Music to Your Mouth
Author: Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Tim Zielenbach
Palmetto Bluff’s nationally touted Music to Your Mouth festival celebrates the very best in Southern cooking. The most prominent chefs from the Southern food scene (and a few from beyond) converge on The Bluff in November to pair up with farmers, writers, musicians, and producers of artisanal beverages and products, for a fabulous and complete sensory experience. The event, developed to showcase the indigenous foods of our region, began as a two-day soiree six years ago. Today, Music to Your Mouth is a yearlong food and wine series that culminates with 15 events in five days during the November 14-18 festival and showcases much more than food. It’s all about the people and the personalities.
When you ask the Music to Your Mouth organizers what they find most compelling about the event, they inevitably talk about the people (and oh, the stories they can tell!). “One of the most exciting aspects of the event lineup is that these are the people who we believe are truly doing meaningful things within the world of food and beverage and certainly in the South,” said Jeremy Walton, Palmetto Bluff food and beverage director. The gathering of more than 75 “characters” makes for a remarkable week of food, and fun. According to Palmetto Bluff’s executive chef Brandon Carter, “It’s a brotherhood, a sisterhood, we’re all here to work, but … we have a heck of a good time doing it.”
So, what better way to get a sense of what Music to Your Mouth week may bring than to deliver, direct from the chefs’ mouths. Check out what a sampling from the Southern-infused line-up has to say about their favorite farms, bourbon, oysters, and late-night golf cart indiscretions.
Miller Union (Atlanta, Ga.)
How do you like your grits? Plain and simple. Cooked with half milk, half water, salt, a touch of cream and butter.
Go-to Bourbon? Old Rip Van Winkle.
Favorite oyster? Love a Chincoteague salt.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? I had an incident where I turned it into a bumper car at Blackberry Farm.
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Decimal place Goat’s Milk Feta, Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice, Benton’s country ham.
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? Anytime I cook at home, because I am used to having a dishwasher clean my dirties.
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Roast in the city, deep-fry at the beach
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? Classic, Soul/R&B, ’60s&’70s.
A movie about your life would be titled? Artist, Musician, Chef
Empire State South (Atlanta, Ga.)
How do you like your grits? Pretty simple, finished with butter and cracked black pepper and good salt. Then a pile of shrimp on top. **Go-to Bourbon?**Elijah Craig, 12-year.
Favorite oyster? Rappahannock River Co.!
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? “Borrowed” late at Blackberry Farm. (From Palmetto Bluff, “We’ll be restricting Hugh and Steve to bicycles come November.”)
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Carrots from Woodland Gardens in Athens.
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? Savory is fine. I find baking messy.
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Roast.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? Richard Buckner.
A movie about your life would be titled? Pick That Up
Steven Deveraux Greene
án (Cary, N.C.)
How do you like your grits? Simple with butter and cream.
Go-to Bourbon? Pappy Van Winkle when I can get a bottle, but Blanton’s most often.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? “Ran it through some ditches while drinking plenty of wine.
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Johnston County country ham.
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? Family beach trip when I cooked four courses for 10 people; I used a lot of dishes.
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Roast.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? Anything by Morning Jacket, Ben Harper or Jimi Hendrix’ Blues album
A movie about your life would be titled? Basic Instinct
Poole’s Diner (Raleigh, N.C.)
How do you like your grits? Ground course and cooked until the starch released provides rich creaminess, even in the absence of dairy. If I am hung over, I would say top them with sharp cheddar, crispy bacon, diced tomato, sliced jalapeño, and a sunny-side up egg.
Go-to Bourbon? My bourbon shelf employs the likes of Pappy 12 year, Johnny Drum, Old Rip 10, and Bulleit, but my go-to for closing down the day is Basil Hayden on the rocks with a wedge of lemon.
Favorite oyster? Rappahannock “Old Salt,” with the Charleston “Capers Blades” from Clammer Dave. I’m a salty-briny East Coast oyster kind of gal.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? Ride shotgun with Sean Brock at last year’s Music to Your Mouth (let’s just say he’s a very brave, adventurous pilot). And yes, I would do it again.
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Creamer peas, White Acres to be specific. We have favorite farmers, but we’ll buy them as fast as any farmer can shuck them for us. We freeze about 500 pounds of them to get us through the other three seasons. Our favorite farm is Harland’s Creek, owned and tended by Judith Lessler. We’ll buy anything she grows: lettuces, heirloom tomatoes, spicy braising greens, herbs… you name it.
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? Oh, there have been so many. Several years ago, I attempted to roast my first whole hog. I did so while running a brunch shift at my then job. I managed to set the pig aflame… and by “aflame,” I mean to say engulfed in 20-plus-foot-high flames. There was no hose, and the flame was tamed by us running five-gallon buckets of water from the kitchen to the pig. It was the antithesis of our beloved slow and low. It was a mess, and she was crispy—charred black, and crispy. We got the heat back down and roasted the crispy corpse until its then rare center was up to temp. We chipped away the bark of ashes and soot that resided where the skin once was, applied Eastern Carolina vinegar sauce, and it was actually pretty damn good. Just goes to show you, when you start with great product…
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Roast, without question.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? Pavement.
A movie about your life would be titled?That’s Not How You Spell Christensen
The Cloister and Beach Club (Sea Island, Ga.)
How do you like your grits? With mascarpone and an egg whisked in right before serving.
Go-to Bourbon? Looking at a signed bottle of Bulleit on my desk; got to go with my guns!
Favorite oyster? Apalachicola.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? Pushed another one that was dead.
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Sapelo in Brunswick.
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? Any time I use chocolate.
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Roast; you need the drippings.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? The Femmes.
A movie about your life would be titled? The Big Easy; I like the simplicity of things.
Springhouse (Lake Martin, Ala.)
How do you like your grits? Over a couple of slices of Brandy Wine heirloom tomatoes then topped with a sunny side up yard egg.
Go-to Bourbon? Buffalo Trace, for sure.
Favorite oyster? Kumamoto.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? Technically I was holding on to the back of the golf cart, not on it, but barefoot “skiing” down the 10th fairway after a fresh rain. The grounds crew was not impressed.
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Bonnie Jones heirloom tomatoes.
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? Making six gallons of balsamic dressing at my first real restaurant job; I was only supposed to make one quart.
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Neither. Smoked.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? Mumford and Son, Black Keys, Wide Spread Panic.
A movie about your life would be titled?A Tasty Life
Bluffton BBQ (Bluffton, S.C.)
How do you like your grits? With salt and pepper, over two medium eggs.
Go-to Bourbon? I’m a crown royal black brown liquor drinker.
Favorite oyster? May River, of course, slightly roasted.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? Broke 90.
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Watermelon/Bluffton Farmers Market on Thursdays.
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? Frying shrimp, the whole prep and oil and batter thing…
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? I tend to smoke my turkeys.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? Low Country Boil.
A movie about your life would be titled? Dreams Come True in Bluffton
Txikito (New York City, N.Y.)
How do you like your grits? We use hominy in Argentina to make locro, an awesome stew.
Go-to Bourbon? I like George Dickel whiskey.
Favorite oyster? Capers Blades from Clammer Dave.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? I have only once been in a golf cart.
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? I wait all year for native Spanish peppers from a farmer who kindly grows them with my seeds.
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Roast.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? Whatever my staff wants—usually Rancheras, but my sous chef Mivi is also a performer and I love her music; she sings under the name Renee Gost.
A movie about your life would be titled? The Perils of a Restaurant with Three Walk-ins: A Love Story
Hot and Hot Fish Club (Birmingham, Ala.) **How do you like your grits? **Coarse, white, and buttery.
Go-to Bourbon? Bulleit Rye.
Favorite oyster? Bon Secour oysters.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? I tend to get into a bit of trouble when golf carts are around. This one time comes to mind from when I was younger. We used to go to this place in the summer that had a brackish water pond, and we’d run off the sunbathing alligators with the golf cart. One time we were chasing this big boy, and we ended up running the golf cart into the water—jumping out to narrowly avoid the alligator.
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Heirloom tomato in the summer from Bonnie Jones in Clanton, Ala.
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? For me, this is an annual event: Thanksgiving. Generally, what I do is make too much of everything and create some good chaos—whether it’s a large group or small, doesn’t matter.
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Absolutely roasted.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? I’ve got like 10 or so playlists, but my top five this second are: Bill Lizard’s “Use me Up,” Town Van Zandt “Loretta,” Billy Joe Shaver “Georgia on a Fast Train,” Hey Paul “Hey Mag Yo Yo,” and probably Allman Brothers “Blue Sky.”
A movie about your life would be titled? All In
Woodfire Grill (Atlanta, Ga.)
How do you like your grits? I like coarse ground, old-fashioned grits. If you start with good grits and cook them right, they are naturally creamy. Just add a little butter and salt.
Go-to Bourbon? Pappy Van Winkle Special Reserve 12-year-old, Lot B.
Favorite oyster? Raw, Shigoku and for cooking, May River.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? I wrecked one when I was 18. I drove over the edge of a high bunker, flipped it three times and broke my leg!
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Tomatoes by Joe Reynolds from Love is Love Farm. He really focuses on the soil, and that makes a huge difference.
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? I was at Two Urban Licks, and we were very, very busy. I made a 40-quart kettle of mac ’n’ cheese sauce and accidentally flipped it and dumped the sauce all over the kitchen and myself. It was around 5 a.m., and I had to wear those clothes for the rest of the day.
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? I use the Charbroil Infrared, so it’s kind of a hybrid. The turkey is crispy on the outside like fried but has a more concentrated flavor like roasted.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? Punch Brothers and The Snake The Cross The Crown; both do modern takes on old-fashioned Southern music.
McCrady’s and Husk (Charleston, S.C.)
How do you like your grits? I am a total grits snob; I’ll be the first to admit it. I prefer Sea Island White Flint Corn milled at the coldest temperature possible using liquid nitrogen right before cooking it. Then I prefer to cook it under pressure with just water and foraged red bay laurel. Then, I take the grits out, fold in some butter, and season them with salt. In Charleston we call that “Charleston Ice Cream.”
Go-to Bourbon? That’s easy! Pappy Van Winkle, 15-year-old.
Favorite oyster? Any oyster freshly plucked from the water and eaten right there on the spot. Or any oyster that has been roasted perfectly over an open fire. It has to be just warmed thru, almost raw, with a couple of drops of lemon.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? I have quite the reputation as an adventurous golf cart driver. I have racing in my blood, and it’s hard to tame the urge sometimes. One of my funniest memories was throwing a well-known, Beard-nominated, Southern chef from the passenger seat into a bush while taking a turn a little too fast. Thank God no one was hurt! If you see me driving a golf cart full of chefs, keep your eyes open! (Palmetto Bluff is checking security reports to see if this was the incident Ashley C. referenced.)
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Favorite ingredient from the water: soft shell crabs. Favorite ingredient from the soil: Carolina Gold Rice. You’ll never be able to trick me into choosing a favorite farm. Those are fighting words around here!
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? I had an idea once that I wanted to mill red fife wheat berries with liquid nitrogen and a Vita Prep blender. I put the berries in with a bunch of liquid nitrogen and starting blending away. Everything was going as planned; the combination of the blender and the nitro was making gorgeous, freshly milled flour destined for a loaf of buttery brioche. I was sitting there daydreaming about the flavor when I completely covered the opening in the lid of the blender with my towel. That’s a no-no. The pressure produced by the liquid nitrogen built up and essentially created a flour bomb that exploded so fast that I had no idea what had happened. The entire kitchen and staff were
covered in flour. We were cleaning that up for weeks; it was even on the ceiling!
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? I prefer a turkey that has been masterfully roasted by someone obsessed with cooking
the perfect roasted turkey. The skin has to be really crispy and golden brown; the legs and breast have to be cooked perfectly at the same time. This is the most difficult part. You have to have some serious tricks up your sleeves; I’ll never give mine away.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? Really depends on a number of factors, but if I had to list some bands off the top of my head: Radiohead, TV on the Radio, Dr. Dog, Black Sabbath, Queens of the Stone Age, Lynyrd Skynrd, The Drive By Truckers, Lucero, The Black Keys, R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, 2 Chainz, Jack White, Wu Tang, The Talking Heads, Merle Haggard, Zeppelin, Old Metallica, Waylon….to name a few.
A movie about your life would be titled? Southern by the Grace of God
Cypress (Charleston, S.C.)
How do you like your grits? Creamy, with eggs.
Go-to Bourbon? Maker’s Mark
Favorite oyster? Beausoleil, raw. Nothing else on it.
Craziest thing you’ve done on a golf cart? No comment.
Go-to local ingredient/favorite farm? Pork. Heritage pigs from Keegan-Filion Farm and Carolina Heritage Farms.
Biggest mess you’ve ever made cooking? Spilling a pot of soup while at Magnolias (90 percent certain it was she-crab). It was like I was watching it happen in slow motion. I watched the pot go from one hand to the other and, in an effort to stop it from hitting the ground; I put my hand under the pot.
Roast or deep-fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Toss up. If I’m at home on Thanksgiving, which isn’t often, it’s fried. If I’m at Cypress, it’s smoked.
Best cooking jams (music, not fruit)? I don’t usually listen to music in the kitchen because I find it’s distracting; the only music I want to hear is pots and pans. I listen to my jams on the way to work. It is usually some form of ’80s or ’90s metal like Metallica or Black Sabbath. It’s my pump up music.
A movie about your life would be titled? As Crazy As I Want To Be
Palmetto Bluff Chef de Cuisine Trey Dutton has been dubbed the “chef-whisperer” by his counterparts, as it is his responsibility to coordinate schedules, menus, and cooking demonstrations with each of the chefs. When asked if he was surprised by any of their answers, he simply quipped, “Nope, exactly what I expected. It is a unique group, a diverse group, but each of them is 100 percent true to their character.”
For the full dish: the Music to Your Mouth schedule of events, ticket purchase information, chef, vintner, and artisan bios, visit musictoyourmouth.com.