Saturday, July 5, 2014

South Carolina in a Weekend! In a Post! In Your Face!

I was probably 75% done with this post that I had been working on for over a week - an epically long post chronicling my entire South Carolina weekend, but one cut and auto-save later, I sadly lost it all !  And I almost wanted to scrap the whole thing out of spite, but instead, I'll just briefly tell you the highlights of my celebratory weekend in Charleston, because honestly, some of the food just needs to be shared!

The best meal we had in Charleston was on our very first night at FIG.  We were rushing from the airport to make the last seating (10p), and of course hit every single red light, but they still let us in, and I'm so glad they did.  

I thought FIG just stood for the delectable purple fruit that tastes so good caramelized, but it actually stands for "Food is Good" which I learned from their butter.  

 One of the best dishes you could ever eat in life would be this ricotta gnocchi.  Little waterbug sized gnocchi dumplings in a fresh bolognese.  You will never use your teeth less eating a dish, as these dumplings dissolve completely on the tongue leaving behind only sheer bliss and wonderment.

The second best dish you could order would be the fish stew cocotte.  A medley of the sea's finest, including mussels, giant shrimp, bits of squid and scallops in the most delectable of fish stock in which you will want to dunk the entire loaf of complimentary bread (and the stack of crostini served with the dish), and you will, because nobody can stop what is only right in the world.

 The third best thing you could order is the sticky sorghum cake for dessert.  Who knows what sorghum is, but just know the cake is served warm, is ridiculously moist and just sinfully delicious - doused in a thick caramel that you want to smother all over your face.

The other dessert we ordered, a meyer lemon pudding with sour cherry compote, was remarkably light and refreshing, a great complement to the intense sorghum.

If you ever make it to Charleston and can only go to one spot, please make that spot FIG.  And please make reservations!

If you're blessed to visit Charleston before it gets hot, the walks around the river bend are the best (especially to enjoy the most giant of mango ices).

The homes are so huge and ostentatious here, and I love every one of them.

Everything well manicured - look just to the left of the picture below and see how even the steps have the perfect hedge of grass accents!  

We did a long walk along the river up to Market St which has all the happening things you could want in a touristy town.  There are SO many candy shops in this area, and all hawking fresh made pralines.

Which just ended up being my most favorite thing to eat for free in the world.  I must've had a dozen samples from all the different candy shops and loved every single one of them!

I sometimes wonder if I can just quit my job and do this for the rest of my life because of the quality assurance I would have to perform on every batch (for the good of the people, you know).

The suckers to the far left are bear claws, mounds of cashews or pecans globbed with caramel and chocolate.  Those are nutty and fun, as are the krispie treats that also get drenched in caramel in addition to the apples.  Basically, you can put anything in caramel, and I will eat it.

The most hipster place we ate in Charleston was Two Boroughs Larder.

The restaurant is tiny, with one long communal table and a few small two-tops.  The clientele is straight out of Williamsburg, with vintage outfits and an apartment full of cats Instagrammed on the daily.

The other half of the restaurant is dedicated to self-service, locally made alcohol and Orangina.

 While the pork belly, pistachio and rhubarb was a tasty and unique combo,

The brussels sprouts and lamb ragu stole our hearts - slightly bitter and tender greens with an amazingly savory and spicy ragu.  We scraped this dish clean with our tongues.

Most of the reviews you see will say that the beef ramen is really delicious, but it's just okay and borderline bland (even though the egg is clearly on point!).  It would benefit immensely from the gritty chili oil you find in most Asian noodle shops. 

The desserts are worth a mention also.  You can get a little jarful of creamy, chocolate ganache studded with crushed pistachios

or cookies and milk.  One cookie had marshmallows, and it makes me wonder why there just aren't more cookies with the chewy goodness of melty marshmallows. (These are the types of things that keep me up at night.)

The other most hipstery place we visited was the Butcher & Bee, located in an industrial subsection of Charleston where there is nothing around except a line of twenty-somethings stretching out into the parking lot.

The decor is interesting - cardboard honeycombs and hanging mummified bees adorn the ceiling.

Seating is all communal and grabbed after order.

While the Butcher & Bee is known for their sandwiches, I must say their french toast deserves special mention.

The toppings vary but generally include some sort of fantastic nut streusel / crumble of your dreams, a fruit (ours was pumpkin) and a generous pour of maple syrup.  The whole combination is moist and tender, not too sweet and just delicious.

The baked egg and tomato with tahini was pretty light and tasty also.

After, we went to Charleston's Annual Lowcountry Cajun Festival and witnessed my new life inspiration - the crawfish eating contest!  The contest featured six rounds of amateur crawfish eating and ended with a final round of the winners of each of the six previous rounds to crown the crawfish eating champion.  I learned techniques I never knew existed and plan to practice soon to compete one day.

The winner ended up being our favorite character from the first round (far right below).  In the final round, he ate something like 30 crawfish in 20 seconds, which is impossible and incredible, and he is now my biggest hero.

And so right after the contest, we practiced the techniques on our own boxful of mudbugs.  I love crawfish !

The next day, we ate some snacks for lunch including some remarkably good Mexican food at Carmen Y Juan's in Mount Pleasant.  Some confusion in ordering earned me naked tacos (carne asada and fish), but the meat was surprisingly tender and flavorful.

The boy had the best torta ever, chock full of ripe tomatoes and tasty meat.

And I enjoyed the longest and awesomest churro ever, about the size of my arm, freshly fried and rolled in good ol' cinnamon sugar.  Happiness. Forever. Fried. Amen.

We then made a pitstop for snack #2 at Jack's Comic Dogs which famously appeared in the comic strip Blondie (if you're into that old-timey toon).

Jack's is a kiddie wonderland with frozen treats, encased meats, and video games.

You can get hot dogs dressed to all kinds of nines here, but I just wanted a bite of the beef classic

washed down with some root beer float.

Why are hot dogs so good?

Finally, we found ourselves on our last afternoon drinking many a cocktail from The Gin Joint, a fun little bar off the tourist strip.

Their bar bites were intriguing, including beef jerky by the piece that is served in a Chinese restaurant style wrapper and tastes heavily of soy,

and local oysters infused with whiskey and jalapenos,

but the best bar bite was definitely the pad thai popcorn, made with palm sugar, peanuts, chili and lime. It's crunchy, savory, sweet and just perfection with a fizzy drink.

And while we ate so much more, hopefully that's just enough to entice you to visit Charleston - SO charming, so cute, and so Southern.

Han's Nonsensical Rating:  FIG. FIG. FIG.  (And drinks and snacks at The Gin Joint because you deserve some booze and fun bites!)

232 Meeting St
Charleston, SC
Fig on Urbanspoon

Two Boroughs Larder
186 Coming St
Charleston, SC
Two Boroughs Larder on Urbanspoon

Butcher & Bee
654 King St
Charleston, SC
Butcher & Bee on Urbanspoon

Jack's Cosmic Dogs
2805 N Hwy 17
Mt Pleasant, SC
Jack's Cosmic Dogs on Urbanspoon

Carmen Y Juan
1118 Park W Blvd
Mt Pleasant, SC
Carmen y Juan's Homestyle Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

The Gin Joint
182 East Bay St
Charleston, SC
The Gin Joint on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. my previous comment must have gotten erased!! anyway, i am in love with ALL the charm. :)