Join us on a nostalgic journey to revisit seven longtime culinary favorites
at Sea Island.
By Amber Lanier Nagle
At Sea Island and throughout the South, food is something to be anticipated, savored and remembered. Many of our fondest memories revolve around delicious cuisine—what we ate, where we enjoyed it and who else was present to share in those mouthwatering moments. These cherished culinary experiences can be etched in our memories for a lifetime.
Resort Executive Chef Daniel Zeal and his team of culinary artists offer an array of diverse dishes sure to please any palate, while taking special care to showcase Sea Island’s regional roots and preserve many of the staples that have withstood the test of time: the glorious Gold Brick Sundae, the scrumptious Summit Burger, full-flavored fried chicken and others. From decadent desserts to gourmet takes on American comfort food, several beloved Sea Island dishes have been front and center for decades, and keep members and guests coming back for more. Here, discover seven of the resort’s culinary icons.
Gold Brick Sundae
An all-time favorite, this simple yet sophisticated delicacy is requested at locations all over the resort. “You can’t come to Sea Island and not try our Gold Brick Sundae. It’s an important piece of who we are—a very historic item,” Zeal says. “It’s not only delicious, but the Gold Brick Sauce is a bit of a magic show. When the warm chocolate sauce is drizzled over the cold vanilla ice cream, the sauce magically hardens into a crisp, scrumptious shell.”
Zeal notes one especially enticing ingredient: roasted pecans. “Pecans are a regional favorite, and in the Gold Brick Sundae, they deliver a slight salty contrast to the sweetness of the ice cream,” he says.
Enjoy this Sea Island favorite at restaurants around the resort, where it is presented with a large puff of whipped cream and a ruby-red cherry on top. Those who order the dessert at The Lodge are treated to a fun, do-it-yourself experience. Staff deliver a dish cradling scoops of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream to the table, as well as a caddy of sprinkles, Oreo crumbles, toasted peanuts and a container of the warm Gold Brick Sauce.
Sea Island Corn Muffins
Sea Island’s savory corn muffins blend three quintessential flavors: cheddar cheese, rendered bacon and cream-style corn. The addition of bread flour to the recipe balances the grittiness of the corn meal, making the resort’s version lighter and fluffier than many renditions of the corn muffin.
“The origin of the muffins dates back to the early days of The Cloister,” Zeal says. “Corn is a staple in regional cuisine and inspires many local foods.”
Baked fresh every day, Zeal says that the culinary team mixes 30 gallons of corn muffin batter weekly at both the Oak Room and Southern Tide to keep up with demand for these sweet, golden delicacies.
During the resort’s closure in the spring, the Sea Island team posted many of the resort’s most popular recipes on social media. Of all of the favorites that were shared, the corn muffin recipe proved to be the most popular. “Everyone was at home cooking and baking during the early days of the pandemic, and for so many family members, this was their chance to finally get their hands on this recipe,” Zeal says.
The Summit Burger is named for the 2004 G8 Summit, a meeting during which leaders of eight of the world’s largest industrial nations convened at Sea Island to discuss matters of international importance.
“For one particular meal, French President Jacques Chirac asked the staff if they would make him a cheeseburger,” Zeal says. “That’s how the Summit Burger came to be. They made him a gourmet version of a cheeseburger. It’s a cheeseburger with a French twist.”
The mouthwatering masterpiece stacks flavor on top of flavor starting with a hearty brioche burger bun. A nest of caramelized sweet Vidalia onions creates a base for the grilled-to-order burger. A generous dollop of Boursin cheese tops the beef patty, followed by grilled portobello mushrooms that have been marinated in a bath of tangy balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Slices of heirloom tomatoes and crispy iceberg lettuce leaves complete the multilayered meal.
“It’s full of French-inspired flavor, but at its core, it’s a simple burger,” Zeal says. “Our members and guests love the Summit Burger, and it has been a long-standing, top-selling item.”
The River Bar & Lounge at The Cloister offers the Summit Burger as a full-size dish or sliders complemented with sides of house-made chips, a fruit cup or fries.
A layer of crisp, flavorful breading wraps tender meat in the resort’s version of traditional fried chicken. “Fried chicken is one of those memorable comfort foods that personify the rich roots around us here,” Zeal says. “Everyone loves it.”
The culinary team marinates the chicken in buttermilk and spices overnight before battering the pieces and frying the following day. At the Oak Room, the fried chicken showcases both texture and flavor, and is served with sides of creamy macaroni and cheese or kilt greens made from braised mustard, collard and turnip leaves. “The sweet and spicy greens cleanse the palate and prepare it for the fried chicken,” he notes. “They go well together.”
Described as “to die for,” the classic fried chicken has held its position as one of the three bestselling items at Sea Island over the last decade.
According to Zeal, the Crabsino was once served everywhere on Sea Island, though now it’s primarily a favorite at the Oak Room and the Men’s Locker Room. The iconic sandwich is part New Orleans-style fare and part coastal cuisine.
“We use a traditional local-favorite mayonnaise—Duke’s,” he reveals. “It’s a little more acidic than other mayos and creates a delicious, creamy dressing when combined with the lemon juice and zest, capers and chopped parsley.”
Fresh lump blue crab meat is folded into generous amounts of the dressing to form a thick spread that is slathered onto slices of toasted sourdough bread. The crab concoction is topped with slices of sweet, vine-ripened tomatoes, crispy lettuce leaves and crunchy, salty, applewood-smoked bacon.
“The Crabsino has been around for most of Sea Island’s history,” Zeal explains. “Every week, at least one person comes in and orders it simply because they remember ordering it years ago, and they recall how wonderful it is.”
Much like the Crabsino, the low-country boil delivers a nostalgic taste of the coastal region. Sea Island’s culinary crew places red potatoes, sweet corn, smoked andouille sausage, freshly caught shrimp and blue crab into seasoned boiling water, where the flavors mix and mingle harmoniously. While the method for making a low-country boil is commonly used throughout the region, feasting on the finished dish at Rainbow Island Supper is an eating experience like no other.
“It’s low-country boil at its finest, though the ingredients are basically the same. The difference is that there’s so much more than the delicious food to take in here,” Zeal says. “It’s the setting—near the marsh, near the Atlantic, with loved ones.”
He paints a picture with his words featuring an outdoor dining excursion replete with fire pits, live music and picnic tables. The open-air kitchen allows participants to watch cooks prepare the food and smell the aroma wafting through the ocean-fresh air. Servers walk around shucking fresh oysters for everyone to enjoy.
“The experience really connects the place with the fresh, delicious, local food of the region,” he says. “I think that’s why the low-country boil is one of our signature dishes and is remembered so vividly and fondly among our guests.”
“There are people who have dined at Tavola 30 times or more, and they have only ordered and eaten the Bolognese. That’s all they want—all they talk about. It’s that good,” Zeal says.
Like many other popular dishes at Tavola, the Bolognese starts with traditional Italian flavors to provide a noteworthy experience. This meat-based sauce is typical fare of the Italian city of Bologna, where the sauce is used to dress very broad, flat pasta noodles. “Every piece of pasta is made by hand, which adds to the authenticity of the Bolognese,” he says. “The sauce itself includes fresh roasted pork, veal and beef, along with carrots, onions, celery, tomatoes and heavy cream rich in nutmeg.”
Like other Italian sauces, the ingredients simmer slowly, allowing the flavors to marry and form into soft, creamy perfection. Tavola has changed its menu several times throughout its history, but the Bolognese has remained a staple—and will continue to be.
Sea Island does its best to preserve the heritage and nostalgia associated with the resort, and that includes its signature comfort foods. From the bold newcomer, Bolognese, to the historic Summit Burger, to the divine Gold Brick Sundae, these longtime favorites keep members and guests coming back for more.
Soul of the South
Cook up the resort’s signature dishes at home with recipes from the Sea Island cookbook.
While spending more time at home, many people turned to cooking to comfort them, pass the time and help them feel productive.
Members and guests staying home during this time re-created several of Sea Island’s timeless classics using recipes posted on social media and included in “Soul of the South: Recipes, History & Traditions,” a cookbook written by Sarah Anschutz.
“It’s more a coffee-table book than a cookbook,” says Resort Executive Chef Daniel Zeal. “It includes the recipes of so many resort favorites and shares many of the stories behind our most beloved dishes.”
From the historic Summit Burger to the Milk Punch Cocktail to Tavola’s celebrated meatballs, “Soul of the South” provides a taste of many of
Sea Island’s most nostalgic foods and beverages. Popular before the pandemic, Hunt’s book became the essential go-to guide for members and guests looking to cook their Sea Island favorites in their own kitchens across the country while isolated at home. The book is available for purchase online at shop.seaisland.com and in Sea Island retail shops.