Charleston, Spoleto, all about flowers, food [with gallery]
This year we decided to return to Charleston for four days of Spoleto. It is always a treat to return to the Holy City and enjoy some gardens, plays, and music. The open gardens were very similar behind and beside the Charleston single houses. My take away, garden wise, was the window boxes. They were everywhere. We heard that there are several companies servicing these, watering, trimming, changing out plants.
We heard the Westminster Choir again, but the play/musical/ballet, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, a story of the painter Marc Chagal and his wife Bella was the hit for us this year. The choir of St. Phillip’s on Sunday morning was excellent.
There is also the food! Charleston is known for a food destination these days so we did try some new restaurants and some old favorites.
We did return to our old favorite, Graze, in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., for lunch (which I have mentioned before) and we were not disappointed with the food. We knew not to order so much food. Instead of the pulled pork and collards “mac and cheese” we ordered only one lobster “mac and cheese.” It was delish and I have a recipe for this dish below.
Our son now lives in Charleston, so he and his wife had made reservations at McCrady’s which is an old favorite and one of Sean Brock’s restaurants. I was a little disappointed in the food, service, and just the whole scene. The music was loud and one could not talk. My pork tenderloin was fatty and tough. They also had mac and cheese, but not as good as Graze. I will hold off on this restaurant for awhile.
Now, Sean Brock also has Minero, a Mexican restaurant, on E. Bay Street and we had wonderful shrimp and cauliflower tacos and a huge burrito that we shared. This is a great restaurant for lunch.
Also, we had lunch on Sunday at Husk, another Sean Brock restaurant and it was delightful even if the service was a little slow. My shrimp salad with radishes, fennel, and cucumbers was just fresh and light and perfect. Everyone enjoyed their meal so I would definitely return to this restaurant. We have included it on every visit to Charleston since it opened.
We tried a new French restaurant called Chez Nous, in an old house on Payne Street. They only have two appetizes and two mains to choose from. So a limited menu which changes every day. People follow it every day to see what is on the menu. I had mussels and a duck in pastry. It was fine but not worth the trip over with Uber!!
Our last evening we drove out to Edmund’s Oast, which is a local restaurant with an interesting menu. They also had mac and cheese with peas and curry. This was delicious. Mac and cheese seemed to be the go-to thing in Charleston. My husband had a wonderful chicken dish in a coconut curry sauce, but I choose a shrimp, crab, and curry salad which was mostly carrots but still good. This was not our first time and I would return again.
So that is what eating out is all about! You win and lose but all in all it is a learning experience. These recipes are my takeaway from Charleston. It is a wonderful city and one you should visit.
with Cucumbers, Fennel, and Radishes
2 lbs. small shrimp, shell on
2 fennel bulbs, sliced ¼ “thick
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Coarsely ground black pepper
½ cup small dill sprigs
Cook Shrimp in a large pot of salted boiling water until pink and cooked thoroughly about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Peel and devein shrimp and place in a large bowl. Add fennel, fennel fronds, cucumber, radishes, onion, and lemon juice and toss with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss. Add dill and lemon zest and toss again. Top with more pepper before serving.
Salad can be made 4 hours head. Cover and chill.
Lobster Mac and Cheese
1 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
½ cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated 4 cups
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, gated (2 cups)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ pounds cooked lobster meat
1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to directions on the package, 6-7 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and lobster and stir well. Place the mixture in 6 to 8 individual gratin dishes.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the panko crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.