Exploring the Food, Drinks, and Culture of Charleston

Exploring the Food, Drinks, and Culture of Charleston

You know those vacations that exceed your expectations because you don’t really know what to expect? Charleston was one of those.

It was such a relaxed vacation, which was just what I needed. I’m used to being go, go, go all the time, in my daily life as much as in my travels. Recently I’ve been even busier than normal (although every stage of life seems to have it’s own busy-ness.) Since I’ve been working full time, and also maintaining old and growing new (really great, wouldn’t trade ’em for the world) friendships, it’s been hard for me to find a moment alone.

The other day I told my friends Ruth and Kelsi that I’ve decided to take one night a week JUST for myself, to make no plans, as if that was a big deal. They laughed  and told me I should probably take more than one night a week for myself.

Oh.

Huh.

Ok.

I’m learning to say “no” with zero guilt or fomo, but I’m definitely still a work in progress.

ANYWAY. That being said. This weekend was slow paced relaxation with one of my long-term, most-comfortable friends, and it was real good, ya’ll. (Stop pretending to be southern, Carrie. It was 4 days.)

Without further ado, let me tell you about the most charming city and all the things I ate and drank and saw there!

 

Poogan’s Porch

(4 out of 5 stars)

We arrived in the South Carolina city at 10:30 Thursday morning and were immediately charmed. We went straight to brunch at Poogan’s Porch, a farm to table restaurant I read about online. We squealed over the beautiful yellow facade, little garden, and double porches. They seated us on the lower porch, and our waiter was knowledgable and friendly – probably my favorite person we met in Charleston, and a good first introduction to the city.

We shared a carafe of mimosas (literally promised myself mimosas as I tried to prop my eyes open on the all-night drive), and I ordered grits (SO GOOD) and, at the recommendation of our waiter, the French toast with champagne macerated raspberries, whipped mascarpone cheese, and toasted almonds. It was perfect because it wasn’t overwhelmed with an aggressive amount of toppings as French toast often is.

Our brunch was interrupted by a loud truck who stopped in the narrow street next to us to empty the restaurant’s grease. All we could do was laugh as the truck held up traffic and made loud noises for 15 minutes.

Shopping District

After brunch we took a leisurely walk around the shopping district and historic part of the city. We strolled through unique boutiques, and I may have accidentally dropped a few $$ at Kate Spade.

 

Black Tap Coffee

(3 out of 5 stars)

This shop was a fun little specialty coffee café full of hip college students. They roast their beans nearby and you can find other coffee shops around Charleston selling Black Tap coffee. I can’t remember what my drink was called, but it was basically a mint julep with espresso instead of bourbon. It wasn’t my favorite, but I love trying things I won’t be able to get elsewhere. Ronnie had a lavender vanilla latte which was lovely and not overbearingly sweet or floral.

IMG_7038

 

Airbnb

(5 out of 5 stars)

We loved our little backyard bungalow in the Wagener Terrace neighborhood, near Hampton Park. BJ, the host, lived right next door; he was engaging, and gave us plenty of recommendations. (Among his recommendations was the Thursday night drag show “obviously.” He also told us, “In Charleston, if you’re not drinking, you’re not doing anything.” Needless to say, BJ kept us laughing.) His love of plants was obvious-they were everywhere on his property, He took such care in making sure we had an enjoyable stay. His dog, Kai, shared the patio with us.

The Wall Street Journal just published this article on the neighborhood where we stayed, calling it the “hottest neighborhood in Charleston!”

Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog Barbecue

(4 out of 5 stars)

This little traditional South Carolina-style barbecue joint was just a few blocks from our bungalow. We feasted there on our first night in Charleston. The whole neighborhood-in fact, much of Charleston-smelled of barbecue. We peaked in a side window in the back and saw a man hard at work in a smokehouse, preparing the meat.

 

Hampton Park

Hampton Park was right down the street from our Airbnb. It was beautiful and sprawling, with a pond, Spanish moss, and birds galore. The neighborhood of Wagener Terrace was a lovely place for a leisure walk. A lovely place to just be.

 

The Park Café

(4 out of 5 stars)

When I first started planning this vacation (aka Pinteresting), this place caught my attention. When I saw it was two blocks from our bungalow, I knew it was meant to be, so we brunched there Friday morning. The Park Café is airy and full of plants and light. 10/10 would recommend.

I had the farm egg scramble with vegetable curry, white cheddar, and avocado. The red sauce was spicy and made it a breakfast to remember. (My breath was probably something to remember for the rest of the day as well.)

 

Folly Beach

We decided to head to the beach for the day Friday. Both of us got more sun than we bargained for! Everywhere we went, we were reminded of Nicholas Sparks movies.

While walking up the pier, I saw a man catch a shark that was probably about 3 feet long. Shark fishing is illegal, so I watched as he untangled the hook and tossed his catch back into the sea. The day alternated between sun and clouds. We ate at Rita’s Seaside Grill (2 out of 5 stars) before heading back into town. It was nothing special-just a casual spot for seafood or burgers.

 

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

(5 out of 5 stars)

I had Jeni’s once before, in Nashville, and it was the same locally-sourced, clean, creamy goodness and intriguing flavors I remembered. We stood in line for 25 minutes before finally getting to the counter, where I of course sampled about 6 flavors before deciding to get a flight of mini scoops. I chose Osmanthus and Blackberry Crackle (a light peachy floral flavor with a hint of blackberry tartness), Brown Butter Almond Brittle (pure comfort), and Brambleberry Crunch (a classic Jeni’s flavor).

The scooper topped my ice-cream off with a fresh waffle cone wedge (YUM), extra-bitter hot fudge (holy cow), raw honey whipped cream (um, wHAT EVEN), and a few amareno cherries (HOW!!), I basically took two bites and melted into a puddle of happiness.

 

Hominy Grill

(3 out of 5 stars)

I love grits. Hominy Grill is known to have some of the best. This brunch of traditional southern comfort food was worth another long wait!

IMG_7068

I ordered the famous Charleston Nasty Biscuit which is probably famous for giving people heart attacks on the spot. It’s crispy fried chicken in a biscuit, on a bed of sausage gravy. Of course I also had a side of cheesy grits, because, well, when in the south do as the southerners do. (Also I LOVE grits a strange amount for someone who has never lived in the south.)

We also had breakfast cocktails (obvs). I had the day’s special, which involved orange juice, honeysuckle vodka, pomegranate, and champagne. YUM.

 

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

(4 out of 5 stars)

Originally we were going to spend this day at Boone Hall Plantation (the filming location for Allie’s house in The Notebook), but at the recommendation of BJ and a friend of mine from Lancaster, we decided to go to Magnolia instead. While the house may not be quite as impressive as Boone Hall, the gardens are sprawling, wild and gorgeous.

IMG_7075IMG_7076

More than once I happily ran off the path and up a tree that sprawled out over the river. An old man told Veronica to keep an eye on me or I’d become alligator food. Thanks for looking out, lil old man.

The Daily by Butcher & Bee

(5 out of 5 stars)

After tramping around Magnolia most of the (hot) day, we needed some iced coffee beverages. So we hit up The Daily on our way home. I had a tahini mocha made with Stumptown Coffee, and a same-day croissant. They had pastry cases, shelves, and coolers stocked with all kinds of local goods, as well as shelves and shelves of wines and ales. The Daily has a trendy, general store kind of vibe.

The coffee shops were one of the few places in Charleston where the employees and people in general seemed a little snobby/less-likely-to-literally-give-you-the-shirts-off-their-backs-if-you-asked-for-it. I noticed this at Black Tap as well as The Daily. What’s up with that, Charleston?

Good coffee and good vibes.

 

Leon’s Oyster Shop

(4 out of 5 stars)

Since day one in Charleston, I was hoping to find some fresh oysters. I held out for Leon’s, and man oh man was it worth it.

I chose the char-grilled oysters with lemon, parsley, butter, and parmesan. They came with pieces of toasted bread and were gone before I knew it. I also had hush puppies (another great southern invention that the north needs) and spoon salad, which consists of whole grains (barley, said the obnoxious yet informative know-it-all sitting at the table next to us), tomatoes, currants, and pecans.

I tried the “Sazerac” as well. This cocktail consists of rye whisky, Peychaud’s bitters, Absinthe, and sugar. Hmm. Not really sure what to say about that other than there’s a reason I stay away from whisky. It was an experience, though.

We also went out for cocktails that night. The Benedict (3 out of 5 stars) was our favorite. A classy little lounge known for it’s cocktails (everyone we talked to recommended it to us). It reminded me of The Horse Inn because the bartenders seemed VERY serious about their drinks. Charleston is definitely a bit of a party city, with lots of bars and lots of people out late.

WildFlour Pastry

(3 out of 5 stars)

Three words: Sunday Sticky Buns.

I got a (hot, fresh-from-the-oven) combo bun (sticky bun/cinnamon roll) and an orange juice, and we sat on the patio, where a friendly dog was roaming and a friendly Texan couple chatted with us and gave me a donut muffin.

 

Butcher & Bee

(5 out of 5 stars)

Can we talk top 5 meals of my life? Because Butcher & Bee is on the list. I wasn’t that hungry after my morning sticky bun, but then I saw their impressive array of “mezze” (small plates) and I had to try three of them. I got the whipped feta, grilled fava beans with hummus and schug (!!!!!!!!) and cheesy grits. The grits were spicier and less pure-southern comfort food than the grits I tried at other places on the trip, but I enjoyed them. The fava beans literally changed my life. I’m already planning my next trip to Charleston (or Nashville) just to eat here again! Such a satisfying last meal in Charleston.

 

All in all, Charleston was lovely, relaxed, and charming. It was really the best of both worlds… a bustling city with old time charm. I would recommend it to lovers of good food and drinks, slow-paced vacations, history, and plants!

Also, Charleston means checking off half an item on my 22 Before 23 list (explore two American cities you’ve never been to). That list has been falling by the wayside a bit, so it felt good to check a few items off today!

 

 

Now can someone please point me in the direction of the nearest salad?

 

xoxo,

Carrie

 

Advertisements

Lanc Love

Springtime is coming, and I’m overwhelmed with a love for this place I live. One of my favorite things about Lancaster is it’s proximity to so many wonderful places. The past few weekends I’ve done little road trips. A spontaneous trip to Baltimore and spontaneous afternoons roaming the countryside, a day in Washington DC exploring the Mall and checking out the cherry blossoms. Philly and New York are both close, too, and the beach is as well.

But as great as it is to have so much, so near, the city itself charms me continually. One of my recent favorite spots in Lancaster is Horse Inn. After countless reccommendations, I finally went for the first time a few weeks ago (and then for a second time a few days later). I was smitten by the speakeasy vibes, jazz band, killer cocktails (the Hemingway is my favorite) by Ben, the award winning bartender who looks straight out of the Roaring Twenties, and the FOOD. So far I’ve tried the burger, the burrata, and the wedge salad – all good. My favorites so far are the horse fries (think parmesan and HEAVY CREAM) and the Nashville hot chicken sandwich which actually had me crying from the spiciness (to me, this is a good thing).

Other recent loves in Lancaster: hiking at Landis Woods, chocolate croissants at Lancaster Central Market, and the new Copper Cup Coffee shop that just opened in the city (I’ve only gone through the drive thru, so no cool interior pictures from me).

Here’s a few photos of what I’ve been doing in Lanc lately:

 

xoxo,

Carrie

 

22 Before 23

On September 2nd, I turned 22, with little fanfare.

That was how I wanted it. I’ve been dreading birthdays since I was 15. Though I do like thoughtful gifts and kind words, of course.

It’s not that I fear growing older. I actually look forward to being 70 years old with gray hair, rocking a grandbaby or two on my knee as I take in the warm evening air on my front porch. I hope I’m a fun old person. I hope I still write. I hope my home is welcoming and warm. I hope I can care for myself. I hope I’m not a burden – more than that, I hope I can still contribute.

Anyway. Random tangent over.

All that to say, I’m not afraid of being old, but maybe it’s the aging process I don’t love. Or maybe it’s a fear of looking back at the past year and realizing I didn’t accomplish everything I thought I would’ve.

22. Practically middle-aged, really.

And I’ve already held this age for 2 months.

I decided to make a bucket list for this year.

I generally fail at this type of thing, but maybe if I’m blogging it I’ll feel accountable. So here goes. Here are the 22 things I want to do before I turn 23. I’ll try to blog about all of them.

22 Things to do Before I Turn 23

  1. Travel to a new country.

  2. Take a class. Learn something new.

  3. Pick lavender. If you want to visit a lavender field with me, say when.

  4. Buy my first bee hives. And the bees to live in them, obviously. And try not to kill said bees.

  5. Read 12 books that have been on “your list” for ages. Seriously. You can’t go on pretending you’ve read Moby Dick for the next 40 years.

    The books in question:


    Moby Dick, Beloved, To the Lighthouse, As I Lay Dying, Midnight’s Children, Leaves of Grass, For Whom the Bell Tolls, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, On the Road, The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, one other, or as many others as I can manage. (Let the record show that when I searched a few lists of 100 great books you should read, I had read most of them and I now feel better about myself.)

  6. Practice a random act of kindness every day for a month.

  7. Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston AND/OR go to the Smithsonian Institute museums you haven’t been to.

  8. Write every day.

  9. Spontaneous roadtrip somewhere new.

  10. Do something aesthetically pleasing but don’t post it to any social media. This one is just for your enjoyment.

  11. Complete a crossword puzzle. No cheating. Except to ask mom for hints, maybe.

  12. Make a friend much older than you. (At least 30 years your senior)

  13. Make a friend much younger than you. (At least 10 years your junior)

  14. Apply to a grad program.

  15. Learn (and retain) some facts about every single president.

  16. Explore two American cities you’ve never been to. (1/2 done.)

  17. Hammock in a national park.

  18. Make a food that intimidates you.

  19. Go to see a band you don’t know. Let yourself be completely surprised.

  20. Discover/learn/try something new in the world of specialty coffee.

  21. Speak with a fake accent for an entire day. Because what is life without being a little silly sometimes?

  22. Go to a botanical garden.

Alright alright alright. Only 10 months to go. Follow along and suggest things you think I should add or try next year!

xoxo,

Carrie

On this, the Monday-est of all Mondays

Today had me feeling some type of way… some type of melancholy. The Monday-est of all Mondays.

Tonight I crawled into bed with a glass of wine and some Faulkner, but I ended up with my laptop out, looking through photos of Scotland – of the place I called home for only half a year – and missing it something fierce. (May or may not have squeezed my eyes shut reaaaaally tight, in hopes that when I opened them I would be in my itty bitty icky flat, and I could throw on my rain coat and run down the hill to my favorite cafe for a flat white, or to ‘Spoons for a pint. It didn’t work.)

I think it hit me so hard because instead of looking through my best photos – the ones that are edited and perfectly posed – I ended up flipping through ALL of them. The bloopers made me miss it more.

Ah, what a time that was. How the sheep ran to me, embracing me in love and fluffy kisses. (Not what happened.) How the Scottish security guards LOVED seeing me climbing on the wall of Edinburgh Castle, trying to get that perfect gram even though the drop on the other side was 30-50 feet. “Tourists will be tourists,” they said good-naturedly. One may have even offered to take the photo for me. (Not what happened.) Oh how that handsome young bagpiping soldier offered to let me try to play his quaint lil instrument. (Ok fine, he’s not, strictly speaking, “alive,” so that’s not what happened either.)

Ahem.

Anyway.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Awkward selfies with my Canadian bestie, pics of many a meal of “fancy ramen” in my little plastic purple bowls, photos of wild drunken Scots messing about in the quad outside my bedroom window, playing in the 1/4 inch of snow that decided to bless Glasgow that winter.

Rain-soaked bridge running photos. Rain-soaked castle hill climbing photos. Rain soaked runs back from the grocery store photos. (It rains a lot in Glasgow, ok?)

Seriously, so much rain. But look at those smiles. Aw. What a time we had.

Every happy memory comes rushing back so easily, in the blink of an eye. I don’t remember how I felt in the nights lying in my twin sized bed with the crappiest mattress, wishing I was home, wishing the noise outside my window at 2 am was my family rather than another drunken college student celebrating a rugby victory or just celebrating your average Wednesday night. I don’t spend time dwelling on the days when I legitimately thought I was going to fail my Arthurian Legends class because the professor was a… word I’m not going to write here.

Instead I remember last minute train rides to new cities and running to the pub with new friends. I spend days thinking about flat whites and empire biscuits. Or just biscuits in general (an under-appreciated food here in America. And no I’m not talking about the biscuits you douse in gravy).

It’s so easy to pine after the good things about a place, an experience, a memory, a person… anything you lose, really. It’s so easy to forget the things you didn’t like.

One thing I do remember is how afraid I was of coming home. I knew I didn’t have a lot to come back to. I wanted to see my family. I wanted to drive my car. I had a couple close friends I knew would still be there for me. But I also knew that when I stepped off the plane in Philadelphia, I would be stepping away from some friendships and relationships that had been integral parts of my life before I stepped onto another plane in Philadelphia just half a year before.

I had no idea if I would find new relationships to step into.

But here I am, 1 year and a couple months out, and I have never felt more at home in a place than I do in Lancaster, right now. 22 years old – most of those years spent right here, in good ole Lanc. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this feels like home. I shouldn’t feel surprised that these people are home. I shouldn’t feel surprised at it all.

But I do.

Because before I left, this wasn’t home. It was just the place I was from.

I came home not knowing what I was coming back to, or why. And then my purpose found me. I found people to pour into, and people stepped in to pour into me.

Maybe it’s just chance. Or maybe someone is pulling the strings.

I’m reminded again tonight that God knows what He’s doing. That He’s most in control when I’ve given up my petty little excuse for power. That sounds simple enough, and maybe it is, but I need to keep reminding myself.

I’m reminded that when I tell Him daily my talents are His for the using, He will use them. I’m reminded that He’s ALWAYS speaking. When I can’t hear Him it’s not because He’s gone silent, but because I’ve stop listening. (Or because I’ve let my Bible sit idle by my bedside for too long.)

I’m reminded tonight that when I give Him my heart, it might get a little dented and it might be pulled in different directions, but it will not be destroyed beyond repair. I’m reminded that He cares about my desires more than I ever could. That He’s already given me the desires of my heart, and that He will continue to.

I’m reminded that every single time I’ve let anxiety and fear and doubt overcome me, He’s proven Himself – He’s come through, again, and again, and again. He didn’t have to. But He did. Because He knows my heart. He knows my heart desires Him above every other desire, but He also knows I’m easily distracted. He knows what I, specifically, need.

I’m reminded that He is good. That He helps us to gradually move on from things we need to move on from (even if they were really good things, in their season). Even when we want to hold on.

And I’m reminded that when memories come back like a whisper, sewing little seeds of discontent, of self-doubt, sewing little seeds of you’re not enough, you’re not doing big things like you used to… Why are you doing this when you could be doing that?

His voice rings out in the darkness :

I am enough.

I am more than enough, so you don’t have to be. 

Friendly reminder to look around at your life. Find the good. The Father has you where you are for a reason. If you don’t think that’s true, start asking Him for revelation. Don’t stop asking.

Let me just quote the great Ferris Bueller before I hit publish: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

Love ya’ll. Thanks for reading.

XOXO,

Carrie

 

The Day of the Dad

I want to take a moment here to honor my father.

DSCN1489
just another one of James Bond’s Scottish castles

If you know Stephen Wagler, you know he is one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. He’s funny, he has a loud laugh and an even louder phone voice. He’s an honest businessman and an even better provider for my family.

He taught me to love Jesus, he took me on countless trips as a child and planted a love of travel in my heart. He took me to Phillies games and broadway plays, and his Canadian heart may have even taught me a few things about hockey. He definitely taught me the magic of Tim Hortons. He likes his coffee strong and black (cowboy coffee is an art form in which he is skilled). Because of him and my mom, I still like flipping through paper newspapers, even in 2016.

He’s loved my mom for 36 years, and isn’t that the best thing a father can ever do for his child?

DSCN1402
my parents chilling on a bench near Loch Ness, surrounded by wild gorse

For the past couple months, I have been thinking about what it means to be a father. I have so many friends whose fathers have disappointed them again, and again. “What separates the good dads from the bad?” I wondered. “Why are some people willing to give up things they want to do in order to better care for their children, while other people cling to their selfish desires, even if it hurts their families?”

My dad is flawed just like the rest of us, and I’ve argued with him upwards of a thousand times, but there’s never once been a time when he did not come through for me.

EVERY time I truly needed him, he was there.

Is that not the most beautiful picture of our Father God? He is consistent. There’s never going to be a time when we call on Him and He won’t pick up the phone (even when he’s already in bed and you left your lights on and let your car battery die, AGAIN).

Whether you had the best or the worst biological dad in the world, your Father God is so much more. More bold, more protective, more compassionate. He loves you with a love that is unfailing. Every time your earthly father fails you, there is another who is willing to step in. Who wants to step in. There is a good, good Father who wants nothing more than for you to accept His love. He wants to reveal to you, all the mysteries of this world and the next, all the mysteries of your own soul. All you have to do is let Him.

Walt Whitman – “On the Beach at Night”

On the beach, at night,
Stands a child, with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower, sullen and fast, athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends, large and calm, the lord-star Jupiter;
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate brothers, the Pleiades.

From the beach, the child, holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower, victorious, soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears;
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky- shall devour the stars only in
apparition:
Jupiter shall emerge- be patient- watch again another night- the
Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal- all those stars, both silvery and golden, shall
shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again- they
endure;
The vast immortal suns, and the long-enduring pensive moons, shall
again shine.

Then, dearest child, mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding, I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter,
Longer than sun, or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant brothers, the Pleiades.

 

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there today.

To my own father: Thank You for loving me well. Thank you, most of all, for leading me into a relationship with my heavenly Father.

XOXO,

Carrie