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.

Tillman uses local foods as much as possible but professes that she is not an “organic” fanatic. The farm does not use pesticides. Dairy products are local, including goat products, meat and cheese. The farm produces peaches, berries, pears, plums and even the exotic pomegranate which is a new experiment. Garden vegetables are in the mix, and hydroponic lettuce plants grown in water are sold as living plants.

Tillman says their recipe for success is simple. “We strive to be good stewards of the goodness that comes our way. We try really hard to make decisions based on "doing the right thing" and the money and support we need has always come.”

For more information about Friends at the Cove, go to

Flash Fried Greens

Beet tops (or any green, mustard, collard, etc)

Make sure greens are as dry as possible or grease can splatter and cause a burn.

Flash fry beet tops for a few seconds in hot oil in a deep fryer.

Remove as soon as greens change color (1-2 minutes). Drain well on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and grated Parmesan for a delicacy that is mouth-watering

Serve as side dish with any meat, other vegetables and home cooked bread slathered with local creamery butter for the perfect summer meal.

Zucchini Cakes

4 cups grates zucchini

¼ cup grated carrots

Dash Texas Pete

2 cloves fresh chopped garlic

Pinch of mixed Italian seasoning

1 sleeve saltine crackers crushed

1-2 cups of leftover rice cooled

2-4 tbs of mayonnaise (just enough to bind other ingredients)

1. Grate zucchini and carrots, add garlic, hot sauce and seasonings and mix well.

2. Add rice and part of the saltines and mix.

3. Add mayo to bind, adjust cracker and mayo proportions as necessary to make mixture that will hold together. Salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate for an hour or so if possible.

4. Spray bottom of a non stick pan, place scoop of mix in pan and flatten. Saute until golden brown, top with cooked tomato coulis and serve.

Cooked Tomato Coulis

5 tbs olive oil

1/3 cup finely chopped shallots

3 cloves of garlic crushed

2 lb plumb tomatoes quartered

Bouquet garnis made with thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and a lemon twist

1 tsp sugar or honey (optional)

2 tbs chopped basil, mint oregano or parsley (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in sauté pan, add shallots, garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes and garnis and simmer over low heat till all the moisture is gone, add sugar or honey if using.

3. Remove garnis and transfer sauce to a food processor and process until smooth.

4. Pour sauce in a clean pan, bring to a boil, remove from heat and season to taste. Add herbs if using.

5. Serve over zucchini cakes or any other meat or fish.

Shelf life 1 week in refrigerator, 3 months in freezer.

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