This winter has seen colder, bleaker days than usual for most of our country. Even here in Charleston, SC, where we are normally spared the trials of frost and freeze, we have seen ice bringing down trees and snow days from school. And as with most things, it is in their absence that we are truly appreciative of them. We long to be back outside on patios and parks, to enjoy the warmth and simple delight of a sunny day. Somehow every burden seems a little easier to bear when the sun is shining. Every joy feels a little more intense and vibrant. A simple ham and cheese sandwich transforms itself into a “picnic” when walked outside. A Tuesday evening chicken dinner becomes an impromptu alfresco feast when grilled on the patio and shared with the neighbors.
And so I knew there was no better place to begin our dialogue than with this featured dish of Creole oysters. It is from one of demos last weekend at the BB&T Charleston Wine and Food Festival sponsored by Evo Grills, outdoorLUX, and Chateau D’Esclans. The festival had begun last Friday in a bitter, cold rain with gray skies over our heads and thick mud under our booted feet. Chefs that first day struggled to draw a resilient crowd into the open air tent with even the finest of ingredients and highest level of talent. But then we awoke on Saturday to crystal blue skies and clean Carolina sunshine.
These Creole oysters from Chef Mark Steuer of the Carriage House in Chicago were the perfect opener. The briny sweetness of an oyster barely warmed on the EVO Grill then draped in thoughtful enhancements. Tomato jam, which was itself like sunshine captured in a silver pot, made them glisten in the sunlight like edible jewels. Buttermilk aioli provided a silky velvet tang and crispy leeks and smoky cheek bacon bits gave a salty crunch for contrast. Seriously delicious food.
And like a perfect spring afternoon spent outdoors with friends, they disappeared way too fast and we were left wondering where they all went and when would we be able to do this again.