May 2012

DIG IN - CQ's Celebrates Farm to Table Freshness

Author: Gerry Wall | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Tucked beneath moss-draped 100-year-old live oaks sits the oldest establishment in Harbor Town known as CQ’s Restaurant. CQ’s has been serving countless patrons and guests for over a quarter of a century. It is an award-winning restaurant, a locals’ hangout, and some swear a ghost dwelling—and all say well worth the visit.

Its steady parade of fans doesn’t come just for the food—they come for the neighborhood experience of spending an evening among friends and chatting with whomever is perched at the bar. The small cottage building decor is rustic with an elegant touch. Wide antique pine floor boards and bat and board walls covered with nostalgic Hilton Head history evoke a feeling of cozy, comfort, and you just can’t help but want to stay awhile.

The ambiance might be what makes you want to stay, but it is the food that will have you come back time after time. CQ’s is the kind of restaurant that locals bring their friends to and visitors seek out. The power of fresh local seafood never ceases to amaze me. Nothing tastes better than the bounty of the Lowcountry.

Chef Yuri Gow

On this particular visit, I am excited to try Executive Chef Yuri Gow’s spring menu. Growing up on a farm in North Carolina, Gow is skilled in the various growing seasons and the delectable gifts that grow with each season’s bounty. A 2005 graduate from the Culinary Institute of America, he lives the meaning of “Fresh from the Farm to Table.” Let me show you.

I started the evening with CQ’s Caesar salad—the best I’ve ever eaten. Crisp and refreshing romaine lettuce leaves are tossed with Gow’s secret dressing recipe, crunchy rosemary focaccia croutons and shaved grana padano cheese, which has a fresh fruity and mildly sweet flavor.

On Gow’s recommendation, I chose the cheddar and apple tartlet. “This is a play on one of my favorite childhood memories of combining fresh apples and cheddar cheese,” Gow shared. It was not until he mentioned this background that I, too, remembered coming home from school to this favorite afternoon snack prepared by my own mom. Of course Gow’s version is delightfully more sophisticated, but it still brought forth that comfort food memory. The apples and cheese are baked with leeks and arugula in a light, flaky pastry shell and drizzled with a white truffle and soy vinaigrette. The mixture of sweet, tangy and salty is delightful.

The entrée arrived with the well-portioned, bone-in grilled pork chop, which is pure simplicity, but absolute sophistication in rendition. The center cut pork chop is marinated with molasses, applesauce and a grain mustard, which keeps it moist and juicy, yet not sweet, and is served on a bed of bourbon glazed apples and fennel with a Dijon demi glaze lightly drizzled on top. It is a dish to be celebrated.

CQ’s menu is diverse with endless creativity and a passion for local products. Only a handful of Hilton Head restaurants are as mindful of the Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SSI) as CQ’s restaurant, which has reached platinum status—the highest level of the SSI.

“Saying that a particular seafood is sustainable means that it’s been harvested in a way that doesn’t harm the future of the species. It’s not overfished or taken without regard to the environment around it,” Gow explained. “It is important to me to be aware of my footprint on the environment, and it challenges me to be a better chef.”

As I said, Gow lives the meaning of “Fresh from the Farm (or Waters) to your Table,” and nobody celebrates the bounty of the Lowcountry like CQ’s! Go in and dig in!

  1. Reading this article has me ready to hop a plane to Hilton Head just to dine at CQ and have Executive Chef Gow’s preparethe same meal as described in this article.

    — Nancy Lucchesi    May 2, 02:39 pm   

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