When Maverick Southern Kitchens learned of the Fresh on the Menu program at its inception in 2008, they were only too glad to agree to use certified S.C. products when they were in season. That good will paid off in the January 2009 edition of Southern Living magazine when High Cotton, one of Maverick's five restaurants, was recognized with a Reader's Choice award.
Just across East Bay Street from High Cotton lies Slightly North of Broad, and Lowcountryoutdoors.com joined them for a fine dining experience in order to raise awareness about their efforts to support Fresh on the Menu. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture's slogan is "Nothing's Fresher, Nothing's Finer," and our local agricultural products are stamped Certified S.C. Grown. Fresh on the Menu is an extension of the S.C. Grown program, bringing fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood and dairy to participating restaurants. The S.C. Ag. Dept. is seeking to increase the per capita income of rural citizens through this generation of agricultural commerce.
During one of the coldest nights of the year, the Slightly North of Broad restaurant offered a warm ambiance and was filled with patrons bold enough to venture out. The Specials Menu featured plenty of Fresh on the Menu selections and server Matthew Thompson offered details about what was particularly good. The Head Cheese Salad, with goat cheese from Split Creek Farms in Anderson, saw a mix of spring greens, hazelnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. The head cheese is a local pork product and it had a decided ham or fat back taste, and thoughts of being on a farm somewhere in rural South Carolina crossed my mind.
Two main course dinners were sampled including the Keegan Farm's Chicken Marsala from Keegan & Keegan Farms in Walterboro. The chicken was stuffed with kielbasa sausage, in what was a seamless presentation by Chef Frank Lee, accompanied by cheese gnocchi, asparagus and marsala sauce. The marsala sauce was light-colored and thin, and the cornbread served with dinner proved to be the correct southern utensil for cleaning the plate. The Carolina Quail dinner, from Manchester Farms in Sumter, consisted of a pan-fried boneless quail on a bed of cheese grits and drenched in butter beans and a port wine reduction. The quail possessed a welcome grilled taste and the sauce with this dish was rich and heavy, which combined well with the creamy grits to satisfy this outdoorsman's desire to enjoy a game dish that's Fresh on the Menu.
The service at Slightly North of Broad was excellent and I give credit to wine manager Danielle Bantle because the wine she selected married well with the main course meals. The Douro 'Twisted' was bottled in 2006 and is a product of Portugal, blending five port grapes to produce a wine that is fruit-forward, and earth-toned with medium tannins. The dessert menu was not sampled, but each item listed had a suggested dessert wine or sherry pairing that looked very helpful. A blonde brownie and sugared orange peel was a surprise from General Manager Peter Pierce, and a sweet treat. Next time you dine at Slightly North of Broad be sure to ask Peter what's Fresh on the Menu.
My photos show the Head Cheese Salad, the Keegan Farm's Chicken Marsala, and the Carolina Quail entree.