Here’s my Undiscovered Charleston April menu. Are you coming to visit Charleston, SC, want to take a food tour and are passionate about food and history? Then read on!
What a fantastic April we’ve had on our Undiscovered Charleston food and history tour! We had great guests joining us from Toronto, the San Francisco Bay Area, St. Louis, Utah and Arkansas. We even had guests from John’s Island, closer to home. I’ve been thinking about how to post menus and recipes from our times together. So I’m going to try posting the menu each week, then embed the recipes.
What was the Undiscovered Charleston April menu?
T.S. Eliot said that “April is the cruelest month.” Since he was born in St. Louis then moved to London, I’m guessing he missed the food. Maybe he missed the opening of Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard, Imo’s pizza, or toasted ravioli. Maybe he missed the holy of holies the St. Louis BBQ pork steak (yeah, those don’t suck.) But here in the SC Lowcountry, I have to disagree with good ol’ T.S. because I think April is the DELICIOUS month. Spring is well under way with our largesse of certified SC asparagus. There’s an abundance of strawberries and spring onions. Yet we still have access to many of the roots and greens of the colder months. The beginning of early summer items such as corn and squashes are making their way into our baskets. Our Undiscovered Charleston April menu of dishes to explore Charleston food and history has been delicious.
We featured some pimento cheese this week, either as a part of a dish, or as a standalone tea sandwich as we came back from the tour. I talk about Louis Osteen a lot both on tour and on the blog, but his recipe for pimento cheese really is the best I’ve had. He knew it, too. He called it “Pate of the South.” I once asked him why we used Tillamook Cheddar from Oregon to make such a quintessentially Southern dish. Louis had a way of just looking at you like you were stupid and he asked “Forrest, where are you from?” “Anderson,” I replied. “Well that explains it.” he said. “I’m using Tillamook cheddar from Oregon to make my famous Pate of the South pimento cheese because Tillamook cheddar from Oregon is the highest. Fat content. Cheddar. In the world.” Ok, so there’s that.
“Potager” rhymes with “Protege.”
A few years back, prior to launching the tour, I participated in a dinner at Drayton Hall where we were given access to Charles Drayton’s diaries. They included the layout of his potager, or vegetable garden. So inspiring to have access to something that special. We knew what he was growing, where and when and built much of our menu from that. We were shown his displayed branding iron. Then, in the middle of the dinner, there was a sounding of chimes. The names of the Enslaved held in bondage by Charles Drayton were read aloud before the honored guests. Dumplin,’ Mary, Sue, Toby. Powerful & humbling stuff to be a part of that very special experience.
What’s a CSA basket?
No, not “Confederate States of America” you ninny- “Community supported agriculture” of course! I wanted to push myself to cook for the tour in closer sync with the season and subscribed to a local CSA basket. In my mind I was thinking of local sourcing, impeccable, delicate and delicious. I dreamt of the quintessence of the season plucked at the height of perfection glistening with dew drops. What I got was some strawberries well past their prime. There was a mess of greens well on their way to compost. I got roots. Lots and lots of roots. So I pickled the turnips. I roasted the sweet potatoes into a hummus. I pureed beets, made dried beet chips and shaved raw beets. Since it’s high asparagus season, I featured this as well in a salad inspired by that 1784 potager. Including some delicious “dirt.”
Then, we made some shrimp & grits, which I do frequently, though I’m always working to keep it fresh, so I made some of Frank Lee’s famous ‘corn grits” for the base. Think insanely good creamed corn with really, really good Jimmy Red corn grits from our friends at Marsh Hen Mills. Reviews have continued to come in from guests, so don’t take my word for it; read some of those on TripAdvisor or Google! Of course anything is going to taste good with thick lardon’s of Benton’s peppered slab bacon, which you can order direct HERE or, it you’re local to the 843, just pick some up over at Ted’s Butcher Block.
What makes your dessert stomach happy?
Finally, we ended with Atlantic Beach Pie. I think of this as the lemon and lime version of Key lime pie. Chef Bill Smith uses a saltines crust, though I used a lemon oreo crust. I anchored mine to the plate with a solid shmear of lemon curd, adding whipped cream, berries I macerated with some St. Germain, crumbled benne seed wafers and strawberry powder. Again, I was happy here with both the dish and the presentation!
Exciting times as we head into May and early Summer here in the Lowcountry. For those guests who came on the tour, remember to check the recipes page. If you don’t recall your unique password for access just text me.
Come Hang Out with Us!
If you’re coming to visit Charleston and are passionate about food and history, come hang out with us. We start at the Pineapple Fountain, wind our way through the historic French Quarter of Charleston and end at the lovely Bistro a Vin. I cook a 3 course lunch with paired wines. You’ll learn all about Charleston’s very long history through the lens of our delicious cuisine! In June, it was named the #1 food experience in the world both HERE and HERE magazines- come discover our history for yourself and Taste History!