Ths guest post is from LOVE- The Secret Ingredient.
I’m so absolutely excited to have been invited to attend the LongHouse Food Revival 2013, a gathering of 100 visionary thinkers and influential decision makers in food, which will take place Sept. 7 and 8 at a historic diary farm in Upstate New York.
Every year, LongHouse Food Revival chooses a subject to explore and presents its discoveries in documentary film, radio, broadcast, spoken word, live cooking, interviews and visionary art. This year their focus is on the Saffron Diaspora — looking at the original Spice Trail and exploring the various religions and cultures that arrived to the United States on a wave of exotic spices, ingredients and dishes. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could promote tolerance with all of this.
On Saturday evening, chefs from across the country will come together to cook a “live fire” feast from the Saffron Diaspora. I’ll be sure to share as much of that as I can with you in photos later. As they describe it, this year’s feast will be “a world tour of flatbreads, spiced ice cream, saffron martinis and music from Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road.” Doesn’t that martini sound amazing? And it must be a beautiful color – I’m so ready!
This year’s speakers include Los Angeles Times’s food critic Jonathan Gold, blogger Elissa Altman, author Naomi Duguid, NPR’s Kathy Gunst, Food Network’s Katherine Alford, NYU Food Studies Director Krishnendu Ray, cookbook author Molly O’Neill and many more.
Another part I’m looking forward to is first annual Food Flea they’ve planned for Sunday, a marketplace of “ideas and innovation for individuals, media outlets, publishers, organizations, brands, start-ups, farmers and producers.” I’m sure I’ll be meeting a very special bunch of food people there.
If you’d like tickets to next weekend’s festivities you can go to the event website and purchase access to one day only, or the whole weekend.
FloraSpring Probiotic Review
Read my review of Revival Point Florapsring probiotic to see if it is a product that you should buy to help promote digestive health.
It’s no secret that I love my probiotics. They're natural and keep my body (and gut in particular) healthy and balanced.
I recently reviewed a different probiotic, but I actually switch up brands every month or so. This is because probiotics, and many supplements in general, have little differences and key features between brands.
Probiotics are live bacteria strains, and no two are the same. Different brands use their own combination of strains. It’s good to mix things up to get the benefits of a wide variety of probiotics. It also keep the body’s response to them from becoming stagnant.
The one I’m using right now is FloraSpring™ by Revival Point. These probiotics were created by best-selling author and weight loss expert Dr. Steven Masley, MD. He claims that the “super strains” in FloraSpring™ can lead to dramatic weight loss. After doing some research on the guy, I can tell you he's the real deal.
Godhead Four-Part Bible Study
These studies are some of the most important Bible Study that I have done in many years. You will want to study through them for yourself. They provide compelling evidence for the Three, Eternal, Self-Existent, Co-Eternal Persons in the Godhead.
There are more than 500 pages on this site. You can see all of the pages by clicking on this link.
The Rise of 3D Pastries
Until recently, the idea of 3D for the majority of the population simply meant an evening at the movies, but the technology sector had other ideas. 3D printing went from concept to mainstream reality in just a few short years, creating a platform for innovation across many industries. It most recently hit a sweet spot facilitating a new stream of ideas in pastry, from amazing molded desserts to customized wedding cake toppers and even to printing the food itself. The world of pastry has gone three dimensional, and the possibilities are endless.
The use of molds is certainly not a new concept in the food industry. The popularity of silicone molds has dominated the industry for decades, but use of 3D printers is starting to revolutionize the way pastry chefs develop their product. Ukranian pastry chef Dinara Kasko combined her background in architecture and 3D visualization with her passion for baking to create unique molded desserts that earned her an impressive social media following as well as a budding new business concept. 3D modeling technology allows her to create a mold rendering, and then her imagination comes to life using a 3D printer. She simultaneously develops the recipe to fit into her mold design concept, creating a cohesive final product.
While endless creativity is certainly a major benefit of the technology, 3D printed molds can also offer improvements to speed and cost. Though Kasko may take months to perfect a recipe and the corresponding mold, it can take as little as one day to create a prototype, rather than the weeks to months it would take for traditional molds to be developed. She says it takes an average of two to five prototypes to nail the concept before proceeding into bulk production, depending on how complicated the design is. Because 3D printing a prototype is so fast, experimenting to get the mold just right can not only cut down on time, but potentially also avoid costly mistakes before proceeding into larger production runs. 3D printers can also reduce unnecessary inventory for chefs wanting to create their own molds by avoiding the larger production minimum often required with traditional silicone production. What may have been previously out of reach for a smaller operation, or just not feasible for a one-time specialty order, is now more achievable using the new technology.
The use of 3D printers isn’t just reserved for mold creations, of course. There are many active small businesses on sites like Etsy that create customized cake toppers, from little brides and grooms that look like the actual couple to impressive replicas of the Iron Throne for those Game of Thrones fans. Cookie cutters, utensils and custom cups and plates are just some of the other examples of creations made possible through 3D printing. Having the flexibility to offer a client something personalized on their special day or wow customers with a new way to plate a dessert opens up a new realm of possibilities, regardless of business size.
For those interested in investing in their own 3D printers for molds or similar applications, there are some guidelines to keep in mind. First and foremost, the filament being used in the printer needs to be designated as food-safe by the manufacturer to avoid potentially hazardous chemicals. Bacterial buildup is also a concern when creating items intended for multiple uses. Because they are printed in layers, there will be natural crevices in the final products, which can lead to bacterial build up. Most printed items will also be heat sensitive, so even hot water to clean a mold may warp the design. Thankfully, because of the increasing popularity in the food space, most reputable retailers selling 3D printers have online suggestions that will point chefs in the right direction. Kasko avoids many of these issues by printing her prototypes in plastic but then casting her molds in silicone, which provides safety and stability in the final product. If investing in a printer seems daunting, Kasko’s molds are available on her website for purchase. There are also companies such as Chicago Culinary FX that will help chefs develop custom molds and that sell the tools and resources to allow them to cast silicone molds on their own.
The natural thought progression surrounding 3D printing is if we can easily print food-safe materials, can we also print the food itself? The answer is yes! Because most 3D printers use an extrusion method to create the final product, they require the substrate to be a paste or liquid to work. So instead of a chemical filament, experiments began with edible options such as pancake batter and chocolate. In fact, the concept is so popular that pancake printers are offered as cheap as $300 in today’s market. Some companies are going much further than that, such as The Sugar Lab, a 3D printing company founded in 2011 using sugar as a substrate. Now a part of a larger company called 3D Systems, they created the 3DS Culinary Lab in 2015, where they collaborate with industry professionals on unique creations. Food Network star Duff Goldman and Top Chef winner Mei Lin are just two of the well-known names that have experimented with the company recently, and they look to expand their outreach by partnering with the Culinary Institute of America in several capacities.
Given that pastry has always been such a creative endeavor, the possibilities of using 3D technology to bring new ideas and advancements into the field are quite promising. As Kasko states, “In the future, the quality of 3D printing will get better, the speed of it will get faster. It’s really good that people work not only with plastic, but also will a lot of other materials. 3D printing will help in developing different fields.” No doubt, this is just the beginning of where 3D technology can lead, and the innovations promise to be just as sweet as the pastries themselves.
Tracking the world’s first bakers
Native Australian flours are being touted as the next big thing in sustainable baking. But the revival of ancient grains could have a much bigger impact than making sandwiches tastier.
Mastering the art of making sourdough will be remembered as one of the biggest culinary trends of the Covid-19 era. But as home cooks around the world focused on producing Instagram-worthy loaves, Australian researchers were busy testing the viability of producing ancient grains for mass consumption – an experiment that could have implications for everything from food security to reconciliation.
“See these seeds?” said Arakwal-Bundjalung woman Delta Kay as she gently cradled a seed head protruding from a Lomandra longifolia (spiny-headed mat-rush) plant growing near a popular surfing beach. “Bundjalung people would grind these up to make flour for baking a flat biscuit in hot ashes.” The long, strong leaves, she added, were dried out and used for weaving baskets.
This knowledge, which Kay shared with me on the Aboriginal walking tour she hosts in Byron Bay, in northern New South Wales, dates back tens of thousands of years. Yet it wasn’t until recently that Indigenous traditions of harvesting nature’s bounty, passed down over generations, have begun to reshape common views about how the nation’s first people lived – and cooked – prior to colonisation.
Detailing the advanced Aboriginal agricultural practices documented by white settlers, Bruce Pascoe’s 2014 book, Dark Emu, effectively “cancelled” the theory that Indigenous Australians led a simple hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Indigenous Australians were among the world’s first agriculturalists, Pascoe told me from his farm on Yuin Country near Mallacoota in eastern Victoria. What’s more, the 1990s discovery of a grinding stone in Cuddie Springs in north-west New South Wales dated to be at least 30,000 years old – followed by the 2015 discovery of a grinding stone in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory found to have been used 65,000 years ago – has made him “certain” that Indigenous Australians were the world’s first bakers.
This ancient culinary staple is making a comeback
“The signs indicate that these grinding stones were used to make flour,” said Pascoe, who has Aboriginal ancestry. “And that’s the first time in the world that grass seeds had been turned into flour by many thousands of years.”
Even before the Arnhem Land discovery, said Pascoe, “The Cuddie Springs grinding stone showed that Ngemba women [the local Aboriginal clan] were making bread from seed 18,000 years before the Egyptians.”
Native crops once thrived in Australia, particularly in arid regions, and were once skilfully managed by Indigenous Australians using techniques such as controlled burning (a practice now being harnessed to manage Australia’s notorious bushfires). But crops including grasses, the seeds of which were harvested to make flour, were decimated by the removal of Aboriginal people from their ancestral lands and the introduction of cattle.
“The first explorers and pioneers that went into those regions wrote about grasses higher than their saddles, but they don’t exist in many of those places anymore,” said Pascoe.
While native Australian foods have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years, native grasses and other plants that can be used to make flour are still viewed by many non-Indigenous Australians as weeds. But with the help of modern science, this ancient culinary staple is making a comeback.
While studying introduced crops for heat and drought tolerance at the University of Sydney’s agricultural research station on Gamilaraay Country in north-western New South Wales, agricultural scientist Angela Pattison began to wonder if hardy native grasses had the potential to become a sustainable food source in the face of Australia’s worsening droughts, which saw the nation’s 2019/2020 grain harvest – and exports – shrink to decade lows.
“I read Bruce Pascoe’s book, and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to see if we could get a paddock-to-plate production system working in a modern context,” Pattison said.
Conducted in collaboration with Pascoe – who has experimented with native grains with his own Indigenous social enterprise, Black Duck Foods – along with Gamilaraay Traditional Owners (local Aboriginal custodians) and local farmers, a one-year feasibility study led by Pattison found that native millet, or panicum, had particular promise to be grown commercially.
“The native millet was the easiest to grow, harvest and turn into flour, and it’s significantly more nutritious than wheat,” said Pattison. “It’s also high in fibre and gluten free. And it tastes good. It just ticks so many boxes.”
Researchers also found that native grasses have myriad environmental benefits. As perennials they sequester carbon, preserve threatened habitats and support biodiversity. This wasn’t exactly news, however, to the descendants of Australia’s first farmers – for whom the revival of native grains has more than just environmental and potential economic benefits.
As part of the study, Pascoe joined Pattison and Gamilaraay Traditional Owners at a series of “johnny cake days” to test how various native flours held up in an Indigenous flatbread cooked over hot coals. For Rhonda Ashby, a Gamilaraay woman who has been recognised for her work helping Aboriginal people re-engage with language and culture, it wasn’t just an opportunity to break bread with her kin, but also to heal.
“We’ve lost a lot of knowledge though our colonisation,” said Ashby. “So, bringing back this traditional practice, being able to cook with our traditional ingredients, is really important for our wellbeing.”
Native grasses aren’t just a traditional food source for Gamilaraay people, she explained. They also have deep cultural significance, particularly for women.
“The people of western New South Wales are known as the river and grass people, and these native grasses carry important Songlines [ancient wayfaring routes across the landscape, passed down over generations by story and song] like the Seven Sisters Songline, which is one of the biggest Songlines in Australia for First Nations women,” Ashby said.
It’s high in fibre and gluten free. And it tastes good. It just ticks so many boxes.
The Indigenous word for bread varies between language groups (there were more than 250 Indigenous languages spoken in Australia at the time of colonisation), but in English, rustic-style bread cooked in fire is most commonly known as “damper”. The word is thought to have been derived from the breadmaking technique used by a man who arrived in Australia on the First Fleet in 1788 named William Bond, who made bread in his Sydney bakery by “damping” the fire then burying the dough in the ashes. The method was later popularised by drovers, as the simple ingredients (white flour and salt) could be carried on long journeys without spoiling.
It wasn’t long before the term “damper” was immortalised in popular culture by the likes of colonial-era bush poet Banjo Paterson. Unfortunately, so too was the British recipe. By the early 19th Century, government rations for Indigenous Australians amounted to 1lb of white flour, two ounces of sugar and half an ounce of tea per day. These highly processed, low-nutrient foods wreaked havoc on Indigenous health. Even today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 4.3 times more likely to suffer from Type 2 diabetes than non-Indigenous Australians.
Despite the many benefits linked to the revival of native grains, researchers acknowledge there are still hurdles to overcome before native flours could become mainstream. “For one, the yield of native grains is low compared to introduced crops, and to produce any type of grains you need to be able to do it on a large scale to make it worthwhile,” said Pattison.
Pascoe, who along with Pattison supports Indigenous leadership of the development of a native grains industry, said the acquisition of land is a continuing struggle for Indigenous Australians, whose traditional land management practices have also been historically undervalued.
“Whole tracts of land are now unfarmable in Australia because of the damage caused by sheep,” said Pascoe. “So, let Aboriginal people have a crack. Let us into this industry as a form of social justice as well as economic good sense.”
In the meantime, Indigenous Australian bread and breadmaking traditions can be experienced on Indigenous tourism tours around the country. With different plants, techniques and tools traditionally used to extract flour from region to region, there’s always something new to learn.
Before heading into the mangroves of Far North Queensland to try my hand a spearing a mud crab with Walkabout Cultural Adventures, I fuelled up on fresh damper baked by company owner Juan Walker’s mother Louise.
“She uses regular flour, but traditionally Kuku Yalanji people used many native seeds and grains to bake, such as black bean, black wattle and pandanus seeds,” Walker explained. “Some ladies still practice the treatments required to remove toxins [in the plants], but mostly for passing on knowledge.”
On a tour of the Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land with Adventure North Safaris, my guide pointed out deep grooves in a rocky outcrop made by grinding native grass seeds hundreds – maybe thousands – of years ago. And in his latest book, Loving Country, a lyrical travel guide to Aboriginal Australia, Pascoe touches on various places where people can experience Aboriginal baking traditions, including Brewarrina (near Cuddie Springs), best known for its ancient fish traps.
Being able to cook with our traditional ingredients is really important for our wellbeing
Chefs around Australia are also reviving Indigenous breadmaking traditions. Chief among them is New Zealand-born celebrity chef Ben Shewry, an advocate for the development of Indigenous-owned native food production, who has brought various iterations of native grains to the menus of his lauded Melbourne restaurant Attica.
“They’re incredibly versatile,” said Shewry. “Take wattleseeds for example – not only are they amazing ground into flour for bread, but they are also amazing boiled like barley or soaked and steamed like rice.”
Sailors Grave Brewing in Orbost in eastern Victoria has even turned native grains into beer, which you can sample at its Slipway Lakes Entrance cellar door nearby. Brewed with native grass seeds harvested by Pascoe and roasted by a local bakery, the dark larger is – fittingly – called Dark Emu, after Pascoe’s groundbreaking book.
Like many non-Indigenous Australians, I have spent many a camping trip cooking damper on an open fire, unaware until recently that the tradition went back much further than Banjo’s poems. So, the next time I sink my teeth into the warm, fluffy goodness of freshly baked damper drizzled with bush honey, I’ll be paying my respects to the first Australians who invented it.
And forget sourdough. If native flour hits the supermarket shelves, I’ll be giving what’s likely to be the world’s oldest bread recipe a whirl.
Humanitarian Aid & Relief
CBN partners help to bring relief to poor, remote communities around the world, where locals often lack access to basic medical care. The global COVID-19 pandemic further strained resources. CBN’s Operation Blessing has continued conducting medical and dental brigades to those in need, as well provide medicine, train community health volunteers, provide life-changing surgeries, conduct ultrasound campaigns and pregnancy workshops and more.
CBN is reaching out to orphans and vulnerable children through CBN’s Orphan’s Promise. Our goal is to reach out with the love of Jesus and meet their physical, educational and spiritual needs through partnerships with local churches and other established ministries.
Every year people here at home and around the world face challenges and heartache when disaster strikes. Whether it’s a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or tsunami, or refugees in the midst of life-threatening conflict needing critical relief, CBN’s Operation Blessing is helping disaster victims endure and recover by providing critical aid, like clean water, medical care, food, shelter, and basic essentials.
CBN's Operation Blessing is bringing hope and physical transformation around the world through Life-Changing Surgeries. Due to lower medical expenses in foreign countries, Operation Blessing can provide these surgeries at a fraction of their cost in the U.S.
CBN’s job skills outreach supports economic empowerment for individual, families, and communities. Partners help to support microenterprise small business initiatives that provide a long-lasting hand up, not a handout.
As Americans we owe a great debt to those who put their lives on the line for our freedom, and to their families who bear the burden on the home front. Military families face tough circumstances on an ongoing basis and at times need a helping hand and community support.
CBN and its partners are uniquely positioned to respond to the problem of human trafficking and help rescue women and children from predators by easing the burden of poverty.
Robbie Robertson&rsquos Last Waltz
W hen Robbie Robertson was a kid, growing up in the Annex, his mother, who was born and raised on the Six Nations reserve near Brantford, often took him back home to visit her family. Three or four times a year, they sat on a bus for two hours, and for Robbie, each trip was like a voyage to another dimension. There, far from the city, he could pick wild strawberries, fish for trout, swim in a rock quarry. His relatives had a profound understanding of the natural world, uncanny athletic ability and, most important to him, a great love of music. Everyone played an instrument or danced or sang, and Six Nations jam sessions, often held around a roaring campfire, were like small festivals of sound and light and colour.
Something even more transporting—and transformative—happened when he was nine. After lunch one day, his relatives set off into the bush, and Robbie followed them for half a mile until they arrived at a narrow, one-room building his mother told him was called a longhouse. A few minutes later, an older man entered the longhouse and sat down in a large pine and birch chair, draped in animal pelts. Everyone gathered, the kids cross-legged at his feet. The elder tapped his walking stick on the floor and proceeded to recount, with vivid imagery and riveting suspense, the tale of the Great Peacemaker who founded the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Robbie was mesmerized. He told his mother that one day, he was going to tell stories like that.
It didn’t take long. Robertson began telling stories—or writing songs, same thing—when he was a teenager, then kept on telling them. There were the gentle puppy-love melodies he wrote for the rockabilly supernova Ronnie Hawkins, then the later hits, sometimes slinky, sometimes anthemic, that he wrote for himself. There were the experimental albums that drew on his memories of those Six Nations jam sessions, and the soundtracks, mainly for Martin Scorsese, that anchored so many cinematic worlds. But Robertson’s life story is something else, the story of rock music itself, its ups and downs, its evolutions and revolutions, its undeniable ascent and arguable decline. He was a one-man zeitgeist, a player, both major and minor, in some of popular music’s most defining moments.
He’s still best known, of course, for the groundbreaking songs he created with the Band, the wildly influential roots rock group, songs like “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The Band was renowned for its democratic spirit and its industry-defying lack of a front man. Eventually, and enthusiastically, Robertson took on that central role, to the enduring ire of his bandmates. And while his career with the Band lasted only about a decade—1968 to 1978—his position as the group’s self-appointed chronicler has lasted about four times as long.
It’s a tricky role, one that hasn’t always endeared him to fans and critics. But it’s one that he has carefully constructed and has strenuously protected. This September, he was in Toronto for the premiere of a new documentary about him and the group, Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band. It was a vivid reminder that Robertson has at last become the elder he dreamed of becoming—of rock music and also, in his own refracted and Hollywoodish way, of the Indigenous cultural renaissance. Unlike the elder he first encountered as a child, the myth he’s recounting is all his own.
I met Robertson the day after Once Were Brothers premiered at TIFF. It was both a star-studded and family affair: executive producers Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer were there, as were Ronnie Hawkins, Robertson’s ex-wife, Dominique, their daughter, Delphine, and Robertson’s current girlfriend, the restaurateur and Top Chef Canada judge Janet Zuccarini. A couple of hours after that screening, Robertson and Scorsese also introduced a screening of Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, the canonical 1978 rockumentary that chronicled the Band’s final performance with their original lineup.
/>September 6, 2019: Robertson was in town for the premiere of Once Were Brothers at TIFF. Photo by Christopher Wahl
It had been a long night, but Robertson looked like he might have just stepped off David Geffen’s yacht. He was tanned and tall and relaxed, his eyes hidden behind signature tinted glasses. His hair is of an indeterminate hue, somewhere between taupe and hazel, but still unreasonably luxuriant. Age diminishes us all, even Robbie Robertson—his once-notorious cheekbones are now buried in a fleshier face, and he walks with a pronounced, grandfatherly shuffle—but he’s still ridiculously handsome. He smiles easily, his teeth as straight and gleaming as piano keys. He talks easily, too, and slowly, his voice an almost voluptuous rasp. In conversation, he is as courteous as a courtesan, or as winkingly elusive as his long-time comrade, Bob Dylan. Asked how old his three kids are, he said, smiling, “The same age as me. I don’t get older, they do.”
Robertson was born and raised in Toronto but left when he was a teenager, and he’s lived in Los Angeles for the past 50 years, give or take. He returns frequently, though—it helps that Zuccarini’s here—and in setting up our meeting we tried to find somewhere that might have personal resonance, maybe a venue that he’d headlined, a bar he might have played. But except for Massey Hall, which is under renovation, all those places are gone. So we ended up in the Neil Young Room, a private dining room at One, the Mark McEwan restaurant in Yorkville, so named because of the framed black-and-white photographs of the rock stars that hang on the wall.
Robertson never played in Yorkville—his early musical years were set in the much rougher honky-tonks that once lined Yonge Street—but he grew up nearby, at Bloor and Palmerston. He was born Jaime Royal Robertson Robbie was a neighbourhood nickname, derived, not so originally, from his last name. An only child, he referred to himself as a “half-breed.” His mother, Dolly, was Mohawk and Cayuga, and his Jewish father, who was killed in a hit and run before Robertson was born, was a professional gambler. “You could say I’m an expert in persecution,” Robertson writes, half-jokingly, in Testimony, his memoir. He was raised by Dolly and his stepfather, Jim Robertson, a factory worker and war vet, and spent his first few years living with Jim’s parents in an apartment before he and Dolly and Jim moved to Scarborough and a house of their own. Robertson’s home life wasn’t easy—his parents drank, and fought, a lot. Jim would beat up Dolly then turn his violent attention to his son. Once, he hit Robertson for the crime of leaving a fan running when he wasn’t in the room.
Other places provided solace. Robertson spent every weekend afternoon he could at the Majestic Theatre, where a quarter would buy him popcorn and a drink and a long program of cartoons, newsreels and double features. He adored movies. Once his relatives at Six Nations introduced him to another, greater love—music—he devoted himself to the guitar, and by 13 he had formed his first band, Robbie Robertson and the Rhythm Chords. Rock and roll had arrived: the radio was alive with Chuck Berry, Elvis, Buddy Holly and Little Richard. Robertson, who describes the discovery as his “personal Big Bang,” was completely in its thrall. Everything changed: the way he dressed and talked and moved, the way he combed his hair, the way he strummed his Fender. Like it was for millions of teenagers, rock was an escape hatch that could propel him into an unknown future.
/>With Ronnie Hawkins at the Last Waltz concert in 1976. Photo by Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images
For Robertson, rock also looked like it could be a job, one where he could make some good money and have a lot of fun doing it. Yonge and Dundas was quickly becoming one of North America’s great musical crossroads, a mash-up of Beale Street and Times Square, where on any given weekend night you could catch Carl Perkins, Charlie Mingus or Cannonball Adderley. There was the Blue Note, an after-hours R&B dance hall that hosted Jackie Shane and, later, Little Stevie Wonder and the Supremes. To the northwest, up on Bloor Street, where Long and McQuade now stands, there was the Concord Tavern, divided into its drinking and non-drinking sections, where underage teenage rockers like future Guess Who guitarist Domenic Troiano and David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears would hang out, dazzled by Bo Diddley and Duane Eddy and Ronnie Hawkins.
Hawkins had Kirk Douglas looks and James Brown moves. He was renowned for his acrobatic stage antics, including backflips and a proto-moonwalk he called the camel walk. He opened shows by yelling, in his Ozark accent, “It’s orgy time!” He was nicknamed Mr. Dynamo and the Hawk and, of course, his band was called the Hawks. With the competition largely out of the picture—Elvis was in the army, Jerry Lee Lewis was blackballed for marrying his underage cousin, Buddy Holly was dead—Hawkins was poised for big things and, had he stayed in the U.S., his career might have exploded. But on the advice of country musician Conway Twitty, he started touring Canada and promptly fell in love with Toronto. He loved its wild freedom. He could play engagements here, at the Concord or Le Coq d’Or on Yonge, for weeks or months on end, and get paid well for it. He could be the biggest fish in a small, increasingly debauched pond. For Hawkins, mid-century Toronto wasn’t a pallid, Presbyterian place but something closer to New York in the Roaring Twenties.
When Robertson was 15, as part of a different band, the Suedes, he was invited to open for the man himself at the Dixie Arena in Mississauga. Robertson had never seen anything like the Hawk, and Hawkins was likewise impressed by Robertson. He told his drummer, Levon Helm, “He’s got so much talent it makes me sick.” When Robertson heard that Hawkins needed new songs, he wrote a couple overnight, and Hawkins ended up recording them. Hawkins took him to New York and the Brill Building, hoping Robertson’s teenage ears would help him find songs that other teenagers would like. While there, he introduced Robertson to Morris Levy, the mobster owner of Roulette Records, who said to Hawkins, “Nice-looking kid. I bet you don’t know whether to hire him or fuck him.”
/>With Levon Helm in Woodstock, New York. Photo by Elliott Landy/Redferns
When a spot for a bass player opened up in the Hawks, Robertson dropped out of high school, quickly taught himself the bass, and took a bus down to Arkansas to audition. He knew it was crazy. He was just a kid. A kid from Toronto. So he did the only thing he could do: he worked as hard as he could, which was 10 times harder than everybody else. He learned the set list inside out—the bass and the guitar parts—and studied how each of the Hawks’ guitarists worked their magic. He spent all the money he had on Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters records and studied those. He took the raunchy licks that Ray Charles played on piano and transcribed them to guitar. He rarely slept, and when he did, he slept with his instruments.
“What I was trying to do was impossible,” Robertson told me, still somewhat awed by his own audacity. “I’m 16 years old, I’m too young to play in any of the places they play. I’m too inexperienced to play lead guitar in this group. And there’s no such thing in a Southern rock and roll band as a Canadian. There are no Canadians in Southern rock and roll bands. With all these odds, it was impossible. And it was my job to overcome the impossibility. And win.” He got the job. He won. And soon enough, after other Hawks quit the group, he became lead guitarist. Hawkins referred to him as his protégé. “You won’t make much money,” Hawkins told him, “but you’ll get more pussy than Frank Sinatra.”
L evon Helm quickly became Robertson’s best buddy in the band, the big brother he never had. A few years older, Helm was, in some ways, Robertson’s opposite—short, Southern, hotheaded, with a devilish grin and white-gold hair. When Robertson first saw him play, he could have sworn he glowed in the dark. Helm took care of Robertson, introduced him to his family, tutored him in the ways of Southern life and culture. They double-dated, bought a Cadillac together, the first car Robertson ever owned. They reminded Hawkins of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. “It was me and Robbie against the world,” Helm once said.
As other Hawks left, the rest of the band suddenly became Canadian. On bass and vocals, there was Rick Danko, from Simcoe, who had the looks and jittery magnetism of a young Robert De Niro. Sweet, sensitive Richard Manuel, from Stratford, played piano and possessed a heartbreaking falsetto. Finally, out of London, there was the eccentric and enigmatic Garth Hudson, the only one in the group with classical musical training, who could play anything. They were a wild, impossibly talented bunch, and Hawkins worked them hard. They played six days a week and practised all night until, as Robertson says, they were probably the best white R&B band in the world.
Hawkins was also, they soon realized, holding them back. The band was younger than its leader, whom Helm referred to as “Daddy.” They craved independence, wanted to try new things. They had also, with great enthusiasm, started smoking pot—“When we first discovered the weed, it was a whole new world,” Helm wrote in his memoir. Hawk had often kept the band going with amphetamines, but marijuana, it seemed, was a pharmacological bridge too far. By 1964, they had split from Hawkins and became Levon and the Hawks. They abandoned the matching suits that Hawkins made them wear, but kept up the work ethic he’d instilled. Helm got top billing because of seniority, but the spirit of the group was more, as he put it, “communist.” Everyone would play an instrument, anybody could sing, and there would be no guy out front telling everybody what to do.
/>With Bob Dylan and Rick Danko in Denmark, 1966. Photo by Jan Persson/Redferns
As radical as the concept was, it worked, even when another, more titanic musical force threatened to upset that egalitarianism: Bob Dylan. Dylan had notoriously gone electric at the Newport Folk Festival in the summer of 1965 and was looking for a band that could back him on the electric sets he’d planned for an upcoming tour. Robertson loved what Dylan was doing it helped that Dylan appreciated his “mathematical” guitar playing. After Robertson and Helm filled in on a couple of Dylan’s stadium shows, they convinced the rest of the Hawks to join them. It was the big time—they flew from gig to gig in Dylan’s private plane—but it was also an unexpected, dispiriting gauntlet. Betrayed folk audiences who’d once considered Dylan a demigod now dismissed him as a fame-hungry sellout. They booed and threw things at his shows. Many blamed the Hawks, claiming they were ruining Dylan’s music. When the band returned to Toronto for a show at Massey Hall, the reception was even worse. Robertson took it personally. The city felt small and insecure to him, and though his mother still lived here—she’d settled in Cabbagetown—he didn’t know if he’d ever come back.
By that point, Robertson was 22 and living in New York. Despite the torments of the tour, Dylan had opened up the world in a way that Hawkins never could. Robertson and Manuel got a suite at the Chelsea Hotel, where Robertson trysted with Warhol’s muse Edie Sedgwick. She introduced him to the Velvet Underground and the infamous Dr. Feelgood, who injected them both with speed. Robertson was meeting everybody: Allen Ginsberg, Salvador Dalí, Carly Simon. On a movie set, he palled around with an intimidating Marlon Brando, who kindly opened a Coke bottle for him with his teeth. He was a fixture at the city’s art-house cinemas and, ever the autodidact, bought screenplays at the Gotham Book Mart to figure out how those movies worked. At Dylan’s first wedding, he served as best man. A world tour took him off the continent for the first time, and he travelled to Hawaii, Europe, Australia.
Dylan, however, was exhausted. A serious motorcycle accident in the summer of 1966 gave him the opportunity to, as he put it, “get out of the rat race.” He retreated with his young family, a station wagon and a dog named Hamlet to his house in Woodstock, in upstate New York. The Hawks soon followed, with Danko, Hudson and Manuel settling in a nearby ranch house they dubbed Big Pink. Robertson and his future wife, a Québécois journalist named Dominique Bourgeois he’d met in Paris, moved into their own place a few miles up the road, and Helm, who had temporarily left the band, joined the gang again a few months later. They transformed the Big Pink basement into a recording studio. Dylan dropped by every day with his typewriter and guitar and songwriting superpowers, and took everyone to a new, cosmic level.
/>With the Band on the cover of their 1969 self-titled album. Photo by Elliott Landy/Redferns
The basement became one of the most legendary laboratories in the history of rock. Here, in rural isolation, the group created the quasi-field recordings and oddball ditties that became known as The Basement Tapes. Here, they composed the songs that would comprise their first record, Music From Big Pink, including one of the most indelible songs in the American pop canon, “The Weight.” They created a genre of music later called Americana, which fused blues and country and gospel and all the other genres they’d been obsessed with, and which would inspire everyone from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Neko Case. They renounced the Hawks and gave themselves the defiantly non-commercial name the Band, mainly because that’s what everyone in Woodstock called them. With their scruffy beards, tight-fitting Western suits, vintage eyewear and hats, they looked like Greenwich Village gunslingers. In 1968, the year Big Pink was released, America was in flames, rocked by the war in Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, riots in Detroit, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The album seemed, as rock critic Greil Marcus put it, “like a passport back to America for people who had become so estranged from their own country.” If Robertson’s discovery of rock and roll had been a Big Bang, now, at long last, he had formed his own galaxy.
A year later, the Band cut their self-titled sophomore record, and it too contained instant classics, including “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The songs sounded like hymns written in the backroom of a 19th-century saloon, boogie-woogie ballads, history lessons for a country unsure of its future. They were woven from each of the group’s different singers, sometimes in exquisite harmony, at other times in surprising counterpoint, and no voice seemed more central than another. This was part of the Band’s secret, Helm said.
It would also be its undoing. Despite their ostensibly democratic configuration, the story of the Band soon became, as it did for so many musical acts, the story of who was the true voice of the group. Hudson was, arguably, the brains, and Manuel the heart. Danko was the guts. But both Robertson and Helm vied to be the soul of the Band—or at least to be recognized as such. John Simon, who produced the Band’s first two records, noticed that during Helm’s temporary absence from the band, Robertson had effectively become its leader. So, as the Band became more and more successful—in 1970, they became the first North American rock band to appear on the cover of Time magazine—the question of who was responsible for that success became an issue.
/>On the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969. Photo CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
Everybody did well at first. They were making more money than they knew what to do with, and they spent their money with gusto, mostly on drugs, fancy instruments and ever-more-expensive cars, which they usually gleefully wrecked on Woodstock’s back roads. Robertson had written fewer than half the songs on Big Pink—Manuel was the other principal songwriter—but by the Band’s third album, Stage Fright, he was writing all of them. “I stayed up late and got up early,” Robertson told me. “And I worked much harder than any of the other guys in the group. It was my job. It was what I was called upon to do.” Initially, the Band had shared the publishing royalties equally, but by their sixth studio album, 1975’s Northern Lights–Southern Cross, Robertson had bought out Manuel, Danko and Hudson’s ends. He had written these songs, so why shouldn’t he get paid for them?
At least, this is how Robertson tells it. In 1993, Helm published his own memoir, This Wheel’s on Fire, a rollicking, vivid, occasionally vitriolic tell-all that praises Robertson in one paragraph and excoriates him in the next. “Now the old pencil-whipping started to really come down, and it was felt that Robbie was getting more than the Band,” Helm wrote. “Greed was setting in. The old spirit of one for all and all for one was out the window. But hindsight—20-20, as usual—reveals that some of us were in denial. None of this was talked about much among the five of us, so resentment just continued to build.”
That resentment spilled over when Robertson proposed, in 1976, after 10 studio albums, that the Band stop touring, regroup and figure out what to do next. By then, Robertson and Bourgeois had three kids and were living in Sam Peckinpah’s old house in the Malibu Colony, just down the beach from Cary Grant. He’d become pals with David Geffen and Cher and Neil Diamond. While he’d developed a taste for cocaine, he steered clear of the heroin that Manuel, Danko and Helm indulged in. He was tired of the road, which he’d never liked much to begin with. Plus, he was plotting his next move, which he hoped would be the movies: producing them, writing music for them, starring in them.
/>With John Belushi backstage at a Band concert in New York, 1976. Photo by Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images
He started with that hotshot, motor-mouthed young director who had made Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. Martin Scorsese loved music as much as Robertson loved movies. Jonathan Taplin, who’d produced Mean Streets, had once been the Band’s tour manager. He set up a meeting between the two men and they agreed that Scorsese would film the Band’s last concert, to be held at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, where they’d played their first show. Robertson had a grand vision—it would feature both musicians who’d influenced them, like Hawkins, the Staple Singers and Muddy Waters, and several of their fellow travellers, including Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison. “The Last Waltz,” as Robertson referred to the show, was electric and transcendent and joyous, and the ensuing movie was the best concert film ever released.
For Helm, it was a travesty. He thought Scorsese missed major moments and that Robertson got too much screen time. More importantly, he just didn’t want to stop touring. He thought Robertson was trying to destroy the group, and he hated him for it. It didn’t matter. Robertson refused to tour with the Band, and would never again make a record with them. From a fan’s perspective, Scorsese might have been the Yoko of the Band, but as far as Robertson was concerned, he’d found a new brother. Both men had marital troubles, and Robertson moved into the garage of Scorsese’s house on Mulholland Drive. The pair spent long nights listening to music, watching movies and editing The Last Waltz, almost always high on coke. The house was blacked out with blinds, soundproofed, the windows kept closed because of Scorsese’s asthma. Eventually, though, in 1978, the relentless years of hard work and drug abuse caught up with Scorsese, and he ended up in hospital for 10 days, almost dying. Things changed quickly. “One day, it kicked us in the ass,” Robertson told me. “It said, ‘Uh, guys, somebody’s gonna get hurt here and you’ve got work to do.’ And we said, ‘Okay, it’s been kind of fun and funny, but the joke’s over.’ ”
I n September, Robertson released his sixth solo album, Sinematic, its punning title a nod to film in general, but also to a specific movie, Scorsese’s latest, The Irishman. Robertson scored the soundtrack for that film, the 10th Scorsese movie he’s worked on (others include Raging Bull, Gangs of New York and The Wolf of Wall Street). Like all of Robertson’s solo records, Sinematic is lush and imagistic and held together by Robertson’s low growl. (As a singer, he’s always been a great guitarist.) There are songs that conjure gangster movies (“Shanghai Blues”) and Robertson’s background (“Dead End Kid”—the only time I’ve ever heard the Scarborough Bluffs name-checked in a song). Normally, Robertson told me, he keeps his projects separate, but for this record, they converged. “It’s a big scramble of lovely things that I couldn’t help but embrace.”
/>Performing with Bruce Hornsby on Saturday Night Live, 1993. Photo by NBC/Getty Images
One of those things is a song about the Band—“Once Were Brothers.” He sings, There’ll be no revival / There’ll be no encore / Once were brothers / Brothers no more. But after the Last Waltz, the last time Robertson was on stage with them, the Band continued to play. They might not have sounded quite the same, and the audiences might have shrunk, but they kept going. It was all they knew how to do. They also kept drinking and using drugs, and things got darker and darker. In 1986, Manuel hanged himself in a hotel bathroom in Florida. He was 42. Danko died in 1999 of heart failure at the age of 55. At Danko’s funeral, Robertson spoke, and describing the moment in his memoir, Helm can’t contain his disgust: “He got up and spouted off a lot of self-serving tripe about how great Rick had sung the songs that he—Robertson—had written. It made me sick to hear.” Helm himself suffered his own grim setbacks: he was twice diagnosed with cancer, the treatment of which bankrupted him.
Robertson knows he’s been vilified. But he’s a guy more inclined to self-mythologizing than self-reflection. I asked him how it felt to be known as the guy who had put the Band together but who had also torn it apart. “I was the one who wanted the Band to continue,” he said. “I was the one who was the driving force in this group and I drove it and I drove it until there was nothing to drive anymore. I showed up. Nobody else showed up.” He didn’t care if I believed him, or what other people said. They weren’t there. And they aren’t here now. He was the one who’d survived, he was the one who got the last word, and here he was getting it again with me. He considers Helm paranoid and insecure, but insists that he made peace with him, visiting him in hospital just before he died in 2012. “I thought to myself, what all he and I did together, and all the things we came through and the music we made and this life experience—nothing can compete with that.”
/>With Martin Scorsese in 1978. Photo by Richard A. Aarons/Redferns />And again at the Golden Globes after-party in 2003. Photo by Jeff Kravitz/Filmmagic
Maybe, maybe not. In 1980, he produced and acted in his first feature film, Carny. He got more acting offers, took bit parts here and there, but in 1987, he returned to music and released his first solo record. It was the first time he was writing songs, telling stories, that were about himself, and he brought in a bunch of his famous friends to help: Daniel Lanois produced, U2 and Peter Gabriel played, David Geffen committed half a million dollars to promotion. Robertson called it—what else?—Robbie Robertson.
One of the songs on the record, “Testimony,” contained the line Come bear witness / The half-breed rides again, and others, like “Broken Arrow,” explicitly reminded listeners—or told them for the first time—of Robertson’s heritage. It was unusual at the time. How many other Indigenous artists were in rotation on MTV? I had the sense that Robertson had to hide that side of himself when he was part of the Band, that his early career was whitewashed as part of his efforts to appear as Southern as the music he loved, but when I raised that notion with him, he waved it off. “That was just part of my bloodline,” he said. “It wasn’t a musical necessity. I wasn’t about to start playing Jewish folk songs either.” Nonetheless, his solo career was marked by occasional records that rediscovered that heritage: Music for the Native Americans, a soundtrack for a TV doc called The Native Americans, and Contact from the Underworld of Redboy, whose ambient electronica in some ways prefigured bands like A Tribe Called Red. “You know, I’m just travelling the road,” Robertson said, “and sometimes I go off the main highway into the rez for a while and then come back to the highway and I love it.” In 2015, he published a children’s book, Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, which retold the story of the founding of Six Nations, the same one he’d heard in the longhouse as a kid, and in 2017, the community presented him with a lifetime achievement award. He was delighted that Six Nations Chief Ava Hill attended the Once Were Brothers premiere.
/>With Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney at the 2000 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Photo by Kmazur/Wireimage
It must be strange to be an elder, though, at this point in rock’s history, when so many of your musical brothers are no longer with you, and the ones who are—Neil and Bob and Van and even the indomitable Hawk, somehow still standing—are blinking in the twilight. It must be strange when, like Robertson, you talk and talk about the past, and the stories from the past keep informing the story of the present. But whatever this moment was, it wasn’t strange or tedious or sad. At least not for him. “I’m appreciative of being able to come back and celebrate that in a certain way,” he said, referring to this valedictory moment. “Because my natural mode is moving on, moving on, moving on. What I’m doing with my life has to do with today and tomorrow. So these things—it feels good to go there because I don’t go there very often.” That wasn’t quite true. It was another story. But I sat and listened.
This story originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Toronto Life magazine. To subscribe, for just $29.95 a year, click here .
50 States of Cocktails
Learn how to drink like a local by discovering the signature cocktail from each state (including Washington, D.C.).
Photo By: Ashley Kelly ©AK PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo By: James Moses ©BisigImpactGroup/j moses
Photo By: The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel ©Copyright (c) 2010 Brian F Huff
Photo By: Nina Gallant ©©Nina Gallant 2015
©Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
Photo By: Nick Pironio ©Nick Pironio
Photo By: Lara Ferroni ©2013 Lara Ferroni Photography
Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©2012
Photo By: Julie Soefer Photography
Photo By: Stacey Jo Rabiger
Photo By: Dan Bishop ©Dan Bishop
Tequila Mockingbird from The Little Donkey: Homewood, Ala.
Iconic author Harper Lee hailed from Alabama, so what better way to toast her iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel than with a little liquid inspiration? That classic Southern character takes a wild ride through Mexico with this blanco tequila-based cocktail brightened with pineapple, cardamom, serrano pepper, agave nectar and lime juice.
Smoked Salmon Mary from The Crow’s Nest: Denali Park, Alaska
Alaska&rsquos state fish makes the leap from plate to glass in this explosively savory Bloody Mary. Smoked salmon vodka from Alaska Distillery lends briny undertones, while the house Bloody mix (featuring beef stock, horseradish and plenty of hot sauce) brings the heat. Garnished with smoked salmon strips, this brunchworthy beauty is an ode to the state&rsquos main seafood squeeze.
Photo courtesy of Sean Kennelly
Prickly Pear Margarita from Brittlebush Bar & Grill: Scottsdale, Ariz.
The prickly pear cactus thrives in the Southwest&rsquos desert climate, and its sweet, watermelon-like flavor makes it a prime candidate for infusing cocktail syrups. The proof? This vibrant margarita, bearing reposado tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and a fuchsia prickly pear syrup that colors the coupe from top to bottom.
Cropduster from Capital Bar & Grill: Little Rock, Ark.
A play on the pale purple Aviation, the Cropduster swaps the old-school creme de violette for housemade blackberry preserves to create a richer, darker descendant. Shaken with Old Tom gin, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur, it calls to mind the rugged little aircraft that soar over Arkansas&rsquo bountiful fields.
Photo courtesy of Tonic Media
Irish Coffee from The Buena Vista Cafe: San Francisco
Pouring nearly 2,000 Irish Coffees each day, The Buena Vista Cafe reigns supreme as master of the cream-capped glass. From the tulip-shaped goblet to the cane-sugar cubes, each element of this time-honored recipe has been tested to achieve the perfect balance of fresh-brewed coffee, Irish whiskey and lightly whipped cream. If you think you hate coffee, you&rsquove clearly never had one of these.
Tree Line from The Avenue Grill: Denver
A veritable wonderland for outdoor recreation, Colorado is perhaps best known for its scenic forests and fresh air. To capture that woodsiness in a drink, the state&rsquos assorted liquor-related guilds hosted the Colorado Cocktail Contest. The Tree Line was the winning entry, a clever composite of local, small-batch whiskey, aromatic alpine herbal liqueur, lemon juice and farmers market cherries. When muddled, it mimics the reddish-purple earth on the Colorado trails.
Photo courtesy of Agata Indiatsi
Hot Buttered Rum from Artisan Restaurant: Southport, Conn.
Connecticut&rsquos unofficial nickname, The Nutmeg State, stems from a bit of a practical joke. During the 19th century, sailors carried the valuable spice from overseas back to Connecticut, where local merchants acquired a reputation for peddling counterfeit nutmeg seeds made of wood. Supposedly, the spicy connotation stuck with the state through the years. Connecticutians aren&rsquot complaining: This steamy mug of rum, spiced butter, brown sugar and nutmeg never gets old.
The Bassett from 1861 Restaurant: Middletown, Del.
Dark, bold and strong of character, this union of rye whiskey, bitter fernet, brown sugar, egg white and walnut bitters represents an important figure in Delaware&rsquos history. It&rsquos named for Richard Bassett, the state&rsquos fourth governor, whose illustrious public career stretched from his time as a captain in the Revolutionary War to his election to the Delaware State Senate and the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787. Nice going, Rich.
Papa Dobles from Sloppy Joe’s: Key West, Fla.
Sometimes known as a Hemingway daiquiri, the Papa Dobles is a nod to the peerless American author and his penchant for strong, oversized daiquiris during his time living in Key West. A regular at Sloppy Joe&rsquos throughout the '30s, Hemingway inspired this now-classic blend of light rum, grapefruit and lime juices, and maraschino liqueur.
Nuts & Grains Manhattan from A.Lure: Savannah
Georgia is one of the nation&rsquos top producers of pecans, and the nuts&rsquo earthy, roasted flavor makes them a natural sidekick to rye whiskey, especially in a Manhattan. This version doubles down on that effect by pairing rye and sweet vermouth with pecan-infused vodka and chicory-pecan bitters for a liquid version of your favorite Southern pie.
Tropical Itch from Duke’s Waikiki: Honolulu
You might be more familiar with his ocean-hued Blue Hawaii, but famed Hawaiian bartender Harry Yee also created this tiki classic, playfully garnished with a souvenir backscratcher. Designed to satisfy your urge for an instant island getaway, this transportive glass stars dark rum, vodka, orange curacao, passion fruit juice and a dash of bitters.
The Vesper Reconsidered from Chandlers: Boise, Idaho
The Spud State. Potatonia. The Potato Capital of the World. Let&rsquos face it, Idaho doesn&rsquot mess around when it comes to its trademark cash crop. So when you&rsquove had your fill of fries, consider mixing your spuds with spirits next. At Chandlers, the James Bond-approved Vesper boasts a base of locally made potato vodka balanced with gin, Lillet Blanc and orange bitters.
Southside from The Barrelhouse Flat: Chicago
Hardly anyone can agree on this cocktail&rsquos origin. The most-engaging theory posits that it was born on the South Side of Chicago during Prohibition, when gang members fought for quality liquor sources and often required a barrage of citrus to mask the flavor of inferior booze. Today, no one&rsquos bothered by the refreshing blend of gin, lime juice, mint, sugar and Angostura bitters &mdash it&rsquos still a crowd-pleaser.
Hoosier Heritage from The North End Barbecue & Moonshine: Indianapolis
Known as the Crossroads of America, Indiana has built up a proud state heritage. And you might say that this cocktail forms a similar crossroads, uniting high-quality products like rye whiskey, apple cider, rosemary maple syrup and cayenne pepper from around the country to create one uniquely Midwestern experience.
Photo courtesy of Ashley Kelly
State Fair Shake-Up from Lime Lounge: Des Moines
If you&rsquove ever been to the Iowa State Fair, you&rsquore familiar with its staple beverage: sweet-tart, hand-squeezed lemonade. The only possible improvement to this annual treat? Booze. To create that electric elixir with an adult edge, Lime Lounge shakes fresh-squeezed lemon juice with vodka, sugar, lemon peels and lots of ice to achieve a frothy, dangerously smooth facsimile.
Horsefeather from The Bourgeois Pig: Lawrence, Kan.
Moscow mule enthusiasts will appreciate this simple highball that substitutes rye whiskey for standard vodka. The easy-drinking combination of rye, ginger beer, lemon juice and bitters was created in Kansas during the 1990s and appears to be a riff on the Horse&rsquos Neck. Doubly spicy, thanks to the rye, the Horsefeather is ideal for those who prefer their mule with a stronger kick.
The Seelbach from The Oakroom: Louisville, Ky.
Don&rsquot despair, julep fans. The Seelbach would make any Kentucky native proud, with its sturdy base of Bluegrass State bourbon. Cointreau, Angostura and Peychaud&rsquos bitters and a generous splash of Champagne round out the chic coupe, which has been served at The Seelbach Hotel&rsquos bar since 1907, delighting famous guests like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Al Capone and FDR.
Photo courtesy of James Moses / Bisig Impact Group
Sazerac from The Sazerac Bar: New Orleans
The Big Easy has given birth to a wealth of top-notch cocktails &mdash the Ramos gin fizz, brandy milk punch and Vieux Carré among them &mdash but the one true king will always be the Sazerac. Originally made with Sazerac French brandy when it was invented in the 1850s, the recipe evolved to include rye whiskey and an absinthe rinse, which meld with a cube of sugar and the anise-heavy Peychaud&rsquos bitters that make this a timeless New Orleans classic.
Photo courtesy of The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Espresso Martini from Portland Hunt + Alpine Club: Portland, Maine
Ever heard of "The Champagne of Maine?" You might be surprised to learn that the top-selling spirit in the state is Allen&rsquos Coffee-Flavored Brandy, a high-proof brandy infused with Arabica coffee extract. The caffeinated hooch is a regional staple, and while most drinkers pair it simply with milk over ice, cocktail bars are now shaking it into craft creations like this martini made with sweetened coffee concentrate, coffee brandy and white rum.
The Diamondback from Bookmakers: Baltimore
Before Prohibition, Maryland led the nation in rye whiskey production &mdash the house beverage at the Lord Baltimore Hotel&rsquos Diamondback Lounge was this rye cocktail. Some might call its formula aggressive, and they wouldn&rsquot be wrong. The mix of rye whiskey, applejack and Yellow Chartreuse is burly and deeply herbaceous, best suited for nights when a Manhattan simply won&rsquot cut it.
Ward 8 from Yvonne’s: Boston
Invented at Boston&rsquos Locke-Ober Cafe in 1898, the Ward 8 has survived over a century, and is still served across the same hand-carved bar in the space now known as Yvonne&rsquos. While the original recipe was likely a combination of rye whiskey, lemon and orange juices, and grenadine, the modest tweak of splitting the rye with dry sherry brings this classic roaring into the present.
Photo courtesy of Nina Gallant
The Last Word from The Sugar House: Detroit
Don&rsquot call it a comeback: The Last Word has been in the spotlight the past few years, but it&rsquos actually been around since Prohibition. Introduced at the Detroit Athletic Club by a well-known vaudeville star, the quartet of gin, lime juice, maraschino liqueur and Green Chartreuse might seem like a tough sell on paper. Yet somehow, those combative sweet and earthy elements merge into total harmony in the glass.
Tomas Collins from Marvel Bar: Minneapolis
Scandinavian immigrants first began to influence the culture of Minnesota when they started mass-migrating into the state around 1880. Luckily for Minnesota, that meant an infusion of aquavit, the signature caraway-infused Nordic spirit. This play on the Tom Collins highlights local dill aquavit along with housemade pickle brine, lime juice and seltzer, finished with hand-chipped ice.
The Maridel from Parlor Market: Jackson, Miss.
Anyone who&rsquos ever ransacked a honeysuckle bush to seek a few drops of sweet nectar will understand the allure of the crushed-ice concoction the Maridel (a traditional Southern girls&rsquo name). Mississippi-made honeysuckle vodka mingles with lime juice, fresh basil and cucumber syrup to conjure springtime in your hand.
Planter’s House Punch from Planter’s House: St. Louis
You can&rsquot stop by Planter&rsquos House without swigging the famous house drink. Served by the glass, pitcher and punch bowl, this modern translation is based on the centuries-old, easygoing recipe that combined any richly flavored rum with lime juice, sugar and a ton of ice. Bolstered with cognac, aged rum, curacao, grenadine and bitters, today&rsquos version proves that there&rsquos nothing wrong with a little experimentation.
I’ll Be Your Huckleberry from The Ranch at Rock Creek: Philipsburg, Mont.
Visit Montana during midsummer and you&rsquoll catch huckleberry season at its peak. The plump purple gems are abundant in the Rocky Mountains, to the delight of locals and bears alike. Once you&rsquove plucked your share, try the berries in a combination that blends huckleberry vodka and jam with ginger, elderflower liqueur and rhubarb bitters in a delicate coupe.
City of Tom Dennison from The Berry & Rye: Omaha
Don&rsquot mess with "Boss" Dennison. The legendary racketeer reigned over Omaha for 30 years during the early 20th century, controlling many of the city&rsquos politicians, crime rings and bootlegging operations. That said, he also transformed Omaha&rsquos alcohol industry, converting many of the city&rsquos underground saloons into upscale cocktail lounges. For that, you can raise a glass with his namesake draught of bourbon, Suze, apricot liqueur and dry vermouth.
Photo courtesy of Dillon Gitano
Corpse Reviver No. 2 from Herbs & Rye: Las Vegas
After a night of gambling and imbibing on the Strip, an elixir that promises "revival" sounds like just the ticket. Enter the Corpse Reviver cocktails, so named for their power to bring hung-over zombies back to life. The Corpse Reviver No. 2 has achieved fame as the most palatable, with its somewhat magical medley of gin, Lillet Blanc, Triple Sec, lemon juice and a dash of absinthe.
Winter Julep from Firefly Bistro: Manchester, N.H.
Calling all powderhounds: New Hampshire is the ultimate destination for winter thrillseekers, and even established skiing as its state sport in 1998. After a brisk run on the slopes, you deserve the quintessential apres-ski brew, a piping-hot toddy. Firefly&rsquos twist marries belly-warming bourbon with freshly brewed mint tea (a la julep) and sugar, creating a hybrid that delivers the best of both seasons.
The Jack Rose from Colts Neck Inn: Colts Neck, N.J.
Home to America&rsquos first licensed distillery, Laird & Company, New Jersey has been producing its native spirit, applejack, since the 1600s. At one time, the apple-based brandy was made and sold at the Colts Neck Inn, so it&rsquos fitting that the establishment still serves the most-iconic applejack cocktail, the Jack Rose. The rosy trio of applejack, lime juice and grenadine more than stands the test of time.
Agave Way from Secreto Lounge: Santa Fe, N.M.
You&rsquove officially entered chile territory. New Mexico&rsquos dry desert climate has cultivated a vast range of chile pepper varieties, but none so popular as its crisp green chile. Subtly sweet, spicy and smoky, New Mexico&rsquos green chile provides the bold flavor base for this reposado tequila cocktail made with black grapes, lime juice and agave nectar.
Negroni On Tap from Dante: New York
When you consider New York cocktail royalty, the Manhattan&rsquos a given. But one could argue that the globally beloved Negroni &mdash a bittersweet study in equal-parts balance &mdash has snatched the limelight recently. The straightforward trio of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth is so admired that you can order one at nearly every bar in the city, in endless variation. Barrel-aged, carbonated and served on tap, the Negroni has inspired its very own menu at Dante, where The Negroni Sessions celebrate the many imaginative forms this stalwart can inhabit.
Cherry Bounce from Deep South the Bar: Raleigh, N.C.
It&rsquos not often that a cocktail is given credit for establishing a center of government, but it could be the case in North Carolina. Some believe that the Cherry Bounce played a role in persuading the state&rsquos general assembly to adopt Raleigh as the capital. Legend has it that the cherry brandy, the drink of choice at a tavern where lawmakers met during the late 1700s, nudged them in favor of settling in Raleigh. At Deep South, the formula has changed to feature cherry vodka, cranberry and lime juices, and club soda, but the sentiment remains the same.
North Dakota Night Train from Broadway Grill & Tavern: Bismarck, N.D.
"Night train" is the nickname for a type of sweet, inexpensive fortified wine (with a high alcohol content) that inspired the Guns N&rsquo Roses hit of the same name. Intrigued? Try the homegrown version at Broadway Grill & Tavern that merges surprising flavors like local rhubarb wine, cherry liqueur and chokecherry syrup made from North Dakota&rsquos official state fruit.
Jake’s Bloody from The Fairmount: Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Most states have elected milk as their official beverage, so Ohio really shook things up with its choice of tomato juice. What better way to showcase the tangy tomato (for which the state throws a yearly festival) than in a Bloody Mary? An extra-spicy mix of Clamato, horseradish, mesquite seasoning and Sriracha, Jake&rsquos Bloody throws a curveball with the addition of sharp pepperoncini brine.
Stockyard Roots from Ludivine: Oklahoma City
Thanks to its association with the world&rsquos largest cattle market, Oklahoma City is often affectionately referred to as "Cow-Town." So, naturally, the best way to embody all those stomping hooves in a cocktail is to start with hearty bourbon. Pair that dark spirit with a bittersweet root liqueur and honey, plus orange and chocolate bitters, and you&rsquore ready to hit the stockyards, cowboy.
Northwest Mai Tai from Hale Pele: Portland, Ore.
A whopping 99 percent of the country&rsquos hazelnuts are produced in Oregon, and you&rsquod better believe the state knows how to use them. This tiki joint turns up the classic rum mai tai by swapping almond orgeat (the sweet cocktail syrup laced with orange-flower water) with rich, toasty hazelnut orgeat. The addition of farm-fresh mint and local marionberry liqueur tips the scales even further into Pacific Northwest territory.
Philadelphia Fish House Punch from The Olde Bar: Philadelphia
When a recipe has survived nearly three centuries, it&rsquos clear that the creators were onto something. The story goes that some well-to-do Philly Quakers joined together and built a fishing clubhouse on the banks of the Schuylkill River, where they devised this dangerously easy-drinking punch of multiple Jamaican rums, brandy, peach cordial and spiced lemon. It&rsquos rumored that George Washington drank enough of it to give him a three-day hangover.
Coffee Milk from Cook & Brown Public House: Providence
Good luck finding this regional treasure outside of Rhode Island. Coffee milk is the official state drink, and the comforting duo of milk and sweet coffee syrup has been a favorite since the 1930s, with fans likening its influence to that of the New York egg cream. Cook & Brown boosts the G-rated original with a bit of blackstrap rum, cold-brew coffee, half-and-half and vanilla simple syrup.
Charleston Light Dragoon’s Punch from Husk: Charleston, S.C.
Resurrected from the archives of the Charleston Preservation Society, this antique punch has proven to be one of the most-popular drinks atHusk. The name refers to a Civil War-era military unit that supposedly spent more time partying than fighting. The good news is that they knew how to make a cocktail, and this cup of Jamaican rum, multiple brandies, lemon juice and black tea (the state hospitality drink) is proof.
Photo from Heritage by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Taken by Peter Frank Edwards.
Desert Heat from Vertex Sky Bar: Rapid City, S.D.
There&rsquos more to South Dakota than Mount Rushmore. With three distinct regions, the state is home to both tree-covered mountain ranges and semi-arid badlands, with varying climates to match. To capture this dual quality of the state&rsquos parched desert heat and howling-cold winter, this tequila cocktail adds jalapenos for intensity and cucumbers to cool the lingering spice, tempered with lime juice and simple syrup.
Tennessee Mojito from Merchants Restaurant: Nashville
Its rolling hills and warm breezes make Tennessee a prime location for peach orchards &mdash and those peaches have been known to roll right into the hands of regional spirit makers. Prichard&rsquos peach and mango rum is a hometown favorite that Merchants puts to work in a cool Southern Mojito with lime juice and fresh mint. Sip it on the porch in place of your usual sweet tea.
Photo courtesy of Ashley Hylbert
Frozen Margarita from The Pastry War: Houston
There&rsquos no shortage of slushy margaritas once you hit the Texas border &mdash the margarita is the state&rsquos most-popular cocktail, thanks to the subtropical temperatures. But to find the version that leads the pack, head straight for the esteemed Pastry War, where blanco tequila is brightened by both Key and Persian lime juices, sweetened with agave nectar and rimmed with citrus salt. You won&rsquot look back.
Photo courtesy of Julie Soefer Photography
Salt Lake Spritz from Pallet Bistro: Salt Lake City
In a state where beers above 4 percent ABV are considered liquor and a cocktail&rsquos primary spirit is limited to one-and-a-half ounces, the breezy, low-alcohol spritz can be ubiquitous. Pallet&rsquos variation marries tart cranberry juice, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters and Prosecco, a fusion that&rsquos light and bubbly enough that you can tell the bartender to keep &rsquoem coming.
Photo courtesy of Stacey Jo Rabiger
Vermont Martini from Ye Olde Tavern: Manchester, Vt.
Visiting the Green Mountain State during sugaring season? You&rsquove hit the maple jackpot. As the nation&rsquos leading producer of the sticky-sweet syrup, Vermont is renowned for its maple-infused treats. But after you&rsquove dribbled it all over your pancakes, stop in to this Colonial-era tavern to see the state&rsquos liquid gold shine in a no-frills martini featuring local Vermont vodka distilled from whey and 100 percent pure maple syrup.
Captain Marryat Julep from Julep’s: Richmond
Get ready to wrap your hands around one of the oldest recorded julep recipes. Though most often associated with Kentucky, the julep was most likely invented in Virginia, where it was prepared with brandy instead of bourbon. An Englishman named Captain Marryat was touring the U.S. in the 1800s when he discovered the refreshing beauty of the julep. This recipe follows his original blueprint: apple and peach brandy, fresh mint and simple syrup over a mountain of crushed ice.
Barrel Aged Raincoat from Local 360: Seattle
Looking for a reprieve from that damp Seattle drizzle? Cozy up with a wintry cocktail that celebrates the Evergreen State&rsquos exceptional homegrown spirits. House barrel-aged moonshine and dark walnut liqueur tangle with maple syrup and chocolate bitters to create the liquid equivalent of a thick flannel blanket.
Sheeney’s Rickey from Teddy & The Bully Bar: Washington, D.C.
The Rickey looms large over D.C.&rsquos drinking scene, especially since it was instated as the District&rsquos official cocktail in 2011. Created in the 1880s at Shoomaker&rsquos Bar, the simple highball typically features gin or bourbon, half a lime and seltzer. Teddy & The Bully takes a new-age approach, pairing D.C. gin with a sweet bourbon reduction and floating a zesty lime foam over the surface. Bubbly, aromatic and gently acidic, it gives the original a run for its money.
Black Walnut Manhattan from Bridge Road Bistro: Charleston, W. Va.
Fall is prime time to experience the bounty of West Virginia&rsquos black walnut harvest. The annual Black Walnut Festival is a treasure trove of nutty spectacles, from baking contests to flea markets that salute the state specialty. While enjoying the festivities, don&rsquot forget to slurp a few special Manhattans made with West Virginia bourbon, spiced walnut liqueur and black walnut bitters.
Brandy Old Fashioned from Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge: Milwaukee
Order an Old Fashioned in Wisconsin and you might be in for a surprise. Out-of-staters will likely expect to receive rye whiskey or bourbon, but Wisconsin custom dictates the use of brandy instead. Local tastes run sweet, so you&rsquoll find that brandy topped with sugar, bitters and Sprite, but you can always adjust your order by saying "sweet, sour or press," which tells the bartender that you want Sprite, Squirt or half-Sprite, half-seltzer.
Photo courtesy of Dan Bishop
Howitzer from The Rose: Jackson, Wyo.
Yee-haw! When in cowboy country, do as the locals do &mdash and name your punch after a historic artillery piece. Inspired by the Chatham Artillery Punch from Charles H. Baker (the 19th-century American author known for his cocktail prowess), the Howitzer packs some heat with its rousing blend of rye whiskey, cognac, red wine, cinnamon and bitters. Plus, you can choose your own Wild West adventure and try it hot or cold.
The LongHouse Food Revival Promises to be Amazing - Recipes
Although it is midafternoon in Panacea, the atmosphere is not quite the balm implied by the name of this coastal town, population 816, near the hinge of the Florida Panhandle. A thick fog hangs over Alligator Harbor, 20 minutes south of Panacea across Ocklocknee Bay off U.S. Route 98, and David Cowie is steering his 24-foot oyster boat straight into it. He motors across the flat, glassy surface of the water as it evaporates into the mist, the clouds hanging like puffs of dirty cotton. It’s a nautical canvas composed in impressionistic shades of gray, or else it’s a John Carpenter movie, and a phantom hook will all at once manifest out of the haze and sweep us—David, his father Preston and myself—into the aqueous beyond, with only the tall pines and gnarled water oaks to bear witness.
And that would really be terrifying—because we’d miss out on the oysters.
Colton McUlley, left, Dylan Thompson, center and Connor Whitfield, with Oyster Boss LLC., work an oyster lease in Alligator Harbor along the Forgotten Coast. of the north Florida panhandle.
They’re out there, thousands of them, clustered in black polyurethane baskets strung in long rows in 80-foot-wide parcels. Sixty-seven of those parcels stretch across some 100 acres of the harbor that are leased by the state of Florida to oyster farmers. After a few minutes, we arrive at one of the sites, where David’s son Stone stands in another boat, hoisting “bags,” as they’re called, with his brother Hunter. This multigenerational crew is checking up on a maturing batch of oysters, which have been growing in the harbor since last July. The saline water is prized for the distinctive character it imparts to the oysters and inspired the name of the Cowie family enterprise: Semper Salty Oysters.
To prove the point, David empties out a basket of about 200 oysters onto a portable sorting table, digs through to find a keeper and pops it open with a knife. It’s a little soon yet, in mid-January. The shell is a bit thin, but the oyster is already as long as a thumb, and as meaty. I tip the shell back so the liquor washes over my tongue, as stimulating as a tequila shot, and the oyster slides fast behind, a brackish eruption that tastes like the day feels, all sea and brume and chill and mottled, monochrome sky.
In its heyday, Florida’s wild oyster industry supported hundreds of oyster boats raking Apalachicola Bay along Florida’s Forgotten Coast.
Only a couple of years ago, the Cowies had other pursuits. Stone, 28, is a professional golfer. Hunter, 29, was moving furniture. David, 56, had been a first sergeant in the United States Marine Corps—hence the nod to the Marine Corps motto in his brand name—and went on to manage a branch of a satellite dish installation company. Preston, 80, was a retired insurance man. Between tournaments, Stone had been working for the Panacea Oyster Co-op, and talked his family into launching their own business.
“I realized [my boat] was the best office in the world,” David says. “I grew up always fishing and hunting and being outside. When I got out of the Marines I worked in an office and I thought, ‘I don’t like this too much.’ I love working out of a boat.” David also finds a different level of satisfaction when praise comes not from a corporate supervisor but a happy customer. “Your feedback doesn’t come for nine months, but for some reason when it happens it keeps you running for another year.”
Photography by Steve Dollar
The budding oyster industry became viable after the state allowed oysters to be farmed off-bottom or in what’s called the water column, where cages are floating on or submerged in the water. Prior to that, leases allowed farming up to 6 inches above the bottom of the water. Higher up, there is a richer supply of nutrients and fewer predators. Oysters can grow bigger and faster.
The Florida Department of Aquaculture has issued more than 700 leases of state-owned submerged land held by a variety of companies ranging from mom-and-pop farms to larger operations, with sites circling the state from St. Johns County to Escambia County. By one oyster farmer’s rough estimate, there are perhaps 40 outfits or individuals farming in Alligator Harbor alone. Much like Semper Salty, the farmers’ brands evoke a marshy “merroir”—a coinage based on “terroir,” which refers to the factors affecting the taste of wines—and entrepreneurial attitude in equal measure, with names like Saucey Lady Oyster Company, Outlaw Oyster Co., Oyster Boss, OysterMom, Pelican Oyster Company, Nature Coast Oyster Company and Wakulla Mystique Oyster Farm.
Plastic cages used in the production of farm raised oysters at Alligator Point Harbor along the Forgotten Coast. of the north Florida panhandle.
Wild oysters are harvested, not farmed. The resurgence of farming comes amid the collapse of an older, traditional wild oyster industry in Apalachicola that once supplied a tenth of the nation’s bivalves and 90 percent of Florida’s. The culprits are many. Hurricanes, overharvesting and ecological issues took their toll, but the worst factor has been the so-called “water war” between Florida, Alabama and Georgia. That feud goes back to the 1940s, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began building a series of five dams that restricted the flow from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin into Apalachicola Bay—water that wild oysters need to flourish. The case now is headed to the Supreme Court.
“It was booming back in the day,” says Reid Tilley, 24, who partnered with his father Jeff to launch Oyster Boss, a company that raises Alligator Harbor brand oysters in those namesake waters and also operates a processing center in Sopchoppy.
Hunter, left, and his father David Cowie grade and sort oysters on a table inn their boat in the production of farm raised oysters at Alligator Point Harbor along the Forgotten Coast of the north Florida panhandle. Grandfather Preston is not visible.
“If a gentleman wanted to make some money, he’d go out there and tong up some oysters and take them to a seafood house.”
No more. “It’s not a day-to-day paycheck,” Tilley continues. “You have to nurture the oysters, and plan well in advance the income you’re going to have until the oysters get up to size.
“There’s not a lot of opportunities in small-town America anymore. If you want a decent, good-paying job you’ve got to move to the city or an industrial area or be an entrepreneur.”
Even successful farmers face a long haul.
“Our best month has been 20,000 a week,” says Tim Jordan, 74, co-founder, with Walt Dickson, of the Panacea Area Oyster Company, purveyor of Saucey Lady oysters and a processing facility that serves many other farms. “Right now, we’re striving to hit 10,000. Hurricane Michael kicked our butts.”
Saucey Lady oysters are farmed in Oyster Bay, off Shell Point, where the salinity is lower than in Alligator Harbor. That accounts for what Jordan calls a “creamier” taste and texture, “not too salty but still salty.” Salt level is but one of multiple factors that determine how an oyster turns out. Heat, nutrient levels and the technique used to grow the bivalves all come into play. “That’s what’s so wild about oyster farming. You can have two oyster farms side-by-side and the [oysters] still will be unique.”
John Fountain, with Nature Coast Oyster Company, divides baskets of baby oysters to split cages in the production of farm raised oysters at Alligator Harbor along the Forgotten Coast. of the north Florida panhandle.
The romance comes at a premium. The labor is intensive, high risk is only a hurricane away and profit can be wishful thinking. “It’s a hard way to make a living,” says Jordan, joking that he’s heard some of his peers refer to themselves as ranchers.
“I don’t think anybody’s made much money. We’re going to have to get really efficient and learn how to do it.”
Jordan, who once made his living selling produce, got into oysters six years ago when Tallahassee Community College initiated a one-year aquaculture program run by its Wakulla Environmental Institute in Crawfordville, where Jordan’s wife was a coordinator. If you meet someone farming oysters in the Panhandle, they are probably one of its graduates, who number around 120.
John Fountain, with Nature Coast Oyster Company, shows off some baby oysters as he and his wife Jennifer split cages in the production of farm raised oysters at Alligator Harbor along the Forgotten Coast. of the north Florida panhandle.
Jennifer Fountain is one of them. She started the WEI class in September 2017 and harvested her first oysters the following spring, operating under the school’s lease. Fountain’s family has owned a house on St. Teresa Beach, about an hour south of Tallahassee, since the 1930s, “right there by the oyster and clam leases,” so life on the water is second nature to her. Her husband has a full-time job and her children are older, which allowed the former stay-at-home mom to take on a new challenge. “I’m trying to stay afloat out there,” says Fountain, 45, who markets her oysters under the name Nature Coast. “Just being out there on the water, it’s a purpose.” Fountain’s is one of the smaller operations in Wakulla County, although she emphasizes quality. “I take a lot of pride. I’m a meticulous person. My oysters, I try to baby them.”
Even though wild oystering is a male-dominated industry, oyster farming draws more women to its ranks. Deborah Keller, another aquaculture student turned farmer, christened herself “Oyster Mom” and sells oysters under the brand. Outlaw Oysters, one of the larger outfits in Panacea, is owned by Denita Sassor and her partner Blake Gardner. Sassor estimates they move between 20,000 and 30,000 oysters a week, bolstering the income they make as regional dealers of oyster farming equipment. “You can be respected for what you’re doing,” she says. “Luckily, it’s an industry that either one [man or woman] can do.”
Shucked farm raised oysters at the Seinyard at Rock Landing in Panacea along the Forgotten Coast. of the north Florida panhandle.
Asked about her experiences, Fountain has to laugh. “In the summertime, me and my friend were out there in our bikinis working, so I guess we get a little more attention than the guys there,” she says, drawing a contrast to the beer commercial imagery of bare-chested men hauling cages out of the water. It’s the same effect when Fountain is hauling a boat behind her macho Ford F-350 truck. “People know who we are.”
In the coming years, Fountain and her fellow farmers can expect a lot more company on the water, thanks to the Wakulla Environmental Institute.
TINKERING WITH TASTE
“When you get done you know more about oysters than you ever thought,” says Bob Ballard, the institute’s executive director. That sentiment includes Ballard, as well, a former deputy secretary of land and recreation for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection who developed the aquaculture program from scratch after local residents signaled a need for it. The institute, housed since 2016 in a unique, eco-friendly building on a wooded compound in Crawfordville, also offers programs in agriculture, conservation and drone technology. It’s the aquaculture classes, though, that have made the most social impact, fostering the promise of a return to the glory days when the oyster ruled the coastal counties of Wakulla, Franklin and Gulf. The nighttime sessions draw their share of students who have long made their income from the water, which could be expected. Ballard was surprised, however, when half the enrollment came from state workers from Tallahassee, retired or close to it.
“They’ve been behind a desk all their life, and now they want to get out in the wild,” he says. “This has been a fantasy for them. They turn out to be really good students.”
Ballard called on former Gov. Rick Scott to expand aquaculture leases to include the full water column in 2013, which allowed oyster farming to take over from wild oyster harvesting. He refers to his students as “pioneers,” and brings an inventor’s spirit to his mission. He’s seeking a patent for a device—an “oyster dome” made of high-strength concrete—that he believes can regenerate the state’s native oyster population, which in turn could trigger a domino effect of ecologically positive results. “It may take five years. It’s not a light switch,” he says, but if his plan succeeds, the outcome could be a dramatic response to Florida’s plague of red tide. “Red tide skipped over Wakulla County. You put out the oysters and red tide will go away. One oyster filters 50 gallons of water a day.”
Reid Tilly lifts a basket of farm raised oysters from the salty water of Alligator Harbor along the Forgotten Coast. of the north Florida panhandle. Tilly’s is co-owner of Oyster Boss LLC in Sopchoppy, Florida.
When someone sits down with a cold beer, a slice of lemon and a bottle of hot sauce to sample a dozen raw oysters from Alligator Harbor, Oyster Bay or Skipper Bay—the three main oyster farming spots near Panacea—what they are tasting is a work in progress. “It’s a bit of a saga to get this decoded and figure out how Mother Nature wants to do this for us,” says Jeff Tilley of Oyster Boss. “An industry needs to improve to be healthy, and there’s only so much [money] we can get at the wholesale level.” To produce more oysters, to meet a demand that outstrips supply, to boost the odds of an oyster surviving from seed to saltine cracker, Tilley emphasizes the need to use science. After suffering “stout losses” in some early harvests, he convinced a breeder to tinker with his Alligator Harbor brood stock and got dramatic results.
“An 80 percent success rate,” he says. “I’m becoming quite optimistic that maybe an improvement on the genetics has unlocked what we need on the north Gulf Coast.”
American shellfish hatcheries date back to the 1970s, according to Bill Walton, an associate professor at Auburn University’s Shellfish Lab on Dauphin Island, Alabama. Oyster farming took off in the ’90s.
“Our region is behind because we’re the part of the country that still had abundant wild oysters,” he says. “It’s tremendous to see Florida come on board and grow quickly.” Soon, all five Gulf Coast states will be in alignment. Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have smaller aquaculture industries, and Texas just passed legislation to authorize its own off-bottom farms, which Walton expects will be in business by this time next year.
“The analogy here is microbrews,” says Walton, also known as “Dr. Oyster,” who suggests that there are different markets for wild and farmed
oysters, and plenty of room for both. “Maybe we should build on the fact that we have this amazing, quality, fresh seafood that is harvested sustainably from water that is well regulated. Florida is absolutely capable of producing world-class oysters at these farms. It’s only a matter of time before you see these oysters on menus in New York or Boston or Washington or Chicago.”
Megan DiPietrantonio tags a box of fresh cleaned farm raised oysters at the Panacea Area Oyster Company, an oyster processor in Panacea, Florida.
Reid Tilley remembers his first time sampling an oyster. It was at his father’s hunting club. “Old dudes standing around a tailgate popping these rocks open,” he says. “I was 6 or 7. My dad handed me one on a cracker, and I thought, ‘Man, that does not look appetizing.’” As he got older, Tilley acquired a taste for them. “Now I’ve eaten so many I could care less to eat another one.”
Nonetheless, Tilley describes the appeal of the classic Apalachicola oyster to a tee. “The first part is you get that hit of salt, and at the end, you chew it up, and the sweetness comes up out of it. Just a hint of sweetness at the end.”
Although oysters are harvested all along the Gulf Coast, and across Florida, Tilley and his neighboring aquaculturists are fortunate to be farming exactly where they are, a place that imbues their oysters with something extra.
“The key is water quality,” Reid Tilley says.
“The Panhandle is literally the last stretch of coast that has not been turned into a heavy-duty residential-commercial area.”
Fewer people means less wastewater and pesticide. “There’s not that many lawns.” Tilley is wary of a population surge that could threaten his livelihood. “More and more and more people are coming. It’s only a matter of time,” he says. Time enough, anyone might hope, for the Lost Coast’s fabled shellfish to again find something like perfection.
Last spring, Tilley and his father participated in the Billion Oyster Party, a charitable gathering at the Liberty Warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to benefit restoration efforts in New York Harbor.
“There were 50 farms from all around. The Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf, Alaska. Hundreds of oysters. I couldn’t find one, and maybe I’m biased,” Tilley says, “but I couldn’t find one that tasted nearly as good as the Florida Panhandle
oyster like we grow.”
Morning / Mourning Benchnew
Post by livinganewlife on Jan 16, 2009 10:46:38 GMT -5
Hi guys. would someone please explain to me the morning / mourning bench that was symbolized in Black Baptist churches during revivals as the process one take in order to receive salvation.
also has anyone on here ever experienced the morning / mourning bench. and if you have experienced please share.
Post by MinLisa on Jan 16, 2009 10:59:33 GMT -5
My Pastor talk about that bench when she was growning up. It was just a separate bench located in the front or on the side for people that wanted to be saved or ready for baptism. so they want having any distractions. from the person that next to them that may not want to be saved, or someone is talking, ..etc.etc.
I think we still need a mourning bench, I remember when I was younger. the mother board has a section for those that was seeking the infilling of the Holy Ghost. and how they surround them calling on the name of Jesus.
For with God all things are Possible
Post by stillfocused on Jan 16, 2009 11:39:37 GMT -5
I have missed you all..this question had me giggling. The"moaning" bench in the church I grew up in was the first pew. We sat that bench during revival week because we wanted to "join" the church and in a part of that was we had to be baptized and it let everyone know who the candidates were for church "membership" and baptism. And sometimes those mothers left their side of the church and sat on that first pew.
It's rare to see to that now..because the first rows are now reserved for the Pastor, the elders, their families, and etc. How many of you remember the altars with rails, and a place to kneel along with the
kneeling pad ?
Post by krazeeboi on Jan 22, 2009 20:50:23 GMT -5
Yeah, I heard about that "mourners bench" for those seeking the Lord during revivals. I actually had a chance to read up a little on the history of the modern-day altar call, popularized by evangelist Billy Sunday. The different ways the "call to salvation" (if I can call it that for the sake of clarity) was done before that were interesting.