09 Nov 11 Classic Appetizers And Where To Eat Them On HHI
Here at the SERG Group, our menus are filled with amazing appetizer choices and the palate changes on a regular basis. We thought it would be fun to match up some of the most classic appetizers, ones that never go out of style, with where you can find them on Hilton Head.
Here are eleven dishes that deserve classic status and will bring pleasure to your dining experience. The dishes are in no particular order and for this list we did not include salads or soups, that’s for another day.
The Appetizer: Toasted Ravioli
Did you know: What spicy chicken wings are to Buffalo, NY, toasted ravioli is to St Louis, MO. The first toasted ravioli seems to have been made in the 1940s at a restaurant called Angelo Oldani on the Hill, the Italian neighborhood where both Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up.
According to legend, Angelo the owner was busy and told a new assistant, a German cook, to prepare some ravioli. Angelo had a pot of boiling oil on the stove and the cook thought it was for the ravioli; so he dropped them in the oil. When Oldani saw what happened, he tried to salvage the ravioli by brushing on some grated cheese. The rest as they say is history. Everybody loved them and soon every restaurant on the Hill was serving a variation.
The word toasted is actually a misnomer – you might think they come out of the oven but Angelo Oldani named them such because he felt the word toasted was more appealing than fried.
The Appetizer: Fried Green Tomatoes
Did you know: Surprisingly, fried green tomatoes did not originate in the South. The dish was first brought to this country in the 19th by Jewish immigrants.
According to Robert F. Moss, author of The Fried Green Tomato Swindle and Other Southern Culinary Adventures, “Fried green tomatoes first appeared in 19th century cookbooks in the Northeast and Midwest section of the country.” The only Southern mention he could find before 1970 was from a 1944 Alabama newspaper which printed a recipe. For him the message is clear: fried green tomatoes did not come from the South.
The dish became popular in the South after the release of the book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. Though not of the South, the South has adopted it as its own and we think improved and perfected it.
The Place: Charbar
Fried Green Tomatoes – Fried green tomatoes topped with pimento cheese, bacon scallions, and ranch dressing
33 Office Park Rd #213
Hilton Head, SC 29928
The Appetizer: Homemade Pimento Cheese Dip
Did you know: Ask someone from the South what goes in pimento cheese and chances are the description will sound a little different from the next Southerner you ask. Most will agree however that pimento cheese is basically a mixture of grated extra sharp cheddar, chopped pimento peppers and mayonnaise (though some will swear by salad dressing). Pimento cheese varies from fridge to fridge from grandmother to grandmother.
Pimento cheese heritage began not in the South but in New York City, as a product of industrial food and mass marketing. Born in the late 1800s as a convergence of newly manufactured American cream cheese, newly canned and imported Spanish peppers, and the newly minted word “home economics” which favored canned goods for their ease and orderliness.
Turn of the century homemakers discovered that the mixture of cream cheese and canned pimentos made for a quick appealing sandwich.
All good food stories have elements of migration. At a time when imported canned pimentos were considered a luxury, farmers in Georgia started cultivating those sweet peppers closer to home and so, along with expanded availability, popularity spread to the South. At some point shredded cheese got invited to the party and packaged cream cheese got swapped for mayonnaise (often homemade) and pimento cheese was elevated from a thing of convenience to a labor of love.
The Place: Skull Creek Boathouse
Homemade Pimento Cheese Dip – Served chilled with captains wafers
Skull Creek Boathouse
397 Squire Pope Road
Hilton Head, SC 29926
The Appetizer: Street Corn
Did you know: Corn originated from wild grass in Mexico somewhere between 5000-7000 years ago. It has been a big part of agriculture, cuisine, and culture in Mexico ever since.
Corn on the cob is a popular street food in Mexico which is how Mexican street corn got its name. However, in Mexico it is known as elote, which literally means corn cob.
It is colorful and flavorful topped with crumbled cheese, spices and herbs. Sometimes it’s prepared in a cup with the corn cut off the cob, which is known as esquites. It’s roasted then coated with salt, chili, aioli, cheese, and lime juice.
The Appetizer: Oysters Rockefeller
Did you know: Oysters Rockefeller was created in 1899 at the New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s by Jules Alciator son of the founder, Antoine Alciatore. Jules had an idea for a baked dish utilizing escargot. Due to a shortage of escargot he substituted locally available oysters.
Basically, the dish was half shelled oysters, topped with a rich sauce, with green herbs, and bread crumbs. It was then baked or broiled and garnished with a lemon. The dish was named after John D. Rockefeller (then the world’s wealthiest man) for its richness.
The original recipe is a family secret. Many say the green color of the dish is attained by using spinach. Antoine’s chefs have repeatedly denied it. In 1986, a lab ordered the dish and took it out of the restaurant for analysis. The tests indicated that the primary ingredients (besides the oysters) were parsley, pureed and strained, celery, chives, olive oil, and capers.
Antoine’s is the oldest family owned restaurant in the US. It has been in operation since 1840 and now run by 5th generation family members.
The Appetizer: Beef Tartare
Did you know: The history of steak tartare is fueled with myths. But contrary to popular belief it has nothing to do with the barbarous Tartars, the semi-nomadic warriors on horses. Legend has it that meat was put under the Tartar’s saddle to tenderize it.
But history tells us that this was not done to tenderize the meat since the body heat generated by the horses would have rendered the raw meat unfit for human consumption. The meat was in fact placed between the saddle and the horse’s back, but for another reason – to heal the horse’s sores.
The legend of the Tartar’s involvement in the origin of the dish was also generated by the fact the steak tartare was originally made from horse meat and the Tartars were equestrian people. Somehow, in the late 19th century, French home cooks developed a strong liking for raw horse meat, most likely because of its relative lack of parasites.
Restaurants first started to offer steak tartare in Paris in the early 20th century under the name beefsteak a l’Americaine when it was accepted to prepare it with beef. Although steak tartare is a raw French dish, it’s ironic that the French called it “steak the American way.” Food historians believe that it was associated with America because of a popular French belief that Americans (and most other non-French people) don’t know how to cook and consequently must eat things raw.
The recipe for steak tartare is not set in stone. The great chef Escoffier included it in his cookbook in 1921 but there has been a wave of reinterpretations on menus all over the world. Still, the central star remains the raw meat and egg amalgam.
The Place: Wise Guys
Beef Tenderloin Tartare – Fresh trimmed filet mignon, capers, cornichon, whipped egg mouse, crostini.
1513 Main Street
Hilton Head, SC
The Appetizer: Deviled Eggs
Did you know: If you have ever been to a family gathering, picnic, or potluck in the United States you have probably eaten a deviled egg. The deviled egg is almost a cultural icon for parties in this country. However, as American as they seem to be, they did not originate here and they exist in other varieties in different nations.
The U.S. version of deviled eggs is probably the one you know best, and you would recognize it anywhere. It is a boiled shelled egg, cut in half, with the yolk scooped out. The yolk is then mashed up into a paste and mixed with other ingredients for flavor (usually mayonnaise, mustard. and pickle relish) and put back in the hollowed out portion of the egg. Sometimes the mashed yolks are dusted with paprika.
There are references to eggs prepared in similar ways going all the way back to ancient Rome. In Rome, thousands of years ago, eggs were boiled then slathered with spices and sauces of varying kinds.
By the 1400s, different varieties of stuffed eggs were popular all over Europe. Medieval cookbooks are full of recipes for stuffed, boiled eggs. The precursor to the modern deviled egg began to appear in American cookbooks in the mid-1800s. The term “deviled” was a British one that began being used in 1796 to refer to dishes that were very hot or spicy. The original deviled eggs in America were spicy and the name stuck.
The first suggestion for the use of mayonnaise in deviled eggs was in the 1896 version of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook. It is now virtually unheard of to have a deviled egg without mayonnaise unless you’re eating one by a gourmet chef who likes to experiment. It’s interesting that while the recipe for “classic” American deviled eggs has remained virtually unchanged since the 1940s, you will still usually taste distinct variations in them depending on which family makes the eggs (similar to pimento cheese).
The Appetizer: Poutine
Did you know: Poutine is a Canadian dish consisting of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. What is a cheese curd? Simply put, a cheese curd is a tasty clump of curdled milk.
Ferdinand Lachance a restaurateur and owner of Le Luten qui rit, in Warwick, Quebec, created the dish in 1957 at the request of a regular customer Eddy Lainesse. He was sitting at the counter in the restaurant looking at a display of cheese curds (Warwick was in a rich dairy area and it was commonplace for restaurants to display cheese curds) when he asked Lachance if he could have a dish of cheese curds and fries. Lachance replied, “It will make a damn mess,” but he added it to the menu and by 1962 he was topping it with gravy to keep it warm.
Poutine is a Canadian slang word for mess. The dish caught the public’s fancy and today many consider it Canada’s national dish. It is so popular that it is even on the menus at McDonalds and Burger King in Canada.
The Place: Nectar Farm Kitchen
Southern Poutine – Fry chips, shredded pork, cheese curds, debris gravy, and green onions
Nectar Farm Kitchen
35-A Office Park Road
Hilton Head, SC 29928
The Appetizer: Fish Taco
Did you know: Some people get a faraway look in their eyes when they talk about fish tacos. In conversation with these people, all you have to do is call up a memory of the fish tacos that come from the Pacific coast of Mexico, especially Baja California (the rugged peninsula that juts into the sea like the spoke), and it can send them into a swoon.
Just two hours south of the border, Ensenada is probably best known for being one of Mexico’s most famous cruise ports. But enthusiastic eaters know it for a far more important reason; it’s home to the fish taco.
A glut of Japanese fisherman made their way to Ensenada during the 1950s and 1960s to take advantage of Baja California’s cold water currents and exceptional biodiversity. And they brought some of their food traditions with them, which included battering and frying fish.
The native population decided to perfect this snack by making an even crisper fried fish than the original tempura style and throwing it in a tortilla adorned with purple cabbage, crema, hot sauce, and salsa bandera. The tacos were made with sharp cod, yellow tail, haddock flounder, and other white fish.
Several stands lay claim to the original Baja-style fish taco but general consensus grants Tacos Fenix the distinction. The stand sits on the corner of Espinozas and Juarez Streets with the same family still serving the street snack since 1970.
The Place: Black Marlin Bayside Grill
Baja Fish Taco – Lightly breaded and fried flounder or shrimp, baja taco sauce, shaved cabbage, pico de gallo, sour cream, flour tortillas.
Black Marlin Bayside Grill
86 Helmsman Way
Hilton Head, SC 29928
The Appetizer: Fried Calamari
Did you know: Calamari, which means squid in Italian, has been enjoyed a number of ways throughout the Mediterranean and Southern European regions.
In the U.S. it was primarily used for bait as there was no commercial market. However, with flounder, cod, and other stocks declining, fishermen began catching and selling calamari to local markets. The first mention of fried calamari was not until 1975 in the New York Times and it wasn’t until the early 1980s that it began to appear regularly on restaurant menus.
Rhode Island’s squid fishing fleet is the largest on the East Coast and accounts for 54% of the squid market in the Northeast. Calamari is free of saturated fat, low in calories, and packed with Omega 3 fatty acids.
The Place: Poseidon
Rhode Island Calamari – Flash fried, kalamata olives, cherry peppers, pepper, oncinis, garlic, tomato sauce
38 Shelter Cove Lane, Ste 121
Hilton Head, SC 29928
The Appetizer: Fried Pickles
The first recipe for a fried pickle appeared in a 1962 issue of the Oakland Tribune calling for sweet pickle slices and pancake mix (yikes).
In 1963, Bernell “Fatman” Austin helped popularize the dish when he served them at his restaurant, the Dutchess Drive-In, in Atkins, Arkansas. The restaurant was across the street from the Atkins Pickle Plant, which was apparently prodigious enough in their pickle production that Atkins became known as the “Pickle Capital of the World.”
That must have given Fatman an idea and he started frying hamburg slices of pickles. Soon, restaurants all around the South began to fry pickles with their own variations. While Fatman passed away in 1999, you can still taste the original recipe once a year in May at the annual Picklefest in Atkins.
If you want classic appetizers, then visit these restaurants today. They’re classic because they’ve stood the test of time, and they continue to be on our menus because our customers love them.