Sunday, August 21, 2011

Foodie Bike Tour

Yesterday my friend Brinkley had organized a Foodie Bike Tour. There are many specialty food and gourmet shops that have been popping up all over downtown Charleston, and what better way to check them all out than a bike ride on a beautiful Saturday with some great girls.

We all met at the Farmer's Market to begin the tour. With the Charleston summer heat already beating down on us, we cooled off with the Charleston Farmer's Market famously delicious fresh squeezed lemonade.

Devan enjoying her lemonade.

Jacqui and Brinkley sippin on some lemony goodness.

Next stop: Caviar and Bananas on George Street. If you've ever been to New York and stepped foot inside Dean and Delucas, Caviar and Bananas would be right up your alley. This gourmet market and cafe offers delicious and decadent pre-made food displayed in inviting cases, while also offering a small assortment of gourmet groceries for you to make at home.

Meatloaf cupcakes with whipped potato icing

Devan and I split a small key lime tart packed with flavor.

Taking the back streets to avoid King Street traffic, we headed down George and took a left on St. Phillip Street, then continued on to take a left on Fulton Street, connecting us to a less crowded King Street. On our right past Queen we found Heirloom Book Company, a neat little find of a bookstore devoted specifically to cookbooks. We browsed the selection (a variety of world cuisine cookbooks and offerings from famous chefs such as Ina Garten, Giada de Laurentis, and Julia Child) and Allie ended up purchasing the Bible for the Kitchen: The Joy of Cooking. 

Devan, Allie and Jacqui perusing the books at Heirloom Book Co.

One book that caught my eye:
Might have to go back in and get that one.

Next, we skipped across the street to the new Bull Street Gourmet. The original neighborhood corner store located on its namesake street has opened a second location in Charleston on King Street near Broad. The new shop is spacious, clean, and offers a menu of soups, salads, and yummy sandwiches. Their market is great, too, with a full wine selection beautifully lit in a corner of the shop.

The Bull Street Club on croissant. YUM.

After a quick respite at Bull Street Gourmet we hopped back on our bikes and took a left on Broad Street to head down to goat. sheep. cow. tucked away on Church Street. 

This fromagerie offers rare and artisanal cheeses and meats. We were offered a few samplings of cheese, and after trying the D'affinois (a soft, creamy, French cow cheese) I thought I had died and gone to heaven. 

Though the cheese expert was a bit snooty and a little condescending towards us, I purchased a chunk of cheese and will definitely return for more.

On our way to Bakehouse we made a detour to The Charleston Beer Exchange off of East Bay Street. Hidden behind the Old Exchange building, the Beer Exchange offers a wide variety of craft beers in a small quaint space.

We headed down Prioleau Street and parked our bikes at the port authority so that we could walk around East Bay. 

Wheelin' Devan.


We first stopped in Charleston Cooks!, a kitchen supply shop that also offers cooking classes throughout the week and weekends.

Brinkley donned a beret in spirit of the bike tour.

Next, we walked down to Bakehouse, formerly known as Baked, on East Bay. The bakery was the same, just a different name. Brinkley and I decided to split an Oreo Peanut Butter bar, which ended up being divided by the whole group; it was THAT GOOD.

Heaven on a plate.

We decided that we needed a drink to wash down all of the food we'd been tasting and headed over to Amen Street. We ordered some delicious cocktails, including a Bloody Mary for Devan, a Frozen Bellini for Allie, a Holy Basil for Brinkley and Jacqui, and a Raspberry Margarita for me.

Group shot of the fun foodies.

With a small buzz, we made our way down East Bay further and stopped in the Vegetable Bin. Located next to Harris Teeter, this farm-to-table shop offers fresh, organic vegetables at a fraction of the cost you'll find at chain groceries.

A hop, skip, and a jump later we arrived at our final stop: Ted's Butcherblock

The butcher shop and gourmet market offers high quality meats one would not normally find at their local grocery store, along with prepared foods and sandwiches for those who would like to relax in their dining area. Allie picked up some French bread and pimiento cheese, and we all dived in like vultures. I normally am not a huge fan of pimiento cheese, but MY GOD, this was the best I've ever eaten.

I love trying new things, especially when it is a break from the monotonous days at the beach weekend after weekend (I'm not complaining, to those of you who are probably thinking "Who complains about living at the beach?!") It's just nice to have something new to do, and I can't thank Brinkley enough for thinking of including me in this day of fun.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Food in Pictures

No words. Just pictures.

My weekend of holiday laziness has trickled into the week. Will be back in full force soon!

From Leaf:

Virginia's on King:

10 Points to the person who can guess what this is!

Thanks to Coleen Balent for showing me how to mosaic my pictures!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Anniversary Dinner: Husk

The BF and I have been together for two years today, so to celebrate our tolerance adoring love for each other we headed to Husk last night for one of the best dining experiences I've had to date.

Husk, a creation from famed Chef Sean Brock of McCrady's, opened shop on Queen Street next to Poogan's Porch and has been a popular haven for Southern cuisine lovers everywhere; opened only this year, it's already been featured on Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" for their heavenly Bacon Cornbread, a meal in itself that is served charmingly in the skillet in which it was prepared.
Upon arriving, we were greeted with the hustle-and-bustle of a restaurant that is currently all-the-rage. The decor matches the dishes - both are clean, modern, and comforting. Seated immediately (it helps to have reservations two months in advance) we began reviewing the wine list and our menus that were placed in front of us like small welcome mats to the Husk home. 
After surveying the menu of the fresh dishes of the day (Husk's menu changes daily according to what is fresh, local, and available) I excitedly pointed to a Skillet of Benton's Bacon Cornbread - to share, of course - and the South Carolina Beef Tenderloin with Fried Potato Confit and a Warm Mangalista Bacon, Mushroom and Heirloom Flat Bean Salad. Matt ordered the Wood Fired Chicken from Keegan Filion Farms with Smoky Butterbeans and Benton’s Ham Hock Braised Garden Greens.

Our sesame seed sweet rolls came out first with the lightest, fluffiest butter I have ever tasted: Pork Butter. Don't think about it, just eat it.
As if the sweet, butteriness wasn't enough, our bacon cornbread arrived minutes later to our delight. 
I could eat this for dinner. Every night. The outside crunch paired perfectly with the warm, moist inside, melting in my mouth. The bacon added a nice smoky flavor to the buttery sweetness of the cornbread. YUM.

Then our main courses arrived:

My beef tenderloin was cooked to perfection; the juiciness of the meat was the perfect accompaniment to our pinot noir. The fried potatoes were not greasy at all, and having the potato fried added a nice crunch to the soft starch. Matt enjoyed his food, too, as his entire plate was clean and I helped by picking at his collard greens (NOTE: I have always HATED collard greens. I'm now a convert thanks to Sean Brock).

To top off our already decadent evening, we headed over to the Bar at Husk, a separate building to the right of the restaurant. We headed upstairs and sat in cozy chairs as we admired the charming atmosphere reminiscent of a modern English pub. 
We ended the evening with a glass of wine for myself and a martini for Matt. It was the perfect way to toast to us.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Burger Babies, Baby

Charleston has been in dire need of a good burger joint for some time now. Luckily for us downtown, one has just opened up on King Street in Tacone's former spot.

Burger Babies touts their "small buns, big flavor". The sliders are decadent mini burgers served in a charming carry-out box with twice the amount of fries to burger. I ordered a regular hamburger with cheddar fries; the burger was absolutely delicious, I just wish I had more of it! Especially for the price: I paid $8 for the burger, fries, and a Coke, and for that price I feel I could have had the same meal with a much larger burger at another restaurant.

Tiny burger.

Devan's Chorizo Burger.

If you're in the mood for a quick bite but don't want a filling meal, I definitely recommend Burger Babies' tasty treats.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Music Scene: Steven Fiore at Eye Level Art

My dear friend Sabrina invited me and the boyfriend to come watch her boyfriend play some music at Eye Level Art last night.

Let me just say: WOW.


Steven Fiore is a local musician who has instantly become one of my favorite Charleston artists. The rustic charm of Eye Level Art was the perfect setting for Fiore's energetic, folksy music. It's romantic, exciting, fresh, and best of all, originial.

My parent's generation was spoiled with the music of their day; Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and others all had hits coming out one right after the other. They didn't have to wait for the single track to drop that carried the weight of the album - the entire albums were all made of hits. In today's music world there is so much technology that tries to "enhance" the singer's voice and music that it ends up falling flat. Fiore's talent needs no such enhancements. Unless, of course, you add the voice of another talented artist, Hayley Shaw, whose vocal harmonies are almost like another instrument in Fiore's band.

So if you're in the mood for some local flavor and good music, keep an eye out for when Steven Fiore is playing next. He'll rock your socks off.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bottles n Brushes

I am a horrible artist.

In elementary school I almost got a C in Art class. Yes, elementary school. Isn't art supposed to be objective?

Fast forward 20 or so years, add a bottle of wine, and presto! I am an artist.

At least, that's how the folks at Bottles n Brushes make you feel after you leave an evening with them.

My mom came into town for some much needed mother-daughter bonding time. Our normal routine when she visits is sun-bathing at the beach (when it's warm enough), shopping, dinner, and lounging while watching tv and movies. My idea of a perfect weekend.

But my perfect weekend became even more perfect when we kicked it up a notch and added a twist to our plans and tried our hands at painting at Bottles n Brushes. Neither of us are very artistic, yet we entered the class without the slightest bit of trepidation. We took our seats after I ordered a glass of wine, but the girls behind the counter gave me a bottle instead. I didn't mind as I had some catching up to do (mom doesn't drink, so I drank least, alone in our group. The rest of the class was already two sheets to the wind by the time we picked up our paintbrushes, dabbed them in paint, and smoothed them across the canvas).

Letting my creative "juices" flow through me, I was pleasantly surprised with how my painting turned out after helpful hints from the evening's artist. It's amazing how we all painted the same thing, yet every painting looked completely different:

My painting.

Mom's whimsical interpretation.

If you're in the mood for a girls night out, an evening to challenge your creative-side, and some wine to soothe your mind and soul, Bottles n Brushes is the place to be.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Il Cortile Del Re

After a week long of travel for work, I wanted to welcome my boyfriend home with a nice evening out at a restaurant we've always wanted to try: Il Cortile Del Re. This Italian eatery offers rustic charm in the heart of Downtown Charleston. One draw to this King Street ristorante is its precedent: Pane e Vino on Warren Street. Pane e Vino has been one of our favorites for date night, and since the owner formerly owned Il Cortile del Re, we knew we'd have to give it a go.

We were shocked that we were able to get a table at 8 o'clock on a Friday night. The place was packed with locals and visitors alike, most likely fueling their bodies for the impending Cooper River Bridge Run on Saturday morning. Luckily, we were able to secure a table right by the kitchen. Normally I would have been a bit perturbed by the rushing back-and-forth of the waiters, but I was too excited to be trying a new restaurant with my newly returned BF.

As we surveyed the menus we asked the waiter what he thought of their house red. He said he would be wasting our time and his if he brought it out for us to try, but we pressed for it anyway. I took a sip and immediately wanted to spit it out; it tasted like someone had filled the bottle with Skittles candy it was so sweet. We returned the wine and upgraded to a nice bottle of Chianti instead.

Matt was in the mood for a nice steak (ok, Italian probably was not the best place to go), but his Filetto di Manzo al Gorgonzola (beef tenderloin with gorgonzola sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and haricot verts) was juicy and tender to his liking. The gorgonzola sauce was a nice surprise to top off the beef.

I ordered the Penne al Tre Sapori (penne pasta with sauteed asparagus, pancetta and wild mushrooms in a light cream sauce.) What I loved about this dish was the portion; most pasta dishes these days seem to be never ending bowls, but this was the perfect amount. It left me feeling satiated, not full, and not needing more. The sauce truly was light and not too heavy, and each bite with the freshly grated parmesan was heaven in my mouth.

All in all we were very pleased with the experience. The atmosphere, food, and service are three reasons why we will be coming back.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Old Village Post House

My dad came in town for the weekend for some nice bonding one-on-one time with his favorite daughter. He's recently retired and has been entertaining the idea of eventually moving to Charleston to live on the water (or near it) and finally get some R&R he's desperately been needing in his life. With that, I decided to give him a small tour of some neighborhoods that might suit him, such as Daniel Island, Sullivan's Island, and the Old Village in Mount Pleasant. Since we were going to be in the area, I thought it might be a great time to try the Old Village Post House on Pitt Street.

I'd heard such great things about the Old Village Post House so I was excited to try the highly acclaimed eatery. The Old Village Post House is part of the Maverick Southern Kitchens group, and having been to one of their other tried-and-true restaurants (the delectable and slightly higher brow High Cotton), I was sure that I would not be disappointed.

I was wrong.

Eager in my anticipation of dining at a new restaurant, I checked out the menu ahead of time to select my fare for the evening. I scrolled down the list of items and found my winner: Grilled New York Strip with Sauteed Potatoes and Applewood Smoked Bacon in a Green Peppercorn Sauce. Now, when you read "sauteed potatoes and applewood smoked bacon", you think of mounds of potatoes and thick slices of bacon, right? So I was surprised to find that when my dish was set in front of me, I saw a thick slab of meat but the potatoes and bacon were nowhere to be found. I peered over the steak and around it. Where were they? I used my fork to lift up the steak and lo and behold, there they were: diced up little pieces of potatoes and bacon in little tiny cubic squares, almost like miniature dice. I could barely get enough on my fork in order to enjoy the full flavor that both usually has to offer.

My father's dish was an even bigger disappointment. He was in the mood for seafood this evening, so after reviewing the menu he inquired to the waitress about the North Carolina Sauteed Flounder. "Is it fresh?" he asked. The waitress eagerly replied "Oh yes! It's very, very fresh." "I'll take it, but only if it really is fresh," he decided.

Out comes the plate. He takes a bite and immediately he knows: the fish was frozen. And he's an expert on fish (trust me).

While the food was a disappointment, we were very happy with the selection of wine the waitress suggested to us: a Belle Pente Pinot Noir. We smacked our lips and as we sipped on the fruity, light bodied flavor we enjoyed the fullness sliding down our throats.

The evening was made better when we ventured back downtown and into the warmth and familiarity of Bin 152 on King and Queen. Ah, how the wine beckons us.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Weekend Getaway: Asheville

Only a four-hour car trip from Charleston, Asheville offers a great escape for a girls' weekend or a romantic couple's retreat. This weekend was girls only.

The Biltmore Estate offers historic tours of America's largest home, wine tastings at their vineyard, and a quaint shopping experience in their Antler Hill Village. We spent most of the time at the wine tasting room after we had enjoyed a delectable lunch at the Bistro.

Devan's Dish: Pastrami Reuben “Croque Monsieur,” Bacon-Fennel Sauerkraut, Gruyère Fondue with Parmesan and Truffle Butter Chips

Erin's Dish: Winter Lettuce Salad, Mulled Cranberries, Candied Pecans

My Dish: Traditional Pepperoni Pizza, Pomodoro Sauce, Mozzarella

The Bier Garden in Downtown Asheville offers a variety of beers from around the world, wine, and healthy comfort food...the perfect place to take haven from the cold rain. (Photo courtesy of the Bier Garden.)

To end our girls' weekend we enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the Early Girl Eatery, Asheville's version of Hominy Grill. They boast a "farm-to-table Southern comfort food experience", and they live up to their promise. (Photo courtesy of

*Note: Sorry for the lack of original images on this post; having too much fun out and about!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day Drinking

Spring is coming quickly to Charleston...and I'm taking full advantage of it. It's not everyday that you see temperatures reach 75 degrees on a Saturday in February, so roommate and boyfriend and I hit the streets of Charleston in search for an outdoor venue to relax and partake in some day-drinking.

First stop: Molly Darcy's Irish Pub and Restaurant on East Bay. Molly Darcy's took over Meritage's old location and has built an authentic, Irish pub with an outdoor patio that beckons you in the front. We chose Molly Darcy's because it was a bit off the beaten path, and on such a beautiful day at noon we knew we'd have to wait at other locales.

Matt was feeling the Irish groove and ordered a Smithwicks, while I enjoyed a Stella Artois. Devan ordered her favorite: a Bloody Mary. 

Next stop: Amen Street Fish and Rawbar. Matt was in the mood for some seafood, so Devan and I tagged along to nibble on some sides as we sipped on some more libations. Amen Street is located on the corner of East Bay and and Cumberland Streets, and is so named for the nickname given to the area in the late 1700s and early 1800s for all of the "amens" that were heard emanating from St. Phillip's Church and Methodist Meeting House. 

The interior of Amen Street is lined with beautiful hard wood floors and elaborate, unique chandeliers made of oysters hanging from above. 

Ornate chandeliers made of oyster shells hang from the ceiling above.

 Another Bloody Mary for Devan. She remarked that this is the best Bloody Mary in all of Charleston. What makes it reign supreme? "The drink is topped off with okra, jalapenos, lime, lemon and olives; a full and hearty top. The mix is fresher than other Bloody Mary mixes, and the vodka is blended in perfectly."

 As we waited for Matt's oysters to arrive, we munched on the best calamari I've ever tasted. Unlike other seafood or Italian restaurants, this calamari is free of stringy tentacles and is not chewy; it is thick, juicy and drizzled in an amazing lemon aioli sauce with bits of corn, tomato, bacon and green onion (a much tastier alternative to marinara sauce).

Matt's gulf oysters arrived in half shells on a bed of ice, accompanied by three dipping sauces: mignonette, horseradish, and cocktail. These slippery suckers slide down the throat with ease and make the perfect accompaniment to a rich beer.

Third and final stop: Yo Burrito on Wentworth Street. What I love about Yo Burrito is their patio out front that offers views of passersby and shade from the sun when you are experiencing one of those Charleston heat waves. Luckily it was just the right temperature so we did not have to escape the heat, but enjoyed the outside nonetheless. Yo Burrito is famous for their Tex-Mex menu, and possibly more famously, for their margaritas in mason jars. There's something about mason jars that has such a comforting effect, whether they are full of pennies, cookie mix, or tequila and lime:

I love days like these.