Gwen Fowler



Wonderful, local foods and beer shine on locavore tour

Posted 4/5/2011 6:10:00 PM

The locavore food movement, where chefs and restaurants partner with farmers and local food purveyors, is a wonderful, growing dimension of eating out these days.

I was among a lucky group to go on a locavore education tour in Charleston recently.

At the Culinary Institute of Charleston, we were treated to five small courses, each paired with a beer from Palmetto Brewing Company.

The first course was shrimp and triggerfish with grits and a Sea Island red pea gravy, prepared by Institute instructor Chef Scott Stefanelli, who said triggerfish is such a sweet and succulent fish. It used to be treated as a bycatch but these days is getting respect in fine kitchens in Charleston and elsewhere. Sea Island peas are heirlooms that were almost lost and have been brought back through seed-saving, he said. They were cooked with winter vegetables and ham stock. They also were topped with some micro greens grown at Mepkin Abbey, a community of monks in Moncks Corner. The grits were from Columbia’s Anson Mills, a name showing up on menus all over the country these days.

Chris Winn of Palmetto Brewing served Palmetto’s Amber beer with the dish, instructing participants to gently swirl their glass to create a head. “Contrary to popular belief, beer should have a head,” he said.

The next course was a barbecue-glazed pork belly. One of the hottest food commodities around now, pork bellies have risen recently from just more than $1 per pound to about $4 per pound, Stefanelli said. With this course, Winn served an Indian Pale Ale beer.

Next was an okra gumbo, prepared Gullah style with the recipe of Chef Charlotte Jenkins, owner of Gullah Cuisine in Mount Pleasant. It included sausage made by one of the classes at the institute and with chicken thighs from Keegan-Filian Farm of Walterboro, as well as local shrimp, onions and peppers. Winn served Palmetto’s Pale Ale with the gumbo.

Pastry Chef Kelly Wilson of Kiawah Island Club took over for two dessert courses and had the group swooning over her crème brulee. After most of us had licked our small container clean, she told us that this dish, which tastes so light, actually has 24 fat grams per 3-ounce serving.

But, she said, “It’s so worth it, it’s not even funny.”

The biggest pairing surprise of the day came when Winn served a Chocolate Bock beer with the crème brulee. Beer with dessert seems like a strange combination, but this worked so well.

For the last course, Wilson prepared a rice pudding, made with Carolina gold “midlands” rice, and Winn served Palmetto’s Charleston Lager.

Before the tasting began, Chef Michael Carmel, head of the Institute’s Culinary Department, said the school started a “farm to plate” class a couple of years ago that has been successful. The school’s Charleston location has given students access to some of the city’s best chefs. He said Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s and Husk, Chef Frank Lee of Slightly North of Broad and Chef Craig Deihl of Cypress, among others, have all worked with students at the Institute, he said.

Palmetto Brewing hand crafts and package four beers that are distributed in Charleston and Hilton Head.

The Culinary Institute of Charleston is part of Trident Technical College.