Husk - Charleston, SC

Dinner - Thursday, December 26, 2013

Husk really needs no introduction - the restaurant and Sean Brock have received saturating levels of national press for its commitment to using (and reviving) Southern ingredients.

All the food served at the restaurant is sourced from a region bordered to the north by the Mason-Dixon line, and to the west by Texas. Now, provenance is one thing, but taste is a completely separate matter - I must admit to being a little skeptical of all the hype. Thus, we arrived at dinner with a small degree of trepidation, hoping that the evening would not bomb out. I'm happy to report that it exceeded expectations, and ended up being our favourite meal in Charleston.

We started the evening with whiskey and cocktails at Husk's bar, in an adjacent building. The space is all dark wood and incandescent lighting - warm and welcoming. Drinks were above par, though not as good as the outstanding creations we had the next night at McCrady's. From there, we segued into the 19th century main house for dinner proper.

Sweetwater Valley cheddar pimento cheese
Pickled ramps, Benton's bacon jam, benne crackers
Dave's wood-fired clams, fried chicken skins
Holy City beer broth, sweet onion, spinach, shitake
Very addictive - I could've easily downed a mound of the chicken skins. They were actually quite neutral in flavour, and did not overwhelm the mild clams. The broth of clam liquor and Charleston stout, was rich, sweet and onion-y. Per our server's suggestion, I mopped up all the liquid with the equally delicious cornbread (see below). Fantastic.

Cornbread, Benton's Tennessee bacon
Absolutely gorgeous crust all around (although the edges are still my personal favourite). The picture makes it look deceivingly large, but the skillet only measured about 7" across. I didn't pick up much bacon, and frankly, I didn't need it - the flavour of the corn stood by itself. I can see why this never comes off the menu.

Tennessee heritage pork, bourbon glacé
Heirloom pumpkin, turnip and apple mostarda, Napa cabbage
A roulade of pork shoulder around a filling of diced belly, cooked sous-vide for over a day, then finished in the wood-fired oven. The texture of the finished product was amazing - rather than being mushy, its charred exterior gave way to flaky chunks of tender flesh. The crisp, tangy vegetables were a perfect accompaniment to the sweet, lightly smoky meat. We usually eschew large meat courses, but this and the bison dish below were probably the strongest courses of the evening.

North Carolina bison short ribs, madeira glacé
Geechie Boy grits, ember-roasted mushrooms, winter greens
Bourbon pound cake
Pumpkin brittle, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin sorghum purée
The dessert was all about the intense pumpkin - excellent in every form. The pound cake was a touch dry, and needed the ice cream and purée for moisture. Our final course really drove home how the crew at Husk is able to coax amazing flavour out of "everyday" ingredients - very impressive.

Husk by day
Husk makes no attempts at strict adherence to Lowcountry cuisine - its self-limited pantry unleashes the kitchen's creativity with technique (their house-made kimchi is an excellent example of this). Given the highs of our meal here, I'm very curious to see how its Nashville counterpart compares. I'm also very interested in delving deeper into the history of Southern cookery, of which I only have vague notions. Further research (and perhaps another trip) is in order.

76 Queen St.
Charleston, SC 29401
Phone: (843) 577-2500