Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Leftovers: When it comes to AMS' tuna niçoise, there's no chicken of the sea here

Greater Tuna

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 2:54 PM

AMS oil cures 2+ graded tuna from Cypress for its Tuna Nicoise - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • AMS oil cures 2+ graded tuna from Cypress for its Tuna Nicoise
It's no joke that Artisan Meat Share’s Italian Sub can be put up against any sandwich in the city. Did I say the Italian? I meant the breakfast sandwich, err, the roast beef. Yeah, that sandwich is one of the best in the city.

The minds behind AMS know their way around the butcher block, meat slicer, whole hog, and bovine. Craig Deihl has been the charcuterie torchbearer for Charleston at Cypress, the parent restaurant to the Artisan Meat Share. Bob Cook, long time Chef de Cuisine to Deihl, captains the ship at the 23-seat luncheonette.

Many folks visit AMS to taste the craftsmanship that goes into properly cured meats. Take the pastrami, Cook and his crew cure strip loin 21 days just for one sandwich. From porchetta, pate, to pickles, almost everything is made in-house.

Now, I love a good hearty sandwich as much as the next guy, but being constantly on the go, I lean toward eating light. With AMS’ closing time at 7 p.m. their business is lunch, and I have no time for a siesta. Because of my perpetual movement, I look for light portable lunches on the go. Insert Meat Shares’ tuna niçoise sandwich here. This isn’t your grandmother’s tuna salad. No mayo, no celery, and no relish. There's nothing about this masterpiece that resembles anything that comes from the can or might be deemed chicken of the sea.

AMS takes the trimmings from 2+ graded tuna from Cypress and oil cures it. Then garlic aioli, flat leaf parsley, tarragon, chives, chervil, oil cured black olives, chopped egg, tomato, arugula, and a red wine vinaigrette get sandwiched between a fresh ciabatta from Normandy Farms. I love this this sandwich. It packs enough protein to keep your gas tank full, without weighing you down.

As with most eating establishments, it's all about what your order. Sure, some places you can’t go wrong with the majority of the menu, (ahem...cough….AMS), but sometimes if we look past the obvious, we can be pleasantly surprised. In some cases, it's those lesser known items where the creativity of a place shines.

While Webster defines meat as animal tissue considered especially as food: flesh of a mammal as opposed to fowl or fish, one can’t argue that AMS’s tuna niçoise isn’t meaty. And this sandwich is certainly one that the men behind the menu want to share with all of the people of Charleston.

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Bill Murray signed The Alley's 'Ghostbusters' pinball machine, because of course

Just another Bill Murray sighting...

Posted by Sam Spence on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 12:02 PM

If you've ever been privileged enough to be sitting at your favorite Charleston bar and witness Bill Murray walk in, you know the sound of a dozen hushed glances toward the Holy City's adopted comedian-laureate.

You can imagine the scene at The Alley when Murray, the man who brought Dr. Peter Venkman to life, stepped up to the Ghostbusters' pinball machine and made his mark.

Murray is a regular at The Alley and has shown up for a few frames and a few bites since the bowling alley sports bar (voted Best of Charleston in 2015 & 2016) opened a few years ago.

Murray has kept a residence in Charleston for years and is known for dropping in at bars and restaurants around town and disappearing like Kaiser Soze. Coincidentally, the Marlon Wayans Netflix series that's filming in town this week is a remake of a Swedish film from 2000 which was inspired by Murray's Groundhog Day. No word if there's a relationship there.

Pinball pro-tip: Pinball Map is advising me that The Alley is currently hosting the Ghostbusters Premium game. So, if you stop by and master that machine, Recovery Room has the slightly modified 'Pro' version of the machine.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Members of the Gullah Geechee community call Revelry Brewing’s Gullah Cream Ale appropriation

The Mascotification of Gullah

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 4:21 PM

Revelry Brewing Co.'s Gullah Cream Ale can was released in September - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Revelry Brewing Co.'s Gullah Cream Ale can was released in September
The cans first appeared in September, but the controversy over Revelry Brewing Co.’s Gullah Cream Ale hit fever pitch this weekend. “Isn’t appropriation beautiful?” wrote one critic on Instagram. Others took to Facebook to express their fury with the brewery. Musician Benjamin Starr (a.k.a. Fitzgerald Wiggins) posted a photo of the beer with the caption: “Gullah.... to sell beer??? No Sir.”

The cultural appropriation, as many in the Gullah community are calling it, is what former City Paper columnist and democratic candidate for House of Representatives District 15, KJ Kearney calls, “the mascotification of Gullah.”

“You’re gonna turn us into the Washington Redskins,” says Kearney. “Most people don’t think of Native Americans as real people because they’ve been reduced to a mascot. So now you put Gullah on a beer, it’s the beginning of the mascotifcation of our culture. It starts with a beer or grits, next thing you know you’ve got a Gullah Geechee-themed hotel. One day there will be a high school that will be the fighting Gullahs. But it starts off with something as innocuous as a beer or grits.”

For Revelry’s part, brewery spokesperson Sean Fleming says that naming the cream ale Gullah was never intended to hurt people’s feelings. Rather it was in honor of the Gullah community’s deep connection with heirloom grains that the brewery used in the beer. “It was intended for good and not profiteering,” Fleming says.

After the Gullah Cream Ale won the US Open Beer Championships Gold Medal in July and the brewery decided to can it, Revelry met with members of the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor — a four-state national heritage space designed to recognize the contributions of African Americans known as Gullah Geechee — to discuss ways in which the brewery could employ its “platform and product to assist the Corridor’s mission.” Fleming says the Corridor backed the beer from the beginning and through those meetings, the brewery decided to make the Gullah Cream Ale can-topper a link to the Corridor’s website. Fleming adds, “Every single person who buys the beer gets a Corridor pamphlet.”

That answer isn’t enough for Giovanni Richardson, A Taste of Gullah Cuisine owner and ambassador for the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor (GGHC). “Excuse my frankness, but you’re giving them a piece a paper?” says Richardson. “I’m not trying to bash Revelry and their product, I’m trying to say don’t utilize the culture I live every day as a mere drink.”

Kearney is equally frustrated. “I appreciate Sean’s sentiment, but there’s a couple things that we need to establish: The Gullah Geechee Corridor doesn’t really have the pulse of everyone who is Gullah or Geechee. Long story short, they don’t speak for us,” he says. “I can understand why Revelry would go to them, it seems logical. But I’ve been Geechee my whole life and I’ve never had any interactions with them. I don’t know what their goals are or what they’re trying to do.” Kearney adds that while the GGHC is a great resource for those studying the connection between the Gullah Geechee community and its African roots, it’s hardly the correct resource for discovering how the community functions today.

Fleming acknowledges that he only began to see how many in the Gullah community felt about the GGHC in recent weeks. “When we started working with the Corridor, we thought that they were speaking on behalf of the community,” Fleming says.

Kearney says that’s exactly the problem. “White people look at them as our Jesse Jackson or MLK, they aren’t,” he says.

For the Corridor’s part — which held a meeting this morning in response to the controversy over the beer — Dr. J. Herman Blake, the executive director of the GGHC, says he is unequivocally behind Revelry.

“I want to be clear, when you say the Corridor’s official position. My commission, the people to whom I report, have not taken an official position because they have not been officially informed,” says Dr. Blake. “First, Sean and Ryan [Coker] approached us somewhere in the early summer and came and met with the staff here. They were totally up front about what they were doing and why they were developing this title for the beer relating to the natural substances they were drawing from the Gullah culture. We talked and the staff — and primarily me — endorsed everything they said and I stand by that unequivocally. We endorsed it because what we saw were two young men whose hearts and souls were committed to making a positive impact on the community from which they retrieved these materials.”

Blake adds that he would have brought the beer to his commission earlier, but the Corridor was on the brink of being shutdown. GGHC’s funding was set to end on Oct. 12 of this year, however, on Sept. 25 federal funds for five more years were approved.

“We got that turned around and were beginning to get our act in order then came Hurricane Matthew,” adds Blake. Now he says, Revelry has to win the trust of the community, but he knows that’s no easy task.

“It takes a long while to build that trust. I don’t know if there could have been any other way to roll that out. They’re not community organizers, they’re brewers. I don’t think they could have done it in a perfect way or not gotten opposition,” says Blake. “I think our world has become a culture where principles and values of trust and respect are harder won.”

There’s no perfect answer to how Revelry could have handled the situation better, but there is one thing Dr. Blake, Kearney, Richardson, and Starr all agree on, Revelry needs to continue the conversation in a meaningful way with the Gullah community.

“They indicated to us that that was their intention from the beginning,” says Blake. “From the beginning they said they’d be making contributions to the Gullah community. But I don’t think they should act as if they’re trying to buy the favor of the community. They shouldn’t try to trade dollars for approval.”

Starr thinks that Revelry should give back both monetarily and with goodwill saying, “They need to go into those communities and going forward bring some awareness with the use of their platform.”

“My thing is, they could still do stuff for the Gullah without calling it Gullah,” says Kearney. “It’s not an accident that they put Gullah on the beer. They could have named it any other beer and still done all this stuff for the culture.”

Fleming says that’s the plan. So far Revelry has given contributions to the GGHC and plans to do more in the future. “This entire experience has been a lesson learned. It’s still with the best of intentions and no good deed goes unpunished,” he says, but he’s hesitant to rename the beer or simply pull it from shelves in order to silence the controversy.

“Then the conversation ends,” Fleming says.

Before our conversation Fleming got an angry call from a Gullah man at the brewery. “He laid into me for quite a long time. I started to make some points to him, and it shifted into a good, positive talk, trying to get a group of people together,” he says. “The more conversations we have, the better our understanding.”

Revelry will continue those conversations by speaking to the Johns Island Progressive Club next week.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Finally, Charleston has a place for good barbecue

The Story of Smoke Mountain

Posted by Dustin Waters on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 9:14 AM

Arby's new Smoke Mountain and pork belly sandwich - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Arby's new Smoke Mountain and pork belly sandwich
If you’re anything like me, you’ve noticed for all its historic landmarks and world-class dining, Charleston suffers from a major lack of one thing — great barbecue.

I know, it’s not something locals like to talk about, but it is definitely a problem we need to recognize. Luckily, the good people at Arby’s have stepped up to fill Charleston’s meat hole with a new line of smokehouse favorites. Only around for a limited time, the fast-food saviors are offering brisket, pork belly, and turkey sandwiches — or, you can get all three meats piled together on what they call the Smoke Mountain. Yep, that’s right. Can’t make up your mind about which savory meat you want to feast on? Well, you can simply indulge in all three.

So, in order to acquaint those in Charleston unfamiliar with barbecue, we headed out to sample a few of these new offerings that are sure to knock the city’s meat elites off their feet with a brand-new taste that can’t be beat.

Starting with the new pork belly sandwich, it’s important to pay attention to the marketing surrounding this new delicacy. “Hard to be mad at bigger bacon,” Arby’s says, and they’re right. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if these ads set a new trend for other products.

“Eggs: The ovums you can eat.”

“Toothpicks: They’re like small boards for your mouth.”

And “Long Pig: The meal that speaks for itself.”

With that out of the way, let’s take a bite into the new pork belly sandwich. Made with crispy onion strings, the palest of mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, and “Q Sauce” as smoky as the meat, it’s a meal that takes me back to my childhood on the farm. I remember the days when Pa would walk us out into the squealin’ fields to pick out a fresh pig. Pa would have us name it and care for it. We’d make it clothes and let it sleep in the family bed. That pig would become like the brother I never had. Then, just before the big family cookout, Pa would have me read Of Mice and Men to my pig-brother before they headed out to the smoke shack. The next day, as we sat down to eat, Pa would say grace, explaining to us how pig-brother had been accepted to college upstate and we’d never see him again. It’s memories such as these that are rekindled by the tangy sweet and savory taste of Arby’s new pork belly sandwich.

Then we have the Smoke Mountain. Although it’s been almost 30 years since I first opened my eyes and looked upon this world, I never truly considered myself a man until I took a bite of Smoke Mountain. With turkey, pork belly, and brisket all piled high on a star-cut bun, this sandwich moves beyond the common culinary measurement of mouthfeel — exposing the eater into what I call “mouth confusion.” As one sandwich, it is almost too savory, too smoky, too monumental for the human sense of taste to understand. But for me, Smoke Mountain again returns me to the darkest day of my youth, more specifically my last day on the farm.

Pa had been drinking more since Ma took ill with a bad case of the meat sweats and pig-brother left for school. One night, I sneaked out of the house to find Pa drunkenly staggering over to the de Spain family’s barn with a bottle of whiskey and a can of kerosene in hand.

“Don’t do it, Pa. Don’t burn the barn,” I shouted out, but the cry of the cicadas was my only response.

I waited on the porch until an amber glow from the de Spain farm licked the night sky. The sound of gun shots rang out and eventually, through the smoky haze, I could see Pa approaching. Clutching his gut, Pa collapsed just beyond the edge of the field. Running to him, I kneeled at his side and took his hand.

“Is that you, boy?” he asked, his vision fading.

“Yes, Pa. What is it? What have you done?” I begged.

Looking out into the night sky, he pulled me closer and said, “Make me a promise.”

“Anything, Pa. I promise. I promise,” I answered as tears ran down my face.

“Tell me you’ll find it. Tell me, no matter what, you’ll find Smoke Mountain.”

And with that he was gone. Resting his head on the ground, I stood and began to slowly walk away. Away from Pa. Away from the burning barn. Away from the farm and the only life I had ever known. But over the years, my father’s final wish was never far from my mind. And now I can say he’s finally at rest. Thanks, Arby’s.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

'Top Chef: Charleston' debuts December 1 and Warehouse's Chef Emily Hahn is a contestant


Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 2:58 PM

Tom Colicchio has spoken, Top Chef Charleston will premiere on Dec. 1 at 10 p.m. EST. And, after keeping mum for months, we can reveal that Warehouse's Chef Emily Hahn is a contestant this season. 

"In an unparalleled twist, eight acclaimed chefs from across the country will unpack their knives alongside eight chefs from seasons past, who have never won the prestigious title and are back for redemption," a press release from Bravo Media says.

Joining Hahn is Jamie Lynch who briefly lived in Charleston while getting 5Church up and running. He's now in Charlotte and joins six other new chefs including Silvia Barban of Brooklyn, N.Y., Annie Pettry of Louisville, Ky., Sylva Senat of Philadelphia, Pa., Gerald Sombright of Marco Island, Fl., BJ Smith of Portland, Ore., and Jim Smith of Montgomery, Ala.
"This season is the ultimate challenge of old blood versus new when 16 talented cheftestants descend upon the city of Charleston to battle it out for $125,000 furnished by S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, a feature in FOOD & WINE magazine, a showcase at the annual FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen and the coveted title of Top Chef," the press release says.

As we predicted, Rodney Scott, Sean Brock, BJ Dennis, and Mike Lata will all make appearances. And Charleston's Darius Rucker will provide the soundtrack for Scott's Sudden Death Quickfire.

To name drop some more, you'll also see Eleven Madison Park Chef Daniel Humm, cronut king Dominique Ansel, SNOB's own Frank Lee, Top Chef all-star Richard Blais, Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino, Five & Ten's Hugh Acheson, Callie's Hot Little Biscuit's Carrie Morey, City Grocery's John Currence, and more. 

  • Bravo screenshot
We got in touch with Hahn and she says since the announcement her phone has been blowing up. "I don't have my glasses at work. I can't read anything, and my shit is going wild," she says.

Hahn had an inkling that the release might be today, but wasn't entirely sure. Luckily, Top Chef just finished her interview training, so Hahn was at liberty to speak with us. "It was an insane experience. Angel Powell of South City PR was approached by Top Chef and put it out there to me," she says. "I was like, 'Uhh OK.' I had no intention of ever competing after Chopped because it’s terrifying. But it was like trying to go swimming in an icy cold lake, I went knee deep and then flew to LA for another interview and next thing I know I’m shaking in my Danscos meeting seven other contestants panicking."

Hahn says her Top Chef experience was 100 percent worthwhile. "I kept telling myself, the reward is greater than the risk." And while she can't reveal the outcome of the competition, she did confirm that Warehouse will be airing the show throughout the season.

"Here’s the thing, we have some rules on that — pages of rules that I have to reread," she says in regards to Top Chef's regulations on self promotion. But she adds, "We have that awesome projection screen at Warehouse.There’s a rule that I have to be cooking in the kitchen, I can’t be promoting my own party, but they certainly can’t tell us to turn the TV off."

So how's she feel about everyone watching her on one of the most popular cooking shows in the nation?

"I’ve never put myself our there as a female chef," she says. "But I’m a little bit stoked that I get to be chef with tits representing Charleston."

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