The stupendous benne salsa at Minero, which surely played a role in making the downtown restaurant so popular that its next month relocating to larger quarters, figures into the first sentence of Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge’s current summation of the South in 50 dishes.
“This spring, over lunch in Charleston, South Carolina, at Minero—the Mexican canteen from Sean Brock, the chef who dismissed non-Southern products from his pantry at Husk—I chased a dab of benne salsa with a tortilla chip and unwrapped a Carolina Gold rice tamal that had the texture of congee,” Edge writes in the introduction to his roundup, featured on the cover of Garden & Gun’s next issue.
Edge credits the salsa and dishes like it with helping him realize that the region’s “old dishes with august pedigrees” coexist with “a more inclusive and multiethnic cuisine.” Fittingly, he sorts his favorite dishes from five years of endless eating into “Old-School” and “New-School.”
Benne salsa is New-School. Edge describes it as “a supple peanut butter with a tannic finish,” pairing it with Old-School comeback sauce from Jackson’s Mayflower Café in the dips category.
Lauren Mitterer’s caramelized pecan sticky buns are Old-School. In Edge’s telling, the WildFlour Pastry phenomenon comes down to “prim little knobs of cinnamon-threaded and pecan-studded pastry (topped) with fat disks of icing that suggest the ivory sunbonnets worn by promenading Victorian-era gentry.” For a New-School pastry, Edge suggests the satsuma kolaches at Houston’s Revival Market.
To fill out his freewheeling list, Edge sometimes strayed beyond the South’s traditional boundaries, finding garbanzo hush puppies to salute in Chicago; memorable samp grits with potlikker at a three Michelin-star restaurant in Napa Valley and a worthwhile fried chicken burrito in Brooklyn. Closer to Charleston, he lauds the deviled shrimp and grits at The Cloister on Sea Island and Ricky Scott’s pork sandwiches in Kingstree. (Also, he’s not wrong about the okra at Rasika in Washington D.C.)
Although Charleston appears just twice on Edge’s list, it shows up again in the magazine’s recipe column, featuring Jacques Larson’s shrimp with fried polenta cakes.
Garden & Gun’s August/September issue is scheduled to reach newsstands next week.