Monday, March 31, 2014

Burwell's Stone Fire Grill

For casual elegence and high end food,  Burwell's Stone Fire Grill is the place to be.   This new age steakhouse is located just east of Charleston's busy,  City Market, at 14 N. Market St., with both metered parking and a valet lot available nearby.  The dining room's warm earth tones and the bar's classic grand piano tunes greet you as you enter.  The hostesses are cheerful, the wait staff efficient and friendly.
Seated comfortably in a booth with a great view of their hot stone grill, we ordered Burwell's Signature Salad.  A modern twist on the wedge salad, this thick slice of Bibb lettuce is sprinkled with sunflower seeds, white raisins and chunks of Cave bleu cheese, and zig-zagged with a deliciously light dressing.
The Deviled Eggs, garnished with wild boar bacon, are worth ordering, as well.
After enjoying an Allegash White beer and fruit juice, garnished with lime, we were ready for our main course,
the Wagyu beef filet.  There were many cuts of prime and wagyu beef available - the hanger steak, however, was not available that night, but we were more than pleased with our choice of filet.  Served on pureed turnips and parsnips, and garnished with grilled Brussells sprouts, the filet was seared perfectly on the outside, tender and pink on the inside.   The savory root vegetables,  bold Brussells sprouts and flavorful beef were a great flavor pairing.  My dining partner was very happy with the creamy, garlic bearnaise sauce he added to his filet.  I enjoyed mine plain.
After steaming hot coffee served in large mugs, our dessert arrived- a trio of house-made ice creams.
The three flavors (which are changed often) were lemon ginger, white chocolate strawberry and toasted marshmallow caramel.
The lemon ginger was definitely my favorite; sweet and tangy at the same time.  The strawberry white chocolate ice cream was full of strawberry bits and the caramel ice cream was topped with a tiny, toasted marshmallow.  I look forward to trying more flavors on a return trip to this lovely restaurant.

The next time you head downtown for dinner, I encourage you to take a detour from Upper King, and try this gem of a steakhouse on N. Market.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lunching at 39 Rue De Jean, on John St., was the perfect way to celebrate National Happy Day.
How can you not be perfectly happy when you are served delicious french food, at a lovely little restaurant on a quiet side street, on a sunny day in Charleston?  
We were a very large group, taking up the entire right side of the restaurant.  The wait staff cheerfully served us, even though each of us needed separate checks.  They promptly filled our glasses of sweet tea (delicious, by the way), served us carafe's of chllled water, and baskets of warm french bread and soft, creamy butter while we waited for our lunch orders to arrive.
39 Rue De Jean offers weekly and daily lunch specials, along with an extensive luncheon menu that is available every day.  Those around me ordered, and were very pleased with, thick slices of quiche, pomme frites, enormous cheeseburgers, and heaps of mussels in white wine broth.  My table partner and I ordered the weekly special; soup or salad and Basque Shrimp.
The salad was quite large, full of chunks of leaf lettuce and huge croutons, dressed with a flavorful vinaigrette.  The soup, served in a large bowl, contained white beans, chorizo and wilted spinach, in a thick, lightly seasoned tomato broth.  I wanted to finish every bit of it, but after seeing the size of the entrees being served around me, I decided to save some of my appetite for the next course.  I was lucky that I did.
My generaous portion of Basque Shrimp offered eight lightly breaded, fried prawns, on a bed of jasmine rice pilaf.  The Basque tomato sauce, ladled into the center of the dish, did not overpower the flavor of the shrimp, allowing me to savor the separate flavors of shrimp, rice and tomato in each bite.
I hope to return to Rue de Jean soon, to sample more offerings on their luncheon menu.

After lunch, while strollig back down John St., towards King, I stopped into a tiny sweet shop for dessert on the go.  The Macaroon Boutique,  at 45 John St., is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11am to 6pm.  Their pastry cases were full of fresh croissants, madeleines and, of course, macaroons.
Even though the package of six macaroons cost the same as the lunch I just completed, they were worth every single penny.  They were slightly crispy on the outside, sweetly chewy on the inside, and filled with flavored cream.  My favorite was the lemon one, although the milk chocolate filled ones were not to be missed, either.  I also purchased a package of madeleines, which were equally as good.  They were rich, buttery, great with jam, or a dot of ice cream.  
All in all, a perfect National Happy Day on John St.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sarah Grimke
Angelina Grimke
The Invention of Wings
Sue Monk Kidd

As a fan of Sue Monk Kidd's books, The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair, I anxiously awaited the publication of her newest book, The Invention of Wings.  Ms. Kidd is a skilled storyteller, as evidenced in her historic treatment and compelling fictionalization of the daily lives of Charleston abolitionist sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke.  Related to the Draytons (of Magnolia and Drayton Hall Plantations) the Grimke girls were raised on East Bay Street in Charleston, SC.  Their anti-slavery views made them pariahs in their own city and heroes to northern abolitionists.  A contemporary of Elizibeth Cady Stanton, William Lloyd Garrison and John Greenleaf Whittier, Sarah Grimke discovered and embraced the northern abolitionist movement soon after she moved to Pennsylvania in the 1820's.  Sarah's younger sister, Angelina, who shared her anti-slavery views, traveled north to join Sarah in the 1830's.  Angelina became a spirited writer and speaker for the abolitionist cause.
Ms. Kidd's description of the lives of Charleston house slaves in the early 1800's adds depth and a sense of purpose to the Grimke narrative.  The Invention of Wings is a great read. It illuminates the story of the Grimke sisters for history lovers and especially for those Charlestonians who have had to be satisfied with mere snippets of information about these brave sisters.