Serenbe Style and Soul

with Marie Nygren



December 2014

A Tale of Two Cities (and Two Hot Dogs!)

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous

carl_gallery_hotel_3A few weeks ago, I went to New York City for a meeting and met a group of girlfriends for dinner at The Carlyle. Built in 1930 and named for the British essayist Thomas Carlyle, the iconic Upper East Side hotel is a true Manhattan landmark. The Prince of Wales has stayed there. Diana herself stayed there. And what did I do there?

I ate hot dogs.


My friend Nancy is a regular in Bemelmans Bar, an art deco lounge where the ceiling is covered in 24-karat gold leaf. Looking down the list of snacks, I saw Osetra caviar, a charcuterie plate, steak tartar with toast points and mini hot dogs.

Five hot dogs. For $19.

I thought, really? Hot dogs at the Carlyle? Then I saw that they were made with Kobe beef and served on brioche buns with housemade relish. And so I had to have them.

They brought out one for each of us. They were bite-size and exquisite. Afterwards we went into the main restaurant and had everything from lobster thermidor to Grand Mariner soufflé, but nothing more fun and fabulous than those tiny hot dogs.

Shortly after I got home, I went to LaGrange, Georgia, for another meeting and spent a little time driving around the town beforehand. Right off the square was a place called Charlie Joseph’s that’d been there since 1920. The sign said they had “world’s best hot dogs,” which piqued my attention for two reasons:

  1. I’d just had what I thought was world’s best hot dog.
  2. I was starving.

photo 2The place is run by Joey Keeth, the grandson of Charlie Joseph himself. And according to the website, Joey is also a good man to call if you need tennis lessons or your tennis racket restrung.

The menu is basic: hot dogs, burgers, chicken salad sandwiches and sweet tea. I only had eyes for the chili slaw dog with relish, which is something I eat once every five years or so. It wasn’t made of Kobe beef—I don’t even want to think about what it was made of—but it was exactly what I wanted it to be.




December 2014

No Harm, No Fowl: Chefs Play Chicken at the Cluck Off

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous

View More:

At the 2012 Southern Chefs Potluck, Watershed chef Joe Truex and I started talking about chicken and rice and all the different takes on it around the world. It gave me an idea to create a chicken-and-rice competition between chefs for the 2013 Potluck auction, invite 20 people to eat and judge and call it a “cluck off.” I immediately texted Anne Quatrano to see if she’d participate and she texted yes right back.

Fast forward to the 2013 Potluck, where the Cluck Off went up for live auction as one of the chef experience packages. My daughter, Garnie, won it and Anne—who claimed she’d never agreed to participate—said, “Do you not feed your child, Marie?”

(Just another part of her dry sense of humor that very few people get to see.)

Now let’s fast forward again to a few weeks ago: It’s three days before the Cluck Off, I have no idea what I’m making and I’m starting to wonder if I was delusional when I came up with the idea.

I didn’t want to do something I’d done before and I knew Anne was going to show up and blow us out of the water. But at some point I stopped sweating bullets and started cooking.

Joe did baked chicken with red rice—simple, Southern and delicious. And of course Anne did exactly what I’d predicted: She came with Vietnamese chicken lettuce wraps with flash-fried rice and all kinds of condiments on the side, including housemade fish sauce, radishes, carrots, pickles, cilantro and lettuce she got from a farm in north Georgia. It was off-the-charts amazing.

I took boneless, skinless chicken thighs and marinated them in honey, bourbon, lemon, olive oil and Tabasco overnight, then roasted them in the oven for about 10 minutes. I peeled, chopped and roasted butternut squash with leeks. Sauteed collards with onion and combined everything over rice with some chopped peanuts and scallions on top.

It may look like a long list of ingredients and steps, but once you have all the elements in place, it comes together beautifully.

View More:

Honey Bourbon Roasted Chicken Thighs with Collards, Butternut Squash and Rice

  • Serves 6
  • 12 chicken thighs, skinless
  • 12 strips bacon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 preserved lemon, minced
  • 6 dashes Tabasco
  • 6 cups collards, ribbed and julienned
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced

Place chicken thighs in a ziploc bag. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour into the bag. Place in refrigerator and marinate for at least 2 hours or over night.

Place rice, 4 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt in a pot. Bring to boil, then turn down to lowest heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Set aside with top on to retain heat.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place squash and leeks in a bowl. Toss with oil and season with salt. Put on baking sheet and place in oven and roast until tender.

Remove thighs from bag and drain. Wrap each thigh with a bacon strip and secure with toothpick. Place on baking sheet and cook along with squash. 15-20 minutes or until can easily pierce with fork.

Place both squash and thighs in warming drawer or low set oven when ready.

Heat a skillet or Dutch oven with olive oil and sauté collards until tender. Season with salt to taste.


On large platter, layer the rice, then collards, squash, chicken thighs. Garnish with peanuts and scallions.



December 2014

Joe Truex and the Grand Dame Gumbo

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous

View More:

One of the many fabulous recipes chef Joe Truex made during this visit to the Southern Chefs Series—the final one for 2014—was Gumbo Z’Herbes. Much like his gumbo, Joe has many layers. One might be tempted to put him in the country boy category, especially when he says things like …

Today is as bad as it gets at Serenbe. As good as that is, tomorrow is sure to be a little mo’ better.

View More: Joe is an extremely well read CIA graduate who went from one wildly popular Atlanta restaurant (Repast) to another (Watershed). He’s also a very humble, subtly funny man and a native of Louisiana, where you’re only as good as your last batch of gumbo.

To say it was delicious is an understatement. To say it had a few ingredients is also an understatement. Mustard greens, collard greens, turnips, watercress, beet tops, carrot tops, lettuce, cabbage … and then the meats. Dear God, the meats! There was a pound each of smoked sausage, smoked ham, boneless brisket and hot tasso, that deliciously spicy Creole pork shoulder.

Joe’s recipe is an adaptation of a gumbo made by Leah Chase, one of the grand dames of New Orleans cooking and longtime executive chef of Dookey Chase’s Restaurant in the Tremé. Before our wedding in 1983, Steve’s friends kidnapped and blindfolded him, then flew him to New Orleans for the night. They had dinner at Dookey Chase’s—one of many legendary things that happened that evening, I’m sure.

Gumbo Z’Herbes

  • Serves 8 generously
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 bunch turnips
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 1 bunch beet tops
  • 1 bunch carrot tops
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • ½ head lettuce
  • ½ head cabbage
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped
  • Water (2-3 quarts)
  • 1 pound smoked sausage
  • 1 pound smoked ham
  • 1 pound boneless brisket
  • 1 pound hot tasso
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoons thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon filé powder
  • Steamed rice

Clean all vegetables, making sure to pick up bad leaves and rinse away all grit. Place all vegetables, onions and garlic in a large pot and cover with water. Boil for 30 minutes.

While this is boiling, cut all sausages and meats into bite-size pieces and set aside. Keep tasso pieces separate.

Strain vegetables after boiling and reserve liquid. Place all meats, except tasso, and 2 cups of reserved liquid (save the rest) in a 12-quart stockpot. Steam over high fire for 15 minutes.

While steaming other meats, place the tasso in a skillet over a high fire and stem until tasso is rendered (all grease cooked out), about 10 minutes. Remove the tasso and set aside, keeping the grease in the skillet.

All vegetables must be pureed. This can be done in a food processor or by hand in a meat grinder.

Heat the skillet of tasso grease over a high fire and stir in the flour. Cook this roux for 5 minutes or until floor is cooked (it does not have to brown). Pour roux over meat mixture; stir well. Add vegetables and the remaining two quarts of reserved liquid. Let simmer over a low fire for 20 minutes. Add tasso, thyme, salt and cayenne; stir well.

Simmer for 40 minutes. Add filé powder, stir will and remove from fire. Serve over steamed rice.



November 2014

Thanksgiving Traditions, Nygren-Style

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous

Serenbe Harvest -0077Thanksgiving in the Nygren family is a little less traditional than you might think. When the girls were little and their schools closed for the holiday, we’d take family trips to places like Disney World and Mexico. And when they got older, the whole family pitched in to make Thanksgiving dinner at The Farmhouse a success, often waiting until the end of the night to eat the last few shreds of turkey and dressing.

But we were together, doing what we all do best: Creating an atmosphere where people can enjoy good food … and each other.

That’s the thing about family—we’re together, even when we’re apart. This year, my daughter Kara will spend Thanksgiving with her fiancé, Micah. That’s right, I said “fiancé.” Kara is officially engaged and we will have the first Nygren wedding next fall.

I’m grateful every year for the girls, my family and Serenbe, but this year I’m especially grateful for Micah. I could not have picked a more amazing person to be my daughter’s husband or my son-in-law.

IMG_0926What makes Thanksgiving special isn’t the turkey or the dressing or the buttery crust under your pumpkin pie. It’s the people around the table. The people on the phone. The people sitting next to you on that beach or bench in the middle of Epcot.

When the stars and plans align and we are all around the same table again, I plan to make this arugula salad full of roasted pears, pecans, cheddar cheese and an incredibly easy white balsamic vinaigrette. And we’ll eat and talk and laugh and my heart will be full of love and gratitude. Whether it’s November 27th, December 13th or January 27th, that’s Thanksgiving to me.

Arugula with Roasted Pears, Pecans, Cheddar Cheese and White Balsamic Vinaigrette

Serves 6-8

  • 8 cups arugula, washed
  • Roasted pears, recipe follows
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 4-6 oz sharp white cheddar, shaved into thin strips with vegetable peeler

White balsamic vinaigrette, recipe follows

  • Roasted pears:
  • 4 firm Bartlett Pears, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place baking sheet in oven to heat. Combine butter and honey in bowl. Add pears and toss to coat.

Put pieces on heated pan, making sure each slice is flat on surface. Place in oven and roast for 10 minutes until browned. Flip slices and roast another 5- 10 until golden brown. Remove and let cool.

  • Vinaigrette :
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine vinegar, honey and salt. Whisk in oil until combined.

To assemble:

Place arugula in a bowl. Toss greens with vinagrette. Place greens on plates. Top with roasted pears, then cheese slices and pecan pieces.



November 2014

Legwork and Hand Pies: The 14th Annual Afternoon in the Country

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous

An Afternoon in the CountryAt the first Afternoon in the Country, a benefit for the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International held annually at Serenbe, a grassroots team of volunteers assembled old wooden folding tables from a church and made directional signs out of #10 cans, lumber and nails to guide 150 people to their seats.

Fourteen years later, it is a sold out event with people coming to Serenbe a few Sundays ago to sample food from 60 chefs, plus wine, beer, liquor and coffee vendors. There was a silent auction and cake raffle. And it was all held under five tents with massive electrical that took the better part of a week to set up.

Though the surroundings have upped their game a bit, the feel of Afternoon in the Country is the same as it was 14 years ago. This is no parking lot food festival—it’s held on the green grounds on The Inn with gorgeous fall trees all around and the smells of the season in the air. It was the kind of day when you’re just in love with everyone and everything. And people can’t get enough: It is the most successful Les Dames fundraiser in the United States.

This is the first year I didn’t do a dish, which left me free to socialize and sample other chefs’ dishes. Chef Steven Satterfield did a lovely chicken stew with White Oak Pastures chicken and Anson Mills polenta. Kevin Gillespie was up all night cooking a pig, which he pulled and put on a homemade bun with coleslaw. And Anne Quatrano did all kinds of hand pies—some sweet, some savory, all delicious.



November 2014

Steve’s Bowl

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous


When Thaddeus Barton moved to Serenbe to take over the kitchen at The Farmhouse, he brought his fiancé Lane Hajack with him. Lane is a very talented chef in her own right, having studied the culinary arts at the Art Institute in Chicago and worked in kitchens from Chicago and Martha’s Vineyard to Manhattan—so we snapped her up and put her in charge of the kitchen at The Blue Eyed Daisy.

What I love most about Lane is her enthusiasm. She jumped right in and figured out the flow, as well as the little details of the day. It wasn’t long before she realized that, every morning, Steve would bring a bowl of red rice into the Daisy and ask them to top it with poached eggs and jalapenos.

The red rice was suggested by Steve’s accupressurist as a natural cholesterol reducer and alternative to prescription drugs. So every morning he’d cook the rice here, take it across the street, get his eggs, eat it and inevitably leave our bowl in their stack of dirty dishes.

“Lots of people in the community would order ‘Steve’s Breakfast,’ even though it wasn’t on the menu, and didn’t realize he would add red rice and other elements to the dish,” Lane says. “So when the breakfast menu was set to change, I thought we should make a dish that was composed of all the elements of Steve’s breakfast, and eliminate his need to supplement the dish!”

Now that Lane has added “Steve’s Bowl” to the menu, Steve leaves the house each morning empty-handed, knowing a big bowl of red rice topped with two poached eggs (or egg whites), guacamole, pico de gallo and cojita cheese is just a few steps away.

It is delicious, a huge seller and the reason all my bowls are back in the cabinet where they belong.

Steve’s Bowl

  • Serves 4
  • Pico de Gallo:
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, seeds removed & small diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 clove minced farlic
  • ½ jalapeño, seeds removed and minced
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients. This part is best if assembled a few hours before serving.

  • Avocado Mash:
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • Salt to taste

Mash with a fork until creamy yet still chunky.

  • Other ingredients:
  • 8 eggs, soft poached
  • 2 cups cooked Bhutanese red rice (follow package instructions)
  • 1 head romaine, chopped
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, leaves picked
  • 1 cup pickled jalapeños (store bought or home made)
  • 1 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • Olive oil

To Assemble:  

Toss the pico de gallo with a small handful of romaine per person (this is not a salad so no need to offer a ton of lettuce).  This mixture goes on the bottom of the bowl, making sure each bowl gets enough pico de gallo.  On top of that, your warm red rice, then your perfectly poached eggs.  This is garnished with a heaping spoonful of avocado spread, a sprinkle of crumbled cotija cheese, a few pickled jalapeno and some fresh leaves of cilantro.



November 2014

Creating Communities and Chicken Pot Pie

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous


A few weeks ago, we hosted a developer conference for Nygren Placemaking, Steve’s consulting business for those interested in creating their own version of Serenbe. People came from all over the country to learn the secrets to Steve’s success, though they are not really secrets because he is happy to share.

Over the course of a few days, Steve filled them in on a variety of topics—sustainability, arts, agriculture, design, zoning, etc.—then brought them to me at the Bosch Experience Center. There I talked about the most important aspect of creating a community: hospitality.

Steve and I share a history in the food business and I think it’s a big part of why Serenbe is beloved by so many. Being a child of Mary Mac’s, I grew up seeing how my mother used food as a way of nourishing people. When people are well fed, they feel taken care of and it opens up their senses to other forms of nourishment.

From the farm and farmer’s market to the Inn and Farmhouse, food—and the hospitality that comes with it—is a big part of what draws people to Serenbe. You can have all the pretty houses you want, but neighborhoods alone don’t nourish people.

The Blue Eyed Daisy Bakeshop was our first commercial endeavor not by happenstance, but by design. Steve and I understand the central role food plays in a community and how quickly neighbors become friends over a hot cup of coffee and a buttered biscuit.

And to prove my point, I served the developers my chicken pot pie. It’s a Southern staple and wonderfully simple dish. This recipe, which I adapted from my favorite cookbook author, Lee Bailey, has a cornbread crust. I serve it in a huge cast-iron skillet with jasmine rice, a green salad and cranberry hot sauce on the side. My dear friend Ryan Gainey likes to say, Marie, if you’re coming to visit me, you’d better bring a chicken pot pie.

Chicken Pot Pie with Cornbread Topping

  • Serves 8
  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup carrot rings
  • 1 cup butterpeas
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 8 drops Tabasco
  • 1 package White Lily cornbread mix
  • Salt to taste

Parboil chicken breasts in the stock for 5 minutes. Remove breasts and let cool, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Simmer the butterpeas in the stock for four minutes then add the carrots and continue cooking an additional four minutes. Drain and set aside, reserving stock and straining it.

Saute the onion in butter until wilted. Stir in flour and mix well. Slowly stir in the stock, whisking constantly. When smooth, add seasonings.

To assemble, sprinkle chicken cubes, peas and carrots into the baking dish. Pour the stock sauce over the top. Top with 1 recipe of White Lily mix, made according to package directions. Bake until cornbread is set and golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.



October 2014

Can-Do Attitude: FDR, Miss Doris and Preservation

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous

IMG_1136 (1)After reading my two previous posts, one might think that the most fascinating person I met during my trip to Rhinebeck for the FDR Victory Garden fundraiser—a benefit to bring back the victory garden at FDR’s estate—was Alice Waters. Now Alice is a lovely woman and getting to know her better was wonderful. But she’s no Miss Doris.

As soon as I saw Miss Doris—who was a volunteer during my private tour of the FDR estate—I knew she was a character. I saw fascinating things during that tour, including Top Cottage, FDR’s private estate, and Val-Kill, Eleanor’s private estate, but the only thing I wanted to know more about was Miss Doris.

I walked right up to her and said, “I’m Marie. Who are you?” Turns out, Miss Doris is 93 years old, has lived in the Hyde Park area most of her life and was friends with FDR and Eleanor. She’d have dinner with them when they were in town. Can you imagine the stories this woman could tell?

She had a spirit that could not be denied. I wanted to put her in my pocket. I may wind up hosting my own fundraiser for the FDR victory garden at Serenbe, and if I do, the very first order of business will be making sure we get Miss Doris on a plane.

As Miss Doris would tell you, FDR encouraged all Americans to grow a victory garden during his presidency to offset food rations during WWII. His own victory garden, which eventually became a parking lot, was two acres and full of produce his mother sent him in packages when he traveled.

What didn’t fit in those packages was often pickled. Preservation was very important then and it’s enjoying quite the renaissance now. FDR might not know what to think of the $12 jars of pickles available today, but I bet he’d approve of this recipe for pickled squash and onions, which keeps summer alive all year long.

Pickled Squash and Onions

Makes 6 cups

  • Scrub and slice very thin:
  • 2 pounds small yellow squash
  • 1 large white onion (about ½ pound)

Place one layer of squash, then one layer of onions, in flat crockery or glass baking dish.

Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons salt.

Cover with crushed ice and let stand for about 3 hour or place, covered overnight in the refrigerator.

  • Mix together in a 2-quart saucepan:
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 4 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 ½ teaspoons mustard seed
  • ¾ teaspoon turmeric

Bring vinegar mixture to a boil. Drain water from squash and onions. Add them to the boiling vinegar and bring mixture back to a rolling boil for 2 minutes. Cool quickly by immersing pot in sink of cold water. Place in clean glass jars with good seals and refrigerate. Will keep for about 2 weeks.



October 2014

Chances and Choices: Dinner and Breakfast with Alice Waters

Written by , Posted in "serenbe blog", "serenbe style", Miscellaneous

alice waters

Last week I wrote about packing up some Many Fold Farm cheese and jetting off to see the legendary Alice Waters. Alice lives in Berkeley, California. I live in Georgia’s Chattahoochee Hills Country. So how did we wind up in the same house in Rhinebeck, New York? Well …

My husband, Steve, is on the board of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation with a man named Bob Fox. I met Bob’s wife, Gloria, at a board meeting earlier this year and it was one of those things where we just looked at each other and thought, oh, we’re kindred spirits, aren’t we?

A few months later, I visited with Gloria at her home in Rhinebeck and shortly afterwards she called to say she’d been asked to host a fundraiser at her home to re-create the victory garden at the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York. And who’s on the board of that effort? Alice Waters.

I immediately checked my calendar and saw I had two events on Saturday and one event the Sunday of the benefit in New York. I lamented the conflict to my dear friend, Austin Ford, who said, “Tell me again why you can’t go, Marie?” And that helped me realize I had more choices than I thought. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. one morning thinking about it, had a ticket by 7 a.m. and called Gloria to say, “I’m coming!” That weekend I hopped on a plane, then hopped on a train and wound up eating duck breast cooked in a cast-iron skillet over an open fire with Alice Waters.

I’d met Alice years ago at an event in Atlanta, but this was the first time I’d had an opportunity to have an intimate evening with her. She was lovely and incredibly gracious with everyone, including the young chefs who’d done extensive research to find her favorite duck breast recipe.

After the event, Gloria, Bob, Alice and I sat around and talked until we were hungry again and had leftover duck with broccoli rabe, sautéed mushrooms and a cheese-and-chocolate course with the Many Fold Farms cheese. Alice had a board meeting the next morning, so we got up early, went on a hike and had Alice’s favorite breakfast when we returned: a piece of toast, egg over easy and a sliced tomato

Since then, the victory garden effort has been on my mind—I’ll write more about it next week—especially as I’ve thumbed through Alice’s newest cookbook, The Art of Simple Food II. This recipe for Yellow Finn Potato and Black Trumpet Gratin, a rich, earthy mix of potatoes and mushrooms, pairs perfectly with the season.

Yellow Finn Potato and Black Trumpet Gratin

Yellow Finn potatoes are rich in flavor and have the perfect texture for a gratin. They become soft and luscious without breaking down into a puree. For added color, alternate with rows of red-fleshed potato such as Cranberry Red. Black trumpet mushrooms (also called black chanterelles or horn-of-plenty mushrooms) can harbor sand. Be sure to rinse them well before cooking.

Gently tear in half lengthwise:

¼ pound black trumpet mushrooms

Swish them in a bowl of cool water to clean; drain well. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Measure in:

1 teaspoon butter or oil


A pinch of salt

1 large thyme sprig

Fresh-ground black pepper

When the butter has melted, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring now and then, until all the water has evaporated and the mushrooms just start to sizzle. Remove from the heat to cool. Taste for salt and add more as needed. Remove the thyme sprig.


2 pounds potatoes (Yellow Finn, Cranberry Red or Yukon Gold)

Hold in cool water until ready to use to keep them from browning.

Rub a 6-inch-by-8-inch baking dish with:

A peeled garlic clove

Allow to dry a little and rub the dish with

2 teaspoons butter


2/3 cup crème fraiche

Pour into a small pot and warm:

½ cup half-and-half

A pinch of salt

Once all the ingredients are prepared, preheat the oven to 375 F. Slice the potatoes ¼-inch thick. Use a mandoline slicer or a sharp knife to make the slices as consistent as possible. Using one-third of the sliced potatoes, make a layer of potato slices on the bottom of the baking dish. Season with:


Fresh-ground black pepper

Spoon one-third of the crème fraiche over the potatoes, followed by half the mushrooms. Repeat, making another layer with half the remaining potato slices. Add seasoning, half the remaining crème fraiche and the rest of the mushrooms.

For the last layer of potatoes, carefully arrange rows of potato slices overlapped like shingles and completely covering the surface.

Dot the surface with the last of the crème fraiche and gently add the half-and-half, pouring down the sides of the baking dish to avoid washing off the crème fraiche and salt.

Put the gratin in the oven and bake until tender and golden, about 1 hour. After it has been cooking for 35 minutes, press the top layer of potatoes under the cream with a spatula. Press again after another 15 minutes. This keeps them from drying out.

When done, the potatoes should be very soft, the top golden and the liquid mostly gone. If the potatoes begin to brown too much before being cooked through, loosely cover the top with a bit of foil.



October 2014

Only Ewe: Many Fold Farms and the Perfect Cocktail Party Snack

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous


What does one pack before jetting off to have dinner with Alice Waters—that’s the Alice Waters, the mother of California cuisine and founder of Chez Panisse?

A dress with shoes to match and a big batch of Condor’s Ruin, an aged, ash-ripened cheese from Many Fold Farm.

Many Fold Farm is owned by Ross and Rebecca Williams, a lovely young couple who initially came to Serenbe in search of farm internships. To say they were overqualified is an understatement—read more about their history here— so they bought a house at Serenbe and a farm nearby, where they’ve created Georgia’s first organic sheep dairy.

What I love most about Ross and Rebecca is their passion. They work hard as hell and are devoted to making the Chattahoochee Hill Country the Southeastern version of Napa Valley.

And when I gave Alice Waters a bite of their cheese, she said, “If you hadn’t told me where it was from, I would’ve thought it came from France.” Alice knows her cheeses and so do the judges at the American Cheese Society, who awarded the Condor’s Ruin first place in the sheep’s milk cheese aged 31-60 days category this year.


Not bad for a dairy that’s less than three years old.

The Condor’s Ruin is only available through the end of October, which is when I switch to Many Fold Farm’s Brebis, a fresh cheese that pairs perfectly with a pecan crackers and fig preserves. It’s a super simple spread for a cocktail party with rich, complex flavors.

Many Fold Farm Cheese and Crackers with Serenbe Fig Preserves

Put the cheese in bowl. On a beautiful board, place the jar of preserves, crackers and bowl of cheese.