F&W Best New Chef 2002 Hugh Acheson might be Canadian-born, but he's really a Southerner at heart. At his restaurant Five & Ten in Athens, Georgia, he merges low-country dishes like the shrimp, corn and sausage boil known as Frogmore stew with high-quality local and artisanal ingredients and European cooking techniques. During the holiday season, he loves to give his family and friends Southern-inflected edible gifts. Here are his favorites:
1. Anson Mills Grits and Heirloom Rice
"These stone-ground grits have so much more flavor than the heavily processed instant or quick-cooking kinds available at grocery stores, and they make a great stocking stuffer. Even when just cooked in water, Anson Mills grits are utterly creamy. I also love the company's Carolina Gold Rice, an especially fluffy heirloom variety. Traditionally, all the good whole kernels of rice grown in the Carolinas were sifted out and exported to Europe. The Southern community cooks were left with the fractured kernels. I love these broken grains, which Anson Mills calls rice grits. They make a terrific risotto. Sometimes I include recipes with the grains, like one for grits soufflé. It's also nice to add a wooden spoon to the package. You can never have too many wooden spoons." (Grits from $5 for 12 oz; ansonmills.com)
2. Southern Cookbooks
"The best cookbook from this part of the country, in my opinion, is Frank Stitt's Southern Table, published three years ago. The photography is beautiful, and the recipes are manageable and interesting. It encapsulates a great moment in Southern food. Frank, the chef and owner of the Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama, is a seminal genius and has had a major influence on many people who cook in the Southmuch like the legendary chef Edna Lewis, the co-author, with Scott Peacock, of another fantastic book, The Gift of Southern Cooking."