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21 December 2012

Tonight's Episode: Park yourself in Flavor Town

James Island has long suffered a lack of credible restaurants. With so many farms so close you would expect a few strong farm-to-table joints with a talented back of house. Sadly, finding a chef-driven meal is pretty hard. Into that void comes Chef Alex Lira and his baby The Lot.

Located on Maybank Highway, adjoined to The Pour House (in the space that housed the sadly departed El Bohio) The Lot is a total immersion introduction to farm-fresh menu planning. There is a small bar menu that stays static, but the main menu changes constantly based on what Chef Alex receives from his suppliers such as MiBek and Caw Caw farms.

This post will cover two trips, partly to get more dishes in, partly because I botched most of my photos. First trip out was myself, The Girl, and Captain Awesome. The decor is warm and slightly retro in a VERY eclectic way.  The Girl and I both ADORE the music (lots of James Brown, early Motown). But be warned, when the band does sound check or plays (later in the night), it can get loud.

When you get to the white paper covered tables, your waiter will write out the menu while explaining each dish. This is a slow process and with the constant changes can lead to extended pauses. Bare with it, though, as you get great information. 

Captain Awesome went with the house made cavatelli. I also had this dish tonight,(our second trip) which came with lardo and an egg over the top. I don't know how to describe the incredible flavors built into this dish. The pasta has that beautiful toothiness you want from this handmade pasta. The lardo and shaved parm have a nice nutty flavor and blend beautifully with the egg. This dish is filling without being at all heavy.


The Girl went with the always on the menu MiBek Farms burger, both times. A wonderful medium rare burger, tasty as hell. The second time the seasoning was just slightly less wonderful, still a great burger but not as great. The real star, however, are the fries. Cut between thin and steakhouse, they are crisp and perfectly seasoned. On the bar menu is the Canadian classic poutine, which features fries, gravy, and cheese curds. I can't wait to try it.

For myself, during our first visit, I had the braised chicken leg with field peas in a baked bean style. Tender and juicy, and perfectly cooked all the way to the bone. I can't do this dish justice at all. Just flat-out delicious. 


Also during our first visit, we opted to dessert share since there were three of us.  The first of the two desserts we went with was a crêpe. This crêpe was filled with apples cooked in apple pie style, then creamed smooth. WOOOOOOOOW. What the heck! This thing is amazing! The Girl and I were fighting forks over this one.


The other dessert was a simple chocolate torte. Simple it may be, but that does not take anything away from the amazing flavor.  Captain Awesome and I were fighting forks over this one.  Thankfully, the ladies did let me have a few bites.


Tonight, The Girl suggested our return trip. She so rarely suggests a restaurant. That, to me, speaks volumes about the excellence of execution Chef Alex is brining to the table. The only negative that I have found so far is the portions of the entree. They are rationale sized, which means smaller than the two-meal portions you get at most restaurants. That being said The Lot, as of this moment, and by a large margin, is the best restaurant on James Island.

The Scores:
Ambiance 3/5
Food 9/10
Service 4/5
Value 4/5

Overall: 20 out of 25 Well executed farm-to-table fresh food that blows away the competition on James Island, though with the occasional headache-inducing band next door. 
The Lot on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Candied Bacon and Pear Pizza

Okay, so The Girl was having a ladies night and wanted some good eats. We had some pears on hand, and some pizza crust, so from that we get this tasty sweet pizza good for any occasion:





Makes 10-12 appetizer servings

Ingredients:
5 slices bacon (Thin sliced works best)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Ancho Chili pepper
2 Bartlett pears, sliced into strips and cored
1 teaspoon lemon juice
8 oz tub cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 teaspoon Coconut nectar or agave
1 teaspoon dried lemongrass
1 12 inch Thin crust pizza shell
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh basil

Directions:

Preheat to 400 F. Take a baking pan, line with aluminum foil, and grease with cooking spray. Lay out your bacon so they lay edge-to-edge. In a bowl mix the brown sugar and chili pepper. Coat the bacon liberally. Bake until brown, about 15 minutes. Set aside on a plate. DO NOT PLACE ON A PAPER TOWEL!!!!

At this time, if you intend to cook the pizza in the oven increase the temp to 450 F. I use a granite pizza stone on a grill. If you have a stone/grill option, fire it up to high and let it roll.

Using a small glass bowl toss the pear slices and lemon juice. Cover and place in the fridge.

Using a medium bowl combine cream cheese, green onions, coconut nectar, and dried lemongrass. Place pizza shell on clean baking sheet (Or peel if using grill). Spread cream cheese mixture out on the crust, take almost to the very edge of  the crust. Dice the bacon and distribute evenly. Add pears on top of the bacon. Finish it off with feta and pecans.



Bake 10-14 minutes. Add the basil around 8 minutes in. Feta cheese should just begin to brown. Cut into bite-size squares and enjoy!

07 December 2012

Tonight's Episode: Take a Peek behind the Green Door

Oh where to begin with this one. Should we start with the fact one of Charleston's most beloved food trucks (Roti Rolls) has decided to open a brick-and-mortar location? Or should we begin at the location, the storage room/pool room in the back of Charleston's dive-iest dive bar (Big John's Tavern)? Or should I start with the fact that "eat the eyeball" was said during dinner.....by the chef?


Guess I should back up to the beginning. First there was nothing. Then a big bang created the universe. Then Chef Cory created Roti Rolls food truck. And on the fourth day he devised The Green Door, an ultra funky street food joint filling the extra space of the cheapest place to drink. The Girl and I were lucky enough to score seats at the preview pop-up dinner to see what magic he would create. (Special note: these dishes are only representative of his style and are not guaranteed to be on the final, changeable menu.)

The dinner had a cocktail/wine pairing that we did not opt for (I was still recovering from the previous night, The Girl kept it real with PBR). First up was what in my mind is the ULTIMATE bar food: spiced chickpeas. The spicing is deft and well balanced, and the chickpeas have a pleasant crunch to them. I would sit on the couch and eat these by the bucket full. The Girl thought they were amazing, and DEMANDS that they become a permanent part of the menu. Even with her distaste for spicy, these hit the mark DEAD ON.

The next course was a crudo of local porgy with spiced chilled noodles. The light, bright fish stands up well to the spice on the noodle, with fresh citrus notes, but it could have been colder.

Next up was a curried pumpkin & butternut squash soup with cilantro-ginger yoghurt, with a beautiful little bacon biscuit dropped in the center. The biscuit/bun/whatever it is was freaking delicious, the soup the perfect temperature. The flavor: amazing. There is a good heat of spice on it, but the flavor is so deep and rich The Girl keeps eating until her lips hurt. That means it is a 3 out of 10 on the spicy scale.

Now we get to a fun idea, the to-go salad. Take a Mason jar. Put dressing in the bottom. Add ingredients. Shake and eat with a spork. Return the jar for a discount on your next order. Genius. This one was a fantastic little arugula and pickled beet salad. Fresh, light, and beautiful.

Next is the scary dish for most everyone. This is the dish The Girl has a hard time even looking at. Fish head curry with roti paratha. This is the whole head of the porgy in a beautiful curry. The fish is flaky and light, though I wish the curry had more heat. To me a fish head curry should hurt. This would be the point where Chef Cory comes out to talk the crowd into eating the eyeballs. My recommendation, if you have an issue with texture, then DON'T DO IT.

Now we get to the dish I was most looking forward to - braised MiBek beef tongue, quail egg, grits and kimchi. Sadly, this was the least successful, but only from an easily fixed execution mistake. If you have never had tongue, it is the most umptious...tender....flavorful piece of meat you will find. In this preparation they are treated like short ribs, slow braised in what SHOULD be a beautiful pan sauce. Sadly, it is over reduced and too salty. The Girl and I are both sad for how close this was to a brilliant dish.

To end the dinner we get buffet inspired Chinese donuts with a strawberry sriracha glaze. The sweet and the heat compliment each other so well. The Girl was beyond happy with these as the finishing touch to the meal.


So, what have we learned today? First, Chef Cory has found more balance with his spicy heat than I expected. Two, The Girl draws the line at food that looks at her. Three, now there is a reason to go to Big John's other than really cheap booze. Four, since The Green Door will be open til 2 am we all have a new place to chow down well at the end of the night!

The Scores
Ambiance: 3.5/5 (Though we love the design, and love it being in a dive bar, it isn't for everyone)
Food: 9/10
Service: 5/5
Value: To be determined
Overall: Will have to update when they open for business


The Green Door on Urbanspoon

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