Sunday, May 31, 2009

Naked Beach Forest Find

Went hunting recently. (For pretty views.)

Right on the beach at faraway Hunting Island State Park, SC, we found a beautiful 1873 lighthouse.

First, an easy photo op.

A spiral ascent...

A view from the top.

Then an orange Push-Up pop.

Trailed through the woods for no reason in particular...

...then came upon something absurdly spectacular.

The island's geography kicks it out into currents streaming northward up the coast...

 the coastal forest erodes and
erodes, leaving live oaks and palmettos to fend for themselves.

It's mesmerizing.

So easy to spend all day peering and snooping.

Just don't get snagged.

photos: TB

Friday, May 22, 2009

How to Tell Wild Shrimp from Farmed: Red Leggings

How to Tell if a Shrimp is Wild

If your shrimp is clutching a bottle of Malibu rum and running into the street, drunk dialing ex-boyfriends and screeching, "Woooo Hooooooooooooooo!!" at the top of its lungs, then yes, it's pretty wild.

Otherwise, sustainable, wild-caught shrimp (these from the waters of Port Royal, right near Beaufort, SC) are easy to distinguish from icky, farm-raised shrimp: wild shrimp have pinkish-red legs.

(Thank you, Friendly Safeway Fishmonger Man, for sharing that helpful bit of information with me last year!)

Found myself in Frogmore, SC with a one-item shopping list: SHRIMP.

Best to get it from the source, so we headed to the marsh-front mainstay, Gay Fish Co.

This place is perfect.

They know their audience and they keep it simple.

Frogmore stew is as simple as it gets: boil up some potatoes, corn, sausage, and shrimp with a bunch of Old Bay seasoning powder. Done.

(Some people add onion.)

The dock behind Gay Fish Co. is a nice place for a breather.

Just don't inhale too deeply cause it's a marsh, and marshes always smell like a raccoon's been dragging dead fiddler crabs up and down the pluff mud.

(Which they have been, actually.)

Dock lockers.

Someone's been busy arranging detritus out back.


Outside and Obsolete.

Next stop: over the dunes and off to the beach. Where the beauty gets so huge it's shocking -- more on that next time!
photos: TB

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yucky Crab Burgers, Yummy Shrimp Burgers in Frogmore, SC

A crab cake sandwich at a marshy dive called The Shrimp Shack in Frogmore, SC: this was to be the reward for a long-ish drive down into the Beaufort, SC lowcountry.

(There were different, and more stunning, rewards later in the trip -- to be described in an upcoming post.)

Off to Hunting Island, a gloriously lush coastal forest complete with excellent beach and lighthouse (post on that one later this week, too!)

The lowcountry is riddled with waterways and little sea islands.

The Shrimp Shack!!!!
The tale was told of chomping into delicious crab cake sandwiches on family trips to the beach back in the day. 
Would memory serve?
You know the place is down home with a menu like this.
And decor like this.
The shrimp burger was delicious! Very simple, but fresh and not even close to overcooked.
The crab cake sandwich, unfortunately, was disgusting.  Yellowed, desiccated crab meat, chicken fatty flavor. Ew.
The only recourse? Head across the highway to Gay Fish Co. in hopes of procuring the freshest of shrimp for dinner!
What goes down at Gay Fish?
More in the next post from The Yum Diary!
photos: TB

Friday, May 15, 2009

Harold's Country Club: Saturday Steaks, Pickled Eggs

Went rambling the other day down the countryside toward a little beach overnighter near Beaufort, SC.

On the way, came across Harold's Country Club in Yemassee, SC.

My long-ago San Francisco neighbor Sybil (who now runs an excellent consignment shop in Mill Valley, CA called Diamonds in the Rough) once returned from a solo afternoon jaunt to the Golden Gate Park nine-hole golf course, where she was befriended by a little pack of old fogies on the putting green.

They invited her for a post-golfing beer at their country club on Fulton Street. Naturally, she accepted!

Um, their country club? Just a street-level garage with the door open, some folding chairs, an astroturf rug (if I recall correctly -- I might just be making that up) and a cooler of cold, cheap beer.

Beautiful. Sybil had a great old time.

So I especially love it when a shacky enterprise refers to itself as a country club.

This one has a big jar of pickled eggs on the counter, like a lot of southern roadside spots, but in true lowcountry fashion, there's a difference:

They put bay leaf in their pickled eggs.

Love their barroom. There's a warren of dining rooms in the back set up with vinyl-backed chairs and cafeteria tables for their Saturday night steak dinners.

Reservations required, 6:30 and 8pm seatings. You call ahead and let them know how many steaks your party will be having, and how you'd like them cooked.

Nope, no outdoor seating, unless you'd like to set down at this one.

This steakhouse/gas station can also handle your bait and tackle needs.

I'm a sucker for old-looking things.

(Unless they're eggs in a pickling brine.)

photos: TB

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

BBQ Pork at a Legendary Southern-Style Pig Pickin'

From the moment the shoddy plastic-lettered sign went up on the corner church's lawn reading, "YOU COO WE COO WE ALL COO FOR BBQ -- MAY 2 -- PORK CHICKEN" I began hearing tell of legend: the best Carolina-style, mustard-based, pulled pork BBQ in all the land.

Things like, "My buddy Jim Bob -- you know, the musician/health food guy -- he says this stuff is the best he's EVER had."

And "My buddy Tim waits all year for that church BBQ thing."

Naturally, I had to check it out.

I spend a fair amount of time in my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina nowadays (to say the least), and while I like to keep my Bay Area coverage rolling, I've got to share the wealth once in a while when it comes to the Southern gems.

Walked over to the churchyard in question last Saturday and followed the smell of embers and meat.

Found it.

This shed is usually dead empty, but it bustles during this regular event, the proceeds of which, apparently, make up an astonishing percentage of the church's annual operating funds.

Um, they're obviously not messing around, with all those pork butts and/or pork shoulders they're slow-roasting.

And that's not even the half of it -- they'd already pulled a ton of meat off the grill and shredded it into giant metal canisters.

Canisters which were then rolled across the lawn on handtrucks to reach the meat-n-three assembly line that the church ladies had set up in the church building.

Why put your grilled chicken under a brick when you can lay a giant slab of wood on top of a mess of chickens instead?



If BBQ hash (everything but the squeal!) weren't so dang delicious, I'd be terrified of this scene. But I know that what's in those giant metal buckets is likely pure gold.

Time to get in line.

These church ladies mean business.

In this context, meat-n-three consists of shredded BBQ pork in a mustard/vinegar sauce, rice, BBQ hash, and not-too-mayonnaisey coleslaw in a styrofoam to-go box.

No, hash and rice aren't vegetables, but who cares?

Especially after rolling home to sample the smoky, tender amazingness therein.

The hash was a little on the sweet side so I doctored it with some hot, vinegary chow chow relish and some green Tabasco. (LOVE that stuff!)

Shealy's mustard-based BBQ sauce on the side, just cause it so good.

Didn't even think to take a photo til I'd decimated the whole heaping mess with a frosty Bud Light, but you get the idea.

Can't wait til the next one!

photos: TB

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Crazy Black Russian Tomato Varieties!

Got my hands on some Russian varieties of black heirloom tomatoes recently. So excited.

They have names I'd never heard of, like Black from Tula, Black Krim, and Paul Robeson -- he was a civil rights activist and opera star, apparently, and some tomato nuts loved him so much they named a particularly awesome tomato after him.

Wha? Black tomatoes? Naw, they'll be more like deep reddish, purplish, and dark greenish (in about 60-70 days -- high hopes!) And hopefully they'll be wicked tasty with some of that basil you see there.

Paul Robeson tomatoes, from

Black Krim tomatoes from

Black From Tula tomatoes from

Also planted some heirloom Green Gage (gold color), Black Cherry, and Jaune Flamme (big, light orange cherry tomatoes), as well as regular old Supersweet 100s and Beefsteaks.

Green Gage are interesting b/c they're pretty rare, I guess, and they're ping pong sized yellow with green gel. And prolific. Can't wait! From

Why is it that gardening for vegetables has become so appealing as I approach the middle ages? Is it because I am becoming a cliche? I guess I'm comfortable with that as long as I have pigpiles of tomatoes to eat come mid-summer. Yum!