Friday, July 8, 2011

charleston [food] bucket list

The countdown is on. I'm moving to Nashville in just over a month, and every day the prospect of leaving Charleston is becoming less surreal and more...well, real.

When I moved here almost three years ago, I had just begun to develop a strong interest in food and cooking. I think it's safe to say that my interest (some might call it "obsession") has grown exponentially since then! I attribute much of this development to the vibrant and, more importantly, accessible food culture in Charleston.

One great example:  a few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I went to a cooking class at The Coastal Cupboard, a kitchen store in Mt. Pleasant. Jeremiah Bacon, the executive chef at Oak Steakhouse, who has worked at such Michelin-starred restaurants as Per Se and River Cafe, led the four-course class. Sounds expensive, right? 

The price was $60 a person...including wine!

There aren't many places where you can spend $60 to watch a world-class chef cook a four-course meal for you, not to mention answer all your questions and offer to chat after class. 

Yeah, I'm going to miss it here.

And this is only one example. The breadth and frequency of food-related opportunities and events in this city absolutely blows my mind. From the Charleston Wine + Food Festival to the weekly downtown farmers market to monthly beer dinners at Ted's Butcherblock (another super-affordable gourmet option), the hardest part about eating is Charleston is deciding where to go and when.

And the restaurants. Oh, the restaurants! I've had amazing meals at places as fancy and traditional as Peninsula Grill (their coconut cake = perfection) and as quirky and cheap as Party Kingdom (basically Chuck E. Cheese with pho).

But I'm not done. I intend to make the most of my last month here by checking off as many items from my "food bucket list" as I can. When I first moved here I started one list and have carried it in my wallet ever since. I'm a little embarrassed by a few of my choices, but I was new in town and basically picked all the places with positive reviews in Charleston City Paper (a great source for all things Charleston, including restaurants). Please be kind.

The check marks mean I've been, the lines mean the places have closed or I changed my mind. Three years later, I'm a little older and a little wiser (at least in regards to Charleston restaurants), so I've edited my list a bit. Here are the places I really want to go, with a few particular highlights:

181 Palmer:  arguably the best lunch deal in town, $15 for three courses prepared by students at the Culinary Institute of Charleston.
Avondale Wine & Cheese:  $5 tastings? Yes, please.
Bowens Island:  a Folly Beach legend.
Closed for Business:  two words:  pork slap.
Dave's Carryout:  preferably at 2am.
Husk:  I've actually been here twice (delicious), but their famed cornbread was not on the menu either time!
Kim's:  have also been here, but apparently the stone bowl is where it's at.
McCrady's:  whenever you're ready, Hailey. 
Mia Pomodori: ordered takeout before, but I need to have a Sicilian slice in-house.
Oak Steakhouse:  that cooking class left me wanting more!
Poe's Tavern: although I'm not a fan of the pictures of bugs on their menu (yeah, I know, "gold bug" and all that) I've heard the burgers and fish tacos are amazing.
Trattoria Lucca:  have to go for the Monday family supper...authentically Italian!
Wildflour Pastry:  from what I've heard, sticky bun Sunday makes it easy to get up at 8 on the weekend.

Okay, Charlestonians...what do you think? Anything you would add? Subtract? I have a limited amount of time but am willing to put in the effort!

Soon to come:  the places I'm saddest to leave behind...and there are a lot of them!

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