Chef Kurt's World

  (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)
Food and life on the Grand Strand
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Sea Islands Getaway

Sea Islands Getaway

A few months back, my wife and I took the opportunity to get away for a few days and headed for the southern coast of South Carolina.  We went back to Fripp Island, just north of Hilton Head, for a few days of beach, relaxation, and of course eating!

Here are my tips / observations / options on the places we visited.

Gullah Grub on Sea Island Highway, St. Helena Island.                  

This place is small, looks like it’s been there for awhile, casual, cash only, limited menu, my kind of place.  I went in on the way back to the condo for some food to go.  The friendly lady greeted me, told me about their specials (BBQ goat!), and took my order, then we chatted a little while the one cook got our food ready.  We had the She Crab Soup, which was creamy and rich, loaded with what looked like hand picked crab meat.  The Gumbo was full of shrimp and crab, thickened with a dark roux and served with red rice.  Lima beans were buttery and salted with pork, and the cornbread was fresh and delicious.  Total tab was about $21.  Needless to say, I highly recommend and will stop back next time we are in the area.

Fuji Sushi on Sea Island Highway.

We had a very good meal here last time we were in the area, so we stopped in to get some food one of the days.  It was just 2:00 pm (their afternoon closing time – we did not know this ahead of time), and the surly sushi chef refused to even allow us a few things to go.  We won’t be back there; no food is good enough to put up with bad customer service.

Bateaux, Port Royal      

I wanted to go hear last time we were in the area, but they were not open yet.  A chef friend of mine was partner, but he is not involved anymore.  We were there early, 6:00 pm, and enjoyed a lovely meal of small plates.

We started out with Fried Avocado with Housemade Chorizo, a nicely composed, if a little bland, three bite taste. 

The Kobe Slider with fried shitake mushrooms and cocktail sauce was good but not great.  The mushrooms were my favorite part, with the cocktail sauce being an unlikely and interesting accompaniment.

The Chicken Livers with caramelized onions in a rum sauce were delicious, nicely crusted and accompanied by a rich sauce.  The cornbread accompaniment was stale though. 

Shrimp ceviche potato tulle, yuck.  The shrimp were mushy and tasted like they were on the way out.  The only thing I didn’t like.

Smoked fried chicken orzo mac, ham, salty but good.  Imagine fried chicken that taste like bacon. 

Corn chowder with stone crab, nice thought but bland.  Generous portion though.

The Cheese plate was goat cheese with olives, Bleu cheese with honey, and camembert with marinated apricots.  Very nice cheeses and accompaniments

White chocolate cheesecake tart was a little sloppy but delicious.  Service was friendly, and a warm greeting from the general manager was nice.  The dinner for two set us back $86 before tip.

Saltus River Grill, Beaufort   

The wife and I ate outside on a balmy evening.  Another very good dinner.

Blue Crab Cocktail, sticky rice, fresh avocado, wasabi aioli was good, the rice would have been better warmed, the wasabi aioli delicious.

Bibb Lettuce, goat cheese crouton, spiced pecans, red onion, julienne tomato, and balsamic dressing, very nice salad, good balance and sweetness for the wife.

Local Shrimp Sautéed with Country Ham, scallions, shiitakes and garlic

on creamy stone ground grits, I was so looking forward to this but, alas, it was bland.   Would have been great with a little salt and pepper

“Blackened” Dorado, ragout of fennel and leeks, sauce beurre blanc,

smashed fingerling potato and crab gratin was very good, our favorite thing of the evening. 

All together the tab was $96 before tip.  My wife had a glass of wine as well.  Service was attentive if a little stiff.  Be careful, the palmetto bugs come out after dark!

Magnolia Bakery, Beaufort

Counter service was very slow but the cakes were good.  We took some to go.

The Chocolate tree, Beaufort

Very good handmade chocolates, chocolate dipped ginger, bark, nice stuff, well worth a drop it!

Driftwood Farms, Sea Island Highway near Gullah Grub

Pick your own tomatoes, fun and cheap! 

Gay Shrimp Dock, Sea Island Highway, near Fripp

Great local shrimp in season, a truly local place.  Across the street is The Shrimp Shack, I will stop next time!

White shrimp company, Sea Island Highway

Also a local shrimp counter, very clean, sells their signature shrimp pie.

Dobson shrimp dock

We stopped in a little bagel place in Beaufort for a snack, had a great bagel sandwich named after the writer pat Conroy, very tasty!

Nippy’s is a little fish shack and taco stand in Beaufort owned by the same people as Saltus River Grill and a more casual place called Plums.  It is very cool, tasty, and cheap.  Fried shrimp tacos, fried fish, slaw, eat outside on wooden tables, just a great quick meal.

Georgia Pig BBQ, Exit 29 off of I95 in Georgia

We stumbled upon this place and I will definitely be back.  Little A-frame by the side of the road, the pit is inside so it permanently smells of hardwood smoke.  The pork is chopped to order, two plates with slaw, mac and cheese, beans, and Brunswick stew set us back less than $15.  Plus I am still trying to replicate their jalapeño relish.

Overall, a great place to visit and explore.  I love finding new restaurants and food place, meeting the people who make them run, and enjoying the fruits of their labor.  Get out there, explore, enjoy, eat local, and have fun!

Carolina Coastal Cuisine

What is Carolina Coastal Cuisine?

I am travelling to NYC next week to culinarily represent the Grand Strand in a brief promotional tour of sorts.  To prepare for this, I have had to think about and define what I am already doing, cooking a style of cuisine that in born of the coast and the Carolinas.  It is a great thing; it has brought clarity and vision in my mind to a style of cuisine that has not been clearly defined.  I recently talked to Becky Billingsley of www.myrtlebeachrestraurantnews.com and she is going through the same process, together I think we got further than either of us was separately.

What is Carolina Coastal food?  Well, first of all, like all great regional cuisines, it is ingredient driven.  We enjoy a wide array of locally and regionally fished, grown, and produced foods. 

Seafood if paramount, of course.  Arguable shrimp would be king, the local shrimp are amazingly firm and briny when freshly harvested, and are superior to imported frozen in my opinion.  Oysters and blue crab, especially soft shell blues, are predominant and wonderful.  We also buy fresh gag and scamp grouper, vermilion snapper (or B liners as they are called around here), dolphin or mahi mahi, tuna, flounder, and wahoo from local fishermen. 

Pork if big in the Carolinas, and is used generously in our cooking.  Bacon, fatback, country ham, and locally cured cuts are favorite ingredients.  Chops are seen on many menus, and of course barbeque is a pillar of our culinary heritage.

We also enjoy many locally and regionally grown and produced fruits, vegetables, and grains, including sweet potatoes, mustard, turnip, and collard greens, peanuts, pecans, peaches, tomatoes, berries, melons, onions, field peas, and fresh corn.  Rice is seeing a comeback, with locally grown varieties that made the Carolinas a wealthy place 150 years ago.  Stone ground grits are a backbone of the area and cuisine, lending a versatile and flavorful component to man dishes.

In addition to our bountiful ingredients, I think that Carolina Coastal cuisine is rooted in our rich culinary history.  Methods and traditions, such as smoking meats, cooking greens, mustard, vinegar, and tomato sauces, oyster roasts, chicken bog, and other traditions influence what and how we cook.  The last component to Carolina Coastal food is a sense of recreation, fun, enjoyment, and leisure.  I think all great food is meant to be enjoyable, of course, but we live in an area that is built around vacations and I think that comes through in our food.

Here are a few dishes that I think best represent Carolina Coastal cooking from my repertoire. 

Cracker Crusted Scamp Grouper, Carolina Gold risotto timbale, fresh oyster stew, butter poached onions and leeks and parsley froth

Caw caw Creek pastured pork chop, stone ground grit soufflé, field asparagus, brandy demiglace

Carolina Shrimp with Country Ham and Sweet Potato Hash and

Mustard Verjus Sauce

Dredged in stone ground grits batter and pan fried

Shrimp and Grits    

Carolina Shrimp with tasso ham, tomato, scallion, and bourbon cream over stone ground Adluh mills parmesan thyme grits

(On the menu at our newest restaurant called Roy and Sid’s American kitchen – in the market Common development)

Carolina Steamed Bun

Pulled pork and baby mustard greens, seasoned and wrapped in sweet dough, steamed, and served with two barbeque sauces

Cornmeal fried Carolina oysters with Piccalilli relish

(Very quick app, on the menu at Roy and Sid’s)

 It is reflected in all of my restaurants, not intentionally but it is a natural way for me to cook.  I think that, as this concept and understanding develops, we will see a greater definition, statement, vision, and promotion of Carolina Coastal cuisine, and I think that that is a great thing.  Ciao!

 
 
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