An elegant escape in downtown Charleston with just the right level of whimsy, the recently opened Loutrel puts luxurious touches on homey comforts, giving guests a sort of dream-home-away-from-home experience: Custom candles perfume the space with the hotel’s signature scent, and deep, cushy couches and armchairs make the lobby and Veranda Lounge bar feel more like a living room. This philosophy also drives the hotel’s culinary approach, where the menu features laid-back, simple fare carefully prepared with premium ingredients.
When designing the Loutrel’s menu back in fall 2021, Director of Food and Beverage Aaron Sagendorf let his search for high-quality, regional ingredients drive the dishes they created. He attended Garden & Gun’s Made in the South awards to research the region’s top products and meet potential purveyors.
There, he connected with William Altman of Altman Farm. The small business based in Florence, South Carolina, makes quick-mixes and breadings from heirloom corn varieties. Of all the specialty food products in the South, Altman Farm’s buttermilk pancake mix was named one of the awards’ three runners-up.
The quality product immediately stood out to Sagendorf, made with corn Altman grew and milled himself, but the two gentlemen also hit it off. “Will pours his heart and soul into all things he does,” Sagendorf says, who loves that Altman Farm goes above and beyond milling corn for grits alone, varying the grounds’ textures to create a fine meal for their cornbread mix and even finer for the pancake and waffles. “I like [Altman’s] forward thinking, but he’s super humble about it.”
Sagendorf first ordered a sample of the pancake mix, then Altman followed up, giving them samples of the stone-ground grits (made from henry moore yellow corn) and cornbread mix. Each—from the crisp, fluffy, and savory pancakes to the decadent buttermilk cornbread—was a hit among Sagendorf and his staff, and more importantly, the guests.
“They’re small-batch products with a great texture,” he says. “People want to know what we’re using and where they can get the grits. I love to tell them about the product and Will’s story. [At the Loutrel] we try to do those things that are familiar but a little different. Being able to share the personal touch with Will’s story helps set these dishes apart from those at other hotels.”
For a taste of Loutrel luxury, we got the Loutrel’s cornbread recipe, made with Altman Farm’s mix plus a few elevated additions.
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