Sunday, May 15, 2016

'When on vacation, dine to your heart's content' ... is what I'm finally able to say

One of the exciting things Lee Ann and I looked forward to when visiting Charleston, S.C., last month was the culinary experience. We arrived in town in the late afternoon of Sunday, April 24, and decided to immediately check out the downtown area on Charleston Peninsula.

Because it was Sunday, we expected there might be free street parking, and we were right. We found a small municipal lot on Gillon Street near the junction of Broad and East Bay streets, and first walked due east to explore Waterfront Park. I'll present photos from that in future post(s) about the downtown itself, but by the time we were done there, we both were hungry, so we walked to East Bay, the main commercial strip downtown.

We thought that since it was Sunday, traffic would be light, but we were wrong. We looked into several restaurants along the street, and all were packed, and each was projecting a very long wait. We ran into the same situation at first when we checked with S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad), where the wait in the main dining area would be 45 minutes or so. But they told us that if we were interested, there would be seats opening up soon at the rear bar, which gives its diners a view of the kitchen help preparing meals. We were so hungry, we agreed. Lee Ann took the photo leading off the post, and it shows you the view we had from our seats at the rear bar.

Although prices on the low-country bistro's menu were on the very high end, and soups and salads are a la carte, we decided not to let money get in our way of enjoying our few days in Charleston.

Lee Ann and I both ordered a baby lettuces salad (top right) featuring strawberries, sunflower seeds and balsamic vinaigrette.

For our main fare, Lee Ann had duck breast (left), which came with asparagus, blueberry compote and honey thyme reduction. I chose the local grouper (bottom right) with Charleston Gold rice, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, white miso and toasted benne. We both really liked our choices; I'd never had duck before, and I sampled some of Lee Ann's, finding it better than I expected. My grilled grouper was prepared to a perfect tenderness.

I had a draft beer, Lee Ann had iced tea, and we both passed on dessert, yet our bill still came to over $100.

On Monday, during which we toured more of the downtown commercial district and enjoyed an informative carriage ride on city streets, we lunched at Magnolia's, which we tried to get into the night before but left because of the long wait.

Lee Ann had the fresh berry (strawberries and blueberries) salad (top left) and two appetizers, pan fried chicken livers and mac and cheese (bottom left), while I tried the blackened catfish (right), which came with brown rice, fried green tomatoes, habaƱero chutney and tomato butter.

Again, We both loved our choices.

For lunch on Tuesday, we went to Jestine's Kitchen, a place that we'd heard a lot about from local residents from whom we had sought dining recommendations the day before.

Jestine's is on Meeting Street, a major thoroughfare that's a few blocks west of East Bay Street. We went there after returning from our trip to Fort Sumter and used a local bike taxi service to get there from Liberty Square. The bike taxi cost us $11 for 10 minutes.

At Jestine's, Lee Ann had the fried liver and onions on rice (top left; she was in a mood for liver, something she's always enjoyed but hadn't had for a long while), choosing mac and cheese and green beans (bottom left) for her sides. I went with the two-piece mixed chicken with mashed potatoes and red rice (top right). We also shared an order of cornbread (bottom right) We were pleased with our choices.

We spent Wednesday, our last full day in Charleston, at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant and decided that it seemed only natural that we dine at the cafe inside Boone Hall Farms Market, a separate side operation of Boone Hall Plantation although it is located a mile or so from the plantation on U.S. 17.

Lee Ann chose chicken tenders with cucumber salad and mashed
potatoes (left), while I tried the barbecued pulled pork with mac and cheese and a wedge salad (right). Lee Ann was satisfied with the tenders and salad; after one bite of the mashed potatoes, however, she feared that milk was used either in the potatoes or gravy (she's allergic to uncooked dairy products) and left them alone.

My pulled pork was OK, but only because of the dip sauce that came with it. The dip sauce gave it a flavor the pork desperately needed. The pork itself was not seasoned or tender. The salad was OK, and the mac and cheese was good. I washed down my meal with a beer (right) from a local craft brewery, Washout Wheat from Holy City Brewing in Charleston. It was OK, but I found it a bit more on the fruity side than I care for in a beer. The meal at Boone Hall Farms cafe was unquestionably the least enjoyable of our trip.

As always, click on any image to view a larger, sharper version. That's important not only if you're viewing this post on a mobile device, but also because in this post, I've used very small versions of the images of the actual food to sprinkle within the text above this point.

Photo geek stuff: I took most of the photos here, using my iPhone 6s Plus, doing minimal work in post-processing to deal with cropping, exposure, shadows, and sharpness. Lee Ann took the photo leading off the post as well as the shots at S.N.O.B. of the patrons seated at the front bar and detail shot of the menu as well as the detail shot of Magnolia's outdoor sign. She used Canon 6D and captured images in large JPGs, which I processed in Photoshop Elements 13 to deal with cropping, exposure, shadows and sharpness. The long-range exterior shot of Magnolia's was my photo, taken with my Canon 6D and bracketed for exposure to treat in Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing.

Note: In the days ahead, I'll be filing posts on my trip to the city of Charleston, S.C., and to Boone Hall Plantation in suburban Mount Pleasant. I'm not finished processing all of those photos yet, so you might not see any of them for a few days.  

Patrons at the front bar (above) and a copy of the menu (below) at Slightly North of Broad on East Bay Street. 

Above and below: Exterior shots of Magnolia's on East Bay Street.

Above and below: Interior shots at Magnolia's.  

Above: I didn't have a lot of time to find a better angle, but this is my only frame of the exterior of Jestine's Kitchen on Meeting Street.

Above and next five below: Interior and detail shots at Jestine's. The woman in the right foreground in the first image below was celebrating a birthday while we were there. Everyone in the dining area serenaded her with happy birthday. The server in the fourth photo below was very congenial and attentive to his customers. He was not our server, who seemed to be having a bad day. The last photo from Jestine's, taken from the trifold menu, tells the history of the establishment. 

Above and next three below: Interior shots at the cafe at Boone Hall Farms Market.  

Above and below: Exterior and detail shots of Queology, a pub on North Market Street a half-block from East Bay Street. We stopped there briefly for a beverage. 

Above and next four below: Interior shots at Queology, including a strawberry cocktail that Lee Ann tried (she liked it a lot) and a draft beer that I had. 

No comments:

Post a Comment