Restaurant recommendation:

THE BAKERY and CAFÉ at Rose Cottage in Pine Mountain, Georgia

Could not believe our great good luck last Friday.  Joe and I had slipped away to Georgia for a long weekend in the Pine Mountain and Calloway Gardens area.  It was perfect weather in the gentle, Georgia rolling hills.  We had the entire day to ourselves before joining friends for the rest of the weekend.  We went on a short errand into “the bustling metropolis” of Pine Mountain, Georgia with a total population of about 1,500 people, and stumbled across an interesting looking bakery.  On a high, open rack in the window, there was stack upon stack of loaves of round, crusty artisan bread.   Those loaves could not be denied since it was time for lunch.  Inside the restaurant we were surprised to find an antique and gift shop blended with the dining areas.   It has Southern-Victorian-Cottage charm (is there really such a thing, other than in my mind?).  Antique double-topped square tables with chairs, lovely oil paintings, old wooden chests, nooks with recessed cabinets displaying delicate antique china.  Someone had a great eye for an inviting place for lunch.  
Joe and I both selected “grilled country ham and flat creek cheddar on walnut campilloux served with a bowl of tomato bisque”.  Joe decided on a salad as the side dish and I asked to get their soup of the day instead of the tomato bisque.  Our delightful young server tried her best to steer me to the tomato bisque, but the other soup appealed to me more.  The sandwich was made on the bakery’s walnut bread and was absolutely fantastic. The soup of the day was great and then, our cute server rather sheepishly arrived at our table with a demitasse cup of the tomato bisque for me to “just sample”.  Obviously she was “sold” on this soup!  Only one sip of it sold us, too.   Joe and I instantly decided that this was a restaurant that we would like to mention on my new blog.  

The owners, Chef John and Maria Makin, formally of Scottsdale, Arizona are quite an interesting pair.  John was born in the Philippines where his father worked after World War II and married his mother who is of half German and half Filipino/Chinese.  Maria was born in Austria where her mother lived in Vienna.  So this pair came by international cuisine in a natural way.

They specialize in fresh, locally grown and raised ingredients for all of their menu offerings –
grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, cage-free eggs, chemical-free fruits and vegetables, artisan-made cheeses, etc.  Their menus change often to suit seasonal availability and to quote  Chef John, “the whims of the chef”! .

I asked John and Maria’s permission to feature their restaurant on The Curious Palate page of my blog.  They graciously not only gave me their time, but the recipe for one of their signature dishes, the Tomato Bisque.  John sat with us and wrote the recipe by hand for me with very few instructions.  He assumed that I would be able to make it.  I should have reminded him that I’m a cook not a chef!  While John was writing, Maria disappeared; then returned with slices of tarts made with the first fresh blueberries of the season and with fresh Georgia peaches!  Yummmm!

Then, they set-up a table on the dining patio with the white bowl of Tomato Bisque and the split Pesto baguette for Joe to photograph.  While the table was being set, I spied a huge, beautiful Rosemary bush in front of the shop next door and “pinched” a sprig for the photo-shot.  Later, I exercised my mother’s training in good Southern manners and went into the shop next door that sells unique local cheeses, wines, and coffees to thank the owner for not calling the police on me when I “stole’ the Rosemary sprig!  He graciously told me that I was welcome to the Rosemary  and offered us a sample of a local blue cheese.  It was superb.  We bought a wedge to share with our friends later.

The other photos were taken in my kitchen to prove that I could really make the Bisque.
I have taken his recipe and written it very precisely for you to be able to make it easily.  I have written a master list of ingredients to use for grocery shopping.  These same ingredients are also listed in the cooking steps, but the measurements are broken down for use in each step.

Grocery List:

1 whole celery bunch
2 large whole carrots
1 large & 1 medium Vidalia onions (or other sweet onions)
1 large round, ripe fresh tomato
6 large, ripe Roma tomatoes
1 small bottle virgin olive oil
1 whole fresh pod of garlic
1 ½ cups (12-oz) heavy cream
1 (3-oz.) can tomato paste
2-oz. fresh small (if possible) basil leaves
1 small container pinenuts (need 2 T.)
1 small wedge Parmesan cheese
1 long Baguette loaf of bread

TOMATO BISQUE by Chef John Makin

First, make a vegetable stock:

8 cups water
2 large pieces of celery, cut in chunks, use the leaves also
2 large carrots, peeled & cut in chunks
1 large onion, peeled & cut in chunks
1 large fresh round tomato, unpeeled  & cut in chunks
1 ½ tsp. salt

Place all ingredients into a Dutch oven or soup pot, bring to a boil for 5 minutes; then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 35 minutes.  Remove from heat; then remove the vegetables from the stock. Set aside the reserved stock to be used later.  The vegetables removed from the stock can either be discarded or you can use them as you desire.

Second, begin the Tomato Bisque:

6 whole, ripe Roma tomatoes
½ medium Vidalia onion (or other sweet onion)
½ cup virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 cups vegetable stock (see recipe above)
3 oz. tomato paste
¼ cup Basil Pesto (see recipe below)
1 ¼ tsp. to 1 ½ tsp. salt

Fill a medium saucepan ½ full of water and bring it to a boil.  Using a long-handle, 2 tine cooking fork, securely place the stem-end of a tomato onto the 2 tines of the fork; then place the whole tomato and part of the fork into the boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Remove the tomato from the boiling water and from the fork to a cutting board.  Using a small paring knife, lightly pierce the tip of the paring knife into the tomato skin and gently peel the tomato skin off in long pieces.  Repeat with all tomatoes.  On a cutting board, cut each peeled tomato in half length-wise.  Using a grapefruit or other narrow spoon, gently remove all tomato seeds and discard. (I put the seeds with their pulp in a small bowl, add a little salt and eat!).  Now, dice the tomatoes into uniform pieces.  Dice the onion into the same size uniform pieces.  Using a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil for just 15 seconds; then add the diced tomatoes, onions and minced garlic.  Stir to coat all vegetables with the olive oil, lower heat to medium-low and allow vegetables to “sweat” for 10 to15 minutes until the onion appears translucent.  Remove from heat and set aside.


Third, make the Basil Pesto:

2 oz. fresh small (if possible) sweet basil leaves, washed & trimmed of stems
2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
2 T. raw pinenuts
3 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3T. virgin olive oil, divided
¼ tsp. salt.

Using a cutting board, chop the basil leaves until you turn green!  The leaves ultimately need to be tiny specks of green.  In a food processor using the bottom steel cutting blades, add all of the Pesto ingredients to the chopped basil and puree.  Taste for salt and add, if needed.  Measure and reserve ¼ cup of the Pesto to use in the Tomato Bisque later.  To the small amount of Pesto that remains in the food processor, add the remaining 2-T. olive oil.  Puree again; then remove this Pesto mixture to a small bowl to use on the warmed baguette to serve on the side with the Tomato Bisque.  Do not bother to wash the food processor yet since it will be used again.

Fourth, finish the Tomato Bisque:

Use the food processor that made the Basil Pesto.  The bowl will probably still have Pesto flakes in it, which is good.  Add the “sweated” tomato mixture to the bowl and puree.  Pour the pureed tomato mixture back into the Dutch oven; then measure and add 2 cups of the reserved vegetable stock.  Stir to blend; then heat to boiling.  After bring to a complete boil, lower the heat to medium and slowly stir-in the tomato paste to blend and thicken.  Add the reserved ¼ cup of the Basil Pesto and stir to blend again.  Making sure the heat is below the boiling point, slowly stir-in the cream. Add the lesser amount of the salt; then taste. Add more salt, if desired.  Do not let the Tomato Bisque ever come to a boil after adding the cream; even if re-heating it.

In the oven, heat a long Baguette loaf of bread according to package directions.  After heated, cut the Baguette into individual pieces; then split each piece and spread with the remaining Basil Pesto.  Serve on the side with a cup or a bowl of the Tomato Bisque.

Thanks John and Maria. The Tomato Bisque has beautiful color with rich, soothing, aromas and wonderful taste for the palate.

Contributed by: CHEF JOHN MAKIN
Chef/ Proprietor: THE BAKERY and CAFÉ at Rose Cottage
111 East Broad Street
Pine Mountain, Georgia 31822
(706) 663-7877