by Cameron Wicker

I feel the need to apologize to the Georgia Bulldogs, their fans and most importantly, Mark Richt. The Dawgs started the 2012 football season 5-0. And on each of those five game days, I diligently watched ESPN Game Day, wore my lucky black shorts purchased the same day Georgia defeated the LSU Tigers in the 2005 SEC Championship, turned a single dollar bill upside down in my wallet and ate a red velvet cupcake. Sometimes two or more, if I’m being honest.

On Saturday, October 6, ESPN Game Day was at South Carolina for the UGA vs. USC showdown. I watched. My lucky black shorts were freshly laundered. I wore them. I had a single dollar bill in my wallet. I turned it. Folks, I hate to admit that I did not follow my fourth—failsafe—game day ritual. I did not have any red velvet cupcakes. Naively, I thought this would not hold any significance in affecting the outcome of the matchup. Perhaps the Dawgs strength had everything to do with training, coaching, strong offense and defense and nothing to do with cupcakes. Boy, was I ever wrong.

I think we all know how this story ends—with the bewildering 35-7 defeat of the mighty Georgia Bulldogs at the hands of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Which, by the way, is just a glorified chicken. I could not feel worse about my actions and how they led to this blemish on UGA’s heretofore perfect record.

Bulldog Nation, we have some big games coming up and it is squarely upon me to right this situation—with cupcakes! I encourage you to join me in the consumption of as many red velvet cupcakes as humanly possible each and every UGA game day.

Believe me, I understand, with the preparation of so many game day wings, dips, casseroles and potato skins, adding another item to the menu may be tough. Might I suggest The Island Baker? It’s up to us, Dawgs!

           

Here at Hodnett Cooper, we’ve long ago thrown out our New Year’s Resolutions and good intentioned diet plans. In our midst, we have Miranda Loehle, also known as The Island Baker.

Miranda has been at Hodnett Cooper Real Estate, Inc for ten years. She’s always loved baking and the rest of us have happily been her new recipe test panel. Famous for her creative cupcakes and mini pies, any one of us can tell you that they are absolutely divine. Miranda recently launched a side business, The Island Baker—now more folks can be a part of our cupcake adventures.

Miranda is a cupcake pioneer, always trying new, daring recipes. On Monday, she came in with six boxes of mini cupcakes—all new recipes that even Martha Stewart wouldn’t think of. Of course, we tried them all.

2. Pistachio & Rosewater: a rosewatercupcake topped with a pistachio cream cheese icing infused with rosewater

4. White Russian: a kahlua infused cupcake topped with a kahlua and crème icing

6. Lavender & Honey: a vanilla cupcake brushed with honey topped with a lavender honey cream cheese icing

8. Oreo: a chocolate sour cream cupcake with bits of oreos topped with a cookies and cream frosting

10. Chocolate Bacon: a chocolate cupcake with bits of bacon topped with a chocolate Nutella buttercream icing

12. Honey & Goat Cheese: a honey cupcake topped with a creamy goat cheese icing infused with honey

Yes, bacon in a cupcake! And it was good.

Miranda gets her inspiration from recipes online, flavors she likes and suggestions from friends and facebook fans. “What I love most about experimenting with flavors is that they are different—in a good way. They are fun, trendy flavors that you have to be adventurous to try, but in the end, you’re glad you did,” says Miranda.

While not all are a home run with everyone, we each seem to have a favorite. “My favorite was when Miranda started experimenting with her ‘IntoxiCakes’ recipes. There were mojito cupcakes, margarita cupcakes and even an Irish car bomb cupcake.”

For years, Hodnett Cooper has been lucky enough to have first dibs on Miranda’s treats. Now the rest of St. Simons Island and Brunswick can order from The Island Baker. Trust us, as her R&D team we can say for certain, they’re delish.

by Guerry Norwood

The Darien Waterfront Wine & Gourmet Shop is located in the Shops at 107 Broad Street in historic district of downtown Darien, Georgia. They have a wide variety of wine, beer and cheese.

While you are in the store picking out a wine, don’t forget to check out their selection of gourmet food, including Buckhead Certified Angus Beef Steaks, Alaska Wild Caught Salmon, Bahamian or Maine Lobster Tails, New Zealand Rack of Lamb, Center Cut Pork Chops, Ashley Farms All-Natural Chicken, and other fine meats. Their grocery selection also includes locally caught Georgia Wild Shrimp, along with Georgia made Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese and Sugar Marsh Cottage Gourmet Chocolates. Most of their offerings are top-of-the-line and on the expensive side. The Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese is one of our favorites. It is fine hand crafted brie cheese made in Thomasville, Georgia.

Directly behind the store is the Waterfront Wine Bar with a beautiful view of the Darien River. It is open from 5 to10 every Friday and Saturday night. Enter through the Wine Store, then sit down and enjoy a beer, a glass of wine, along with an hors d’ oeuvre or desert while you watch the boats go by and the sun set over the river. Their wine & beer list includes an assortment of red & white wines from around the world, either by the glass or by the bottle, import & domestic craft beers, and sparkling & dessert wines. Pair one of them with an antipasto plate, artisan cheese plate, crab cake plate, or a dessert plate. There may even be live music at times!

Be sure to sign up for their email list for notice of special events and wine tastings.

by Guerry Norwood

Georgia Olive Farms, an agricultural cooperative formed in 2009, in Lakeland, Georgia is the leading East Coast producer and marketer of olive trees and Georgia Olive Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil. In 2011, Georgia Olive Farms conducted the first commercial harvest of olives east of the Mississippi River since the late 1800s. The olives harvested were pressed into extra virgin olive oil, which is marketed under the Georgia Olive Farms label. Right now there is a very limited supply of the 2011 harvest of the Chef’s Blend of Georgia Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Georgia Olive Farms is working with farmers and investors to provide sustainable, locally produced olive oil to east coast consumers.

The efforts of Georgia Olive Farms should result in a significantly reduced carbon footprint for olive oil consumed on the east coast. Each year, Georgia Olive Farms will be the first to harvest olives in the United States and can provide the very freshest olive oil to U.S. consumers, especially on the east coast.

While most may assume that growing olives in South Georgia is a radically new concept, south Georgia olives are, in reality, a tradition older than our nation. In archeological excavations of 16th century Franciscan settlements from Florida up through Georgia, olive pits have been found. Also, in the early 18th century, British settlers arriving to St. Simons Island, Georgia found olive trees growing alongside oranges near the lighthouse. These olives were most likely brought to the new world by Spanish explorers as far back as 1526. It is known that Spanish explorers sailed with olives aboard, and they are attributed with introducing the sour orange to the east coast of America.

 

by Guerry Norwood

Olive Affairs is located in the downtown historic district of Darien, Georgia at 106 Broad Street. Olive Affairs features fine gourmet olive oil, vinegars and other olive-related products. They also carry a very limited supply of “Georgia Liquid Gold” which is a 2011 harvest of a chef’s blend extra virgin olive oil from the Georgia Olive Farms in Lakeland, Georgia. They also sell their Award Winning Gourmet Olive Tapenade, Vegan Olive Tapenade, Italian Olive Oils, Gourmet Modena Aged Balsamic vinegars, muffaletta sandwiches, breads and much more. Next time you are in Darien, stop by and check out this very unique shop.

 

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by Guerry Norwood

Barbara Jean’s is a family run, multi-unit restaurant operation that began here on St. Simons Island in 1988. Jim & Barbara specialize in both seafood and made-from-scratch, home-style cooking. There is little doubt that they are best known for their Crab Cakes, but their Southern entrees and vegetables are great. At Barbara Jean’s they make three different fresh breads and up to fifteen vegetables daily. They also have three homemade soups on the menu daily, and that always includes their truly incredible “She Crab Soup.” Each day they hand batter and cook to order every fried product, and those include Chicken Fingers, Chicken Fried Steak, Fried Fish Fillets, Chicken Fried Chicken, Fried Shrimp, Fried Catfish and Coconut Shrimp too!

My personal favorites are the meat loaf and the country fried steak. The service is impeccable, the ambiance is lovely, and the food is to die for. It’s rare that a restaurant can pull off both seafood and home-style cooking and do both very well, but Barbara Jean’s does just that. Expect long waits all day long in the summer. I recommend you put your name in at the door and then take a stroll through the Village to the pier to work up a good appetite. You will need it with all the food and bread they serve you!

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by Guerry Norwood

Fins On The Beach is located on Jekyll Island at 201 Beachview Drive. Fins is—by far—one of the best ocean view restaurant on the Georgia Coast. They have an outside patio dining area with about 12 tables with expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Fins has been newly remodeled and boasts a brand new menu! Fins features signature seafood platters with fresh fish and Wild Georgia Shrimp. I had the hamburger with grilled onions, mushrooms and cheddar cheese—very good and cooked just right. And the fries were very good.

During our visit, the patio was packed but the service was good and fast. Our waitress didn’t miss a beat refilling our tea and cokes though she was quite busy. Next time I visit Jekyll Island, I will give their seafood a try. They also had some very interesting salad dishes I would like to try. Yes, I’m going back!

Fins on the Beach, Jekyll Island

by Guerry Norwood

Indigo Coastal Shanty is located at 1402 Reynolds Street in downtown Brunswick. Indigo is operated by Kate Buchanan, one of the former owners of Cargo Portside Grill. The eclectic restaurant is currently open Tuesday through Friday from 11am to 3pm for lunch and Friday and Saturday night from 5pm to 9pm for supper. The food presentation was great, and what an experience for my taste buds. Indigo has a daily special and soup every day. I had the Stockpot Pozole Verde soup with chicken, tomatilloes, poblanoes with hominy. It was exceptional. My son had the fish tostada which was a crisp blue corn tortilla topped with black beans, island slaw, grilled fish and fresh pineapple salsa. It also came with black beans and rice. A.T. had the Mediterranean veggie stack, which was grilled season vegetables with hummus layered and drizzled with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette and crumbled feta cheese. My wife had the jerked chicken which were two large chicken breast served with Jamaican spices for a touch of heat. It was served with black beans and rice, pineapple salsa & a cooling dollop of sour cream. I had the daily special which was the crisp Venezuelan corncakes stuffed with a beef and pork picadillo, melted Mexican cheese and avocado cream; served with a side of salsa verde, black beans, brown rice & crisp Island slaw. We cannot wait to make a return visit to try out some of the other unique dishes. Get there early because this is a small restaurant popular with the locals, so the line starts forming around 11:30 or earlier.

by Guerry Norwood

Mangos Grill is a great Cuban restaurant recently opened in Brunswick at 135 Altama Connector (across the street from the Wal Mart). Mangos serves some of the best dishes from Latin America, including Cuban sandwiches, plantains and burritos. All of their food is made from scratch and is very tasty. I had the Arepas, which are two huge hot corn cakes, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. They are stuffed with ground beef or chicken. My wife had the hot dogs, which are not your average hot dogs. The all-beef franks are served in a fresh baked bun, top with their secret relish, mayo, mustard ketchup and a very generous sprinkle of potato sticks. The black beans and rice are some of the best we have ever had. Mangos Grill also serves up a variety of salads, sandwiches, wraps, tacos, quesadillas, burritos and nachos. Mangos Grill is open seven days a week from 11am to 9pm. We look forward to a return visit to Mangos Grill in the near future.

by Guerry Norwood

Located on the pier end of Mallory Street in the charming Pier Village of St. Simons Island, Zuzu’s has an oceanfront view of the sparkling water and the pier. They serve up a great hamburger with hand cut fries. They also have a good hotdog. This is by far the best ice cream shop on the Island. Stop in for a cup or cone of hand-dipped ice cream and draw up a stool in front of the expansive window. You can people watch as passersby envy your ice cream. If you’re a little shy and don’t want to drip ice cream in front of everyone, there are plenty of booths where you can enjoy your ice cream or opt for a sandwich, salad, or cool drink. Or take your treat outside on a stroll along the pier. But eat it quick before it melts! And their lemonade is always a hit during the summer months! Zuzu’s is a delightful beachfront diner.

Inside Zuzu’s

Zuzu's Burger & Fries