Thursday of our week in Charleston may have been the most event-filled day of the week. We shopped in antique stores, had lunch at one of our favorite places (Brown Dog Deli), visited the Old Exchange and went out to Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant for a Wine & Food Festival event in the evening.
Antique shopping in downtown Charleston is a bittersweet experience for us. The stores there, like Jacques Antiques, Alexandra Designs, Golden & Associates, George C. Birlant and David Skinner Period Lighting, have incredible inventory. And several of them, like Golden and Birlant, are huge spaces with tons of great things to see. But the prices are so beyond what we could ever pay for things like furniture that there is little point for us to search intently through any of these stores. Their target customer is obviously someone way way above our pay-grade. But we can always look to get ideas, and we did have fun looking.
In the midst of our antique looking, we paid a visit of a more practical nature, to Mirth Studio. We learned about them on an episode of the tv series Restoring Charleston on DIY Network. They have a cramped office full of what they do, beautiful customized tiles. We had thought we might use some of their tiles in our renovated downstairs bathroom. But that might not happen. In any case, we enjoyed seeing their tiles and meeting the nice ladies in their office.
By the time we finished our antique adventures, it was time for lunch. I always feel like it is a good idea to head in the direction of Broad Street at lunchtime, so that we can visit Brown Dog Deli.
I love that they have vegan cheeses available, and that you can order any of the sandwiches (or other items) on their menu, and substitute vegan cheese, and be 100% safe and happy (and dairy free). On this occasion, they actually got my order wrong – I wanted a “Grateful Duck” club sandwich, and they brought me a short rib grilled cheese instead. But I was so hungry by the time the sandwich arrived, that I ate it anyway. And loved it – tasting the familiar tang of Daiya cheese on the sandwich was a wonderful thing.
Over the course of our 7 or 8 visits to Charleston, we have been seeing all the historical and cultural things there. On this day, we visited the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, a building that dates back to the colonial period, and has served many purposes over the years, from a meeting and events hall to a jail.
To us, the tone of the exhibits there was definitely pitched towards school kids. So for us, it seemed rather shallow in quality, and a bit dull. But I did appreciate the snippets of diary entries and letters of George Washington on display on the 2nd floor, which is a hall where Washington was entertained during a presidential visit. His rather cynical pronouncements regarding the likelihood of our Constitution being ratified are refreshing to read – then, as now, there were many doubters, including the Father of our country.
After the Old Exchange, we visited a couple more antique stores on King Street, returning to the Normandy Farm Bakery to have some afternoon coffee (I don’t usually indulge, but it was rather a long day, so taking a break to stoke the fires wasn’t a bad idea). We had planned in advance and thought this would be a good place to meet an Uber car to drive us out to Mount Pleasant (with the festival in town, we thought it wise to reserve a car in advance).
Our timing was perfect – our car got us to Boone Hall Plantation just as the crowd for the evening’s event, the Dockside Supper (a project of John T. Edge‘s Southern Foodways Alliance) celebrating the legacy of Chef Angie Bellinger of Workmen’s Cafe. It was also right around sundown when we arrived, and walking around the back of the Dock House, I caught a great view of the sunset.
Therese and I picked out a couple seats near the end of the one of the tables, and another couple sat right across from us, Joann and Bruce Susser. We had a jolly time getting to know each other, and at the end of the evening, they graciously offered to drive us back downtown. But I am getting ahead of myself. There was a presentation about Chef Bellinger with some comments made by Mr. Edge, and we were introduced to the cuisine we would be eating that night. Chef Bellinger told a great story about how she learned to make lima beans from her mother.
Now we had gotten a message from someone representing this event about food allergies, and I had written to let them know about my dairy allergy. I thought that was very thoughtful, considering that with Southern cooking, there is the potential for lots of butter and cream and such being used. Once we were seated I spoke to a server, and they directed me to a woman whose identity I never discovered. I wondered: would they have a separate plate of food for me? But no: all this woman did was look at the menu and say, “mmmm, so you can have this but not that.” Luckily, out of the 10 things on the menu, there were five that were definitely safe for me – and I adapted two others to my allergy so I could enjoy them as well.
In the first course, the collard greens and red beans and rice were safe for me (wish I could’ve had the crab casserole, but oh well). For the second course, the lima beans (oh, such a great bean dish), the pork tails (decadence personified – or should I say pork-ified?) and stewed okra and tomatoes were safe. I grabbed a fried chicken leg also – since the dairy was in the breading/skin, I peeled it clean of all accoutrements, and enjoyed the succulent tender meat with just the slightest hint of its lovely seasonings.
The pork tails were definitely decadent deep-fried goodness in the extreme. One of the two I ate actually had a good amount of meat on it, but the greasy and the crispy were what they were all about. A perfect compliment to the creamy beans. The okra was a bit on the crunchy side for me – I know nowadays people work hard not to have their okra go slimy, but I wouldn’t have minded them a little softer.
For the dessert, for one moment I wished I could morph into a dairy eater and try the banana pudding. But I was satisfied with a big chunk of the applie pie, where of course I ate mostly apples and pecans, staying away from the pastry which may have been butter-based (but may have been made with vegetable shortening now that I think about it).
Fabulous dinner, excellent company, and a comfortable drive back to our shuttle stop near the downtown market. Nice meeting you, Joann and Bruce, and look forward to hosting you for the festival next year!