This was my first trip to Charleston, SC, and I hope it is not my last. I fell in love with Charleston. Charleston isn't a large city, perhaps 120K residents in Charleston and 300K in the greater Charleston area. The airport is anything but hectic with its 10 gates total. And finally, Southwest flies to Charleston. There is hardly any traffic in Charleston. Getting in and out of Charleston is just a pleasure. Charleston's collective persona has a nice level of Southern hospitality with a layer of laid-back beach culture. The food in Charleston is some of the best food I have ever had. The expectation of ingredients in Charleston is that they are fresh and good quality, and there is a sense of pride in the freshness and good preparation of food at all levels of food from Chinese takeout to sit-down local organic. I did not get to explore the history, symphony, gardens or beaches on this trip, and I those are on my list for my next trip to SC. I am sitting here all starry-eyed remembering how awesome Charleston, SC is, and that I could live there.
On this trip all the meals I had from a quick grab-n-go breakfast to dinner at FIG were well made. There are so many restaurants in Charleston that prides themselves on excellent preparation, and never serving pre-packaged food distributor yucky stuff, that it was tough to choose dinner options. To match my desire to eat locally and seasonally where ever I go, I opted to have dinner at FIG, Food Is Good in downtown Charleston.
FIG's chef is James Beard Award Winner Mike Lata who believes in local, seasonal and farm to table cooking, and that is right down my alley. Mike Lata is also from MA, where I consider my home state. Mike Lata grew up in Western MA, where parts of W MA is quite an agrarian society and a local organic way of life. Mike Lata also made his way to Boston, Martha's Vineyard and Burgogne France where all of these areas have a tradition of local ingredients and well prepared meals. I too have lived in W MA, Boston, and adore visiting Martha's Vineyard and Burgogne, and these places all have food traditions I crave, and Mike Lata is the chef to deliver.
Our meal was so good, and it will be one of those meals I will think about for years to come, or until I can make it back to Charleston and be lucky enough to have a seat at FIG again. We started with raw regional dishes, one was a locally ranched Waygu beef tartar, and the other was the razor oysters simply served with a light vinegar pepper sauce. The tartar was served with a construction-paper thin potato crisp to add crunch and a little salt to the smooth delicate tartar. Wonderful. The oysters were a variety I have never had before, and were refreshing with the mignonette and a light squeeze of lemon.
We opted for seafood for our entrees. Being landlocked by 7 states, it is really hard to find decent seafood in Nashville, so any opportunity I get going seaside, I will opt for seafood. We got the fish and shrimp stew and a baked snapper. The fish and shrimp stew was in a rich broth over Carolina rice. The rice served by FIG is grown in the USA, not Asia. The snapper was served over a really silky potato puree and garnished with a confetti of diced winter veggies and a light creamy sauces. The seafood was cooked perfectly, not over done, nor underdone.
The word of the the night was Wonderful after each bite.
(note, I altered the photos by electronically increasing the exposure and brightness. The original photos were taken at night without a flash, and were very dark.)