Local foodies have their plates full this weekend. The Mac-Off, Charleston’s first macaroni and cheese cook off, is tonight, while FIG’s Truffle Week has been going on, well, all week. Chef Sean Brock’s new restaurant Husk opened Monday. Considering it made USA Today’s “10 great places to sample local food and wine” after being open for a whopping four days, the spot is definitely worth a visit.
Husk prides itself on serving simple, yet delicious, food with ingredients strictly from the South. Chef Brock and his crew are offering their own take on the great Southern staple: smoked bacon cornbread. This isn’t Jiffy mix: you’ll find no sweet flavors here. Instead the bread is made from stone ground corn meal, poured in a mini-cast iron skillet and slid into a wood-fired oven, giving it a delicious crispy exterior and savory taste. This is a side dish designed to share at the table, but good luck not eating it all yourself.
Chef Mike Lata of Meeting Street’s FIG recently acquired a batch of white Alba truffles straight from Italy. Sometimes referred to as “the diamond of the kitchen,” these valuable fungi aren’t for the frugal, running several thousand dollars a pound. Lata’s been cranking out truffle dishes all week, with no plans on stopping until the batch runs out. This weekend’s dishes include pasta tagliolini with butter and truffles, carne cruda (raw-diced beef) with olive oil and lemon juice, topped with shaved truffles, and a baked farm egg with celery cream and truffle. These dishes run around $50 a pop, but Chef Lata promises they’re worth every penny. Expect a rich dish with generous truffle portions. Get ‘em while you can.
The crew at Peninsula Grill got their hands on a 5.4 oz. monster truffle a few days ago. “Large truffles are considered 80 grams or more,” Chef Robert Carter tells us, “This one is 143 grams.” This weekend Carter is serving up a crispy potato and scallop sandwich with whipped Plugrá butter, shaved Alba truffle, and mushroom salad. “We’re using them the traditional way, shaved over Parmesan risotto,” Carter says. In addition to the truffles, Craig Rogers of the Virginia-based Border Spring Farms recently hand-delivered Carter a whole lamb. The Grill is offering a lamb tasting event, replete with grilled chops, seared loin, and braised shoulder. Served on the side are roasted root vegetables, braised local greens, and a cherry pork wine marmalade.
Lest we not forget the Mac-Off, the macaroni and cheese cook off held at the Visitors Center Bus Shed tonight. “We’ve cooked close to 300 pounds of macaroni and cheese,” Virginia’s On King Chef David Pell tells us. He and Chef Johnny Greene have been baking batch after batch of their traditional macaroni and cheese. “I think most of the restaurants are going to lean toward a creamy cheese and shells approach,” Pell says, “Our dish is a traditional casserole style including egg, cheese, sour cream, and mustard. The cheese bakes on top and gets crispy, while the inside stays creamy. There’s definitely a textural emphasis.”
Mac-rivals Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ have plenty to bring to the table as well. “We’ve prepared about 700 servings,” Chef Aaron Siegel says. Fiery Ron’s offers a four-cheese blend of smoked Gouda, jack, cheddar, and white American, with mustard and cayenne added for a little kick. “We do everything step by step. Our base and noodles are prepared separately. We don’t throw ‘em together until it’s time to cook.” The event starts at 7 p.m. The sure winners: the taste-testers.