By Diane Rossen Worthington
Growing up in California, I knew very little about Southern food. So when an opportunity presented itself as a birthday trip to Charleston, South Carolina, I jumped on it.
On my first night, I visited Zero Restaurant + Bar located in Charleston’s historic area. Attached to a boutique hotel, it’s a culinary gem. Elegant, quaint, individual dining rooms with charming decor envelop guests in cozy comfort, but I really knew we hit a winner when our first bite was a Jerusalem artichoke, scooped out and deep-fried with a delectable lemon-yogurt filling.
Diners at Zero can pick from the tasting menu or order a la carte. I recommend that you plan far ahead for any special occasion you can come up with for a truly memorable experience. You can also sign up for a cooking class.
I also couldn’t wait to try Rodney Scott’s BBQ: a small, modern restaurant that even has a drive-thru if you are in a hurry.
I had the opportunity to chat with Scott and was charmed by his Southern graciousness. I tried almost every single dish he had to offer and thought this must be what Southern heaven looks like!
His two barbecue sauces, made with different types of vinegar, are epic. They accompany main course dishes such as pit cook barbecued chicken, a steak sandwich and spare ribs. The sides were every bit as good as the mains and included hush puppies, potato salad and mac and cheese, to name a few. You also do not want to miss the one and only dessert: Ella’s Banana Puddin’!
The last stop I’m taking you on this culinary tour is the beautifully restored Wentworth Mansion, where breakfast is included in your stay. Each morning featured an elegant selection of Southern breakfast dishes: frittatas, pancakes and grits. The server at the mansion’s Circa 1886 dining room said I had to try the grits, so I did.
I always thought grits would be kind of bland and boring. Needless to say, I was very wrong. Picture a creamy, savory, warm bowl of comfort. That’s what it was. I will never think of grits any other way again.
Make sure to look for fresh grits and keep them refrigerated for the best flavor. I used Anson Mills white grits for the following recipe. I have worked on the chef’s recipe, and this is perfect for the home cook. It is actually Seriously Simple.
Circa 1886 Grits
- 1 cup grits
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco
- 8 ounces shredded sharp white cheddar
- Salt and pepper, if necessary
- 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
1. Place the cream, stock, water, Worcestershire and Tabasco in a heavy bottom pot. Bring to a boil, and add the grits.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Stir constantly for the first 3 minutes, and then reduce heat to low; continue to cook until the grits are soft, stirring every so often to keep the bottom from burning, about 45 minutes.
3. Once the grits are soft add the shredded cheddar cheese, and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper, and fold in the mascarpone cheese last.
4. Spoon into shallow serving bowls, or serve as a side with eggs or any simple main course.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.