Our third day started on the farm, picking bountiful blueberries at Pearl River Blues. Amy Phelps’ 5-acre plot put us all in a magical trance as we got to see first hand what it meant to truly be a steward of the land. We departed with three full flats of her violet beauties and a belly-full of her sister’s famous “last minute blueberry cake” – a butter meets blueberry delight.
It was then off to cook for “The Taste of Gulf Coast” event. As soon as we arrived at Gulf Hills Hotel, we sprung into action, creating a makeshift kitchen in the hotel’s hallways. After three-hours of working with beautiful produce and products from across the state, we created a fabulous menu and successfully transformed the ballroom with cooking demonstrations of local edibles. The menu included heritage beef sliders with Sweet Home Farms cheese, Fried Quail Eggs and Billionaire’s Bacon, Herbed Crepes with Crawfish in Mornay Sauce, Blueberry Shortcake on Pecan Biscuits with Local Honey, Goat Sausage and Peppers Mini Subs, Smoke Quail Tartines with Goat Cheese, Pecan Pesto Potato Salad and Pimento Cheese with Pickled Beets. We served over 125 guests and helped raise over $1,000 for Slow Food Mississippi and Alabama to help support their farmers markets efforts across the two states.
The night ended with some of the best smoked pork in the country at Ocean Springs’ own, The Shed.
Our final day had us up with the sun and arriving at Cafe Reconcile in time for prepare breakfast for the students. We prepared a simple morning meal of cheesy scrambled eggs, cut fruit, grits and sausage and sat to share in the meal with our partnering kitchen crew for the day. The students at the Cafe worked in tandem with CulinaryCorps to create a themed specials menu featuring French bistro favorites. Our prix fixe menu included a spinach salad with warm bacon vinagrette, a classic vicchysoisse, croque madame and crepes suzette for dessert. We were also able to find some time to teach a pasta-making workshop as well as conduct mock interviews with the students in preparation of their Level 1 graduation this weekend. The entire CulinaryCorps team was impressed with these young men and women and their commitment to the kitchen. We are excited to track their trajectory in the culinary world.
A quick presto-chango and we were pressed and coiffed for the Opening Gala at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Tasked with being the “grease” for the event, we found ourselves looking after VIP guests (Chef Paul Prudhomme), sending out canapes and making sure all the talented chefs at the event were looked after. In between our tasks, we were able to enjoy the fantastic setting and educational content of the city’s newest (and tastiest) museum while mingling with some of the hard-core foodies of NOLA. It was a perfect way to bring together so many various pieces of our “culanthropy” efforts.
To come together one last time around the table, we ate our weight in pig at the always-delicious (and always over-the-top) Cochon. We toasted to the work we accomplished in a short period of time and the smiles (and friends) we accrued over the week. And while the communities we visited are certainly rebuilding, relief and continued support will never be turned away. It is with this sense of paying our strengths forward, that we departed with hope (and lots of Louisiana hot sauce).