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Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Note:  For the Winner Winner part of this Newsletter, scroll to the bottom!
May is for Memorials and Mothers and many other celebrations…and along with these things come picnics.  When I was a child there never was a picnic without fried chicken.  In fact, I can recount my life stages in fried chicken.  My first memory of fried chicken is my grandmother’s pressure cooked version with 10 or 13 or so herbs and spices before the Colonel’s existed… I associate this moist, room temperature crunchy chicken with church picnics and roller coasters…I was so little I could have easily flown out of the roller coaster car, but grandmomma would not be deterred…she kept a tight hold on me as I lifted out of the seat and her wig flew off and we had to shut the ride down so it could be retrieved from the guts of the all wooden contraption.  This was at Buckroe Beach – Virginia’s answer to Coney Island NY.  This amusement park only exists in memory now.  Thank you grandmomma for introducing me to roller coasters!  Gordon believes he may be a tad too stiff to continue these days…I’ll just have to go without him.  (pleeeeeeeease, honey?)

Then came Daddy’s fried chicken – cast iron (and sometimes aluminum – oh, no!!) frying pans, salt and pepper only – this is the skin we used to fight over when mom held hers up for raffle.  Every other chicken since has had a bar so high few have come close.

When I moved to Cincinnati for college, fried chicken was the least of my concerns and I don’t remember eating any at all until one day, my then boyfriend (a westsider) introduced me to the Cincinnati Reds.  Opening day tickets in the nosebleed section.  We were very young; this was fun!  Back in “the day” (you know, when Buckroe Beach was still open) – one could haul in just about anything to a stadium.  The family picked me up in their old jalopy and let me tell you the smell in that car was overwhelming – I became VERY hungry for the bucket (and it was a BIG bucket) of Ron’s Roost Fried Chicken that I was not allowed to touch until our noses began bleeding.  This chicken came so close to Daddy’s it almost made me cry.  Not being a westsider, this chicken was very elusive to me, but over the years I’ve managed to find an excuse or two to visit and always suggest Ron’s as a meeting place for friends, where the cooked to death green beans and the suspiciously “real” mashed potatoes create a perfect plate for me.

THEN there was the Charleston, SC visit to see my best friend Chris around 1992.  We arrived while he was still at work but he said he could meet us at the Radisson close to him – said they served a good lunch.  Good?  I figured, I’m in South Carolina – I should order fried chicken!!  So I did…and yet again another crying jag.  The plate came out so hot and crispy, I tore into a thigh (my favorite) and the juices and grease exploded in my mouth and nirvana encompassed me…the memory of this one time fried chicken lunch has never left me – I wanted to go back the next day but Chris wouldn’t allow it.  He thought I was ridiculous.

Then came Walt’s.   If you’ve never been to Walt’s Hitching Post in Ft. Wright KY, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Their cast iron fried chicken (along with the Greyhound Tavern’s deep fried ) are the two that come closest to a perfect marriage of my grandmomma’s and my father’s fried chicken. They also make a steak that rivals any fancy steakhouse at a more reasonable price.  Oh, and The Eagle in OTR does a great job with southern fried chicken too!

If you’re just not in the mood to go out and you have a Remke’s Market near you, this is our go-to for “I’m too lazy let’s get chicken”.  Yes, Lula eats take-out chicken, but only if it’s worth it.   In fact, on my most recent visit to see daddy, I found out he had discovered a place so good he doesn’t make fried chicken at home any more.  This fried chicken comes from the gas station down the street from Columbia Sailing Club (and it tastes ALOT like daddy’s).   If you didn’t know it already, gas station fried chicken is developing a cult following in the US these days, and I haven’t tasted it yet, but I’m told there is WONDERFUL gas station fried chicken in and around Cincinnati, called Krispy Krunchy.

Yup, sitting on the clubhouse veranda, eating gas station fried chicken, strawberry-pepita and potato salads and fudge brownies with walnuts, drinking in a sun with no clouds and a perfect 70 degrees with winds at about 7 knots (notice I take on the vernacular of a sailor – when in Rome…), I sigh deeply and contentedly with family surrounding me, and reach for another piece.  Of chicken – not brownie.

If you struggle with fried chicken and need a tip or two, I can give you my recipe if you email me at Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering .

A Note From Chef Lori

Lula’s was just chosen by The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s ORV Region as 2018 Supplier of the Year!!!  We are thrilled to be recognized and honored by this wonderful organization!

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Happy Spring of Snow!

Merry Christmas!

Happy Spring Everybody!  As I write this I am witnessing a literal white out from my desk window.  Our neck of the woods received 6 inches of snow this week of the beginning of spring.  I know this because I measured it on my back deck.  This did not deter me, however, from INSISTING on a few spring preparations:  Tarragon Shrimp Salad, Grand Marnier Marinated Strawberries with Clotted Elderflower Cream, Roasted Artichoke Dip with Spinach and Shrimp, Cream of Asparagus or Leek Soup…the list goes on and on.  There are so many foodstuffs budding and brimming forth – beautiful free range spring lamb, and fresh rabbit can still be had, as well as Oysters (Rockalula!) and Mussels.  Rhubarb and Apricots are beckoning me (be on the lookout for our Raspberry Rhubarb and Apricot Sage Preserves finding their way into our recipes!)   I think “creativity” is the descriptor that keeps coming up in reviews that have earned us “Caterer of the Year” for 4 consecutive years with Angie’s List (see more bragging below in the second section!)

With the changing of each season I get so excited about the possibilities of the new bounty.  We have Easter and graduating mouths to feed, as well as new moms and parents to be, blushing brides and gallant grooms…the list goes on and on.  As you know we book out pretty thoroughly this season so if you have an event in mind its best to contact Lula’s sooner rather than later!   In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this picture of our Strawberry-Pistachio Trifle.  Drooling allowed.

A Note From Chef Lori

…and the hits just keep on comin’…we’ve won again (see proof below!), and it’s  because we love what we do and we love YOU.  Here are some descriptors YOU gave us this year:  “stunning”, “unique” “unmatched”, “inventive”, “attention to detail”, “beautiful presentation”, and, of course, “DELICIOUS”!!!

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About Chef Lori

Chef Lori Pierce, owner of Lula’s, creates unique, boutique cuisine to impress your guests and clients in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area.  Our custom recipes and menus delight an intimate gathering of 10, a celebration for 100, and anything in between.

At Lula’s, Love is ALWAYS our first ingredient!

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Happy VD!  Would You Rather Have Chocolate or Gold?!?

Growing up, Valentine’s Day was not just for lovers — it was for me from mom.  Previous recitations would suggest that mother’s interest in Valentine’s Day culinary delights might be minimal, if existent at all. True, this.  I do not remember a Valentine’s Day meal ever being prepared, either for my father or for the family.  Siblings may correct if their memories differ. Mom always acknowledged the day with a Russell Stover Heart or Whitman’s Sampler Heart, or whatever, 6-8-10 candies and a card, but I guess she noted my indifference to sweets at some point and one Valentine’s Day in either my 10th or 11th year, instead, I woke up to a small jewel box containing a gold, filigreed heart pin. How could she know it would take my breath away, or did she just get lucky? I continue to be a sucker for quality bling.

I wore that small gold heart frequently, mostly on my sleeve (for real!) for years, and when I went to college it mysteriously disappeared along with a fantastically exquisite green silk blouse. I say mysteriously because I never caught Amy (Yeah, I’m naming names — girlfriend NOT!), the suitemate who everyone knew wasn’t quite on the up and up, mostly because she (ineffectively) tried to steal boyfriends, and was found slinking amongst dorm rooms…

A piece of my heart went with mom, and her gold heart is gone, but that’s ok, because the heart is a muscle and it can repair and strengthen, and has the amazing capacity to grow as long as your mind and your arms are open wide.

A Note From Chef Lori

Hearts aren’t just for Valentine’s Day – you can order Lula’s “Heart’s Afire” anytime – 5-Spice Quail Breast in Puff Pastry with Wilted Mustard Greens, Pomegranate and our Secret Spicy Sauce!

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A New Year without Mom

My mom died this holiday season.  Don’t be sad for me, or her – she wanted to go.  She needed to go.  Alzheimer’s is not pretty and it’s better to be over sooner rather than later.

Mom never even LIKED eating -she always used to chide me “why can’t you eat to live, not live to eat!”  No one could figure out where my love of food and cooking came from.  Mom did love to snack, however, and Potato Sticks were frequently her lunch.  I also have MOSTLY warm and fuzzy memories of our “Friday Night Parties” where a now non-existent Kraft Dry Onion Dip mixed with milk would thicken up and we would snuggle into bed with it and a bag of Wise Potato Chips.  The MOSTLY comes from being kicked by either my brother or my mother because I was too fidgety.

Mom came into this world chewing on broken glass, and metaphorically at least, that’s how she left.  You see, when mom was a toddler/pre-schooler, grandmomma used to put her out in the yard to play and the neighborhood was relatively new with construction debris.  Both grandmomma and mom would recount stories of the broken glass snacks, grandmother “tsking” as she told them (she “tsked” at just about everything mom said/did), and mom laughingly would recount how she LIKED the taste/feel/look of the red, blue, and green glass bits she would find in the dirt and put in her mouth.  Mom’s favorite snack as a child besides the glass, was an already eaten, used up corn cob she took to bed suck on at naptime.  I suppose these are the pacifiers and fruit roll-ups of the depression era.

Mom also hated to cook.  She resented the daily grind of having to feed a family of 6.  Her only interest in food might be derived from something new and different, but because she didn’t care about food, she would not get the proper ingredients for the new recipe; she would simply substitute whatever UNreasonable facsimile we had in our fridge/pantry/freezer.  Think Velveeta for Parmigiano Reggiano.  Mom cursed like a sailor and when, in our prepubescent growth spurt years we would dare to hungrily ask “what’s for dinner?” her response would be “SH*T”.  Yes, I get my mouth from my mother.

Mom didn’t like meat (red or any other hue).  Daddy made a mean fried chicken and when he made it for dinner she would peel off her skin and hold it up for auction.  Then she would pick at the protein and make disgusting sounds and expressions.  She liked fish though, and we frequently had the fish that daddy caught fried for dinner, and then again for breakfast.  This is not uncommon down south – fish for breakfast.  I still love it for breakfast.

Mom also liked shellfish, along with beans and vegetables.  She was an expert crabber, growing up in Tidewater, and NOBODY could pick a blue crab cleaner than mom.  This, another residual depression skill.  Waste nothing.  Wash your aluminum foil, and rewash it again for yet a 3rd time until it falls apart.

Mom naturally found herself on a macrobiotic diet at about 50 and dropped tons of weight (she was never huge but from about 50 to 80 she was a size 4).  This healthy diet was supplemented by a daily room temperature Tab she carried around with her everywhere she went to her various meetings and charity functions.  Tab also adorned the piano where she taught lessons for 50 or so years.  She NEVER drank water and I’m positive this contributed to her dementia in a significant way.   She loved Daddy’s wine though, and in her recent last years, we discovered that she had come to think of the nectar of the fig and grape as excellent sources of nutrition, which she called her “juice”.

Who doesn’t like ice cream?  Mom.  Mom could not stand dairy in any form but cheese.  She did love and partake of a Virginia family breakfast tradition at Christmas time, though –  in the form of Oyster Stew, which contains milk.  This we were required to ingest every Christmas morning as far back as I can remember.  No one really liked it but her and my grandfather.  I’ve never been a fan of oysters, but the broth I found palatable.  This, of course, was served with Oyster Crackers.  Oyster crackers that would not get eaten in their entirety and so, were relegated to the pantry for next year’s feast.  One sunny Christmas morning, we all sat down to the formally set table – china, silver, crystal – and our Oyster Stew.  Each of us passed the basket of crackers around and dumped them into our bowls, and one by one, we all looked closer and closer at what seemed to be pepper rising to the top.  Then, the pepper began to writhe with life.  Our curiosity turned to horror as one by one we pushed back our chairs, screeched, and RAN…as daddy’s face turned to ashen grey as it is wont to do when things don’t go right, and granddaddy chuckled and said “it’s just weevils.  They don’t eat much.”  The lesson of don’t save crackers for the next year’s feast was never learned.  We, ever after, had a pantry full of Tupperware.

Thanks mom for this partial trip down food-memory lane.  You’re a bird, you are.  I’m sure you’ve got a tight grip on that Tab and are demanding attention from whomever is lucky enough to be in your path.  I am grateful there is no more broken glass for you.

 

A Note From Chef Lori

 

Lula’s is excited to be a part of the Women’s Initiative Annual Breakfast Planning Committee and I’m hoping you will be able to attend on January 24, 2018.  Held at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center from 7 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., we typically have over 700 women and men in attendance. Our keynote speaker  is Dr. Debra Clary, who works with leaders who want to improve their impact and contribution to their organization.  She is a student and teacher of narrative leadership (storytelling), resilience, transformation and change.  She draws on her corporate experiences, academic research and her standup comic training to inspire others striving to live with purpose. Don’t delay – make your reservation today before it sells out! To register and for more information: www.NKYChamber.com/WIAnnualBreakfast   

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The Mysterious Pomegranate

Orange Zested Creme Patisserie w. Pomegranate and Amaretti

Asian in origin, the pomegranate is considered special for 3 general reasons: 1) They are available only in fall/early winter & their elusivity gives them exclusivity! 2) Virtually all of the pomegranates sold in the United States are grown in one valley in California. 3) They are heavy in anti-oxidants and are packed full of medicinal qualities — from easing stomach aches to shrinking tumours.

Folks tend to shy away from working with pomegranates because they are not the easiest food to work with, plus, they stain just as badly as beets — so wear gloves or be particularly neat!!

Here’s an easy way to get the arils (seeds) out of the pomegranate:  Fill a medium-large bowl with cold water. Cut the crown end of the pomegranate off (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you hold one). Slice down the sides lengthwise from the missing crown — just scoring the flesh. You can then pull apart the fruit in sections and drop them into the water. Then sort of love-up on the sections with your hands gently rolling and squeezing. The arils will break away and drift to the bottom, and the white membrane will float to the top.

Sprinkle the seeds (about ½-3/4 cup per fruit) on salads, or juice them for about ½ cup of juice. You can reduce the juice to a syrup along with some balsamic vinegar for a wonderful glaze for chicken or pork. Because they’re red, they’re naturally a great fit at holiday time. Or, just drink the juice for those fabulous health benefits! Try Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering ‘s Sweet Potato Pops w/Pomegranate when it’s in season — they’re YUMMY! 

A Note From Chef Lori

Our kitchen will be closed from December 22 thru January 5 in order to visit family all over the eastern seaboard! We look forward to literally serving you 🙂 in the new year!

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Be Thankful for our Masala Dabba!

I bought a new vehicle this week. FINALLY, after 1.5 years of knowing exactly what I want and waiting for the right deal it presented itself. Now I can haul your goodies AND feel cushy at the same time! While waiting for the interminable dealer to finish their CRAP, I got hungry and walked down the road to McDonalds. No, I am not a fan but those who know me know that I can find SOMETHING on any menu to get excited about, from Frisch’s to Nobu. At McDonald’s it’s the Breakfast Burrito. When in a pinch, it always fuels me and all of the horrible stuff in it mushes up in my mouth into pure guilty deliciousness.
McDonalds was virtually empty at 10:45…a couple in a corner… a lady sipping coffee by herself.  I grabbed my burrito and water and for some reason, instead of finding the far corner of the room, I sat next to Ms. Coffee.  Perhaps I was fueled by morning Jazzercise or multivitamins or a mixture of both, but I was feeling friendly. I made some stupid comment to her as I slid into the chair and she smiled and responded. That started a 30 minute conversation about the world and all its charms.

I noticed an accent and asked her from whence she came…she answered the Bahamas. Excited to share with her my recent menu for the Jamaican Prime Minister and delegation, I mentioned my Callaloo and Curried Fish Stew, and she wrinkled up her nose and told me she didn’t care too much for greens, but we agreed that cod is a most versatile fish! She went on to talk about her husband’s job in Dubai and the food there, and his wish to have her come for Thanksgiving. That nose wrinkled up again and she said she just couldn’t miss our American tradition at home (the turkey isn’t very good and is horribly expensive in Dubai)..

We talked of experiences at her thanksgiving table and mine, and our heritages, and how we have been culinarily influenced by our friends as well as our own travels and experiences. We determined that macaroni and cheese is a much more common thanksgiving item up north than down south. I had never really thought about that before but it’s true! I’ll serve it at Easter but never Thanksgiving, for some reason. We talked of the spices in the Middle East and her delight at discovering the different curries (this an offshoot of my Jamaican Curry story), and I explained that curry doesn’t come in a jar over there – each household has its own recipe, contained in a spice bowl with many different tiny containers called Masala Dabba (masala meaning mixture, dabba meaning container – kind of like these United States!).

We then talked about North Africa and the very similar spice blends and flavors there akin to the Middle East, which of course led me to brag about my latest invention, now on Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering’s menu in either appetizer or entree form: Merguez & Lentil Stew with Mint and Pistachio Pistou – developed to pair with, off all things, a bourbon cocktail from Mixmaster Extraordinaire Robin Carnes of George Remus Distillery, at the Edible Drinks event last weekend (both the stew and the cocktail contained Ras el Hanout – a Moroccan spice blend).I’m very proud of this one – it’s very complex!  I make the Merguez myself.

Somehow this led to a discussion about migrant workers, both there and here, as well as human trafficking and contemporary slavery. A fascinating conversation, and I am richer for it. I so wish I had gotten her name to at least friend her (my, how contemporary vernacular has changed!)  I believe we could have become good friends.

Ms. Coffee, wherever you are (and I know it’s not Dubai!), thank you for helping me be more thankful this season, and more in touch with all there is for which to be grateful. I hope to meet someone like you again very soon. I guess all it takes is a simple hello.

 

A Note From Chef Lori

Can you BELIEVE ’tis almost the season?!?Think about your holiday party NOW…we’re excited to party with you but Lula only has two hands!!

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You Want To Get To The ROOT Of The Matter, Don’t You?

Celery Root, that is!!  Also called Celeriac, this is a variety of celery that is cultivated for its root, not its stalks.  It is NOT the root of the traditional celery stalks you keep in your fridge (you have some on hand at all times for flavoring soups and stews, as well as snacking, right?!?)

Celeriac (pictured above in Lula’s for Lunch…and More! ‘s Creamy Pear and Celeriac Soup) has a knobby, dirty, formidable looking root that you will want to peel.  Because it’s starchy, in general you want to pick the smaller of the roots available to you.  The end product will be sweeter.  The more you cook it the sweeter it becomes.  It makes a great, “different” puree when you’re looking for a base for proteins (think parsnip instead of potatoes), and it provides one of those mysterious “what’s IN this?” flavors to sauces, soups and stews.  Now GET IN THAT KITCHEN and try something different!

There IS No Shortcut to Mushrooms!

 

Shrooms and String Theory

Merry Christmas!As Gordon and I BOTH lay flat on our backs on ice (his a result of the story below, and mine a result of stubbornness and stupidity) we are fondly remembering our short trip last week to see Dwight Yoakam who didn’t show up (illness) then a short visit to one of our favorite places on earth – Red River Gorge. Shhh. I really DON’T want to get the word out – this place is unspoiled and wild and we want to keep it that way.

We have our favorite trails – some are mine, some are his – and this time we really just walked a few of the short ones and didn’t do any serious hiking.  One of the beautiful aspects of any walk in nature is you can take that walk one thousand times and you will always see something new every time. This time, on Tar Kiln Trail, I caught my first delightful glimpse of a red mushroom.  It was just brilliant, and I thought to myself how lucky am I! and then, right next to it I spotted a pink mushroom – first sighting ever!

Feeling a bit like Alice and the Rabbit Hole, I slowed down and wandered off the path (Gordon kept forging ahead – he likes to clip along and I like to stop and smell the granite as he likes to put it). I began to look down instead of ahead and as I slowed and wandered (to a literal crawl on my hands and knees), a whole new world appeared before me – a reminder, once again, of the circle of life and String Theory.  This is a world teeming with energy and movement – you just have to be still to be aware of it. The undergrowth, in its varying degrees of decay, was producing life and energy to nourish what was infant and just emerging.

Mushrooms are a most delicious fungi – the variety of edibles is practically unending and each has its own fragrance and taste profile. Mushrooms are an excellent source of umami – the often undefinable protein profile that can give a dish its depth of flavor. This week I’m making a client favorite: Mesquite Roasted Chicken with some roasted wild mushrooms, artichokes and spinach.  It is indeed mushroom season, but even if it wasn’t, I would wish for you a wandering eye, and a slow enough gait that you can indeed smell the granite (and find the mushrooms) because, as I said previously, there is NO shortcut to mushrooms! (Thank you J.R.R. Tolkien for inspiring the title of this newsletter).

 

A Note From Chef Lori

Can you BELIEVE ’tis almost the season?!? Think about your holiday party NOW…we’re excited to party with you but Lula only has two hands!!

Photo courtesy of ME – an edible Cauliflower Mushroom!

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Pineapple

How do you pick a pineapple in a store?  I always pluck out a center leaf – if it comes out quite easily the pineapple is ripe.  Now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, though, I guess everyone else will do the same and when I get there, maybe that’s not such a good test anymore!!  So, I’ll smell it at the stem end.  The stronger and sweeter it smells (it should REALLY reek of pineapple), the riper it is.  If you really need a pineapple and they are all giving off only faint smells, buy it and let it sit on the counter for a couple of days till the aroma develops.  Then slice into that juicy bad boy!!  – Lula

An Asparagus Primer

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Roast Beef w/Homemade Wasabi Creme

Spring has sprung and with it so has the asparagus!  Did you know asparagus is related to the lily?  You can get green, purple, and white asparagus for a lovely bouquet.  Don’t shave purple asparagus either – the fabulous color is only skin deep.  Purple asparagus contains about 20% more sugar than the other two, and less fiber, so it’s sweeter and more tender.

Store ALL of your asparagus upright (cut stalk down) in a little bit of water in the fridge – it’ll last much longer!  The next time you visit Lula’s website, or Lula’s Facebook Page, order our  refreshing Chilled Creamy Asparagus Soup,  our lovely Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart (or tartlettes if you’re having an appetizer party!) or our FABULOUS Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Roast Beef with our Homemade Wasabi Crème!