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!

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

Union Provisions

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.

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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.IMG_0019

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.”

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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:

  1. Marinated Green Beans
  2. Assorted Cheeses
  3. Duck Confit Dumplings
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  4. Seared Diver Scallops
  5. Duck Bacon Carbonara
  6. Sliced Grass Fed Flat Iron Steak
  7. Grilled Shrimp FlatbreadIMG_0006 IMG_0017IMG_0020 IMG_0018
  8. and the Mexican Chocolate TartIMG_0012

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.IMG_0013

Leon’s: Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop

So following my last post, I figured nows a good a time as any to tell you about Leon’s. Leon’s is a new restaurant that opened up last Saturday on upper King Street. leon'sI’ve been anxiously awaiting the restaurant’s opening as I drive by it often. Also, my buddy Tom, Louise’s boyfriend, is the main bartender up there and he has been getting me pumped and telling me great reviews on the place. The menu is simple:

menu

Three main components: Oysters, Fried Chicken, and Vanilla Soft Serve Ice Cream.

How genius? The simplicity is what I’m attracted to. It targets a direct audience…those craving oysters and fried chicken. I didn’t even realize this is something I would crave at the same time, but now I can’t stop! I already want to go back. Also, the atmosphere is beautiful. You walk into an open-air bus shed type of building with dark wooden rafters as the ceiling, hanging lights, funky vintage chairs and tables, music playing that Danielle says takes you back to the 20s, and then a connecting outdoor patio where we started off our night.inside

My dinner accompaniments consisted of my front desk team at Charleston Place with a hint of accounting (Danielle). I made clear that there were 3 rules: 1) We must try everything 2) please allow for a picture before diving in and 3) we have to get a group picture before the night is over. These are pretty much the standard guidelines for a Crockpottuesday outing as you already know. So to start…you guessed it…OYSTERS.

The waitress explained two different raw oysters they were serving for the night. Virginia oysters that are big and have a medium salt flavor and Massachusetts oysters that are smaller with more salty flavor. The table decided on Virginia. Great choice.

rawNext we had the grilled oysters. I had never had grilled oysters before and was pleasantly surprised by the smokey flavor. The charcoal spice is also a different experience when mixed with the soft texture of an oyster instead of a typical firmer texture of meat.grilledNow for the Traditional Rockefeller oysters- my favorite. These were covered in a spinach puree that was similar to a pesto flavor. Not to be confused with pluff mud.rockafeller

Next we ordered two sides before our entrees. The first were fried brussel sprouts. These were okay- didn’t really do it for me. I was expecting them to be completely fried, more like  fried okra.I think brussels should stick with being roasted.photo 2The second side was smashed avocado on sourdough bread. This was amazing. The bright lime green avocado was mixed with lots of lime so the tangy flavor really stuck out and was a perfect match with the shaved radish on top. I will have to try this at home.photo 1Now Crockheads- for the best fried Chicken in town and for the best price possible just look at the picture below. This 2-piece light meat fried chicken was so juicy and so crispy I had to take a second. For all you country folk- better than gas station fried chicken. For all  you city folk-better than ritzy high-end fried chicken you eat with a knife and fork. I’m talking straight classic dictionary fried chicken y’all. Can’t beat it.photo 3Even comes in sandwich form!

photo 4My only complaint about Leon’s was that a very vital component of the menu was not available. The soft serve ice cream machine was down! What better way to finish off a meal like that than with some soft serve!! Hopefully it will be back and working though soon because I will definitely be back! Now everyone go to Leon’s and see Tom!photo 5