The Liebster Award

This is a chain-nomination and award given to new and upcoming blogs. Each person who is awarded has to answer 11 questions and then nominate another blogger. Un grand merci to my dear friend Meredith–Life Is Merry–for the nomination…I have loved reading your blog as it is a complete extension of you (fabulous)! I am waiting for you to put up the recipe to your acai bowl (hint hint).

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Questions:

1. Where did the inspiration for your blog come from? 

I have always loved eating out, I got it from my mama. We would take an annual trip to NYC and she would have every reservation made, backed with much research. So, at a young age, I knew that I would any day rather spend $15 for moules et frites at Balthazar than I would on a pizza from California Pizza Kitchen like some of my friends. I have converted a few people to this strategy, and it is life changing. Support local restaurants and their mission. Use Yelp. Research. Because there is nothing better than a good meal.

Anyway, if you know me, you know that I love the experience of eating out. My extra $$$ would any day go to trying a new restaurant than to a pair of shoes (surprise). I decided that because I was spending my extra cha-ching on dining, I may as well document and share my experiences and photos of deliciousness with friends.

2. Favorite pastime? 

Planning travel itineraries–lately, not even for myself! I often will check my inbox to have requests from friends or family that are visiting a place I have been. I gladly send over my recommendations and spend time catering it to what my friends and family like.

I have been trying to find a new hobby with my recent move. There are many outdoor things to do in the Triangle area…and of course, I have been turning a blind eye to…sports. I think I may finally have to face the music and at least try and pay attention.

3. Favorite song? 

My go-to is Mr. Jones by Counting Crows. I swear, turn this song up, open your sunroof and you’ve got a full on happiness fest. I did see CC in concert a few summers ago and they didn’t play Mr. Jones (I mean come on, has any other band been more famous for one song?!) It was disappointing, but I still love it.

4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? 

Pied-à-terre in Saint Germian-des-Prés, Paris, France. A ranch with horses in Montana. Or a charming Charleston single in Charleston, South Carolina.

5. Dream hairstyle? 

Hmm…I would do anything to have manageable hair without doing anything to it. But for now, I’ll stick with my beach waves.

6. If you could speak to your 13 year old self, what would you say? 

Good things come to those who wait.

7. Who is your ideal dinner date? 

My mom’s dad, my grandfather, that I never was able to meet. Heard lots of amazing things about him, and I know he would provide great company.

8. Favorite Disney character? 

An Aristocat, I forget the names….

9. If you were a flower, what would you be? 

Ranunculus. Look it up.

10. Best meal you’ve ever eaten? 

I think Obstinate Daughter, on Sullivan’s Island in S.C. takes the cake. How can any other meal compete with perfectly grilled octopus with a view of the sun setting on the ocean?

11. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? 

Growing up. All of it. But I wouldn’t change anything.

 

I now nominate Elizabeth Sochko, of It Happened One Morning. This chicka is awesome. Think B&W movies, Russian literature, donuts, and solo-trips to Portugal.

 

Edmund’s Oast

It’s been a while.

Since my last time writing, I’ve sat at great restaurants, anxiously anticipating my next meal, in locations ranging from Guatemala to Raleigh.

This one comes to you from Morrison Drive, Charleston, South Carolina.

Just as I have been anxiously anticipating my meals, I have been waiting for the opening of Edmund’s Oast. Nothing brings pen to paper on my restaurant wishlist more than the word “charcuterie.” That’s what it’s all about at Edmund’s Oast.

1st great thing about EO: Parking! Yes, there is a parking lot. A luxury in Charleston.

2nd great thing about EO: There is a TON of outdoor seating. I’m talking picnic benches for days. By days I mean enough to have your family reunion on their patio.

3rd great thing about EO: The service was wonderful. Our water glasses were always full. Dishes were thoroughly explained (this is important to me when I order charcuterie–I mean come on, who doesn’t want to know about everything on the wood block)

4th great thing about EO: The beer selection. While it is enough to overwhelm someone as indecisive as me, it is great for a beer guru. And if you don’t know your IPA’s from pale ale’s, the knowledgeable waitress is happy to help you out.

5th great thing about EO: The decor is fancy enough for a birthday celebration, but low key enough for a throwonasweateritsacharcuteriekindanight.

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Cheeseboard Wall Art

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Lamb meatballs with apricot glaze.

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Tried something new. The red, fruity, deliciousness in the center: Quince.

http://edmundsoast.com/

Who I would take as my date: Charcuterie Connoisseur

Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House

Something unexpected came by way of Cumberland Street last weekend. While walking from East Bay, bored by the choices of restaurants covered by the facades of row houses, my date and I stumbled upon a bright light on a dark street. We entered Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House on a Friday night to find a wait for tables but an open bar. While sitting at the bar, we heard tales of the bartender participating on a famed chef television series, listened to people who had traveled from far to visit Charleston and the Tap House, all while looking over the extensive beer list. The bartender was kind enough to ask me my tastes in beer, taking the time to figure out what I may like to try.

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The menu was separated by daily features (which are listed daily on their comprehensive Facebook page) and bar staples. The menu tooted complex dishes such as scotch eggs, house cured corn beef with apple kraut, and confit chicken salad sandwich. After reviewing the well-sized menu for a little too long, the patient and helpful bartender took our order. When our food came out, we were automatically excited by the presentation.

We ordered the fried chicken with vinegared cukes and fish and chips. The food was exceptional. Honestly, this place is a hidden gem. I’m talking so good that we asked the bartender to tell the chef about his level of excellence, to which the chef immediately came out to meet us. They have a menu that is able to appeal to a variety of appetites while still “wowing” a dignified eater. The fried chicken had a kick that was executed with perfection and the fried fish and chips was a great spin on an easy dish.

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My date and I definitely will return to this location. We are especially looking forward to coming when the weather warms up to sit on their cozy patio.

http://www.craftsmentaphouse.com/

Who I would take as my date: Someone visiting on the weekend. To me, Craftsmen is the quintessential neighborhood bar and restaurant.

Lee Lee’s Hot Kitchen

There is something about polar vortex-like weather that screams Chinese food. It’s as if the winds have carried over scents from the streets of Beijing, urging me to find chopsticks. Finding Chinese food, until now, has not been an easy thing to do in Charleston, South Carolina. While Charleston does offer an array of seafood, southern and American restaurants, it seems as though they are just now getting a bit of diversity. I mean, hello? Where is a girl supposed to get Indian, French, Thai, Greek, and Spanish cuisine? I give you kudos for trying, Charleston, but we need more than one option for each. I’m spoiled from growing up in the suburbs of D.C., where the issue wasn’t trying to find a place to get my fix of a certain cuisine, it was trying to decide between which one.
photo 1-1Lee Lee’s Hot Kitchen came in at a perfect time for my cold comfort food needs. On the day before the first snow I’ve seen in Charleston, when the winds came sweeping in and the palm trees furrowed up their mighty leaves, I made my way to Lee Lee’s. It is here that I felt warmth from the fiery red of the interior, with electrically colored images of Chinese graphics.

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I had to start with a hot and sour soup, although this was dangerous, because one taste of soup could have been the tell-tale sign that the restaurant didn’t live up to my dreams (insert sentence where I am a soup-fanatic here). The soup was just how I like it: tangy, peppery and delicious. My date dined on crab rangoon and they were all gone before he could muster the strength to give me a victorious thumbs up. This was hitting the spot.

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photo 3For entrees, we shared ginger beef and kung pao chicken. The ginger beef had a great flavor, but the meat seemed to have been flash fried for a few flashes too long, resulting in more breading than beef. It was still delicious, though it tasted more like a vegetarian dish. The kung pao chicken was crunchy: with miniature vegetables such as baby corns, water chestnuts, Szechuan peppers, peanuts, celery and peppers.

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Will we be back? Yes. Not because of the few choices of Chinese restaurants in Charleston, but because it was genuinely delicious (and comforting).

http://leeleeshotkitchen.com/

Who I would take as my date: Anyone who associates cold weather with the need for Chinese food

The Tattooed Moose

Not so far from the bustle of downtown, there is a restaurant situated quietly on Morrison Drive that allures those in search of a homey, comforting meal. Dark inside, and with an alternative playlist with songs so good, you keep reaching for your phone to Shazam, The Tattooed Moose seems to nonchalantly say, “I’ve been here the whole time, you just weren’t cool enough to know about me.”

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As you are seated, a bowl of pickles with different hues of green is presented. Nosh on a few, place your order, then make your way to one of the arcade games around the perimeters of the restaurant. Personally, I found the range game entertaining.

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Whoever was brilliant enough to come up with concept of the leftover Thanksgiving sandwich, is smart enough to know that I crave the flavors of Turkey Day 364 days of the year. The sandwich had every flavor essential to creating the perfect day-after sandwich; turkey, cranberry-mayo, and stuffing. I’m tempted to stop typing right now and go get one.

IMG_7070For those of you that just want a “basic” deli sandwich, they’ve got that too. Pictured below is the brisket sandwich and slaw.

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And of course, you can’t not get a basket of the duck fat fries. They are a staple of this haunt. IMG_7068

The Tattooed Moose’s website says it best:

“Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a cool place where you could get a great deli sandwich and a cold beer? Maybe you could get a great basket of fries, maybe they’d have awesome happy hour specials with cheap beer and shots? What if we had a neighborhood place that served lunch, dinner, and late-night and it was only 5 minutes from everyone in metro Charleston? These are the questions that led us to open the Tattooed Moose, a laid back pub and deli with good beer, cheap beer, lots of shots, and a kitchen that’s open ’til 1am!”

And that is exactly what happens at The Tattooed Moose.
 
 
Who I would bring as my date:  A Charleston local who hasn’t been. Because you can’t be a Charleston local without eating here.

Southern Season

A few weeks ago,  I had a not so traditional eating experience. Jars of sugary treats, deep reds and crisp whites of international wines, cocoa and woody colored coffee beans colored the aisles, leading me to the back of the specialty store where an open room with high ceilings, bright white granite and stainless steel invited me to take a seat in the classroom.

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The people of Southern Season acted as sous-chefs in preparation for chef Paul Yellin, a bona fide Rhum Chef. All of the sous-chef Southern Season personnel know an extensive amount about food, and most seem to have been classically trained in cooking school. One sweet woman who acted as the talk show host for the class, specialized in varieties of salts, taking the time after class to lead me to the bountiful salt aisle of the store and have me taste the varieties of salt from the palm of her hand.

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Chef Paul Yellin, preparing the Tropical Flavors of the Caribbean class, preaching about the Caribbean and its impact on Charleston, rum and the value of ingredients.

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For starters, we watched as chef Yellin made virgin Mojitos and Baked Curry Beef Mini Arepas. There were two wines paired with the entire meal and the wine was generously poured, over and over again.

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The Bar-B-Fried Chicken with Molassas Rum BBQ Sauce and Coleslaw was prepared before our eyes in a matter of minutes. Chef made too much sauce, which he promptly boxed up for us to take home.

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A spin-off on traditional crème brûlée, chef created this concept for a food fair in Aspen years ago and said it has been popular ever since. The Mini Strawberry Crème Brûlée with Crisp Burnt Sugar Crust were elegant, easy to pop in your mouth, and perfect for a cocktail party.

I would easily take another class at Southern Season. The staff were professional, knowledgable, and most importantly, there to provide you with the best culinary experience.

To access the calendar of events, check out the Charleston, SC calendar here and the Chapel Hill, NC calendar here. Rumor has it that a store will soon be opening in Richmond, VA.

http://www.southernseason.com/

Who I would take as my date: My mom (such a fun mother-daughter bonding experience!)

Featured Menu Item: Collard Greens

collardgreensLucky me…my parents moved to Charleston for the month of November. This meant showing them around campus, boating on the Ashley and Cooper River, and most importantly, taking them to all the Charleston restaurants and watering holes. My dad took particular interest to one staple Southern dish: the Collard Green. Below is his memoir and expert opinion on the leafy vegetable.

I don’t think I ever tried collard greens or even heard of them until I was about 40 years old. But once I tried them, about 12 years ago, I kept getting pulled back, to try them again and again, each chance I got. I got a lot of chances recently, on a month-long culinary tour of Charleston’s finest. I like the idea that collard greens probably start out as tough and leathery, and only become palatable through long, patient, and expert cooking. Somehow this makes them seem more healthful, and reminds me that I am on vacation, especially since I tend to find them more and more, the further I go south from my hometown in New York.

Martha Lou’s Kitchen probably had the heartiest and most flavorful collard greens I have tried so far, and this is not a surprise because it would be hard to find a place with more old-time southern flavor. Our waitress seemed filled or overflowing with southern flavor and soul. I am pretty sure the greens were loaded up with all manner of meat and bones, to provide a rich and smoky flavor. At The Glass Onion, the collard greens were noteworthy mostly because they came to the table steaming hot, in a big quantity for the price, and they kept their heat until finished. They were notably less rich than the ones at Martha Lou’s, but they were also cooked to precisely the right balance between leathery and mushy. All in all I probably had collard greens about five times over the course of my Charleston tour, and these are the ones that call me back to Charleston, a few weeks later. At the Charleston farmer’s market I was briefly tempted to purchase a bunch of the steering-wheel-sized leaves — but I assume it takes at least half a day to cook them right, and I lack the patience, let alone the expertise.

The blog hostess is pressing me to declare who had the best collard greens, of those I sampled. But as she should know, better than most, I have trouble declaring favorites, especially when so many were so good. Perhaps she will settle for my declaration that collard greens are the best accompaniment to a southern meal, and Charleston is the best town in which to enjoy that meal.

Indaco

I dined at Indaco a few weeks ago, and am just getting the chance to write about the flavors of this King Street establishment. Indaco has an extensive Italian wine list and the menu takes the best of Italy.

Antipasti

I ordered (in order of appearance below) the pumpkin blossoms, olives, and crispy chickpeas. They were each notable. The pumpkin blossoms were battered baccala (salted cod) which is a familiar flavor from Portugal. This was a unique plate which is currently nominated for a James Beard award. As an olive connoisseur,  I throughly enjoyed the olives which tasted as if they were each given special attention. And, finally, the chickpeas were seasoned and delectable.

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Primi and Secondi

The primi and secondi didn’t quite live up to the expectations set by the antipasti. Although rich in appearance, the taste was a bit simplistic.  Below (in order) eggplant lasagne, whole roasted b-liner with kale salad, and brussel sprouts pizza.

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Interior of the fish (stuffed wit herbs, lemon, and bonesphoto 1

Desserts

The best part of the meal, hands down, were the desserts. Without even ordering, three beautiful glasses appeared on the table with sweet treats. I am not quite sure what they were, but some flavors my table discovered through detective work: espresso, panna cotta, tiramisu, honey and pistachio.

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Who I would take as my date: Dessert lover for an unexpected treat

Zero George

A newcomer on the Charleston scene, Zero George is a quaint boutique hotel. A birthday party was the perfect occasion to try out the small plates and cocktails from the romantic restaurant connected to the hotel. You walk directly into the kitchen, where the chef prepares dishes from brightly colored Le Creuset bakeware.
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The menu was limited, but included well thought-out dishes such as brussel sprouts & frisee and black-eyed susan hummus.
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Beat salad with grilled cauliflower, mache and spliced sweet potato. The combination of these legumes was delectable and a perfect autumn dish.

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Duck confit with risotto.

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When I walked from the beautiful patio space to exit the cafe, I found guests sitting at stools in the kitchen, conversing with the chef and waiting for their meals to be prepared. The cafe reminded me of Europe. Things that contributed to this feeling: Le Creuset bakeware, Miele Espresso Maker, exquisite candlelit outdoor patio space, and the homey feel of welcoming guests in the kitchen.

http://zerogeorge.com/the-palate/zero-cafe-bar/

Who I would take as my date: A friend on an autumn night to grab a glass of wine

 

Bay Street Biergarten

Bay Street Biergarten transports you. No, not to Germany (where are the lederhosen?)–but it does make me feel as if I am in a big city, such as New York or DC. I definitely didn’t feel like I was in Charleston. Why you may ask? First of all, the space is big. Unlike most nook and cranny places in Charleston, the Biergarten boasts luxuries such as patio space, multiple booths, community tables, a large bar and a wall tap. And, the wood walls, tables and leather booths made me think of a place my dad would go with colleagues to lunch in the District.

When you walk in you have the option to purchase a reusable card or be seated at a table. I purchased a card, and made my way over to the “tap wall.” I initially put $25 on my card, and when I took my mug away from the wall I was surprised to see that there was only $11 dollars left on my card. That’s right, a $14 beer my friends.

*Note to Biergarten-goers: Either learn how to pour a perfect beer or leave the foam in! That foam is worth ~$5. 

BSB is a very social place. I sat at a community table, where people were constantly coming over to place their card on the pad and get beer from the table tap. One would think that the kegs are under the tables. Wrong. The manager told my table that the black tubes that you see on the ceiling transport the beer all around the restaurant. Pretty crazy. I can’t even imagine how they pressurize all these different beers!

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Wall o’ Beer

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Beer card (which also makes an awesome gift card)

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How to have fun: Place card on pad reader, and pull the tap–voila–beer! If you want to know more about the beer, press the iPad screen to find out price per ounce, flavor notes, and alcohol content.

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Had to get a pretzel, because when in Rome, Germany Charleston. The mustard was very dijion-y and very yummy.

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The manager recommended: pimento cheese sticks, pig wings and shrimp and grits bites. I was not so excited about the name “pig wings” considering….well, pigs don’t have wings. BUT- they were extremely delicious. Better than chicken wings. Think rib-bites.

http://baystreetbiergarten.com/

Who I would take as my date: Beer lover. Pretzel lover. Social lover.