Thursday, August 28, 2014

Charleston Food

And it's Thursday already!  This time last week we were flying to Charleston for our last minute extended weekend vacation.  Read about the tours we did and where we stayed here.

This post is all about the food.  Yes, an entire post for the food.  I would call Blittle and myself, amateur foodies.  My family did everything around food and I tried to absorb as much information from my grandparents and parents as I could about cooking.  I am not afraid to try new recipes at home and neither of us are picky eaters.  When we moved to New Orleans, we both started trying new foods and looking for places that offered different dishes.  I have eaten things that I NEVER thought I would.  Some things are delicious, others not so much but I tried them and that's what counts.

I still get a bit nervous when we go into restaurants that have different foods and use big cooking words that I don't know.  Sometimes I have to Google words on my phone under the table and other times we just go with it and try dishes without really knowing what we ordered.  I like to live dangerously.  ;)

Anyway, in the one week I had to research and prep for the trip I came up with a list of places for us to eat.  This list was a mix of Trip Advisor reviews, the Southern Living best southern restaurants list, friend recommendations, and me studying the menus to make sure there were things offered that we would like.  I made as many reservations as I could because there can be long wait times or no tables available.

Our first stop was on Sullivan's Island at The Obstinate Daughter.  I love, love, love the decor in this restaurant.  It is very rustic, coastal, chic.  Blittle had the lowcountry shrimp roll and I had the farro salad with roasted chicken.  Both were delicious and perfect light lunches.  The low country shrimp roll is something I want to try to recreate at home.  Blittle ordered the peach bread pudding with homemade blueberry gelato for dessert.  I had a bite and it was very good.

For dinner, we went to Cypress in downtown Charleston.  The service was amazing.  Graham, our waiter, knew the menu well and answered all of our crazy questions.  We decided to do all small plates instead of entrees.  We ordered the small charcuterie plate, XO oysters, and the cucumber tuna roll.  For the charcuterie plate, they bring out a card with a diagram and description of each element.  Great idea!  Side note:  Pork butter and other animal fat butters were in several of the restaurants we ate at.  I am not sure if I have ever had it before but I will say that it is amazing and butter will never be the same for me.

I loved that the tuna roll did not have rice.  :)

After Cypress, we walked to the Market Pavilion Hotel.  I read in several reviews that the Pavilion Rooftop Bar had amazing views of the city and a great atmosphere.  They were right.  It was a great way to end our first night.

Breakfast Friday morning was low maintenance and easy.  We walked across the street to The Market and ordered from Caviar and Bananas.  There is no place to sit unless you sit at the bar/tables outside, under the covered area of the market.  This was fine with us. If you are staying somewhere close, you can take it back to your room to eat.  We just wanted a quick breakfast then walk The Market and shop.  This cafe has great options for vegetarians and vegans.  I ordered the jump start muffin and Brian had the breakfast burrito.  I am not sure why I didn't take pictures but I didn't.  Sometimes I get hangry and confused and I am pretty sure this was one of those instances.  Both the muffin and burrito were really good.

Friday afternoon we knew we were going to be fishing so we had an early lunch at Virginia's on King.  This was a recommendation from the owner of the rental we stayed in.  It is a cute, cafe on King Street and the menu looked great so we decided to try it.  We had the she crab soup as an appetizer.  Everyone said we had to try it while in Charleston.  It was good but I am not a huge fan of alcohol in my food. I have never liked it so the splash of sherry on top kind of ruined it for me.  The soup itself was really good and I think I would have really liked it but the taste of sherry was not my favorite.

Blittle ordered the chicken & dumplings and I had the chicken salad sandwich.  The dumplings were phenomenal.  Some of the best I have ever had.  My chicken salad sandwich was so good, too.  I asked before I ordered if it was a sweet chicken salad with grapes or apples and I was told no.  It had green onions and celery which is my favorite.  My friends know how I eat and know that no, I didn't eat much of the bread and ate the chicken salad, tomato, and pickles with my fork.  I only had 2 fries just to try them and they were yummy.  The cole slaw was not sweet at all and was more on the vinegary side.  That was my kind of cole slaw.

We spent all evening on the boat so I did not have reservations for Friday night.  We didn't get home until after 9.  We were tired and really hungry.  There was a restaurant on Market across from the room that looked appealing so we tried it.  It was the Lowcountry Bistro.  We tried the shrimp and grits appetizer and the pork ribs with mustard bbq sauce.  The ribs were great.  Really tender and tasty and not completely smothered in sauce.  The meat had tons of flavor.  The shrimp and grits were not our favorite.  Living in New Orleans, we were exposed to many versions of shimp and grits and the one at Lowcountry Bistro was not for us.  It wasn't bad but not how we like shrimp and grits.

Saturday was our last full day and was the best for food.  I ate boiled peanuts for breakfast.  :)  But Blittle needed something more than that so we walked to Whisk.  It is a super cute smoothie and juice shop.  They also have coffee and small pastries.  He had a smoothie and a croissant with ham.

We had lunch at Husk.  It is in a pretty house on Queen st.  This was a top meal for us.  It is very southern, good ole' country type food.  Everyone recommended it and the menus always look good.  Yes, menus.  Husk is a farm to restaurant type place so their menu changes everyday.  Sometimes twice a day.  It is based on what is brought in that morning.  I looked at the menu over several days to see the type of food they served and it all sounded great.  When we were walking to the restaurant I warned Blittle that I had no idea what was going to be served and if we didn't see anything we liked we would just order a small plate and move on.  Not necessary.  We had an exceptional meal.  Everything we ordered was amazing.

We started with the pig ear lettuce wraps and the pan fried cheddar bologna.  YUM!  My taste buds were so happy.

I loved that the bread was served in a cute folded napkin.  It was served with a pork butter which again, was some of the best butter I have ever tasted.  

For the entree we split the slow cooked pork with cornbread puree.  Never heard of cornbread puree?  Me either but I promise you it is something you want to try.  It was delicious.

We left Husk knowing we had just had the best meal of the trip so far.  There really aren't enough adjectives to describe how good it was.

Let's talk about boiled peanuts for just a minute.  I have a weird obsession with boiled peanuts.  My dad is from Alabama and they are one of the things I remember about visiting my Alabama Granny.  Getting boiled peanuts, her cooking buttermilk biscuits for breakfast and going to Panama City Beach are the top three things that I remember from our visits.  Boiled peanuts are not a Texas thing.  You mostly see them in the Eastern Southern states. The key is green, raw peanuts and that is something hard to get in Texas.  I did buy a bag of boiled peanuts from a Shell station and they were perfect.

During my food research for the trip,  I came across Magnolia's menu and saw they had boiled peanut hummus.  WHAT?!  I had to try it.  Dinner was going to be super late Saturday night due to the sunset cruise so we went to Magnolia's around 3:30 for a snack.  The boiled peanut hummus was everything I dreamed it would be.  It took boiled peanuts to a new level for me.  And the Charleston flatbread was the perfect pairing.

For dinner, we were lucky enough to get a reservation at FIG.  Thanks again to a friend that helped make that happen.  I had extremely high expectations for this restaurant.  It has been featured in numerous articles and everyone told us we have to go.  After our amazing meal at Husk, I wasn't sure how FIG was going to compare and if it could top lunch.  FIG did not disappoint.  The food, the service, the atmosphere.  The whole evening was the perfect food experience.

Our first two plates were the chicken pate and the tomato tarte tatin.  Both were recommendations.  The pate was good (Blittle didn't like it that much) but the tomato tarte tatin may have changed my life.  There are no words.  So good.  So different.  The cooking process was described to us but I can't remember it exactly and I don't want to lie to y'all so just trust me when I say, it was unbelievable.

Sorry the pictures are dark and grainy.  The restaurant was dark and it was hard to get good pictures.

We also had the flounder tartare.  I now am on the hunt for a similar recipe and need to figure out how they did this plate.  We love light dishes like this.  Especially on hot summer days and using ingredients that we can get fresh at our home.

For the entree, Blittle really wanted to try the fish stew.  I personally was scared of it.  When I hear fish stew, I think of Northern style fish stew.  Water broth with gross boiling fish and no flavor.  The fish stew at FIG was nothing like that.  We decided to split it since we had already eaten so much food.  They bring the stew out in individual size Le Creuset pots.  How cute is that?  There were mussels, shrimp, octopus, fish and potatoes in it.  Each one was perfect and the broth was delicious.

At this point I was so full but we did order a dessert to go.  It was the chocolate crepes and they were delicious.  I ate them once we got back to the room, in my pjs around midnight so I don't have pictures of them.  Trust me when I say, they were amazing.

Everything we ate was good but Husk, FIG, and Cypress were the stand outs.  Husk and FIG tie for number 1 with me.  The food is very different in both places so its hard to compare.  I say they are a must if you are in Charleston.  I really liked The Obstinate Daughter if you are going to make it over to the island and Virginia's on King was a great lunch spot.

Of course, there was not enough time, meals, or room in my tummy for all the restaurants we wanted to try so we still have a list of places for when we go back.  Husk & FIG will be repeats for sure.

Please make reservations before you go for the popular places.  It's not hard to do them online and it keeps from you wasting time waiting for a table.  Each place we had reservations for, we walked in a few minutes ahead of time and were seated immediately.  There was no waiting around for hours.  There are too many other things to do around Charleston.  Don't waste time waiting on a table.

Feel free to ask for more information or recommendations.

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