Charleston Culinary Tour – Upper King Street

I was recently contacted by Charleston Culinary Tours and invited to participate in one of their many tour options. Despite feeling like I’m relatively in-the-know when it comes to Charleston food and restaurants, I had never heard of these tours. I jumped at the opportunity and signed Greg and I up for the Upper King Street tour.

“The Upper King Street Culinary Tour visits 3-4 different restaurants and combines elements of a historical tour with a culinary adventure! The food on your tour will provide a broad range of samples which will provide insight into Lowcountry cuisine.”

Our tour visited HoM, Sugar Bakeshop, 39 Rue de Jean and Prohibition.

All of the spots were pretty new to me. I’d been to HoM once a year or two ago while bar hopping late at night and only spent time in the back with the ping pong tables. I’d had a cupcake from Sugar one day at work as an intern for a PR agency during college. I’ve eaten lunch at Rue de Jean once. And I had no prior experience with Prohibition.

We met our group at HoM. There were nine of us total, plus the tour guide Guilds. We were the only locals, which was to be expected since most tours are for…tourists. However I think any local wanting to test a few restaurants at once, like we were, would be happy.

At HoM we were given samples of the Calamari, the Dixie Flatbread, and the Green Gobble’n Burger.

Dixie Flatbread – pimento cheese, pork confit, caramelized onions, maple bacon greens
Green Gobble’n Burger – turkey, melted leeks & spinach, brie, green goddess aioli, green apple

Next, we walked a few blocks to Sugar Bake Shop, where we were each given a mini Lemon Curd Cupcake with sugared blueberries. The lemon was super refreshing on the hot Charleston summer day. Simply delicious. I will definitely be back to Sugar.

We had a bit of a longer walk back to King Street. We followed Guilds at a slow pace as he talked about some of the history of Charleston and the surrounding buildings. We even stopped to visit a Jewish cemetery. We probably strolled for at least 30 minutes and by this point I was losing interest. I’m not sure if the tourists appreciated it any more than I did, but I was more than ready to get back to the FOOD. I realize my prior knowledge and experiences living in the city gave me a different perspective than most in the group though.

We made it to Rue de Jean and were relieved to be back in the air conditioning with a glass of ice water. On the menu for us: Mussels and Pommes Frites. Only since this past spring have I grown to like oysters – oyster roasts being a very popular Charleston tradition. However I had still never tried mussels, which are very similar (at least to my untrained palate). Guilds told us Rue de Jean’s mussels are the best in the city, so I knew this would be the right place to try them first. Sure enough, they hit the spot.

Mussels in a white wine broth (although I can’t remember exactly which of their various broth options we were given)

I ate half of the pommes frites without one regret. It’s hard to go wrong with fries, and these were no exception.

Pomme Frites – if you’re not feeling fancy, just call them french fries, I won’t mind. Although the chef might. 

Next brings us to the last stop of the day. Prohibition is primarily a bar, so I wasn’t expecting to be overly impressed by the food. Boy was I wrong.

Moscow Mule

Chef Stephen Thompson came out from behind the kitchen to talk to us about the dishes – a cheese plate, but not just any old cheese plate, and a mini cast iron skillet of shrimp and grits, again, not just any old shrimp and grits.

Cheese and veggie plate (not on the menu) – assorted cheeses, candied onion, candied pecans, roasted cherry tomatoes, pickled cauliflower, berries and toast

Smokey Shrimp and Grits – smoked shrimp over local ‘adluh’ smoked gouda grits finished with a 
duck creole sauce, served with a sweet roll + crispy golden egg

That EGG!!! This was the most unique spin on traditional shrimp and grits I’ve ever had. I loved it so, so much.

Now that it’s all said and done, and I can honestly say I would go back to every one of those restaurants again for the full dining experience. Thanks so much to Charleston Culinary Tours and all of the restaurants for having us!

The tours aren’t cheap, ranging from about $40-75 per person, however you can expect to walk away full (depending on which tour you choose since some are more focused on meeting the chefs, learning about how the kitchen operates, etc.). There also isn’t another way I know of to be able to try so many different restaurants and foods in one day for a price like that. If you’re interested in the history of Charleston, this tour also gives you a good bit of that as well.

Locals – have you been to any of these restaurants? Which would you try first?
Everyone else – do they have culinary tours in your city? 

I love the concept and would be interested to try something similar in other places.

Check out Charleston Culinary Tours’ website here.
Like them on Facebook here.
Follow them on Twitter here.

*Disclaimer: While I received admission to the tour for free, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*

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A Restaurant Review – Fired Urth

Okay, so Fired Urth isn’t actually a restaurant, but rather a self-described Espresso Bar and Artisan Bakery. I’m not going to beat around the bush here. This place is good! As a matter of fact, it’s my new favorite place.

Chris and Missy, the husband and wife owners, recently moved to Daniel Island from North Carolina where they had a cupcake and coffee shop as well. You can read their full story here. They opened Fired Urth just this past week and I happened to notice it while on a run over the weekend. I immediately looked it up when I got home and was more than intrigued. After being ready for work a little earlier than normal yesterday, I knew exactly how to make use of my extra time.

I walked into the cafe and noticed the local Christian radio station was playing over the speakers. Bonus points! 
First and foremost I needed coffee in my system. But I couldn’t help but stare into the bakery case. 

I quickly skimmed the drink menu and decided I had to go with their signature drink: The Cinn-A-Bee Latte, made with two shots of espresso, steamed milk, cinnamon and honey ($4). 
I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get out of there without the ghost of one of these pastries haunting my day! (These are the things I tell myself…) There were a variety of scones, coffee cake, and biscotti, just to name a few. I picked a pumpkin scone ($2), and Missy was so kind to throw in a Donut Muffin too! She said this is one of their most popular items – a muffin that tastes like a donut and coated in sugar. Sounds right up my ally, huh? 

My hot latte and freshly baked goods smiled pretty for a quick photo shoot in my car. As tempting as it was to eat it right then and there, I really wanted to be able to take my time and enjoy my treats, not distracted by driving. So I drove quickly to work, settled in at my desk, and savored each sip and bite. 

The scone was soft, dense and chewy with the perfect pumpkin spice flavor. Traditional scones are much more dry and crumbly. There is a time and place for that, but not with this scone. Since I had the donut muffin too, I ended up saving half of each pastry for my afternoon later. After all, I didn’t want to put myself in complete sugar overload. 
The muffin truly did capture the essence of a donut. It is a genius creation and I could have eaten five. Self control, my friends. It doesn’t always come easily!

Fellow Charlestonians need to make a visit to my next of the woods on Daniel Island and try this place as soon as you can. I am already dreaming of my next trip. It’s not often I spend money on morning coffee, since I get it for free at work or just make it at home. But with such a great place so close to home now, that could change. 
Like Fired Urth on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.

Fired Urth on Urbanspoon

Wedding Cake Decisions

Hi!!! Oh my goodness, I feel like it has been so long since I’ve posted. I have missed reflecting on all of the delicious food in my life. Trust me, it’s been extra delicious. You can also trust me when I say my long weekend to Columbus involved about three times as much food as I should have been eating. I guess that’s why I keep working out and eating well when I can, because the occasional weekend like that is all too fun.

The theme of the weekend was wedding planning. And the highlight of the planning comes in the form of cake! We met with a total of three different bakers in less than 24 hours. Greg stuck with me for the first two, but left my mom, sister and me to handle the last one on our own. He caked himself out.

Our first stop was with a familiar baker, a family friend whose cakes we have had several times before. We tasted the cookies and cream and also a vanilla filled with strawberries. Both were relatively light and not overly sweet. The portfolio of wedding cake pictures was amazing. Every single one looked absolutely perfect.

The second stop was with a baker whom was recommended to me from a friend. We went to the bakery in downtown Columbus and were given three different cupcakes to try: Chocolate, vanilla and red velvet. These were sweeter than the first, but I was not blown away. I felt like they were something I could make on my own at home from a box. The cakes were beautiful as well, but I still had some underlying reservations. 

The last baker we met gave us samples of vanilla, chocolate and raspberry cakes. The vanilla and raspberry were frosted with an almond buttercream and the chocolate was frosted with regular vanilla buttercream. I like the almond buttercream for the first bite or two, but ultimately decided I’m a regular old vanilla girl. Combined with that chocolate cake…..gahhhhhhhh. I love that one so much.
It was a tough decision, but we think we found our winner 🙂 We still have some thinking to do in terms of finalizing flavors and the design (thankfully we still have several months!). I know time is going to fly, but I just can’t wait to have the final product on display at the reception and cut into it with Greg on our wedding day!
I still have more food from the trip to share with you tomorrow so be sure to come back to see the rest. 
Have a great day!

A Restaurant Review – Great Harvest Bread Co.

I didn’t do any grocery shopping this week because A) we were out of town all last weekend when I would normally do most of my shopping for the week, and B) we leave for vacation TOMORROW (!!!!!) and I didn’t want to be left with food that would go bad while we were away.

This resulted in a lot of eating out this week. Even though I saved grocery shopping money, we all know eating out can get expensive. I scrapped together what I already had at home as much as I could, but was still left needing some fresh produce in my life. Seriously, all I have left in my cabinets are boxed mac and cheese, peanut butter, and cake mix. Oh yeah, and sprinkles. 

I normally pack my lunch on work days, so I didn’t feel too guilty having to eat out a few days this week since it was such a rare occasion. I stuck to a few trusted places like Moe’s, Subway and Whole Foods, but I managed to try something different too.

After all of that bread talk last week, I was easily convinced to get myself back to Great Harvest Bread just like the good ole days.

I was in the mood for a big salad and remembered seeing a few on their menu when I last checked, although I had never looked too closely. There were only three options, but the Harvest Medley Salad sounded perfect. 
It was made up of candied pecans, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries and parmesan cheese over a bed of chopped romaine. Right up my ally! The dressing options were fairly limited, so balsamic vinaigrette would have to do. 
This salad was SO good. See that? “So” in all caps? Yes. I’m emphasizing that word. And do you see how big it was? Maybe you can’t tell from the picture, but it was ginormous. I ate about half for lunch and proceeded to have the second half for dinner. Which really couldn’t have been more perfect, because I was able to eat a healthy dinner without having to spend more money on eating out! 

My “dessert” was this thick slice of cinnamon chip bread spread with a little cinnamon butter. It was so soft and delicious. I loved every last bite. 
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to try lunch from Great Harvest. I already knew how great the bread was, but the salad won my heart for good. 
I need to get back on track with packing lunches when I get back from vacation, but maybe I can afford to splurge a little more often for a lunch like this. 
Great Harvest Bread Company on Urbanspoon