Indie Food Boom Down South: From Grandma’s Toffee to Local Sea Salt

The artisanal boom isn’t confined to foodie hot spots like Brooklyn and Portland. It’s happening down South too, as a variety of producers and purveyors dust off family recipes, invent new twists on local classics, and bring tasty treats to market.

More than 20 of these brands were on display at the Artisan Market, which took place this past weekend as part of the 10th Annual Charleston Wine + Food festival. The four-day event celebrates both the city, which has become one of the top dining destinations in the country, and the history of Southern food.

I stopped by the Artisan Market on Friday and Saturday to check out the offerings, do some shopping, and meet some of the makers. The most interesting company there? Bulls Bay Saltworks, founded by two homesteaders, Rustin & Teresa Gooden. The duo collect water from South Carolina’s Bulls Bay (a body of water located within the protected Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge), and use solar and wind evaporation to create their product. I bought a jar of their Carolina Flake sea salt and look forward to trying it out.

The most delicious thing I tried? The seven-layer caramel cake from Caroline’s Cakes. The team from Caroline’s was offering samples and there was a long line just to get the tiniest of bites, but it was worth it. A traditional caramel cake is an iconic Southern dessert and when it’s done well, it’s heaven. Caroline’s Cakes focuses on mail order, but the company does have a bakery in Annapolis. Next time I swing through that city, I know my first stop.

For more on artisan treats and great Southern food:

The secret ingredient for the best buttermilk biscuits from Callie’s Biscuits

Why is everyone making artisanal food these days?

Chocolate bourbon pecan pie from WildFlour Pastry