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South Carolina Cuisine


wcmckinney
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There seems to be a good bit of material on this board about NC/VA/GA/FL, i.e. where the Southern population centers are.

I was wondering if any of you had thoughts on SC cooking:

1. Why is chicken pilau/Chicken prelou/Chicken bog called so many different things? Do any of you think there is a difference here? Is this a dish of SC derivation.

2. I have heard rumors that the turducken originally game out of SC in all its crazy glory. Are there any contrarians to this?

3. Is there really any difference in the Charleston dining scene and what you would find in cities of similar size elsewhere in the South? I guess the proliferation of shrimp and grit dishes (hell, it's in a Snoop Dogg tune now) has taken some of the oomph out of Charleston cuisine.

4. Does Upstate SC fit into the Appalachian cooking tradition or is it in a no man's land between the low country and App.?

5. Why don't there seem to be any recent posts on the Palmetto State? Does this speak to something else?

I'm headed over to a Durham Bulls game now, but I would at least be curious to hear some of y'alls thoughts about this stuff.

thanks for indulging me.

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
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wcmckinney, it appears you have several questions concerning SC cuisine, or, the lack thereof.

1. Chicken pilau is pronounced differently by many and chicken bog is a derivation of pilau. Are there any noticeable differences, sure, recipes for each differ from one plantation to the next. I'm not too sure if SC can lay claim to these dishes, it seems eastern parts of Ga, including Savannah, could possibly make the same claim. However, SC does take credit for it.

2. There is no doubt that SC natives love their turduckens, but I firmly believe this creation came from Cajun country. It wouldn't have the same illustrious glory if it didn't. Doesn't food just sound better when it comes from Louisiana, rather than SC?

3. Charleston is similar to Savannah and St. Augustine in feel and size, it has that same eerie New Orleans creepy pulse about it, as does Savannah. However, NO has an infamous and thriving dining scene in which Charleston does not. If you live in Charleston, you need to stick a mirror under the nose of the dining scene - JUST to make sure. Finer restaurants are sparse in Charleston, hell, they're sparse throughout the entire state of SC. Let me ask you this: is Hilton Head, SC a better dining town than Charleston?

4. Where does upstate SC fit? It's a wasteland - eat mustard-based barbecue sauced pork and imagine it might be worse elsewhere.

5. The reason there is not many posts regarding the Palemetto state dining scene is quite simple, the dining scene as a whole sucks! I'd rather, and am more likely, to find posts concerning high octane grade moonshine and the rebel flag crisis.

Have fun at the Bulls game!

Tom

Edited by Tom Maicon (log)
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Yep, turducken is a Louisiana thing. Specifically, it's a Paul Prurdhomme thing. Jeffrey Steingarten in It Must Have Been Something I Ate tracks the history and origin of the turducken and discovers that Prudhomme's claim to have invented the thing in the 1960s is true ("Birds of a Feather, pages 225-236).

Gotta take exception to this statement:

Where does upstate SC fit? It's a wasteland - eat mustard-based barbecue sauced pork and imagine it might be worse elsewhere.
Nope. Mustard-based barbecue is found only in Columbia and lower. Upstate barbecue is much more like NC barbecue with a mix of vinegar/red pepper sauces and ketchup based red sauces.

As for dining in the upstate, Greenville has some pretty damn good restaurants. Seven Oaks was fun for more formal dining, but I believe it's closed. Downtown, Ristorante Bergamo has good food. Trio is good. Barleys makes one of the best pizzas I've ever had, and Soby's used to be pretty good, though I've heard that the quality has declined.

Don't know much about Charleston. I don't like the place.

I'm having dinner at Louis Osteen's place in Pawleys in a couple of weeks. I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Chad, I threw the term mustard-based barbecue sauce in that sentence simply because it is a SC style, and the title of discussion here is SC cuisine - it worked well for the point I was trying to make.

Also, you've named less than a half dozen places to eat in all of upstate SC and one is closed for business. You know you live in a culinary wasteland if you can count all of your gastronomical hot spots and not need more than 10 fingers to do so. My point being; the short list of dining establishments you mentioned isn't nearly enough to stimulate much posting for the area.

I'd love to see such areas experience a culinary boom, the southeast, as a whole, would benefit greatly.

Tom

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Tom, it sounds as if you may have had an ex-girlfriend or something from SC, but I can assure you it is not that bad a place on the whole (albeit somewhat misguided sometimes, and that counts for food too).

I guess I was trying to look a little beyond BBQ and restaurants as is, but I appreciated the comments above.

Oaks did close in Greenville, but there are some pretty well crafted places to eat there (besides and Momma Bear and Pappa Bear's place): 33 Liberty, John Malik's new-ish place, that stand with any other restaurant in the area. La Bastide in Northern Greenville County is supposed to be quite nice and is in a beautiful setting, and as Chad alluded to a number of places on Main St.

As for Turdukken you may be right about it's Cajun derivation, it certainly is much stronger there now than it is in Lowcountry SC. I think there was a NY Times article from last year that featured the bird in bird in bird beast, and it made reference to an 18th century diary that located the bird terrine in SC country. I wouldn't take anything I read by Mr. Steingarten or the NY Times as holy writ on face though.

Upstate BBQ is usually a thicker tomato sauce similar to what is found in places west of Upstate, but people like it there and one of the most creative BBQ sauces I have had was in Greenville, SC -- Cheerwine based sauce, which works pretty well.

There are some great peach and apple orchards in Upstate SC and its probably those fruits that drive the upstate's mark on cuisine as much as anything else.

Finally, on a postive note, The State reported that Louis's place on Pawley's received a regional James Beard award, which is wholly and completely diserved. Louis is a great guy and is restaurant does a sublime job at southern cooking. hearty but not heavy and always friendly.

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
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Also, you've named less than a half dozen places to eat in all of upstate SC and one is closed for business. You know you live in a culinary wasteland if you can count all of your gastronomical hot spots and not need more than 10 fingers to do so. My point being; the short list of dining establishments you mentioned isn't nearly enough to stimulate much posting for the area.

Tom, if you wanna see a culinary wasteland, join me out here in Kansas! :shock: .

I enjoyed living in Greenville. It's a pretty great place. And there is plenty of good food. The restaurants I mentioned were all within walking distance of my house -- as were a fistful of others worth eating at. Fine, formal dining? Not much to speak of, at least there wasn't when I left six years ago. But if you can't find anything else . . . well, your standards must be a lot higher than mine.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Finally, on a postive note, The State reported that Louis's place on Pawley's received a regional James Beard award, which is wholly and completely diserved. Louis is a great guy and is restaurant does a sublime job at southern cooking.  hearty but not heavy and always friendly.

I'm really looking forward to eating at Louis's place. Anything you recommend?

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Hell, its all good. I'll probably wind up there this weekend, as I am going to Litchfield with some friends (if you see a young whippersnapper that looks something Doogie Howser on a bender with some others, stop by and say hello). The shrimp and mushroom burger makes for a nice lunch, and their sunday lunch of fried chicken, squash cassarole, green beans, and rice & gravy is very pleasant.

Dinner wise, the preserved duck is tasty, and I really like the "simply prepared fish" as it is always fresh, well presented and about the right size for me. Shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes are good there (I think he lets the tomatoes sit in milk and tobasco before breading and frying. Deserts are robust and the wine list is as extensive as you will get at the beach. happy eating

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
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I've not eaten there, but now that Charleston has stolen Jimmy Sneed from Richmond to be the Executive Chef at Tristans things should be looking up for diners in Charleston.

Jimmy's work at "the Frog and the Redneck" here in Richmond is the stuff of legend.

Your Gain is Our Loss.

Bon Appetit, Y'all

- Tom

Tom Tyson
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I took a two day trip to Charleston this past February and aside from one meal I thoroughly enjoyed eating there. The key to enjoying myself in Charleston was to steer clear of the high end restaurants. They try too hard and the quality of the cooking is simply poor. I ate at Peninsula Grill and aside from very good service, the meal was worth forgetting.

On the way from the airport to Charleston I stopped at Sweatman's BBQ, Highway 453 (take the Holly Hill exit off of I-26). I do not want to enter a debate about mustard based BBQ, if you do not like it, you do not like it. The quality of the pulled pork at Sweatman's is very, very good and the fried skin is ethereal. Also the hash and rice were worth having. I did not have any but the qualified 'nana pudding expert I was with gave her thumbs up to Sweatman's version.

Bowens Island, for roasted oysters is fantastic. Located on James Island, south of Charleston, off Foley Road. Around $17.50 gets you all the roasted oysters you can eat at this water side shack. I would travel back to Charleston simply for this place. You sit at a newspaper covered table with a square cut in the middle for the shells. Clumps of wild oysters are placed on a piece metal over a fire and covered with a burlap sack that is repeatedly hosed down. You are served oysters by the shovelful, along with a washcloth and oyster knife and sauce. Along with a beer this was one of the best things I have eaten in a long time. The oysters were sweet and the atmosphere is the definition of laid back.

Jestine's Kitchen, 251 Meeting Street. Yes, it was featured on the Food Network, but no matter, the low country cooking here is great. I can reccomend the fried chicken, shrimp and grits (a Sunday special and my favorite thing at Jestine's) collards, okra gumbo, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, glazed ham steak and Coca-Cola cake.

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I wouldn't take anything I read by Mr. Steingarten or the NY Times as holy writ on face though.

Ah, young William -- so young to be so cynical. Good for you.

A couple of thoughts on your points, as I understand them and for what it's worth: Yes, turducken is a thoroughly modern phenom -- I'd call it a fad -- that was certainly inspired by a medieval dish. Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans, as port cities with French-influenced populations, all had traces of cuisine that hied back to European court cuisine. They also had large populations of people who had A) servants to cook for them; B) high literacy rates; and C) ink, paper and the leisure time to use them. So their 18th and 19th century cuisine had more documentation to hand down.

There are endless traces in both New Orleans and Charleston of similar dishes that had in common French origins, similar ingredients and class status.

For another example: Nobody would probably argue that gumbo is connected to New Orleans. Nobody except John Martin Taylor, who presents good argument and solid documentation that gumbo originated in Charleston. It's a moot point and a fairly silly argument, of course: Charleston and New Orleans had so much in common, cerrtainly they had similar dishes.

But Charleston today doesn't have tourists seeking gumbo restaurants. And Louisiana today has plenty of marketing that can convince otherwise sensible (well, OK, maybe not so sensible) people all over the country that they simply can't live until they've deep-fried a turkey and cooked a chicken that was stuffed inside a duck.

On the question of getting people to take interest in something Southern besides barbecue: Sigh. Been there, tried that. If you look back in the refrigerator to when this Southeastern thread first started, the first question I posted was about the South "other than barbecue." Know what happened? It devolved into an argument over barbecue. C'est la vie.

And finally, on the question of whether South Carolina has notable cuisine: Of course it does. All the restaurants you cite and many more. However, and I think this is true all over the world, from Spartanburg to Istanbul: Cuisine takes money, and a sizeable population of people who have that money, the leisure time to spend it and the interest to spend it on food. The number of restaurants a place has is in direct relation to the number of people it has with disposable incomes.

Not to knock South Carolina -- truly, I'm not -- but there's an old joke in the South along the lines of: South Carolina -- eternally grateful for Alabama and Mississippi. Because they keep it from being dead last in all the economic indicators. South Carolina isn't, by anyone's definition, a wealthy place. There are pockets of wealth, mostly in Charleston and Hilton Head. And both those places are far better known for their restaurants than, say, Gaffney. That doesn't mean Gaffney doesn't have something notable in food. It's just not likely to support more than one or two places.

Food places also get attention when they have food writers to draw attention to them on a regular basis. Do you really think Oxford, Miss., would be on anybody's culinary radar if it didn't have a John T. Edge, banging the drum for John Currence and the City Grocery and the duck hash at the Yocona River Inn? Or how about Birmingham -- would Frank Stitt be as widely known if he didn't share a town with all those writers at Oxmoor House?

Every region needs its Boswell, son. You may be South Carolina's by default.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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Every region needs its Boswell, son. You may be South Carolina's by default.

But I'm glad he's in Raleigh, as we need more help from a literary standpoint than Charleston or most any other SC town! :wink:

I'd love to join in the discussion with some depth, but work is currently preventing that from occurring. I believe we'd be remiss if we didn't bring up Gullah cuisine. Is that not quite common in SC?

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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And both those places are far better known for their restaurants than, say, Gaffney. That doesn't mean Gaffney doesn't have something notable in food. It's just not likely to support more than one or two places.

Please, please, tell me where to go in Gaffney. I have to go there for work once a year, and I have yet to find anything besides the chain restaurants besides the outlet mall on I-85...

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Just some opinions from somebody who lived in SC for many years. My parents still live there.

I'll take Greenville over Charleston any day. The place is surpisingly cosmopolitan. Michelin has its north american headquarters there, as does BMW (well, in Spartanburg, 20 minutes up the road). BP, Fuji and Hitachi have a large presence in Greenville as do a couple of other international companies. Many of these companies rotate their high-level international executives through Greenville, so a culture has grown up to support their tastes and needs.

There is a much greater diversity of restaurant styles in Upstate SC than there is in the low country. Tourists go to Charleston and want "southern" food (at ridiculous prices). They get it. But I'd argue that there are Upstate restaurants that easily equal many of the well-known Charleston places in quality. At least that's been my experience dining in both cities.

Kathy is right. Supporting a thriving culinary scene takes disposable income, so you don't find the range of restaurants that you'd see in larger cities. The largest city in South Carolina would barely qualify as a suburb of, say, Chicago or even Atlanta. However, within the relatively well-off pockets I've eaten as well as I have anywhere else in the US.

Note: I have not dined at Le Bernardin or Daniel or Ducasse. Not my style. So I'm not comparing Upstate South Carolina to 3-star NY or Paris restaurants, just good to very good restaurants in a variety of cities across the country.

I've gotta tell you, living in Kansas really makes me appreciate what I had.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone."

Kathleen, you left yourself out of scribes that have boosted the culinary chops of towns around the South. But I assume all readers know or should know your good work in the Queen City.

Chad, thanks for your supporting of "God's Country" it's truly and verily appreciated. I want to send you "The Deuces" from Stax Original on Poinsett Blvd. via Airmail for your support. G-vegas is getting surprisingly cosmopolitan for a corporate town of its size. While I don't necessarily buy the arguement that good cooking in Greenville arises just out of the need to please the taste of the international elites and CEOs that fly through Greenville-Spartanburg "Jetport" -- yes we named it a jet port -- on their way to the next corporate weigh station. Admittedly early good Greenville eats like the good ole' 858 in the old Elks building and Bistro Europa that merged the fine dining of old starched standards like Stax Peppermill or Peppino's with interesting (and often local) ingredients. I would like to think that the maturing of the city, based in part on these above-referenced corporate big wigs (and a number of other factors), pushed much of the good cooking , and improved living, in the area over the hump.

Dealing with the other G's: Gaffney and Gullah cuisine. For the best eats in Gaffney go to a Peach farm. Seriously. Also buy some fireworks, I know of a Peach stand just after that Magnolia Outlet going east that has both of them. This is alot of fun and very satisfying. For more traditional dining, I hear good things about the crazy named "Fat Daddies on the Beach BBQ". I believe it advertises on billboards around there, though its the cousin of the owner that is passing me this intel. Finally there is a Fatz cafe planted at the bottom of the Peachoid like an unwanted mushroom. Fatz are good (the one's that don't burn down), but there aint nothing special about them. Its like the Harper's of Upstate SC. Though in all honesty, just hold your belly for a few miles and eat at somewhere like Bridges in Shelby.

For Gullah cooking --- goodness, where to begin. Gullah Cuisine on Highway 17 going out of the Northside Charleston (or on the way to Awendaw) gets high marks from people I know. But hell, that is techhnically north of what some call arch-Gullah Country. Actually the National Trust for Historic Trust named Gullah culture as one of its ten places to preserve this week. Also named was the first McDonalds ever built...I find this similar to Erma Hall, the black woman in Ladykillers and a movie about gay people in Thailand both winning the same award in Cannes this year; the effort by the awards givers is noble, but maybe too flippant.

In readin' the State newspapers article on the award for Gullah it referenced one of Gullah's cultural legacies as "Okras and sweet potatoes." This sort of tee-ed me off, and I am still not sure why. Okra and sweet potatoes come from Africa, but in the context of the article they seemed to serve more as code words for "Black" than anything particularly significant about Gullah cooking. Why not talk about okra stews (as Kathleen notes Gumbo and derivatives are something that I do not think of as Cajun as much as I think of them as dishes served down the family line) instead of just okra? Why not talk about dishes or dining events, like meals at Gullah Prayer Houses, or what MLK Jr. ate at the Penn Center in Gullah country rather than just saying okra and yams; it seems like poor reporting to me.

I hope Gullah culture is able to survive, it is part of my family, my relatives will often teach Sunday school in Gullah and I am proud to speak the small bit that I can. I also hope that that culture can be preserved and celebrated while helping that area find sustainable development that will allow it to enjoy some of the good things that other areas of the state, region, and nation have.

The points referenced above about having the economic means to fritter away on nice meals are dead on and they make alot of sense about restaurants. There is another side to the food debate: What is eaten at family meals and parties, but I don't think I would really buy the notion that food in Upstate SC is somehow unique from that of Appalachia to the North, Low Country to the South, or Turkish to the (Mid) East. Maybe this explains why Outback does so well there....

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
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I'll take Greenville over Charleston any day.

Not to dispute your judgement on this statement, but from what I have heard and read, Greenville, SC, has a very long way to go culinarily.

And that surprises me because of the very fact you have cited here:

Michelin has its north american headquarters there, as does BMW (well, in Spartanburg, 20 minutes up the road0. BP, Fuji and Hitachi have a large presence in Greenville as do a couple of other international companies.

and which restaurants cater to the needs of these people:

Many of these companies rotate their high-level international executives through Greenville, so a culture has grown up to support their tastes and needs.

What I have read of Greenville:

What I really recommend to the serious gourmand about Greenville cuisine is to go WITH the place, not to look for stuff that tries to make Greenville something that it's not. Look for the BEST BBQ, the BEST meat-and-three, the BEST fish camp, the BEST soul food, and let that be Greenville's real contribution to a truly eclectic culinary palette.

Is there any truth in this statement?

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Interesting quote. Where does it come from? Besides the point that there isn't a fish camp in Greenville, an Upstate city, i would take umbrage with the idea that according to that quote eating in Greenville is never allowed to go over a certain point. Boy that is good fried chicken, boy that is good BBQ, etc. etc.

If creative people like John and Amy Malik at 33 Liberty http://www.33liberty.com/

want to open up a good restaurant, certainly it can be considered good to people visiting town as well.

I think handicapping a town as only being able to compete in areas X, Y, and Z (beit corn, hog farms, and textiles, OR country cooking, fish fries and BBQ) make for some unfair yokes.

I wouldn't say Greenville, or SC is the best place in the world....to eat. That is not really the point of the thread from the get go. I guess what I was curious about was why it is treated the way it is.

In the G-ville v. Charleston dining debate, all I will say is that Greenville does not have a "Bubba Gump Shrimp Company" restaurant...

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
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Not to dispute your judgement on this statement, but from what I have heard and read, Greenville, SC, has a very long way to go culinarily.

What I have read of Greenville:

What I really recommend to the serious gourmand about Greenville cuisine is to go WITH the place, not to look for stuff that tries to make Greenville something that it's not. Look for the BEST BBQ, the BEST meat-and-three, the BEST fish camp, the BEST soul food, and let that be Greenville's real contribution to a truly eclectic culinary palette.

Is there any truth in this statement?

In my (somewhat less than humble) opinion, that statement is completely asinine.

Before I begin ranting, let me first cop to a charge of hypocrisy. I've more than likely said exactly the same thing about Wichita, KS, my home for the last seven or so years. Wichita, whose unofficial city motto seems to be Well, it's better than it was, is a culinary wasteland so far as I have been able to determine.

But, as a non-local, I have different expectations based on where I have lived and eaten before. I'd suspect that whomever said or typed that last bit of nonsense was probably from somewhere larger, more cosmopolitan and with a wider array of restaurants.

Note: For those reading along but finding themselves somewhat perplexed by the southern terminology, a Meat & Three is a diner or buffet style restaurant. From among the selections you are expected to choose one protein (meat) and three sides or vegetables. Macaroni and cheese counts as a vegetable, by the way. With that you also get a butter roll or biscuit and iced tea. A good meat & three can be a real joy.

No, you can't compare Greenville, SC, with New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or even Atlanta. However, if you take it for what it is, a pocket of good dining and even better living nestled in some of the most beautiful scenery in the country -- well, I'd take it over any of those places any day. Yes, there are still vestigages of ignorance and stupidity, but those are not limited to the south. Depressingly, you can find them anywhere you go.

To wcmckinney's point that Greenville's nature cannot be completely attributed to the raft of international executives who spend 3-5 years in Greenville as a proving ground before beging kicked up the corporate ladder, he's exactly right. But it certainly doesn't hurt to have the French, English, Japanese, Portugese and other nationalities represented, especially folks who are used to a high standard of living. The place kind of grew up to accommodate them. But all of that was based on the hard work of one visionary (some say hallucinatory) mayor, a guy named Max Heller. He's the man who tore out Main Street's four lanes and reduced them to two in order to put in sidewalks, offered tax incentives to retail shops and restaurants who would locate downtown, fought for performing arts centers and generally began to turn downtown Greenville into what is now (many years later), a place you can stroll with your family, have a wonderful dinner and take in anything from Pavarotti to some of the hottest bluegrass around.

Is it perfect? No.

Is it a hotbed of revolutionary cuisine or serious formal dining? No.

But, if I may bring my personal life into this, I had a 3,500 square foot, 98-year-old house with a 30x18 living room, wood burning fireplaces and a kitchen the size of most bus depots. The mortage was just a little over $1,100 a month, and I was within walking distance of several fine restaurants and all the live music I could stand. Twenty-five minutes took me to the foothills of the Appalachian Trail. An hour and a half took me to Charlotte. Two hours took me to Atlanta. I had a rare book dealer who had my number on speed dial and a wine shop who could get me just about anything and everything my heart desired (TZ's for wcmckinney -- Hope Tzouvalakis is amazing at tracking down weird and wonderful wines).

I have very little patience with those who would dismiss upstate South Carolina as a backwater, culinary or otherwise.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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I am the asinine guy, having spent over half my life in Atlanta, Charlotte and Greenville.

Please, let us not confuse the overall quality of life here with nature and breadth of its cuisine. Greenville is doing a fine job emerging from the long-overarching influence of Bob Jones and is struggling to rise as a city of national stature. Great men like Max Heller, an Austrian Holocaust survivor, are emblematic of its emergence.

The primary obstacle remains the County Council, which represents a considerably larger area of Old South sentiment, which will do everything in its power to retard progress. One symbol is its obstinate refusal to declare Dr. King's birthday a countywide holiday, the only county in SC to fail to do so.

Now, to cuisine:

First, a nitpicky caveat: There may not technically be any fish camps within the city limits of Greenville (fish camps within city limits is in itself an oxymoron), but there are a bizillion of them just off I-85 between here and Charlotte and down toward the GA state line as well. (BTW -- quick count: at least six fish camps are within a 20-mile radius of where I am now sitting)

Please understand. To my less than authoritative taste, there are any number of good, even excellent, retaurants in Greenville (including 33 Liberty, Soby's, Giorgio's). Yet, for visitor and resident alike, Greenville should distinguish itself to the epicurious gourmand for the cuisine that "uniquifies" it and that should bring it deserved renown.

It's really an inanely simple point. Even the simplest tourista knows that you don't seek out Fisherman's Wharf for steak, Chinatown for ravioli, Little Italy for brats and beer. So with Greenville. If you have three or four nights to spend with us, try 33 Liberty, et al. But if you are breezing in and out, go for the BBQ, meat-and-three . . . You won't find better.

If Greenville has other genres of good cuisine, so much the better. Never is a long time, but it will never withstand the test of Atlanta or even - with all due respect - Charleston. (For the life of me, I do not know how anyone could get the idea that Greenville's cuisine outranks Charleston's!)

Let Greenville establish its name for the cuisine that does make it special. For starters, let me cast caution, Dr. Atkins and my rabbinical ordination to the wind to assert that no meat-and-three anywhere, anywhere, comes to the edge of McBee's on Pendleton.

"A worm that lives in a horseradish thinks it's sweet because it's never lived inside an apple." - My Mother

"Don't grow up to be an educated idiot." - My Father

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The place is surpisingly cosmopolitan. Michelin has its north american headquarters there, as does BMW (well, in Spartanburg, 20 minutes up the road). BP, Fuji and Hitachi have a large presence in Greenville as do a couple of other international companies. Many of these companies rotate their high-level international executives through Greenville, so a culture has grown up to support their tastes and needs.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, so this is just a musing-out-loud sort of reply, but it's not been my experience that company headquarters equal strong cuisine. What I've seen happen in Charlotte is that business towns attract some local chef-owned restaurants simply because there's enough money washing around the system that everybody benefits, but the places that really thrive are the high-end chains. I've seen this happen in Charlotte: We've got some wonderful independently owned restaurants that are truly emblematic of local interest and ingredients. But we've got an explosion of chains with recognizable names: The Palm, Capitol Grille, P.F.Chang's, Morton's, etc., etc. I think what happens is that when business people go out on expense account, they want to take the clients to places they know will be recognized when they go back to the Big City: "Wow -- they must really want our business, they took Jim Bob to Morton's and dropped a hundred bucks on him." Taking Jim Bob to Pewter Rose, Ethan's or Bonterra won't score them the same points.

So it doesn't just take money. It takes money that is willing to support local talent. And unfortunately, the people with money tend to seek a comfort level that involves going to a place where the people just like them go.

As I said: Not sure where I'm going with that, or if it is even relevant to this discussion. Just musing on the damage that does to newly prosperous, Sun Belt cities.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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I am the asinine guy, having spent over half my life in Atlanta, Charlotte and Greenville.

Please, let us not confuse the overall quality of life here with nature and breadth of its cuisine.  Greenville is doing a fine job emerging from the long-overarching influence of Bob Jones and is struggling to rise as a city of national stature.  Great men like Max Heller, an Austrian Holocaust survivor, are emblematic of its emergence.

Reb Ribeye, I'm sorry we didn't cross paths when I lived in Greenville. There would have been much wine and friendly bickering over dinner, I believe. You make a good point. I was conflating quality of life with quality of cuisine. However, I believe Greenville has a good start on both.

There's nothing wrong with Bob Jones University that a gallon of gas and a careless match can't fix :laugh:. The man himself is, thankfully, long gone and his influence has waned considerably. And, yes, the County Council, at least when I was there, seemed hell bent on exhibiting every ugly southern stereotype to its fullest and trying to turn Greenville into a place that makes Mayberry look like Greenwich Village. I'm very sorry to hear that's still going on. This is why God gave us large caliber handguns.

Please understand.  To my less than authoritative taste, there are any number of  good, even excellent, retaurants in Greenville (including 33 Liberty, Soby's, Giorgio's).  Yet, for visitor and resident alike, Greenville should distinguish itself to the epicurious gourmand for the cuisine that "uniquifies" it and that should bring it deserved renown.

I can see your point, but I don't necessarily agree with it. Expanding the discussion beyond Greenville, there are brilliant chefs throughout the south celebrating -- and elevating -- traditional southern food into something of real significance (Louis Osteen, Scott Peackock, Ben Barker, to name a few). Soby's, at least when I lived in Greenville, was doing much the same. Why not show that side of southern food to the friends from out of town? Getting back to the upstate in particular, hell yes, eat some barbecue. But have it for lunch. Don't miss out on Bergamo or even Barley's just because their style is not unique to the area. It's still damn fine food.

If Greenville has other genres of good cuisine, so much the better.  Never is a long time, but it will never withstand the test of Atlanta or even - with all due respect - Charleston.  (For the life of me, I do not know how anyone could get the idea that Greenville's cuisine outranks Charleston's!)

I think it will. Twenty years ago, Atlanta was a cultural backwater. The rising tide of economic development, cultural diversity and disposable income lifts all boats, Greenville's included.

As for Charleston, feh. I've had some memorable meals there, but like all tourist-oriented cities, the restaurants in Charleston are over-hyped and overpriced. I may be conflating cuisine and experience again, but I have trouble separating them. A couple of years ago, during our annual trip to the beach, my parents arranged for my wife and I to get away from the kids and spend a romantic evening in Charleston. We had a wonderful room at the Elliot House and a lovely dinner at 82 Queen. It was a very sweet gesture, but we couldn't get out of the city fast enough. Like the French Quarter in New Orleans, Charleston has become a caricature of itself. The tourists can have it.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Max Heller is a good soul who stands up for good things.

Rabbi Ribeye, where are some good fishfries in the Greenville area? I would be keen to sample their wares the next time I am back in God's Country.

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
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Let Greenville establish its name for the cuisine that does make it special.  For starters, let me cast caution, Dr. Atkins and my rabbinical ordination to the wind to assert that no meat-and-three anywhere, anywhere, comes to the edge of McBee's on Pendleton.

Missed this the first time around. Looks like the good rabbi has thrown down the gauntlet. McBees is a great start. What else does Greenville (or the surrounding area) do better than anywhere else?

Best of the Upstate. Ready? Go!

Best way to frighten your relatives from out of town and get triple your daily dose of fat? The Beacon in Spartanburg.

Who's next?

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Thanks for your mention of the Beacon! Overcome with curiosity, I discovered yet another unknown (to me at least) Southern treasure:

The best meal is Chili Cheese A-Plenty, which is a chili cheeseburger on a bun buried on a plate underneath piles of sweet and oily onion rings and French fried potatoes. Second choice: Outside Pork A-Plenty, which is hacked-up shreds and chunks of hot, hickory-cooked pork on a bun with cool slaw, given the same delicious burial under o-rings and fries. The Beacon’s menu is huge, ranging from succulent catfish (tail-on, bone-in) to banana-mayo sandwiches on white bread that Elvis might have loved; and nearly all the specialties are available as A-Plenty plates.

Malt A-Plenty, on the other hand, refers to a malted milk shake so thick that one literally can eat it with a fork! Delicious as the malt may be, however, it’s nearly nuts to come to The Beacon and drink anything other than tea. Here is the great drive-in tea of the South – generously sweetened, laced with a touch of lemon, served over a pack of shaved ice that somehow is colder and more refreshing than ice anywhere else. No surprise: The Beacon sells more tea than any other single restaurant in the U.S.A.

and, I too, am equally certain Elvis would have enjoyed himself thoroughly!! :laugh:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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