Therese and I had been looking forward to our week in Charleston for a long time. We would be attending their Wine & Food Festival, which began on Wednesday night; but we traveled there on Sunday afternoon so that we would have a couple days to do some work on our new house there (yes, we will really be moving to Charleston during the summer – hard to believe it is actually going to happen!). And also, this gave us the chance to visit some new restaurants, such as the universally acclaimed Fig.
We flew from New York City out of JFK Airport’s Terminal 4, which gave us the chance to stop by the Shake Shack there. Nothing mind-blowing, but a tasty way to keep our bellies full until such time as we headed to dinner in Charleston.
For this visit, we tried out a new hotel – the Hilton Garden Inn on the waterfront, facing the Ashley River and the Marina (for those of you who know Charleston, it is on the western tip of the Downtown peninsula, just north of Calhoun Street). The river-view rooms are the most desirable, and with our Hilton status, we were able to get one (later in the week, we would move to a second river-view room, one with a small balcony).
Sure enough, between flying down to Charleston, picking up our rental car, driving to the hotel and checking in, that pretty much took care of Sunday afternoon. When it came time to think about dinner, we thought about the hotel’s shuttle, which leaves once an hour and drops off at a spot near some of the best restaurants, at Concord Street and Market Street. This drop-off spot is a bit desolate – the only thing nearby is the restaurant Tabulli across Concord Street – but if you walk up Market Street one block to East Bay, there is lots going on there. Our eyes were drawn to the roof bar atop the Pavilion Hotel, fittingly named Pavilion Bar – on the spur of the moment, we decided to try there for our dinner.
It was a cool evening, but between the barriers keeping the wind away and the outdoor heaters, it was comfortable on the roof. We ordered duck confit nachos to start – Therese asked for the cheese to just cover half the dish, so that I would have a good amount of the nachos (dairy free, you know). As it was, it came out more like 75/25 cheese to no cheese, but I made do, scarfing up the non dairy ones and then pulling soft cheese off of some others. Then for a main course, I ordered some chicken salad. This bar felt like a place that people go for simple hearty food after a night of partying (or before such a night). As a beginning to our week of enjoying Charleston, it was a good fit.
On Monday morning, we had some work to do – shopping for furniture and meeting a contractor or two. After driving around for the first half of the day, we headed to a reliable lunch stop – Artisan Meat Share. We had been there once before, during the “Charleston Insiders” weekend visit in May of 2015. With their superb collection of cured meats, I thought a nice hearty sandwich there would do it for me. Sure enough, the Porchetta sandwich (starring an ingredient new to me, ‘nduja) with a side order of pickles was perfect.
After lunch, we met with another contractor, this time at our new house. After a very productive visit, we drove back to the hotel to get freshened up for dinner. We were going to Fig, one of Charleston’s most famous restaurants, and one that is not easy to get reservations for. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to get dinner reservations a couple of times previously – this time I tried calling them about five weeks before the date of our prospective dinner night, and that worked (like many restaurants, Fig releases dates to phone orders before they put them on the Internet for electronic reservations).
This dinner lived up to our expectations, without question. I started with a sort of warm vegetable salad that they call “a la Grecque” – a dish that changes every month based on whatever vegetables are available locally for that month. For February, it included such things as tiny brussels sprouts, artichoke hearts and mushrooms. It is covered with a light dressing that brings it all together, and it was very good. For my main course, I had fish stew Provencal, and holy mackerel, the broth in this dish was extraordinary. Long after I had eaten the seafood and potatoes, I could’ve kept sipping this broth for hours, it was so good.
Our first day was an excellent start for the week. We had eaten well, and we had gotten some good starts on the work on our house. And while the festival had not yet begun, we had seen signs advertising it around town, and we were starting to get excited!