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.
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.
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.
Bon appetit! Holly
After years of planning and anticipation, the 2012 PGA Championship has landed at Kiawah Island, one of the loveliest barrier islands in greater Charleston and home to one of the most commanding golf courses in the world, The Ocean Course. Final rounds will take place Sunday, August12, so there is plenty of time to check it out and fill up on great golf and great food.
I was blessed to be given a ticket for the final practice rounds on Wednesday, and anticipated going around the grounds sampling the fare to report on what tournament attendees might expect to find there. But, Mother Nature had other plans, and along with Ernie Els and the pro golfing gang, brought pesky Ernesto’s high winds, lightning, and drenching rains to town. So, getting around was not only dangerous, it practically required flippers.
I had about 20 minutes to do some checking before the rains came and was impressed with the number of clean, well-staffed tents serving the usual suspects – hot dogs, burgers, salad, beer – but I’m told the fish tacos at the Wanamaker tent near the 18th hole (that I couldn’t reach) are top shelf food picks on the actual grounds.
Kiawah Island is a big one and there are ample choices for delicious dining all over it. Because I was staying at one of the villas near The Sanctuary (about 8 miles from The Ocean Course), that’s the general area I focused my dining attention. Dining at the AAA 5 Diamond resort doesn’t require that you actually stay there, and it’s accessible with plenty of parking and valet service, if you so desire.
Jasmine Porch, serving a “Taste of the Lowcountry,” does just that and has long been one of my favorite dining destinations on Kiawah. Billowing chiffon, golden oak-plank floors, embracing banquettes and stunning views of The Atlantic, work in tandem with the stellar service, whether is for breakfast, lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch. I was able to slip in there for an early dinner without reservations, though at this stage of the tournament game, I’d highly recommend making them. The caramel-colored She Crab Bisque ($9) is laced with sweet notes of Sherry and layered with buttery crab flavor. The Whole Carolina Flounder ($29) was caught just a few miles off island waters, according to my wonderful server, and it tasted like it – local, sweet, flaky, and moist. It is scored, lightly battered, fried, and served whole. This is not to be missed, and is paired with a silky, lemon beurre blanc, garden fresh haricot verts, and a toothsome mushroom purloo.
Don’t miss the bread basket here, either, which is stuffed with an assortment of fresh baked breads served with honey thyme butter.
Upstairs, at the celebrated Ocean Room, the emphasis is on local, grass fed, artisinal beef sourcing, elegance, and more sweeping water views. The price ante takes a considerable leap, as well, and access will be challenging as the tournament advances towards the final rounds. Better yet, consider going early (6 p.m.’ish), and hopefully take an available seat in the popular lounge next door. This area is a bar/dining space cushioned between the masterful iron grate front doors and the formal dining room. The ambience is a bit more relaxed, but the decorum level and water views are still fully on display. Order from the “Sushi Lounge”sushi menu or from the complete dinner menu offered in The Oak Room. I ended up in the lounge and enjoyed an impeccable salad of creamy, almost pudding-like goat cheese salad with Marcona almonds, sweet South Carolina peaches and arugula from The Oak Room menu.
In search of really good fast food that’s nearby and delicious?
Check out the charming Town Center Market, which is just one exit up the road from The Sanctuary at East Bay Village. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the menu includes hefty, fresh breakfast egg wrap combinations, made to order, assorted pizza, sandwich wraps and panini for lunch. Complete dinner entrees are also offered, including a smashing Southern fried chicken home-style platter ($9.75). You can also stock on assorted sundries while you’re there and parking is a snap.
While you’re coming into the island or leaving, don’t miss a stop at Freshfields Village Market accessed via the turn around at the entrance to Kiawah. The entire place is stocked with beautiful food and wine, but the deli case, sandwich bar, and hot food buffet never fail to please. You can eat there or take it on the go to enjoy on your way to the course.
After all, spectators have to eat, too. Bon appetit!