Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lowcountry Hospitality

George Washington’s Birthplace

Yes there is a farm at George's old place, a small one, mostly herbs, but more importantly this was to be our first dinner with an aqua farmer as host. Set high above Pope Creek and the Potomac River on the George Washington Birthplace Monument, aqua farmer Bruce Woods generously shared his story as guests viewed shellfish grounds in the distance. Our aqua farmer sported an aqua colored shirt, which made him easy to spot for curious guests asking lots of questions. Jim curved the table in a big S in a sheltered grove of trees. Jim's good friend Marah Stets, co writer of Outstanding in the field: A Farm to Table Cookbook, dined with a writer from U.S.A. Today. (See the resulting article on Farm to Table dining here). Chef Tony Chittum of Vermilion Restaurant in Alexandria, VA rustled up a variety of local fare and guests feasted into the night among brightly illuminated pines. As the night ended we experienced a bit of fall chill. It was time move south to warmer places.

Smooth sailing?

Spirits were so high. After so much time away, the bus was finally back!! We were euphoric. We were in bliss. Speeding along a smooth endless highway making our way south to South Carolina and Pawleys Island. Until the clutch broke. In the middle of the highway. Stopped dead, blocking traffic for miles. Lots of being yelled at. Very unpleasant. While waiting impatiently for a tow truck that was stuck in the traffic jam that we made Jim had a VERY LONG chat with a friendly state trooper. Unnerved by our latest breakdown we left the bus in a mechanics yard and limped on to Pawleys Island with the truck and trailer.

Guest chef Louis Osteen was unable to attend our dinner because of an unexpected emergency. Louis' talented Exec Chef Michael Keough generously jumped in. Michael did his best with the last minute changes. Maybe not all or even most of his ingredients were from Carolina farmers and producers but he did dish out delicious low country favorites. We set our long curving white table in the bright green creek side setting. Docks stretched far out to the Waccamaw shore and guests were able to venture way out, lean over the dock and maybe imagine/see an alligator or two swirling in the choppy waters.

John Henry

The Outstanding crew really fell for generous and gracious Pawleys Island dinner host John Henry Whitmire. John is neither farmer nor fisherman (though he did work as a shrimper years ago), but he definitely is a real southern gentleman: warm and knowledgeable with a boatload of stories. Whenever we all went to town EVERYONE had a genuine hello for John Henry. Over the next several days John Henry took us in, took good care of us for our much needed break from the road. It was great to have a reliable place to rest our heads and use the kitchen for longer than a couple of days. Jim, Caleb and Adam especially enjoyed fishing & eeling off of John Henry's long dock. Who knew that eel could taste that good?

Thank you for your hospitality John Henry!

Carolina mechanics get a crack

After our tow to a nearby truck service yard a Carolina mechanic team quickly diagnosed the ailing clutch and located hard to find parts in Ohio. While the parts were on the way Caleb and Jim took the opportunity to brush up on their mini golf skills (Jim won a close battle). With the bus fixed we were on the road again with five hours drive to Athens, Georgia, on the way to Atlanta, our next dinner site.

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