After some years (and as some consolation for skipping this year’s trip to Europe), Gourmandistan has returned for the fourth time with Michelle’s family to Dewees Island, an eco-conscious community constructed on an old rice plantation slightly north of Charleston, South Carolina. Accessible only by ferry, Dewees allows no automobiles, has no golf courses, enforces strict building rules focused on maintaining the beach, wetlands and wildlife, bans wedding receptions and/or wild parties, and to our continuing enjoyment seems always mostly empty.
During the week before Memorial Day when we have always visited, one can enjoy long walks on a wide beach, search tide pools, wander salt marshes, see birds, go fishing, find shells and do many other activities without ever seeing another human being, before retiring to one’s lovely rented home.
As the holiday weekend approaches, however, so do the crowds. And by “crowds,” we mean there may be five or six other people on the beach, or perhaps a golf cart will pass by as one contemplates an alligator. As many of these people actually own property on Dewees (as opposed to our temporary renter status), we tolerate them—but we did not invite them over for Frogmore Stew.
Frogmore Stew is a variation of a cooking idea that may be only slightly less old than the idea of eating oysters or shellfish itself—chucking whatever one happens to have netted, trapped, raked or bought into a giant pot of boiling water along with spices, seasonings and perhaps a few other bits of stuff. In New England it might be mostly clams, in Louisiana crawfish, but in South Carolina the boil tends toward shrimp, crab, corn, potatoes and sausage. We got this recipe from Garden & Gun Magazine who got it from Charleston chef Mike Lata, who knows his way around a low country boil. Our somewhat crappy electric rental stove seemed to take forever to heat the water in our huge pot. But once it got going things were fine, as few things are more easy than simmering smoked sausage, corn, potatoes and seafood for a bit. The real hit of our “stew” was the stone crab claws, an almost lobster-rich (but somewhat stringier) meat treat we haven’t encountered in other places.
We’re about to leave Dewees once again, but our stay has been just about perfect. And someday, should we return, we may be more social and seek others to share our stew.
This spot seems to be a little too good to be true, a real paradise (both nature- and food wise , if you can separate the two from another). Pictures, your words, the stew – just beautiful!
Thank you, Sabine! It is a wonderful place. It had been 8 years since we’d been there and were so happy that it hadn’t changed at all.
Did you say (write) contemplate an “alligator”? Did you do that, isn’t that scary.. It seems like paradise (apart form the alligator bit, lol). It sounds like an amazing place to wind down, disconnect and relax.
On one visit a decade or so ago we were canoeing with gators all around. I admit: I was terrified that I might freak out and turn the boat over! This visit, I only saw them from a distance. Thankfully. 🙂
Oh my goodness, that did sound scary! When I was young and lived in Brunei, we often went to rivers where there apparently were crocodiles. Thank goodness we never ran across any!
What a fabulous spot! I’ve not heard about this island before but it looks idyllic, and I love the idea of almost complete solitude. And there are roseate spoonbills!
It is a lovely place. A little hardcore for many people, as you do have to bring everything in on the ferry. But it’s worth it. And, yes, we were so surprised by the roseate spoonbills! A resident told us that the pair had been around for a couple of weeks. I think it’s a little far north of their usual range, and we were glad to see them.
Lovely post and a beautiful island paradise. Great to see the rules being strictly enforced. I love the idea of the stew.
Thanks, Conor. It’s a cool place. It had been 8 years since we’d visited, and we were so pleased to see that nothing whatsoever had changed.
The island sounds lovely, as does the stew 😉
Absolutely! The island reflects a rare sensibility for the South, unfortunately.
Living in populated Seattle makes Dewees sound like paradise. Oh how I could use an experience like this. I lived vicariously through you for few minutes. Thank you for taking me away! 🙂 Lovely post. Frogmore stew sounds like something not only delicious but really fun to eat!
So welcome! It’s an absolutely lovely place and reflects a sensibility that is far too rare in our part of the country. But, hey, you could undoubtedly do some fabulous NW variation of a Low Country Boil…
That sounds just about as close to paradise as I’ve ever heard! (Especially once you thrown in a seafood boil…) Thinking of y’all as we drank mint juleps yesterday.
…and would those be roseate spoonbills I spy (with my little eye) in that lower pic!??
Indeed they were. A resident said the pair had been there for a couple of weeks. A bit north of their usual range, I think (though Steve read some Audubon writings saying back then they were found as far north as NC). We also had a pair of fledgling bald eagles on a platform viewable from our house. So fun.
It’s a great place. We went a number of times about a decade ago and were so delighted to find, after 8 years away, that things had changed so little. Plus, Charleston is close by with huge amounts of charm and many great restaurants.
Juleps! What was the occasion?
This whole post is gorgeous! I love Charleston and the surrounding islands. Do they still make tea infused vodka out on Wadmalaw? Had never heard of Frogmore Stew until now but wow does it look delicious. I wonder if I could make it with Dorset crab. . .
Thanks so much, Misti. It’s such a wonderful area, isn’t it? Gosh, I don’t know about the tea vodka. I’ll have to check that out! I don’t think I’ve been to Wadmalaw, but was not too far away one day at a farm store on Johns Island. And, for sure, you could make a Brit variation of a Low Country boil!
How about the coconut cake at Peninsula Grill in Charleston? Have you had that? It’s my favorite cake in the States.
Oooh, I haven’t been to Peninsula Grill. Pretty amazing, given Steve’s addiction to Relais & Chateaux establishments. It’s just that whenever we’re in the Charleston area we’re always in beach mode and don’t have the clothes or inclination to go to the fancier places. But, there are few things better than a good Southern coconut cake … that’s for sure!
The stew as a whole somehow matches the way you describe the qualities of the: simple, satisfying, special, filled with solace and solitude, yet somehow warming and generous. Thank you for sharing the beautiful, one-pot meal and your stories about an island that is truly its own and one-of-a-kind!
Thanks, Shanna—what a lovely comment. I think you mentioned on Facebook that your husband had recently been to Charleston. Is he interviewing there? You’d love it!
My pleasure; each word is sincere (and the word I left out). 🙂 G did interview at Charleston. They are a powerhouse in head and neck surgery. He sent me photos of all of his food (delicious), the gorgeous old homes (breathtaking) and the tree-lined streets (a sight for sore eyes!). I had no idea that the ocean community was so close by. I love that there are no cars and it’s peaceful. Pure. Refreshing. Like the soup. 😉 Now, to find some great shrimp in the desert…
An idyllic place and lovely story behind the recipe.
Thanks, Sally! I’m definitely missing it this week.
What a lovely photographic journal of your travels… Thanks for sharing!
So welcome, Angelica.
Boy does this place sound great. Despite all of our urban pleasure, how we long to escape! Great photos, made the rest of us deeply envious. Ken
Thanks, Ken. I love Instagram—even with my ancient, crappy and literally dying iPhone. It’s so immediate. And easy! Meanwhile, the shots I took with my real camera sit there nagging me to open Photoshop… (Yes. I was an idiot. I took them in RAW.)
Dewees is a fabulous place. And given the greed of developers along the Southern Atlantic coast and the politics of South Carolina, it’s nothing short of a miracle that it’s there.
Buy a copy of Lightroom 5.0, or take advantage of the Adobe CC for Photographers offer of $9.95 a month, which will get you up to date versions of both LR and PS. I always shoot in raw. I know what you mean about processing, but I find this much less of a chore in LR than in PS. I always use LR first, then only turn to PS for specialized tasks. Ken
That stew looks lovely, I think I will get the crab claws first
I’m gong to second Raymund’s comment above and say put me down for some crab claws please! I love the idea of juicy corn in a stew. It’s something we don’t often find here in Australia, but I might need to step up my game on the seafood braise!
Enjoy your mini break. I just returned home from one myself and it was so nice to be by the beach again 🙂
Thanks, Alice! It was wonderful. But now we’re back to real life and dead car batteries and work and so forth… In the Southern U.S., people will use any excuse to use corn in summer. And I can’t complain about that!
Beautiful, all of it.
Thanks much, Jenny. Sad how quickly vacations just go “poof” though, isn’t it?
Dewees looks like a magical place (not the least because of the frogmore stew), and as someone who dislikes city driving, the no cars rule sounds perfect!
I love that they have speed limit signs all over the island (like 17 mph max or something). As if anyone had ever seen a golf cart with a speedometer!