Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Low Country

Low Country
Edisto and Charleston
South Carolina

You can’t beat your first trip to a new place. Our friends Jackie and Don invited us to share a beach house on Edisto beach, joined by our friends Jennifer and Ian. Despite many cocktails we have managed to remember the best parts. Actually, cooking at home proved to be the best bet. You can see the shrimp boats go out in the morning and if you visit in the afternoon you get plump, fresh shrimp. So, we had shrimp and smoked gouda grits, shrimp boil, seafood chowder, shrimp dumplings, bacon wrapped shrimp, shrimp cocktail, shrimp fondue…well, you get the picture. Edisto also has fresh clams and plenty of fish, which we didn’t even get to. Kudos to the chefs for all of the great food. The Meat Eater only took on the steak portion of the menu. We went to Ted’s Butcher Shop in Charleston. The meat is incredible. We picked out inch thick rib eyes and homemade Italian sausage with nuts and berries in it. However, with quality comes cost and Ted’s is not cheap. I rubbed the rib eyes with a chipotle powder we picked up at Oktoberfest in Germantown. It made for a memorable steak experience.

We did make it out for a couple of meals. We stopped at Slightly North of Broad in Charleston for lunch. They call it a power lunch spot for movers and shakers. We found a friendly staff and a fun take on Low Country cooking. The lunch version of fried chicken comes in a sweet honey glaze, piled on top of sweet collard greens and cheddar grits. A hipped up southern classic. The Veggie Eater had a Rueben without the meat, which she will describe below in rather ecstatic terms.

Veggie Eater: This was by far the best Rueben I’ve ever had. I am long used to
astonished stares when I request a Reuben without corned beef; they willingly accommodated the request and put it on a plate on the side for the meat eaters. The sandwich used sour dough instead of rye. Loaded with fontina cheese. Caramelized onions and homemade kraut generously topped the toasted bread. Course ground mayo and homemade secret sauce all slathered on top. The slaw on the side was equally wonderful. Meat eaters raved about the corned beef as well.

The best eating of the entire trip was real Low County fare on Edisto. Po Pigs is located on highway 174 going to the beach. They have an awesome buffet that included the following on the day we visited: Pulled pork, fried chicken, roasted chicken, fried gizzards, squash casserole, corn, stewed tomatoes with okra, chicken stew, seafood chowder, fried pork skins, hush puppies, mac and cheese, live hash, pork hash...and I could keep going on. The best part is that almost every dish is fantastic, with only a couple of duds. This is food prepared with great love and care.

The seafood chowder is spicy with lots of thyme and pepper. The pulled pork juicy and prepared in a light sauce, with a nice mellow smoke flavor. Hash is one of the standout menu items. It’s a traditional Low Country dish that apparently you don’t see much anymore. The pork hash basically has the consistency of runny refried beans. It’s slow cooked so the entire pork flavor gets concentrated. Served with rice it’s a real revelation. The liver version was a little much for me.

The barbecue sauces are also excellent. I took back a Styrofoam cup of the Midland Mustard sauce, since they don’t sell it by the bottle. They also have an excellent Carolina Red Sauce which is split between vinegar and tomato base. The Pee Dee Vinegar is more like a Tennessee style sauce. The Orangeburg Sweet is the lighter version of the Mustard Sauce.

Veggie Eater: Po Pigs had surprisingly many veggie options; I stayed away from beans and greens assuming that a hunk of pork had been thrown in with them at some point. Good slaw, great hushpuppies. OK mac and cheese. Wonderful squash casserole. The Saveur magazine review proudly hangs on the wall and notes the owner’s wife is vegetarian and upon announcing his dream of a barbecue restaurant, she replied, “Po pigs”, thus the name was born. There were certainly many veggie friendly options, perhaps the influence of the veggie wife.

Down at the other end of the Island is the Sunset Grille a restaurant clearly targeting the tourist crowd. We were famished when we arrived after a 10 hour drive. We hit the Sunset Grille for dinner and found the place packed. We ordered up drinks and probably too much to eat. It soon became apparent that the food was not up to the standards the prices demanded. Entrees ranged from $18-25 and a half pound of cooked shrimp was $18, a rather stiff mark up over the $7.99 a pound we paid at the seafood shop down the street. The total bill was $178 with tip for five, which we would have gladly paid for great food, but not mediocre food. Edisto desperately needs a seafood shack near the beach.

Meat Eater: Our best meals were home cooked on this trip. That may be the key to Edisto. Why pay big bucks for seafood in a restaurant when you can buy it fresh and cook at home. A big thanks to our friends for the invite!


Lesley said...

I am long used to
astonished stares when I request a Reuben without corned beef

That's my experience with ordering meatless muffalettas. :)

Eric and Katie said...

yes, that's another Katie favorite..and the veggie muffaletta makes a lot of sense if the tapenade is really good. We've just started getting the meat on the side, since the restaurant isn't giving us any price breaks on meatless.