Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just Soup. From the Pantry. Spinach, Coconut Milk, Lemon and Chickpeas.



I like this soup so much that I couldn't get my memory card from my camera to my computer without pausing for a spoonful out of the bowl in my other hand.

The kicker is that I actually followed a recipe. When I woke up this morning I had white, Idaho, and sweet potatoes in my fridge, some garlic, a few onions, almond milk and lactose-free yogurt. Since it's the holiday season I'm trying to keep stock low to make space for cool opportunities to go out to eat and out of town family meals.

A few weeks back I saved a link to 25 Vegetarian Recipes you Can Cook in Under 30 minutes on TreeHugger so I decided to visit for inspiration. Vegetarian eating has been the way to go at home since I was forced to buy a new (larger) pair of jeans over Thanksgiving week.

Recipes that don't require a lot of shopping are my favorite, mainly because if I go in Whole Foods for a carrot I will inevitable come out with three bags of groceries and $100 "Whole" in my pocket. Plus it is winter now and the cold weather doesn't encourage me to leave the house. The soup I made for lunch today fulfills all my winter cooking requirements.

Back on TreeHugger, Braised Coconut Spinach with Chickpeas and Lemon caught my eye. Chickpeas and coconut milk are pantry staples and I discovered a nub of fresh ginger hiding under my potatoes. All I needed to make this happen was a lemon, some sun-dried tomatoes and a bunch of spinach.

Different versions of the recipe recommend serving it over a whole roasted sweet potato or basmati rice. I opted to roast cubed sweet potato and throw the pieces over the top for a slightly crunchy, sweet starch. I also sweated down my onions slower than the recipe recommended and only needed half a lemon worth of juice. The cool thing is that this recipe can get revamped if I add some curry or make some rice. I bet if I had used less of the ingredients I could have made a cold salad version of this, and used the oil the tomatoes came in to create a lemon vinaigrette.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey. What's Missing?

High Wire Distilling Co. owners Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell pause for a photo with Chef John Currence.


Chef John Currence is one of those chefs who is immediately approachable. I wasn't actually familiar with the man before he came to High Wire Distillery on his old school book tour launch, but after a bit of conversation, it turned out he might be one of those people worth knowing and knowing about. After a pause in his conversation with Chef Sean Brock, he took my copy of his new cookbook, Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey, and walked over to a table to focus on the inscription and take a moment to chat. This totally unnecessary gesture was indicative of this chef’s giving spirit.

At Tuesday night’s launch party, some of the finest chefs in Charleston recreated select recipes from the book, and the results were fairly spectacular. Chef Currence has won a number of awards recognizing his culinary talents. He works with admirable groups like Southern Foodways Alliance, and owns four Mississippi restaurants, with more on the way. I've never been to his restaurants so I couldn't promise you he makes amazing food, but based on his accolades and Tuesday’s experience, I'd be willing to bet on his stove-top skills.

“You have no idea my dedication to my craft,” Currence said to me, and he meant it with no pretensions. His commitment to creating an accurate representation of City Grocery Restaurant Group’s bold, intense, and rustic aesthetic is evident on every page. Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey becomes a library of vivid photos with obligatory anecdotes about the provenance of each dish.  Below the anecdotes, Chef Currence artfully fleshes out his fictitious kitchen with musical suggestions accompanying the recipes to serenade you as you sauce. 


Angel Postel of Home Team PR, introduces Chef Currence to the crowd. 

Charleston is never a bad place to enjoy a night of eating in the company of food lovers, though it is rare to experience such a well-conceived evening. The High Wire facility was customized to be a convenient and charming backdrop for events like this. Grassroots wines, Edmund’s Oast brews, and High Wire liquors provided countless beverage options to pair with dishes from F.I.G, Two Boroughs Larder, Husk, Butcher & Bee, and The MacIntosh.

The sneak preview of beers from Edmund's Oast's Master Brewer, Cameron Read, had me salivating as soon as I walked in the door. Cameron brewed two 10-gallon batches specifically for the book launch. The “southern drinking experience” Sorghum + Biscuits, in the style of an English Pale, was made with biscuit malt from Riverbend Malt House in North Carolina. Rumbustion was a dryer Belgian Golden, with an infusion of High Wire rum for a mildly-sweet balance. Read brews a very solid beer and is a major reason that Edmund's will be giving local beer haunts a reason to quiver over their cash drawers when it opens early next year.

I caught Lauren Shor, of Rafa Distributing, at the F.I.G. table more than a dozen times, which is to say that I was right in line behind her, tracking bowls of fresh fried bivalves through the dining room like a bloodhound. Sous Chef Jason Stanhope offered the Cornmeal Crusted Buttermilk Fried Oysters (pg 139) with shellfish from both the Gulf and Beaufort. The two varietals offered either meaty, subtle sweetness or briney resistance underneath the peppery and tangy house made ranch dressing with fines herbes. If following the recipe causes you to be as deft at frying oysters as the chefs at F.I.G., then Currence may be a demi-god. 

Cute cones of Oysters were devoured by the fistful.

Two Boroughs Larder's Chef Josh Keeler presented Sweet Pickled Deviled Eggs with a Trout Roe garnish (pg 70). No description of this dish could be better than the given, “you are looking at the classic caviar accompaniments”. A Northern affinity for luxury items like caviar meets a quintessentially Southern pickled, deviled egg. It had me craving lox and bagels.





Chef Sean Brock of Husk and his Sous, John Sleasman, were churning out the simplest of luxury items, Crispy Pickled Pig's Ear “Frites” with Comeback Sauce (pg 150). Whether it was the Crystal Hot Sauce or just the brine, this iteration was inescapably more delicious than the already delightful BBQ Pig Ear Wraps Brock serves up at Husk. In the book, Chef Currence suggests listening to “Lookin' for Love” by Johnny Lee while you fry up some of these marvels, but he has to know that after you do that for someone else, you won't be looking for love much longer.

A modest interpretation of the Spicy Hill Country Meat Pies with Sriracha Mayo (pg 128) came from Stuart Tracy and High Wire's neighbors at Butcher & Bee. I was thoroughly disappointed to realize that “Hill Country” in the recipe title didn't refer to the pies being made with squirrel meat or possum, but instead to the small mountain towns where the Southern version of the meat pie is said to have originated. Disappointment faded as I was rapidly distracted by the morsels of flaky dough decorating my fingertips.


  
(L)Angel Postel of Home Team PR, with chefs from The MacIntosh/  (R) Little birch bark piglets adorned the tables. I found this one munching on a square of pâté. 

I could not keep my hands off of the Pork Pâté (pg 125) offered by Executive Chef Jeremiah Bacon of The MacIntosh. The country style recipe was nixed in favor of an ultra smooth paste served on house-made lavash and punctuated by chopped pickled Geechee Boy chestnuts from Edisto Island. Someone said Bacon, and I swooned.

Joe Raya


The Bittermilk No. 2 Tom Collins

Beyond all the food, Joe Raya of The Gin Joint/Bittermilk was posted in the tasting room with a series of cocktails based on High Wire spirits. The ultimate was the Tom Collins with Bittermilk No. 2, an Elderflower and Centennial Hop syrup. If any of you remember this year’s Wine and Food Festival, you may recall that he made a similar spirit, the Sharecropper Collins, which caught my attention but lacked the resinous pine and bright citrus flavors expected of the hops. Raya still hasn't captured the bright character of the hops, but he is getting closer with each attempt. The concept is seductive enough, and the cocktails featuring these infusions are always outstanding. 


This was one of the better events I have had the pleasure of attending recently. Home Team PR did a great job with every detail, and the featured recipes from Chef Currence were a gastronomically pleasing backdrop.

If you are looking to attend another cool event from Home Team PR, grab a ticket to the Pitmaster Backyard BBQ at Home Team BBQ's West Ashley location on December 6th, 2013. The menu will include some non-southern style beef barbacoa and smoked baby goat, as well as oysters and sides. Tickets are a great value at $30 per person and are likely to go fast. For more information, email info@hometeambbq.com.

While the Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey tour will be wrapping up this week, I suggest you stop into one of Chef Currence's restaurants in Mississippi in the next few months. Keep an ear (preferably a crispy pig ear) to the ground for details on the opening of Big Bad Breakfast in Birmingham, Alabama (expected in February 2013).


Sunday, November 17, 2013

From Santorini to Sicilia


Kevin Kelley of Pop-Up Wine Bar and Patrick Emerson of Communion Wine Club, at High-Wire Distillery

Monthly Wine Bar Pops-Up at High Wire Distillery

Photos and Text by Robin Riebman (for EatThisCharleston.com)


If you're sick of paying the price to have a taste of wine at one of your favorite restaurants in town, then you're not alone. About 5-weeks ago, Kevin Kelleey launched Pop Up Wine Bar, and began offering places to enjoy exactly that, around the city. Thursday night marked Kelly's first joint event with Beverage Consultant, Patrick Emerson, and his newest venture Communion Wine Club. The Mediterranean theme brought curious oneophiles out of the woodworks to enjoy both common and obscure wines, from Sicily and Greece.


Patrick and Kevin chose High Wire Distillery as a rustic and beautiful venue, allowing bar-goers the option of popping next door to Butcher and Bee with their favorite bottle for a special Mediterranean inspired meal.

At the pop-up, each wine is available as a pour, a glass, or a bottle. Three-ounce pours go for between $3 and $5 and are the best way to get the full experience. Both Patrick and Kevin have a wealth of wine knowledge, and these events become as much about socialization as they are about education. These guys are happy to educate your palate, providing the opportunity to taste a varietal you've never had. Or, if you want to learn the nitty-gritty about the heritage of a grape varietal, or the terroir of a region, they are happy to share. If you have a better idea of what you like, glasses only set you back $8 or $10, and most economical choice is to bring a group of friends and pop a bottle for between $24 and $35.


Patrick Emerson chats with a local restauranteur about the Mediterranean selection



Pop-ups will continue monthly at High Wire Distillery (which, by the way, is also open for a taste of local spirits). Come and socialize while sipping an affordable wine you may not have the chance to try elsewhere.


Kevin Kelley

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

East by Southeast : Land Meets Sea in Culinary Clash of Two Local Titans


Guest Post via Collin Clark of Eat This! Charleston
Photos Bailey Clark, Edits Robin Riebman








Amidst the confusion that inexorably arrives with the end of Daylight Saving Time, this past Sunday brought together two of Charleston's fine culinary stars at Kanpai in Mount Pleasant for a truly magnificent dinner designed to showcase each of their unique talents. Chef Brannon Florie brought to the table his love for pork fat and Southern-fusion, while Chef Sean Park leveraged his considerable talent for all things raw, rare, and briny. 

Neither of these individuals should be unfamiliar to anyone in the Charleston area. Diners can find Florie's work at the Rarebit on King Street downtown, while Sean Park serves up omakase with a passion - and a sense of humor - from his new suburban digs. Park, formerly of O-Ku and Bambu, is a passionate and funny man. Taking the reigns at Kanpai, he offers Charleston some of the best sushi available, and while the unassuming location on Anna Knapp Boulevard might hide his craft from the downtown crowds, rest assured that it is well worth the trip to see him.


The Land and Sea dinner began with a Zingiber Pale Ale from North Charleston's Frothy Beard Brewing Company - a ginger pale named after the fragrant root’s taxonomic genus. With ginger added in place of a hop addition and contributing a subtle complexity and bite, Zingiber was a strong start to the evening. The beer was paired with a single welcome course consisting of a self-serve charcuterie sampling from Florie’s next venture, The Granary in Mount Pleasant.  With a selection of lamb merguez, prosciutto, pickled okra, and everything in between, it was an exciting preview of what promises to be a very well-rounded charcuterie program. The duck prosciutto was pleasantly smoky and salty, while the rillettes satisfied the craving for pork fat. Smeared on a piece of grilled sourdough with a dollop of grainy mustard, the chicken liver pate stole the show. Creamy, smooth, and rich, this version was tasty enough to warrant seconds.

The first courses were paired with a beer that served as the inspiration for the dinner, New Belgium's Yuzu Berliner Weisse from their Lips of Faith series. Yuzu, a unique Asian citrus fruit, contributed a distinct citrus tartness to this cloudy and pale-yellow brew. Park's pairing was a Scorton Creek oyster with yuzu mignonette and wasabi caviar. The oyster itself was firm, hearty, and satisfyingly briny. The wasabi caviar was particularly enjoyable, with all the flavor of wasabi but only a minor heat on the finish. Florie presented popcorn veal sweetbreads with a curried pumpkin sauce and pickled okra. While delicious, the sweetbreads’ delicate flavor was lost in the batter, which actually allowed for the earthy and perfectly spiced curried pumpkin to shine.

Palmetto Brewing Company supplied the beverage pairing for the second courses. A Wasabi Mango Pale Ale, this beer turned out to be a happy accident. While the wasabi was barely - if at all - detectable, the mango was balanced against the bitter hops to create an enjoyable brew. Chef Park prepared a Kobe beef tataki with daikon, pearl onion, balsamic soy, and Harbison cheese. The sweet tanginess of the balsamic soy mingled with the earthy creaminess of the Harbison, complementing the grassiness of the Kobe. Tensions between the two chefs rose with the introduction of Florie’s second course, affectionately dubbed the “White Boy Dumpling” by Chef Park. The stone crab dumpling was served with sauteed bok choy and dressed with a light sweet chili beurre blanc. 



The fourth and final beer of the evening was the Gozu from Mount Pleasant’s Westbrook Brewing Company. With the addition of tart Yuzu, this beer was a fruitier and more relaxed iteration of their salt-and-vinegar-reminiscent Gose. Chef Park returned to his roots with this course, presenting diners with a selection of sushi. The butter-poached Kuai sweet shrimp roll and tuna nigiri were each delicate, delicious, and on-point, while the slightly tart garnish atop the salmon nigiri provided sharp contrast to buttery fish. The ogonori salad that accompanied Park's sushi was the textural champion of the evening. Each sprig of seaweed was crunchy, nutty, and faintly salty. Florie, in a departure from his previous course’s decidedly Asian theme, returned to his more Southern style with this round, offering diners a chopstick-tender pork cheek. This decadent piece of pork was served with oyster mushrooms and a turnip puree, and it was topped with an uni emulsion. This dish was certainly the richest of the evening, with the buttery sea urchin emulsion adding a fatty creaminess to a cut of pork that was much leaner than expected. The turnip puree was the highlight of this dish. Simple and uncomplicated, it tasted pure, creamy, and earthy and paired nicely with the rich depth of the other components.



For the final course, the chefs chose a traditional Eastern beverage. Typically sweet and unfiltered, the cloudy Nigori sake was flavored with coconut and lemongrass and served cold alongside a ginger rice pudding. An unusual preparation for Chef Park, the ginger cut the sweetness of the dessert and ended the meal on a more floral note.
Chefs Park and Florie managed to both complement and contrast each other with their respective dishes. One particular dish - Florie’s “White Boy” stone crab dumpling - offered diners the clearest glimpse of the fun these two chefs must have had in preparing this meal. Charleston diners owe it to themselves to sample the latest offerings from both of these creative chefs.



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stillwater Artisanal at The Macintosh: Friendships Forged Over Pork and Beans, and Beer

Spit-Roasted Crossabaw (Ossabaw/ Berkshire) Hog from Farmer Brad Taylor at LJ Woods Farms


That is a Beautiful Hog. Strumke Pauses for a Social Media
Photo Op. 



“This is my hot dog, it’s here to stay… and for a reason”, proclaims brewer Brian Strumke. He raises his can of Classique, the newest beer released by his four-year-old company, Stillwater Artisanal. Strumke, a Baltimore native, describes Classique as “an ale that’s actually a deconstruction of a macro-lager”, created using the same recipe as Natty Boh. He is proud to admit that it’s the first of his beers his father was willing to drink, a mark of success at creating a brew for the masses.


The theme of offering quality to the masses pervaded the evening’s conversation, and 
Strumke and farmer Brad Taylor have been animatedly discussing the merits of luncheon meats and canned beer throughout our dinner at The MacIntosh. Perhaps this is because we were gathered for a $50.00, all-inclusive, buffet-style pig roast, complete with baked beans, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, faro salad, confit potatoes, and one-dish desserts like apple cobbler and banana pudding.

Taylor initiated this beer and hot dog conversation, exclaiming, “I’m obsessed with luncheon meats. I have an eight-year-old son and he needs to have the same experience I had, but he needs quality too.” He told us how many farmers and chefs are experimenting with charcuterie, but they can't make a living selling a cured salami for $30. Too much time goes into creating that type of product. He says they look for cash generators that utilize the scraps: items like pate, luncheon meat, hot dogs, and sausages. The result is an ability to offer, “quality infused in everyday items”. Providing quality product is the end goal, but making a living is part of keeping everything sustainable.  

Chef Jeremiah Bacon, Brewer Brian Strumke, and Farmer Brad Taylor

While Chef Jeremiah Bacon carved the beautiful spit-roasted meat, Taylor and Strumke took a moment to introduce themselves and their contributions to the meal. Taylor defined his pork by its provenance. Telling us about the history of the breed and the hog’s diet of “local corn, muscadine grapes, and acorns that fall from the heavens, at least in the eyes of the pig." Earlier in the evening Chef Bacon tweeted photos of Taylor’s beautiful 90lb+ Crossabaw Hog with its mahogany cracked skin and prominently displayed tail. Farmer Taylor is proud to point out that the pigtail is a rarity in factory-farmed pigs. In close quarters they often chew off each other’s “que” when cramped, or stressed.


Baked Beans, Farro Salad, Confit Potatoes, Mac and Cheese
Pork Sandwich with Homemade Pickles.



As verbose as Taylor is about the humanely raised heritage breed animals coming off of his farm in Sylvania, GA, Chef Bacon is not. Bacon allowed the food to speak for itself and each dish was the freshest example of traditional barbecue staples. Sea Island Red Beans, a regular item on the MacIntosh menu, had been given the baked-bean treatment. They were toothsome, hearty and complimentary to the loose-vinegar style BBQ sauce and house made thick-cut pickles that accompanied the pulled pork sandwiches.




Chef Bacon chose for guests to begin the meal with glasses of Classique, leaving Cellar Door and Existent for diners to enjoy at their leisure. Strumke was surprisingly averse to allowing guests to drink the Classique out of a glass, suggesting that the brew was canned rather than bottled to keep the mild flavor in. Out of a glass it will warm too quickly and lose carbonation faster and it’s just not meant to be enjoyed that way.

When asked to describe his beers Strumke often avoids all explanation of style, suggesting that “If I tell you where you’re going, you expect to show up somewhere.” He says, “I always wish I didn't tell you what was in there. The ingredients are all integrated and symbiotic.” He shares the esoteric ingredients and lets the drinker decide if they are satisfied with his result.

Cellar Door
was the first brew he released to the public. It is a crisp, dry ale brewed with white sage and Belgian Saison yeast. Existent escapes the mold and he refers to it as a “dark farmhouse ale. Not quite a stout, brown, or a porter.” It has a medium bodied, complex flavor with roasted coffee notes, but none of the typical syrupiness or harsh bitterness that can accompanies dark malt.

Following the meal, Chef Bacon offered a beer-cocktail, crafted with Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey, Cellar Door, lemon juice, apple cider, and a sage leaf. Diners were also offered Stillwater Time & Place and Debutante, two of Strumke’s collaboration brews. Strumke says that while Time & Place, his collaboration with DC Brau, does fit more of the mold of a stout, Debutante, a collaboration with Brewer’s Art, is a Farmhouse style ale, meaning an ale brewed with ingredients that might be found on the farm where the beer would be brewed. Debutante was one of his earliest projects, and features spelt and rye grain along with heather, honeysuckle and hyssop (a pervasive ingredient in Chartreuse).
Cook Kevin Getzewich helps take this 95lb
behemoth to the kitchen 
Strumke, Bacon and Taylor are quality fanatics. They want to create unique products that are representative of their passion for ingredients and are still accessible. They share a well-won confidence in their final product. While their products still stand out of monetary reach for the average consumer, they are offering quality in more in more casual settings. Bacon’s buffet, for example, was an exercise in restraint and where many of us hope beer dinners are headed in the future.
If you are interested in sampling world class que Chef Jeremiah Bacon will be participating in the Cookit Raw BBQ Perspective Charleston 2013 on October 26th at Bowen’s Island Restaurant. Internationally acclaimed chefs will gather for a symposium on BBQ, preparing their interpretation of lowcountry BBQ. A portion of the proceeds will go to GrowFood Carolina.

Farmer Bradley Taylor has collaborated with Westbrook Brewing Company to host Meat, Beer, Fire a BBQ, beer field trip, we hope will be repeated in the future. He is aldo the inspiration behind their Bearded Farmer Series #4, in 750ml around the Charleston area. He raises hogs and other animals at JL Woods Farm in Sylvania, GA.


Stillwater Artisanal beers are distributed locally by RAFA Distribution. Bars, restaurants, and beer stores all around town keep a pretty good stock. 

If you are interested in casual beer dinners, this weekend, September 27th-29th, Lee Distributors is partnering with local restaurants, in association with GCRA, and SouthernLiving’s Taste of Charleston to offer their first annual Dine Around Beer Dinner. If you are looking for an affordable and casual way to try beer and food pairings check out participating restaurants at the Taste of Charleston website.

You can find this article and more from Good for the Palate in Eat This Charleston! and at www.eatthischarleston.com.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A-B-Charleston-Distillery-E-F-G-High Wire



Photography by Chris Rausch















While High Wire Distillery will be a fully functional production facility, Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell didn’t open a distilling facility in the heart of downtown Charleston just to sit inside all day and make mysterious brown boxes full of glass bottles appear in shipping crates. They chose Charleston for the curious customers. Having a background in all things people pleasing (see desserts, coffee, and ice cream), Scott and Ann decided to build a more interactive booze-operation at High Wire.


Ann, the marketing mastermind behind the new distillery, refers to Scott as a “serial entrepreneur”. High Wire is his sixth business venture; priors include a pie company, a Ben & Jerry’s Distribution Center, Immaculate Consumption (a café), and Little River Coffee Roasters, all in upstate South Carolina. Scott’s certificate in baking, from the Culinary Institute of America, also comes in handy when creating balanced botanical flavor profiles and dealing with the yeast involved in distilling.



Included in the floor plan of High Wire is an “Apothecary Area” where visitors can see, and smell the different vegta-berry-protein-elixirs that go into and come out of the creation of a single batch of liquor. There will be a tasting room for the final product, and “gift shop” for the compulsive and discerning visitor.


Photography by Chris Rausch







Currently, these folks are in the process of taste testing with Dave Pickerell, a consultant and 17-year veteran of Makers Mark, alongside their Head Distiller, Nick Dowling, formerly of The MacIntosh.






Photography by Chris Rausch
















Their 500-gallon German copper still has been installed since late June and opening date is set for September 12th. Tours, with a tasting ($8), will run every hour, Thursday thru Saturday from 1-5pm.



















High Wire Distilling will be searching out local produce, grains and even coopers wherever possible. The distillery will be turning out gin, rum, whiskey, vodka and other interesting, unique products.

High Wire is located in the same lot as the acclaimed sandwich shop Butcher & Bee, on Upper King Street. 652 King Street, Charleston, SC 29403.


To learn more, visit www.highwiredistilling.com or follow on Facebook (High Wire Distilling Co.) or Twitter (@highwirechs).


Photography by Chris Rausch

Photography by Chris Rausch


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Server Spotlight - Michelle Seay of McCrady’s (published in EatThis Charelston Summer 2013)





“Life is a gift, it’s exciting and you’ve got to make it worth it.”

Vibrant blue oil paintings of the ocean jump from orange walls. Shark jaws hang from the ceiling in front of lemon colored cabinets. Michelle’s original art covers surfaces throughout the house, interspersed with postcards, photos of her sons and Buddhist imagery. In the late ‘90s, Michelle was doing “hands on” glasswork for Hine’s Studios. When McCrady’s Tavern was renovated, she designed and installed glasswork and mirrors that decorate the bar. Two years ago she returned to McCrady’s as a server because, she says, “I enjoy juggling all of those different components of an adventure. I don’t take it lightly when people take their hard earned money and buy themselves something to eat, it’s symbolic.”




As a mother and a server, food is incredibly important to Michelle. “I feel responsible to brand what the origin of food is to my children, instilling that gratitude. I’ve got to do it, who else is going to?”Michelle has studied Bikram, Kundalini and Vinyasa flow yoga techniques with world-renowned practitioners. She is a certified instructor, teaching classes out of her home and at local studios for the past twelve years. Michelle says of her practice “it’s a progression, it’s an accumulation, it’s all about situational awareness.”




Her pen and ink “house portraits” are sub-linear narratives that capture what she refers to as life “in the moment”. Some of the themes in her art come from her stint as a commercial fisherwoman out of Shem Creek. “It taught me a lot about endurance, real life, real grit”. She says, “I would never take a photo. It goes back to that awareness. Sometimes they are moments of my own time that I am processing.”




“The process of a meal, and art and yoga are all related. It’s nourishment for a healthy existence, it’s about living and about not being a spectator.”

Check out Michelle’s website at emichelleseay.com.

You can find this article and more from Good for the Palate in EatThis Charleston! and at www.eatthischarleston.com.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

SALT at station 22


I would like to write about pleasure. I would like to admit to you that I go out to eat searching for pleasure. A memorable meal is about an experience. It’s about the weather, and the atmosphere, and the company. And then really, it’s all about the pleasure.  

It’s an early-summer evening and I’m sitting on a 2nd story porch, watching the hustle and bustle below.  I’m not thinking a thing of it because I drove right up to the complimentary valet and handed over my keys. There is an hour and 15-minute wait for a table, but I want to sit on the porch and watch the sunset anyway. I want to think about cocktails.





So, I grab a stool and peruse the offerings. My dining companion, aka Food Guru, arrives. I set my sights on a Salty-Bear which is like a grapefruit spritzer and turns out to be a nice compliment my meal. Food Guru chooses a Serrano-margarita that could use a little kick. Nevertheless, drinks are cold, air is warm, we are hungry. 

Food Guru and I want everything on the menu. We have narrowed it down to any selection of three appetizers, one of which must be from the Raw offerings. Luckily our server is knowledgeable and willing to collaborate. We over-order.

Our meal is spent discussing the concept of restraint. We talk about the nagging sense of obligation to sample anything on the menu that we either a) haven’t had, b) couldn’t make at home, or c) sounds so delicious that in my case I’ve begun to wear rain boots to dinner to catch the drool. This is bad for the waistband, bad for the wallet, and very bad for a sense of self-control.




 





Our three appetizers are thoughtfully placed in front of us in order of lightest to heaviest, which I thoroughly appreciate and attribute to considerate service. I am pleased. While devouring the local rudderfish crudo with lemon, shaved radish and fresh jalapeno, an Ambrose beet and carrot salad with a chermoula vinaigrette, and the decadent skillet fried chicken thigh over black truffle grits (one of those rain boot necessitating items), we continue to discuss moderation. I’m practicing counting my chews. I want to get to 20 before I swallow but its unnecessary with fish so delicate and tender.

Just two entrees arrive. With my mouth full I mumble something like “the balance of fennel in this potato-fennel puree is just outstanding. It is so subtle, yet so obvious.” Food Guru eats the eye-catching salsa verde off my plate and perks up at its vibrant acidity. I make him take a bite of the black grouper. He scoops everything together and crunches through the skin and agrees that it’s a damn good bite of fish, only a little more well done than our preference. When it comes to perfectly cooked skin I sometimes get a little Buffalo Bill, and we both agree that crisp skin doesn’t excuse overcooked flesh, but it hasn’t hurt too badly in this case. Food Guru and I don’t fall quite so hard for the succotash under his triggerfish. The red peppers just slightly over take the delicate flavors of the other components. I watch him eat while I sit on my hands. I consider dropping my fork on the ground so I won’t be tempted to finish the plates.






While the servers attempt to remove any half empty plates for a third time, I tell Food Guru that he better finish the beet salad before they have a conniption. I appreciate wanting to keep the “table” (it was really a bar) clutter free, but I personally feel accomplished with all of those dishes decorating the horizon. A splash of green arugula, a dot of pink rudderfish, a pop of lemon peel, if everything was brown and mushy I might have been upset but this is a Survey of Dinner History.






Salt, like the seasoning it is named for, should be an essential restaurant in your Charleston repertoire. I’d suggest reservations here. It’s going to be busy. Menus will be changing daily and brunch is now available.