In 2010, Spring Valley High School graduate Sarah Simmons won a Food & Wine magazine America’s Home Cook Superstar contest – an outstanding accomplishment for anyone, but particularly someone with no previous experience in food or dining.
Since then, Simmons has made a name for herself as owner and chef of New York City restaurant City Grit and recently opened her second Manhattan restaurant, Birds & Bubbles. In 2012, she was recognized by Food & Wine again as one of America’s Best New Cooks.
This fall, Simmons and former Oak Table restaurant pastry chef Charley Scruggs opened Rise Gourmet Goods and Bake Shop at 926 Harden St. in Five Points, where the two prepare what they consider a “Southern boulangerie” of traditional bakery favorites with creative twists.
This month, Simmons and Scruggs are busy preparing for the holiday season with customers already placing catering orders for holiday parties and ordering gift baskets full of the shop’s jams, spreads and breads.
This week, Simmons also can be found at the Junior League Holiday Market at the State Fairgrounds, where she will be selling some of Rise’s ready-to-eat products and those highly requested gourmet gift baskets.
EAT: For an adult night out, I’m always up for dinner at The Oak Table or Terra. When I’m back in NYC, the No. 1 thing I crave is the spot-on Mexican fare from Real Mexico. And I recently discovered Mai Thai, and it made me feel like I was missing out on a well-known secret. But my new favorite thing is loading up on the bounty at the Soda City Farmer’s Market on Saturday and bringing it home to cook dinner with my family.
DRINK: When I’m feeling fancy, I head to Cellar On Greene to try some new wines. I love a good dive bar, so The Whig is right up my alley. When I’m really up for an evening, I’ll stop in at Bourbon and kick off the night with a Ya-Ya Hurricane before heading next door to people-watch at The Whig. These days I’m loving Hunter-Gatherer and can’t wait for them to open the new location at Owens Field.
LISTEN: I have to admit I’m the oldest 30-something you’ll ever meet and I haven’t seen a show in years. But I did recently attend one of Farm To Table Event Company’s Chef Dinners at Music Farm and was amazed at how incredible the space was. All I need now is for someone to tell this old lady who the cool kids are listening to these days so I can catch a show.
PLAY: We spent the summers of my childhood on the lake, so being so close to Lake Murray is like a dream. I’m looking forward to taking full advantage of all the activities the Palmetto Outdoor Center has to offer when it warms up again! I’m also looking forward to crossing a bunch of historical activities off my list – a tour of the State House, the ’63 Civil Rights Walking Tour, and Historic Columbia neighborhood tours.
SEE: After 11 years in NYC, is it silly to say I’m overly excited to live in a city where I can simply look up and see stars? It makes me smile every night. I’ve loved the Lights Before Christmas at the zoo since I was a kid and can’t wait to visit again this year. I’m also excited to check out the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art.