David Lebovitz has a great post about the gear & techniques he uses for the photos on his magnificently illustrated blog. I'm temporarily inspired to drop a cool grand for new camera equipment . . . but I'll probably just end up springing for a piece of white styrofoam. Read the post to see what I mean.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Janet over at Foodperson.com just posted a bit about "Bison Nation" that is not only interesting but hints at the birth of the next foodie trend. I should have seen coming long ago but I somehow missed it. It's the logical extension of "locavorism" and not just takes things to the next level but has the added advantage of making it even more difficult for people to be able to eat in an ideologically-correct way.
I'm going to call it "eating native", and I'll bet you'll be hearing a lot more of it in the upcoming year or so. Eating local is usually defined as eating only things produced within an 100 or so mile radius of where you live. Eating native ups the ante and means eating only things produced locally that are native to the region. So, here in Lowcountry South Carolina shrimp and grits are just fine (I think), but that Hoppin' John has got to go because it uses rice and cowpeas, both of which are fairly recent imports from Africa. Out in Kansas, Foodperson has a steady diet of bison, pawpaws, and prarie turnips to look foward to.
You heard it here first . . .
Friday, April 25, 2008
Now that we're into April, all the local farmer's markets are open and in full swing, and this year there even more options than last year. By my count, there are now six farmer's markets around town now, making fresh produce and other tasty treats available four days out of the week:
Tuesday (3 PM - dark): Mount Pleasant Farmer's Market: Moultrie Middle School (or, at least, where the old Moultrie Middle School used to be and the new one is being built) on Coleman Blvd. in Mount Pleasant. I hit this one for the first time this season last Tuesday night and picked up some great fresh baguettes from Coco's Cafe, a big bag of young lettuce from Kennerty farms, and some grass-fed short ribs from River Runs Farms up in Santee.
Wednesday (3 PM - 7 PM): Chicora-Cherokee Farmer's Market: On Success Street behind Chicora-Cherokee Elementary School in North Charleson. This is a new one, bringing some much-needed fresh produce to North Charleson.
Thursday (8 AM - 3 PM): North Charleston/Hanahan Farmer's Market Westvaco Park at the corner of North Rhett and Remount Road in North Charleston.
Saturday (8 AM - 2:00 PM): Charleston Farmer's Market: Marion Square downtown (corner of King and Calhoun). This is the granddaddy of local farmer's markets, and a great place to kick off your weekend. Get there early to beat the tourist mobs--you get the best selection of local veggies, and there's plenty of great breakfast items available from the food vendors.
Saturday (8 AM - 2 PM): James Island Presbyterian Farmer's Market: At the corner of Ft. Johnson and Folly Roads.
Saturday (8 AM - Noon) Summerville Farmer's Market on West Doty between Cedar & Main.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
After a round of dreary closings, it's nice to finally have a few new restaurant openings to talk about:
Tim Armstrong, formerly the executive chef at the Old Village Post House in Mount Pleasant, has opened Relish Downtown on Central Avenue in Summerville. Word is that it will be a upscale bistro-style place focusing on fresh, local food and contemporary styles.
Out in Mt. Pleasant, Chris Dolan has opened an "American fusion" place called Crave in the Seaside Farms shopping center just off the IOP Connector. This takes over the spot formerly occupied by Just Fresh.
Just down Longpoint road, a second outpost of Cupcake is about to open in the Longpoint shopping center (the original is downtown on King Street). The Wife has her eye on this one, and I figure our budget is about to take an extra $20 hit per week.
Vincent's Pizzaria has moved from Daniel Island out to Mount P, opening up shop in off of Highway 17 near the Brickyard Plantation entrance. Interestingly enough, the move was prompted after Vincent's couldn't make the high rents ($7,000 a month!) on Daniel Island.
Downtown, Brindle Brothers--a to-go coffee, ice cream, and hotdog shop--has opened at 221 Coming St. This is the latest venture of the two brothers who run D'Allesandro's pizza.
And finally, out in West Ashely, Thierry Goulard, formerly the chef at Mia's, will be running Bistro 61 at nights in the building housing Nathan's Deli on Highway 61. The deli will still be serving breakfast and lunch like always; at night, Goulard will transform it into French-inspired bistro. If you remember, Bella Napoli was doing a similar switcheroo-at-night scheme in Nathan's for a while, except with Italian food. We'll see how this latest incarnation pans out.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I'm enjoying following from the sidelines a nice little squabble over whether certain "locavore" restaurants in San Francisco actually are truly local-focused or not. Of particular note is that two new English terms appear to have been coined during the course of the debate: "hyper local" and "going all bitchcakes." Guess which one I'll be using more often?
I sort of feel connected to all this because I was in San Francisco a week ago and walked right past Fish & Farm, and several years ago I stayed in the Mark Twain Hotel, which is the hotel building in which Fish & Farm is located, and I ate breakfast in the restaurant space--long before it was Fish & Farm, but, in my mind, almost as good as having actually eaten at Fish & Farm itself.
All in all, it just fuels my never ending amusement at San Franciscans who get all in a snit over eating within a 150 mile radius. A 150 mile radius of San Francisco includes some of the most fertile agricultural land not only in the state but in the whole country, and you've also got Napa Valley and the Pacific Ocean to boot. Commiting yourself to eating "local" foods in San Francisco is about as limiting as a Manhattanite's deciding to read only locally-published books and magazines.
But it's fun!
Saturday, April 19, 2008
So, have you watched King Corn now and gotten fully obsessed with the ubiquity of corn in our food supply? Via foodperson.com, here's a useful list of common corn derivitives that help sneak corn into just about everything we eat.
I'm sort of intrigued by the challenge to try to go a week without eating any corn--not because I'm totally freaked out by corn now (honest, I'm not!) but just because it seems like a lot of fun.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
So, I got an email the other day from the PR firm representing FIG Restaurant here in Charleston. Attached was a press release announcing that, in celebration of its fifth anniversary, there was going to be a special celebration dinner at FIG this coming Sunday, with an impressive list of guest chefs cooking for the occassion. Which is all well and good. FIG is one of my favorite Charleston restaurants and I would recommend it highly to anyone interested in the very best of fresh, seasonal good cooking. Happy birthday, FIG.
But, the announced event is a private dinner, and what was conspicuously NOT included was an invitation. I will dutifully pass along the fact that a small group of selected people will be having a bang-up dinner this coming Sunday--just not you and me.
What was included, though, was a really cool panoramic photo of the interior of FIG, I guess to let us know what we will be missing this coming Sunday. I'm a sucker for panoramic photos, so here it is.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Sunrays Dogs & Delis has closed up shop. The little hot dog and deli shop over in the Harris Teeter shopping center off Long Point Road had long been one of my lunch favorites. Good solid dogs and tasty sandwiches, and to top it off the best potato salad hands down in the Greater Charleston Metro area.
Not sure the exact reasons for its going out of business, but I can't help but think the recent opening of McAllister's Deli and, just a few months ago, Beef O'Brady's in the same shopping plaza must have sealed its fate.
That potato salad will be sorely missed.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The really remarkable thing about John Martin Taylor's Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking is not the recipes included but rather when it was published. When the book first came out in 1992, true Lowcountry cooking was just being revived in Charleston restaurants, and the traditional recipes of the 19th century were all but lost among home cooks. "Locavorism" and the "Slow Food Movement" and all their attendant claptrap was still more than a decade away.
And here, at the tail end of the "New American cuisine" period, was a guy who was less interested in assembling tall towers of expensive ingredients as he was in exploring old cookbooks and historic manuscripts, seeking out clues for how people cooked a hundred years before and figuring out the best ways to replicate their cooking.
The result is Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking: Recipes and Ruminations from Charleston and the Carolina Coastal Plain. Taylor at the time was a food writer and owner of Hoppin' John's, a culinary bookstore that also sold grits and other classic ingredients. (The store has since gone virtual, with the brick-and-mortar location closing up shop in 1999 and moving to the web.) From the opening essay, "About the Lowcountry," which provides a concise historical survey of the region's food, to the detailed bibliography at the end, Taylor's passion for and first-hand knowledge of Charleston's native cookery shines through.
There are plenty of books about Charleston cooking that are little more than random collections of recipes that incorporate a few Lowcountry-esque ingredients but use plenty of French techniques or fancy imported ingredients. Not so with Hoppin' John's. Calling himself "the Lowcountry's culinary preservationist," Taylor's focus is on authenticity both of methods and ingredients, and his book begins with a firm insistence that the key to making the region's dishes correctly is not the recipes themselves but "faithful use of good locally raised ingredients". Taylor drew heavily on the classic recipes in Sarah Rutledge's 1847 volume The Carolina Housewife and the Junior League's 1950 Charleston Receipts, though he took pains with the latter to "eliminate some of the baking powder, cans of soup, and overreliance on commercial products."
The book's fourteen chapters cover the full gamut of Lowcountry cooking, from Snack and Starters through Desserts, Beverages, and Condiments. The essential classics are there, including She-Crab Soup, Hoppin' John (no surprise there!), Carolina Pilau, Shrimp and Grits (the classic breakfast variety, not the uptown restaurant version), Frogmore Stew, and Country Captain. An expansive Game section includes recipes for venison, rabbit, raccoon, turtle, frog, squirrel, duck, quail, squab, and marsh hens. There are even a few South Carolina classics from a little bit outside of town, like boiled peanuts and liver pudding.
Taylor introduces each type of dish with a few paragraphs providing history and context and general cooking advice before launching into the recipes. Because of this, it's a great book not only for finding a few interesting recipes to try (which is the best you can say about most Charleston cookbooks) but also for gaining a strong grounding in the fundamentals of the region's foods and styles of cooking. This one sits on my shelf in my kitchen, and I dip into it regularly when I'm trying to chase down the right way to make something, and it's a great book for anyone who's seeking to master the distinctive dishes of Charleston.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Phew. I've been pretty much out of the loop this past week due to a big crisis at work and a last minute trip to the West Coast to straighten everything out. Amid the stress and strain and everything else, there was a silver lining . . . kick ass meals in San Francisco--and, really, in Sausalito, which is where we stayed at the Casa Madrona hotel (pictured), taking the ferry across the Bay to work in the city. How fantastic is that?
Dinner Night 1: Sushi Ran in Sausalito.
Lunch Day 2: Hog Island Oyster Co ast the Ferry building
Dinner Night 2: Frantoio in Sausalito
Lunch Day 3: Hog Island Oyster Co. again. The oysters were that good, and on the second day I tried the local sardines. MAN! Those are tasty.
Dinner Night 3: The Slanted Door, San Franscisco
Please, please, please don't tell the wife. I've been plying her all week with sad stories about how miserable my trip has been and how stressful and everything. No, honey, not a chance to have any fun at all. And no good food, either!. McDonald's and Starbucks the whole trip.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Has anyone been following the ongoing brouhaha at Starbucks over baristas having to share tips with their managers? Now baristas in New York have filed a class action lawsuit.
What amazes me about this story is not the dispute itself--which seems to me like a pretty run-of-the-mill business story to me--but rather the passion that any discussion of tipping like this seems to elicit, a subject I dug into myself quite some time ago.
Let those heated comments fly!
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Okay, so if the Tammy v. Tammy throw down over at Food on the Food wasn't edgy enough for you, check this one out:
High Fructose Corn Syrup may not be "natural." Whether it is or not is open to interpretation. Lots of interpretation. Who knew?