OK, hold on, Dairy Free Buckaroos! Because in one post (ok, maybe a couple) I am going to speed us on through everything that Therese and I saw and tasted in our long July Fourth weekend in Charleston. Because, you see, while the last few times we were in Charleston, we were preoccupied, this time we were free to enjoy the food, the historic houses and the museums that are part of what makes Charleston such a fabulous place to visit.
We had hardly settled in at our now-favorite Charleston hotel, the Embassy Suites Historic Charleston, when it was time for dinner. For a casual but sophisticated first dinner, we chose Basil, one of Charleston’s best Thai restaurants.
I had a Lucky Buddha beer to go with Chicken with Ginger Sauce for my dinner. I enjoyed the entree so much I totally forgot it was supposed to go over rice – I ignored the pot of rice on the table next to me and just ate the dish directly from its plate.
The next day, Wednesday, we explored the area north of our hotel. We started out with lunch at Two Boroughs Larder.
This is a quirky place with a rather limited menu. You may notice, for example, that the chalkboard, rather than being a written-out menu, was actually a list of friends of “Walter” who I believe is the owner’s dog, who recently passed on to the great dog house in the sky. I ordered a pastrami hot dog, but when I said I wanted it dairy free, it caused our waitress no end of consternation. She tried to get me to order something else from the menu, but the things she suggested were all dairy-centered. Finally, after she consulted with the kitchen, she announced they could skip the hot dog bun, which was a brioche and thus milk-rich, and put my dog on a sourdough roll instead. An excellent idea. While it meant slicing the dog up so that it no longer looked like one to fit it on the roll, it tasted great.
Our first historic adventure was to the Aiken-Rhett House, one of several historic houses in Charleston. Several features distinguish this house from others in Charleston. First, audio tours are given out, allowing you to self-guide yourself around the house and take your time (though they still expect you to finish it in about an hour). Second, the Aiken-Rhett not only has surviving slave quarters on the property, but they let you actually walk through them and see what they were like. Third, the Aiken-Rhett has been left largely in a transitional state, with many rooms showing what the building looked like when the Historic Charleston Foundation took it over in 1995, including damage from Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
The house is mostly un-air conditioned (except for one room), and so it can get pretty hot in there. In fact, their advertisements warn that the museum closes early on excessively hot days. Luckily, the day we were there wasn’t too bad. And the house’s one air conditioned room, the art gallery, is the last room in the house on the audio tour, so you get to cool off at the end. In speaking with people who work in the house, we got the impression that if they can raise funds, eventually more of the house will be climate-controlled.
The next stop on our adventures that day was to get some coffee (well, iced chai with almond milk for me) at Kudu Coffee and Craft Beer. This is a very cosy spot, with a large outdoor area and a fountain; but with the day still being pretty hot, we stayed inside.
That evening, dinner was at one of Charleston’s most notable restaurants, Husk.
The food here was excellent in an understated way. My appetizer was watermelon that had been squeezed to remove some of the juice (thus intensifying the flavor) and then dusted with a little sea salt. It was a light and pleasant way to begin the meal.
My main course was hearty but surprisingly simple: pork belly with broad beans and tomatoes.
And for dessert, I had raspberry sorbet (sorbets being the only dairy free option on the dessert menu) and a glass of Madeira.
The plates and bowls and the appearance of the servers (overalls and flannel shirts with full beards for the men) all was completely in synch with the restaurant’s theme of farm-to-table.
In my next post, I will continue breezing my way through our holiday in Charleston.