Lately, it seems like everyone’s talking about ethical eating. Perhaps it’s due to the scary inside information being released on the factory farms that dominate the meat industry. Or maybe we can thank popular writers like Jonathan Safran Foer for shedding (pretty terrifying) light on the meat-eating issue with his book Eating Animals, which was the required reading for incoming College of Charleston freshmen in 2012. But regardless of its origins, this national conversation is sparking change in Charleston, and the College is taking the lead with a vegan/vegetarian/kosher dining hall scheduled to open in September 2014.
The new dining facility will be part of a major addition to the College of Charleston Jewish Studies Center, made possible by a recent $1 million pledge. This expansion will double the size of the Jewish Studies Center by adding new classrooms for several subjects including the School of Languages, but it is the new dining hall that is really expected to attract new students to the college.
The dining hall will be on the college’s meal plan, but it will be open to the community as well as students. It will offer fresh fish menu options, and there will always be separate vegan and vegetarian food bars. In keeping with the facility’s focus on conscious food choices, Perlmutter adds, “The College will try to be sensitive to the way food is produced — locally, environmentally sensitive, and humanely.”
Perlmutter acknowledges that it’s hard to know many specific details because the project is new and somewhat experimental, but nevertheless he is excited about the potential. “It is terrific that the College is creating communities around eating while educating people that eating and respect for the environment are closely connected,” says Perlmutter.
About a month ago Chef Sean Park, formerly of downtown's sushi hotspot O-ku, took over as executive chef of Bambu, a Mt. Pleasant restaurant that has always left something to be desired.
Back in March I visited Bambu on several occasions and came to the conclusion that while some of the dishes are worth trying, others need work. The sushi, in particular, wasn't very fresh, and the presentation was lackluster.
Knowing that Sean Park had come on board, I made my way over to Bambu to see what he's been up to.
The space itself hasn't changed one bit, but the menu has gotten a facelift. A lot of the same sushi rolls and traditional dishes (think pad thai and fried rice) are still on the menu, but Park has added some specialties, such as yellowtail carpaccio, Kobe steak, and a teriyaki-seared duck breast.
I was most interested in trying out the sushi and sashimi. Presentation is very important when it comes to food, and, as Park says, "We eat with our brain." His dishes look so much better than what I saw in March.
Chirashi consists of 15 pieces of sashimi served over sushi rice. It took me a few minutes to dig in, as I didn't want to disturb the masterpiece. How cool does this dish look?
The specialty roll that day consisted of kani crab salad, cucumber, bluefin tuna, and a thin slice of lime.
The presentation and quality of the food are much better than they were just a few months ago. Sean Park is what Bambu needed, and I can't wait to go back for more. We'll let Park settle in for a bit before we get out there for a full review.
We stopped in for lunch today to check things out. The room was full of neighborhood folks (we spotted Storm Team 2’s chief meteorologist Rob Fowler enjoying himself) and a groups of tourists. There was more to Executive Chef Matt Riley's lunch menu than we expected — an array of Southern-style appetizers, fresh salads, soups (a daily she crab soup and the special of the day, black bean and chicken), sandwiches, burgers, steaks, and seafood entrees. There were several vegetarian selections as well. The dessert menu featured chocolate mousse cake, key lime pie, red velvet cupcakes, and chocolate chip cookies with a “shot of Hickory Hill milk.”
The burger menu featured two certified Angus beef burgers — an All American and a Chef’s Choice, but I went for the hearty chick pea and black bean burger with side of the deep-fried-but-velvety goat cheese-scallion-potato cake ($8). The burger was huge with a wide, grilled patty topped with red onion, tomato, and romaine lettuce. They dressed it with additional sprouts, basil-pesto mayo, and thinly-sliced radishes underneath the patty. Flavorful and pretty filling.
Harbor Breeze opened two weeks ago, and our attentive server mentioned some of the minor adjustments going on, including some fine-tuning of the lunch and dinner menus. Overall, Harbor Breeze made a great first impression. Call (843) 606-2110 or visit harbor-breeze.com for more.
“I hope nobody ate breakfast,” were the initial words of food writer and City Paper contributor Jeff Allen on Friday morning as he addressed a group waiting to be schooled on Charleston’s Gullah and Soul food cuisine. The tour started at Marion Square where Jeff gave a brief overview of the area and the five restaurants on the agenda.
After a nice historical stroll through the neighborhood between King Street and St. Philip Street, the first stop was Dave’s Carryout. We could smell the fried food from about a block away. Everyone crammed into the small joint run by Sandra McCray and two family members. Small brown bags filled with fried shrimp, hush puppies, and tartar sauce were handed out to each guest. The shrimp was flavorful enough that it didn’t require any sauce.
Jeff then led the group over to one of Charleston’s best kept soul food secrets, Ernie’s. A nice spread was setup that consisted of cornbread, a gelatinous okra soup, and butterbeans so good you could hear everyone in the room hum “mmmm” in unison. Ernie’s doesn’t advertise, the bowl of butterbeans speaks for itself.
A shuttle then took everyone up to “The neck” of Charleston, which is basically the border of Charleston and North Charleston, where the sisters of Bertha’s Kitchen cooked up a crispy fried pork chop, cabbage, and rice.
At that point everyone was getting full and in need of a nap but two of the most important stops were still ahead, including the kitchen of a Charleston legend, Martha Lou.
Tables were setup outside and Martha Lou herself started carrying out trays of food that became part of a full-on buffet of rice, baked chicken, butterbeans, and mac n cheese. Word got out that Martha’s fried chicken is the best in town so she ended up bringing out a tray of that as well. It was agreed by everyone that Martha Lou was not messing around — this woman can cook.
Finally, the group was shuttled through some of the rough parts of Charleston on the way to Alluette’s holistic café for dessert. The good news was that Alluette uses almost all organic ingredients. We started off with a cup of decadent dark chocolate mousse followed by a plate of pound cake, bread pudding, and apple pie, which Jeff calls “the best apple pie I’ve ever had in my life.” I tend to agree.
After Alluette and Jeff made some closing comments the group applauded to the close of such a wonderful event. The stories about the rich soul food history that Jeff was able to share with everyone were truly amazing, and all of the food was cooked with pure love. The only thing that could make the event even better is a final stop at the battery where a spread of hammocks are lined up for an afternoon slumber.
Surprise, surprise there's another burger joint in town. Vino Burgerz quietly opened at the corner of 17 and 41 in Mt. Pleasant about a month ago. But why the name Vino? The quaint little restaurant is attached to favorite local wine and beer shop Wine-A-While.
After hearing about how great the burgers are on multiple occasions, I decided to stop into Vino Burgerz for lunch to see what they have to offer.
The decor is warm and inviting with a handful of high and low-top tables with a direct view of the kitchen. A giant chalkboard displays the entire menu, including specialty beers on tap.
Right away I ordered the roasted pork belly and spinach artichoke dip. Adding pork fat to anything is a win in my book.
As I munched on the sinful dip I browsed the burger selection. According to the menu, all the burgers are ground in-house daily with a special blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib, cooked to order with your choice of fresh-cut russet or sweet potato fries, or a side salad. Besides the beef, there are four other patty options including: lamb, turkey, salmon, and a portabella cap.
If you can't find a burger you like out of the 15-plus options, you can build your own, but VB creations are very intriguing. The Spanish Harlem is a beef patty with garlic-roasted pulled pork, sofrito, and queso fresco. There's even a burger that's topped with bacon, foie gras, and quail eggs.
Each burger is listed with wine and beer pairing suggestions. Cool idea.
I opted for the Sunshine Burger: "VB grind, heirloom tomato salad, apple smoked bacon, crisp red onion, bibb lettuce, a sunny-side-up egg, and cracked black pepper."
The burger was huge and after eating an appetizer I was full and had leftovers take home.
The only downfall of the meal was the bun. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the bun can make or break a burger. While the bread was strong enough to hold all of the toppings, it was a bit too airy and bready. I found myself tasting more of the bun than the fresh ingredients resting on top of the patty itself.
Putting the bun aside, I do think Vino Burgerz has a lot of potential. With a fresh, creative menu and easy access to Wine-A-While this could turn out to be a lunch/dinner destination for hungry shoppers. I'm already looking forward to stopping in again in the near future.