Organic cafe’s struggles, Chicken Salad Chick location and Egan & Sons menu

Nate Whiting at Tristan.

Although he’s not credited on the menu, a 2-year-old had a hand in creating a dish that premiered last week at Tristan.

Alex, executive chef Nate Whiting’s son, helped gather the pine branches for pine-smoked dayboat sea scallops, served on a charred pine wood plank with celery root puree and smoked grapes.

“He’s very meticulous, like me and his mama,” Whiting says of his efforts to coax Alex into picking up more than one branch at a time.

But Alex remains on the job. Whiting next plans to take him on an acorn hunt. The nuts are bound for a dish that’s in the “alpha testing” stage, Whiting says.

“We’re working on a dish for Share Our Strength that’s an oak-infused cream rice pudding,” Whiting says, adding that he’s toying with the idea of adding candied acorns to the dessert. “But they look a little green. They might be too tannic.”

Whiting didn’t say whether he’s yet asked Alex for his opinion.

The owner of Egan & Sons says the rustic cooking style that chef Kyle Yarborough perfected at the suddenly defunct La Fourchette is an especially good fit for the forthcoming downtown Irish pub.

“That French country cooking is close to Irish country cooking, with the root vegetables, casseroles and stews,” Chris Egan says.

Egan’s also looking forward to Yarborough using animal parts that don’t fly at his restaurants in New Jersey, where eaters insist on chops and filets.

“In other regions, people are kind of snobby about other cuts of meat,” Egan says. “I love the South because it’s not that way.”

A native of Ireland, Egan is eager to inject his first Southern project with an authentic Gaelic feel. The pub, scheduled to open sometime this week, isn’t festooned with the Guinness mirrors and pictures of Irish politicians that exasperate Egan.

“It’s sort of tainted (the concept),” Egan says of the predictable decor and menus featuring thawed-out fish and chips. “It’s a bit like suggesting American bars are red, white and blue. It’s not really that way.”

Although Egan operates three restaurants up north, he stresses that the Charleston venture isn’t a carbon copy of his other bars.

“I want to dispel the idea we would be an Applebee’s or a Bennigan’s, because a lot of thought goes into what we do; a lot of soul and a lot of headache.”

Egan & Sons is in the former Moe’s, a site Egan selected a year after scrapping plans to open a bar in Savannah. He was attracted to the boozy traditions represented by the freestanding, single-story building, which he describes as “shabby chic.”

“Bars that convert a former shoe shop don’t have the same kind of feel,” he says.

The pub will have 14 beers on tap, eight of which Egan classifies as “craft.” Beers will be available in 12-ounce mugs; Egan says the smaller-sized vessels will allow customers to save money and try more beers. Also, he adds, “the beer doesn’t get as warm in the Southern climate.”

The menu will skew homey and local: Among the dishes is a colcannon, a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage, made with collards.

Staffers last week were in the thick of training. “It’s just getting everyone up to speed and we’re off to the races,” Egan said.

Following in the footsteps of the 50 local chefs who’ve cooked at James Beard House since Louis Osteen in 1991 represented Louis’ Charleston Grill there, Patrick Owens next month will travel to New York City to prepare a Lowcountry seafood meal.

Owens, executive chef and owner of Owens Dining Group, which operates Langdon’s and Opal, is planning a menu that includes seared diver scallops with green chile-fontina polenta and bacon-fig jam and scamp grouper with sweet corn, crab and tarragon for his Nov. 9 dinner.

Steven Lusby of 82 Queen is scheduled to take his turn in the James Beard House kitchen on Dec. 4.

Tickets to Owens’ appearance in conjunction with the James Beard Guest Chef Program are $130 for James Beard Foundation members and $170 for nonmembers. For reservations, call 212-627-2308.

Chicken Salad Chick, the Alabama chain which “offer(s) customers a ‘custom-fit’ chicken salad experience,” last week announced it’s taking over the Andolini’s Pizza space at 82 Wentworth St.

The chain already operates a store in Greenville, and plans in the coming year to add another seven stores across the Southeast, including in the Charleston location.

The menu at Chicken Salad Chick features 15 chicken salads sold by the sandwich and the pound. Among the varieties are a chicken salad with pineapple and macadamia nuts, a chicken salad with ranch dressing and bacon, and a chicken salad with extra onions.

According to a press release, Chicken Salad Chick will open in Charleston in early 2014.

In a bid to improve its bottom line, which has been held down by the high costs of organic food, Mount Pleasant’s Puree Cafe is launching a full-fledged dinner menu later this month.

“We’re not in danger of going out of business, but it’s got to get profitable at some point,” Jenan McClain says of the vegetarian restaurant she and her husband launched last year.

According to McClain, the restaurant’s commitment to using only organic ingredients hasn’t resonated with local eaters, who tend to group Puree with the spate of other new East Cooper restaurants emphasizing freshness, such as Southerly and Scratch Taco.

“A lot of people in the South don’t even know what a GMO is, so it’s been a real educational process,” McClain says.

McClain says numerous customers have suggested she bend the house rules to allow Coke and other popular non-organic products, but she says she’s not swayed by the promise of a sure sell.

“We just don’t feel comfortable serving people chemicals,” she says.

The restaurant’s latest gambit is dinner, which debuts Thursday with a five-course tasting.

When McClain three months ago extended Puree’s hours, she served the restaurant’s standard lunch menu of salads and wraps into the evening. But she quickly realized that what worked at midday didn’t impress at night, so she hired a former Carter’s Kitchen sous chef to head up the kitchen.

While McClain isn’t yet ready to reveal everything on Ulfet Ralph’s new menu, she says the lineup includes walnut cashew terrine and seitan with collards.

Puree’s also trying to lure a later crowd with cocktails made from organic vodka and freshly squeezed juices, another trend that McClain says has been slow to arrive in the region.

“We’ve put a lot of money into this and we just need to get our numbers up,” McClain says.

A shrimp-and-grits cookoff is the newest addition to the Irvin-House Vineyards’ annual Blessing of the Vines festival.

On Nov. 9, restaurants including Fat Hen, Rosebank Cafe, Stono Cafe, Seanachi’s and Tomato Shed Cafe will converge on Wadmalaw Island to prepare their finest versions of the iconic dish. Tickets cost $5, and all proceeds will be donated to the Frierson Elementary After-School Program and The Center for Women.

Other activities on the noon-5 p.m. schedule include live music; pony rides; wine and spirit tastings and a sugar cane crushing. Admission is $10 per car. Call 559-6867 to learn more.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 937-5560 or