As life would have it, you never say never and it’s always good to go for a visit to a place that has some great memories, food and hospitality. With a bit of trepidation I agreed to go back to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a long overdue tour of the “Grand Strand” and then to Charleston, South Carolina for a bit of culture, food and libations. This trip also gave me the opportunity to revisit with a young and creative chef who I worked with several years ago and together garnered a Mobil Four Star in the process. Chef James Clark epitomizes “Low Country Cuisine,” in style, substance and dedication to his craft. He has now moved on to the Marina Inn at the Grand Dunes and watches over several different venues, but his current restaurant Waterscapes is the top of the heap.
To begin our epicurean adventure, we dined on Hogfish Ceviche with mint, lime, orange zest & cilantro and Sand Tilefish was done as a Crudo with Kalamata olives, walnuts & basil with 8 Brix Red Verjus and Extra Virgin Olive oil. Next up was a tartar of Snowy Grouper with ginger, cilantro and coconut milk with Limoncello ice on top; and those were just the starters! The selection moving forward was just as eclectic and exciting but lest I tell too much, you will just have to go and visit James and enjoy yourselves!
Nance’s Creek Front Restaurant near Murrells Inlet is the place to go for Oysters, an old time place that looks the same today as it has for many generations. It’s nothing fancy but you go for the Hot Hush Puppies and Maple Butter they bring to the table right after you sit down. Without looking at a menu just order the Oyster Roast; half a bushel of local Oyster clusters steamed in broth served on an old plastic tray complete with a shucking knife, oyster fork and cup of butter; then you just dig in. Interesting note, they recycle the shells so they place a dump bucket below the holes in the center of the table for you to toss your shells into. Sassy servers and cold pitchers of beer round out the experience.
Working our way towards Charleston we took a detour to Georgetown to walk the Main Street and enjoy our first taste of the trip of Soft Shell Crabs and local Grouper Sandwiches at the Rice Paddy. While sitting outside on the sidewalk patio enjoying the fresh seafood we chatted with the local diners about the next stop on our trip, Charleston.
If you have never been to Charleston, you need to go; the charm, architecture, history and hospitality are second to none. The locals certainly understand the charm and tradition of who and where they are in today’s world, they just don’t talk about it, they live it and enjoy the daily experience of living in a historical place. Our first stop at Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar was an unexpected treat. Right off the Bay, this local restaurant only serves the freshest seafood shortly after being caught from the area. Pristine clams, Soft Shell Crabs and Oysters were the order of the day; simple, easy and very good! Gerry Cederwall is the proprietor and he also owns the popular Southend Brewery & Smokehouse, just down the street.
Husk Restaurant the newest offering from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s is the epitome of Low Country Cuisine and style in Charleston. We started our experience off at the bar and lounge which is located in a separate building adjacent to the restaurant where we were happy to order a 2008 Sokol Blosser Reserve Pinot Noir (simply a great wine to go with terrific food). Totally booked until late evening on a Monday night, the meal was a befitting homage to local ingredients and suppliers. Each day there is a new menu with starters such as, Thackeray Farm’s Pork BBQ with a Johnny Cake and Butterbean Chow Chow, Dave’s Wood Fired Clams with Surry County Sausage, Watercress and Spring Onions and Crispy Bread. Main Courses included; Confit NC Duck Leg with Anson Mills Grits and Braised Garden Greens, Red Eye Gravy and Cornmeal Dusted Catfish with Courgettes and Edisto Vidalia’s and Confit Tomato, all great tastes and aroma from the flavorful ingredients. Our only disappointment was dessert; it seemed lackluster after such a fine meal but enjoying a 2001 Chateau Musar, definitely sealed the end of the evening.
Until next time, enjoy, taste and definitely explore; your taste buds will always come back for more!