Hi Charleston hounds – I just returned from 5 days last week in your fine city and had a great time (as usual). Apologies if I missed some details since I wasn’t taking notes along the way (and the mind was a little fuzzy after all the cocktails, wine and local beers).
Tuesday - McCrady’s
I thought I would start the trip with a bang, and took it as an excellent sign when I asked for directions from one of the folks standing in front of the local tour storefronts and the response was “oh, nice”. Started the meal with one of the house concoctions called the Eli Cash – bourbon, mole bitters, and a few other ingredients. It ended up tasting like a cross between a Sazerac and a root beer. Not something I’d order again.
Decided on the 4-course dinner. Started with a daily special, a good size scallop (in the shell) flown in that day from New England. It was served with a turnip and truffle broth which I can still taste a week later. Had a nice Riesling to go with it. Great start to the meal.
Second course was local pumpkin swordfish. Never met a swordfish I didn’t love, and this was no exception. Fish was cooked perfectly, still moist, just wish there was more of it.
Third course was lamb two ways – main side was rye porridge, which was described by my server as grits made with rye rather than corn. Definitely a winner. Took the sommelier’s pairing recommendation of a St. Laurent (a wine I’d never tried before tonight). Everything went well together.
Final course was local cheeses, served with some more Riesling.
Service was top-notch. All in all, a wonderful experience.
Started my Wednesday with a stroll to Glazed. Based on their website I expected a dozen choices, it was a much smaller place than that but the apple bacon fritter called to me when I got inside. It was still slightly warm, apples not mushy, wonderful start to the day.
Since I was headed for the tea plantation, I had lunch at the Tomato Shed. Got there early enough to beat the rush and had the veggie plate lunch. Tomato Pie, Sweet Potato casserole, cabbage, and collards. Everything was super fresh, and I will be trying to recreate the tomato pie this weekend.
For dinner, took my first trip out to Bowens Island for the roast oysters. A great experience, lost a couple battles with my oyster knife (as I expected). Most of the oysters were VERY small, which just meant I needed to go through a couple more shovels.
Decided to walk off dinner, headed towards the waterfront which took me right by the Peninsula Grill, just in time for dessert. Had to try the famous coconut cake. Was a bit disappointed, not enough frosting for my taste and the cake was a little dry. Probably a case of expectations being too high.
Thursday began with a return trip to Glazed, no fritters this time but had an orange pistachio donut instead. Another winner.
For lunch I went to Ernie’s for some soul food. Originally ordered two bowls, but I was talked into a lima bean dinner with okra on the side. I was glad that they did that, since I barely finished what was put in front of me. If there was a complaint, it was that there was too much meat for the amount of vegetables (on second thought how can that be wrong). A great find and an amazing deal.
Dinner was the Grocery. This place doesn’t seem to be mentioned too often on Chowhound, but I loved the menu and the room. I was seated right in front of the kitchen, and Carly provided fantastic service. Started with the dirty green tomato, a dirty martini with pickled tomato juice instead of olive juice. Unusual and refreshing.
Radishes with butter and sea salt to munch on, followed by a butter lettuce salad, a dish of burrata over broccoli rabe with raisins, and pork belly cured pastrami-style with brussels sprout sauerkraut. All amazingly tasty. Finished off with Tiramisu.
After dinner, went to Stars and tried the tap wine system which I had read about in one of the tourist booklets at my hotel. Wine wasn’t bad, folks at the bar were great to chat with to explain about the wine tap system and the roof top bar.
Friday started with my daily constitutional to Glazed – this time they had just been slammed, so almost no donuts left. Couldn’t wait the hour for a restock, so I went with the pumpkin donut with dulce de leche glaze.
Didn’t like it as well as the prior two mornings’ selections. Guess it's yeast donuts over cake donuts.
For lunch, Five Loaves. Wonderful soup and salad selection, took the option to have small tastes of three different soups for the cost of a cup. Tried asparagus and dill, spicy vegetable, and chicken chili, all delicious, and a spinach salad as well. Everything terrific. Definitely will return next trip to Charleston.
For dinner I was ready for some seafood. Flounder. Plain fried. Walked to Hyman’s, but the line was down the block. Kept going to Fleet Landing, had a mixed experience there. I got my fried flounder which was wonderful, as were the tuna and salmon tartare appetizer and the biscuits. The red rice and vegetable side dishes went from ice cold (which I sent back) to barely warm (when they brought back a fresh set).
After dinner went from wines on tap to Manhattans on tap at the Macintosh. Was a bit leery of cocktails on tap (flashbacks of New Orleans Dauquiri bars) but the Mac-hattans were great. Another wonderful bar.
On Saturday, took a drive up to North Charleston to EVO pizza (thanks for the pointer, ForagingFoodie). Had a pizza with gruyere, mushrooms, and bacon, and a nice salad. Tasty food, and what seemed like a real commitment to local ingredients.
For dinner, I went back to the Grocery for dinner at the bar. Was greeted by a few people who remembered me from Thursday night. Started with the house pickles and house cinnamon bourbon , then went the small plates route again. Oysters on the half shell with crème fraiche and caviar (small), roasted beet dish over wilted greens, and another go at the pork belly. If the Grocery was nearer to Atlanta, I’d eat there twice a week.
My final “happy hour” was at the Cocktail Club. Really neat drink menu – had a Cloak and Dagger (Rum, Rye, ginger syrup, beet and pineapple juices, etc.) and an Idle Hand (spiced rum, walnut bitters, stout). Both quite tasty.
Final meal was Sunday brunch at the Swamp Fox – I don’t usually go for buffet brunches, but the smoothies, bread pudding and chocolate fondue got me. Plus omelets made order – and cooked correctly. Great way to top off the trip.
One final thank you from my sweet tooth – in addition to my trips to Glazed and Peninsula Grill, I brought back bags and boxes from Macaroon Boutique, Sugar, Wild Flour Pastry, the Moon Pie company store, and Cupcake.