Foodie’s Guide to Favorite Fall Comfort Food

By Lee Rennick

Fall is the time for nesting in our homes as the cold winds of winter start to blow and the brittle falling leaves scatter in the breeze, scuttling across steel grey roads and browning gardens. As temperatures plummet, we wrap in blankets before the fire and give into the desire for our favorite comfort foods. Those foods that make us feel safe and warm and snuggly in the arms of family and friends. For foods that bring such good memories, we ignore the calories and dig in.

To celebrate great comfort foods, VIP Magazine asked several local food experts to share their favorite recipes with our readers.

Chef Mitchell Murphree

Five Senses Restaurant
“I love carrot cake,” Chef Mitchell Murfree confessed, “especially ours, because I am not a huge fan of overly sweet, gooey desserts. Carrot cake has that just right balance of a bit of savory with the sweetness and tartness from the cream cheese and ginger. It also has all the great fall spices and goes fantastic with rich, hot, black coffee!”


Fall Carrot Cake with Gingered Cream Cheese Frosting

Preparation time:  Two hours | Yield: One 9-inch cake or six individual cakes

Cake Ingredients

  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • About 2 cups of carrots, grated
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
  • ¾ cup pineapple, chopped
  • Gingered Cream Cheese
  • Frosting Ingredients
  • 1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoon ginger, grated
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  1. Instructions
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour one 9-inch round baking pan OR 6 individual round baking dishes.
  3. In a medium to large mixing bowl, mix together oil, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until combined and smooth. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and cloves.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients and mix until combined, scraping down the bowl. Mix in the grated carrots, pecans and pineapple and stir until combined.
  6. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Then bake for 25-30 minutes for the 9 inch cake (about 15 – 20 minutes for the individuals) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Remove pans and let them cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.
  7. Carefully remove cake from the pan and place back on rack and put in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Level the cakes if necessary and place in the freezer.
  8. Meanwhile, make the frosting. In an electric mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese and butter on medium speed for 1 minute or until smooth with no lumps remaining. Add in vanilla extract, grated ginger and salt, and continue mixing until creamy. Lower mixing speed and gradually add in powdered sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until very smooth.
  9. Remove the cake from the freezer and place on a serving dish or sheet pan. Using a flat spatula, apply the frosting over the entire cake in a light to medium thickness. Place the cake back in freezer for about 20 minutes to set the first layer of frosting. Remove the frosted cake from the freezer again and apply top-coat of frosting. Enjoy!

Chef Jo West

Jo’s Custom Cakes and Catering
“This recipe reminds me of my German heritage,” Jo said, “and the kinds of food we ate in the fall. Of course you can have schnitzel any time of year, but it is a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs, make-you-feel-warm-inside type meal. The meat is crispy, but the potatoes are soft and vinegary, reminiscent of a German Potato Salad. And most people know me for my cakes, but I do catering, too!”

Pork Schnitzel with Warm Potato Salad

(Jo admits that she uses Wolfgang Puck’s recipe)
Preparation time:  Forty-five minutes | Yield: Four servings

Schnitzel Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • Four 4-ounce boneless pork chops, butterflied and pounded 1/3 inch thick, or eight 2-ounce pork cutlets, lightly pounded
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, patted thoroughly dry

Potato Salad Ingredients

  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup canola oil, plus more for frying
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound small fingerling potatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar with the sugar, thyme and 1/4 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Put the potatoes and garlic in a pot and cover with water; season with salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender, 10 minutes. Drain and thinly slice the potatoes; add to the dressing and toss. Discard the garlic.
  3. Put the flour, eggs and panko in 3 separate shallow bowls. Season the pork with salt and pepper and dip in the flour. Dip the cutlets in the egg and then in the panko, pressing to help the crumbs adhere.
  4. In a large skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil until shimmering. Add the cutlets in a single layer and cook over high heat, turning once, until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels. DO NOT deep-fry Schnitzel.
  5. Add the parsley to the skillet and cook, stirring, until crisp, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the parsley to a paper towel–lined plate and sprinkle with salt.
  6. Serve the pork with the potato salad. Garnish with the parsley.

Chef Alex Belew

Alex Belew Catering/Pop-up Dinners
“I have a love affair with fried chicken. It’s rich, delicious, crispy, and just makes your mouth happy!! And grits just scream comfort with their creamy and filling texture and ability.”



Honey & Togarashi Fried Chicken with Geechie Boy White Grits

Preparation time:  Thirty-five minutes | Yield: Chicken, two servings; Grits, four to six servings

White Grits Ingredients

  • 1 cup Geechie Boy White Grits
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Fried Chicken Ingredients

  • 2 Airline chicken breasts
  •     (can be purchased at Tagz)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Togarashi (can be purchased at Asian markets or on Amazon)
  • Honey


  1. Soak Chicken overnight or for at least 4 hours in buttermilk.
  2. Add all seasonings to flour and mix well to incorporate. Remove chicken from buttermilk, shake off excess, dip into flour mixture, shake off excess, dip back into buttermilk and then back into flour one more time. Shake off excess and sit on a wire cooling rack in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  3. Set oil to 350. Before frying, remove chicken from fridge for 15-20 minutes to take the chill off. Fry in ½ of oil for 9-12 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees F. Remove chicken from the oil and drain it on a wire cooling rack. Immediately season the fried chicken breasts with salt and togarashi. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Drizzle with honey and serve.
  4. Bring water and milk to boil. Whisk in grits. When grits come to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes. Continue whisking and stirring every few minutes to prevent scorching and sticking. Once grits have softened and absorbed all liquid, turn off the heat, add the butter and adjust seasoning. Keep warm or serve immediately.

Peter and Kristin Demos

Peter D’s Restaurant
“This is my family’s FAV comfort food, and it’s quick,” said Kristin Demos. “We eat this at least once a week starting in October. Garlic and olive oil are staples at the Demos’ household, so of course they are in our chili as well. And with Peter D’s Chili Seasoning, the more seasoning you add, the spicier your chili will be!!

Adds Peter, “Might want to add that this chili recipe
is so simple even Kristin Demos, who can’t cook,
nails this one.”

Peter D’s Easy Bison Chili

Preparation time:  Twenty-five minutes | Yield: Four servings


  • 1 8-ounce can of pinto beans
  • 2 8-ounce cans of Rotel Diced Tomatoes
  • Sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, sliced jalapenos, and saltine crackers for garnish
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ small red onion
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 pound of ground Bison meat
  • 1 tablespoon Peter D’s Chili Seasoning (Peter likes 1 1/2 tablespoons of the seasoning to make it spicier)


  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet, adding onion and garlic as the oil starts to warm. Heat until the onions become soft, stirring frequently. Add Bison, brown and crumble the meat into small pieces until cooked through.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the Demos’ Chili Seasoning with the pinto beans.  Stir to blend well. Add to chili along with diced tomatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes. If the chili is too thick for your taste, add water to thin.
  3. Serve in a bowl with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, a few slices of jalapenos, and saltine crackers on the side.