The next time you are in the Low Country of South Carolina, you absolutely must sign up for the two and half hour Chef’s Showcase at the Farmers Market Culinary Tour. As part of the tour, you meet a local chef and a tour guide at the downtown Charleston Farmers Market on Saturday morning. The chef and guide take you through a few of the booths at the market where you pick out fresh produce for the chef to take back to his restaurant, and he or she cooks while you take a guided .9 mile walking culinary tour of the downtown area. Two different tours are available with three different participating chefs, so you’ll never get the same dish twice.
Southend Brewery‘s new chef Garrett Priester (who is posing with me above) joined us at the market for this tour. For our first stop, we picked up some shrimp and learned about the shrimping industry from a local fisherman. He told us heavy rain caused the swelling fresh water system to push much of our shrimp out to sea last year making for a tough shrimping season, but thankfully, this year is looking up. Then our guide, Glenn, and chef joined us at the Freeman Farms booth where we were able to select any fruits and veggies we wanted. We piled all of our pickings up, including a few bags of boiled peanuts, then walked next door to taste the selections of Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse. After picking out some cheeses for our pile of goods, we were set free in the market to explore while the chef toted the loot back to his restaurant to start cooking. After twenty minutes, we met back for a walking culinary tour of downtown Charleston.
Glenn knows all the ends and outs of Charleston’s restaurant scene. Did you know there are over 899 restaurants in Charleston County and 1011 bars. There have been over 90 new restaurants to open in the last three years, alone. Glenn said it would take 13 years of eating out every night to eat at every restaurant in Charleston, and possibly more, with so many opening and closing all the time.
Our tour wound us around and back to Southend Brewery where we headed upstairs to our table and a refreshing and beautiful Blueberry and Mint Mojito. I would like to point out that Nina and I had been eating our way around Charleston for three days solid at this point. Both of us were experiencing incredible food hangovers. Blogging is hard work, people!
(But, there’s always room for a bite or two more!) The first dish Chef Garrett brought out was this simple piece of heaven. Roasted garlic, brie and a sort of tomato jam. We squeezed the garlic onto our bread spread with cheese and piled on the delicious sweet tomatoes.
The order is now hazy, but I believe the Fried Green Tomato came out second with brie, chow chow and spring onions. Then, the surprise of the day, a boiled peanut taco, with scallions, red peppers, and ranch dressing on a lettuce leaf. I cannot wait to try this at home. Next up was a kale salad with shrimp topped with a bit of cheese. It was plated so beautifully, I hated to disturb it.
You can see our enthusiastic party, all digging into the delicious food on their plates. Some of the folks were in town from Texas and Detroit, and there were a few locals entertaining a guest.
The hash with a poached egg and sweet potato puree was my absolutely favorite dish of the entire trip. I kid you not. There was pork belly under there, fresh greens, sweet potatoes and so much rich, inspiring flavor when we cut open the egg. I have to learn to poach eggs. I have no skills when it comes to eggs… or rice. The simplest things on the planet, right?
Ah, and dessert. I was stuffed to the gills but dug into this little cup of deliciousness like I hadn’t eaten a thing all day. I had to stop half way through, but did so with a heavy heart, leaving behind the best cobbler of my life.
This tour was full on sensory deliciousness. You are able to see the beautiful food and craft offerings of the Low County, then sit down to one of the best six course meals of your life. What could be better than that? A definite must for first time visitors. Go here to book your next tour.
Two things before you continue your blog reading, hopefully onto another one of my posts.
Rickshaws are a nice little adventure. We were pressed for time to get to our next meeting so our guide, Glenn, was kind enough to have a rickshaw meet us at the front door and haul us back to the car. It was the girl’s second day, God bless her, and she took every left turn possible, but she got us there as fast as she could and we saw some beautiful, historical architecture along the way. I tipped her well.
Stick to the parking garages. A word of advice. The City of Charleston hands out parking tickets freely. Be careful where you park! If it says two hours, it means two hours! Not a second more! I’m off to pay my $14 parking ticket now.