Unwind: Chicks, Chatter & Chocolate

King & Queen salutes the Rome Area Historic Museum

This past Thursday evening at The Forum in Rome, Regina Rainwater, owner of the King & Queen Salon, invited friends to one of the finest fundraisers I’ve attended! Unwind: Chicks, Chatter & Chocolate was a party like none other.

Area businesses purchased tables, then decorated them and their guests to match a theme. We were all queens (note our tiaras). There were construction workers, money bags, milliners, beachcombers and 30 other themed groups.

Five major sponsors and many area businesses contributed great prizes. Chefs served their specialties. The Etowah Jazz Society entertained with Big Band Music. Handsome male emcees and ticket sellers guided the proceedings.

The Forum was as decked out as I’ve ever seen it. And all 300+ women attending had a ball! The organizers of Unwind did a five star job. The energy was electric. Thank you Rome businesses for supporting this gala. It was one of a kind.

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What About a Resources Network within Georgia Made Georgia Grown LLC?

We’re coming out with Georgia Made Georgia Grown LLC marketing to promote creative entrepreneurs across the state, so we are doing a series of calls, asking makers and buyers what they need most from us.

Last night we heard “Money, money, money”. Today, the theme prevailed. One maker has looked in most of the corners for seed money to position her food product line where she needs to be. She can find a lot of offers for women-led companies, but none are panning out for creative entrepreneurs. WHERE IS THE MONEY?

Then, we got to talking about something else really interesting… she had to buy 5000 bottles for her product. Then, she realized she needed a different size, too. She bought another big order of bottles. What about a Resource Network? Another caller chimed in… to get a good price on labels, she had to buy 15,000. She needs only 5000.

Do you have a huge inventory of supplies, because you had to buy in quantity… or because you thought you were going in one direction, then you turned an unexpected corner? Are you looking hard at something that comes in multiples, but you want only one? I’m getting ready to buy a pop-up banner. One costs more than three. I could use a Resource Network… can you?

Savannah Bee Company Entry Wins Flavor of Georgia Food Products Contest

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and hometown boys Jamie and Bobby Dean present Savannah Bee Company with the Grand Prize at the Flavor of Georgia Food Products Contest at the Atlanta Freight Depot. Savannah Bee’s Grill Honey w/No-Drip Pump was a favorite of the 18 lucky judges who tasted and assessed entries in seven categories Monday afternoon.

Winners were announced at the National Agriculture Week Kick-off program to an audience of hundreds of 4-H’ers and other invited guests Tuesday about 1pm. Fort Valley’s Lane’s Southern Orchards’ Fresh Peach Bread won the Confections category. Villa Rica’s CalyRoad Creamery’s Clouds of CalyRoad Camembert took first in Dairy Products. ┬áDarien’s Olive Affairs Gourmet Olive Tapenade celebrated its win in Jams, Jellies & Sauces. You Struck Gold from Goodness Gracious! Granola in Lawrenceville won Snack Foods. Blue Marlin American Shrimp from Savannah was best in Meat Products; and, Organic Vidalia Onion Tomato Basil Dressing from Lyons’ Vidalia Valley aced the Other Products category.

UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development and the Department of Food Science and Technology join Governor Sonny Perdue’s Agricultural Advisory Commission and the Georgia Agribusiness Council sponsored the 2010 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest.

Creative entrepreneurs from across the Georgia entered over 75 products. 25 Finalists were chosen to participate in judging by a panel of food industry experts. The Contest traditionally helps entrepreneurs expand their businesses by exposing their products to processors, brokers, retailers and others who can offer advice, networking, and, occasionally, contracts.

Savannah Meetings & Eateries

I was in Savannah for an overnight to do some meetings and touch base with the CODA – Craft Organization Development Association – conference support team at the City of Savannah Department of Cultural Affairs. I had good meetings, and was able to enjoy a couple of new (to me) eateries.

I had a breakfast meeting at Gallery Espresso, 234 Bull St. It is a homey, welcoming coffee house serving excellent coffee and scones, muffins and coffee cakes. Art and eclectic collections make the walls and decor especially warm and fun to examine. Patrons chat, work on their computers, and people/dog watch out the big windows. The Gallery embraces the essence of Savannah – hospitable, calm and delicious.

Jamie Galloway, a graduate student in SCAD’s Fibers program, invited me to hear her quarterly project presentation titled “An Organic Cotton Initiative in Southeast Georgia”. She advocates Methods of Slow Design in which the program “sustains not only our environment and community, but the human connectedness as well”. Working with agriculture champions on Hampton and Cumberland Islands, she intends to grow, harvest, gin, spin and knit/weave/felt the cotton into objects for the home environment.

Jamie went on to say that “Through the use of local artisans to felt, spin and weave locally-grown cotton, it will be possible to create 100% sustainable products… My goal is to create an opportunity for growers, makers and consumers to reconnect through a product infused with life, reassuring a sense of community and independence.”

I’ll be following Jamie’s work, and reporting back often.

After the presentation, we went over to Soho South Cafe,Where Food is an Art, at 12 W Liberty St. The lunch crowd lingered, even on a rainy afternoon about 2:3opm. Jamie & I sat on a comfie sofa in a Victorian-esque gathering room with all the others waiting for a table.

Soho South Cafe interior

Finally, after the room was cleared, we realized we’d talked right through our summons. So we asked, and were seated right away. Choices here are difficult, because everything coming out of the kitchen looks noteworthy. A blackboard lists the specials of the day, to add to the confusion.

I selected the Cuban Panini with a cup of butternut squash soup ($1.5o extra, when substituting for a standard side). Jamie had a tuna pita. My soup was excellent, not too sweet; and the Cuban Panini, delicious with just the right amount of mustard and pickle.

Jamie’s tuna pita was stuffed. She mentioned that this is her favorite lunch item. She orders it all the time.

When you come to the Soho South Cafe, remember you are coming for the food. The service isn’t uber attentive, nor is the coffee hot. But the food is definitely worth the walk.

Forsythia Festival & The Grits Cafe, Forsyth

Forsyth is preparing for the Forsythia Festival this weekend with yellow ribbons, banners and forsythia sprigs popping up all over town. The entrance to Flowers by Helen on the square certainly cheered me up yesterday when I saw it!

The Forsythia Festival traditionally kicks off the outdoor festival season in Georgia. Organizers are expecting 100+ exhibitors in all mediums of art and craft. Artists and craft makers come from around the area, as well as from far away. From time to time, artists will use Forsyth as a stopover between leaving their winter shows in Florida and getting back to Montana or another exotic locale.

I was in Forsyth Tuesday to meet Fay for lunch. We picked The Grits Cafe, and joined a crowd happily dining on grits every way imaginable.

Soup & Sandwich

My grits were in the collard soup. Collards and carrots and grits were rough chopped into chicken stock. Not bad at all. The sandwich was grilled smoked turkey and swiss cheese on French Toast bread. It’s on my list to order again.

Fay had a chicken Caesar’s salad with grits croutons. Between all our catching up and yarn-spinning, both plates were licked clean.

It’s hard to decide what to order at The Grits Cafe. Fried green tomatoes, salmon, trout, and cheeseburgers sounded really good, too.

The Grits Cafe, on the Square in Forsyth

If you’re in Forsyth for lunch or dinner, stop in and have some grits. Bring your Northern friends. They’ll get a kick out of it!

CODA Post-conference Tour, April 9

Georgia Made Georgia Grown LLC and the Savannah College of Art & Design co-host the Craft Organization Development Association’s 2oth annual conference April 6-8 at River Club in Savannah (www.codacraft.org). The Friday after the conference, we have the rare opportunity to take a tour, conducted by Jamal Toure, to learn about the Georgia’s Geechee culture.

Jamal brings America’s African heritage alive through story-telling and performance as we travel to Savannah’s Beach Institute for a private viewing of the 238 piece Ulysees Davis Folk Art Collection, then to Riceboro to the Geechee Kunda Cultural Center.

The Cultural Center, created by Jim and Pat Bacote, is a living museum, a meeting place, a gallery, and the place to enjoy a Geechee Fry Lunch – fried local wild shrimp, smoked maroon chicken, rice n beans and salad. The Georgia Geechee Shouters will perform their famous ring shouting. We’ll learn about local history and culture, as well as see local craft, available for purchase.

9:30am – Bus pick up at The Inn at Ellis Square on Bay Street downtown

9:45am – Tour the Beach Institute’s Ulysees Davis Collection of sculptures

10:30am – Bus leaves Beach Institute for Riceboro. Rolling tour included.

11:30am – Arrive Geechee Kunda Cultural Center. Learn about local history/culture. See local craft exhibit and sale. Hear the Georgia Geechee Shouters. Enjoy a Geechee Fry Lunch.

2:30pm – Return to Savannah with drop-off either at the airport or the Inn at Ellis Square.

The cost of the tour is $75 per person, payable in advance. If you are able to go, Email CODA and get payment instructions.

Girasoles in Watkinsville

Girasoles Restaurant

Bill Ronay & I have always enjoyed meals at Girasoles; and last night was no exception! The cuisine is Italian, Mexican and French fusion; but to us, it is plain ole good. Chef/owner Jose Zambrano personally greets everyone, and performs culinary magic to please his happy diners.

When our party barely tasted the first round of Margaritas (little glasses, lots of ice), Jose found bigger glasses for the second. He personally made sure we had enough of the delicious bread and balsamic vinegar/garlic sauce. And when Bill Ronay rattled off his ideal pasta dish – fettucini, tomato cream sauce, sausage, sweet caramelized onions and peppers – Chef Jose delivered!

We watched him take care of every table just like he did ours.

I had to take home the second half of my shrimp & grits. It was perfect hot from the kitchen last night, and great this morning straight from the refrigerator. The texture of the grits was a delicious balance to the fresh shrimp. Bill Ronay required no to-go box. Chappelle Chicken – chicken breast stuffed with spinach, feta cheese and sundried tomato – and crab cakes were standard orders of the friends we were with. Kathy & Jerry are gold star regulars at Girasoles. Kathy had crab and lobster soup as an appetizer. Jerry had alligator and shrimp. Bill had tomato and basil soup.

We hadn’t seen our friends for a long time, so we laughed and caught up as we ate and drank. And Girasoles is perfect for seeing everyone. Dave, Mario and Mrs. Shearon from Ashford Manor also came in for dinner.

Dessert was cheesecake with dulce de leche for Bill & Jerry and flan for Kathy. Kathy’s flan wasn’t the best she’d had there – overbaked, no whipped cream or drizzle – but the cheesecake was excellent.

We had a fine meal at Girasoles Restaurant in Watkinsville, and would highly recommend it as a place to enjoy an evening with old friends. It’s on Main Street (Hwy 441 Business) just at the split of Hwy 15 down from Town Center. 706/310-0410.