South Carolina Low Country Dinner at Hatchet Hall in Mar Vista

By Richard Foss

The first dinner in the Thoughtful Feast series, which highlights the evolution of food and drink on the West Coast and the immigrant experience, was staged at Hatchet Hall on April 11, 2016. A capacity crowd filled the Old Man Bar for a meal of traditional South Carolina delicacies including pickled shrimp, she-crab soup, country captain, and other delicacies – over a dozen items in all.

After guests were invited to sample three different punches, the newest of which was documented in 1820, Pacific Food & Beverage Museum Curator Richard Foss welcomed guests and introduced chef Brian Dunsmoor, a Georgia native who learned his craft in Charleston. Over the course of the evening Dunsmoor and Foss both offered historical details about the heritage ingredients and multicultural origins of Low Country cuisine, which was once widely available in California but has become extremely rare. No restaurant in Southern California offers this style of dining on a regular basis, which made this evening particularly special.

The meal proceeded through a series of courses, beginning with tea snacks and cheese straws, through the soup, cheese grits, and main courses, to a surprise finish of strawberry shortcake. For many native Californians it was their first experience with the cuisine of the Carolinas, while those who are non-natives or are well traveled found it a nostalgic return to an unaccountably rare delight. Thanks are due to Chef Dunsmoor, his partner Jonathan Strader, Punchmaster Matt Bone, and the staff that provided both service and information with a smile.

One of the punches that was offered was the St. Cecelia Punch, which was concocted sometime after 1762 to celebrate the St. Cecelia Music Society. It takes some advance notice to prepare, as noted below, but is well worth the trouble!

 St. Cecelia Punch

  • 1 cup brandy
  • 2 small lemons, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup brewed green tea
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/4 cup peach-flavored liqueur (such as peach schnapps)
  • 2 cups sparkling water, chilled
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle Champagne, chilled

Combine brandy and lemons in a large bowl. Cover and let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Add pineapple to brandy mixture. Let stand 3 hours.

Combine brandy mixture, tea, and next 3 ingredients (through liqueur), stirring until sugar dissolves. Add sparkling water and Champagne, stirring gently until blended. Serve immediately.