Showing posts with label Charleston. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charleston. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

McCrady's - Charleston, South Carolina

For at least a couple years, I've been building a proposed itinerary for what I call the Grand Southern Dining Tour. At its most elaborate, it would go up Florida's east coast en route to Charleston, South Carolina,[1] keep going to Raleigh, North Carolina,[2] then possibly head further north to Richmond, Virginia[3] before detouring west to Louisville, Kentucky,[4] then work back the long way to South Florida by way of Nashville, Tennessee,[5] Asheville, North Carolina[6] and Atlanta, Georgia.[7]

Of course, that's never going to actually happen. I just don't have the time to devote to such a lengthy dining and driving agenda. But maybe it can be done in bits and pieces. My first step in that direction was a short visit to Charleston before the New Year, and the first reservation I booked was at McCrady's.

If you've paid any attention to the national food media the past few years, it is extremely unlikely that you've not heard of McCrady's and its master of ceremonies, Sean Brock. More than any other chef, he's been the face and voice of the "New South," what Josh Ozersky, with his knack for coining a phrase, dubbed "Lardcore" cooking, bringing modernist sensibilities and techniques to traditional Southern ingredients.

But what makes Brock's cooking so special is not that he understands how to use xanthan gum and liquid nitrogen. It's that he understands how to do something truly special with food: make it tell a story. At McCrady's, and perhaps even more so at his newer restaurant, Husk, he weaves a tale of the South Carolina low-country and the surrounding areas: the history, the traditions, the products of the land and sea.

(You can see all my pictures in this McCrady's flickr set, or click on any picture to enlarge.)

Part of what makes that story so compelling is how deeply Brock has ingrained himself into its telling: he raises his own pigs and cures his own hams. He farms some of the produce that is used in his restaurants. He's a dedicated seed saver who has personally helped preserve heirloom varietals that are part of the South's culinary heritage. He literally has a cornucopia of local products tattooed on his arm. But it would all just be a history lesson but for the fact that Brock's food is also flat out delicious.

We visited both McCrady's and Husk on our four-day Charleston visit. I was glad we did. Though they both bear Brock's indelible imprint, they are different restaurants: Husk somewhat more strictly faithful to the Southern idiom, McCrady's less constrained to the genre.

Here is the tasting menu we had in late December at McCrady's, in a warm, inviting dining room imbued with the glow of a crackling fireplace:

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