HUNT, Gather, Feast. It’s the most primitive and fundamental way of sustaining yourself.
This act of hunting game, gathering vegetal varieties, nuts, fruits, and charring them in the embers of a wood burning fire embodies the true beauty of food.
On Oct. 2, Big Bon Pizza partnered with Atlantic for their first Hunt Gather Feast where local food, in its truest and simplest form, was celebrated and shared among community members — a truly memorable fete.
Big Bon Pizza, owned and operated by Kay Heritage, with daughter Anna Heritage and soul sister Sunju Pitts, just celebrated their one-year anniversary as Savannah’s only wood-fired pizza joint on wheels. Their iconic ruby red wood-fire oven and crave-worthy Neapolitan pizzas have won the hearts of our community.
About a month ago, an old friend, Gianni Gallucci, asked the Big Bon ladies if they could scope out a plantation in Georgia for quail hunting. Kay and Sunju met Gallucci in Chicago a few years ago to learn the art of pizza making.
Gallucci, who has been making Neapolitan pizza for over a decade, learned his craft from the Academy of Pizza, a school that teaches authenticity from generation to generation.
While pizza is his passion, upland hunting is one of Gallucci’s favorite pastimes. So the Big Bon team set up a quail hunt for him at Roberts Shooting Preserve in Egypt, Ga. While he procured the quail, Big Bon fired up their Marra Forni brick oven — the “Cadillac of ovens,” they say — in preparation for a feast incorporating the hunted fowl and, of course, pizza.
After this rustic banquet, the Big Bon gals schemed about bringing an experience like this to Savannah, but on a larger scale.
“We knew this was right up Savannah’s alley,” Anna Heritage points out.
Thus, Big Bon partnered with Chef Lauren Teague of Atlantic to reimagine that feast, emphasizing foraged goods, harvested quail and wood burning fire.
- The fete featured six feast stations, alongside a table of paired wine, champs and local beer.
Last Monday, the Atlantic closed its doors to the public and welcomed about 100 people for their exclusive Feast. Guests were given a folded field guide that, when opened, served as a map of the floor plan with x’s marking each of the six feast stations. Beside each station stood a table of wine, champagne, and local craft beers that paired with each dish.
Chef Lauren spearheaded the menu, pushing Big Bon out of their comfort zone. She notes, “I told them, it’s not just a pizza oven, it’s wood burning.”
From the starter to the dessert, each dish was prepared in the brick oven, stoked with wood from trees downed by hurricanes Matthew and Irma.
Outside in the bays, whole wood-fired scallops in their shell with chili garlic parsley butter, oysters Rockefeller, savory cheese bread and local greens were served as an aperitif.
Then, in Atlantic’s dining room, Chef Lauren plated quail in rose petals with smoky cornbread and watercress. Having only made quail once before this event, Chef Lauren researched its origin.
The first thing she came up with was the book called “Like Water for Chocolate,” a love story revolving around quail in a rose petal sauce.
Chef Lauren thought, “I have to make quail and rose petals, it’s classic.” The rose petals for the dish were gathered from her mother-in-law’s rose garden in Okatie, South Carolina and the quail was hunted on Roberts Shooting Preserve in Egypt, Georgia.
In the kitchen pass, servers were dishing out Spaghetti Carbonara with sweet peas and crispy bacon, topped with a quail egg from a small farm in Richmond Hill.
Then at the bar, prosciutto wrapped duck-fat braised fingerling potatoes, charred carrots from Bear Island Farm in Bluffton, salmon escabeche and house-made salt and peppered bread overflowed in heaps on cutting boards. The escabeche, smothered in vegetables and olives, was moist, just melting in our mouths.
Outside, on the back veranda, steaming pots of gumbo and rice were doled out into deep bowls and showered with shards of green onion. Gumbo staples like okra cozied up to quail leg confit and local sweet potatoes for a hearty bowl of comfort.
Lastly, in the outside “esquina” of Atlantic, Natasha Gaskill, pastry chef at A Squad Bake Shop, presented tartlets brûléed in Big Bon’s fire. The S’mores Tart had a graham crust, bittersweet chocolate, smoked sea salt and a vanilla bean mallow.
The Ginger Sweet Potato Tart had a gingersnap crust, sweet potato custard and super boozy bourbon meringue. The play on backyard roasted marshmallows symbolized what this whole event was all about: fellowship and fun.
For two straight hours, patrons floated from station to station, with plates full and glasses filled, indulging to their heart’s content. Tables were scattered about, old and new friends sitting, some standing, others leaning.
The smell of smoky wood burning in the cool air, from Atlantic’s outdoor fireplace and Big Bon’s oven. People with wine glasses in hand were laughing, communing. It was truly a dining experience like no other, one that was adventurous, boisterous, festive.
Chef Lauren ponders, “It turned out better than I could have dreamt. The setup was perfect. There were just enough people and just enough room.”
Anna Heritage beams, “I heard happiness in the air and was like ‘Okay, this is magic’.”
When asked about future feasts, Anna explains, “There are so many talks about where it could take us. I don’t know how, but I do know Hunt Gather Feast has a sustainable long-term feel to it. This is not just a one time pop up-collaboration dinner.”
With that, we wait.