Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dog food: a formal review

Dear Reader,

Has another food writer so lovingly approached the subject of breaking bread with one's own dog?

Image by Jonathan Sharpe, Free Times
Please accept this holiday gift: one of the greatest lil food articles in history, by the Free Times' Tug Baker -- featuring human-compatible dog food by none other than TV star Dick Van Patten. (Weird.)

Beautiful photos by Jonathan Sharpe. Wow.

Free Times: Features - Holiday Surprise

Ho ho ho!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The new Charleston food mecca: Chef Sean Brock's Husk Restaurant

When in Charleston, SC, I find it quite difficult to resist scheduling my days around fabu meals at food nerd meccas.

Today's Sunday brunch meal period was open, and I've been hearing about Husk, this new resto by Chef Sean Brock of McCrady's, where locally, sustainably farmed/produced Southern food is the gospel. Have you ever come across Chef Brock's blog? It is COOL. And it is exemplary of the food at McCrady's, which leans toward the molecular gastronomy trend with its groovy foams and gelees.

Image courtesy Husk Restaurant
Husk, on the other hand, has a more casual menu of fancypants New Southern preparations, all sourced from SC and nearby purveyors.

Love the big blackboard in the main hallway noting each ingredient's provenance, as well as the in-depth vendor details posted on the Husk website.

Loved having coffee out of a Heath ceramics coffee set. Heath is that big-deal boutique pottery brand out of Sausalito, CA.

(Food nerds go ape for Heath, no? It's a clear sign of a high-quality enterprise if a restaurant uses Heath in its dining room.)

Note the drinking glasses made from recycled wine bottles; I asked if they were made by my pal Brenton Sadreameli of Mr. B's Bottleneck Guitar Slides in West Columbia, SC.

Image courtesy Mr. B's Sustainable Glassworks
In fact, those glasses are from out west, but the manager asked for Brenton's info (which I handily had on my Android phone thanks to the way it syncs with all of my Facebook contacts!), cause how cool would it be to source these eco-friendly glasses from right here in SC?

Brenton and his business partner will etch glasses and vases with whatever you want, and you can bring in special bottles to their studio (behind Old Mill Antique Mall on State Street, right next to that cute little plant nursery).

It's a great place to recycle wine bottles from events and parties, too.

Image courtesy Mr. B's Sustainable Glassworks
Since I'm on a Mr. B's tangent, I love this picture of Brenton with our own dear Bill Murray, taken from the Mr. B's website.

It's kindof like being photographed with God. He was the leader of the Ghostbusters, for crying out loud.

Anyhoo, back to Husk.

Image courtesy Husk Restaurant

Loved the location: a historic, two-story home w/porch balconies on Queen St., between King and Meeting Streets in downtown Charleston. Great for travelers on vacation who want to rack up the Southern charm. (It's right between local faves 82 Queen and Poogan's Porch, in fact, right around the corner from the Mills House hotel.)

Loved Husk's friendly, confident staff and their brown aprons. Loved the decor: stacked firewood at the entrance, old bank coin bags as bread baskets and dried okra pods in short vases filled with ground corn, in particular.

Loved the salad of Maria's baby lettuces w/dreamy buttermilk dressing and large pickled shrimp ($12). My friend Mary and I agree that we could be very happy ladies if we could have that salad with a glass of white wine about once a week from now on.

(There *is* a separate Husk bar building next door.)

The dressing was pooled at the bottom of the salad, not poured on top. I like.

Also, the tomatoes and cucumbers had been peeled and deseeded, a nice luxury touch that I don't always want or need (since the seed jelly holds so much flavor) -- but today? Loved it.

Loved the wood-fired SC beef tenderloin ($16) topped w/sunny-side-up farm egg. a chunky potato hash, and Benton's smoked sausage, too. Mamma jamma.

Also: loved noshing on a selection of fancy Southeastern prosciutto hams ($13), with house-pickled green tomatoes and homemade pull-apart rolls.

That little skillet? Full of whole grain mustard.

Did not like the fact, however, that our entrees came out literally 3 minutes after our starters -- a huge pet peeve when I'm there to take my time and savor each course. Huge.

And the supposedly amazing fried chicken ($13) was on the dry side, frankly, despite having been poached for 36 hours in buttermilk. However the crunchy fried fried on it was a total delight; apparently the chef leaves the chicken in flour for a half hour during the dredging process to achieve optimum crispiness.

The accompanying creamed collards (cooked sous vide, I believe, and still a fresh, bright green) would have benefited from a thin-sliced chiffonade treatment instead of being presented in unwieldy, waxy 2-inch wide slices bathed in an unappealing bechamel. But hey, that's just my opinion. And this isn't a formal review; I'm just excited about my brunch and I want to share with all of my fellow foodie friends.

I haven't forgotten that the restaurant only just opened in early November, 2010, either. It can take a few months for a new restaurant to work out the kinks.

The verdict? Husk is a must-visit.

Now I am going to go and have a super lazy afternoon and watch a bad thriller with a dear friend.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

This is one awfully friendly armadillo

I saw my first armadillo the other day. It didn't seem too bothered by the fact that I am about 20 times its size.

Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA; at the ruins of Dungeness, Lucy Carnegie's winter home 
FYI I just did an at-a-glance measurement routine on myself to determine that remarkably useful stat for you, imagining an armadillo on my arm, on my upper arm, on my shoulder, etc., then counting them all up.

Because the internet is all about scholarly pursuits.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

SC makes alcohol permits illegal -- by accident


This goes pretty far beyond "whoops!" and likely is going to hurt a fair number of small businesses in the state of South Carolina.


Looks like it's letter-writing time, folks. Hit your South Carolina House rep and your Senator with some emails and phone calls before January, or...say goodbye to adult beverages at...weddings? Seriously?

Reposted from today's Free Times:
Issue #23.48 :: 11/30/2010 - 12/06/2010

“Somebody screwed up,” says Tom Sponseller


"Lawmakers are scrambling to figure out how a state law passed this year ended up barring businesses and individuals from serving beer and wine at special events.

Because of that law, starting in January, the Department of Revenue will only grant special-event permits to serve beer and wine to nonprofit organizations and political parties. They will stop issuing permits to businesses and individuals — promoters, caterers and other event organizers, for example — who must obtain licenses every time they want to serve beer and wine in a location without a permanent beer and wine license.

“Somebody screwed up,” says Tom Sponseller, head of..." (read the rest of Eva Moore's story at The Free Times website

Thank you, Eva, for reporting on this!

I'm glad that my nonprofit friends, clients and affiliates will be able to apply for alcohol permits more easily, but I get a sick feeling thinking about what this does to business for my friends in the catering industry, not to mention The Whig and The White Mule, two of the best low-budget bartender-for-hire services in town.

Here's a listing of members of the SC House of Representatives, so you can grab your legislators' email addresses and phone numbers...

...and here's a directory for the South Carolina State Senate.

Don't mess with my food & beverage industry people, y'all. They work hard as h-e-double-hockey-sticks to bring levity to this cruel world. Let's support them!