Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Condiment out of Carolina

or possibly Midnight in the Kitchen of Good and Evil.

Either way, I passed through the Carolinas on my drive back to Miami and picked up a few things along the way. One stop was for lunch at a restaurant called Gullah Cuisine. Gullah cuisine, the cuisine, developed from West African cooking with less European influence than most southern cuisine. It survived in the Carolina low country because area was so miserable and disease-ridden that the white plantation owners left their slaves there unmolested for half of each year. Or something like that, anyway. Gullah Cuisine, the restaurant, is as much a cultural center devoted to that culinary heritage as it is a place to have lunch.

I normally stay away from buffets, but I wanted to try a lot of different things. That may have been a mistake as, by the time I got there, most of the signature dishes were cleaned out. As you can see from the photos here that's a real shame. Here's my poor plate for comparison.

I'm not going to say that I didn't enjoy what I had. Those are some very nice sweet potatoes there, and that's an interesting gumbo-esque chicken dish on top of jambalaya-esque rice (both simpler versions of the fancy dishes the place is known for). The greens were surprisingly lightly cooked considering they came from a steam table and had plenty of ham in them, and the mashed potatoes had plenty of cheese and bacon involved. There was also some quite respectable fried chicken and a nice banana pudding I didn't photograph. I really do need to get back there at some point to order off the menu, though.

On my way out I picked up bottles of their signature spice mixes.

I tried the fried chicken mix tonight.
It seemed like a fairly typical southern fried chicken seasoning blend. I used too much this first time so the salt overwhelmed the subtleties and I can't really give any details.

Later, I stopped at one of the roadside tourist-trap groceries that dot Rt. 17 every couple miles. I was stuck between two big slow-moving trucks on a road with no passing lanes so I had to stop somewhere. I picked up this:
which isn't really cider of any sort. The clerk admitted that South Carolina law requires pasteurization and, while there is no legal definition of cider, it is traditionally unfiltered and unpasteurized. This is really just peach and apple juice. Not bad for what it is, though.

. The green tomato pickles are in a standard sweet-pickle brine. The firm texture is a nice change, but a familiar flavor. The Jerusalem artichoke pickle is a little more unusual. It's as much a vinegar-based coleslaw as it is a pickle. I think it would go pretty well with barbecue, but that's not any great surprise.

I also got some boiled peanuts. I had tried boiled peanuts once before and found them a revelation. A very different flavor and texture than the roasted version. My previous experience had been with a package from the supermarket so I expected the fresh stuff to be another step above, but it was about the same, really. Shows what I know, I suppose. Unfortunately, now that I've developed a taste for it, Publix stopped carrying it. I may have to boil my own.

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