Husk…. Sean Brock’s Southern Food

Standard

Bon Appetit hailed it as the Best New Restaurant in the US…. accolades have been streaming ever since. It is not all hype, the food is amazing, creative and interesting. Husk is the love child of James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s and the Neighborhood Dining Group. Since opening Husk in Charleston he opened another outpost of Southern ingredients in Nashville. He recently opened Minero, a taqueria in the high rent district of downtown Charleston. There is word that he is also taking that concept to Atlanta where the Neighborhood Dining Group is headquartered. He transforms the essence of Southern food over and over again. Solid… delicious… promising. Sean is dedicated to bringing back old Southern grains, beans, greens and other treasures that were all but lost. He is the champion of the old non-gmo crops that were grown 200 years ago in the south. His food reflects that without being obvious. It is just delicious food, and then you learn its history and all of the work that went into bringing it to the table.

Led by Brock and Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes, a Lowcountry native, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston.

Starting with a larder of ingredients indigenous to the South, and set within a building complex dating to the late 19th century, Brock crafts menus throughout the day, responding to what local purveyors are supplying the kitchen at any given moment. The entrance beckons with a rustic wall of firewood to fuel the wood-fired oven and a large chalkboard listing artisanal products currently provisioning the kitchen, but like the décor that inhabits the historic building, the food is modern in style and interpretation.

At Husk there are some rules about what can go on the plate. “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door,” says Brock, who has even stricken olive oil from the kitchen. As he explains, the resulting cuisine “is not about rediscovering Southern cooking, but exploring the reality of Southern food.” This modern approach results in playful dishes such as Deviled Eggs with Pickled Okra and Trout Roe, and new classics like South Carolina Shrimp and Choppee Okra Stew with Carolina Gold Rice and Flowering Basil.

Seed-saving, heirloom husbandry, and in-house pickling and charcuterie efforts by the culinary team are the basis of the cuisine at Husk. The restaurant is as casual as it is chic, evoking a way of life centered on seasonality and the grand traditions of Charleston life—one lived at a slower pace, preferably with a cocktail and a wide porch in the late afternoon. It is a neighborhood gathering place for friends, and a destination dining spot for travelers, with a little bite of the South for everyone’s palates.

These photos are from my lunch there with Nathalie Dupree and Holly Herrick, two Charleston based friends of mine than rank in the upper echelons of Food Writers.  And so we were treated to many things that we did not order. On of the most amazing things that day was totally unexpected, the fried chicken skin with honey and hot sauce. It is a dish I have reconstructed at home a few times. I also reconstructed Husk’s Sweet Tea Brined Kentuckyaki Chicken Wings and you can get the recipe here.

6 responses »

  1. Glad you mentioned who you dined with. Both are well known in Charleston, and the restaurant made sure you were treated very well. Your experience was unique, and may not mirror experiences of regular diners. We have eaten there, as have our friends. We were underwhelmed. Hype and story seemed more important than the actual meal. One member of our group asked for salt and pepper. The server said “I’m sorry- everything is delivered perfectly seasoned”. Our food was tepid, greasy and bland. I posted our experience to FB and discovered 2 things- many had similar experiences but were reluctant to share, and some chastised me for criticizing a local business. I was later contact by member of the PR dept. This person was located in Chicago ! Hmmmmm…… I thought this was a local restaurant, owned and operated by local people ? I read the review in BA several times. I could not determine if the author actually dined in the restaurant, or created his review from PR material. It read like ad copy without any personal notes to indicate the author consumed any of the food described. Further investigation revealed the majority of 4/5star reviews were from tourists without experience in true farm to table, or from national publications sensitive to marketing budgets. Many better restaurants in town. No need to add to the (over) hype for this one.

    • This blog post was written a long time ago. We lived in Charleston for 5 years. Sean opened the restaurant as a chef partner, same with Mineros and McCrady’s. The restaurant group is located in Atlanta. They own quite a few restaurants. Many Charleston restaurants are owned by out of town groups. When Sean left the day to day operations things did change there. My friend Nathalie and I still had an occasional lunch there because she lives a few doors from there. I moved to the Asheville area last May. I also have done a lot of resort and restaurant PR and it is quite common for the PR agency to be out of town, but not common for them to not come to town and make an in person visit and do tastings. Of course the restaurant knows the person is going to be writing about the experience and the food, so they are on the top of their game. There are lots of other restaurants to choose from in Charleston. My personal favorites are Tratorria Lucca, the Ordinary,The WIld Olive and Xao Bao Biscuit. Restaurants are closing right and left and new enterprises come in straight away. It is a changing city. But those places have been there a long time and the owners are hands on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s