When American College of the Building Arts students were asked to come up with locally themed lid designs for a rare collaboration with Le Creuset, they developed motifs based around marshes, swamp life and architectural details. But with the cookware company preparing to promote a Marseilles Blue hue, a lid featuring a compass symbol emerged as the obvious choice.

“We went backward and forward,” recalls Stephen Jones, Le Creuset’s marketing vice president. “It’s a very beautiful design, and has the resonance of linking two port cities.”

Le Creuset doesn’t frequently work with outside artisans, although it has previously commissioned designs from well-known names. Jones says he thought the ACBA would be a “good fit” for the lid project because its emphasis on traditional craftsmanship aligns precisely with Le Creuset’s brand. Additionally, Jones says Le Creuset, which runs its North American marketing out of a former seafood restaurant on Ripley Point Drive, likes to support institutions in its home communities.

“They were very receptive,” Jones says of the school, which made the proposal process a class project.

The lid isn’t being sold as a stand-alone piece; it tops a 5.5-quart cast iron oven. When it’s released for sale on Monday, the oven will retail for $350. Le Creuset suspects the piece will interest collectors because of its back story; color and references to maritime history.

“That’s what we’re hoping,” Jones says. “We have our fingers crossed.”

In honor of the company’s founding in 1925, Le Creuset produced just 1,925 Mariner Star ovens. Le Creuset kept the first 10 ovens, one of which may eventually turn up in the display case at its Charleston headquarters; the oven bearing the final production number is on Jones’ desk.

“I’m not going to open it,” says Jones, who allows he might purchase another Mariner Star for personal use, even if it amounts to bringing his work home with him. “I have a big sign on it that says ‘Do Not Open.’ ”

Cream puffery

Charleston cookbook author Holly Herrick is planning a number of local appearances to promote her new book, “Cream Puffs & Eclairs,” the second volume in The French Cook series.

On Oct. 26, Herrick will be stationed at The Peanut Shop, 92 N. Market St., for a book signing at 1-4 p.m. And on Nov. 24., Herrick is teaching a choux pastry class at Southern Season’s cooking school.

Pollan chat

Michael Pollan’s fans spent the summer reading his latest release, “Cooked,” but the League of Women Voters’ local chapter is hoping they’ll again reach for his classic, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” in preparation for an upcoming event.

The League on Oct. 17 is hosting a discussion of the book, which probes the political and philosophical dimensions of eating, following a tour of Grow Food Carolina at 990 Morrison Drive. Lisa Turansky, director of sustainable agriculture for the Coastal Conservation League, will lead the conversation.

The event begins at 6 p.m. There’s no charge for the tour or discussion, but dinner costs $12; Attendees can register and choose their wrap or salad on the League’s website, lwvcharleston.org.

Savannah Food & Wine

Fuel’s Alex McMahan, who last month failed to follow in his father’s footsteps with a Taste of Charleston Waiters’ Race victory, may not have to wait an entire year to avenge the loss: There’s another waiters’ race on the schedule for the first-ever Savannah Food & Wine Festival.

But for prospective attendees who don’t have any interest in maneuvering an obstacle course while grasping a serving tray, the Nov. 11-17 festival also features plenty of less-energetic events, including wine dinners, tastings and cooking demonstrations. Chefs scheduled to participate include Hugh Acheson, Chris Hastings, Steven Satterfield, Anthony Lamas and Kent Rathbun.

According to a release, the event is “poised to set the bar high.”

Ticket prices vary by session; the complete schedule is posted at savannahfoodandwinefest.com.

So long, Austin’s

Austin’s Food & Drink, which this summer took over the Spring Street storefront previously occupied by Black Bean Co., recently closed up shop.

A note taped to the front door didn’t explain the reasons behind the closure, nor did owner Debby New provide additional information on Austin’s Facebook page, but the restaurant was often eerily quiet for much of its near-daily 9 a.m.-8 p.m. schedule. Extending hours on Friday and Saturday nights, adding Sunday brunch and serving beer and wine didn’t seem to help cultivate the crowds; a staffer was at least once stationed on the sidewalk to ask passersby whether they’d tried Austin’s.

The Austin’s website is no longer active, but according to its Facebook page, the restaurant was intended to give customers the opportunity to “have fun choosing what you will have to eat. If you want breakfast at three in the afternoon, you got it! ... How about a Mimosa made with our homemade orange sherbet and champagne! You might also like a beer float, very tasty!”

Interestingly, all those choices spun the heads of a few customers who reported their experiences on Yelp, where Austin’s had a 3.5-star rating.

“I agree with Nicole, they really need to create, rather than make everything choose your own,” Pinaki S. wrote in July. “I wanted to tell them that they need something signature, otherwise it’s just another deli. I was scared trying to figure out the combo that worked the best, but mine worked well.”

Hello, Jestine’s

Lunch service at Jestine’s Kitchen on Oct. 1 proceeded so casually and calmly that most visiting diners apparently didn’t have a clue that the tourist haunt had just completed a six-week hiatus.

“They don’t know we were gone,” a server told me.

Although there wasn’t a line outside the door, guests swapped standard banter with new manager Michael Pendleton, sharing highlights of their Charleston vacations and citing the travel guide that pointed them to Jestine’s.

On Aug. 22, owner Dana Berlin Strange suddenly closed her popular restaurant. While she initially refused to talk about her reasoning, she recently told The Post & Courier’s Abigail Darlington that “something personal happened and I just decided it was time to take a break ... maybe it wasn’t a good idea to close in the middle of lunch, but that’s what I did.”

Strange wasn’t at Jestine’s for the reopening, but Pendleton, a longtime front-of-house professional whose resume includes Carolina’s, Il Cortile del Re and Water’s Edge, was actively circulating the room.

According to my server, Pendleton recruited the restaurant’s current crew largely from his Rolodex of former employees.

Jestine’s is resuming its normal hours, serving lunch and dinner six days a week. The restaurant’s closed on Mondays. For more information, call 722-7224.

Food on film

One of the “joys involved in tending the land” covered by “Grow!” the first film on this year’s Slow Food Charleston Fall Film Series schedule, probably isn’t judging locavore picnics. But a few lucky area farmers will have the chance to choose the best “slowest picnic” in a contest preceding Thursday’s screening.

If you’d like your dinner assessed, bring enough food to share. Otherwise, Slow Food organizers say, feel free to bring a personal-size picnic to the 6:30 p.m. event at Dirthugger Farms.

Now in its third year, Slow Food’s film series strives to share stories about food and the people who produce it. In addition to “Grow!,” which focuses on young Georgia farmers, the lineup includes “Eating Alabama,” the tale of a young couple who encounter difficulties trying to eat the way their grandparents did; “The Garden,” a documentary about a Los Angeles urban farm, and “A Sea Change,” an exploration of ocean acidification.

“Eating Alabama” and “The Garden” will play at 7 p.m. at Cinebarre on Oct. 24 and Nov. 7, respectively. “A Sea Change” will be shown at Bowen’s Island at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 24. Grassroots Wine is slated to pour at both outdoor screenings.

For more information, go to Slow Food Charleston’s website, slowfoodcharleston.org.

Currence celebration

John Currence, whose City Grocery has functioned as a Southern Foodways Alliance clubhouse since the organization’s inception, is as indispensable to modern Southern cuisine as the pickles, pigs and whiskey celebrated by his debut cookbook’s title.

Charlestonians who haven’t yet had the chance to dine at one of his four Oxford, Miss., restaurants can discover why next month, when Currence’s book tour alights on High Wire Distilling.

To celebrate the release of “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey,” Jason Stanhope (FIG), Sean Brock (Husk, McCrady’s), Josh Keller (Two Boroughs Larder) and Stuart Tracy (Butcher & Bee) on Nov. 19 will be cooking up evening snacks inspired by Currence’s recipes.

The $85 ticket price includes liquor from High Wire, with cocktail assistance from Bittermilk; wine from Grassroots Distributing and a “special brew” from Edmund’s Oast.

Currence is making punch (quite possibly with all of the above; as he writes on the book’s first page: “I’d rather punch you in the mouth with fantastic flavors than poke you in the eye with fancy presentations.”)

Tickets are available through Eventbrite.com.

Fried gator explained

Since moving to gator country, I’ve been curious as to why the animal’s meat is almost exclusively served fried.

Although the stray stewed, grilled or braised alligator dish will occasionally appear on a restaurant menu — New Orleans’ Mandina’s has reportedly subjected gator to its meuniere treatment — most alligator available for ordering takes the form of a crispy nugget.

“It’s one of the tougher white meats,” explains Damion Norton, chef of Ford’s Oyster House & Cajun Kitchen in Greenville. “I think it tastes better fried.”

While I’d always assumed the ubiquitous fried gator appetizer reflected the product sold to commercial kitchens, Norton says his alligator meat arrives in much larger pieces, which he then cuts down.

For his version of “gator bites,” served with remoulade, Norton soaks the meat in buttermilk before frying.

“We sell a lot of it,” he says.

Renovating Ernie’s

Ernie’s Restaurant is now in the midst of renovations, necessitating the longest closure the owner’s nephew can recall.

Antoine Kinloch says he’s not sure how the many customers who dine at the 64 Spring St. soul food joint on a daily basis are handling the Oct. 7-31 stretch.

“I can’t really say,” he says. “I wish we could do something for them.”

Ernie’s, a peerless source of turkey necks and lima beans, opened in 1982.

According to a 2007 City Paper review, the restaurant’s never advertised.

Two years later, Roadfood.com’s Michael Stern noted its lack of signage, writing, “Nothing about its exterior other than the smell of pork chops and stewed chicken suggests that it is a place to eat.” Stern described Ernie’s as a purveyor of “one of the most satisfying low-cost dinners in all of Charleston,” praising its okra soup, white rice and bread pudding.

Ernie Kinloch wasn’t immediately available to discuss his plans, some of which he apparently hasn’t yet shared with his family.

“I could not tell you,” Antoine Kinloch says when asked what patrons should expect. “All I know is, when it’s fixed up, it’s going to look nice.”

Reach Hanna Raskin at 937-5560 or hraskin@postandcourier.com.