Flavors of the Carolinas

August 2014
Written By: 
Denise Mullen
Photographs by: 
Ruta Elvikyte
Vintage Twelve’s “Lowcountry Twist” will make you shout!

“Lowcountry Twist” is a catchphrase that shows up on many a restaurant menu, but I have to say, Vintage Twelve nails it.

Local sourcing of ingredients—from farm-plucked produce to grass-fed beef to fish reeled in from the Inlet—keeps the Lowcountry concept real and treats the taste buds to the tingle of extreme freshness.

Vintage Twelve is a rather small dining venue (about 44 seats) inside the hotel lobby of the Embassy Suites at Kingston Resorts, but the panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean is ginormous, and the ample chairs so cushy and comfy that you have a hard time leaving them.  

From the vantage point of our table, we became witnesses to a wedding ceremony on the beach and a gaggle of people bobbing in and out of the waves as sunset approached and spread its crimson magic across the coastline—a dinner starter that will stay lodged in my memory banks forever.
It seemed almost sacrilegious to be before this view without a celebratory cocktail in hand, especially when the specialty drinks menu at Vintage Twelve promises real juiced fruits and small batch liquors. I got decision-stuck between a classic Moscow Mule with homemade Ginger Beer, Bourbon and Peach Smash (that’s real mashed peaches), a tall Elderflower Collins or an Old Fashioned stirred up with smoked maple syrup and walnut bitters.
And then, the warm cornbread arrived.

Forget everything you’ve ever thought about how good cornbread can be—this version is soft and slightly salty, baked with raisins and honey. Our waiter was kind enough to bring us another ration when we practically inhaled the first. Served with a cinnamon and minced apple spread, it was worthy of crumb-picking.

The line-up of small plates was all too tempting with options like roasted corn hush puppies with a pimento cheese fondue, chilled shrimp tossed in a charred lemon vinaigrette and cocktail puree and a pimento cheese plate garnished by pepper relish, house made pickles and toast points.

I cannot resist a good pimento cheese, so I went for the Charleston Flatbread, featuring my fave cheese with caramelized onions, smoked bacon and topped by a fried farmer’s egg. I also ordered a plate of crispy fried oysters drizzled with condensed lemon and basil aioli.

Both of these dishes spoiled me for anything else. The crunchy bubbles of the flatbread added to the texture of the savory toppings, and although I have never before experienced a fried egg finish, it was remarkably delicious.

The oysters came lightly battered and flash fried and so fresh that they actually melted in my mouth. It has been a long time since I’ve been able to call a cooked oyster silky. But silky it was.

Wreckfish was the fresh catch entrée of the day. Vintage Twelve also featured Carolina Mountain Trout served with a sweet potato salad; Mushroom Tagliatelli; Stuffed Chicken with sage au jus; a Jambalaya of shrimp, oysters, crab, country ham, andouille sausage and middlins (broken rice grits); Tasso-style Shrimp & Grits; a filet served with charred corn and Carolina Gold Rice succotash; and a popular 18-ounce, bone-in Ribeye and Rack Of Lamb nestled on beet risotto.

We rounded out our meal with the Cast Iron Pork Chops perched atop an apple cider reduction and sautéed peaches. With two chops, it was a perfect plate for sharing.

Our charming waiter, Reggie, highly endorsed one of the signature desserts. His favorite is the cherry waffle with chocolate ice cream and ganache, but we couldn’t pass up on the “unique twist on a childhood classic” and fidgeted like kids in anticipation of Campfire Smore’s.

As it turned out, we couldn’t have been happier with that decision.

Warm honeyed puff pastry played the part of graham cracker for this S’more, with a decadent volcanic goo of molten chocolate and marshmallow inside. There are no words. We scraped the plate to the brink of public decency.

Vintage Twelve also offers an extensive wine list and selection of craft beers. Staying true to the local scene, the bar serves Highland Oatmeal Porter from Asheville, N.C., Duck Rabbit Milk Stout brewed in Farmville, N.C., Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale out of Winston-Salem and R.J. Rockers Peach Wheat from Spartanburg.

Keeping up with culinary trends and pulling in the local harvests, Vintage Twelve is shoring up a gluten-free menu and will make tasty use of fresh summer peaches and the seasonal run of triggerfish. And for kids, healthier items hit the table paired with local veggies, fruit or potato wedges.

Inside of a busy resort full of visitors, you may not rub elbows with a whole lot of local yokels at Vintage Twelve, but the cuisine will take you taproot deep into the Carolinas in tasty ways you’ve never dreamed of.