More than one Garden & Gun magazine cover shot has been known to make grown men swoon. A black-and-white portrait of a loyal German short-hair pointer or a close-up of an antique shotgun can make almost anyone start to dream about a covey of quail. But flip past those beauty shots and you will find page after page of engaging articles, written by our fellow Southern brethren. You’ll find pieces that evoke the history of this place by authors who know how to wax nostalgic about the purpose of our culture: John T. Edge, Roy Blount Jr., Marshall Chapman, and Rick Bragg to name a few.
The term “new South” has been bandied about forever. Long before the end of the Civil War, Southerners have been passionate about their way of life, celebrating it, preserving it, sharing it. After all, sharing is just “good manners”. And while the name of the publication may throw some people off, this is a magazine with a mission: “Garden & Gun is a Southern lifestyle magazine that’s all about the magic of the New South—the sporting culture, the food, the music, the arts, the literature, the people, and the ideas. It espouses a strong conservation ethic that grows out of its connection to the land, and it reveals the beauty of the South as no magazine ever has.”
And while this magazine is only in its infancy, compared to other venerable Southern titles, it has garnered legions of fans. Where else can you learn that the son of famed Texan troubadour Townes Van Zandt is a true craftsman who makes custom wooden fishing skiffs? Or how it took Oxford, Mississippi chef John Currence thirty hours (and a whole lot of whiskey) to smoke a whole hog ? And who among us can find fault with a national publication that devotes TEN pages of thick elegant creamy paper to our own fair city?
It almost goes without saying that when a magazine of this caliber hosts an event, it will be many things: traditional, first-class, teeming with good food and drink and FUN. The Harvest Feast, A Southern Supper to Benefit the Alabama Fishing Community of Bayou La Batre promises nothing less. Taking place Sunday, October 3 rd at privately-owned Lake Tadpole in Trussville, the event will feature signature cocktails, a seafood raw bar, a family-style dinner using the best local and seasonal fare, live music and lawn games. Tickets will only be available to Garden & Gun Club members. But that’s as simple as joining on-line (www.gardenandgunclub.com) or calling (843) 737-9179. Memberships begin at just $35 and include a host of benefits, not the least of which is an annual subscription to the magazine.
Chris & Idie Hastings of Hot & Hot Fish Club have worked tirelessly to put together this fundraiser—all proceeds will directly benefit the fishermen of Bayou La Batre in Mobile County, the seafood capital of Alabama and a community severely affected by the Gulf oil spill. Chef Chris notes, “My friend Lee Cary (of Snapper Grabbers fame), who I call ‘Lee Fish’, has kept me abreast of the post-oil spill realities of these fishermen. Our community is pretty Gulf-centric in our seafood consumption so their welfare means a lot.”
Other notable Alabama chefs participating in this first annual event include Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse at Lake Martin, Chris Harrigan of Stones Throw Bar & Grill in Mt. Laurel, Chris Zapalowski of Homewood Gourmet, Drew Robinson of Jim and Nick’s BBQ, Jimmy Boyce of Huntsville’s Cotton Row and Jon Sanchez from Ham and High in Montgomery.
Chef James Briscione, participating as the Expatriate Southern Chef, got involved when Chef Hastings ran into him at a recent Southern Foodways Alliance event in New York City. He adds “James used to work at Highlands Bar & Grill under Frank (Stitt), so he’s a real Alabama guy.
He is eager to help.” Currently, Chef Briscione is a chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York.
A few of the Feast’s proposed menu items include: Venison Pate and Pickled Fall Vegetables; Homemade Duck Sausage Quesadilla with Mt. Laurel Gardens Pumpkin Blossom, Huitlacoche Cheese and Poblano Mole; Quail and Oyster Gumbo with Deviled Eggs.
The $150 ticket price includes all of the above as well as music by The Greta Gaines band, a short film by Southern Foodways Alliance on Bayou La Batre’s fishing community, and an appearance by noted fashion designer and icon Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin.
“I’ve been a Garden & Gun subscriber for years. This is a magazine that highlights some really great things about the South,” Natalie remarked. When she heard Garden & Gun was hosting the event and that Chris & Idie Hastings were coordinating the food, she knew she had to contribute. The fact that it was all to benefit a great cause was just icing on the cake.
The logo for the event, a white fish on a deep ocean blue background, features Natalie’s trademark stitchery. Her group has produced one-of-akind aprons to be sold at the Feast as an additional fundraiser. Each one is unique and features her inimitable stencils, embroidery and reverse appliqués. “I’m also a member of Southern Foodways Alliance. SFA has really inspired my work.” The aprons’ artwork include various Southern staples such as fish and ears of corn which makes this very apparent. Natalie recently dined at Hot & Hot Fish Club where she said she could “taste Alabama in every dish. In the Chilton County peach cocktail and the signature tomato salad with field peas, I could taste ‘local.’ I think Hot & Hot (Fish Club) is one of the best restaurants in the South.”
By now, you can probably already envision yourself at the Harvest Feast, sleeves rolled up and elbow deep in great seafood. As the sun starts to set, you can almost hear the band start to tune up and you’re ready for one of those signature cocktails. But listen, there are only 160 tickets available for this unique event, and they are selling like the proverbial hotcakes. Visit www.gardenandgun.com/harvestfeast to purchase your tickets and help support the fisherman of Bayou La Batre.
Christiana Roussel lives in Crestline and is a lover of all things food-related. You can follow her culinary musings on line at ChristianasKitchen.blogspot.com or on Facebook or Twitter.