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Taste Makers
Issue: 
October 2010

Written By

Written By: 
Paul Grimshaw

Photographs By

Photographs By: 
Bobby Altman

The Grand Strand’s cultural menagerie puts it on the map—its pristine beaches, innumerable golf courses, centuries-old folklore, Vegas-style entertainment, and hundreds of restaurants. But among its distinctive—and eccentric—milieu exists a handful of traditionalists. Rather than ride the fast wave into the twenty-first century, these culinary artisans hearken to decades past. Their meticulous, time- sensitive work may be an anomaly in today’s fast pace—but it sure goes down easy.



Stout Competition

Brewmaster David Epstein and his crew craft appealing, small-batch brews at Myrtle Beach’s New South Brewing

With descriptions of “…a hint of coriander and orange zest giving way to a citrus finish,” or “pleasant hints of chocolate and caramel,” one might think these are fine wines. Not so. This is the new world of beer, and it ain’t your daddy’s Pabst Blue Ribbon. These are microbrews from Myrtle Beach–based New South Brewing. While the brews have the sophistication and nuance today’s educated beer connoisseurs demand, don’t think of these brews and their makers as stuffy and pretentious—after all, it’s still beer, right?
At one point in our nation’s history all beer was microbrewed. Most every large city had at least one small brewery. Over time, this careful, small-batch style of brewing succumbed to mass production. But what goes around comes around, and brewpubs and microbreweries have been popping up steadily since the 1980s.

Brewmaster David Epstein’s “brew lab” is a nondescript warehouse near downtown Myrtle Beach. He, along with a dedicated staff, brew, keg, and send to market some sixty-eight varieties of beer. Since implementing a small canning operation, about fifty retail outlets now sell New South brews, and fifty restaurants keep them on tap. And tours of the brewery, with limited retail sales of New South, recently began after a repeal of the South Carolina law that hampered their efforts. Here visitors are allowed samples and a glimpse into the technical side of beer-making.

“We will go through and explain the process and sample the brews during the tours,” Epstein says. There are lagers, ales, pilsners, and porters—and a multitude of variations on each. “My favorites change seasonally,” said Epstein. “Certainly in the winter I love drinking the porter—it’s one of my favorites.” Porters are ales made with dark malts. Like dark-roasted coffee, dark beers come from heavily roasted barley, which transfers its color and full-bodied flavor to the finished product.

Epstein has been a brewmaster since 1994 and claims the distinction is “taken a lot more seriously in Germany than here in the U.S.” After stints as brewmaster at area brewpubs, in 1998 Epstein began New South with friend, Josh Quigley, who has since moved on to open a brewpub of his own in Pawleys Island, Quigley’s Pint and Plate.

“We have a goal to reach the Carolinas,” says Epstein, who has distribution deals in Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, the Grand Strand, and in North Carolina. “We don’t want to compete with the big guys. We brew what we like, but we also have to brew what we know will sell. White Ale is our flagship, and it’s what we sell the most of. We’re the local guys. This beer is fresh. It isn’t getting sent half-way across the country, and
freshness counts.”

Hop To It
New South Brewing’s artisanal brews are found on tap throughout area bars and restaurants, including one or more of the following varieties: White Ale, Nut Brown Ale, Lager, India Pale Ale, Oktoberfest (in season), and Dark Star. Other specialty beers from New South come and go in limited release. Currently White Ale is the only brew distributed for individual sale and is found in fifty area retail outlets.

New South Brewing (851 Campbell St., Myrtle Beach) offers brew tours, tastings, and limited retail on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The tours are free of charge and for patrons 21 and older. Contact New South Brewing at (843) 916-2337, or visit www.newsouthbrewing.com.



Cheese Mongers

Brian and Sassy Henry have taken a Southern staple and made it a singular sensation

Transplants to the South soon realize that certain food items on the table are non-negotiable. Hushpuppies, sweet tea, and grits are staples—and for many there’s no snack or sandwich filling as prized as the tangy, rich goodness of pimento cheese. A spread of premium-grade, extra-sharp cheddar, pimentos (cherry peppers), mayonnaise, and spices, pimento-cheese sandwiches are quintessential Southern comfort food. Pawleys Island Palmetto Cheese has struck a chord with consumers, who now wolf down some 20,000 twelve-ounce containers per week, but it all started in an Atlanta kitchen with a daughter-in-law trying to live up to her mother-in-law’s famous homemade pimento cheese recipe.

“When we lived in Atlanta, we used to tailgate at Braves’ games,” says Brian Henry, who, along with his wife, Sassy Henry, co-own Palmetto Cheese, based in Pawleys Island. “Sassy would make pimento cheese for the tailgate parties, and it was good, but I would always tease her, saying: ‘It’s pretty good, but my mom’s is better.’” Sassy took the teasing as a challenge and kept honing her technique (shredding the cheese is extremely important, according to the Henrys) and enhancing the flavors until she eventually came up with the perfect recipe. Soon the Henrys were serving Sassy’s pimento cheese to friends, who all raved about it, and then served it to guests at the couple’s Sea View Inn, a twenty-room oceanfront inn and restaurant in Pawleys Island. The guests raved, and soon a business was born.

Palmetto Cheese recently won a Charlotte Observer blind taste contest beating out local favorite Augusta’s and national brand Ruth’s, much to the chagrin of some impassioned pimento cheese lovers who cried foul. The Observer ran a new contest, featuring additional regional favorites and Palmetto Cheese once again emerged victorious. But what makes Palmetto Cheese better than the rest?
“You can find processed cheese spreads called ‘pimento cheese,’” says Henry, “but they’re made with lower-grade cheese, which is extruded, and mushy, and not what we Southerners call real ‘pimento cheese.’ You’ve got to shred the cheese just right, add the right spices (a company secret) and use Hellmann’s mayonnaise.” While it’s heresy to some, Palmetto Cheese is made with Hellmann’s, not the regional favorite Duke’s. “We use Duke’s here at the Sea View Inn,” notes Henry, “but Hellmann’s has a different flavor profile we think works better in pimento cheese.”

The Henrys first made and sold their Palmetto Cheese locally, with Independent Seafood in Georgetown the first retail outlet. “It started slowly,” says Henry, who now sells to most major grocers. The product is manufactured in Simpsonville to the standards set by the Henrys, born of those first tailgate parties in Atlanta a decade ago.

And when the lunch bell rings at the Sea View Inn, guests saunter into the dining room to enjoy one of the three meals served daily. But, of course, between-meal snacking on Palmetto Cheese is always encouraged, and it’s not hard to find—usually near a plate of
Ritz Crackers.

Transplants to the South soon realize that certain food items on the table are non-negotiable. Hushpuppies, sweet tea, and grits are staples—and for many there’s no snack or sandwich filling as prized as the tangy, rich goodness of pimento cheese. A spread of premium-grade, extra-sharp cheddar, pimentos (cherry peppers), mayonnaise, and spices, pimento-cheese sandwiches are quintessential Southern comfort food. Pawleys Island Palmetto Cheese has struck a chord with consumers, who now wolf down some 20,000 twelve-ounce containers per week, but it all started in an Atlanta kitchen with a daughter-in-law trying to live up to her mother-in-law’s famous homemade pimento cheese recipe.

“When we lived in Atlanta, we used to tailgate at Braves’ games,” says Brian Henry, who, along with his wife, Sassy Henry, co-own Palmetto Cheese, based in Pawleys Island. “Sassy would make pimento cheese for the tailgate parties, and it was good, but I would always tease her, saying: ‘It’s pretty good, but my mom’s is better.’” Sassy took the teasing as a challenge and kept honing her technique (shredding the cheese is extremely important, according to the Henrys) and enhancing the flavors until she eventually came up with the perfect recipe. Soon the Henrys were serving Sassy’s pimento cheese to friends, who all raved about it, and then served it to guests at the couple’s Sea View Inn, a twenty-room oceanfront inn and restaurant in Pawleys Island. The guests raved, and soon a business was born.

Palmetto Cheese recently won a Charlotte Observer blind taste contest beating out local favorite Augusta’s and national brand Ruth’s, much to the chagrin of some impassioned pimento cheese lovers who cried foul. The Observer ran a new contest, featuring additional regional favorites and Palmetto Cheese once again emerged victorious. But what makes Palmetto Cheese better than the rest?
“You can find processed cheese spreads called ‘pimento cheese,’” says Henry, “but they’re made with lower-grade cheese, which is extruded, and mushy, and not what we Southerners call real ‘pimento cheese.’ You’ve got to shred the cheese just right, add the right spices (a company secret) and use Hellmann’s mayonnaise.” While it’s heresy to some, Palmetto Cheese is made with Hellmann’s, not the regional favorite Duke’s. “We use Duke’s here at the Sea View Inn,” notes Henry, “but Hellmann’s has a different flavor profile we think works better in pimento cheese.”

The Henrys first made and sold their Palmetto Cheese locally, with Independent Seafood in Georgetown the first retail outlet. “It started slowly,” says Henry, who now sells to most major grocers. The product is manufactured in Simpsonville to the standards set by the Henrys, born of those first tailgate parties in Atlanta a decade ago.

And when the lunch bell rings at the Sea View Inn, guests saunter into the dining room to enjoy one of the three meals served daily. But, of course, between-meal snacking on Palmetto Cheese is always encouraged, and it’s not hard to find—usually near a plate of
Ritz Crackers.

Say cheese
Put it on a cracker, a stalk of celery, on top of a burger, baked in the oven topped with crackers, mixed as macaroni and cheese, or in between two slices of white bread, Palmetto Cheese is sold in nearly every major grocery store in nine states in the Southeast, including Harris-Teeter, Bi-Lo, Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, Winn-Dixie, Costco Wholesale, Lowes Foods, Publix, and others, and is available in two varieties, Original and Jalapeño, for about $5.50 per twelve-ounce container.

Check out www.palmettocheese.com to order online.



Cake Love

An Mathis Springs, the
eponymous Crab Cake Lady of Crab Cake Lady Co., continues to scout Murrells Inlet waters and keep mum about her secret recipes

With a million-dollar smile and an unstoppable work ethic, 71-year-old An Mathis Springs still makes crab cakes in the tiny kitchen built on the back of her home in Murrells Inlet, just as she has for nearly four decades. After escaping to the United States in the early 1970s from her native Vietnam, Springs settled in Murrells Inlet. Here, she discovered a life of throwing cast nets and setting crab traps in quiet creeks and channels—and latched on to the American dream of business ownership.

Before “Gram An,” as she’s known to the family, married David Springs in 1995, she was on her own in her trademark rubber suit, gloves, and sun bonnet, setting and hauling up to fifty blue-crab traps near her creekside home, where she would harvest, cook, and pick out the sweet meat buried within their shells. Mixed with cracker crumbs and a secret assortment of ingredients, Springs packaged and sold Crab Cake Lady crab cakes to her neighbors and visitors in-the-know. Then came marriage and grown-up grandchildren whose vision extended beyond the borders of her backyard. “After college, they didn’t have anything to do,” laughs Springs, “so they went fishing with their granddaddy.” Fishing soon led to direct involvement in Gram An’s small business venture.

“First, we opened the Crab Cake Lady Co. store on 17,” notes Denny Springs, An Springs’s grandson, “and then we bought Harrelson’s several years ago.” Inside Harrelson’s Seafood Market, a Murrells Inlet staple since the 1950s, freezers hold Springs’s homemade Crab Cake Lady crab cakes, and her specialty egg rolls, which are filled with fresh local shrimp, vegetables, and peppers grown in her own garden. Crab Cake Lady Co. crab cakes are currently available in four area Piggly Wiggly grocery stores, but the partners have hopes to see that grow substantially. “We’re jumping through hoops right now, hoping to see this frozen foods division develop,” says Denny. For now, the crab cakes are still made by hand, by the Crab Cake Lady, her family, and a few employees, in the back of the little Murrells Inlet waterfront home she’s known for so long.

An Mathis Springs still plies local waters for blue crabs, which are generally sold whole at Harrelson’s. She will self-publish an autobiographical book later this year, titled The Crab Cake Lady, though she’s not ready for a cookbook yet. While she doesn’t mind if you ask what’s in her crab cakes, don’t expect a straight answer. Through a thick Vietnamese accent, and a smile as wide and friendly as the morning sun rising over the inlet, she’ll simply say: “That’s the secret.”

Eat Cake
Harrelson’s Seafood Market (4368 Old Highway 17 Bus., Murrells Inlet), Crab Cake Lady Co. store (4525 Wesley Rd., Murrells Inlet), and four regional Piggly Wiggly grocery stores sell Springs’s products. The Piggly Wiggly stores are located in Litchfield Beach, Murrells Inlet, Surfside Beach, and at the Market Common in Myrtle Beach. Several area seafood companies also sell Crab Cake Lady Co. crab cakes.

For more information contact

The Crab Cake Lady Co.,
(843) 651-0708



The Candy Man

Todd Canipe and family create sinfully delicious handmade chocolates and signature saltwater taffy

The smell of chocolate permeates the air at Canipe’s Chocolates & Candies in the Coastal Grand Mall in Myrtle Beach. Owner Todd Canipe (pronounced can-EYEP) is making truffles with an assistant. A small machine enrobes a variety of fillings in warm milk chocolate—a time-honored tradition (with a little mechanical help) that dates back to Old-World European chocolate-making. Canipe has been a candy man most of his life.

“My mom and father started this business around 1974,” notes Canipe, who, along with his wife, operates the retail side of the business—which has remained a close-knit family affair (his brother and sister-in-law work from the manufacturing arm in Longs, South Carolina). “I came down here from Charlotte when I was in high school, around 1984,” says Canipe, “and worked the store with my father.” From a small shop selling saltwater taffy in the long-defunct Magic Harbor Amusement Park, the business grew steadily over the next three decades.

At the Coastal Grand Mall location, the storefront window stays filled with handmade seasonal creations, and each holiday gets its own special treatment. Molded Santas, reindeer, and elves replace cornucopias, pumpkins, and turkeys, but the traditional staples of pecan clusters, turtles, and chocolate truffles sell year-round. “In the ’60s chocolate didn’t sell real well in the South,” notes Canipe, “so things like saltwater taffy got big. Taffy gets soft in the heat, but hardens right back up when it cools down again.” Not so for chocolate that must be kept cool at all times. “Saltwater taffy was our primary business for many years, and then we opened here at the mall around five years ago,” he says. It’s still the taffy tourists come for. Canipe’s will manufacture and sell approximately 55,000 pounds of saltwater taffy in a three- to four-month stretch each summer. Most of it is sold to local tourists, but some of it is shipped to other states.

“We make chocolates in all of our stores, but we only make truffles here at the mall,” he says. Canipe’s makes hand-formed and molded truffles. They come in a dizzying assortment of flavors and styles. “Dark Chocolate Butter, Black Russian, and Raspberry are our best-selling truffles,” notes Canipe. “Our peanut butter cups are big sellers, as well. We experimented with chocolate-covered jalapeños,” he chuckles.

It’s really the tried-and-true items that keep customers coming back. Homemade fudge, chocolate-covered apples, chocolate-covered strawberries, brittle, and a dozen additional chocolate creations keep Canipe and his staff busy year-round, especially during the holiday season. “We sell to gift shops in North Carolina, Florida, all over,” says Canipe. “We’re not the big guy, but we make quality candy.”

Sweet and Low
Find sweet nothings at Canipe’s Candy Citchen and Country Store in Longs, South Carolina, Canipe’s Chocolates & Candies at Coastal Grand Mall, Myrtle Beach, and Canipe’s Chocolates at the Market Common in Myrtle Beach.

From seasonal favorites to the perennially popular saltwater taffy, Canipe’s has your sweet tooth covered. Special orders and custom-made chocolate creations are available. For more information, call (843) 839-3335 or visit www.canipescandycitchen.com.

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