Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Your Local Farmers Market - A Conversation with Craig Deihl from Cypress in Charleston

As Thanksgiving approaches, what better time to visit your local Farmers Market for your holiday feast and on ExperienceLA we try to have a complete list of farmers markets in LA County sorted by day. Always a special treat is the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market which in past year's has opened early the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as a way to better manage the number of shoppers. You can spot the LA chefs with their helpers and wagons. Most are wearing their chef jacket, and here is a recent one of myself and Wolfgang Puck.

Watching chefs buy their produce and interact with the vendors has introduced me to several chefs and their restaurants in LA. Thus, whenever I travel, I check to see where and when is the local farmers market as a way of introducing me to the local food scene. And if you have cooking facilities where you are staying, it is especially fun to shop for locally based produce and poultry and figure out something to make from a rgional cook book. Thus, while in Charleston, I timed our arrival so that we could visit the Charleston Farmers Market which occurs on Saturday in Marion Square. The day we selected was one that featured prominent local chefs demonstrating their use of locally procured ingredients, and thus we met Craig Deihl, executive chef of Cypress Restaurant in Charleston as he prepared three locally inspired dishes, including produce provided by Lee Burbage from Joseph Fields farm.

After seeing the cooking demo, we got onto Open Table and made a reservation for Cypress for Monday night while in town for the Blackbaud non-profit conference. While walking down Bay Street to Cypress, we passed a must visit Charleston foodie destination, Charleston Cooks! Maverick Kitchen store, where you can pick up some regional cooking souvenirs. Cypress restaurant is a great example of blending the old with the new in this adaptive reuse of a building where a stunning interior decor is set-off by the exposed brick. A visit to Cypress is an opportunity to enjoy Low Country cooking exemplified with locally sourced ingredients. Figuring out what to eat was simplfied from the choices offered on a three course menu for $38 and the portions were larger than expected. At the Charleston Farmers Market, we had watched Craig Deihl prepare his signature dish candied bacon which would be on pulitzer prize food critic Jonathan Gold's radar if he was reporting from Charleston.

The other first course we had was Craig's charcutterie plate, all made in-house, which ranks among the best we have had of this new wave of restaurant prepared charcutterie. On the plate was bresola, lamb bacon, head cheese, and mortadella. After dinner, Chef Diehl stopped by our table to chat and we talked about what it takes to prepare cured meats in this fashion. It brought to mind Novella Carpenter's story of dumpster diving in West Berkeley on Fourth Street to feed her two pigs as discussed in her Farm City: Education of an Urban Farmer book and presented at the LA Central Library Aloud series. But here at Cypress in Charleston, no need to dumpster dive, as Craig has a partnership with a boutique pig producer to provide food waste to feed his future pigs for his charcutterie. This venture has proven so successful, that he has now launched a charcutterie CSA for those who want a steady supply of Craig Deihl's cured meats. The first production run sold out.

Since I am on the road, the pictures that I have been uploading to flickr have been from my Motorola Droid phone which look quite good for a mobile phone, as you can see from the Frozen Souffle S'more dessert from Cypress above. Soon you will find my various picture sets, including what we at at Cypress, from this Charleston, South Carolina trip on my ExperienceLA flickr account along with a Charleston Farmers Market set among my flickr collection of farmers markets.

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