Carter out at I'On

Carter's Kitchen, which suffered a small outdoor fire in late December, will not reopen in its previous location.

According to chef-owner Robert Carter, the Inn at I'On venue will no longer be used as restaurant. "The owners are going to run it as a banquet facility to complement their other two banquet facilities," he writes.

Representatives of the boutique hotel did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

"I am seeking other locations to move Carter's Kitchen," Carter adds.

The former executive chef of Peninsula Grill, Carter opened his namesake restaurant in February 2012. It was named to Esquire's list of Best New Restaurants in America; the magazine reported Carter "understands the slow, steady progression of Southern cooking and never bucks the sacrosanct."

Lee Brothers get nod

The International Association of Culinary Professionals last week released its list of food writing award finalists, and, by virtue of alphabetization, Matt Lee and Ted Lee led the list.

The Lee Brothers were nominated in the Cookbook-American category for "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen." They're up against Daniel Humm and Will Guidara's "I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes" and Lucinda Scala Quinn's "Mad Hungry Cravings."

Although the Lee Brothers are the only Charlestonians among the nominees, finalists Anne Quatrano and Andy Ricker are headed here for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival.

IACP's awards ceremony will be March 15 in Chicago.

Goodbye, Rising High

Rising High Cafe has been closed for more than a week, and there's currently no indication the East Bay Street sandwich shop intends to reopen.

"Those of us who work in the neighborhood miss it," a reader writes.

There's a handwritten "closed" sign taped inside the restaurant's door, and no person or voicemail system picked up numerous calls to the restaurant.

Owner Cliff Lowder, who two years ago took over the business, did not return email or cell phone messages.

In 2010, Rising High moved into the strip center at East Bay and Charlotte streets, immediately earning praise for its cold sandwiches and grilled panini. "If you haven't stopped into Rising High by now, you're missing out," Charleston Magazine advised its readers in a 2010 story covering "50 of Our Foodie Faves."

The restaurant last updated its social media almost four months ago, wishing its Facebook followers a "Happy Saturday!" on Nov. 2.

Puerto Rican food

Nobody ever seems to quibble with the quality of Tropical Kitchen Express' pernil, mofongo or chicken fricassee. The time it takes the Goose Creek restaurant to prepare its dishes, though, was a longstanding complaint from the lunch crowd.

Earlier this month, Tropical Kitchen strengthened its claim to the "Express" modifier by installing a steam table.

The move drew more than 100 "likes" on Facebook. "About time," Julie Vasquez wrote on the restaurant's wall. "I hate waiting." (Proving her point, she added, "I can't wait to eat there again.")

Owner Evelyn Irizarry says fans of her Puerto Rican cooking aren't restricted to the premade dishes, which recently included roast pork, cubed pork, yellow rice and white rice.

"We still have a la carta," she says. "But, for lunch, we can serve them faster."

Tropical Kitchen Express at 104 St. James Ave. is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. every day but Sunday.

For more information, call 553-7557.

Chicken feet keep going

My story about chicken feet in a recent edition of the food section gave a number of readers occasion to reflect on the Gullah-Geechee tradition of enjoying the same portion of the bird.

The trick to eating feet, according to a Gullah-speaking caller who left a message on Life Editor Teresa Taylor's voicemail, is avoiding the toenails.

Maverick Southern Kitchens chef Frank Lee concurred in an email, describing the local dish as tender-cooked chicken feet surrounded by potatoes.

"Just chew 'em up and spit out the toenails," he writes (he also sent along a photo of feet-enhanced stock-making at SNOB.)

Although I've eaten my share of chicken feet, I've never encountered cooked feet with untrimmed toenails. And while there's plenty of online information about the use of chicken feet in hoodoo and voodoo - apparently there was a brief rage in New Orleans for hanging the protective symbol from rearview mirrors - there are scant references to chicken feet in Gullah cooking. I couldn't find a single mention of how to deal with toenails when preparing them.

There are numerous online recipes for Caribbean chicken feet soup, which would presumably have some overlap with Gullah cuisine. Yet the recipes I found were very clear that the toenails should be removed.

I'm starting to get the feeling this is a question the Internet can't answer, but perhaps you can: Are you familiar with the Gullah dish?

What do I need to know about toenails?

Email me at

Rice, gravy worth trip

One of my best friends from high school married a man with land in Darlington, a back story that made no difference to me until I recently learned I'd be in the area around lunchtime. Although they've landed back in our Michigan hometown, I frantically appealed to my friend and her husband for eating help.

"I guess there is a burger place called Joe's something," she texted back.

No offense to Joe's, but I've since learned the correct answer to the inevitable "Where should I eat in Darlington?" question is Jewel's Deluxe, an upstanding meat-and-three on the town square.

Jewel's is only five years old, but there's nothing newfangled about the restaurant, which colonized a former bank building.

According to online reviews, Jewel's buys its vegetables from local farmers. And while I didn't verify sourcing with our server, I can vouch for the grounded nature of the restaurant's folksy cooking.

Each day, ingredients such as butter beans, beets, field peas and turnip greens figure into a list of a dozen specials. Customers pencil their choices on a blank slip of paper, which later doubles as their bill.

There are just a few constants on the menu, including a pale-skinned fried chicken with flavor down to the bone and tender rice baked with rich brown gravy. My order also included a plain hamburger patty smothered with sauteed onions and more gravy, ruddy field peas and cheese-topped potatoes broiled to a crisp, copper crown.

The only disadvantage of the menu system is you know exactly what you're missing by showing up on Monday: I'm plotting a return visit on liver-and-onions day (although I'm sticking with the baked rice and gravy.)

Jewel's Deluxe is at 32 Public Square in Darlington. For more information, call 393-5511.