Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

lunch

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!

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Park Cafe Delivers Big Flavor and Urban Sophistication

I decided to spend Labor Day morning exploring this pleasant restaurant’s breakfast options. The results were more than delicious, especially the Danish pastries which were served hot out of the oven with fresh blueberry jam. For more about the restaurant, click on the link below which will take you to my new blog at The Permanent Tourist Charleston.

Park Cafe's Danish delights.

Park Cafe’s Danish delights.

 

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/big-apple-meets-chucktown/

Bon appetit!

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Savoring Savannah One Step at a Time

The San Bernadino Omelette at J. Christopher's in Savannah, GA

Getting to know a beautiful, old city anew is a little bit like falling in love, I think. First, there is the initial attraction, that pull from the gut that tells you this one is special and the overwhelming sense that this one will last. Then, there are all of those exciting yet nerve-wracking firsts – the first cup of coffee, the first moonlit walk,  the first romantic dinner, the first kiss – each one hopefully building upon the next to confirm a mutual and enduring adoration.

So, it is, that I find myself in the early stages of  getting to know and love Savannah. I spent most of last week there walking downtown and Forsythe Park (near my hotel) with my accommodating and sweet dog companion, Tann Mann. Together, we were getting reaquainted with this most lovely of cities. The goal was to get the lay of the land, study,  and find restaurants and eateries that looked interesting and good – worthy of inclusion in some upcoming books I’m writing about Savannah and her food scene. At times, it was hard to make headway. It seems Savannah is plum-full of friendly dog lovers.  There were times when I couldn’t advance three feet with little Tann Mann without being stopped, all ooh’s and ah’s, from the canine adoring crowds. Tann Mann, who has mastered the “high five,” started doing it spontaneously as the groups circled him, flailing his little paw greedily to hands that hadn’t even yet been extended.

As we walked the beautiful,  live oak and Spanish moss draped squares designed by Savannah’s visionary founder, James Edward Ogelthorpe, we literally inhaled the palpable history and soul of Savannah. And so, the first steps towards falling head over heels were taken.

All of this walking (as was part of the intent), builds an appetite, so we stopped to sate it, morning, noon, night and several times in-between. On this first visit, it was the breakfast and lunch stops that most impressed – ah, that first cup of coffee!

Clary’s Cafe is the kind of place that recalls the world as it used to be, an old-school diner where you can practically imagine spotting Andy Griffith downing some honey pecan waffles while he chats up Barney Fife about the latest smalltown scuffle. Real and delicious chunky house made corned beef hash prepared with slow cooked brisket ($9.99), blintzes, and hoppel poppel (scrambled eggs with Kosher salami and more), are all scrumptious nods to the cafe’s Jewish origins.  Inside rambles in true diner style with the requisite long counter and glass refrigerator with assorted pies, and outside metal tables and chairs invite with pale green and white laminate tablecloths – oh, and a doggy bowl full of cool, iced water.

A little further into the center of downtown, there are two neighboring hot breakfast/lunch spots that, like Clary’s, are well-worth a visit when appetite calls.  Both are on different “sides” (one is east, the other is west) of pretty, broad and inviting Liberty Street. J. Christopher’s serves heaping plates of breakfast goodness (see the San Bernadino omelette, $8.59,  pictured) with glowing, happy smiles from the super amiable service staff. The griddle puts out some seriously amazing cakes – from the stellar bluebarry crunchcakesl laced with granola and  berries to the chocolate chipcakes. There are many choices across many spectrums – skillets, burgers, sandwiches, crepes, omelettes – and many are spiced with Southwestern ingredients, such as the avocado and pico de gallo in the recommended San Bernadino omellete.

Soho South Cafe is a sunny, Bohemian haunt that is equal parts art studio and restaurant. This is “where food is an art,” afterall! There is truth in those logo words.  The chunky, creamy tomato basil soup ($3.75, cup, $5.50, bowl)  comes out steaming hot with a just-right dusting of fresh basil and the grilled salmon blt ($11.75)  served on grilled challah with a fresh herb mayonnaise, bacon, arugula and tomato is worth many return visits. Inside is delightful with artfully scattered benches, umbrellas, mirrors and paintings. Ah – the first kiss!

Looking forward to many more delightful firsts in lovely Savannah. We’ll keep you posted:)

Clary’s Cafe, 443 Abercorn Street, historic district, Savannah. (912) 233-0402. There is a second location at 4430 Habersham, (912) 351-0302.

Soho South Cafe, 12 W. Liberty Street, historic district, Savannah; (912) 233-1633. www.sohosouthcafe.com.

J. Christopher’s, 122 E. Liberty Street, historic district, Savannah; (912) 236-7494. www.jchristophers.com.

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Woodland’s Still Wonderful

Local Bibb Lettuce Salad with Smoked Bacon, Blue Cheese, Toasted Cashews and Buttermilk Dressing

As far back as I can remember, Woodland’s Inn has had an extreme knack for finding stellar kitchen talent. From Ken Vedrinski to Scott Crawford to Nate Whiting, Woodland’s always has put an elegant and delicious spin on classical cooking. The inn’s latest executive chef, Andrew Chadwick, is no exception.

However, unlike in days past, he’s been given the green light to oversee not just the more formal Dining Room and catering, but also the Pines Bar and Cafe, a more casually priced “all day dining” (it’s actually only open from 2:30 – 9:30 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday), and an almost identical menu for The Dining Room’s lunch service (11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Wednesday – Saturday). Very smart thinking, I say, on the part of new owner Johnny Linton, overseer of one of only six North American retainers of the Forbes’ Five Star and AAA’s Five Diamond rating for both food and lodging.  It’s high time that Woodland’s lighten up just a tad, especially in the price department which seemed especially prohibitive during the dark, dark days of the great recession.
While the Pines Cafe and Bar, located just off the main dining room,  makes for a nice alternative for a late afternoon bite or less extravagant dinner, for lunch, my money says go to The Dining Room. The lunch menu is exactly the same and even a little bit lighter on the wallet; all served in the sunny, airy, elegant confines of the floral and wood splashed dining room.
That’s what I did yesterday, and, despite multiple reports from friends that the restaurant had slipped, I found that not to be the case at all.  If anything, the room feels a bit more spacious, and the service staff less rigid. They could still loosen up just a bit. The ultra hushed tones and kind, but slightly affected, frosty formality took away from the experience, making it feel more like a visit to a morgue than a friendly table. However, you have to love a server that addresses you as “my lady” and all service interaction was professional and informed in the areas of both food and wine.
Lunch began with a basket of heaven-sent bread, including warm, crumbly and irresistable fig and toasted hazelnut biscuits with two different flavored butters. The biscuits begged for the sweetness of the honey and pecan butter, while the soft, chewy, warm sourdough practically screamed for the straightforward fresh, soft butter. The basket left the table all but empty, setting the indulgent tempo for the remainder of the meal. Peach tea came unsweetened with a choice of sweeteners and a generous wedge of fresh orange for squeezing and had me reaching for more – especially with those warm little biscuits.
Chadwick’s penchant for garden fresh, local produce was especially evident in the first courses. The buttery, pale lime and milk colored Bibb lettuce salad (pictured, $9) were beautiful, velvetty, and unblemished.  Each leaf was gently stacked upon the other and drizzled with chunks of salty, seared bacon, toasted, slightly sweet cashews,  and a very mild, round blue cheeses. Delicate dollops of a gorgeous buttermilk dressing providing the loving, finishing touches to this 100% perfect salad.  A frothy, steaming hot  puree of roasted tomatoes and cream were ladled, table-side over a bed of crunchy sourdough croutons and a chiffonade of fresh basil in the lovely tomato bisque ($9).
This Boston girl loves lobster and often dreams of the lobster rolls of the summer Maine vacations of my youth. The Dining Room’s lunchtime take ( Maine lobster BLT,$19), on the classic is an unfettered winner which features chunks of sweet lobster and a dusting of bacon barely cloaked in mayonnaise and fresh herbs sandwiched between Texas-sized brioche toasts. The grilled lamb burger ($16) afforded a sweet taste of spring in the fragrant, grilled lamb coated with a layer of very smooth, fresh, feta. Both came served with fresh-from-the-fryer fries, christened with the extra flavor and crunch that only duck fat can deliver.
The restaurant also offers a three-course “business lunch” ($21) that currently includes Woodland’s classic caesar salad, pecan crusted chicken with Parmesan potato puree and a sundried cherry jus, and a dessert “announced by your server”. I’m happy to announce that The Woodland’s Inn is on track with its record for fine food and wine and is offering both at a more varied price point than ever, making it a more realistic and ever-delicious dining option for those possessing haute taste and more modest budgets.
The Dining Room at Woodland’s Inn
125 Parsons Road, Summerville
(843) 308-2115
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