Fall is for feasting – Part 1, September: CA, NY & SC

Throughout the last 16 months since I started this blog, I have shared many travel experiences and many of those have been with my daughter. The one constant theme we revisit over and over again, no matter where our actual travels take us, is our love of food. We are self-professed foodies to the point that many of my posts were becoming as much about food as it was about the destination.

I probably have enough memories from our eating experiences to start a whole new blog on food. But for starters, or appetizers as the case may be, I have decided to dedicate one post a month on places we have eaten in the last month. Whether that be on our travels, or just great local fare where we live – NYC, Kansas City and the Phoenix Valley.

By doing this, it will also allow me to expound more on the travel destination highlights and my personal reviews in experiencing my travels, and leave the food portion of the trip for these monthly posts.

So grab a cold one, throw a sheet of chicken wings in the oven, and while they are crisping up, enjoy a journey through the eyes and stomachs of two food lovers:

NEW YORK CITY:

Nowhere to sit, but plenty to eat by Allison Malecha

Almost anywhere you go in New York, the food will be more than passable. The portion may be smaller than you wanted. The price higher. And sometimes that C Grade on the door might give you pause. But I can’t think of a time that I’ve pushed my plate away in this city out of distaste.

Usually, for me, atmosphere counts for a lot. If I know I’m going to have a pretty good meal, I like to enjoy where I’m eating it. But in the last week, I’ve tried out two places with chow so enticing, and prices so reasonable, that I didn’t bother to care about much else: Silver Rice ($$), in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, and Brooklyn Taco ($$), on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

At Silver Rice, Kombu Kelp and Beet Pate are wrapped up into innovative sushi bites that are scarcely more expensive than a California roll in Manhattan, but the real draw are the eponymously named “Silver Rice Cups.” I had the spicy tuna one–a mouth-watering stack of flaxseed-threaded white rice, diced raw tuna, fresh scallion, and punchy mayo served inside a plain white paper cup for $6.50. Alternate with sips of the $1.95 organic miso soup, and you won’t give a damn that the only place to sit is at a slip of light-wood high-top next to the door.

Silver Rice Cup from Silver Rice Cup in Brooklyn

Founded by a Brooklyn native with South American roots and a Danny Meyer alum, Brooklyn Taco can take a while just to locate within the maze-like Essex Street Market. Last Saturday, I sat perched on another tiny bar stool in full view of a fish stand with a coconut shrimp taco that took two hands to hold and about two seconds to eat. The friend I was with told me her chipotle chicken one was the best tacos she’d ever eaten–she didn’t spare a bite to see if I agreed. And while their regular prices aren’t a total steal, the lunch deal is: $10 for two tacos and an agua fresca to wash them down.

Fish Taco at Brooklyn Taco, Lower Manhattan

More NYC… by Lisa Malecha

One of our favorite mother-daughter outings is to check one of the many boutique NYC neighborhood hot spots, and Jeffrey’s Grocery ($$$) fits the bill. Set in the West Village, the seating might be tight, but their seafood is big on flavor. Like the Blackened Flounder served on a Jalapeño-Cheddar Polenta Cake and smothered in an Andouille Gravy.

Blackened Flounder served up at Jeffrey's Grocery in the West Village of NYC

Blackened Flounder served up at Jeffrey’s Grocery in the West Village of NYC

Jump on the subway and head to 78th St. and Woodside Avenue and head to Ayada Thai ($$) restaurant in Queens for some really tasty food. The ambiance is pretty plain Jane, but the food infuses so many great flavors together it’s hard to stop eating when you know you don’t have any more room for another bite. A great starter is the Papaya Salad served with Salty Crab. Follow that with a Crispy Duck in a Red Curry Coconut Sauce and a wide noodle Pad Thai – all washed down with a Lychee Sangria.

Papaya Salad with crispy Salted Crab – yes you eat the whole crab, shells and all – at Ayada Thai Restaurant, Queens

If you’re in upper Manhattan, in the Upper East Side, taking in all the amazing museums and galleries, stop in at Cafe’ Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie and enjoy some authentic Austrian cuisine like the very flavorful Pikantes Ei mit Gurkerl und Paprika – a/k/a Spicy Eggs with Cornichons and Paprika. After a filling lunch be sure to take in the two levels of German and Austrian exhibits in this architecturally classically ornate museum.

Spicy Eggs on Cornichons with Paprika served at Cafe' Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie in the Upper East Side of NYC

Spicy Eggs on Cornichons with Paprika served at Cafe’ Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie in the Upper East Side of NYC

CHARLESTON:

Early September found my daughter and I sweating our way through Charleston. Thank goodness Charlestonians like to eat and drink as much as we do. We had no problem staying properly nourished to have the energy to walk the historic streets of this beautiful town, meander through their immense plantations and stroll along the water fronts.

We stayed at the Wentworth Mansion, an old estate home turned hotel, and also home to Circa 1886 restaurant, housed in the old carriage house. Our room included a complimentary breakfast – and “…honey this weren’t no slim pickings,..”-  a plate of fruit and a basket of pastries for starters, and then a menu to compete with any restaurant in the area. I chose a heaping helping of Shrimp n’ Grits so flavorful I could have had that for every meal and been content. My daughter chose Crab Cake Eggs Hollandaise. We also enjoyed a fine dining experience with dishes of Beef Tenderloin with a Chantilly Mustard Demi-Glace or Atlantic Lobster Tail with Vanilla Mascarpone Grits.

Wentworth Mansion in Charleston has a complimentary breakfast serving local favorites such as Shrimp & Grits

Wentworth Mansion in Charleston has a complimentary breakfast serving local favorites such as Shrimp & Grits

For lunch we checked out two local favorites. Charleston native, Stephen Colbert, recommends Hominy Grill. The line was long when we arrived, but an exterior bar window was serving chilled spiked beverages to keep us cool while we waited in the sweltering heat. Inside this old Colonial style home, we were given a starter of boiled peanuts in the shell and then ordered Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam. Husk, another local favorite restaurant, also housed in a renovated old mansion, had a line-up of hungry patrons. The menu here was a little more avant garde’ when it comes to southern cooking. We had starters of Shishito Peppers and Crispy Pigs Ear Lettuce Wraps. For lunch we split a Fried Chicken Po’boy sandwich and washed this all down with a couple of southern sweet teas.

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam, at Hominy Grits in Charleston

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam, at Hominy Grits in Charleston

At Husk we enjoyed a Fried Chicken Po'Boy sandwich topped with peanuts, red peppers and slaw.

At Husk we enjoyed a Fried Chicken Po’Boy sandwich topped with peanuts, red peppers and slaw.

Our favorite dining experience in Charleston was a placed called Edmund’s Oast. An upper end Brew Pub, we were seated at a bar that fronted the open kitchen where we watched mouth-watering after mouth-watering dish by us. Good thing we had 49 cold brews to choose from to calm our taste buds. We selected a tender Grilled New York Strip that was teamed with Smoked Potatoes and Okra, with a side of Collard Greens.

Some of the delectable dishes being served up at Edmund's Oast in Charleston

Some of the delectable dishes being served up at Edmund’s Oast in Charleston

Enjoying a fun dining experience at Edmund's Oast - brew pub with a front seat to the kitchen.

Enjoying a fun dining experience at Edmund’s Oast – brew pub with a front seat to the kitchen.

The next weekend found my husband and I spending time on the west coast in both Napa and San Francisco. In Napa, we had some great meals at the Lakehouse Restaurant, at Calistoga Ranch where we were staying. But one night we took a ride down the road to its big sister Auberge resort, Auberge du Soleil which showcases a Michelin Star restaurant, appropriately called, “The Restaurant“. When you eat at a place like this, you should make great effort to try something you wouldn’t find on many other menus – like Squab (a young pigeon) served with Figs, Foie Gras, Caramalized Onions in a Port Wine sauce. For lunch in Napa check out Solbar Restaurant at Solage Resort for a menu full of unique delectable dishes like Sweet Scarlet Peaches with Prosciutto or Lucky Pig Roasted Pork.

Squab served up Michelin style with Figs, Foie Gras, Carmelized Onions and Port.

Squab served up Michelin style with Figs, Foie Gras, Carmelized Onions and Port.

Lucky Pig, roasted pork, served with lettuce or black sesame seed crepes, at Solbar at Solage Resort

Lucky Pig, roasted pork, served with lettuce or black sesame seed crepes, at Solbar at Solage Resort

In San Francisco we took checked out Eno Wine Bar right around the corner from the The Westin St. Francis Union Square where were staying. A flight of wine is their specialty teamed with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates. Need I say more!

Check out the numerous wine flights to pick from and pair with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates at Eno Wine Bar in Union Square, San Francisco

Check out the numerous wine flights to pick from and pair with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates at Eno Wine Bar in Union Square, San Francisco

Check out more food pics in the Food Gallery under the Global Gallery!

Cha-cha-cha Charleston!

“Why Charleston?”

When my daughter and I were preparing to head out on our second annual mother-daughter travel trip, Charleston came to mind. Neither one of us had spent any time in the deep south, where local tradition speaks loudly through their attitude, their architecture and most importantly to these two foodies – their food. She Crab soup, hominy, shrimp and grits, crab cakes, collard greens, southern fried chicken, mac and cheese, corn bread, crispy pig ears…. This hidden gem, is a must see, and now for us – a must return.

Two gals (my daughter and I) enjoying a girls night out on the town in Charleston!

Two gals (my daughter and I) enjoying a girls night out on the town in Charleston!

We had searched travel magazines, travel blogs and talked with others who have traveled to the south and the city that kept coming up to fit all our criteria – was Charleston. And that would be Charleston, South Carolina. There is a Charleston in West Virginia, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. Every time I went to book something – our hotel, restaurants, flights – I had to make sure I was booking for the correct Charleston. Not to mention the confusion added when dealing with other similarly named cities in the area – Charlottesville, Charlottetown, Charlotte.

Thick lush green landscape surrounding Charleston.

Thick lush green landscape surrounding Charleston.

Multiple waterways and harbors along the South Carolina seaboard as we make our way towards Charleston.

Multiple waterways and harbors along the South Carolina seaboard as we make our way towards Charleston.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our introduction to southern hospitality started with our chatty, sweet, informative taxi driver in our ride to our Inn and didn’t subside one iota until we left this great city of 125,000. Greeted with smiling dispositions everywhere we went, we heard more ‘yes mam‘ and ‘y’all‘ from a city filled with locals. Every person we met in the service industry was from Charleston or the surrounding area. They all truly love the area so much they can’t think of why they’d ever leave. And those we met who weren’t from the area, said they came to visit and just never left. We have to say the thought crossed our minds.

Located on the tip of a peninsula that juts out into the Charleston Harbor, Charleston is a city deluged in history. Magnolia Plantation, about 12 miles outside of the city, was built in 1676 by the Drayton family and is still owned and run by 12th generation Draytons. A battery park lines the western and southern edge of the city along the waterfront – showcasing Civil War era cannons. Original cobblestone streets, housing, stores and churches that date back to the 17th century line the streets of inland Charleston. For blocks in every direction are beautiful character homes, colorful row houses on Rainbow Row, and private gardens to rival any I’ve seen anywhere in the world. This time of year things are lush and green, but I would imagine the spring would have your nose in the air, breathing in the scents of multiple blossoms. And your eyes would be treated to a palette of hues only mother nature could create.

Fort Sumter sits off in the distance of Charleston Harbor.

Fort Sumter sits off in the distance of Charleston Harbor.

The expansive veranda on the backside of the main house at Magnolia Plantation was build as one of the most modern homes of its time back in the late 1800's.

The backside of this wrap-around veranda is part of the main house at Magnolia Plantation, which was built as one of the most modern homes of its time back in the late 1800’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a regular day I walk about 10,000 steps (Jawbone), but in Charleston my daughter and I averaged nearly 20,000 steps a day. We hit the summer time heat and HUMIDITY on this last weekend of summer, with temps hovering around 85-90 and the humidity in equal percentages. We showered and changed 2-3 times a day just to get refreshed and drank lots of that wonderful southern iced tea. And we slept very well. But no amount of heat and humidity could wipe the perennial smile off our faces as we fell in love with this magical city, hour by hour, day by day.

It started with our stay at the Wentworth Mansion. This grand old mansion was built in 1865 by Francis Silas Rodgers, a cotton and phosphate baron, where he and his wife, Marie Elizabeth Evans Cochran raised their thirteen children. Our suite was once the billiards room where you can still see the ceiling detail that mirrored the table below. (See the Global Gallery for more Wentworth Mansion pics.) The house is bathed in carved wood detailing throughout with a grande four-story staircase. The old carriage house has been converted into one of the cities fine dining establishments, Circa 1886, which is a must visit whether you are staying at the hotel or not. And the stables have been converted to a beautiful spa replete with the original brick walls and wrought iron accents on windows and doors.

The back, but main entrance to Wentworth Mansion.

The back, but main entrance to Wentworth Mansion.

The four-story hand-carved ornate stairway leads out of the reception area of the Wentworth Mansion.

The four-story hand-carved ornate stairway leads out of the reception area of the Wentworth Mansion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King Street is the main street shopping street – and works from the tip of the peninsula northwards. High end stores are mingled with local and regional favorites. As you walk further inland on King Street you come across more restaurants and hotels, and bars that have line-ups on weekends for the throngs of university students and Citadel cadets looking to let loose after a week of hitting the books and regimented protocol.

King Street in Charleston - great shopping, eating and drinks.

King Street in Charleston – great shopping, eating and drinks.

Charleston we applaud you for staying true to your history and culture and not falling prey to the pressures of becoming a commercialized tourist destination. You are a hidden gem we hope stays somewhat hidden. We will return to peruse the many galleries, visit historical spots like Fort Sumter, walk the grounds of another grand plantation, golf at the world-renowned Kiawah Island, and indulge in more of your southern cooking and hospitality – which one can never enjoy too much of either.

Heavily treed and well-manicured streets line the multi-colored row houses on Rainbow Row.

Heavily treed and well-manicured streets line the multi-colored row houses on Rainbow Row.

Check out more pictures of Charleston and Magnolia Plantation in the Global Gallery. Be sure to click on a photo to get an enlarged picture.

ALSO: Stay tuned for the new “end-of-the-month post for foodies” (beginning at the end of this month) – where I will be collaborating with my daughter to showcase all of the food we have enjoyed during that given month, whether locally or on our travels, together or separately. Charleston’s restaurants will be some of our first highlighted foodie destinations.