Jason and I have made our much anticipated return to Charleston, South Carolina. Last year, around the same time (President’s week), we came for a quick visit and were overwhelmed by the history, weather, magnificent architecture, and (of course) endless food and cocktail offerings. Upon our return we created a list of new places we needed to try, and a list of places we needed to revisit. The Obstinate Daughter was at the tippy top of the list.
In October, as I began psychotically mapping out our week long adventure, I also began psychotically emailing restaurants in an attempt to get the “Baconboozer” name out there and spread some buzz. I’ll be honest: most places either did not respond, or did respond, but with a half-hearted disinterest. Needless to say, I was shocked to receive a response from Jacques Larson, the brilliant executive chef and mastermind behind The Obstinate Daughter. He proceeded to graciously invite us for a meal, read my blog post from our previous trip to Charleston, and gave some suggestions on some places (Xiao Bao Biscuit, in particular) that we really must try on our return trip. When we arrived for dinner last night, Jacques greeted us warmly, asked for the creative liberty to send out his personal favorite dishes, and checked on us throughout the meal, all while overseeing a busy kitchen for a completely packed restaurant. I think Jason and I hid it well during our meal, but we were pretty damn starstruck by this guy, and creepily watched him in awe from our booth for most of the night.
Aside from Jacques, we had the pleasure of meeting The Obstinate Daughter‘s general manager, Jonathan Bentley, who went above and beyond to ensure that we had a perfect experience. Danielle, our waitress, was additionally exceptional. I gave her a list of places to try on her upcoming trip to New York, and eagerly await her thoughts on everything!
As you may guess, let me just go ahead and blurt it out: I am ramping up to a five star rating here. Sure, they knew Jason and I were coming and that we were reviewing their food and hospitality. But I also watched the way everyone on staff interacted with other guests, and not a single person in the dining room was ignored. Wait staff were all attentive, informative, and just fucking happy to be there. The entire kitchen staff (it’s an open kitchen) looked relaxed and comfortable, smiling all the while executing magical and really gorgeous food. Jonathan and Jacques floated around the restaurant checking in on food, drinks, and feedback. There was no pretentiousness and all genuine and good hospitality.
So yeah, good hospitality definitely goes a long way. But then when you top it with absolute perfection on each and every plate… The Obstinate Daughter nailed every component I look at during a review. Jacques described his love for simple, rustic, and delicious food, and that’s exactly what we got. I’m not sure how simple it really is to create what he does, but it certainly seemed effortless.
Cocktails: I did the William Moultrie, and then the Red Coat Margarita while Jason did the Swamp Fox and then the Bedford/Evil Twin double IPA, the Problem Solver.
The William Mountrie was bright, refreshing, and weirdly delicious. The Red Coat Margarita was the best margarita I’ve ever had. Jason’s Swamp Fox was sweeter than he’d normally order but not too sweet, had a nice spice, and still had some bourbony strength to it. His beer was delicious, too.
Next the food. I’m going to bullet list the dishes we received, along with our thoughts on them:
- Oysters: We were sent two of each of their available oysters: the Ichabod, Sweet Petite, and Caper’s Blades. The Ichabod and Sweet Petite’s were beautiful meaty bites with subtle brine, while the Caper’s Blades were much brinier and more delicate. They were perfectly clean and smooth, and we loved each one. We also especially loved the house made hot sauce, a major kick of spice from ghost peppers but balanced with an unusual fruity sweetness that cut the spice right down.
- Razor Clam Crudo: This dish also presented some fried oysters and charred corn. The clams themselves were so meaty… I love the texture of razor clams, and this showcased them perfectly. The sauce was magic, and I even somehow enjoyed the celery leaves in this dish, which is basically a miracle, if you know how I feel about celery.
- Smoked Fish: This was a smoked amberjack play on a Waldorf Salad. There were roasted grapes, walnuts, celery, apple, and a delicious cream dressing. This dish was insanely tasty. I can never eat a Waldorf Salad again.
- Country Pate: This was a pate of veal and pork shoulder, studded with sweetbreads, and wrapped in bacon. It had a strong irony flavor, like a denser liver mousse, which I love. It was unlike any pate I’ve ever had before. C’mon, studded with sweetbreads and wrapped in bacon? My head blew up.
- Roasted Beets: A light and fresh beet salad on a bed of whipped ricotta with pistachios and a little tiny hint of spice from some horseradish. This was something I would probably never order, and am so happy we got the chance to try. It was nice to get beets without goat cheese, and it was great to feed our bodies a vegetable without feeling like we were sacrificing on deliciousness.
- Anson Mills Farro Piccolo: This dish featured fried brussel sprouts, peanut, and farro, and I loved it. The farro was nice and crunchy, and went awesomely with the peanuts. There was also a balsamic and black truffle flavor behind the brussel sprouts that gave them a really nice complexity.
- Bavette: Fresh made pasta with lobster, uni, and caviar. This was my absolute favorite dish of the entire night. The pasta was cooked exactly how I like it, with a nice firm bite to it. The chunks of lobster throughout the dish were just barely cooked, so you still got all the freshness and oceanic flavor of them. The caviar popped along with the bitey pasta, and the uni (melted like butter throughout the dish) gave such a magical saltiness that I literally wanted to lick the plate. If you’re down with seafood, do yourself a favor and order this.
- Ricotta Gnocchi: Ok, I know I said the Bavette was my favorite dish, but this was my other favorite. I can’t pick just one. The gnocchi were that bizarre balance of heavy and light at exactly the same time: firm on the outside and light and pillowy on the inside. And the sauce… they’re in a short rib ragu that I could bathe in. There just really aren’t words for the amount of flavor reduced into this sauce.
- Ravioli: This was stuffed with mustard greens and had a strong gorgonzola flavor with a brown butter sauce. I feel bad for this pasta. Not because it was bad, but instead because it was so, so good. It just didn’t stand a chance next to the other pasta dishes. Of course I tasted it, but I was so obsessed with stuffing my face with gnocchi and the bavette, that I simply could not return to this dish for more. It’s moments like these that I wish I could transform into a bottomless pit.
- Speck This Out: This was our pizza course; everyone needs a pizza course. As I’m writing this review, Jason is “secretly” eating the leftover pieces of it in the bathroom of our hotel room… I can hear him. My favorite part of this, aside from the speck (a smokey prosciutto) was the butternut squash. It gave such a sweetness to contrast the smokiness – really unusual and great.
- Pistachio Gelato (from Beardcat‘s, located on the first floor of the same building): When Jacques brought this out, I mentally rolled my eyes, and I am ashamed of that. I thought to myself, “Eh, a scoop of plain gelato?” But this scoop was the creamiest and most flavorful scoop of anything that I have ever have. I apologize to this individual scoop, as well as the entire establishment of Beardcat’s Sweet Shop. I’ve had gelato in Italy that didn’t compare to this simple and magical scoop of heaven.
- Walnut Creme Brûlée: The custard in this creme brûlée was everything I’ve ever wished for… firm, smooth, creamy, and with that thick crispy glaze on top. And the subtle hint of High Line bourbon… mmmmm.
Sometimes I get upset when I have a meal this good because I worry that no other meal will ever compare, and dining out is now futile. But I must forge forward. This was a meal that I will always keep in mind as “one to beat,” and will drive me in my mission to always seek and discover the greatest and most creative chefs out there.
I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Jacques, Jonathan, and Danielle. You each impressed Jason and I with more than just each of your specific skill sets. You made us feel at home in a city that is not ours and filled us with a newfound love and respect for Charleston. Thank you for giving a budding blogger a chance, and congratulations on a much deserved five star Baconboozer rating!