Visions of Callie’s biscuits, low country oysters, and Tank Jackson’s country ham are still dancing in our heads. Flavor Forays just concluded our 4th annual Grits, Gullah, and the Three o’Clock Dinner culinary immersion with an outstanding group of food and beverage professionals, February 11 to 13th, 2019.
We got right into the spirit of Southern hospitality when local authority cookbook author Matt Lee led us down cobblestone streets to the piazza of a private home for a typical Charleston lunch of finger sandwiches and deviled eggs, plus a spirituous Bigelow tea-based St. Cecilia punch. From there, we were welcomed into the kitchens of some of Charleston’s finest chefs, Jason Stanhope, Michael Toscano, Greg Johnsman, Jeremiah Bacon. They talked and we listened and tasted and tasted and tasted. Who knew that sorghum could be milled and incorporated into a buckwheat pasta dough for the best cacio e pepe this side of Rome? Or that cooking the locally revered Carolina Gold Rice was an art and a science?
Our second day found us on the grounds of the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea plantation in North America owned by Bigelow and master tea taster Bill Hall who explained the process of growing and processing tea. A cupping lesson allowed us to compare various brands. Lunch time found us feasting on pimiento cheese, she crab soup, and tomato pie at the homespun Tomato Shed. Lucky for us, farmer to the local chef stars Pete Ambrose stopped by his daughter’s restaurant to spin some yarns about his years shrimping and farming.
But nobody could have pictured the awesome sunset oyster roast and dinner awaiting us in Mount Pleasant. Legendary chefs Frank Lee (founder of S.N.O.B.) and Philip Bardin of Old Post House on Edisto fame came out of retirement to cook up a feast of Trigger fish, mustard greens, turnips, clam hash, peanut butter and lemon chess pies. Meanwhile Jackson, Charleston chefs’ preferred pig farmer, was thinly slicing delicious morsels off a magnificent leg of country ham that rivaled any Iberico.
For a grand finale the next day, we took a water tax over to Shem Creek. There on a shrimp dock, chef BJ Dennis brought Gullah culture and cuisine to life with a “bunch” stew (greens flavored with smoked meats), BBQ chicken, cornbread and cane syrup, and rice--Carolina Gold, of course.
No one left hungry.
Thanks to the sponsors who made this inspiring adventure possible: Bigelow Tea, Cardinal, More than Gourmet, Nestle Waters, Smithfield.
Photos by Nannette Bedway are also posted on our @flavorforays Instagram. Follow us!