I have to admit, I’m ashamed with how late to the game I was with this new restaurant on Upper King Street. Union Provisions has been open for a couple months now and I think everyone has been except for me and I don’t like that! That sounded really pouty. I’m not pouting. I just like being the first know-it-all and I can’t lose my street cred! So… last Thursday on my evening off, I grabbed my two college roomies, Callee and Katie, (who had been before of course) and headed to the famous corner of Morris and King Street to keep my restaurant knowledge status alive.
The building itself is beautiful. It holds down the perfect corner location with large glass windows that allow you to peer inside. On the night we went, it happened to be raining so we had to run across the street from my car to hurry out of the nasty weather. We were somewhat disoriented, but walking into the restaurant we left it outside as Union Provisions is extremely inviting. As soon as I saw the exposed brick walls and large light fixtures hanging from the ceiling adding a warming glow to the place, the raindrops had already melted off my skin and I felt pacified. Oh and now thirsty, hungry, and eager for MY Union Provisions moment. The only thing I had really heard about the restaurant was how loud it can get inside. I was a little surprised to notice the restaurant was quite the opposite though as we were one of few people in there. We were seated at a four top by the window and handed menu’s as I began to fasten my seat beat.
The menu focuses on small plates so I needed to try as much as possible. Then I noticed immediately the prices. They seemed more of appetizer and entrée prices to me, average about $14 per small plate. When I studied in Granada, Spain, every single drink came with a free tapas. Genius. Step up Charleston. Anyways, I couldn’t let this affect my mood because this is my passion and what I like to spend my money on so moving on.
The waiter approached the table and explained the menu to us and took our drink orders. He recommended their specialty cocktail of the night to start off with: King Charles Vodka distilled next door at Charleston Distilling Co with simple syrup and muddled strawberries poured into a martini glass. I was 100% down with this and then he said it resembled a strawberry short-cake. Hmm…I asked him if this would be better for an after dinner-drink instead and he said no, perfect to start off with. I stuck with his suggestion, but after my first sip it screamed dessert. It was certainly good, but very sweet (and VERY strong) and not great to start off with. I wish instead I had gone with Callee’s Pimm Cup drink which she described as, “spicy with some heat from the gin and ginger combo and then a cooling and refreshing aftermath from the cucumber.”
Now for the ordering We were told 2-3 plates per person should be enough food for the three of us. So after much discussion and racing heartbeats on my end, we went with the:
- Marinated Green Beans
- Assorted Cheeses
- Duck Confit Dumplings
- Seared Diver Scallops
- Duck Bacon Carbonara
- Sliced Grass Fed Flat Iron Steak
- Grilled Shrimp Flatbread
- and the Mexican Chocolate Tart
Okay. I’m having to stretch at my desk to find the words I need to type out. I hate giving Charleston’s restaurants bad reviews, especially after striking presentations of food. However, the only two words coming to my mind are 1) Not 2) Impressed. The cheese was by far my favorite small plate. The Duck Dumplings were extremely dry and I had to coat them in the soy sauce to find any hint of flavor. The Green Beans were the girls’ favorite dish and those were marinated with tons of salt. The scallops ($17) came with only two and between the three of us we didn’t even finish them. The Carbonara was only good because it had a fried egg over the top, but the pasta was bland and the bacon was chewy. The steak I also chewed so long I actually had to take it out of my mouth and hide on my plate. The polenta it was served with however was amazing- my next favorite thing. The Flatbread-not what I expected and wasn’t excited about. It caught my eye because the menu accompanied it with bone marrow, manchego, arugula and bacon. I am the biggest fan of the Macintosh’s Bone Marrow Bread Pudding and was hoping for the same thrill. Wishful thinking. And lastly, the Chocolate dessert. It was delicious, but such a small portion!
Along with being late to the restaurant, I was also late to hearing what the Post and Courier had to say. I’m glad I read this after my own personal review though so that I would not be influenced.
Regardless of the disappointing food, my night’s upbeat mood did not drop. Usually food affects my attitude, but I think the atmosphere and company played a strong defense. The restaurant is beautiful and I was happy to be there with two of my best friends. I will be back to Union Provisions, but for drinks and perhaps another go at A small plate, but certainly not for a full dinner.
It’s been a long time coming y’all. I can remember on this one particular day, my senior year of college, taking a walk with Mary up Lauren Street from 5 points in Columbia. We were talking about guys we’ve dated and what we were looking for next. My exact words to Mary were, “I want to meet a good lawyer boy, but one that’s a little country and likes to fish and hunt.” Kid you not, a WEEK later I met good ‘ole Country Boy Benjamin and it has been exactly 5 years ago TODAY that we met. So- with that said, coming in nice and slow like a good old boy…BEN JOHN TRIPP! “Some of you may have recently heard about so-called 4-D entertainment, like this. Considering the fourth dimension is just time, I’m sure people who make plays are aware of it. At any rate, I’m one-upping the mainstream media and taking this blog post to 5-D. This means you can ctrl+click on the links and get cool additional tabs to open up. Some of them are music, so as you read, clicking will play songs that may or may not tonally or thematically relate to anything.
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Eating is, in significant part, a primal and functional behavior. I believe you don’t need to try hard every time you eat. Enjoy simple meals with simple and readily-available ingredients from time to time, and don’t let a dish’s lack of ostentation disqualify it.
For blocks are better cleft with wedges
Than tools of sharp or subtle edges,
And dullest nonsense has been found
By some to be the most profound.
Samuel Butler, 17th century British writer
A fine example: the fried bologna sandwich. That makes this is a bolog blog. A public service announcement for baloney miscreants: for purposes of both the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service and the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, bologna and hot dogs are generally prepared with the same ingredients and processes. These are the facts of tha RILL WUUUURRRRLLLLLDDDDDD.
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While summer has now wound down to fall, in the midst of summer my outdoor activity was at a peak. Recently Susu and I were at the beach and began a particular Saturday morning by netting crabs on a salt flat for fish bait. After some time slogging through plough and enough humidity to blur the transition from water to air, we dropped off a couple of barely-legal blues in the fridge and headed straight for the beach.
For the ladies, at least in my experience, simply sitting on the beach is not just relaxing. The raison d’ beaching is transcendence. I don’t feel it, but I get it. Instead, for me the beach goes like this: procrastinate putting on sunscreen; drink beer; get sandy and sticky; drink more beer, stare off into space; realize sunglasses are sandy and sticky, futilely attempt to clean; get in the water to cool off, get salty and stickier; get out, drink more beer; “OMG you’re burnt,” put on sticky sunscreen, get it on your sunglasses; drink more beer, run out of beer, get hungry and ready to go, be burnt, sticky, sweaty; put on sticky shirt and sandy shoes, trudge home through sand carrying beach gear.
Having already progressed as such on this particular day by 1:00 or so, we needed a quick trip back to the kitchen. In these circumstances, I’ll keep it simple, stupid. Fried baloney sandwich. One great reason for making this sandwich at the beach is the easy access to fresh tomatoes. At least through Marion and Aynor, roadside produce stands are plentiful. Of course, using homegrown tomatoes is exemplary. Here’s what to do.
Have more tomatoes than you need just for a layer on a sandwich. You should be able to throw some salt and pepper on a half or a third of the slices as you work and just eat them straight up.Preparing the baloney is simple. I recommend Gwaltney brand because you’re making a homespun/country cooking/comfort food type of dish. Gwaltney is HQ’d in Virginia, and Food Lion, HQ’d in Salisbury, NC, usually carries it. Plus “GWALTNEY BOLOGNA” just has a nice ring to it. Who wouldn’t want to try that.
Slice off a hunk of butter and melt it on your pan or skillet. As the butter melts, peel off a slice of baloney. You don’t need the red security tape around the edge; it’s just there to prevent thefts of this prized deli meat, kind of like how those plastic tags on clothes are deactivated at the register. Mash your thumb between the meat and tape and SHAKE IT OFF, AH AH, SHAKE IT OFF.
Soon after flopping this guy in the hot pan, the heat will cause the edges to turn up like a slice of baloney that belongs to lil John. Not ideal for a sandwich layer. Solution? Some good ole country ingenuity—take you a utensil and pierce the sides, thusly disarming the surface tension. This is the pattern I use because my grandma used to do it like that. I call it the Goode homolosine projection baloney slice-pattern.
While the baloney cooks, which only takes about two to three minutes a side with medium-high heat, put mayo on bread. You should already have some Duke’s mayo in the fridge. Get it out. If you don’t keep white bread around, you should have picked some up from the store when you got your baloney. SUNBEAM KING THIN ONLY. Only the softest, fluffiest, highest-sugar-additives processed-wheat white bread will do. Other styles, like Merita Old Fashioned, are stiff and have that flavorless, papery crust on top. I don’t get that. And put mayo on both sides of the bread. If you’re one of these people who gets frightened by mayonnaise, it’s ok, you don’t need a lot. But you definitely want the flavor and feel of warm bread and mayo sopping from the heat and grease of the baloney on one side of the sandwich and the flavor and feel of cool, salty and peppery tomato with mayo on the other side. If you can’t handle that much mayo, leave.When you put this thing together, it’s gonna get sloppy. The bread will hold up at first, but by the last bite, you got a soggy mess of hay to sling in the barn. I believe Hegel referred to this as the dialectic of “schnitzelbrot,” which roughly translates to fried baloney sandwich. Despite the simplicity of the carefully selected ingredients, it is a decadent sandwich that evolves from bite to bite and juxtaposes a number of sensations: salty and sweet, cool and warm, mushy and crisp, greasy and dry. And it’s JUICY. AND IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW, NOW YOU KNOW.
A couple of final thoughts. Again, there’s no pretense here. We’re not worried about GMOs or HMOs or glutein-frees or paleo’s. If you’re gonna eat this sandwich, make sure you’ve been doing something dirty and sweaty outside beforehand. Don’t wash up before you start cooking. Maybe recite some Whitman as a prelude:
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
When you finish cooking, take it outside. Grab a cheap, ice cold beer in one hand. Mash the muddy, blackened fingertips of your other hand into the spongy, virginal white bread. Let grease and juice funnel down your palm as you chomp down. Use your sandwich-holdin’ arm to wipe the sweat from your brow as you chew. Notice your cute flip-flop plate. Because when you’re done bologning, there’s more work to be done, more play to be played, more life to be lived. We mortals are but shadows and dust.
Remember a couple months ago when I thought it was a good idea to try the 1 Day Cleanse? Well, the best part of that cleanse was breaking into my fridge circa 8pm, diving fork first into cold Chicken-Crock-Pot-Pie left overs straight from the crock. Words can not explain the satisfaction that came from relieving my starving body from this torture that I inflicted upon myself. Oh and paid money for. Not only did the Chicken-Crock-Pot-Pie revive my body and taste like the best damn thing on this Earth, but It held the same truth the night before when I wasn’t dying. My point being, this recipe is delicious in all situations, famished or not.
1.80lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 sweet potato-cubed
Poultry seasoning-couple shakes
Salt and pepper- couple shakes
1 bay leaf
1 can of chicken gravy (I used 12oz but would recommend using 18oz)
Chicken stock- splash
2 celery stocks-diced
1 family sized bag of Green Giant frozen mixed vegetables
Pillsbury Flaky Layers frozen biscuits
Directions: Place chicken thighs on the bottom of your crockpot. Add the diced onion, sweet potato, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, and the bay leaf.
Pour on top the chicken gravy and add in the splash of chicken stock and milk. Next cover the mixture with the diced celery and set the crockpot for 5-6 hours on low. After the allotted time, remove the chicken from the crockpot and shred it apart with two forks. The thighs will most likely fall from you fork very easily as they will be extremely tender. Place the chicken back in the crockpot and add in the frozen vegetables. Cook for about another hour on low. Finally, 15 minutes prior to serving time bake your Pillsbury biscuits and serve immediately.
I served the Chicken-Crock-Pot-Pie in bowls with the crockpot stuffing sandwiched between two biscuit halves. The biscuits absorbed the delicious chicken juices and vegetables while adding the perfect buttery and crispy contrast. I have always made and eaten Pot Pies in some type of casserole dish from an oven, so I happy to know my crockpot could play this game too. The stuffing turned out just as hearty and the chicken was certainly more tender since it was slow cooked. I’ve realized using boneless skinless chicken thighs you can’t go wrong. My only suggestion would be to use even more chicken gravy than I did, because the creamy the better right?
My guest for this meal were Fallon, Katie Julia, and Danielle. Fallon started off our Crockpotuesday dinner with a spicy sausage dip, or as I have named it, “Fals Fancy Dip.’ The best way to eat this dip is straight out the bad boy as seen below!To finish off dinner, Katie made a ridiculous dairy and gluten free fudge that she served over vanilla bean ice cream. I literally had to close my eyes as I experienced this amazing chocolate dissolve in my mouth.
Peace out Crocks
Last Thursday I worked a mid-shift, releasing me to enjoy an evening away from the hotel and the crazy scenarios that can occur in the hotel world at night. On these special occasions, I take FULL advantage. My favorite times, as y’all know, are enjoying my evenings cooking dinner or exploring new restaurants with my friends. On this particular night, I was extremely thirsty and eager to run out the door that I had one of my oldest friends, Louise, on the phone before my feet hit the free pavement. After going back in forth on where to meet up, we decided that I’d pick her up (check out the sweet new house!) and head over to Chez Nous. Chez Nous is a new french GEM! in town and what I’ve been calling the ‘sister restaurant’ to Bin 152. It is down a small hidden street, that I actually mistakenly passed, called Payne street. Payne is off of Coming, between Spring and Cannon, and leads you down to a narrow cul-de-sac where Chez Nous stands in a charming Charleston House. I couldn’t wait to explore the inside!Just beyond the black wooden fence, is France. Plain and simple. Right in the middle of downtown Charleston you find France. Look at that table in the sweet petit courtyard. I think Pane E Vino has found his French Madame. “There’s something magical about hidden cottage Chez Nous. Couples fall in love, critics swoon about its romantic potential, and with only two people in the kitchen (chefs Jill Mathias and Juan Cassalett), they still put out some of the most-praised plates on the peninsula.”-Eater Charleston. Well then, as you can see Louise and I were in for quite the date night. Upon walking in the house, the restaurant is dimly lit, with beautiful dark wooden features, small tables for two strategically placed around the room, and quiet music plays in the background to really set the mood. I also noticed old pictures hang on the walls with antique mirrors that enhance the romantic scene. Louise and I were placed at one of the most special tables as said by the waitress, a high top right beside the window. At this point we were feeling extremely fancy, and maybe even a little out of place for an after-work drink. I felt like I had to whisper to keep up with the tender ambiance of Chez Nous. There was no turning back now though, and not that I wanted to, just some rearranging to do in my frontal lobe to prepare myself. The bar consists of beer and wine only and we decided on a bottle of white from France. Unfortunately, I’m at a loss for the name, but I have had this wine before and remember it for the hints of pear and how crisp it was. Definietly a favorite and I’m sure if you described it they would be able to pull it for you. Louise had already eaten and I had for the most part, but of course, needed to see the menu. Each day the menu changes and consists of 2-3 appetizers, 2-3 entrees, and a dessert. I decided I needed to try the Eggplant Pate.The pate came with a toasted baguette that they sliced and served with a warm tomato confit. Our waitress explained that the chef removes the skins from the eggplant, blanches them, chops up the meat of the eggplant, stuffs everything into a plastic mold, cooks it in the oven, and then finally, sets it aside to cool in the fridge before serving. This was something explained to us in the beginning and Louise and I were lost. Then, after being checked on a few times by different people in the restaurant and getting more information each time on the production, I think we are now pros.
Towards the end of our bottle of wine and appetizer, two goofy faces walked in the door.Good ole Trig and Reckless Ray. We decided to have another glass of wine with these guys and all enjoy dessert, a chocolate pastry.
At this point, I think I had loosened up and was done with the whispering! We certainly enjoyed our special window spot and had fun being fancy for the night.
Go check out Chez Nous with your love bird and let me know how the entrees are! Also, was told by the owner on our way out that they have an amazing brunch! Any takers??