Dish Dining Guide
Dish Dining Guide Winter 2012

When it comes to predicting trends, Dish is usually pretty good. Our food writers ponder the big picture, stroke their chins, and make their observations. This time around, we decided to do something a little bit different. Instead of looking at the food scene from the eater’s perspective, we thought we’d go inside and look at it from a chef’s point of view. To that end, we turned to James Beard Award-winning chef Mike Lata of FIG to serve as the guest editor of this issue. —


The Atlantic Wreckfish might get wiped right off the plate by regulations
The Atlantic Wreckfish might get wiped right off the plate by regulations Endangered Catch

If you are an Atlantic wreckfish, Sam Ray is not a man you want to meet. Neither is Micah LaRoche, who offloads Sam's boat The Lien Machine at his Cherry Point seafood dock at the far end of Wadmalaw Island. Chances are, if you have eaten wreckfish in Charleston, it most likely surfaced on the end of Ray's commercial line. — Jeff Allen


From Ireland to Le Bernardin to Hank's Seafood Restaurant
From Ireland to Le Bernardin to Hank's Seafood Restaurant A Seafood Story

I grew up on the west coast of Ireland, where it wasn't difficult to find fantastic seafood. Back in the 1960s and '70s, fish was always eaten on Fridays, as Catholics made up 99 percent of the Irish population. As a child in Limerick and Clare, on the rare occasion that the sun would shine and the temperature would rise above freezing, we would hit the beach for the day. I have fond memories of the ubiquitous street carts selling bags of steamed seaweed and periwinkles. The adults normally ate the seaweed, and the kids went mad for the periwinkles. I'd have a bag of them in one hand and a pin needle in the other so as to retrieve each little sea snail from its home. — Chef Frank McMahon


Charleston's greatest ingredient is the bounty of its waterways
Charleston's greatest ingredient is the bounty of its waterways Fish is Good

I have always been an ingredient-driven chef. My formula is simple: find the best ingredient, apply my thousands of hours of practiced craft, and deliver it to the customer in the best version of itself. What I have learned from "ingredient" cooking is that the success of the dish solely relies on the quality of the ingredient; for example, perfect arugula, in the right hands, can produce a perfect arugula salad. Anything of lesser quality will produce an undesirable result and seem foolish or careless. So for my style of cooking, to have a successful career you must find the best product. — Mike Lata


Mark Marhefka connects chefs to the local waters
Mark Marhefka connects chefs to the local waters From Hook to Plate

When Jeremiah Bacon moved to town and took over as executive chef at Carolina's in 2007, the first thing he did was look around and try to ascertain where all the fishermen were. He'd been working at Le Bernardin in New York and took it for granted that there'd be a direct market in Charleston. — Stephanie Barna


The other Lowcountry bivalve gets its day in the sun
The other Lowcountry bivalve gets its day in the sun Clammer Time

Timing is everything, and with clams, there's no room for error. In the kitchen at La Pizzeria, tucked into a Coleman Boulevard strip mall, chef Zaza Nakaidze prepares a pan with extra virgin olive oil and garlic. He reaches for a handful of clams, gently adding the tightly sealed two-shelled morsels to the simmer before splashing in a few ounces of white wine and a handful of parsley. After three minutes, he pours in a bit of veggie stock and covers the pan. Checking back two minutes later, the clams have released their tight grip and opened wide. — Stratton Lawrence


From Backman's briny beds to the Grocery's blazing fire
From Backman's briny beds to the Grocery's blazing fire Oyster Men

"We Catch Our Own," reads Thomas Backman's business card. The statement isn't as true as it once was, when the docks at Backman's Seafood on Sol Legare Road were lined up with six shrimp trawlers. Fuel prices have made his shrimp business a distant memory, but Backman's boat still sits at the dock waiting for a day (maybe this spring, he hopes) when it can head back to sea. — Stratton Lawrence


The Magwoods keep the heads on and the freshness intact
The Magwoods keep the heads on and the freshness intact Wild Shrimp

To get to C. A. Magwood, Jr. & Sons, you cross Shem Creek on Coleman Boulevard, turn right onto Live Oak Drive, and make your way into Mt. Pleasant's Old Village. Take a quick little jog under the old oaks onto Magwood Lane and then a left onto Haddrell Street, and all the way down at the end of the road you'll see a modest sign with red stripes and blue stars pointing to an old white cinderblock building at the end of a gravel drive. If you see "Live & Love Longer, Eat Seafood" emblazoned on the wall in hand-painted red and blue letters, you know you're in the right spot. — Robert F. Moss


FIG keeps crab heaven on speed dial
FIG keeps crab heaven on speed dial Trapped in Paradise

Kimberly Carroll wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about crabs. During the day, golden crustaceans hang from her earlobes and around her neck. Their silhouettes appear on most of the shirts she wears to work, checking her 220 traps around Charleston Harbor. Demonstrate a bit of interest in her obsession, and she'll eagerly show off pictures of blue crabs on her iPhone like they're her grandchildren or a favorite pet. — Stratton Lawrence


Ken Vedrinski's take on simple crudo is not so simple
Ken Vedrinski's take on simple crudo is not so simple Italian Sashimi

Over the past few years, a lot of chefs have started serving raw fish preparations called crudo, often referred to as Italian sashimi. Crudo is simply the Italian word for raw. Beyond that qualification, the rules are few. It is most commonly seen as fish or shellfish, while cruda — with an a — is the masculine word for meat (lamb, beef) prepared in a similar fashion. — Mike Lata


Fried crabs and garlic butter make for a tasty combo at the take-out counter
Fried crabs and garlic butter make for a tasty combo at the take-out counter King of Crabs

The girls at Fishnet Seafood are always smiling when I walk through their door. They're usually slinging fresh fish into big pots of boiling grease and bantering back and forth about some morsel of local gossip. And on any given day there's a steady supply of fresh whiting and croaker crackling with a crispy dredged batter. These offerings alone would make it worthy of a stop next time you happen by the Savannah Highway outpost, but the fried crabs — and we mean whole fried hard crabs — are a revelation to behold. — Jeff Allen


Looking for Charleston's iconic seafood sandwich
Looking for Charleston's iconic seafood sandwich Fishy Business

Boston has its lobster roll, New Orleans has its po' boy, and Baltimore has its crabcake, so what does waterlogged Charleston have when it comes to fish sandwiches? Probably fried whiting (perhaps flounder or catfish) with tartar sauce on white bread, which isn't quite as iconic as those other cities' standards. You'd think in a town surrounded by water, fish sandwiches would be a thing, but sadly they have not benefited from the same attention given to burgers in recent years. Burgers have become artisanal stars, with each and every ingredient given deep consideration. Fish sandwiches, on the other hand, are relegated to the bottom of the menu where they're treated like diet food or something. Grilled mahi on a kaiser roll? Boring. A fried oyster po' boy? Well, you're getting warmer, especially if you're using our local species, but the key to that ubiquitous New Orleans creation is lost around here. A po' boy lives and dies by its bread. Put it on an inferior roll and you've got nothing. — Stephanie Barna


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