Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Old Salts and Old Softies

I'll never forget the first time I had soft-shell crab. It was a late night at Pepper's Porch in Bluffton and the restaurant had just stopped serving food. We were having drinks with some of the boys from Bluffton Oyster Company and we were all starving. They suggested we head over to one of the shrimp boats where they'd fry up some seafood in the galley. You can't find seafood any fresher than right on a shrimp boat. The best part? It was soft-shell crab season. 

Soft-shell blue crab is a delicacy. These crabs are rare and the process for how they land on your plate is like a Lowcountry treasure hunt. Right now we are in the thick of soft-shell season and folks are saying the season this year could be as short as two weeks.

A couple times a year blue crabs go through a molting process where they lose their shells. Two days before they lose their shell, their back fin turns red around the edges. Lowcountry watermen refer to crabs during this stage as "red line peelers". Crabs caught during the red line stage are watched very carefully so they can be protected from each other after their shell is discarded. Larry Toomer, owner of the Bluffton Oyster Company, once told me that during soft-shell season he has to set his alarm so he can check on the crabs multiple times each night. Once the shell is completely lost these crabs are referred to as soft-shell crab. It's hard to believe these crabs can even make it to your kitchen. Soft-shell crabs will only last for a couple hours in water before their new shell hardens. 

Traditionally blue crabs are hard to eat because you have to pick all the meat out of the shell. During soft-shell season we are spoiled because you can just bite right into them. The best way to eat soft-shell crab is to fry it. In my book, it's the only way to go. This past Friday I had the opportunity to photograph a soft-shell sandwich where all the elements are just right. The Soft-Shell Crab Sandwich at the Palmetto Cafe is created by Chef Steven Manall. This sandwich is paired with a Dill Remoulade and fresh, local vegetables. 

Eating these crabs is truly fulfilling, not only because it's delicious (and it's delicious), but also because of all the hard work that goes into creating the dish. If you want to try this sandwich, you better hurry... the season won't last long this year!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Long Sunday Drive

Even with high gas prices, some days are just right for a long Sunday drive. Every so often we like to pack a cooler and hit the road. This photo was taken last Sunday when we headed out to the country on Wadmalaw Island. Right after we passed this sign we came up on a seafood market and some dogs sleeping in the middle of the road. It feels good to know that the folks down here are still taking things pretty slow. Where do you like to go exploring? 

Cherry Point Road, Wadmalaw Island, SC

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Shadowed Past

The works of Carew and Clay Rice are cherished treasures in the Lowcountry. Carew started cutting silhouettes in the early 1900's, recreating scenes from around the deep south. He passed this trait down to his grandson who now travels the country carrying on the art his grandfather taught him when he was just 6 years old. 

These intricate silhouettes, created by Carew in the 60's, are scenes that can still be found in Lowcountry today. The Bethel Presbyterian Church is easily spotted on a ride through downtown Walterboro; and the wrought iron cemetery gate at St. Michael's Episcopal Church is still in use and is likely one of the oldest pieces of wrought iron Charleston. 

Clay Rice has been cutting silhouettes for over forty years and is known for his successful children's books that feature his work. While traveling the country promoting his books, Clay creates silhouettes on-site for families at his book signings. I would love to catch one of these the next time he's in Charleston. 

Stars on the Water, featuring a shrimper with a cast net, is my favorite piece. I like that Clay's pieces are a little more wild. They remind me of the lowcountry that I know, perfectly imperfect and a little rough around the edges.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Authentic South

I can get down with any podcast that starts with the sound of a grandma frying okra. Tanner Latham, a travel writer and mulitmedia storyteller in Atlanta, has recently launched Authentic South, a podcast celebrating Southern culture. 

In the first podcast you hear from the likes of Tanner's Mawmaw, the Director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss, the former editor-in-chief of Southern Living magazine and a pair of chefs whose Southern-Korean fusion dishes are served at their Atlanta BBQ joint. 

Listening to these characters and their ramblings on the South makes me want to grab a tape recorder and head straight to my grandparents house in Statesboro, Georgia. This Christmas my grandfather told me about his first job pickin' cotton, his first speeding ticket in a town called Ellabell, and the 450 Vidalia onions plants he just put in the ground. I would pay money to have a recording of these stories. What Southernisms would you preserve if you could travel the South with a tape recorder?

Authentic South

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Island Hopping

This week has been pretty crazy and the recent events around the country have been a reminder to seek out more quiet moments. In celebration of Mitch's birthday, I took yesterday off and we went to Edisto to do some fishing and island hopping. We headed down early and spent more than 6 hours on the river before seeing another boat. With life being so busy, the quiet of a river can really recharge your batteries. I can't think of a better way to spend a Wednesday. 

After we caught a few fish, we tied up to an island and went exploring. Mitch was checking out a dilapidated old dock, while I found pieces of broken pottery and animal tracks in the pluff mud. 

We found a clearing in the woods and a big oak tree. I came across an old glass bottle marked "No Deposit, No Return, Not to be Refilled". I did a little research on the bottle and it appears to be around 50 years old. It really makes me wish there was a message in this bottle! Edisto is always a "reset-button" for me and I am certainly grateful for the mid-week adventure.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Homemade Pimento Cheese

A sure sign of Spring in the South is the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. The tournament, which officially kicks off today is known for it's azaleas, pimento cheese sandwiches and strict traditions. The delightfully simple Pimento Cheese sandwiches sell for $1.50, Georgia sales tax included. It's hard to believe this menu and it's prices have been preserved over the years. 
All the talk about Pimento Cheese had me wanting to try some in my own kitchen. Last night, I set out to make a batch using a friend's recipe.

Teresa's Pimento Cheese:

• 1 pound sharp yellow cheddar
• 1⁄4 pound cream cheese, softened
• 1 teaspoon black pepper 
• 3 large red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
• 1⁄2 cup Mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• Splash of hot sauce
• 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Grind the cheddar in a food processor fitted with a grating disk, or grate in a small holed side of a hand grater. Transfer the grated cheese to a bowl, add the cream cheese, pepper, bell peppers, mayonnaise, sugar, hot sauce and cayenne. Blend all together thoroughly. Refrigerate and serve chilled.

It was delicious! I was specifically instructed to find a very sharp, high quality cheese. I used Cabot's Seriously Sharp yellow cheddar. Like any good Southerner I am brand loyal to my mayonnaise and hot sauce. I used Duke's Mayonnaise and Tabasco in this recipe. This recipe was much easier to whip up than I thought it would be!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lowcountry Luxe

Well, well, well. Who would've ever thought the smell of spanish moss would end up on Oprah's O List? Lowcountry Luxe, a small candle company in Savannah, GA, has romanticized the scents of the Carolina lowcountry and created a name for themselves with their Signature Collection

The Signature Collection features six scents: Charleston, Savannah, Spanish Moss, Gullah, Sea Grass and Living in High Cotton. While I secretly wanted Gullah to be my favorite scent, I didn't care for it at all. It must have been the "exotic Benzoin resin" in the candle that smelled a little too much like incense for me. Living in High Cotton was by far my top choice. Lowcountry Luxe has described this scent as: "A creation of citrus tress and pine and white dogwoods tea olive spiked with lemon and lime white grapefruit and peach."

If you can't choose just one scent, you can always go for the Travel Collection. This collection is a mini version of the Signature Collection and features each scent in a two ounce travel size.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Up the Creek

This weekend we went to Edisto to do a little fishing. Waking up a 4AM is never fun, but watching the sunrise when you get to your fishing hole makes it worth it every time. We anchored the boat and watched the tide go out and come back in. Spending the entire day in a salt water creek is something everyone should do at least once. The peacefulness of the birds breezing by and oysters popping in the water was a quiet reminder that the lowcountry is shared with all living things. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fresh Paint

Take a look at these new paintings by the talented Bluffton artist, Murray Sease. While these lowcountry-inspired scenes could occur anywhere along the South Carolina coast, they carry my mind straight back to Bluffton. When I see these paintings I daydream about the MayFest on Calhoun Street and the creeks of the May river. If you're ever in the area, stop by the Society of Bluffton Artists to see more of her work. My favorite piece is still the old Colburn's Liquor Store.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Proper Recipe Box

I came across these recipe boxes while shopping around at the Charleston paper company, mac & murphy. These pieces, by Rifle Paper Companyare handmade from locally salvaged hardwood. 

A proper recipe box is just one thing I think a lady should own. In my opinion there are a few items that separate the girls from the ladies: a collection of clutch purses, fancy salt and pepper shakers, a dainty monogrammed handkerchief, a vintage brooch and a proper recipe box.

What good is a fancy recipe box without fancy recipe cards to go with them? Luckily, Rifle Paper Company has plenty of cards to choose from. My favorite ones are the 4x6 Lemon Recipe Cards.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Art and Soul

Check out these funky vintage-inspired posters by the Anderson Design Group. There's an entire collection dedicated to the art and soul of America. It's funny how each of these posters remind me of a friend. I really love the Atlanta print, that Georgia peach is just so iconic. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Two Years

Two years ago today, Mitch and I were married in a small ceremony in Bluffton, SC. The past two years have been such a whirlwind. My marriage has taught me that life is short and to embrace what I have, every single day. This is a lesson that's usually passed down from wiser generations, but like most advice, you have to learn the hard way. I am thankful that things were put into perspective for me early in my marriage. I am so grateful for my sweet husband!

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Countriest Country Club

Saturday night we headed out to Harold's Country Club, a bonafide honky tonk in Yemassee, SC. This restaurant is truly in the sticks, but it is worth every minute of the drive.

Harold's was originally started as a Chevrolet dealership in The 1930's but in the 70's it transitioned from a service garage into a place for covered dish suppers on Thursday nights. Today you can find Deep Fried Turkey, Hot Wings or Ribeyes depending on what night you dine.

The Harold's experience is 100% pure American South. The family that runs this joint doesn't sugar coat anything except Mrs. Mary's Butter Pecan Cake. The restaurant decor is every bit as eclectic as the crowd that gathers. 

Harold taught his grandson Bobby how to cook up the steaks just right. You'll find Bobby behind the grill every Saturday night making your supper. You have to call ahead and order a steak to make sure you get one; but when you get there, they've got a paper plate with your name on it.

A night at Harold's isn't complete without round of karaoke. Hank Williams, David Allan Coe and Reba McEntire had some of the best songs played all night. While this might not be you're everyday party, it's certainly a party you don't want to miss.