Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Charleston Affair

I am fortunate enough to travel to Charleston this weekend for my sister's graduation from the city's eponymous college. Everyone who has ever spent considerable time here has always told me that you fall in love with the city from the moment that you first walk down King Street, and I must say that the city does possess a unique charm not unlike The Big Easy. Some even go as far to boast that present-day Charleston is what New Orleans could be post-Katrina, but I wouldn't go that far just yet. NOLA has a lot more going for it than this small coastal town, but that is another question for another blog entry...

The first thing that I told my sister (aka "The Parisian Princess" heretoafter referred to as "PP") after picking us up from the airport yesterday was this: "Take us straight to Jestine's. Do not stop at the house. I need some fried chicken livers in my life." So off we went.

Our lunch consisted of classic home cooking. We started with fried corn fritters - tennis ball sized cakes of deep fried white corn meal studded with whole white corn kernels and a heavy dash of black pepper, topped with a sweet and sour relish of diced peppers. For my meal I had the aforementioned fried chicken livers which were served with grilled onions and cup of beef gravy on the side. The livers were sinfully rich, but dipping them in a puddle of Lillie's Low Country Loco Hot Sauce helped cut the richness of the livers with some vinegar and heat. For my sides, I went with mac & cheese and stewed collard greens (kicked up with hot pepper sauce). My Dad had the pecan crusted whiting (a local fish), but this tasted like a glorified fish stick to me. Dessert consisted of pecan pie (with finely chopped nuts as opposed to the half or whole nuts which most of us are used to) and coca cola cake - which if you have never had this caffeinated/cocoa/marshmallow madness of goodness, you just ain't livin'. I wish that we would have ordered their famous fried chicken, but my uncle (who orders like me but has the bankroll to do it consistently everytime he dines out) had eaten it the night before and assured me that it was some of the best he has ever had. So I took his word for it.

For dinner we joined PP's roommate and her mother (who, on a sidenote, was the second female commercial pilot in the US) at The Boathouse on East Bay. This was a cool spot that sported both a contemporary seafood menu and a sushi bar. Lots of wood on the interior and a general sailing motif. This would be the restaurant that Legend would open.

We started off with three appetizers: fried calamari which were accented with both a red garlic chili sauce and a lemon basil aioli - the dueling sauces raised this typical passed hors d'oeurves to a whole other level; the portabello fries were not the thin cut fungi that I anticipated but instead thick strips of mushroom served with a horseradish sour cream sauce for dipping; lastly we had lobster and crab hashbrowns with dill cream - great concept but not enough seafood in the dish.

For my entree I chose golden tile, which is a native fish of Charleston - the other local fish specials of the day included mahi mahi, grouper, and cavender - no clue what that is and neither did my waiter). There were three preparation options for your fish: grilled with lemon tarragon butter, blackened with corn salsa, or (my choice) macadamia nut crusted with mango coulis. This fish was cooked to perfection, but it could have used a heavier hand with the salt before the crust was applied. For sides I ordered the smoked gouda mac and cheese and the blue cheese cole slaw. The mac and cheese was aromatic and rich with the gouda, but a tad on the dry side - a little more bechamel would have put this dish as one of the top 5 side dishes of all time.

Othe dishes on the table included crab cakes, blackened mahi mahi, and a sirloin - all prepared well. Everyone said that they were too full for dessert, but after perusing the menu I decided that we just had to order the "549er" to go. This thing was RIDICULOUS - a thin layer of chocolate "cake" (actually it was denser like a brownie), then caramelized bananas, peanut butter mousse, and covered with dark chocolate ganache. So so rich, yet not too sweet.

I will be here till Monday, and we already have reservations at several other of the more popular eateries in the city. My only regret so far is that I waited till PP's graduation to visit here for the first time.

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