Southern Living Test Kitchen on the Road: July 19-20, 2014
O.Henry Hotel Executive Chef Leigh Hesling and Southern Living's Vanessa McNeil Rocchio at the Farmers Market to pick out ingredients for dinner, including the perfect watermelons.
At afternoon tea, everyone received a menu individually painted by O.Henry Hotel's artist-in-residence Chip Holton. Guests also took home 28 recipe cards of the featured items, including the Vanilla Rosemary Lemonade served at arrival, cookies in their guestroom and items served at afternoon tea, evening reception, dinner and breakfast.
Afternoon tea included a sampling of savory and sweet: vanilla scones, spicy cheddar rounds, lamingtons, buttermilk cheese tarts, bourbon balls, ham & brie sandwiches, goat cheese and pecan finger sandwiches with fig preserves, caramelized onion & bacon quiche, lime cornmeal cookies and cucumber sandwiches. Beverages included iced mint tea and vanilla-rosemary lemonade, along with caribe and earl grey supreme hot teas.
Summer blooms brighten each table at afternoon tea.
Chef Rocchio signs her cookbook that each guest received. Right: Chef Hesling and Chef Rocchio getting pumped for the grand dinner.
The centerpieces on the tables for the grand farm-to-fork dinner paid tribute to the bounty of the summer gardens.
Chef Hesling and Chef Rocchio demonstrated the recipes for all four courses that guests enjoyed at dinner. Many cooking tips and much laughter were shared. Each course was matched with the perfect wine:
First: Blueberry & Grain Kale Salad with wheat berries, toasted pecans, crumbled feta and red wine vinaigrette.
Second: Day Boat Catch over Watermelon & Feta Orzo Salad with watercress and lemon-shallot vinaigrette
Third: Bacon Wrapped Root Beer Braised Brisket with local tomato jam, field peas and sweet corn
Fourth: Blueberry Cheesecake with fresh whipped cream and mint
At dinner, each guest received another original painting on their menu. At right is the blueberry cheesecake for dessert.
A fun, eclectic mix of lively linens and tables give a distinctive Southern Living look in the Hawkins Brown Room.
Southern Living inspired centerpiece showcasing the summer garden.
Southern Living Test Kitchen on the Road 2014 Details - Returning to O.Henry in 2015!
This is a real treat for folk who love food and Southern Living magazine: O.Henry Hotel will be one of the first stops for the Southern Living “Test Kitchen on the Road.” Vanessa McNeil Rocchio, cookbook author and test kitchen specialist, will share recipes and cooking tips, plus secrets from her 24 years at Southern Living.
In addition, she’ll host a really special farm-to-fork feast on Saturday night. Green Valley Grill Executive Chef Leigh Hesling will join her in preparing a dinner made from fresh finds that they’ll get from the farmers market that morning! They will demonstrate the recipes that you will enjoy during a four-course dinner, which will include wine pairings.
Before dinner, you can also enjoy a relaxing afternoon tea with Vanessa, during which she’ll sign her cookbook, What’s for Supper: 30-Minute Meals Everyone Will Love (included in your package).
A member of the prestigious Southern Living Hotel Collection, O.Henry Hotel is the perfect location for a celebration of Southern food. There'll be plenty of optional activities during the weekend, including biking on the greenway, shopping next door at Friendly Center or relaxing by the pool.
Saturday, July 19
- 12 PM: Early check-in for hotel guests
- 3–4 PM: Afternoon Tea with Vanessa McNeil Rocchio & Book Signing
- 6:30 PM: Welcome Wine Reception in the Social Lobby with small bites made from Southern Living recipes
- 7 PM: Four course Farm-to-Fork Grand Dinner with cooking demos by Vanessa and Chef Hesling
- 9:30 PM: Unwind at Green Valley Grill Bar
Sunday, July 20
- 7–10:30 AM: Southern breakfast buffet that includes Southern Living recipes
- Late check-out
What is the Test Kitchen?
The Southern Living Test Kitchen perfects each of our thousands of recipes to be delicious and doable, conducting an average of 260 tastings each year and evaluating as many as 20 recipes at a time. The staff tests about 3,000 recipes each year. Each of four kitchens is set up like a home kitchen so that the cooking conditions mirror that of your home. The appliances and pantry staples are just like that of a typical household. Even the groceries are purchased at ordinary stores. Besides being staffed by Test Kitchen Professionals, it might as well be your next-door neighbor’s kitchen. Every day the staff of writers and cooks gathers at a large rectangular kitchen table. Each person sits in a similar spot as the day before, like at a family dinner. Some days their plates (real china, of course) hold samplings from two or three dishes. Other days the spread of food is so plentiful that a separate plate is necessary for the desserts, and there are enough dishes to make a holiday meal out of “tastes.” The staff files through the stations of carefully labeled food and pours glasses of sweet tea or water before they begin to taste and discuss. Vanessa will share more "behind-the-scenes" details and plenty of tips for your home kitchen.
More about Vanessa
Chef Vanessa McNeil Rocchio is a Test Kitchen Specialist and Food Stylist for Southern Living, where she has worked for 24 years. She’s loved cooking since childhood, when she made biscuits with her dad on Sunday mornings. Vanessa previously worked for the Southern Living Cooking School, where she traveled the South as a Foods and Entertaining Specialist. Working in the test kitchen is her dream job. She develops and tests recipes as well as styling food for photography. She has recently published two books in the Southern Living "What’s for Supper" series. She also writes a standing column in the magazine Quick Fix Suppers. She appears on QVC to sell and demonstrate Oxmoor House published cookbooks. Vanessa received a degree in Foods and Nutrition from East Texas State University and a degree in Culinary Arts from Le Cordon Bleu in London. She specializes in grilling and quick dinners, and loves to cook for her family and friends. She lives in Birmingham with her husband and son.
About the Cookbook, What's For Supper
"It's summer! Wouldn't you rather be enjoying those extra hours of sunlight instead of hustling to make dinner? On practically every page there's handy information (including time-saving tips and kitchen wisdom from Southern Living's experts), delicious recipes that require a mere 30 minutes or less of hands-on prep, and taste-tempting photos that might make it hard to decide what to cook next. They all look so good! That's in addition to slow cooker options, healthy favorties, no-cook meals and small-batch dinners perfectly portioned for one or two so you don't have to worry about leftovers. I love a cookbook that has main and side in one recipe; For mix-and-match options that double their value, why not serve the Fresh Corn Cakes with the Rosemary Chicken Kabobs instead of Grilled Chicken, or Field Pea Succotash with Cilantro Flank Steak rather than Creole Chicken? All that sunlight's getting my creative juices flowing!"
- Beth Goehring
About Chef Leigh Hesling
Leigh is the Executive Chef of Green Valley Grill, O.Henry Hotel, Print Works Bistro and Proximity Hotel. With his mantra of “nearer the farm to the fork, the better the flavor,” you will often see him at the farmer’s market and transporting his fresh vegetables in style in his London “Veggie” Taxi. Before moving his family to North Carolina in 2005 to join our team, Chef Hesling traveled the world for five years as a chef with the Queen Elizabeth 2 and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
Prior to the ships, his culinary training started in Australia and took him to several countries before cooking at several restaurants in England. His appetite for fresh, local and seasonal ingredients stems from his upbringing on a farm in the mountains near Cairns, Australia. His family grew much of what they ate, from livestock to fruits and vegetables, and that instilled in him a healthy respect for those who work the earth.