Nothing makes me happier to see talent and hard work finally get their due. For a decade in New York and another near decade subsequently in Charleston, Jeremiah Bacon has been quietly and diligently honing his craft and defining his style. Locally, first at Carolina’s, where he made a deserved splash, but it wasn’t big enough to turn the James Beard heads in New York, as the respective splashes of local super chef talents Mike Lata (FIG), Sean Brock (Husk and McCrady’s) and Robert Stehling (Hominy Grill) have in recent years. Then, Bacon took over the reins at OAK, where once again, he carved a niche in the steak kitchen, etching it with his extreme dedication to locally-sourced product and pristine classic French technique. Tongues started wagging in deserved praise. But, it wasn’t until the opening of The Macintosh six weeks ago, that Bacon finally donned his ultimate culinary crown, his very own restaurant baby where he can truly stretch his personal chef legs and showcase his immense talent.
Bravo to The Macintosh’s Managing Partner Steve Palmer for recognizing Bacon’s huge talent and helping create this spotlight under which he can shine. As Executive Chef, Jeremiah Bacon orchestrates a small army of hand-picked talent (many coming over from his days at Carolina’s) in a kitchen-in-the-round that operates like a well-conducted orchestra. It’s all visible from the dining room, a beautiful blend of rustic, antique wood tables and copper and mirrors, the latter elements providing just the right urban edge to render Macintosh equal parts rustic and equal parts urban. It’s the perfect balance mixture of visual and mood candy on this block of increasingly hip and sophisticated Upper King Street.
Though The Macintosh serves a more steak and seafood-intensive dinner and late night menu (also slightly more pricey with entrees running from $19-$28), I visited for Sunday brunch, which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
At 1:30 p.m., the house was packed, with a lively, mostly young and local crowd, clamoring for the Bloody Mary bar, Bottomless Mimosa’s, and, of course, Bacon’s stick-to-your-ribs fare with a go-ever-so-lightly, classical touch that is the soul of his culinary style. For example, the grouper brandade ($8), pictured above. Typically a rustic French dish prepared with salt cod and potatoes and served in a gratin dish, the Johns Island native puts a local twist on the matter, using local, fresh grouper (which is briefly brined in salt), purees until chunky smooth and folds it into the lightest, whipped potatoes. These get rolled into chunky balls, lightly rolled in breading, and are fried to order. The result, especially when dipped in the creamy, vinegar-laced, slightly garlicky Alabama white sauce, is absolute flavor and texture nirvana. And, like so many things at The Macintosh, they come served in precious, fire-engine red, miniature Le Creuset Dutch ovens.
Bacon’s “Mac Attack” ($13), which features his signature bone marrow bread pudding, pork belly, and a quivering poached fresh egg, heaping plates of fried chicken served with waffles ($12), and sizzling plates of Bacon’s (also) signature Pecorino truffle frites ($5) were being plated and served literally left and right. All looked and smelled divine, but my appetite was leaning towards lighter, so I ordered the Sauteed Scallops with Cauliflower Puree, Arugula and Brown Butter Meuniere ($13).
Pure beauty, this dish is Bacon’s style personified: restrained perfection with major over-tones of his classical training swirled with youthful whimsy and homegrown roots. The scallop, sweet, milky and massive, was so fresh it could not have been off the local boat for more than a few hours. The gorgeous seared, caramelized crust yielded sensuously to pressure from my fork to an opaque cushion of crustacean deliciousness. The cauliflower base, simply roasted and ultra-aerated with a bit of cream, was practically as light as a souffle, but bore the deep, rich flavors of autumn. A flash saute of green in the peppery arugula and a swath of nutty brown beurre Meuniere sealed the entire dish with huge aplomb.
It’s impossible not to draw parallels between Sean Brock and Jeremiah Bacon. Both young, both Southerner’s, both humble, passionate, talented and extremely hard-working, both overseeing two kitchens and restaurants, and both backed by successful restaurant groups with proven track records, their paths have been similar. Like Brock, I do believe it’s Bacon’s time to shine and he’s found his ultimate polish at The Macintosh.
479-B King Street (near the corner of Ann Street)
Charleston, SC 29403