Local Beer; Local Bounty
Palmetto Beer Dinner at 17 North: Local beer; local bounty
by Chris West
Forget the balmy climate, public beaches and quaint charm that you always hear associated with why people love Charleston. While all of those are noteworthy facets of our little town, I love Charleston for a much simpler reason…
I love Charleston because of its geography.
We are flanked by the ocean’s bounty on one side with rural areas to our North and South. The inner foodie in me knows that the ocean means seafood; the rural brings farms. This week, that foodie was treated to another local emphasis, farm-to-plate dinner with a collaboration between Palmetto Brewery and the good and talented folks at 17 North. Thematically, the night’s offerings were “local” as well with Chef Brannon Florie’s takes on Charleston classics.
Nestled on the back patio, in eyeshot of the rows of crops, bricked fireplace and corn hole pitch, attendees were greeted by ample pours of Palmetto’s Aftershock, a steam beer in the style of California Common Beers. With no clear nod to the malt body or the hop character, the lager proved an appropriate opener considering the balanced nature of the brew. The hors d’oeuvres consisted of a plate of tart pickled green tomatoes, eggs and shrimp spiked with sliced jalapenos; a cornbread with bacon and pig’s feet in mix and pimento cheese and house-cured prosciutto biscuits.
The first course was a twist on the ubiquitous Lowcountry staple, shrimp and grits. Georgetown shrimp were stuffed with blue crab meat and Edisto Island’s Geechie Boy grits then wrapped in house Tasso bacon. Think a melding of stuffed and bacon-wrapped shrimp. The dish was served over a ripe tomato slice and accented with beer-laced tomato foam. Accompanying the dish was Palmetto’s Lager-- a dry, crisp, light-bodied beer that served well to help cut through the buttery grits and the fatty bacon.
Palmetto’s Pale Ale preceded the “fried chicken” second course. Milgrove Farms chickens were used in a triple application with the breasts sous vide, the legs and thighs crispy fried and roasted bones used for consommé. The breast was used in the oft-forgotten regional staple, Purloo. Usually a chicken and rice stew, Florie’s Purloo was more risotto, accented with thick slices of Mepkin Abby mushrooms and occasional flecks of fried chicken skin. The clear, golden consommé rested at the bottom of the bowl with the crispy leg as centerpiece. What was interesting was this dish was the opposite of the prior with the food acting as the cutting agent to the pungent, floral Falconer’s Flight hop of the ale.
I have a long-held belief that the pig is the most perfect animal on Earth. Florie’s third course of Pork and Collards only reinforced that belief. Legare Farms hogs provided the crux of this dish with smoked, pulled shoulder meat stuffed into a local steamed collard leaf and rolled into a roulade. The house Mac and Cheese was smoky, garlicky and topped with breadcrumbs. However, the shiny star of the dish was naturally the fatty and firm pork belly. Sous vide for 48-hours in Palmetto’s flagship Amber Ale, the belly was firm within the meat with the flavorful fat cap over top. The mix of flavor and texture within this dish make it the absolute “Ambrosia of the South” and speaks to everything that is comfort food of the region. What is interesting to note about this dish is the byproduct of Palmetto’s brewing process (leftover brewed grains) serve as food for Legare Farm’s hogs. Getting to eat those very same hogs and drink that very same beer at the very same dinner brought the nature of the collaboration to the forefront. It was refreshing to see locals helping locals supply other locals.
For the fourth course, a pint of viscous, black ale was placed in front of me and that could only mean Palmetto’s Espresso Porter (arguably their best offering) would accompany the fourth dessert course. The beer is as black as Ink of India and hits you immediately with coffee on the nose and palate. Again, this is a local collaboration between Palmetto and Charleston Coffee Roasters supplying the roasted coffee beans. The dish was a take on pecan pie with the sweet and nutty filling served over a crumbly short cake, topped with whipped cream and spiked with a candied pecan. Think an exceptional version of “coffee and dessert.”
The beer was delicious and the food was divine but I couldn’t help notice that the underlying message of the dinner was one of nostalgia. See; back before there was mass transport and huge food trucks, entire towns survived on the notion of community sharing and the consumption of local resources by its locals. It was nice to be a part of something that harkens back to an ago way of life we overlook too often. Hats off to Palmetto and 17 North for bringing that message to the plate and pint.