“THE” twice baked potato for the ‘epicurean’ in all of us.

Back to the real world now after almost a week away and I am still thinking about all the wonderful restaurants I encountered while in Ohio. I have a newfound appreciation for the Cleveland area and it’s bounty of dining delights – any foodie should be very happy to visit that town, especially during the summer. I’ll get more in depth on the trip later, specifically the West Side Market. Coming from my town where one must exert a good bit of time to finding ingredients like fresh butchered meats, game and/or unusual spices it is a treat to literally shop under one roof for it all.

My recipe today may be one that you’re familiar with or if you’re over about age 40, enjoyed at a “fine dining’ restaurant many years ago. In my family it is known as “THE” twice-baked potato and is one of my go-to side dishes for steak or lamb chops. I created this specifically as a tribute to my favorite restaurant from childhood, The Elite Epicurean, located in Columbia, SC (my hometown).

The Elite Epicurean opened in 1932 and it’s location on the corner of Main and Laurel Streets meant that it was across from the Federal Courthouse and City Hall. When it closed in 1997 many a ‘politico’ and/or local mover and shaker-type had enjoyed it’s European/Mediterranean fare. My Dad’s office was downtown and he often lunched there, I guess, as a member of the ‘traffic club’ – a professional organization for those in transportation industries.

I remember dining at the Elite Epicurean on special occasions, like birthdays and my high school graduation. It was like a fancy diner with a long bar, wooden tables (white table clothes too) and big overstuffed booths along one wall. But here the food was the thing. They had what, in those days, would be considered a huge menu with lots of variety. Their lunch menu was sizeable, famous for sandwiches with curious names like “The City Hall,” with a tongue and cheek description reading something like, “conservatively roasted with a liberal dose of mayonnaise.” And “The IBM,” “logically stacked with onions and programmed to your specifications.”

The dinner menu had for that time “epicurean” level entrees like lamb chops, veal, shrimp cooked in a wine sauce as well as an actual “amuse buche” served along with your meal… fancy-smancy for Columbia, SC in the 1970’s and 80’s. Of course, I always ordered the most exotic thing I could find on the menu, like the lamb or grilled calamari, while everyone else opted for something more conventional. The one thing we would all agree on, however, was the masterpiece known as the Epicurean potato.

This twice-baked potato was the best…ever. It was crispy on the outside – because it was fried, yes, fried! But the inside was light, fluffy and rich. I do not know exactly what was mixed into those potatoes but it was nothing short of spud perfection.

Apparently the restaurant closed one day in ’97 without any prior notice but after being a business in decline for years. I’m sure oblivious patrons would have rallied to the cause if they had known; it was a sad day. In years since, I came up with my own recipe, and although it is not fried, it packs on the calorie count with the butter, cheese and light cream. It’s a make-ahead side dish – add some chopped ham, sauteed minced veggies or fresh-made sausage and it could be a meal in itself too.

To me it’s claim to fame is reminding me of fun times with my family, particularly my father, and interestingly enough it was the side dish served to my now-husband at the first meal I ever prepared for him. I always thought (he says) it was the accompanying rack of lamb that propelled him to fall for me but now that I think about it, maybe it was “THE” twice-baked potato all along…

Clean potatoes are wrapped in foil – just like a regular baked potato.

After baking, allow the potatoes to cool a little so you can handle them. Slice the potatoes in half so that the two pieces will be able lay flat in the baking dish. Russet potatoes work best. Carefully scoop out the cooked potato.

The cooked potato goes into a bowl or container. Mash with a large spoon or potato masher.

Here are the potato jackets, sprinkled with a touch of salt and pepper and ready to be filled.

After adding in softened butter pour in the half and half. Mix in the sour cream and salt and pepper.

Three ingredients for the topping: butter, cheese and flour.

The topping is crumbly but moist.

Fill the jackets with the potato mixture and then…

Carefully spoon on the topping. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven – or hold in the refrigerator until 20-25 minutes before serving time, then bake.

“The” Twice Baked Potatoes

  • 2 large Russet baking potatoes
  • 6 tbl softened butter (salted)
  • ½ cup finely shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup half and half
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • Extra salt and pepper for the jackets

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Wash (scrub if necessary) and dry the potatoes. Wrap each potato in foil and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Reduce oven temp to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl mix 4 tablespoons butter, cheese and flour. Stir to combine to make a crumbly mixture. Set aside.

Slice potatoes in half so that each half will sit on its flat side. Carefully scoop out each potato and place the cooked potato “insides” into a medium bowl. Mash the insides with a potato masher or a mixer or a large, flat spoon. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, the half and half and the sour cream to make the filling. Season with the ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper.

Place the potato skin ‘jackets’ in a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the inside of each jacket with a little salt and pepper. Spoon the filling into the jackets. Top each potato half with the cheese/butter crumble mixture*. At this point you can cover potatoes and hold up to a day in the refrigerator if you like.

Place potatoes back in the preheated oven and bake 20-25 minutes until filling is hot and the tops are browned. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings and can be easily doubled.

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37 thoughts on ““THE” twice baked potato for the ‘epicurean’ in all of us.

      • I am sure Carla’s recipes are delicious. The ingredients though for the Big E wander from the original. The original is a happy balance of sweet, salty, creamy, buttery, and crunchy. You can subs anything you want, and make any kind of stuff potato that you crave, but until you use the original ingredients, then you are not making a Big E. You are making something really tasty and maybe really close, but not a Big E.

  1. My mother Mary was a waitress there from 1972 till the day they closed. I spent my summers peeling shrimp, making cheese rolls and the stuffed potatoes. They were called “Big E’s”. I have the recipes for all of these, plus the lamb kabobs, the shrimp scorpious, the flounderane, the mushroom wine sauce that was served on the ‘Diamond Ribeye’ and other odds and ends. The closing wasn’t just a matter of business slowing down over the years, but a matter of the lease was up and Malonas was not willing to re new. Very short notice, if any, was given to the employees who worked there, some more than 20 years. He could have at least given them that much. Sandra Dale Welch

    • Thanks for sharing Sandra. Sad to know that it was not a fond farewell for the employees – did not know about that. But if you’re ever willing to share any of those wonderful recipes with us, please do as there seem to still be a lot of Elite Epicurean fans. Thanks for your comments. Betsy

    • Yes he didn’t want to renew or the seafood department. And he was very sick as well.I worked in the seafod side for abt 9 years

    • Sandra, I remember Mary well! If she was the waitress “Mary” she was always our favorite, we had developed a patron friendship, she knew what we liked and never had to view the menu. Yes, the food was excellent but the service was superior to none!! I honestly say this added to their successful business! We lived in the same development as one of their relatives, their son. It was family owned, but employees establishment and reason for the restaurant’s success…genuine hard working individuals, made this a favorite to so many locals and visitors from all over. I have the “shrimp” recipe and love to serve it, sadly it’s not the same prepared and served within the “walls” of The Elite Epicurian” don’t get me wrong…it’s still good when made fresh!! Please email me when you get the chance. Look forward to hearing from you. We now live in Brentwood, TN.

  2. Thanks so much for the recipe and the links to The you tube video. I also grew up in Columbia and The Elite holds special memories for me and my family. Carla you should consider writing a cookbook. The old recipes would be awesome to have. Bless you for sharing. Finding this page has made my day. Blessings.

  3. My husband and I lived in Columbia, SC for 22 years and have such fond memories of the Elite Epicurean Restaurant on Main Street downtown. We celebrated many birthdays, promotions, anniversaries, and anytime we wanted a wonderful meal!! It was and still is “our” favorite restaurant of all times!! We’ve lived in SC, Mass, Washington, DC, TN and no restaurant have even come close in comparison to Elite Epicurean. Hands down the atmosphere, waiters, owners won our hearts! I would travel back to Columbia, SC if they decide to reopen~ Something unique I recall, they would remove or fold the bar stools during the dinner hours and it became a serving area…oh, how I would love to have the recipe for the Epicurean potato! I have the Island of Scorpio shrimp dish which I prepare often…for special guest! Yes, its good…but not the same…the experience made the Greek menu one which can’t be duplicated. Diane

  4. I hope u all like and enjoy it .I have my uncles James and buddy getting some more of their recipes together .I will post the shrimp they made a the jazz festival soon .I soo miss this place as well!!.Have a great day :)

    • You should think of putting together a cookbook! My Grandmother, Mena Hope, ran the old Cassena Inn and Cafeteria at Pawleys Island from ’54 to 72. She and her partner, Gladys Hiott, published their recipes in “Potluck from Pawleys” after they sold it to the Prioleau’s. Years later, the cookbook is still selling strong in Columbia and at The Original Hammock Shop in Pawleys. If you published, I know I’d buy one, and so would many others. Thanks again!

      • Marty I never thought about it before and I have no ideal how or what to do to get started on making one up.If you have any info on how to get started please let me know.Thank you very very much.

  5. Would love to get the Shrimp Isle of Scorpios recipe. It was my favorite. Ate there for lunch a lot when I worked for Southern Bell. My favorite food memories from Columbia!

  6. .My 2 uncles worked their for 32 years and they taught me how to make it.So I can tell u how to make it just like they use to

    • My Mother served tables there on the night shift from 1972 to closing. I washed dishes and bussed tables on & off for 3 yrs in the mid-80s. I may know your Uncles. I never did any of the cooking or prep, but I did see alot of it. As I recall, they used instant potatoes, mixed stiff. Cooled, then formed into balls. Flatten by hand, place a small handfull of diced ham & cheeddar cheese in the middle, then rolled back up. Dipped in milk, then rolled in cracker meal. Chill (very inportant for making the breading stick), then dropped into the deep fryer. They kept them in the bottom of the open broiller until ready to serve. As a dishwasher, the cheese-rolls they would serve befor every meal were my favorate, I could grab one every time I carried dishes over to the cook’s line. I sure do wish I knew how to make those! David Dale

      • I do remember all of them! We called Andrew “Buddy”. James ran the cooks’s line, Carry-Bell (SP?) did alot of the prep, and Mary did prep & ran the salad bar. They were all great people to know & work with, I never knew that they were all family. Good people.

      • Hahaha David when I worked there in the seafood store I use to take some of the cheese bites too.When I would come over to the kitchen.They were right at the door going in to the dinning area.:)

      • David, do you recall what type cooking oil they used to fry the Epicurean potato? I tried the other recipe on YouTube which said to use cornmeal. I don’t recall a cornmeal taste and texture. I would like to use the crackle crumbs, I feel this is spot on! Thanks!

    • Yes David thats my family .Yes we call andrew buddy. I worked in the other side of the seafood department with Angelo and Ronald after they rebuild the seafood side when it burned down

      • Actually only James and Buddy were family carrie bell and mary were long time friends of my family. So I call them my aunts Carrie p. took over Mary Side when she died doing the salad e.t.c

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