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New York Times on Charleston


Gifted Gourmet
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article from the NY Times

These days Charleston is again a boom town, with soaring real estate prices and growing suburbs... Packed with restaurants old and new, the area has become one of the South's important culinary capitals ... To mark its arrival in the gastronomic big time, Charleston staged its first Food and Wine Festival early in March .. Chefs and other food experts came from across the South to size up the situation, and many of them were impressed.. The food-mad pilgrim can still revel in moist, towering seven-layer coconut cake at the Peninsula Grill and Bob Waggoner's authentic, brightly spiced Frogmore Stew (a Lowcountry witch's brew that includes shrimp, crab, corn and sausage) at the Charleston Grill. And night after night at the cozy little Hominy Grill, Robert Stehling sends out carefully handmade versions of myriad regional delicacies, like okra and shrimp beignets, shad roe...

Whenever I visit Charleston, I have seen the burgeoning of dining opportunities ... new ones appear on each successive visit ...

Will Charleston rival New Orleans? Read this article ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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In its heyday New Orleans had a greater number of joint cafes, unpretentious diners and fish houses that served great food but were lacking on amenities. Charleston has but a handful of places like that and Bowen's Island Oyster House is a 45 minute drive from Charleston proper. There is maybe 3 or 4 world class white table cloth restaurants in Charleston but another 2 dozen great regional restaurants. New Orleans had an enormous list of memorable dining opportunities......For a city of its size Charleston certainly can compare favorably to New Orleans but if one drives an hour away from Charleston (West) the food gets very bland very quickly. Not so in south Louisiana! If one stays along the Atlantic coast there are more oportunities for memorable food because that's where the high dollar tourism is.

Charleston is certainly cleaner, safer and more well mannered than New Orleans could have ever hoped for.

And if one were to compare their respective reactions to devastating hurricanes (Hugo vs Katrina) Charleston again comes out on top...way on top! Pity that no one in a position of responsibility in N.O. was able to take a look at Charleston's response to Hugo and learn :(

John Malik

Chef/Owner

33 Liberty Restaurant

Greenville, SC

www.33liberty.com

Customer at the carving station: "Pardon me but is that roast beef rare?"

Apprentice Cook Malik: "No sir! There's plenty more in the kitchen!"

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I  New Orleans had an enormous list of memorable dining opportunities......

Thanks for these comments.

New Orleans, right now, today, is still, easily, one of the three most eating cities in the country. Period. What we are missing and will be for a while, are many of the neighborhood joints that were so prevelent here. Slowly, even some of them are coming back. When the insurance companies pay, and things get fixed, people will move back and those corner door groceries will open back up. Sure as rain and hurricanes.

Charleston is certainly cleaner, safer and more well mannered than New Orleans could have ever hoped for.

The cleaner part could not be more true. It wasn't spotless before the storm, and now it's just a mess.

Safer? I'd be willing to bet, without checking, that for the last 6 months we are the safest American city of our size. Dude, we have the NOPD, The Orleans Parish Sherriff's Dept, The INS, The National Guard, elements of the 82nd Airborne, The regular Army, the Coast Guard, and Lord knows who else patrolling out streets, rivers, and airspace. This is a cop shop like no other in the country-and we have waaay better doughnuts and coffee than they would get in Charleston.

Well mannered? Better mannered? Have you ever spent any time here? I'm sure that the people in Charleston are very nice and all, but that is pretty much a generalization that I, and dare I say many, completely disagree with. Our manners, our ways, our customs, may be different that EVERYONE ELSE'S in the world, but they are nothing if not friendly and welcoming.

Pity that no one in a position of responsibility in N.O. was able to take a look at Charleston's response to Hugo and learn :(

We have more houses out of commission than Charleston even has houses. Right now there are, just in New Orleans and the immediate surrounding parishes, roughly 185,000 uninhabitable houses. And the Gulf Coast between Lake Charles and Mobile is not in much better shape, in some parts worse. This has nothing, nothing at all to do with inept politicians or anything else. This is completely related to really bad weather, poorly build levees, and slow paying insurance companies. I ask you, did the power company declare bankruptcy after Hugo? Did you have TWO Hugos in three weeks? Were any of the houses in Charleston underwater for 5 weeks? Does Charleston STILL have dead people in houses around town?

I think not. I'm sure that the politics are all squeaky clean over there, and that life is rosy, but the magnitude of the situation here is just a bit different and the comparison is not valid. You should come here and have a look. Everyone who is going to even comment on the situation should. The tune you are singing will change suddenly and dramatically with just one hour in the car with me. Give me a call. As a friendly and welcoming native I will be happy to drive you around and then take you to someone's house, whom you have never met, and who will welcome you with style and grace, and feed you as well as you are going to be fed anywhere in this country. We've been doing it for months. I look forward to seeing you.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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While I think that you, John and Brooks, are both correct on your analyses of the restaurant scene in your respective cities, I have watched the growth of Charleston's food industry (so to speak) and have noted with great delight that Charleston is coming up ... newer fine dining opportunities have made Charleston's tourist (and locals) pay greater attention to what is on their plates.

In the case of New Orleans, there really needs to be nothing competitive .. they are and have been for some long time, a tourist magnet for anyone who knows their food ...

"The seeds have been here for a long time," said John T. Edge, "and now they're sprouting, at the most opportune moment." Frank Stitt agreed that "Charleston is poised to take its place alongside New Orleans, and the process won't take long."

Ideally, the comparisons made by R.W. Apple here, are not so much a "who is doing this better?" so much as a call to watch Charleston's growing sophistication and style ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I  New Orleans had an enormous list of memorable dining opportunities......

Thanks for these comments.

New Orleans, right now, today, is still, easily, one of the three most eating cities in the country. Period. What we are missing and will be for a while, are many of the neighborhood joints that were so prevelent here. Slowly, even some of them are coming back. When the insurance companies pay, and things get fixed, people will move back and those corner door groceries will open back up. Sure as rain and hurricanes.

Charleston is certainly cleaner, safer and more well mannered than New Orleans could have ever hoped for.

The cleaner part could not be more true. It wasn't spotless before the storm, and now it's just a mess.

Safer? I'd be willing to bet, without checking, that for the last 6 months we are the safest American city of our size. Dude, we have the NOPD, The Orleans Parish Sherriff's Dept, The INS, The National Guard, elements of the 82nd Airborne, The regular Army, the Coast Guard, and Lord knows who else patrolling out streets, rivers, and airspace. This is a cop shop like no other in the country-and we have waaay better doughnuts and coffee than they would get in Charleston.

Well mannered? Better mannered? Have you ever spent any time here? I'm sure that the people in Charleston are very nice and all, but that is pretty much a generalization that I, and dare I say many, completely disagree with. Our manners, our ways, our customs, may be different that EVERYONE ELSE'S in the world, but they are nothing if not friendly and welcoming.

Pity that no one in a position of responsibility in N.O. was able to take a look at Charleston's response to Hugo and learn :(

We have more houses out of commission than Charleston even has houses. Right now there are, just in New Orleans and the immediate surrounding parishes, roughly 185,000 uninhabitable houses. And the Gulf Coast between Lake Charles and Mobile is not in much better shape, in some parts worse. This has nothing, nothing at all to do with inept politicians or anything else. This is completely related to really bad weather, poorly build levees, and slow paying insurance companies. I ask you, did the power company declare bankruptcy after Hugo? Did you have TWO Hugos in three weeks? Were any of the houses in Charleston underwater for 5 weeks? Does Charleston STILL have dead people in houses around town?

I think not. I'm sure that the politics are all squeaky clean over there, and that life is rosy, but the magnitude of the situation here is just a bit different and the comparison is not valid. You should come here and have a look. Everyone who is going to even comment on the situation should. The tune you are singing will change suddenly and dramatically with just one hour in the car with me. Give me a call. As a friendly and welcoming native I will be happy to drive you around and then take you to someone's house, whom you have never met, and who will welcome you with style and grace, and feed you as well as you are going to be fed anywhere in this country. We've been doing it for months. I look forward to seeing you.

Sorry to get you upset Brooks but I know of what I speak.....

Born at Hotel Dieu Hospital, grew up in LaPlace, High School in Destrehan, field trips to the Audobon Zoo, Boy Scout trips to the old Indian mounds in Chalmette, hunted Alligator in the spillway, learned to ski in Ponchartrain, fished in Lake Des Allemandes, hunted ducks in Maurepas, SLU Grad, Delgado Culinary Grad, cooked at Christian's, Eiffel Tower, the old Andrew Jackson in the quarter and Brother's Po-Boys in Hammond. I even appeared on Tom Fitzmorris' radio show. My father was intimately involved in politics, law and the legal system in New Orleans and the surrounding area.

We rode out Betsy, Camille and later Hugo and saw the good and the bad. For many years I marvelled at the city corruption (especially contemptable was the corruption within the levee boards of Orleans & Jefferson Parish). The corruption is nothing new, it goes back way past Sidney Barthalemew, Moon Landrieu, Chet Morrison even past Huey.

I still have plenty of family and friends in N.O., Metairie, Hammond and LaPlace and have been back twice since Katrina. I still get tears in my eyes when I think about institutions like Angelo Brocatto's, Liuzza's and that Roman Candy guy. Will they come back?

I did get off the topic a bit (I apologize) because the article was not about what city is more organized, able or tourist worthy. R.W. was making the point that New Orleans has temporarily lost its appeal and with it the high dolalr tourist interested in significant food. CHarleston is a growing food city with a certain charm and appeal and would be even if N.O were still in the picture. New Orleans will soon regain its composure, its livelihood and its tourists but this herculean task will not be done by the City, State or Federal Governments...it will be done by proud, hardworking never-say-die Louisiana Men (& Women) like yourself.

I'll make a deal with you. If you want to fuss at me some more let's just PM one another instead of going public.

John Malik

Chef/Owner

33 Liberty Restaurant

Greenville, SC

www.33liberty.com

Customer at the carving station: "Pardon me but is that roast beef rare?"

Apprentice Cook Malik: "No sir! There's plenty more in the kitchen!"

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I  New Orleans had an enormous list of memorable dining opportunities......

Thanks for these comments.

New Orleans, right now, today, is still, easily, one of the three most eating cities in the country. Period. What we are missing and will be for a while, are many of the neighborhood joints that were so prevelent here. Slowly, even some of them are coming back. When the insurance companies pay, and things get fixed, people will move back and those corner door groceries will open back up. Sure as rain and hurricanes.

Charleston is certainly cleaner, safer and more well mannered than New Orleans could have ever hoped for.

The cleaner part could not be more true. It wasn't spotless before the storm, and now it's just a mess.

Safer? I'd be willing to bet, without checking, that for the last 6 months we are the safest American city of our size. Dude, we have the NOPD, The Orleans Parish Sherriff's Dept, The INS, The National Guard, elements of the 82nd Airborne, The regular Army, the Coast Guard, and Lord knows who else patrolling out streets, rivers, and airspace. This is a cop shop like no other in the country-and we have waaay better doughnuts and coffee than they would get in Charleston.

Well mannered? Better mannered? Have you ever spent any time here? I'm sure that the people in Charleston are very nice and all, but that is pretty much a generalization that I, and dare I say many, completely disagree with. Our manners, our ways, our customs, may be different that EVERYONE ELSE'S in the world, but they are nothing if not friendly and welcoming.

Pity that no one in a position of responsibility in N.O. was able to take a look at Charleston's response to Hugo and learn :(

We have more houses out of commission than Charleston even has houses. Right now there are, just in New Orleans and the immediate surrounding parishes, roughly 185,000 uninhabitable houses. And the Gulf Coast between Lake Charles and Mobile is not in much better shape, in some parts worse. This has nothing, nothing at all to do with inept politicians or anything else. This is completely related to really bad weather, poorly build levees, and slow paying insurance companies. I ask you, did the power company declare bankruptcy after Hugo? Did you have TWO Hugos in three weeks? Were any of the houses in Charleston underwater for 5 weeks? Does Charleston STILL have dead people in houses around town?

I think not. I'm sure that the politics are all squeaky clean over there, and that life is rosy, but the magnitude of the situation here is just a bit different and the comparison is not valid. You should come here and have a look. Everyone who is going to even comment on the situation should. The tune you are singing will change suddenly and dramatically with just one hour in the car with me. Give me a call. As a friendly and welcoming native I will be happy to drive you around and then take you to someone's house, whom you have never met, and who will welcome you with style and grace, and feed you as well as you are going to be fed anywhere in this country. We've been doing it for months. I look forward to seeing you.

Sorry to get you upset Brooks but I know of what I speak.....

Born at Hotel Dieu Hospital, grew up in LaPlace, High School in Destrehan, field trips to the Audobon Zoo, Boy Scout trips to the old Indian mounds in Chalmette, hunted Alligator in the spillway, learned to ski in Ponchartrain, fished in Lake Des Allemandes, hunted ducks in Maurepas, SLU Grad, Delgado Culinary Grad, cooked at Christian's, Eiffel Tower, the old Andrew Jackson in the quarter and Brother's Po-Boys in Hammond. I even appeared on Tom Fitzmorris' radio show. My father was intimately involved in politics, law and the legal system in New Orleans and the surrounding area.

We rode out Betsy, Camille and later Hugo and saw the good and the bad. For many years I marvelled at the city corruption (especially contemptable was the corruption within the levee boards of Orleans & Jefferson Parish). The corruption is nothing new, it goes back way past Sidney Barthalemew, Moon Landrieu, Chet Morrison even past Huey.

I still have plenty of family and friends in N.O., Metairie, Hammond and LaPlace and have been back twice since Katrina. I still get tears in my eyes when I think about institutions like Angelo Brocatto's, Liuzza's and that Roman Candy guy. Will they come back?

I did get off the topic a bit (I apologize) because the article was not about what city is more organized, able or tourist worthy. R.W. was making the point that New Orleans has temporarily lost its appeal and with it the high dolalr tourist interested in significant food. CHarleston is a growing food city with a certain charm and appeal and would be even if N.O were still in the picture. New Orleans will soon regain its composure, its livelihood and its tourists but this herculean task will not be done by the City, State or Federal Governments...it will be done by proud, hardworking never-say-die Louisiana Men (& Women) like yourself.

I'll make a deal with you. If you want to fuss at me some more let's just PM one another instead of going public.

I will take it to pm, and I wasn't even particularly upset (I've heard it all in the last 6 months and believe me, that was a mild response, tempered even).

But I do believe that a quick check of your high dollar chef buddies will reveal that the business that they can do, given the giant lack of employees, is good, very good. It's weird, it's different, and it's not like it was last year at this time, but it's business.

And part of this place will be fine, particularly the part that comes from what most people consider as reasons to come here in the first place-the part that won't be is being slowed by many things, not the least of which are the many faults that you reference. I'm not saying that you aren't right, just that in that one respect, fine dining, this is still a hell of a place to get something exceptional to eat. What's lacking is someone to wash your dishes when you are done with your meal and somewhere for your dishwasher to sleep or take HIS family to eat. That, my friend, is what's lacking now and what may be lacking for a very long time. Maybe forever. It's damned sad.

And the Roman Candy guy? He's good. Liuzza's? Good. Brocato's? Lots of us are trying to help. Hopefully they will decide that it's worth it. Hell, I can name two women in their 80's who decided that, so I can't imaging that the Brocatos won't.

No malice intended. Just a thick skin with an amazingly deep sense on anger, humor, and humility-all of which can be displayed on a moments notice, often at the same time. It's like that here. I've seen people cry while banking or making groceries, I've seen them laugh at things that are so innapropriate to laugh at, so wrong, that anyone from anywhere else would think that there was something horribly warped and bad about the person doing the laughing, and I have seen, really, things that will, forever, make me believe that people are good and that if you just spend some time looking at things in the right light, everything is going to be great. It just takes a very special light. Fortunately, it shines here more often than not. Otherwise, there would be a steady stream of bodies going over the side of the Huey P. It's pretty ugly here, at first glance. You have to do some thinking to see anything that even looks close to a bright side. Deep thinking. There are lots of reasons to leave and few to stay. For me, however, the reasons to stay outweigh the reasons to leave by quite a bit.

And for the record, I have had a very long conversation with RW Apple since Katrina and I know what his thoughts were in late October and it has been interesting to see how they have developed. He and Betsy love this place. They'll be back soon, I'll wager.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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"Tastes great!" "Less Filling!"

Poor Johnny Apple, just trying to find a fresh angle to justify going down to the Charleston Food & Wine boondoggle and he ends up stiring up a firestorm with New Orleans and its boosters

New Orleans may not be Charleston and Hugo may have in fact been different than Katrina + the other one, but I think Cynical Chef (and Johnny Apple) may be on to something that Charleston is the only other city in America that has the same allure as N.O....on any scale...sorry Baton Rouge. They're port cities with history, charm, style, and a sense of uniqueness...that are really humid too often too.

I think the Holy City and New Orleans also have something in common in that the rest of the state (and CC might be able to back up here as an honorary Greenvilian) in that they seem a little detached from the rest of the terrior. The big cosmopolitan city and the provinces, so to speak, in each venue, never seem entirely sure what to do with the other.

Thought the Times piece did a good job for a big city Yankee paper whose last article on Charleston was on what absentee vacation homeowners needed to know in order to avoid unnecessary real estate costs. Shout outs to Hominy Grill are always on point, and not dwelling on the already established joints (Penninsula, McCrady's, etc.) was a good move...

Moreover on a sociological level the phenomenon Apple describes in passing of classic Charleston chefs leaving for the provinces (Louis Osteen to Pawley's Island) is intriguing to me. Are guys like Louis (native SC-inians) being displaced by ueber chefs who do Southwestern flavored cooking with SC ingredients? I tend to think that's not the case and John T's right that the South is always changing, and developing new culinary interests...and that's great, but Apple does seem to at least hint at it in the article.

Also, did he leave out any noted spots? I'm glad Gullah Cuisine and SeeWee Diner get noticed since they're great and honest Charlestonian places...nothing of Anchor Line or The Wreck of Richard and Charlene, or Sully's?

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
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I would never make the Charleston - New Orleans connection, to compare Charleston and Savannah is where I would go, Small southern city, very cute, lots of history and great B&B's. Foodwise, more traditional old South.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Comparing Charleston to New Orleans is like the proverbial argument about apples and oranges. Not to malign Charleston's food in any respect but Ch'ton is one of the world's great, gracious cities; "where the Cooper and the Ashley Rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean". New Orleans, on the other hand, is "The Big Easy" where "the good times roll". I mean just think about the differences-- Charleston has Spoleto and New Orleans has Mardi Gras.

Charleston has some great food but just does not have the different back grounds that made--and make--New Orleans New Orleans. I do not think I have ever heard any one say, "I make New Orleans food w/a South western influence".

Both are great cities w/ great culinary back grounds and wonderful history and are a delight to visit for various reasons but I really do not think you can make serious comparisons between the two. My prediction is that over the next few months and may be even years we will be reading articles by food writers/pundits/&c describing their "amazing food finds" and discoveries--Savannah, St. Augustine, Baltimore, &c--places that were virtually ignored in the past but are now in the forefront simply b/c they either do not wish to visit or think their readers will not go to New Orleans.

Edited by Lan4Dawg (log)

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Does anyone know the status of Ultimate Restaurant on St. Helena Island..used to be owned by a very cool fellow named Jesse Gantt. I am going to do some Low Country touring (meaning - stuffing myself) and want to know the must not miss places.

Please feel free to tell me if I'm in the wrong place for this.

Thanks.

Bob :wub:

"Gentlemen: Madame Dodin-Bouffant."

So, when there is the slightest doubt, Marry the Cook!

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Hi Probono,

Is this the place?information source is here

Ultimate Eating

Phone: (843) 838-1314

Fax: (843) 838-2998 PO Box 849

St. Helena Island, SC 29920 

Serving three meals a day of lowcountry and gullah cooking.

Soul of America    gullah information

Thanks, Melissa.

I heard Jesse sold the place and wasn't sure it was still open.

Thanks very much for the information.

Bob

"Gentlemen: Madame Dodin-Bouffant."

So, when there is the slightest doubt, Marry the Cook!

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