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Charleston Wine + Food

Tasting Notes


Lowcountry Limelight: Tomas Prado

For Tomas Prado, cooking has always been a family. After successful stints in New York City + Miami, Tomas and his wife Linda have made Charleston the home of their new endeavor, Spanglish Cuban Kitchen. We sat down with Tomas to learn more about what inspires his flavorful dishes and how the Holy City is the perfect place for Cuban cooking.    

How did you get your start in food?

  My mother is an amazing cook and I always watched what she was cooking and helped her in the kitchen. As a young teen, my cousin had restaurants in Miami and I did everything from bussing tables to help in the kitchen, but my first experience in professional kitchens came after the economic crash of 2008. I was working in finance and I decided to take a look into a new career path in culinary arts. I enrolled at Johnson & Wales University in Miami and, as part of my curriculum, I needed to complete an internship where I decided that "if I was going to be the best, I needed to learn from the best,” which led me to work at Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach for Chef Daniel Boulud.  

You cite your mother as one of your biggest inspirations. How do her recipes influence your food?

  At Spanglish, all the dishes we make are dishes that my mother made for me while growing up. My culinary background has only enhanced the dishes as I have learned the importance of using high quality, locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. She taught me the flavors and “soul" that is Cuban food and without her influence, Spanglish would not exist.    

You’ve served up dishes in top restaurants, like NYC’s Westlight and Miami’s Golden Fig. What were some of the biggest lessons you learned working in these kitchens?


Westlight and Golden Fig taught me many things. Golden Fig taught me what it was like to have the complete freedom to change my menu seasonally, the ability to use many unique ingredients and meet some incredible farmers who are doing wonderful things in the area of sustainability. Golden Fig allowed me to grow as a chef by allowing me to build an incredible team of cooks and FOH staff that believed in the true “farm-to-table” concept. Golden Fig was “home”. 


Westlight was an incredible experience. Westlight pushed and will push you to the limit of service. With almost 800+ covers a night, you are taught to be on top of your game at all times. The food was fun, exciting, and perfect for the over-the-top setting that is the 22nd floor of the William Vale, overlooking beautiful New York City.  The ability to work alongside my chef-mentors, Chef Anthony Ricco, Chef Conor Hanlon and Chef Andrew Carmellini was an honor.


After living in Miami and New York, why did you decide to make Charleston your next home?

Charleston has always been on our radar. We knew that Charleston was becoming a culinary destination with sensational kitchens like FIG, Obstinate Daughter and McCrady’s but, honestly, my wife always wanted to live here so it was an easy transition. Charleston has it all; good food, exceptionally warm and loving people, beautiful architecture, great weather— what else could we ask for?    

Where did the idea for Spanglish come from?


Prior to our move to Charleston, we had developed our hospitality group where we contracted, coordinated and participated in various pop-up dinners and private events in New York, Miami and Dallas.  One of the concepts we were in the process of developing was Spanglish; an elevated Cuban-American, ingredient-driven fast casual concept in where we took food that we learned from eating at home in Miami by focusing primarily on good ingredients and keeping it as local as possible.   


Your dishes feature many local ingredients and highlight the farm-to-table process. Why is it important to you to utilize regional produce?


Regional or local ingredients are very important to us for many reasons, but the main reason is quality. If the ingredients are in season, and they are local to your area and they don’t have to travel across the country or the world to get to your plate, you are almost guaranteed to get the optimal flavor possible from that ingredient. Another bonus is that you are supporting farmers and purveyors in your community— and thats a win-win for everyone!


Spanglish’s menu is melting pot for Cuban + southern cuisine. Why do you think these different styles of food work together so well?


Believe it or not, Cuban food and southern cuisine both share the same west African influences so the flavors and ingredients are very similar and recognizable to both cultures. That makes it very easy to meld both cuisines and ingredients together so easily. A lot of the dishes are very similar just seasoned differently. For example, we have dish that we call “Congri” which is basically a cuban-version of a Hoppin John. At Spanglish we use Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice and Sea Island Red peas to make our version that is seasoned with a sofrito, cumin and oregano.


What’s next for you + Spanglish?


Our hospitality group is currently working on various projects which include some private events and pop ups. We will be completing our initial tenure at Workshop later this year and we are actively seeking a permanent brick-and-mortar location in the Charleston area. We do not plan on leaving Charleston any time soon! 

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Recipe: Mai Tai

Bring the island vibes to your next get-together with this Mai Tai from Michael Leslie of South Seas Oasis!     Mai Tai   Note: Just like fingerprints, no Mai Tai is exactly the same! Using the ingredients below, test out your own measurements to create your perfect cocktail.   Rum Curacao Orgeat Fresh-squeezed Lime Juice Mint   Shake ingredients together. Then, pour over crushed ice + garnish with mint.  
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Lowcountry Limelight: Candice Townsend

Charleston's culinary scene is a diverse ecosystem full of chefs, beverage professionals, farmers, and others who contribute to our city's internationally-renowned community. Our Lowcountry Limelight series highlights members of this community and their unique role in the continued success of Charleston's hospitality industry.   For our first installment, we sat down with Candice Townsend, the creative force behind Charleston Food Writer and author of Provisions to Plate: A Charleston Seasonal Collective. Blending her love for food with her passion for storytelling, Candice embarked on an 18-month journey to bring to life the farm-to-table process. Find out more about her journey and learn about some of the unique people who make up Charleston's culinary community, including a delicious recipe from chef Jacques Larson of The Obstinate Daughter.    
How did you get your start as a food blogger?
I began blogging at the same time that I started my social media channels as a creative outlet because I LOVE food! I grew up visiting the local farmers market with my grandparents, gardening at home, cooking with my family and as a adult- I greatly enjoy dining out and trying new things. I was being asked regularly  for recommendations from my clients and friends about where to go, what to order, and personal suggestions about what were the latest hot spots to check out! So, I decided to put all my recommendations in one place- a blog! I never imagined that it would gain traction and lead to a career change as a professional writer, content creator, photographer and creative marketing strategist. 
What inspired you to write a book?
Charleston has an amazing bounty of great cookbooks, coffee table books and reference guides, but I hadn't seen a book that took components from each of those categories and put them all together in one place. I love reading articles about peoples' lives, learning what fuels their passion, and understanding how they've built their businesses. I wanted to create a book that shared stories about the people who are growing, harvesting, fishing, and making our food. Along with telling their stories, I thought there needed to be strong imagery that transported the reader onto the water, into the fields, and in the kitchens of some of our most recognized and respected farmers, fishermen and chefs. Our food scene is strong, abundant, and amazing because of the dedication to producing high quality products and being good stewards of the water and land.
What was the biggest lesson you learned during the book-writing process?
After devoting 18 months to this project, I learned many things- enough to write another dozen more books if I could! However, the greatest thing I've realized was something I've always known, but it became so much more clear and evident: in order for small farms & local fishing companies to survive, the community by which they are surrounded must support them and actively and regularly choose to be purposeful in their purchasing habits and source from these companies on a regular basis. Sometimes that means choosing the less convenient path for the greater purpose.  'Buying less, but better quality' are words we actively strive to live for in our home!
What was it like interacting with not only the chefs, but also the farmers and purveyors who produce the ingredients that inspire their dishes?
I love every single person that was featured in my book so very much. After spending several years meeting such a great group of people inside the industry, I wanted to make a book that took aspects of all of the things I love about our food community and share the story of what it takes to grow and make a great plate of food- the process from beginning to end. I wanted the words to have faces and offer a rare and beautiful glimpse into a carefully selected group of people who could each offer a different perspective. I featured 20 fantastic contributors, 35+ recipes, and a seasonal perspective of what the Lowcountry looks like, tastes like, and feels like. 
How is the book a reflection of Charleston's growing culinary community?
I think that Charleston is a unique place. We are in the south, specifically the Lowcountry, and there are deep food roots that run through these parts. Traditional grains, like rice and grits, are being recreated and turned into innovative, new, and exciting dishes! There is a deep sense of pride, love, and tradition that will never go away from staple foods that have been enjoyed here for many generations. But, we live in a time where they are reinvented and changed and new cuisines from other parts of the country and world are being introduced and interwoven into this food dialogue. It's been given a new voice. Chefs move here from all over the world and bring with them their own traditions and style which, collectively, is melding to make what today's current food scene looks like. I love seeing the evolution.
Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
One of my favorite recipes from the book was the Shrimp Bucatini created by Jacques Larson (Executive Chef from the Wild Olive and The Obstinate Daughter). It is simple, flavorful, and the perfect summer go-to-recipe. Using local shrimp, basil, tomatoes, garlic, peppers and lemon- it embodies so much of what makes summer food so delicious.
Bucatini with Shrimp, Tomatoes, Basil and Fresno’s Jacques Larson (Makes 4 Servings)   Ingredients: 4 Cloves thinly sliced garlic ¼C Olive Oil ¼C Sliced Fresno’s (or 1 teaspoon chili flakes) 1 lb Cleaned, De-Veined and Halved SC White Shrimp 1 lb Bucatini 2C Halved Cherry Tomatoes 1/8C Lemon Juice ½C Picked/Torn Basil Leaves 4T Butter Salt & Pepper to Taste   Method of Preparation:  Bring 6 qt of water to a boil in a small stock pot on the stove with 2T of salt. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat 1/8C olive oil on the stove top.  Add garlic and Fresno’s.  Sauté the garlic until the garlic just begins to brown.  Then add the shrimp.  Once the shrimp begins to turn pink, add about ½C of the pasta water and tomatoes and turn off the heat.  Set Aside. Cook the bucatini in the salted boiling water until al dente (about 10 min) and drain.  Toss the pasta in with the shrimp, tomatoes, and Fresno’s.  Reheat the pasta in the pan over moderate heat.  Once the pasta sauce begins to tighten and the pasta water reduces, add the butter and lemon juice.  Reduce to coat the noodles.  Add the basil and toss.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide the pasta/shrimp among 4 pasta bowls.  Serve while still warm.
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Recipe: Holding On To Summer Vegetable Salad With Spiced Rum And Citrus Swordfish

Sink your teeth into this tangy + savory dish from Mod Squad Martha's Melissa Ann Barton!   Salad: 4 ears of fresh corn off the cob, scraping all of the milk with dull side of knife 2 Heirloom Tomatoes cut in 1/4” pieces 1 small or 1/2 large avocado in 1/4” pieces 1/4 cup purple onion, diced very fine 1 jalapeño diced small 1/4 cup basil ribbons 1/4 cup Chive Jive Vinaigrette Sea salt and course black pepper Goat or feta crumbles Micro greens or arugula   Mix first 7 ingredients.  Pour mixture into individual bowls. Sprinkle with cheese crumbles.  Set aside.   Swordfish: Juice of 1 orange Juice of 1 Meyer lemon Juice of 3 Key Limes 1 tablespoon grapefruit balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon coconut vinegar 1 mini bottle spiced rum 2 tablespoons olive oil Sea Salt and course pepper Herbs For Fish 2 pounds Swordfish Additional olive oil for cooking.   Whisk first 7 ingredients.  Place swordfish in glass dish and cover with marinade.  Sprinkle with sea salt and course pepper and Herbs for Fish.  Marinate 20 minutes, flipping Fish at 10 minutes.  Heat olive oil in cast iron pan over medium heat.  Cook Swordfish for 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.  While cooking, brush with Chive Jive.  Remove from heat, brush with Chive Jive one more time and place on Summer Salad.  Top with micro greens.  
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