A gazillion garnishes, but only one Golden Pickle


How often do you get a chance to pick up black summer truffles? Try rarely or never. It had been quite a while for me until the other day. What day? Let’s just call it Bloody Mary Monday.

Bloody Marys are the current foodie must-haves. These cocktails have morphed into entire meals, with the garnishes often stealing the show. And what makes that wrong? Well, nothing at all. So when I was invited to attend a “Bloody Monday” cocktail and culinary competition, I couldn’t refuse.

The event hosted by our friends at Congaree & Penn featured booze from Manifest Distilling. The objective was to match local celeb chefs Sam Efron, Brian Whittingham, Waylon Rivers, David Medure, Mike Ramsey, Eric Osol and Jon Haynes with mixologists from seven local drinking holes. They were given the mission of creating the ultimate Bloody Mary utilizing Congaree & Penn’s new tomato shrub, Manifest Distilling’s vodka and all the fabulous garnishes they could create with their mischievous chef minds. And of course it was a competition with a prize: the coveted GOLDEN PICKLE!

The event was not open to the public. So it was very small, yet super-fun, and for the participants, quite intense. The garnishes they came up with were delicious and the presentations were, as expected, Cheffed Up. Each team had a different theme. Chef Hayes used his signature poke as garnish and the Bloody Mary base incorporated Hawaiian-style tubers. The presentation included a smoking pineapple, which immediately reminded me of The Brady Bunch episode when the family visited Hawaii. No one else was with me on this; I just got a lot of confused looks when I mentioned it. The presentations of the other participants were equally impressive. One featured a whole roasted hog snapper, another used those black summer truffles, and there was bone marrow as well as assorted shellfish.

Though I have attended many foodie events such as this over my career, I have always done so as a participant, never as a guest. So this was kind of a new experience. I actually felt a little silly bothering the chefs and mixologists with my boorish foodie questions while sipping a Bloody Mary in a very bourgeois fashion. But when in Rome! Since the prize was a trophy featuring a golden pickle, I’ve generously included one of
my favorite pickle recipes.

Chef Bill’s Pickled Okra

  • 3 to 4 pounds okra, stems trimmed
  • 6 three-inch-long strips of lemon zest
  • 6 oregano sprigs
  • 1 small dried red chile
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar, plus more if needed
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp. whole allspice
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt


  1. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar with the water, garlic, sugar, salt, chile, garlic, allspice, mustard seed and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Pour over okra and cool. Refrigerate and let stand at least 48 hours.

Until we cook again,

Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of The Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!

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