Ask a southerner what they think is one of the most charming cities to visit while touring the south and they will probably mention Charleston, South Carolina. As the second stop on a drive down Interstate 95 to Florida, Charleston is a detour well worth taking. The city is considered a top destination in our country by Condé Nast Traveler.
Although my husband and I were only in Charleston for one evening, we had a wonderful time. If you get a chance to visit, you will certainly enjoy the city. I think two to three days in the spring would be wonderful. Walking down streets lined with live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and dogwoods in bloom could only make the historic three story homes with covered balconies all the more beautiful.
There are so many options for staying in Charleston, from charming inns to luxury hotels. We stayed at the French Quarter Inn which is next to the restored City Market in the historic district. The hotel is highly rated by travelers and I can see why. Upon checking in, we were offered Champagne and lady fingers. The hotel offers its’ guests complimentary wine and cheese in the early evening, cookies and milk before retiring to bed, and a continental breakfast with beautiful pastries in the morning.
As the sun was setting, we took a stroll over to Waterfront Park two blocks from our hotel. The eight acre park that runs along the Charleston harbor is very pleasant. There is a pier jutting out into the harbor where you get a good view of Ft. Sumter which is the site of the start of the Civil War.
You can stroll along brick paved walking paths, past small “garden rooms” and wonderful fountains.
Charleston is famous for their low country cooking and seafood. My husband and I decided that if we were only going to be in town for one night we were going to start with the raw bar scene and end with fine dining. I don’t think you can go wrong wherever you eat but after many recommendations from locals we decided on Pearlz for raw oysters and the Charleston Grill for the chef’s tasting menu.
Pearlz was exactly what we were looking for. We sat at the bar, ordered off a large blackboard listing different varieties of oysters, and watched as hundreds of oysters were shucked right in front of us for fellow customers. Plump, fresh and delicious.
We took a quick walk back to the hotel to change for dinner at the Charleston Grill. Located in the Charleston Place Hotel, the restaurant is considered one of the best in town. We walked past the bar where a jazz ensemble were playing contemporary music softly in the background. We were seated at a table with a view of the courtyard, our drink orders were taken and an amuse bouche was presented while we decided on our meal.
The menu was divided into four categories…simple, lush, cosmopolitan and southern. To solve the dilemma of what to order, we were offered a tasting menu which offered a way to sample each category. The seven small courses were each accompanied by a small pour of wine that was chosen to pair perfectly with each dish.
The first dish was tuna sashimi, garnished with a micro Greek salad… totally fresh and simple.
Next, butter poached Maine lobster with wild mushrooms, lima beans, parsnips and preserved lemons served on a sweet corn purée. What a wonderful combination of flavors.
Next, foie gras with a bourbon-cider sauce and apples. This dish was served with a cider doughnut and mascarpone cream.
Next, a grilled Colorado double lamb chop with roasted Brussels spouts, purée of potatoes and a Dijon tarragon demi-glace.
Are you still with me? I guess you could call the next course pre dessert.
And then the finale. A graham cracker molten cake with chocolate ganache, brown butter marshmallow and smoked almond ice cream.
The quality of the food and the level of service was exceptional. The meal will probably be the best one we have on our entire trip. We left the restaurant totally stuffed and happily walked back to our hotel for a good nights sleep. I guess you know that we skipped the milk and cookies being offered in our hotel lobby.