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#1 Rail Paul

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Posted 14 November 2004 - 03:52 PM

The NY Times did a feature recently on this coastal city. Over the past 20 years, Charleston has expended huge resources to improve its tourist profile and attract visitors. The city now has several mid-size hotels, bed & breakfasts in historic homes, and a well marked history trail.

One recent problem is the onslaught of rich out of towners who buy homes, restore them lavishly, and occupy them just a few weeks each year. The result is an expansion of empty, lovely upscale neighborhoods.

Charleston real estate

Wine Spectator (May 31, 2003) mentions several restaurants of note:

Anson - 12 Anson Street - most romantic resto in Charleston, high class Lowcountry cooking. 150 selections on the wine list

Blossom Cafe - 171 E Bay Street - Charleston's take on contemporary American cooking

Charleston Grill at the Charleston Place Hotel - A swank dining room, overseen by a chef with 11 years experience cooking in Burgundy. Davidoff cigars and 1035 wine selections

Circa 1886 - Wentworth Mansion - mushroom-coffeeconsomme, truffle infused hopping john. Southern traditional with a modern flair.

McCrady's - 2 Unitey Alley - Grammercy Tavern designers did the interior, with scallops and truffles.

39 Rue De Jean - 39 John Street in the Upper King area. Mussels six ways, and escargot

Tristan - 55 S, Market Street - crepes with chipotle butter, duck with bing cherry glaze

Brett's Restaurant
Carolina's
Cypress Lowcountry
82 Queen
Magnolias


Places to stay

Charleston Place Hotel (Gucci, MontBlanc)
Market Pavilion (opulent)
Planters Inn (Relais & Chateaux)
Wentworth Mansion (149 Wentworth Street)
Tristan - French Quarter Inn

Edited by Rail Paul, 14 November 2004 - 04:52 PM.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#2 MyKong

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Posted 14 November 2004 - 04:33 PM

I grew up a block away from Anson's---I remember when it opened. I then spent my last 3 years in Charleston a block away from the Battery.

My family recently left Charleston--sold the last brick which we'd been holding onto out of sentimental reasons. Our lovely street lost its charm when familar places were replaced by rich Northerners who maintained enormous piles as vacation homes.

Charleston used to be such a magical place. Now, it has Saks and Abercrombie where random little art galleries used to be.
"I remembered the old joke that defines eternity as two people and a whole ham." Maurice Naughton

#3 Steve R.

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Posted 22 October 2005 - 06:33 PM

We've never been to Charleston and are getting to go, last minute, starting next weekend (for a week). Anyone there? Anyone have good places to go there?

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#4 bilrus

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Posted 24 October 2005 - 02:57 PM

I went last month and had a couple meals there. Here's my report from elsewhere:

I just returned from my too short trip to Charleston and had some awfully good food, with one strange element. We started with reservations at Peninsula Grill and McCrady's but ended up swapping McCrady's for Magnolia's, after deciding that Peninsula and McCrady's together might be a little too "haute".

The food and room at Peninsula were great - it's been a few days and my memory is failing me, but everything we had was as excellent as I had expected. And the food at Magnolias - luscious shellfish and grits, one of the best fried chicken dinners I've ever had - is everything I fantasized that low-country cooking would be about.

But aside from the food, a memory that lingers from both is the fact that we were in and out in 90 minutes at both places. And we had appetizers, entrees and desserts at both with an extra course thrown in at Magnolia's. I was hoping that in a city like this, whose reputation is based on the fantasy (or reality) of slow Southern life, and one where most customers are tourists would have a more liesurely, or at least not hurried, pace of service. At both Peninsula, where the waiters were doing their best not to run through the dining room, and Magnolia's where the waiter with our entrees was standing behind the person clearing our appetizer plates we felt rushed, like they were trying to turn tables for restaurant week.

I don't want this to sound like a rant, because it isn't. The food was everything we'd hoped it would be. But we tourists come for leisure and at places like this, our dinner is often our entertainment for the night. We don't come to Charleston for New York pre-theater service.

Beyond that - we did go to Jestine's for a properly leisurely lunch. The Mac and Cheese and Fried Green Tomatoes are out of this world.

And the surprise of the trip was our dinner at the Ocean Room at the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island. Dinner was part of our package and I was dreading it a little, with its jacket-required formality and expecting played-out country club cooking. But the cooking was more forward thinking than I had expected and, as this was the last night of our trip, the service and pacing was perfect. Although, after two days at the resort that was to be expected. This place did everything right from the second you pull up to the portico to the second you leave. Beautiful, luxurious, thoughtful. 



#5 Rail Paul

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 06:44 PM

Nice report from RW Apple in the NY Times

These days Charleston is again a boom town, with soaring real estate prices and growing suburbs like Mount Pleasant, which is linked to the city by a spectacular $650 million suspension bridge, opened in 2005. Packed with restaurants old and new, the area has become one of the South's important culinary capitals — a worthy rival, if on a smaller scale, for New Orleans, at a time when many of that city's eating places are struggling to regain their footing after the hurricanes of 2005.

To mark its arrival in the gastronomic big time, Charleston staged its first Food and Wine Festival early in March, drawing more than 5,000 people over three days. Chefs and other food experts came from across the South to size up the situation, and many of them were impressed.

"The seeds have been here for a long time," said John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi, "and now they're sprouting, at the most opportune moment." Frank Stitt, the chef and owner of the heralded Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Ala., agreed that "Charleston is poised to take its place alongside New Orleans, and the process won't take long."


Charleston

Among the places mentioned:

CHARLESTON GRILL, 224 King Street, Charleston; (843) 577-4522.

FIG, 232 Meeting Street, Charleston; (843) 805-5900.

GULLAH CUISINE LOWCOUNTRY RESTAURANT, 1717 Highway 17 North, Mount Pleasant; (843) 881-9076.HOMINY GRILL, 207 Rutledge Avenue, Charleston; (843) 937-0930.

PENINSULA GRILL, 112 North Market Street, Charleston; (843) 723-0700.

RED DRUM GASTROPUB, 803 Coleman Boulevard, Mount Pleasant; (843) 849-0313.

SEE WEE RESTAURANT, 4808 North Highway 17, Awendaw; (843) 928-3609.

SIENNA RESTAURANT, 901 Island Park Drive, Daniel Island, Charleston; (843) 881-8820.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#6 Wilfrid1

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 07:31 PM

Steve, if I had noticed your post last October, I would have had some great tips for you.

;)
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#7 senter

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 01:49 AM

Help. Going to Charleston and Kiawah Island next week. Need suggestions for great local food. Thanks.

#8 Steve R.

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 08:49 PM

Help. Going to Charleston and Kiawah Island next week. Need suggestions for great local food. Thanks.


I liked McCrady's when we were there last fall but we got there just before the chef left for Chicago. Also liked Magnolia's as per Bilrus' post above. Are you looking for high-ish end dining or chowhound-ish places? I have some notes at home I could look at.

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#9 WeaselPotPie

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Posted 13 December 2006 - 02:45 AM


Help. Going to Charleston and Kiawah Island next week. Need suggestions for great local food. Thanks.


I liked McCrady's when we were there last fall but we got there just before the chef left for Chicago. Also liked Magnolia's as per Bilrus' post above. Are you looking for high-ish end dining or chowhound-ish places? I have some notes at home I could look at.


I wouldn't mind some chowhoundish recommendations if you wouldn't mind perusing your notes for someone with all of 10 posts.

#10 Rail Paul

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Posted 13 December 2006 - 12:38 PM


Help. Going to Charleston and Kiawah Island next week. Need suggestions for great local food. Thanks.


I liked McCrady's when we were there last fall but we got there just before the chef left for Chicago.


I believe the newish chef at McCrady's is Sean Brock. He developed a national recognition in his last gig.


McCrady's

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#11 Rail Paul

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Posted 10 March 2007 - 03:29 PM

NY Times did a 36 Hours piece on Charleston this week.

Good food is a big deal in Charleston, and East Bay Street has a glut of exceptional restaurants. Grill 225, Cypress, High Cotton and Magnolias have all garnered accolades, but the spotlight this year is on Slightly North of Broad, better known by its acronym SNOB (192 East Bay Street, 843-723-3424; www.mavericksouthernkitchens.com). The restaurant may be less formal and more intimate than its neighbors, but what sets SNOB apart are fresh ingredients, largely supplied by organic farmers on nearby Wadmalaw Island. Try the local shrimp and grits, made from heirloom corn grown and milled nearby ($14.50). Expect local peach cobbler and peach sangria soon.

9 p.m.
4) PIE, CAKE OR WINE

Stroll along picturesque Market Street and end up at Kaminsky's Most Excellent Café (78 North Market Street, 843-853-8270; www.tbonz.com/kam.asp), a boisterous spot for sweets like Toll House cookie pie ($3.95 a slice). For a quieter setting, head farther north to the City Lights coffee shop (141 Market Street, 843-853-7067). It's an intimate spot to unwind with a glass of wine or delicious carrot cake ($4.95).


Page

Charleston has had a long and diverse history. Here is an nterpreter of the past.

To learn about the culture of Lowcountry African-Americans, hop aboard the Gullah Tours (843-763-7551; www.gullahtours.com) led by Alphonso Brown, a lifelong resident who demonstrates his native Gullah tongue. Mr. Brown displays an encyclopedic knowledge of oft-overlooked sites like the Brown Fellowship Graveyard for Light Skinned Blacks (not to be confused with the Thomas Smalls Graveyard for the Society of Freed Blacks of Dark Complexion just next to it). The two-hour tour meets at Gallery Chuma Art Gallery (43 John Street) and cost $18.


“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#12 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 01:25 AM

My visit to Charleston, South Carolina was a very quick one – barely two days. But there were two very specific things I wanted to experience whilst in Charleston; true southern barbecue, and McCrady’s. I’m not sure where I first heard about McCrady’s, but when I suggested to my friend that this is where we were going on my last night in town, she quickly assented and confirmed it was well-regarded in town.

We arrived early and admired the elegant dark wood interior as well as the numerous paintings on the wall. Being a tad parched, we started at the bar with a few house specialties. All I remember now is that one was made with house-made limoncello and was a bit too strong for both of us while the other, gin-based drink was nice but we were too anxious to move onto wine so neither drinks were finished.

The first course came out with a bang; Country Pâté, Frozen Mustard Pearls, Cornichon served with Pinot Gris Rose, Domaine de Reuilly, Louire, 2006. The very tasty house-made pâté was centered with a small round of truffle-wrapped foie gras but the brilliance lied not only in the delectable terrine, but the Dippity-Dot creation of mustard – tiny little frozen pearls of mustard essence which melts delicately on the tongue and entices against the richness of the terrine. We were truly marveled and giddy at the experience.

Next was Marinated Scallops with Mango Vinegar, Avocado, Crispy Rice, and Chamomile served with Txakoli, Gurrutxaga, Bizaiko, Spain, 2006. Served ceviche-style, the three slices of scallop were topped with a lovely mélange that accentuated the freshness of the fish which was complemented well with minerality of the wine.

Being overly enthusiastic about the pâté, our waiter surprised us with an extra course from the chef, a selection of his house-made charcuterie. As I had been telling my friend about my own endeavors in sausage making, our waiter informed me that the chef was enthusiastic about someone who appreciated good charcuterie with the platter which included braesola, lenzino, duck prosciutto, finocino, pepperoni, noisette du Beaujolais, rosette du lyon, and sopresetta, The accompaniments included pickled quail egg, ramps, turnip, cauliflower, and mustardo. Our giddiness continued at the surprise gift which was heartily enjoyed.

We were then presented with our first and only “interactive” course, a Himalayan salt rock that had been heated to 500° and given the course of Hawaiian Tuna, Pineapple, and Miso Butter. We knew it was going to be fun when a delicate set of tweezers were placed and we were instructed to sear our tuna on the salt griddle to our liking. The miso butter was unctuous and rich and paired with La Paradou Viognier from Provenece, 2006, could have easily been overwrought with unnecessary ingredients. The brightness of the pineapple was tamed with the butter. Stunning.

Getting more complicated, next came Colombia River Sturgeon with English Peas, Morels, and a Truffle-Emulsion served with a 2006 Costa de Oro Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Having gone down the Molecular Gastonomy path with the frozen mustard pearls, I was not surprised to see the first introduction of foam. My non-mushroom-loving friend was entranced with the morels (as was I) but I was more in love with the sturgeon which is a fish I feel does not see enough menu time.

Our foie gras course came next; what the chef jokingly calls “Liver and Onions,” the roasted foie was served with three accompaniments, thick slices of roasted sweet white onion, a slaw of pickled onion, and a crouton studded with onion essence. The fabulous wine pairing came in the form of a Leon Beyer Gewurtztraminer from Alcase, 2005 which proved not too sweet or cloying as so often foie is served as an intermediary with a sauterne, thereby offering an unnecessarily jarring sweetness in the middle of a dinner. This way was superb.

The next course was another additional one that I had requested from the menu, Forest Mushroom and Pine Nut Stew topped with Celeste Alber’s Poached Egg and Parmesan Crisp. This was paired with an Azura Estate Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, 2006. Shame on me for asking for something outside the prescribed tasting menu as this was the only misstep of the evening. The broth was a tad too salty and the existence of the egg, which when broken would have made the sauce creamy, was poached a bit too hard to give the requisite runny yolk. There just was not an overwhelming cohesiveness. Also, the wine was a bit too bold and redolent of cranberry to give the classic earthy pinot quality which usually complements mushrooms so well.

Getting back on track, our meat course was next, Beef Shortribs with Carrot Confit, Celeste Alber’s Potatoes, and Truffle Jus paired with Ey, “Vigne Las Collas” Côtes Catalanes Grenache from 2004. Cooked sous vide, the shortribs were perfect but it was the carrots that wowed me.

A cheese course came in the form of a single bite, ColoRouge with light garnish of Smoked Grape, Saba, and Herb Salad. Served with a 20-Year Tawny Warre’s Port. Creamy and rich, the light garnish worked well with the port and the cheese. It was just enough and a great presentation.

Another surprise came which differed from the printed menu that evening, two desserts, both served with Elio Perrone’s Italian Moscato d’Asti. The first was a Meyer Lemon Curd served with Vanilla Frozen Yogurt, a Compressed Strawberry, and a Triangle of White Chocolate. The curd was perfectly creamy and the combination of flavors were bright and clean. The second dessert was the show-stopper as we were presented with a platter that contained a rectangle of Soft Dark Chocolate, Mascarpone Cheese Yogurt, Chocolate Rice Krispies, and then the piece de resistance, nitrogen-frozen, dehydrated Strawberries served tableside. We were giggling again as what we were eating was akin to an adult’s version of cereal with the crispy strawberries similar to what we ate as Frankenberries as a child and an adult-version of cocoa crispies.

Overall we were presented with an exciting evening full of inventiveness and imagination. The missteps were few and far between and the highlights were so superior and memorable as to easily make the meal memorable for a long, long time.

Pictures on the blog.

#13 9lives

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 01:58 AM

We really enjoyed our meal at McCrady's too...and love Charleston.

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#14 Rail Paul

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 09:30 PM

I went last month and had a couple meals there. Here's my report from elsewhere:


I just returned from my too short trip to Charleston and had some awfully good food, with one strange element. We started with reservations at Peninsula Grill and McCrady's but ended up swapping McCrady's for Magnolia's, after deciding that Peninsula and McCrady's together might be a little too "haute".

The food and room at Peninsula were great - it's been a few days and my memory is failing me, but everything we had was as excellent as I had expected. And the food at Magnolias - luscious shellfish and grits, one of the best fried chicken dinners I've ever had - is everything I fantasized that low-country cooking would be about.

But aside from the food, a memory that lingers from both is the fact that we were in and out in 90 minutes at both places. And we had appetizers, entrees and desserts at both with an extra course thrown in at Magnolia's. I was hoping that in a city like this, whose reputation is based on the fantasy (or reality) of slow Southern life, and one where most customers are tourists would have a more liesurely, or at least not hurried, pace of service. At both Peninsula, where the waiters were doing their best not to run through the dining room, and Magnolia's where the waiter with our entrees was standing behind the person clearing our appetizer plates we felt rushed, like they were trying to turn tables for restaurant week.

I don't want this to sound like a rant, because it isn't. The food was everything we'd hoped it would be. But we tourists come for leisure and at places like this, our dinner is often our entertainment for the night. We don't come to Charleston for New York pre-theater service.

Beyond that - we did go to Jestine's for a properly leisurely lunch. The Mac and Cheese and Fried Green Tomatoes are out of this world.

And the surprise of the trip was our dinner at the Ocean Room at the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island. Dinner was part of our package and I was dreading it a little, with its jacket-required formality and expecting played-out country club cooking. But the cooking was more forward thinking than I had expected and, as this was the last night of our trip, the service and pacing was perfect. Although, after two days at the resort that was to be expected. This place did everything right from the second you pull up to the portico to the second you leave. Beautiful, luxurious, thoughtful. 



Robert Moss of the Charleston City Paper offers an updated appraisal of the Peninsula Grill. New chef, same high standards and haute food.


Peninsula has the best entrance of any restaurant in Charleston, guiding you down a stone-tiled alleyway along the side of the Planters Inn, a few tables set with white tablecloths and gleaming candles even in the winter when the courtyard is closed for seating. It's a stunning entry, setting the mood of sophistication and elegance even before you step in the front door.

That mood continues inside. The restaurant fills a rather small space, just a single dining room with a tiny bar area that you pass through as you enter. The antique cypress wainscoting and gold-framed oil portraits on the gray velvet-covered walls give it an old Colonial feel, while the sweetgrass bread baskets and the big, somewhat incongruous painting of a donkey impart a few hints of the rural Lowcountry.

That setting of old luxury is an appropriate stage for the food. If Chef Dailey has brought a new, lighter touch to the menu, I can find scant evidence of it. Many of the dishes have been served at Peninsula Grill for over a decade: the Lowcountry Oyster Stew with wild mushroom grits ($13), the seared foie gras with barbecued duck and peach jam ($18), the salmon ($25) and black grouper ($30) with a choice of sauces like ginger-lime butter and horseradish cream.

You don't have to work hard to figure out that this is intentionally decadent eating: the menu says it outright. The "Champagne Bar Menu" offers oysters, steak tartare, and Ossetra caviar at $170 an ounce. Live lobster headlines the "Succulent Seafood" selection, and the steaks are all "Sinfully Grilled."

The Lobster "3-Way" ($18) has a titillating name and an elegant piled-high presentation. A big piece of golden brown tempura-fried lobster rests atop a lobster-filled ravioli, flanked by a few chunks of poached lobster, all enrobed in a pale yellow sauce that's exceptionally buttery and lemony. The crab, spinach, and tomato salad ($18) is equally sinful, thanks to the huge chunks of cool lump crab tossed into the strips of spinach and tomato, plus six slices of fried green tomato fanned around the plate, and — as if all that wasn't enough — an ultra-rich buttery sauce, too.


Peninsula Grill

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman