Chasing Down Calabash’s Correct Definition

seafoodhut

Seafood Hut, Calabash, N.C.

I first encountered calabash in western North Carolina. I worked part-time in politics, and so split my time between Calabash houses and barbecue joints. The prevalence of deviled crabs in the mountains is astounding.

But Calabash’s dominion apparently reaches much further west than south. When I mentioned to a friend here that I’d probably manage a Calabash supper on a Myrtle Beach outing, she didn’t have a clue what I meant (Hold your outrage: She’s only lived here a few years, and the southernmost Calabash restaurant I can find in South Carolina is in Surfside Beach.)

As I tried to explain it to her, I realized I wasn’t entirely sure either. Is the Calabash style characterized by its seasoning? The makeup of its breading? Or the oil in which it’s fried? I figured if I couldn’t win every miniature golf game in Myrtle, I could at least use the trip to quell my Calabash curiosity. Continue reading

Where to Taste 2014 Food Trends

ultrakml

ultrakml

A few seasons back, Mad Men aired a scene of a focus group behind a two-way mirror: Asked to describe their dogs’ temperaments, the participants choose adjectives like “very smart” and “independent.” “My God,” one of the ad men marvels, “they’re describing themselves.”

When food writers are asked to predict the coming year’s culinary trends, they invariably fall into a similar trap, describing their wishes instead of what’s true. Optimistic prognostications aside, there’s very little chance that briny bee larvae, freekah and Midwestern cooking will sweep the nation in 2014 (for the record, I’m pro-all of the above.)

But a few more realistic predictions have surfaced on a number of 2014 trend lists. Fortunately, since Charleston tends to incubate trends instead of respond to them, you can already experience a number of the foods readying for the spotlight. Here, five up-and-comers, and where to find them right now: Continue reading

Unsolicited Advice for Seeking Local Restaurant Advice

foilman

foilman

Lest the following sound petulant, I want to emphasize at the outset how much I enjoy responding to reader requests for restaurant recommendations. As my grandmother might say, I don’t eat eight burgers a week for my health. The fun of exploring the local food scene is sharing what I find: I love trading tips with residents and helping visitors plot their Charleston dining adventures.

But it’s astounding how many e-mails don’t provide any details about what the writer’s seeking. “You probably get questions like this a lot, but it looks like there are many great restaurants in Charleston,” a correspondent wrote this morning. “Can you recommend any that would be within walking distance of the Embassy Suites near Marion Square?”

According to a downtown Charleston restaurant map I picked up at Tales of the Cocktail this summer, that narrows the choices down to about 107 eating places. I consider many of them pretty great, but I have no idea whether the writer and I have the same definition of greatness. He sounded like an awfully nice guy, so I’d hate to steer him wrong.

By contrast, another future visitor last week sent me his tentative dining agenda, along with the following guidelines for additional ideas: Continue reading

Gone Fishin’, Foragin’ and Huntin’

cir3

Anton Sucksdorff

“You think you know your pomegranate arils?,” a promotional postcard from a Produce Marketing Association convention vendor teased.

Well, no. (Turns out arils are the good part of the fruit: I always mistakenly called them seeds.) So I’m now headed to the PMA convention in New Orleans to advance my plant education: Stay tuned to my Twitter feed if you want to keep up with what I’m learning.

Immediately after the convention, I’m embedding with the Cook It Raw gang, which means the blog may look sparser-than-usual again next week. Again, I hope you’ll turn to Twitter. And to learn more about the event, don’t miss my feature in Monday’s paper.

Alright, I’m off to eat arils and hang out with gun-toting chefs. See you soon.

Review Star Ratings Defined

Readers will always debate whether critics got a restaurant’s star rating right, but we’re hoping to help ground those discussions by providing a better sense of what the stars mean to us.

A box defining our rating criteria will now run with every Post & Courier restaurant review. Eagle-eyed readers will notice the definitions have been very slightly tweaked to reflect the diversity of the local dining scene. Like most contemporary newspaper dining sections, we’ve removed any allusions to fine dining standards from our criteria: Nowadays, a restaurant can deliver a five-star wow without ever unfolding a white tablecloth.

Additionally, it’s Post & Courier policy to always award at least one star. Should you choose to dine at a one-star restaurant, Godspeed. Continue reading

Who’s Raskin Anyhow?

scragz

scragz

Features editor Teresa Taylor was kind enough to conduct a very comprehensive Q-and-A session with me, so you’ll find more than you ever needed to know about me in today’s food section: I’d wager I’ve taken road trips with folks who couldn’t tell you what my mother served for Thursday suppers (taco salad) or my primary form of transportation (a 2009 Trek Soho.) What the column doesn’t include, though, is a picture of me.

Via Twitter, we immediately heard back from a reader who wondered why. Since I made a point of stressing openness and transparency in my responses, he wrote, why not put my picture out for all to see? It’s a legitimate question, and one which deserves more than a 140-character answer.

It’s a truism today that there’s no such thing as anonymity. Eater’s published my photo so many times that when I’m meeting someone for the first time, I spare them the descriptions of my hair color and height, suggesting they just pull up my picture on Google beforehand. If anonymous means nobody knows what I look like, I haven’t been anonymous for years – and neither has any other critic of note. Continue reading