Serenbe Style and Soul

with Marie Nygren

Monthly Archive: September 2012



September 2012



Everything’s better when Betty’s in the kitchen

Written by , Posted in marie nygren, Serenbe Bed and Breakfast, The Farmhouse at Serenbe, The Inn at Serenbe

Betty Williams at home
in the Inn at Serenbe’s kitchen

In 1996, Steve and I hired Betty Williams to help with housekeeping at the Serenbe Bed and Breakfast.  When we added the conference center a year or so later, I realized I wanted assistance in the kitchen, preparing conference breakfasts and lunches.  It was then I asked Betty if she’d join me in the kitchen.  To my delight, she agreed.  Betty is a consummate professional who didn’t enter the restaurant business with professional training but, rather, brought real-world experience to the kitchen. 

Fast forward, and Betty is the lead breakfast cook for the Inn at Serenbe.  In addition, she prepares lunches for conference guests.  Her long tenure has allowed her to see the complete evolution of Serenbe, and she has watched our daughters grow from little girls to young women. 

A proud mom of four children (two sons and two daughters), Betty brings sensibility and compassion to the kitchen.  Betty is my right hand and the soul of the Inn’s kitchen.  I’m told Betty finds me “easy to be around and easy to work with;” I appreciate that immensely and feel the same about her.  And, we agree that our personalities click.      

Like her colleague at the Farmhouse, Joy, Betty’s presence provides me with peace of mind.  She follows through and knows exactly how I like the kitchen to run. 

My heartfelt thanks to Betty for being an integral member of the team and a cherished friend. 



September 2012



Southern Chefs Series Welcomes Birmingham’s Chris Hastings

Written by , Posted in Bobby Flay, Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Hugh Acheson, James Beard, Linton Hopkins, marie nygren, Recipe Articles, Southern Chefs Series, The Inn at Serenbe

This has been a banner year for Southern Chefs Series chefs as three are 2012 James Beard Foundation top chefs, two for the Southeast region (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV) and one for the South region (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS).  Earlier in the season, we hosted Linton Hopkins and Hugh Acheson, who shared the award for the Southeast region, and this past Sunday and Monday, Chris Hastings, the South region’s honoree made his first trip to my kitchen.  In addition to his James Beard award, Chris beat out Bobby Flay earlier in the year on Iron Chef America!  The BEST chefs really do come to Serenbe; I hope you will also!    

Chris, chef/co-owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham with his wife Idie, had been a finalist in the category previously.  He was up against four chefs from New Orleans this year and beat out the competition.  Cook with him, and you’ll soon find out why he was chosen!  

Chris is a brilliant chef who makes cooking seem effortless.  I’m excited he accepted the invitation to teach this year and is on the schedule for next year as well!

The ten participants in his class this past weekend were the winners for having registered for his class.  His rapport with students of all skill levels is something to behold.  He is down-to-earth and wonderfully personable.  It was fun to have Chef Chris in my kitchen. 

He is the first visiting chef to include a cocktail hour (complete with a signature cocktail) with his class.  Chris’ was the Donnie Draper Cocktail made from his housemade bitters and sassafras syrup.  This was a smooth libation and so tasty you’ll want to drive to Hot and Hot to try it for yourself.  It’s got a kick, so plan for a designated driver.  And, as it’s dove season, he also treated us to doves harvested the day before, and what a treat they were!

If you missed his class this year, call now to register for his class next year, July 28-29, 2013.  Classes for the 2013 Southern Chefs Series are already filling up.  If you want a chance to learn from Chris and any of the other outstanding chefs, call the Inn at Serenbe today to reserve your spot, 770 463 2610.

In the meantime, try Chris’ outstanding recipe for shrimp gazpacho with lemon oil.  It is refreshing and satisfying. 

Chris Hastings’ Shrimp Gazpacho with Lemon Oil

This is our Southern take on a classic Spanish soup.  Because it is always served cold, it is a light and refreshing meal for a sultry Southern day. You can substitute jumbo lump blue crabmeat for the shrimp, if you prefer.  Many good olive oil companies also produce lemon oil in which the olives are pressed with fresh lemons, creating fragrant, flavorful oil. Lemon oil adds a bright, rich quality to this soup.

Serves 6; about 6 cups

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, about 3 to 4 medium tomatoes

1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely diced cucumber

1/2 cup finely diced zucchini

1/2 cup finely diced yellow squash

1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely diced tomato

1/2 cup seeded and finely diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup seeded and finely diced yellow bell pepper

1/2 cup finely diced Poblano pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

26 large (21 to 25 count) cooked, peeled, and diced fresh shrimp, about 1 pound

12 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons lemon oil

Slice each of the tomatoes into 4 quarters. Place the tomatoes in a food mill and turn until all of the juice is extracted. You will need about 2 cups of the fresh tomato juice. Discard the tomato seeds and peel. Alternatively, the tomatoes can be seeded, roughly chopped, and pureed in a food processor or blender. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and discard any solids. 

Combine the tomato juice and the next 9 ingredients (cucumber through vinegar) into a large bowl, stirring well to combine. Season the soup with the salt and pepper and stir in the diced shrimp. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until the soup is well chilled. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish each serving with 1 teaspoon of the chopped basil and 1/2 tablespoon of lemon oil. Serve chilled.

Buen provecho.



September 2012



2013 Southern Chefs Series Lineup Announced!

Written by , Posted in Anne Quatrano, Hugh Acheson, Kevin Gillespie, Linton Hopkins, marie nygren, Michel Nischan, Serenbe Farmhouse, Southern Chefs Series, The Inn at Serenbe, Wholesome Wave

The lineup of amazing Southern chefs for the 2013 Southern Chefs Series is sure to interest foodies from the region – and beyond!  Registrations are being accepted now for the coming year’s Southern Chefs Series, and we’ve made it bigger and better than ever!  Twelve of the South’s best chefs will be cooking in my kitchen, and I want you to be part of the fun! 

It’s been difficult keeping this under wraps for the past few weeks as dates and chefs were confirmed; I’m so happy to be able to let the proverbial cat out of the bag.  

One of the best parts of the coming series is that all the proceeds will go to a seed fund to help establish additional Wholesome Wave chapters in our region.  Wholesome Wave Georgia, launched in 2009, is going strong, and Wholesome Wave founder Chef Michel Nischan’s goal is to establish additional Southern chapters.  Your participation in the Chefs Series will help achieve this important goal.  

Wholesome Wave’s mission is to improve access and affordability of fresh, healthy, locally grown produce to historically underserved communities.  Doing so creates economic viability through local food commerce that can rebuild our nation’s food system.  Wholesome Wave, a national 501(c)(3) organization, partners with farm-to-retail venues, community leaders, healthcare providers, nonprofits, and government entities to implement programs that benefit both consumers in underserved communities and the farmers who provide for them. 

The organization reaches over 28 states, working with more than 60 community-based organizations that manage more than 300 farm-to-retail venues and impact nearly 2,500 farmers.  Wholesome Wave’s innovative programs address issues of food insecurity, farm viability, economic vitality of local communities, and diet-related diseases.

To read more about the exciting chefs, with links to their websites, please visit the 2013 Southern Chefs Series button on the Inn at Serenbe’s website.  Registration is $650/participant and includes Sunday afternoon/evening class with dinner, overnight stay at the Inn, and Monday late morning class with lunch.  Classes are limited to 10 participants.  Historically, the series sells out quickly, so register today!

To register, please call the Inn at 770 463 2610.  

For more on Wholesome Wave and their programs, please visit their website

I look forward to cooking with you in the coming year.



September 2012



This week at the Farmhouse

Written by , Posted in Rocking Chair Ranch, Serenbe Farms, The Farmhouse at Serenbe

This Week’s Dinner Menu at 
The Farmhouse

September 6 – September 8

Dinner served 6pm – 9pm


Mixed lettuces with Serenbe Farms tomatoes, cucumbers, Vidalia onions, and country ham vinaigrette – or – Serenbe Farms okra and tomato soup


Roasted chicken breast with Farmhouse garden collards, stone ground grits, and lemon onion butter sauce – or – Rocking Chair Ranch braised pork with Serenbe Farms tomatoes and rice


Strawberry cake – or – chocolate pecan bourbon pie

Visit the Farmhouse on line or call us at 770 463 2622 to make your reservation.
Come early and enjoy 2-for-1 happy hour from 4pm to 6pm. 

This weekend’s pork entrée features pork from local producer, Rocking Chair Ranch, which is committed to delivering locally grown, grass-fed beef and acorn- and garden trimmings-fed pork to the Middle Georgia area. Their pasture-raised livestock are free of growth hormones and antibiotics.  To learn more about Rocking Chair Ranch and where you can purchase their beef and pork (one location is right here in Serenbe at the Farmers Market, Saturdays, 9am-12pm), please visit their website.  



September 2012



Coming Soon…the 2013 Southern Chefs Series Lineup Announcement

Written by , Posted in Southern Chefs Series, Wholesome Wave, Wholesome Wave Georgia

I’m excited to announce that the 2013 Southern Chefs Series has been greatly expanded from six to twelve chefs…that’s twice the fun and a year’s-worth of great cooking and eating in my kitchen. 

Additionally, the proceeds from the 2013 series are earmarked for a seed fund to help establish Wholesome Wave chapters in our neighboring Southern states.  It’s been a privilege and honor to partner with remarkable chefs at the Southern Chefs Potluck, Wholesome Wave Georgia’s fabulous fundraiser event held at Serenbe.  The opportunity to help the parent organization, Wholesome Wave, set up chapters elsewhere in the South is exciting.

Wholesome Wave’s mission is to improve access and affordability of fresh, healthy, locally grown produce to historically underserved communities.  Doing so creates economic viability through local food commerce that can rebuild our nation’s food system.  Wholesome Wave, a national 501(c)3 organization, partners with farm-to-retail venues, community leaders, healthcare providers, like-minded nonprofits and government entities to implement programs that benefit both consumers in underserved communities and the farmers who provide for them.  Every nutrition benefit dollar spent at a Wholesome Wave partner market becomes two dollars for the shopper and the farmer.  

Stay tuned for more on the series, including the exciting lineup of stellar Southern chefs and their respective class dates.  Registration will be open soon.  Classes are limited to 10 people and fill quickly.