NEW YORK — The ballad of the Lee Brothers, in a nut, er, boiled peanut, shell:
Born in Manhattan, raised in Charleston.
Did some gigging, did some fishing, loved the South.
Moved North, started Southern foods catalog, returned to Charleston.
Found success, started writing, worked for magazines.
Wrote a cookbook, won acclaim, foodies flocked.
Now, they're the "it" kids of the season, a pair of culinary darlings making waves with Southern wares.
On June 9-10, they were in New York for the fifth annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, holding a cooking demo/seminar.
It gave the brothers an opportunity to deconstruct a few notions regarding Southern food, how it's considered staid, unconventional, just as they do in "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook," awarded Cookbook of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.
Their demo's title? "Extreme Southern," naturally.
They made boiled peanut soup, blackened potato salad and chocolate grits ice cream, washed down with — gulp — corncob wine.
"I'm pretty sure this is the first time corncob wine has been served in New York City," Matt Lee said.
The soup, a savory, hearty dish that coats the palate, and the ice cream, a yummy, rich dessert similar to a chocolate truffle, both were winners.
The potato salad, distinctive because of its leafy, smoldering taste, and the corncob wine, a heady, effervescent drink dosed with brown sugar, aren't for everyone.
Then again, that was their point.
Unearth the atypical. Twist the typical.
"So many people think there's one fried chicken recipe," Ted Lee explained.
The seminar served as another high spot in a remarkable year, one more stop on the Lee Brothers' tour.
This week, they're in Charleston for book signings. Later this month, they'll shoot Paula Deen's show for the Food Network.
Plus, they're dropping ideas regarding their next book.
"We've done the Southern thing pretty comprehensively," Matt said. "Why not do the Lee Brothers' Indian cookbook and go in a totally different direction. In a way, that sends a message to people that it's not just about the South for us."
Or they might try something closer to home and their hearts.
"We could do a book that goes deeper into Charleston stories," Matt said. "It would be a portrait of Charleston in the latter part of the 20th century. It would tell the recent part of Charleston's history."
Which might include "stories about Poor William's Omnibus," Ted said, referring to the defunct monthly paper.
"People have forgotten about so much great stuff in Charleston, like the punk record store on King Street."
And much like their recipes, their follow-up might defy expectations.