For the Love of Herbs: Isa’s Gourmet Cooking Delivers

To be honest, I did not grow up with my Mother using a whole lot of fresh herbs in her cooking. She did grow dill, which she used in pickling, curly leaf parsley and some mint, but that was about it. I discovered a whole new world the first time I used fresh oregano and basil in homemade tomato sauce and the first time I used fresh thyme I swore the dry, store-bought version would never again pass my lips. I began growing my own herbs in pots, which I carted from apartment to condo to house. I had my first rosemary plant for almost 10 years, finally bequeathing it to a friend when a long-distance move (and the fact that it was a bushy 4 feet tall) kept it a Lowcountry local.

In Hilton Head Island the wonderfully temperate weather makes for some awesome herb growing conditions, especially if you go the container route and have a sunny spot indoors for the few times tender plants should be protected from cold. And when some plants have nearly completed their growing cycle, I dry or freeze the leaves or blooms.

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Feed Your Soul at The Jazz Corner.

Part of the reason I like to cook is that it can be an incredibly relaxing experience and also provide a sense of accomplishment. I start with a recipe, some ingredients and a certain amount of time and in the end I am happy to gobble up the results. When I combine it with my favorite tunes, even tackling the most challenging recipes can become literally a piece of cake. A little My Morning Jacket…or Allison Krauss or maybe if I’m baking bread, Paul Simon’s Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes always seems to make the dough rise a little higher.

There’s a real, undeniable connection between food and music. Maybe it’s a deep-rooted human experience, offering more than mere sustenance by moving the pleasure palate through all five senses – smell, taste, sight, touch and sound – simultaneously. I just know it makes me really happy. It

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Soups On! At Gourmet Soups by Daphne

It’s the time of the summer in Hilton Head Island when vegetable and fruit bins overflow with the best of the season. It makes me think about… soup. Well, besides fried onion rings (Vidalia only, please!), roasted corn on the cob and fresh figs drizzled in balsamic honey dressing – but that’s another story or rather, another blog post.

While my Mother made several types of delicious soups, chowders and stews, her claim to fame in the area of brothy, savory delights is her vegetable soup. I don’t think she ever follows a recipe per say, but her best concoctions are always loaded with fresh corn, carrots, okra, potatoes, sweet peppers, and squash simmered in a piquant tomato base. The herbs she uses are sparse – some garlic, a little thyme, perhaps some basil and lots of ground pepper. Occasionally we’d be given a heartier version, by the addition of braised beef bones or ground beef and consommé, but always the fresh garden flavors were omnipresent.

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Discover a Delicious Bit of History at the Bluffton Oyster Co.

It is summer by the sea and that “sea” means seafood to everyone living in and visiting Hilton Head Island and local environs. As I have recounted numerous times here in the blog I am fortunate to have had access pretty much all my life via one relative or friend or another, to the bounty of Lowcountry waters. Whether it was my dad and uncle hauling in baskets of shrimp during one our beach weeks or gingerly picking May River oyster clusters myself with friends in one of the “r” months, it does not escape me that I’ve had it pretty good over the years.

Lots of visitors to our Island’s sunny shores enjoy accommodations that include full kitchens in their weekly rental. If you’re hankering to put that grill on the back deck or that huge 30 qt. steam pot found in the hall closet to use during your vacation and impress your family with great feats of culinary skill, then your seafood bacchanalia awaits.

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Optimistic Orchid says Farewell to Food Network Star.

Episode Six of the Food Network Star proved to be disappointing for our own Orchid Paulmeier. Having been given a “second chance” last week during the July 4th themed episode it was really all up to the contestants, particularly Orchid, Mary Beth and Whitney this week to break through the clutter.

Another Food Network Star, Tyler Florence, host of The Great Food Truck Race, presented this week’s challenge and you guessed it – the food truck face-off was the designated task. The contestants were grouped into three teams with Orchid working with Vic Vegas and Jyll. Each team must also film a commercial to promote their truck and the food they will be serving. The lucky viewers who get to sample the goodies are only allowed to choose their one favorite for noshing based on which commercial they prefer.

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Fieri-Style 4th of July Celebration on Food Network Star

Food Network Star Episode 5 began with Guy Fieri at Mel’s, continued with a July 4th themed Star Challenge and ended with Justin D.’s departure. Hilton Head Islander Orchid survived the challenges to cook another week.

The first challenge featured Season Two winner and host of the popular show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Guy Fieri, welcoming the contestants at venerable Mel’s Drive-In located in Hollywood. As Guy said, “It’s time to mix it up with real folks at diners, dive-ins and dives.” The mission was to tape a 2-minute interview featuring a show intro, chef interview, owner interview, server interview, or closing interview.

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The “Orchinator” Proves Even Cougars love Collard Greens!

First up in this past week’s episode of the Next Food Network Star was the camera challenge and a menagerie of Kellogg’s products that are destined to be the featured ingredient in “an impressive and sophisticated bite-size hors d’oeuvre.” Past winner (Season 5) Melissa d’Arabian also told the group that their creation was for a ‘special guest’ who would arrive in 45 minutes. The Kellogg’s products ranged from crackers and cereals to waffles, which was our girl Orchid’s selected product. She hit a home run with her recipe for Chicken and Kellogg’s® Eggo® Waffle Appetizer Bites.

Believe me, I am hankering to make this tasty recipe that includes a flavor explosion of cumin, garlic, paprika and even maple syrup and Sriracha hot sauce. Special guest judge and Iron Chef Michael Symon seemed to really relish his role and meeting all the contestants, however, our Orchid’s presentation and critique was not aired so I assume she did quite well, although Jyll won this challenge with her Rice Krispies® crab fritter with Sriracha aioli.

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Food Network Star Week 3 –Our Girl Orchid Wows Judges with Megawatt Charm

Week 3 on the Next Food Network Star: It may be hot in the kitchen, but our “One Hot Mama” Orchid was cool as a cucumber, smoothly stirring up some classic spice in her Camera Challenge entrée, ‘chili with Hershey’s chocolate.’ Not only was it deemed a sweet and savory success, Orchid once again wowed the judges with her megawatt charm. “Your smile could light up the entire Los Angeles valley!” said judge Bob. Chalk one up for Orchid!
Challenge two, decadent dessert creations for none other than food Network stars Dinner Impossible host and Hilton Head Island resident Robert Irvine along with Duff Goldman of Baltimore’s famous Charm City Cakes, and Ace of Cakes fame. Team Duff’s group of six women looked to have an easy edge, with pastry skills and experience. Each team had to create six individual sweet creations, and two team desserts with the challenge of serving for 200 people. Not an easy crowd, expectations are high when it comes to Food Network Star desserts.

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Orchid Hangs Tough in The Next Food Network Star Round 2!

The next installment of The Next Food Network Star took a decidedly dramatic turn for our girl Orchid. After dominating the first show, Orchid basically grew a target on her back –with one fellow contestant, Penny, ready to take her out as the front-runner. This episode was a surprise double-elimination (actually not that surprising since they have so many contestants this season) starting with a pizza challenge. And oh yes, this challenge included an on-the–fly presentation with each contestant explaining on camera how their pizza creation showcases their “culinary point of view.” Needless to say, several contestants had their tongues twisted or were so walloped with stage fright they froze on camera. Orchid was not one of them however, and she did well, but poor Juba was sent packing. Orchid’s pizza – a deep dish pie with chicken, spinach, mozzarella and BBQ sauce passed muster with the fussy judges.

After the pizza pallooza, which Penny won with an interesting Middle Eastern pie, the setup was complete for the “Star Challenge” pitting the would-be culinary luminaries against each other to recreate accessible renditions of three fancy fine-dining dishes for the home cook. The three recipes included a braised short rib, an abalone & caviar concoction and a pork belly dish.

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A Lowcountry Star is Born …well, maybe!

Last evening the 7th season of the Next Food Network Star television series introduced the world to local Hilton Head Island restaurateur and chef Orchid Paulmeier. Orchid is the owner of One Hot Mamas barbeque restaurant on the Island (part of the SERG Group along with WiseGuys, Skull Creek Boathouse and Black Marlin Bayside Grill). Orchid wowed the judges with her cooking acumen in just one night.

And Orchid, it seems, is not only an excellent chef but also has natural charisma appearing totally at home in front of the camera. Even Judge Bob Tuschman (Food Network General Manager) told her, “You have a real radiance toward the camera.” So between last night’s performance and the fact that right now Orchid is dominating the Fan Favorite voting (with a whopping 43% at the time of this post) I would say that Orchid is the early favorite!

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