Chez Nous – a Charleston food and wine treat
Exterior of Chez Nous – courtesy of the restaurant
Charleston, SC is a scenic port city, founded in 1670, and located on the U.S. eastern seaboard. Charleston is distinguished by its coastal lowcountry, cobblestone streets, and antebellum architecture. This seaport city is virtually exploding with innovative restaurants, wine bars and basic eateries that focus on incorporating indigenous lowcountry harvests into their menus. Incorporating native local harvests is more than just the popular farm to table movement. The focus on incorporating unique indigenous local flavors is a trend that is influencing menus of some of the best restaurants around the world. Focusing on indigenous harvests has helped South Carolina revive crops that are native to the area but have been in danger of dying out.
Think one step further and imagine a restaurant where they are not only incorporate unique local flavors into their menus but also where the menu serves as the center piece of a daily reveal. The menu is not seasonal, not monthly, not weekly but, a menu that changes daily based on availability of fresh local ingredients. The daily menu at Chez Nous (served at both lunch and dinner) features 2 appetizers, 2 unique entrees and 2 delicious desserts. Chez Nous is an intimate restaurant located in a small converted house that is tucked into downtown Charleston area. The house is long and narrow with an outdoor porch that is also available for restaurant seating. When I visited South Carolina earlier this month the weather was reminiscent of the humid summers growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, so I decided that making a reservation on the porch, while the sun was still out, may not make for the best dining experience. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived, that the porch was well shaded and a large family that was enjoying the setting didn’t seem to be fazed by the heat and humidity.
No restaurant that features simple ingredients, indigenous flavors, and high-level cuisine would be complete without an extensive wine list. Chez Nous’ wine list features over an abundance of wines from around the world. With a menu featuring French, Northern Italian and Northern Spanish fare, there is a lot of room for creativity in pairing. I was so impressed with the ambiance and our server’s knowledge of the food and wine, that I asked for her recommendation for a white wine to pair with our meal. She recommended the 2013 Château Soucherie Savennières from the Loire Valley of France. Château Soucherie is located 20 minutes south of Angers and is a 28-hectare historic winery.
Château Soucherie Savennières is a pale-yellow Chenin Blanc. This is a dry white wine with white nectarine and minerality on the nose. The palate is high in acidity and has hints of nuts and herbs. The pairing recommendation was excellent.
For starters, I ordered the Farro Salad with Beets. For those of you not familiar with farro, it is an ancient whole grain similar to puffed rice and with the consistency of quinoa. The grain originated in a fertile area known as the crescent of the Nile River and is a favorite of Italian kitchens. The salad presented an earthiness from both the nuttiness of the grain and the beets. The acidity and brightness of the Savennières was an excellent pairing. The salad and the wine together rounded out the delicious palate. My daughter enjoyed the Mushroom Toast and agreed that the taste was very similar – the brightness and slight herbal palate of the Chenin Blanc was accentuated by the umami taste found in both appetizers.
Next, for our featured entrée we enjoyed grilled trout with a pea puree. The fish was flakey, cooked to perfection and it melted in your mouth. I have found that trout is a meatier fish that goes well with a range of white wines. Many of my fellow wine loving friends have switched to a bit fuller body white wines to accompany fish dishes. I found that the Savennières wine was perfect with this fish. The herbal flavors, minerality and acidity balanced the richness of the trout. It was with the entree that the bottle of Château Soucherie Savennières was completed!
We finished our meal with the whipped Mascarpone and hot espressos. What a treat! The whipped Mascarpone with just dollop of fruit in the middle was almost like eating cheesecake batter from the bowl before it’s baked.
I highly recommend making the Charleston Chez Nous restaurant a fine dining destination the next time you travel to South Carolina. Chef Jill Mathias elevates the simplest indigenous ingredients, paired with fine wines to create not only a great meal but, a culinary dining experience!
Remember to drink what it is that makes you truly happy and always think positively!
@cheznouschs @blackwinelovers @soucherie_anjou