Charleston Two Ways
Practically all that know me or have read this blog know my daughter and I share a birthday and for the last 15 years or so we’ve taken a trip to celebrate, just the two of us. This year with the pandemic waning, hotels and restaurants returning to full service and for me the nagging desire to get back to writing about food and drink, it seemed that finally it was time to go south to Charleston South Carolina. In a blog post from a while ago (My Es-Cape May be of Interest) I labeled my dear girl and I as HAGs ……. lovers of History, Art and Gardens. While that hasn’t changed and this trip was full of it, my focus of this post will be the absolutely marvelous food and drink we experienced while visiting the Holy City.
It only took a hot minute to experience our first handcrafted cocktail upon arriving in Chuck Town. You see, the spectacular Spectator Hotel www.thespectatorhotel.com in which we were staying for five glorious nights offers their guests a drink of the day immediately upon check in. The idea is that you can sip the concoction while your personal butler gives you the grand tour of this boutique style hotel that gives personalized service to but 41 rooms. The place has a swank, speak-easy style bar as well that fit perfectly into my plan to drink jazzy-old timey-artisan cocktails all week made be professionals who tend bar as an artform. My mission was accomplished at the Spectator by the talented Allen Lancaster and a sundry of great Charleston places and barkeeps……….
My everyday cocktail is a Dirty Martini, vodka or gin. I had several at various restaurants in Charleston. Whether it was because I was on vacation or just a fact, the martinis I experienced in Charleston were just better than what I get or even make at home. One take away is that with rare exception Chuck Town and Southern bartenders are very generous with their pours!
Rooftop cocktail lounging was all the rage in Charleston at least in April. We visited two and although the drink presentation left a little to be desired, they were tasty and the views divine. One early evening we went to The Rooftop at The Vendue http://www.thevendue.com. Touted as an “Art Hotel”, it’s worth the wait for the crammed elevator up to the roof just to experience the artsy lobby…very fun! The other cocktail drank atop a roof was at The Citrus Club at The Dewberry http://www.thedewberrycharleston.com. There you’ll find more elegance up top but the journey getting to the roof is not nearly so arty.
I have two more cocktail bars to mention because both are a must if you too want a significant portion of your visit to Chuck-Town to be on the boozy-jazzy-amazing food side. The Gin Joint http://www.theginjoint.com was hands my favorite, well, gin joint we went to. Dark, narrow, sultry with a mysterious vibe, it checked all the boxes for me. This was EXACTLY what I hoped we find. To make the experience more perfecter, the menu had an option for the Bartender Choice to just make you a cocktail based on two descriptive words…mine were boozy and savory (I got to throw in a third which was “herbal” for free) . The other very exciting cocktail lounge you must know about is Doar Brothers http://www.doarbros.com. This place is so cool BUT make reservations because it is teeny tiny!
Make no mistake, Charleston has become a “foodie” town. Five days and nights is simply not enough time to get everywhere we wanted to so as usual I deferred to our typical travel scenario. You see, we two gals have an understanding about meals that we experience on trips that eating and boozing are primary activities. My daughter does all the upfront research of where and when we should go for our sustenance. Her research is extensive and laser focused on local foods, “up and coming” as well as renown Chefs and starred reviews. My little girl takes her task so seriously that this trip she insisted that we have two lunches one day in order get the most benefit from her labor!
I’ll get all breakfasts out of the way right at the start. They were all at the Spectator and included with the room rate. Such lovely breakfasts indeed with our birthday one including bubbly and chocolate covered strawberries. Each evening we’d fill out a little card with our choice from four plated meals, juice coffee and tea along with what time we’d like to have it. The next morning, voila, a beautiful and seemingly nutritious breakfast would appear. A perfectly lovely way to start the day I tell you.
Our first meal in Charleston was dinner at The Ordinary eattheordinary.com . Billed as “a fancy seafood and oyster bar”, this place was anything but ordinary. The joint was bustling when we arrived and didn’t calm down one little bit while we were there. It’s loud and festive and lots of folks go for the fairly obnoxious-in-size seafood towers, but we opted to be a bit refined and ordered several dishes to share. favorites of mine were the Smoked Oysters with Old Bay Saltines and the Clam Spaghetti.
The Monday of our stay was our two lunch day! Of course this was not until after I had decided I must have one of those big floppy straw hats that I purchase for way too much and then promptly let it blow off my head into on coming traffic. One SUV ran over it slightly on the edge while the kind gentleman who followed behind got out of his vehicle and retrieved it for me receiving a round of applause from the onlookers on the other side of the street. Anyway our lunch number one was at Edmund’s Oast https://edmundsoast.com which is a brewpub where we drank Peanut Butter and Jelly Beer and feasted on Spicy Korean Meatballs. A soft-shell crab sandwich was consumed as well since they were in season. Lunch #2 came a bit later after a long walk and visit to the home of Hat Trick Botanical Gin, the esteemed High Wire Distillery highwiredistilling.squarespace.com. So number 2 was at Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oyster Shop https://leonsoystershop.com because research told us we must experience the chicken and my daughter was hellbent on eating as many oysters as she could down within reason (great T-shirts here too! I still could kick myself for not getting one for my son).
Our lone Italian dinner came from La Faralle lefarfallecharleston.com. This restaurant has such a lovely atmosphere and is slightly off the beaten path so it appears to be more popular with locals than tourists. Our Uber driver from another day was very impressed that we had found it. I thought the food was delicious. We shared Whipped Ricotta and Braised Artichokes (yum) and I had Duck Confit Agnolotti while the little one had Squid Ink Pasta with local Shrimp and Salami.
Okay here we get to one of my most favorite meals…lunch at the Glass Onion ilovetheglassonion.com! Did you ever think you knew what a certain dish tasted like and knew you loved it only to find out years later that you only now were tasting the best? That’s my experience with Pork Belly at the GO. Hands down the very best pork belly I’ve ever had! Don’t get me wrong, the Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimento Cheese, the Braised Beans, Red Rice and Macaroni Salad were great too, but the pig’s belly…sublime. The Glass Onion is a wee bit out of town but go, you won’t be disappointed.
FIG is another great restaurant in Charleston that makes most every list of where to dine. Food is Good https://eatatfig.com is actually a product of the same team as The Ordinary that I listed above, a tad more upscale and not totally seafood focused. For us, it was just another terrific meal. I would definitely recommend sharable Ricotta Gnocchi alla Bolognese and the entrée I got at the time, Chicken Milanese.
On our actual Birthday, traditional meal order was disregarded! We decided to throw caution to the wind and have our celebratory meal at lunchtime at Chez Nous https://www.cheznouschs.com. Chez Nous is not for everyone. You see the menu changes daily, consists of just two small plates, two entrees and two desserts. The real rub is the menu is hand written and posted to social media only at 10AM the day of! You never know what you’re going to get but we were confidant we could handle whatever came to the menu on our big day. This was my very favorite meal of our trip! The food was excellently prepared and so very delicious. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood in an iconic Charleston single house, the ambience of this pint-sized establishment is lovely. I’ve included photos although who knows what will be served on the day you decide to go. Try it, you’ll like it!
We did an a lot of fun stuff on our birthday. Having dinner wasn’t one of them. We did however share a delicious piece of the famous coconut cake served at the Peninsula Grille at the Planter’s Inn https://www.peninsulagrill.com/store/ultimate-coconut-cake . It’s too funny that the bartender there keeps pieces of cake to-go behind the bar for all the folks (usually us girls) who wander in for cake and a cocktail! Later after we took a “Dark Side of Charleston” walking tour we had made our 9:45 reservation at Doar Brothers that I mentioned above for cheese and charcuterie.
Our final day in Charleston brought us to two more notable restaurants. A friend joined us in Sullivan’s Island for lunch at the Obstinate Daughter https://www.theobstinatedaughter.com. Unlucky for you, I forgot to capture our order but I highly recommend the Frogmore Chowder and the Tonnato Salad. Coincidentally, at dinner we met a different friend back in Charleston at Delaney Oyster House https://delaneyoysterhouse.com/. Again, the food was very good and obviously seafood focused. Both dishes I got were specials but I believe represents well the quality of the menu.
This was long I know. I appreciated everyone who made it this far. Just know that Charleston is a charming city with wonderful dining options. Some recommendations for other-than-eat things to do? Visit Middleton Place (not the manor, just the grounds), King Street shopping, Gibbes Museum of Art, walk the Battery, Dark Side of Charleston Walking Tour, visit Sullivan’s Island and Shem Creek Park to name a few. WooHoo done!
Thanks to JR for giving me the motivation to finally write this post!
“One thing inspired me the most from the time I spent in Charleston was how much heritage and history are connected to influencing how I cook. Each dish tugged my heart in a different spot that after I finished cooking, I was really emotional and felt fulfilled at the same time.” ~ Shirley Chung
I’ve always hated fruitcake. I never could understand why anyone would think Fruitcake was an appropriate gift to give or worst yet serve on your holiday table where there should be much more desirable sweets. My most vivid memory had been going to my step- grandmother’s house as a kid and seeing a tray of sliced fruitcake along side a tower of fig-filled cookies, date-nut spirals, crystallized grapefruit peels and dried apricots ……. nothing a child of any age would want to consume. Truth be told, most of the food served at Grandmother Esther’s was awful. Esther was a fine Professor of Music at Edinboro State Teacher’s College, but as a fine or even fair cook she was not. I was told by my mother that Es had an illness in the 1940s that altered her sense of taste so she really didn’t know what good food tasted like. I didn’t buy it, I think she reveled in annoying her step-son-in-law (my dad) and step grandchildren by serving us gross food. Perhaps I’ll write a future blog post about that but for now I digress. I hate fruitcake.
My husband did not hate fruitcake. In fact he loved it. I dare say his favorite might’ve been those loaves you could get at a drugstore usually sitting aside the fake tin of Danish Butter Cookies that was only sold November-January (and now probably 70% off). After years of debating the reason for the very existence of fruitcake and pleas from my husband to try making one, four seasons ago I defied my culinary values and agreed to make a fruitcake.
I set rules. The cake would be considered one of his Christmas gifts as the expense, effort and shear horror of what I would experience was gift worthy. Likewise, the cake would be unveiled on Christmas day in the company of only our immediate family and never, ever appear on our dining table after that. If he liked it, my husband was permitted to share it with known fruitcake lovers only. If he didn’t like it, we would never speak of it again.
I chose the recipe for “Dark Fruitcake” out of “The Joy of Cooking”. I bought all the ingredients right down to the currants and citron and all those other candied fruits that stick together in clumps and dates that are almost impossible to chop. I mixed everything in a gigantic bowl and used a 12-cup ring pan. My fruitcake weighed a TON. I baked it for many, many hours and then cooled it for many, many, hours. Surprisingly, once cool the menacing dark glob came out of the pan okay (Jeez it was dark. Maybe burnt? It didn’t smell burnt, just fruitcakey.). I covered the behemoth with brandy-soaked flour clothes, wrapped in multiple layers of plastic wrap, stuck it in a super-sized zip-lock bag and placed it in the cupboard of my antique dry sink. That was 3 weeks prior to Christmas day.
My man loved the fruitcake I had made. That year, he might’ve shared a tad, but mostly he ate it himself over a course of about two weeks. With each passing day he told me he loved me more than the day before because I had become a fruitcake maker. It was clear that another family tradition had begun and the following Christmas would include a homemade fruitcake.
So the next year there was indeed another two-ton fruitcake made that tasted similar to the first. Last year though I got bold and decided to make three large loaves instead. The idea being that now my fruitcake gift was even more fun because my husband could taste the cake at varying ages and share more easily since now his fruitcake had gained a small following. He finished the first loaf in about a week. The second loaf took him just about through basketball season (those who read this blog often know my husband was a basketball coach). To him, this was the best fruitcake ever! I’ll never get over the fact that my husband could love a gross food so much. For him, my fruitcake was right up there with the very best of my recipe rotation.
This is where my story gets a little sappy. You see my husband never got to his third fruitcake loaf. He unexpectedly died on February 18th of last year. Needless to say I never gave that fruitcake aging in my antique dry sink a thought until this holiday season, over a year since it had been baked. My daughter, son and I knew the holidays would be hard for us but we were determined to make the best of it while keeping our papa and husband in our hearts. I had suggested to my daughter we open the fruitcake on Christmas day to see what became of it then throw it away. I forgot all about it so the holidays came and went without the fruitcake making an appearance. Just yesterday (it’s January 7th) I remembered a Hallmark Christmas Movie featuring an 100 year old fruitcake (it’s called “Broadcasting Christmas”, I looked it up). That made me go right to the dry sink to fetch the last fruitcake loaf.
I took it out, unwrapped it’s many layers of plastic wrap and brandied cloth. It was still moist, dark and smelled thick of molasses. I took a bite. It tasted as gross as always. That same gross taste that my husband loved only now the brandy flavor was magnified. I took another bite. This time it tasted so much better. I could taste the love I put into making it. I could taste my love! Almost a year since my husband had passed and I was enjoying his fruitcake! In the end the gift I made for him became a gift to me. And that gift is going to keep on giving at least another year. I wrapped that “dark brick of molasses filled love” again in a brandy doused cloth, applied multiple layers of plastic wrap, put it back in the zip-lock bag and in the cupboard it went. Next Christmas, if I don’t think it’ll kill anyone, I’ll make my kids take a bite and share some with my husband’s fruitcake fans. I may keep any remaining for the following year but probably not.
I still think you’ve gotta be nuts to like fruitcake, but in this first week of January 2020 having a few bites was a gift to me. Live each day, be kind to one another and share the love.
“Political advice is a bit like your average Christmas fruitcake: something everyone gives and no one wants.” ~ Bob Dole
I took the opportunity recently to develop a couple of recipes using a new dressing offering from Gazebo Room, Asian Vinaigrette. With two of my close friends as guinea pigs, I set out to create and serve them an Asian inspired luncheon using the flavorful bottled dressing as a highlight in two of the dishes I prepared.
For the entrée, I changed ingredients but used a preparation for Chicken thighs that I’ve prepared many times. The Chicken ALWAYS comes out tender and very flavorful. The use of one of Gazebo Room’s newest additions had the same delectable results!
Asian Vinaigrette Chicken Thighs
2 Tbls fresh lemon juice
12 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp five spice powder
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbls peeled fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
1/2 cup GAZEBO ROOM ASIAN VINAIGRETTE
2 Tbls chopped parsley or green onion for garnish
1. Combine lemon juice and chicken in a large zip-lock bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes. Remove Chicken and discard marinade.
2. Pat Chicken dry with paper towels. Dredge in flour mixed with the five spice powder. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet with high sides over med-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook for 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken. Remove all from pan.
3. Add onion, ginger and garlic to pan and saute 5 minutes or until tender. Return Chicken to pan. Add stock mixed with vinaigrette. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour until tender. Garnish if desired. Makes 6 servings (2 thighs with 1/3 cup sauce.
The salad I served was a revamped version of an old recipe I’d clipped from a magazine in 1982.
Far East Rice Salad
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup cooked ham diced
1 8-oz can chunk pineapple, drained
1 green or red pepper cut in thin strips
1/2 cup water chestnuts coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sliced green onion
2 Tbls GAZEBO ROOM ASIAN VINAIGRETTE
1 Tbls low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup mayo
1 can (3 oz) chow mein noodles
Combine rice, ham, pineapple, peppers, water chestnuts and green onion. Blend Vinaigrette, soy and mayo. Mix with the ham mixture. Serve on greens if desired and top with chow mein noodles. Makes 6 side dish servings.
Both dishes were easy to make, tasty and appealing to the eye. My friends gave the meal two thumbs up as well. Give either recipes a try if you’re in the mood for some Asian flavor!
“Laughter is brightest in the place where food is.” – Irish Proverb
For me, 2016 pretty much sucked. I won’t bore you with all the specifics, but let’s just say if it wasn’t for my obsession with musing about eating and boozing, my guess is I would’ve withdrawn from all human interaction shortly after November 8th! That being said, I did manage to discover some wonderful culinary products and impressive restaurants throughout 2016 that deserve recognition as recipients of the 2nd Annual Musing Awards.
And the Musee goes to………
Favorite newly discovered Food and Beverage:
Savory- Eat Smart Beets and Greens Salad Kit. I’ve never been a fan of bagged salads. I tend to think I can taste the plastic bag on the lettuce. Thankfully, that doesn’t hold true for salads made of sturdier (and healthier) greens such as kale or brussels sprouts. I truly have enjoyed all the Eat Smart Salad Kits I’ve tried with Beets and Greens being my favorite (and the one that’s out of stock most often).
Sweet-Betty Crocker Limited Edition Salted Caramel Cookie Mix. Okay, okay I realize this winner isn’t exactly all the way “prepared” but they sure make baking easy and delicious! Literally just add an egg and butter (REAL UNSALTED BUTTER) for sweet and salty home-baked heaven! If you care to, add my secret ingredient….1/2 tsp Almond Extract.
Beverage- Cheribundi Cherry Juice. I’m not gonna lie, this stuff is pretty pricey but I find the flavor delicious! Maybe it’s just label persuasion, but I swear if I drink four 8oz servings through the week my joints actually do feel better as the product implies. I tend to purchase the “lite” version when available.
Favorite “new to me” Chef- Neal McTighe . I had the pleasure of meeting Neal at a community outreach program at Dickinson College that I was invited to by a dear friend who’s an alum. My friend and I had no idea what to expect from this particular event that was called “Italy in a Jar”, but what the heck it was free and appeared to involve food! Once seated with a glass of Italian Wine and a few nibbles provided by the Dickinson staff we got to meet and hear the story behind the creator and founder of Nello’s Sauces, a red hot Italian Pasta Sauce Company that’s beginning to appear in shelves all over the place such as Wholefoods, Kroger, Harris Teeter, etc. Even the mail-order meal company, Plated, has begun to provide Nello’s Sauce with their dinner kits. Neal’s rise from Dickinson college student with limited Italian language skills, to teacher of Italian, to Pasta Sauce Chef extraordinaire is not only interesting (“click” on his name above to get to Nello’s website and read all about it) but inspiring too as it is a stunning example of someone pursuing their passion. After the talk, we all gathered into the college kitchen where Neal gave us sauce making tips (do you know the best canned tomatoes to use?) and prepared a huge pot of Pasta with Nello’s Marinara Sauce. I went home with a jar Nello’s sauce laced with lavender which was scrumptious! Ironically, Nello’s Sauce isn’t found near Dickinson College as of yet (closest in probably Wholefoods towards Philly?) but I have my fingers crossed.
Favorite “new to me” Winery- Grace Estate Winery . Like so many other things in 2016, I didn’t get to as many wineries (VA mostly) as I’d would’ve liked or usually do throughout a year. I’m awfully glad my two favorite girls and I were able to get to Grace Estate! Tasting Room-great, Wines-tasty, Outdoor seating and views-lovely. Don’t miss this one when you’re in the Charlottesville area. Look at my blog post from Nov 2016 for more photos of some Charlottesville area wineries visited this past year.
Favorite “new to me” Restaurant-Cosima, Baltimore MD I loved this place! Baltimore really has some gems and Cosima is at the top of my list. Look at my post from September 2016 titled “Charmed, I’m Sure” for further details on this and a few other places I discovered in the Charm City this past year.
Just Plain Delicious- Zunzi’s, Savannah GA I blogged about my trip to Savannah in July (“Oh, Savannah”) which provided details of my culinary experiences. Zunzi’s was without a doubt the “funnest” food I had. Truly coming out of a hole in the wall, you stand in line to order absolutely delicious South African (and a few other countries) concoctions. The “Oliver’s Lunch” shown below really is just plain delicious! Take a look at their website. You can order some of their sauces and Zunzi gear.
Favorite “new to me” recipe-Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives . I guess I must’ve cut this out of a Cooking Light magazine in 2007 but didn’t get around to making it until this past year. I made up for lost time though, because I bet I’ve made this succulent dish at least a dozen times in the past 12 months. It’s that good. Atypically for me, I follow this recipe to a tee except for the cilantro- I never add the Cilantro. Originally I thought 1 hour seemed to be a heck of a long time to simmer chicken thighs but they turn out perfect after a long, slow simmer. Please note that this is a Cooking Light recipe so it won’t infringe on any New Year’s resolution.
Life Time Achievement Award-Shrimp Spread. The LTAA this year has to go to the family Shrimp Spread recipe featured in my blog post “History, It’s in the Making” April 2016 and dedicated to my dad who passed away last February. I can now say that this recipe has gotten my family through the best of times and worst of times. It’s been served at countless parties and holidays to include this year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom also made it for my Dad’s Military Honors Ceremony and following Reception as a tribute and sweet remembrance of a great husband, father, Officer and gentleman.
So there you have it- the Musing Awards for 2016. Please be so kind as to “click” on a few of the websites I have highlighted. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on any of the award recipients and would be honored if you’d pass this post to anyone you think might be interested.
I truly hope 2017 brings you all happiness, peace and a multitude of culinary adventures. Next up for me is the Culinary Immersion Weekend at the Omni Bedford Springs!
“They say I need to be seasoned; they say I need to be stewed. They say, ‘We need to boil all the hope out of him — like us — and then he’ll be ready’.”- Barack Obama while campaigning in 2008
Unplanned culinary adventures are the best! What started out as a weekend in the Charm City to attend “Jazz in the Sculpture Garden” at the beloved Baltimore Museum of Art turned into a food extravaganza. It was so darn hot that the Jazz had to move indoors and doing anything else outside was out of the question. Since we were staying both Friday and Saturday nights at the Inn at the Colonnade, our go-to lodging while visiting the BMA, we had lots of inside time to fill and what better way than to try out some different eateries.
To be clear, my favorite area in Baltimore is not the Inner Harbor area. I much prefer the charm in the Hampden neighborhood near BMA and John Hopkins University Homewood Campus. Usually we leisurely walk through campus to get to the BMA through the sculpture garden, but I would have none of it this time. UBER was an easy and relatively inexpensive way to go this particular weekend with the exception of lunch on Saturday which was right next to the hotel. Are you ready? Let’s get started…..
Upon arrival at the hotel, we lazed around while researching dinner options for the evening. I decided on Cosima and I certainly was not disappointed! Actually finding the entrance was an adventure in itself as our UBER driver had no choice but to drop us off at the top of a steep cobblestone drive that appeared to go to the back of a warehouse. A young gal had also just been dropped off and was just as confused as to where we could enter as we were. Not to be deterred, I took the lead, boldly went down to the depths of that cobblestone, turned right and behold, there was the busy front door (although in the back!) of one of my new favorite restaurants.
Cosima was hopping when we arrived for our 9PM reservation. I was pleased with the décor that was able to exude coziness while still having that made-over Industrial Warehouse vibe (go, you’ll see what I mean). We quickly ordered the meats and cheeses to enjoy with our cocktails and the server in turn brought a basket of crusty bread. Next came the very exciting raw Swordfish you see above. All our food was outstanding with my entrée of Slow Cooked Pork Ribs, also shown above, being my absolute favorite. Go to Cosima while in Baltimore…you’ll like it!
The heat continued it’s vengeance into Saturday when we were informed via email the Jazz wouldn’t be in the Sculpture Garden after all. That being the case, my weekend partner slept until noon (truly not an unusual occurrence) and upon waking after thorough research on my part, I suggested we go literally next door to the…wait for it…VEGETARIAN Restaurant called One World Café. In full disclosure, I totally ignored this place in the past because I had no idea it had an absolutely adorable FULL bar. Who can’t eat Vegetarian with Wine or a Bloody Mary? Fortunately my guy was up for it so we took the across-the-street trek to what ended up being veggie heaven.
Looks are deceiving and to be honest I had always thought One World Cafe was pretty much a free trade coffee place and little more. Also since we both are carnivores at heart (although I did practice Meatless Mondays the entirety of 2015), vegetarian establishments don’t stand out as usual dining options. I’m so glad we decided to live life on the edge and go to OWC! The Black Bean Soup shown at the tippy-top was superb and my eggplant pita was just as hearty as any meatladen sandwich. I even went crazy and had a shot of carrot juice for 2 bucks. Check out their FB page for other photos and menu.
After lunch/brunch I had the rest of the afternoon to watch Lifetime Movies (yes, a favorite pass time of mine only to be out done by Hallmark Movies) and figure out where my next meal was coming from. Reservations were made for 9:30 at the Food Market.
After a fine Jazz concert (unfortunately inside as you know) we took the short UBER ride over to the Food Market and for the 2nd evening in a row were extremely impressed with our meals. My Scallops Deluxe were awesome. I might have trouble ordering something different if I were to go again. I loved the quaint bar at the front of the restaurant and was pleased I could get a glass of a dry Rose while waiting for our table.
Sunday morning and check-out time came far too soon ( in our world that’s noon). Typically on the drive home we stop at a Diner for breakfast/brunch. This trip we decided to get food before leaving the city limits and in doing so came across the absolutely best restaurant find of the weekend! Make no mistake, Johnny’s Restaurant is billed as a diner although after finding the place among some lovely houses it’s evident why it’s description contains the word upscale. Possibly for the first time in my blogging career I was so engrossed in my brunch dish I didn’t even think to take a picture. “Johnny’s Loco Fried Rice” has officially become one of my best brunch foods ever. So much so, I’ve made my own version for breakfast twice since visiting. The Mr. was pleased to be able to order an omelette with his chosen ingredients and his side of Merquez Chicken Sausage was very tasty. I’m going to Johnny’s again, soon, and this time for dinner….can’t wait!
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song over hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world”-J.R.R.Tolkien
As anyone who’s been or wants to visit knows, Savannah is an absolutely beautiful city. To that end, many photos have been taken of the famous fountain, the Bird Girl of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” fame and the historic Squares with trees draped in Spanish Moss. I took those pics too but I feel it’s my duty as a Food and Drink Blogger to submit to you original photos of the culinary side of Savannah. So sit back, relax and experience a “taste” of Savannah my way…..
http:zunzis.com Zunzi’s is truly a hole-in-the-wall where you line up to get spectacular South African food. Savannah has an open liquor law so we could order beers with our lunch and then imbibe in the closest tree lined square.
http://www.elizabethon37th.net/ Elizabeth’s on 37th is in a Grand Victorian Mansion that is as lovely as it’s food is delicious.
http://thegreyrestaurant.com We went to The Grey our last night in Savannah and must I say there’s nothing like saving the best for last. A restored Greyhound Bus Terminal is the backdrop for this spectacular restaurant. The food was outstanding as well as creative. A must stop if you’re in Savannah.
http://www.local11ten.com/ Local 11 Ten was our first meal in Savannah and boy what a welcome. The food was great and the after dinner glass of Port on the rooftop bar called the “Perch” was sublime.
I would be be remiss in not mentioning we did other things in Savannah besides eating and drinking (Telfair Art Museums being one of them…don’t miss! www.telfair.org). For lodging, I highly recommend The Mansion on Forsyth (a Marriott brand for all you rewards members www.mansiononforsythpark.com). In my mind, it’s perfectly situated at the end of the historic district away from the more touristy area. The decor is artsy if not a bit “kitschy” but I like that.
I’d go back to Savannah in a heart beat, but fair warning it was HOT and Muggy even in late April. Next time I might try late March.
As an Army Brat, an Officer’s daughter no less, one of my Mom’s jobs as so many other Officer’s wives was to entertain. We had lots of Cocktail Parties, Sit-Down Dinners, Luncheons and Teas at our home wherever we were stationed. That being said, I became interested at a young age in the art of entertaining. I also picked up one of my Mom’s habits that has defined me in oh so many ways! You see, just as my mother before me, with each and every social ocassion I host, I produce an “Index Card” that not only lists what I served, but what I liked, what I didn’t, who was invited and what notable occurances happened before, during or sometimes after. They became a historical record of sorts that through the years has served as a remembrance for me of days gone by. I can tell you for instance that I made Chicken with Bell Pepper and Onion Confit (Bon Appetit September 2001 Issue) for my Mom’s birthday dinner 3 days after the Attacks of 9/11. It is documented that my son had Hardee’s Chicken for four birthdays in a row (ages 3-6), yet by the time he turned 12 his tastes had become so refined that I prepared Pepper-Seared Tenderloin w/Horseradish Cream. According to my index card that same sweet boy used the “F” word in front of his grandparents at my Dad’s 80th Birthday (hopefully the Sausage Ratatouille I made buffered the shock). My index cards fit perfectly in a sweet pastel basket where 35 years of entertaining is recorded. I’ll admit, I’ve missed an ocassion or two here or there and some cards lack detail compared to others. By and large though, the cards tell a lot about my family’s past.
A few statistics:
I have 204 recorded occasions. ( I know this is where you that know me are trying to tally how many parties you were invited to!)
I’ve hosted 18 Ladies Luncheons and Teas. The first one was the luncheon I had for my Bridesmaids in April of 1981 where I served my sure to be famous Ham and Egg Roulade which I have never made again! According to the card though, it was delicious and appeared in “Home Entertaining” magazine.
40 parties were Christmas parties (yes, some years I’ve had more than one) and remarkably I’ve had several Labor Day get togethers.
Of those Christmas/Holiday Parties, I served Shrimp Spread 22 times not to mention the countless other times as well. This brings me to the other portion of this post….
The Shrimp Spread
Apparently not all families serve “our” Shrimp Spread as a matter of routine. I know for a fact that it became a family staple for us in 1969 when my Dad was stationed in Fort Sill Oklahoma. The “Guided Missle Department Cookbook” was a collection of recipes contributed by the wives and was housed in a two-ringed binder with a bright red cover and is where this coveted appetizer first appeared. Somehow my mom is no longer is in possession of this publication, but no matter as the glorious Shrimp Spread recipe has been rewritten, shared and republished many times over. When friends come over for repeat visits they immediately look for the Shrimp Spread. Who knew canned shrimp (always use the tiny or broken, mushed up!) could be the base for shellfish heaven? I’ve shared the recipes more times than I can count and the recipe now appears in several local Cookbooks either submitted by me or a friend I shared it with. Amazingly, I poured through 60 Shrimp Dip/Spreads on the “AllRecipes” website and not a one was precisely the same as “ours”.
I’m not gonna lie, as I’ve written before, I don’t make ANY recipe exactly as written. In this case when I double the recipe (and I always double the recipe!) I adjust some of the ingredients upward (hint, hint you can always use a bit more egg). I use green onion and I truly believe fresh parsley is a must although I know one particularly picky friend of mine who loves this stuff uses onion powder and dried parsley.
In my other life as a Contract Negotiator, we were constantly reminded that “documentation is key”. I strongly believe this is the case in our personal lives as well. Be it through writings, photographs, recordings, momentos or simply memories engraved in our minds, holding on to those experiences one way or another gives us a sense of family, friendship and belonging.
This blog post is dedicated to my dad who passed away on February 5 2016. A true Officer and Gentleman who shared my passion for collecting memories and experiencing life through his tastebuds. You will be forever missed.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve planned a vacation to Paris and it was canceled because of a Terrorist Attack I’d have…well, a nickel and that is exactly what I have! Abhorrent timing made the trip my daughter and I planned for months disappear that awful Friday. We were supposed to depart for Paris on Saturday. Instead, we spent the morning frantically canceling what we could and keeping a close watch on what was happening to the beloved city of Paris. When it became clear that our European vacation was not to be, we decided to quickly put together a State-side alternative that became affectionately known as the Non-Paris Vacation……. new destination: the State of Virginia.
Let me just say that the Old Dominion State was very kind to us and made it very easy to enjoy ourselves without wallowing in self-pity for the Paris vacation that wasn’t. Our first stop was the Sassafras Shade Vineyard just off I-95 on our way to Richmond. It’s certainly worth a stop to taste the wines from this relatively new winery. www.sassafrasshade.com
After enjoying some Rose’ we headed to Richmond to spend one glorious night at the historic Jefferson Hotel. I’ve wanted to stay at The Jefferson for years and timing for this visit was perfect. A Sunday night stay in mid-November is quite affordable, not very crowded and the accomodations are superb. We ate dinner in their upscale Restaurant “Lemaire” (it sounds French, doesn’t it?) which was delicious. I also must note that I had the best peanuts ever while sipping my Dirty Martini in the Lounge…..Smoked, but not with a spice coating on them, just smoked. If anyone knows where I can purchase such a delight, PLEASE leave a comment! Make sure to take a look at the website to get an idea of how lovely this place truly is. http://www.jeffersonhotel.com/
Monday in Richmond included a perfectly delightful visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts where we went directly to the French wing in order to keep with the Paris theme of our vacation. While my heart will always remain with the Baltimore Museum of Art where I am a member, the VMFA is an exceptional attraction. Admission costs nothing yet the artwork is vast and of excellent caliber. In an amazing stroke of luck, the Cafe in VMFA is called Amuse and is french themed. We had their version of French 75 Cocktails for Lunch which only added to our quest for Parisian ambience.
After a few more stops in Richmond and a return visit to Saude Creek Winery http://saudecreek.com/ (love that place), we made the short trip to Colonial Williamsburg where we would be spend two fun-filled days and nights at the Williamsburg Lodge.
I could go on and on about our short stay in Revolutionary City. Let me just say that the week before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to visit the historic site. There are no crowds! We had our own private tour of the Governor’s Palace. We sipped hot chocolate in one of the Colonial Homes while discussing King George with a Pastor and played a gambling game with a housekeeper in another. But I digress, this blog is about food and drink.
Fat Canary http://www.fatcanarywilliamsburg.com is located in Merchant Square at the tip of Revolutionary City. Within easy walking distance from the Williamsburg Lodge, FC is an outstanding restaurant in my opinion. Our dinner there was extremely enjoyable and enhanced with a Bottle of Moët Champagne as we were supposed to have been touring the Moët & Chandon Cellars http://www.moet.com that very day had we been in Paris.
I credit my daughter in finding the perfect venue for our Wednesday night stay…..The Inn at Warner Hall. Again, I can’t say enough about traveling the week before Thanksgiving (and mid-week no less). It allowed us to reserve the lovely Washington Suite in this beautiful 11-room Inn. The Chef on site was not preparing a served meal the evening we stayed so we opted for the Cold Supper Basket that suited us just fine as we ate it by our in-suite fireplace. Shrimp Cocktail, Salad with Poached Salmon, Quinoa Salad and a Chocolate Terrine were just some of the deliciousness in our basket! We even had a glass of French Wine at the adorable boathouse that is on the property as well. Consider this charming Inn for a Special Occasion or when your European Vacation gets postponed….I’m glad we did! http://www.warnerhall.com/
After a made-to-order breakfast at the Inn the next morning, we headed to our final destination: a three-night stay at my beloved Tides Inn http://www.tidesinn.com. If you’re familiar with my blog, you already know how I feel about the Tides…….it’s a jewel. I highly recommend an Autumn stay, especially the weekend of the Taste of the Bay festival (this was the 3rd Annual). The Festival is held on the premises which makes staying there all the better. Tastings of Food, Wine, Beer and Ale are plentiful not to mention a sundry of arts and crafts. The surroundings of the Tides Inn are glorious and the weather was absolutely perfect which made this particular stay fabulous. In addition to attending Taste of the Bay, this visit we did a few new things such as toured the Christ Church, took a Cove Cruise and finally ate breakfast at the Car Wash Cafe in Kilmarnock! The Northern Neck area is a great place to visit in Virginia I tell you!
Although our hearts were heavy with the realization of what had happened to the people of Paris and the extended terror threats in Brussels (the last leg of our planned European trip) we really had a great alternative trip State-side. Paris- We WILL see you in the Spring.
We should feel sorrow, but not sink in its oppression- Confucious
Family health issues kept my culinary adventures close to home for the last couple of months. That being said I thought it perhaps was time to rewind, recap and share some of my summer highlights that involved my passion for food and drink. Here goes:
-I got a fitbit. It’s proved to be not only helpful in tracking my steps, but also has energized my garden and kitchen prep to a new level! I find my self purposely making multiple trips to my 2nd fridge just in order to chalk up additional steps. Outside, I pace back and forth taking one watering can at a time to water my edibles just to trick my device into thinking I’m actually working out. Heck, I even wander through the house with cheese and cracker in hand to get to my step goal (hey 10K steps a day is HUGE ala Republican candidate for President Donald Trump). I had two dear friends over for lunch a few weeks ago and I told them of the night before when I walked through my hallway, all after sipping 3 rather large glasses of wine, just so I could get my last few hundred steps in. I’m starting to consider myself an athlete and may compete if Iron Chef ever becomes an Olympic sport.
-I feel I got the very most out of my garden this year and for that matter I still have stuff coming. Certainly not a fresh herb has been purchased for the last three months and my usual household of two easily stayed stocked with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, chard and various other greens. Naturally, I made some of my by now famous spice mixture, Jen Blen (in dried/packaged and fresh form) and I also created and dried a limited edition signature blend simply called “Thanksgiving”. I added potpourri to the mix this year by creating a blend I call “Sweet MariAnnie”. I’d like to thank “Everyday with Rachel Ray”http://RACHELRAYMAG.COM September 2015 edition page 39″Make a great Impression” for the great idea/inspiration for the tiles I made.
-As always, I was able to make a few visits to my most favorite local restaurants that I’ve posted about previously: Boiling Springs Tavern http://www.boilingspringstavern.com, Restaurant Sidney www.restaurantsidney.com, and Fidler and Company Craft Kitchen http://fidlerandcompany.com. I’m happy that Carlisle PA has added a few new eating spots downtown. While I haven’t been moved yet to actually include in a blog post, I think Brick Kitchen and Bar http://www.brickcarlisle.com and 1794 The Whiskey Rebellion http:// www.comfortsuitescarlisle.com/1794 are certainly worth a visit.
-I had delicious food at EAT-an American Bistro in Virginia Beach http://www.eatbistro.net . While down by the Oceanfront, EAT doesn’t have a touristy feeling at all. I’ll definitely go again when in the area. Speaking of Virginia Beach, we vacationed at Sandbridge Beach for the first time this summer. We were so pleased with our rental at Sanctuary Condos and equally happy with the establishment right across the street, Baja Restaurant http://bajasandbridge.com…….lots of good food and drink. My favorite Winery visit this summer was probably at Morais Vineyards in Bealeton VA http://www.moraisvineyards.com. The wines are Portuguese style and quite delicious with Touriga being one of my favorites. Heck even the so sweet but very “port-ish” Cherry Wine is good. I really like that the tasting includes food pairings. It makes the experience all that more fun. The setting at Morais is lovely as well. I highly recommend.
-Edible Landscaping continued to be a real treat for me during the summer months. Corn grown in the midst of of the flowers along with zucchinii created a Ornamental Grass effect that I really liked. I was even able to save myself 5 bucks by making my own corn stalks at the end of the season. Celebrity and Mortgage Lifter tomato varieties (just one plant each) did great and looked smashing among the Beebalm with a few Giant Marigolds added for color and pest control. The Herb garden was (still is) awesome this year and provided me with the freshest tasting recipes ever.
-Speaking of recipes, I subscribed to one those mail-order fresh ingredient meal delivery companies. The one I use is “Plated”. I like it because I can opt for an every-other week delivery, pick my own menus and I can block out weeks for non-delivery anytime I wish. Some of you who follow me on Facebook might’ve seen some of my “Meatless Monday” pics. Plated is definitely for those who like to cook, but want to have someone else do the shopping every now and then. I invite you to take a look at the website https://www.plated.com/
As summer has come to a close, I hope to post a tad more frequently and certainly intend to add more fun and frolic! Until then, may we all be mindful of the quote below:
Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.
– Author Unknown