Liz Roach

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Recovering Foodie

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Liz Roach: A Helping of Fancy Farm

Liz RoachSmoke wafts from the barbecue pits, spreading an intoxicating scent over the picnic grounds.  Thousands of people line up for pork and mutton sandwiches, drenching them in a signature sauce. A barbecue festival? Nope. 

It’s one of the nation’s premier cook-outs: Fancy Farm.  Described as “the world’s largest picnic,” the event is an annual fundraiser for St. Jerome’s Catholic Church, located in the small town of Fancy Farm (yes, it’s a real name), Kentucky.  It’s also one of the biggest political events in the nation, featuring fiery speeches delivered by Kentucky’s top elected officials. 

While political junkies relish the folksy punch lines and witty campaign signs, others avidly anticipate the fixings on offer.  Those in-the-know arrive early to join the snaking line to the Knights of Columbus Hall, which contains a famous buffet. Featuring home-style cooked helpings of green beans, purple hull peas, potato salad, corn, more of that Western Kentucky-style barbecue, and a selection of cakes and pies, all of the dishes are grown and prepared by local community members.  

With approximately 18,000 pounds of pork and mutton and hundreds of pounds of vegetables cooked up each year, preparing the food for Fancy Farm is a mammoth undertaking.  Even the Food Network stopped by a few years ago to cover the festivities. 

The lead-up events to Fancy Farm also provide an array of mouth-watering options. From the Marshall County Bean Supper and the Burgoo & Bluegrass dinner on the Democratic side to the Graves County Breakfast and “Night Before Fancy Farm” fried chicken dinner on the Republican side, both parties offer traditional Kentucky dishes to sate the crowds, along with a generous serving of rhetorical red meat. 

For a taste of Fancy Farm, check out the photos below:


The BBQ pits









Liz Roach: Taste Adventure — Southern Foodways Alliance Summer Trip to Richmond, Virginia

Liz RoachBearing heaving platters of sea island peas, roasted mountain trout, barbeque chicken and other vittles, waiters at the Whiskey Jar displayed a sampling of hospitality along with bottles of Foggy Ridge cider and Veritas Vineyards wines.

Slipping a bite of peach trifle into my mouth, I sighed and surveyed the spoils of supper.  If this was a typical Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) dinner, I was prepared to sign up for a lifetime membership.

Many other ambrosial meals and adventures awaited at the SFA’s 2013 Summer Symposium in Richmond, Virginia.  The non-profit organization, whose members consist of chefs, cookbook writers, and other luminaries from the food world, in addition to a good number of eating enthusiasts, fosters a fellowship like no other.

From June 20-22, 2013, members shared in finger-licking good multi-course feasts, cultural forays, and delightful company.  Centered around the theme of “Women at Work,” the event put the spotlight on Richmond and its storied, delicious food culture.

Below are a few snapshots of the weekend that will give you an idea of the goodness that took place.


The opening night dinner took place at the Whiskey Jar in Charlottesville, VA


The glorious peach trifle at Whiskey Jar

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Liz Roach: Taste Adventure — Southern Foodways Alliance Summer Trip to Richmond, Virginia

Liz Roach: Fourth of July Treat — Bourbon-Ginger Popsicles

Few pleasures evoke childhood like the sticky sensation of licking popsicle juices off your fingers.

Whether enjoyed while lazing on a shaded veranda or dangling off the back of a speedboat, the frozen treat refreshes and revives the most heat-stricken of souls.  Just in time for the Fourth of July, why not create your own with a grown-up twist?   Scads of pop-up (no pun intended) shops have emerged in the past couple of summers to create eclectic new flavors, such as tangerine basil from King of Pops in Atlanta or chocolate gelato pops from popbar in New York City.

In honor of the classic pairing of that most American of spirits (bourbon) and ginger, I decided to blend the two for my popsicles.

The key for summer recipes is to stick with those that don’t keep you in the kitchen too long and away from the fun.  So in the lazy spirit of the season, I went with a quick, effortless formula.

Liz RoachThe exact measurements will depend on the size and type of popsicle molds you’re using.  For my four pop container, I used two tablespoons (one ounce) of bourbon to eight ounces of ginger ale. You’ll want to adjust the servings for your particular mold, but the general proportion should be one part bourbon to eight parts ginger ale.  As tempting as it may be, make sure not to overdo the alcohol content or the popsicles won’t freeze as well.

Mix the two ingredients together in a small bowl, and perhaps add a sprinkle of water to taste.  (This also depends on the spiciness of your ginger ale. If you have access to a quality regional ginger ale such as Kentucky’s Ale 8 One or South Carolina’s Blenheim Ginger Ale, put it to good use.)  Pour your mixture into the popsicle tray and freeze.

After a few hours in the icebox, the pops will be ready to serve at your next barbeque or porch party.  So kick back, cool down, and don’t let any of those juices go to waste!


EDITOR’S NOTE:  In the initial version of this story, due to an editor’s mistake, we used mistakenly a picture taken by Sarah Stewart Holland, whose bourbon popsicle recipe has been cited by several online sites.  The author of this piece was unaware of this mistake or the Holland article.

Liz Roach: The Unlikely Foodie — A Recipe for Father’s Day

Liz RoachNote: I’m very excited to begin a food column for The Recovering Politician.  From recipes to restaurant trends to chef interviews, this space will be devoted to all things gustatory.  Check back regularly for updates!

Most people would not call my father a foodie.  His diet revolves more around salmon and nuts than bahn mi or foie gras corn dogs.

Every morning, he pulses kale, spinach and other nutrient-packed ingredients into a murky green concoction he calls a smoothie.  The potent quaff, which has yet to tempt my palate, appears to have a life of its own.

And yet, he has a point. A physician, he espouses the life-changing qualities of eating well at his busy medical practice and has had meaningful success with his patients.

But the example he sets is more than just about health. The biggest imprint his eating lifestyle has had on me is his dedication to and appreciation of good, quality food.

Growing up, I watched in wonderment as he skinned freshly caught fish in the backyard, slicking the scales off with a look of great intensity.

fatherdaddyI would scrutinize with the closest attention the reddening orbs sprouting in the strawberry patch he had planted near my play area.  The towering asparagus edging the fence appeared to me like a jungle, but one I knew better than to explore.

Today, cucumbers, peas and onions are ripening in his backyard forest of green, and the basil is ready to be freshly picked for his smoothies.  If it’s a Saturday morning, you’ll find him culling pokeweed to sauté with bacon (really the only way to eat pokeweed, if you’ve ever tried it).

At this time of year, other dads may covet grilling tools, a well marbled steak, or an aged bottle of scotch.  For my dad, those gifts would be met with a bewildered stare.

But. He has a weakness. I hate to share his secret so publicly, but every hero has his sweet spot.

Jam-Thumbprint-CookiesFor my dad, that weakness is jelly thumbprint cookies.  A specialty of my mother’s made only a few times per year, the cookies offer the perfect guilty pleasure. Gently sinking his teeth into a freshly baked, piping hot cookie lovingly imprinted by my mother’s own thumb, he needn’t say a word to express his bliss. The delicate sweetness of the treat is heightened by the velvety texture of the blackberry preserve topping.

This Father’s Day, you’ll find my dad savoring each bite of his cherished cookies, eyes closed.  The memory will have to tide him over until Christmas, the next special occasion worthy of the splurge.  But until then, he will relish this moment.

Luckily, you don’t have to wait as long as my dad to have a taste.  I coaxed the recipe from my mother’s dog-eared treasure trove just so I could share it. You may just find that your father, or any other special man in your life, may enjoy it just as much.

If you want to get creative, use the cookies as a canvas for a variety of fillings, from jams to honey to Nutella.

Or if you’re short on baking time, I’ve included a few other ideas that will satisfy any man’s appetite:

For the Cook: The Lee Bros. Charleston Cookbook by Matt Lee & Ted Lee

Reflective of a modern but simple Southern sensibility, the Lee brothers share delectable fixings such as smothered pork chops and kumquat gin cocktails.

For the Cultured Connoisseur: Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel

If your father is an enthusiast of distilled beverages, give him a snifter of this fine bourbon poured neat for an after-dinner indulgence.

For the Meat Eater: Charcuterie from Olympic Provisions

A mouth-watering array of cured meats such as capicola, finocchiona and even saucisson au chocolat are available by mail-order from this salumiera based in Portland, Oregon.

For the Gardener: Heirloom Seeds from Southern Exposure Food Exchange

From butterbeans to collards, Ira Wallace’s seed collection spans an impressive range of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, with more than 700 varieties.

For the Red Wine Lover: Wild Horse 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast

For a classic California wine that doesn’t break the bank, Wild Horse provides a fruity, medium-bodied flavor that pairs well with steak.

Dee Dee’s Jelly Thumbprint Cookies


1 cup butter softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolk

2 2/3 cup flour


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat butter in bowl until creamy.
  3. Add sugar; mix until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks and vanilla; mix well. Add flour gradually, mixing just until moistened.
  4. Shape by tablespoonfuls into balls.  Place on greased cookie sheets.   Make indentation in each cookie with thumb.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. After removing from oven, place cookies on drying rack for cooling.
  7. Once they have cooled, cookies may be filled with homemade jam or jelly.

Note: My dad prefers Blackberry preserves, but there are a variety of tasty fillings you can use. My favorite is a vanilla-orange flavoring.  Here’s how you make it: In a medium saucepan, melt 1/3 cup of butter, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 6 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed orange juice. Whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk ½ cup of powdered sugar into the liquid.  Then spoon the frosting onto each cookie.

Liz Roach: The Bourbon Classic — Louisville with a Twist

When asked about the art of pairing bourbon with food, the James Beard finalist for best chef: Southeast, Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia, offers valuable advice.  “If you don’t eat with bourbon, you’re gonna get real drunk.”

This tongue-in-cheek maxim aside, Lee articulates an oft-overlooked truth about the meaning of Southernness, something many bourbon drinkers appreciate.  “Being Southern is not geographical; it’s an emotional connection.”

The same could be said about bourbon.  Contrary to popular belief, not all bourbon is made in Kentucky.  The Bluegrass State, however, is the predominant source, creating 95% of the beverage. And many would say it’s done best here.

There’s no doubt that no one throws a bourbon party like Kentuckians.  Case in point: The Bourbon Classic, a two-day event celebrating all aspects of the libation.  Organized by The Bourbon Review and FSA Management Group, the revelry took place from March 22-23, 2013, at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville near the famed Whiskey Row.  In its inaugural year, The Bourbon Classic provided a chance for attendees to sample bourbon in many forms: served neat at tastings, mixed into cocktails, or cooked into savory hors d’oeuvres.  

Guests had a chance to sample multiple innovative dishes from some of Kentucky’s finest chefs on the Bourbon Classic’s opening night.  Pairing up with master bartenders, chefs participated in a “Cocktail Challenge,” which required each team to provide a coordinating beverage and small plate featuring bourbon.  Along with Chef Lee, judges included Joy Perrine, author of The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, and Noah Rothbaum, editor-in-chief of A buzzy crowd of serious connoisseurs and curious imbibers mingled over glasses of Seviche chef Anthony Lamas’ Tuna Old-Fashioned and Jonathan’s Chef Jonathan Lundy’s bourbon banana pudding.

Other highlights of the Bourbon Classic included a master distillers roundtable featuring the patriarchs of bourbon, who shared lore and described the craftsmanship of their storied products.  Breakout sessions provided a range of ways to experience the brown nectar, from pairing chocolates with bourbon (courtesy of Holly Hill Inn chef Ouita Michel) to concocting a cocktail called the Boulevardier to listening to tales of historical bourbon barons.

After two days of tastings, after-parties, and after-after-parties set at local hotspots, participants walked away well-fortified with mash and a collection of new friends.

If you’re already salivating for next year’s event, we have something to tide you over. Bourbon Classic 2013 Grand Champion Jared Schubert of the Monkey Wrench in Louisville kindly provided his recipe for the “Dust Bowl Smash,” which snagged the award for best Contemporary Cocktail.  Schubert’s tipple provides a taste of bourbon in the new era, while maintaining that quintessential Kentucky flavor.

Dust Bowl Smash 
2 ounces Four Roses Single Barrel
½ ounce Honey Syrup*
1 dash Bitterman’s Hellfire Shrub
2 dashes Peychauds Bitters
6 large mint leaves

Combine ingredients in a shaker. Shake vigorously, and double strain into a double old-fashioned glass with ice.  Garnish with a leaf of mint.

* To make honey syrup, combine two parts honey with one part water. Stir until thoroughly combined.

(Cross-posted from The Local Palate, Photography by Weasie Gaines Photography)