I have already told you about the days leading up to Christmas, of our first few days spending Christmas in Charleston. Our trip, however, did not end with December 25th: we had three more days to explore the culinary wonderland, to appreciate not just the food there, but also the city’s history. At the center of our remaining time in Charleston was a memorable meal at McCrady’s, one of Charleston’s great restaurants, and I would like to spend a good bit of time telling you about that. But I also will tell you about the other things we did in those days after Christmas in Charleston.
The morning of the 26th I had some time to myself, to chill and do some writing. I had an ambitious agenda of things I hoped to accomplish during this time – writing, planning, a nice long shower, lunch by myself – and truth be told, I didn’t get done half of what I had hoped to. But I had some down time, and that was good.
I believe strongly in having a bit of down time during a vacation. Some people are concerned about getting their money’s worth when they travel, and so they overbook themselves, and run themselves ragged doing things every hour of every day while on vacation. I am not one of those people. I feel like I get my money’s worth, but I also respect the fact that I am on vacation, and that means I am moving at a relaxed pace and enjoying myself, not trying to drive myself crazy seeing every museum and every sight in a city.
In the afternoon, I joined up with Therese and Eileen again, and we went to see the Moscow Ballet perform Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet at the Performing Arts Center in North Charleston. Therese and I Eileen have seen the Nutcracker performed live many times, and so they have a vast understanding of how it is done. It was my first time, and I have to say that I was mildly entertained by what I saw here. Therese said the Moscow Ballet’s version was not the best; as she explained to me what she felt was lacking, I could see her points.
For dinner that night, we stayed near our hotel (the Hampton Inn) and went to Coast Bar & Grill. I enjoyed it: the sea-faring decor was very entertaining, the food (with some good dairy free options) was plentiful and tasty. I started with a ceviche with fried plantain chips to start that was as big as my head, and for an entree I went with linguine with red Cioppino sauce with seafood. Everything was washed down with the creamiest smoothest frozen peach maragarita. What a lovely dinner!
Friday the 27th began with a tour of the harbor aboard the Carolina Belle. We learned about the various forts and islands and history of the Charleston area. It was lovely out on the water, although a bit cold, and we were happy that the boat had an enclosed lower deck.
After the harbor tour, we made the mistake of walking to 82 Queen Restaurant for lunch. We could’ve taken the trolley, although it would’ve meant changing from one trolley to another and so forth. In any case, by the time we got to lunch we were all a bit bedraggled, but managed to have a very nice lunch. 82 Queen, like many of the restaurants on Queen Street, is in what looks like a former home, and so the various dining rooms are actual rooms, very cozy with interesting views of the central downstairs courtyard (which has tables in it, but it was too chilly for us to eat out there). I played it simple, just ordering a duck confit sandwich arugula and blueberry jam which turned out to be quite delicious. Eileen wanted to order dessert, so I played along, finishing things off with a nice glass of madeira wine.
For dinner on Friday, we found ourselves with the dilemma we had faced on Christmas Day: namely, we feared we had not left ourselves with sufficient time between lunch and dinner. We couldn’t move our dinner reservation at McCrady’s, and didn’t want to move our evening’s entertainment at the James Island Park Holiday Light Show later, either. So we made the best of it, arriving at McCrady’s a tiny bit late to give ourselves a little more time to create an appetite for dinner.
Once we were seated, had ordered, and the food started coming, it was not an issue for me: the portions were just right, i.e., on the small side. Therese and I opted for the 4 course dinner, which includes an appetizer, fish course, meat course and dessert. I had indicated my allergy on our Opentable reservation, and our server was well aware of my needs and gave me good advice on what to order (actually, I told him what I wanted to order and he responded that I had chosen wisely, and it would be no problem to prepare these dishes dairy free).
I want to emphasize that while most of our food in Charleston was first-rate, the dinner at McCrady’s was on another level. The balance of locally-sourced farm-to-table ingredients used was remarkable – inspired at every turn. The detail that kept popping out at me was the use of dots of puree – in the fish course, it was Meyer lemon, while in the meat course, it was apple – that added another level of flavor.
With the dessert, I was prepared to be under-wowed. As is often the case at fine restaurants, the one dairy free option mentioned was sorbet. But in this case, I was thrilled to discover that it wasn’t just a frozen fruit puree, as it were. This apple sorbet had a crumble underneath it that gave every spoonful some crunch. I thought, “why can’t every restaurant do this?” I don’t know the answer to that question – what I do know is that McCrady’s put some attention to a detail left unattended to at most restaurants, and in the process, they left me feeling well-cared for, impressed, and thrilled.
Friday concluded with our trip to the aforementioned holiday light show at James Island Park. We hired a car to drive us through it, and we took lots of pictures. The best part was when we stopped in the middle of the park. There was a pavilion there, with stations where you could roast marshmallows. For just two dollars you got a long stick with three humongous marshmallows on it. Therese roasted the marshmallows and then shared them with us.
With Saturday, our time in Charleston sadly came to an end. We had a nice breakfast with Eileen at Virginia’s just around the corner from our hotel, and then said good-bye to her.
Therese and I still had a few hours left before our flight home, so we decided to take a self-guided walking tour of the grand homes of Charleston’s historic district. We set off down Meeting Street from Broad Street toward the southern end of the Charleston peninsula, and when we got there, we walked one block over to King Street and then retraced our steps back to Broad.
When we had finished our walking tour, we had just enough time for one more lunch before picking up our luggage at the hotel and heading to the airport. We had been wanting to try the ramen and Banh Mi sandwiches at CO on King Street. We ordered the ramen in and I got a sandwich to go for my dinner on the airplane (they put the pate on the side because they feared that it might have a bit of cream in it – so I gave that to Therese).
Once we finished our ramen – which was glorious – very filling, rich and delicious – it was time to say good-bye to Charleston. We will return again, I have no doubt – in 6 days, we hardly scratched the surface of all the great food and history in Charleston.