The hubby and I have been together for 16 years, married for 14 years, and of that, 10 years with kids. I can count on one hand how many times we’ve gone away together without the kids: one; for a friend’s wedding in San Diego, three years ago.
For my 40th birthday, I told my husband that I wanted to go away, just for the weekend and just us. My husband took it up on himself to research cities that had two things: AMAZING FOOD, and an AMAZING SPA — two things I enjoy.
He ended up choosing Charleston, South Carolina where we stayed at Charleston Place, a pretty big hotel and spa in the center of Charleston oozing with Southern Charm. The spa was luxurious and amazing, although I have to say quite expensive. I’m used to the $20 mani/pedi’s we get here in New York City.
Like I said, one focus for the weekend was eating. So with two dinners and two lunches (breakfast was at a coffee shop across the street), Michael Googled and Yelped his way to find the most amazing, but not over-hyped restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina. Here’s where we went.
1. Circa 1886. Southern restaurant with a modern twist with classic solid service. Waiters knew our names, and knew that it was my birthday so all of them wished me a Happy Birthday. To start, Michael and I had the 62.5 Farm Egg with Faro — which was an amazing combination and the Faro was very flavorful. For dinner, I had the sea scallops which were huge and melted in my mouth and Michael had the Bison short rib which was good, but a little tough. For dessert, I had one of my favorites, Key Lime Pie. (Unfortunately, the pictures we took from the meal came out poor because the restaurant was too dark.)
2. SNOB, Slightly North of Broad. In the middle of Charleston on one of its main roads. We had the local steamed clams to start, along with the vegetable beef soup. When in Rome, Michael had the shrimp and grits – which he licked the plate clean; and I had the grilled salmon with a Dijon vinaigrette which made the salmon sweet and tangy. And, the sweet tea here was the best out of all the places we went to.
3. Tristan. Don’t let the hotel lobby location and pseudo-80’s décor fool you. THIS WAS THE BEST MEAL WE HAVE HAD IN A LONG TIME. Michael and I can count on one hand . Just take our advice: have the 5-course tasting menu. Without a doubt, each course will truly amaze you with the crazy flavors and amazing list of ingredients that were somehow put together in the most AMAZING way that you will never ever have seen before.
In one dish we had mangos, candied kalamata olives with Italian Speck. The Parsnip Veloute was smooth with a hint of sweetness due to the compressed Asian pear. I had to make room for the seared Nantucket Bay Scallops with crispy (amazing!) gnocchi with a caper-apricot emulsion. The risotto with a King Bean coffee gelee (I can’t even describe it) was my least favorite of the entire meal, but in general, I am not a risotto person.
Our braised ribs were cooked for three days. Three days. You can’t even imagine how the flavors just exploded in our mouths with lemon braised kale, pickled garlic and Borlotti bean vinaigrette. I do have a disclaimer, though. It was served with some tongue, which I just couldn’t eat. I just couldn’t. I ate every thing else on my plate though.
For dessert, we had blue cheese with minted pear preserves, smoked walnuts and toasted bread, and a malted caramel pudding chocolate brioche and a stout milkshake. All for $70 each. It was a steal.
To top it all off, our waiter was attentive and conversational, yet knew when to back off and give me and Michael room to enjoy our meal. Executive Chef, Nate Whiting, came and visited our table and if we could have hugged him, we would have. Our meal at Tristan’s really was the highlight of our weekend at Charleston. We still can’t stop talking about it.
4. The Grocery. Initially we were going to go to an over-hyped, wait-in-line restaurant for brunch for our last meal in Charleston. I am not into standing outside in the cold (it was unseasonably cold that weekend) to wait to get into anywhere, so since our waiter at Tristan was so good and a foodie himself, we decided to ask him where to go. The Grocery was one of the places he suggested, and boy are we glad to have changed our plans.
I had the Poached Egg and Chorizo and Michael had the Duck Hash and together we shared the cheese grits. I wish we were able to stay for dinner, because we certainly would have stayed here for the rest of the day until dinner service.
Like our trip to Flagstaff, Arizona, we were so pleasantly surprised with the local food and the unexpected flavors and ingredients in our meals. We can’t wait to bring the girls with us to our next Charleston, South Carolina trip!