Food lovers have their annual guide to the foremost and finest in Southern cuisine with Taste of the South magazine’s 2018 Taste 50, announced in the magazine’s July/August issue, on newsstands now through Aug. 7. Taste of the South focuses on great Southern food, destinations and people, and all of these areas are accounted for in this year’s Taste 50.
"Our editorial team at Taste of the South spends every day fully immersed in Southern cuisine. They talk to the people who developed and are reinventing the food scene, taste endless products and are the first to know about ever-changing trends. Because our team is so ingrained in the industry, we can carefully cultivate our Taste 50 list to truly represent the best of the best," said Brian Hart Hoffman, president and chief creative officer of Hoffman Media, publishers of Taste of the South.
Trends featured on this year’s Taste 50 include the resurgence of food halls, moonshine, foraging and Virginia craft cider. Artisan bacon, community-supported agriculture boxes and locally minded meal delivery services also made the list.
From Lexington, Kentucky-based Chef Edward Lee, who founded The LEE Initiative with an objective of diversifying and creating more equality in the restaurant industry, to restaurateur Joann Clevenger, who has brought Creole cuisine and Southern hospitality to her guests at Upperline for 36 years in New Orleans, Louisiana, the nine individuals honored by this year’s Taste 50 are leaving an indelible mark on the South both in and out of the kitchen. Other individuals recognized include: Chef Melissa Martin, serving up classic Cajun cuisine at Mosquito Supper Club in New Orleans; Tootsie Tomanetz, pitmaster at Snow’s Barbecue in Lexington, Texas; James Beard Foundation award winner Andrea Reusing, chef at Lantern in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and founder of Kitchen Patrol Initiative, a kids food access nonprofit; Atlanta-based Todd Richards, who is redefining soul food; and two Instagram influencers, New Orleans-based author and baker Joy Wilson (@joythebaker) and Savannah, Georgia-based Libbie Summers (@libbiesummers), who is committed to keeping cuisine colorful and festive.
The must-visit places on this year’s Taste 50 range from long-time favorites such as Dave’s Carry-Out, offering fresh fish and classics like Hoppin’ John in Charleston, South Carolina, to up-and-coming spots from industry leaders like Chef Ricky Moore’s new Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham, North Carolina. Other recipients include: Annie’s Café in Enterprise, Alabama; Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama; Feast BBQ in Louisville, Kentucky; and Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
The 2018 Taste 50 list features 16 products from across the South that every Southerner or Southerner at heart is sure to enjoy. From Texas, Houston is represented by hot sauce innovators Bravado Spice Co., and Austin finds itself on the list thanks to Pogue Mahone Pickles, which offers creative pickle flavors along with brine concoctions. Other products honored include: Boxcarr Handmade Cheese, a family-owned operation making artisanal cheese in Cedar Grove, North Carolina; Cajun Crate, a monthly care package full of old Creole favorites and new bayou treats, from Lafayette, Louisiana; Congaree and Penn, offering local rice-based products in Jacksonville, Florida; Carolina Ground, stone-ground flour from Asheville, North Carolina; Debutante Farmer Bloody Mary Mix from Oxford, Mississippi; timeless, colorful Fiesta Dinnerware by Homer Laughlin China Co. in Newell, West Virginia; the farmers responsible for Georgia Olive Farms, supporting the Southeast’s olive oil movement from Lakeland, Georgia, since 2009; Jimmy Red Corn which has a growing reputation extended far from its native James Island in South Carolina; Moonlight Bar-B-Q in Owensboro, Kentucky, where mutton is the star of the menu; North Carolina’s Naked Pig Meat Co., which makes cooking with pork fat more accessible; Sea Island Forge, a husband-and-wife team creating fire kettles in St. Simons Island, Georgia; the deep-fried Slugburger, available since 1917 in Corinth, Mississippi; and Stately Made, offering hand-lettered artwork that pays homage to the South.
The Taste 50 would not be complete without an ode to sweetness in the form of tasty treats like Big Spoon Creamery, an artisanal ice cream shop sourcing local ingredients in Birmingham, Alabama, and St. Augustine, Florida’s The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops, serving up fun, frozen flavors like Mango Habanero. In Little Rock, Arkansas, both Izard Craft Chocolate and Loblolly Creamery made the list, as did Holl’s Chocolates from Vienna, West Virginia.
In 2018, the Taste 50 features a number of not-to-miss experiences, including Blind Pig Supper Club events hosted by chefs in Asheville, North Carolina; the annual Down from the Hills Farm to Table Dinner in New Albany, Mississippi; the ultimate Lowcountry meal at Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina; Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi; Heritage Harvest Festival in Monticello, Virginia; and Knead and Know bread-making workshops from Melinda Friend in Leesburg, Virginia.
This most recent Taste 50 list comes on the heels of Taste of the South’s dramatic redesign, which premiered in the January/February 2018 issue. Additional information, including the digital version of the magazine and details about previous Taste 50 honorees, can be found at www.tasteofthesouthmagazine.com.