On the Road: Haute Cuisine and Lowcountry Gourmet in Charleston

The Charleston RiverDogs are known for many things, and chief among those many things is food. As longtime readers of this blog are aware, I have made an annual habit of dedicating a preseason post to their new concession options. And when I last visited Charleston in 2011, food and beverage overseer Jon Schumacher laid out a spread that included a Pimento Pickle Burger, a RiverDog, a Pig on a Stick corn dog, Kitchen Sink Nachos and, of course, the Pickle Dog.

charleston20-20pickledogThe Pickle Dog is no longer offered at RiverDogs game, sadly. And, even more sadly (from my self-centered  perspective) Schumacher has left the team in order to open a restaurant of his own. This new establishment, Harold’s Cabin, is co-owned by RiverDogs co-owners Mike Veeck and Bill Murray.

But the RiverDogs food tradition has been ably carried on by current food and beverage overseer Josh Shea and his assistant Jay Weekley, who continue to roll out new items such as this:

023This may look like a corn dog — which would make sense, because it is — but it’s not just any corn dog. Playing off of one of Charleston’s signature dishes, this is a Shrimp-N-Grit Corn Dog.

Of course, I would not be the one consuming such lowcountry ballpark specialties. That job, as always, goes to my designated eater. In Charleston, this individual was one Frank Monterisi. I took the below photo of Frank before tutoring him in the basics of food posing technique. Namely, do not block the entirety of the foodstuff with one’s hand.

024Frank, originally from New York, moved to North Carolina along with his family in 2003. A graduate of Clemson University, he relocated to Charleston in 2007 and currently works as a math teacher at a community college.

“Teaching runs in the family,” said Frank, a RiverDogs season ticket holder. “Being a math teacher is like being a politician. You walk in on the first day and half the people hate you already. I try to do it so that math isn’t like the other four-letter words that people use.”

There would be no four-letter words used on this evening, math-related or otherwise. As a great man maybe once said, “You can’t talk when your mouth is full.”

The Shrimp-N-Grit Corn Dog was brought to our plastic picnic bench location by Jay Weekley, who explained that it is made with yellow stone grits, smoked gouda and shrimp. This mixture is then breaded in hush puppy batter and served alongside a tomato gravy dipping sauce. Like many items in American retail history, it sells for $9. Weekley said that the team sells approximately 25 per ballgame, “which is pretty good for a brand-new item.”

Frank, who prepared for his designated eating assignment by consuming just five Frosted Mini-Wheats earlier in the day, said that the dipping sauce was “amazing” and that the breading was “not too heavy and not too soft.”

He then washed it all down with two alcoholic milkshakes.

027These might not be much too look at, but they were a lot to taste. On the left is an Apple Pie Shake — Angry Orchard cider and vanilla ice cream mixed with an actual apple pie from Charleston’s Mudd Pie Girl Bakery.

“This is fantastic,” said Frank. “There’s the old saying ‘American as apple pie’ and baseball is the national pastime. So what’s better than an Apple Pie milkshake?”

I think Frank should get a part-time job writing ad copy for the RiverDogs.

On the right is a Palmetto Biscotti Shake — Biscotti cookie dough, vanilla ice cream and Palmetto espresso porter beer. Frank praised the “rich, almost coffee-like taste,” but I think he still had his mind on the Apple Pie Shake.

It was then time to lighten things up via the Harvest Salad, which, par for the Minor League Baseball course, is served in a helmet and feeds 2-3 people.

030“We introduced this last year,” said Weekley. “Everybody seemed to be doing Quadruple Bypass Burgers and things like that, and we wanted to go healthier. We use hydroponic lettuce — it’s never in the soil — hollow out the core, fill it with quinoa and top it with fresh fruit and feta cheese.”

032“A lot of people think of salad as rabbit food,” said Frank, who is not a rabbit. “But the fruit adds a nice element and then you mix it with the cheese, it’s like seven food groups in one. It’s nice to see ballparks going away from the norm.”

But there are many ways in which to deviate from the norm, some ways more healthy than others. Shea soon arrived bearing a Double Chicken and Waffle Burger, and this thing looked so good that I had him explain it for posterity.

“My experiences were high and they were met,” said Frank. “As a Yankee, chicken and waffles have become my favorite food since moving to Charleston.”

033

Yankee tasted, Yankee approved.

There was no time for further reflection, for Jay Weekley is a relentless man.

039In Jay’s right hand (on your left, dummy) is a Hawaiian Dog. It is topped with pineapple relish, pineapple, red onions, pickled okra, “a little cilantro grown here at the stadium” and house-made lemon aioli. In Jay’s left hand (that would be your right, hockey puck) is a Southern Kimchi Dog. That one has shredded collard greens, locally-made kimchi, sweet piquant peppers and a ginger-soy dressing.

A closer look, for all you closer-look fiends out there:

038Frank said the Hawaiian Dog has “that sweet and sour taste to it” while the Southern Kimchi Dog was like “an Asian twist on sausage and peppers.”

Frank, like me, is a single man. That makes me an expert in online dating profile pictures, and I do believe that this would be an excellent one. Good luck out there, Frank.

040Things had, by now, crossed over into the realm of the ridiculous. Next up was one of the RiverDogs’ new rice bowls. The Southwestern Chicken Bowl, to be exact, consisting of yellow rice, chipotle chicken, house-made corn salsa, cilantro coleslaw, black beans and lime crema.

I took a closer look. Too close, probably.

041

“It’s definitely got a kick to it,” said Frank. “The best way to describe it is ‘Loaded Nachos without the nachos.'”

Loaded Nachos without the Nachos is simply “Loaded”, which is how Frank felt at this juncture.

IMG_1243Fortunately, Frank had hit the end of his designated eating run. Asked to sum up his experience, he snapped to attention delivered a final summation.

“There was food variety for all. Everything’s great.”

Now that I think of it, has anyone checked on Frank recently? For all I know, he could still be passed out on a plastic picnic table. But like most endeavors that end in such a fashion, I’m sure it was all worth it.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

1 Comment

I’m thinking my next overnight road trip will be to see the RiverDogs! What a spread!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: