I was recently invited to experience southern American cuisine at an event hosted by the US Embassy in London to promote the upcoming Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. The large and enthusiastic crowd got the chance to
fight over sample some Southern specialities prepared by several notable chefs who'd been flown over specially.
I particularly enjoyed Kelly English's crudo of scallop and malt vinegar and Ashley Christensen's cornmeal-fried Carolina catfish with pickled collard remoulade. My glass of Virginian Viognier was a tasty and appropriate partner. Josh Besh's peppered beef tenderloin, fingerling potato ravigote and wild mushroom tea was also good, as was Duane Nutter's sausages with creole mash with creole cabbage.
Drink-wise, as well as Virginian wines, Sazerac cocktails were also served made with rye whiskey, Peychaud's bitters and the distinctive Legendre Herbsaint – a pastis named after the French/Creole term for wormwood. It was originally labelled Absinthe (traditionally used in this cocktail), but in the 1930s the US authorities objected to Legendre's use of the word and the company had to revise the name. I haven't yet been to this part of the States, but I can only imagine how good it must taste in the hot and sticky deep South. Anyway, if I can get my hands on a bottle of Herbsaint, I'd be happy to give it a go in north London on a warm summer evening with some Bessie Smith playing in the background. For now it'll the closest I'll be getting to New Orleans.