food

How to Spend 4 days in Charleston, SC

The hubby and I just spent four marvelous days in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a much needed break from the regular grind of our everyday lives. With a new puppy and baby on the way, a few days away from responsibility, agenda, and the Minnesota cold were exactly what the doctor (or midwife in my case!) ordered. 

We chose Charleston because we heard it was a laid-back city with a great food scene. And the weather is obviously warmer than it is back home for us. That was all we needed to book the trip and go. Between my flight voucher I still had to use up and the husband's frequent flier miles, we were able to fly basically for free, which is always a bonus. In addition, staying at AirBnB's over hotels freed us up some money to use towards eating delicious food. Which you can sure bet we ate a lot of!

Here's a rundown of our itinerary, including and most importantly, what delicious morsels we devoured along the way:

4 Days in Charleston, South Carolina 

Day 1 (Saturday):

Arrived late and took a Uber to our AirBnb in Mount Pleasant. Was a one bedroom decorated in the most elegant way. According to the husband, it had one of 'prettiest bathrooms' he had ever seen. There were not one but TWO chandeliers in the bathroom! 

I was loving on the marble statue in the center. This bathroom is more elaborate than my entire house combined! 

I was loving on the marble statue in the center. This bathroom is more elaborate than my entire house combined! 

I so wish I would have taken advantage of this bathtub - it's so big and beautiful!

I so wish I would have taken advantage of this bathtub - it's so big and beautiful!

After sleeping for a few hours we got up and took an Uber to Sullivan Island. There we walked along the beach. It was sunny and in the 70s, and my heart was rejouicing! 

Look at those curly bangs!

Look at those curly bangs!

After our nice stroll we had lunch at The Obstinate Daughter. Highly recommend for the food, atmosphere, and service. We split the shrimp roll with geechie grit frites and the shrimp arugula pesto pizza with olives, grilled artichokes and lemon. Both were delicious, but the shrimp roll and those frites were out of this world!

Fries made of grits, who would have thunk?!

Fries made of grits, who would have thunk?!

Helloooo herby shrimpy deliciousness. 

Helloooo herby shrimpy deliciousness. 

After another walk on the beach, we took another Uber up to Boone Hall Plantation. We took a open-air tractor ride (well that's what we would call it here in MN!) around the grounds to see all of the crops they still plant. It's still a major farm, and was really cool to see where they put everything and how it grows. Afterwards we toured the house, which was featured in the Notebook as well as a few other TV shows/movies. It was interesting to hear all about the history of the plantation, who it's owners were/are, and learn more about the role slaves played during different periods of time. 

Do you remember this house from the Notebook?

Do you remember this house from the Notebook?

I captured a picture of the sunset and this tree, which is between 400-500 years old! 

I captured a picture of the sunset and this tree, which is between 400-500 years old! 

After our trip to Boone Hall Plantation, we took another Uber back to our place and got ready for the night. We had dinner reservations at Butcher and BeeWe ordered the warm bean dip  with their homemade pita bread, cauliflower with green tahini, curried cashews, and pickled raisin, and bacon wrapped dates for starters. First course was crispy sweet potatoes with tamarind chutney, yogurt, and cilantro. Main course we split the Whole Grilled Sea Bass with turmeric coconut curry, chickpeas, and Israeli couscous. The fish and that curry sauce was some of the best I've had. But I could have even just had the chickpeas and couscous with the curry, it was that good. We also had a custar-like dessert with local strawberries and meringue drops that was fabulous. 

Day 2 (Sunday):

We moved Airbnb locations this day, so after we got up/ready we took an Uber into downtown Charleston where we were staying to drop off our bags. From there we went to brunch at Poogan's PorchWe had the she crab soup (crab soup with sherry vinegar- our Uber driver told us we had to try it once!) and biscuits and gravy to start. The biscuits were so fluffy and light and the gravy was not too thick with big chunks of sausage in it. Best biscuits and gravy to date. 

She crab soup. Not to be confused with He crab soup. :)

She crab soup. Not to be confused with He crab soup. :)

Are you drooling yet?

Are you drooling yet?

After that we split the Tennessee Hot Chicken and the Shrimp and Grits. The chicken was perfectly crisp on the outside and so juicy on the inside. It was served with blue cheese Brussels sprouts slaw and a brioche bun and was so SO good! Of course we didn't snap any pictures as we dug right in. 

From there we walked the downtown area to explore. So many beautiful homes and so much history in that area. We stumbled upon Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier and indulged in some drinking chocolate and treats. The hubby had these fruit bites made of pureed fruit (apricot and strawberry) and rolled in sugar, and I had a earl grey dark chocolate truffle. 

Forgot to snap a pic till after I took a bite....naturally. Look how pretty the shell on this earl grey dark chocolate truffle is!

Forgot to snap a pic till after I took a bite....naturally. Look how pretty the shell on this earl grey dark chocolate truffle is!

After making it home, we got ready and headed out to an early dinner at Rodney Scott's BBQ. They were out of a chicken, ribs and cornbread (what I really wanted!), but we had some pulled pork, mac and cheese, coleslaw, hush puppies and beans. The beans were phenomenal, but other than that, nothing I would go back for. We've had just as good of BBQ here in Minneapolis. It's likely you could find other/better places in Charleston, and I'm sure there are some good ones out there. Either way - if you go, I wouldn't necessarily waste your time/money at this place.

From dinner we headed to Charleston Pour House which had a funky hippie vibe. The outdoor bar was open and there was a great band playing. People with dreads and bell bottoms everywhere. The best part? You can bring your dog! There were several dogs running around chasing/playing with one another. My dog loving hippie spirit was in heaven. 

Day 3 (Monday):

Monday we woke up and stopped at the famous Callie's Charleston Biscuits for a few biscuits. We sampled almost every kind they had (6 total) but our favorite weren't the buttermilk biscuits themselves, but the shortbread ones. Especially the shortbread with blackberry preserves inside. One of the most delicious bites of biscuit I've eaten. Hubby seconds that.

Of course this was the only picture I took of the place/actual biscuits!

Of course this was the only picture I took of the place/actual biscuits!

After that, we walked down to the ocean where we caught the ferry just in time to see Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter was were the first shots of the Civil War were fired. It was chock full of history, but the best part (for me at least!) was the dolphins that rode our wake the entire ride back. 

Once back to shore, we were starving and headed to 167 RawThey are famous for their lobster roll, but the waiter we had suggested the scallop po'boy (as did the lady next to us!) and so I went with that. Best decision ever! One of the best seafood sandwiches I've ever eaten, and that's not a joke. Scallops were cooked perfectly (I'm not usually a big scallop fan due to the texture) and they were topped with beet reduction, some sort of green sauce (sorry - that's the best I can do!) and microgreens. The hubby and I shared some shrimp cocktail to start and he had a swordfish taco that he loved.

Scallop Po'Boy with beet reduction. On a perfecly toasted buttery bun. Heaven indeed!

Scallop Po'Boy with beet reduction. On a perfecly toasted buttery bun. Heaven indeed!

From there we made our way to the Rooftop Bar at The VendueEnjoyed a few drinks (basil strawberry lemonade for me) and some good people watching. You could see the ocean from afar, and the weather was perfect. Recommend checking out if you're looking to soak up the sun and kill some time. 

We continued walking from there and stopped to get some happy hour deals at Pearlz Oyster Bar. The hubby had 1/2 dozen oysters, pork rinds, and I had the corn fritters dusted with powdered sugar. The food was good, but nothing spectacular. Hubby loved the pork rinds (not my thing) and I enjoyed the take on corn fritters. Was a good place for a quick/cheap bite to hold us over till dinner. 

For dinner we had reservations at Husk, the James Beard award winning chef Sean Brock's restaurant. Every ingredient is sourced from the South (even the olive oil is from Texas!), which was really unique for us. We started with some drinks (I had a non-alcoholic drink made with shrub which was fantastic) and the pig-ear lettuce wraps. They were mentioned as a must-try in Charleston, and the waitress recommended them as well. Although good, I couldn't quite get over the texture of pig ear (I also felt like my dog!) and wouldn't eat them again. However, it was one of those unique things you just kind of have to try!

Crunchy, salty pig ear lettuce wraps. By far the most interesting dish I ate this trip. 

Crunchy, salty pig ear lettuce wraps. By far the most interesting dish I ate this trip. 

For the main course I ordered the pan-fried catfish with Carolina gold rice, and the hubby had the pork shoulder with pork belly inside. They were both really good, and really unique. The catfish was done perfectly and the husband drooled over his pork ("one of the best pork dishes I've had ever" - can you sense a theme going on here this trip?!).

Catfish and Carolina gold rice with a side of rapini. 

Catfish and Carolina gold rice with a side of rapini. 

Overall the food was a bit on the salty side for me, but my husband likes to remind me that I have a low salt tolerance (or so he thinks!). The dessert was my favorite part. Olive oil cake with local strawberries and fresh whipped cream. If you would have asked me before this pregnancy if I wanted dessert I would have answered "no, I'm not much of a dessert person". Boy how things have changed.

That cake was so perfectly moist and delicious. I am currently obsessing about how I can make a version of it here at home. 

That cake was so perfectly moist and delicious. I am currently obsessing about how I can make a version of it here at home. 

Outside Husk. Can't you just feel the Southern Charm oozing from this place?

Outside Husk. Can't you just feel the Southern Charm oozing from this place?

Day 4 (Tuesday):

On our last day in Charleston we rented a car so we could take a day to explore on our own terms (and it was cheaper than taking multiple Ubers throughout the day!). Our first stop was breakfast at Early Bird Diner, which had been featured on one of our favorite shows: Diners, Drive-In's and Dives. I ordered the Chicken and Waffles and the husband had the biscuits and gravy. The chicken and waffles is what they are known for, as the chicken is drizzled in honey mustard dressing and the combo of the two are spectacular. Although the fried chicken wasn't as good as the Hot Tennessee Chicken we had at Poogan's porch, the combo of the dressing and the syrup was so scrumptious. The waffles were so light and fluffy on the inside and perfectly crisp on the outside. I don't order waffles out a lot, but these were some of the best.

Look at that plate of fattening goodness!

Look at that plate of fattening goodness!

We enjoyed the biscuits and gravy more at Poogan's porch as well, just because this gravy was a bit on the thicker creamier side and we preferred the chunks of sausage in our gravy. Either way though, still a good taste of Southern home cooking. 

Rich, creamy gravy atop light biscuits. There's even a homemade sausage patty buried under there!

Rich, creamy gravy atop light biscuits. There's even a homemade sausage patty buried under there!

After breakfast we made our way down to Folly Beach for a walk along the ocean and a stop for a drink at one of the hotel beachside bars. It was cloudy all day, but still magical for us to be on the ocean.

We stopped at Roadside Seafood to split a basket of fried shrimp and fried green tomatoes. I love fried green tomatoes, and both were served with excellent dipping sauces. 

Finally, we headed back to our hotel to nap and get ready for our final meal at FIG (Food is Good), also known for their use of local seasonal ingredients. FIG was by far the fanciest place we dined at, and we were also the youngest people in there! It was one of my favorite dining experiences of the trip. We shared the ricotta gnocchi with lamb bolognese and beet soup with buttermilk and pumpernickel breadcrumbs. I had the seafood stew and the hubby the swordfish with orange, greens, and spiced granola (very unique - and very good!). We also shared the dessert with fresh strawberries (we kept having to order them as they were so good down there!), lavender shaved ice, and strawberry panna cotta. It was wayyyy too fancy in there for me to feel comfortable snapping any pictures, so we dined and chatted our way through the night without any distractions. HIGHLY RECOMMEND this place and making reservations beforehand.

Our last stop of the night was to catch some music at the Tattooed MooseThey are known for their duck club, but being we had just eaten, we split a side of duck fat fries with garlic aioli before leaving (definitely not needed - but worth it!). 

And that my friends, sums up our 5 days in Charleston. It was a wonderful city filled with extremely friendly people, beautiful architecture, hard-to-believe history, delicious food, and a old-world charm you just can't find around here.  

We will definitely be back. But until then, we'll be here. Enjoying the fresh snow and 30-degree weather. Is it spring already?!

The Easy Way to Start a Vegetable Garden (hint: just do it!)

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
— Lao Tzu

Early this spring, I decided that I wanted to start a vegetable garden. I had no prior experience with gardening, except the few herbs I have grown on the windowsill.

I didn't read any books on vegetable gardening, figure out what crops grow best together, study the pattern of sun in our backyard. Nope, I didn't do a lick of research. I just jumped right in! A lot of times, it's important to do your research before making a decision. However, sometimes you need to JUST.DO.IT. And that my friends, is exactly what I did. How did I do it? Read on...

Step 1) Determine where you are going to put your garden/dig it up

For us, there was a patch of flowers alongside the west side of our house that I dug up but left the pavers in. You could also put in a boxed garden, although you'd have to take the extra step to build the box. 

Step 2) Get some dirt/compost

After your dig up your garden patch, you may have to add some dirt. I recommend adding a few inches of compost (you can buy at a local garden/hardware store or maybe get free through your city/county) to bring added nutrients to your soil. 

Step 3) Buy your seeds/seedlings 

Rather than starting with seeds, I bought a few seedlings from the farmer's market and an urban garden store. Zucchini, yellow squash, strawberries, butternut squash, cauliflower, broccolini, onions, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, two types of kale, cucumbers and asparagus.

Step 4) Plant your seedlings (after the possibility of a frost disappears)

Again, not a lot of rhyme or reason to where I planted things. I ran out of room in my garden so decided to grow my zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers vertically in pots (it was a fail, as I forgot to punch out the drainage holes in the bottom, and completely flooded my plants - I also think you need to have large enough pots which I did not) and the butternut squash went in a different spot where we tore out an old fire pit. It is recommended that your plants that grow taller are not going to shadow your smaller plants, but again, I just read the directions of how far they should be spaced, grabbed a measuring tape, and went to work.

Step 5) Protect your plants

I put up a small fence around my garden to try and keep the rabbits out. Also - did you know that squirrels LOVE strawberry plants? I surely did not. We got about five strawberries out of the plants before the squirrels took over. Next year I will plan on covering the plants so the squirrels can't dig them up!

My very first strawberry!

My very first strawberry!

Step 5) Weed and water

In the early weeks, it's important to keep your garden weed-free and watered (I've heard of some people putting down mulch for weed protection, or newspaper on top of the grass works for boxed gardens). I made sure to swing out there every day or every other, to pick a few weeds, and give it a good water (5 minutes or so - depending on how much rain we had recently gotten). The weeding will really pile up if you aren't consistent!

My vegetable garden. In all its glory. 

My vegetable garden. In all its glory. 

Step 6) Reap what you sow, and then let the rest go

I had a TON of success with the broccolini (if you tip them over, the side shoots activate all summer long) kale and hot peppers (the asparagus is looking good for next year too!), but only got one cauliflower (out of 6 planted), zero sweet potatoes (that I can find), and the Brussels sprouts are struggling. The point? It's your first year. Enjoy what worked, and let go of what didn't! Also - Google is great for determining what to harvest when. :)

Kale and peppers and broccolini - oh my!

Kale and peppers and broccolini - oh my!

And that's how you start a vegetable garden. Until next time, I'll be trying to cool my mouth from all those hot peppers.

And next year, I'll be making a bigger garden. 

Homemade Margarita Mix + Easy Chicken Nachos

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo (pronounced: [ˈsiŋko ðe ˈmaʝo]; Spanish for “May 5th”, or literally, “Fifth of May”) is a celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.
— Wikipedia

Most of us know it as the day of Mexican food and margaritas (we will take any excuse for a drink really!). 

So as I sit here outside on this gorgeous Minnesota spring night (I'm talking about you 70 degrees) sipping my homemade margarita and feeling contently full from my easy chicken nachos, I thought I better share the love.

If you've followed my journey before you know that I strongly despise artificial ingredients in food (well, actually in everything). "It's hard to make a cheese sauce without Velveeta you say". I'm here to tell you otherwise. Besides, doesn't that FREAK YOU OUT that it is a dairy product that ISN'T REFRIGERATED?!?!

Ok, maybe just me. 

Or maybe not.

I'm not the most detail-orientated person on this planet, so I'll do the best I can. 

First, the drinks:

Homemade Margarita Mix 

What you need:

  • Tequila. We had some Patron Silver Tequila in the house so that's what I used.
  • Ice
  • Course sea salt (optional)
  • Agave syrup
  • 1/2 large lime

Directions:

  1. If you want a salted rim, pour course sea salt onto plate. Run glass rim under water. Turn upside down and twist glass around on salted plate. Ta-da!
  2. Pour desired amount of tequila over
  3. Squeeze 1/2 large lime in (can use more or less depending on amount of tequila you used!)
  4. Squirt of agave syrup (vary depending on level of sweetness desired...again, not too particular over here)
  5. Use a spoon to stir until syrup is dissolved
  6. Enjoy!

It's always a good idea to consume food while drinking tequila (or at least in my experience!): 

Easy Chicken Nachos with Homemade Cheese Sauce

What you need:

  • tortilla chips
  • rotisserie chicken
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • milk or cream
  • salt 
  • cayenne pepper seasoning
  • butter
  • desired toppings (guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, salsa, etc.
  • cilantro (optional)

Directions:

  1. Make cheese sauce (I like this recipe here: http://www.fifteenspatulas.com/homemade-nacho-cheese-sauce/) - please don't boil the milk and be sure to take it off the heat before you put the cheese in - this is essential for a non-lumpy sauce! 
  2. While cheese sauce is thickening up (remember - don't let milk boil!), pull apart rotisserie chicken and decide what meat you are using (white, dark, a bit of both). 
  3. Spread chicken pieces evenly-ish around on chips 
  4. Once cheese sauce is finished and you've let the cheese integrate into the sauce (OFF THE HEAT!), you can now pour or spoon over chips
  5. Top with favorite toppings (I used store bought guacamole and pico)
  6. Enjoy! 

That was easy, right?! Right. :) 

Cheers!