
I will quickly vouch for the toast because it is simply delightful, but there are many more dishes that have been a favorite by all. Patrick says, “the green curry mussels are huge for us—people love that, especially in the winter.” They also offer a fabulous scallion pancake, which he explains is, “like a Chinese street food that we top with spicy crab, radishes, and sesame vinaigrette.” On Thursdays, the restaurant has a special low country boil that brings in people from all across town. Seabear’s menu creates a unique seafood experience, adding an Athenian’s flare.
When discussing the local movement with Patrick, he described the beautiful feel of community that surrounds local business. Patrick was proud to say how welcome he feels in the local food community, saying, “I’ve been a part of it for many, many years, and I think one of the best things about Athens is that people do follow you from place to place. I have worked at some awesome places, and I definitely have people that help us, and keep us going.” The wonderful part about putting time into this community is their willingness to give that time back. Athens has one of the best local food communities in the state, and it is because of this, Patrick says, “Seabear definitely has a relationship with as many people as they can…it started with the Farmers Market…the quality of food is awesome.” Noah elaborated on this sentiment, saying, “We source locally from farms when we can. We have a regular standing order with Woodland Gardens every week. When we can, we will get produce local.”
Noah continued on to say: ”The gomasio we get from Three Porch Farms, which is like a sesame seed blend.” Patrick added that they used the gomasio, “on three different dishes. It’s a value added product from a local farm.” The Athens Farmers Market continues to grow, and allows local products to be more readily available. Seabear has experienced this first hand, as Patrick explains, they can now, “get some larger orders, and they will deliver, or meet us at a pick up spot.” The local movement stretches beyond fresh produce, and authentic ingredients. It envelops the spirit of a community.
Eat local, my friends.
On paper, Chetan Hebbale’s life is an ideal picture of success. He maintains a high grade point average in his fourth year at The University of Georgia. He balances two majors, microbiology and economics, activities on campus and a social life. He meets uncertain post-graduation plans with positivity.
But Hebbale is stressed. He frequently loses sleep and misses meals. He feels weak and tired. Just like any other college student, Hebbale struggles to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
What makes him different? He is a lifelong vegetarian.
Modern day vegetarians no longer struggle with social stigmas. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are gaining momentum across the country, especially in college towns, where health-conscious young men and women rule the majority. Vegetarians have no problem finding meal choices, either—the options in restaurants and grocery stores are almost limitless. It is the lack of nutrition in most options, the high prices of health food products and the time it takes to prepare healthy meals that prove to be major issues for vegetarians.
Hebbale says the difficulties of being vegetarian depend on what type of vegetarian you are.
“There are two ways to be vegetarian. One way is to eat desserts and Doritos and mac-and-cheese. The second way is to eat salads and vegetables,” Hebbale says. “Getting organic, fresh produce is expensive, and then it goes bad so quickly. Or you can buy a tub of hummus and a huge bag of chips, and they will last.”
“Starchatarian” and “starchavore” are terms are used to describe vegetarians who mostly eat starchy foods, and foods high in carbohydrates, in place of meat. Abby Deane, 20, University of Georgia junior, says she has only heard these words used to insult vegetarians. Whether used in seriousness or in jest, these portmanteaus, and those who identify with them, are gaining popularity in the food world.
People have a variety of reasons for transitioning to a meat-free diet; some examples include weight loss, religious beliefs and animal rights.
Deane decided to become a vegetarian a month ago to become more intentional about the food she eats. “I used to not even consider what I ate, and I’d eat whatever I wanted. Now I just feel better about eating things that make me feel better,” says Deane.
According to the July 2012 issue of News in Health, a monthly newsletter from the National Institutes of Health, cardiologist Dr. Gary Fraser says, “Because vegetarians by definition don’t eat meat, some people jump to the conclusion that simply cutting meat from your diet will lead to health benefits, but it’s actually more complicated than that.”
Dr. David Williams, holistic healthcare professional at Multi-Care Holistic Health Center in Conyers, Georgia, says vegetarians are “some of the sickest people” he sees each week in his office. Williams says most people become vegetarians because of what they see on television, or what they read online. Williams says most patients he sees transition to vegetarianism to lose weight, but end up only consuming fruit and starchy vegetables or carbohydrates, which prevents weight loss. Although they attempt to be healthy, they end up “overweight but malnourished,” Williams says.
Why are vegetarians getting sicker now than they were 10 years ago? Many vegetarians find it more convenient to fill their plates with refined starchy carbohydrates, like bread and pasta, instead of purchasing and preparing vegetables and rich sources of protein.
“I don’t think anyone realizes how important protein is,” says Williams. “Most people, vegetarian or not, don’t know how much they need each day. A good rule is half your body weight in grams of protein per day,” says Williams. “Protein helps regulate blood sugar, and satiates you—keeps you full longer. It protects muscles while you’re trying to lose weight,” says Williams.
Complete sources of plant-based protein with low carbohydrates include tofu and dark leafy green vegetables, like spinach.
Hebbale says, “Protein isn’t something I really think about. The Indian diet is very rice-based. I don’t consciously look for protein when I eat.” But Hebbale is not concerned about his health, anyway. His entire family is vegetarian.
“My family has a serious history of diabetes and heart issues,” he says, “but I think we’re at the age right now where we can get away with the worst habits because of our metabolism. We can’t see the results yet.” Until then, like so many vegetarians, Hebbale remains a "starchavore."
The fist time I attended the Branded Butcher was per the request of my good friend, and verifiable foodie, Alette. Completely submitting to her never-failing judgment, yet again, I was not let down. Fast forward a couple years—and many, many ‘Scotch eggs’ later—and I am now presented with the opportunity to share so many of the reasons that the Branded Butcher creates a dining experience that is not soon forgotten. On an overcast Tuesday afternoon, I walked into a room exuding camaraderie and warm regards. The Branded Butcher staff welcomed me in for an interview with their head chef and culinary extraordinaire Trey Rayburn, and, once again, I left happy and full.
Food aside (only momentarily), the atmosphere the Branded Butcher creates is worth the visit alone. Rayburn explains their philosophy saying,” We try to keep our energy in here a little rock n’ roll, true to what Athens is.” Most would agree Athens, among many other things, is definitely rock n’ roll. With its wooden floors, edgy art (most of which is up for purchase) continuously on display, and exposed brick walls, the restaurant creates a ‘pub chic’ vibe that remains unmatched. The Branded Butcher’s ability to tap into this energy is just another reason it is a gem in the Athens food industry.
Another one of the defining qualities the Branded Butcher consistently exemplifies is without a doubt their fearlessness in creating eclectic dishes, derived from a variety of cultures. Chef Rayburn refers to their diverse menu, describing it as, “Modern American food; we don’t really like to limit ourselves to one type of cuisine.” Rayburn made a point to emphasize that they put their own spin on dishes, creating a uniqueness that keeps customers coming back time and time again. Rayburn says, “We consider ourselves a little out there as far as the ingredients we use, and the style of food we do,” and this is ever-so obvious.
The menu currently features a variety of dishes, but despite the changing season, Rayburn explains “the classics that are always on the menu are the Scotch egg and the grilled romaine.” Off the record, I get a Scotch egg every time I am in the restaurant, and when I am not in the restaurant, there’s a good chance I’m thinking about it. This dish consists of a poached egg, cradled within a house-made sausage, and served along with a celery root remoulade, and whiskey gastrique (simply put, a sweet-and-sour sauce). While the classics remain, the changing of seasons does yield some new dishes, such as the chicken heart bolognese, a delightful orecchiette pasta dish, which Rayburn says is, ”one of my favorite dishes we’ve ever done here.” True to the identity of the restaurant, this dish is refreshingly anomalous, incorporating grana padano (an Italian cheese similar to parmesan), mustard greens, and parsley. If that description alone is not enough, feel confident knowing Chef Rayburn’s opinion is one you can trust.
An interesting menu such as the Branded Butcher’s requires a lot of coordination and planning, which is made easier with creative-minded, driven chefs. The ingredients required for the dishes Rayburn creates are chosen largely on the basis of what local farmers have coming into season, and he is proud to say, ”Matt [chef and owner] and I both have gotten pretty good at knowing what farmers have coming into season.” On the topic of buying local, I learned that one of the Branded Butcher’s very own employees actually raises the pork featured in many of their charcuterie dishes. Rayburn further describes the concept of eating eating local so accurately saying, “The food industry in this town employs a lot of people…as a whole, we are all helping each other out.” Eat local, my friends.
By Christina Kohler
It’s that time of the year again when there is nothing better than a hot bowl of chili. A chili recipe may seem unoriginal, but this delicious recipe is one to keep in the books. It is a perfect winter dish to warm you right up on a cold night. Once you have gathered the ingredients, it is quick and easy to make.
1 pound of ground beef
1 medium onion diced
½ green pepper diced
1 cloves of garlic
2 16oz cans of chopped tomatoes
1 8oz can of tomato sauce
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1 can of drained kidney beans
½ teaspoon of basil
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of chili powder
The Locavore: Speakeasy
Atop Einstein Bagels on East Broad Street sits Speakeasy, poised overlooking North Campus. It is easily recognizable by the bright blue sign above the door, or the ever-changing specials board marked with words of wit and wisdom; but, after just one dining experience, it is plain to see the lofted hideaway is much more. For 15 years, Speakeasy has towered above the streets of downtown Athens and created a unique dining experience that has set it apart from other restaurants and bars alike. Luckily for me, I had the distinct pleasure of looking deeper into the culture behind Speakeasy through the eyes of chef and certified nice guy Mitchell Cintron, who shed incandescent light on all things cooking, coordination, and community.
One of the many fascinations causing people to gravitate toward Speakeasy is in the name itself. Between the menu and the people, an authentic atmosphere captures the time period from which its name is derived. Speakeasy has created a brand for itself, which is to say, “it’s based on a classic 1920s, 1930s prohibition style menu. That’s why it is mostly smaller plates—because it is bar food that’s easier to eat and if something happened, you could pick it up and take it with you,” Mitchell explains. Luckily, guests have no need to rush out anymore; with an impeccable cocktail menu and an extensive wine list, people are reminded to be thankful the Prohibition is over. Mitchell further describes the Speakeasy philosophy for cooking as “taking world food and making it like we would in Georgia.” They work to adapt their menu to the ingredients they have access to; Mitchell gives an example, “we can’t get tomatillos in Georgia, but we do have green tomatoes.” Their specialization is manipulating their ingredients to put a southern twist on world foods, and I can confidently say that it is working well for them.
As the leaves are just beginning to fall and autumn approaches with little hesitation, the kitchen staff has prepared a menu that not only coordinates with the weather, but stands out. Mitchell suggests that a colder climate calls for a “slightly hotter, little more hefty, stick to your ribs kind of food,” which is exactly the kind of dishes you can expect to see on the autumn menu. Cintron revealed the “shrimp n’ grits” as a highlight of the new menu, explaining, “it is the one dish that I think people see on the menu and realize they’ve liked versions of it, but they’ve never really had one that stood out.” I took the liberty of taste testing this hearty dish—in the name of journalism, of course—and stand out, it does! Although the new fall menu may be set in stone, there are weekly changes in the autumn soup and salad, varying from a unique French onion to a divine tomato. Speakeasy continues to prove they have the ability to put their own spin on classic dishes that will leave your mouth watering.
Speakeasy’s testimony to the local movement is undeniably one of truth. Mitchell was happy to explain the logic of eating local, insisting that it is “doing as much as you can out of Georgia.” The value of eating local stretches further than supporting small businesses; for talented local chefs such as Cintron, it “gives you an idea of what you have. All forms of cooking use the things that are around them.” More personally, Mitchell enjoys eating local for “the love of doing the job itself.” The reward he gets from shopping locally grown foods is presenting a dish composed of fresh ingredients straight from the farmer’s market. In three hours, an ingredient may go from the farmer’s market stands to a dish shared at a table for two by the window.
By Christina Kohler
When first learning to cook, having a healthy protein diet is difficult for most people to achieve. Meat is one of those ingredients that may be intimidating for beginner cooks, but don’t be afraid. Many simple delicious recipes exist for anyone to make, and this recipe is one of them. It’s super easy and tasty and you simply throw everything into a skillet.
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 cup water
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry white wine (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cooking oil
10 green onions, roughly chopped
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
12 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or 2 tablespoons bottled minced garlic
1 broccoli head roughly cut
Large skillet or frying pan
Feel free to add whatever vegetable you want. Although rice works well with this recipe, pasta or even bread like pita bread could be eaten with the stir-fry mixture and still taste delicious! Bon Appetit!
I’m not going to lie, I’ve always been interested by people who have taken on a plant based diet. I mean giving up meat, cheese, and bacon wouldn’t be that easy. Well, not a lot of people know about plant-based diets and that we’ve lived off them for thousands of years. A plant-based diet is centered around minimally refined fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. It also excludes all dairy and meat products such as eggs, cheese, fish, and chicken. Would going on a diet like this be safe? How else would you get your protein or calcium?
So many people think that when you go on this diet, all you’re going to be consuming is leafy greens. I can tell you right now that that is not that case! The starches and fruit form the base of a plant-based diet. The leafy greens are there to complement the other foods. Most people tend to quit this diet because all they are consuming is vegetables and lettuce. They are looking at the greens as a source of energy, when really they should be reaching for starches. Healthy starches such as corn, sweet potatoes, and brown rice would be 2/3 of your plate. Not only that, combing those starches with legumes such as navy beans, chick peas and black beans is a great source of fuel.
Our culture has centered around meat as it’s main source of protein. So most people are worried about eating a certain vegetable for calcium and another for protein. They associate one vegetable with one purpose and will only consume that food for that purpose. Remember that all whole foods contain countless nutrients. Variety is key! As long as you consume a variety of whole plant-based foods, you can meet a healthy intake of nutrients.
Not many people realize the difference between hunger and appetite. Hunger prompts eating and is the physical experience you have when your body needs energy. On the other hand we are triggered by psychological factors such as smell, sight, or stress, which is referred to as our appetite. Most people eat based on these factors. The availability of food and social situations that we encounter also influence what and how much we eat. So how can we keep our appetite in check and learn how to handle those crazy cravings?
1. Eat on a regular basis: By eating on a regular basis you are less likely to overeat and gain weight. We don’t want our bodies to go into starvation mode because your metabolism slows down trying to save what you already have stored in your body. With a regular diet routine and exercise you body will break down the stored fat and use it for energy.
2. Don’t forbid foods you love: If you deprive yourself of foods you love, you will be more likely to crave them. This usually happens when people start diets that exclude certain foods. Instead focus on moderation of those foods and just be aware of what and how much you’re eating.
3. Eat slow: Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that you're full. Try munching on snacks that require a lot of chewing like carrots or jerky. Even including foods that have a lot of fiber will keep you fuller for a much longer period of time.
Remember, these are simple and easy steps you can add everyday to help you move one step closer to a healthier you. Making unrealistic expectations of what you can and cannot eat isn’t going to last very long. Eating should be a pleasurable experience and not something you should limit yourself to. Achieving a healthy lifestyle is going to be long term, but don’t forget to enjoy it!
I went to a butcher shop recently and got suckered into buying some kind of jalapeño and cheddar infused smoked sausage. Now, I like jalapeños, cheddar, and smoked sausage, but I have a rule against buying pre-flavored meats. I can flavor my own meats, dang it! However, the butcher had about one tooth, and he seemed so nice so I felt bad and bought some. I decided that red beans and rice would be a good way to use it up! Here it goes.
½ a yellow onion
2 stalks celery
½ a green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
½ pound smoked sausage
1 can chicken stock (low sodium is best)
1 can peeled diced tomatoes
2 cans dark red kidney beans
1 bay leaf
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 ½ cups cooked white rice
1 Large saucepot
1 medium saucepot
6 out of 10 spatulas
1) Slice the sausage into thin discs. Heat a large saucepot to medium heat, and place the sausage in it. Stirring regularly, cook for 6-8 minutes until browned.
2) Remove the sausage to a paper towel lined plate to drain, and dice the celery, onion, and bell pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low (3 out of 10) and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until soft.
3) Add the sausage, garlic, tomatoes, chicken stock, and all the remaining spices. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
4) Put 1 ½ cups uncooked white rice, along with 3 cups water, into a small saucepot. Put a lid on it, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed/evaporated.
5) Drain the liquid from the beans, and the beans to the pot, and cook for an additional 20 minutes.
6) When the food is done, spoon some rice into a bowl, cover it in beans, and eat it with a spoon.
You should probably eat this stuff with some Louisiana style hot sauce (either Tabasco of Crystal) and some cold beer. Maybe something from Louisiana, like Dixie (if you can find it) or Abita. With this recipe, you’ll never regret “guilt-buying” some flavored sausage again.
Too many college students (and working parents for that matter) buy pre-made, jarred tomato sauce when they want Italian food. Which is a shame, because it’s so easy to make your own at home and it’s usually cheaper! It also contains less preservatives! So I’m going to teach you how to make your own.
½ of a yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 28 oz can peeled diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
Red pepper flakes
Large sauce pot
4 out of 10 spatulas
1) Chop the onion and garlic as finely as possible. At the same time, heat three tablespoons of olive oil at low-medium heat in your sauce pot.
2) Transfer the onion and garlic to the pot, along with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook for 10 minutes. If the onions begin to brown, lower the heat.
3) Add you tomato paste, and stir it into the onions and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes.
4) Add 1/3 a cup of red wine. Stir until mixed, and add your canned tomatoes, oregano, and basil, and 1 pinch of salt.
5) Raise the heat, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes.
That’s it, now you have tomato sauce! But how should you use it? You could brown 1 pound of ground beef, cook 1 pound of spaghetti and eat spaghetti with meat sauce. Alternatively, you could grill some Italian sausage (1 sausage per two servings), cook some penne (1/2 cup per serving) and eat sausage with penne. Heck, you could even grill some Italian sausage, toast some hoagie rolls, sauté some more onions, and eat Italian sausage sandwiches! It’s all up to you. All you have to do is ditch the jar and the world is your oyster.