Monday, January 14, 2013

High Cotton Restaurant In Charleston During Restaurant Week 2013 -Great Dining Experience With White Gables Residents

I had a change in plan for Charleston's Restaurant Week. Sermets Downtown was to be first on my list of restaurants, but I received an invitation to join a group of White Gablers at the downtown restaurant High Cotton. So, I couldn't pass it up. High Cotton is part of a collection of unique restaurants owned and operated by Maverick Southern Kitchens. Located in the heart of the French Quarter on East Bay Street, it is surrounded by the best of historic Charleston.

The words "high cotton" is an old southern idiom going back to the cotton plantation days of yesteryear. When the cotton plants grew high, it meant a good crop and good times were ahead. It was also easier to pick, not requiring the picker to stoop down to low. "High Cotton" was also the title of a country song by Alabama from their 1989 album "Southern Star." The narrator of the song reminiscences about his youth and how his younger days were good. With this in mind, "The Best of Times" is behind the restaurants name High Cotton, billed as "reflecting fine dining at its best, projecting wine and food professionalism, low-country cuisine at its finest, and a classic high society comforting decor."

High Cotton ranked number 18 in Tripadviser's reviews of Charleston restaurants. Urbanspoon's list of Best of Charleston put High Cotton at 15. On Opentable's Diner's Choice Award for "most booked," High Cotton came in at six. The Charleston City Paper's Best of Charleston 2012 honored such restaurants as Fig, Hall's Chophouse, Hominy Grill and others, but High Cotton was not anywhere to be found in any category. Southern Living's favorite choices listed McCrady's as number one and seven other restaurants, but again High Cotton was missing. So, High Cotton had their work cut out for them as to where I would put them on my list.

You couldn't ask for better weather on a January day in Charleston. Keri and I arrived downtown around 4:30 pm. The streets in the French Quarter were lively. After a street by street search for a parking spot that yielded no results, we settled for the Vendue Range parking garage. Reservations were set for 5:30 pm, so we had an hour to burn. We took a short walk to the Fleet Landing Restaurant to sit by the water and have a couple of drinks. The tide was out, so the smell of pluff mud was strong but the drinks were not, light on the alcohol. The time went by quickly and we headed back to East Bay Street and High Cotton.
High Cotton Bar with Gerry, Keri, Teddy, and Marilee
While waiting to be seated at our table, we introduced ourselves to other members of our party we didn't know and had a cocktail in the step-up lounge. The Charleston Cocktail I sipped was pleasant. Keri had her usual Pinot Grigio. A band was playing light dinner music as we watched the Ravens play the Broncos. Once all twelve members of our party arrived we were directed to our table, which was appropriately arranged with the necessary utensils you would expect to find at a classy restaurant, menus placed at each seat. The waiter fielded our questions pertaining to the 3 for $30 menus, graciously describing in detail the ingredients of some of the more unusual appetizers and entrees like the Pan Seared Stuffed Quail and Bacon Wrapped Rabbit Loin. The waiter repeated, "Bacon wrapped, need I say more." Both dishes contained a stuffing accentuated with sausage. Those of our party who indulged in these two selections were fully pleased.
Pan Seared Stuffed Quail
Kurios Farm Bibb Lettuce
My appetizer choice was Kurios Farm Bibb Lettuce with spicy pumpkin seeds, goat cheese, red onions, marinated baby tomatoes, and tarragon vinaigrette. The goat cheese caught my attention and the vinaigrette was gratifying. Keri was more audacious in selecting the Stuffed Quail, which surprised me since she didn't care for sausage. For our entrees we both chose the Roasted Atlantic Flounder with corn and crowder pea ragu, pear, radish and watercress salad. The fish was suitably flaky and cooked in Joseph Drouhin Macon Villages wine, the perfect accompaniment. Our meal was topped off with a Warm Honeycrisp Apple Tart. James, who sat across from me, enjoyed the Rabbit served on top of Geechie Boy grits, which aroused my curiosity, the grits that is, and the name Geechie Boy. He tentatively allowed me to indulge my curiosity with a knife tip of his grits. "Not too much," he jokingly quipped.
Roasted Atlantic Flounder
The room where we ate was comfortable and inviting. The ceilings were high, creating a feeling of spaciousness. Numerous ceiling fans with palm leaf paddle blades turned overhead. The building's large windows added to the feeling of openness, offering a view of East Bay Street. The lighting was just right. The food presentation was deliciously appealing and harmonized. The staff, from bartender to waiter, were superb. Benjamin was engaging, diligent and attentive. I have seen a waiter scrape the crumbs off the table only one other time in my dining experience, and that was at a five-star rated restaurant. Water glasses were always full. Never felt hurried, even after the meal was completed. I was delightfully pleased with my experience at High Cotton, a good start to Restaurant Week.
Benjamin the waiter, Gerry, Teddy, Keri, Marilee, Paul, Mike,
 Lisa, Brandy, James, Marsha, and Tom. Yours truly behind
the camera.

I had a wonderful time making new acquaintances with fellow White Gablers and getting reacquainted with other previous White Gable acquaintances. The conversation was both amusing and informative-ranging from raising kids, to funny life experiences, to solving ongoing social issues. A surprising connection was made when I found out some members of our party were Cleveland Browns fans. Six of our group ended the night across the street at Charleston Cooks, a kitchen retail shop that also offers cooking classes, and from there the Vendue Rooftop Bar. We were in high cotton.

In conclusion, I learned two new things. This was the first time I heard of the name Geechie Boy. The Geechie Boy Mill is local and located on Edisto Island. This keeps with the Lowcountry tradition of using only local ingredients to maintain and achieve the authentic Charleston cuisine and dining experience. The second thing I learned was the proper way to put a napkin on my lap. I never really gave much thought to it. I always just fully unfolded the napkin and spread it across my legs like a blanket, that is, when I even used a napkin. I was instructed to fold the napkin into thirds and then place it on my lap. Thank you Keri, you may yet turn me into a cultural socialite.

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