We swayed into the Palmetto state on Monday and arrived in Schvitz city for a week of food, beer, brewery tours, and general merriment. My first stop off the plane was the cozy little bottle shop, Beer Exchange. I arrived to find Sarah of Goat.Sheep.Cow, Cheese Shop dolling out a Honey goat Gouda paired with Local 1, the perfect combination to begin my Charleston culinary adventure.
Charleston has always been recognized for its quiet historic streets, war relics, and Cannons and artillery pointed out to sea, symbolically protecting its peninsular coastline. The true soldiers here are the chefs, restaurateurs, and brewers who not only protect, but also foster a local food system with a valor that only a southern gentleman could muster. And believe me this is not an assumption, I tried a pretty significant cross section of the restaurants that make Charleston one of the most vibrant food capitals I have been to. Charleston has a particular balance of Southern inspired cuisine mixed with great fusion spots, crafting local ingredient forward menus with a southern sensibility like, Xiao Bao Biscuits, Two Boroughs Larder, Husk and the Butcher and Bee. If it sounds like I am listing places it is because I am, we ate our faces off trying to work through all the recommendations we received. Figs Italian inspired menu was a perfect meal from start to finish, and seven of us worked our way through the entire thing. Throw in Liberty Tap Room, Tattooed Moose, The Glass Onion and you have a serious food scene mixed with southern hospitality, great beer, and a true sense of community.
I had the opportunity to eat at all of the Places mentioned above but the real highlight of the week was cooking with Todd Garrigan at Craftsmen Kitchen and Tap Room. Todd and I created a menu inspired by his cuisine, and perfectly paired with our beers. Duck Ham, a Mallard riff on southern cured ham melded perfectly with the deep cherry flavors of Our Kriek (Ghost Bottle). Guests drank Sorachi Ace alongside seared Head on Shrimp and sautéed vegetables as a typical June Monsoon poured through town. As the rain pounded down its sound was lost amongst boisterous conversation, great food, and flowing beers.
Wednesday was a much anticipated Charleston brewery tour where we got a chance to visit local legends like Westbrook, Holy City, and the ones who started it all, Palmetto Brewery. After three hours of meandering around town in the sweltering heat before our tour started, I was ready for a cold beer. Our tour guide and drinking companion from Brews Cruise explained that Charleston had a rich brewing tradition, but the reemergence of breweries after prohibition was slow to take hold. They may have started late in the game but these brewers are not messing around, and If my Lost bag ever arrives I will have some delicious bottles to remember my new friends by. We ended the day at Holy City, sitting around the bar in a large open garage and patio equipped with darts, a pool table, corn hole, and a full view of the Brew House just feet away. If it sounds like all we did was eat and drink your wrong, we sweated too, which is kind of like exercise, so I don’t feel so bad about our culinary pursuits.