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Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston?

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com

As a native of Charleston, South Carolina, there's not much that I haven't had the chance to experience. But, every once in a while, I stumble upon a new and exciting way to explore my hometown.

Recently, I had the opportunity to take a farm to table tour in Charleston, and I came away with a new appreciation for the delicious food that this region offers and the talented people who make those meals happen at every step.


Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com


The Farm to Table Tour in the Charleston SC historic district is run by Charleston Culinary Tours
(we've taken other food tours with them, and they've all been fantastic!). For this tour, we had Hoon Calhoun, who was lighthearted and informative. He served as the perfect host to one of the best food tours in Charleston, and, as a fellow Charleston native, he came at the material from a great perspective.

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com


This particular version of culinary travel is different than others we've experienced since it had four parts:

1) The group gets a quick culinary history from the guide, and then gets to choose an ingredient from one of the local produce booths at the Charleston Farmers Market. Once an ingredient has been chosen, no one else can claim it, which makes for a varied display at the end.

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com
Making my selection: green onions, which ended up in our market pizzas

2) After the chef for the day had confirmed that there weren't any vegetable and fruit duplicates, the group left the chef to procure enough food for the size of the group. The guide and the tour participants then stopped by several other booths including a local dairy, Green Grocer Dairy, and the butcher for Altman Farms, where we learned about the process of bringing their specialties to market.

3) We were left to roam the farmers' market for about 40 minutes as a way to sample a few treats. The Marion Square Farmers Market was named one of the top farmers markets in the nation by both Esquire Magazine and Travel + Leisure, so a few moments to explore on our own was greatly appreciated. We sampled locally made pasta sauce and honey (the latter of which is produced just a few miles from our house!), and drank some deliciously bold coffee from one of the food carts.

4) The group reconvened and headed to the restaurant for a 5-course meal composed completely around the foods that the tour members had selected earlier. The tour partners with different chefs and restaurants depending on availability, but we had Nate Whiting, who heads up the kitchen at Juliet.

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com
The Juliet was opened just for our group.

From the start, Chef Whiting acknowledged the challenge of constructing a fresh menu for 15 nearly on-the-spot, but he seemed to take the daunting task in stride. No stranger to Charleston, Chef Whiting has also worked at local favorite Tristan and contributes to the menu at Mount Pleasant Coffee Collective Co.

I like to let the market dictate the meal. It's more exciting than a restaurant which has to be consistent. That's what make a good restaurant where you have to keep doing things the same 10 out of 10 times. We only have to do something amazing once here!
-Nate Whiting

Working from the produce we selected at the Freeman Farms booth (a locally owned and operated farm on nearby Johns Island), Chef Whiting created a meal that was both unusual in its tastes and flavors and stunning in its blend of local and exotic inspiration.

By the time our group sat down to eat, we were hungry and ready to try anything Chef Whiting served up. One great thing about having a small number of participants on Charleston cooking tours is that you get to know the other participants. We'd gotten to talk with and learn about the other people in the group (which was almost evenly split between locals and visitors), so the meal felt more like a gathering of old friends than a bunch of strangers who happened to be at a big table together.

Our first course was zucchini fettuccini and featured raw shaved zoodles in a garlic bath. My husband, who detests zucchini, even loved this dish.

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com


The second course was a charred eggplant puree with garlic and olives on Normandy Farms bread (another of my favorite places for local goods!). It was smoky and filling and the perfect texture for a dip.

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com


Our third course was another appetizer: heirloom tomatoes with vanilla vinaigrette and white chocolate sauce. It was topped by pistachios. I adore tomatoes, but haven't ever had them in a sweet dish. The tomatoes paired surprisingly well with the richness of the vanilla and chocolate.

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com


The main course came next and featured all sorts of incredible fresh veggies. The market pizzas, as Chef Whiting called them, were topped with pickled okra, freshly prepared pizza dough, and topped with rendered pork jowl bacon. He also had a separate version with additional veggies for those who requested a vegetarian option.

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com


The fifth course (our dessert course) was actually split into two since Chef Whiting had had enough materials to prepare separate sweet dishes. The first dessert was a mustard and collard green risotto with Parmesan, mushrooms, and pickled blueberries. Other than the blueberries, I'd never seen any of the other ingredients served in a dessert, so the intertwining of the sweet and savory was surprisingly tasty!

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com


Our meal ended on a perfect note with roasted plums and grits, which was topped with creamed corn and a bit of brie. Like much of the rest of the meal, it challenged my assumptions about Southern food (like grits) and showed me that there are so many other ways to experience it than the typical stand-by versions.

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com


Overall, I cannot say enough wonderful things about this farm to table tour. Not only did it provide what I think might just be the best brunch in Charleston SC, but it very well could be the best food tour in Charleston. Period.

The farm to table tour goes above and beyond the typical history-and-samples approach to most Charleston cooking tours, and its focus on local food in Charleston is the perfect way for visitors to get to know the area. Even natives like myself will learn a thing or two in the process!

If you're interested in taking this tour, it runs every Saturday that the Farmers Market is in business. It includes a 5-course meal and a 45-minute history tour of the Charleston SC historic district, and is worth every penny. Because the tour is capped at 15 people, you'll want to book as far out as possible to ensure a spot on the tour: popular weekends fill up fast.

Have you visited Charleston yet? What culinary tours have you taken and enjoyed?

This post was made possible by TripAdvisor who provided two tickets to my husband and I to attend. All opinions are my own. 

PIN ME!

Farm to Table Tour in Charleston SC Historic District: Best Food Tour in Charleston? | CosmosMariners.com


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