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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HUCK'S LOWCOUNTRY TABLE--WHERE FOOD IS LOVE

Huck's Lowcountry Table
1130 Ocean Blvd.
Isle of Palms, SC 29451
843-886-6772
The email address for Isle of Palms’ Huck’s Lowcountry Table is foodislove@bellsouth.net, the philosophy of owner/chef J.J Kern who defines food as “a beautiful woven tapestry of all the fabrics from cultures and communities around the world. Some of the strongest fibers…come from right here in the community of Charleston, SC.” In this charming restaurant we found the reality of this tapestry—warmth, comfort, and an excellent dining experience.

We had a chance to chat with J.J. who described his use of local produce to bring authentic Lowcountry flavors to his innovative and interesting dishes. We asked our friendly and excellent server, Danielle, to recommend dishes exemplifying South Carolina cuisine, and the result was a glorious meal.

With our drinks, we savored a honey and citrus bread served with butter flavored with peppers and pimento. It was going to be a hard act to follow, but Rob, Wendy F., and I shared some starters: Cornmeal Dusted Fried Calamari served with a pickle-tomato relish and She Crab Spoonbread. We hadn’t a clue about this dish, but it was wonderful. The calamari was done perfectly, lightly fried and still tender and tasty. Huck’s is a relax-and-enjoy restaurant. We had only just begun.

Once again we took Danielle’s advice. For her entrĂ©e, Wendy chose the Pan Seared Scallops. They were plump, juicy, and done to perfection. They were served with a butternut squash puree, rainbow chard, and warm molasses bacon vinaigrette. Doesn’t that make your mouth water? It should!

Rob, probably because it was our first night back in the South, went for the Southern staple (for him, anyway)—Buttermilk Fried Chicken served with sweet potatoes and sausage gravy. The chicken was peppery, crispy, and light. Look at this photo. Doesn’t this dish look beyond wonderful? It was.

I selected Crispy Seared Crabcakes. Incredibly tasty though very different from the crabcakes we love in MD. These had a smoother, softer texture, and a peppery flavor as opposed to Maryland’s scrumptious lump crab cakes. Huck’s crabcake coating was superbly crispy—a charming combination of flavor and texture. They were served with creamed Carolina Gold rice and spinach, and Old Bay shallot aioli. The Carolina Gold rice, however, stole the show. This rice was creamy, fluffy, and slightly salty. A delicious and unusual treat that was different enough to prompt googling.

Carolina Gold rice is an heirloom rice once a commercial staple grain grown in coastal South Carolina. There is even a Carolina Gold Rice Foundation which began in the 1980s to revitalize this crop, and Carolina Gold rice is making a comeback. According to the foundation, “Carolina Gold rice differs from other long grain rices in its chameleon starch quality, which will produce classic fluffy long grain, creamy risotto or sticky Asian-style rice depending on how it is cooked.” It was a treat for me and obviously very “South Carolinian.”

As you can see, this was a full dinner, and we opted for coffee but no dessert. BUT the ice cream at Huck’s is homemade, and Danielle cajoled us into sharing butter pecan. WOW! This ice cream had a unique texture. It was slightly grainy and very light. What melted in our mouths were the true flavors of real butter and many, many pecans. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a butter pecan ice cream like this. Absolutely terrific.

J.J. Kern is an artist. His warm and friendly restaurant and his thoughtful approach to the food he proudly serves make Huck’s Lowcountry Table a must-stop if you’re lucky enough to vacation on the Isle of Palms.

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