A Prince Edward Island Oyster, sous vide (or “firmed”) with sunflower seeds, tomato vinaigrette, microgreens and radishes, all sitting on top of whipped salt
The folks over at Charleston Culinary Tours extended an invitation to us recently to join them on their downtown culinary tour. We had a special Valentine’s Day this year on one of their tours and were glad to have the opportunity to be repeat customers.
Top: the first stop on our tour was Southend Brewery, where our tour guide, Hoon Calhoun, gave a primer on some of the essential Lowcountry foods; bottom: she-crab soup and a fried green tomato on top of pimento cheese and topped with chow-chow relish provided a good start
The tour started at Southend Brewery, a restaurant I think of as one of the mainstays of East Bay Street, even though we’re not regulars there or anything. It’s a great place to get an introduction to Lowcountry cuisine, including a good cold beer. I mean, I can’t think of anything more Southern than a frothy brew.
One of the best parts of the tour was just the opportunity to walk around in our gorgeous town. I can’t remember the last time we just strolled around downtown. I think it might have to do with the fact that Ge Ge and Meimei are running full speed circles around us these days and that we barely have a minute to catch our breath around them. Maybe.
The executive chef at Burwell’s preparing our oysters
Our next stop was at Burwell’s Stone Fired Grill, a new addition to the Charleston steakhouse scene. Stopping by and seeing the new techniques and energy this place is infusing into their food was one of the highlights of our afternoon.
The biggest surprise was the lava stone steak appetizer, which arrived piping hot at our table with pieces of raw filet mignon and three housemade sauces — a bearnaise, a traditional steak sauce and a whisky peppercorn sauce. The basic concept was this: each diner can cook their own meat to their desired doneness, then dip the meat into one of the sauces. The sauces leaned a little heavy on the salty side when combined with the salted lava stone that the meat cooked on, but the tenderness of the meat and the fun concept won me over. What can I say? I apparently like chunks of meat on a hot rock. (That’s what she said.)
Our last stop was Leaf, a “New American” restaurant just north of the market. Not only had the hubby and I never been to Leaf, but I couldn’t believe I hadn’t even heard of this gem of a place, which seemed like the perfect place to have a leisurely weekend brunch.
The clear winner at Leaf was the cucumber watermelon salad, which came ice-cold and garnished with a balsamic vinegar glaze. After a sweltering walk through the market, it was a nice summer salad to cool things down.
We finished our tour with an Israeli couscous salad with chopped mozzarella, tomato and basil and Cuban sandwiches garnished with pickled onion, which made me wonder aloud why I don’t pickle things more (my answer: time, and the kids; the hubby’s answer: because you cannot, absolutely cannot, add yet another hobby on your to-do list).
“What about tours as a hobby? I can take more tours for fun, right?”
“Sweetheart, our life is a tour.”