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Best Bites: South Carolina Baseball Coach Mark Kingston

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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THE PERSON:

Mark Kingston became the University of South Carolina’s baseball coach in 2018 after three seasons—and a 100-78-1 record—at the University of South Florida. He also coached Illinois State from 2010-14 (record: 173-102), winning the Missouri Valley Conference title in 2013. A native of Buffalo, NY, he played baseball at North Carolina and spent five seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs organizations before starting his coaching career in 1996. He and wife Letitia have three children.

 

THE DISH:

Blue Marlin Award Winning Shrimp and Grits, the Columbia restaurant’s signature dish, which uses Adluh stone-ground grits with creek shrimp, andouille sausage and tasso gravy.

 

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?

“I’m not really a ‘foodie,’ so you’re putting me on the spot. I can answer baseball questions for hours, but food questions …

“We like Blue Marlin very much and have had a variety of dishes there. That’s where we’ve gone the most and we’ve always had a good meal, whether it’s steak or pasta or seafood. We always love whatever we get. I’m a big fan of shrimp and grits, and anyone who has a good shrimp and grits dish, I’ll be there.”

“I’m also a big dessert guy, especially cheesecake.” One of his favorites is Blue Marlin's Creme Brulee Cheesecake: vanilla bean cheesecake with caramel sugar topping and vanilla wafer crust, topped with fresh berries and strawberry sauce.

FROM THE KITCHEN:

Maegan Horton, executive chef: “The reason I think it's so popular is it’s not overpowering. It’s a simple shrimp and grits. We pair ours with tasso ham gravy, which a lot of people don’t; they add peppers and mushrooms in a tomato-based sauce. We use local grits (from Adluh Flour), and I think the way they’re milled (makes a difference), plus they’re a local company, so we can stay within the local scene. They’re stone-ground grits, and we cook them for 2-2½ hours so they’re nice and creamy.

“Our cheesecake was here when I got here, but people do love it. Again, it’s pretty simple, but we make it even better by caramelizing the top. We want to go above and beyond on making things: simple, but make sure it’s perfect.”

 

Blue Marlin

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.