How about a little slice of some Charleston heaven?
Luckily for us Savannahians, our latitudes and longtitudes mark a collection of delightful escapades and crossroads of history, culture, and culinary delight. More importantly, I celebrate perhaps like most of you that dining in our city IS amazing… but these “crossroads” lead way to so many more adventures and food stories… perhaps even food legends. The great part about this… is that they’re only a stone’s throw from our quaint little city.
Charleston, South Carolina is just shy of a two hours drive north east of Savannah. It is a city akin to ours; she is full of history, architecture, and food. Food in particular plays a huge role in the soul of Charleston. This is due in part to the city’s rich cultural history and strong ties to its bountiful waters. Add to these facts that there remains a gastronomical legacy that the Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts tended to for over 20 years. Although the college closed it’s Charleston campus in 2006, J&W dished out plenty of fine chefs, many of which are still in Charleston’s web of restaurants like Husk, Fig, Mercato, Fleet Landing, 82 Queen, etc. My trip to Charleston was dense with the type of intrigue and curiosity that could kill a cat… or at least hurt somebody! I was certainly a man on [another food-] mission. I was not able to taste all of Charleston [sadly], but I peeked my head into Husk, ate at Fig, and was even was lured into a now “infamous” Belmont bar – but more on infamy later.
I had discussed my trip to Chucktown with a few local chef friends. The word “Husk” drooled out from their mouths. They too have dreamt of experiencing the farm-to-fork flare Chef Sean Brock and his team offer. Sadly, I was not able to eat at Husk as it is booked three months out, but I’m glad I stepped inside for a peak! I was greeted by a very sweet hostess named Tiersen. (Sorry if I’ve mispelled it!) She was kind enough to show me around the restaurant… from dining room to pickling cabinets to a quick glance at the kitchen. If you read this… know that you are awesome! Husk is definitely on my next Charleston trip… as I’ve already booked a reservation.
Clearly, I had to be quick about making my reservations in this city since the seats do go quickly! Luckily, I had heard great things about FIG where the meal is centered around sourcing locally from passionate farmers and purveyors. Chef Mike Lata’s approach to FIG’s menu is simple, honest, and straight-forward in its homage to Charleston’s low country flavors. The food isn’t masked or over complicated; and when I think of the name… I’m reminded of how wonderful and perfect and simple a fresh ripe FIG is. It’s a joy. So, I was tickled and taken by the whole notion; and then the reservation was made.
Here’s what we ate…
“Fresh Tagliatelle, soft poached egg, stone crab, chanterelles, sweet corn.” Did I mention “fresh” tagliatelle? The noodles were made with lots of yolk, which gives it a nicer texture and a yellow hue. I enjoyed how the dish wasn’t drenched in sauce. It paired nicely with the sauteed chanterelles and sweet-sweet corn. The poached egg just wrapped it all together. My mouth was happy!
“Ricotta Gnocchi and Border Spring Farm Lamb Bolognese.” This was by far my favorite dish. I was craving a heavier dish, but was pleasently surprised with the overall lightness of it. The sauce was not overwhelming either; it was bold with freshness from those fresh tomatoes and not masked by too much lamb! The light gnocchi pasta really took center stage here. A nice, classic, and simple dish.
“Slow Baked Black Bass, artichoke and beech mushroom barigoule.” Slow baking fish is an odd idea to process because all too often it is over-cooked! I wondered and thought that this would be a roasted fish. This just proves how much of a nerdy cook I can be. The fish had great color and a wonderful delicate flavor. It juxtaposed nicely with the braised artichoke and mushroom barigoule with subtle notes of saffron. Delicious.
“The Caw Caw Creek Suckling Pig Confit, Anson Mills soft polenta, peperonata, natural jus.” I had been craving fish but this suckling pig was calling to me… it was whispering my name. “Pick me, Gustavo!” it said. The dish was awesome. Definitely cooked slowly and with plenty of olive oil. It had a nice crust… so it was likely seared on a sautee pan before being laid over a creamy polenta and a bed of sauteed peppers, onions, and garlic. Wonderful!
Dessert. Did. Not. Fit. So I had to pass. Desserts aside, the meal was outstanding. I thought a nightcap at the Belmont, a speakeasy on Upper King, would be a better idea! I had been to the Belmont once before and had a great drink and nice time there. The beverages here are classic bar drinks concocted in “forgotten ways.” You’d have to picture an assortment of great garnishes, the occasional use of egg whites, and micro-distilled spirits to get the right idea. All great things. These guys truly are mixologists… but be warned of HUGE egos. I’m sad to report that our “mixologist” could barely pass for a bartender as he was completely uninterested in providing me with a recommendation or in answering my questions about what “the” most popular beverage was. I gave him my feedback on his “cooperation” and he then seemed iritated; he had yet to show more interest in providing a little more hospitality. At this point I’m thinking he’s flat-out rude. I had ordered a drink… but couldn’t stomach drinking it from a bartender like that. Needless to say it remained untouched. Overall, I can’t complain because everything else was devoured. Charleston is awesome.
Do y’all recommend any restaurants there? What’s this I hear about a famous coconut cake?
Written by Gustavo Arias