When we were at our hotel in Greenville, SC last week we asked about regional food for dinner, not too heavy. The desk person at first implied that this concept was not an option, that light Southern was an oxymoron, but in fairness the same could be said for most traditional French, Italian or Spanish. Then she thought a minute and recommended Soby's New South Cuisine, a good choice. It is located in downtown Greenville on South Main Street (864) 232-7007.
According to their site, Soby's starts with the culinary traditions of the South, from Virginia to New Orleans, with particular focus on coastal Carolina. Using seasonal ingredients, often from local farmers, the chefs transform these Old South favorites into something new. They are successful and I really liked the flavors of my childhood redone. Of course, I also still like traditional southern and New Orleans cooking.
Sample appetizers at Soby’s: Shrimp and Grits with New Orleans Style BBQ Sauce on Anson Mills Pepper Jack Grits and Roasted Sweet Pepper Relish
Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Cheddar Cheese Fondue With Blackened Haricot Verts and Fried Carrot Strips
Andouille and Sweet Corn Fritters with Hominy Pesto
Crawfish and Vegetable Shortcake with Tasso Gravy
We also ate at The Market Place in Asheville, NC (828) 252-4162). It had more emphasis on the new than the southern but still had southern aspects and was excellent. Sample entrees include:
Oven Roasted Carolina Trout Stuffed with Portabello Mushrooms, Spinach and Onions, served over a Potato Galette with Sage Butter.
Breast of Chicken Stuffed with Pecans and Sage, Grilled, Flamed with Kentucky Mash Bourbon served over Yellow Branch Farm Cheddar Cheese Stone Ground Grits, Fall Vegetables and Pecan Butter.
This approach is not really new and we have had this food many times before in places like Herbstaint in New Orleans (504-524-4114), referred to as “modern New Orleans,” with dishes like Shrimp and Green Chile Grits Cakes with Tasso Cream Sauce and Herbsaint, Tomato and Shrimp Bisque or Gumbo of the day. There is also Vidalia in Washington (202-659-1990) with shrimp-and-grits, grillades-and-grits, and Kentucky burgoo, a sandwich of barbecue pork shoulder served open-face on toasted cornbread. Vidalia also has some not so Southern dishes like macaroni with truffled goat cheese and veal sweetbreads paired with a crisp lobster crepe but I’ll take the Southern stuff. But what is the right term for this updated food? Since Google has been known to define language usage, here are the Google hits on some options in order of most hits:
1. “new south cuisine” – 311 hits – # 1 - Soby’s, Greenville, SC
2. "contemporary southern cuisine" – 252 hits - #1 - Horseradish Grill, Atlanta
3. "nouvelle southern" – 230 hits - #1 - South City Kitchen, Atlanta
4. "modern southern cuisine" – 103 hits - #1 - South City Kitchen, Atlanta
5. "modern southern food" – 96 hits - #1 - South City Kitchen, Atlanta
6. "upscale Southern dining" – 32 hits - #1 - Horseradish Grill, Atlanta
7. "updated southern cuisine" – 13 hits - #1 - The Fish Camp Bar, Myrtle Beach, SC
8. "contemporary southern dining" – 8 hits - # 1 - Anson Restaurant – Charlestown, SC
9. "modern southern dining" – 0 hits
10. "updated southern dining" – 0 hits