Gwen Fowler



Locavore lunch honors the people who supply our food

Posted 3/2/2013 4:51:00 PM

When Chef Frank Lee of Slightly North of Broad said the Charleston Wine and Food Festival’s Lowcountry Locavore Lunch was to pay tribute to the rock stars of the food industry, he wasn’t referring to the chefs who often are celebrities.

He was talking about “the people who make it spring from the earth and the sea every day.”

Food purveyors recognized at this year’s luncheon were Burden Creek Dairy of Johns Island, Keegan-Filion Farm of Walterboro; Ambrose Family Farm of Wadmalaw; Abundant Seafood of Charleston; and GrowFood Carolina of Charleston.

Lee and his staff used foods from those farmers, fisherman and producers, along with other local foods, to prepare a delicious Southern feast on Saturday.

The meal began with an appetizer of chicken liver pate, made with chickens from Keegan-Filion Farm, served with chips made from sweet potatoes grown in Orangeburg.

A “from the sea” course featured a clam chowder shooter, a blue crab salad, bacon-wrapped shrimp, baked oyster and tilefish crudo.

Mark Marhefka, owner of Abundant Seafood, supplied the tilefish, a fish that has grown more popular in recent years. The golden tilefish is a deepwater fish that burrows into the mud.

The goal of his company is to “minimize the emission it takes to get the product to the palate,” he said.

Lee, who serves as executive chef over the Maverick Southern Kitchens group, said the oysters came from Bluffton, and the bacon was made from pork belly from Keegan-Filion Farm.

A delicious spinach salad, topped with a mound of goat cheese from Burden Creek, was served for the “from the field” course. The spinach and beets came from Ambrose Farm, as well as goose eggs from Burden Creek.

Pete Ambrose got into farming after working as a shrimper for 25 years. To learn to farm, he worked for another farmer for two years without pay. He grows fruits and vegetables as naturally as possible, without using pesticides. His family farm also includes Tomato Shed Café.

The “from the barn” course included pork belly porchetta, roast chicken roulade, scalloped sweet potatoes, collard greens, and baby turnips cooked with country ham.

The pork and chicken were from Keegan-Filion Farm, and the turnips were grown by Ambrose.

Mark Filion said he and his wife formerly were commercial hog farmers. They got out of that type of hog farming but were “hooked for life on farming.”

“We loved it, and we wanted to get back in it,” he said.

They have almost 3,000 free-range chickens. By keeping them in movable chicken houses, they are able to depend on the chickens to fertilize the land.

The final course was a scrumptious goat cheese panna cotta with basil, topped with balsamic macerated strawberries. Ambrose supplied the strawberries, and the goat cheese came from Burden Creek Dairy, owned by Kipp and Katherine Valentine.

Katherine Valentine said they mechanically milk 28 goats twice a day, producing about 35 gallons of milk each day. They make soft cheese daily that they supply to local restaurants.

GrowFood Carolina is an organization that helps link farmers in the rural parts of the state to local grocers and restaurants.

For more bites from the festival, click here and here and here. The fun continues through Sunday.