Thursday, June 20, 2019

Lowcountry Cuisine and Highend Martinis

Trip date: May 2019

It's exciting for a PNW'er like me to go to the south! Of course there is the history, the architecture, the charming accents, but what's really exciting is to get a chance to eat real southern food! Forest and I did a pretty good job of tasting and sipping around town.

On my first night in town, we took an Uber to the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood and had dinner and drinks at Tavern & Table. From the docks you can see the fleets of shrimp boats but we couldn't find any outside seating with a real view of the docks.

We started at the patio bar with a round of local gin in our martinis, and then moved inside for dinner. Everything on the menu sounded great but unfortunately most things were just ok. The pimento cheese with bacon jam was awesome though, and the restaurant was nice enough to package up the the leftovers which I had the next day as a snack!

Before heading home, we stopped at The Gin Joint in the French Quarter. They've got lots of interesting gins, and a great cocktail menu. We both liked the cute little bar quite a bit.
Everyone mentions Rodney Scott BBQ, so we were happy that it was just down the street from our Airbnb. We went for lunch one day and I was looking forward to ribs and sides. But the ribs were tough and my sides of slaw and potato salad were both a sad shade of taupe. Not very appetizing. It was disappointing. But, we did pass these guys delivering a whole hog, and that is something I don't see most days!
That evening we had a lovely dinner at Husk. Reservations here can be tough to get, so plan ahead if it's on your list! We arrived early and started with a drink on their outside patio. The drink menu had some nice bottled options as well as a few interesting punches. Very relaxing.
We were then showed upstairs to our table in the dining room in the historic house. It was a much larger space than I imagined. Dinner was great, I really enjoyed getting to try some very hyper-local products, and things that have been brought back from near extinction, like the bene seeds on the delish dinner rolls.
I'd come back here for fried chicken on the patio (not available in the restaurant) as we saw some folks with it and it looked great!

We finished our evening with cocktails at the new-ish Doar Bros. What a great find this bar is! Excellent cocktails, super fun staff, gorgeous room. We got a little spoiled by the bartender Alex, who was making mini martinis and giving us samples of cocktails. I'd absolutely recommend going here!
One afternoon we stopped into The Dewberry Hotel, to have a refreshing beverage in their lobby bar, aptly named The Living Room.

The mid century-modern lobby offers great drinks, including the namesake Dewberry Daiquiri which uses pineapple rum and sherry, made at the chic 4-seat bar. The french fries were also awesome!

Upstairs, the hotel's rooftop bar  Citrus Club offers a similar menu but a more luxe vibe. Seating is offered inside or out, the outside spots come with incredible views.

Our favorite meal of our trip was lunch at Leon's. It's in an old auto garage and is super fun and casual, with a lot of regulars. Always a good sign. We got a bunch of things to share, including the fried chicken, broiled oysters, black eyed pea salad, scalloped potatoes, shrimp roll, and rosé champagne!
The shrimp roll blew us both away! Leon's is a do-not-miss IMHO.

I also had fried chicken at Jestine's Kitchen for lunch. It was very good, and the service and ambiance are very old school southern. I didn't love my slaw side but that is a personal preference on style (theirs is vinegar based).
We'd seen the local Hat Trick gin around town so decided to visit the High Wire Distillery and taste some of their other products. It's a cool space, and you can order a cocktail before you start your tour. Win.
Just like Husk's concept of using indigenous products, High Wire is using local grains and corn in their spirits. Their Jimmy Red bourbon is probably the most unique, using the rare Jimmy Red corn.
Our favorite product was the rum agricole, unfortunately they are completely sold out!

On our last night we decided to do a little cocktail crawl. Shocker, I know!

First stop, the Barbados inspired Cane Rhum Bar. We had some very good rum drinks here and also some really good food; beef empanadas and chicken coconut curry. A lot of people don't realize that a lot of food in the region originated from both the Gullahs from West Africa and Barbados, which Charleston was a colony of!
 A short Uber away, we stopped into Proof which had been recommended by many. The space was very cool and the cocktail list looked interesting. The bartender was so much more interested in talking to his industry buddy at the bar though, he could hardly be bothered to glance our way.
No cocktail is good enough to put up with rude service, so we were one and done. And I would never recommend this bar. There was no one else even it there!

We walked down King Street to our next recommended stop, Prohibition, but immediately upon entering decided it wasn't what we were in the mood for. There was a line-dance lesson going on and the place was packed with drunk tourists. Nothing against line-dancing or being drunk!

We double backed down the street and went into The Belmont which we had noticed earlier. Their slogan is "a fine place to drink" and I couldn't agree more! Pretty tin ceilings, dapperly-dressed bartenders, a great martini. We loved it.

Last stop of the night was at the newly opened Dalila's, which is just off of King Street on Spring. It's a little gembox of a bar, with a Caribbean vibe to their drink menu and some IG worthy wallpaper. They also make a great martini!

Cheers Charleston, you showed us a great time! 

All Charleston photos here

Previous post from this trip:
Charleston Charms

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Charleston Charms

Trip date: May 2019

I was up sooooo early! At the airport at 6am for a 7:30am flight to Charleston. Not my choice of hour to travel as my friends know, but Alaska only flies there once, every other day. I was on my way to meet my friend Forest, for a little girl's trip, so it was worth it.

As I sat at the gate and checked my status for a first class upgrade, I was disappointed to see that I was 3rd. Resigned to my bulkhead premium seat, I boarded and got comfy. I was chatting with my seatmate when a flight attendant leaned over and asked if I wanted to move up. So weird! The first time I have ever been upgraded after already being seated! Seems a passenger in first was removed for being drunk (at 7am!!). Thank you sir who makes bad decisions! haha!

The Charleston airport is tiny, so it was easy to get my bag and then a Lyft. I met Forest at our 2 bedroom Airbnb, which was in a great location and super cute and roomy.

We had wonderful weather while in town for our 3-night stay, not too hot, not too humid. We took advantage of it on our first day by doing a self-guided walking tour of the historic area.
We started at Waterfront Park, which has beautiful views of the Ravenel Bridge and the bay. We kept a look out for dolphins, who frequently play in the currents here, but weren't lucky enough to spot any. Besides the views, the park is well known for the pineapple fountain, the symbol of hospitality.

We made a quick stop into the Old Exchange aka Custom House, a 250 year old landmark building. While we didn't go thru the museum, one of the employees explained that it had been used for many important meetings regarding the US Constitution, as well as a military prison.

From here we walked past the colorful houses of Rainbow Row, and through the gorgeous neighborhood of Charlestowne. These houses are just so pretty, so charming, so southern!

I had read about Mrs. Whaley's Garden, a private home that opens their garden to the public, so we found the house and let ourselves into the garden. It's a really pretty little space but neither of us thought it was worth the suggested donation of $10 each!
On to White Point Garden, at the very tip of the city on the bay. I had a work conference call to join so we found a shady spot under all the beautiful live oak trees. It's a great place for a break!

Call completed, we continued to Legare Street, jasmine perfuming the air, and the old mansions completely impressing us. There are some unbelievable homes here! Many have stone walls protecting their privacy, with doorbells by the gates. Most have beautiful open-air porches, perfect for enjoying a cocktail. It is an absolutely gorgeous neighborhood.
As we left Lagare, we walked past the Nathaniel Russell House and were so surprised to read that it had cost $80,000 to build in 1808, at a time when the average value of a home was $262!!!
We popped into City Hall and were allowed to go into Chambers since they weren't being used. Very pretty room, and the associate who was there was happy to chat with us about its history and use.
We passed by the Old Slave Mart, as well as a few different churches before ending our walk at the Dock Street Theater. Also called America's First Theater, as the original building was the first to be built for the sole purpose of theater in 1736. And fun fact, Stephen Colbert's aunt Patricia was a playwright and actress at the theater for over 30 years!
This was an easy and really enjoyable 1/2 day walk around the historic district. Just be sure to wear comfy shoes!

The next day we took an Uber out to Magnolia Plantation. It's about a 25 minute drive up to the 300 year old plantation on the Ashley River. The main admission ticket is for the gardens, then there are a few extras you can purchase also. We added the plantation, the slave quarters, and the swamp. We are overachievers!
The grounds are amazing! We followed the path around the gardens and ponds and spotted turtles, birds we couldn't identify, peacocks, fish, etc. And so many lush trees. The gardens here are the oldest public gardens in the US, opening to visitors in 1870!

Our entry to the Main House was timed, so while waiting we decided to get a glass of wine. Which came with a styrofoam cup. The South really likes to hold on to tradition. Sigh.
The tour of the house was very interesting, it is still owned by the original family, and is the 3rd structure on the property. The style was much more casual than the plantations I visited in Louisiana. A difference between the influences of the English and those of the French. 

Photos aren't allowed inside during the hour tour, but the house has a lot of family heirlooms that are really gorgeous, and the guide was great at explaining the history of both the family and the on-going construction of the home. 
We found our way to the small train which would take us out to the slave cabins for our next tour. This was the most interesting area to me. Five original cabins, dating back to 1850, have been preserved to show how they were during different periods of inhabitants. The most recent was in 1990!

Our guide, Joseph McGill, is the founder of The Slave Dwelling Project, which brings attention to the history of slavery by sleeping in former slave dwellings around the country. These include historic sites, antebellum homes, and 12 US President's homes. 

The conversation, and information Mr. McGill shared was heavy, thought-provoking, and insightful. I highly recommend this tour.

And lastly, we entered the swamp via a boardwalk, for a self-guided stroll. There were quite a few egrets, herons, and alligators that we spotted. We were pretty much the only people out there so good thing the alligators were in the lake and not on our path!

A very full day at the plantation, and a very interesting one! 

On my last afternoon in Charleston I visited the historic city market before heading to the airport. Visiting markets around the world is one of my favorite things to do. Unfortunately the one in Charleston is pretty much just tourist shops, so I bought my magnet and left. :)
Charleston is filled to the top with history, beauty, and of course charm!

*edited to state, people have asked me if we took one of the horse-drawn carriage rides which are so popular. We didn't, and I'd ask you to do your research before deciding to do one. There are many issues with the poor treatment of these horses, some actually fainting in the street due to hot weather and lack of proper rest and hydration. You can read more here. *

All Charleston photos here

Charleston eating & drinking report here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

On the Ground in San Diego

Trip date: November 2018

After a morning of work from my room at the Kimpton Palomar, my brother and I took an Uber to San Diego's Old Town. We started with a great lunch at El Agave.

El Agave is a little nicer and has an amazing tequila collection (they call it the museum). My tacos and margarita were great!

We had a nice walk around Old Town, I'd never been. It's touristy but also interesting to see the birthplace of California, and to wander around the old buildings. Mark even struck up a conversation with an actual blacksmith!

We hopped in another Uber and headed up to the UTC shopping center. This may sound like a strange destination, as I'm not much of a mall rat, but I wanted to check out the cocktail bar Raised by Wolves, and this is the location they picked for it!

You enter into a shop which has a nice collection of liquor and cocktail related products. We didn't have too much of a wait after they took our name and party size. And then 2-by-2, you are invited to sit in chairs in front of a fireplace, which then revolves to deliver you inside the "hidden" bar.

Mark and I both got quite a kick out of this. And when the lounge is revealed, whoa! It is very large and extremely opulent.

We sat up at the bar and had a few rounds of very good drinks. We didn't try any of the vintage cocktails; 1960's Very Old Fitzgerald 8yr, sugar, and Ango for $790.00 anyone?

Working our way back to the city, our next stop was George's at The Cove, which our bartender at Fairweather had recommended the day before. We sat up on the ocean terrace and drank black manhattans while having a light dinner of grilled octopus. I wouldn't go out of my way to come to George's but if you are in the area, the casual terrace bar was great.

Our last stop of the day was Grass Skirt, which is not so secretly hidden behind Good Time Poke.

We had both the regular painkiller, and the clarified painkiller, both excellent. I'm always tickled by clarified drinks, and I found these 2 to be amazing, or it could have been that I was just a tad drunk!
The next morning after packing and working, Mark picked me up and we had lunch at Ironside. We had visited this place on my last trip down, and I was looking forward to it again!

Clam chowder, cheddar biscuits, and a halibut sandwich all soooo good! Washed down with a couple of spritzes. Perfect last lunch.
Mark was nice enough to drive me to the airport, a whole 15 minutes away! And I had another very comfortable flight home as I was able to use a MVP Gold upgrade for 1st class on Alaska.

All San Diego photos here.

Also from this trip:
High Times in San Diego

Saturday, May 25, 2019

High Times in San Diego

Trip date: November 2018

There are a lot of reasons that I travel; to explore the world, have a chill vacation, visit friends, have an amazing dining experience, etc. In November I realized I was going to be barely short on miles to make Alaska Gold MVP again, so I started plotting a quick getaway to remedy the situation. Then my brother mentioned he was going to be in San Diego. Perfect.

I was also able to use one of my MVP Gold upgrades, so it was a very comfortable flight in first class. I left for the airport after work and after a bit of a flight delay, arrived at the Kimpton Palomar around 1am via Uber.

I was excited to see my brother, so after a 1/2 day of work in my hotel, we met up for lunch at Fairweather. This is a great rooftop bar, right next to the baseball stadium. Mark told me the day's plans over cocktails and tacos. He was surprising me with an open-cockpit biplane ride over the city. HOLY SHIT! I am pretty much terrified of small planes, which he didn't realize, and hadn't packed my Xanax because generally a weekend with my brother is pretty chill! I ordered a 2nd cocktail.

We arrived at Montgomery Field and checked in with San Diego Sky Tours. Our pilot, who looked all of about 20, assured us that he was actually an active Navy pilot and was one of the owners. In their very cool hangar, outfitted with old flight memorabilia, and a bar for after, he went over the flight plan. Mark and I would ride the same plane but at different times, I offered to go first as I really thought I might bail otherwise, I was sooooooo nervous!

I'm so happy I had the guts to do this as it was amazing! We flew between 400 and 800 feet altitude over the city, the bay, and along the beaches. I was terrified of dropping my iPhone as I took photos, I hadn't thought to bring the wrist strap I usually use when adventure traveling!

After landing I grabbed a beer from their bar and decompressed while Mark took his turn. This was really such an amazing experience, I would highly recommend San Diego Sky Tours when you are in the area!

We headed back into the Little Italy area of town and found our way to False Idol, inside of the restaurant Craft & Commerce. This tacky tiki bar, with crazy Christmas decorations, and a menu for all occasions, was very fun and the drinks delicious! Rum was just what we needed after our afternoon of biplane flying!

It was a gorgeous night out so we walked to our dinner destination of Kettner Exchange and chose a table on their rooftop. We had an absolutely delicious dinner here, the shared plates were more than enough for the 2 of us. Our duck meatball, huge pork chop, and caramel dessert were all hits!

Right across the street, Mark introduced me to the historic dive bar, The Waterfront. Since 1933 this fun and enthusiastic bar has been packing people in, and it was no different on this Tuesday night. We just had a quick shot, but if you are in the mood to people watch, make new friends, or just spend a day drinking (they open at 6am), go in for a visit here!

My choice of nightcap is a bit different, so Mark kindly let me drag him to Noble Experiment, which we discovered on my last trip to San Diego. It's so pretty, so little, and just dark enough. Oh and the cocktails are amazing.

All San Diego photos here.

More eating and drinking around town coming next.

Lowcountry Cuisine and Highend Martinis

Trip date: May 2019 It's exciting for a PNW'er like me to go to the south! Of course there is the history, the architecture, the c...

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