Charleston Diary

Travel November 1st, 2011


Pictured above, top row, from left:

I first discovered the Planter’s Inn on my honeymoon and John and I have been back at least a half dozen times since. A member of Relais & Chateaux, it is located in the heart of the historic district and is a short walk from all my favorite restaurants. The inn’s own restaurant, The Peninsula Grill is also a must. Like the lobby and the gracious parlor, it was decorated by noted Charleston designer Amelia Handegan and features walls covered in glimmering oyster colored silk velvet, 19th century oils, and the chicest chandeliers ever. Everyone looks stunning in that room and the food is pretty stunning too. Chef Graham Dailey recently took over from founding chef Robert Carter and he hasn’t missed a beat. Tuck into the bourbon glazed Berkshire pork chop with cider braised collards or sit in the jewel box of a bar and have oysters on the half shell with champagne or to-die-for seared foie gras with duck barbecue and peach jam on a black pepper biscuit. Heaven. All the rooms have custom-made four poster beds and they’re pretty heavenly too.

Sean Brock is one of the South’s—indeed, the country’s—hottest chefs right now. He got his start working with the aforementioned Robert Carter at The Peninsula Grill, but he made his name at McCrady’s, the restaurant that the New York Times’ Sam Sifton called “the best place to eat outside New York City.” Last year Brock won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast and he also opened Husk, a restaurant devoted to all things Southern. If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not on the plate, and Brock means business—until he found an olive oil from Texas, he didn’t cook with it. Now he’s growing his own olive trees. The rules may be stringent, but they pay off.  On our first night in the city, our dinner (actually, they call it “supper”) at Husk was so good, we begged for a table for lunch the next day. At dinner, Brock spoiled us rotten and sent out fried chicken skins with Husk hot sauce and honey (finally, someone who acknowledges why we really eat fried chicken), amazing (and amazingly fresh) Caper’s Inlet Blade oysters, and a tasting of the South’s finest country hams with housemade pickles. My main course was Heritage Pork with smoky butter beans and field peas with cornbread puree, a dish much like the one pictured above. The bar is in a separate building and is a cool place to wait for a table, or to try the ham tasting with some equally fine bourbons. Also not to miss: McCrady’s bar which features a different daily menu of what may be the best bar snacks in the world. We had some seriously inspired General Tso’s sweetbreads on a stick, crispy lamb ribs and perfect devilled eggs. Brock is a Charleston treasure, as well as an incredibly nice guy.

Second row, from left:

You gotta love a bar whose motto is Drink Proper and Speak Easy. The Gin Joint serves great snacks, a few full plates, and an excellent Sunday breakfast (from 11 to 3) but they’re really all about the drinks. The owners are Joe and MariElena Raya and their vision is to “bring back the pre-prohibition era where cocktails were true to their name of being a stimulating liquid to awaken’s one self like the early morning crows of a rooster.” The Blackberry Fizz, pictured above, features fresh blackberries, Gosling’s Dark rum, lemon, demerara sugar and sparkling wine, and certainly fits the bill. I am also wild for the bartender’s classic Old Fashioned. When I met my good buddy Dave DiBenedetto, the new editor-in-chief of Garden & Gun, at The Gin Joint for a drink, his old fashioned was made with Wild Turkey, mine with Mount Gay rum, and both had enormous, almost hand-crafted ice cubes. Click here to see Joe making the Blackberry Fizz, a video set to one of my favorite songs ever: Billy Joe Shaver’s “Georgia on a Fast Train.”

Heirloom Books joined Taigan almost as soon as it opened its doors in King Street, and I have since grown to love the store and its three very cool owners, Carlye Jane Dougherty, Bryan Lewis, and Brad Norton. The store is entirely devoted to “the literature of food” and has thousands of titles, from vintage Southern cookbooks to current tomes like Suzanne Goin’s excellent Sunday Suppers at Lucques, a book I reach for constantly. They also host fun food events, as in their own Sunday Suppers with noted regional chefs, and—I’m proud to say—my very own book signing and Sunday afternoon  sipping party. Pictured above is the aforementioned Garden & Gun editor Dave DiBenedetto drinking a delicious cocktail made with Hendrick’s gin and Small Batch Tonic from Charleston’s own Jack Rudy Cocktail Company. Jack Rudy belongs to the totally adorable and talented mixologist Brooks Reitz, the bar manager at Charleston’s terrific Fig restaurant. He was on hand mixing the drinks, which were served with some very fine edibles including Callie’s Charleston Biscuits. Carlye Jane says she hopes to start selling both Callie’s and Jack Rudy’s on Taigan soon and I’ve convinced Brooks to start creating some cocktails exclusively for Fetch in the coming months.  Everyone should visit Charleston, again and again, but if you can’t get there soon, we’ll endeavor to bring it to you.


Julia Reed

About Julia Reed

Julia Reed is a columnist at Garden & Gun magazine and a contributing editor at Elle Décor. She also contributes to The Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, and The New York Times, and makes frequent appearances on MSNBC. She is the author of five books, including But Mama Always Put Vodka in the Sangria, Adventures in Eating, Drinking and Making Merry and One Man’s Folly, The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood.

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