Thursday, September 27, 2012

A recent literary discovery of mine are the short stories of Ambrose Bierce.  His American Civil War stories are especially heart-rending.  They capture the complete severing of innocence from the spirit in war, the brutality and waste of human beings in battle and the horror of the result of doing one's duty.  My favorites...A Horseman in the Sky and Chickamauga.
Gaston Leroux seems to me to be the Wilkie Collins of French detective fiction.  I am currently reading "Phantom of the Opera" by Leroux and am loving the characters, the mystery and the atmosphere of the book.  On a quest for English translations of his other works....any suggestions on which are best?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

For those of you who don't already know this, Charleston is a Rock Star in the world of foodees/restaurants.  Charleston chef Mike Lata,  of FIG and soon to open, The Ordinary, was featured on CBS This Morning today, discussing his baked sea bass dish, his passion for food and Julia Child....Yes, every good cook's inspiration, Julia Child.  While in college, Mike skipped class to hear Julia Child speak, and the rest is gastronomic history.  Thank you Julia, for turning Mike Lata away from a career in broadcasting and into the kitchen!  And, thank you Mike Lata for memorable, delicious meals and for preparing the best, green peas I've ever eaten, anywhere, anytime, in my life.

Friday, September 21, 2012

One item on my "Please God, before I die I'd like to..." list is to walk the Camino de Santiago, the way of St. James, in Spain.  Even walking the last 100 miles, which would be required for a completed Camino passport, would be amazing.  After reading "Seven Tips to Make the Most of the Camino de Santiago" by Cheri Powell, I am encouraged that it is a possibility for me.  All I need is 3 months off (I walk slower than most, with a cane), 1000 or so Euros, my very willing husband and 2 plane could happen!!
"Wild" by Cheryl Strayed....interesting, but not compelling.  Last 3 pages at least revealed the sliver of hope that you wished for throughout the book.  I have a tough time watching someone purposefully and intentionally torpedo their life...have seen it too many times in my 55 years.  Thank goodness for the last 3 pages.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I am three quarters of the way through the book "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and still not sure what I think of it.    While I admire her courage, I wonder if it came from a confused state of impaired judgement, rather than a conscious effort to change her life.  Her body is changed, but I am reserving judgement about the change in who she had become prior to the hike until the end of the book, 50 pages from now.  Stay tuned......

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I cannot stop thinking about the book "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", by Jonathan Safran Foer, which I have just completed reading.  Is it a book about the 9/11 attacks only?  No.  Is it about terrorism only?  No.  It is also about refugees, survivors, war, the frailty of the human mind and heart and the ways in which the human spirit heals itself.  It makes your heart ache, your stomach contract and your intellect question what you think you know to be true about war.  Read it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

There are not enough positive adjectives to describe our visit to McCrady's restaurant tonight....I'll begin with the gracious hostesses and wait staff.  When we arrived, the hostess mentioned that they had noted my request for comfortable seating, due to my slight disability, and had two possible tables for us.  I was so pleased by their thoughtfulness and attention to detail.  This was the first restaurant to seat me in a comfy location after I noted my physical issues on my Open Table reservation request.  We chose an intimate table for two in their bar area, a subdued, softly lit area beside a two story bar/ wine cellar.  The booth area had a beautiful barrel ceiling and  soft cushions and pillows.  Our server, Claire, was extremely helpful and knowledgeable, giving us detailed descriptions of many menu items.  
As this is Charleston Restaurant Week, McCrady's offers 3 courses for $40.00 or 4 courses for $60.00- we chose 3 courses, beginning with the Charleston Stone Crab and Soft Poached Farm Egg.  The stone crab was served salad-style, with bibb lettuce, wild onions and grilled lemon.  There was just enough of a hint of lemon to be pleasing, but not overpowering.  The poached egg was cooked in the shell for close to 60 minutes, creating a creamy yellow yolk, surrounded by a white foamy sea of flavors- courgettes, Bonito and kimchee.  The result was a subtle blend of flavors- smooth and light.
For our meat course, we chose the Duo of Kathadin Lamp and the Thornhill Farms Chicken, per Claire's recommendation.  My husband's lamb was perfectly cooked, med-rare, tender and flavored with fennel and elderberries.  It tasted the way lamb should taste, and wasn't overpowered by the seasonings.
My Thornhill Farms Chicken was better than any chicken dish I have eaten in Charleston.  It was roasted skin-on, crispy, moist inside, served over pumpkin vines and topped with a dark meat juice that had an aroma that enhanced  the taste.  House-made sausage accompanied the chicken, which I dipped in local apricot puree.  The chestnuts served with the dish were roasted just enough- not too soft and still nutty in texture.  
Our server, Claire, suggested the Apple and Oat cake for our dessert course, served with green apple ice cream.  It's taste was better than your grandmama's apple crisp, turned up a notch by the ice cream.  Perfect.  I tried the Chocolate Pots de Creme, with powdered peanutbutter and vanilla mascarpone- a little bit of chocolate heaven!  I ate tiny, tiny bites, to make it last longer- it was creamy, smooth and mixed  chocolate and peanutbutter without blurring the flavors.  We finished with delicious french press coffee.  This could be our new favorite restaurant, which is a hard choice to make in a city that offers so many dining gems.  Hats off to McCrady's.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A lovely dinner tonight at Carolina's- we chose from the Charleston Restaurant Week menu...3 courses.  My husband chose the bibb salad, which he said had a hint of a bite to it...white pepper?  Very good.  My first course was a smokey tomato bisque, thick and deep red with a definite smoked flavor....tasted like ham stock, perhaps, was used?  Good and quite different, which I like.
My husband had the Pan Roasted Keegan-Filion Chicken.  It was moist and delicious, with a hint of buttermilk.  My second course was the Pan Sauteed Flounder, which was crispy, buttery and the best prepared fish I've eaten in Charleston in a long time.  One of the most delicious parts of both meals was the sauteed vegetables, greens, mushrooms and slivered ham served under the fish, and a similar mix, with croutons, served under the chicken.  The flavors blended so nicely that we would have let them linger in our mouths for a while longer, if not for the sight of course three.  Our dessert was a delicious Pecan Brittle Basket, filled with smooth vanilla bean ice cream, fresh fruit (huge blueberries...yum) and drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce.  We finished with Carolina's own blend of coffee, which was really very good as well.  A perfect meal- we will definitely return.  Carolina's is a quiet, little gem.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Are you joining the countywide reading experience this year?  The book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has been chosen by the Chas. County Public Library as its second annual One Book Chas. County initiative, which begins on Sept.11th.  Perfect choice- I downloaded it to my Kindle and have not been able to stop reading since.  The story, which describes the damage done to one NYC family by the 9/11 attack is like a crack in the keeps growing, spreading, destroying....I'm spellbound and heartbroken at the same time.
The College of Charleston had picked a non-fiction book by the same author, Jonathan Safran Foer, for The College Reads.  Eating Animals explores food production.  I have not started it yet, but have downloaded it, as well.  The college will follow this up with a series of speakers on the topic- the most exciting to me will be Temple Grandin on Nov.27th, a pioneer in ethical livestock treatment at the slaughterhouse level and expert on animal behavior.  Stay tuned....I was once a vegetarian and wonder what this will do to my eating habits...hope it doesn't make me just order the salad at Halls Chophouse.