Here are a few holiday snaps of the meals I had in Charleston, South Carolina—one of the loveliest cities I’ve had the privilege of visiting. I also have a bunch of pictures of the town itself, which I hope to put up later, but here’s what I ate.
Upon arrival, I immediately had a late lunch at Jestine’s Kitchen, an unprepossessing place that has superb fried chicken. It’s accompanied here with homemade pickles, collard greens, whipped sweet potatoes, the local paper and, of course, sweet tea. The yardbird was great. I believe Anthony Bourdain featured this place in one of his recent restaurant shows. Click all photos to enlarge them.
I had a semi-fancy lunch the next day at Slightly North of Broad (Broad is a street in Charleston), a restaurant usually abbreviated S.N.O.B. But it’s not snobbish at all: it serves upscale Southern food in a pleasant, unstuffy atmosphere.
The menu, heavy on local seafood and fancified southern food, and not too expensive:
To start off with, since the day was warm: a locally-brewed “White Thai” wheat beer made with spices. Just the ticket.
Steamed local clams in garlic and white wine, with fennel, tomatoes and toasted baguette. Yum!
And the best dish of all: shrimp and grits, a Carolina favorite. The grits were creamy (I think they contained cream), a perfect foil for the many large shrimp, which were interspersed with pieces of homemade andouille sausage and country ham. This is the Risotto of America, and was absolutely delicious, if filling!
The next day, after a long walk around the city, I had a late lunch (I often eat one large meal per day while travelling) at Cru Café, another restaurant that does “modern” Southern food (they call it “gourmet comfort food”). Thank goodness that, in Charleston, “modern” or “gourmet” doesn’t equal “small portions.”
Because I booked the kitchen table (really a copper counter that overlooks the kitchen), but had to wait 25 minutes, they comped me a drink and an appetizer: delicious roasted corn flan with jalapeño peppers. Excellent.
And then the appetizer I ordered: duck salad with carmalized walnuts, arugala, and fried onion slivers on top. A substantial appetizer that could also be ordered as a main dish. Note the sweet tea: the table wine of the South.
The main course: homemade meat loaf, barbecue style, with mashed potatoes and homemade cole slaw with horseradish. It was excellent as well, though a bit dry. You can imagine how full I was after consuming this and the two courses above. This was not a small dish.
I wish I’d had room for dessert, as they were homemade as well, and looked great. Before the chef cut a slice of Orange Blossom Cake with coconut frosting, he made two squiggles of sauce on the plate, which, as a biologist, I had to photograph:
Afterwards a quick walk through the touristy Charleston Market, once the place that house slaves went to buy groceries for their white owners. Now it’s a fancy mall selling geegaws (and some decent stuff, like local handwoven sweetgrass baskets). There was some food on offer, too, like this (I didn’t try the famous okra chips):
And a panoply of hot sauces:
I greatly enjoyed my three major meals in Charleston, as well as the BBQ dinner (with mustard sauce) that one of the seminar organizers at the College of Charleston got me to eat in my hotel before my debate (I can’t remember her name, but she was very gracious). I know from reading about the city that it’s rapidly becoming a foodie paradise, and I wish I’d stayed longer to sample the fare. But I’m sure I’ll be back.
Later this week I’ll post some pictures of this beautiful city—a city voted the prime tourist destination in the world by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler Magazine last year. I can’t quite agree with that ranking (Paris is stiff competition for food and scenery, and beats Charleston hands down for art), but Charleston is up there with New Orleans and New York City as my favorite tourist destinations in the U.S. If you have a chance to go there, do so!