High Hammock, Maverick Seaside Kitchen Implements Fresh Standards
BY BECKY BILLINGSLEY
Chef de Cuisine Steven Musolf, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Technical College, joined the Maverick team in late 2009. While in school he worked as a line cook under Maverick Chef Frank Lee at former Maverick restaurant Slightly Up the Creek. After graduation Musolf spent six years as Chef de Cuisine at McCrady’s in downtown Charleston before moving to California and working at several restaurants.
Now he is back in the Lowcountry and again working under Executive Chef Frank Lee. Chef Musolf is enthusiastic about the farm-to-table concept that Maverick Southern Kitchens employs in all of its restaurants, including those in Charleston and Greenville.
Counting the porch, High Hammock has space for 270 diners, and every room has a genteelly casual southern coastal ambiance. Come as you are in shorts, jeans or business suit; it’s all appropriate.
Upstairs, which is a lovely expansive space perfect for large group meetings and receptions, is the Waverly Room. The adjacent upstairs sun porch, which has a stunning treetop view of live oaks, is the Litchfield Room.
Below the Litchfield is the Santee, which is the downstairs side porch featuring loads of multi-pane windows. An adjacent private dining room with room for eight is the Winyah. Also downstairs is the Tavern, which offers bar seating and several tables (regular tables, not high cocktail tables), and The Main Dining Room.
Each room has its own flair: The Waverly is rich with jewel tones and airy creaminess, and a gorgeous pine floor was reclaimed from under seven layers of paint. The Santee offers cherry wood and warmly cool blue upholstery with a Colonial spindleback banquette at one end of the room. The Main Dining Room is cozy with vivid reds, coastal photography and beach scavenger finds on the rough vintage wood mantel. A low beamed ceiling propagates the Colonial feeling, and a few touches evoke the area’s Native American heritage.
Tables are set with placemats, and each setting has two glasses – one for wine, one for water – two long-tine forks, a pleasantly heavyweight knife, and a bread plate with a butter knife.
What’s to eat
Menus change with the seasons to take advantage of what’s freshest. Dishes are not fussy or overthought; they are premium ingredients prepared with care and a mind toward flavor.
One of my favorite High Hammock dishes is the Charcuterie Plate. It’s all made in-house, and the flavors are extraordinary. While its components change, a typical presentation includes jumbo caper berries, cornichons, bread and butter pickle salad, petite salad with sherry wine vinegar and walnut oil dressing, Shiitake Mushroom Terrine (mildly flavored, creamy consistency), thin slices of house-smoked ham sided by dollops of two kinds of mustard and jam, duck liver pate with robust earthiness, Pork Rillettes, Italian Sausage and a luscious Country Pate studded with dried cherries and pistachios and rimmed with bacon. It’s a wonderful plate to share with friends over cocktails.
The current High Hammock lunch menu offers delectable Seared Sea Scallops tossed with pappardelle pasta, seasonal vegetables, olive oil and Pecorino Romano cheese. This dish is also on the brunch menu.
The lunch menu also has what is possibly the best gourmet deal in the Grand Strand. Called the Maverick Lunchbox, for $10 diners get half a sandwich (whatever the day’s featured sandwich is, and when I visited it was a turkey club wrap with a satisfyingly thick slice of fresh Cheddar); a small green salad with a choice of five house-made dressings (the Lemon Shallot dressing was vibrantly mellow); a cup of soup (Tuscan Kale and Tomato); and a wee crème brulee with a perfect balance of creamy smoothness and crispy sweetness.
A few other lunch choices include Grilled Salmon Salad, Blackened Chicken BLT, Beef Carpaccio and the famed Maverick Shrimp & Grits that is presented vertically and features local stone-ground yellow grits, local shrimp, julienne slivers of that house-smoked ham, house-made kielbasa, tomato concasse, green onions and Cajun seasonings.
At High Hammock the dinner menu is arranged into Starters, Medium Plates and Main Courses.
A Medium Plate could be Gingerbread Stuffed Carolina Quail served with celery apple puree, sage and pearl onion jus. The jus adds a luscious and tempering layer of deep flavor and silky texture to the meat, which is sweetened by the gingerbread stuffing. The pool of celery apple puree adds another layer of depth to the dish with mellow sweet smoothness. Pearl onions lend a mild crunch to the experience, and be assured it is considered appropriate to pick up that little quail leg and use your mouth to get every last bit of tender meat clinging to the bone.
Another innovation on the dinner menu is a $19 Main Course of Herb Roasted Tanglewood Farms Chicken Breast served with country ham, Brussels sprout leaves, red potatoes, melted leeks and black truffle pan sauce. The potato side dish has almost been elevated to star status with this treatment, where firm Brussels sprout leaves are made outrageously tasty with that seductive pan sauce. The combination of salty ham and sweet leeks is mesmerizing.
A couple other entrée choices include Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with pearl pasta, tomato, fennel, braised greens and shrimp jus; Porter Ale Braised Beef Short Ribs with roasted root vegetables, Swiss chard and natural juices.
Desserts are memorable without being pretentious, such as Sour Cream Apple Pie or Black Bottom Pie. A full bar is available with many specialty cocktails and thoughtful wine choices.
High Hammock Maverick Seaside Kitchen
Rating: ***** (out of five stars)
Where: 10880 Ocean Highway, in the Pawleys Island Hammock Shops
Noise level: Conversation is easy with a soft eclectic jazz background.
Vegetarian options: Several salads such as the Grilled Pear Salad with goat cheese, grilled onions, spiced pecans and honey vinaigrette; Cheese Plate; entrée Vegetable Plate featuring local veggies; House-made Almond Granola (for Sunday brunch).
Smoking: Not allowed, even on The Porch.
Hours: Open starting at 11 a.m. daily.
Prices: Lunchtime prices for appetizers and entrees average $8-$12; dinner starters are $8-$10, medium plates are $12-$16, entrees are $17-$30. A current dinner special is three courses for $30 that includes selected appetizers, entrees and desserts.
Check for two: About $20-$30 for lunch if you have non-alcoholic beverages. Two dinners with appetizers, main courses, one dessert and a couple glasses of wine would be about $90.
Story and Photos by Becky Billingsley
Worst Cook Eliminated
Susie Shoman, the Georgetown resident and freelance grants writer who was on The Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America,” was eliminated during the program’s third episode. She has many projects and plans in the works, from developing grant-writing web sites to creating a children’s culinary seminar. Shoman also plans to audition for television’s “Amazing Race.”
New Beginning for Lands End
Jody Tamsberg, owner of the Lands End restaurant building at 444 Marina Dr. in Georgetown, is overseeing extensive remodeling inside the expansive restaurant, especially in the kitchen. He says he is “having conversations with a number of people” regarding leasing it for a new restaurant, and his goal is to have it occupied within the next two to three months.
Courtyard Cooking Lesson
Frank’s Restaurant at 10434 Ocean Highway in Pawleys Island has been closed for renovations and will reopen on Feb. 1. On Feb. 10 the first Cooking in the Courtyard of 2010 will take place, when Executive Chef Pierce Culliton will have a culinary demonstration while preparing a three-course meal served with paired wines. It starts at 6 p.m. and costs $30 per person; make reservations by calling 237-3030.
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