I’ll save you the Google search. Sorghum is a drought-tolerant grain commonly processed into either sweet sticky molasses syrup or ethanol…quite the range! Apparently it’s cheaper to make ethanol from sorghum than corn so I imagine we will be hearing more about sorghum in the future. I am equally certain we will be hearing more about Charleston’s month-old restaurant Sorghum & Salt.
Chef Tres Jackson must have crazy wild dreams because I am not sure how else he could come up with his menu’s amazing flavor combinations. I usually like to do a little pre-planning before going to a new restaurant by reviewing the menu. But Chef Jackson’s menu demanded more than just a peek. There were all sorts of new Scrabble-worthy words.
Mizuna: an Asian lettuce with crisp green leaves
Shiso: another Asian lettuce that kind of tastes like basil
Garganelli: tubular pasta
Cremeux: dense pudding
Financier: almond cake
This is a menu written by a chef who doesn’t need to come up with clever names for his food. For example, his fried chicken isn’t called “I’m not chicken to order this fried chicken.” It’s called “Crispy Fried Chicken-Fermented Collards-Chili-Sweet Potato-Ginger Honey.” This is also a menu of items screaming to be shared with other adventuresome eaters. Luckily I was there with my husband and our foodie friend, Michelle. Neither one blocks me when they see my fork creeping toward their plates.
The menu is divided into Gardens & Grains, Meat and Fish, Larger Plates and Dessert. While we studied the menu to make our final decisions, we ordered the bread service which was a sharable loaf of brown sugar bread with pork butter. Yes, Chef Jackson combined pork with butter…which may make him eligible for sainthood. Then we each picked two items for our dinners and three different desserts.
Crispy Brussels sprouts, root vegetable bolognese and cured steelhead trout started off our meal. The order-again winner here were the Brussels sprouts. The cooking time on these must be measured in seconds because just a few more seconds and they would have tasted burnt. Instead, every bite had a crunch of smokiness complemented with some feta and local buttermilk. (As an aside, I always appreciate when a menu correctly lists the vegetable as Brussels sprouts rather than the incorrect Brussel sprouts.)
Next up were the panzanella, a smoked carrot and lamb ragu and the aforementioned fried chicken. Now fried chicken would be the last thing I would order from this innovative menu but thankfully my husband ordered it. It was hands-down the best bite of the table. It was the true trifecta of good fried chicken: sweetness from local honey, heat from the chili and juicy, perfectly cooked boneless chicken. No remorse over leaving a tasty morsel trapped on the bone. The whole, golden, crispy, sweet/hot delicacy was devourable. The panzanella was definitely not your traditional Italian bread cubes-tomato type panzanella. It was a little on the fancy food spectrum but it was fun to try different flavor forkful combinations with the creamy ricotta, the sweet bread cubes and different types of lettuces. The ragu was a very rich dish and the serving was huge for something that wasn’t on the “Larger Plates” section of the menu.
For dessert we ordered the beet cremeux, the blue cheese cake and the chocolate cake. The chocolate cake was the one dessert not on the menu but it’s definitely the one that should be put on the permanent menu. The beet cremeux was the texture of pana cotta and didn’t have a strong beet taste. Which I guess is a good thing in a dessert but I was hoping for a more intense flavor. The blue cheese cake had the opposite problem…it was TOO intense. It was reviewed by our friend as “something better served at the beginning of a meal with some crackers and a nice glass of wine.” It was more blue cheese and less cheesecake. We attempted to morph it into a dessert by combining it with the beet cremeux and then with the chocolate cake but it just didn’t want to grow up to be a dessert. But it would be an amazing first course. The chocolate cake, served with pistachio butter, was the perfect ending to this meal and thankfully my husband knows how to share.
Sorghum & Salt’s concept is to highlight local ingredients in innovative ways. This isn’t your typical farm-to-table restaurant. Chef Jackson is more of a “Buckle up, you farm fresh ingredients. I am about to take you for a ride.” Our server (server name on the receipt said Babes) was exceptionally friendly, knowledgeable, funny and charming which always makes a great meal even better. Chef Jackson even stopped by our table to welcome us and share a little bit of his story with us.
I will be keeping my eyes on their website to see when they change their menu each season so I can make a return visit. And as an extra bonus, I am pretty sure I will pick up some more Scrabble-worthy words.
I am Amy. And this is my feed.