Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight


Three Days in Charleston

 

When Vinny asked me what I wanted for Christmas last year, I replied “nothing”. Then I said, “Wait. I take that back. I want you to plan a weekend away together” because I am wise and all-knowing and pretty much always itching to get out of town if time and finances allow. On Christmas morning I opened an envelope with an itinerary he created– a few nights each in Charleston and Savannah, with print-outs of the most expensive hotels in each city because Christmas mornings are for wildest dreams and looming debt. We delayed booking until we filled our vacant apartment, but once we did, we hopped online and decided to go away for our 15th anniversary. We didn’t end up staying in the pricy, dreamy places he’d originally picked out, but that’s okay because Charleston and Savannah are pretty dreamy on their own.

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WHERE WE STAYED:

The Ashley Inn: We stayed in room 5 of this cute pink bed and breakfast very conveniently located in downtown Charleston. We booked it last minute on bedandbreakfast.com, and were very pleasantly surprised by its location and the fact that it lead out to a slightly more private section of the home’s wrap-around porch.

PROS: Clutch location! Around the corner is one of Charleston’s best breakfast spots (The Hominy Grill) and just past that are two really great restaurants– Xiao Bao Biscuit (I’ll circle back to this!) and R’s Kitchen, which we wish we could have tried. The b&b is about a 10-15 minute walk to King Street, which is the main shopping/restaurant row in town. Also, I gotta give props to that four-poster bed. It’s rare that I sleep so comfortably when I’m not in my own home.

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CONS: B&B purists will be none too thrilled at the check-in process. No one greeted us, and we never met an innkeeper. Rather, our keys were obtained from an envelope in a property down the street. Breakfast was also served down the street, but I never ended up going for it since Charleston is known for its food! But the biggest drawback (and it’s a big one frankly)… there was no coffee in the building! Not one sweet, sweet drop! Who could live like this? Seriously, this place needs to set up a keurig or something in the main area, because that’s just bad hosting, in my opinion. On the brighter side, the lack of in-house brew forced us to get up early and beat the crowds for breakfast:). Another thing to know before booking is that the hotel is a few blocks from the medical center and we heard emergency helicopters hovering overhead a few nights which scared the shit out of me until I realized what was going on.

NEARBY: The Hominy Grill, R’s Kitchen, Xiao Bao Biscuit, Sugar Cupcakes, Candy Shop Vintage, King Street

 

HOW WE GOT AROUND: By foot! If you stay downtown there’s really no need to rent a car. If we weren’t able to walk, ubers were plentiful and inexpensive and every single driver was so sweet and friendly we couldn’t get over it. Charleston is a super quick flight from NYC (I think it was less than 2 hours!) and a great weekend destination for people on the East Coast. We went in March, which was perfect timing since we’re about at the end of our ropes with winter weather.

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house in Charleston

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WHAT TO DO:

Our intention in heading down to Charleston and Savannah wasn’t to “do” much, but to stroll, soak up a little spring sunshine and eat until our top buttons cried uncle. We met all these goals. We didn’t really do that much in Charleston except wander around and explore, punctuated by feedings. Downtown Charleston is super walkable, and there are a million guides on the internet to lead you toward the most popular areas to walk around in. South of Broad, Rainbow Row, the Battery, King Street, down by the water. It’s all very photogenic, clean and charming. That’s what we did the first day and a half– walked around, dipped into little stores, ate.

We also visited a plantation in nearby Mt. Pleasant, and I certainly would recommend that as well. There are a few to choose in the area; we chose the one that offered the most insights into what life was like for the slaves on the plantations. Boone Hall Plantation is the only plantation in the S.C. Low country to present a live presentation of the Gullah culture adapted by African slaves and they have eight former slave cabins you can walk through to learn more about the conditions for slaves on the plantation. (and yes… I suppose some people will choose this one over others because The Notebook was filmed here).

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MOST IMPORTANTLY…WHAT WE ATE

Poogan’s Porch– Recommended!

We tried: Country Fried chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes (very much like the Chicken Fried Chicken I grew up eating in TX), Lump Crabcakes with creamed corn (super generous with the crab, but they could have punched up the flavor a bit), pimento cheese fritters with green tomato jam (the real MVP), and she-crab soup–very tasty but realllllly heavy. This soup is basically on every Charleston menu, but this was the only time we tried it so it’s hard to say whose is best. Very good food, super charming atmosphere, lovely service, a little on the pricier side. Oh yeah… great cocktails too!

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Hominy Grill– Highly Recommended!

We tried: Bread Pudding French Toast with Bourbon Caramel Sauce (as good as it sounds) and their classic Shrimp and Grits with scallions, bacon and mushrooms over cheese grits (like heaven, but seriously). I just loved this place, and it was literally a five-minute walk from our inn, which was perfect to beat the morning crowds. On our second visit, I had the grits bowl topped with mushrooms and leeks (and side order of bacon I got to crumble on top:), and Vin got smothered eggs over biscuits. Fantastic and inexpensive. Get there early for breakfast because it gets totally packed, but there’s lots of good reasons why. I wish this place was in my neighborhood.

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Sugar Bakeshop- Recommended (pop in if you’re already walking toward King Street)

We tried the Lemon Curd and the Raspberry. Small, light, lovely little place. Definitely worth a stop if you’re already in the area but I wouldn’t necessarily go out of the way unless you’re a total cupcake fiend (I’m not. I’m more of an ice cream gal).

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Fleet Landing- Recommended, especially for atmosphere

We tried: Fried Green Tomato Stack layered with tarragon crab salad (for $8.99, this is an amazing deal and it was delicious!), Lump Crab Cake Sandwich with Red Pepper Remoulade (we’re used to paying through the nose for any dish whispering the word “crab” in NYC, so we ordered crab at almost every restaurant in Charleston!), the fish special which was served with a tomato relish, black-eyed peas and Charleston red rice (twas just ok). Great spot downtown, very popular and super nice if you’re looking to eat outside by the water. Not my favorite meal of the trip, but did the job.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams Highly Recommended!

I’m an ice cream gal, and this place is indeed splendid. If you’re ever in a town that has a Jeni’s shop, you must pop in to sample their excellent flavors made from premium ingredients. Top billing goes to Wildberry Lavender and Brown Butter Almond Brittle.

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Xiao Bao Biscuit Very Highly Recommended!

All the in-the-know gals who travel to Charleston (thanks Victoria!) rave about this place and for good reason– it’s incredible! On the website, it’s described as “Asian Soul Food -  Select dishes from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam prepared locally & inspired by kick-ass grandmothers everywhere. ” We tried the popular cabbage pancake topped with bacon, an octopus tail and a crazy beautiful spicy salad (the menu has already changed for the season and I can’t remember what any of the dishes are called). But trust me, when you need a quick break from heavy home cooking, this place really hits the spot! Charleston truly is a foodie’s paradise, and not just for Southern cuisine.

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Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit Very Highly Recommended!

Line up early because this place is small, popular and fantastic! Vin had a breakfast sandwich on a biscuit (which was bomb) and I just tried two little guys (cheese & chive, which was really good and Black Pepper & bacon which was utterly mind-blowing). On King Street, so if you’re already shopping around, pop in! This one qualifies as an absolute “don’t miss”.

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Circa 1886 - Very highly recommended (for a splurge). We went to Husk in Savannah, and I have to imagine this place beats Husk- Charleston. If you’re looking for a romantic and special meal for your trip, this is the spot! The restaurant is in the carriage house of the Wentworth Mansion (one of the fancy printouts Vin made on Christmas morning) and serves some really exceptional high-end Southern cuisine.

We tried:

Appetizers: BUTTERMILK FRIED ARTICHOKE HEART  with Parsnip Puree, Tomato Marmalade, Black Truffle Pesto, Basil, Baby Spinach, Prosciutto (good, but not as awesome as it sounds)

NIMAN RANCH PORK CHEEK  with Spaghetti Squash, Pickled Green Apple, Crispy Kale, Herb de Provence Glacé (very very good, very tiny)

Main Courses: COFFEE BRINED ANTELOPE  with Sorghum Sweet Potato Mousseline, Braised Greens, Pineapple Relish, Shishito Peppers, Coconut Crema (Amazing!!! So many flavors– everything was covered)

BENNE CRUSTED DUCK BREAST with White Peach Grits, Broccoli, Carmelized Shallots, Sour Vanilla Tea Demi Glacé (I will dream about white peach grits for a very long time–such a subtle flavor that worked perfectly with everything else on the plate. Really fantastic!)

Dessert: CHOCOLATE BENNÉ CAKE Jivara Mascarpone, Ganache, Benné Butter, Lace Cookie

This was the best dessert I’ve ever had. The chocolate was practically unsweetened and the benne seeds (which are popular in the Carolinas, and are basically sesame seeds with a more toasted flavor) added lots of texture and crunch. My life’s mission is to recreate it. Plus, how pretty is this thing??

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What we Missed: Husk, FIG, Jestine’s, R Kitchen, Leon’s Oyster Shop ( I hear the fried chicken sandwich is spectacular and I’m still sad I missed it!).

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Jenn P.

30-something psychotherapist. Loves cooking, hosting parties, exploring new places. Texan by birth. New Yorker by choice. Likes to tell little stories. Pull up a chair; I'll tell you one.

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