I eat in family-owned, often ethnic, places offering food prepared from the heart, the traditional family foods served at dinner tables of generations past.
But finding local places that serve home-grown food is becoming harder and harder. I almost feel that there is a universal menu issued to all restaurants requesting it. That menu includes goat cheese-encrusted this or seared tuna that and field greens with something dusted or caramelized or whatever.
In search of Southern food, I traveled to Smith House in Dahlonega, Georgia, an hour outside of Atlanta. Smith House is both a hotel and communal dining room where people are seated at large tables and served family style. Our table was loaded up with bowls of pulled pork, roast beef, country fried chicken, black-eyed peas, creamed corn, fried okra, collard greens, pole beans, grits, candied yams, mashed potatoes and gravy. Large baskets of hot corn muffins and fresh-baked yeast rolls followed. Finally, big bottles of vinegar steeped with little green chili peppers were set on the table as a condiment.
No sesame seared tuna. No vertical food or field greens. No wine list offering overpriced bottles. The only decision tonight: sweetened or unsweetened iced tea. Here's a recipe I created from the evening's menu.
–By Chef Steve Petusevsky