The location: F.I.G. Restaurant on Meeting St in Charleston



The chef: F.I.G.’s Chef de Cuisine Jason Stanhope


The band: Folly Beach’s own Dangermuffin
You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter for info on their music and upcoming shows




by Scott Wink of CharlestonFoodBloggers.com

Charleston, SC –   When I discovered the eating preferences of the guys from the Charleston band Dangermuffin I was intrigued.  The musical trio features lead singer Dan Lotti (a vegan), on drums Steven Sandifer (a vegetarian), and lead guitarist Mike Sivilli (a pescetarian… which means he will also eat fish).  The guys are hosting “Turkey Jam” Saturday November 19th, 2011 at the Pour House. Proceeds will benefit the Lowcountry Food Bank.  There will be about 15 performances both on the main stage and deck stage.


As I am setting up a dinner interview with the guys I pretty quickly realized that not too many Charleston restaurants cater to guests who have made these types of dietary choices.  F.I.G. Restaurant however was up to the challenge.  Talking to them in advance they said this was absolutely not a problem for them.  We would be in the hands of F.I.G.’s Chef de Cuisine Jason Stanhope. Stanhope formerly was Chef de Cuisine in Kansas City working with two James Beard Award winning chefs Debbie Gold and Michael Smith at 40 Sardines.


Chef Jason Stanhope came out and introduced himself to the guys and told them that he is always happy to cook for guests who enjoy fresh produce.  He said that a majority of the current mid-summer veggies this day came from Thornhill Farm (Our Local Foods Kitchen Table Cuisine) in McClellanville, SC or Blackbird Farms in Hendersonville, NC.   Blackbird Farms and Thackerary Farms on Wadmalaw Island, SC are considered sister farms due to the longtime friendship of the farmers.


Our server Tim brought us some vegan bread which was from Normandy Farms Bakery here in Charleston.  On the side was some olive oil, butter, and salts. 


As we sit around and talk Mike says he was the first of the group to experiment with vegetarianism.  He grew up in an Italian family and his mother was a great cook. She cooked lots of great vegetables and sides but there were always also lots of meats included.   He says just like any other kid he just accepted that if he ordered pizza it had pepperoni or if he ordered a sandwich it had turkey.   It wasn’t until he got older that he realized that the foods you choose to eat are truly your own personal choices and that meat isn’t a requirement.  One day he just decided to experiment with being vegetarian and never looked back.  Mike admits that sometimes but not often he will have some seafood so he currently considers himself pescetarian.


Dan explained that his transition to veganism started in 2006.  Mike and Dan became roommates and Dan would see some of the great things Mike would have to eat.  Until then he had never even thought twice about his daily intake of meat.  Then in 2007 he decided to make the move and started eating vegan.  He said within the first month he lost about 10 pounds and noticed his energy level was raised. 




First Course: Roasted peaches with thyme, cress, olive oil, aged sherry vinegar, and a pinch of salt.





What an amazing plate.  It was both beautiful and delicious. This level of quality was to continue throughout our meal.  The acid from the garnish and vinegar perfectly balanced the sweetness that came from the peaches.  The slight roasting helped to caramelize just enough of the natural sugars to really bring out the sweetness of the peaches. A slash of salt on top…..brilliant start.


As we ooohhhed and aaaahhhed over the peaches we discussed how South Carolina really produces more peaches than Georgia despite Georgia maintaining their reputation as “The Peach State”.  Steven chipped in with a smile “gotta let Georgia have something I guess.”  The New York Times this summer said that South Carolina ships 90,000 tons of peaches a year compared to Georgia’s 40,000 tons a year.


Mike led a pretty interesting discussion on how fast food companies focus on 99 cent meat products  like hamburgers but nobody is doing the same with veggies. Companies are making food products using the cheapest ingredients they can get with the goal of making money rather than focusing on what is healthy and tastes good, Steven added.  Dan noted that he was encouraged recently when big mass merchants like Wal-Mart announced that they are stocking more organic products because of demand from consumers.


One of Dangermuffin’s most memorable recent meals they tell me came in Milwaukee, WI at The Riverwest Co-Op.  They picked up some great black bean burritos while they were in town to play.  They played at the outdoor Bastille Days event with Los Hombres Calientes from New Orleans.  “It was cool to share the stage with those guys”, recalled Dan.  “It felt like the whole town was out. There was like 10,000 people just walking the city, eating, checking out all of the different stages, and listening to lots of different types of music.”


Second course (seen below): Cherokee purple tomatoes, small sun gold tomatoes, radishes, Saba , basil, olive oil, and salt.







Dan tells me, “A lot of people think it is hard to eat vegetarian and more so vegan while on the road but it is not that hard.  There are more resources now. Just like how we are able to use (GPS) navigation the iPhone has certain apps.  One of them is called Happy Cow that helps us find co-ops or restaurants that are vegan friendly.  A lot of the best places seem to be ethnic like Mexican, Indian, Chinese, or Thai.”


Steve says the only time they ever have problems eating good is if they are in a big hurry.  “We can find these great places for fresh great food but sometimes we are on a tight schedule trying to get to the next gig.  If we are traveling on the interstate and just get to stop for a minute then Subway tends to be our only choice or Moe’s.”  


“Try being vegan and getting something in a gas station….impossible. Everything has milk or honey products or is nothing but sugar”, added Dan.



Third and fourth courses (seen below):


Roasted peppers Shimla and Nardello peppers roasted, radicchio, pickled garlic, parsley, and olive oil.


Lipstick peppers and eggplant which were poached in acidulated water and marinated overnight. They added some pickled garlic, raw crooked neck squash, Marcona almonds, parsley, aged balsamic and rustic torn croutons.






Mike Sivilli and Steven Sandifer




Fifth course (seen below):  Shaved raw sprite melon, cucumber, tossed with lemon confit, lemon juice, lemon agrumato (citrus infused into olive oil), and garnish






Sixth course:  Tomato tarte tatin : 






Dan Lotti


Seventh course (see below):   vegetarian version (not vegan) of Ricotta Gnocchi with squash blossoms




Eigth course (see below):…..why don’t you guys guess. I can’t tell you everything





Ninth course: Blueberries, creme fraiche,and lime zest




Tenth course: perfectly ripe figs and peaches lightly dressed and balanced




Wow what an amazing meal of 10 vegetarian/vegan dishes they we got to share family style.  I have a lot of respect for what Chef Jason Stanhope is doing at F.I.G. as Chef de Cuisine under Executive Chef Mike Lata.  I can’t wait to come back to F.I.G. and I bet next time I will not think of meat as a requirement.



 

Some of my random favorite quotes from the night:

Honey is off limits for vegans. I don’t really see it but “rules is rules”.  -Dan


Pork belly…I call it Pig stomach.  -Steven


Bend Oregon. They take their beer pretty seriously there.  -Dan


I love me some roasted beets.  -Dan


Jason is a super talented guy.  -our server Tim


Tour van, no trailer. It feels like a Tetris game each night when we pack up. -Steven


Something I would like to get into is jarring and canning things. -Steven


We should invite Danger Mouse to one of our shows and see what he brings.  -Mike

We play a lot of disc golf. Steve is not as obsessive about it as Mike and I are. It’s the best thing when you are traveling 8-10 hours a day.  You get to get out of the van and run around in the woods.  -Dan






Artistic bonus feature!

Each of the guys was asked to express themselves with a marker and a napkin. 
Their ability to be creative and spontaneous was put to the challenge and they all passed with flying colors.  Here is what they turned in for their quick art projects. 

Dan Lotti came up with a geographic representation of where they have recently toured.  Above the map appears to be an almost Dangermuffin version of the US flag.






Steve Sandifer nicely sketched a homage to the dinning area of F.I.G. The spacing of the lighting, art on the walls, and tables was very spot on.




Mike Sivilli drew his inspiration from pepper stems of the third and fourth courses.