Growing up, fall meant soccer games and collecting acorns. Starting out in the restaurant business, fall smelled like the burning hickory of the oven at Bottega and working football weekends in Birmingham AL. Professionally, fall was the memorable season when my first restaurant opened. During the fall of 2000, a perfect mix of quality culinary training and joyful disorganization pushed local, seasonal fall vegetables into the market. Well ahead of the national curve, long before there were “locavores” or “foodies,” Chattanooga became a place where it was OK to serve asparagus in October, but savvy diners knew better. After all, it’s the distinct seasons and change in the weather that helps to make Chattanooga so nice, and part of how we celebrate that is with the food we eat.
At Public House, we have always prided ourselves in following each season with the food we serve. While modern growing techniques and transportation make it possible to serve a trendy item like brussels sprouts all year, we think it’s important to slow down and savor each season and celebrate the produce that defines it. Each fall, for a brief time, we reintroduce fall squash, a fall bean and fried green tomatoes. Tomatoes, freshly plucked from the vine before they ripen so they do not rot, are breaded, fried and served with a classic, Mississippi “comeback” sauce. Butternut squash, which is abundant from our local farmers, is carefully roasted with rosemary and thyme and then mashed with a drizzle of sweet honey. This fall, we are introducing slow-cooked, cranberry beans paired with smoky bacon and a hint of spice. Until the first frost tells us it is time to move to the winter crop, we celebrate the cool in the air, football on Saturdays, and a menu that indicates it is fall.