Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday Supper with Virginia Willis

Back in February, I had the amazing opportunity to work with a fabulous group of women and assist on the photo shoot for Virginia Willis's second cookbook called "Basic to Brilliant, Y'all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company." If you missed my recap on that fantastic opportunity, you can read about it here.

Virginia's cookbook was released a few weeks ago, and she scheduled a few launch events here in Charleston to promote her book. One of those events was Sunday Supper at Heirloom Book Co. in downtown Charleston. Heirloom is a gem of a store - it's dedicated to cookbooks, and they have an amazing collection of newer cookbooks for sale as well as authentic, original editions of some very old, and very fabulous, books. I had visited the store once before, a few months ago after they first opened, and thought it was a really unique place to peruse cookbooks. Now that I know more about it, I feel like it needs to be one of my new hangouts. Seriously, they offer wine, good conversation, and great people - what's not to like? The staff is equally as fantastic as the store, and that makes for a great experience.

The reason I now know more about Heirloom is because Virginia asked me to assist her and her colleague Angie Mosier in preparing the Sunday Supper, which was a 5-course meal paired with wine for 32 guests. Of course, I said yes, because I knew this would be an another amazing opportunity.

You can view the menu here.

After getting things settled in the kitchen, Virginia asked me to prepare the soup course - roasted tomato soup with gruyere flan. I was thrilled to dive into this recipe, because tomato soup in general is one of my absolute favorite things to eat. And the gruyere flan was a little bite of heaven in accompanying the soup. Test the gruyere flan? Yes, please.

Once I had the soup going, Virginia asked me to prep the dessert course, which was a Bittersweet Chocolate Bread Pudding with Chevre Caramel Sauce. The chocolate bread pudding was made with french baguettes so some part of it held its rustic crunch while other parts softened with the chocolate; it was dark and decadent, and of course, delicious. I wasn't sure caramel sauce could be more delicious, but with chevre as well? Again, yes, please. Really amazing stuff.

While I was working on those two dishes, Virginia and Angie prepped the remaining dishes - the appetizers (shrimp rillettes on endive, black pepper cheese shortbread, and pickled vegetables with aioli), the main course (garlic and sausage stuffed pork with sweet potato grits, and brussel sprouts with apples and bacon), and the cheese course (endive and rouqefort slaw). The day choreographed smoothly in terms of preparation, maneuvering equipment, and accomplishing tasks.

After the guests arrived, we dove into plating each course. It was really enjoyable for me to play a part in the plating - for each course, the three of us worked in assembly line fashion to add components to each dish. All were beautiful in appearance, appetizing the eyes of guests. And each dish tasted amazing. Seriously, amazing.

I loved every dish that was prepared for this meal. Seriously, these recipes are amazing. I have grown to love southern food over the past few years, and these recipes are some of the best I've eaten over the course of my time in the south. Seriously, if you didn't think you like grits, I dare you to try Virginia's recipe and not fall in love with them. Same with the brussel sprouts - her preparation takes a bit of time, but it's so worth it in the end. Pork, sausage, and garlic - yeah, that's a slice of heaven in my book.

Honestly, everything prepared for this meal was absolutely fantastic. I can't wait to dive into more of the recipes, now that I am the proud owner of my very own signed cookbook! Seriously, if you want a new cookbook to experiment with, go out and buy this. Or don't go out, order it online. However you do it, just buy it. Seriously. It's absolutely amazing; the photographs, compliments of Helene Dujardin, are gorgeous, and the recipes are sure to be crowd pleasers. You'll love it. I promise.

Did I mention the cookbook has my name in it?!? Seriously. Amazing.

This whole experience has been absolutely phenomenal. I have a ton of memories from the photo shoot and yesterday's dinner. I learned skills and ideas, and saw the nuances behind how cookbooks truly come to life. From start to finish, this has truly been one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had.

What's equally amazing is that I have my own copy of this cookbook, and have a tangible way to relive these memories. I love flipping through the cookbook and reading Virginia's stories, as if she is reading them straight to me. I love seeing the gorgeous photography of Helene's and thinking about how amazing it is to capture these dishes in such beautiful ways. I love thinking about the kitchen tid-bits I picked up from Gena Berry and Angie Moser through these experiences. And if that wasn't enough, I love thinking about opening the book, finding a recipe, and executing it at home, as a way to keep these memories alive. It's truly an amazing gift, in so many amazing ways.

I know I played but a teeny tiny part in all of this, but it was truly magical for me. So again, I say thank you to Virginia Willis, Gena Berry, Angie Mosier, and Helene Dujardin for this great opportunity. I will always cherish it, and I hope to keep sharing my memories with family and friends.

Now it's time to delve into some leftovers from last night's dinner. And I think it's time for you, my family and friends, to order your own copy of the book so you can share the magic. As Virginia would say, "Bon Appetit, Y'all."

1 comment:

  1. That's awesome Carol. Congrats!!! I remember reading about your experience when you helped prep the meals for the photo shoot. So glad you had an opportunity to see it to the finish! What a cool experience indeed!