It wasn’t the season that inspired chef Michelle Weaver to recently put tonnato on her menu at Charleston Grill.
“To be honest, it was a beach house with a lot of wine involved,” Weaver said.
A dish using the creamy sauce landed at Charleston Grill in early May, coinciding with the arrival of spring vegetables and spurred by a long weekend Weaver spent with friends in a house on Folly Beach. It has become a tradition for her February birthday.
“We cook and drink wine and play games and walk on the beach," she said. "It’s so peaceful. And good food comes out of that."
The group prepared plenty of family-style meals, but one dish stuck out among Weaver’s friends.
“I made this salad with fresh eggs and herbs and tonnato. Everyone was freaking out about it and said I should do it at the restaurant,” Weaver said. “I said, ‘You know, I probably will.’”
Months later, the chef kept her word. Currently on the appetizer menu at the King Street restaurant is a $15 plate of spring vegetables and tonnato covered with an olive-caper vinaigrette.
“It’s this balance of decadence and feeling healthy,” Weaver said of the dish. “There’s this fatty creaminess and you get all these beautiful flavors.”
The salad will likely evolve in the upcoming weeks and she'll add in "some more summer-type things."
Tonnato, often made with anchovies, capers and canned tuna, has also arrived in some form on menus at Revival, The Establishment and Melfi’s, where owner Brooks Reitz says a porchetta tonnato will be available on and off throughout the summer.
Weaver has served tonnato in the past and said, "It's always received well."
“Once you introduce people to it, they freak out,” Weaver said. “I think if people know it, they love it. If they see it on the menu, they gravitate toward it.”
That goes for the chef herself.
“I love it on bread or with fried okra,” Weaver said. “It’s my favorite little chef snack in the kitchen. I’ll take it on the boat or to the beach or anywhere."