Thursday, June 2, 2011

Greenville Chefs Change the Culinary Landscape

Restaurants Offer New Twist on Old Favorites

Greenville, S.C. – Eating in Greenville used to involve visiting the local mom and pop joints or a chain restaurant that offered mediocre food. Now thanks to a new vision for the town, restaurants are chef owned and inspired, offering cuisine often found in larger cities. Three restaurants are serving up unique food experiences: a new gastropub, top shelf steak house and Mediterranean inspired eatery showcase the diversity of flavors that has put Greenville on the culinary map.

Nose Dive, a part of the Table 301 restaurant group, is one of the city’s newest food adventures in the gastropub category. At the hand of Executive Chef Rodney Freidank, also Corporate Chef at Soby’s, old favorites are being dressed up. Freidank was lured by the entrepreneurial vision of Carl Sobocinski and joined the Table 301 Group where he found his place in culinary heaven.

The creativity espoused by Nose Dive and the luxury of experimentation were balm to a cooking soul and magic started in the kitchen. “We get to create what we want; we are not held back,” said the long-time chef. “We make bratwurst from scratch, one of the restaurant group’s first hamburger, sandwiches with vine ripened tomatoes and a New England lobster roll, for starters.”

Freidank enjoys the total kitchen experience but admits to getting a special charge from braising meat. The self-described “big guy who likes to eat,” said, “I love to take a cut of meat and turn it into something beautifully delectable by searing it until golden brown and bringing out the flavor.”

Just a short distance away at Larkin’s on the River, patrons enjoy perhaps one of the most succulent steaks in the South. A sign that reads, “Aged steaks, fresh fish and old wine” sets the bar high as you walk in. Appetizers like the Bomb BLT made with maple bacon and Manchego cheese live up to its name as does the She Crab soup made with generous amounts of jumbo lump blue crab for a creamy, delectable start to the meal.

Certified Wine Specialist and General Manager Bruce Wise writes the diverse wine list that offers many varietals and even one labeled, “I will not drink bad wine.” Wise works closely with wine experts to put on successful wine pairing events and said that he hosts one of the largest beach music concert series on the east coast each summer to raise money for local charities.

Front and center at Larkin’s on the River are the exceptional fork-tender cuts of meat, dressed only with salt, pepper and olive oil. Seafood, lamb and other choices round out entrée choices. Side dishes such as sweet potatoes with cranberries, fresh asparagus and four-cheese macaroni are equally impressive. To finish the night, the Chocolate Volcano is the grand finale. The oozing lava that spills out of the chocolate mound mixes perfectly with vanilla ice cream for a sensation that is other worldly.

Finishing out the culinary triage, The Lazy Goat sits high on its perch above the Reedy River where exquisite Mediterranean themed food mixes with other global influences to present a laid-back vibe that is fun and casual. And, it dishes up seriously good food. One of the secrets behind the success is the culinary “girl power” of Chef de Cuisine, Vicky Moore; Sous Chef, Jennifer Basone; and General Manager, Aimee Maher. The three aspire to the “make it from scratch” philosophy, and it shows.

As to the girl power factor at the Lazy Goat, Vicky reflected, “Women in this field want to work for other women because it is a tough business. The hours are long, and a 12-hour day is often considered a short day.” Like all good things, the word spread and women started hopping on board the female run restaurant. Gender aside, the Lazy Goat operates on the same principles of all great restaurants by using as much local food as possible and changing the menu for each season.

For starters, try a meat/cheese board with Manchego cheese that hails from the La Mancha region of Spain. Vegetables like Romanesco Cauliflower are showcased with a new twist. Other crowd pleasers include the Moroccan Braised Lamb, Fried Goat Cheese, Fennel Sausage & Caramelized Onion Pizza, and more. For a cool, earthy presentation combing art with food, try the Lazy Seafood Paella served in a lava rock bowl.

Thanks to innovative chefs and the use of farm fresh foods Greenville has been elevated beyond a nice culinary experience; instead it is a dining destination.

Grilled Romanesco Cauliflower

1 head Romanesco cauliflower

Splash of lemon vinaigrette (lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper & honey to balance acidity)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 clove garlic, shaved

¼ piece shallot, shaved

¾ c. Gorgonzola, crumbled

4 slices Pancetta

Splash of truffle oil

Blanch and shock one head of Romanesco cauliflower, cut into 7 pieces. Thinly slice pancetta and render it on medium low heat until crisp. Toss cauliflower pieces in lemon vinaigrette, and salt and pepper and put on hot grill. Heat a sauté pan and add TBS olive oil. When oil is hot, add shaved shallot and sauté until golden brown. Add shaved garlic and sauté until golden brown. Add grilled cauliflower, gorgonzola and crispy Pancetta. Toss to combine. Remove from heat and plate. Drizzle truffle oil over top and serve.

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