Carmen’s Baked Whipped Potatoes
Potato-lovers are in for a surprise with Carmen’s Baked Whipped Potatoes. But you won’t catch the restaurant’s owner, Maricarmen Josephs, giving away the recipe.
“We call them secret potatoes,” she said.
Josephs is a fellow potato-lover, but when it came down to putting them on her menu, she wanted to do something different.
“They’re not just straight-forward mashed potatoes,” she said. “I wanted something different. I’m not a big fan of garlic-y, heavy mashed potatoes. I like them a little bit lighter.”
One ingredient Josephs will divulge is nutmeg, which she thinks adds to their comfort food appeal.
“They’re warm, delicious and with a hint of nutmeg,” she said. “That’s all very comforting to me.”
If you’re making potatoes at home, Josephs suggests using a ricer to make them light and fluffy and to add flavors that veer from the traditional garlic and butter.
“Trying mixing in different vegetables—the variations are endless,” she said.
Or you could just order some off the night menu at Carmen’s.
CARMEN’S LUNCH BAR
WHERE: 407-B South Palafox
DETAILS: 542-4334 or carmenslunchbar.com
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Chocolate and bread are great alone, but Dharma Blue actually makes them taste even better together.
“Rich in chocolate, powered sugar, white bread,” said Robin Kennedy, general manager of Dharma Blue. “It’s untraditional, but very good.”
The White Chocolate Bread Pudding started on the Chuck’s Fish menu in Alabama. It was so popular that the owners put it on the menu in their Pensacola restaurant, Dharma Blue.
The popular dessert recipe is a tightly kept secret among staff.
“I know the recipe, but I can’t tell or I’d be in big trouble,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy has other comfort food favorites on the Dharma Blue menu.
“I like the fried calamari and the fried green tomatoes,” she said.
Once you’ve had your sushi—Kennedy recommends the volcano roll—or fried foods, remember to save room for this sweet treat.
WHERE: 300 S. Alcaniz St.
DETAILS: 433-1275 or dharmablue.com
White Bean Chicken Chili
Soup season is in full swing and The Magnolia is ready to satisfy your every comfort-food craving with their variety of house-made soups. One of their most popular (and requested) soups is a fresh take on a classic—white bean chicken chili.
“Quite a few people have commented that our soups taste like they are homemade,” said Kiley Bolster, chef and owner of The Magnolia. “That’s the best compliment I’ve ever received, because I make all of them from scratch.”
For Bolster, a comfort food is something that warms and fills you up. Unlike heavier foods, the white bean chicken chili fills you up without dragging you down.
“It’s hearty, but still feels light because of the chicken and spicy broth. Sometimes beef chili just feels so heavy, you know?” Bolster said.
The chili is also presented differently than your run-of-the-mill beef chilis.
“We serve the chili as a Frito chili pie: layered over Frito corn chips, topped with shredded cheddar and sour cream,” Bolster said. “There are a lot of textures and flavors going on that make it a popular and interesting dish.”
Bolster has a few tips for you to make your own chili a more exciting dish.
“I always try to balance sweetness and spiciness in chili,” she said. “Cayenne and brown sugar do that trick, usually; use unsalted stock so you can control the seasoning, I love Kitchen Basics stock because it is gluten free, and leave it alone. Good chili takes time so start it in the morning and let it bubble away all day.”
Don’t have the time or inclination to watch soup bubble all day? Like The Magnolia on Facebook to find out what their soup special of the day is (and keep your fingers crossed that it is the white bean chicken chili).
WHERE: 2907 E. Cervantes St.
DETAILS: 912-6196 or magnoliapensacola.com
Sweet Potato Pancakes
Pancakes are usually a guilty pleasure, but at Dog House Deli you can indulge without scruples.
“They’re a pretty healthy mix,” said Owner Nathan Holler.
The menu favorite was brought to the attention of Dog House Deli owners by a customer. After experimenting with different recipes, the Sweet Potato Pancakes were born.
“We at first tried them with a little syrup,” Holler said. “But when we tried them with local honey the flavor just exploded.”
The addition of caramelized pecans and bananas made them stand out even more.
“They can be a little questionable,” admitted Holler. “It took a little while for them to catch on, but now they get rave reviews.”
Holler remembers as a kid, eating pancakes fresh off the griddle, but said he wanted to make pancakes for adults.
“Kids will always love pancakes and syrup, but for adults that can get old,” he said. “The sweet potatoes give the pancakes a pumpkin-esque flavor. They’re also endorsed by the American Heart Association.”
On mornings when you actually have the time to make breakfast, Holler suggest adding fruit and substituting honey for syrup.
“Simply use fruit and nuts,” he said. “Fresh, cold strawberries, blueberries, pecans. Head to the downtown market for your local honey, too.”
Head to Dog House Deli on Pensacola Beach, Saturdays and Sundays 7:30 to 11:30 a.m., for breakfast or Monday through Saturday at their downtown location.
DOG HOUSE DELI
WHERE: 35 Via De Luna, Pensacola Beach; 30 S. Palafox, Downtown
DETAILS: 916-4993 or 432-3104; doghousedeli.com
Chicken Pot Pie
Polonza Bistro offers daily comfort food lunch specials—pot roast, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf—but the most popular is Thursday’s Chicken Pot Pie.
“We absolutely run out, that’s why you have to get here before 1 p.m.,” said Steven Turner, manager. “People even call in to set a few pies aside.”
The specials are made fresh daily, in small quantities, which is why they run out so fast.
“Everything is made in small batches, it’s not just sitting out all day,” Turner said. “Our cooks come in at five every morning. Everything is homemade. We even make our own piecrust.”
The Chicken Pot Pie, Turner said, is easily a Polonza Bistro signature dish.
“You don’t see too many made from scratch,” he said. “We think it’s unique.”
And it’s just as easily a comfort food—perhaps too comfortable.
“It has the flakiness and butter flavor in the crust with almost a chicken soup on the inside and peas, carrots, chicken and onions. It’s a southern classic,” Turner said. “It makes you not want to go back to work. You just want to go home and curl up on the couch.”
WHERE: 286 N. Palafox St.
DETAILS: 912-6454 or polonza.com