TV Host Chuck Hughes Likes Charleston, Plain and Simple

If Chuck Hughes, host of Cooking Channel’s Chuck’s Eat the Street, had his druthers, an upcoming episode focused on King Street would have dedicated a segment to The Ordinary.

www.dominiquelafond.comThe filming marked Hughes’ first visit to Charleston, and he chose Mike Lata’s newest restaurant — recently named one of the South’s best new restaurants by Southern Living – for his maiden meal. “Looking at the restaurant, I didn’t think it could be as good as I thought it was going to be,” he recalls. The restaurant surpassed his expectations, but since the shooting schedule couldn’t be adjusted, the Charleston-themed show doesn’t feature any Ordinary footage.

Still, Hughes found plenty to prepare and eat on air, including frogmore stew at Charleston Grill; a chorizo sandwich at Butcher & Bee; goat cheese doughnuts at Glazed and soft-shell crabs at The Grocery. Continue reading

Charleston to Wait a Few More Days For Lebanese Cooking (And, Possibly, Armenian Singing)

Leyla will not open this weekend, as previously announced, but the downtown Lebanese restaurant is aiming to have its doors open by Wednesday.

“I was hoping,” says owner Dolly Awkar, a first-time restaurateur who switched from selling rugs to hawking hummus because her accent prompted so many customers to ask where they could find food from her native country. “I did my best.”

The Labor Day holiday delayed the issuance of a certificate of occupancy; Leyla is scheduled for city inspection on Tuesday.

Awkar and her husband, Joseph, have spent much of the last month training servers, many of whom have no previous experience with Middle Eastern cookery, and tasting dishes created by chef Vatche Meguerdichian. Meguerdichian previously helmed Los Angeles’ Alcazar, named one of the city’s 99 essential restaurants in 2011 by critic Jonathan Gold. Continue reading

Callie’s New RV Needs a Name

calliervHot on the wheels of Limehouse Produce’s photograph-our-truck promotion comes another contest involving an oversized vehicle, this one sponsored by Callie’s Biscuits.

In conjunction with the fall release of owner Carrie Morey’s book, Callie’s Biscuits and Southern Traditions: Heirloom Recipes From Our Family Kitchen, the bakery recently purchased a used Coachman RV. While the company’s taking care of the clean-up, it’s looking to customers to supply the perfect name for the promotional vehicle.

The person who provides the best name will receive four dozen biscuits, delivered by the RV. To enter, post your suggestion in the comments section of Callie’s Biscuits’ blog.

James Beard Foundation’s Local Dish Challenge Returns

TasteAmericaKickOff-027With a single dish order, Charleston eaters this fall can support the work of two charitable organizations.

During the annual James Beard Foundation Taste America Local Dish Challenge, which runs from Sept. 1-Oct. 31, the foundation’s education department will collect $1 for every featured dish sold at one of 11 area restaurants. Additionally, diners are being asked to Instagram the JBF dish with the hashtags #JBFTasteAmerican and #Charleston. The city which produces the most Instagram images will receive the greater of $10,000 or 10 percent of the money raised nationally.

The money’s earmarked for a cause selected by participating chefs; In Charleston, Feed the Need’s been selected as the potential recipient.

Restaurants in 35 states and the District of Columbia are joining the effort. Locally, the line-up includes Fish, O-Ku, Cypress, Fleet Landing Restaurant, Indaco, Oak Steakhouse, Poogan’s Porch, Ruka’s Table, The Grocery, The Macintosh, Tristan and Wild Olive.

For more information, visit the foundation’s website.

Homemade Whole Grain Flour Classes Offered at Stono Market



Fans of fresh-ground grain swear the homemade flour is lighter, tastier, cheaper and more nutritious than its store-bought counterpart. But for cooks who are still skeptical about grinding their own grains, Stono Market is offering a pair of free tutorials.

“Making Bread From Freshly Ground Grains,” led by Monica Killen, will be offered at the John’s Island shop on Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. and Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. The class will cover purchasing, processing and preparing whole grains, as well as “tons of other info,” Stono’s Babs Ambrose says.

Class size is capped at 15 people. To register, call 559-9999 or e-mail Ambrose at

Edward Lee Brings Smoke and Pickles to Charleston This Week

edlee2It’ll cost $60 to watch Edward Lee demonstrate recipes at Le Creuset headquarters this Thursday, but the Kentucky chef’s planning to sign books for free.

Lee, while probably still best known beyond epicurean circles as a former Top Chef contender, is the author of Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen. He’ll cook from the book, which blends Korean folk traditions with classical technique, at a 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Guest Chef Series event at Le Creuset Atelier at Ripley Point; the admission price includes a copy of Smoke & Pickles. Online reservations are required.

On Friday, Lee will stop by the Le Creuset store at 241 King St. for a 5 p.m.-6 p.m. book signing. No reservations required.

Code Concerns Didn’t Force Jestine’s Kitchen to Close

jestintJestine’s Kitchen was not facing any citations for building code violations prior to its sudden closure, a city spokeswoman today confirmed.

According to Charleston spokeswoman Barbara Vaughn, none of the city’s departments charged with code enforcement were involved with the downtown restaurant when it abruptly shut down last Thursday afternoon. The timing of the closure and reference to “renovations” on the restaurant’s outgoing voice mail message had led some patrons to speculate that the 1949 building had failed inspection.

Although Strange still hasn’t contacted the Post & Courier, she yesterday told WCSC’s  Raphael James that she’d decided to close the restaurant so she could redo the kitchen floor and plumbing. Asked whether the decision was sudden, she said, “I’m a woman.” Whether the comment was made in earnest or jest wasn’t clear from the report.

Picturing a Clearer Understanding of Lowcountry Rice Culture

lesliefront“We’re not taking sides, we’re just trying to help our younger people get an understanding of Southern culture,” artist Jonathan Green says, explaining why the Lowcountry Rice Culture Project is working to disseminate a clearer picture of the region during its rice production heyday. The group this September is sponsoring a three-day forum intended partly to speed the flow of factual information.

According to Green, who chairs the group, the experience of enslaved laborers in particular has been obscured by artists’ inaccurate depictions of plantation life.

Green’s contention is dramatically illustrated by two images in the Charleston Library Society’s collection. The library has extensive holdings related to rice, including 15 wordy nineteenth-century pamphlets outlining the cultivation, harvest and use of rice around the world. The pamphlets also feature cooking advice, such as the “Griddles for Breakfast” recipe from RFW Allston’s 1845 Memoir on the Production and Cultivation of Rice. (“Mix a thin batter with milk and rice flour, adding salt.”) But as an artist, Green is drawn to the archive’s illustrations. Continue reading

Next SC Aquarium Sustainable Seafood Dinner Plays it Safe

ralph and jenny

ralph and jenny

The fish and shellfish on the menu for the next South Carolina Aquarium Sustainable Seafood Dinner are so common that many eaters might not even associate them with healthy oceans: Jonathan Banta of The Atlantic Room at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island is serving Carolina trout, flounder, mussels, clams, shrimp and scallops.

While the upshot of Banta’s approachable five-course, Spanish-themed menu is it gently reminds consumers of which favorites pass muster with sustainable seafood advocates, it fails to take into account the diversification that now represents the forefront of responsible eating.

“The most important thing is diversity,” sustainable seafood champion and chef Rick Moonen this spring told the Las Vegas Weekly. “There’s millions upon millions of species of fish in the ocean. Edible protein—delicious. And we’re the top predators, so we just want a select few that we deem to be delicious. We just haven’t been exposed to the other species of fish that are absolutely very delicious. I don’t want to just cook salmon, tuna, bass. I’m done with that.” Continue reading

Southern Season Touts Daily Deals

sscoffeeGourmet retailer Southern Season today announced its daily promotion schedule for its new Mt. Pleasant location, set to open on Thursday, Sept. 5.

From Monday, Sept. 9 through Thursday, Sept. 19, the store’s marking Mondays by serving up a free scone with the purchase of a large cup of coffee. On Tuesdays, orders placed by the end-of-day Monday will be delivered via courier to Charleston area addresses, free of charge. Wednesdays are free gift wrap days, and Thursday customers can get three deli sides for the price of two.

The grand opening celebration concludes with a Sunday, Sept. 22 bonanza featuring a Moon Pie-eating contest; a blindfolded jellybean flavor identification competition; a $10 lowcountry boil and a scavenger hunt for kids. If what you’re seeking is more information about the festivities, you’ll find it on Southern Season’s website.