Restaurant chefs have just lately begun exploring the commonalities between Southern and Italian cooking, but culinary connections between the regions date back to the 1600s.
According to grain revivalist Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills, Sea Island White Flint corn was “legendary in island grits culture, and the same for polenta in Italy.” The corn, known in Italy as Bianco Perla, is one of many heirloom ingredients scheduled to be featured at an upcoming Italian feast benefitting Slow Food Charleston.
The June 8 dinner at The Grocery will be prepared by host chef Kevin Johnson; The Macintosh’s Jeremiah Bacon; Indaco’s Andy McLeod; Culinary institute of Charleston’s Kevin Mitchell; Old Village Post House’s Forrest Parker and Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca and Coda del Pesce. Tickets are $85, with a $10 discount available to Slow Food members.
Other starring Lowcountry ingredients borrowed from Slow Food’s “Ark of Taste,” which the international organization describes as a “living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction,” include sourwood honey, chestnut flour, sorghum and yellow cabbage collards.
“Probably too early for white velvet okra,” laments University of South Carolina professor David Shields, who will appear at the event, along with Roberts.
In addition to the Italian corn and cooking techniques, the family-style meal will acknowledge Slow Food’s Italian roots with Vicario Savage Cherry Liquor, a liqueur distilled in Greer, S.C. from ancient wild sour cherries that grow in Cortona, Italy. According to the company’s press materials, the cherries are handpicked at the final moment of ripeness before flocks of birds devour them. Ark-inspired cocktails will be provided by High Wire Distilling Co., and Fullsteam Brewery is pouring a brandy barrel-aged persimmon beer.
As for the food menu, spokeswoman Becky Tanenbaum says it’s still in development. The chefs are considering various hogs, shellfish and rabbit.
To purchase tickets, visit commune.strangertickets.com/events/25096984. Dinner is served at 6 p.m.