“That was the best trout I’ve ever had.” That’s what my mom said multiple times as she devoured her trout while we dined at Husk Greenville for the the first time. My mom is a mountain trout connoisseur and she’s never said that.
Foodies are flocking to my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, for its southern cuisine scene. The hottest spot in town right now is the newly opened Husk Greenville. Husk is known for its “celebration of southern ingredients.”
My mom is as southern as they come. She’s the sweet southern lady with a smile and thick southern drawl. We were celebrating her 79th birthday. The hostess remembered chatting with my mom the day before and even knew that I was in from Colorado, which told me my mom had talked her ear off the day before! But the personal attention didn’t stop there. Our menus said Happy Birthday Ann and had her name spelled correctly.
Then, our server Caddie also knew we were celebrating her birthday and that I was in from the Mile High City. We went in with high expectations and those were exceeded within our first few minutes in the restaurant because of the staff. Lots of places have great food, but it’s the staff that makes a dining experience truly memorable. We hadn’t even taken a bite of food and we were already talking about coming back for brunch because of the friendliness and attentiveness of the staff.
If you’re a fan of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” on CNN, you may have seen the episode on Charleston. In it Bourdain pals around with comedian and actor Bill Murray and James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock. As they dine at Brock’s restaurant Husk, you learn of his devotion to southern cuisine as it extends back hundreds of years to the pre-Civil War era. Brock is a master at taking you through an exploration of Southern food roots as he preserves and restores heirloom ingredients indigenous to the Low Country region like James Island Red Corn and Sea Island Red Peas. Brock opened Husk Nashville in 2013 highlight Middle Tennessee ingredients in a building dating back to the 1890s. The newest member of the Husk family just opened in my hometown in late November 2017 with Brock at the helm and Chef de Cuisine Jon Buck creating dishes influenced by local Appalachian flavors. We tried to get into Husk Greenville right after Christmas, but as expected Husk has packed. So, my mom and I decided to wait to try it for her birthday.
Before ordering we had to ask about the history of the building in the West End section of downtown Greenville, South Carolina. Over the years it was everything from a cash and carry grocery to a shoe store. It sat vacant from 1995 until the Husk crew discovered a diamond in the rough so to speak. Surrounded by historic brick and industrial piping, we sat by the blue mural wall with a great view of the entire dining area including open kitchen and bar. Caddie told us the restored mural covering one wall for both the first and second floors is one of three known murals of its kind in the United States.
My mom faced the kitchen so she could see all the action and I enjoyed to view of the bar waiting area, which quickly filled up shortly after I snapped a picture.
In a celebratory mood, I wanted bubbly and debated between a sparkling rose from France or trying the fairly new wine appellation Conca del Riu Anoia in Catalonia, Spain. Caddie said go for the Raventós i Blanc from Spain. I fell in love in one sip. It’s not as effervescent as some other sparklings. It’s a little floral on the nose then wows you with hints of citrus blending with a herbal background finishing on a dry clean note. This may be my new favorite sparkling and it really makes me want to travel to Spain to visit the winery!
To nibble on, Caddie brought us Benne seed rolls with pork honey butter. Benne seeds are a sesame seed brought to Charleston and the South Carolina Low Country from West Africa in the 1700s. Benne wafers are one of my favorite Charleston treat partly because the Bantu people in Africa believe benne seed wafers bring good luck. The roll was to die for. I savored a few bites, especially of the benne seed top, before our salad arrived. I loved the additional nod to the Low Country with the rolls served in a traditional sweetgrass basket made by Gullah artisans in and around Charleston.
My mom and I split a salad of Honey Bell Oranges and Grilled Vegetables. Honey Bell Oranges have a mild flavor with hints of lemon and were a perfect compliment to the grilled root vegetables of beets, turnips, carrots, and parsnips. The veggies were still al dente for a nice crunch. Being a collards fan, I loved the circle cutouts of raw collards as the greens. This salad is unusual and party of flavors for your taste buds.
For an entree I ordered the Royal Red Shrimp and “Trucker’s Favorite” Hurricane Creek Grits. It’s an appetizer, but also perfect for a lighter entree. Being a meteorologist and southern gal, of course I had to have something from Hurricane Creek! This shrimp and grits wasn’t the traditional dish served with andouille sausage. This was shrimp and grits culinary art topped with shiitake mushrooms and a soft egg yolk. A lot of times with shrimp and grits you get more grits than shrimp, which being a grits fan is okay with me. But at Husk, I got a bite of shrimp with every bite of grits. I became of member of the clean plate club on this dish!
My mom ordered the Sunburst Trout with Southern Heirloom Butternut Squash and Brown Butter. We figured we’d have some leftovers…..but it was so good my mom ate most of it, with a little help from me. Neither of us had eaten Sunburst Trout from Western North Carolina, near Pisgah National Forest. Boy, have we been missing out! The dish is simple presentation. It’s the flavors that will wow you. My pic doesn’t do the dish justice. Based on the slim pickings left on her plate when she was done, I’d said she was right about it being the best trout she had ever eaten.
I’m not sure how, but somehow we saved room for dessert. Caddie went through the options and without missing a beat, or letting me say a word, my mom piped in with “you’ve been right all evening on your suggestions, we’ll take the apple one.” Caddie had told us the Cameo Apple Clafoutis was her favorite. The baked tart has brown butter on the bottom and is topped with Hickory Ice Cream. This sinfully good, but not overly sweet, dessert was fantastic. Ours had an added candle for my mom to make a birthday wish. As we savored the sweet treat and sip the last of our bubbly, I thought to myself, I sure hope her wish includes more wonderful meals and memories for us at Husk Greenville.