Legare experiments with winter CSA

The bane of CSAs, in most subscribers' estimations, are the voluminous boxes of dark leafy greens that appear at the start and end of the season. But Legare Farms is wagering the prospect of collards and kale won't scare off fans of the Johns Island farm.

Legare Farms is offering a winter CSA for the first time this year. The six-week program costs $157 for a full share, or $115 for a half share.

"I have always been reluctant to do a winter season because most of what is available is greens," Helen Legare is quoted as saying in a release. "Greens get old really quick. I think we can mix it up enough so you won't get tired of greens."

In addition to greens, winter CSA boxes also will include sweet potatoes, spinach, beets, turnips, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, butternut squash and acorn squash. According to the release, the Legares also are trying to partner with a Florida friend so they can add citrus to the collection.

The winter CSA runs from Feb. 11-March 20.

CSA customers can pick up weekly deliveries at the farm, or at locations in Charleston, West Ashley, James Island and Mount Pleasant. For more information, call 559-0788 or email legarefarms@bellsouth.net.

'Rodney in Exile' tour announces local finale

Eastern Carolina barbecue virtuoso Sam Jones of Skylight Inn is planning to join friend and fellow Fatback Collective member Rodney Scott in downtown Charleston next month for a dinner that will serve as the finale to Scott's six-state fundraising tour.

Tickets to the Feb. 4 dinner, prepared by the pitmasters and chef Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady's, are priced at $100.

The Southern Foodways Alliance last year chronicled the relationship between the two wood-and-vinegar devotees: "I'll joke sometimes and say that he's my first cousin," Jones (who's white) said of Scott (who's black). Jones first met Scott at a Charleston Wine + Food Festival event.

The "Rodney in Exile" tour, which kicked off last month with a $5 sandwich sale in Charleston that drew blocks-long lines, was organized after a fire destroyed Scott's pit house. Although Scott estimates he needs $100,000 for the rebuild, sponsoring organization Fatback Collective, an elite assembly of heritage-minded chefs, food writers and entrepreneurs, hopes to raise an additional $20,000 for its newly established Fatback Fund.

According to a press release, the collective will use the fund to support similarly threatened businesses recognized as "community focused and culturally rich."

To attract more donations, the fund is selling naming rights to Scott's pits. For $5,000, you can put your name on one of 14 planned pits.

McCrady's is handling reservations for the event. Call 577-0025, ext. 4, or email kcunningham@ndgcharleston.com for tickets.

Carter's Kitchen still closed

Carter's Kitchen missed its self-imposed deadline of reopening in time for Charleston Restaurant Week, but customers of the Mount Pleasant restaurant won't miss out on Restaurant Week deals.

According to chef-owner Bob Carter, the restaurant plans to start running its Restaurant Week menu when it reopens.

The restaurant's air conditioning units, hot water heaters, walk-in cooler and a storage unit were destroyed in a Dec. 28 fire. Carter initially forecast he'd be back in business by Jan. 8; now he's just aiming for "soon."

"We are diligently working with the insurance company to get the scope of work finalized and the cleanup and minor repairs completed in a timely manner," he says. "The holiday schedule made for a slow start, but we are in full swing."

Smoked duck pastrami, pork osso buco and coconut cake are among the items listed on Carter's Kitchen $40 Restaurant Week menu.

Rejiggering automatic gratuities

A new tax ruling that treats automatic gratuities as wages rather than tips could change how some local servers experience Restaurant Week.

The Internal Revenue Service on Jan. 1 began reclassifying automatic gratuities as service charges, a change which forces servers to wait until they receive their paychecks to obtain their money. Additionally, the money is now subject to payroll tax; previously, reporting tips was left to the server's discretion.

Automatic gratuities are most frequently tacked onto bills racked up by large parties, but many restaurants have traditionally mandated them in situations where servers were at risk of not being fairly compensated for their work. Although a Greater Charleston Restaurant Association spokeswoman wasn't certain how many Charleston Restaurant Week participants trot out the practice for the event, both Grill 225 and Circa 1886 enforce 20 percent gratuities.

According to Circa 1886 spokeswoman Linn Lesesne, the shift in IRS interpretation won't deprive Circa 1886 servers of anticipated cash because the restaurant five years ago started rolling all collected tips into paychecks. Servers are "paid every two weeks ... with all of the appropriate taxes taken out," Lesesne writes.

Because the new rule will complicate payroll accounting, many chain restaurants are now doing away with automatic gratuities. Darden Restaurants, which operates Red Lobster and Olive Garden, this month eliminated its mandatory tip for groups of eight or more guests.

The Farmbar opens this week

Many of the restaurants promised for December 2013 still haven't materialized, including Tapio (tied up with lease issues); Chez Nous ("We are close. We just don't want to open before we have properly trained our staff and worked out some kinks," owner Patrick Panella writes) and Lee Lee's Hot Kitchen (not returning my messages).

But perhaps hoping to prove that restaurants are sometimes worth the wait, The Farmbar provisional is on the cusp of celebrating its grand opening. The project, described on The Farmbar's website as "seven years in the making," was originally supposed to take shape by last January.

Although the culinary salon is holding off on permanent construction, meal service begins at 1600 Meeting St. on Friday. The field-parked Spartan trailer (that's a brand name, but since there's no phone, it's especially fitting) will offer its compact menu of sandwiches, salads and baked goods from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, with lunchbox pickup available on weekdays from noon-2 p.m. The venue will also host occasional pop-up dinners on Sundays and Mondays.

The opening menu features fried eggs for breakfast, a pork burger for lunch and Judy Rogers' Zuni Cafe roast chicken for dinner. Folks who show up on opening day can purchase an all-day eating pass for $40, but prices usually range from $4-$10 per item.

For more information, go to thefarmbar26.com.

Turmeric is hot in January

Unused gym treadmills aren't the only item in short supply after the holidays: Grocers say local demand for turmeric surges after New Year's.

"This time of year, you know, everyone's doing cleansing, juicing, New Year's resolutions," says a staffer at Whole Foods in Mount Pleasant, which weekly sells 10 pounds of the root.

Turmeric, sometimes called "Indian saffron," is commonly used in Asian cooking. At Xiao Bao Biscuit, it's a prominent ingredient in a Vietnamese dish featuring pan-seared fish. But the peppery plant is valued as much for its health benefits as its flavor. Traditional Chinese and Indian healers have long touted turmeric's anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiviral qualities, prescribing it as a remedy for stomach troubles, skin conditions and achy bones.

Lately, turmeric has been embraced by raw juice devotees, who claim the plant helps detoxify the liver and cleanse the kidneys. According to Google, "turmeric" searches have risen steadily over the past five years.

Most of the turmeric sold at Whole Foods in January ends up in juice, as do the 25-pound bags of carrots and 2-pound bags of kale that become more popular this month. Although it's possible to enjoy a glass of pressed turmeric, turmeric is typically used in smaller doses, much like ginger or dandelion greens.

Whole Foods receives its turmeric shipment every Wednesday.

Beer dinner at Middleton Place

Perhaps cognizant of potential guests' worries about imbibing five courses worth of beer pairings before driving home from Middleton Place Restaurant, the venue is making sure its upcoming Braise & Brew dinner ends on a non-alcoholic note.

For dessert, attendees at the Jan. 26 event will be served caramel-apple doughnuts and glasses of Holy City's Christmasly Spiced Scratch Root Beer.

Holy City's head brewer, Chris Brown, collaborated with Middleton Place executive chef Brandon Buck to plan the menu for the fourth annual edition of the beer dinner. Other courses include a winter squash soup paired with a German winter lager; a ham hock ragout paired with a bacon-infused porter and brisket paired with stout.

According to Middleton's website, "when possible, Holy City's brews were used in the cooking process." That includes mussels steamed in an IPA broth.

Tickets to the 6 p.m. meal are $85. To purchase, call 556-6020 or go to middletonplace.org.

Dixie Supply debuts dinner

"It's been slow," a staffer at Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe admitted when asked about the downtown nook's new dinner service. She predicted traffic will pick up once more eaters realize the biscuit specialist has added evening hours.

Best known for its all-day breakfast and tomato pie, the restaurant in November started staying open from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The dinner menu includes a few carryovers from the lunch menu, such as sausage gumbo and a burger, but the kitchen's also concocted ritzier items that aren't available when most folks are ordering eggs.

Among the new options are a gouda grits cake with duck confit; cornmeal-crusted oysters; a pan-fried pork chop; and crab cakes sauced with heirloom tomato beurre blanc, priced at $19.

Dixie Supply is participating in Charleston Restaurant Week: Its $30 menu features truffled potato soup and a port-roasted Joseph Fields Farm duck breast. For more information, call 722-5650.