My girlfriend just recently moved from Detroit, Michigan to Columbia, South Carolina. Although green with lush countryside scenery, Columbia does not have much entertainment to offer and isn't much of a food destination. The plus side is that it is within a couple hours drive to both Charleston and Savannah, Georgia, which both have great food and interesting history. So my girlfriend and I decided to drive down the south highways to discover some southern food deliciousness.
As soon as we decided to head to Charleston, I knew we had to go to Husk. I have been following the career of Sean Brock, who is one of the founding partners of the restaurant. After reading many magazine features on Sean, I knew he was a chef after my own heart when he hosted “The Mind of a Chef” in 2013. His motto is, “If it ain’t from the South, then it ain’t walkin in the door.”
Sean Brock developed a farm in Wadmalaw Island where he grows many of the ingredients for the restaurant. His goal with the farm was bring back crops, from pre-civil war area. His menus are seasonal and change twice daily. Husk boasts that whatever they get in that day is what goes on the menu so it is like working a puzzle every day.
I made reservations three month in advance, which is the earliest they will allow. As my friend and I were being seated, a young couple walked in and was desperate to eat there but had not made reservations. They said they were trying to be more spontaneous. Unfortunately, spontaneity does not get you a seat at Husk as a walk in. The hostess with southern charm at its best said “I can certainly get you in at 9:30 pm on June 22, 2015, which is exactly one month from today.”
Sean Brock’s executive chef and staff did not disappoint. My friend started with oysters they had just gotten in that day. Since it is at the end of oyster season, these fire roasted Caper’s Inlet Blade oysters were on the small side but lovely.
I had Southern Fried Chicken Skins with hot sauce and honey. Sweet, hot, & crunchy... what more is there to love?
My friend’s main course was Cornmeal Crusted Catfish with Creamed Corn from Florida. The crust was perfectly crispy and did not fall of the fish. It held up to each bite. It was so light, which is not what I expect from fried catfish. It almost appeared to be baked but I was assured it was pan fried. The corn had the perfect combination of sweet and salty flavor but the corn kernels remained to have great texture and would burst in your mouth as you took at bite.
I had Slow Cooked Heritage Pork with snap peas and wonder beans, heirloom tomatoes salad with in house made ricotta. The pork was shredded and the compress into a round mold and they grilled the pork medallion and set in on top of ramp butter. It was porktasticness! But believe it or not, what really amazed me were the heirloom tomatoes, which came from Sean Brock's farm. These tomatoes were bright, tart and sweet all at the same time. The skin was firm and snapped as you bit into their flesh.
All I could think was everyone needs to be able to try those tomatoes because this is how they should taste. Not the flavorless one you get from most grocery chains. I shop at farmers markets as much as I can, but I have never eaten tomatoes quite like the ones on my dinner plate that evening.
While in Savannah, I came across one dish that tackled two of my favorite southern faves in one dish. It was fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese. I wasn't sure if I was going to like this dish or nor because although I love a good plain fried green tomato, it must be done well. The restaurant made a fried green tomato stack and between each layer was the house-made pimento cheese and topped with bacon marmalade. The tomatoes were perfectly tart which was set off by the slight sweet and a bit spicy marmalade. The pimento cheese was done well with local cheddar cheese that was sharp but melted beautifull over the stack. It was a great end to our perfect day in Savannah.