Friday Favorites {Charleston Edition}

Oh, Charleston, you’re a dream.  Of all the places I’ve visited, Charleston still remains one of the only cities that I could (and will) return to over and over again without getting bored.  In fact, we’re talking about planning a trip in December one year in the near future.

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Instead of sharing our itinerary and our steps day-by-day, I’m going to share my favorite places to eat, drink and explore.  We tried to fit so much into our few days in Charleston and I’ll share a few places that still remain on my list that we were unable to fit into this trip.

So let’s get a few details out of the way:  We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in the Charleston Historic district on Calhoun St.  There are lots of incredibly beautiful boutique hotels but we knew that this trip we would not be spending a lot of time in the hotel room and instead wanted to focus on the location.  I’ve also stayed at the Doubletree located in the historic downtown and this is also a great location.  We arrived early Thursday afternoon and left early Monday afternoon.  If you’ve never been to Charleston, the weather can get a “little” warm in the summer so I would avoid visiting in August and September.  We walked everywhere…except dinner.  We used uber since the ladies were wearing heels and the guys didn’t want to hear complaining.  And finally, here is how we planned most of our days:  athletic walk (meaning workout clothes and tennis shoes) in the morning to find coffee and breakfast; freshen up at the hotel and change clothes for the day around 10am; venture out for more walking, lunch, more walking and cocktails; around 4pm we would head back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner.  So yes, I packed three outfits for each day.  That’s just how I roll.

Now to the good stuff…

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Favorite Coffee Spots:

The Daily – We grabbed coffee and breakfast at this spot slightly off the beaten path two mornings in a row.  The avocado toast is AHHH-mazing and their lattes are caffeine perfection.  It gets busy so I recommend arriving before 9am, if possible.

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Revelator Coffee – This was not on our list of places to visit but we ended up there on Sunday morning when I was in need of a “jolt” before brunch later in the day.  They do have a small menu with some amazing looking food (the granola bowl gets two thumbs up) but the coffee is what they take seriously.  Really seriously.  This place is located in the heart of downtown Charleston near lots of restaurants.

Black Tap Coffee – I am sad to say that we never made it to this spot BUT The Daily serves their coffee so I call that a win.  I just noticed that you can buy their coffee beans online (woot woot) and when we return to Charleston we’ll definitely stop by the storefront on Beaufain St.

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Favorite Restaurants and Bars:

Henrietta’s at The Dewberry – When we arrived in Charleston on Thursday we were both starving.  I had The Living Room at the Dewberry on my list of bars to visit and since it was so close to our hotel we decided to hop on over for a drink and some snacks. The Living Room was completely empty so we headed across the lobby to Henrietta’s.  We sat at the bar where we had an awesome bartender who took care of us and made us really pleased with our decision.  We shared olives, oysters and some frites.

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Circa 1886 – This restaurant is rated as the #16 Best Fine Dining Restaurants in the U.S. by TripAdvisor which made me nervous.  However, I can honestly say we had an incredible experience from the moment we walked into the Wentworth Mansion.  The restaurant is gorgeous and our server was fantastic.  Super knowledgeable but wasn’t too “stuffy.”  My duck entree was phenomenal.  They had a great wine list and our server was helpful in picking out the perfect bottle to go with both of our dishes.  If you’re planning a trip to Charleston and want a romantic dinner for two, I can’t recommend Circa 1886 enough.

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Artisan Meat Share – I’m not going to lie, I was very skeptical about this place.  We had reservations somewhere else but the other couple we were meeting up with on Friday was dying to go to Artisan Meat Share.  Guess what?  It turned out to be amazing.  If you want sandwiches to go, you don’t need to worry about timing.  But if you want a table, go early in the day – it’s a very small establishment.  We ordered few items for the table to share: the “Motherboard” which was just a large board of charcuterie, salami & ham; the Jojos with dipping sauce (fried potatoes but so much more than that); and the Pea and Peanut Salad that was one of my favorite bites of the trip.

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The Rarebit – This restaurant serves breakfast all day, everyday and has amazing cocktails.  We did not have any food but did stop in for a drink.  The Champagne Cocktail was amazing and we really enjoyed the bartender.  Full of personality and making drinks is an art form here.  I’ve heard the food it amazing though if you’re looking for a throw-back diner style meal.

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FIG – One of the hardest reservations to secure in Charleston but for good reason.  FIG is only open for dinner and is a hot spot.  FIG was on my list from day one of planning our trip and the food did not disappoint.  We started by sharing some appetizers and if we could do it again, we would have just ordered more appetizers and not ordered entrees.  The appetizers steal the show.  Favorites:  Snapper and Olive Tartare; Chicken Liver Pâte; Cottage Cheese and Burnt Eggplant; and Ricotta Gnocchi and Lamb Bolognese (we ordered two of these and could have easily eaten four).  You can make a reservation up to one month to the day in advance by phone.

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The Gin Joint –  If you want a good (and I mean good) cocktail, head here.  But go early.  We went before dinner one evening and ended up waiting 30 plus minutes until seated.  It was worth it though.  They also have a lot of rare bourbons and other fun things.  We ordered the “pick two” where you pick two words from a list and they create a cocktail for you.  I was a little nervous but they nailed it.  My words:  Refreshing and Sweet.

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The Darling Oyster Bar – I am currently obsessed with this restaurant.  We went for lunch on Sunday and we had an outstanding experience.  The bartenders were great, our waiter was great and the restaurant is STUNNING in it’s decor.  You must go here.  And the must order items:  oysters (duh); hush puppies; chowder fries; and the lobster and king crab roll.  I plan on totally checking out their dinner the next time we’re in town.

The Macintosh – We only ordered drinks here but I would 100% return for their brunch or dinner.  The bartenders were fantastic and I’ve heard some amazing review on the food.

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McCrady’s Tavern – I enjoyed one of the top five bites of my life here on Sunday night.  It’s that good.  Big Guy and I basically ordered every single appetizer and shared them for our dinner.  Top five favorite bites:  Caviar Parfait and Tator Tots.  I seriously cannot even begin to tell you how delicious this appetizer was.  But I can tell you this:  we ordered it as an appetizer and then again for dessert.  I’m serious.  Mind blown.  Stupid Good.  Other amazing bites of the night:  Deviled Crab Stuffed Clams; Dressed Shrimp; a Plate of Southern Ham (Big Guy’s absolute favorite and he also got a small plate with two pieces  just for him for dessert)and Escargot Stuffed Bone Marrow, Grilled Bread, Parsley.  I will 100% return to this restaurant.

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Zero Bar – Located in an adorable boutique hotel, this was the last bar we visited on Sunday after dinner.  It’s incredibly tiny and while it is not the most vibrant bar scene it was perfect for us.  I am mentioning it because it’s loaded in the George Hotel in which I would love to stay in sometime.  The Zero Restaurant also does a tasting menu that intrigues me.

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Stella’s – My last bites in Charleston were here on Monday for a late lunch.  This Greek restaurant is beautiful and a must-hit spot.  I wish we could have had one more dinner because this is where I would have headed.  There are so many small plates that are perfect for sharing.  My favorites:  the hummus (best ever in the U.S.) and the charred octopus (and trust me, I’m not crazy – it’s the favorite of everyone).

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Other Favorites: 

Mira Wine – Mira is a winery in Napa that has a tasting room in Charleston.  The wine is lovely and I really enjoyed their rosé.  The wine is affordable and we considered joining their wine club just so we could be invited back to their wine dinners.

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Skinny Dip – A new store that opened in Downtown Charleston that not only has adorable stuff but also has a coffee bar and frosé (aka frozen rosé).  They have a space outside where you can hang out and it’s just a fun spot.

Not-So-Favorites:
(Please know, I am not being a hater.  There are just so many spots in Charleston so I’m being honest and want YOU to have the best trip ever.)

Feathertop (restaurant; we dined for lunch and I honestly think dinner would be so much better but I can’t tell you for sure)

Cypress (restaurant; very underwhelming in food and overwhelming in size.  they are simply trying to turn tables.)

The Vendue (bar; I loved this spot on my bachelorette party but hated it at 33.)

Thoroughbred Club (bar; absolutely nothing wrong here, just not memorable)

Edmond’s Oast (a little far out but they have a great beer selection and I’ve heard the food is good)

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Favorites for Next Time…because there’s just not enough meals in one day:

Leon’s Oyster Bar (awesome reviews all around)

Minero (lunch or dinner this place gets AMAZING reviews from visitors and locals)

5Church (for drinks, I’ve heard mixed messages on the food)

Bin 152 Wine Bar (I think this would be a fantastic spot but honestly they need longer hours)

Xiao Bao Biscuit (once again, I’ve never heard a bad review)

 

There you have it!  I know I’ve missed something so please reach out to me if you’re planning a trip in the near future.  Until next time, Charleston….

 

 

4 Years

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I can honestly say I fall more in love with Big Guy each and every year.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been married four years.  Every year comes with absolute joy and memories that you want to hold on to forever.  But every year also comes with challenges and hard, hard days.  This year was no different.  And no matter how many years you’ve been married, I don’t think it gets easier.  The challenges and joys may be different as the years go by, but they are there.

Our fourth year was filled with some incredible memories.  Take a trip down memory lane with me…

Taylor and Kiersten’s weekend visit that included a trip to SoCo, an epic cheese board and homemade pasta.

A long Memorial Day Weekend at OIB.  A visit I will never forget that was filled with so much love, sunshine and laughs.

Our garden.  Again, zucchini the size of my lower leg that we used in so many recipes so we wouldn’t tire of eating it.

PIZZA. and SUSHI.  I hope pizza and sushi are always a part of each year we’re married.  

Taking Haines for ice-cream over the 4th of July.  

Sonoma vs. Napa wine dinner with Maggie and Brad – hopefully she’ll come one year when she’s not pregnant.  Hah!

The end of July and beginning of August were a hard season.  But we came out stronger.

Watching Haines and Deacon eat the watermelon you grew after Mimi’s 80th birthday bash.

Our Watick dinner dates.  Wine.  So much wine.

GREEEEEECE.  The most unbelievable, one-in-a-lifetime trip.  You truly made my dreams comes true.

Football games and tailgating.  I love seeing you so passionate about a Saturday.

Welcoming another nephew, Braxton. And then finding out we were getting another nephew in 2017.

A night out in Raleigh to celebrate the Christmas season.

Christmas spent with family.  I’ve never had more fun with the Watson’s than when we spent a few days in the mountains together.

Getting all fancied up for the Hospital Gala.

A random weekend in March at OIB.  Filled with long walks and salty air.

Pawpaw and Mawmaw’s visit.  You are such the host.  And it warms my heart.

And finally, celebrating our anniversary in Charleston this past weekend.  

You honestly make me a better person, Big Guy.  Whether we’re lounging around the house on a Sunday evening, or making an absolute mess in the kitchen, or traveling anywhere and everything – you are my person and everything is more fun with you by my side.

Coconut Carrot Cake Muffins

Good morning!  I know I disappeared for over a week but I’m back.  The past week has been amazing having spent Easter at Ocean Isle and then I stayed until I met Big Guy in Charleston on Thursday.  After a long, rainy drive yesterday, I finally made it home around 8pm.  Whew.  I’ve already done four loads of laundry but I have to admit there are still a few things in the car that need to be unloaded.  This week will be spent getting our life back in order.  I promise I’ll dedicate an entire post (or two) to Charleston but today I’m sharing a bright muffin recipe that will be the sunshine on this dreary day.

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Carrot cake is Big Guy’s absolute favorite.  However, the last thing we need is a huge cake sitting on the counter that’s loaded with sugar and calories.  These muffins are healthier yet still delicious and satisfying.  Big Guy enjoyed these for breakfast the week before we went off the map.  The muffins are full of produce – banana plus shredded apple and carrot (use your food processor to shred to save LOTS of time!) as well as good-for-you ingredients like coconut oil, ground flax seed (instead of hemp seed), oats and cinnamon (plus some other spices).

And instead of frosting, though I do love cream cheese frosting (!), the muffins get a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut before baking.

I hope you’re having a lovely week and I promise there’s some sunshine coming.

Friday Favorites

This Friday is extra sweet because the only thing standing between me and a little “adult Spring Break” is teaching two classes this A.M.  Whether you’re taking a little time for yourself in the coming week or not, I hope you take the time to remember what Easter is really about.  While I’m the first to gush over being able to wear my white pants and spend the morning dying Easter eggs there’s so much more to this weekend.  He is Risen!

And with that, my favorites from the week:

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Favorite Obsessed:  Cadbury Mini Eggs Skillet Cookie.  When it comes to my Easter basket, there’s only ONE candy I want:  a mini bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs.  They are my favorite.  (Don’t worry, Big Guy, I bought you a pack or two to throw into my basket).  This cookie is basically my dream come true.

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Favorite Tropical:  Pineapple Ice Molds.  How cute are these?!?!?!

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Favorite Festive:  Toasted Sesame Sriracha Deviled Eggs.  I honestly have no intention of making deviled eggs this year…but these are making me want to change my tune.

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Favorite Read:  Slightly South of Simple:  A Novel.  This author is compared to one of my absolute favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand.  It sounds like the perfect beach read.

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Favorite How To:  Sourdough Bread:  A Step-By-Step Guide for Home Bakers.  This is a fun addition to my “kitchen bucket list” and I love how approachable Jen made it with this tutorial.

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Favorite Fun:  Lemon Tree Earrings.  I’ve always loved unique earrings and these are just adorable.

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Favorite Dinner:  Roasted Rack of Lamb with Basil-Goat Cheese Sauce.  This will definitely be on the menu soon.

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Favorite List:  5 Dream Kitchen Must Haves.   When thinking of a new house, the kitchen is a top priority because of all the time we spend in that room.  I am totally on board with ALL five of these requirements.

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Favorite Dinner for One:  Shoyu Ahi Poke.  I cannot want to get my hands on some sushi-grade tuna and make this delightful bowl.

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Favorite Cocktail:  Frozen Mimosas.  Or in my world, FroMo.  I don’t think any other explanation is needed.

 

CHEERS!

Grilled Flank Steak with Salsa Verde

It’s grilling season, y’all!  The weather has been absolute perfection here in NC the past few days and it looks as if it’s going to stay gorgeous for awhile.  I savor these few weeks of Spring before the humidity hits and the bugs come out of hiding.  So between now and whenever that happens (before Memorial Day, if I had to guess), I’ll be enjoying as many meals al fresco as possible.

Warmer weather also brings about the desire to fill my plates with salads and fresh flavors from the garden.  Last night we enjoyed grilled flank steak served over homegrown greens with a salsa verde on the side that was packed with herbaceous flavors.

The flank steak is marinated in a EVOO, red wine vinegar, garlic, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes and pepper.

After grilled to perfection (medium-rare, please), serve it with salsa verde that is a mix of fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil, chives and cilantro), garlic, a splash of red wine vinegar, capers, EVOO plus some salt and pepper.

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So simple yet so incredibly delicious.  Especially with a side of fresh air and the end of a beautiful Spring day.

 

Thai Beef and Basil Noodles with Shiitake Gravy

Well, hello.  I had no intention of disappearing after Thursday but it happened.  And then yesterday Chris hijacked my computer for work after his had to take an emergency overnight trip to California.  We did, however, take full advantage of him not having his work computer and went on an epic walk and planted our herbs.  I even had to breakout the SPF for the first time of 2017 after my shoulders started showing signs of a little sunburn.  All that to say – I’m here and thriving.  I also have an awesome dinner recipe for you that can replace the takeout noodles you picked up last night.

Thai Beef and Basil Noodles with Shiitake Gravy comes together super fast so like any stir-fry, prep all your ingredients before you ever turn on the stove.  Make sure to cook the ground beef over a medium-high heat so that it gets a little crispy on the outside.  Thankfully rice noodles are hard to overcook – simply pour boiling water over them and allow them to soak until tender.  If they get sticky, simply run more hot water over them. Easy peasy.  Bok choy and shiitake mushrooms fill your bowl to the brim with vegetables and if you’re like me and love ‘shrooms, fill free to go a little heavy.  In fact, we doubled the amount of mushrooms because we love them so much.  The fantastic flavor comes from lots of fresh garlic and ginger along with oyster sauce, soy sauce (or tamari) and crushed red pepper flakes.  Finally before serving and after you’ve taken the pot off the heat, add in lots and lots of fresh torn basil.  I adored the freshness that the herb gave the whole bowl of noodles.

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Chopsticks are totally optionally but they totally made eating much more fun.  Seriously scrumptious and we felt as though we had been “transported to a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant in Manhattan” (direct quote from Big Guy).

One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I’m balancing out the pound of kale I’ve eaten this week with pasta and cheese and bacon.  In all honesty, this mac ‘n cheese is a little sneaky because there’s not only broccoli in this dish but there’s another veggie hidden amongst all that cheese.

Can you guess?

PUMPKIN!

Yes, pumpkin.  But you honestly can’t taste it at all.  The original recipe called for butternut squash but canned pumpkin is way more readily available (you could even use mashed sweet potatoes).

And not only is this mac ‘n cheese full of good for you stuff, you only need one pan to make this dinner.  And you don’t have to wait for water to boil.  So good.

Here’s how fast it all comes together:  Cook your bacon and then reserve for later.  Sauté the garlic in the bacon fat then add in the chicken stock, milk and pumpkin.  Bring to a boil.  Add in the pasta and cook, covered, for 5 minutes.  Add in the broccoli.  Cover and cook for 3-5 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add in the bacon and cheese.  Cover and cook for 1 minute or until the pasta is cooked to perfection.  DIG IN.

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I love mac ‘n cheese.