Monday, May 6, 2013

Off the Map: We Don't Usually Look This Way

Smoky Bacon Cornbread -- Husk, Charleston, SC

To summarize, Charleston initially charmed us with bowls of chocolate pudding, gravy-smothered biscuits, and pleasant personalities.

And then, the place almost killed us.
How Far the Mighty South Has Fallen
Vodka and her friend, Diet Coke, chose to take a bus tour of downtown Charleston, which was to be followed directly by a boat ride to and from Fort Sumter.
We Prefer Forts of the Pillow Variety
The whole thing should have taken four hours, leaving us plenty of time to make our 2:15pm reservation at Husk.  Clearly, though, we have not yet become accustomed to "southern time," as at 2:10pm, we are still on the boat.
Can Anyone Throw Us a Life Raft?
Vodka calls Husk and asks the hostess if it will be okay if we arrive late.  "We stop seating at 2:30pm," she answers (in a tone, we might add, that is much more NEW YORK than SOUTH CAROLINA.  In other words, she is hostile).

"So as long as we arrive by 2:30, we're okay?" Vodka confirms. 

"At the very latest," Miss Congeniality says.
Translation: Start Swimming
At this point, we have two options: we can forfeit Johnny Iuzzini's Best Thing I Ever Ate SMOKY dish and hope to return to Husk later (thus completely screwing up our down-to-the minute) itinerary, or we can try to cross 1.3 miles of Charleston in 18 minutes or less.

Naturally, we opt for the latter option.
An Overeater Has To Do What An Overeater Has To Do
Now, this choice would not have been so precarious had storm clouds not been lingering in the Charleston skies all day, adding a decidedly swampy atmosphere to the proceedings.  With our carefully honed power-walking abilities, we manage to make it within 3 blocks of Husk by 2:27pm.  By this point, our hair, skin, and ensembles have been thoroughly disheveled by the humidity, so we decide to go for broke.

We run.

As a general rule, Vodka does not run.  Not ever.  To say it does not become her would be the understatement of the century.  But despite this lack of skill, she and Diet Coke stumble through the front door of Husk at EXACTLY 2:30pm.

And it goes without saying that we are a hot mess.
Never Been So Happy to See a Restaurant Sign In Our Lives
We gasp our request for a table to Miss Congeniality (who remains on the phone for the first 90 seconds of our huffing and puffing, building up paranoia that she will turn us away because she is not watching the clock).  She seats us in the middle of the dining room, and we struggle to maintain composure while our water glasses sit empty upon our table.
Too Bad We Can't Drink Antlers
Thankfully, our waitress is ten-times more affable than Miss Congeniality, and she refrains from judging our scarecrow hair and bright red faces as she fetches us glass after glass of water.  "We don't normally look this way," Diet Coke sputters out, but by this point, we are too far-gone to really care.
Just Bring On the Stupid Cornbread and We'll Get Out of Your Hair
Getting down to business, we order the skillet of "real" (as opposed to fake?!) cornbread with Benton's smoky bacon, along with wood fired chicken wings with Husk BBQ dry rub (Diet Coke) and a fried catfish BLT (Vodka).  Additionally, finding no suitable gin cocktails on the menu, our waitress suggests that she have the bartender make Vodka a stiff one of his own choosing.  (Needless to say, said waitress soon becomes Vodka's favorite person ever).
The cornbread arrives first -- a flat cylinder of dough within a hot black skillet.  With the skill of a plastic surgeon (apparently cardiac activity has a positive effect on her coordination), Vodka carves the bread into eight equal pieces, and we take a bite.

And it is, well... it's certainly smoky.
Vodka Should Own a Pie-Cutting Shop
The gist of this cornbread's problem is that we should stop eating all dishes from the SMOKY episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate.  We don't like smoke!  We don't enjoy smoky flavors!  WHY ARE WE DOING THIS TO OURSELVES?!
Simple Answer: We're On a Mission and/or We Never Learn
Besides being entirely too smoky (which, in Husk's defense, is kind of the point), this cornbread is on the dry side, even for cornbread, and it tastes like it's been sitting out for a while and was merely reheated.  Crispy on the outside from the oven, the insides tend to fall apart, and the flakes of sea salt that are visible on top end up being its only saving grace.
And Have You Ever Known Us to Turn Down a Bread Product?!
We are unimpressed to begin with, and when our best friend, the waitress, arrives seconds later with a basket of complimentary rolls and butter, the cornbread becomes even less appealing.  After all, who would ORDER BREAD when you GET BREAD FOR FREE?
Husk, You Are Just Being Silly
Plus, the rolls are much tastier than the cornbread -- salty and dense like a perfect brioche.  The pork fat butter that comes with it is decidedly less appetizing (especially to Diet Coke, who despises condiments in all forms), but these rolls have it all over the cornbread.
For the Record, That Slice Is All Of Said Cornbread That We Consume. Poor Showing, Husk
Vodka's specialty gin cocktail is minty like a mojito and a tad too sweet for something that Vodka specified "not be sweet," but overall, it is fine (after all, it has gin in it.  How bad could it be?).  It gets bonus points for the giant ice cube inside, which seems to be Husk's specialty, and said ice cube should, in fairness, be on Best Thing I Ever Ate ahead of the mediocre cornbread.
Honey I Shrunk The Kids-Sized Ice
Diet Coke's chicken wings are equally unimpressive -- tasting of red pepper and honey, the chicken itself seems undercooked, and the rub makes for an odd combination. 
The Original Wing Dings
The Bowl Is More Appealing Than the Chicken
In truth, Vodka's fried catfish BLT is the only thing saving Husk from us writing it off completely.  The roll is moldable and fresh, and catfish perfectly crispy, and the spicy mayo plentiful.  Indeed, if this were the dish featured on the show, it would have received 5 stars.
Strange Picture Proportions = BLT Looks Like a Slider
Mayo Makes Everything Better
Yet Another Specialty Condiment Which Diet Coke Won't Taste
Unfortunately for Husk, they're saddled with their smoky cornbread.  And that bread is just not worth our marathon run across the streets of Charleston.
How the South Was Not Won
Actually, not much would be worth our running in stifling humidity.  But a bevy of free cocktails just might get the job done.

Husk's Smoky Bacon Cornbread: 2 stars

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