Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

Exploring Charleston

Charleston is an inspirational city. One of the world’s top tourist destinations and my home. Come with me as I share my meanderings around this, my beloved city. We’ll visit and explore and you’ll get my insights into what is best to see and do in Charleston.

Seeing Charleston with New Eyes

A Fresh Take on an Old Friend

No matter how wonderful, perfect, or beautiful a person, place (i.e. Charleston), job, relationship, or just about anything starts out, it’s easy to take any of these for granted and fail to really see or recognize why you fell in love with them in the first place. Stress, rushing, bad attitude and plain old not stopping to smell the roses can take its toll on perspective.  As wonderful as the last two years have been in my life, they have been very busy. So busy, I was starting to feel grumpy and rushed about too many things, including the city I fell in love with at first sight and have called home for nearly twenty years. Recognizing this, I made a personal vow to take some time to recharge my spirit, mind, soul, take better care of my health, and more time with family, friends and my pets.

Nearly two months into my self-prescribed recharge initiative,  I’ve lost seven pounds, am sleeping better than ever, feeling extra creative and productive, and enjoying life and Charleston with renewed vigor. The other day, while walking down East Bay Street near Broad, the morning sun lovingly cast upon the mostly 19th-century roof lines, it seemed as if I had never seen them, really seen them, in their purest and most tangible form as I did at that moment. Later that same week, a friend I haven’t seen in thirty years came to town for a visit.  Turns out, Deb and I are in the same place; re-assessing our lives and priorities. She’s looking for potential new places to live (at least part time), so thought she’d give Charleston a whirl. Naturally, I found myself wanting to show Charleston off, and in a most unexpected and delicious turn of events,  ended up with a renewed appreciation for my hometown.

Friday morning began with a brisk walk on the beach with my dog Rocky and a spin by Bowen’s Island restaurant to show Deb the tumbledown seafood shack that embodies Charleston and especially Folly Beach with mollusk and hush puppy aplomb. She spied something I never had before, Charleston Outdoor Adventures and kayak tours. I’d never been on a kayak and had never even known about this location for taking them So, we signed up! I felt as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve.  Next stop, was a walking tour downtown, and lunch at one of my personal favorites, Little Jack’s Tavern. I felt compelled to introduce Deb to the justifiably famous Little Jack’s Tavern Burger and the cool vibes of this neat little cosmopolitan spot with cheerful Charleston charm.  All juicy and packed with flavor and glazed with its signature, secret sauce, it somehow seemed to taste better than ever as we laughed our way through thirty years of memories, some shared and some lived individually and shared over the meal and throughout the weekend.

Little Jack’s Tavern Burger, petite but packs a powerful flavor and texture punch.

A warm summer Friday night for two baseball fans seemed like a fitting way to wrap the afternoon at Joe Riley Baseball Park for some all American fun and (as Deb was hoping) a possible Bill Murray sighting.  Well, the latter didn’t happen, but a magnificent pink and purple and blue cotton candy sunset did over the marshes at the rear of the park and we watched the likes of players with names like Gage Cunning (fodder for my novel’s lead character’s name) smash the ball around the park and mascots bumping into each other and acting silly. Beer and brisket sandwiches provided sustenance for our bellies, while the charming little park, feel-good sports fans, a rocking fireworks display, and witty banter fed our souls.

Good times at The Joe.

Saturday arrived in a flash and I was up before dawn preparing the our kayak tour with Charleston Outdoor Adventures.  A quick tutorial with our handsome guide Josh and we were in the saltwater estuary waters behind Folly Beach. A rocky glide across open water went fairly well until our group of five kayak pros and kayak virgin me tried to negotiate our way through a narrow, serpentine slip of water. I felt like I was leaving an aorta and entering a capillary as my poor boat lined itself up horizontally in the flow, nose and tail firmly plugged into the marsh grasses. I was motionless, breathless, and slightly scared.  None the less, I was not too proud to flail my oar in the air and meekly cry “help” to the group three turns farther down the path.  Josh arrived like the kayak savior he was, pulling out a large hook and line to attach to the tip of my kayak.  “Oh my God, you’re not my own personal kayak tugboat are you, Josh?” Yes, was the response, but don’t worry it wasn’t the first time.

Seriously humbled and blushed with shame and exertion, eventually I was able to figure out how to negotiate the rudder pedals and re-joined the group in the open waters, just in time to catch a grounded old shrimping boat and a pod of dolphins.   Josh explained that female dolphins (what we were witnessing) typically live sixty years, while males live only fifty. The pristine world where we were watching them play was custom made for their lifestyle and playground, largely created and protected by the barrier islands that surround Charleston. It was a morning I’ll not soon forget and my arm and shoulder muscles, three days later, still possess significant recall.

Charleston Outdoor Charleston Outdoor Adventures is an eco-friendly outdoor activities resource center located on Folly Beach.

Later that day, we headed back into town for a ride with Ross of Palmetto Carriage through the French Quarter and lower peninsula.  Probably my 20th carriage tour, I learned some things I didn’t know, such as how a boat had smashed into two houses on East Bay during the hurricane of 1911, completely destroying them, and reminded myself again how beautiful the old mansions look in the ebbing light of day, cool afternoon breezes refreshing our spirits anew. There was more on our robust to-do list that got done, such as a “sip and stroll” to The Pavilion Bar, Anson, and The Blind Tiger, and breakfast at The Hominy Grill Sunday morning, enjoying what surely must be the best shrimp and grits and she crab soup in town, if not the entire world.

After eating Hominy Grill’s exquisitely simple and pure shrimp and grits, Deb declared she’s never eating farm raised shrimp again.

Three nights, two and a half days, several great meals, a massive lightning storm, Thursday night book club with delicious food and great gals, even more great adventures, and I don’t know how many laughs later,  I’d re-found two friends. A Charleston I had partly forgotten and a friendship of thirty years refreshed.  And, Deb made a new friend in my little puppy, Rocky Rocken Roll, who practically would not let her go home.

Rocky giving hugs to his new best friend.

 

Lesson learned – remember to savor life and take no moments, no place, or no one for granted. And, when  you come to or visit Charleston, savor all she has to offer.

Bon appetit!

Holly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

“Holly”-Day Foodie Shopping List Helper

A Few of  My Favorite Things

It’s hard to believe Christmas is already less than two weeks away and that holiday shopping season is well underway in its typical mid-December fervor.  A friend of mine was  opining yesterday on Facebook about her growing apathy towards the whole commercial side of the holidays, and I have to agree with her. At times, the task of finding and giving affordable and meaningful gifts to the loved ones in our lives can seem daunting and overwhelming – especially with so many different things to buy and from so many different online and retail sources. Especially as we get older and more seasoned by the season, the more important it becomes to find a meaningful gift for each person on your list. So, in a hopeful effort to streamline and simplify your shopping tasks for the Charleston-loving, foodie/chef in your life, I’ve compiled a short list of some of my favorite things that are sure to please. These are certainly all things I would be happy to receive and to give and each and every one of them are homegrown right here in Charleston.

Middleton Made Knives

I’ve been admiring bladesmith Quintin Middleton’s hand-crafted, high carbon steel knives for years. Equal parts utilitarian and art, each knife is customized to order and meet the needs of the home or professional chef who will be putting it to use.  Not surprisingly, his tiny little business has morphed into a fast-growing enterprise and his beautiful knives can be found locally at Southern Season and Charleston Cooks! The price range is not for the timid of budget (sets and knives range from $100 – $820), but these are the kinds of knives that, when properfly maintained, will literally last a lifetime and deliver year after year of cooking joy. It’s too late to customize an order for Christmas and the holidays, but $100 gift certificates are available now at middletonmadeknives.com.

MIddleton Made Knives 6"- Damascus Chefs Knife. In a perfect world, this would be in my stocking Christmas morning.

MIddleton Made Knives 6″- Damascus Chef’s Knife. In a perfect world, this would be in my stocking Christmas morning.

Callie’s Charleston Biscuits

Another Charleston homegrown business, this one started in owner Carrie Morey mother’s kichen when mom Callie White was building her wildly successful catering business twenty years ago. Carrie picked up the rolling pin and the recipes where her mother left off and has grown the business into a nationally distributed brand. Still, the buttery, flaky southern staples, each and every one of them, taste as if they were just mixed and cut in the kitchen next door. The brand list now includes a seven-fold product line; my personal favorites include the impossibly chunky and simply authentic pimento cheese and bacon and cocktail ham biscuits. But, why stop there? Just in time for the holidays, Callie’s has packaged a Christmas Kit ‘n Caboodle bundle which includes both of the aforementioned treats, cheese and chive biscuits and Fat  & Juicy Bloody Mary Mix – all you really need to get through your holiday entertaining and early morning Christmas Day munchies for $79.95. This nifty package and all other products are available to order now at calliesbiscuits.com. Delivery dates can be set to fit your schedule.

Callie's Christmas Kit 'n Caboodle will satisfy the biscuit lover in your life in a big way - and then some.

Callie’s Christmas Kit ‘n Caboodle will satisfy the biscuit lover in your life in a big way – and then some.

Speaking of biscuits, did anyone say Big Fat Nasty?

In recent years, Charleston’s beloved Hominy Grill has reached national acclaim for its soulful, southern fare so perfectly executed in the hands of Chef/Owner and James Beard winner Robert Stehling. Of late, most seem to know “Hominy” from television and other reports on its staggering fried chicken, biscuit and gravy sandwich – The Big Fat Nasty.  But, I love it and always have loved it, for anything on the menu. Everything is astounding, whether you’re going for breakfast, lunch, dinner or the now epically popular weekend brunches. Try the vegetable plate or the shrimp and grits (the best in town, hands down) and at night, if you’re lucky, the corn pone and friend chicken will be on the menu. Chase it all with buttermilk pie or the darkest, smoothest richest chocolate pudding you’ll ever sample this side of heaven – both served with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. No visit to Charleston is complete without a visit to Hominy Grill. Why not get your loved one started with a $10 gift certificate (or buy a few!), one of HG’s signature, heavy-bottomed coffee mugs ($10.95) or a recipe book full of some of their most cherished memories ($12.95). All available now at hominygrill.com.

Hominy Grill's Recipe Book will become a staple in your HG and southern cooking fan's cookbook repetoire.

Hominy Grill’s Recipe Book will become a staple in your HG and southern cooking fan’s cookbook repetoire.

This suggested shopping list will be continued in the coming days with more ideas for your Charleston foodie’s shopping list just in time for the last safe mailing dates of the season. Until then, happy shopping, happy holidays, and remember to take the time to stop and savor Charleston’s magnificent holiday finery or a dashing, majestic winter sunset – gloriously gratis and wrapped with a big, fat, beautiful Lowcountry bow.

Bon appetit!

Share

Super Fun Times for Kids and Parents on Upper King Street

As I discuss in the link to this recent post below, there is a lot more to do in Charleston and specifically on super popular Upper King Street than eat. This part of town is packed with fun things to do with the family – for  not a lot of money. Here’s the link:

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/eight-action-packed-hours-of-pint-sized-fun-on-upper-king-street/

Magnifilous is just one stop on a list of fun things to do with the family on Charleston's Upper King Street.

Magnifilous is just one stop on a list of fun things to do with the family on Charleston’s Upper King Street.

Share

Good Food and Pets Welcome for Al Fresco Dining at Kitchen 208

You’ll enjoy this relatively new restaurant on Lower King Street (near Fulton Lane) in Charleston. Big, hearty, delicious breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch offerings, the restaurant also offers a warm welcome to furry friends on their spacious outside patio.

Kitchen 208's extra tasty Cobblestone sandwich is served all day.

Kitchen 208’s extra tasty Cobblestone sandwich is served all day.

 

Bon appetit!

Share

Francophile Alert!

A very authentic taste of France has arrived in Charleston. Chez Nous is authentic, charming and delicious. And, she joins a gaggle of tasty new French enterprises in town.

A recent sampling from Chez Nous' menu, which changes daily - swordfish in a tomato, garlic and saffron sauce with fresh min.

A recent sampling from Chez Nous’ menu, which changes daily – swordfish in a tomato, garlic and saffron sauce with fresh mint.

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

Share
Latest from the Blog
Books
Never Miss a Post!

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post or give-away.