Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Cottage
Cafe, Bakery and Tea Room
     Bluffton, SC, the oft missed doorway to Hilton Head Island, is a hidden gem that should not be missed.  The next time you're driving down Route 278, skip the outlet malls, turn right on Burnt Church Rd. and head down Bruin Rd. towards quaint and friendly Old Town Bluffton.  Park on the roadside of Calhoun St., get out of your car and walk; walk into the art galleries, walk into the antique shops, and most of all, walk into The Cottage Cafe and Bakery at 38 Calhoun St.  Offering delicious sandwiches, seafood, mile high cakes and copies of The Little Cottage That Could Cookbook, The Cottage is a charming restaurant,  peopled by friendly employees, relaxed and familiar locals and lucky tourists.
     The menu, so varied and tempting that it was almost impossible to make a choice, is divided into sections which include Favorites (such as Liver and Onions,  Lobster Avocado Rolls, and Shrimp and Grits), Sandwiches, Wraps and Paninis (with combinations such as turkey, apple and brie or lime ginger shrimp), a long list of Salads and what seemed to be their specialty, Pot Pies.  They also offer a few specials each day.
     We chose the Chicken Pot Pie and the Saturday lunch special, Fried Green Tomatoes topped with local shrimp in a light tomato sauce.  Every meal is served with a shredded green salad, your choice of dressings and a plate of delicious, warm corn muffins accompanied by a dish of soft butter sprinkled with cinnamon.
     The pot pie was generous in size, its crust a thick layer of puffy pastry dough, baked a light, crispy brown.   Large chunks of tender chicken shared the pie with green onions, peas, carrots and a classic white cream sauce.  A dollop of creme fraiche on the side was the perfect pairing of both taste and texture.   My fried green tomatoes were thickly sliced and firm, coated with crunchy Panko bread crumbs, then deep fried and served piping hot.  Four large and perfectly cooked shrimp (they were not overcooked as shrimp so often are) topped the tomatoes, covered with a light and smooth tomato sauce.
     The Cottage is a tiny house with a wide front porch and tables both inside and out.  The walls are crowded with large canning jars of their corn bread mix, local honey and bee pollen and house-made granola.  We were seated beside a many-tiered, rotating cake display case, a real distraction for me as I spent my entire meal gazing with affection at huge slices of Pistachio Cream Cake, Banana Cake, Orange Cake, Chocolate Cake, Wedding Cake, and Hummingbird Cake.  The pie varieties sounded just as good, with every flavor listed from fruit to pecan to nutella, but they were kept in a chilled case whose side facing me was too fogged up for me to peek through.  To my left was an array of pastries in another chilled case: Hazelnut Ganache Cups, individual Lemon Cheesecakes and bread puddings,  dark chocolate dipped Macaroons, huge Compost Cookies.  I was so full by the end of my meal that I couldn't eat even one bite of the Pistachio Cake I had eyed so longingly during lunch so I settled for two cookies in a to-go box.   We ate a chocolate macaroon (moist, tender heaven) and a Compost Cookie (made with everything sweet and good that they had in the kitchen) in the car not two minutes after we left The Cottage, a sweet finish to a lovely lunch.