Serenbe Style and Soul

with Marie Nygren

Monthly Archive: January 2010



January 2010



Thinking of Mom

Written by , Posted in "mary mac's", serenbe

People always ask me if I cooked as a child in mom’s restaurant and are surprised when I say no. I did cook with mom at home on the weekends in our kitchen but in the restaurant, I only remember drying the silverware, that is all she would have me do!

Actually, Mom didn’t physically cook in the restaurant kitchen either, they were her recipes but she never cooked. Mom had 20-30 people to prep and a kitchen manager. I never saw my mom cooking in the kitchen at the restaurant. She had the bakers, vegetable people, meat people… from my recollection, she never cooked in the kitchen. She would create recipes, she would do that at home but never cooked them.

One thing Mom was famous for besides her cooking was her back scratching. She would go over to her customers, touch them, and scratch their back. People loved that from mom but they also knew that especially at lunch time, a backscratch also mean’t it was time to go. Funny, years later I find myself also reaching out to my customers in a similar way. 

In the past few weeks there has been lots going on. I have been thinking a lot about mom as I’m writing the blog and recently in the Farmhouse  I am signing my mom’s cookbook…. to have 3 woman asking me to sign my mother’s cookbook…. it amazes me. Someone asked me for my red pepper soup recipe the other day and I realized I just kind of put things together. I was able to give her the ingredients but don’t really have the amounts written down.

It still seems weird to me that people ask these things.

…….it even makes me think of my own cookbook one day!



January 2010



Two Days With Linton

Written by , Posted in Linton Hopkins, marie nygren, serenbe, Southern Chef Series

What could be more fun for a Southern foodie than spending 2 days with one of it’s most passionate champions? It was such a pleasure to have Linton Hopkins (Restaurant Eugene and Holeman and Finch) in my kitchen this past Sunday and Monday. He shared not only some of his delicious recipes with us but his extraordinary knowledge about Southern food and it’s history. Stories about sorghum syrup and broken rice, tracing back the origins of some Southern foods.

And then the passion split over into the dishes he came to teach the participants. Braised Beef Short Ribs with Wild Mushroom Risotto and Sautéed Serenbe Farms Spicy Collards, Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Pecan Butter. For lunch Monday, sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnudi with a country ham broth and wild mushrooms. Linton taught the fine art of how to build a salad and stuff deviled eggs (no boundaries- let your imagination go). We finished with Panna Cotta with Coca Cola Cranberry Chutney.
     Then time with Linton- no pretense, no “rock star” attitude. Just sitting around the table in the good old Southern tradition talking about things you love- good food and friends.

                                It was a delicious time in so many ways.

See my next posting for Linton’s gnudi recipe.



January 2010



Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnudi with Wild Mushrooms and Country Ham Broth

Written by , Posted in Linton Hopkins, Recipe Articles

  • 1 fresh sheep’s milk ricotta cheese
  • 1  large egg
  • 1/3 c  finely grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp  salt
  • 3/4 c  all purpose flour plus additional for coating
1)    Drain ricotta for 24 hours to pull out whey

2)     Mix all and let rest for one hour

3)     Roll into small balls, dust with flour and reserve

4)     Heat salted water to a boil and boil gnudi for 1 and a half minutes. Place immediately into ice water to chill.

5)  When cold remove from water and coat with a small amount of olive oil, reserve

Wild Mushroom Saute
  •  2  c  mixed cleaned mushrooms (morels, chanterelles, porcini, wood ears) Use as many types as you would like or just one or two. Cultivated mushrooms work fine, they are just not as flavorful.
  • 1 ea. shallot, minced
  • 1 ea. lemon, zest
  • 4 tbl  unsalted butter
  • ½ c   chicken stock
  • 3 tbl chopped italian parsley
1)   Cut mushrooms into shapes which highlight their variety, Morels are good if split lengthwise and chanterelles if small enough are great whole.  Porcini are good sliced.

2)    Heat butter over medium high heat until foamy, add shallot and sweat for 1 to 2 min.

3)    Add mushrooms in order of density and desired cooking time (they will cook at different rates)

4)     When all mushrooms are in, bring heat to high and add stock. Reduce till glazed on mushrooms.

5)     Season well with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add parsley and reserve.

Country Ham Broth
  • 1 qt  chicken stock no salt added
  • 1 oz  country ham scraps, including fat
  • 1 ea  shallot sliced
  • 1 ea  bay leaf
  • 1 tsp  sorghum syrup
1)     Heat ham scraps over high heat until just colored.

2)     Add onions and cook one min, add sorghum then bay leaf and stock.

3)     Cook for 20 min at a simmer.

4)     Strain and reduce by half, reduce.

Gnudi, Mushrooms and Broth


1)    Heat a few tbl of oil in thick bottomed pan.
2)   Add gnudi and sauté till colored on two sides and warm throughout.
3)   Divide into 6 bowls.

4)    Top with mushrooms and pour over broth.

5)    Shave parmigiano over the top.

Serves 6



January 2010



Growing up with Mom

Written by , Posted in "margaret lupo", marie nygren

Growing up with a mom in the restaurant business taught me a lot and helped shape the kind of mother I became.

Our weekday routine consisted of Mom taking us to school in the morning, she went on to work and would pick us up at the end of the day and come back home from 3-5. Each day she brought food home from the restaurant for us to have for dinner. At 5 she would go back to work and come home again at 8. Dad went to the restaurant around dinner hour and closed up and got home around 10.

Mom would fix his dinner every night at 10 and Dad would eat on a TV tray, that was their routine every night. Can’t believe mom would do that every night after her full day at Mary Mac’s.

Dad was much more behind the scenes: he did all the produce buying, maintenance of equipment and was only there at night time. He didn’t have anything to do with running the restaurant, that was all mother.

(here is a picture of mom and dad on vacation. Would you believe I couldn’t find one picture of mom in the restaurant to share with you?)

Mother loved her restaurant, that is where she got her fulfillment. She was a trailblazer.  I believe that part of my love for cooking truly comes from my heritage. How could it not?…when mom was pregnant with me she was always in the kitchen so I always say my love began in utero.

Family dinners are one of the most important thing to me and continues to be a huge part of my family’s life even now that my girls are grown. I suppose that is my response to the way our life was when I was a young girl and my mom was always in the restaurant. Steve and I always prioritized spending time with our girls, especially in their younger years.

It really is true, how much your mother shapes your life.



January 2010



Getting ready for Linton

Written by , Posted in "holman and finch", Linton Hopkins, serenbe

Our cousin Caroline and her husband Steve took Steve and I to dinner last night to celebrate my 50th birthday. In anticipation of Linton’s upcoming weekend for the Southern Chef Series, I chose Holman & Finch. What an amazing meal!

Whenever I go out to eat, I usually make a meal of appetizers as I feel they are more interesting and creative compared to the main dishes. The beauty of H & F is all the plates are like the appetizer section- all creative and many are very unusual. And everything is suggested to share- another favorite food activity of mine. (It is a Nygren family tradition when the 5 of us go out to eat that we rotate plates around the table so everyone gets a taste!)

Every dish last night was delicious…… Fish & Chips, Steak Tartare, Fried Oysters, Skate Wing with Fennel, Brussel Sprouts with Benton’s Ham, Roasted Haruki Turnips, Watermelon Radish salad, and Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding cake.

We shared it all and cleaned our plates. I was sopping up the sauces with H & F’s fabulous bread. Every time I eat there it reconfirms what I read in a recent article that one of Atlanta chef’s favorite places to eat when they go out is H & F. And as we were finishing our dinner, Steve’s partner from his Peasant restaurant days, Bob Amick was coming in for dinner with his family. Linton knows his stuff!

It should be a fun filled and delicious class this weekend. I am personally looking forward to making the gnocchi!

There is one opening left if you would like to join Linton in my kitchen with 9 other guests. Call 770.463.2610 for reservations.

**photo by James Camp



January 2010



My journey with cooking

Written by , Posted in "john kessler", "mary mac's", marie nygren

A short time ago John Kessler posted on his blog an article about Mary Mac’s. He mentioned a dish he wasn’t too fond of and received many comments on how could he say anything about Southern food when he was not a Southerner. This along with my daughters’ urging…

“Mom, you need to tell the story of your heritage.”

I began to think about what Mary Mac’s meant to the city of Atlanta and most importantly what mom meant to me.

My mom was the queen of Dixie cuisine, I often think how do I embrace it?

Growing up in the restaurant makes me realize you have to fully embrace your heritage before you can claim your spot. I sometimes forget that I now have my own restaurant.

I just kind of happened into it, it’s not like I set out to have my own restaurant. For me, I aspire for the Farmhouse to be good food and soulful …’s just a different version of my mother’s.

What I really fully appreciate more about mother was that she created an environment, it was all about good nourishing simple southern food.

Half of the experience in Mary Mac’s was my mother and what she created by being an amazing southern hostess, coming from her graciousness. Creating an atmosphere that is welcoming, you feel good there, that is what Mother’s restaurant was. 

It was as if it were her personal dining room. For some people it was like coming home.

to be continued…… my plan is to have my story as a weekly posting so stay tuned…..

**photo from John’s blog



January 2010



Southern Chef Series

Written by , Posted in inn at serenbe, Southern Chef Series

I am so excited today! We just began to publicize our newest addition to the Southern Chef Series, Kevin Gillespie from Woodfire Grill and Top Chef when yesterday we were featured on a posting by Garden & Gun’s blog Talk of the South.

And today we are SOLD OUT for Kevin and Linton Hopkins is very close to being filled up as well…only one opening left for him.

Wow, I didn’t even have time to get Kevin listed on my blog before he sold out…. so amazing.

Click on picture to see full size press release.

There is still time to sign up for other chefs in our series. We can also add you to a waiting list in case we have any cancellations for Kevin. Call 770.463.2610 for reservations.

Because of all the interest in our series, yesterday I also had the most amount of one day hits to the blog than ever before!!!…….754 for one day. I hope all of my new readers continue to follow….. lots more fun things to come.



January 2010



Building has begun!

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous

The past two days has been very busy and exciting. Shopping at the America’s mart in Atlanta for furnishings for our new Nest homes. The model home has now begun. How exciting to see building begin again in Serenbe.

The frame of our new model home is beginning to go up. The planning has begun and now the hunt is on to get it furnished just perfectly.

I have lots of pictures to post of great finds from the mart and plan to post tomorrow.

Stay tuned!



January 2010



Southern Trifle

Written by , Posted in marie nygren, Recipe Articles, southern trifle

This is an easy and tasty dessert for a Southern Sunday dinner. It is lovely to use a homemade pound cake but in a pinch, I use Entemann’s.

Items needed for the trifle:
a loaf size pound cake
chocolate pudding (recipe below, it is very easy so don’t let it worry you)
whipped cream- recipe below
glass bowl/pyrex

Chocolate Pudding

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 7 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups half and half cream, scalded
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup semi- sweet chocolate chips
Mix together sugar, flour, salt, and eggs. Stir in scalded milk. Return to heat and simmer stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat, add vanilla and cool to room temperature.
Whipped Cream
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • powdered sugar
  • vanilla
Beat heavy cream in mixer on high until thickened. Add powdered sugar and vanilla to taste.
**Note: Please never use Cool Whip, click attached link for all the reasons I do not ever use Cool Whip!
Have all ingredients ready for assembly.
Slice pound cake into 1/2 inch slices. In bowl, line bottom with cake. Then spoon 1 1/2 cups of pudding over the cake slices. Spoon 1/2 cup whipped cream over the pudding. Make another layer as before.

Finish with remaining cream and dust with cocoa powder for the finishing touch.



January 2010



My current inspiration

Written by , Posted in "frank stitt", marie nygren, serenbe

I was cleaning around my kitchen the other day and began looking at all of my cookbooks. It reminded me that I haven’t written about any of my favorite cookbooks lately.

One that is so wonderful and a great source of inspiration for me is Frank Stitt’s Southern table. (click on this link to take a peek inside the book)

What most inspires me about Frank is that he was the first Southern chef to take Southern food and elevate it beyond the level of meat plus three.

Several of my favorite dishes come from his cookbook. Sometimes I follow them to the tea (why mess with perfection) or sometimes it’s fun to add my own twist on things. To me, that is what makes cooking fun, experimenting with ingredients to change a recipe and make it your own. Frank’s Buttermilk Vinaigrette is still one of my personal favorites and used quite often at the Farmhouse.

When Inn guests ask me about my favorite Southern recipes, what comes immediately to mind are Frank’s restaurants in Alabama. A great road trip for me is to visit Bottega Restaurant and Café and hang around and enjoy dinner at Highland’s Bar and Grill. I would encourage all of you to visit both restaurants for a true culinary treat.

Frank’s food inspires me on a daily basis because it is so amazingly delicious and to me he is a master Southern Chef.