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January 6, 2014

Happy New Year!

Just wanted to say thanks for a great 2013 and happy 2014 to everyone!

Here are a few pics from our New Year’s Eve Tasting Dinner.

We have to thank you – our loyal customers – for making these dinners a success.

And we have to thank our amazing staff…

From the kitchen led by Chris & Johnny…

To the front led by Jordan & Ryan!

And last but far from least…

Many kudos to our farmers & fishermen — who truly make this possible!

We are honored to be nearing our 7th year serving delicious, local food.

Thank you everyone!

Crab Maison

Oysters en Brochette

Duck Fricasee a la Marengo

Tile Fish a la Provencale

April 8, 2013

Eat Local Challenge: Let the GO Help!

Hopefully, most of you who live in the Charleston area need no introduction to the awesome organization Lowcountry Local First (LLF).  This local business advocacy group started up about the same time as the GO (I remember going to their kickoff when we were in our planning phase and thinking, “This is exactly the type of community we want to join!”)

Now, 6 years later, they offer weekly member meetings, hold a  myriad of workshops, run a farm incubator program, and host cool community awareness events like this month’s Eat Local Challenge.  The challenge encourages Charlestonians to take the time to eat more locally, which could entail simply eating at more farm to table restaurants and/or sourcing entirely local ingredients for your home cooking.

Needless to say, taking the challenge to the full extent can certainly prove quite the challenge.  Reading about folks like local farmer Rita Bachmann’s search for an entirely South Carolina grown pantry made me realize the GO could definitely offer a bit of help.

Obviously, we would love to see you in the dining room enjoying some of the local deliciousness that Chris and the crew are always cooking up.

Like this Creamy SC Broccoli over our Housemade Handkerchief Pasta…

But we can also help you stock your own kitchen.  In our display fridge (up in the front right corner of the restaurant) we sell Celeste Albers’ eggs and raw milk, Anson Mills products, and our own salad dressings, pimento cheese and pickles.  In the freezer just to the right of the fridge we sell our own local, all natural sausage — Belle’s Country Links.  We hope that you already know and love Belle’s but if not then please consider this your proper intro.  Chris has been making this sausage for years here at the restaurant.  But over the past two years we have worked with Keegan-Filion Farm in Walterboro to bring you this whole hog, heritage pork sausage packaged for retail sale.  You can find it here in the restaurant sold in frozen, one pound packages (4 links  for $9.)

We put Belle’s to good use all hours of the day.  We serve it as an appetizer alongside our pimento cheese; we serve it as an entrée alongside our crispy duck leg; and we certainly love our favorite brunch staple – Belle’s Sausage Gravy.  While this is of course outstanding over buttermilk biscuits, we also recommend adding fresh, local shrimp to make a very original shrimp and grits!

In fact, you can come out and taste our SC Shrimp with Belle’s Sausage Gravy over Anson Mills Grits for yourself this weekend at the opening of the Marion Square Farmers Market.  We will be cooking it up in the LLF tent at 10:30.

And as our own little Eat Local perk we would love to hear your stories about cooking up Belle’s at home.  Please email us at ilovetheglassonion@yahoo.com or post to our facebook page.  (Photos are encouraged!)   On Monday, April 22 (Earth Day) we will draw a winner from all who have contacted us with their own Belle’s dish, and that lucky person will receive a GO gift basket (containing Belle’s (of course) and our sweet red pepper relish — Thunder Sauce!)

Look forward to hearing from y’all soon!  Remember…LOCAL FOOD TASTES BETTER!

 

March 12, 2013

PRE-St. Patrick’s Day at the GO!

If you don’t plan on being somewhere that they dye the river green on St. Patrick’s Day…

 VIA

Then we figure it’s really about eating the right food.  So, we invite you to join us this Saturday for our all natural, house corned beef!  Yes, we know that Saturday happens to be the day before St. Patrick’s Day, but we don’t want y’all to miss out on our legendary corned beef just because we are closed on Sunday.

Chris got the brisket in from Southeastern Family Farms (a co-op of small family owned farms in Alabama), and it is in the brine as I type.  On Friday, Chris will braise it in the brine and voila…outstanding corned beef!

We will be open for Saturday brunch from 10-3 and then for dinner from 4:30-10.  We will even supplement our beer list with a little Guinness!

Trust me, PRE-St. Patrick’s Day at the GO will rock your taste buds (or my name isn’t O’Kelley!)

March 15, 2011

Keegan-Filion — Whole Hog Farming

Seems like Mark and Annie Filion just could not escape farming. Mark’s grandfather raised chickens in Rhode Island, and Annie’s grandfather farmed the Walterboro, SC property that they now call Keegan-Filion Farm. On this land they raise free-range chickens and hogs — both sought after by Charleston chefs. (more…)

February 24, 2011

Wes Melling — Hydroponic Hero

If you are an avid GO diner, you might have noticed a most intriguing cherry tomato garnishing our Straight from the Garden Salad from time to time. It’s almost purple – possessing a rather swarthy complexion – and its flavor is even more complex. (more…)

February 22, 2011

The Woman Behind the Golden Eggs

Celeste Albers is an iconic figure in the Lowcountry farming community. Her Sea Island Eggs are coveted by Charleston restaurants, and at the GO, we are lucky to serve them. Cracking one open reveals a yolk as golden as a sunset. They literally make our bearnaise, deviled eggs, and desserts. (more…)

February 8, 2011

Glenn Roberts — Father of Anson Mills

To understand the mind of artisanal grain guru Glenn Roberts, you must imagine a raging fire of knowledge. A quick conversation with him could jump from his mother’s black-skillet cooking to moonshine to his cultivation of true benne. Do not be fooled by the seemingly random nature of these topics. Inside his mind, Glenn connects all sorts of ideas, just in a roundabout way. Eventually, most wind back to his brainchild, Anson Mills, and the art of seed preservation.

Glenn officially founded Anson Mills in 1998 and began supplying heritage strands of rice and corn products to chefs around the country from his home base in Columbia, South Carolina. However, the cultivation of Anson Mills began long before that year, back before Glenn even considered farming as a career option. Glenn uses the word “nonlinear” to describe his professional track, and he does so with pride. “My idea was to be as counter intuitive as possible,” he says.

Glenn was born in Delaware and raised in California, but his mother, Mary Elizabeth Clifton, has deep ties to the South. During the early 1900s her father owned hotels all along the eastern seaboard that catered to horse racing tracks. This afforded them a lodge near Savannah, a house on South Carolina’s Edisto Island, and an African American cook and nanny who taught her the secrets of black-skillet cooking. In fact, she grew up pounding kitchen rice and hand-milling grits at their house on Edisto.

All of these lessons became exceedingly valuable when the Depression hit, and their family went from being comfortable to hoping they would not lose everything. Ultimately, Glenn’s grandfather decided the best place for his daughter would be at the helm of their hotel in Aiken, South Carolina. Thus, she began running this property at age 14 in the depths of the Depression . “She was feeding more people out the back door than the front door,” says Glenn. “Black and white — everyone was poor.”

Eventually, his mother moved back to Delaware, and there she met his father. Their common love of music brought them together: he was the church choir director, and she was a talented vocalist. This passion ultimately led them to La Jolla, California, where they could study under the plethora of musicians that performed at the Hollywood Bowl.

Despite the move, Mary Elizabeth kept up her southern culinary ways, centered largely on rice. Glenn remembers that the cooking of rice was a ritual in their house that denoted a sense of honor. He also remembers, with a smile, that he was only allowed to cook rice for the dog. While Glenn treasures all of these kitchen memories now, at the time, he wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut. This never materialized, but he excelled in his studies and went to college at age 14 on a music and math scholarship. The college happened to be the University of North Carolina, and just like that his southern roots reconnected.

Glenn worked a myriad of jobs during college — none without purpose. As a doffer in a twine factory, he saw the power of primitive water-driven machinery. And as a musician he toured around the southeast extensively — experiencing firsthand the culture of the region his mother remembered fondly.

His major in topology — a branch of mathematics specializing in distorting an object’s spacial properties — enabled him to break into the world of architecture upon graduation, and in this world he found his professional footing. He worked with one of the top firms at the time, and eventually developed hotel/restaurant design as his specialty. Glenn traveled up and down the Eastern seaboard resurrecting historic properties. He especially loved this line of work, as he loved working with chefs. He remembers that at the time, during the 1970s, there was a definite lack of locality in restaurant cuisine. The chefs that recognized this missing connection between farm and table happened to be those who came over from Europe to work at hotels.

“These great European chefs had walked away from a system of people [farmers] bringing stuff to their back doors,” says Glenn.

Their interest in the agriculture behind the food lodged in Glenn’s mind, right beside his mother’s stories of freshly milled rice and grits. He had been sending her grits throughout his southern travels trying to satisfy her childhood memories, but she finally told him to stop wasting his time because they lacked any real flavor. “She wasn’t trying to hurt anyone’s feelings,” says Glenn. “She just had a keen palate and remembered what they tasted like.”

These thoughts came together just as Glenn approached burnout in the design world. He decided to take a break and chose Charleston as his retreat. He lived at the beach and found work on Junior Magwood’s shrimp boat. Despite Glenn’s desire to “do nothing” for a while, he gradually found himself pulled into the Charleston food community. A rediscovery of local foodways seemed to be underway, and Glenn could not help but join the effort. He met farmers like George and Celeste Albers and found work at Perdita’s restaurant. There, he cooked, but perhaps more importantly he developed relationships with the largely African American staff who had been there since 1952. “They remembered everything from their grandparents…stuff that wasn’t normal uptown food in Charleston at the time,” says Glenn.

All of this simply added fuel to Glenn’s fire. That tiny flame lit by his mother began to burn brighter, and before he knew it Glenn found himself filled with a burning desire to resurrect historic foodways — specifically artisanal grains, and even more specifically Carolina Gold Rice. Thankfully, he already knew some of the key players like Dick and Tricia Schulze who had repatriated Carolina Gold Rice on their plantation near Savannah.

The Schulzes came by their seed through Texas A&M University, and Glenn sought out seed there as well. Luckily, he came away with not just seed but also the acquaintances of a leading corn and rice geneticist Dr. Anna McClung and a renowned entomologist, Dr. Merle Shepherd. Both provided and continue to provide invaluable assistance in his grain cultivation.

Finding the heirloom varieties of corn would require Glenn to dig a bit deeper in his past. He knew that, sadly, corn had become one of America’s most industrialized crops and consequently, an extremely homogenized crop. Many of the historic lines of corn that possessed complex flavor and aroma also happened to be difficult to grow. So the question became, “Who might still have corn seed that dated back before industrialized farming became such a dominant force?”

Glenn remembered from his days at the North Carolina twine factory that there had been much talk of bootleggers. The reality (legal or not) was that generations of rural southerners survived on their proficiency in distilling corn whiskey. This was a lifestyle that did not allow them to buy seed from the local co-op; but rather, they saved seeds from their crops year after year (going back decades). Through avenues that only Glenn could drum up, he found one such family that appreciated his interest in their agriculture and eventually grew a field of corn for him.

This first field of corn proved a valuable lesson for Glenn when a wind storm blew the entire crop down in a matter of minutes. The next year he grew smaller plots in multiple locations, and he finally yielded his first crop of corn. Of course, he sent some to his mother and took some back to the staff at Perdita’s. The flavor brought back the memories that Glenn had sought out for so long.

Glenn specifically remembers when he finally succeeded in bringing his mother some freshly milled rice. “Quiet reflection over a bowl of rice is something to behold,” he says.

Corn and rice proved just the beginning for Glenn; now he cultivates heritage wheat, peas, and more. However, Glenn insists that, at heart, he is a “rice guy.” Unfortunately, the economics of growing heritage rice prove entirely unprofitable. “It’s not a business venture, but a cultural venture,” says Glenn. Thankfully, the other crops help sustain his efforts.

Glenn’s steadfast dedication to quality demonstrated in such painstaking practices as cold-milling and on-demand production have garnered him quite a following from the very beginning. Top southern chefs like Anne Quatrono, Louis Osteen, and Frank Stitt bought Glenn’s first corn and rice, and others from around the country soon followed suit. Within the first few years Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, and Daniel Boulud all recognized the importance of Glenn’s vision and the superior product he provided.

However, it must be noted that despite his celebrity chef roster and unequivocal success, Glenn shrugs off any praise. His primary allegiance remains the same — the preservation of heritage seeds. Through Anson Mills and the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, he seeks to enlist farmers on his mission. Not only does Glenn contract farmers in growing the crops but also in milling the product. He proclaims with pride that even his accountant can operate a combine. Glenn assists in all areas of the process — from the field to the mill to the paperwork. His longtime business ally, Catherine Schopfer, brokers the grains, which basically entails constant communication with their commercial customers. Glenn’s wife, Kay, is a free-lance writer who met him when the New York Times sent her down South to capture his story. Now, she attempts to capture his knowledge for use on the Anson Mills website — www.ansonmills.com — which catalogs their various products.

Daring to distill the facts running through Glenn’s head should be lauded. Like his ambition they seem ceaseless. Glenn has a favorite expression when describing folks he really admires — from farmers to geneticists. He will say that they have forgotten more than most of us know. The irony is that he does not realize this statement describes himself perfectly.

Glenn Roberts has definitely forgotten more than most of know, and he’s still learning.

***

At the GO we use Anson Mills “Carolina Whole Hominy Quick Yellow Grits” and Sea Island Red Peas.

You may buy directly from the Anson Mills website — www.ansonmills.com

November 7, 2010

Fred Dockery — A Man of the Lowcountry Waters

Fred Dockery defies an easy definition. He comes to the shrimping and crabbing business not by birth but by choice. He comes armed with a degree in philosophy and an impeccable fluency in the French language. But the waters cast their spell on him years ago. Now, he utterly depends on them just like the multi-generational fishing families he works alongside. It’s not simply a job but a way of life.

However, Fred does bring a unique attitude to this passion, and it’s an attitude cultivated by his rich and varied upbringing — beginning in Montpellier, France. There, in 1964, his single mother, a Portuguese psychologist gave birth to Fred. Shortly thereafter, she met a young American man who happened to be in the area on a Fulbright scholarship. They fell in love, married, and moved to America in 1968. His adopted father’s career as a French professor kept the family on the move — from North Carolina to Iowa to Maine and finally back to North Carolina. Fred even spent another year in France where he spoke the language as if he had never left, and even now his eyes light up when he talks of France.

Eventually, Fred found himself at Bates College in Maine where he studied philosophy simply out of interest. Like so many youth on the cusp of adulthood, he had no idea what he really wanted to do. After college he tried his hand at screenwriting in New York City and environmental education in Connecticut. When neither panned out to his liking, he found himself living in an old airplane hangar on the Connecticut coast contemplating his next move. He also found himself hungry, and when one of his “housemates” offered up his position on a commercial fishing boat Fred started work the next day. He still remembers that first seasick morning out on the water; he loved it.

As it turns out, Fred entered the New England fishing scene at a dynamic time — the end of the “lobster-trawler wars.” Territorial rights play a significant role in commercial fishing, and here the lobstermen believed that the big trawlers had infringed on theirs. Within his first month, the lobstermen fired shots and sunk the 40-foot trawler that employeed Fred. The crew pulled the boat up and repaired it, but the captain had fought his last battle. He offered the job up, and with one month’s experience Fred began running his own boat.

“It was like setting a kid loose in a gravel pit with a backhoe!” he says, smiling broadly.

Fred worked various fishing jobs until he met his wife, Catherine, in 1987. They decided to move back down South, closer to both their families, and wound up in Charleston. Fred found work at Atlantic Clam Farms and remained there from 1991 to 1996. After clamming, he tried his hand at oystering, but the work wreaked havoc on his back. Next, Fred turned to crabbing and eventually shrimping. He laughs now, remembering his first attempt at shrimping.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” he says. “I was measuring [my catch] in numbers not pounds.”

Thankfully, veteran shrimper Neal Cooksey took Fred under his tutelage — selling him an old net and introducing him to tricks of the trade like the “tickle chain.” On his next trip out, he found success — catching so many shrimp that he ran out of coolers and ice.

These days, his catch can vary from less than a pound to 40 pounds, but Fred does not have quite the stress of the big trawlers. He goes out on a 19-foot skiff, which burns only a fraction of the fuel, and he can crab on the same day. Of course, it’s not easy work. Fred goes out most days by himself — hauling in heavy nets and crab traps. And he hauls them in knowing the sad reality of a market flooded by cheap, imported shrimp. Fred believes that the only real answer to this issue would be taxing these shrimp from Asia and South America or creating government subsidies for American fishermen. Simply put, he likes the grassroots campaigns, but he believes they are just not enough.

“It is not a wasted lesson teaching the value of fresh and local, but people shop with their pocketbooks, and the bulk of them still want big shrimp at a low price,” he says.

In addition to such larger issues, Fred also still deals with the territorial drama that seems unavoidable in the fishing business. Feuds between crabbers result in lines to identifying buoys being cut — meaning a loss of crabs, equipment, and time. Fred tries to stay out of such disputes because one can never be sure who victimized you.

“If I retaliated, remorse would eat me up,” he says.

Besides, Fred does not come across as a fighter. In fact, he seems genuinely happy despite the long hours and low pay. He recognizes that that this is a life he chose for himself and his family. He and Catherine have three children — Carlisle, Evan, and Emma — all old enough to de-head and sort shrimp. Only one — his son Evan — has a real interest in the business. He goes out with Fred on most weekends and even saved up to buy his own boat at age 10.

When asked whether he wonders if Evan would be better off choosing another path, Fred laughs.

“I don’t have to wonder; I know he would be better off,” he says. “I would be better off too! But on a day like today, where else would I rather be?”

He waves his arm motioning to the world around him — the sweetgrass whispers; a few white, picturesque clouds float lazily in the blue sky; Spanish moss hangs from the oak trees; herons and egrets soar gracefully; red-winged blackbirds and purple martins flit about; and a gentle, breeze strikes up, as if on cue.

***

At the GO we buy shrimp, blue crabs, and stone crabs from Fred, and they all represent the supreme quality that only local seafood can offer.

October 1, 2010

10 Reasons to Buy Local Food!

Most everyone reading this probably knows just how strongly I feel about the importance of eating local food/supporting local farmers. And most of you probably have some idea about the reasons why. But if you need more fuel for your fire I happened upon this awesome list published by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. They happily encouraged my reprinting of it for your reading pleasure. Enjoy and check out their other website
www.buyappalachian.org if you happen to live or travel in the southern Appalachian region.

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project – www.asapconnections.org

10 Reasons to Buy Local Food

1. Locally grown food tastes better – Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.

2. Local produce is better for you – A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some “fresh” produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week.

3. Local food preserves genetic diversity – In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.

4. Local food is GMO-free – Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to large factory-style farms. Local farmers don’t have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn’t use it even if they could. A June 2001 survey by ABC News showed that 93% of Americans want labels on genetically modified food – most so that they can avoid it. If you are opposed to eating bioengineered food, you can rest assured that locally grown produce was bred as nature intended.

5. Local food supports local farm families – With fewer than 1 million Americans now claiming farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. And no wonder – commodity prices are at historic lows, often below the cost of production. The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food – which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.

6. Local food builds community – When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.

7. Local food preserves open space – As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely. You have probably enjoyed driving out into the country and appreciated the lush fields of crops, the meadows full of wildflowers, the picturesque red barns. That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.

8. Local food keeps your taxes in check – Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes, according to several studies. On average, for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For each dollar of revenue raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend 34 cents on services.

9. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife – A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings – is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife.

10. Local food is about the future – By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.  Adapted from ©2001 Growing for Market

September 9, 2010

Allan Benton — The King of Bacon

Allan Benton has achieved celebrity status in the world of food, but you wouldn’t know it talking to him. He speaks with that honest to goodness modesty I associate with folks who really grew up in the country.

Benton grew up so far out “you had to look straight up to see daylight”, and that’s where he learned the art of curing his now famous bacon and ham.

His birth certificate doesn’t list a city, just Scott County, Virginia. Benton split his childhood between this area of southern Virginia and northern Tennessee where he now operates Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams. His parent’s families homesteaded adjoining plots in Virginia, and Benton spent much time there — learning the art of working the land from his grandparents.

“Do you remember that television show ‘The Waltons’?” he asks. “Well, we made the Waltons look like they lived in town.”

Benton’s grandparents did not own cars or tractors. They walked where they needed to go and worked the land using a mule. They raised heirloom varieties of vegetables because they could not afford to buy seeds. They grew their crops organically because they could not afford to buy commercial fertilizer. And they let their hogs forage for acorns because they could not afford to buy grain.

On Thanksgiving day, they woke before dawn to butcher these 500 to 700 pound hogs — putting every part to use. “We either canned it, cured it or ground it into sausage,” says Benton.

“Looking back now I realize it was the depths of south Appalachian poverty, but it was an incredible way of life,” he says.

He took the lessons he learned there and held them close even as he went on to college and graduate school in Tennessee. After earning his masters in 1973, Benton sat down and looked at the salary schedule for his future as a guidance counselor.

“I realized I might have made a poor career choice,” he says with a laugh.

About this same time and in the same county, Albert Hicks decided to sell his country ham business, and fate took a crucial turn. Benton heard of the sale and took a gamble. He began leasing the primitive operation from Hicks. He amassed information from food science professors, Hicks and his own childhood and began curing pork bellies and hams.

“For the first 20 years I thought we might starve to death,” he says, once again with a laugh.

He remembers that one day his father walked in the store and asked, “How much money do you think you’ve made this year?”

“I didn’t know,” says Benton.

His father kept his books at this time and broke it to him, “Well, I can tell you — you havent’ made a dime!”

At his father’s insistence Benton raised his prices, and he eventually moved the operation to where it resides today on Highway 411, still in Monroe County. Here, Benton attracted more customers and gained his Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) certification.

Finally in the early 90s, Blackberry Farm, a rural Tennessee resort, began using his product, and their chef John Fleer spread the disciple of Benton. Word of his superior bacon and hams soon made its way to celebrity chefs on both coasts, and orders increased to a point that finally gave the Benton family some security.

Now, Benton cures nearly twice as many hams and 20 times as many bellies as he did at the outset. He estimates that 400 restaurants mail order from him — about 40 of those are in New York City and about 50 are in California.

Benton in his usual modesty credits much of this success to that first support from Fleer and Blackberry Farm. He also credits his forefathers.

“I’m not speeding up the process like a lot of folks,” he says. “I don’t take to change well.”

He continues to use his original family recipe of salt, brown sugar, black and red pepper for any ham aged 12 months or longer — just as he continues to use a rotary dial phone in his cinderblock storefront.

Benton does admit to one change — now purchasing exclusively all natural, heritage pork. Over the years he witnessed a drastic transformation in commercially raised hogs as they became leaner and leaner.

“I grew up eating incredible pork,” he says. “I knew what pork was supposed to taste like.”

Now, he buys the older breeds of hogs that have better marbling and flavor from coops around the country.

“You have to start with something good to make something good,” Benton says. And that’s his primary aim — excellence.

“My goal is to make something as good as Europe or anywhere else,” he says.

***

At the Glass Onion we believe Benton achieves his ambition handily. While testing recipes for the cookbook I found results to be drastically different when I substituted another high quality bacon. There is a sweet smokiness to Benton’s product that casts a spell over a dish. Benton believes that chefs elevate his products, but we believe that he elevates our food.

We encourage you to order directly from Mr. Benton at:

www.bentonshams.com

And look for Mr. Benton’s product on our menu at:

www.ilovetheglassonion.com

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