With Chef Damon Wise outside the Mansion on Peachtree in Atlanta. "When Porsche offered to lend me a spanking new Panamera 4S for an extended 'test drive,' it was an opportunity I couldn't refuse," Tom says.
Pit stop. Tom says, "In my experience you usually find the real barbecue gems where you least expect them, and Big T was no exception ... the brisket and pulled pork sandwich were prime examples of the mustard-based barbecue that is typical in South Carolina."
Big T Bar-B-Q
7535 Garners Ferry Rd, #C
With Emile DeFelice of Caw Caw Creek Farm (and his country ham) at Anson Mills. Emile raises heirloom pastured pigs using traditional agricultural methods, free from hormones and antibiotics. For the last decade, Anson Mills has been growing, harvesting and milling delicious grains, corn and rice that had become almost extinct until he started cultivating them again.
When Tom asked Anson Mills' Glenn Roberts which "chefs in the area were doing Southern food the old-fashioned say, he named Sean Brock at McCrady's in Charleston." They ate locally caught stone crab and triggerfish, as well as house-made charcuterie starring Sean's own Yorkshire pigs.
Morning on Kiawah Island, SC. Tom has been coming to the island for 10 years, and tell us about his morning ritual: "I woke up early, took my coffee out onto the dock behind the cottage, and watched as the sun came up over the water. God, I love that place."
Robert Stehling's "Hominy Grill specializes in Southern classics like fried green tomatoes, she-crab soup, and as its name would suggest really really good grits," Tom says. He ate a braised oxtail ragout over cheese grits, topped with a poached egg.
Sean Thackeray's happy pigs at Thackeray Farms on Wadmalaw Island (about 30 minutes from Charleston). Thackeray Farms is currently working toward being fully organic. Tom particularly enjoyed the "peppery French radishes, sweet turnips and lemony arugula."
Tom grew up crabbing on Barnegat Bay, so crabbing with Fred Dockery was "familiar territory." Dockery currently crabs about 300 pots at a time (even though he's licensed for more), and is sensitive to conservation to only catch what he knows he can sell.
Tom reminds us that "whether you know it or not, much of the shrimp you've eaten in your life has been foreign, frozen, and transported thousands of miles before it reaches your plate." Locally caught shrimp at a classic fried seafood shack is a whole other thing.
Tom says that Eastern North Carolina barbecue is "smoked, pulled, and coarsely chopped, and served plain except for a hint of tangy vinegar sauce." Damon Lapas and Jeffrey Childres serve smoked blue fish, spare ribs and pulled pork with slaw, pickles and cornbread.
The BBQ Joint
630 Weaver Dairy Road
Chapel Hill, NC
Eliza MacLean is proprietor of Cane Creek Farm, and practices "rotational grazing," to mimic nature. Tom says all of this means "happy animals (you can tell just by looking at them), but a lot of work ... I wish everyone who complained about the price of organic, free-range eggs could see this place in action."
Cane Creek Farm
1203 Longest Acres Road
Snow Camp, NC
Andrea Reusing's Lantern marries a farm-to-table philosophy to impeccable, Pacific Rim food. Tom ate Cane Creek Farm pork, local shrimp, trout and soft shell crab, plus a pork belly with 5-spice and pickled pumpkin.
423 W Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC
Day 4: A Day with Rappahannock River Oysters Company
Rappahannock River Oyster are featured in Tom's Craftsteak restaurants in New York City and Las Vegas. Founded by Travis and Ryan Croxton, the oyster company grows native oysters sustainably, and their mission is to "restore Chesapeake Bay oyster varieties to their former glory, putting them back on the culinary map. How's that for local pride?"
Tom loves mushrooms: "from day one my menus at Craft and Craftsteak have included not just one but several different seasonal varieties of roasted mushrooms as side dishes." Here he is with DC's mushroom guru Ray LaSala.