Duly chastened….and back on the case!
April 16, 2012

One of our neighbors in Chucktown....dig the placement of the hazard marker!!

I just got an email from a blog reader who said,” I know you’re busy, but I live vicariously through you and miss more regular posts! I always learn some about new fact, or tidbit, trends and trendy spots.  I love your travel advice and suggestions and the food chat and photos – oh, how I miss the food chat and photos! .  C’mon, Donna, you’re killing me here!”

 

My favorite bridge....to the Holy City...

Tout mes excuses!! And while my excuses aren’t bad really….let’s just get with the program. I just got back from the Holy City(someone here in the newsroom with initial GS–ok, Gerry Sandusky–asked me if I had been in Israel, as I tweeted something about being in the Holy City). I just gave him what I hope was a suitably scathing look, and informed him that here in the U.S., Charleston SC is the Holy City, because of all the church steeples that dot that city skyline.

Here’s the beach I walked to almost every day, over a long boardwalk out over the marsh…you have to know the code to get on the boardwalk, which is why the beach there is never crowded… http://youtu.be/sJ8Jpv3W2CQ

We also had baby gators..so cute....while small anyway...

My daughter with Esmerelda, the dog who lives down the street....

Fish tacos at Poe's Tavern on Sullivan's Island...yes that Poe....

Pistachio gelato on King Street...with some of the best shopping and eating you'll ever want....

Shop window of Blue Bicycle Books, also on King Street....a literary kitty!

Classic....just classic, and so Charleston.

My two fav purchases....

Adore the dress above with the cute bow in the back and beading…and the grey-green topiary was the subject of some spirited discussion about hauling it back in the car…but as you see, I won.

If you're looking for preppy(and pricey)...look no further than M Dumas.

M. Dumas is really pronounced Doo-Mahs’……but in fun, we call it Dumbass. Quietly of course…quietly.

Dumas ties look like sherbets.....

More Topsiders and in more colors and styles I never imagined.

I did say the place was prep, right?

Soft shell crab at hot new restaurant called The Grocery...soooo delicious!

But Cru Cafe is still our go-to restaurant....so charming, and the food is so inventive. Best mac and cheese in town, hands down.

This was the view I woke up to every morning....the beautiful salt marsh.

And alittle bird right outside always called first thing, “cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger“..seriously it does! If you have never heard a bird say “cheeseburger“(they really do) listen carefully to this video I took, on the little porch right outside my bedroom….http://youtu.be/gBYbJbWa4H8

Yep, the drive home was as fabulous as it looks...

But this was the view home, on a 10-1/2 hr drive that should have taken 8…horrible traffic, and fast food french fries. Just keeping it real, ya’ll.

Back from vacation…..a Charleston rundown…
April 11, 2011

Turtles on a log, sighted on a bike ride on Isle of Palms

Most of you know I love Chucktown….it’s one of the loveliest cities in the U.S., and in my book…THE loveliest in the south. Great weather, fabulous food, terrific shopping, plenty of culture, sight-seeing, nature and golf(key for my crew)…and the beach….Charleston has it all. Really, what more can you ask from a city?

white wine, on the porch of the marsh house.....

There are so many places to stay in Charleston…Kiawah island, Wadmalaw, in the city proper…but we always stay on Isle of Palms, in a community called Wild Dunes. There are two top golf courses on the island, and while there are plenty of houses on the beach…we love to stay on the marsh. I am excessively fond of the marsh….sometimes it almost feels like you’re looking over a savannah in Africa.

Bouillabaisse on the porch...we ate late that night...

You eat well in Charleston, very well…in restaurants and out….though the marsh house has such a great kitchen and eating area on the porch, we have to tear ourselves away to go into town. But we do. This bouillabaisse above was fabulous, and really very easy to make….we used the recipe from the NY Times Cookbook-here.

Breakfast menu at Sea Biscuit on IOP

And we tried some new restaurants this year that were recommended….

Love the Glass Onion....very casual but serious about food...

The Glass Onion is run by three young chefs…one from Atlanta, one from Charleston and one from Birmingham….love the place…check out the menu-here. And we also managed to get into the hottest new place in town….Husk.

tables on the porch at Husk....

 We had to wait a while for a table for five(always an issue)….but it was worth the wait. Very farm to table, locally sourced, organic..that sort of thing. How local? Check out their interactive plates page on the website.

My son, shucking the heck out of some oysters....

And we had a lovely oyster extravaganza one night….from a half bushel of local oysters….oysters on the half shell with regular cocktail sauce and mignonette sauce(simple vinegar sauce-recipe here),

Mignonette sauce...simple to make...

an experiment of mine coating them in grits and smoked paprika(tasted good but looked like a hot mess), and sautéed with onion, garlic and jalapeno. And Callie’s Biscuits, of course….the best in the world.

Gator spotters...

And we did some nature watching….these little kids were with their Mom, and had spotted some cute baby alligators(right by a very BIG alligator) on the grassy side of the lagoon. We all watched them for a while…at a distance of course. There are plenty of gators on the island, just like this one

Part of the hair bow selection at Southern Belles....

And Charleston is a city that takes hair bows for little girls seriously…I don’t think I’ve ever seen a selection like the one at Southern Belles shop. And they don’t pretend to not take football seriously….take a look at this one…

Cheer for Clemson much????

Sex, Catfish and Videotapes…the weekend wrapup..
March 7, 2011

Just one box of two...full of movies...

Ok, that was a dirty, rotten come on…there’s nothing about sex until the very last paragraph. But there are catfish..and there are videotapes….so here we go.

See? Good movies!!

What the heck do I do with all the VHS movies that we collected back in the day? And not crap, either… classics, like To Kill a Mockingbird, My Fair Lady, Little Women, Father of the Bride, Miracle on 34th Street, The Piano, The Sound of Music, Gettysburg, Kung Fu Fighter(ok a little crap)….but for the most part, movies I’ve really loved. But all good things must come to an end, and that’s what happened to VHS. We’re all dvd now(how long until that goes the way of the dinosaur?). Anyway, if anyone out there would have use for these, I’d love not to add them to a landfill. Anyone? Anyone? Free to a good home. (And don’t say the library, they’ve already laughed me off the phone when I called to see if they wanted them.)

Panfried...so simple and delicious...

Made some fabulous catfish this weekend…and so quick. Let the filets marinate a little while in buttermilk, dredge in cornmeal and pan fry in a little olive oil. And what gave it a kick was couple of teaspoons of pimenton(Spanish smoked paprika-one of my new fav spices)added to the cornmeal….gave it a nice smokey taste.

Is anything better than cheese grits?

And what goes better with catfish than cheese grits…classic southern combo? Here’s how I do mine…First start with good stone ground grits if you can find them…yellow or white, doesn’t matter( and for heaven’s sake whatever you do, no quick or instant grits). Cook them in chicken broth, not water, and at the end, add some shredded cheddar cheese  and stir it until it melts( I actually used some pimento cheese I made a week ago, and it was great), and then while you’re getting everything together, pour some heavy cream over the top of the grits and let it sit for a few minutes. When you’re ready to serve, stir in the cream.

Roasted asparagus...ridiculously easy

And I roasted some asparagus to snuggle alongside…one of the best ways to prepare it, I think. Just coat the spears in olive, salt and pepper, after peeling the end of the stalks, and pop it in 400 degrees for about 20 minutes….no more. That’s it. 

Anson Mills coarse ground grits....

I’m now on a quest for a place that carries Anson Mills stone ground grits…this Charleston company offers heirloom corn, coarse ground grits that you should ideally soak overnight, but I haven’t located a local source yet. You can mail order, but I may just wait until I’m in Charleston in April(no, I can’t wait for that week to get here), and load up them and bring them home(you know how I love to fly and drive food all over the country). Famous chefs all over the country rave about Anson Mills grits….this is from their website about what they do “To date Anson Mills has provided grants to resuscitate roughly a dozen types of threatened antebellum mill corn, and has offered its research growers heirloom seed, seed selection expertise and management advice. Glenn works with thirty organic growers in six states.” No too shabby. Will let you know if I find a place locally. Ok, I’m just gonna say it…grits are sexy. 🙂

High tech Momma’s Day…help me….
May 11, 2010

Studying my Blackberry instruction book...

My daughter was able to spirit away my phone this weekend without my knowledge, and take it toVerizon to exchange it for…you  guessed it…a Blackberry. So sweet and so thoughtful…I’m looking at it right now . There’s a little red blinking, and I’m not sure what that means. I have a phone call? An email? A SMS message(and what does that stand for anyway? I know I will probably get used to it, but I think I may need remedial tutoring. I can make and receive a phone call, look at and reply to an email, and send a text message. That’s it. I can’t initiate an email, and while I can take the picture, I don’t know how to send it(Lisa Robinson, also a Blackberry newbie, sent the picture above for me)…I just don’t find the device very intuitive, and perhaps I’m not either. Sigh. Maybe by the end of the week we’ll be better friends.

On the other hand, a device I have wanted for a long time…an e-book reader…is now mine. I got the Nook instead of the Kindle,  a big surprise from my husband….and I learned how to use it in no time, and have been on a rampage downloading books(my AMEX must wonder what’s going on)….and am currently reading one called, “Little Bee“. It was suggested by a couple of friends, and I love it so much already, I’m suggesting you might enjoy it too…via paper or ebook. What’s next on my reading list?  South of Broad by Pat Conroy, all about Charleston, one of  my fave cities…and Dead Until Dark….the first in the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series, on while the HBO series True Blood is based. Can’t wait….vampires are all the rage. Oh, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, bu Sarah Addison Allen….it’s a story  about a quirky Southern town(is there any other kind? I’m just sayin’), wher two very different women discover how to find their place in the world. “Here are rooms where wallpaper  changes to suit your mood“….whah? This was a whimsical download…I’ll let you know how good it is.

I promise…pics by the end of the week or bust. You’ll see.

Hot Tip on Sweet Onions!
June 23, 2009

Get em while theyre hot...I mean, sweet...

Get 'em while they're hot...I mean, sweet...

Ok, I just got an email from Garden and Gun Magazine….that’s right, I said Garden and Gun….it’s an upscale southern magazine published in Charleston, SC…and it honestly does have some terrific travel and food articles in it…as any respecting Charleston based publication would have.

Anyway…the tip is about a new kind of super-sweet, southern onion.  I’ve long been a fan of Vidalia Onions…grown in Vidalia, Georgia, of course. Sweet, mild onions that are just soooooo good…but the Low Country Sweet Onion Company from Longstreet Farms claims to rival them(maybe surpass them?).  The scoop is that these onions were first grown privately on a 2 acre patch, for onion connoiseurs…true onion lovers.  L.B. Wannamaker (love the name)from St. Matthews SC is making a limited production of these sweets available for 2009 . This is evidently a pretty small farming company…when I called and ordered a big box($28 including shipping, comes out to about $1.10 a pound), a woman answered the phone and took my name and number and address and said “OK, thank you.” I quickly asked, “Don’t I need to pay for them?” 

Dont these look delicious?

Don't these look delicious?

 “Oh, I don’t usually answer this phone…somebody will call you back with all that. ” So it does seem to be…small and informal, but they say you will be able to tell the difference in these onions, so I’m in…all in. And they have a killer looking Sweet Onion Pie recipe on there….can’t wait to try it. Maybe L.B. will call me back tonight.

Oh, and if want to see a funny video they just posted on youtube that will also make you hungry…click right here, sweetie.

Tales out of school…from the kitchen….
March 5, 2009

My sweet daughter gets home Friday for spring break…..”my last spring break “, she says mournfully….she graduates this year, so it is indeed,  the “last” spring break. And there are no great trips this year…in the past couple of years we have traveled en famille to Charleston, which I’ve written about here before….. Let me just say….I love that week, that we are all together in that lovely city. Love it. Great food, lots of fun…but let’s be honest, it is also a lot of money. Even if you’re cooking a lot, and we do, we eat out a couple of dinners, and with the house rental, food, blah, blah, travel…..it’s just a lot, you know?

So this year Cada and I are gonna Megabus it up to New York for two nights….we found a pretty inexpensive place to stay on a website I’ve never seen before…Antique Cafe B & B….rents apartments in the Chelsea/Greenwich Village/Sohoarea. And they’re renting them for quite a bit  less than the prices on the website. But for the same money as a hotel room, you get a one bedroom apartment…cute…wifi, flat screen tv, tiny kitchenette(NY style) with a separate living room. Looks nice, so I’ll let you know how it goes. It might be a real find, to have a little more room than a small hotel room. Especially with a daughter who likes to stay up LATE.

 Another time, and this one much more memorable, I asked her to put a roast in the frig, in the oven, for dinner that night. “Put it in about 4:00, and at 350 degrees, ok? Just salt and pepper it a little…. thanks sweetie “, says me.  She calls me about 4:30…”Mom, the roast is really smoking in the oven..” I assured her that sometimes meat did that when it is roasting, but she said “No I mean REALLY a lot of smoke is coming from the oven!” I asked her could she tell what the source of the smoke was…and she replied…”It’s coming from the stuff dripping onto the bottom of the oven!!”  That’s correct….she had not put the roast ON A PAN!  My girl. But as she pointed out, “You didn’t say to put it on a pan…you just said put it in the oven!”……..and that’s exactly what she did.

The perfect roasted chicken....a thing of glory...

The perfect roasted chicken....a thing of glory...

Otherwise, I’ll probably have my girl do some shopping and cooking for me next week…but I’ve learned to be quite specific with my instructions, after a few culinary mishaps. Once, I sent her to the store to get a small, whole chicken(a perfectly roasted chicken is one of the best things in the world). “Not one of the huge oven-stuffer chicken…the smallest chicken you can find.” She returned with….a turkey breast. She had mistaken it for…. a small chicken. My baby girl.

Being a Charleston homeowner….
April 4, 2008

houseOh for Pete’s sake, NO I’m not one, but I got to play one for a week. Here’s what I do on vacation when the fam comes along…I go to V.R.B.O….vacation rentals by owner…and find a home! The two story house on the right is where we stayed in the gated Wild Dunes community on Isle of Palms. bridgeIt’s about 20 minutes to Charleston over the most beautiful bridge in the world. I love driving over it, but I forget who it’s name for. Someone important, no doubt.The reason  I like a house is everyone has their own space, we have a gathering space for watching tv, meals, and when all is said and done, it would be a lot more expensive to stay in a hotel and eat all the meals out, and neatly as nice. Check it out sometime when you’re traveling.

Anyway, the house was 3 pretty bedrooms, 3 baths so no fighting over showers…right on a golf course with pretty view, nice walking around ponds with alligators in them(!), a big great room with beautiful kitchen and dining room…in truth, much nicer than my kitchen at home. And that way I can take food I want , and wine, and music, and candles…yes I take candles with me…my sisters think I’m crazy too. But really, it’s nice to have the things you like around you on your vacation. They are very important to me. And we cook a lot on vacation.

sublimeOK….places I found that you might not stumble across…Sandy Unitas, yes that Unitas, turned me on to SubLime.I met Sandy when we did a story about her heart troubles a couple of years ago, and she was about to embark on a long visit to Charleston. While she was there last spring, my family and I also went down for a week(another house) and I called her cell and invited her over for dinner. She was staying not too far from us….we did have a delightful dinner, shrimp and grits, natch, and she brought over the most delicious key lime pie I’ve ever seen. Presented in a pretty pink box with a big lime green grosgrain ribbon. It was from SubLime. So this year, I found them, thanks to Sandy, and got a pie. Really, the best ever. AND, they also sell “Dirty Pie”…this is the seductive concoction of putting a slice of frozen pie on a popsicle stick, and dipping it in dark chocolate. Yeah…I know.

stellaShopping on King Street is insane….some of the best shops and boutiques you have ever seen. LaTiDa, Nula, Berlins, and Stella Nova. If there is a better makeup and and skin care store, with a better selection, I’d like to know about it. Product lines I’ve never heard of before…seriously I could have spent hours in there.

A reader responded that I should have gone to Jestine’s Kitchen for dinner in Charleston…and I have heard good things about it, but a week goes by fast. Maybe I’ll put it on my list for next year….

A Charleston vacation….part one
April 2, 2008

houseI love Charleston. let me say that right up front, and for my money, that charming old southern city offers up the best of many worlds. Great beaches, great shopping, great sight-seeing, great architecture, great food, and for those of you who play, great golf.

beachSo for my posse, it has everything, and there aren’t all that many places about which I can say that. I had a couple of readers wanting to know about the food in Charleston especially, one of whom is visiting in a few weeks. Here are my suggestions….and you should know I base my picks on several things…how good is the food, the atmosphere, and last but not least, the prices. When you’re feeding a family of five….my son and his love Jennifer are along, and my daughter, all 21 or over (i.e. can order drinks $$$)….a look at the menu price-tags are in order, unless you want to end up with a whopping great bill. I mean, you will anyway, but there are degrees of whopping. I like the lower end, wanting to end up with a little coin in my pocket.

hominyTried a new place this year called Hominy Grill in downtown Charleston….loved it. This is the kind place you can get the famous shrimp and grits (recipe on the website) for $14.95, and sesame-crusted catfish with sauteed okra, deep fried cheese grits and geechee peanut sauce for $12.95? GET OUT OF HERE. I’M IN, ALL IN!  I had one of the specials that night….sweet potato stuffed pork loin. Yummy.foodWe had a wonderful dinner. And it’s a place, while nationally known, locals eat there. There were several families there with Daddy in coat and bow-tie, right from the office.

Also went to Fig (food is good) , on Meeting Street. Didn’t like it quite as much as Hominy Grill….not sure why. Service not quite as good, more expensive, but I would definitely recommend it. Had a great frisee’ salad  with bacon and a perfectly poached Sea island farm egg. And the fish stew encocette was delightful, filled with shrimp and squid and mussels. Ummm. Very modern looking space.

fat henHad a scrumptious brunch at Fat Hen on John’s Island…that’s about a 10-15 minute pretty drive from Charleston, where they serve lowcountry food with a French flair. Creme brulee’ French toast, shrimp and grits(of course), short rib gratin with layered potatoes, caramelized onions and cheese…yeah. And the Fat Hen burrito was a big hit with my son…scrambled eggs, chorizo, avocado smothered in cheese and red and green chili sauces.  Fat Hen is a very casual place…the drinks are served in Mason jars. drinkMore tomorrow, chickadees…..now go and dream of food!