December’s Featured Brewery: Blue Pants Brewery

This month Tomato Head taps will be flowing with craft beers made just about 4 hours south of us in Madison, Alabama from the Blue Pants Brewery. Madison is a fast growing and prosperous city in the Hunstville Metropolitan Area, and, from all indications, it’s a forward thinking, can-do kind of place; that attitude is clearly mirrored in Blue Pants’ tag line: “We like to make unreasonably good beer.” Actually, that’s more than a tag line, it’s a manifesto.

Blue Pants has established a good track record in the 5 years of their being with a wide assortment of tasty froth that’s covered all the major beer styles. Still, unsatisfied with leaving well enough alone, Blue Pants has shown a penchant for reviving old beer styles, getting jiggy with infusions, presenting playful variations on core brands, and daring the heights of high gravity brews.

There are so many interesting things available from Blue Pants that you can look forward to several surprises flowing from taps.  A number of those are TBA, but we’re very excited to offer their Sour Amber; and that’s being kegged just for us, so Tomato Head is the only place in the world for you to sample this brew.

But don’t be a tap snob because then you’d miss the chance to try Blue Pants Cantaloupe Alalambic!  It’s a 2 year old lambic that we’re offering in 750ml bottles, and it’s too delicious to miss.

So, put on your own blue pants and comes taste ours.  You’ll be happy to have both.

Blue Pants Brewery IPA

Blue Pants Brewery IPA

Happy National Have A Bagel Day

Almost all breadstuffs come with a history, often happily or fiercely disputed. A few manage to rise, literally and figuratively, out of their history to settle into a solid cultural identity. If they can do that and remain delicious, well, that’s history worth eating. The Bagel is just such a food. Its origin is shrouded in the ever shifting mists of time with some food writers opining that there’s hieroglyphic evidence that even the Ancient Egyptians had bagel (or at least a round breadstuff with a hole).

The more common story sets the bagel’s genesis around 1683 in the shop of a Polish baker in Krakow who celebrated King Jan Sobieski’s dramatic rout of Turkish Invaders at the Battle of Vienna by sending him a roll formed in the shape of the kingly stirrups. The homage was a double whammy of gratitude from the baker as Sobieski was responsible for allowing Jews to bake bread within Krakow’s city walls.

True or not, the bagel has remained identified with Jewish culture and, for better or for worse, is often used as a metaphor for the Jewish experience.

But ever since Murray Lender and his brothers started shipping frozen bagels across America, which he called the “Jewish English Muffin,” via their mass expansion of their father’s business, H. Lender & Sons, the bagel as become part of the mainstream American diet. And that’s the way the great American melting pot should work – acceptance, inclusion, and celebration. Our only caveat to that story is that today, thankfully, there’s almost no good reason to eat a frozen bagel.

Over the weekends, our brunch menu includes toasted Flour Head bagels available with cream cheese or the classic combination of cream cheese, lox, capers, and onion. The bagels are fresh from the bakery and have the unmistakable chew and flavor that makes this bread so very lovely to eat. But sometimes you don’t want to get out of the house on the weekend – that happens to all of us – and if you’re lucky enough to make that happen, there’s still no reason to resort to the freezer. Just plan ahead and swing by Three Rivers Market, just ripe or Kroger Bearden to pick a personal supply of Flour Head’s bagel.

The plain bagel is a classic, chewy example of why we love this breadstuff; but the bagel is also available sprinkled with sesame seeds or with a particularly rewarding, slightly sweet permutation that includes the imminently satisfying combination of cinnamon and raisin. And while we love all of Flour Head’s bagels equally, it’s hard not to favor the Sour Cherry Walnut bagel with a little extra adoration. The combination of tart-sweet cherry with walnut makes an acutely delicious partner with the flavor and texture of the basic bagel. It’s beautiful, toasted or not, with cream cheese and makes beautiful music with lots of toppings from butter and brie to prosciutto and pear.  It’s also just fine by itself, straight out of the bag while you ride home.

But at Tomato Head, we’re having some tasteful fun in honor of National Bagel Day – we’re celebrating with BBLTs! (You’ll have already figured out that the extra “B” is for bagel.) Each restaurant is serving its own riff on this all American adaptation; Downtown, you’ll find the classic sandwich ramped up with the addition of pimento cheese, while at the Gallery the “T” stands for Tomato Jam. Both of these options give the schmear a nicely southern attitude – and what better way to celebrate the Bagel than by dressing it up in homespun fashion?

There’s one more interesting thing that happens to foodstuffs if they find a place in the right heart, and that’s poetry.  If you haven’t read Pablo Neruda’s Ode to the Watermelon or Ode to Salt, then you owe it to food loving self to check them out. But the bagel, too, has friends who frame their thoughts in verse. So we leave you to ponder the bagel through the words of David Ignatow, a celebrated poet who started his career in a butcher shop and is remembered for his popular verse about common folk.

The Bagel Poem

I stopped to pick up the bagel

rolling away in the wind,

annoyed with myself

for having dropped it

as if it were a portent.

Faster and faster it rolled,

with me running after it

bent low, gritting my teeth,

and I found myself doubled over

and rolling down the street

head over heels, one complete somersault

after another like a bagel

and strangely happy with myself.

—David Ignatow

Flour Head Bakery Bagel

Flour Head Bakery Bagel

December’s Featured Artist: Lindsey Teague

Lindsey Teague is an artist who is inspired by Knoxville: “I live on Gay Street so I walk downtown all the time and notice the smell of the local business and the lights when the sun’s setting – all the things that make the city what it is – I like to capture that scene.”

Though our Featured Artist for December isn’t a native of the city, she says she has a deep seated love of the area that began while she studied at UT, “I’ve lived here for 10 years, I’m from West Tennessee, but I love Knoxville. It’s cool to be local now, and I love that – people appreciate their city and find value in it.”

Though Lindsey’s art is drawn from a variety of inspirations, it’s hardly surprising that, more often than not, she’s drawn to subjects that have historic and local value. In fact, one of her most popular subjects is an icon not only for the city, but for the State of Tennessee too: “There’s one scene that I’ve worked on from the very beginning, though it’s the same image I like to change the composition. It’s the Tennessee Theatre.

“I’ve noticed that people are drawn to things that say what they are. I have a Sunsphere piece that says Knox; people are drawn to the words as well as the image. Maybe it’s because that you know it’s an image of your home town but when someone else sees it, they know it’s from your home town, too.”

Teague’s medium lends itself to permutation. She starts with a photograph, then prints it on wood and finally adds layers of paint to create her signature style. A free-lance graphic designer by trade and training, the way she came to this technique is proof that necessity is the mother of invention.

“It’s something that I’ve picked up in the last 3 years, and it happened by accident. A friend, Kelly Absher, asked me to do an exhibit for Central Flats and Taps for a First Friday – they had an artist back out. So I did some photography. He asked me to do it again the next year in the same spot, but I wanted to do something different.  Something with my photographs but with more of a fine art application. So I was playing around with different mediums and techniques to develop a vintage rustic style that I liked. And I thought printing on wood was cool; and so I developed my pictures into vector images and printed them on the board. Once I got to that step I started playing with painting them to add some color back to them.”

The resulting pieces are certainly familiar, and while Lindsey adds dimension and a separate personality to each that distinguish her vision, it’s never at the expense of the subject itself. Nevertheless, sometimes, she says, the materials take over and speak for themselves: “The paint will go on one color and dry another. There’s one board of the Tennessee Theatre that I originally wanted to be red. Red’s the trickiest. But it dried orange. I thought, well, that’s okay. It’s Knoxville.”

You can see Lindsey’s Art Boards at the Tomato Head Market Square from December 7 through January 3 and at the Gallery location from January 5th through February 1st.

Tennessee Theatre by Lindsey Teague

Tennessee Theatre by Lindsey Teague

Tomato Head’s Jamaican Pepper Pot

In anticipation of the inevitable dip in temperature, Mahasti is sharing a delicious way to warm up that comes with a bit of heartwarming history: Jamaican Pepper Pot Soup.

The name Pepper Pot probably entered the minds of most Americans more through Pop Art rather than a steaming bowl of the soup itself. Andy Warhol’s iconic depiction of the soup can called Small Torn Campbell Soup Can (Pepper Pot) sold for over $11 million dollars in 2006.

Like many dishes, this soup belongs to multiple regions each with its own variation on the recipe. Guyanese Pepper Pot, a traditional Christmas food, is distinguished by the addition of Cassareep – a thick sauce made from ground cassava root and spices. Around the West Indies the thickness, spiciness and the primary protein of the dish vary considerably. Jamacian Pepper Pot is traditionally made with Calloo, a unique Caribbean vegetable that tastes like a hybrid of spinach and broccoli, though spinach is a frequent substitute.

And closer to home Philadelphia, the Birthplace of Freedom, is also the birthplace of an American variety of Pepperpot.

According to legend, George Washington, while encamped at Valley Forge under the siege of a harsh winter, painful deprivation, and frequent desertions, was finally able to fortify his troops with a spicy version of this stew that was unique for its use of tripe – the muscle wall that lines a cow’s stomach. In the story the dish was an inspired and soldier-saving brain wave from the Baker General of the Continental Army, Christopher Ludwick. Of course, it’s far more likely that the dish came to Valley Forge by the same sad route that brought both rum and slaves to the colonies.

Pepper Pot is still available in some Philadelphia restaurants (and is also the name of the city’s Public Relation Awards), including the City Tavern Restaurant, though tripe has been replaced by beef shoulder.

Mahasti’s version, eschewing both tripe and beef shoulder, is vegetarian but hearty with lots of potato, sweet potato and spinach. It’s also spicy – in both senses of the word. The recipe includes a ½ teaspoon of allspice, which contributes a warming flavor and aroma that’s reminiscent of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Interestingly allspice has a number of aliases, including Jamaica Pepper.

The recipe also calls for habanero pepper, which is no shy violet, living, as it does, near the top quarter of the Scoville heat index. Depending on your taste, you can add or subtract as much of the pepper as you want – just make sure that you remove the seeds and take care to handle the pepper with caution. More than a few cooks have made the mistake of touching their eyes after handling the habanero without gloves or a thorough hand washing. The pain is unmistakable and dangerous; avoid it.

But don’t avoid the soup! It’s nourishing, filling and delicious. If you tune in to WBIR’s Weekend Today on Saturday (12/5) and Mahasti will help you put it all together.

Tomato Head’s Jamaican Pepper Pot Soup

2 Tbs Vegetable Oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

Leaves from 3 Thyme sprigs

4 cups water

8 oz fresh spinach

1 small Yukon gold potato, rinsed, and diced

½ – 1 habanero pepper, seeds removed, chopped

1.5 tsp salt

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar

1 medium sweet potato, rinsed and shredded

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent. Add thyme leaves, water, spinach, potato, and habanero – bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer until potatoes are soft. Add Salt, Allspice, and Vinegar.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth – or allow soup to cool and puree in a traditional blender (do not blend hot soup in a traditional blender – it will splatter all over you) Add the shredded sweet potatoes to the pot and simmer until sweet potatoes are soft.

Serves 6-8

Sweeten up your holidays with Tomato Head cookies.

From our holiday-inspired flavors like Gingersnap and Peppermint Crackle to the classic lineup of Tomato Head cookies including our vegan and gluten free varieties, you’ll find plenty of goodies for your holiday gift giving, celebrations, and office parties. Just stop by either bakery counter, or call Market Square at 637-4067 or our 7240 Kingston Pike location at 584-1075 to place your order. Cookie bags of 8 ($9.75), small cookie box of 16 ($17.95), and a large cookie box of 24 ($25.75) are available.

Yum Yum Yum!

Holiday Cookies 2016

Holiday Cookies 2016

Tomato Head’s Turkey Pot Pie

Every holiday has a unique set of traditions, of course, but Thanksgiving is special because it comes with an extra set of conventions for the flip side of the holiday. Naturally, there’s football, football and football, but there’s more: many families use the day after Thanksgiving to put up a Christmas Tree; there’s the annual depleting or deploring of stores that open on Black Friday; and there’s also the ritual complaining or rejoicing about the abundance of leftovers.

For many folks, eating the remains of the day is a simple thing; turkey sandwiches are legion and come layered with dressing, perhaps a generous spread of mashed potatoes and a side of gravy for au jus style dipping. And it can be a fun way to close the holiday and play top chef as you present your creation with chefly jargon like “a clever riff on the holiday” or “a deconstruction of the feast.”

And as much fun as all that can be, leftover turkey presents yet another opportunity to gather together at table, touch the souls of your family and friends, and maintain the comfortable mood of the holiday regardless of bad punt returns, strands of lights that expire only after they’re on the tree and even the stress of maddening crowds at the mall.

A steaming pot pie, fresh from the oven is a nearly iconic symbol of the special kind of comfort that comes with a Sunday at Grandma’s house. But it’s easy to create that feeling at your own home with Mahasti’s simple recipe – especially since the bird is cooked, and you’ll probably have many of the other ingredients on hand, too.

There are two things that make Mahasti’s Pot Pie stand out. One is the inclusion of turnip. It will be easy to think about leaving that out, but, if you do, you’ll miss a rich and almost mysterious flavor element that really amps up this recipe. When cooked like this, turnips, especially small ones, add a sweet and earthy element that matches perfectly with potato and cream sauces. If they’re young and fresh, they also take on a tender almost silky texture.

The other element that makes this recipe stand out is that instead of a pie crust or puff pastry, Mahasti tops the pie with biscuits. I don’t have to tell you what a biscuit can to do a meal, but when it sits on top of a pot pie it gets a beautiful brown top, a fluffy middle, and a bottom that’s happily situated in the pie’s gravy-like sauce.

It’s a simple way not only to put those leftovers to a delicious use but also to extend the warmth and fond memories of family time around the table.

Mahasti will show you how to put it all together on Saturday during WBIR’s Weekend Today!

Tomato Head’s Turkey Pot Pie

For the cream sauce:

2 ½ Tbl unsalted butter

2 Tbl all purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

½ cup water

2 Tbl heavy cream

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

1 Tbl fresh sage or Italian parsley, chopped

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk until all the flour is absorbed into the butter and no lumps remain. Add the milk, water, and heavy cream and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens slightly.

Add salt, pepper and herbs – remove from heat and set aside.

For assembling the pot pie:

1 Tbl vegetable oil

2/3 cup onion, diced

1 cup cooked Turkey meat

1 medium potato, peeled, diced and boiled

1 medium carrot or 2/3 cup cooked carrot

1 small turnip or 2/3 cup cooked turnip

1cup cooked greens

½ tsp salt

½ tsp chili flakes, optional

Peel potato, dice into 1-inch cubes and boil until soft. Drain potatoes and set aside. In a 10-inch case iron skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add carrots and turnips, if raw and sauté just until the turnips start to brown a little. Add cooked turkey, greens, potatoes, salt and chili flakes and stir to mix. Remove the skillet from the heat and add cream sauce, stirring well until all the ingredients are mixed up.

Top your pot pie with 6-8 three inch biscuits – made from our Best Biscuit Recipe from National Biscuit Month.

Place assembled pot pie in a preheated 425 degree oven and bake just until biscuits are cooked and starting to brown ~ about 13 minutes.

Serves 4.

Sweeten up your Thanksgiving with our holiday pies!

Tomato Head Thanksgiving Pies Are Now Available!

Our autumn-inspired flavors include Spencer Mountain Farm sweet potato, Shwab Farm apple, and pecan. You can also order vegan and gluten-free versions of each 9″ pie. Regular and vegan versions are $29.50. Gluten-free pies are $32.50.

Just stop by the bakery counter at either location, or call 12 Market Square at 637-4067 or 7240 Kingston Pike at 584-1075 by the close of business this Saturday to place your order. Pies will be ready for pickup the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Yum Yum Yum!

Holiday Pies

Holiday Pies

November’s Featured Artist: Sheila Lutringer

This month at Tomato Head the walls feature a broad assortment of work from artist Sheila Lutringer. It’s an intriguing exhibit that includes mostly acrylics and some pencil, but the subjects are eclectic and run the gamut from self-portrait to pie – all of which reflect the artist’s broad range of interests and inspirations (and a few of our own).

The pieces vary in size, but one near constant is a vivid sense of color and detail. She says “I love color and movement. I’m using a lot of the color spectrum, but at some point, I’d like to work with a more limited palette. Sometimes less is more, but right now, there is a ton of color. It’s part of my current journey to wherever the next visual stop is.“

Her style is generally varied, though Sheila opines that “My work at The Tomato Head really is the best reflection of what I’ve been doing artistically lately. Pieces like “Blue Thoughts” and “Peridot” are my favorites. Mostly I describe my style as “hand-drawn.” Cross-hatching and other shading techniques, as well as the layering of color, are really interesting to me right now. There is a looseness I’m trying to control in a lot of my work. There are some tighter pieces where a face is involved or where there are minute details as in a teeny landscape, but in general, there is drawing in my painting.”

Sheila’s one of those lucky people who’s been certain of her vocation from early on; she recalls that “I was the kid who was praised for her art in 1st grade and so decided then and there that she would be an artist. I felt sure of it all my young life.”

Like several of the artists that we’ve featured on our walls, Sheila is keen on encouraging young interest in art: “Mom & Dad always called me their artist. I appreciate that they built a confidence in that.”  And that’s something that’s particularly important to her these days because, she says, her constant companion is her 2 year old daughter.

“She loves coloring with her washable markers and crayons. Play-doh is also a favorite medium. It’s amazing to see her improve in her dexterity and imagination each week. Perhaps she has an artistic future, but whatever she does, I hope to be as encouraging to her as my parents were to me. “

Sheila Lutringer

Sheila Lutringer

Our love for National Peanut Butter Month

At last, the chill of autumn seems to have arrived, and with it comes a heightened sense of holidays. There are an incredible number of things to celebrate, including a fete for which we are truly grateful: National Peanut Butter Month. Actually, there are a whole bunch of food products that claim November as their month; but to our minds only peanut butter seems worth the fuss – of course, that’s due to the fact that peanut butter is so very, very lovable, and its appeal can last a lifetime.

My family had the typical, usually loose rules about food: clean your plate; don’t spoil your appetite with snacks; eat your peas. And most of those didn’t bother me much once I learned how to push food around my plate and hide peas in my pockets. There were, however, more onerous restrictions, killjoys really, about how to eat certain things; and those really bugged me. After all, they were silly rules, like, “Don’t drink milk out of the carton” and “You can’t eat peanut butter straight from the jar!”

Who among us, I ask you, can resist the urge to lick peanut butter right off the spoon and plunge it back into the jar for a second helping?!? Even as an adult I still lick the spoon, though I have let go of the urge to double dip – not out of a new found maturity, per se, it’s just that I’m always embarrassed when, inevitably, I get caught. Even so, I’ve progressed from the first time when I was caught, quite literally, with my hands in the peanut butter jar. Even as my mother swatted my hands away for a second scoop, I was thinking, yeah, this is worth it.

I don’t know what it is about Peanut Butter that creates such longings, but at Tomato Head we celebrate it every day in one way or another. If you’ve yet to try our peanut butter cookie, you just need to go do that now. It’s a tender little bit of heaven that strikes a craveable balance between cookie sweetness and the habit-forming flavor of peanut butter. And our baker (with a wicked grin, I’m sure) tops the cookie with a nearly irresistible pool of chocolate glaze that makes it hard not to eat the cookie in about 10 seconds flat.

Of course, there’s another worthwhile holiday lurking about the corner near the end of this month, and it’s one that particularly suited for our other favorite nutty indulgence: Peanut Butter Pie.

Resistance is futile once this pie is on the table. We take a lot of rich, creamy peanut butter and blend it with cream cheese to create an enticing fluff to fill up a chocolate crust. Once we add a little chocolate topping, it becomes a seriously beautiful dessert that never weighs us down or makes our fingers too sticky.

And in the midst of all this nutty happiness, we’re going to tell you part of our secret for unforgettable peanut butter ecstasy. It’s something you can do at home – and, honestly, it’s a treat you and yours deserve. It’s a simple matter of using all natural and trans-fat free peanut butter.  It’s a difference that’s worth looking for; it tastes better, and it’s better for you, whether it’s in a cookie, pie or straight off the spoon.

We hope to see you soon for a little peanut party to celebrate this special month.  And if you like to eat your peanut butter pie without utensils, that’s okay by us – after all, it’s finger licking good and, although we can’t speak for mamma, we certainly won’t slap your hands.

Inverted Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

Inverted Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design