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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Sicilian White Wine Chicken

Hey Guys- Keeper here. IMG_8723I’m going to go ahead and take some responsibility of why my Mom hasn’t been able to get to the coffee shop and write. I think I’ve been occupying a little extra of her personal time. I can’t help it though! I wake up every morning in this awesome fort thing with a blanket that smells like my other brothers that I love, but first hint of a roll from Sus and I have to get out!! The day is only so long and I have so much to do! I know she’s up even if she tries to fake it, I’m too smart for her tricks. I try this thing where I put my head in between my paws and look up at her with really big eyes and it gets her every time. What a newbie she is. Then she has to get up and feed me. I do this really funny dance in the morning and turn in circles and fall on my back because I know I’m about to get some salmon and rice!! Gah this life really doesn’t get much better. She makes me sit and wait every time before she feeds me and I don’t know why, but I’ve learned to just do it because for some reason it makes her happy and I get fed faster. Then we go for our walk. I show her all my favorite places and look back just to make sure she’s still there. I usually take her to Fulton’s house. Fulton looks like me and plays how I like to play… unlike my Uncle Boo. Anytime I try to play with Boo he never looks at me so I’m not really sure if he knows I even exist. IMG_8164Fulton on the other paw jumps right on me so I know she sees me.image image I think she might even like me more than just a friend, like my friends Murphy and Raven. Murphy and I love to go to play at this place that kinda looks like my bathtub, but soooo much bigger! Murphy runs super fast when we are there, but sometimes I trick him and run the other way to get ahead of him and then he chases me. It’s so cool.IMG_8650My friend Raven has this thing that I got to go on last weekend and it feels kinda like when we ride in my Mom’s car, but so much more fun. It goes really fast and I get a  huge gush of wind in my face. image image imageSo anyways enough about how awesome my days are living it up in Charleston with all my friends, I’m here to fill y’all in on a recipe my Mom made last week. It was super easy and I got to be her sous chef. IMG_8591 IMG_8594We only used two ingredients: about 3lbs. of skin on/bone in chicken thighs and a jar of Sicilian White Wine sauce. My friends Fallon and Shannon gave the sauce to Sus for her birthday and it smelled like nothing I’d ever come across! If she hadn’t of been looking I definitely woulda eaten it all up. IMG_0001 IMG_0002

Step one is to salt and pepper the chicken thighs and brown them in a skillet with olive oil. IMG_0003Step two is to put them in the bad boy and add the jar of sauce.IMG_0004 IMG_0005 IMG_0006 IMG_0007Then all you do is set the crockpot to 2 hours and cook on high! I’m telling y’all so easy I could even do it! I had to give my final sniff approval….IMG_0008and it passed! My friend freckles came over for dinner. I think she might like me, but geez does she play hard to get. It’s okay though I think I just have to be patient.IMG_0010So here’s the part I don’t understand. I help the whole time in the kitchen. I wait extremely patiently. I sit on my Moms foot the whole time. When she moves I move. I suffer through the heavenly smells of freshly braised chicken for 2 hours. And then. Nothing. Wait I’m sorry, one little bite after all the humans had a full plate! What is this about!??? Ridiculous, but it looked like they all enjoyed it. woof.IMG_0009Hopefully she makes something again soon and I can have more and tell you how I enjoyed it. In the meantime see what I’m up to on Instagram @KeeperOfTheKassel.

Bye everyone!

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Kyle in da House!

Oh hey Crockheads, long time no see! If there’s one way to get back in the saddle it’s with some liquid courage. Coming at you now, award-winning Food and Wine champion bartender of Charleston, SC………….Kyle DeGoyler!!!!!!!!!

“With the latest edition of Friday Feature we are literally going to shake things up. Instead of food, we are going to be talking cocktails. Specifically, we are going to be talking about bitters, what they are, how you can make them yourself and how to apply them to cocktail mixing and even cooking.20150526_204907

What are bitters? The question is as common at my bar as (What’s a grit?) is to our servers. My bartenders and I look forward to the question as I have set the bar up to encourage the conversation on a nightly basis. Our front rail is a neatly lined barricade of 20-30 different apothecary looking bottles, each adorned with a dasher top or dropper to properly distribute the unique and often misunderstood potions inside. The bottles do their job and catch many of our guests’ eyes as they belly up. The back bar-besides the selection of spirits, has numerous books that we dive into when in doubt or searching for the perfect recipe when the time calls. One of the books, Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons is what I consider to be the Holy Grail for any would-be bitters maker. Mr. Parson details everything you need to know about making bitters, from history, tools, ingredients and recipes.

Back to the question. What are bitters?

Bitters are typically a combination of dried roots, barks, herbs, fruit and vegetables and spices that are steeped in a very high proof alcohol for a long period of time, then strained, mixed and sweetened. Creating a very intensely flavorful concoction that keeps almost indefinitely and is indispensable behind the bar.20150526_182107

Bitters first gained prominence during the post-civil war era by the peddling of “snake oil salesmen” who pawned these concoctions off as cure-alls and patented medicines. The reason this was possible is because many of the primary bittering agents have positive qualities like cinchona bark, which is prominent in quinine of tonic water, helping with nausea. Even today, a few dashes of bitters in soda or ginger ale is what I swear by to help with indigestion.

My favorite bitters flavor to make has to be Coffee. This is a flavor that isn’t as widely available as others on the market and after lots of trial and error, I have worked out a consistent recipe. When making cocktails with bitters, one important to remember is that bitters to a bartender are like salt and pepper to a chef. They are not used to be the main flavor but they are there to enhance, round out and bring forward the flavors that are already present.

Coffee Bitters
2 C Bacardi 151 (you can use any alcohol of at least 100 proof)
1 ½ C coffee beans (cracked with mortar and pestle)
1/3 C roasted cacao nibs
1 tsp cloves
3 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick (cracked)
1 TBS wormwood
½ TBS gentian root
3 TBS demerara sugar syrup
3-4 C H2O

Most of these unusual ingredient like wormwood or gentian root can be purchased online from places like Mountain Rose Herbs or Kalustyans.20150526_200513

Combine all ingredients except syrup and water in a mason jar, cover with high proof alcohol and seal well. Shake like crazy and store in a dark cupboard or somewhere away from light. Shake the jar every day for three weeks. I have found light to be my biggest culprit when spoiling good bitters.20150603_183812

After three weeks, open the jar and strain your liquid through cheesecloth into another jar. Feel free to strain multiple times to ensure you are getting all of the tiny particles. Squeeze your solids tight to get all of the alcohol that you can, then seal your alcohol solution and put it aside.

Next, place your solids in a pot and pour just enough water (3-4 cups) to cover everything entirely. Bring them to a quick boil and then gently simmer them for about 10 minutes, extracting all of the flavors into your water. Take off heat and allow to cool before adding everything, solids and all into a second mason jar. With this step I like to sterilize the Mason jar with some alcohol before I pour, as this solution will not have the alcohol content of the first and you don’t want bacteria ruining a month long project.IMG_20150607_232248

Some recipes call for this second solution to sit for up to a week. I have found that 3-5 days is sufficient, if you let it go too long this can turn funky and chunky. Again, shake this jar daily until your last step.

After 3-5 days, open your second jar and strain your solids out one more time. This time, discard them, we have from them everything we need. Repeat your strain until you are happy with the consistency. Then combine your water and your alcohol solution from the first mason jar. To this jar we will add our sweetener. I prefer the demerara with my coffee bitters and you can adjust your sweetening agent according to the flavors you want to put on display. For example, with Chocolate and Aromatic bitters, I prefer Muscovado sugar which has a higher molasses content reminiscent of raisins and black currants. For Citrus Thyme bitters, I use a honey syrup. Once our sweetener is in, we shake the jar until our arms are sore, ensuring that all of the sugar has been incorporated.20150526_201111

Finally…nope we are still not done. Let this jar rest for 3 more days, allowing any remaining sediment or floaters to separate. After 3 days, skim the surface for any would be floaters and decant your bitters into individual bottles. These bitters will keep indefinitely but are best used within a year.20150610_120221

Even if you have executed this perfectly, you may still notice separation at the bottom of your bottles. This is entire naturally just like a blood mary mix. Simply give a shake before you pour.

Now for using your bitters. The most common application of bitters that I have found is the classic Manhattan cocktail. The original recipe calls for 2 oz. of Rye or Bourbon, 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth and 2-3 dashes of aromatic (typically Angostura) bitters, stirred with ice, strained and garnished with a cherry or lemon peel. As for the coffee bitters, at Poogan’s Porch I have a drink called the Man of the House in which we use 2 oz. of Chattanooga Tennessee Whiskey, 1 oz. Dolin Sweet Vermouth and 3 dashes of coffee bitters, stirred, strained over a large cube and garnished with a brandied cherry.”

MIND BLOWN! Mixology=Science Class. We had a such an informative night’s lesson at Kyle and Jen’s house and I learned a whole new side of the drink world. Who knew all of this knowledge and specific techniques went into making a cocktail. Now I know I like my Manhattans with aromatic and lavender bitters and egg whites, shaken. THANKS KYLE!IMG_0011

The Lot

This past Tuesday, Katie and I had plans to go see her NEW HOUSE! She and Jay purchased a house on James Island and it.is.awesome. I saw it in the beginning when it was in the early stages of being built and now it is looking like an actual home!! It has an Ashville-y vibe and they have done such a good job picking out the floors, wall colors, back splashes, counter tops, lights, you name it. One of my favorite features too is right across the street are wetlands that can never be built on so it’s in a beautiful location. IMG_0016They have even given me my own room in the house AND Keeper has a room above the garage. It’s just wonderful and I am so happy for them. Also, I’m proud to announce that the future Mr. and Mrs. Smith have graciously accepted being Keeper’s God parents….more on that later.IMG_0003After seeing the house, Katie, Jay, and I decided to eat somewhere close by in their new hood. Jay and I had never eaten at The Lot and Katie raved about it. It’s only a 5 minute drive from their new house so we hopped in the car and got on our way.IMG_0002We sat outside on the Lot’s colorful deck and enjoyed the fresh April night breeze. It felt so right lounging out there drinking cold beers. I had a moment of, I could be a JI girl, this is the simplest form of happiness for me. Causal outdoor sitting, good friends, good drinks, and good food to come. IMG_0001The Lot works closely with farms across the lowcountry and their menu changes daily depending on what ingredients are fresh and available. Tuesday’s dinner menu was written with chalk on a slab of black granite:IMG_0004Notice the limited one word descriptions. This is because it’s almost like a performance when the waitress describes everything. She went into such detail with each plate specifying about every spice and flavor and the preparation of each dish. It was captivating and each narrative she gave illustrated a picture in my mind.

We started with the rock shrimp appetizer. As some of you know, I have a weird thing with shrimp. Not my thing, but want it to be my thing, so I’ll always try them and will never turn it down if suggested. And thank goodness because these shrimp were like no shrimp I have ever had before. They tasted like lobster! They were so meaty and large and soaked up the vinaigrette dressing they sat in. They were also accompanied with a zucchini pasta, green onions, and al dente pasta that had a smoked peanut flavor. I wanted to drink the left over sauce. Katie was even talking about the dish hours later back at the house and said it tasted like home. I will be back for this!IMG_0007For my entree I decided I had to go with the soft shell crab, because when in season…      I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten a soft shell crab before, but good lord! The middle breast part of the crab was definitely my favorite. When I cut down the middle, juicy white lumps of meat were exposed with such a smooth texture paired against the crispy coconut crust. The legs had a nice crunch to them, which was a little odd at first to eat them as is and ‘naked,’ but once I acknowledged and moved past that part, I really enjoyed their crispy nutty flavor. IMG_0010IMG_0009Katie went with the chicken dish which was cooked with an 8lb brick on top of it. This controlled even cooking and a desirable juicy inside with a nice outside golden skin. The chicken was served with the green beans Katie had been craving all day and a creative chick-pea  and spinach potato cake. (All gluten free)IMG_0011And Jay went with the Tuesday night special- Burger Night. A healthy sized burger with a sweet pickled red onion, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and thick home fries.IMG_0012And because no meal is complete without dessert, we ordered the strawberry short cake with vanilla bean ice cream.IMG_0013 IMG_0014The Lot definitely surpassed its reputation and we will be back! And 2 of the 3 will be locals! Katie and Jay so happy for you and can’t wait for all the fun that is to come! Love y’all!IMG_0006And thanks for dinner Jayman!

Wings on Wings on Wings

IMG_0014_2You could say I’ve been on a wings kick. I would like to go ahead and claim wings as my ‘craving’ food. I don’t necessarily CRAVE pizza, Mexican food, or Chinese food like others do. However if I can see, hear about, or smell wings in the future, it becomes this yearning that won’t end well unless ending in my belly. I also either rarely eat them, let’s say with a year in between, or the complete opposite…eat them more times in a week than one should. So I need to start by giving a shout out to Recovery Room where it all started.Recovery-Room

Rec is the number 1 dive bar in South Carolina, the number 1 seller of PBR in the Nation, and voted Charleston’s best late night bar. And they happen to have one of the best wing dishes I’ve ever had. If you can brave the late night ‘smell’ of the bar by either plugging your nose or just having a few brewskies to do it for you, the wings will make it all worth it.

Then last Sunday I got stuck watching this infomercial on wings in a pressure cooker. They took a bag of frozen wings, put them in the pressure cooker, and literally within 20 minutes, the wings were ready. I was shocked slash didn’t like this. I like the idea of my meat slow cooking all day, it seems more genuine versus this futuristic method. It was like food coming immediately out of the TV or something, it just didn’t make sense. So I knew what I had to do. SLOW COOK SOME WINGS IN THE BAD BOY.

Ingredients: A bag of wings and a bottle of your favorite teriyaki sauce. (If you would rather make a homemade sauce, check out Honey Sesame Sauce from one of my previous recipes.)

Directions: First place wings in the pot.IMG_0003 IMG_0001 IMG_0002Add your teriyaki or homemade sauce.IMG_0005IMG_0007Cook on low on for 5-6 hours. After the allotted time, pull wings out in batches and place on a cookie sheet.IMG_0009Broil each batch under high for about 3 minutes until a crispy crust forms.IMG_0011 IMG_0013 IMG_0017The broil step is key. The texture of the crispy crust with the soft slow-cooked meat creates that CRAVE. Katie and I served the wings with some stir fry veggies and rice, celery, and of course ranch dressing. It was a great dinner with great company including Jay, Alex, and Carlos. At one point in the dinner I looked over at Alex’s plate of ‘discarded bones’ filled with hidden meat treasures. I immediately grabbed them and went to town on her left overs. Alex looks at me and says, “There is only one other person in this world that would re-eat my eaten wings, Mike Foley.” Mike, I get it.IMG_0012Wings-it’s been real, until next time. Crocks-I dare y’all to try this two-ingredient recipe. PEACE!

Cannon Green

Can someone please get married at Cannon Green or host a party of sorts there that I’m invited to!?! This restaurant is glorious and has been on my radar ever since it opened. One of the operating partners, Dean Andrews, was the former general manager of my hotel, Belmond Charleston Place, and is now also the commander behind Zero George. Zero George is a boutique hotel composed of 5 restored historic buildings surrounding a courtyard which Julia won’t stop yapping my ear off about. To her credit, Zero George is beautiful with a chic decor almost removing you from ‘city life’ and escaping into a romantic hideaway. After visiting Zero George and getting a taste of Dean Andrew’s style, I was anxious to get to Cannon Green.

Photo Credit: Charleston Eater

Photo Credit: Charleston Eater

These three green doors are only the beginning of what this restaurant holds inside. From the outside it is a different story. Cannon Green sits on Spring Street which is a very heavy traffic causeway in still a somewhat up and coming part of town. There are plenty of slanted buildings and houses with wooden planks popping up everywhere and old run down corner stores nestled into this neighborhood. The street is dark and you want to think twice about whether or not you locked your car. That is why I love this restaurant’s location. It is that much more exaggerated. When you walk in those green doors, it is the most extreme flip-flop. My co-worker Margeaux referenced it was like Alice and wonderland falling down a rabbit hole. Right on point.

Photo Cred: Charleston Eater

Photo Cred: Charleston Eater

I dinned here a couple of weeks ago with my brother and dad and couldn’t stop gasping at the decor as we entered. It was so full of light and the lime green accents brought me into an oasis far far away from the hustle of Spring Street. I immediately had to explore this massive venue. IMG_0003 IMG_0004 IMG_0006 IMG_0007IMG_0005I walked through the restaurant out to a tiled courtyard with reflection pounds and tall palmetto trees and a separate event space in the back. WHERE AM I?? Y’all it was beautiful and I couldn’t believe that all of it existed just here on Spring Street! I was so in the moment and wanted to be at a party in a fancy dress and heels drinking a mojito right then. The courtyard has a magical feel and my mind was a turning with thoughts of what could possibly be coming up that would bring me back here!!

Walking back into the restaurant I passed the bar and a familiar face, Olin was working! He told me that coming up, the restaurant is going to start doing pop-up dinners in the upstairs area above the bar for tables of around 15 people. The table with come with a private chef and will have drink parings. Sign me up!

So the three of decided to share a couple of plates for dinner from the menu. We ordered the Raviolo, Tuna Crudo, Kale Salad, and Beef Carpaccio. My favorite was the Raviolo which was filled with ricotta cheese and spinach and had a duck egg on top. Jake sliced opened the egg and it created a nice ‘sauce’ for the dish. I would have liked more of this dish because this would have been a perfect entrée for me.IMG_0011 IMG_0013 The remaining dishes I would say were “good,” but nothing really blew me away. On a scale of the atmosphere being a 10, the food did not quiet match up. I thoroughly enjoyed myself though and couldn’t stop looking around, but my eyes weren’t focused on the food.IMG_0016 IMG_0014 IMG_0018In my mind, I vision the food tasting better being served in bite sized pieces on a platter while being walked around by a server in the courtyard. The food did not stand a chance compared to its atmosphere counterpart. I’m not saying I didn’t like our dishes, it is just hard for me to separate the food in its own category when the atmosphere stole the show. IMG_0021Boys thanks for going with me! Now…WHO’S GOT AN EVENT COMING UP!? 😉

Saint Alban

This Saint of a coffee shop is nowhere near my house, but you will catch me here most mornings Monday-Friday, and the occasional Saturday. IMG_0009IMG_0001Saint Alban’s is situated on upper King street just past the bridge and is Brooks Reitz’s second child after Leon’s, another favorite. The first time I came here was with Richard and Julia after an early morning yoga class. We all went with the light Ethiopian roast coffee and I experienced a feeling unlike any other coffee intake I’ve ever participated in. I became not sober. This coffee energized my soul and body for hours. Richard had come in town for SEWE weekend and we had big plans that day at Brittle Bank Park. As we were getting ready, Richard and I couldn’t stop running around my house.  We were bouncing off the walls and Katie and Jay had to ask what was wrong. Or right? Julia even said she sang and danced the most she ever has in the shower. Maybe our natural temperament played a part, but we were definitely boosted to another extremity. dunks and juliaNow that I know what I know about Ethiopian coffee, I keep coming back for more. But that’s not the only reason. For starters, these lovely ladies at Saint Alban offer a FREE REFILL (as if one doesn’t do it)! IMG_0005 Saint Alban’s free parking and free wi-fi also play a part. And more importantly, this coffee shop is one of those inviting places you feel extremely comfortable in by yourself. Saint Alban is what gets me out of bed early and excited to start writing. Imagine taking all that crazy boosted energy and forcing it instead to circulate through my body and express itself through writing at a small quaint table. Telling you I be like “akdjflkejfeiofndklgneiojgeioj” just typing away. This place inspires me because I find myself coming in here without a story. One morning I was all caught up on my restaurant adventures and recipes, but was really craving sitting up there with a cup of Ethiopian, so I grabbed my lap top anyways and propped down at a window table. Two hours passed and I realized I’d dived head first into I guess a new project, “Memoirs of a Hospitality Servant.” I’ve decided to start writing all of my hotel stories down and giving each crazy crisis its own chapter. (Debut will be when I retire or leave the business). So my point being, Saint Alban and it’s coffee is extremely revitalizing and encouraging and I love starting my days in here.IMG_0004Beyond the coffee, I will say the food here is somewhat pricey, but worth every penny. I have indulged in their waffles, hard-boiled egg brioche, ham and cheese scone, turkey avocado and sprouts open sandwich, and their homemade granola. My favorite is the turkey avocado and sprouts sandwich which I of course devoured before even considering a picture. At first I was discouraged because it is $9 and open-faced, so one piece of bread, but once I polished it off I was beyond satisfied. I could taste the dough in the sour dough bread and the avocado spread was so smooth and creamy. And put those hazardous sprouts on anything and I’m down.IMG_0015IMG_0007 IMG_0002 IMG_0003So my Crockheads, check out Saint Alban’s and let me know how you handle the caffeine. Or I’ll prob just see you in there. Take care amigos.coffee

Tavern and Table

IMG_0016Summer can not come soon enough and I know where my paddle-boarding break will be…Tavern and Table. This gorgeous new restaurant is right on Shem Creek and has a beautiful deck and outdoor bar that screams drink in hand on a sunny day in Chuck town. 10537063_1440009459621578_8112026814070937630_n.0t&t

If you actually enter the restaurant from the ‘front’ as opposed to the water, you are immediately greeted by a rustic Southern decor with beautiful exposed natural wooden walls. Colors of seafoam are infused into restaurant’s design and the whole atmosphere is very inviting and homey. Apparently, Tanya from HGTV was the interior designer and did a wonderful job, thanks for the info Coastal Kelder.IMG_0001 I was excited to give Tavern and Table a second chance this past Tuesday because my first experience I left wanting more. I knew I loved the place before I had eaten the food and then I was left unsatisfied after trying their brunch. I tasted so much potential, but it just didn’t do anything for me…the first time. Second go around for Fallon’s birthday did it. I had been studying the menu all day. Do I go safe or go big and put all my expectations back on the table? The safe option would be the BLT with pork belly. Alyssa ended up getting this dish which came with pickled green tomatoes, fried onion rings, and buttermilk ranch…yea I think I would have liked this.IMG_0005As y’all know by now, pork belly is my weakness. It’s bad. However, after talking to our waiter Justin A, he encouraged me to get what I really wanted, the Soy Carmel Braised Short Ribs. IMG_0006I think I won. The beef was cooked to the perfect temperature and tender enough to pull apart with just my fork. The soy flavor made this dish because it was sweet and paired really well with the savoriness of the ramen noodle gnocchi and Asian vegetables. My only suggestions is that I wanted more gnocchi to soak up my left over sauce! My second favorite dish was the Roasted Brussel Sprouts from the snacks section. These were probably so good because they were cooked until soft and mixed with bacon, parmesan cheese, and whole grain mustard. I mean, yes, please cover my veggies in cheese and bacon and call it a day.IMG_0003Others at the table ordered the Glazed Fig and Prosciutto, the Basil Pesto, and the Braised Short Rib Flatbreads. I snuck bites of each and all were delicious. My favorite was the fig and prosciutto because the fig was like candy and the saltiness of the pork with the arugula was a great combination.IMG_0007 IMG_0008Tavern and Table is a perfect location for an occasion dinner or gathering. We definitely felt right at home and enjoyed a dramatic reading from Len, embarrassing moments Fallon shared about Raymond, and overall felt comfortable in the atmosphere to get loud. I hope you had a wonderful BIRTHDAY Fallon and we are so glad you were born!IMG_0011 IMG_0012_2Andy and Tavern and Table, thank y’all and see y’all soon. Cheers to summer!

Guest Chef @ Elliotborough Mini Bar

OH-MY-CROCKPOT. I’m not gonna get too sappy, but Tuesday was one of the top night’s of my life. I decided to ignore my nerves and apprehension, and accept the challenge of Guest-Chef at my favorite bar downtown, Elliotborough Mini Bar. My job was to prepare all the food, the menu, provide the dishes, and take the orders, serve, clean up, and of course, mingle. AHHHHH!! Well, I don’t know what I was thinking doing all that by myself!?? My whole family ended up showing up and I’m talkin’ SHOWING UP! Y’all are the best people I know and your help was unbelievable. So, on a freezing cold evening in February, and probably the only day calling for a ‘wintery mix’ this year, all of my friends also showed up and made the inside of ElliotBorough Mini Bar steam up!!! Y’ALL ARE AWESOME! delete 010delete 011 My menu included Pulled Pork Sliders with Slaw, Mexican Chicken Tacos with Guacamole, and sides of 4 Cheese Macaroni and Collard Greens….and everything obviously slow-cooked. That means I rolled into Mini Bar 6 crockpots deep!!! CROCKS BLOWING UP….ON A TUESDAY!

Major kudos to Cath for helping me with the menus!

Major kudos to Cath for helping me with the menus!

IMG_0012_2As my family was setting up in the kitchen, we decided we were not going to be so serious and just have fun with this whole night ahead of us. I mean who are we kidding, we are the Kassel family playing house right now. As all four of us stood in a 1ftx1ft kitchen pumping each other up and saying ‘we got this’, I quickly realized we couldn’t all fit and I needed space before we chopped each others’ heads off. In a strict voice I gave out roles: “Jake-you’ll be on the floor serving, Chacha-money controller and hostess with the mostest, Susu and Dad-chefs and plating food.” Dad and I then had a talk about not getting in the weeds and it’s okay to take our time, these are all my peeps anyways. Deep breath. Crockpots on three! Then first order up, a Piggy Plate and a Mix and Match both with Carolina Mustard sauce. delete 007 delete 005delete 008After careful consideration with the plating, Dad and I were so proud with our first order going out successfully and cheers-in’ in the kitchen when Jake comes back with another order. He has given us now a ‘ticket’ reading “3 (1) MM (EC) and (1) PP (MB).” What!??? “Jake back in the kitchen! What does this mean!??” Jake in a cut-to-the-point tone replies, “Table 3, 1 Mix and Match with Eastern Carolina sauce and 1 Piggy Plate with Mustard base sauce,” and then promptly exits. Okay..This.Just.Got.Real. and the tables are numbered. IMG_0019Dad and I set up a system in the kitchen, he does the tacos, I do the sliders and the sides, and he tops everything off with the garnishes. We were reaching around each other and throwing terms out like, “Hit me with the collards!” “You got sauce on that?” “I need a taco!” “Is this a mix and match!?” “Wait for the gauc!” (AND keep in mind also making way for people to walk through to clean wine glasses and get to the bathroom in very close quarters.) Then we had a big order, “Jake order up!” Jake comes back and we have multiple baskets to go out at the same time. All of sudden he loads baskets all the way up his forearms, looks at Mom and says, “Can I get a follow?” Chacha goes to grab the last basket before it’s been sprinkled with garnish and I accidentally do an impulsive snap at her and Jake says, “Yea..never take a plate from expo Mom until it’s ready.” At this point my cheeks are quivering to hold back laughter because I don’t have time to break and we are all being so serious and in the moment concentrating. We were so into it and everything we talked about earlier flew out the window. We came here to work!  delete 003

Thanks for the shot Belinda and for coming!

Thanks for the shot Belinda and for coming!

delete 009One of the best parts of the night was I could see everyone coming into the bar. The kitchen is in the back, but open so you can see straight to the front door. Every single one of you that walked through made my heart beat even faster and my tail was wagging a thousand times a minute. Throughout the crowded bar I could hear from the back, “Crockpottuesday” and it was such a powerful moment. I stepped out from the kitchen and saw my Mom passing out cookies for dessert, running around with my computer case as her money bag, and working a crowd so in her element. She then took a seat between two of my favorite co-workers, across from my oldest friends from childhood, and my ‘newer’ friends on either side. I then turned and saw my brother walking around taking and serving orders like a pro and jamming to the awesome live music he arranged by his friend Cal Fahey. And then my Dad, after working hard in the kitchen, was shaking hands, talking with his friends that showed up, and making connections with my hotel friends at the bar. Tuesday night was the definition of Crockpottuesday and it’s pinnacle. It also just so happens that this post marks the 100TH POST ANNIVERSARY!! I couldn’t have imagined anything better and am in shock that this all began in a small NYC apartment on a Tuesday, my day off from work each week. All of you are what make up this crazy term and y’all’s support and coming out to this event will be one of my favorite memories of all time. Anna, thanks so much for the encouragement and opening up your doors!IMG_0008_2 IMG_0005_2And a special thanks to this girl for helping me day of in the kitchen!!!!!IMG_0020_2After the event Jake and I were in my car headed home to drop off all the crockpots and he looks at me and says, “I think that’s the coolest thing we’ve ever done as a family.” Jake I think you nailed it, Kassel Family Restaurant coming to you soon….IMG_0009_2

Poogan’s Porch

Poogan’s Porch I tell ya was the second restaurant I went to when I moved back down to Charleston in early April of 2012. Being my first time walking onto that porch though only followed over a 100 years worth of footsteps before me. The original building of Poogan’s has been standing since the late 1800s. Poogan’s is snuggled up in a grand Victorian home on Queen Street that was converted into a restaurant in 1976. The original family sold the house and what ended up coming with it, a dog named “Poogan.”  The story goes that Poogan hung around the porch looking for scraps of food which the restaurant owners happily allowed. Three years later, Poogan passed away and he was buried under the restaurant’s porch. People sometimes say that the restaurant is ‘haunted’ with his ghost, but he’s a sweet pup so he’s always welcome!

Photo Cred: Poogan’s Porch

My first experience at Poogan’s 3 years ago was with Catherine and we sat in the main dining room area of the house and I had the fried chicken. To this day, I have been back multiple times and have ONLY had the fried chicken. I guess when ya know…ya know. Last week Katie, Jay, and I all went and sat at the bar for Poogan’s ‘Roll-back-Menu.’ This is when for a week or so out of ever year, the restaurant rolls their prices back to when they first opened in 1976. That means my fried chicken is under $10 and appetizers are around $4. Baller on a buuuuuudget!

We were greeted by bartender Eric and then a familiar face, Mr. Kyle DeGolyer! Kyle and I met through our dear mutual friend Julia and have bonded over food, crockpots (gonna need to borrow), and shall we say Zero George?IMG_0006

So roll-back, the three of us began our journey with BBQ shrimp and sausage over grits with tasso ham gravy, gouda mac and cheese, a spinach salad, and the most amazing slap-yo-grandma-good buttermilk biscuits with honey butter.

Photo Cred: Poogan's Porch

Photo Cred: Poogan’s Porch

As y’all can see these are not my pictures because it did not even occur to me to take a single minute to snap a photo until the spotless white plates were glaring back at me. Poogan’s has really nailed down the authentic downright Southern comfort food. This is what the South is all about. This is the food I want to eat when I’m sitting next to my good friends and enjoying good talks and laughing because life feels good with a warm biscuit in your hand. Moving on.

You’ve heard me say it, coming to you now, my go to, the best fried chicken.IMG_0001

The chicken has the exact crispy crunch to soft juicy inside ratio that any chicken eater is looking for. The chicken strategically is placed on a bed of dreamy whipped potatoes that creates the perfect combination bite. I’m a huge fan of combination bites. It’s all about the flavors matching and how they dance together in your mouth. (Stares out window wondering if that’s a weird sentence, decides to keep it.) The chicken is also served with collard greens which I am all about these days since my recent experiment. I noticed these collards had some of the stems still attached and I enjoyed eating them all the same. This somewhat infuriates me though, as I spent what seems like hours, detaching all of the stems from the collards I made. Will know next time it’s okay to keep some in there, thanks Poogan’s.

Jay indulged in the fried chicken as well and Katie went with her go to, the roasted catfish.IMG_0003As for dessert, Katie made an executive decision and ordered the bourbon chocolate cheese cake. And again, sorry for the picture delay, but this dessert was ambushed upon hitting the table.IMG_0009Just as the thee of us were leaning back in our stools and crossing our hands behind our heads, Kyle asked if we had time for his speciality cocktail. Absolutely. Kyle is a master mixologist and has made the finals in Art in a Glass for the Wine and Food Festival and Next Top Cocktail for Charleston Fashion Week. His concoction goes by the name “Shall Not Covet” and consists of Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Lillet Blanc, homemade Coffee Bitters, Strawberry Angostura Syrup, and powered egg whites. I don’t know what I just said, but watching the assemble I was hypnotized. Making cocktails is such a foreign world to me and I would never know that coffee bitters and egg whites would create such a sophisticated drink. IMG_0007And for his final signature touch, Kyle uses the strawberry Angostura syrup to spray through a plastic top with a cut out of a “X.”IMG_0008I’m officially a scotch drinker….but only in “Shall Not Covet” style. Kyle thanks for another amazing Poogan’s experience!

Happy Hump Day Crocks!IMG_0005