An interesting crew boarded the bus to the last This Plate Matters dinner on Edisto Island last Tuesday evening. Held at the Brick House, a 1725 building that has serious structural damage, preservationists and some scenesters made their way onto a school bus for a pretty fancy field trip to raise money to save the building.
This dinner was hosted by the Lee Brothers, so we knew the food would be good — and the bus ride only had our appetites growing. The wait was worthwhile from the decor alone. Tiki torches lined the mossy lane and somehow managed to not look kitschy or cheap; glass lanterns hung from trees, and the Brick House was bathed in the setting sun's light.
People milled around, sipping on the Lee Brother's Planter's Punch (dark rum, orange liqueur, lime juice, orange juice, pineapple purée, egg whites, brown sugar, and Angostura bitters topped with freshly shaved nutmeg). Waiters circulated with hors d'oeuvres of stone-ground crab with chanterelle mushrooms in a cream sauce over grits.
An hour passed before we were told to find our seats and then get back up to fill our plates with guinea bog, fresh field peas, and okra beignets catered by BoBo Lee.
The guinea bog was a creamy rice pilaf with chunks of chicken and guinea mixed in.
The field peas (picked fresh from the Columbia's Farmers Market on the drive down to Charleston that morning) got a healthy addition of bacon. And bacon makes everything better.
But it was the okra beignets that were the plate stealer. They had allotted two per guest, but folks were stacking their plates four or five high. The fresh tomato sauce drizzled on top (Matt Lee told a story about how growing up they had "stolen" tomatoes neighbors plants since they just taste better that way) was good enough to be a side on its own. The questionable texture of okra was no where to be found. The sliminess had been replaced with a fresh crunch, and the savoriness of the dish threw our definitions of beignets out the window. We wish we had been one of those five-on-a-plate diners.
A sweet treat arrived next — emphasis on the sweet. Elizabeth Jenkins Young's kiss pie with a scuppernong jam resembled a meringue and was compared to "crack pie." Other diners requested lattes and dark chocolate to counteract the sugar overload. We liked it so much we forgot to take a picture of it until there was only one bite left.
After dinner Evan Thompson welcomed guests and gave a bit of history to the house, and Matt Lee spoke about the menu creation and how Edisto was tied to his food love. Every dish that was prepared had a tie to the Edisto, the Lee Brothers' youth, or to BoBo Lee's and his sister's time on the island. The meal was clearly made with a love for the island in mind.