Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Greenville Cooking - New Styles of Traditional Dishes

Shaun Garcia – The Past Meets the Future

by Lynne Brandon

Greenville – S.C. As a small boy, Shaun Garcia thought working in a kitchen was boring. As a man he learned serving good food was about hospitality and taking care of people. Like many in the restaurant business, the Chef de Cuisine at Soby’s and The Loft at Soby’s, Shaun learned to cook from family. Shaun learned about the lost art of canning or “putting up,” at the hands of his great-grandmother and grandmother who pickled and preserved food in the great tradition of the South. He recalled asking his grandmother for advice with making pear preserves,” said Garcia. “She said she would be right over to show me. It couldn’t be described over the phone.” Now he ascribes to the same philosophy. “You have to experience food by smelling it, feeling it, tasting it and seeing it.”

Shaun breaks from tradition when it comes to sharing recipes. “It is the greatest compliment so I pass them on if someone asks,” said Garcia. I took him up on that, and he was happy to share the recipe for the creamiest, smoothest grits I have tasted.

The Southern chef is proud of his heritage and likes to cook up a little history lesson with his food. Bourbon is a celebrated libation in his sauces and was highlighted during Derby week in a mint julep BBQ sauce, Bourbon sauce for smoked shoulders, Bourbon Chocolate Cake and other recipes. “Bourbon shows America’s spirit at its best,” said Shaun. “Farmer’s grow and cut the corn and use oak barrels for storage. It has America all over it.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Friends at the Cove

Breaking Breaking Together Builds Community

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” - Virginia Woolf

Anderson, S.C. - "If I sound funny, it is because I am harvesting lettuce," said the voice at the other end of the phone. Katie Tillman is a multi-tasker and picked greens while she talked to me about her love of farming, friends and food.

When Tillman opened her restaurant in downtown Anderson, it was made up of a handful of “greasy spoon” joints and mom and pop establishments. Tillman worked in downtown development and saw the need for a new breed of eatery. When she couldn’t recruit what she was looking for, she decided to do it herself. She opened “Friends” with Valerie Lowe, and for 17 years it was a popular mainstay in downtown Anderson.

The renovation was done on shoe string budget. “When we opened, we did not have much money, we had to beg our contractor to allow us to do some of the work, as we could not afford to pay him,” said Tillman. “About 5 or 6 p.m. every night, friends began showing up to help us. They brought food, beer, other friends, and almost every night there were 15 to 20 folks working with us to get things done.” At this point it was clear to Tillman that the venture was about way more than food. She is quick to remind that the restaurant had the name "Friends" well before the popular television show.

During the “Friends” years, the two grew some of their own produce and inch by inch a garden turned into a 30-acre farm. All good things must come to and end and a few years ago the duo was ready for change. They sold the building downtown, built a mobile kitchen, and decided to cater from the farm.

Their longtime success story got the attention of the folks at Stone Creek Cove. Management asked Tillman and Lowe to run their restaurant, hence the new “Friends at the Cove,” located on beautiful Lake Hartwell. Signature entrees include Katie’s Crab Cakes made with fresh jumbo lump crab, Southern Style Shrimp and Grits and Cajun Duck Breast served with bleu cheese and mango chutney. Unique vegetable dishes such as Flash Fried Greens are popular.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Goats Galore

TLC Makes Champion Cheese

By Lynne Brandon

Anderson, S.C. Goats are used to being misunderstood but the misperceptions are changing. For one, goats don’t eat tin cans or smell bad, as a rule. And, they are friendly and like people. None are friendlier than the loveable four-legged creatures found on Split Creek Goat Farm in Anderson, South Carolina, home to 350 goats, most of which are of international descent.

Split Creek is the brainchild of Evin J. Evans and Patricia Bell, who started the business in 1985. Tucked into country back roads, the farm is dotted with log cabins, and a country store where goat dairy products are sold in a picturesque setting. Benches hewn out of logs litter the grounds for visitors and flowers abound creating a peaceful, harmonic place for animals and people to co-exist. The menagerie is not limited to goats but to chickens, a pig, cats, (one called Tripod since it is 3-legged) and dogs.

Dogs are next to highest hierarchy of importance at Split Creek where Border Collies herd the goats when needed and eight majestic white Great Pyrenees serve as guards against predators, namely coyotes. When not being milked, the goats are separated by gender and females according to milking production. Unlike many dairies, older does are not destroyed but are treated as respected seniors who have paid their dues. Instead, they are put out to pasture to enjoy the rest of their natural lives.

As for the main show, it is all about goats. And, award winning goats of all breeds: Golden Guernsey, Angora, Nubians and others fill the ranks. Color breeds like Alpine are de rigueur, and the only U.S. breed on the farm is the La Mancha. Quest, a champion Nubian, strutted her wares proudly on the day of my visit.