This past New Year’s holiday, I made the decision to do something a little different and took a four-night trip to Charleston, SC with two good friends, Kerry and Wendy. I honestly cannot believe as a lover of food and living in America for almost 17 years that I have never visited this city before. I can now say with conviction that I have never been happier with every single bite of delicious, outrageously good food from a fun local café to the premier of dining experiences than I was in Charleston.
I thought it would be good to do a round-up of (some) places we tried and picks for dishes we tasted from their menus.
Day 1 of our 5 days of over-indulgence started at Poogan’s on Queen’s Street for lunch, which was located right across the street from our beautiful hotel, the Mills House. Poogan’s is an old white Victorian House with a little porch and a selection of chintzy, classically Southern Dining rooms. We lunched on Lowcountry cuisine of Short Rib sandwich with horseradish mayo, Pulled Pork with Carolina Mustard BBQ and my recommendation, the Fried Green Tomato BLT with a crab meat remoulade. A side note, the bartender overhead I had a bit of travel nausea and recommended I try a ginger ale with his secret recipe for house-made bitters. It absolutely did the trick and made me feel better instantly. It’s the small things!
Dinner on our first night was at the unbelievably fresh and incredibly tasty FIG on Meeting Street. This was by far one of the best meals of my whole life. We were all succumbed into utter silence after our first bite of Gnocchi with a Lamb Ragu. To be rendered speechless over food is no easy feat for me – this dish with its ricotta gnocchi and rich ragu is one for the memory books. My Pan Roasted Black Bass with sweet onion and carrot pickles was sublime. My friend, Kerry raved over her Fish Stew with shrimp, squid, mussels and Carolina gold rice. If you want to treat yourself without feeling too much guilt of heavy, pound packing food, this is the place to go.
Located on Meeting Street we enjoyed a late breakfast at Eli’s Table – a local, cozy café/restaurant serving the traditional brunch of omelets, granola and fruit with a flair of the South of Shrimp & Grit and Lowcountry Benedict with fried oysters. The Salmon Benedict with a side of mixed fruit was quite a treat. Eli’s comes with Southern hospitality service and a natural warmth.
Husk was booked far in advance for us given how many people recommended this place. Over and over again, we were hearing this restaurant suggestion. We had no choice. Located on Queen Street, Husk is a celebrated mainstay of the Charleston dining scene with its innovative and creative cuisine from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock. Handcrafted creative cocktails are big at Husk with a thumbs of from me for The Garden Party made with a Jasper Barrel Gin. You must try the Pig Ear Lettuce Wraps of crispy fried julienned pig ear with sweet cucumber as well as the Cheddar Pimento Cheese on crackers – insanely good. Oh, and the Geechie Boy Grits with Buttermilk Cheddar for the table – a must order. Our dinner was leisurely and enjoyable.
After trying to get lunch at about 10 different spots on New Year’s Eve, we ended up at a place not on our list called Blossom, which is close to the Harbor on Bay Street. Blossom offers Southern dishes with a Mediterranean flair and ended up being a nice surprise treat for us. One of things you first notice is how many locals frequent Blossom; everyone seems to know everyone – which is always a good sign. While we did stay (a little) on the lighter side of dishes with fresh salads of Jumbo Lump Crab Tostada, we did also add to our lunch a couple of appetizers of the She Crab Soup and Boiled Peanut Hummus – both worthy of a revisit. I must have a go at making Boiled Peanut Hummus- quite unique.
“When in Rome” as the saying goes. So when a “Foodie” is in Charleston it means that one must try the premier of high-end dining and that is the Charleston Grill. Classically “rich” and steeped in Charleston old money history, Charleston Grill has been an award winning pillar of the dining scene for many years. We joined them on New Year’s Night after finding out Daniel Boulud popped by earlier that week to hang out and cook in their kitchens. The dinner offers four menus of which you can mix and match… Pure, Lush, Cosmopolitan and of course, Southern. I enjoyed the sweet, juicy Beet Salad followed by the Thai Fish of “Tom Young Goong” with grilled pineapple and cherry tomatoes – a winner for me, which didn’t make me feel too guilty on the first day of the year. If you are looking to dress up and dine in expensive ambiance with high-class food, then I recommend Charleston Grill.
While I have not made mention of desserts in this review so far, there is one place I insist you try, especially if you like coconut cake. Kerry does and this was on her “must go to” list. After dinner one night we ventured over to the Peninsula Grill and ordered a bottle of champagne accompanied their trademarked dessert named the Peninsula Grill Ultimate Coconut Cake – a layered feast of utter decadence. It truly is an immoral spectacular sight and bite.
High Cotton is a fun jazz club which is abuzz with socialites and tourists. I love Espresso Martinis – my favorite drink in the world after wine. However, not everyone gets it right, or at least to my liking. High Cotton makes them just perfect and exactly how I think an Espresso Martini should be made. Their “World Famous Espresso Martini” is simply Vodka, Kahlua and espresso shaken! This place is really entertaining to hang out at the bar, talk to friendly people and enjoy a cocktail or three!
There are quite a few other places we dined at but my list would go on and on – we managed a lot in five days! If you think of a place let me know and I will give you my opinion if I have dined there.
Hope you enjoyed this long post. The first of the New Year! Lots more to come in 2015 after I fast for a month!