The Westendorff

The WestendorffI find myself having to say this word with a sophisticated English accent and my pinky up. The Westendorff is the newest hot spot restaurant in Charleston, yet it sits in one of oldest historic buildings on the peninsula. The building use to be a hardware store owned by the Westendorff family for 100 years. They lived on the second floor. The building is beautiful with the original stucco and restored Westendorff sign from 1915. westendorff.0.0On the back side of the building there are iconic Charleston porches where the restaurant features private dinners and cocktails. On the third and fourth floor there is even a furnished two-bedroom apartment comlete with a chefs kitchen with an island that sits nine and is available for short-term rentals!!! Whose down for a stay-cation?????porch So last week Julia and I put on our ritual Thursday game faces and started our night at The Westendorff. I went in open minded and without any expectations because I had heard mixed reviews on the food. The typical, “It’s a new restaurant and needs to work out the kinks.” Understandable with any new opening, bring it on!

Walking into the restaurant was like being back in New York trying to get into a hot restuarant in the West Village. This was a foodie gathering and there was certainly a hip crowd present. Good thing I had my trendy sock bun on top of my head, phew.  A hostess approached us with an iPad and announced a 20 minute wait (and by the way no reservations) so she put our name down. In the meantime we walked to Pane E Vino just down the street for a cocktail. Not too long after they texted us that our seats were ready! Making our way into the restaurant, I immediately noticed the lovely exposed brick and light fixtures. IMG_0001 IMG_0002The restaurant comes off as a social place, especially where we sat at the counter, very inviting with an easy-going atmosphere.IMG_0003Ben was our waiter and very friendly. He suggested starting off with the Moscow Mule Cocktail with homemade ginger beer that he made himself. It was a classic great Moscow, but my only comment, where’s the copper cup yo??? Maybe Rarebit has spoiled us…

Julia and I decided to order a variety of plates and share them. From the menu we started with plates from the “First” section: the Crispy Heart of Palms, Geechie Boy Grit Arancini, and the Ricotta Gnudi. Our favorite was definitely the Ricotta Gnudi. The cheese comes out warm and my favorite was the crispy texture on top against the smooth ricotta. It had a smoky flavor and paired nicely with the nutty drizzled olive oil. The dish is served with red and gold beets, pine nuts, and bright green parsley sprinkled on top.

IMG_0007 The next two dishes didn’t really do much for us. The heart of palms were heavily breaded and I couldn’t even taste the inside. I found myself taking the crispy breading off and enjoying the taste of the palms that way. I’d never had heart of palms before, but Julia was right in figuring they tasted somewhat like artichoke hearts. They were served over a romesco sauce which had an amazing thick texture that seemed like a lot of flavors went into the mixture, however it was so bland. It didn’t taste like anything. Romesco originates from Spain and is a nut and red-pepper based sauce but this needed more. I’m not the expert but maybe some lemon and salt? Or a kick with some spice?IMG_0006

Now for the Geechie boy fried grits. These were good, but again with the breading. Back it down. The main feature here should be the grits and the breading was so thick that it took over. I hate to even make this comparison but Hymans always brings us their fried grit cakes to the front desk at the hotel and the ratio is right on point. The breading should be there to hold it together, not to be the spot light. I want the grits to steal the show and really shine!

IMG_0005After our starters we were between the Hanger Steak and the Pan Roasted All Natural Chicken Breast for the entree. Ben was helping us talk it out with these two dishes and it finally came down to the Chicken because of the corn puree and okra accompaniments. Unfortunately, I could not have been more disappointed. The chicken itself was okay, a little overcooked, but a typical piece of white chicken meat. However, I was so upset with the corn puree…or should I say lack thereof!IMG_0011That juice on the bottom of the plate is supposed to be the puree. That is not puree! Puree should have some consistency that you can scoop up on your fork and eat together with the chicken. That was also the main reason we chose this dish and I felt misinformed. Also, I think two pieces of okra sliced long ways and the four tiny mushrooms is a little skimpy. I mean load it up please. What is this new trend? If you are advertising on your menu okra please follow through with some okra!IMG_0008And lastly we had a side of Mac N Cheese which unfortunately didn’t cut it either.IMG_0010Looks amazing and was cooked perfectly, however the sharp cheese flavors were extreme. I love a good tangy and complex cheese, but this was too much in each individual bite. It tasted like a whole block of strong parmesan cheese in each small shell. Our server did acknowledge that the Mac N Cheese was going uneatten (sorry cheese gods) and was kind enough to send us out a complimentary dessert.IMG_0013

My final thoughts regarding The Westendorff: I have better expectations for brunch. This place is set up with a great brunch atmosphere allowing for mingling at the diner style counters and the wait staff freely walking around with the open kitchen in the background. So to make this blog post a bit longer, I am now revisiting after going back for brunch this past Sunday.coffeeThis time I had my #Respect4Respect girl Shannon with me for round 2.shannonAs I sat down for the second time at the very familiar counter, it did feel different. The Westendorff really encompasses that Sunday morning vibe. The crowd was still hip and cute, but also you could tell the majority had just rolled outta bed and were trying to cover up the Sunday sleepiness. Or maybe that was just us….ANYWAYS here’s what we ordered.

I had the Eggs in Cocotte which had oyster mushrooms and wilted baby arugula served with avocado ciabatta toast.eggs The toast informed me that my instincts were right. The avocado was so creamy and a great mix between smooth guacamole and still chopped up whole avocado pieces. So far so good! Shannon ordered the Egg Sandwhich which had mascarpone, smoked tomato pepper jam, house maple cured pork belly and served on a Browns Court benne seed roll. Right on point. We also ordered a side of grits which were exactly what I had hoped this time. Creamy, buttery, and certainly stealing the show!egg sandwhichNow back to my eggs dish. Cocotte is the type of dish that the eggs are served in and I’m guessing cooked in as well. I imagine the chef cracks two eggs into this dish and then bakes it in the oven with the other accompaniments. However, with this type of dishware, the eggs continue to cook even once removed from the oven. By the time I had my first bite of the eggs, they were completely cooked through.egg 2This made the dish extremely dry instead of having a nice consistency with a runny egg through the mushrooms and arugula. Again, this was disappointing. I also wish this was something the kitchen would pay attention to because I saw a neighboring patron with the exact same dish and of course a runny egg.

So yes, great atmosphere with a great vibe for brunch, but I would agree, some kinks still to be worked out.

Happy Monday folks!

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DC Adventure

“AHHHHEEEMMM.” Clears throat. Sits at desk and opens up WordPress on computer. Scratches nose. Looks out the window at the beautiful colonial lake under the million dollar construction. Changes Pandora station to Milky Chance. Leaves and open blinds in living room. Puts on cat slippers. Sits back down. SUSU FOCUS!!!!!! It’s been two months and I’ve forgotten how to sit still and write! But bear with me because I’m coming back, slowly but surely. Proof is in the pudding. (right…Mary, Ray?) I’ve made some good crockpot dishes that I *intend* to share with you including Beef Stew over Egg Noodles and a Roasted Red Pepper Soup. I also ate for the first time at Amen Street and got some good pics and stories to tell. However, first, my DC trip to visit Mary.

Mary is a good friend for many reasons, but one of my favorite things about Mary is her dedication to show a friend a good time. Y’all should have seen the itinerary she sent me before I even went up there.  She had each day planned with activities and was such a good host. When I first arrived early Friday morning, she picked me up and took me to her hood in Georgetown. She has a cute studio-esque apartment right off Wisconsin Avenue. IMG_0015We dropped my bags off and grabbed a coffee from her local coffee shop, walked around for a bit, and then rented bikes! We rode all around the downtown passing the monuments, the White House-sup Obama-,National Mall, and all of the museums. I felt very city again. We stopped at a food truck and ate outside and enjoyed the perfect weather which I really lucked out with all weekend (and would only happen because Mary was involved, always lucky). After exploring downtown, I wanted to see where my Dad grew up in DC so we jumped in the car and drove about 15 minutes out to his house in Chevy Chase. It was pretty cool to stand there and see where my grandparents and pops lived. My dad had also sent me a pic of him in front of his house so I decided to mock it which turned out for a funny photo. IMG_0016We then headed to Pearlz Dive for drinks. We were pretty impressed with ourselves for lasting up until 2:30pm before our first cocktail. We hung out there, then got espressos and ice cream back near Mary’s place. I love that about a city. Everything is close. For dinner the first night we went to Eno Wine Bar. We sat at the bar and split a bottle of red wine and ordered a charcuterie platter, a Margherita flatbread, and jalapeño lemon deviled eggs.IMG_0017 Wow. Everything was delicious, but more importantly it was really fun to sit up there with Mary. We haven’t lived in the same city since 2010 and I forgot how this was one of my favorite things. Mary and I have the same birthday (why she claims we’re even friends which makes me furious) and we are currently in our golden year, meaning 26 years old and born on the date 26. I realize we over play this “golden year” thing way more than others, but for some reason, it really does mean something to both of us. This is a special year and 26 is the time for it all to happen! Hashtag #snowglobetalk. After our loopy dinner, we headed to Virginia to hear Mary’s stepbrother Eric’s band and dance all night. Check them out, they’re awesome Party Like Its.

Saturday. Whoa. DC you’ve already kicked my butt. And this is the part I really want to share. Mary made brunch reservations for the two of us as well as my Aunt Anne and Uncle John at a restaurant on the waterfront called Famers Fishers Bakers. I was really looking forward to seeing Anne and John after all these years, but unfortunately they weren’t able to make it due to snowy weather out in Virginia. We will have to go back guys because this place was insane! Mary and I had no idea what we were getting into for brunch. We walked into a huge restaurant right on the water and in front of an ice rink.IMG_0025 IMG_0019IMG_0018The restaurant itself is beautiful with tall ceilings, triangle beams creating a rustic look, and huge windows illuminating the inside. We were sat at the perfect table for two in the middle of the restaurant and were able to take it all in. My mouth was watering and I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt like Keeper. Our adorable waiter Kyler, who wore a navy blue bow tie, glasses, and cute fitted dark jeans, explained the restaurant does strictly a buffet style for brunch. He offered to start us off with the Sparkling Punch Brunch Bowl that serves 4 people while we got up and fixed our plates. This is a huge bowl with pieces of cut fruit and juice and then a bottle of cava brut. I’lll come back to this. I have a problem with buffets. I have to try everything. Even things I would never order I feel that I HAVE to get them on a buffet. Our plates were overflowing with pork belly, sliced ham, beet salad, kale salad, cheese grits, crab dip, pulled chicken, guacamole, grilled corn, vegetable fried rice, watermelon, and I’m out of breath. IMG_0020 IMG_0022And as if this wasn’t enough, the restaurant has ‘traveling trays.’ This means cocktail waiters that walk around and offer you additional food. So then we were also partaking in these people coming up to us saying, “Slice of pizza? Fried shrimp ma’am? Would you care for some sushi? How about some biscuits and cinnamon rolls.” What!! IMG_0023I have NEVER had a brunch like this. And to top it off, I was feeling goooood. I’m sorry. I don’t know what it was about that Punch bowl, maybe that it was for 4 people instead of 2, but Mary and I had lost it. We didn’t even have to move to drink because they gave us these extremely long colorful straws that transferred the alcohol from the table straight to us chillin 5 feet back in our chairs. We were so full, but couldn’t stop eating, and were border line falling out of our chairs. It was awesome. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard like we did that day in a while. This was quite the experience and I recommend everyone making a special trip to this restaurant while in DC.FullSizeRenderAfter brunch we somehow shopped along M Street and then went straight to Mary’s bed and slept for a good 2 hour nap. That night, we went out with her neighbors to a DC club and danced night 2 away.IMG_0028On day 3, we met up with Mary’s family for yet again another crazy brunch. We went to Masa 14, all  you can eat and drink for $40. Here we go. Y’all, we brunched from 1pm until 8pm. I’m laughing now because it was so ridiculous and yet so fun. I know in my past life I was a Zmuda. Papa Dukes likes to call me Susu Zmuda and I’m ay-okay with that. This brunch was a tapas style where you order small plates and just keep them coming! We had breakfast pizza, breakfast tacos, mushroom flatbread, pork belly benedict, seared salmon, bacon fried rice, quiche, smoked brisket, AND mimosa after mimosa. Those Zmudas/Tafts are some fun peoples. IMG_0033After day 3, Mary and I went to bed at 9pm and woke up at 9am. It was needed. We had breakfast at a cute restaurant under the bridge and then I was off back to the airport on a already 2 hour delayed flight. However, in good ole Mary fashion, I was able to get on a different and earlier flight to Charleston. Zmudula- thanks for a wonderful and much needed weekend! Cheers to 26!

Chez Nous

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!IMG_0014Just 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 MadameIMG_0002“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. IMG_0006At 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.IMG_0004The 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.IMG_0011Good ole Trig and Reckless Ray. We decided to have another glass of wine with these guys and all enjoy dessert, a chocolate pastry.IMG_0010

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.
IMG_0013Go 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??