Palate January 2022

EAT – Black Lotus Cuisine

By Griffin Nelson  |  Photography by John Antaki

When it comes to a great meal experience, the environment is just as important as the food. I’ve always loved creative food, but I’m particularly impressed when someone comes up with a creative way to serve it.

Chef Reggie White has done exactly that with Black Lotus Cuisine. White’s urban Asian approach to cooking is unique, but his approach to catering and cooking for people is what makes him special.

“I’ve always loved cooking,” White says. Growing up in the River Region, he entered his first cooking competition at church in middle school where he won the category of “best salad” for a cold shrimp salad. A proven love of food convinced his mother to let him cook all day on Saturdays, leaving him in charge of breakfast, lunch and dinner. By the time White graduated, he had more kitchen experience than most teens. He eventually left to attend Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, N.C. to pursue a degree in culinary arts.

After obtaining his degree, he was given an opportunity to work in the Virgin Islands, learning the ins-and-outs of Caribbean cooking. He then moved to the opposite side of the country — living and working in Alaska — where the focus was on hearty, filling foods for those living in a more rugged environment.

The Asian influence that pervades much of his palate has a familial influence as he’s elevated the sushi and Chinese food that he remembers fondly as a kid. Today, each of these influences is recognizable on the menu of Black Lotus Cuisine — items like warm, hearty ramen noodles with jerk chicken, lobster or Sriracha-garlic fried chicken, and fusion dishes like sushi nachos and peach cobbler egg rolls.

You can find White at the Saturday market during the warmer months but what truly makes Black Lotus’ catering style special are the parties. Starting at only $15 per person, with only a minimum of four people required, Chef Reggie White will come to your house and cook for you!

There are, of course, add-ons and upgrades like different proteins and desserts, but that price includes an appetizer and entree with the ability to personalize ramen broth, meat and toppings! With a week’s notice, White can prep for a home ramen, sushi or hot pot party. This personalized chef experience is perfect for small gatherings, double dates or as a way to introduce your friends and family to something new without the pressure of going out.

Black Lotus Cuisine is changing the meaning of bringing new concepts of fine food and dining to the Augusta area!

To book a party or to find out more visit www.blacklotuscuisine.com.


 

SIP – The Bees Knees

Photo by John Antaki

The Bee’s Knees is an Augusta staple. When they closed during the pandemic the entire community mourned the loss of a restaurant that held many memories for so many people. Though they’ve changed up their business model upon reopening, the solid reputation that they’ve built over more than 20 years has kept them a success.

When Eric Kinlaw opened The Bee’s Knees in 1998 it was originally a vintage shop. He moved the business to the current location in 2002 and considered opening a cafe similar to the original Clausen’s bakery that the building housed from 1888–1920. Though he obviously went with a different perspective at the time, the idea of baked goods and coffee circled back around when he was deciding what to do with the business as Covid began easing up. A good friend had a contact with a fabulous copper espresso machine for sale and the idea took off from there.

With a continued commitment to high quality, creative and plant-based food and drink, the renewed Bee’s Knees Coffee and Curios has essentially morphed into a cafe version of itself with fantastic coffee, tea, baked goods and some grab-and-go style items like salads, wraps and hummus. The location and vibe is the same, but fewer tables allowed the business to add a unique indoor plant selection and vintage curios like clothing, vinyl and decor for sale.

The previous Bee’s Knees restaurant did a great job of thinking outside the box and supporting other local businesses when it came to menu items. The new coffee shop continues to do the same. Beans have been sourced from regional roasters and rotate occasionally to keep the selection new and exciting. Loose-leaf teas include the popular chai that adds house spices, giving it a wonderfully individual spice-packed flavor profile.

There are multiple varieties of matcha — a strong, green tea powder that yields an intense and nutrient-rich drink — ranging from traditional to smoky and beyond, which makes a wonderful latte. They have a couple of types of cold brew including a particularly neat contraption for slow drip, small batch and experimental flavors like pineapple-jalapeño and honey-lavender. Their nitro system from the “old days” has been revamped and allows them to offer a nitro house cold brew as well as a nitro cold brew latte made with a perfect balance of oat milk. House-made syrups can be added to anything you’d like a little sweeter, and whole and plant-based milks are available for lattes.

The new face of The Bee’s Knees has seen a shift in hours as well, opening from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday–Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Online ordering is available so you can place your order for pickup during open hours. Alternatively, you can sit and enjoy your coffee and treats at the bar or in one of the unique window spaces surrounded by lively plants and local art — all of which, of course, are for sale, both creating a beautiful space and allowing The Bee’s Knees to continue supporting its community with the same creative and sustainable perspective intrinsic to their name.

https://www.restaurantji.com/ga/augusta/the-bees-knees-/


 

 

ARTISAN – SugarMacs

Macarons are one of those treats that never lose their flair. Since the 16th century when Catherine de’ Medici carried the recipe with her to France upon her marriage to King Henry II, the time and labor intensive dessert has always lived up to its specialty confection.

The cookies are made of almond flour, sugar and whipped egg whites and require precise timing every step of the way. The fillings — anything from buttercreams to jams, ganache and more — need just the right balance of flavors as not to overpower the cookies. Once the final result is created, the sandwich spheres go through a process called “maturing” in the fridge which allows the outside to crisp, the inside to remain spongy and the flavors to blend into a medley of tasteful togetherness.

The finished product is worth all the hard work. As Kara Ewell, owner of SugarMacs says, “They’re kind of an ‘anytime snack’ whether its an afternoon treat or a fancy tea.” Ewell started her business in October 2020 during the pandemic as, like the rest of the world, she looked for an outlet to fill her days being stuck at home.

She’d always loved macarons and had a good idea of how to make them. So, after hundreds of trials and taste tests by the neighbors and her spouse, starting a business offered an outlet to continue her passion and share it with the community. “Being stuck inside and bored provides a lot of opportunity to find your passion,” Ewell jokes.

Ewell has worked hard to get the perfect balance of cookie to filling, typically going with a cream cheese based icing to keep the sweetness level in check. She’s not afraid to venture outside her comfort zone with flavors either. Previous out-of-the-box macaron flavors include pimento cheese, dirty banana (based off the popular cocktail) and chocolate chili. She also offers reliable, crowd-pleasing favorites like hot chocolate, winter mint and vanilla. Rotating flavors seasonally allows for creativity and custom options are available for events like weddings, wine tastings, bridal showers and birthdays.

Ewell has a great understanding of the importance of spending time with the people you love. So not only is SugarMacs available for catering events, it is available for small gathering consultations like tea parties and it has rentable platters and displays for the French treats. No matter what your event — or flavor preference — SugarMacs wants you to “taste the happy.”

Appears in the January 2022 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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