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Okay, back to Savannah! So on Tuesday morning we woke up bright and early (ummm, 9:30?) and drove over to 107 West Jones Street to get in line. To get in line for what you ask? Only the best lunch ever! We were some of the lucky individuals who go to participate in a lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room.

This place was.the.bomb. Operating since 1943, everything is served family-style in cozy, charming dining rooms throughout the first floor of an old Savannah boarding house. This is one of those tourist attractions that even locals love, and half of the experience is meeting your dining companions while you wait on line for your seating. This place is very popular, and for the 11am seating people start lining up at 10am. By 11, the line had grown so long it curved around the block.

Luckily it was a gorgeous morning in Savannah, and I took the chance to capture the beautiful neighborhood:

Loved the American flags flying over the doorways.

Secret gardens.

I could live here.

The trees, the trees, the trees!

Sigh.

And then it was time to eat.

After being ushered through the house into our dining room, we sat down at a large communal table covered with dishes. And I mean COVERED. And we ate it all: fried chicken (swoon), collard greens, macaroni and cheese, snap beans, beef stew, cornbread muffins, black-eyed peas, butter beans, okra and tomatos, candied yams, sausage, mashed potatoes, pickled beets, squash, bread pudding and peach cobbler. All washed down with a bottomless glass of sweet tea.

YUM.

I cannot recommend this place highly enough. For $16 per person, there is no reason not to go. Simply amazing. And eating communally was a wonderful way to meet all different kinds of people, and of course everyone is in a jolly mood because of the absolute wonderfulness of all the food and surroundings. So fun!

After lunch, we rolled ourselves back out onto Jones Street and decided to wander around the neighborhood and the many squares nearby in an attempt to digest at least a portion of what we’d consumed.

I could get used to this.

I’ll take that one.

Yes, please.

Love.

After walking around for nearly two hours, it was high time to retreat to the air-conditioned environs of our car. Up next, we head to our creepiest destination yet…

Where did I go?! I fell off the interwebs! Summer took over and I’ve been distracted by warm nights, cold drinks, and lazy dogs. But have no fear, posting will resume shortly!

Monday dawned bright and early (well, around 10am for us). This was our last morning in Charleston, so we did one last shuffle down King Street, popped into Billy Reid to appreciate the awesomeness of the store’s decor and love on the duds, grabbed ourselves a commemorative Spoleto poster at Tidwell’s, and stopped by Caviar and Banana’s for some brunch. The breakfast portion was an Odwalla Superfood smoothie, banana, and coffee, and the lunch portion was a trio of cold salads including quinoa and pasta to eat in the car during our road trip of the day. I love Caviar and Banana’s because there are so many delicious options made fresh each day – the hardest part is deciding what to have! With food in hand we loaded up the car and headed out for the next leg of our trip.

I’ve been fascinated with Wadmalaw Island ever since I saw a picture of a party thrown at the FireFly Distillery and thought, “Those are some beautiful trees.” No joke. I love trees. I especially love trees in the South (something to do with the Spanish moss maybe?). So when I looked at the map and saw that in a kind of roundabout not-really-at-all way that Wadmalaw could be on the way to Savannah, I insisted we stop by.

Now, there’s not much to do on Wadmalaw. It’s one of the least inhabited of the islands that surround Charleston, but is therefore the most preserved, and home to one of the strongest Gullah communities remaining. Luckily for us, it also happens to house the only tea plantation in the United States: the Charleston Tea Plantation!

They also offered a free factory tour and samples, as well as the chance to stroll around the beautiful grounds.

Do you see those trees?? Beautiful!

The tea leaves growing quietly.

The Tea Plantation was truly lovely, and I’d definitely recommend stopping by. But another wonder was just a few miles back down the road (remember when I said that Wadmalaw wasn’t really on the way? as in, completely out of the way?), just over the bridge on John’s Island. There, if you follow Angel Oak Road, you’ll come to this:

The Angel Oak! Reputedly the oldest living thing east of the Rockies, estimated to be at least 1,500 years old.

Now that’s a tree.

From there we continued on along Highway 17, passing various towns and countryside, before taking a quick pitstop in Beaufort.

Beaufort’s a cute little town that has several picturesque houses, walkways, and streets. But really the highlight for us was seeing a chocolate lab running round with a leash but no human. I kind of wanted to take him with us, but he seemed to be on a mission.

Just a few miles out of town, we stopped at another “attraction” we’d heard about: the Old Sheldon Church Ruins.

Even though this was just a few miles off of Rt. 17, this was QUIET. And DESERTED. And a little eerie. We parked the car across the street in what looked to be the parking lot (really a clearing in the trees), and crossed over to see this:

Stunning. We got here just after 5pm and the light was breathtaking.

This was amazing, and our third free “attraction” of the day. Just goes to show you that you can travel cheaply and still have amazing experiences.

We hopped back in the car and drove the last hour to Savannah. By this time we were starving so we parked on Franklin Square and made our way to Vinnie Van Go-Go’s. The place was hopping, so we ordered a large Pesto to go, as well as a couple of Yuenglings to go. Two things: 1) I love that Yuengling is everywhere in the South – I’ve never found it north of Pennsylvania but it was seriously everywhere in South Carolina and Georgia, and 2) I love that you can drink outside in Savannah. In a plastic cup. Untethered to any official dining establishment.

With plastic cups of beer and large pizza box in hand, we found a spot in the City Market to sit down and inhale our pizza. Honestly, I don’t remember too much because I was eating so fast, but I do remember it was GOOD. Really good. Like I think at one point I was convinced that we should just eat pizza the entire time we were in Savannah. Mmm, pizza.

After eating, we dropped off our stuff at the Four Points Savannah, then drove over to our final activity of the day: the Sixth Sense Tour of Savannah. I’m a total sucker for scary movies, haunted houses, and ghost tours, and this did not disappoint. For almost two hours we wound through the historic streets and squares of Savannah, being regaled with tales of hags and haunts, ghosts and goblins. And murders. Real murders! Like at the Williams-Mercer House, where the story of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil took place, and where the real Mr. Williams lived until his death just a few years ago. The same house where two other mysterious deaths occured since the house was built nearly two hundred years ago. Creepy!

This is the fence that a little boy fell ON TO from the ROOF OF THE HOUSE forty years ago. Obvi he died (and damaged the fence in the process), and the owners since have always preserved it the way it was as a nod to the history of the home.

The tour was actually a really lovely way to see Savannah and get introduced to the unique culture of the city, and despite being eaten alive by mosquitos, a perfect way to end the day. On our way back to the car on Jones Street we ran into a cat sitting on the sidewalk, meowing loudly. I’m convinced that it was the ghost of Mr. Williams, haunting the area. We saw many kitties in Savannah, but this one was definitely a ghost 😉

We kicked off the day with coffee and an enormous bagel from City Lights Coffee on Market Street, conveniently situated across from our hotel. We then spent the rest of the morning wandering around the city, one of my absolute favorite things to do in Charleston.

The gorgeous and newly-renovated Dock Street Theater.

The Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park.

Beautiful Waterfront Park.

We headed back to Charleston Place just after noon so we could get to one of my must-have’s for this trip: the Lump Crab and Avocado Salad at the Palmetto Cafe. Charleston Place has two amazing restaurants: the uber-elegant Charleston Grill for dinner, and the more casual but scrumptious breakfast and lunch Palmetto Cafe. I highly recommend both, but back to this salad.

This. salad. is. amazing. Yes, it is $20+, but oh-so-totally worth it. It is a virtual tower of fresh lump crab meat and avocado, served with grilled squash, bibb lettuce, mango slaw with ancho chili honey, and tortilla strips. The flavors are so clear, crisp, and clean that it’s remarkable. It just might make you weep, it’s so good. And it can easily be shared with your companion, if you’d like, but it will not invite conversation as you will be too busy appreciating this food. This was my second experience with this salad, and it totally lived up to the memory I had of it. It will definitely remain on the list of must-have’s in Charleston.

With our tummies full, we hopped into the car to do a little driving tour of a few of the islands that surround Charleston. The Low Country is remarkable for the many islands and waterways that make up the coastline, and each island has its own character and attributes. We zipped over to Sullivan’s Island, a seaside town that reminded me of Montauk, NY, as well as Isle of Palms and Mt. Pleasant. We headed back to the hotel around 4pm to grab a couple of Pimm’s Cups at the Thoroughbred Club before getting ready for dinner.

We had an 8:00 dinner reservation at McCrady’s, but wanted to stop by S.N.O.B. for a quick drink before dinner since it’s another one of our favorite spots in Charleston. The bar was hopping, and after one fist bump from a 60-year old man and two dirty martinis later, we were on our way to McCrady’s. Dinner was everything we thought it would be (um, amazing), and I’ll dream about the beef tenderloin with duxelles and foie gras hollandaise (how ridiculously good does that sound??? and it was!) for many years to come.The hollandaise formed a fabulous crust over the top of the beef that made each bite sublime. The beef tenderloin also came with a small pot of the most luscious whipped potatoes we’ve ever had. Other dishes enjoyed at our table were the wild ramp pasta with braised lamb and San Marzano tomato ragout, the local shrimp and crab stew with Anson Mills grits and Benton’s bacon, the grouper with vidalia onions and brown butter jus, and some South Carolina peach cobbler to top it all off. YUM!

Fun fact: We later drove past the town of Vidalia on our trip through Georgia, and were tempted to go see if there were any onions but were on a timeline so pressed on. After some research we found out that Vidalia onions were first grown in Vidalia, but are now found all over Georgia. However, they’re only grown in Georgia! So that’s cool. 

The Celtics game was entering the second half so we hightailed it over to the South End Brewery to watch it, then headed up to the Pavilion Bar on the rooftop of the Market Pavilion Hotel for one last nightcap. This is the spot where I fell in love with Charleston two and a half years earlier (the view is bananas), and it’s just a gorgeous spot in general. By this time it was after midnight in the Holy City, and it being a Sunday we decided to wander back along Market Street to Charleston Place. But not before we saw this guy working very hard:

Rad, right?

It’s amazing how long it takes to get back into the swing of things after being on vacation. And by getting into the swing of things, I mean stop being laaaaaaazy and start getting things done. After a lengthy hiatus, I’m back with an overview of our recent trip to the South!

We started out by flying from Boston to Charlotte, North Carolina. The trip was a little bumpy but only took two hours, and by 11:00am we were collecting our awesome Chevy Impala from the Enterprise kiosk at the airport and beginning our road trip. While I made fun of our Impala because of it’s boat-like size and slowness to get up to speed, it actually rocked and didn’t get us any tickets on our entire trip (bc obvi I blame all tickets on cars, and not on my driving).

After nearly three hours of driving, our first stop was at Sweatman’s BBQ in Holly Hill, South Carolina. Holly Hill is near…nothing. But Sweatman’s  is AWESOME. You can get the full buffet for $7, but we opted for the pulled pork sandwiches (one with slaw one without!) and sweet tea for $4. $4! Sigh. And the Carolina-style mustard sauce did NOT disappoint. This sandwich was amazing. Amazingly, it wasn’t too heavy, and was quite dry – no sloppy joe’s pulled pork over here. All you could ask for in a pulled pork sandwich. Sweatman’s is hiiiiiiighly recommended if you’re in the general area (that is, anywhere near Columbia or Charleston, South Carolina).

With our bellies full, we continued on for another hour to Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is one of my favorite cities in the entire world, and for those who have been, you know why. This charming city boasts cobblestone streets, beautiful homes, and amazing food. This was my fifth trip in two years, and I still can’t get enough of this city.

We checked into our hotel, the fabulous Charleston Place, and decided to spend the afternoon wandering around King Street.

After an hour of shopping we stopped by the new (new since we were last in town) Closed for Business. This place is the perfect bar, with great food and a casual atmosphere. The decor is fabulous, and I kind of wanted to steal some of the mixed-and-matched tables and chairs for our own apartment. After a light snack of pork rinds and crispy green beans and a couple of beers, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before hitting the town that night.

Spoleto Festival was in full force, so we decided to avoid a formal dinner and bar-hop instead. We started with some wine, cheese, and charcuterie at Bin 152, another relatively new addition  to Charleston. Bin 152 is a charming wine bar with gorgeous rustic French farmhouse furniture, and friendly (French) owners. The wine, cheese, and charcuterie selections were plentiful, and generous – the slab of cheese and several slices of salumi we ordered were the largest portions I’ve ever seen, and the pours were deep as well. This is a great place to enjoy a quiet conversation and get away from the bustle of downtown Charleston on a Saturday night.

From there we continued on to one of our favorite spots in Charleston, McCrady’s.  This is one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever been in, with rooms and spaces that are the perfect combination of modern and historic architecture. For example, the bar is a two-story glass enclosed space sandwiched between two old brick buildings, so that exposed brick meets the eye everywhere, and beautiful arches create intimate spaces for diners near the bar. The restaurant is also home to several gorgeous function rooms upstairs, including the Long Room, which has held events since 1791. Even though we had dinner reservations at McCrady’s the following evening, we’d heard that they’d introduced a new bar menu that we wanted to check out, and it’s just a great place to grab a drink anyway. Halfway through a large bowl of mixed pickles, we were offered a pair of tickets to the jazz show about to go on upstairs as part of Spoleto Festival by a friendly bar-goer. We happily accepted and moved upstairs to enjoy an hour of modern acoustic jazz in one of the beautiful rooms, complete with exposed brick and beams, hardwood floors, and floor to ceiling art. What a space!

We concluded our night with a midnight stroll back through the streets of Charleston to Charleston Place. The city was hopping as it was a lovely Saturday night in June, and Spoleto was swinging. And our Southern adventure was just beginning!

The likes of Jetsetter, RueLaLa and LuxuryLink are all joined by Off & Away, a new site dedicated to auctioning off the world’s best hotel rooms. Wait a minute while I swoon…

Recovered. Anyway, up today is the Pierre Hotel in NYC, with 2 nights in the Tata Presidential Suite, worth an estimated price tag of $40,000 (according to Off & Away). The current high bid is $341.25, and while the price is sure to climb, this is still certainly a deal and a site to watch. It’s worth visiting for the eye-candy alone!

The only thing that’s better than an absolutely gorgeous Friday in May is when RueLaLa and Zagat pair up to sell once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences at some of NYC’s great restaurants. Personally I’d vote for the dinner in Chef David Bouley’s Private Test Kitchen, but any of the packages would make for a memorable evening. The only thing better is if they teamed up with a few great chefs I can think of in Massachusetts and Maine – here’s to hoping!