Charleston Crepe Company
The heady years I spent living in Paris afforded daily gifts of joy; long strolls along the Seine on haunting slate-gray days, awestruck wonder at the sprawling spires and glaring gargoyles of Notre Dame, and on and on and on. Those are just some examples. There is a pool of millions; of these, at least thousands involved food.
When guests or family visited, we splurged by supping at Paris’ most noteworthy eateries, but most of the time, my constantly curious culinary life was relegated to the much humbler fare of a regular Parisian Joe, if there really is such a thing. I was a loyal client of bistros, corner cafes, and the most fabulous French invention of all, a crepe hot off the grill at one of the Paris’ ubiquitous crepe vending stands. For just $3, I was swept away into the gooey, yummy world of melting swiss cheese and salty ham on a savory day or the indulgence of Nutella on a sweet one.
Well, except for occasional visits to lovely Paris, those days are gone, but the memory of the silken, bubbly, browned crepes and their assorted fillings remain, along with a constant craving for them and the Parisian senses they recall with almost cruel abandon. When it strikes, I fulfill it in an 100% authentically Parisian way at the Charleston Crepe Company’s crepe stand at the Charleston Farmers Market (Saturdays, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Marion Square). There you can find husband and wife team Jack & Rachel Byrne and their young staff griddling their way through the inevitable and nearly constant frenzy of activity at their booth – especially around lunch time.
Any wait, even the occasional 20-minute one, is well worth it. Their honey ham and Swiss cheese crepe, slathered with a generous layer of plucky Dijon mustard, is as good as any you can find in Paris. The crepe itself, no matter what the filling, is always tender and moist, due in part to the French griddles the team employs to craft their tasty wares. Recently, I broke from tradition and sampled Charleston Crepe’s Southwestern crepe-take – the Chicken, Black Bean, Corn, and Salsa Crepe. Though less traditional, it was an earthy wonder of pulled chicken, crunchy fresh corn and more.
Take my advice – put in your name and get in line for one of Charleston Crepe’s many crepe creations, including the incredibly French Nutella confection concoction. You won’t regret it. Their crepes are simply Paris “wrapped” and taste just as delicious gobbled down in a cozy corner of Charleston as they do in the City of Lights. The bustling crepe stand also sets up on Tuesday afternoons at the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market in front of Moultrie Middle School and caters at many functions and parties around town.
Recently, a publisher friend invited me to join him for an afternoon touring this picturesque pig farm located in the rolling hills of St. Matthews near Orangeburg, SC. Run by local farming enthusiast Emile DeFelice (he’s the “State on Your Plate” guy that ran for Agricultural Commissioner last year and sadly, lost), the entire 90-acre farm is infused with a passion for living close to the land and ensuring natural, happy lives for DeFelice’s heirloom pigs.
The pigs graze on nuts and grasses in rotating fields. Their diet is enriched with organic eggs and dairy supplied by EarthFare, organic fruits and vegetables, corn by-products from Anson Mills, and malted barley leftovers from a nearby brewery. It’s the same kind of wholesome, natural fare humans like to eat. In fact, as DeFelice explains, pigs want and deserve to be treated humanely and like the creatures of God that they are. They want to live a real life, not a crated one. Caw Caw Creek pigs are allowed to root about with their families, feel the sun and the breeze on their backs, wallow, loll, run and sleep in freedom – lives so different from the unnatural, lonely lives of pigs imprisoned in the beastly, often cruel world of industrialized pork production.
Even their chemical-free, happy lives end much later than their industrialized counterparts. They live to see their first year or more (unlike the 3 month mark slaugther green light awaiting their unlucky porcine cousins) and they develop up to 3 inches of fat back and richly marbled meat (unlike the inch or so of fat back and lean, “unhealthy” white meat of industry produced pork).
It was so much fun interacting with the pigs as they frolicked among our group that I felt almost guilty ordering some of DeFelice’s much lauded chops. Still, curiosity and, by the end of the afternoon at Caw Caw Creek, a desire to support a very important cause, got the best of me. Six, 2″ fat chops arrived in a refrigerated container a few days later with a handwritten “thank you” on the box. I marveled at the marbling; it was all through the meat.
I served the celebrated chops this weekend to some friends, including the publisher who took me to the farm. Grilled over an open flame in a kettle drum and glazed with a thin layer of hot pepper jelly, they were beyond divine. The texture of the pork enthralled the entire group. It was more like filet mignon and nearly as rosy and nothing like the “pork” any of us had ever experienced before. The meat was sweet and milky and had a distinctly rich, pork flavor that was further enhanced by the smoke from the grill.
It felt so good to eat such spectacular food; the kind our farming ancestors ate and the kind that’s going away due to the economics and facility of mass production. I also knew that, as DeFelice says, this little piggy had lived one happy life. I could taste it. For more information or to order your own, go to www.cawcawcreek.com.