by Eric Doksa
Butcher & Bee hosts an array of full-flavored pop-up dinners — Vietnamese, Gullah, and Italian cuisine to name a few. Last week, we were fortunate enough to snag some seats at the sold-out Sustainable Seafood dinner starring Chef Charles Arena from The Boathouse on Breach Inlet.
Chef Arena teamed up with Mark Marhefka (Abundant Seafood), Tommy Edwards (Miss Judy Too), George Nelson (Sweet Bay Produce), and E.T. and Mark Van Buren (Tobias Seafood) to create a five-course dinner with local fare.
The meal kicked off with a zesty amuse bouche of smoked black sea bass ceviche with pickled onion and pickled avocado. Fresh from the sea, this little bite was a clear winner.
City Paper editor Stephanie Barna says she loved the ceviche but was head over heels for the Carolina Gold rice cake, which held a crispy red flounder filet. The irresistible grains were surrounded by a savory and salty country ham jus.
I particularly liked the South Carolina shrimp that was poached in olive oil and skewered with crispy twigs of rosemary. Bibb lettuce was wrapped in thin slices of cucumber and then topped with toasted pine nuts, prosciutto chips, watermelon vinaigrette, and heirloom tomatoes — a vibrant, flavorful dish.
Other courses included a creamy smoked amberjack spread and Breach Inlet clams with greens, house-cured bacon, oven-roasted tomatoes, and ricotta gnudi.
I’ve now been to two pop-up dinners that featured Chef Arena (The tequila-fueled Patron dinner in April was amazing), and both have been quite delicious. It's nice to see him step out of his shell at The Boathouse and flex his creative muscle. The Boathouse has a simple plan and it works, but Arensa obviously has more to offer.
I'll leave you with dessert: ricotta creme brûlée with local berries and basil.