Gabe Stabley’s approach to his food and the environment at Outer Banks Taco Bar is intuitively centered around what’s going to make people feel good. People, meaning all of us: me, you, Gabe, and the people who work there. It’s comfortable and satisfying; unique and interesting but still familiar. Nothing feels forced about the food or the setting, because it’s not. The empanadas, the fried rice, the Cuban sandwich – everything is made fresh to order. It’s not cooked until the feeling strikes you and you ask for it. The music is whatever the staff feels like listening to. Even the specials are often inspired by whatever the cook, Nick, or the servers were craving and plucked fresh out of the kitchen for their own lunches between customers.
With a careful focus on quality and regional, seasonal ingredients, Matt Payne is creating true artisan goods on the Outer Banks. While he spends his days cooking wildly-popular dishes as the chef for Bad Bean Baja Grill, more ideas for new and interesting flavors and foods are ever-present in his mind.
Nine years ago, Matt, a 2003 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, began making homemade bacon as Christmas gifts he and his wife could share with friends and family. Each year, he’d turn out a new version of bacon, with different seasonings and components. Recently, he arrived at the idea of pancetta but with a southern twist of adding smoke to the process. This, along with Bacon Jam, Habanero & Sweet Potato Hot Sauce, and Ghost of the Outer Banks Hot Sauce were the first of his Paynefully Good Artisans items available to the community for sale at Buffalo City Jug Shop’s Crafts & Drafts Holiday Market this past Christmas. The demand for the jarred Bacon Jam exceeded the supply in the first hour of the event and Matt started an email wait-list of sorts for his next batch. Now, Matt has bacon, bacon jam, and hot sauces in progress all the time and available for sale at pop-ups around town.
southern inspiration & Lacto-goodnessContinue reading “Paynefully Good Artisans Creating Unique, Small Batch Eats on the OBX”
Good news, guys! Your new favorite recipe is here, just in time for Cinco De Mayo. Phew! This is one of those sneakily simple meals with a spicy kick, smoky-tasting roasted peppers, and chorizo-corn-cheese-loaded filling that will make your family/party crowd think you A) planned ahead (but you actually didn’t have to) and B) are amazing (this part is true). You know those meals, right? Yeah – good stuff.
Let’s get to it because I’m super excited to show you these pictures and how easily these Stuffed Poblanos in Tomato Cream Sauce come together.
If you can multitask making the filling, charring the peppers, and warming the sauce, you go girls and boys. You go.
charring and stuffing thingsContinue reading “Stuffed Poblano Peppers in Tomato Cream Sauce”
Can we get some claps and high fives for this juicy, melty, spicy, (beefy) twist on caprese salad? Juicy grilled burgers, melty milky mozzarella, sweet tomatoes, crisp bacon, and this new best thing ever: Spicy Basil Sauce. Hey, Spicy Caprese Burgers, I luh’ you.Continue reading “Spicy Caprese Burgers”
I’m back with some creamy, spicy noods! We’re still comfort-fooding a little bit over here after saying goodbye to our sweet dog, Caesar, and omg does this Coconut Curry Ramen hit me right in the food feelz. It’s basically the sweet and spicy coconut curry sauce of your Thai takeout food dreams, made into a broth for ramen noodles, topped off with crispy mushrooms and an oozy, soft-boiled egg. Top to bottom, this recipe takes less than 30 minutes; most of your time is spent browning the mushrooms, which you could even skip if you’re in “don’t care, need food now” mode.Continue reading “Coconut Curry Ramen”
I want to have a seat at Dawn Holcomb’s table and here’s why: her food is familiar but special, deliciously comforting, and made with intention. There’s a look, a feeling, an emotion Dawn is coaxing out of all of us when we enjoy her food; it’s love and appreciation – the same things Dawn feels when she cooks for us. Her love of cooking runs deep. She was raised in North Carolina and was surrounded by food all the time, with both commercial fishermen and farmers in the family and grandmothers who loved to feed people. Dawn described Sunday dinners to me that make me flat out jealous – her grandmother would cook to feed twenty or more people, whoever happened to drop in to enjoy plates and bowls of seasonal vegetables and platters of three or four different meats and desserts.
dawn’s kitchen OBX
As luck would have it, I did get a seat at Dawn’s table at her Taste of the Beach event in March. This event was a seven-course Italian wine dinner. More accurately, it was a showcase of beautiful, classic Italian food that my husband and I luxuriated in for the entire evening. This is the kind of food Dawn creates on a regular basis as a personal chef and caterer. Her business is Dawn’s Kitchen OBX. She can cook just about anything you ask for, and it’ll taste better than you could ever imagine.Continue reading “Eating and Loving Dawn Holcomb’s Food”
Joey and I are grieving the passing of our sweet dog, Caesar. We called him Bear most of the time… he looked like a bear with his enormous head. We said goodbye to him early Monday morning at 12 1/2 years old. I haven’t posted any sweet goodbyes to him on social media and have barely talked to friends or family about it because I can’t find the words to do him justice and because people’s honest and heartfelt condolences sometimes just make me sadder.
But, I find I can get on here and write in this place where I’m used to expressing joy and enthusiasm. I have so much of those two feelings for Bear. Today, they’re just accompanied by pain and loss. And that’s ok. New things are warming my heart this week: the Mexican food and flowers dropped off by our friends. The cards, warmth, and sympathy from coworkers. The steadfast support of our parents and families. And all the sweet memories of Bear. I am so grateful for his 12 1/2 years here and am overwhelmed with gratitude that we got to spend them with him. He was so good to us.
I am grateful for every second of his life and in the moments before he left his body, I am grateful that he opened his eyes and saw us and made soft noises. I am grateful that the doctors made him so comfortable. And I am grateful for the compassion these times expose in us afterwards. Despite the sadness, I treasure the rawness. Looking over at Joey and seeing him so sad but he’s looking back at me to see if I’m ok.
I am grateful for the many happy memories that come rushing back from Bear’s puppyhood, ones that have long been buried in the cracks in our minds. Him sleeping on top of our heads because he felt weird about sleeping in the bed when he was little. Him hiding under the bed when he saw his first raccoon on the deck. His healthy body running alongside the truck on the beach. His sweetness, playfulness, and kindness will live on in our hearts forever. He will live on with us forever.
If you’re reading this thinking gosh, she’s acting like she lost a family member. You’re right. And if you’ve never had an animal that sparked these kinds of intense emotions when they passed, I hope you someday do. Their impact on our lives is priceless. Their lives and their deaths are meant to make us grow and teach us things about ourselves. What Bear has taught me at this moment is to not be afraid, to take life as it comes, with grace. And to love those around me unconditionally. If you’re reading this, thank you and I ❤ you.
Creating something is therapeutic, cooking is a release, and sharing a meal helps us heal. These old recipes I’m sharing today are the comfort foods we so desperately need at times like these.
comfort food to nourish our hearts
*Because Caesar got really sick on a Sunday, we had to take him to a 24-hour emergency vet in Virginia. The staff at Blue Pearl Animal Hospital in Chesapeake were the most caring, attentive, and helpful people we’ve ever dealt with. They treated Caesar with such care and love, we couldn’t have asked for a better team of people to help us during such a difficult time.
3 words: Buttered Popcorn Gelato. Are you in?! Heck yes you are. This is (microwaveable) buttery, slightly salty, popcorn soaked in milk and cream (more milk than cream b/c it’s gelato and we fancy), combined with brown sugar and egg yolks to become the creamiest, richest, borderline fluffy custard that’s then churned away into Popcorn Wonderland. (Disclaimer: this trip to Popcorn Wonderland requires an overnight stay in the fridge. Gotta chill that custard.) If you really want to make this dessert true magic, make the honey-brown sugar-caramel corn to go on top. Honestly though, you are already magic for making gelato… hellooooo. ✨
This recipe is where my ice cream machine met its destiny. It was born for this. I was born for this. And if there is ever a reason to buy an ice cream machine, this is it. I can’t promise you’ll get the same lush, alluring textural result with any method other than using an ice cream machine. Sorry. The good news is, I’ve been using this one from Cuisinart for 7 years and it’s a dream. (*These are a guaranteed gift-giving win. At least 3 people in my life have given or received one, always to great success.)
*This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links!Print
Buttered Popcorn Gelato
The creamiest, most silky-smooth gelato flavored with caramely brown sugar and buttered popcorn (hint: you steep the popcorn in the milk and cream! So Good!)
- Prep Time: 20 minutes/overnight
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes/overnight
- Yield: 4–6 servings 1x
- 2 C whole milk
- 1 C heavy cream
- 1 bag of microwaveable popcorn w/ butter (I used Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter Popcorn b/c there are no artificial ingredients)
- 3/4 C brown sugar, divided
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 t vanilla
- 1/4 t salt, to taste
- Pop the popcorn in the microwave. Combine the milk and cream in a sauce pan over low heat and add the popcorn. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and discard the popcorn.
- Return the milk/cream mixture to the sauce pan and add 1/2 a cup of the brown sugar. Cook, stirring, over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat.
- In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of the brown sugar with an electric mixer until it is thick and light yellow – about 4 minutes. Add 1/2 a cup of the milk/cream mixture to the egg yolk mixture and stir to combine. Pour this into the sauce pan with the rest of the milk/cream mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for about 8 minutes or until the mixture is thick and when you coat the back of a spoon with it, you can draw a line through it with your finger. Add the vanilla and salt to taste. (The eggs are cooked at this point; it’s ok to taste.)
- Strain this mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Add the chilled mixture to your ice cream machine and churn for about 30 minutes or according to manufacturer instructions. (Start tasting it after about 25 minutes to check the texture; gelato is naturally a little looser than ice cream but it should be thick and not super runny.)
- Chill for another hour or until ready to serve.
If you want to make the caramel corn garnish shown in the picture: Pop another bag of popcorn in the microwave. Melt 1/4 C of brown sugar and 1T of honey in a large sauce pan over low heat; stir constantly with a rubber spatula until it becomes the consistency of caramel. Add about 1/2 the bag of popcorn and stir to combine. Let cool before touching!
The idea for this recipe came from Yotam Ottolenghi’s gorgeous cookbook, Nopi. Except, I made it faster/easier, made it gelato instead of ice cream (because creamy-silky-smoothness is my jam), and I used brown sugar for more of a caramelly flavor, kinda like caramel corn.
Oh man, am I a sucker for a salad. Good salads. Like, reaaaallllly really good ones. This is because, I have a finely tuned Salad Lame-dar which easily detects such disappointing features as wateriness, blandness, and lack of crunch and contrast. Enter, my new sweetheart: Balsamic Steak and Apple Salad. Cannot get enough of this! Thinly sliced, seared flank steak, sauteed apples caramelized with a little brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, tossed with arugula, green onions, funky/salty blue cheese, and pralines… Aggghh! I can’t with this. I love it so much.Continue reading “Balsamic Steak and Apple Salad”
I see you, temperatures above 60 degrees… I’m here for you random daffodils popping up on the corner… And I am living for you, flip flops! It’s springtime! Fire up the grill, give me an icy cocktail, and turn the music up, pleeeeeaaazzze! We’re putting the bacon on the mushrooms on the swiss on the burgers today. Specifically, a bacon/mushroom/onion/beer reduction. Mouth: watering. And guess what? It’s super simple. Cook bacon, sizzle mushrooms and onions in the fat, slosh in some beer and let it bubble for a minute or two. Ta da: the best burger topping you’ve had all year. 2019 is still young, there may be some legendary burgers yet to come, but today – this one’s it for me.Continue reading “Bacon Mushroom Swiss Burgers”