Tag Archives: cocktails

Husk…. Sean Brock’s Southern Food

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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.

Heart Woodfire Kitchen

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Tucked away off of Folly Road on James Island, Heart Woodfire Kitchen is a very special place. It is fun and hip and the first thing that hits you when you open the door is the sweet deep aroma of wood burning. This touches me tenderly, as I once owned a wood burning oven at my cooking school in Chicago and I miss it so much. The very core of this place is the Valoriani wood burning oven and a wood fired rotisserie grill. It does not stop there. Clever cocktails, local produce, pork and chicken raised in the Low Country, nice wine and beer selections and a creative upscale menu without being pretentious. This is not fast food, not BBQ and not white tablecloth dining, it is great flavorful dining at the mid price level, something we do not have a lot of in Charleston.

We went on a Tuesday night after going to see a film. It was balmy outside, so we opted for outside dining. The restaurant was unusually busy for a Tuesday and it was obvious that this was a bit unexpected for the staff. The assistant manager became our server because they were short staffed and we were very lucky because she was on top of her game and gave us second glasses of wine on the house because the kitchen was jammed. The food was excellent. Full of smoky flavor and interesting textures.

splendi heart woodfire

We started with a small order of one of their “Speidie,” little skewers. cooked close to the flame. We had the Fontina wrapped in prosciutto & balsamic with a wheat berry salad. 2 skewers for just $6, quite the perfect thing to nibble on while you are drinking one of their fabulous cocktails. They offer two other Speidie, one with Beef Short ribs, rosemary oil & almonds and another with Bacon wrapped Chicken Livers & chimichurri. The menu has several other small plates including some interesting soups& salads  that change with the seasons.

We shared  a spinach salad with roasted beets, wheat berries, romaine,onions and a green garlic vinaigrette.  It was crisp and yet warming with the roasted beets. The green garlic vinaigrette was perfect. I would have liked a little piece of their fabulous house made bread to go with it.
spinach salad
My husband ordered the blackened catfish sandwich which comes on one  of their sturdy house made rolls. It was round and he was expecting more of a poor boy style bread, but the flavors were fabulous and the fish was crusty with spices on the exterior and warm, tender and white on the interior, just as it should be. He ordered creamed mustard greens as his side and they were stellar. I had a few bites and we brought the rest home because after a bag of popcorn at the movies we were fuller than we thought we were.

flat bread

I had one of their signature flat breads, really a crispy little pizza. I opted for the vegetable flat bread with Acorn Squash & Goat Cheese, fennel, cauliflower & arugula pesto.I bought some home and will be having it for lunch today.

We are looking forward to going back and trying some of their local fish from the wood fired oven. We also saw dishes of their baked pasta with four cheeses walk past us and they looked delicious. Their rotisserie chicken looked fantastic and I can only imagine that their Grilled Butcher’s Steak with roasted mushrooms & onions, herb butter is fantastic. The Wood Fired Vegetable Stew, basmati rice, basil pesto, lemon yogurt, toasted almonds & apricots also sounds interesting to me.

Wood fire cooking

They have an extensive lunch menu and what looks like a fun brunch menu. They have happy hour from 4-6 and the offerings are a good way to taste several things at a reduced price.

My suggestion? Run don’t walk to this hidden gem of a restaurant. Heart Woodfire Kitchen at 1622 Highland Ave Charleston SC 29412  (843) 718-1539 Look for this sign off of Folly Road:
Heart woodfire

The Ultimate Maraschino Cherry: Homemade!

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I am tired of ingesting sappy sweet Maraschino Cherries loaded with red dye #40. I want some *real cherries* for my manhattans and Mai Tais! And so, I made Homemade Maraschino Cherries. There are two ways to make them (that I know of) and one of them requires sourcing  Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur .I will be posting about those soon.  If you are not looking for a spiked cherry, why not just make them the old fashioned way? Basically this involves taking fresh cherries at their peak, creating a syrup adding some spices and flavors that will compliment the cherries, then simmering the cherries lightly in the syrup without really cooking them completely. This enables the flavors of the syrup to penetrate the cherries and still retains the texture of a fresh cherry.

Which would you rather have?

Commercial Maraschino Cherries are typically made from light-colored sweet cherries such as the Royal AnnRainier, or Gold varieties. In their modern form, the cherries are first preserved in a brine solution usually containing sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride to bleach the fruit, then soaked in asuspension of food coloring (common red food dye, FD&C Red 40), sugar syrup, and other components. Green maraschino cherries use a mint flavoring.

This recipe is simple and can be completed in the space of an hour. When the cherries have been soaking in the syrup even longer, they will be even tastier. I did not pit the cherries and I left the stems in tact, but you can pit them if you want to. You will need a large jar or container to store the cherries in. They do need to be refrigerated. The alternative of course is to process the cherries, but then they would lose so much of their fresh taste and texture.

These cherries are not just good… they are DAMN GOOD! Try it, really, it is so worth it!

Home Made Maraschino Cherries

2 cups pomegranate juice (use 100 percent juice)
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice (from approximately 3 lemons)
Pinch of salt
3 whole pieces star anise
8 whole cloves
1 pound sweet cherries
1 teaspoon almond extract
In a nonreactive saucepan, add juice, sugar, lemon juice, salt, cloves and star anise. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the cherries and almond extract. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until the cherries have exuded some of their juice and the syrup has taken on a distinctly cherry flavor. Be careful not to overcook. The point is not to actually cook the cherries, but to heat them in the syrup just long enough to bring out their essence.
Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the cherries and the syrup to a bowl a container with a tight-fitting lid, cover tightly, and refrigerate. The longer the cherries steep, the more flavorful they will become.
The Ultimate Manhattan:
I had my first Manhattan at the bar of Tavern on the Green (which incidentally went from being the nations second highest grossing restaurant in 2007, to closing due to bankruptcy in 2009) on my inagural  trip to New York in 1997. I ‘ve loved them ever since. I have returned to Manhattan several times since then, both in my heart and in person, I always order Manhattans when I am there.  It’s a sophisticated, strong and simple cocktail, and the ultimate showcase for as many maraschino cherries as you care to pack into your glass. The proportions are 2:1 
Makes 1 drink
3 ounces whiskey, rye or Bourbon
1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherries, for garnish
In a double old fashioned glass, add the whiskey, vermouth and bitters, stir. Garnish with maraschino cherries and serve on the rocks. The drink can also be served straight up by using a cocktail shaker and straining into a martini glass.

Jalapeno Martini: A Sassy Cocktail

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One of my favorite cocktails is the Jalapeno Martini. I first had one at Hilo Bay Cafe when living in Hawaii. It was not at all difficult to figure out the recipe for this really refreshing drink. I am not truly much of  a martini drinker, but I do love all things jalapeno. Here is the recipe for you to try.

Ingredients: 

2 jiggers of good vodka

2 drops of dry vermouth

1/2 a jigger of juice from pickled jalapenos (save those peppers to add to cornbread or use in recipes)

1 large Gorgonzola stuffed olive ( I make my own, just find nice big olives and remove the pimento)

Method: 

Fill a martini glass with ice to chill it while making the drink

Put the vodka, vermouth and jalapeno juice in a shaker with ice and shake about 20 times.

Remove the ice from the martini glass, strain the martini into it and garnish with the olive. So good and so easy!