Saturday, January 18, 2014

High Cotton, Charleston, SC
It's Charleston Restaurant Week, one of my favorite culinary events in Charleston.  To me, Restaurant Week is not about price deals, although it does offer prix fixe menus for either $20, $30 or $40 per diner.  It's about trying new dining venues, or revisiting ones you've neglected lately, to taste what they specialize in and check out their service and atmosphere. 

My first Restaurant Week choice was a revisit to High Cotton, on East Bay St.
I attended a special 3 course tasting, with wine pairings, sponsored by The Post and Courier.  The dinner celebrated the newspaper's redesigned Food Section, which debuts on January 29th.  The guest speaker was Hanna Raskin, food writer and critic for The Post and Courier.  

Interesting and informative talks were given by Joe Palma, head chef at High Cotton, Jill Maynard, General Manager and Maverick Kitchen's Beverage Manager, Tony Norton.  All were gracious and well versed in their fields.

The meal consisted of an appetizer, main course and dessert.  The first course, Foie Gras Torchon, was a chilled foie gras, prepared by wrapping it in a towel, poaching it, then rubbing it with coffee, cocoa nubs and powdered sugar.  The foie gras had a smooth, creamy texture and a smokey flavor that paired well with the lightly pickled grapes and white turnip slices that garnished it. Spread on pieces of a warm orange craquelin (brioche, cooked with a sugar cube inside…what could be better?), it was my favorite part of the meal.  The wine pairing was Karl Erbes Riesling Spatlese, from the Urzig wine region of Germany, on the banks of the Mosel River.  This sweet riesling is made from light-skinned grapes which are considered by many to be the world's finest white grapes.
The main course, Rabbit Haunch, was served with Charleston Gold rice and Sea Island pea pirlou (a Lowcountry version of rice pilaf), pickled mustard caviar and a grenache reduction sauce.  Two perfectly cooked, cumin glazed baby carrots shared the plate with the rabbit.  Each bite of the tender rabbit, prepared in duck fat, chilled, quick roasted  and then oven warmed, was complimented by a swirl of grenache reduction sauce.  ( I do love a good wine reduction!)  The pirlou was thick and loaded with field peas, which gave it a pleasant, nutty flavor.  The wine pairing was a Silvio Grasso Barbera D'Alba red wine, with medium acidity, a perfect match to the woodsy flavor of the rabbit.
For dessert, Chef Joe prepared a Talisker Scotch Whisky Butterscotch Pudding.  
Garnished with cinnamon whipped cream and a piece of caramel sugar glass (which was a bit too thick to break apart with your spoon), the pudding was a perfect match of sweet and salty, with a hint of smokiness from the peat distilled Talisker and smoked sea salt.  A glass of Ferriera Tawny Port, a sweet oakwood-aged dessert wine, completed the meal.

Served in High Cotton's large, main dining room, by a friendly and helpful wait staff, with a view of the kitchen, the meal was definitely a four star event.
I recommend a visit to High Cotton for those with an adventurous palate and a love of local meat, grains and produce.  I will certainly be returning there soon!

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