Radish Greens Avocado Quiche Satisfying Sunday Dinner

Radish Greens Avocado Quiche Satisfying Sunday Dinner

It all started when we went to Union Square Greenmarket this past Saturday.  We found lots of great vegetables to buy.  No strawberries yet, which is what I was hoping for, but we did find some gorgeous looking radishes, with their greens attached.  Now, I do not like radishes – they are really the only vegetable I do not care for (brussels sprouts and okra, yes – radishes, no).  However, Therese loves them.  And I thought, hmmm, maybe we could do something with the greens, instead of just throwing them away.  Can you cook them? I wondered.  Just a little bit of research confirmed that, yes indeed, radish greens are very cookable.

So then I started thinking about a meal I could make out of the radish greens.  We had a couple of very ripe avocados lying around.  And I had been thinking about making an apple tart.  Hmmm again – maybe I could make a tart with radish greens and avocado instead, for our Sunday night dinner!  I looked on the Internet to see if anyone has ever done this combination before (I am always amazed that whenever I come up with what I consider to be a thrilling new food combination, there are a zillion people who thought of it before me and posted about it on the Internet).  There were a smattering of websites but they all really linked back to one particular recipe for Radish Leaves & Avocado Quiche in individual pre-fab quiche shells.

A couple things about that recipe rubbed me the wrong way, mainly the fact that I wanted to make my own one quiche tart shell rather than buy small tart shells pre-made.  So then Therese (ever my savior) found a recipe for Radish Greens and Garlic Quiche that was much closer to my vision.  I adapted that and here is what I came up with – we both thought it looked and tasted fantastic, the perfect end to a relaxing home-y weekend!

Radish Greens and Avocado Quiche
(Makes 6 servings)

Pastry dough (see below)
4 tbsp. vegan butter
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch radish greens, rinsed and chopped
4 large eggs
1 cup Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ avocado, scooped and roughly chopped

2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
14 tablespoons of Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Butter
6-8 tablespoons of ice water

Slice the butter into pads about 1 tablespoon in size.  Return the butter to the fridge for at least 15 minutes, to get it re-cooled after handling, and keep it there until the moment you need it, because it softens very quickly.  Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  Then add butter, and using a pastry cutter, mash the flour and butter together until the butter resembles large bread crumbs.  Sprinkle the water over the top and using a spatula, mix the water into the dough.  If the dough is sticking to the spatula, you probably have enough water, and it’s time to form the dough into a ball using your hands.  Work it over minimally, maybe for 20 seconds, just to make sure it is holding together and all the flour is incorporated.  Then flatten it out like a large disk, wrap in cellophane, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (you can refrigerate it overnight if you like).

After the 30 minutes, bring out the dough and let it warm up to room temperature (5-10 minutes).  Sprinkle some flour onto a surface (or cutting board), and also sprinkle some onto your rolling pin.  Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 of an inch.

This makes enough pastry for a 12 inch quiche, so it was more than enough for this recipe.  I left it on the thick side because I didn’t have plans for the leftover dough, but you could trim off the excess and save it for making some free-form tarts, etc.

Using a 9-inch quiche pan, blind bake the crust for 15 minutes at 375 degrees on the convection setting (or 400 degrees in a conventional oven).  Remove from the oven and let it cool a bit.

Sautee the onion and garlic in the butter for a few minutes, then add greens and cook for another 2 minutes, until greens are wilted.

In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs.  Add coconut cream, salt and pepper and whisk until well incorporated.

Spread the greens over the crust.  Lay the chunks of avocado over the greens.  Pour the egg and milk mixture over the greens/avocado.

Bake at 375 (convection setting) for 45 minutes, or 400 degrees if you don’t have convection setting for 45 minutes, or until the top gets nice and browned.  Remove from oven and cool for 15-30 minutes before slicing for serving.

Slice of Quiche Ready for Eating

After slicing – well, you know what to do.  Before you gobble it up, it is so pretty that you may want to snap a picture.  But don’t wait too long – someone else might come along and gobble up your piece before you can even get a bite!  Enjoy!

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Southern Foodways Alliance Dockside Supper at Boone Hall Plantation

Southern Foodways Alliance Dockside Supper at Boone Hall Plantation

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.

Mirth Studio Entrance Sign

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.

Quote from George Washington Letter

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.

Angie Bellinger’s Famous Lima Beans

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!

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Middleton Place and Opening Night Charleston Wine & Food Festival

Middleton Place and Opening Night Charleston Wine & Food Festival

Visiting Middleton Place during our week in Charleston was my lovely wife Therese’s idea.  To be more specific, it was in a list of possible things to do that she emailed to me and I dutifully pasted at the end of my Microsoft Word document-itinerary.  However, as I went back to that list and mined it for activities for the week, I somehow overlooked Middleton (mea culpa).

But then our Wednesday activity – a road trip to an architectural salvage company north of Charleston – fell through (I got an email from the company telling us their hours have changed, and now they are no longer open on Wednesday, boo hiss).  So all of a sudden, there was a big hole in our itinerary, and Therese had reminded me about Middleton Place, so it was a natural adjustment to plug it in for our main daytime activity.

Middleton Place

Wednesday was the last day we planned to have our rental car, and driving out to Middleton Place, on the west banks of the Ashley River, was a very smooth relaxing drive (though you will have to ask the driver Therese to confirm my impressions).  We arrived in the late morning and explored some of the grounds, heading towards the main house which is now a museum of the original owner family’s belongings.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures allowed of the interior of the house.  And the exterior of the house is hard to get a good picture of as well, since it is surrounded by many trees.  Taking the tour was a great idea (the house tour is not included in the general admission ticket) – seeing all the beautiful paintings of family members and the furniture, some of it simply period and some actually belonging to the family, was splendid.

After the tour, we walked around the house and came out on the side where the Middelton Place Restaurant is housed, in another lovely brick building which is I believe original to the property.  Therese and I were copycats, each electing to have catfish sandwiches with sweet tea (as I recall, she was extra hungry and also ordered a salad appetizer).

After our refreshing reviving lunch, which included a lovely chat with our server, we were just in time for the garden overview tour.  I will cut to the chase and tell you that our docent-guide Fran was outstanding – knowledgeable, pleasant, the kind of guide who makes you feel like she you are her new friend and she is showing you her backyard.

And there is lots to see of gardens at Middleton Place – maybe not as much as Magnolia Plantation, with its camellia forests, but enough to keep you busy for an afternoon.  Sadly, we did not have to rest of the afternoon to wander among Middleton Place’s gardens – we had to get back to drop off our car at Enterprise’s convenient Meeting Place office before 5.

And along the way, we wanted to make one more stop, at Seventeen South Antiques.  It took a little searching to find it – Google Maps showed it being on a different corner than where it actually is.  Not our sort of place was this antique store – it seemed cluttered and not in a good way.  Oh well.

We dropped off the car and still had a couple of hours before the evening’s Wine & Food Festival event, the Open Night feasting in a tent in Marion Square.  So we paid a visit to Circa Lighting, which had been on our list of stores to visit (nice merchandise but out of our price range).  Then we went to our favorite coffee shop, Kudu, and drank coffee (well I had an almond iced chai latte) – and I was a little disheartened to discover that Kudu has changed.  No longer is there a round table near the bathroom where you can have a meeting with friends, and most of the seating that there is is bar stool height (very bad for the circulation – oh I sound like an old person I know, but it’s true).

Anyway, finally it was nearly time for the Wine & Food event, and so we got in line, excited to have the festival finally beginning.

Opening Night Rooted in Charleston Tent in Marion Square

The tent was set up similar to the way the culinary village on the weekend is – tables full of samples of one and two bites size.  Since the theme of the event was “rooted in Charleston,” there was a heavy lowcountry influence reverberating through the foods available – lots of riffs on shrimp with grits and that kind of thing.

And as usual, there was more food than I could ever hope to eat – I had to choose what things to go for, and what to avoid.  In the latter category were, of course, dishes whose dairy component could not be avoided, and most of the desserts (more on that later).

The vast majority of the dishes, thankfully, fell into the former category – scallops and shrimps and fish salads and small bites of steak and lots of vegetable-focused samplings (nice, huh?).  There was very loud music provided by JD McPherson, and Foosball tables, and a plastic full-sized tennis court in the middle of the tent where you could actually take a stab at playing tennis if you wanted (I saw the ball flying off into the crowd a couple of times, so my guess is that there was a direct relationship between the amount of alcohol imbibed (of which there was much available) and the willingness to swing a racket in the middle of a crowd of feasters.

As for my favorite dish of the night (drumroll please), it was a coconut cream-based panna cotta made by Chef Marc Collins of Circa 1886 Restaurant.  The first time we came to Charleston, we had a progressive Christmas Eve dinner whose main meal was at that restaurant, where they did a fabulous job of accommodating my allergy.  Well, once again the chef did wonders without dairy.

Not only was this dish dairy free, but I believe it was also gluten free.  It was sort of a dessert (sweet coconut milk and passion fruit jam), but it also had many savory elements – pickled shrimp and cucumbers and cilantro oil (for example).  Maybe it was an entree and a dessert?  I don’t know, but it was extraordinary – the shrimp went well with both the passion fruit and the coconut, and the cucumber went well with the shrimp and (maybe) the fruit(?).

I thanked Chef Collins, who was right there, for this super imaginative and wholly dairy free concoction.  When we arrive in Charleston as residents this summer, we will have to eat at his restaurant again.  In the meantime, we left the event very stuffed and lit up inside by this very fun start to the festival part of our week.

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Bunny Peeps Brownies Make Special Easter Treats

Bunny Peeps Brownies Make Special Easter Treats

Since Therese and I were planning to attend a family Easter dinner this year at my nieces house, and I knew there would be young people present (i.e., less than 5 years old), I thought it would be fun to make a special dessert.

For inspiration, I thought of one of the constants of childhood for Eastertime, the Peeps, or more specifically, the Bunny Peeps.  It didn’t take me long to find this delight recipe from Life, Love and Sugar, where Peeps are lain across brownie rectangles and then covered with a little blanket of chocolate and sprinkles.

For the component parts, it didn’t take me long to fill in the blanks.  I have recently become a big fan of Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Cocoa (Amazon link).  On the back of the package, there is what they call an award winning brownie recipe (I don’t know what award they won, but it sounded good to me).  Then for the dipping chocolate (i.e., the “blankets”) I had two kinds of chocolate on hand: Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (Amazon link) and Valrhona Noir Cairabe Baking Bar. I thought I would start with the first one, and then use the second when the Ghirardelli ran out.

The one element that was a mystery to me was the sprinkles.  Luckily, Therese is a genius at finding things on Amazon, and within a couple days, a large package of Edible Pastel Confetti Sprinkles (Amazon link) lay at our door.

The concept of the entire dessert is pretty simple: make brownies, and let them cool; melt chocolate; put some melted chocolate on the back of the peep and adhere it to a rectangle of brownie; dunk the peep and brownie into the chocolate; apply a pinch of sprinkles before the chocolate cools.

Peeps on Brownies Waiting for Their Blanket Dipping

Like everything, there is a bit of a learning curve, and as I went along, I got better at it.  The chocolate dunking part was the most challenging – my brownies were still a little soft, and the melted chocolate sucked the brownie/peep into it.  When I tried to pull it back out, the brownie started to crumble (oh no!).  So I determined that the best thing to do was put a small spatula into the chocolate, dunk the brownie/peep, and then use the spatula to extricate it in one piece.

Dipping Brownie Peeps in Chocolate

As for my dipping chocolates, both of them contributed just incredible flavor.  As far as texture goes, the Valrhona seemed to be more liquid, and after melting, remained tacky on the dessert even after several hours of cooling.  So I refrigerated them all overnight so they would be pretty solid for the next day.

How did the Peeps in their chocolate-y blankets go over?  They were a big success.  My niece’s older daughter proudly announced that she only likes the yellow ones, and my niece’s in-laws’ two sons both took blue ones.  They were a chocolate-y mess, but loved by one and all.  Even some of us adults got into the fun (I had two and thought they were scrumptious – the first-rate brownie and chocolate overshadow the potentially cheap marshmallow flavor of the Peeps.

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Charleston Wine & Food Festival Week Overview

Charleston Wine & Food Festival Week Overview

Therese and I had an absolutely fabulous time when we were in Charleston over the end of February and beginning of March for the city’s Wine & Food Festival.  It was our last visit to the city before we (gasp) move there to become residents in June, and we had two objectives to our visit: first, to enjoy the five days of the festival, and second, to make preparations for our June move in.

Since we were there on Sunday night, and the festival didn’t start until Wednesday night, that gave us time, in addition to meeting with contractors and shopping for furniture, to enjoy meals at some of Charleston’s great restaurants, outside of the festival.  I won’t go into any details here, since that is what the individual posts of each day’s adventures is all about.  Above you can get a bit of a preview of those events for which we were given wristbands – but not every event did that, and there was much much more.  Hope you enjoy reading about our Charleston adventures!

Sunday-Monday, February 26-27: Arriving in Charleston; meals at Artisan Meat Share, Pavilion Bar and Fig Restaurant

Tuesday, February 28: McCrady’s Tavern

Wednesday, March 1: trip to Middleton Place; Opening Night of the Wine & Food Festival

Thursday, March 2: Mirth Studios: Brown Dog Deli; Provost & Old Exchange; Dockside Supper at Boone Hall Plantation

Friday, March 3: Indaco Lunch; Coffee at Five Loaves Cafe; Descendants of Daniel at Woolfe Street Theater; Dinner at Tattooed Moose

Saturday, March 4: Culinary Village at Marion Square

Sunday, March 5: Fuller Bill of Fare Event at Aiken-Rhett House and Gatewood House

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McCrady’s Tavern Crowns Tuesday in Charleston

McCrady’s Tavern Crowns Tuesday in Charleston

Our second full day in Charleston for our Wine & Food Festival week opened with promise.  We had a couple of appointments to meet with a landscaper and potential contractor, and then there were some storefronts to visit in the afternoon.  Topping it all of was going to be dinner at McCrady’s Tavern, which was very very exciting.

The day did not start out so great.  No details necessary, but just to say that of our two appointments of the day, one was a no-show, and the other showed up, and then basically said, sorry, I can’t help you.  So when we headed to lunch at Shrimp Roll on King Street, we were feeling very unaccomplished.  And frankly, Shrimp Roll was pretty unimpressive – lackluster Chinese food, oh well.

In the afternoon, we did a little better.  First, we stopped at Encore Architectural Salvage.  I will say that they don’t have much of what I would consider to be “architectural salvage” – just a couple fireplace covers and a shelf full of old doorknobs.  They have decided to focus on wood for floors and other purposes (I guess that’s where the money is), so we switched gears and asked lots and lots of questions about that.  And so we learned about the different kinds of wood, and lots of details, like what gives wood flooring color.  And we talked about having them make us some tabletops for our desks, which we will probably hire them to do.

They also clued us in to the existence of AIM on King, which is right around the corner from Encore.  AIM (which is short for Antiques & Interiors Market) is really a huge warehouse of antiques dealers all under one roof, and we saw lots of things that we loved.  And unlike other antique stores in Charleston, which seem to be priced only for the ultra-wealthy market, this place actually has prices that might actually fit our budget.  So we were happy to walk through there, talk to the owner of the space, and contemplate furniture purchases for when we move in.

Feeling more accomplished, we headed back to the hotel to chill and get ready for dinner.

Okay, let’s talk about McCrady’s Tavern for a minute.  Those of you who know about Charleston might be saying, why go to McCrady’s Tavern?  It used to be that McCrady’s was the main restaurant, and the tavern was just, well, a tavern, with simple bar food.  The first time we came to Charleston, for Christmas in 2013, we did have dinner at McCrady’s and it was wonderful.

Well, since the recent remodeling/re-build, the two restaurants are now very different than before.  McCrady’s is now an ultra-exclusive tasting menu restaurant – they only seat something like 36 people a night, in two seatings of 18, and they may now be the hardest reservation to get in Charleston.  Meanwhile, the tavern is now the more mainstream restaurant, with still some very pubbish food, for sure, but also some great offerings that would have been very much at home on the menu of the former McCrady’s.

I opened with a tavern salad.  You may think, “oh, salad, how boring,” but just as with my appetizer the previous night at Fig, this salad really made my heart sing, for a couple of reasons.  One, I knew that with the food festival coming, I would probably be eating lots of rich meat-centered dishes, and this was an opportunity to go healthy, get a whole serving of vegetables.  Two, there was lots to enjoy in this salad, like hearts of palm, and it was all covered with a nice light dressing.

For my main course, I went much more in the direction of hearty and decadent.  The grilled porterhouse porkchop was everything you always wished a porkchop would be – plenty of tender juiciness and crisp chewiness, all offered in perfect balance.  They altered the sauce to accommodate my allergy – very nice – but it was perfect for dipping.  And instead of carmelized onions atop the porkchop (butter, boo), they grilled some spring onions and then covered it all with the “herb salad”.  A nice balance of all the meaty goodness, and the crunch and bright flavors of the goodness from the garden.  And to accompany the dish, I ordered some of the “tavern fries” for the table – they are kind of a thing at McCrady’s, fries that take 48 hours to create, being cooked several times, leaving them very crisp on the outside, and creamy like mashed potatoes inside.  My take on the fries: tasty, but not as the revelation the creation story (uttered in tones of reverent awe) would lead you to expect.

At the end of the meal back in 2013, I was thrilled with the inventiveness of the dessert sorbet – I wondered if the one I had this night would be similarly inspired and multi-dimensional.  Sadly, it was not.  Nevertheless, it was a very good raspberry sorbet.  I was a little surprised that it was already well on the way to melting when it arrived at our table – must have been some kind of miscommunication among the wait staff.  But I do like my frozen desserts on the soft side – all the better to enjoy the silkiness of the sorbet!

So, I would say that while this dinner may not have been quite the equal of the one we had three and a half years ago, nevertheless, it made the day for me.  As we left the restaurant, I felt that we were well on our way to having a memorable week of food feasting (and house preparing) in Charleston.

Mints from McCrady’s Tavern

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Charleston Wine & Food Festival Week Begins with Fig Restaurant

Charleston Wine & Food Festival Week Begins with Fig Restaurant

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.

Shake Shack in JFK’s Terminal 4

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).

Ashley Marina and Sunset over the River Seen from Hilton Garden Inn

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.

Duck Confit Nachos and Champagne at Pavilion Bar

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.

Porchetta Sandwich with a Side of Pickles

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!

Charleston Wine & Food Festival Poster at Artisan Meat Share

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