Tuesday, April 30, 2013

chantilly lace and a pretty face...


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Thanks to all y'all's recommendations, we had a ridiculously superb time in Charleston!

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I think I mentioned in my previous post we were essentially Charleston first timers -- E visited on business earlier this year, and I flew in for Sal's Pawley's Island nuptials a few years ago, but neither of us had really explored or enjoyed the city until this trip. 

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It is definitely our favorite type of place to vacation -- a beautiful destination where one can eat for days and walk for miles... We tend to be very go-go-go!  {Well, truth be told: I am perfectly content to lay by a pool with a stack of novels for an entire weekend... but have found this not to be so relaxing when someone else pokes you in the side every five seconds, with an enthusiastic "hey, you wanna get in the water? hey, you wanna go for a walk?  hey, you wanna go snorkeling?  hey, you wanna... hey you, wanna... hey you wanna...!"}

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Ahem. 

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ANYHOO, Charleston was right up our alley -- super easy to see by foot, with oodles of tasty treats to sustain all that physical effort. 

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Lodging

We stayed at Charleston Place, which is right smack in the middle of the action on the corner of Market and King Streets.  Charleston Place is very traditionally elegant, and we were happy with our choice in hotel.  We were a little frustrated that our room wasn't ready by 4 pm as promised {we'd already been in the city for 4 hours at that point} and the spa changing rooms / showers could use an overhaul {we had a 50 minute couple's massage and the treatment rooms / technicians were great}, but other than those two tidbits, the service and our stay were superb. 

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Neither of these is Charleston Place... I just really like window boxes... and that wee pig.
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Bites & Sips

{My apologies in advance for the quality of the food photography... I am nothing if not consistently terrible with the iPhone.}

Nerds.

Pouring over restaurant reviews is the first thing I do when planning a trip, and Charleston's edible offerings practically overwhelmed me... I had enough restaurants starred to fill up lunch and supper reservations for an entire week!  Whittling options down for a 48 hour stay totally made my stomach a sad panda {although my waistline is grateful for such a speedy trip!}, but I think we did a-okay with our final selections...

82 Queen - So, unfortunately, I think I made my one misstep right off the bat.  You see, we'd really wanted to eat at Husk, but dinner reservations were booked months out.  I was finally able to score a spot at lunch for Friday, but not until nearly 2:00 pm.  After dropping our luggage at the hotel, we strolled past Husk and glanced at the menu {which changes daily}... Our stomachs were already growling and, disappointingly, the menu didn't tickle our fancies as much as the ones we'd been perusing for weeks.  With an hour and a half to go until our reservation {and no chance of getting in early}, we ended up canceling and skipping down the street to 82 Queen, which had been highly recommended by many of you.  The restaurant - like everything in Charleston - was super charming {if you make a reservation, ask to sit in the courtyard!} and the menu looked delicious.  We started with fried green tomatoes, then ordered jambalaya {for him} and tomato pie {for her}.  The tomatoes were solid {but not knock-your-socks-off like the ones we had on Saturday} and E's jambalaya was fantastic!  My tomato pie was... not good.  Correction: I'm sure my tomato pie was excellent, but even after four years in North Carolina, I apparently missed the memo on just exactly what tomato pie is.  I thought it was like a quiche... um, no. It is not like a quiche.  Unless you make your quiche with half a vat of mayo.  Long-Story-Short: My less-than-stellar order was totally my fault {why did I not order the award-winning she crab soup? I haven't the foggiest, honestly... poor life choices all around}, and while we did like 82 Queen overall, it wasn't standout overall.  But again, probably our fault.

And so begins the mission to #EatAllTheFriedGreenTomatoes

The Bar at Husk - Many folks recommended popping into the old carriage house that serves as Husk's bar for a cocktail even if we weren't dining in the restaurant... excellent, excellent advice!  We scored prime boozing real estate at the two seater high top right by the bar, and hunkered down for a good two hours.  The music was great, the drinks were better, and the ham plate was better-er {the fried pickles were also a solid appetizer order}.  I thoroughly enjoyed several tumblers Charleston Light Dragoon's Punch - a Preservation Society recipe hailing from the 1800s - and E {not usually a cocktail drinker} sipped on a glass of red before jokingly asking the waitress to bring him "something really manly."  She gleefully put in an order for a Copperhead... which a glance at the menu proved to include both whiskey and absinthe.  To say we had a good time would be an understatement.

Charleston Light Dragoon's Punch
HAM! HAM ON A STAVE!

Anson - I was semi-questioning this choice as it wasn't mentioned much {or at all?} in the comment section of my recommendation request post, but I'm so glad we kept this reservation!  I'm telling you, our collection of Esquire restaurant review clippings has never steered us wrong. The food was out of this world... I ordered the fish special {a sheephead atop some sort of collard green / house-made andouille / grits concoction of wonder with some clams thrown in there for good measure}, E enjoyed the surf & turf with fried lobster tail, and I inhaled we both enjoyed the almond basket for dessert.  We had great service, and while the dining room was elegant, no one batted an eye when we walked in half-drenched from the deluge outside.  Nothing like supping with wet poodle hair.

And the terrible photography of the DELICIOUS food continues...

Cavier & Bananas - We didn't waste much time on breakfast {although I was tempted by talk of The Big Nasty} - After all, we have great pancakes in Dallas... We do not have thirty different varieties of shrimp and grits.  But, no one wants a hangry and decaffeinated sightseeing buddy, so we very much appreciated the coffee and light pastry offerings at C&B.  FYI - If you plan on perusing the Market in the morning, there is a small kiosk inside the market building, but the location off of King Street is much larger and fun to browse!

Thank you for the rec @mynightmoves mmmmmmmmmm

Magnolias - So, when E traveled to Charleston on business earlier this year, a client introduced him to the fried chicken platter at Magnolias... and the man has not shut up about it since.  And I have never, ever seen my husband eat a piece of fried chicken in the seven years we've been together, I knew this place must be legit.  And it was.  Overall, Magnolias might have been my favorite meal overall.  We started with the fried green tomatoes {knocked 82 Queen's out of the park by miles and miles} and the fried mac-n-cheese bites {these included bacon relish... WTF where has bacon relish been all my life?}, then I gobbled up the shrimp & grits {the version with the spicy sausage}, while E was once again reunited with the {ginormous} fried chicken platter {seriously, that thing is epic - fried chicken breast, creamed corn, collard greens, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and sausage gravy}.  I mean, I think I just gained 5 pounds remembering that meal.

#eatallthefriedgreentomatoes #andtheham
#sofat #rollmeout

Blind Tiger Pub - I take patio-sitting pretty seriously, so it was a treat to sip a beer in a courtyard with serious history.  And, of course, E gives a thumbs up to anyplace that thrusts activity into relaxation, so bonus points for the "try your damnedest to swing the washer onto the hook" game! Despite these photos, it was pretty crowded for 4 pm -- wedding guests from around the city were rolling in for some pre-ceremony cocktails!

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The Rooftop Bar at the Vendue Inn - If the wind isn't blowing like mad and/or you are dressed appropriately for the temperature, this would be a great spot for a beverage.  Unfortunately, I was sporting bare arms and legs on Saturday night and weather was a bit blustery, so we weren't able to fully appreciate this watering hole.

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Social Wine Bar - We landed here after our ill-fated visit to the Rooftop Bar, and I'm pretty pleased we did... Ordering a wine flight here gets you what amounts to three hefty glasses of wine -- sample sizes these are not!  3 flutes of rose for $15? Done and done.

3 is better than 1?

S.N.O.B. - Our reservation at Slightly North of Broad didn't start off on the best foot... We had a 8:00 reservation and weren't seated until close to 8:40.  10 to 15 minutes of wait time with a reservation is understandable; any longer than that and I start to get a little stabby.  However, we were apologized to sincerely and profusely by at least 3 employees, including the manager who brought a delicious tuna tartar appetizer with him and comped all {2 rounds} our drinks.  Major, major kudos to SNOB for turning our frowns upside-down and for going above and beyond to make amends... And, of course, much praise for our meal itself - more shrimp & grits for me {can't help myself} and a fish special for E {cannot recall the details... damn gin fizzes}. 

Shrimp & Grits x2 in one day is....totally legit, yes? Just like 3 glasses of rosé?

Peninsula Grill - Peeps were pretty adamant that we pop into the Peninsula Grill for a slice of coconut cake.  And I can definitely see why.  T'was delicious... although Mama J's coconut cake will forever be my Ultimate.

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Activities 

We basically hit up Charleston freestyle -- no plans save for restaurant reservations, we were ready to explore the city on foot as much as possible.  And explore we did!  On Friday, we walked down to the water's edge and walked along East Battery and down Murray, then took Broad back towards our hotel.  We popped in a few galleries, admired Rainbow Row, and just generally ooed and awwed over the architecture, cobblestone streets, and alleyways. 

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On Saturday morning, we hit up the Market and purchased entirely too many gifts for L {also: grits and cookbooks}, and then began our photographic tour of Charleston. A reader {shout out to Allison - seriously, you made our trip!} emailed me these maps a few weeks before we departed, and we thought they'd be the perfect way to really dive into the city.  We had so much fun hunting down all the spots {I think we got to all but two of them}... It really was like a treasure hunt, and there is no way we would have happened upon all these little nooks and vistas on our own.  And the instructions made taking good shots pretty much idiot proof.  I cannot recommend this little excursion enough!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Allison! 

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Note: A lot of the churches have limited {or no} hours on Saturdays, so hit those up early or during the week. 

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{click to enlarge / download via Flickr}
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Aaaaaaand that's all she wrote, folks!  

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Big on the Pig.  Wannabe Carolina Girl 4-Eva.

11 comments:

  1. Fantastic post! I want to travel to Charleston and have never been. Will bookmark this. Your photos are fantastic!!!

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  2. It's a beautiful blog and I loved reading it. I have been to Charleston but only when I was a kid. I don't remember about it much.

    Regards,
    Finn Felton
    Kopi Luwak

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  3. Ahh I'm so jealous for a little weekend getaway. I'm of course so pumped for our LONG honeymoon but it would still be nice to escape before that :)

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  4. I'm a little weepy that we were very briefly in the same town and did not run into each other!

    I loved, loved our meal at Anson and look forward to eating there again one day as Charleston is definitely on our vacation list. We ordered fried okra, pimento cheese and soft shell crab for the table and all of it was fantastic. I had the scallops and I'm still thinking about them. Never have I had a more perfectly cooked scallop.

    And, I cannot believe that rain on Friday. I am from the LAND OF RAIN and that was even a bit much for me. I am fairly certain even my bra was wet after walking from the car to the house when we got to Kiawah. Ridiculous!

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  5. I love this recap of your mini vacay! I come from a family who also makes food a top priority when vacationing, so I'll be bookmarking this for future reference ;)

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  6. So glad y'all had fun! It is one of my favorite cities! I've been to Charleston a few times with my family growing up, and J and I went the Christmas after we got married. We really need to go back (especially considering how close we are!). Once M is weaned, I think this would be a lovely destination for a little getaway and my mom can come stay with the bebe!

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  7. We love Charleston too! Your food pics are making me want to book a return trip pronto. Also, what is with the husbands, and the "hey, you wannas?" No, sir I do not wanna go boogie boarding, hiking, etc! :)

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  8. Charleston will always be my favorite city. We are going to Savannah next weekend for our anniversary so we'll see how they compare.

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  9. I'm so late to this post...but it makes me want to go to Charleston. Right.Now. It is hands down one of my favorite cities, and I'm so glad you had a great time!

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  10. I made a mental note to refer to this blog post if we ever find ourselves in Charleston! Now, my brother is doing his residency at Wake Forest and we are vacationing with his family in Charleston and Hilton Head at the end of May! I'm so thankful for your post and recommendations! Makes trip planning much less daunting! Had to be sure to let you know this post is still coming in handy for some... or at least me. :)

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    1. I am so glad to hear it! And Wake Forest + Charleston... that's like my Double Whammy Grand Slam of locations! I hope y'all have a wonderful vacation in the Carolinas!

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happy little comments!