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Charleston report - very long

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NANCY Nov 28, 2012 01:18 PM

Spent Thanksgiving in Charleston, great weather, great food. Here’s my (way too long) report ~

The Grocery for dinner. Interesting menu divided into Snacks, Bites, Tastes & Table. Started with Crispy Pimento Cheese and Chicken Liver Mousse with Persimmon Jam. The Pimento Cheese bites were addictive little nuggets of deep fried pimento cheese. The chicken liver mousse was silky smooth and the persimmon jam was a perfect accent. My favorite of the evening. Things went a little astray after the snacks. We had a very difficult time choosing a wine; many that we did not recognize, limited selection by the glass and most were out of our usual price range of $40 per bottle. Our server was very patient, but was not familiar enough with the wine list to be much help. We finally settled on a red that was ok, not great. For entrees we chose from the Table section of the menu (there were 4 of us). The Bone-In Ribeye ($70) and the Cassoulet of Pork ($48). Neither were great. We originally ordered the Ribeye medium rare, our server assured us that this particular steak was much better cooked to medium temperature. He was wrong. I’m had much better Cowboy Ribeye’s that would easily serve two or more at Asheville restaurants for $20 to $25 less. All four of us found the cassoulet way too salty. Would we go back? Maybe, but would make a meal of Snacks and Bites.

Cru Café for lunch. Shrimp BLT, truffled parmesan fries and an icy cold Albarino ~ my idea of heaven. Other hits at the table included the oyster wrap and the spicy Italian sandwich on sourdough. This is simply one of the best lunch places in town.

The MacIntosh for dinner. Great space, great vibe, great menu, great service. Can you tell that we had a great evening? Totally different wine experience than at the Grocery. Plenty of wines in our price range and our server, Ashley, was very knowledgeable. With her guidance we chose an excellent red. Since we had a late lunch at Cru, we skipped starters and went directly to the entrees. Two orders of Grilled Deckle (this is supposed to be a second cut brisket, but MacIntosh described it as the tender meat that wraps around the rib eye ~ the same cut? I don’t know.), one of Flounder and I chose two starters ~ Gnudi and the Crispy Pork Belly. The Deckle was melt in your mouth delicious – every speck vanished from the two plates. They had run out of Flounder and substituted (with our knowledge and agreement) another fish. Can’t remember what it was, but very good. My two starters ~ the Gnudi was very good, but I would have called them Gnocchi. The contrast of the spicy chorizo with the sweet peas and tomatoes worked perfectly. Then the Crispy Pork Belly ~ wow, loved this dish. The sharpness of the vinaigrette and radishes cut the richness of the pork belly. This was a wonderful dish. Would we go back? Absolutely, every time we visit Charleston.

Tristan for Thanksgiving Dinner. This is a beautiful space that could be anywhere ~ New York, San Francisco, Miami. Limited menu for Thanksgiving. For starters, three of us chose the lobster and tapioca gnudi ~ once again, I would never consider this gnudi in the Italian sense, but it didn’t matter – absolutely delicious. Then three of us chose the traditional turkey ~ which was not traditional at all! Sous vide turkey breast crowned with crisped turkey skin. Confit of dark meat, rich and moist. Cornbread dressing that my SO claimed was the best he’d ever had. Green beans, creamy mashed potatoes and a warm cranberry relish that was so good we ordered an extra bowl full. I was the odd ball and ordered the sea scallops. Four perfectly seared scallops served over toasted couscous. So rich I couldn’t finish them and still regret not taking the leftovers back to the hotel. Dessert choices included a black bottom pumpkin flan and an apple bread pudding. Would we go back? Yes!

Husk Bar for drinks. We were so looking forward to this and were so disappointed. Everybody in town seems to worship Husk, the chef, the philosophy, but it just didn’t work for us. The bar was slammed and we were lucky to get a table upstairs. Many families with children, some very young. It seemed early (5:30) for dinner, so I don’t think this was overflow from the restaurant. The mixed drink list was very interesting, but heavy on the sweet side. There was one that intrigued me, but our server steered me away from it (I thank her for that). Three of us ordered vodka tonic. Husk did not carry the vodka we requested – it was not a local product. Ok, I’m good with that. Then we were told that the tonic was sourced locally and mixed with house seltzer. Ok, I’m totally good with that ~ have been wanting to try some artisan tonic. Our drinks come and they’re good ~ but totally flat. Our server explained that ‘sometimes the bartenders forget to pump the seltzer’. OK, I’m totally NOT good with that. A restaurant that prides itself on quality can’t get bubbles into the water? Would we go back to the bar? No.

Carters Kitchen for dinner. Loved this place ~ if it were within 30 miles of where we live, we’d be there at least twice a week. Carter’s Kitchen had it all ~ comfortable ambience; great, yet casual service; delicious food at a reasonable price and a good wine list. Started with three ‘Jars’ ~ pickled shrimp, Alabama caviar (Chef Christian is an Alabama boy…) and pimento cheese. Each jar was licked clean, they were that good. Two of us had the fettuccini Bolognese and loved it. One had the grilled filet and was swooning. I indulged and had the oyster appetizer special ~ four oyster shells stacked with spicy mayo, grilled chorizo and crispy fried oyster ~ and the truffled fries. Our server, Chauncey, paced the meal perfectly waiting to take our main order until after we’d enjoyed the Jars. This was a perfect ending to our four days in Charleston. Would we go back? Absolutely, every time we visit Charleston.

Other notes ~

Gin Joint ~ great little bar on East Bay. Think back to the ‘speakeasy’ days ~ no vodka, there wasn’t any around then. Lots of fun, interesting drinks. Very small space with the music a little too loud for me.

Hall’s Chophouse ~ this became our ‘go to’ bar on North King. Great vibe, reasonable drinks and wonderful piano playing. One night we went twice ~ before and after dinner. Very well trained and professional staff ~ everybody! After just one visit they remembered us and what we liked to drink; this was in a packed bar with many locals. Amazing.

Toast ~ great breakfast on Meeting. Think high end diner food. Loved the Charleston Surf and Turf ~ but don’t even think about eating it all yourself – lots of food!

goat. sheep. cow. ~ cheese. charcuterie. wine. ~ yes.yes.yes. Great selection, very reasonable, very friendly and helpful staff.

The Grocery ~http://www.thegrocerycharleston.com/
Cru Café ~ http://crucafe.com/
The MacIntosh ~ http://www.themacintoshcharleston.com/
Tristan ~ http://www.tristandining.com/
Husk Bar ~ http://www.huskrestaurant.com/about/bar/
Carter’s Kitchen ~ http://carterskitchenion.com/index.php
Gin Joint ~ http://theginjoint.com/index.html
Hall’s Chophouse ~ http://hallschophouse.com/
Toast ~ http://www.toastofcharleston.com/
goat.sheep.cow ~ http://www.goatsheepcow.com/

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  1. JayL RE: NANCY Nov 28, 2012 04:16 PM

    Deckle is used to describe the point of a brisket as well as the fatty outer edge of a rib loin. To get a true "rib eye" you trim off the deckle leaving only the eye of the loin. I prefer it to be left intact...as you know, it's the best part of the steak.

    1. Sue in Mt P RE: NANCY Nov 28, 2012 05:15 PM

      Wow, you had a great time.

      Isn't Tristan lovely? Last time I went it was during restaurant week and we had such nice dinner with lots of little extra touches. The service is wonderful there.

      Try Hall's for gospel brunch sometime.

      I've only been to Carter's twice, but I agree with you. I know those I'on people are thrilled to have a nice place in walking distance. For some anyway!

      Weird about Husk, but not surprising. I never had a bad experience there, but I know people who have and there is no excuse for it. And there is NO excuse for no fizz in tonic. I mean really!

      1. ellenost RE: NANCY Nov 29, 2012 10:06 AM

        I'm returning to Charleston in a month (my 4th visit in 4 years--I love Charleston!). Thanks very much for your detailed reviews. I've already reserved lunch at Cru Cafe--their menu sounds great. I'm a bit hesitant about my dinner reservation at Husk; I hope it turns out okay. I've never dined at Tristan even though I always stay at the French Quarter Inn (my most favorite hotel anywhere). Will try Toast for breakfast; I've had breakfast at their sister restaurant Eli's Table (and before that, Joseph's), and I always enjoyed it.

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