Thursday, November 20, 2008

181 Palmer Gets Stellar Review

Great Gourmet Dining Secret Unveiled
By ANN THRASH, editor

NOV. 13, 2008 -- "The three-course lunch started with a mouthwatering appetizer of pork and ginger pot stickers with daikon radish salad and a sesame-soy vinaigrette. Next up was a velvety roasted sweet potato and carrot soup garnished with fresh blue crab - perfect for a cool fall day. The entrée? Grilled beef sliders with aged white cheddar, caramelized onions, arugula, smoked tomato ketchup, an okra pickle and hand-cut shoestring fries.

"It wasn't easy deciding between the sliders and the grilled mahi-mahi and the braised beef short ribs and the lemon-thyme roasted chicken breast - but such is the delicious challenge awaiting lunchtime guests at one of the city's best-kept dining secrets: 181 Palmer. And here's the icing on the cake: The tab for this amazing three-course lunch was just $15. Not per course -- $15 total.

"If you haven't heard of 181 Palmer, you're not alone. The café is quietly tucked away inside Trident Technical College's Culinary Institute of Charleston at the Palmer campus on Columbus Street near East Bay. The members of the wait staff and the chefs in the kitchen are Culinary Institute students and instructors. The café provides real-world, real-time hospitality-industry training at its finest, and those who dine there are the lucky beneficiaries.
"Gracious hosts welcome and seat guests, then provide a menu with four categories: appetizers, soups and salads, entrees, and desserts. Guests select a total of three courses from those four categories, with no more than one choice from each category.
"A recent day's menu included the pot stickers as an appetizer, with the other choices being grilled wild American shrimp with cauliflower puree and caper-currant brown butter, or duck confit with brioche French toast, Camembert and poached quince. On the entrée menu along with the sliders were braised beef short ribs with a Yukon gold potato puree, roasted baby carrots and a red wine reduction; grilled mahi-mahi with Anson Mills farro (that's an heirloom grain), sautéed Swiss chard and a smoked paprika-orange butter; and lemon-thyme roasted chicken breast with Anson Mills grits, caramelized fennel and a wild mushroom broth.
"The chefs didn't forget dessert, of course. The choices included a tatin (tart) of apples with sour cream sorbet and salted maple caramel; white chocolate panna cotta (a silky custard) with passion fruit; and dark chocolate rosemary cake with lavender whipped cream.
"If it sounds like a meal fit for a king or queen, it is. Before you start making plans to head to the cafe, be forewarned: The place is small - it seats only about 50 - and reservations are required. And lunch is served only certain days of the week when classes are in session, which means that in a few short weeks, the cafe will be closed until spring semester.
"But the good news is that in addition to the cafe downtown, the Culinary Institute also has a dining room at Trident Tech's main campus on Rivers Avenue. According to the school's Web site, it offers a buffet featuring soups, entrees, vegetables, starches and desserts, all for $12 per person. Go to and you can see menus for both dining rooms and find out how to make reservations. Your palate will thank you!"

Mount Pleasant native Ann Thrash is editor of You can reach her
Thanks to 181 Palmer Chef Instructor Scott Stefanelli, Dining Room Adjunct Instructor Dean Layes, and their CIC students for bringing it home!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fine Work in the Artisan Chocolate Class

Chef Alexander's Advanced Certificate Artisan Chocolate class at CIC's Palmer Campus is producing delicious results!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chef Huff Does His Stuff

Chef Instructor Miles Huff worked his annual garde manger magic at the State Fair in Columbia this month. Assisted by CIC students Kimberly Harrigal and Chris Holme, Chef Huff carved a veritable garden of fruit and vegetable flowers and crafted an array of other amusing creations.