After years of planning and waiting with anticipation, the 2012 PGA Championship has landed on Kiawah, one of the loveliest barrier islands in greater Charleston and home to one of the most commanding golf courses in the world, The Ocean Course. Final rounds will take place Sunday, August 12, so there is still plenty of time to check it out and to fill up on great golf and great food.
I was blessed to be given a ticket for Wednesday's practice rounds and was anticipating going around the grounds, sampling the fare to report on what tournament attendees might expect to find there. Mother Nature, however, had other plans. Along with Ernie Els and the pro-golfing gang, high winds, lightning, and drenching rains made their way to the island. Getting around was not only dangerous, it practically required flippers.
Nevertheless, I had about 20 minutes to do some scoping before the rains came. I was impressed by the number of clean, well-staffed tents serving the usual suspects—hot dogs, burgers, salad, and beer—that were on hand. I'm told, however, that the fish tacos at the Wanamaker tent near the 18th hole (I was unable to reach it myself) are one of the top-shelf food picks available on the grounds.
Kiawah Island is a large one, and there are ample choices for delicious dining all over. I stayed at one of the villas near The Sanctuary (about eight miles from The Ocean Course), so that's the general area I focused my dining attention. Even if you're not staying at The Sanctuary, you can still dine at the AAA 4-Diamond resort. It is easily accessible and has plenty of parking and a valet service, if you so desire. I visited two of the resorts' restaurants: Jasmine Porch and the Ocean Room.
Jasmine Porch, serving a "Taste of the Lowcountry," does just that and has long been one of my favorite dining destinations on Kiawah. Billowing chiffon, golden-oak plank floors, embracing banquettes, and stunning views of the Atlantic work in tandem with stellar service, whether you're there for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch. I was able to slip in for an early dinner without a reservation, though at this stage of the tournament, I'd highly recommend making one. The caramel-colored She Crab Bisque ($9) is laced with sweet notes of sherry and layered with buttery crab flavor. According to my wonderful server, the Whole Carolina Flounder ($29) was caught just a few miles off the island. It tasted like it, too—local, sweet, flaky, and moist. The fish was scored, lightly battered, fried, and served whole, and was paired with a silky lemon beurre blanc, garden fresh haricot verts, and a toothsome mushroom purloo. This dish is not to be missed. Don't miss the bread basket there, either, which is stuffed with an assortment of freshly baked breads and served with honey-thyme butter.
Whole fried flounder, green beans, mushroom purloo and lemon beurre blanc at Jasmine Porch
THE OCEAN ROOM
Upstairs, at the celebrated Ocean Room, the emphasis is on local, grass-fed, artisanal beef sourcing; elegance; and more sweeping water views. The price ante takes a considerable leap and getting a table may be challenging as the tournament advances toward the final rounds. If there isn't space in the dining room, consider taking a seat in the restaurant's full-service lounge/bar, which is cushioned between the masterful iron-grate doors and the formal dining room. The ambience is a bit more relaxed, but the level of decorum and the water views are still on full display. In the lounge, you can order from either the "Sushi Lounge" menu or from the complete dinner menu. I, myself, dined in the lounge and enjoyed an impeccable salad of creamy, almost pudding-like goat cheese with Marcona almonds, sweet South Carolina peaches, and arugula.
Amazing fresh goat cheese and peach salad at The Ocean Room
Or, perhaps you're in search of good fast food that's nearby and delicious? If so, check out the charming Town Center Market, which is just one exit up the road from The Sanctuary at East Bay Village and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The breakfast menu offers hefty egg wraps; the lunch offers made-to-order pizzas, sandwich wraps, and paninis; and the dinner menu includes filling entrees, like a smashing Southern fried chicken platter.
Also, whether you're coming onto the island or leaving, don't miss a stop at the Freshfields Village Market, accessed via the turn-around at the entrance to Kiawah. The entire place is stocked with beautiful food and wine, and the deli case, sandwich bar, and hot food buffet all never fail to please. You can eat there or take something to go to enjoy on your way to the course. After all, spectators have to eat, too. Bon appetit!