By Nicholas Harary
Last week, I took my family to spend a few days in Charleston, S.C. The weather didn’t cooperate, but it’s such a beautiful city, we still had a great time.
There is a pretty dynamic restaurant scene that has developed over the last few years in downtown Charleston. When learning we were going there, a few customers asked me if I was planning to hit all the hot places. I told them I definitely planned on eating well but it wasn’t going to be at Eater’s Essential Charleston restaurants. As a chef, I’m interested in regional cuisine and in Charleston, Southern soul food begins and ends with Martha Lou’s.
If I was going in blind, I would have been a little nervous eating at Martha Lou’s. I’ve been to gas stations that were cleaner and bigger. But Martha is a local legend and I was determined to eat the best local food I could find. Martha only offers a “prix fixe” menu; it’s $10 per person. Fried chicken, corn bread, collard greens and cabbage stew. Simple and to the point – my kind of place.
I tucked my napkin into my shirt and dug into some of the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. I now understood why she’s been written up by everyone from Saveur to the New York Times. The food is that good. She also is an icon of Southern cooking; there are no trendy cuts of pork or handlebar mustaches in this place. I’m pretty sure Martha could care less about what was hot and happening in Charleston.
After eating her chicken, I could care less too. Her restaurant is a timeless, incredible slice of Americana. If you go to Charleston, make sure you stop in.
When at Martha Lou’s, there’s only one beverage to consume – old-fashioned sweet tea. As much as I loved the chicken, I could do without the sweet tea. If you attempt to recreate South Carolina’s finest fried chicken (the recipe can be found on Saveur.com), I’d pair it with one of the most electric white wines to ever come from Italy, a Nicholas Wines favorite, Giovanni Almondo Arneis Bricco delle Ciliegie.
The 2013 is a sensory firework show yet again, showing lush, peachy fruit and a stony mineral freshness that makes it so good with any rich food. In the restaurant, we pair it as we would with great white Burgundy but it’s a great choice for a spring and summer white, flat out delicious by itself as an aperitif or a terrific complement to just about anything fried or from the sea.
The regular price is $28, Nicholas Wines price, $24 or save more by the case, $270 or $22.50 per bottle. Log onto www.nicholaswines.com to order.
For generations, the Almondo family has tended vines of Arneis, the noble white variety of Piedmont. Their 6 hectares are at elevation, averaging 350 meters. The old vines of the single vineyard, Bricco delle Ciligie, are rooted in sand that covers an old ocean bed.
The wine dazzles right out of the bottle, with great aromas of white flowers, almonds and a touch of sage. The mid-palate has layers of concentrated peach and citrus fruit with a mineral streak and a long finish. The production is tiny, 300 cases or so, so don’t miss it as it is truly one of Italy’s great white wines.
Restaurant Nicholas is located at 160 Route 35 south in Red Bank, and can be reached at 732-345-9977 or www.restaurantnicholas.com.