Greenville, S.C., adds to ambiance with Euphoria, a three-day outdoor wine, food and music festival. During a culinary cook-off, local chefs gathered to create concoctions worthy of five stars in the South and beyond.
The birthplace of Greenville began at Overlook Park with its first inhabitants, the Cherokees and Catawba Indians. Then, in the 1700s, the fur trading industry took the area by storm.
By 1769, the Devereaux House became the first home in the area that was a good drive from Atlanta and less than an hour from Charlotte, N.C. Through a convoluted sale that channeled through Indian territory and the British, Vardry McBee bought 1,100 acres in Greenville, an area that would be the home of Albert Einstein’s son. During visits, Einstein would often give lectures at the local college.
Following the Civil War, O.H. Sampson and George Hall came from Boston to Greenville to build the first textile industry at Overlook Falls. Two years later, the Campendon Mill was built and, thanks to Boston architect Miguel Rosales, the old bridge that covered the beautiful waterfalls was rebuilt as a pedestrian bridge.
The textile business was booming until business began overseas, which brought Greenville to a halt. Even then, it was not a place to visit and experience cultures from around the world. But today it is, thanks to Michelin and BMW (these businesses have employed thousands), where the latter offers a Performance Center School to teach teenagers how to maneuver through the hairiest terrain.
Enter Carl Sobocinski in 1997. A businessman from the Northeast, he had a new vision for Greenville’s old cotton exchange building, which he turned into a downtown eatery, Soby’s New South Cuisine. This transformation continued, kicking off an explosion of downtown eateries. Today there are over 100 options to experience more than a dozen international cuisines in a one-mile radius. Downtown Greenville offers the following restaurants: Rick Erwins, Lazy Goat, High Cotton, Devereaux’s, American Grocery and the newest restaurant called Nantucket, located in the new Courtyard Marriott.
“We’re feeding more people every night for the first quarter than we were a year ago. That’s an encouraging sign,” restaraunter Sobocinski recently told The Greenville News. “Greenville restaurants will continue to flourish. We have put our stamp on Greenville as being a culinary town, a foodie town.”
Add to this the Taste of South sampling event of culinary delights, the musical talent of hometown hero Edwin McCain (the popular wedding song “I’ll Be”), a handful of master sommeliers, a Grand Tasting event offering Silver Oak wines and wine seminars tasting Italy’s Travaglini Gattinara. For VIPs, a five-track test drive experience at BMW Performance Center — and you’ve got Euphoria, a three-day outdoor fundraising event that just celebrated its fifth anniversary.
During a culinary cook-off, local chefs gathered to create concoctions worthy of five stars in the South and beyond. Here are two recipes that offer a taste of the Southeast. The swordfish recipe hails from Charleston Chef Mike Lata, who grew up in the Northeast before heading south.
Euphoric sweet potato cake
3 cups Japanese sweet potato, peeled and shredded
1/4 cup shredded celery root, cleaned and shredded
2 scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 egg whites
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons curried sesame seeds
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying
Blanch shredded potato in boiling salted water for 5 minutes and shock in ice water. Strain and press in a towel to dry.
Whisk eggs whites to froth, then add cooled potatoes, celery root, scallions, garlic, sesame seeds and mustard; stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Begin adding flour a tablespoon at a time, just until mixture holds together and will form a cake.
Heat oil in a skillet and fry each cake until crisp on each side, then finish in oven.
-- Teryi Youngblood, Pastry Chef at Soby’s
Swordfish with heirloom eggplant caponata and chanterelles
4 swordfish fillets, steak cut
1 lb. chanterelle mushrooms
Herb-infused olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Saba (Italian cooked grape juice)
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
2 lbs. heirloom eggplants (rosa bianca or Thai green), diced medium
4 ribs celery, peeled and sliced thin
1 medium red onion, julienned
1 small fennel, diced small
5 banana peppers cut into 1/2-inch strips
1/4 cup roasted garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup raisins soaked in 1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup pomodoro sauce/simple tomato puree
1/4 cup sugar
Juice of 2 oranges
1 sprig thyme
Olive oil to sauté
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in water overnight, diced
Salt and sugar to taste
Brush swordfish steaks with herb oil and season with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Heat grill on medium high and grill swordfish 4 minutes on each side until warm in center.
In sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add a sprig of thyme and a crushed clove of garlic. Add chanterelles and sauté until tender and golden brown. Discard garlic and thyme. Reserve.
Place a medium-size, non-stick skillet over medium heat and coat the bottom with olive oil. When oil becomes hot and starts to smoke, begin working in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Add the eggplant and sauté until golden brown and just cooked through. Reserve.
In a heavy bottom sauce/soup pot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion, peppers, fennel and celery. Cook over medium heat until translucent, but still has crunch. Be careful not to brown. Add the raisins in vinegar, orange juice, sugar, thyme and pine nuts. Reduce by half. Add the roasted garlic, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, pomodoro sauce and eggplant and cook for 5 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and a pinch of sugar.
Assembly: Spoon caponata on plate and top with swordfish. Drizzle with herb oil, Saba, sautéed chanterelle mushrooms and torn celery leaves.
-- Mike Lata, chef and partner at Fig in Charleston