In the February issue of TLP, you’ll get toasty with various renditions of bready snacks from Chef Blair Machado of The Park Cafe in Charleston, South Carolina. The neighborhood spot is undeniably one of the city’s most popular for breakfast and lunch, but we’ve discovered a super secret: their dinners just crush it. Chef Machado is an accomplished butcher and has the magic touch with both meats and his beautifully prepared vegetables. And wow on that wine list.
We caught up with Chef Machado, asking him about the challenges of running a three-meal restaurant, why dinner is his favorite meal to prepare, and what exactly is in Grandma’s Gravy?
The Local Palate (TLP): Preparing three meals a day must make for a long day. What are the challenges of running a three-meal restaurant?
Blair Machado (BM): Breakfast and lunch are the busiest meals at The Park Cafe because of the natural progression of how The Park Cafe opened. People just naturally came for breakfast and lunch. We have re-approached dinner to see what people want and we recently re-vamped the dinner menu which has been exciting because I have been able to put my personal stamp on it.
TLP: Which meal do you most enjoy preparing?
BM: I enjoy dinner the most because the dishes are more refined and involve more thought driven menus. There are more nuances and small details in the dishes, and there is more freedom to work with different kinds of animals. We source a whole hog every 2 weeks from Jeffery Cordova of Carolina Heritage Farms. We have full in-house utilization with circulating entrees, sausage, pates, terrines, down to dog treats that we make from the skins that get dehydrated and smoked.
Grandma’s Gravy that you serve with the Pan Fried Quail is amazing! What exactly is in the gravy?
BM: I grew up living with my grandmother and so I have been going back to recipes that have a taste of comfort. For the gravy, we use a housemade ham like she used to use, and that makes all the difference in the flavor.
Chef Machado’s new dinner menu is available now at The Park Cafe but you can sample a dish at home with his recipe for Seared Duck Breast with Bacon and Currant Braised Cabbage, Poached Carrots and Orange Chili Glaze. Wine director Mike Morris recommends pairing the duck with Domaine de Châteaumar Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Vincent 2013. “I put the Chateaumar CdR Cuvée Vincent Syrah on the list specifically with the duck dish in mind. Rhône Syrah with its smokiness is always a good match for duck. Syrah from the Northern Rhône can be more more elegant while this one from the Southern Rhône (less typical in the south where Grenache tends to dominate) is fuller bodied and its richness matches well with the sweetness from the currants and the carrots.”
Seared Duck Breast with Bacon and Currant Braised Cabbage,
Poached Carrots and Orange Chili Glaze
From Chef Blair Machado of The Park Cafe in Charleston, South Carolina