“Don’t be cute; get it in. Pick it up with your hands if you need to.”
Those were the instructions we got from Chef Kardea (pronounced Kar-DEE-AYE) Brown before I and about 30 other diners indulged in four courses at her New Gullah Supper Club event in Charlotte last Saturday.
Before it was over, the experience would have us unbuttoning our jeans, exchanging hugs and buying pimento cheese.
The New Gullah Supper Club is a traveling feast that has been crisscrossing the country with Gullah-Geechie-inspired meals since 2015. Brown, a Charleston native, created the supper club shortly after she made her debut to the food trade by way of “The Dean of Lean” cooking show, which starred Bobby Dean, son of former Food Network star Paula Deen.
“I knew I needed to work in the food industry but didn’t know in what capacity,” she said. “So after a month or so of deliberation, I came up with the idea of a traveling supper club.”
To participate in the supper club (the Charlotte meal cost $85) diners must buy a ticket without knowing the location. Only the menu is known. The site of the Charlotte event was kept secret until 24 hours before the scheduled start.
To my surprise, it was held at a home in Plaza Midwood. Guests arrived from as far as Rock Hill, and we were arranged and served family style. The room was jammed, so there was no chance of dining without getting to know your neighbor.
Southern smorgasbord: This consisted of Brown’s famous Southern pimento cheese, seasonal fruit, homemade bread and buttered pickled vegetables with low-country boiled peanuts.
“Don’t fill up on the bread!” Brown yelled from the kitchen, but it was too late. I was already on my fourth slice, lathered with pimento cheese. It’s Brown’s special recipe, and it was the finest I’d ever eaten.
Geechie Gumbo: This was a hearty combination made with Charleston white shrimp, smoked turkey sausage and succotash. It was served with Carolina gold rice and a garden salad. The word flavorful doesn’t do it justice. With a slight pinch of hot sauce, this combo was delightful.
Fried chicken with collard-green slaw and scratch-made biscuits: There was nothing sour about the collard-green slaw. In fact, the sweet and spicy pecan syrup left no traces of bitterness anywhere on the plate.
Sweet potato pie with a bottom layer of New York-style cheesecake made with almond-flavored, hand-whipped cream: With little room left for dessert, the delicate texture provided was just what the room needed after the first three courses.
The evening concluded with just about everybody in the room ordering a jar of Chef Brown’s Southern pimento cheeses, sold for $8 in small mason jars. I ordered a jar as a way of continuing the evening just a while longer.
“No one is a stranger at the New Gullah Super table,” Brown said as we finished our night. No truer words have ever been spoken.
For more information on the New Gullah Supper Club and upcoming cities, follow Chef Kardea Brown on Facebook at Kardea’s Kuisine. (Her next stops are Atlanta and Edisto Island, S.C.)