Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Don't let the renovations and construction in progress at the Mills House Hotel deter you.  Their lovely restaurant, the Barbadoes Room, is still open.  I dined there for lunch yesterday, and it is still a quiet, plush oasis from the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.  I stopped by for a break from shopping and a museum visit (The Gibbs has a fabulous exhibit of Civil War photography, but more on that at mavierecommence.blogspot later today).
The Barbadoes Room, at the Mills House, located on the corner of Meeting and Queen, serves the local  lunch crowd from the Four Corners to the Market, and tourists lucky enough to discover this comfy little gem.  I ordered my "usual", She Crab Soup with sherried cream.  It is, far and away, the best she-crab soup in Charleston.  Creamy, rich and redolent with sherry, it is served with two corn muffins and creamy butter.  The corn muffins are sweet, moist and perfect crumbled into the soup.  I ate and enjoyed every bite.  The price is right, too.  Where else can you fill up on the finest Lowcountry soup for just $8.00, including tax??
The only disappointing note to my luncheon was the fact that The Barbadoes Room no longer serves their wonderful peach iced tea.  Why?  I have no idea, but perhaps if we ask them nicely, they will bring it back!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

     I freely admit it.  I was 56 years old before I tasted a Vietnamese sandwich.  If I were you, I would not wait that long.  Bon Banh Mi, on Spring St., will open a whole new world of sandwiches to you, without emptying your pocketbook.  This tiny little restaurant offers big, big flavors and a creative way to make your own Vietnamese sandwich dream.
     First, you pick the vehicle for your fillings, either a crispy-outside, soft-inside sub roll, a taco, or a salad.  Then the fillings, seven choices of protein.  I tried the ginger lemongrass chicken and th five spice pork.  The "fixins" that cradle the protein are:  cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon radish, cilantro, holy basil and crispy shallots….postscript: YUM.  If you choose the salad option, add lettuce, cabbage and tomatoes to the list.
     The ginger lemongrass chicken was lightly flavored and nicely complemented by the fixins, but my favorite was the five spice pork.  Packed into the sub roll, surrounded by crispy fixins, the pork was shredded, savory and tender- a slight mystery for my palate, but so delicious that I stopped trying to figure out what the five seasoning spices were and just enjoyed the ride!
     Bon Banh Mi offers free delivery on the peninsula, pick-up yourself  or eat-in, with limited seating at the lunch counter along the front windows.  We ate-in, and enjoyed observing the world go by on busy Spring St.  Parking is available on the street and in four spaces behind the restaurant. ( As I am "parking challenged", I had a bit of a hard time turning my car around out back.  A BIG shout-out to the nice construction worker who helped me point my car in the right direction! )
     Bon Banh Mi, a great sandwich destination and revelation…try it soon.
                                                                  162 Spring Street

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pie...who doesn't like pie??  This delicious pie is from P.I.E. (Paige's Incredible Edibles) Bake Shoppe at 5 Warren Street.
On a recent cool, fall day, I stopped by P.I.E. for a quick lunch, and was pleasantly surprised by the long list of sandwiches available.
     My dining partner ordered a turkey and cranberry chutney sandwich (house-made chutney- delicious!).   It was a tasty stack of turkey on fresh bread, pleasantly accented by a generous layer of whole cranberry chutney and mayo.  It comes with provolone, spinach and tomato as well, but the staff kindly honored our request for a relatively streamlined sandwich- many thanks for that.
     I ordered their featured soup, Spiced Pumpkin.  It was creamy, rich and flavorful, with soft bits of onion and a slight red pepper zing...just the way I like it!  Their soup can be ordered either by the cup or bowl.  I ordered the bowl, and the portion was generous.
     Many patrons ordered to-go at the baked goods counter, but we chose to eat in their tiny but comfortable dining room.  I knew I'd found a new lunch home when I saw a well-used copy of my favorite cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, on the shelf over our table.  The dining room had the nostalgic feel of your grandmother's kitchen with modern touches.
     P.I.E is a small establishment that offers big taste.  I highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

2408 Ashley River Rd.
Fine Gourmet Cafe and Catering
Cafe is Open M-F lunch, 11am-2pm

To all of you who drive down Ashley River Rd. daily, and have wondered about Cafe Fork, you need wonder no longer.  Cafe Fork is a little jewel-box treasure, decorated in Tiffany blue and white, with French Country style furnishings- elegent yet comfortable.  The staff is friendly and helpful, explaining the many choices on the menu and making excellent suggestions when you are unsure about which amazing dish to choose for lunch.  The portions are generous, and as they are simply scrumptious, you are thankful for that!
We ordered a lunch special, Crispy Shrimp with Thai Peanut Sauce and the Sugar Magnolia Chicken Salad sandwich.  The Crispy Shrimp dish was made with plenty of plump shrimp, served over black rice cakes.  The black rice had a moist, nutty flavor and the Thai sauce was thick and just spicy enough.  Sauteed green beans and a crispy potato stick garnish were the perfect accent to the dish.  
The Sugar Magnolia chicken salad was made with red grapes and candied pecans, served on a very fresh croissant, along with a thick tomato slice and crispy lettuce.  It was the best chicken salad sandwich I have ever eaten, and the fact that it was surrounded by a duet of french fried potatoes and sweet potato fries certainly didn't hurt.  A dish of delectable sweet cucumber pickles is also served with most of their sandwiches.
Other offerings that looked very good were the Lowcountry Crab Cake Benedict, which was served with  both corn fritters and crab cakes and the Southern BLT, made with pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes.  But those are for another day, another lunch!  
If you save room, their desserts also look fabulous.  A triple chocolate cake on a pedestal server, perched on the counter by our table, was calling my name, but alas, I was just too full!  Next time, though.....

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Having always loved the novels of and revered the work of Willa Cather, I was delighted to discover that Ms. Cather's short stories are just as good as her novels.  I have spent the summer swimming in the deep pool of Willa Cather's thoughts and characters by reading The Willa Cather Collection simultaneaously with The Selected Letters of Willa Cather.  It is thrilling to read about her creative method as she wrote The Song of the Lark while reading the novel.  Ms. Cather commented that she deeply missed the characters in that work when her writing was completed, just as we, as readers, miss them when finishing her book.  Comparisons are made between the main character, Thea, and the actual operatic talent of the early 20th century, Olive Fremstad, who was a friend of Cather.
I have now turned my summer reading theme into my autumn theme, with fall arriving tomorrow, and will revel in her characterizations and midwest scenery until the cold weather comes, and beyond, I expect.  I originally purchased 40 Classic Works to read only W. Cather's short stories, but I will now re-read all of the included novels as well.  This book is a gem!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Part Three:


Located at 167 E. Bay St., Cypress Restaurant is a unique dining experience.  The dining room is on two levels and features comfortable banquette and upholstered chair seating, white table cloths, an open kitchen and a multi-story wall of fine wine.  Colored accent lighting in the ceiling gradually fades and changes color, creating a peaceful setting for a meal fit for the most discerning gourmet.
Our servers, Greg and Jon, were skilled, efficient, and best of all, very nice.  While we chose to order from the three course Restaurant Week menu, Jon welcomed us to Cypress by offering us a treat from the Chef, a tasting portion of Sashimi Tuna topped Oysters, with a dot of wasabi sauce.  It's hard to believe, but I had never tasted oysters before and I absolutely loved them.  Thank you so much, Jon, for adding me to the list of oyster-loving Lowcountry residents!
On to our first course, Charcuterie and a bowl of Lobster Bisque.  The charcuterie, presented on a wooden board, was an aromatic mix of braunschweiger (a type of smoked liverwurst), picante salami, pork pate, Tuscan beef salami, pickled vegetables and mini biscuits.  All of the meats are made in-house, and this was my dining partner's favorite appetizer during Restaurant Week.

My first course, the Lobster Bisque, was a creamy, tomato-based soup, redolent of seafood and chervil, topped with three Carolina shrimp.  Delicious.
We both chose the Diver Scallops and Pork Belly for our main course.  Pork Belly was another first for me.  It was tender and flavorful, served beside three large scallops atop sweet potatoes whipped with chile oil and marscapone cheese.  The dish was garnished with curried raisins, bacon and sweet sauteed onions.  The flavors in the meat and fish were subtle, smoky, and complimented each other perfectly.
The last course, our dessert, was the Trio of Chocolates; deconstructed cake and ice cream.  The plate held chunks of dark, moist chocolate cake, a small scoop of white chocolate ice cream, and a bitter-sweet triangle of chocolate bark.  All around this trio were dots of caramel and milk chocolate sauce.  The portion did not look large as served, but we were unable to finish it; not, I assure you, due to the flavor, which was excellent.  
Our server, Greg, was attentive to our needs during the entire meal, checking on us often and even refilling our after-dinner coffees whenever they became half full.  Again, many thanks to Greg and Jon.  
Cypress is a favorite, due to perfect service, food that is flavorful and creatively prepared and a softly lit, romantic dining room.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tristan, 10 Linguard St. Charleston, SC


     Opting for a four course Chef's Tasting menu, my next stop during Restaurant Week was at Tristan Restaurant, on the ground floor of the French Quarter Inn.   Featuring complimentary valet parking, a lovely dining room and bar and a team of wait staff for each table, Tristan lives up to its AAA 4 Diamond designation.
     We began in the bar, where a most accommodating bartender made me a special "mocktail".  My dining partner enjoyed a Westbrook White Thai, a Whitbier style beer, made in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Our table was ready promptly at our reservation time and we were seated in their ultra-modern, softly lit dining room.    The wait staff team began by offering us a variety of water choices, with an option of lemon or lime.  The next team member brought us our choice of a sour dough roll, sprinkled with sea salt or a generously sized piece of olive focaccia bread- the roll was soft and warm, with a crunch of sea salt in each bite.  The focaccia was light and moist, topped with black olives.
     Next, we were treated to an amuse bouche, which is loosely translated from the French as "entertainment for your mouth".  The Blood Orange Curd we were served was so pleasantly and intensely flavorful that it truly was a party for your mouth!
     Our waitress, Hannah, was efficient, knowledgable and, above all,  fun.  She deftly served and quickly whisked away each course, refreshing all utensils each time.  The first course she served was Beer Glazed Shrimp.  The shrimp, glazed with Westbrook White Thai butter, was accompanied by tender pretzel gnocchi, crisp haricot verts and a garnish of heirloom greens.  The wine pairing was a Hook & Ladder White from the Russian River Valley.  (My dining partner opted for the wine pairings with each course.  Each was perfectly matched to the flavors in the dish.)
     The second course was Eggless-Eggplant Parmesan Flan.  This smooth and creamy flan had a distinctly smoky aroma, matched as it was with the Benton's bacon broth.  Toasted pine nuts topped the dish, which was accented by a thick, tangy dash of San Marzano tomato jam.  The wine pairing was a Simple Life Pinot Noir, from  California.
     A palate cleansing was in order, after all of the intense flavors experienced so far.  Consequently, we were treated to an intermezzo of grapefruit and tarragon sorbet.  The grapefruit taste was bright and light, the tarragon appropriately understated.
     All of the portions were sized to please but not fill, so we were able to enjoy each offering without being overly full.  That said, we were ready for our third and main course, the Braised Beef Pave.  This rectangle of tender, shredded beef sat on a bed of crushed redskin potatoes and butter braised cabbage (delicate in flavor and a perfect compliment to the Tea & Cider Jus on the beef).  The topper  to the dish was a perfectly prepared vidalia onion slice that melted in your mouth.  The flavors of each component of this dish were so well matched that every bite carried with it the aromas and taste sensations of Autumn.  The wine pairing was something new to us, a Malbec from Argentina.  I highly recommend choosing the wine pairings at Tristan when offered, as they enhance the flavors of each dish so well.
     The dessert course was another example of how high Tristan chefs set the culinary bar.  We were served a "deconstructed" Apple Strudel.  Arranged on the plate were three thin pieces of puff pastry, alternating with cooked apple slices, both with a gentle cinnamon/sugar flavor.  Dots of golden raisin puree and milk jam surrounded this apple gem, which was also accompanied by toasted oatmeal gelato on a tiny, crispy oatmeal cookie.  By dipping the spoon into each component, you were able to  taste a most amazing strudel which dissolved like apple magic in your mouth.  The dessert wine was a lovely, slightly sweet California Muscato.
     In conclusion, meals at Tristan are Perfection on a Plate

Friday, September 6, 2013

It's here!!!  The Greater Charleston Restaurant Association's
Local foodees know that this 12 day event occurs twice yearly...once in the fall and once in the winter.  The current event runs from Sept.4th to Sept.15th, with over 100 local restaurants participating.
I usually visit 3 restaurants each Restaurant Week, creating my own theme each time.  This week's theme for the Charleston E.Diner is "Restaurants that I haven't visited in the last 5 years".  Those choices are Hank's Seafood Restaurant, Tristan's and Cypress.  (Past themes have been New Restaurants, Favorite Restaurants and Award Winning Restaurants.)  Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I only review restaurants that I LOVE.   If the food is not good, the restaurant is not mentioned.  But, since I've already mentioned the three restaurants I'm eating at this week, there is the possibility of a critical comment or two!   This three part series begins with Hank's Seafood.

     We arrived 45 minutes early for our reservation at Hank's Seafood, planning to have a drink at their bar before being seated.  Not only did the friendly hostess peruse her schedule and offer to seat us immediately, but she quickly rearranged her seating chart to accommodate my mobility/disabiliy issues by giving us seating at a very comfy booth (rather than ladder-back chairs at the other dining tables).
     The dining room is large, with a high ceiling but, due to discreet sound panels above, the room is not noisy at all.  We could easily converse in hushed tones without repeating ourselves and could not overhear the conversations at nearby tables (ok, that may not be as interesting, but it did make for a more peaceful meal!)
     Hank's offers 3 Courses for $40.00 per person during Restaurant Week, as well as their regular menu.  We chose from the Restaurant Week menu.  Our first course choices were She Crab Soup and the House Salad....I'd skip the house salad next time.  It was just mixed greens, and although the portion was large, it was slightly boring.  The She Crab Soup, on the other hand, was fabulous; rich, creamy and just enough sherry to be tasty, but not overpowering.
     Our second courses were the Grilled Swordfish and the Shellfish Pasta.  The pasta dish was loaded with scallops, mussels in the shell and shrimp, tails on.   Served over linguine, in a lemon saffron sauce prepared with liquids from the shellfish preparation, the result was a light, clean taste, with a hint of white wine.  It was quite delicious, if a bit salty.
     The Grilled Swordfish was also quite light, without a bit of seasoning- again, a clean taste.  It was served over a generous portion of absolutely delicious wilted spinach and surrounded by lightly breaded and fried okra- the perfect mix of crunchy and smooth textures.  It was accented by a bisque of pureed sweet corn and leek, flavored with ham hocks.  This dish was so good that I was sad not to be able to finish it all; the portions are really that large.
     Our third course was dessert, a choice of a Chocolate Cookie Mudslide or a slice of Lemon Cheesecake.  We chose both, planning to share, but each dessert was so good that we didn't share very much!  The mudslide was a mousse made with ground and chopped chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies (you know... Oreos!).  There was a whipped cream garnish, accompanied by two large strawberries and a chocolate straw.  The lemon cheesecake wedge was bursting with lemon flavor, a thick, NY style cake that was not too sweet....not even a crumb was left on the plate!
     Over all, I would say that my assessment of Hank's Seafood is that it reminds me of this quote from the movie "Lawrence of Arabia":

Jackson Bentley: What attracts you personally to the desert?
T.E. Lawrence: It's clean.
     For an experience that offers expertly prepared seafood that leaves a clean, fresh taste on the palate, try Hank's, 10 Hayne St., downtown Charleston.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A "Teacher's Lounge" cocktail
Located in a rustically renovated brick building next to Husk restaurant, The Bar at Husk is a bar experience that stands firmly on its own.  Specializing in bourbons and "classic cocktails", and offering an array of craft beers and fine wines, the Bar at Husk is a fun place to grab a bite in the evening, or a cocktail as a prelude to your dinner next door.
The narrow first floor features a long bar staffed by knowledgable mixologists who not only create modern and vintage cocktails, but also prepare their own flavored tonic waters.  The second floor lounge is roomier and very comfortable, with assorted tables, chairs, upholstered ottomans and banquettes.
     We were a large party, so a pretty varied assortment of drinks were consumed.  This blog's author does not drink spirits, so enjoyed the refreshing artisan tonic water with a slice of lime.  The very efficient wait staff also brought chilled carafes of water to the table, to be shared by all.  Moving on to the other libations, the Whisky Sours were reported to be delicious, the Teacher's Lounge quite fruity and the Copperhead had a bite like its namesake (and an orange peel garnish shaped like a snake, just for fun!).
     The Bakers Bourbon was sipped and enjoyed, but  the favorite drink of the evening was the Dragoon's Punch.  This authentic drink from the Charleston Preservation Society was a delicious mix of brandies, rum, black tea and raw sugar.
     Topping the list of craft beers sampled was the BottleTree Beer Company's Blonde Ale.  Brewed in Greenville, SC, it was light but flavorful and icy cold.
     As we were not only thirsty, but hungry, we ordered a cheese board to share and cheeseburgers all around.  The cheese board offerings were of all types and textures (the blue cheese was especially good), accompanied by house-made fig jam, bread and a few apple slices.  We really enjoyed this, but asked for and received a bit more bread, as we were a large group and quickly ran out of vehicles for the cheese.
     The Husk Cheeseburger, a double burger on a light, seeded bun, had a distinct smokey flavor which we all  noticed and enjoyed quite a bit.  Served with a bottle of their own tangy ketchup, each burger was layered with melted American cheddar cheese, slivered onions, pickles and a mild and creamy "mystery" sauce.  Don't ask for any changes to it, though....per the chef, there are No Modifications!  That was fine with us, as it really was a perfect burger.
     Great food, fine spirits and a really fun atmosphere will bring us back again to the Bar at Husk.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Coffee- manna for those who have to fight their way awake each day.
I am searching for the friendliest cup of coffee on the peninsula.  Christophe on Society St. has the best cup of French Press coffee, Wild Flour's coffee is smooth, but are they friendly…..????   Hmmm….  Kudu coffee is beautifully presented, as well as tasty and I have noticed that they are kind to those who are down on their luck- 4 stars for sure.   Kitchen 208 has great coffee, a lovely new facility and a very friendly staff- they are in first place so far.

Christophe…..2 stars
Wild Flour1 star                      5 stars = Best
Kudu….4 stars
Kitchen 208..4 1/2  stars

My next stop is Black Tap coffee on Beaufain.  Looking for a real smile, folks, along with a really good cup of coffee. 
 Please send me your nominations for friendliest cup of coffee on the peninsula and I will "take one for the team" by relaxing there with a great cup of Joe….and, I hope, a smile.
Yours with caffeine,
The Charleston E. Diner

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bernard Hellreich Ingram and Irena Ingram

Unfinished Symphony by Bernard Hellreich Ingram

This is a story of Holocaust survivor, Bernard Hellreich Ingram, and his wife  Irena, "Kichka" and friend Marian Golebiowski.  They risked their lives to save his.
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."
Walter Winchell

     Author and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi said "Survivors of traumatic events are divided into two well-defined groups: those who repress their past en bloc, and those whose memory of the offense persists, as though carved in stone, prevailing over all previous or subsequent experiences.  Now, not by choice but by nature, I belong to the second group."  Mr. Ingram also belongs to the second group, telling his story with pain and honesty.
Bernard Hellreich, who added the last name Ingram upon arrival in Australia after WWII, was a recently graduated Jewish medical student in Poland when the Russians and then the Germans invaded his country.  With the help of his Christian girlfriend, soon to be wife, nicknamed "Kichka",  and many friends, he was able to assume the identity of a Catholic Pole, hiding in plain sight by masquerading as a Christian, enabling him to survive WWII.  He avoided the fate of millions of Jews who did not survive the Holocaust,  living to tell the tale.  After his escape from a concentration camp ("euphemistically called Arbeits Lager- work camp"), he was able to hide in plain sight, with the help of Irena and a few courageous friends.
     Bernard's father, a WWI veteran, correctly predicted the outcome off WWII for himself, saying "I survived a tough World War One, but I don't think I have a chance this time."  He didn't.
     Bernard tells his own storyt in a matter-of-fact manner of bewilderment and amazement; amazement at how he survived the war at all and bewilderment at the many strokes of luck and acts of kindness that spared his life, while so many others like him died.  At the hands of the Germans and their enthusiastic partners, the Ukranians, massacres on a huge scale (5,000 jews at a time in some cases) were perpetrated upon the Polish Jews.  Anti-Semitism was already present, taking only a bit of stoking to prod the coals into flames.
Having read books by Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel and been lucky enough to hear Mr. Wiesel speak at the College of Charleston, I continue to be impressed by the peace and kindness exhibited by these survivors of the Holocaust.  They make you want to reach out, touch their hands and say thank you for sharing their very painful experiences.  The Germans and their WWII allies did not break the spirit of those they tormented and killed.  Love, strength and determination remain in the hearts of the survivors, passed on to all who listen to their stories.  We must not forget.
Why go to Social Wine Bar's happy hour if you are a non-drinker?  Why, the food, of course!  Social's happy hour menu offers 5 appetizer options at $4.00 each, Monday through Friday, from 4pm to 7pm.  (There are also drink specials, for those of you who choose to partake in a bit of the grape.)
On a recent Monday night, my family and I celebrated my youngest child's 21st birthday at Social, trying all of the options on the happy hour food menu.  My favorite by far were the Jasmine Rice Balls.  These moist, flavorful orbs of compressed jasmine rice are deep fried and served three to a plate on a zesty coconut curry cream sauce.  Each mouthful is tender and crunchy at the same time, and, when dipped in the curry sauce, finishes with a slight zing.
Our next choice, the Russet Potato Chips, was served with a blue cheese fondue sauce/dip.  The chips arrive at the table warm, with the blue cheese fondue sauce poured over and around them.  They were huge, crispy, nicely salted and the perfect foil for the creamy blue cheese.  Hmmm...maybe these were my favorite.
We then ordered two Margherita Pizzas for the table.   Redolent with basil, these thin crust pizzas are topped with chopped tomatoes and mozzarella- simple yet perfect.  Each pizza serves three people, as there were five of us and we had one piece remaining (which had nothing to do with the fact that we had already ordered and eaten two orders of the rice balls and russet chips..).
The Crispy Shrimp Spring Rolls were next, served two to a plate.  They were indeed crispy, yet the wrapping's layers were still light and not too flakey.  Full of shrimp pieces, they were served with a ginger sesame emulsion for dipping.  We ended the meal with an order of Bruschetta, again quite flavorful, topped with tomatoes, arugula on the side.  It was a nice combination of tart and peppery flavors.
Located at 188 East Bay St., downtown Charleston, Social has a large and active bar area, a raised dining area with tables and upholstered benches along the walls, and a loft-style second floor where the tables overlook the active scene below.   Artwork of local artists adorn the walls, the lighting is subdued yet modern and the wait staff is efficient and attentive.  Parking is available in two nearby city parking garages.  Social sets the bar high for local happy hour haunts and is well worth the trip downtown.

Friday, August 2, 2013

While exploring upper King St. recently, I discovered a new restaurant,  just south of Market St., at 208 King St.  With a lovely outdoor patio (dog friendly) and two cheerful interior seating areas, Kitchen 208 is now open, offering breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch.   Kitchen 208 offers a good variety of tasty and healthy menu selections, for both breakfast and lunch.  
We stopped by for breakfast, taking advantage of their $8.00 complete breakfast to celebrate eight weeks in business.(a $10.00 lunch special will be offered on their ten week anniv.- check their website, for details and more menu selections)
We chose Plantation Waffles and the Charleston breakfast, both of which came with a robust cup of coffee, served in Kitchen 208 mugs.  Refills are available at the coffee bar, self serve, but the meal itself is delivered to your table by a friendly and helpful wait staff.  
The waffles were light and crispy, Belgian-style, topped with a mixed berry compote, syrup on the side, and 3 slices of delicious applewood smoked bacon.   The portions were generous ( three waffles) but the food was so good that we managed to finish all but a few bites.
The Charleston breakfast offers two eggs, cooked to order, a biscuit (light on the inside, not too dry, with a delicate crunch on the outside), applewood smoked bacon and home fried potatoes, grilled with onions, green and red peppers and cracked pepper.  Again, a generous portion, flavorful and perfectly prepared.  
Next time I will also try the steel cut oat muesli (hope it's European style!) served with dried fruits and honey or the vanilla bean yogurt with benne seed granola, which looked fabulous.
Stop by soon to enjoy great food, friendly service and our lovely Charleston mornings on the shaded patio.  Kitchen 208 is a delightful addition to lower King.
Visit to keep up on menus, and happenings at the restaurant.
Click here to follow them on Facebook.

Gin Phillips fans will be delighted by her first foray into young teen fiction.  The Hidden Summer is a magical story of a 13 year old girl's summer of escape and the beginnings of her emotional maturity.  Set in an abandoned putt putt golf course, Ms. Phillips creates a world that you can immediately picture and place yourself in.  Her characters are real and so well developed that you miss them when you finish the book (which is what I love about all of Gin Phillips books).
The main characters are Lydia and Nell, best friends who each have their own issues at home.  How they deal with their dysfunctional mother/daughter relationships is told creatively and with heart, making this a compelling coming-of-age story that old and young readers alike will love.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

In the matter of The Italian Secretary, a mystery is "afoot".  Caleb Carr, the author of the intricate and exciting mysteries The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness, has given the many fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a new Sherlock Holmes mystery to savor.  The Italian Secretary has all of the plot points that draw us into solving crimes with Holmes and Watson.  The story is set in Victorian England, at Holyroodhouse, the official British royal residence in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Not only does Carr provide us with unexplained and unusually performed murders, but a hint of the supernatural, as well.  As addicts of Sherlock Homes mysteries can tell you, Conan Doyle was a believer in spiritualism, which was quite a popular diversion in the Victorian era, both in Europe and in the United States.  Add two royal employees, murdered in a manner "most foul", a dark castle turret room, once inhabited by the Scottish Queen Mary, stir in a ghost and characters who are not what they seem and you have the recipe for the perfect Sherlock Holmes mystery.
Having read Volume I of the Complete Sherlock Holmes and read most of Volume II, I was very excited to learn of a modern day addition to the Holmes mysteries.  Caleb Carr has captured the dark and moody atmosphere exhibited in Conan Doyle's mysteries so well, that, once firmly ensconced in the story, you forget that you are reading a novel written in 2005,  by someone other than Sir Arthur.
With all of the talk lately about the British royal family, and the birth of Prince George, third in line to the throne, this is the perfect time to delve into a story that involves intrigue in the palace of  a Queen. Written with the permission of the Conan Doyle estate, The Italian Secretary is a marvelous mystery, one which I hope and pray Carr follows with another, and another, and another....."Eh, Watson?"
Reading "The Adventure of  The Dying Detective"

I loved the mystery of "The Speckled Band"

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Ordinary is anything but.

The Ordinary is anything but.  Just walk through the doors at 544 King St. and you will see an amazing transformation from the bank that once occupied the building.  The room is open, airy, and sleekly decorated with all things "ocean".  This new-age oyster hall is all about the details, whether on the walls and shelves or on your plate.  The vault door entrance to the kitchen is the one shout-out to the bank, but all around it screams "the sea".   Serene paintings of the ocean adorn the walls, anchors top stacks of books, shells, coral, and large stuffed fish hang above the bar.
     The staff greeted us, seated us immediately, (even though we were early for our 5:45pm reservation) and our excellent waitress, Selena, guided us through the menu.  We had a few choices in mind before arriving, but we were gently coaxed to be more adventurous and creative in our combination of food choices.  The menu is set up in sections; hot, cold, oyster bar, shellfish towers, soup & salad, large plates and veggies & sides.  We took our waitress's very good advice and ordered 2 hot choices, 1 cold choice, 1 soup, and 1 veggie.  (You are encouraged to share, so that you can try more menu items.)
     We began with the 2 hot choices, BBQ White Shrimp & Charred Bread and the Clam Fritters with coriander creme fraiche.  The shrimp, large, local and firm, were bar b q'ed heads-on, served on two slices of charred bread, swimming in a pool of the most delicious sauce I have ever tasted.  The sauce, made with sherry, cream, fresh rosemary and worcestershire sauce was not too heavy and the seasonings were very happily married. The Clam Fritters were golden brown, bursting with tiny bits of clam, and served over a luscious swirl of creme fraiche.  The best part of the dish, we agreed, was taking a bite of the fritter along with one of the succulent sunflower sprouts scattered around the plate.
     Our next amazing combination was a soup and a vegetable.  We were served a scrumptious bowl of New England Style Fish Chowder, milk based, loaded with huge chunks of white fish and fresh snipped chives.  We scooped spoonfuls of it onto our plates and added the Pink Eyed Peas and Okra Croutons- a taste revelation, for sure.  The nuttiness of the peas and the crunchiness of the okra mixed so well with the creaminess of the chowder.  We finished every little bit of it!
     We decided to finish off our feast with the cold choice, as a little reward for our adventurous palates.    The Ordinary Lobster Roll, one pound of sweet chunks of lobster meat, was served on a butter-grilled Texas toast bun.   This was the one item we were told in advance to order, and we were not disappointed by the quality or the taste.  The lobster was mixed in a creamy mayonnaise sauce, with tiny,crunchy bits of veggies; easily the best lobster roll either of us have eaten.
     You would think that we would be too full for dessert, but that was not the case.  All of the portions were perfectly sized, and since we shared them, we were ready for freshly brewed coffee and a choice of 3 desserts....rice pudding, chocolate mousse or lemon pots de creme.  All sounded good, but we chose two, which, of course, we shared.  The Chocolate Mousse was served sliced, over a coffee cream dotted with bits of ground espresso beans and topped with toasted, split hazelnuts.  It was smooth, chocolaty and delicious.  As good as the mousse was, the Lemon Pots de Creme was better.  The lemon cream was so light that it dissolved in your mouth.  It was topped with creme fraiche and crumbled sugar cookies.  Again, not a bit survived on our plates.
     The Ordinary is the perfect seafood restaurant experience- something we should have had all along downtown.  Ah, The Ordinary, where have you been all my life??

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Atlantic Room at the Ocean Course

During a recent weekend getaway at The Sanctuary, we decided to explore a bit of Kiawah Island.  You can drive or bike, but we took the Sanctuary shuttle bus and ended up at the fabulous Ocean Course golf clubhouse.  It is located on a secluded spit of land, bordered  by the Atlantic ocean, the 18th green and expansive wild marsh land.  While
rocking on the shady farmers porch, watching foursomes putt out, we wished we had made a reservation for dinner at the clubhouse's Atlantic Room.  Always crowded, and rightly so, we asked the
hostesses if they could squeeze in one more party of three for dinner.  As it was early (5:30pm) and with only a half hour wait, they were able to seat us at a lovely table by the windows overlooking the ocean.
As usual with any Sanctuary staff you encounter, the waiters and waitresses were friendly, knowledgeable and efficient.  We began our meal with delicious, warm bread, soft, herbed butter,
baked Johns Island tomatoes with fresh basil and garlic, and a watermelon and arugula salad, served with smoked goat cheese and figs.  The tomatoes and arugula salad were delicately flavored and perfectly prepared.
For our main courses, we chose Grilled Swordfish, served on pureed yukon gold-saffron potatoes.  The swordfish was moist and flavorful, complemented by a generous portion of roasted beet slices and garlic spinach, served with a tasty Dijon vinaigrette.
We also enjoyed the Diver Scallops, (four large scallops) prepared grilled and seasoned in olive oil and butter.  They were absolutely delicious.  Served over  a smooth and light puree of cauliflower and truffles, they were accompanied by diced Iberico ham and chopped and steamed local pole beans- a perfect taste and texture combination.
The Wagyu Short Ribs were fall-apart tender, with oxtail onion bone marrow marmalade served in the bone.  The presentation was both beautiful and delicious, as the ribs were arranged on a swirl of carrot puree, bordered by local sweet peas.
We saved just a bit of room for Chocolate Pot de Creme, a silky smooth, French-style chocolate pudding which tasted like a melted and whipped chocolate bar...heavenly!
We watched the pelicans outside the window soar and dive while we enjoyed cups of smooth house-blend coffee, the perfect end to a truly perfect meal.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Sanctuary Hotel, Kiawah, SC       
Pool complex, The Sanctuary
The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island is, by far, the best hotel experience you can have in South Carolina.  I have just returned from my annual girls weekend, which was held for the first time at the Sanctuary.
I can't say enough good things about this amazing property.
The first thing I must mention is the wonderful Sanctuary staff.
Each and every staff member we encountered was friendly, helpful and cheerful.  They all took the time to greet us, ask us what they could do for us and then went the extra mile to make our stay absolutely perfect.  Pull up to the entrance in your car and valets are waiting to park it for you, bellmen are taking your luggage and whisking it away to your room for you.  The check in process is quick and easy.  Take a stroll past the pool, and attendants approach you to offer chairs, towels, umbrellas and iced water with lemon.  Still thirsty?  There is chilled sweet tea awaiting you in the lobby.  Groggy from your trip?  There is free coffee each morning in the West hall area.  In need of a sugar boost?  Try the Friday night Ice Cream Social.  Too tired to decide which restaurant to choose for dinner?  Try a relaxing Friday Night Seafood Buffet dinner by the pool, where even the children are pampered by the peanut butter and jelly sandwich bar.  Wondering about the infinite varieties of plants on the grounds?  Ask a friendly gardener about the names of the plants in the butterfly garden...he knows them all!  Ready for a high-end dinner date?  Speak with knowledgeable and friendly Mr. Charlie at the concierge desk.  He will suggest a restaurant, explain how to catch a free shuttle to the Ocean Course clubhouse and tell you the best time of the evening to watch an especially beautiful moonrise over the surf.  
We stayed in a room with a balcony and a view of the lawn and the ocean.  This basic Sanctuary room was very large and featured two comfy queen-sized beds with luxurious bedding and mounds of pillows.  There were double closets, lighted by motion sensitive fixtures, a dressing table with a makeup mirror,  a wet-bar area and a desk. The furniture in the room, balcony and throughout the hotel was custom made, comfortable and elegant.   The bathroom was easily 100 sq feet, and featured a large tub, bordered by a shuttered opening into the main bedroom area, an oversized double sink vanity, a separate water closet and a glassed in shower with a rain-shower and separate hand-held shower head.
The chamber maids not only kept the rooms perfectly clean and tidy, but they helped negotiate the card locks on the doors for us.
Whether strolling the beautifully landscaped grounds, dining at the many fine restaurants, swimming in the pools, soaking in the spas, or relaxing in the spacious lobby's upholstered chairs and sofas while you enjoy a cold drink, you are pampered, spoiled and catered to.  The Sanctuary at Kiawah...the perfect oasis, just 35 minutes from Charleston.  I will review the Spa and restaurants in tomorrow's blog posts.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

2447 Ashley River Rd., Charleston, SC

I have a new favorite Mexican restaurant...3 Matadors Tequileria.    Recently opened (on Cinqo de Mayo) in the  creatively renovated space that once housed Pinachio's Italian restaurant, 3 Matadors offers both indoor and outdoor dining.  We opted for a table inside, and were very comfortable.  The restaurant is open air,  brightly decorated and even had a pleasant breeze inside.
Our server, Justin, was friendly and efficient, giving us detailed descriptions of many menu items.  The menu is divided into four sections- Appetizers, Salads, Specialty Tacos and Sides.  Justin brought us taco chips and salsa to start, then recommended the Blackened Mahi-Mahi Bites as an appetizer.  We ordered both the Mahi Bites and an order of Queso Blanco dip with chips.  The mahi bites, delicious chunks of blackened fish, were served with a creamy jalapeno ranch dip, which was quite tasty- not too spicy.  The queso dip was the best I've had anywhere in Charleston, made with fresh jalapeños, minus the seeds, and cilantro.
3 Matadors gets their shrimp fresh from the docks at Rockville, SC , so we had to try the "El Capitan" Shrimp tacos.
(All of their specialty tacos are prepared with 6" soft tacos.)  The shrimp in the "El Capitan" was deep fried, then dipped in a signature hot sauce- crispy and hot, inside and out!  Mexi-slaw cooled the fire a bit and complimented the shrimp perfectly.  We also tried the Veggie Taco, adding chicken, just for fun.  The sautéed veggies were clearly quite fresh, and were topped with mexi-ranch sauce, finished with cilantro.  A very good choice, even if you don't add chicken.
         The prices at 3 Matadors are very reasonable and the portions proved to be just right.  I will definitely return soon to try a few more of their house specialties, like Lemon Pepper Mahi or perhaps their Sante Fe Salad- both looked very good.   The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner, starting at 11am.  See you there!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie, had been on my list of "need to read" books for  too long.   I finally purchased the book last week and read it in 3 days.  I have read many books  about the "Re-education" of the educated middle class in China, all of which brought me the kind of horror you feel in your heart and stomach....that sinking feeling you get when you realize that horrible things can happen in any society, at any time, with just a slight tilt of the universe.  Dai Sijie's story, set in 1971 China, tells about the re-education of two friends in their late teens, sons of medical professionals.  Western books are banned and craved by the narrator and his friend, Luo.  Also greatly admired is the lovely seamstress, the object of their dreams and obsessions.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I will tell you that events conspire to forever entwine and separate the three young people, pulling you into their sad yet hopeful world.  I loved this story and have heard that a movie based on the book is being made....hope it is true to this gem of a book.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Blossom at 171 E. Bay St., downtown

Happy Mother's Day to me!!  My family and I had a lovely meal  at Blossom Restaurant this weekend.
Blossom has an understated frontage on E. Bay St., and you may walk right by without realizing that there is  a fairly large restaurant there, with a cathedral, beamed ceiling and outdoor dining.
In past year's, we have watched The Kentucky Derby at their small but friendly bar and celebrated New Year's Eve in their balloon bedecked dining room.  This year, Mothers Day was well-spent at Blossom, dining on Lowcountry favorites and traditional fare.
Our starters were Buttermilk Fried Calamari, She Crab Soup and Baby Spinach Salad.  The calamari was some of the best our group has eaten in a long time, lightly breaded, tender and served with a creamy red pepper remoulade.
I am very fussy about she crab soup, and Blossom's definitely met my expectations.  It had a zing of paprika and a wonderful flavor of sherry throughout.  The baby spinach salad had a twist that I loved...candied bacon.  Delicious.
We ordered the Maple Leaf Farms Duck, Pecan Crusted Flounder and Grilled NY Strip Steak and were pleased with all three.  The duck was crispy on the outside, tender inside and served with a flavorful port cherry sauce.  I loved the flounder, which was one of the better pecan crusted presentations of fish that I have had in the area.  It was served over a bed of sweet potato hash and a puree of fig and honey.  Each bite was swirled in the puree before eaten, giving it a slightly sweet finish.  The NY strip was perfectly cooked and quite tender.  Our entrees were accompanied by a basket of bread, baked with a pretzel-like, soft crust, topped with crunchy sea salt.
The restaurant was very flexible when asked for substitutions on veggie sides and the service was friendly and efficient.
For delicious entrees and a cheerful atmosphere, I recommend Blossom on E. Bay.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I am joining a book club in June and my first assignment was to read the book, The Madonnas of Leningrad.  I uploaded it to my Kindle and read it in 4 days.  The author, Debra Dean, skillfully tells the tale of Marina, who, as a docent at Russia's premier art museum, Leningrad's The Hermitage, packed, shipped and emotionally catalogued the art work which was at risk during the Siege of Leningrad.
In June of 1941, with the Germans closing in on Leningrad, intent on destroying the city in its entirety, those who worked at The Hermitage, and those citizens who loved it, worked tirelessly to pack over a million art treasures.  They were loaded onto two trains which safely evacuated the art they contained to the Urals, until the war and siege ended in 1945.  Spending days packing, sometimes for 23 hours at a time without a rest, and nights on fire watch on The Hermitage building complex's roof, Marina and the other volunteers lived with little sleep and less food, as they preserved the collected art history of Europe and Asia.
Told from Marina's perspective, as both an elderly, Alzheimer-threatened woman who emigrated to the United States after the war, and as a young worker at the Hermitage, the story weaves tales of war, suffering, hunger and love for art into a compelling narrative.  The Madonnas of Leningrad is also told from the perspective of her daughter, who gives us a side to war survivors that many of us have seen, that of people who have seen such horrors, that they choose not to speak of it.  Marina and her husband, Dmitri, have lived a long, full life after the war, and only reflect on their past experiences when age and dementia shuffle their memories.
I highly recommend both reading this book and looking at the website for The Hermitage,  The facts of the story and the human side represented in this novel bring a clarity to a part of WWII that many of us rarely hear about, The Siege of Leningrad.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

I am a great fan of Julia Child, her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and food, in general.  I love to look at food, think about ingredients and their combinations, experiment with food and, above all, eat food. As I thoroughly enjoy cooking my way through her book of French cooking, I thought it would be fun to look inside the life of Julia Child, to see what made her tick.
The biography, Dearie, by Bob Spitz, enlightens readers about Julia's youth, her west coast upbringing, her service during the war and, ultimately, her love affair with her husband, Paul Child.  It opens the door to Julia, the person, as well as Julia the chef.
I loved learning that Julia was highly driven, competitive and absolutely adored men, especially those she called "real He-men"!  She always appeared to be so "off the cuff" in her life and work, an impression that she cultivated but one that was absolutely untrue.  She was obsessed with the details- all would be planned, researched and rehearsed, step by step, before a recipe or tv show was ready to be used or viewed.  She was also a natural performer.  She could roll with any gaffe and had a wicked sense of humor.  All in all, Dearie was a delight and I recommend reading Dearie for anyone who is just as curious about Julia the person as Julia the chef.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A dark tale of unrelenting winter, obsession and disappointment in New England,
the story of Starkfield, Massachusetts resident Ethan Frome will chill you to the bone.  Author Edith Wharton draws you into the small world of subsisting farmers, desperate love and unrealized dreams by the use of a dispassionate narrator.  Told in flashback style, you are lead reluctantly by the hand down a path of emotional and physical destruction.
You will feel a creeping horror for main character, Ethan, as his choices lead him to the inevitable end of all has hoped for.  The suffering of all is exacerbated by the coldness of Ethan's wife, Zeena and the warmth of their live-in help, Mattie.
Still fresh and just as stunning, even on this, my third read, the tragedy and suffering of Ethan Frome is definitely worth adding to your library.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Glass Onion, 1219 Savannah Hwy in
Beautiful West Ashley

How lucky are we in West Ashley to have an amazing restaurant such as The Glass Onion?   The food is fresh, local and incredibly creative.  They are successful due to  great culinary ideas such as crispy french fries served with bearnaise sauce.  Delicious!
Orders are taken at a central counter, from menu items updated daily, written on a large chalk board.  The friendly staff then escorts you to a table, where a picture on a clip is set on the table to help bring the food to the correct table.  My table picture was of Julia Child, who is coincidentally my culinary hero!  My friends and I chose Po Boys, served on soft french-style bread, with lettuce, mayo and tomato.  Mine was loaded with fried shrimp, lightly breaded and so tasty.  The plate was garnished with pickled cucumber chunks.  The portions were generous, we were pretty full, but dessert beckoned.  Knowing how good the meal was, we just had to see if the dessert would be the same....and it was!
We tried Johnny's Favorite Orange Cream Pie and the Blueberry Almond Pound Cake with Buttercream icing.
The orange pie was a creamy, rich version of chess pie, with just the right amount of orange flavor, not too sweet and topped with fresh, whipped cream.  The pound cake was dense, flavorful and moist with a very thick layer of absolutely perfect buttercream icing.  As the menu changes daily, it is well worth visiting The Glass Onion again and again, to discover new taste combinations and to enjoy the company of the genial staff.
As Julia Child would have said, Bon Appetit!  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Glazed Doughnuts, on upper King, is my favorite place for an after-church treat.  This morning's taste revelation was an orange-pistachio glazed doughnut.  The glaze had just the right amount of citrus punch, and was topped with crunchy pistachios.  The doughnut itself was airy with just a bit of sweetness.  Perfect!
I also tried the raisin buns, which were topped with a light sour cream glaze.  The dough was soft in the center, crispy of the edges and loaded with plump raisins.  I'm not sure which one was my favorite, but I will be returning soon to try more of their wonderfully creative confections.
Charleston's best doughnuts, by far are at Glazed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Okay, I just finished reading The Shack, the very popular Christian novel, written by William Paul Young and published in 2007.
Hmmmm....I just don't know what I think about this book.  What topics were meant to be stressed by this narrative?  I almost think that there were too many of them, all swirled around in a colorful but puzzling serving of religious soup.  Some of the ingredients were loss, responsibility, guilt, grief, recovery, faith, anger, revenge, judgement, and love.  Is this beginning to sound like the Old Testament to you?  The only thing missing were the plagues of locust.  Well, maybe they were there somewhere and I just missed them.
The book dwells in a good place, on the great I AM, the holy Trinity.  If you have ever had a difficult time explaining the trinity to new or non-Christian believers, The Shack may be a help to you.  However, there were  aspects of the story that made a few things less clear for Christians.  I struggled a bit with The Shack's suggestion that expectations are sinful.  That seemed rather broad and was somewhat perplexing to me.  But, the book does affirm what should be obvious to all of us who love Jesus Christ dearly, that being with God, being one with Him, brings perfect joy and peace, complete openness and happiness beyond measure.  If that is the message you come away with, then the book is a worthy read.  Am I recommending The Shack?  At the risk of sounding as nebulous as the book,  my answer is...Maybe.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Knopf publishing house has scored another coup.  The Selected Letters of Willa Cather , a collection of personal letters that most Cather fans thought would never be seen in print, will be published in April.  I haven't been this excited since Mark Twain's autobiography was published.
While it is always interesting to read the musings of talented and widely admired authors, it is especially so in the case of Willa Cather.  Miss Cather not only destroyed most of her personal correspondence during a low period prior to her death, but also specified in her will that information of this type would never
be shared in print.  Now, after the death of the last direct relative of Willa Cather and with the permission of the Willa Cather Foundation, many long forgotten and never collected letters will be shared with the literary world.  While Miss Cather wrote wonderful stories set on the Great Plains, her personal relationships have also garnered some attention.  She was actually buried far from the Great Plains that she did such justice to in print, in the gentle mountain town of Jaffrey, New Hampshire, a town with special meaning in her personal life.  We who love her writing hope to gain some insight into the woman, her relationships and reactions to the pre and post WWI world around her.  Thank you Knopf for shining a light on Willa Cather.   

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Wild Olive Cucina Italiana is a culinary gem thriving on Maybank Hwy on Johns Island.  I would imagine that you have heard about this restaurant and, like me, always meant to try it.  Now, you must do so.  The pasta is artfully prepared and quite delicious, stuffed with Keegan-Filion chicken (Agnolotti), ricotta (Gnocchi) and butternut squash and spiced pecans (Ravioli).  The pairings of meat and pasta are creative and also quite tasty, as in the chicken parmesan in marinara sauce which is paired with cavatelli alfredo.  Two types of sauce on one plate- a really great idea!
My favorite part of the meal, as I am a chocoholic, was the chocolate pistachio custard, which is more like a creamy, whipped milk chocolate bar, covered with lovely, green pistachio cream and pistachio nuts.  It was served with two thin and crispy biscotti, which I tasted by dipping it in the custard (very good) and brought home to dip in my coffee (better). Our very nice server told us that it is a customer favorite and I can see why.  The Wild Olive...worth a trip to Johns Island.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I've stumbled upon another great mystery writer from the 1800's...
Anna Katherine Green.  A writer of short stories and novels, she is considered the mother of the detective novel.  I don't know how I overlooked her work, but I am making up for that now!                       One of Ms. Green's recurring detective characters, Violet Strange, (a precursor to Christie's Miss Marple) is a beautiful debutante, who boldly solves her complicated cases- something quite unusual for a 19th century woman.  Two of my favorite Violet Strange stories are The House of Clocks and Missing; Page Thirteen. Her first novel, The Leavenworth Case, written in 1878, was so good that the men of that time doubted it could have been written by a woman.  Her work was noticed and praised by another one of my favorite 19th century authors, Wilkie Collins (a contemporary of Charles Dickens).  I am currently reading and enjoying The Leavenworth Case, which has Sir Arthur Conan Doyle overtones, years before Sherlock Holmes arrived on the literary scene.  For fun plot twists and skillful sleuthing, try Anna Katherine Green.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

If you are blessed to live in the Lowcountry, and even if you are not, you will be mesmerized by Mary Whyte's book, Down Bohicket Road.  Her story of getting to know and love the beautiful people and places on Johns Island is told through lyrical watercolor paintings and tender words.
No one can drive down Bohicket Road without feeling the pull of the marsh, the farmlands and their guardians, the people and live oaks of Johns Island.
It's hard to choose a favorite among Mary Whyte's subjects, but her paintings of Lilly and Tesha are wonderfully tender and compelling.  I read Mary's book in one Sunday afternoon sitting, but I keep coming back to the paintings of her friend, Alfreda.  What I love about Whyte's images of Alfreda is the light of love, warmth and kindness which shines in her eyes.  How lucky we are that Mary Whyte has allowed us into her heart for Johns Island and the folks Down Bohicket Road.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts has created the best way to celebrate St. Patrick's offering the Irish Car Bomb doughnut!  The plate bearing them was empty when I arrived this morning at 10:30am, but, after a brief moment of panic on my part, more were discovered on the tray, fresh from the kitchen.  The Irish Car Bomb is a puffy, cloud-like doughnut, filled with a delectable cream, lightly flavored with Bailey's Irish Cream. The top is covered with a Guinness Stout glaze...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Have you ever strolled upper King St. during the evening, and paused to stare, gape and covet the kitchens at SieMatic Kitchen Designs?  Many times?  I thought so- so have I.                                                           I was recently on upper King at lunchtime and was pleased to be able to actually step inside. 
For all of you Foodies, kitchen junkies and chefs out there, this store is nirvana.  SieMatic is a German company, known for clean lines, functionality and beauty of design.  They did not disappoint.
Each aspect of their specially designed kitchens is meant to please, from the textured, metal surface under the sink (very practical in the event of water or cleaning product leaks) to the adjustable height wooden cutting board that slides across the sink above it.  The cabinet drawers are self-closing, the lighting touch and motion sensitive and the corner base cabinets are a sight to behold.   Every want or need of anyone, be they chef or cooking novice, who steps into their kitchens is met.  
All of their work is custom built and designed, as explained to me by the extremely knowledgable, friendly and helpful sales manager.  The prices are in the higher end but well worth the quality and craftsmanship received.
I will never look at another kitchen the same way.... SieMatic is the ultimate kitchen.

I am a lover of biscuits.  I freely admit it.  I just had the best biscuit on the planet, or at least in my charmed corner of Charleston, at Bull Street Market at 60 Bull St.  Although most of their bread comes from Normandy Farms, they bake their biscuits in-house.  Mine was a warm, basil and goat cheese biscuit, which I ate in tiny bites so that it would last longer.  It was crispy on the outside; fluffy and tender on the inside.  The basil was fragrant and not overdone and the goat cheese was plentiful, creamy and just so delicious.  Run, don't walk, to the corner of Smith and Bull Streets for the best basil & goat cheese biscuits in Charleston.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Prompted by my love of all things Victorian, I have just read A.E.W. Mason's 
The Four Feathers.
Based on a Mason short story, his book tells the story of courage, perceived cowardice and redemption.      
The setting alternates between England, Ireland and the middle East.  England's military presence in the Sudan provides many interesting opportunities for adventure for the six main characters, comrades in arms all.  A story of honor above all, this book was made into seven movies over the years, the best being the 1939 version which features Ralph Richardson.  As with many works of classic literature, the screenwriter takes many liberties with the story line, so I suggest reading the book before viewing any of the movie versions.  The silent version from 1929 may be worth viewing, as it seems to follow the book's plot a bit closer.  I often find that is true with silent films.
The Four Feathers was an engrossing, quick read with an element of romance and a large dose of middle eastern 1880's military intrigue.   Loved it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I am LOVING Alvin Ord's Sandwich Shop in Port Royal, SC.  Take a side trip on your way to Hilton Head to find this little, bitty place on Rt.21.  Located a few miles past Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot, this tiny sandwich shop makes a big taste splash.  The secret is in the bread, a disc-shaped piece of heaven that is a cross between French bread and an English muffin in texture.  Three cheeses are baked into it, as well.  The result is a tender, toothsome treat that is filled with just the right amount of your choice of meat and topped with mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion.  The sandwiches come in three sizes...small, medium and large.  The small was really perfect.  You will need a BIG appetite to finish the medium or large sandwiches, but they are the perfect size to share.
Alvin Ord's gets very busy between 11am and 1pm, so call in your order in advance if you can.  We arrived at 1:30, though, so walked right up to the counter.  Bring cash, too, as checks and credit cards are not accepted.  
This is my new favorite sandwich stop!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Victor Hugo's Les Miserables...
Where have you been all my life?  This could be my new favorite book.  Don't let the 1400 pages frighten you off.  I am 35% through it ( a la Kindle) and am loving every single page.  
Victor Hugo loves to digress and my favorite digression so far is his description of the battle of Waterloo.  Who knew that a sunken road, hidden from view in a sweeping field was such a factor in Napoleon's loss?  I have visited the Waterloo battle site, have seen the rolling pasture land and can picture exactly how the sunken road caught, trapped and killed so many French soldiers on horseback.  
I am now a bit further on in Les Mis, in the middle of another digression,  a detailed description of a Benedictine convent in Paris, a place that brings pious suffering to a whole new level.
Stay tuned for more Les Mis updates.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What's better than Poogan's Porch Buttermilk Fried Chicken?  Give up?  Poogan's buttermilk fried chicken during Rollback the Prices to 1978!  Not only is it light and crispy, without a bit of heaviness, tender and juicy inside and mildly seasoned, but in January you can enjoy it for less than $10.00 per plate.  Each January, Poogan's Porch celebrates its anniversary by rolling the prices back to 1978. 
Not only can you enjoy the boneless fried chicken breasts (2 of them), served over a pile of savory collard greens and creamy whipped potatoes, but you will have enough money left in your wallet to order a cup of Chef Isaac's She Crab Soup.  This Charleston classic is swirled with dry sherry and chive oil, flavored with a hint of red pepper and loaded with lump crabmeat.  You can also add an Iceberg Wedge Salad, a huge chunk of lettuce surrounded by diced tomato, cucumber and bacon and covered with crumbled blue cheese and bacon pieces.  Both of these starters are under $5.00 in January.   So let the countdown begin....11 months to go until January 2014, and Poogan's next anniversary price celebration.