Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

She crab soup

Forty-Five Minutes to Paradise at The Sanctuary

Destination Heaven for Lunch and a Beach Stroll at The Sanctuary’s Jasmine Porch – And a Book Give Away 

I’ve lived long enough to know, if you’re not careful,  that it’s too easy to take people, places and things for granted. Even more so, perhaps, living in beauty and nature-kissed Charleston. It’s one of the most popular vacation and wedding destinations in the world, yet it takes a visitor from out of town this weekend to remind me of Kiawah Island, a gorgeous barrier island just about forty-five minutes from greater Charleston. Though short in distance, the travel along live oak and Spanish moss canopied drives with sweeping marsh vistas delivers a transformation so complete that by the time you’ve passed through the gates to Kiawah, you feel like you’ve landed someplace divine and are shifted into extreme relaxation gear as if by osmosis.

Initially, we had planned to visit Kiawah’s public beach, but since it was lunch time, we decided to visit Jasmine Porch at The Sanctuary, a luxurious destination anytime of the year, but particularly welcome at the debut of the week and the off-season. The massive, early 19th-century inspired and elegant lobby with views of a sparkling Atlantic almost within reach felt almost like our own private mansion, so scarcely was it populated on a recent Monday early afternoon.

The elegant lobby at The Sanctuary invites with gracious hospitality, abundant fresh floral arrangements, and elegance at every turn.

Jasmine Porch is the sister restaurant to the ultra elegant Ocean Room and is situated on the ground floor at The Sanctuary off the main lobby. The food is described as Lowcountry bistro. Here, more than you might expect at a resort, the Lowcountry notes are strictly adhered to by purist and talented Chef Jeremiah Holst, who buys only from local (and seriously vetted) producers of local produce and fishermen. Strict attention to culinary detail is evident in the layered nuisances of the she crab bisque – the flavors of the long-simmered crustacean, the shells’ natural color, nutty butter, and just the right amount of sherry and thickening with Charleston’s own Carolina Gold rice. The same is abundantly evident in the flaky, hot biscuits, and smoky hot pimiento cheese spread, garnished with pickled okra.

The ‘Lunch on the Porch’ at Jasmine Porch features remarkable she crab bisque, a roasted beet salad, fresh crab slider, and fresh fruit or your choice of several substitutes (in this case fries) for no added fee.

Other notables on the lunch menu include the plucky fried green tomatoes, with a delicate touch of acidity countered by the cooling and extreme crunch of a well seasoned panko crust, and chef Holst’s pristine version of shrimp and grits. For dessert, try the moist, fragrant coconut cake layered with crispy shards of shaved coconut and butter cream and served on a cold, silky creme anglaise with notes of fresh vanilla. First-class service from the entire staff makes a visit to Jasmine Porch even more sweet. All this for just $100 (or so including a three-course lunch for two with cocktails and a tip) followed by a complimentary, lingering stroll on a wide and very lightly traveled off-season beach on a sparkling October afternoon felt like an investment with lifelong memory dividends. If you feel like staying for dinner, visit the luxurious Ocean Room, featured in my latest release, The New Charleston Chef’s Table.

The New Charleston Chef’s Table Give Away!

Just in time for the holidays, I’m offering a complimentary, signed and delivered copy of my latest cookbook, The New Charleston Chef’s Table (retails $29.95)  featuring The Ocean Room and some eighty delicious dining destinations, recipes,  Charleston history and culinary lore and gorgeous photography to a randomly selected individual from comments/responses to this blog post. Tell me what you love about Charleston, restaurants, or even just why you want this book for you or someone you love, and I’ll post the winner on Friday, November 9. I look forward to hearing from you.

New Charleston Chefs Table book cover

The New Charleston Chef’s Table (Globe Pequot Press, May 2018) by Holly Herrick

Bon appetit! Holly

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grace is Good, Very Good

Sherry Laced She Crab Soup and Shrimp Remoulade Salad

Most people get excited about Spoleto, Charleston's annual and very International arts festival, for the promise of Mozart and ballet. While that's all very well and good, I get excited about Spoleto because its advent also marks the time for one of Charleston's most delicious dining events - Grace Episcopal Church Tea Room. The two, it just so happens, are operational at the exact same time during a two-week run that begins and ends with Spoleto. Both are happening now.Consummately Southern, the church's main hall and gardens glitter with all chintz, hydrangea, bow ties and smiles a' plenty from the church ladies. An elderly man sporting seersucker plays uplifting live tunes from a piano in a corner of the large room. It's just too much fun, and all proceeds are distributed to local charities selected by the church, which recently underwent extensive renovations, leaving her more stunningly beautiful than ever.The abbreviated menu is very Huguenot- inspired and many of the recipes come directly from the family recipe boxes of old Charleston families and members of the church. Vat upon vat of the steaming, rich, crab-laden She crab soup (one of the best sellers) is produced daily by the all-volunteer kitchen. The soup ($6.00) is served with a small paper liner (to prevent staining the table, indeed) and a cruet of sherry. There is also a fabulous, chunky okra soup and generously herbed tomato soup on this year's menu.The shrimp remoulade ($8, pictured) is very generously portioned and mild, with pink, sweet shrimp barely bound with a mustard-mayonnaise dressing and served with a mound of grated, fresh carrots and cucumbers. This, along with the almond, curry chicken salad is offered with the choice of crackers or a croissant. There are also several sandwiches available, including a diminutive ham biscuit ($4) filled with salty, aged ham on a fresh buttermilk biscuit slathered with a Dijon butter poppy seed spread.The breath-taking dessert tray at Grace

 

But, let’s get down to what Grace is best known for – the huge, beautiful dessert trays that are ushered throughout the dining room by delicate ladies before eager eyes. It reaches most people’s table (as it did ours), just as you’re finishing lunch. A lady and gentleman describe each dessert and you make your choice. It sounds easy enough, but it’s a grueling decision! Everything is dressed with freshly whipped cream and mint and one is as beautiful as the next ($4 each). The Huguenot Torte, a crunchy, sweet meringue concoction is an especially warranted indulgence that I personally look forward to every year, but really, all desserts are exceptional.

Lunch comes with your choice of iced tea (seasoned well with fresh mint and lemon), coffee, hot tea, milk and water. Now, if only they were open all year-round! You have until next Saturday to check it out if you’re in Charleston.  I highly recommend that you do.
Grace Episcopal Church Tea Room
98 Wentworth Street
Charleston, SC 29401
Take-Out: (843) 723-8587
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