Last night, I totally met Chef John Currence, and I am still swimming in happiness. He was in Greenville promoting his new cookbook Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups and Then Some at my own personal food mecca in Greenville, Bacon Bros Public House. And it keeps getting better: Chef Anthony Gray was in the kitchen cooking up a few of his favorite recipes from the book. Yes, this will be what heaven is like: excellent food, a room full of chefs and food people, and a bartender serving up amazing drinks. It simply doesn’t get better.
5 Things I think you should know about Chef John Currence:
He is a Southern boy with a colorful vocab and a wicked sense of humor.
His first restaurant was the famed City Grocery in Northern Mississippi.
When I first walked in, I spotted Chef Liz Bardsley who owns Kitchen Arts and Pottery. (Her store is mega awesome.) We shared a drink and then I made my way around chatting it up with Chefs Terri and Rachel Williams who have a personal chef service called Terra Cuisine and, of course, Chef Anthony Gray. I also FINALLY got to meet Bacon Bros PR girl, Amy Corley and her husband, photographer and business partner, Joseph Woodley. The American Grocery team were also in the house. There’s just a certain energy in a room fool of people who love food this much.
The bar was serving up a few drinks from the cookbook. I chilled out and entertained myself with my phone for a while over a University Gray’s Punch… or two. My tweets were getting a little gooby after two drinks.
In the cookbook, Chef Currence likens the punch to an old Civil War era refined version of college days Purple Jesus, dump it all in punch. Remember those college days parties? Drinking out of coolers… or bathtubs? I won’t quote the story, but will simply say, the humor in this book is only one of the many reasons it should be on your Christmas list.
Snacks circulating the room consisted of Shrimp Corndog bites, Deviled Pickled Eggs with Sunburst Trout Roe and Pickled Okra. Don’t make that face! Every single thing was absolutely delicious and I ate my share plus some of the pickled okra.
I grabbed a table with Corley and company and we dove into our second course, a beautiful rendition of Chicken and Dumplings. Instead of the thick battery lumps you found in grandma’s recipe, we enjoyed little medalians of Spinach-Ricotta Gnudi swimming in a lovely herbed chicken gravy with baby carrots and pecan pieces.
Alright, here’s another lesson:
Gnudi (pronounced “nu-dee”) is a type of gnocchi made from ricotta cheese and a little bit of flour. Well, there ya go!
I thought the dish was a little salty, but being that I have been craving Chicken and Dumplings for a couple of weeks now, it was delish and hit the spot.
Next up was Chef John’s Brined and Smoked Whole Beef Tenderloin recipe with Harrissa and Corn Pudding. The flavor for the brine didn’t jump out at you, but the tenderloin was incredibly tender and delicious. I think, after talking to Chef Anthony about his cooking method and brining time, I would brine that sucker max time if I made it at home. Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili sauce. The sauce around the steak and corn pudding is a little Roasted Red Pepper Harissa with spices of cumin, cardamom, coriander, sriracha, garlic and pepper. A beautiful spicy flavor explosion nestled into that meaty steak was heaven.
By the time dessert came around, I was three University Gray’s Punches in and stuffed on dinner. But it was a beautiful and intense Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Brown Sugar Rum Sauce, so I had to at least grab a few fork fulls before I packed it to go for my husband.
It was an incredible evening. Aside from the food and chatting it up with one of the South’s most famed chefs, one more thing happened. I was eyeing a nice piece of Country Ham sitting on a table by the kitchen and Chef Anthony walked over, shaved a piece off of it and handed it to me to taste. Perfect, buttery, slightly salty, not too much so. At the end of the evening, Bacon Bros chefs and staff, both seasoned and young, and visiting Chef Currence gathered around the ham, shaving off pieces and sipping on Whiskey. It was a perfect ending to the night.