Another week, another travel post! Sometimes lately I feel like this site is becoming a travel blog, but it’s just the way the first half of the year turned out, with way more traveling than cooking, and that is reflected here, in this space. Not that I really mind. I’ve had so many good meals over the last few months, I just didn’t cook them! Maybe that’s why my jeans are getting tighter?
But don’t worry, I plan to be home for the summer, cooking with my own crappy oven and finally scheduling a haircut. So, unless I use a summer Friday on my weird, insistent desire to go to Boise, this is the last travel post for the near future!
Anyway, sometime in between London and Prague and Iceland, I spent a long weekend in the south, in Charleston and Savannah, and I fell in love a little bit with both cities. Well, not so much with the oak tree pollen, but that is the boring part of the story that ends with me coughing for three weeks, so I’ll mostly skip it (that was your health update, Grandma. I am now recovered).
The more relevant thing is that Charleston and Savannah were both astonishingly quaint and beautiful, with gorgeous downtowns, and, in the case of Charleston, plenty of panoramic water views. The food in both is obviously great, and I indulged in plenty of grits, biscuits, and fried things. And open containers!! When in the South, and all that.
Charleston was up first, where I met my friends Ginny and Melissa for a mini college roommate reunion (you may not be able to tell Melissa was there from the photos, as the only ones I have of her from the entire trip are blurry, which I’m sure was a planned effort on her part. She’s sneaky like that). Ginny and I arrived first, and within a few hours I had consumed the most giant biscuit sandwich of my life, a bloody mary, and oysters. Now, the biscuit I blame on the South, the bloody mary because it was hot outside and I was on vacation, but the oysters? I don’t know what came over me.
I mean, I know why Ginny ordered them. Charleston is on the water and you should order oysters! It’s definitely the place for that. But I shocked both Ginny and myself by asking for an oyster to try. If you’ve read any history on this blog, you know raw foods are not my thing, but I figured, hey, I’d give it a shot. So I piled a ton of horseradish on an oyster and after a couple false starts, slid it out of the shell. And you know what? It wasn’t bad! I immediately ate another one, and then four more later in the day when Melissa arrived, so I guess I turned a corner. I mean, I’ve now eaten a grand total of 6 oysters in my life and I’m not exactly craving oysters now, but I’d definitely have them again if I’m with people who want to order them.
After my big moment of personal growth, we spent the rest of the day wandering through downtown, stopping for drinks and snacks at various bars and pubs when we got hungry, and ending with an impromptu photo session at the pineapple fountain (the previously mentioned blurry photos, sorry, not pictured!).
Charleston is a great town for random wanderings: if you get hot, stop for a snack and a beer, cool down, walk more, repeat. I highly recommend!
Plus, if you somehow get bored of the beautiful architecture and scenic streets, there is a different bachelorette party every few feet that you can watch for free entertainment. They can be easily recognized by their impractical heels (hello, cobblestone!), matching t-shirts with slogans like “Bride Squad,” and various “wooooo!” sounds emanating from their mouths. Honestly, I have nothing against bachelorette parties, but it was comical how indistinguishable they were from one another and kind of absurd how many there were, considering that we were not actually in Vegas.
By Saturday, our last day there, I already felt full of grits, alcohol, and biscuits, but I woke up eager to do it all again anyway. We jumped in full throttle, going for a long walk along the water, on the less than scenic side of the peninsula where it’s pretty exposed to the sun.
And, I died.
I find it bewildering that after spending almost every summer of my childhood in Georgia, I can now barely handle springtime in the south. The sun came out eventually, and my spoiled San Francisco body calibration could barely handle it. I think it was probably about 85 degrees, but with the humidity and the sun, I actually got to a point where I thought I might pass out. Most likely I was just dehydrated (hello, all that drinking!) but it was still a relief when we made it up to a rooftop bar and I sat in the breeze and shade and…had another drink.
I’m not saying I’m not stupid sometimes! But, it was another bloody mary and I hear tomato juice is very hydrating!
But Karl the Fog has weakened me irrevocably, and age is a bitch. At a certain point we tried to cut ourselves off in order to be hungry for dinner, but since dinner was a 10:30 pm reservation at Husk, we pretty predictably miscalculated our efforts, and rather than going back to the hotel for a nap, we went back to an oyster bar we had liked and spent about 3 hours there drinking more and eating too many fries. That meant by the time we got to Husk, none of us wanted to drink anything alcoholic and even with sharing plates, we had to make a herculean effort to get through dinner and dessert. It made for a pretty cheap meal, but if you aren’t European, I think 33 is too old to be eating dinner at 10:30 at night.
In all, Charleston was fantastic, though, from reading through my notes on the weekend and thinking about those previously mentioned bachelorette parties, you might be surprised to know it’s called the “Holy City.” I think that, however, is to do with all the churches, and not necessarily the behavior of the visitors. I did recently read an article where the locals are fretting over the identity of the city, but I don’t think they need to worry. Yes, the party atmosphere at night is a lot, but the indulgent drinking and eating is fun!
But in my mind, two months later, Charleston is marshy sea views, pastel houses and cute, quaint energy, not the party atmosphere. I’d go back tomorrow, or maybe in hurricane season. I’m sure there’s plenty of cloud cover then!
Good Eats in Charleston
Hominy Grill RIP, and sorry to include it here, but it deserves a eulogy. We went for brunch, and even though it was about 10:30 am on a Friday, it was packed, probably because they had recently announced they were closing, but even so, it was a weird experience to wait so long for a table on a Friday morning. But we made the best of it, buying cold drinks from the take out window in Hominy’s patio (so, so, so smart of them!) and walking to a nearby bakery to grab some pre-brunch cupcakes to tide us over. I’m glad we got to try this Charleston institution before it shuttered.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit The biscuits are massive, but the sandwiches are awesome, the mint tea is refreshing (unsweetened, please) and it’s a cute, tiny little shop right in the middle of King street, so it’s such a convenient stop. The little nuggets of cream cheese in the biscuits were something I’d never encountered before and added a nice tang that helped cut through the pile of pimento cheese on my egg sandwich.
FIG We headed to FIG around 5 pm to try to walk in for dinner. We ended up sitting at the communal table in the bar, with five of the most fantastic dinner companions I’ve ever had, hands down. It was amazing! It was everyone’s first time at the restaurant, and we were all committed to having a good time and being friendly, which worked out well for us, since one man kept sharing dishes that we hadn’t ordered, so we got to try a huge chunk of the menu.
The Darling Oyster Bar We kept returning to this place, first for oysters then for the drinks and the atmosphere, which was very relaxed despite the hipness of the place and the inevitable crowd. Also, I think they have a minimum attractiveness requirement for their servers. That place is staffed with some of the prettiest people I’ve ever seen. Apologies to Dylan, who I’m sure we tortured over our three-hour stay on Saturday.
If Charleston was hot weather and indulgence, Savannah felt like the complete opposite of that. Well, maybe there was some indulgence.
I was, after all, there for a wedding. On that Sunday, I drove down from Charleston to meet up with my mom and her family for my Uncle David’s wedding in Forsyth Park. The rain held off, everyone said “I do,” and I partied for a bit before collapsing in bed.
But on Monday, the weather was absolutely perfect, sunny but breezy and cool, and I was thrilled to need a jacket again after sweating through my jumpsuit in Charleston. It was such a gorgeous day, and my mom and I ventured to downtown and River Street, where she gave me a tour of her city, showing me the theater where her parents took her to see Gone With the Wind as a girl, and all the places she used to go out to in college as an adult .
DID YOU KNOW that people literally used to go to River Street and just drive slow loops around the blocks, stopping every now and then so someone could jump out and grab a round of beers for the car??? Today, we’d call that drinking and driving, but in the 70s, it was just Friday night, apparently. Now, you can’t even drive a car down most of River Street, but to my delight, you can still get a drink to go!
We walked the length of the river front, as I tried to navigate the cobble stones and keep the giant, top-heavy stalk of celery from falling out of my bloody mary.
We stopped in a SCAD-owned cafe for high tea, and then headed over to the Crystal Beer Parlor. I couldn’t get enough of the oak trees with their beautiful, parasitic Spanish moss. All day, I insisted we detour through most of Savannah’s historic squares. We walked through them, blissfully oblivious to the devil’s pollen drifting off of the trees and into our lungs. By the end of the day, we both sounded like we were on death’s door, and the pollen proved hard to shake. Like, weeks later hard to shake.
But even so, I really, really, loved Savannah. I’d been there before, but it was amazing to walk around with my mom, who partially grew up there and lived there for years as an adult. Growing up as an Army Brat, I didn’t really get much of a sense of where my parents grew up outside of brief visits in the summers to my grandparents, so it was a new, if enlightening experience (still can’t stop thinking about the drinking and driving thing).
I just might have to wait to return some time in the future after the oak trees have died from a sudden and tragic blight.