Julia: Where did the name “Sqirl” come from?
Jessica: “Squirreling things away” is an old-timey preserving term. Sqirl began as just a preserve company; the name was derived from the phrase, “a girl who squirreled!”
Julia: What is the philosophy behind your menu? You have really healthy salads and entrées, but you also offer some of the best looking baked goods in town.
Jessica: I am a pastry chef (formerly of Bacchanalia in Atlanta, GA ) and I have a fantastic sweet tooth. But, the food I cook highlights vegetables, with proteins in the supporting role.
I wanted to build a restaurant that served the kind of food I would crave on any day of the week. It had to be made from ingredients I’d serve in my own home. It’s a huge commitment to build a restaurant’s pantry with honest ingredients. This is the core here at Sqirl. I wouldn’t have it any other way
Julia: I had an Almond Milk cappuccino at Sqirl the last time I was there, and I have not been able to get it out of my head since. What is your secret?
Jessica: Ahhh Sqirl’s secret weapon! We make the almond milk in-house, using BLANCHED almonds. We soak them in hot, filtered water for 2 hours. The heat allows the Blanched Almonds to release the maximum amount of its oils and flavor.
Julia: Would you ever use one of your jams in a salad dressing? I might have to try that…
Jessica: I HAVE! I have a Santa Rosa Plum and Flowering Thyme Jam that is subtly sweet. Akin to the common grape/blue cheese/walnut trio, I substitute the grapes for a Santa Rosa Plum & Thyme dressing. Drizzle that on top of pea tendrils and mustard frills. It’s excellent.
Julia: I read somewhere that you were a producer on American Idol before you started Sqirl. Was there any aspect of that experience that has been relevant in your current pursuits?
Jessica: Absolutely! I think all my work experience has offered valuable lessons that I used later. In this case, I produced interactive work for American Idol. The restaurant was just another form of production — I had to be malleable (playing 20 different roles, running food, cooking or washing dishes, if need be), whatever it took to get the job done. Additionally, It was important to define the customers’ needs alongside my own, and to build a space that with a strong identity.
Julia: If there was one salad that you would vote for in a national television competition, à la American Idol, what would it be? Something mainstream, but with star power?
Jessica: My Final Answer — The Wedge Salad!