Charleston report: Al di La, Hanks, Sermet, Rosebank, Hominy
I'm embarrased to say I didn't try any of the restaurants I was considering...I went with the old stand--bys since I had guests in tow. Except for Rosebank, that is, and that was a mistake. My short reviews, in order of how happy they made me, are:
Al di La - my second visit. I love this place. Arugula salad, ricotta gnocci, fettucini bolognese, scallop risotto...all delicious. Wine delicious. One of the most professional servers I can remember having. That guy could go work at Daniel. Great atmosphere. Love it.
Sermet - The bread is so delicious there, I can barely move on to the food. The grilled calamari is a perenniel favorite, as is the lavendar pork tenderloin.
Hanks - I tried a salmon terrine for app. It was pretty good, and ambitious with good quality salmon...not perfectly executed though, and the "goat cheese" in the terrine was really cream cheese. I had the Shrimp curry, made w/ mango chutney, leeks, bananas...it really was delicious. I tasted my MIL's shrimp and grits and they were very good, as well. Just enough vinegar to keep them from being cloying as they sometimes are when made very rich in a restaurant. My husband called his shrimp and scallop pasta "mediocre". Really, I don't know why he would order pasta after being at Al Di La the night before, it had to be a disappointment. They gave us one of the big booths hidden behind the bar, it was reasonably quiet (thanks Lizzie).
Hominy Grill - this was my second trip to HG. Now that my expectations were lower, I liked it better. Just a nice spot for brunch, good shrimp and grits...I approve of very little in the way of sauce and cheese. S&G should be S&G. Someone should teach them how to make a biscuit, though. ALl those poor Yankees eating there on vacation and thinking that's what a southern biscuit should be.
Rosebanks Farms Cafe - Don't waste your time. This was a long drive for mediocre to bad food. My grilled Mahi was the best thing I tasted, fresh and not dried out on the grill...it went downhill from there. Salty butterbeans, mayonaise laden squash casserole, bland red rice, heavily breaded shrimp. The fried oysters were pretty good. ALso the atmosphere was a surprise to me...I thought it would be funky/casual since it's affilated with a Farmstand...but it was very bland and touristy. A waste of a meal.
My husband was so annoyed at that point, we blew off the planned visits to the tea plantation and winery and just headed back to the beach (a good choice). I stopped at the wine store on Folly (11 Center street) and picked up some of the muscadine wine. I got the "dry" white. It's not a terrible wine, you can definite taste the muscadine...so it's interesting...but to lable it dry is insane. It is very, very sweet. I bought a "semi-dry" and a "semi-sweet" to give as gifts...I'm curious how sweet they will be.
I apologize for not branching out more after all the suggestions I got...I'll try to do a more interesting trip report next time.
Thanks for the report, Danna. The shrimp curry at Hank's is my wife's favorite dish there. I tasted it on our last visit, and it was much better than I remembered. Not sure if it really improved, or if I was just more receptive on that visit.
I had to laugh at your description of Hominy Grill, especially the biscuits, because I had the same thought on my last visit. I'd heard great things about their biscuits and was pretty disappointed. I sometimes think places like Hominy Grill, restaurants that are trying to recreate southern home cooking with a modern flair or what have you, face their toughest critics in those of us who were actually raised in the South and know the real thing when we see it. I agree with your conclusion that HG is a fine restaurant as long as one's expectations are not set too high. I admire what they are attempting to do even if I'm not always blown away by the results.
I'm definitely going to have to make it out to Al di La one of these days. Living East of the Cooper, West Ashley seems so far away sometimes, LOL, even though the same length drive when I lived in Charlotte got me all the way from South Perimeter to South Park!
Danna thanks for posting, I always look forward to what you have to say.
I'm sorry things didn't work out at Rosebank. Isn't it a shame how a bad meal can really put a damper on the rest of the day.
Glad you enjoyed HG this time around, it is a nice place for brunch. However, since I am lovingly refered to around here as a damn yankee, and wouldn't know a southern biscuit if it hit me in the head, what should a southern biscuit be like? How is different? And most importantly, where can I get one in Charleston?
Also a note to Low Country Jon, you really have to make it to Al di La. I think you will be very happy you drove that extra 5 minutes. ;)
Thanks, Lizzy -
My main complaints w/ the HG biscuit was that it was somewhat dry and tasteless, and way too heavy. I think a biscuit should be light in texture, and pull apart. Not those weird layers that you get in a canned biscuit, of course, but it should have risen from the steam inside and thus have some pockets of air.
As to where you can get one...I hope someone else will help you with that, I can't remember other biscuits in Charleston too well. I know I have had biscuits at Poogans porch, but I can't remember if I liked them or not. Honestly, it's a dying art. My grandmother's biscuits were light to the point of being ethereal, my Mom's are not as good, and mine are so bad I have to use the sloppy cream-biscuit method in order to keep mine from being hocky pucks. The secret is a delicate touch and cold hands...and I'm a bit of a bull in a china shop. MaMa will be 99 in November, and she has refused to make biscuits for the last few years. We should have filmed her for posterity.
I plan to be back in the Charleston for the Kiawah Half this year, and will hope to try some new things then.
Have not had time to be on the board as much as usual. Glad to see you generally had a good time. About Rosebank Farms, I have not eaten there but I use the same philosophy that I use when I go thru that town in the center of our state where we send all our money. There is a multi location restaurant in that town that flies a flag that is a divisive symbol. Rosebank Farms has had that same symbol at their veg. shed & restaurant. I use it as one star recommendation and pass on by and by gone.
As to Southern Biscuits it depends on whose Southern home you are in. And I am sure you know ain't nobody makes biscuits like Mama and Granny. I come from the high risen fluffy biscuit clan that are very light and do not have alot of shortening in them. Now I have pulled up to kitchen tables that had biscuits that were as flat as a flounder and as big as a moon pie and had so much shortening in them that I wondered why the yellow save was on the table. I did not say a word because everybody was chowing down on those biscuits and congratulating their Mama about how good the biscuits were. So I busted mine open and put some cream gravey on it and everything was wonderful. Cause good cream gravey could make saw dust taste good.