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Hanging Out With // Interview with Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic

Garrett McCord is all over the culinary and food-writing world.  He has worked as an assistant pastry chef, he teaches cooking and writing classes, and works as a recipe writer and tester… and those are just a few of the creative cookie jars that he’s dipped his fingers into.  You can find Garrett’s musings about all things food on his blog, Vanilla Garlic, where he shares his culinary adventures. His writing is truly informative and full of personality, just like his responses to our questions!

You used to work as an assistant pastry chef.  What is the first memory you have of being fascinated with food and the culinary world, and what drew you specifically to working in professional pastry arts?

The first memory I have of being fascinated with food was when I stumbled across a blog called Cupcake Bakeshop. The author made a peach, blueberry, and thyme cupcake and for some reason the idea of something savory in a cupcake made me curious and drew me in. I made the cupcake and was smitten. After that I was flying down a supersonic waterslide of sugar and flour and buying way too many baking cookbooks and cooking my way through them.

From working as an assistant pastry chef to food writing to teaching cooking and writing classes, it seems you’ve enjoyed a very multi-faceted career.  Is there an area of the culinary world that you haven’t delved into yet that you would like to explore?

I really want to write a culinary history book someday. My ultimate career goal is to teach writing or composition classes at the community college or university level and use food as the lens for my writing instruction.

Your website includes a list of food blogs that you “heart” and Best Friends for Frosting is so honored to be part of that list!  What are your current top three food blogs?

I have a fondness for Simply Recipes. Yes, I do guest post there, but I love it because Elise Bauer keeps it running right. The recipes are well-tested (at least four times) and always work. Helene Dujardin’s Tartelette blog is another fave of mine. She has beautiful and eclectic recipes and photos. Another food blog I love is Confessions of a Restaurant Whore. It’s the blog that got me into food writing.  It closed about two years ago and is chalk full of salty language that isn’t safe for work. Still, it inspires me and gets me to write on those days I really don’t want to.

Your career takes you all over the world to discover and write about food.  What is one of the most interesting places you’ve been to in terms of your experience with food culture?

Last year I went to China and Tibet and the food was outstanding, but I was particularly intrigued to learn about Tibetan food. This was because I essentially had no idea what Tibetan food was made up of. It turns out that it’s an intriguing cross between Chinese and Indian food. Lots of curries and stir fries, and filled with fenugreek, turmeric, peppers, cilantro, onions, and cumin. There was even a touch of Middle Eastern influence, as naan was served at every meal and stewed lamb with dates and olives made more than one appearance. Also, lots of yak meat and yak milk, both of which are delicious and taste like gamier versions of their cow brethren. One particularly lovely Tibetan drink is butter tea: languidly steeped black tea, home churned yak butter, and salt all frothed together. It sounds a bit funky, but it’s wonderful and just what you want to drink in that cold, high altitude.

You are a self-proclaimed cheese connoisseur.  What are your top 3 cheeses and how do you think they should be enjoyed?

The thing about great artisanal and farmstead cheeses is that there’s always something new to learn and new cheeses to try. Each year the United States is seeing more eager young dairies and cheesemakers pop up. They are all driven by the desire to craft amazing products, and already existing dairies that may already have epic legacies or just have a few years under their hooves are creating new cheeses for their existing lines. As it is, there are always new cheeses to try, from newbies like Point Reyes’ Toma, to age-old classics like a cumin-spiced Leiden. My favorites tend to change frequently, however, Kokos is one current infatuation of mine. As a Dutch cheese, this is a gouda recipe that has coconut cream mixed in with the milk before aging. The result is a dessert cheese that’s rich, sweet, and creamy, with the taste of coconut. It’s wonderful for melting and cooking, and it pairs perfectly with sparkling wines. Up In Smoke is a delicate little goat cheese with a lot of personality that comes from Rivers Edge Chèvre in Oregon. The cheese is wrapped in maple leaves that have been washed and then smoked over alder and hickory chips. The cheese is also smoked before wrapping. The whole thing then gets a light misting of bourbon because, why not? Enjoy this cheese with a glass of bourbon and some toasted pecans. You will be so very happy. And then there’s Monte Enebro. Okay, I admit that this one actually is my favorite cheese, hands down. It’s a Spanish goats log that’s wrapped up in a bit of the blue mold that’s used to make Roquefort. It is lemony, peppery, and pungent, and I love it with a dessert wine. Classic Blue Log by Westfield Farm is an appropriate substitute if you want to stay stateside with your cheese choices. This is the same Classic Blue Log I was lucky enough to work into my upcoming cookbook, Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese.

Your writing has been featured in many publications from Gourmet Live to Epi-Log.  Are there any publications that you would consider to be the Holy Grail of publications that you hope to one day be featured in?

I would dig writing about cheese for Food and Wine or for Gastronomica. The latter because I’m still a graduate student at heart and I love well-researched articles and history pieces. Food and Wine is just so pretty and informative. Both are laurels I would happily rest upon.

 

If you would like to find out more about Garrett McCord, check out the links below:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VanillaGarlic

Twitter: http://twitter.com/GarrettMcCord

Cookbook Website: http://www.meltmacaroni.com/

Cookbook Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MeltMacaroni

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