Eating my World

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Fig Day 2


After my first day at work here in Charleston, (12 hour day) I came back to my hotel and plopped on the bed and stared at the ceiling. I  considered just laying there on the bed and not getting up for anything save the 5am wake up call, but my belly was grumbly and my credit card was screaming at me from the other room. So I got on the internets (if you get that one you watch too much Jon Stewart) and searched for a suitable place to dine for the evening. I found an article by some food writer for some paper here in Charleston. He said that many people ask him his favorite restaurant in town. He chose his top three and holding the numero uno punto was Fig, which stands for Food is Good. Say no more, I Google it and head out.

I must say that eating alone is always an embarrassing adventure, I am not really a fan of it. Everyone is looking at you, giving you the, “hey that loser can’t get a date”, look. Of course to make matters worse the cute little receptionist senses my discomfort and places me squarely in the center of the room.  Cute young girls derive much pleasure from embarrassing old men, of that I am sure.

My waitress Emily was very nice and asked me about wine, of course I want wine and ordered an Elderton “Tantalus”, Shiraz/Cab/Malbec, South Australia 2004. I am the Will Rogers of Malbec. I have never met one I didn’t like and this was no different even if it was a blend.  The menu was small but everything looked amazing. I told Emily to chose for me, one appetizer, one entree and one desert and pair the wines I am drinking to match, (she suggested the Tantalus). She loved that idea and chose for me for a starter, the Lamb Carpaccio. Thin shaved raw lamb over an African spice of which the name escapes me, slightly spicy and exotic. With a little salad of mint and frisee drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Eating it was like eating the flesh of baby sheep, OH WAIT I WAS! Oh man baby sheep are SO delicious! It was amazing and because it was wafer thin, it didn’t cause me to, well, you know, you’ve seen the movie.

My entree was the pan seared flounder which had a buttery sauce of little neck clams and artichoke hearts and was on a bed of smooth mashed potatoes. Another hit out of the park. When my entree came I switched to a Kooyong “Massale” Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula 2004 which went with the fish well despite its color clash. I don’t get the whole white wine with fish thing anyway.  I think red goes with anything. Anyway back to the fish, I really am torn by calling this food, food. Its really art. I should have brought my camera, but I have screwed up twice now and haven’t brought it. I promise it will not happen again.

For desert Emily suggested the Pear Crisp with Maple Nut ice cream.  I doubt I need to say anything about this. Its crisp! What more needs to be said. Legally anything named crisp MUST be good or they can’t call it crisp.  The crisp was washed down with fantastic coffee.

Before leaving I told Emily that I was on a quest for the best cuisine Charleston had to offer and asked her to write down her favorite restaurants. She gave me a list of about 5 or 6.  At her recommendation I think I will try La Fourchette next.  Asking wait staff at great eateries seems to be a good way to find your next great spot. Food people tend to know where food people should eat.

As I got up to walk out I noticed everyone lean over to their dinner partner and mumble, there goes the loser  with no dinner date. True, but I have a belly full of baby sheep.


Charleston Gastromic Paradise Day 1

The south is generally famous for food. Not pretentious uptight food either, good soul and belly filling fare.  I knew the moment that I was asked to come to Charleston for a month, that I was going to get my lips around some serious gastronomic goodness.

I arrived in Charleston late on Monday evening and got checked into my hotel. It was 8ish and I was tired and hungry. After checking in I inquired at the desk for someplace decent to eat. The clerk said that there was a restaurant a block away called California Dreamin. Uh oh…  I should say that I am generally not a fan of what I call “Themey” restaurants. You know the type, silliness on the walls, large laminated menus with unnaturally pictured neon food with EXTREME crazy names for simple food. Every time I eat at one of these places (usually not because I want to) I am reminded of the movie Office Space, where the Chotchkie’s waiter says “So can I get you gentlemen something more to drink? Or maybe something to nibble on? Some Pizza Shooters, Shrimp Poppers, or Extreme Fajitas?” You get the point. Anyway Cali Dreamin sounded like just such a place and because I was tired and wasn’t in the mood for searching for someplace better I went. I had it a little wrong. It seemed more like The Keg and a little less like Chotchkie’s. Dark, not too loud but it did have the food I was talking about. After looking it over I decided I would get a Po Boy sandwich. I have never had one, although I have seen them on TV many times and knew at some point I would need one of these. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are this,  crusty bread or roll, filled with tarter sauce, lettuce tomatoes and a mound of deep fried shrimp or oysters. I chose shrimp. One thing I liked (but didn’t order) was that they had drinks by the pitcher and seemed like a much more reasonable way to drink. A pitcher of margaritas was $12 and change.

When my waitress came I ordered the Po Boy and asked if I could substitute the fries that came with it, for a small salad. She said no but that I could buy a small salad. There’s a surprise, you mean you will let me buy an additional salad? Wow cool. So I say fine yes, I will get a small dinner salad. She asked if I still wanted the fries and I said no. You should have seen the look on her face. It was if I just turned down a winning lotto ticket. She said “Sir you can chose between 4 other sides” I asked what they were. They were 4 different types of potatoes, baked, mashed, waffled, and scalloped. Again I declined her offer. Her reply was priceless, “ARE YOU SURE?” I am positive that she has never in her life had someone from Charleston turn down potatoes. I kept waiting for her to tell me she would need clearance from her boss to create a dish sans potatoes.

The Po Boy came and although I am not sure how it stacks up to famous mom and pop Po Boy stands around the south, it was great. Crunchy bread, crisp shimp, deelish!  I finished my sweet tea and Po Boy and with belly full, hit the road thinking of where my next meal might come from. California Dreamin wasn’t too bad. I have vowed to not eat anywhere here twice but if I were tired and hungry, I would consider hitting this place again and maybe try the oyster Po Boy, but only because its a few hundred feet from where I am staying.

Po Boy

Po Boy goodness