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29 June 2013

Tonight's Episode: Take a Walk on the Imbibed Side

Sometimes in life it is best to slow down, mix up a perfect cocktail, and enjoy the city you live in.
Charleston Culinary & History Walking Tours offers just such a chance with their Mixology tour. A lazy afternoon strolling from one bar to the next, meeting the minds behind Charleston's signature cocktails, and hearing from them about the nuts and bolts of their drinks. 

The Girl and I began our evening at Stars Rooftop, the only bar with a 360° view of the city of Charleston. The $40 a person ticket allowed us to join a small group of drink aficionados, led by our affable guide Guilds Hollowell.
Zack, Star's Master Mixologist whips us up a play on the Mint Julep featuring a heavy dose of peach. The light, bright peach flavors meld with the mint in a delightful summer drink perfect for the deck in low 90s Charleston.

Stop number two would take us to The Cocktail Club, a wonderfully dark and hip bar above sister restaurant The MacIntosh.
At The Cocktail Club, master liquor wrangler and beard enthusiast Jackson Holland treated us to the Cloak & Dagger, a much darker, slightly sweeter, and very complex drink that The Girl had to slide my way due to her rum allergy. A blend of Oronoco rum and Bulleit Rye whiskey with beet and pineapple juices, ginger simple syrup, and lemon topped with a port float. The flavors are bright and pair well with the cayenne and pork fat spiced popcorn. 

Our third and final stop was the bar many of us thought would never ACTUALLY open, Republic Reign . Iron Mixologist Evan Powell took us out to the patio for what has to be the greatest summer cocktail I have ever had. The Girl and I will be making this for our next dinner party without a doubt. The Dutch 75 is a play on the classic spritz cocktail that combines muddled cucumber, Damrak Gin, Elderflower Nectar, champagne and lemon in a bright, clean and pleasing drink that (along with the cucumber garnish) can turn even the muggiest summer day into a pleasant drinking day. The other highlight of Republic Reign was meeting an Emmy Award winner and holding an Emmy!

The tour itself covered the cost of the beverages and a healthy helping of local history and color. The Culinary tours are $55 a person or $100 a couple and include food and non alcoholic beverages. The Girl and I suggest getting a group of friends together (an exclusive tour for 14 is $515) and hit the city in style. Any way you mix it, Charleston Culinary Tours is a welcome addition to the city. 

06 June 2013

First Bite: Kitchen 208

Say you are an acclaimed Executive Chef at one of Charleston's most prestigious fine-dining institutions. What do you do with your spare time? Well, if you are Chef Marc Collins of Circa 1886 you help your parent company Charming Inns open a new breakfast and lunch joint, Kitchen 208.

If you are a Charlestonian of a certain age, you will remember Lower King St as having an abundance of breakfast and lunch counters (Woolworth's being my, I mean older people's favorite). Sadly they have largely disappeared with the skyrocketing rents and Charleston's desperate need for just one more high-end national clothing "boutique" with hundreds of locations. Kitchen 208 reaches back to the historic counters, such as Kress, and applies Chef Marc's distinctive modern whimsy.

For now, at least until the kinks are worked out, breakfast will not be served all day, but fear not - SOON. What the limited menu lacks in items, it more than makes up for in creative interpretations of classic dishes. The two items that really call my name are the Plantation waffle ( $7- Honeysuckle butter, berry compote, and applewood smoked bacon) and the Cobblestone ($8 egg, Brown's Court Bakery benne seed bun, tomato, arugula, gruyere cheese, candied bacon, lemon mayo fruit). I recommend grabbing a cinnamon roll as a side.

The lunch side has a few more exciting items. The Bat Outta Hell ($10) is a meatloaf sandwich with tomato marmalade, gruyere, and collards. There is a Triple Decker ($6) with house ground peanut butter and jam, and The Pickleback ($9) gives you a pork loin with pickled green tomatoes and a bourbon fig jam.

I had the Belle-gem ($9). This sandwich is a buttermilk fried chicken breast on a bacon waffle (bacon in the waffle) with lettuce, tomato, Swiss, and a whole grain mustard aioli. The waffle is delightfully light yet firm, with just a touch of pleasant saltiness from the bacon. The chicken is perfectly cooked, though for my personal tastes I would have preferred a sweeter condiment. The house pickled okra was a nice touch, and overall a very nice plate of food.

I'll be interested to return with The Girl after they have been open a little longer, found their stride, and see what tasty treats Chef Marc has in store. As for now, I have to say it is worth a drop in, if only to people watch the movers-and-shakers of Charleston roll up their sleeves and dig in.

Kitchen 208 on Urbanspoon

04 June 2013

Recipe: Ground Turkey Lettuce Wrap Mock Taco

Ground Turkey. Just saying those words bore me to death. What an awful product. Little fat, little flavor, dries out fast. So when I found myself with a pound of it in my fridge because I'm a man and I don't need to read labels, I had to scramble around and figure a way to make it tasty. Result, this lettuce wrap Mock Taco:


For the Taco Seasoning-
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in order listed, stir to combine, set aside

For the Mango Salsa
1 ripe mango, peeled pitted and diced
1/2 medium red onion, chopped fine
1 jalapeño minced (include seeds and ribs for hotter flavor)
1 small cucumber peeled and diced
3 tablespoons diced fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a non-ractive bowl, cover, place in fridge till chilled

For the Tacos
1 Head Boston Bibb lettuce
1 pound ground turkey
2 tablespoons Bragg's Liquid Amino Soy Replacement (Or low sodium soy sauce)
2/3 cup water

Mix turkey and liquid amino, cover and chill over night

Remove turkey from fridge 30 minutes before cooking to allow meat to reach room temperature. Brown in a large non-stick skillet. Drain. Add taco seasoning and water, stir, and cook till all water is absorbed. Serve with lettuce shells and mango salsa.


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