ice cream sundae colorful 1 Hilton Head Island Foodie Vibe | Hilton Head Island, SC | Page 2
Hilton Head Island Foodie Vibe

When Summer Sizzles on Hilton Head Island, Chill Out with a Sweet Treat!

Fluffy, super creamy and well, just plain gorgeous gelato from Hilton Head Island’s Pino Gelato.

When the Lowcountry summer sizzles do not despair, as Hilton Head Island is chocked full of delectable opportunities to chill out (literally) with creamy and in some cases, dreamy treats! Travel by bike, by car or on foot and you will be rewarded with locally made ice cream, frozen yogurt and even the exotic taste of authentic Italian Gelato. With all the choices, your most difficult decision may be what to try first!

Hilton Head Ice Cream

National ice cream chains come and go, but Hilton Head Ice Cream owner Creegan Edmonds keeps people coming back for generations to his independently-owned store with humorous decorations including grade school photos of his customers, and home made flavors such as bananas foster, cinnamon, Heath Bar and my personal favorite, lemon custard.

Although Edmonds grew up hand churning his ice cream on his uncle’s farm, today he has two washing machine-sized ice cream mixers where he often tries out new flavors. He keeps them cranking, buying up to 100 gallons of cream a day in the summer.

Hilton Head Ice Cream is also served at some of the most popular restaurants on the Island including Truffles, Sea Grass Grille, Old Oyster Factory, Alexander’s and the Crazy Crab among others. Located at 55 New Orleans Road in the Fountain Center, Hilton Head. 843-842-6333.

Pino Gelato

Ramona Fantini discovered gelato in 2002 while visiting Italy. Enamored of the fine gelato found there, she longed to bring the delicious decadence back home so she founded Pino Gelato in Hilton Head Island.

Gelato is produced in small batches (unlike regular ice cream) using unique gelato equipment, with a combination of ingredients and fresh flavors that come together in a frozen work of art. Gelato does not have air whipped into it like ice cream, which means it is a dense, rich product full of flavor. This texture makes it thick and “creamy” without the use of heavy cream (less fat!). Hosting a celebration on the Island? Offer your guests the sophisticated treat of gelato complete with an authentic gelato pushcart, experienced gelato baristas and six gelato and sorbetto flavors!

At Pino Gelato flavors run the gamut on any given day from cherry Amaretto, coconut, and salted caramel to chocolate whiskey. They make non-dairy sorbetto too! Located at 1000 William Hilton Parkway in The Village at Wexford, Suite G-1, Hilton Head. 843-842-2822.

How many flavor’s of frozen yogurt do they have at Sweet Frog Yogurt! The menu is astounding and new flavors are added often.

Sweet Frog of Hilton Head

Sweet Frog is a bright, positive, family-friendly environment where customers can create their dessert, their way. You create your own combination of delicious soft-serve frozen yogurt, and then top it off with any toppings you choose! The toppings bar is stocked fresh everyday with the best ingredients for a light healthy treat, a swirling decadent dessert, and everything in between! Yogurt flavors include a nice variety including vanilla, chocolate, tart, cotton candy, pecan praline, apple pie, vanilla pomegranate raspberry and more. Most of their yogurts are non-fat or low-fat, and for those on a dairy-free diet Sweet Frog offers several sorbets!

The F.R.O.G. in Sweet Frog stands for Fully Rely On God, and we show that by being a good neighbor everywhere we move into. Through local partnerships, fundraisers, and much more, Sweet Frog becomes part of the fabric that wraps their communities. Located at 33 Office Park Road in the Park Plaza Shopping Center, Hilton Head. 843-689-3764

The cozy atmosphere at Watusi makes for good conversation over a delicious yogurt or coffee or even lunch.

Watusi, It is what it is.

Here you can go from breakfast to lunch to sweet treat all in one spot! Watusi offers self-serve frozen yogurt, smoothies, premium coffees, plus breakfast ‘scramblers’ and lunchtime sandwiches, wraps, and salads.

Watusi offers a special blend of low-fat frozen yogurt that is unlike any other. They use real dairy and fresh milk, house-made fruit purees, and high counts of beneficial live yogurt cultures including probiotics in their yogurt. Yogurt flavors are specially blended using their own proprietary recipes and techniques to ensure a smooth and creamy taste in every spoonful.

Watusi is popular with locals and visitors alike offering free Wi-Fi, indoor and outdoor dining, live music, and events that cater to families. With it’s cozy, living-room like atmosphere, Watusi makes a memorable stop for a frosty but healthy indulgence. Located at 71 Pope Avenue near Aunt Chilada’s restaurant with easy access off the bike path, approximately ¼ mile from Coligny Beach! Hilton Head. 843-686-5200

Go WILD at Wild Yogurt! Fun is the theme here so bring your little ones – they will have a grand time!

Wild Yogurt

Stop by Wild Yogurt for an amazingly ‘wild’ experience mid-Island. Created for the young and young at heart, Wild Yogurt is a full-service frozen yogurt shop decorated with a wild animal theme. Promoting an ‘old school’ philosophy, Wild Yogurt creates custom treats according to the customer’s choice of yogurt flavors and toppings. The yogurt served here is “Only 8” meaning that it is no fat, no cholesterol, all natural, low in calories and carbohydrates, gluten-free, Kosher, and contains no preservatives.

At only 8 calories per ounce, feel free to go “Wild” with fresh toppings that include warm fudge, candies, whipped cream, fruit and more! Located at 95 Mathews Drive B-4 in the Port Royal Plaza, Hilton Head. 843-290-9343.

You can design and build your own frozen masterpiece at any of my recommended sweet treat stops, like this beauty from Sweet Frog Yogurt!


The Best Gators are Chocolate Gators!

“Nine out of ten people like chocolate.

The tenth person always lies.” – John Q. Tullius


Dark or milk chocolate gator anyone? The Chocolate Canopy has plenty of both!

One of my favorite foodie-centric things to discuss with like-minded friends are what we believe will be the “next big thing’ in popular foodie culture. Fads and favorites have been all over the place, from bacon to fancy salt (or call it “sel’ in French with upturned nose) to Southwestern food to cupcakes. Recently food truck ‘food’ has taken the top spot as the foodie fad of the year circa 2013. Yes, you can also throw the word ‘artisanal’ in with the name of any dish and it’s a sure-fire hit.

Maybe it’s my Southern upbringing or just plain common sense, but I prefer quality to the flash in the pan style of most food fads. So my best guesses at what will be appearing on the plates of trendsetting foodies next usually fall short… I’m banking on locally grown preserved foods like spicy pickled watermelon rind or smoky heirloom tomato ketchup, not sumac-infused roasted kale broth with truffle oil or some such nonsense.

Believe it or not, these lovely seashells are actually made out of delicious artisan chocolate. Makes a wonderful Hilton Head-themed party favor!

Like the tides that rise and fall in our own Calibogue Sound, chocolate is one food (in my house it is it’s own food group!) that has seen it’s hip factor fluctuate on occasion, but be assured the popularity of quality, gourmet chocolate never wanes. Here on Hilton Head Island, The Chocolate Canopy is the place to go for the absolute best chocolate treats. Hand-made on premise, the beautiful and delicious creations of Kristoffer and Starr Hamby will surely satisfy every chocoholic craving on the Island.

The Chocolate Canopy was opened in 1982 by Ray and Alfreda Degheri, who retired in 2012 after selling the store and handing over their prized recipes to the Hamby’s. Starr and Kristoffer take great care to preserve the fine quality of the candies, caramels, truffles, nougat and all-manner of fantastic chocolate delights that patrons expect at the Chocolate Canopy over the past 30 years.

Tempering the chocolate is an integral part of creating creamy, smooth treats. The Chocolate Canopy makes everything fresh in-house so if you’re a budding chocolatier just talk to Kristoffer!

Kristoffer, who handles most of the candy making, spent many years in the food and beverage industry, both in the kitchen and on the supplier side. “Making fine chocolates takes some skill but mostly it calls for patience and a lot of attention to detail,” Kristoffer told me, as some fabulous-smelling Merckens chocolate began the tempering process in the Chocolate Canopy kitchen.

Trained by the Degheris’ before taking over the store’s reigns and having had this previous F&B experience was important in keeping the integrity of the store’s products. Starr added, “We keep a tight inventory and since our products turn over quickly, every piece we sell is always fresh.” They also utilize local and regional ingredients whenever they can, like the locally harvested pecans in their pecan pralines, for instance.

The Chocolate Canopy has a strong special order business both selling private label items for local and regional businesses as well as producing custom orders for family reunions, corporate events, weddings and the like. “We can fill pretty much any custom order within a week, but more time is always helpful especially if it’s a unique design or a large order.

These ‘baby turtles’ are not endangered but still pretty darn cute!

But we’ve done orders in one day too – we’ll try our best to accommodate our customer’s needs,” she added. The variety they offer is stunning, making the choice of fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate, chocolate seashells or maybe some caramel and chocolate turtles, always a difficult, but tasty decision. Hey, somebody has to do these ‘tough’ jobs!

Probably the best known molded chocolate they offer is their alligators, which range in size from tiny to, well, rather large. In Hilton Head Island, the ubiquitous alligator is all ‘round from golf course lagoons (real ones!) to Charles Fraser’s “walking the alligator’ statue in Compass Rose park. Surely a chocolate ‘gator from the Chocolate Canopy must be absolutely the finest kind – and they taste a heck of a lot better too – trust me, this foodie knows!

The Chocolate Canopy is located at 6 Bow Circle on Hilton Head Island. They are open Monday through Friday from 10:30 to 5:30 pm and Saturday from 1 pm – 5 pm. Need more directions, have questions or want to place a special order? Call 843- 842-4567 or email Starr:

Love fresh chocolate-dipped strawberries? You’re in luck because so do the Hamby’s! You can special order them just about any time of year too.

Commence with the Fun & Great Eats at The Old Town Dispensary!

The Old Town Dispensary is conveniently located in Old Town Bluffton nestled amongst the renovated, historic Carson Cottages.

Old Town Bluffton is known for its unusual festivals, street fairs, and an eccentric but welcoming atmosphere. Soon it will, no doubt in my mind, be gathering accolades for the growing number of locally-owned eateries with solid yet creative menus springing forth within Old Town and environs. When Bluffton becomes a foodie mecca, remember you read it here first!

One of the spots that I am pumped about is the Old Town Dispensary. Starting its life as a tavern tucked around the corner from the bustle of Calhoun Street (Yes, this is an inside joke – there’s no bustle in Old Town unless it’s attached to an 18th century petticoat hanging at The Heyward House Museum!), the Dispensary is the creation of local developer Thomas Viljac.

A platter of crab, artichoke and spinach bruschetta deliciously creates the perfect foil for a frosty artisan draft brew or a glass of pinot grigio.

Thomas had the bright idea to develop, or rather ‘redevelop’ this parcel of property into a pedestrian friendly courtyard a few years back, keeping the Blufftonesque architectural integrity of the buildings and tying in a historical theme. As a whole it is known as the Carson Cottages, with the Dispensary anchoring the interior and professional offices, a women’s clothing store and the Cottage Bakery & Tea Room filling in the additional cottage buildings. On Thursday afternoons from spring through fall, tents line the courtyard and dot adjacent Calhoun Street for the Farmers Market of Bluffton, creating a very social and festive atmosphere.

If you’re wondering about the term, “Dispensary”, it was actually a state-operated liquor store that opened in 1893 in Bluffton. Thomas added as much physical history to his Dispensary cottage as he could, with the walls originating from a train station in nearby Estill, SC and the bathroom doors hailing from the Ogeechee Railroad train station in Georgia.

The OTD burger makes a hearty and tasty meal with blue cheese, caramelized onion and crispy bacon with chipotle mayo. Photo: The Old Town Dispensary.

In January of this year, Thomas realized it was time to move the Dispensary into the second phase of its life, by adding a casual yet tantalizingly creative menu to the tavern’s offerings. He realized there was just one local chef who’s cooking skills and imaginative artistry in the kitchen would match his own.

“Matt Jording and his wife Carol have a wonderful work ethic and his superb cooking at Sage Room (Jording’s fine dining restaurant on Hilton Head Island) is well known throughout the Lowcountry,” Thomas said. Jording also happens to live in Bluffton so he is very attuned to that “Bluffton state of mind” and the menus here at the Dispensary reflect that perfectly. “Partnering with Matt is a real blessing,” Thomas added.

Relaxing on the shady wooden deck sipping some refreshing iced tea and nibbling on a platter of crab, spinach and artichoke bruschetta and a heaping mound of parmesan and truffle fries served with garlic aioli, curry ketchup, and Dijon béarnaise, my only regret is not ordering a tall brew from one of the half-dozen choices on draft. The burgers here are already have a strong following – the “house” burger, caprese, ‘Juicy Lucy’ and formidable yet tempting Burger Benedict (with Canadian bacon & fried egg) are quickly becoming legends in their own burger time.

First off the OTD is a bar…with great eats! What’s a foodie to do? An oyster shooter, that’s what! Photo:The Old Town Dispensary.

Mind you, Chef Matt keeps things fresh and seasonal too with specials offered everyday, many featuring local seafood from surrounding salt waters – the “OTD Grouper”, a pan roasted fillet served over boursin grits, with sauteed spinach and topped with an Andouille, shrimp, and corn au gratin, is a favorite.

Yes, the Dispensary is a wonderful spot to grab a drink, take in a deep breath of salty clean Lowcountry air and the beauty of Old Town. And between the vision of Thomas Viljac, and the inspired cuisine of Chef Matt Jording, it is really so much more. For the Foodie or the just plain hungry, something quite special this way comes to Bluffton, by way of the Old Town Dispensary!

Local Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Chef Matt Jording, The Old Town Dispensary & The Sage Room


  • 12 squash blossoms: these need to be picked locally; take the initial orange blossom; check for bees
  • ¼ lb. fresh local shrimp – peeled and de-veined
  • 1 plump local tomato – medium size
  • 8 oz. goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Minced fresh basil – 2 or 3 leaves
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • Olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • Piping bag with large tip

For best results, gently harvest the squash blossoms from your own squash crop. Any variety of squash will suffice. Set aside until stuffing is ready. Take goat cheese out of the refrigerator to bring to room temperature.

Wash, peel and de-vein the local shrimp. Then carefully dice into ¼-inch pieces. Sautee shrimp in a heavy bottom skillet in olive oil over medium heat with a little salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Dice tomatoes to the same size as the shrimp. Set aside. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with minced basil (2-3 fresh leaves.)

Once shrimp is cool, stir shrimp and tomato mixture into softened goat cheese in a mixing bowl. Season to taste. Pipe approximately ½ oz. of the stuffing mixture into each squash blossom.

Place 2 cups of milk into small bowl and beat in one egg. Spread approximately 1 cup of cornstarch on a small plate or tray. Gently dip each squash blossom on milk/egg mixture, and then gently roll in cornstarch to coat.

Heat a few tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in heavy bottom skillet. Sautee squash blossoms until golden. Serve immediately. Yield 12 squash blossoms with 2 per person serves 6.

Say “Oui!” to Claude & Uli’s Bistro

Local softshell crab is what’s for lunch this spring at Claude & Ulii’s Signature Bistro. C’est magnifique!

While I do not possess the ‘collector’ gene that my mother and her side of my family seem to embody as a way of life, there is one set of treasures that I have staunchly defended throughout the years whenever my family has moved: my collection of old cooking magazines. Mostly they are classic issues of Gourmet magazine with a healthy dose of Bon Appetite and Food & Wine plus a sprinkling of Travel & Leisure and Southern Living. Since I am firm believer in appreciating quality over quantity or one better…quality over fads, my treasured magazine collection is like an old friend and it never fails to inspire me.

No, most of the recipes found within those pages would never be considered ‘trendy’ by today’s restaurant and tv cooking show standards, but I adore them just the same. There will always be a place for classically prepared, continental cuisine and as luck would have it, there’s no better place for this indulgence in the Hilton Head Island area than Claude & Uli’s Signature Bistro.

Chef Claude in his element. Not only is he from Normandy, France, he has worked in some of the most famous kitchens in Europe and America, including Maxim’s in Paris! That’s France, ya’ll!

After enjoying a fine meal at Claude & Uli’s, I found myself again appreciating the nuances of true classic cuisine prepared by the experienced hands of a master chef who truly loves his work. Chef Claude Melchiorri is a European-trained chef and restaurateur who has, over the years cooked in some of the finest restaurants in the world – Maxim’s in Paris, the Connaught in London, and Ernie’s in San Francisco. Chef Claude and wife Uli, have created a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere at their restaurant, making it easy to understand why so many locals adore their bistro.

While there may be many a restaurant making claim to be a gem hidden among the over 200 in the Hilton Head Island area, Claude & Uli’s is the real deal. The menu here is large and yes, you will see familiar classics like Mussels & French Fries, Onion Soup Gratinee, and rack of lamb. Rest assured that whatever your choice, it will be superbly prepared under the discerning eye of Chef Claude.

Cheese crepes – a real treat for this Francophile cuisine lover. Yum!

“We make everything here in our kitchen from scratch, from the sauces to the desserts,” Chef Claude told me as he pounded out fresh veal cutlets for his melt in your mouth Wiener Schnitzel. Claude and Uli previously owned a fine dining restaurant on Hilton Head, when they sold it a few years back and decided to retire. Within a short while they both realized retirement wasn’t for them, and the kitchen came a calling again with the opening of the Bistro in Moss Creek Village, just over the bridge in Bluffton.

There are many French dishes on the menu (Chef Claude was born in Normandy, France by the way) but the menu also touches on the tastes of Italy, Belgium, and Austria while offering a nod to Lowcountry cuisine with specialties like silky she-crab soup and a lovely local softshell crab entrée. The Bistro is a sought-after dessert destination too – think crème brûlée and bread pudding with créme Anglais. Their signature dessert, soufflé Grand Marnier with chocolate sauce, hits ALL the high notes for this dessert lover. Chef Claude was kind to share the recipe with us too!

The Grand Marnier Souffle. Try making it yourself using Chef Claude’s recipe below – or just get yourself on over to Claude & Uli’s! Order it with your entree, though – remember its made from scratch.

Thinking about my old issues of Gourmet, I remember how this South Carolina gal relished reading – and then dreaming about – the oh-so cosmopolitan cities of Paris, New York, London and San Francisco, and the bastions of fine dining covered within the pages. Several of those kitchens Chef Claude himself worked in and to think now he’s right here in my neighborhood, making me lunch!

Visiting the Island and environs? Take it from me, grab your sweetheart (or perhaps a Francophile loving friend!) and point yourself in the direction of Claude & Uli’s Signature Bistro for lunch, dinner or even brunch – you’ll be shouting “c’est magnifique” in no time!

Grand Marnier Souffle

Claude & Uli’s Signature Bistro

  • 2 oz Sugar
  • 8 oz Milk (whole)
  • 2 oz Unsalted butter
  • 2 oz Flour
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 2 oz cocoa powder
  • 2 oz Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil milk with 2 oz sugar and melt butter with flour to make a roux. Mix the sugared milk and the roux and boil again, stirring frequently. Add egg yolks and Grand Marnier – remove from heat but keep in a warm place.

Whip the egg whites and the other 2 oz of sugar together until very stiff. Combine the yolk mixture and egg white mixture with a spatula, carefully folding. Gently add the cocoa powder.

Fill prepared ramekins with the batter; fill almost to the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately. Serves 6.


Food Fests’ Burst into Spring on Hilton Head Island

The Seafood Fest includes the “Iron Chef” competition where local professional chefs let their creativity flow and keep their cool preparing gourmet level concoctions from the surprise ingredients found in their mystery baskets – all within 1 hour! Photo courtesy of Hilton Head Island Seafood Fest.

What do you get when you have fabulous weather, fresh locally caught seafood and expertly prepared ‘Buffalo-style” chicken wings in every flavor imaginable AND a rollicking good time?

If you’re in Hilton Head Island during March or April then you’ve set yourself up for all that and more! Spring festival season kicks off with two ‘foodietastic’ events that you will not want to miss.

If platters of hot chicken wings washed down with plenty of cold beer in a waterside Lowcountry setting make you happy, then by all accounts Wingfest is your ideal festival. Belly up to a celebration of “all things wing” on Friday, March 22 (5-8pm) and Saturday, March 23 (11 am – 6 pm) at the Shelter Cove Park on Hilton Head Island.

The Friday night “pre-WingFest” party includes local chefs preparing wings of many flavors while local restaurant Street Meet provides a section of non-wing goodies. Live music and the popular Kid’s Zone add to the family atmosphere.

On Saturday, competition kicks into high gear with the main festival where over 6,000 lbs

Don’t fly the coop! Head over to Wingfest and sample a bounty of wings prepared in every flavor and style imaginable! Photo courtesy of Hilton Head Island Recreation Center/Wingfest.

of wings will be served, professional judges will select the top wings of the day and you can add your 2 cents by voting for the People’s Choice Award winner.

This opportunity to raise your cholesterol also benefits a good cause! All event proceeds go to the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association’s Children’s Scholarship Fund, where “so no child is denied recreation opportunities.”

Here are all the Details

Pre WingFest Party:

  • Friday, March 22, 2013, 5-8 pm
  • Shelter Cove Community Park
  • Admission: $5 per person (children 10 & under FREE)
  • Food and refreshments available for purchase with tickets.


  • Saturday, March 23, 2013, 11 am – 6 pm
  • Shelter Cove Community Park
  • Admission: $5 per person (children 10 & under FREE)
  • Food and refreshments available for purchase with tickets.

Do you love seafood? If that answer is yes, then you MUST attend the 6th annual Hilton Head Island Seafood Fest on Friday, April 5th and Saturday, April 6th! Some of the most talented and innovative chefs on the Island tie on their aprons tight and gather up their best seafood recipes for this charitable food festival.

Take a break from all that seafood to cheer on your favorite crustacean in the popular crab races at the Seafood Fest. Photo courtesy of the Hilton Head Island Seafood Fest.

Seriously, it is a not-to-be missed spectacle of seafood delicacies focused on our locally caught seafood like shrimp, fish and blue crab. And to up the ante for the chefs, there’s the popular “Iron Chef Competition” pitting competing local chefs to create an appetizer and an entrée using “mystery baskets” containing various ingredients including two (2) core local seafood 
ingredients, in only 1 hour!

Other activities include a silent auction, Kid Zone play area and the famous (infamous?) crab races. The chefs are not the only ones who can get on some friendly competition – pony up for a hermit crab and cheer your crustaceans on to victory!

Then gather your rose buds and accolades and get back to the seafood. This year’s participating restaurants include Alexander’s, American Culinary Federation, Black Marlin, Hudson’s on the Docks, L’Woods, The Chart House, Bluffton Oyster Co., Hana Sushi, Red Fish, The Crazy Crab, Skull Creek Boathouse, Steamers Seafood, Gillan’s Fresh Seafood & Oyster Bar and more! Plus musical entertainment on Friday includes Cranford & Sons—Hilton Head Island’s Rockabilly-Folk Explosion/Low Country Stomp band and on Saturday, long-time Island favorites The Headliners will keep a fresh-n-funky Motown groove going all ‘Fest long.

The Better Show, a daily, national television show, will also be filming a segment called “License to Spill” during the Seafood Fest. The segment will feature Hilton Head Island, the Seafood Fest, and some of the local food and chefs participating in the event. Cool beans!

Check out Chef Russell Keane’s excellent oyster recipe below and visit him at his restaurant NEO, where locally grown produce and products take center stage.

It is important to note that the Seafood Fest host is the David M. Carmines Memorial Foundation that raises monies to support several beneficiaries including the Island Recreation Association Scholarship Endowment Fund, The American Cancer Society, and the MD Anderson Cancer Clinic.

David M. Carmines was a native of Hilton Head Island, a lover of all things outdoor and “Hilton Head Island”. David is no longer with us, but his positive spirit and love of life is honored by the Foundation through its volunteers, supporters and charitable recipients.

Here are all the Details

Hilton Head Island Seafood Fest:       

  • Friday, April 5, 5- 8 pm
  • Saturday, April 6, 11 am – 5 pm
  • Shelter Cove Community Park
  • Admission is $5 per person (Kids 12 & under FREE)
  • Food and refreshments available for purchase with tickets

Fresh Oysters with Champagne Mignonette By Chef Russell Keane; NEO – Farm to Table Gastropub.

Local, succulent Lowcountry oysters are at their peak now! Photo courtesy of NEO – Farm to Table Gastropub.

Chef Russell Keane of NEO – Farm to Table Gastropub will be participating in this year’s Seafood Fest and shares one of his favorite recipes (and the technique) for enjoying one of my favorite Lowcountry delicacies. Chef Keane was also recently featured in Bon Appetite Magazine supporting Hilton Head Island’s growing locavore movement.

From Chef Keane: Fresh oysters, particularly the uniquely flavorful variety available in the Lowcountry, are a true delicacy. At NEO, we like to feature fresh local oysters, from the May River or Mackay Creek, showcased with a simple mignonette – condiment made with shallots, cracked pepper and vinegar. If you cannot get Lowcountry oysters, we recommend cold-water varieties, which are generally firmer and offer more robust flavor!

What You’ll Need

  • Sauce Pan
  • Large Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Spoon
  • Oyster Knife
  • Demitasse Spoons or Droppers
  • Ramekins
  • Platter


  • Fresh oysters*
  • ¼ c shallots, diced
  • 1-½ c Champagne or sparkling wine (cava or rosé)
  • ½ c red wine vinegar
  • ½ c apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp cracked pepper corns, or freshly cracked pepper


1) Prior to opening your oysters, clean their exteriors well – you can scrub them with a stiff brush under cold running water – and then store the oysters on a platter (round cup side down) in the refrigerator. You can also cover them with a damp towel or cloth.

2) Combine Champagne, or sparkling wine, and shallots in a small sauce pan and simmer over medium heat until mixture (mignonette) is reduced by half.

3) Add pepper – when you are cooking something that will take longer than 15 minutes, we recommend adding pepper later to avoid bitterness.

4) Add both vinegars and simmer for additional 10 minutes. Set aside and chill.

5) As you open your oysters, with your oyster knife and a protective glove or towel, take care to avoid spilling the flavorful natural juices (“liqueur”) inside. Properly cleaning the oysters’ exteriors will help prevent debris from getting inside and eliminate the need for rinsing away their briny goodness.

6) Carefully scrape your knife beneath the oyster to detach it from the shell, but leave it in the shell with the juices.

7) Serve the oysters with fresh, course ground horseradish and lemons, and serve the mignonette in small ramekins and demitasse spoons, or pipettes (droppers). Enjoy!

*Chef’s Note: When buying fresh, unshucked oysters, look for those that have closed shells and are free of fishy or musty smells. Refrigerate the oysters – do not soak them in water, or store them in sealed containers or plastic bags (they’ll suffocate) – and eat them as soon as possible (within a day or two).


I’ve got you babe… 28 years strong at the Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival.

It’s ALWAYS a great time at the Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival! The public tasting is Saturday, March 9th from 12 noon-3 pm.

Groundhog Day has passed and luckily we are not stuck in a perpetual rerun of February 2nd. However, if that reincarnated 24 hours happened to be the second Saturday in March and I found myself in Hilton Head Island, then instead of some kind of purgatory I would believe I did make it into heaven. That’s because it would be Wine & Food Festival day! My love of great wine (and food) satiated into infinity among the friendly folks and warm, blue skies of Hilton Head Island.

Dialing it back from that day dream, I am thrilled to once again be looking forward to the upcoming 28th annual Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival. Beginning on March 4th with the first of 16 Great Chefs of the South Wine Dinners, these popular events pair up a local superlative chef and a featured winery and will take place at various Island restaurants. Some of the participating restaurants this year include:

Yummy gourmand fare offered by Island restaurants like Red Fish makes wine tasting even more pleasurable.

There are many more so check out the Festival webpage and with the restaurant(s) you’re interested in, to get details and updates. 

On Friday, March 8th, the Festival wines kick it up a notch for a great cause. The Grand Tasting & Silent Auction offers the opportunity to learn about, taste, and purchase premium wines ($50+ retail) in an intimate setting. Enjoy a variety of wonderfully eclectic appetizer offerings, like peppered tuna tartar with seaweed slaw and wonton tuiles and smoked pork loin on blue cheese polenta cakes, paired with specialty selected premium wines poured during this event.

At the tasting, not only can you sample sophisticated wines, but the same bottles are available for purchase and/or are up for bid during the auction which benefits the John F. Curry Educational Hospitality Scholarship. The Grand Tasting & Silent Auction begins at 5:30 pm at the Sea Pines Country Club.

On Saturday, March 9th the quality meets quantity during the Festival’s showcase public event, (formerly referred to by locals as Winefest) called the Wine & Food Festival. Beginning at 12 noon 400 wines, including all the Festival award winners, will be available for tasting in the tents set up on the grounds of the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. Ticket holders will also be able to bid on an impressive array of wines during the second silent auction and sample delicious offerings by local restaurants. Again this year there will be several fine Island chefs holding court at the Outdoor Gourmet with many using locally grown and/or sourced ingredients.

The waiter’s race is a fun competition among the Island’s F&B elite.

Chefs include Next Food Network Star contestant Orchid Paulmeier, Old Fort Pub’s Chef Keith Josefiak and Gullah cookbook author and educator Sallie Ann Robinson. Bragging rights are on the line (and cash prizes too!) so cheer on local bartenders and wait staff as they compete in the much-anticipated annual Bartender’s Challenge & Waiter’s Race. The Health & Wellness Stage and the Celebrity Lowcountry Authors Tent are sure to add a deliciously educational angle to your wine tasting experience.

Lest I forget there was a wine judging that started this whole ‘Fest 28 years ago. So without further ado, here are the “Best of” and “Double Gold” award winners at the 2013 International Wine Judging & Competition at the Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival:

  • Best of Show: Bellow Family Vineyards, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California
  • Best of Show White: SA Prum, 2009 Riesling Kabinett
  • Best Value Wine: J. Lohr, 2010 South Ridge Syrah
  • Double Gold: Raymond Vineyards, 2010 Napa Valley Selection Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Double Gold: Buehler Vineyards, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Double Gold: MacRostie, 2011 Chardonnay
  • Double Gold: J. Lohr, 2010 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Double Gold: Vino da Monticello – Red, 2009, Le Mandorelle, Mosel
  • Double Gold: Salentin, 2010 Malbec, Mendoza, Valle de Uco
  • Double Gold: Pollack Vineyards, 2010 Merlot, Monticello
  • Double Gold: Round Pond Estate, 2009, Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Double Gold: Trapiche-Oak Cask, 2011, Argentina, Mendoza
  • Double Gold: Cupcake, 2011, Malbec, Mendoza

Silent auction wines benefit the John F. Curry Educational Hospitality Scholarship. You can get some great deals at the auction!

Event(s) Details:

Great Chefs of the South Dinners, March 4-9 at various locations and times throughout the Island

Grand Tasting & Silent Auction, Friday, March 8 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm at the Sea Pines Country Club

Wine & Food Festival, Saturday, March 9 from 12 noon- 3 pm at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn

Pop Open a Bottle of Fun at Uncork The Festival on Hilton Head Island!

Uncork the Festival includes a fun and funny wine stomping contest.

Wine lovers come together for old-fashioned fun and wine-centric competition at the 2013 “Uncork” The Festival on Hilton Head Island, January 26th from 6-8 pm at The Beach House by Holiday Inn. The official kick off the to the 28th annual Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival, local festival sponsor teams and civic groups literally get their grape on during the hilarious grape stomping competition.

Each team must have at least one “I Love Lucy” dressed team member and a cash prize is awarded to the doppelganger who wins the people’s choice as the best “Lucy”. The teams that produce the most grape juice earn cash donations for their favorite charity.

Besides the obvious fun of a grape stomping competition, this is the only event open to the public to mix and mingle with the judges who have gathered this weekend for the Wine & Food Festival International Wine Judging & Competition. It is also a wonderful opportunity for the wine enthusiast to “uncork” that vintage bottle they’ve been holding onto for a “special occasion”. The atmosphere doesn’t get much more magnificently conducive for a

Uncork The Festival

Pop the cork on that ‘special’ bottle you’ve been saving and join fellow oneophiles to truly savor the wine among friends.

Lowcountry oenophile than at this intimate event, where a Master Sommelier will be on-hand to discuss the fine art of palate cultivation and wine tasting.

So if you are partial to the grape like me, there is just no reason not to join in the fun at Saturday’s Uncork The Festival. After attending almost two dozen Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival over the years, and even working as a server during the judging one year, I have to say that nothing beats partaking of a good wine with like-minded folks. Yes, learning the correct way to taste, the technicalities of varietals and subtle nuances of various vintages is essential to truly appreciating fine wine, but just kicking back with friends with a wonderful glass of ‘vin’ is also one of life’s best activities.

At “Uncork” you do get the opportunity to rub elbows with wine experts and perhaps ask that pivotal wine question of the ages but hey, even if that isn’t your bag, there’s still great wine to drink and delicious food to enjoy. Bring a great bottle of wine, a friend and make it a party!

Details: Uncork The Festival

  • Where? The Beach House by Holiday Inn on Hilton Head Island
  • When? Saturday, Jan. 26, 6-8 pm
  • How much? Tickets are $35 per person and are available online at
  • Attendees will receive a souvenir glass, select vineyard wine tasting and delectable hors d’oeuvres but please bring your own “special” bottle of wine to enjoy and perhaps share!

Grab your Forks! Hilton Head Island Restaurant Week is Here!

Bombora's pulled pork slider

Pulled pork sliders from Bomboras Grille and Chill Bar has won several people’s choice awards for their barbeque at local festivals and cook-offs.

Happy New Year, and while officially the holidays are over, foodies still have a reason to celebrate with the 5th Annual Chamber Restaurant Week, being held January 26 – February 2, 2013 in Hilton Head Island and Bluffton. From the looks of the list of restaurants participating you can nab an attractive discount with specially price-fixed “prix fixe” menus at several of the Island’s trendy and classic eateries, or venture out to discover new favorites.

I spied a personal favorite, Santa Fe Cafe, participating and to my delight one of their prix fixe first course offerings is their painted desert soup – so creamy and rich it needs it’s own bank account, and so gorgeous it deserves to win grand prize at a juried art show. And their churros! They are so crunchy and light…there’s no better reason I can imagine to go ahead and break that New Year’s Resolution!

I also took notice of several Fresh On the Menu member restaurants participating in Restaurant Week including The Jazz Corner, Alexander’s, Frankie Bones and River House restaurant (located at in Bluffton at Palmetto Bluff) among others. Even in the midst of winter, I am thrilled to see many participants utilizing seasonal, distinctively local ingredients in their special menus.

Santa Fe Cafe, Churros

The churros from Santa Fe Cafe are a delightful way to end a fabulous meal at this popular Tex-Mex restaurant! Photo: Santa Fe Cafe.

For instance, The May River Grill’s appetizer choices include ‘baked oysters Bluffton’ and ‘Daufuskie–style’ crab cakes, and Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte is offering ‘flounder sautéed meunier’ and grilled fresh catch of the day (now that’s ‘local’!) as entrée selections. Finish off your fine meal here with a choice of Southern caramel cake, bread pudding with crème anglaise, or ‘pave au chocolat’. How can one choose only one from that tantalizing triumvirate? My mouth is watering, folks!

Bistro 17, located at Shelter Cover Harbour, offers many tasty entrees like their delicious peppered mustard salmon AND outside dining on the sheltered patio! Photo: Bistro 17.

Charlie Clark, Vice President of Communications at the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, tells me “The restaurant scene in Lowcountry is vibrant and becoming more and more recognized regionally and nationally as a premier dining destination. Restaurant Week is a terrific way for locals and visitors alike to sample food from great Hilton Head restaurants at delicious prices! For instance, Sublime Prime Steakhouse is offering three courses with entrée choices like filet mignon and Ahi tuna for $26.95 per person.

Restaurants relatively new to the local dining scene are jumping into Restaurant Week too. The special 4-course at ELA’s Blu Water Grille includes pan seared diver scallop with short rib and ther coastal bouillabaisse. Bomboras Grille and Chill Bar offers a 4-course prix fixe includes their award-winning pulled pork sliders and favorites like crab cakes and shrimp & grits.

THe Jazz Corner, Pork Tenderloin

One can NEVER go wrong at The Jazz Corner with dining, dancing and great live music. This is their pork tenderloin with blueberry demi-glace, spiced peach butter, sweet potato puree & edamame succotash. Photo: The Jazz Corner.

So, if you have ever wanted to try out a specific Island restaurant this certainly would be the week to make a reservation and support local restaurateurs at the same time. If you’re a foodie planning a visit to our fair isle then by all means check that calendar and get down here!

And if you are jaded by uninspired prix fix menus please don’t be, just check out the various preview menus online where you will most certainly find creativity flowing freely in every delectable course.

NOT your everyday Italian at Pomodori Italian Eatery on Hilton Head Island!

spinach tagliatelle

Chef Amanda’s house made spinach tagliatelle…a swirled sea of tender pasta waiting its turn to make you very happy!

Comfort is a wonderful word and the phase ‘comfort food’ is even better. Lately I’ve been pondering the term and thinking about the foods that soothe and cheer a Southern soul. As sure as this is a personal choice, certainly there are more than a few that land in a Southerner’s top five. May I suggest grits, homemade biscuits, macaroni and cheese (NOT from a box!), squash casserole and here in the Lowcountry most any “one dish meal” made with rice (pilou, red rice, crab rice, etc.).

When I was growing up, all these were simply “supper” – they were not regarded as special as we ate them quite often. Now, something that was regarded as “special”, was a creation of another land – and from the perspective of a child growing up in the 1970’s South this would mean China, Mexico or Italy. Italian was by far the favorite of these at our house and my mother even learned to make lasagna from scratch, complete with Béchamel sauce. Maybe the fact that our backyard garden overflowed with tomatoes every summer had something to do with this.

Melanzane Napoleone: flash fried eggplant layered with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato, finished with basil oil and 25 Year Balsamic from The Oilerie.

But besides lasagna and the ubiquitous spaghetti with red sauce, my experiences with “Italian” food came to a halt – at least until I was let loose into the world after high school graduation. Then I discovered many more flavors born of Italian lienage: caprese salad, gnocchi, zuccotto, and the wonders of fresh, homemade pasta. I even bought a hand cranked pasta machine (which is still in use). To me, good Italian cuisine is an intriguing mix of tradition and innovation that provides ‘comfort’ and also continuously offers something new. This is especially true when your plate arrives from the kitchen of a talented local chef … a chef like Amanda Russ of Hilton Head Island’s Pomodori Italian Eatery.

Chef Amanda began her Italian inspired culinary adventure on Hilton Head Island in March of this year, with Pomodori already receiving rave reviews by locals and visitors alike. What’s all the fuss you say? It’s “just Italian”. Well, it’s Chef Amanda’s “Italian”! This means homemade gnocchi and tagliatelle made on the premises. It also means a concentrated menu with variety, but kept small, so each delicious dish you order is custom made and ultra fresh.

House made ricotta and spinach ravioli in Pomodori’s own chunky tomato sauce epitomizes “comfort food”.

Pomodori also offers several specials daily – taking advantage of “what’s best that day at the local seafood and produce markets”, according to Chef Amanda. Italian cuisine is second nature to Chef Amanda as she is of Italian descent and learned the ways of the Sicilian kitchen from her Grandmother. She received her formal training at the Italian Culinary Institute in the region of Calabria… land of Sopressata, caciocavallo silano and abundant seafood hauled in from both the adjacent Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas. If Sicily is considered the “football” of Italy then Calabria is the “toe”.

Pomodori’s Osso Bucco is a one pound veal shank with fennel and tomatoes, and topped with a crispy potato haystack.

A mid-westerner by birth, Chef Amanda, was a frequent visitor to Hilton Head Island throughout her childhood, and as it seems to occur quite often to many, she felt the tug of the familiar Lowcountry after culinary school. We are so glad she made her way back – this time as a permanent resident! So while Hilton Head Island is not the island of Sicily, take comfort that a taste of Calabria and modern Italian cuisine is on the table right here at Pomodori Italian Eatery.

Oh, and if you’re thinking about New Year’s Eve on Hilton Head, think Pomodori! Chef Amanda has created a spectacular 4-course menu with champagne toast for just $60 per person. The meal includes eight options per course (Yes, eight options!) with amuse-bouche, salad, entree and dessert. To make a reservation call 843-686-3100.

Happy New Year from the Food Vibe!
Chef Russ’ Delicate Tomato Sauce
Pomodori Italian Eatery

  • (4) 28-oz cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomataoes, pureed
  • 10 cloves of whole peeled garlic
  • 3 carrots, diced small
  • 2 red onions, diced medium
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 2-3 medium sized rinds from parmigiano reggiano cheese

Coat the bottom of a heavy sauce pan with olive oil, enough to fill the bottom about 1/6 inch. (The wider the pan the better, more surface area and less chance of sticking or burning…tall pots are not ideal in this situation…the restaurant uses what’s called a rondo…)

Prop the back of the pan up so that the olive oil all concentrates to the front of the pan and add the cloves of garlic and a 1/2 tsp of kosher salt. On low medium heat, saute the garlic until it is transparent…you don’t want to brown the garlic or it will taste bitter. This will take about 15 minutes but it is every bit worth the time. What you are doing is infusing the olive oil with the flavor of the garlic. Once the garlic is soft and golden, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon. At this point if you whip that garlic with some butter and smear it on a loaf of italian bread you will have the makings of quite possibly the BEST garlic bread EVER!

Remove the prop you made from the back of the pan and allow the pot to sit regularly on the burners. Add the diced onions, carrots and 1 tbs kosher salt and saute over medium heat, careful not to brown the veggies or they will turn bitter. Again, this will take 15-20 minutes.

When the carrots are baby food soft, add the pureed tomatoes and parmigiano rinds and lower the heat to medium low. Allow the sauce to simmer about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring every so often to prevent the cheese rinds from sticking and burning. A good rule of thumb for tomato sauce is when the foam dissipates from the top of the sauce, you’re probably done. I reccommend that you taste your sauce every 20 minutes…it’s a good way to familiarize yourself with the cooking stages of tomato-based sauces.

When it no longer tastes tart or acidic, you’re done. Pull out the cheese rinds and strain through a china cap or a chinois (fancy words for strainers with small holes) Be sure and push the sauce through the strainer with a ladel or a spatula so you don’t waste any of the yumminess. Discard the pith left in the strainer after you’re finished.

VOILA! Delicious, fresh tomato sauce! Use this on anything from pasta to poached eggs!

Rock’in into the Holidays on Hilton Head Island with Taste of the Season

Taste of the Season

It’s a festive atmosphere at Taste of the Season!

Every year the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce throws down the culinary gauntlet with an event they call Taste of the Season. Yes, it kicks off the holiday season and yes, there are plenty of exciting tastes. But after this year’s amazing showcase of food deemed both creative and tasty, I’ll call it virtually a serious foodie’s paradise!

With almost three-dozen local restaurants and eateries represented, there was absolutely no lack of variety to be found. My only challenge was managing to fit a bite or two from each booth into my belly. Luckily this was not my first rodeo, so I paced myself and had a plan of attack formulated in my mind as soon as I walked through door. After making a quick pass by all the participants and taking a few notes, I circled back to get on with the eat’n.

After stopping only to make a few notes and take a sip or two of water between bites, I doubled back to speak with a few chefs, inquiring about their dish(es) and thank them for their obvious awesomeness.

Chef Brad Blake of Skull Creek Boathouse, offered their cocoa seared sea scallops with pineapple salsa and cocoa butter to an eager crowd. Chef Brad looks forward to this annual event, “ Taste of the Season kicks off the season and really gets every one – chefs and patrons alike – in the holiday spirit. All the chefs bring their “A-Game” to this event, they realize it’s a great chance to shine the spotlight on their talent and their restaurants. It’s a lot of fun too.”

Chef, I could not agree more! So rather than ramble on about who made what, I’d rather show you! Rock on foodies with this culinary tour of the 2012 Taste of the Season!

Top honors for the night went to Hugo’s Seafood & Steakhouse and their “Surf n’Turf Lollipops” – Lobster Wontons & Hawaiian-seared Filet Mignon with Celeriac Puree, Parsnip Chips & Soy Vinaigrette. Yum!

Upon entry to the ballroom what should appear? Not sugar plums, but this impressive chocolate cake by Fusion restaurant.

Skull Creek Boathouse served up their seared sea scallops with cocoa and pineapple salsa.If you missed this at Taste of the Season, now worries – this is a regular menu item at the restaurant!

What a fabulous “line up” of wonderful food from local restaurants!

Marley’s Island Grill nabbed second place with “Savory Surf & Turf Rockefeller”.

Upon entry to the ballroom what should appear? Not sugar plums, but this impressive chocolate cake by Fusion restaurant.

Scallops and a creamy bisque offered by Conroy’s – conveniently located in the Marriott – hosts to this years Taste of the Season!

Upon entry to the ballroom what should appear? Not sugar plums, but this impressive chocolate cake by Fusion restaurant.

Receiving honorable mention for their desserts (Flourless Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Bark, White Chocolate and Pumpkin Crème Brulee Cheesecake and Miniature Christmas Tree Cupcakes) was Flatbread Grill.

Orchid Paulmeier of One Hot Mama’s served up some scrumptious smoked turkey with dressing and gravy.