Blog and Tips
What Southern Hospitality REALLY Means
Southern hospitality is more than a catchphrase for Lowcountry locals – it’s a lifestyle. If you’re from out of town, the saying likely conjures up images of rocking on the front porch, sipping sweet tea, and sit-down family dinners. But the roots of this down-home friendliness run deeper than inviting friends over every once in a while. So, how exactly do you define Southern hospitality?
You asked, and we’re answering. Here are the top qualities locals use to define Southern hospitality.
Entertaining and delicious food go hand-in-hand in the South. We embrace tradition in the kitchen, often preparing time-tested recipes that are prepared with a whole lot of love (and maybe a little butter). One dish is never enough, as you never know who might be joining you for dinner. There’s nothing quite like Southern comfort cooking to warm you from the inside out, which is why we take care in preparing our Shrimp & Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Chicken and Waffles.
Guests are treated like family.
The saying, “There are no strangers, just friends we haven’t met yet,” is especially true in the South. Guests are treated like family here, so it’s clear why people are drawn to the Lowcountry’s inviting atmosphere. At The Cottage, our service philosophy is to every customer – new or returning – as if we go way back.
We don’t get in a hurry down South. Instead, we talk slowly to let guests know they’re welcome and to connect with them on a deeper level. The conversation flows seamlessly from the front door to the back porch, where you roll up your sleeves, sip sweet tea, and the only agenda for the day is enjoying the company of others.
You can forget about fixing your own plate or washing the dishes when you’re in the South. We take pride in cooking for others and serving our guests, lending a hand to our neighbors, and offering bits of hand-me-down wisdom. We’ll be the first to offer recommendations or point you in the right direction if you’re lost on some old back road – that is, if you don’t mind navigating by town landmarks.
Customers come to The Cottage for our award-winning food, but they return for our hospitality. Experience our café and bakery’s old-world charm at breakfast Mon-Fri (9-11 am) or Sat (8-11 am), at lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or at Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm). We can’t wait to see you!
Ten Surprisingly Delicious Southern Foods
From creamy pimento cheese to crispy fried pickles, the South undoubtedly has some of the most decadent, delicious, and downright bizarre cuisines in the nation. Born from a rich mix of culinary traditions and ingredients you might not find outside of the bottom states, Southern food is truly unlike anything else – which tends to confuse visitors.
While you might not see recipes like Ambrosia salad or tomato pie outside of the South, don’t knock ‘em until you try ‘em, especially if you’re visiting the Lowcountry. We’ve rounded up ten surprisingly delicious Southern recipes for you to try this month.
Shrimp and Grits
Creamy, savory, buttery, and rich are just a few words to describe one of our all-time favorite Southern foods: shrimp and grits. If you’ve never started the day with a bowl of stone-ground grits topped with local shrimp and scallions, you’re missing out.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Red tomatoes? Never heard of them! For this dish, unripe green tomatoes are sliced and dipped into a cornmeal batter and given a good fry. These crispy delights are the perfect summer snack, especially when they’re served in our Cajun tomato cream sauce or with cool ranch dressing.
It’s best not to ask too many questions when it comes to this dessert. One bite of this orange-grapefruit-coconut-cherry-marshmallow concoction says it all.
Fried Chicken and Waffles
Is it breakfast? Lunch? Both? Neither? Whatever it is, fried chicken and waffles have a permanent spot in our hearts and on our Sunday brunch table. Dunk a forkful of battered chicken and fluffy Belgian waffle in maple syrup for the ultimate sweet-and-savory flavor experience.
This creamy, spicy cheese spread is the glue that binds the South together. Spread it on crackers or grill it between bread to taste the sharp cheddar, or add a dollop to your basic bowl of shrimp and grits for a next-level breakfast.
Just add cream cheese and a stack of crackers to assemble a pepper jelly-based, fancy-ish, Southern-style snack.
Before you imagine a disaster that ended up on your Thanksgiving dessert table, picture this: a flakey, puff pastry crust, layers of heirloom tomatoes, four cheeses, four herbs, and crème fraîche. Need we say more?
Speaking of unlikely pies, possum pie is both completely delicious and completely roadkill-free. Made with chocolate, pecans, and cream cheese, this dessert is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.
When you read the ingredients list – pineapple, Cheddar cheese, crushed Ritz crackers – you may be tempted to pass on this particular dish, but don’t you dare. Mind your manners and start scooping.
It’s not summer in the South unless you’re sipping a glass of sweet tea on a sunny patio. If you’re ordering and you want your tea unsweetened, you have to say so. (You’ve been warned.)
No vacation would be complete without sampling the local foods. Join us at The Cottage for classic Southern dishes with a little Lowcountry flair.
Join us for breakfast Mon-Fri (9-11 am) and Sat (8-11 am), for lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or for Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm). We’re excited to see you, seat you, and serve you some delicious Southern cooking!
Seven Insider Tips for Shopping Your Local Farmers Market
Farmer’s markets are summertime staples, especially here in the Lowcountry. Between the sunny weather, fresh foods, and some good old-fashioned Southern gab, shopping the stands harkens back to a time when goods were bought and sold between friends and neighbors.
We love our Bluffton Farmers Market vendors here at The Cottage, but we get it: it’s easy to find yourself confused and flustered by the crowds and options at the farmer’s market. Is it okay to sample or to ask a lot of questions? Can you bring your dog? What’s the best time to go? Or maybe you just don’t go because it feels too exclusive. If you’ve been missing out on the market day because you’re not sure what to do or where to start once you get there, we’d like to change that. Here are seven insider tips for shopping at your local farmer’s markets.
Take a lap.
Like Cher Horowitz said in the cult classic Clueless, “Let’s take a lap before we commit to a location.” And while she said this in reference to a high school party circa 1995, the advice applies to market day. Walk the whole market to scout that day’s options before doubling back to make your purchases. It gives you the chance to find the foods you really want before settling and might help you discover some little-known stands in the back.
Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open, so if you arrive early, you’re less likely to find yourself peering at a bunch of carrots over anyone’s shoulder. The most popular goods tend to sell out first, so if you know you want those morning buns or fresh berries, set your alarm and head straight for the stands.
Look past the produce.
While nothing beats the crisp lettuce, shiny heirloom tomatoes, and farm-fresh fruit you’ll find at the farmers market, don’t limit your list to produce. You can also get fresh eggs, homemade cheeses, local honey, and – eh hem – delicious baked goods at select stands. Just remember to bring extra bags (and maybe a buddy) to help you carry it all.
Respect the merchandise.
A common complaint we hear from produce vendors is that customers get too rough with their fruits. Don’t squeeze tomatoes, avocados, and fruit. If you’re not sure about how ripe something is, ask the farmer to help you. Questioning whether something’s fresh isn’t an insult, and it may help you learn something new about fresh foods.
Bring small bills.
While there’s been an uptick in the vendors using smartphone apps to process card payments, some only accept cash. Paying in small change is much easier than breaking down large bills, so stock your wallet with 5’s and 10’s in advance.
Travelers know that bargaining is appropriate – if not expected – at some markets, but farmer’s markets are not the place for negotiations. Shopping for quality is just as important as looking for the best deal.
Talk to the vendors.
Our favorite thing about market day is the chance to chat with our customers. Don’t be shy about asking vendors questions about their businesses, products, or pairing recommendations. We love getting to know our Cottage customers, and visitors to our farmer’s market stand are no exception.
Thursday is the only day of the week we like more than Friday.
Find us at the Bluffton Farmers Market every Thursday from 12-5 p.m. to shop our selection of decadent cookies, gooey cinnamon rolls, or fresh bread, and other baked goods. Our stand is located directly in front of The Cottage, the perfect place to get lunch once you’ve finished shopping.
The Italian classic panzanella gets a new spin when you grill the bread. This added dimension, I think, further brings out the summer sweetness of dead-ripe beefsteak tomatoes. The juxtaposition of the caramelized, toasted bread against the sweet-tart tomatoes makes for plenty of contrast in flavor and texture. You can also try this without grilling the tomatoes, if you prefer. Just don’t make this salad too far in advance. You want the bread to have a little structure and crispness.
Serves 6 to 8
1. Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. When it’s about half melted, throw in the garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, allowing the garlic to take on a little bit of color. Remove from the heat and brush this mixture on both sides of each slice of bread.
2. Oil the grill racks. Preheat your grill using all burners set on high and with the lid closed for 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Place the bread on the grill, close the lid, and cook, turning once, until well marked. Careful here; depending on the moisture content of the bread, this could happen as quickly as 2 minutes (or about 1 minute on each side), but it usually takes about 4 minutes. Place the tomatoes on the grill, close the lid, and cook for a few minutes per side.
4. Remove the bread to a cutting board, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the tomatoes, onion, olive oil, vinegar, herbs, salt, and pepper. Toss gently with your hands to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings if you desire. Serve at room temperature.
This was super yummy but I think I would cut down on the butter next time. Way too much. Added in some fresh roasted peppers and used thyme instead of tarragon. Really good! Will be making this again. Soon.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- For the crust: Combine the gingersnaps, brown sugar, and ginger in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the cookies are fine crumbs. Drizzle the butter into the crumb mixture. Pulse 8 to 10 times to combine.
- Press the gingersnap mixture into the bottom, up the sides, and just over the lip of a 9-inch glass pie dish. Place on a half sheet pan and bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool crust at least 10 minutes before filling.
- For the filling: Bring the pumpkin puree to a simmer over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the half-and-half, nutmeg, and salt. Stir and return the mixture to a simmer. Remove the pumpkin mixture from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.
- Whisk the brown sugar, eggs, and yolk until smooth in a large bowl. Add the pumpkin mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour the prepared filling into the warm pie crust and bake on the same half sheet pan until the center jiggles slightly but the sides of the filling are set, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for at least 2 to 3 hours before slicing. Pie can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. Pie is best the day after it is made.
- For mini-pies: Evenly divide the crust mixture between 5 (5-inch) pie tins and bake on a half sheet pan for 5 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before evenly dividing the filling between the pans. Bake until the center juggles slightly but the sides of the filling are set, 25 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for 2 hours. Spread 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar on the top of each pie. Melt the sugar using a torch to form a crispy top. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Slice a small piece of skin off the one side of the pumpkin so when laid on its side, the pumpkin will lay flat without rolling. Remove the stem and split the pumpkin in half from top to bottom, using a large cleaver and a mallet. Scoop out the seeds and fiber with a large metal spoon or ice cream scoop. Cut the fibers with kitchen shears if necessary. Reserve seeds for another use.
- Sprinkle the flesh with kosher salt and lay the halves, flesh side down, on a parchment paper-lined half sheet pan. Roast until a paring knife can be easily inserted and removed from the pumpkin, 30 to 45 minutes. Test in several places to ensure doneness.
- Remove the half sheet pan to a cooling rack and cool the pumpkin for 1 hour. Using a large spoon, remove the roasted flesh of the pumpkin from the skin to the bowl of a food processor. Process until the flesh is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.
For the crust:
For the filling:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
- Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
- For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
- Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Knowing how to wash different types of vegetables and fruit the right way will keep your food tasting great and safe to eat.
General tips for washing vegetables and fruit
Most fresh fruit and vegetables have a natural protective coating. So wash them under water just before you are ready to eat or cook them. If you wash them ahead of time, it will speed up how fast they spoil. Leafy greens can be washed and stored a few days before you use them.
The best way to wash vegetables and fruit is under running water. You do not need special products, soaps or vinegar. These can leave an aftertaste and don’t kill bacteria or mould. Bonus! Watch the video to see this information in action.
Before you start – Wash your hands
Wash your hands with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling fresh produce.
Washing leafy green vegetables
Examples of leafy greens are kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, rapini, cabbage and pre-bagged greens like baby spinach.
- Wash all leafy green vegetables, including pre-bagged greens under cold running tap water.
- For leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage, remove the outer leaves first. Throw away any wilted or discoloured leaves.
- Rinse leafy vegetables in a colander, drain (or use a salad spinner) and pat dry with a paper towel or tea towel.
- Store in clean paper towels or a tea towel in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge. Use within a week.
Tip: Washing your green leafy vegetables as soon as you bring them home will make them easier to use in salads, stir fries and other dishes when you need them.
Washing fruit and vegetables with a rind
Examples of foods with a rind are cantaloupes, oranges, mango, melons, pineapple, carrots, potatoes and squash.
- The reason you wash vegetables and fruit with a rind is because this prevents bacteria on the rind or peel from going into the food when you slice it.
- Use a soft, clean produce brush to scrub vegetables and fruit under running water. Then pat dry.
- The best way to wash all types of mushrooms is to wipe them clean with a damp cloth
- You can also rinse them quickly in cool water. It’s not a good idea to soak mushrooms because they will absorb water, which will make them spoil faster.
- Once the mushrooms are clean, pat dry with a tea towel.
Examples or berries are strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.
- Wash berries just before you eat them. Otherwise they will spoil quickly.
Stay food safe: Clean all surfaces and utensils with hot water and soap, including cutting boards, counter tops, peelers and knives that touch fresh fruit or vegetables.
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- Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium and continue boiling for 10 minutes. Serve hot.
Buttermilk is excellent in baked goods, and also as a and salad dressing base. It lends a rich, hearty flavor with fewer calories than milk or cream. The tangy flavor of buttermilk goes well with sweet fruits such as peaches, cherries, and pears, particularly as creme fraiche.
The acidic properties of buttermilk make it an effective and flavorful marinade, particularly with poultry. It is used as an acidic ingredient in baked goods to combat dingy grayish discoloring often caused by the chemical reaction of blueberries, walnuts, and other foods that give off a blue cast. It also promotes browning of baked goods and improves texture.
Many prefer dipping meat, poultry and fish in buttermilk rather than milk before coating for frying and baking.
Unless you feel adventurous and are not concerned about failure, use recipes specifically designed with buttermilk as an ingredient rather than substituting buttermilk for milk.