Last weekend my husband and I drove to Charleston to make use of our eight combined years of higher education in theatre by seeing a show in The Spoleto Festival, Don John, by Kneehigh Theatre out of Cornwall, UK. The show, an adaptation of the Don Juan story, was most successful in that it produced two simultaneous feelings: 1) Wow, that guy John is like, some sort of Super Villain. He’s, like, pure evil! and 2) I think I dated that guy.
But, of course, as is more and more the case in my life, the theatre was really just an excuse to eat after the show. Or, rather, before and after the show. We made sure to get on the road early and get tickets for the matinee so that we would be practically forced to eat out twice in delicious Charleston.
We parked at the Visitors Center on Meeting Street as we always do since it’s only $10 for the whole day, you don’t have to worry about getting a ticket, and because it’s slightly distant location means we will always have a chance to walk off dinner before driving back to Cola. The parking garage has the added advantage of being just a couple of blocks away from Charleston’s Saturday Farmer’s Market. Did Freud ever write anything about Farmer’s Market envy? Our Columbia market is small and only twice a month and although the accompanying State Plate breakfast is wonderful, the Caw Caw Creek pork devine, the bread from Heather’s Artisan Bakery a dream, I couldn’t help but be a little envious of the sheer scale of the Charleston market.
Then it was onto lunch at The Cru Cafe. The restaurant is in an unassuming row house, down a quiet street and we were lucky to get a table on the back porch. (You should be warned that the place is really close to the barns for the ubiquitous horse-drawn carriage tours that you see all over Charleston. The upside of this is an atmospheric clip clopping of hooves. The downside is the occasional waft of a certain…shall we say, farmy aroma.) We debated whether or not to get a glass of crisp white wine, but in the heat we decided that we’d be better off with iced tea. (If we’d been seated inside in the airconditioning we may have ordered a whole bottle and the play would have been a lot more enjoyable!)
I was feeling dainty (i.e. I had already planned a dinner involving duck fat by reading online menus.) so I had the Local Field Greens Salad with some grilled shrimp. It was perfectly dressed and sprinkled with blue cheese and bacon, but the real shout out is to those shrimp. I always forget how good grilled shrimp are, how we really shouldn’t eat them any other way, and these grilled shrimp were even better than your average grilled shrimp. I was really happy to be living in shrimp country (always looking for the silver lining to life in SC) until we walked past Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. on our way to the theatre. I find their logo of a realistic shrimp cannibalistically selling its brethren disturbing – and so would Captain Dan!
My husband almost ordered a Portabello Mushroom wrap. Then I assumed the position of resident devil on his shoulder and convinced him to order Cocunut Fried Oyster Wrap with Chipolte Mayo. I found that repeated bites of this decadent sandwich were the perfect compliment to my light salad.
After the play, we had made reservations at La Fourchette at The Shop Tart’s suggestion. (If you live in Cola and don’t check Anne Wolfe Postic’s blogs every single day, consider yourself flogged.) The restaurant reminded us how easy it is to get restaurant ambiance right: candles on the tables, warm colors on the walls, simple art, good music. Although the candles at La Fourchette gave clutzy us pause – they were tiny Grand Marnier bottles converted into gas candles with a completely open flame and a bit of charred wall next to our table to match – the rest of the place was spot on. With Edith Piaf on the stereo, je ne regrette rien!
This place is seriously French and seems to have a great version of every iconic French dish you could crave. We ordered some bubbly and a homemade duck pate to start, served with crusty little bread rounds and of course, cornichons! I was so hungry and it was so tasty that I forgot to take a picture, so focused was a on the crumbly, chunky texture of the country style pate and the tart dijon.
For our entrees I ordered Moules Frites and the husband had a wonderful Shrimp and Scallop medley with asparagus and Tomatoes Provencal. We had both been craving Tomatoes Provencal since watching Jacques Pepin describe what they should be like after tasting a bad batch on Top Chef. His dinner was uncharacteristically light and summery. He generously shared one of his buttery scallops – the texture was so delectably smooth they were almost unrecognizable as seafood. I had a heaping mound of moules, also tender and in a rich wine sauce that made us glad we had waited to dive into the bread basket. We sopped up the briny puddles at the bottom of our bowls like maniacs, just barely holding onto any sense of decorum.
Now, a testament to how good the shrimp and scallops in their pistou-y sauce is that The Husband had to be reminded to dip into the Frites which were double fried in duck fat. Let me say that again. They were fried twice, at least once in duck fat. They were also served with a classic aioli.
After such a fun and food filled weekend and can be depressing to return home, so this weekend we are consoling ourselves with liquor. Cellar on Greene is having a huge 30+ wine tasting and sale this afternoon from 12-2pm and then tonight we are meeting friends at Goatfeathers where I will indulge in one of their perfect gin gimlets.