The specials menu is to a chef what a gallery is to a painter. It’s a list of their recent masterpieces, a glimpse into the mind of an artist. We talked to a few chefs around town today to find out what their exhibits are like this weekend.
McCrady’s, a restaurant that landed in Charleston just a few short centuries ago, is featuring a beets cooked over wood embers dish (a la carte, $15) as this month’s favorite. The beets are slow roasted over coal on a Weber grill, which sous chef Lucas Weir says brings out their earthy sweetness. Once they’ve cooled, the beets are peeled, tossed in a rose vinaigrette, and served with an arugula pesto, which is a blend of chopped arugula, marcona almonds, and house-made ricotta cheese. They pair that with a pickled rose sour garnish and pickled huckleberries, which are smaller and sweeter than blueberries. The candy-striped beets they use look like peppermints, and with the deep reds of the pickled rose, it’s a presentation that’s almost — but not quite — too pretty to eat.
The special at Amen Street this weekend is a pan-roasted grouper with grilled polenta in a wild mushrrom and artichoke ragu. The ragu is made with a handful of wild mushrooms, which are sautéed with garlic and fresh shallots in brandy. The traditional Italian polenta is fully cooked and char-grilled to add a firm texture. “It’s a very fall dish,” Executive Chef Stephen Ollard says. “It’s hearty without being too heavy.”
At Circa 1886, sous chef Matt Pleasants will be serving roasted pumpkin bisque as a complimentary muse. After the pumpkins are roasted for about 45 minutes, they’ll be peeled and cooked down with onions in heavy cream. Pleasants says bisques are typically thickened with rice, but he’ll be using farro, a nutty grain, to give it an earthy savor. As the main course, he suggests the Jerked Quail ($26), which is their version of a surf ‘n’ turf. Quail from North Carolina is grilled and marinated in a house-made jerk stock and topped with three large shrimp. They serve it in a heart of palm puree with pineapple coconut rice and tempura fried local squash.
The tamale for the day at Red Drum should spice up your weekend. Make sure you order a water with the chipotle-braised pork dish ($9). They soak cubed pork butt in a marinade of chipotle peppers, guajillo peppers, garlic, and rosemary. It’s seared and braised with another chipotle sauce and served with corn tamales in a house-made crema fresca. The dish is garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds and crucolo cheese.
And “next door” at Next Door, the change in seasons brought some hefty steelhead salmon, You can find it on their specials menu tonight as a skin-on salmon dish ($27). The fish will be served with a side of demi-like sauce, which is made from a blend of carrots, celery, onions, and prosciutto in white wine and a Cornish hen reduction. The dish also features carmelized corn, fresh arugula from Sweet Bay Nursery, and fingerling potatoes smashed with butter, olive oil, and fresh herbs like dill and parsley. “I think it’s a great dish. All the components work really well together,” Chef de Cuisine Kyle Christy says. “It’s an easy dish to like.”