Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Summerville's Final Third Thursday Topped Off A Successful Year With One Farewell Party

Shopping crowds at Piazza
I had a busy day. The afternoon past by quickly. It was now the hour of five. The final Third Thursday of 2012 was beginning. I drove past Hutchinson Square with one more appointment to fulfill. From appearances, the evening started out with a decent size crowd milling around the streets of downtown Summerville, but rain was in the forecast and it didn't fail to materialize.

By the time I arrived back in Summerville, the raindrops were lightly descending at a steady rate. I would soon regrettably discover the 100% Moreno wool, argyle sweater I was wearing didn't take to rain very well, which became more apparent as the evening progressed. I made a quick stop at Downtown Crossing on Short Central. Sarah was serving up punch and snacks. "We had to abandon our table outside because of the rain," Jewel informed me. Many of the businesses had parties planned and were offering huge discounts.
Sarah serving a young customer

Jewel and a friend
Bill and friends

With the anticipated rain, the Summers were prepared for such an eventuality. Bill erected a canopy over a portion of the front courtyard outside of the shop's entrance to keep their patrons dry while sharing a draft beer supplied by Madra Rua. Providing refreshments for the shopping crowd had been a long time Third Thursday tradition for Aura Lee's, along with Chelsea providing the musical entertainment. This particular night would be bittersweet. It would sadly be the last Third Thursday for Aura Lee's Jewelry, Handbags and Accessories. The little shop with a huge following would be opening its doors for the last time. The ensuing rain cancelled the music but did very little in dampening the enthusiasm of friends stopping by to share in the celebration of a successful venture and others taking advantage of the 50% off sale. I drank a beer and shared a few laughs under the canopy. The festive, blue sign will be missed in the coming year.
Accent on Wine

By now, festivities were winding down and most of the remaining crowd had retreated to the indoors-O'lacy's Pub, Montreux, and Accent on Wine the benefactors. The Fezziwig Party was beginning at Art and Soul. I stopped in to get some quick pictures and catch some of the storytelling of Tim Lowry.

I ventured back out into the rain with one more stop to go. My cranberry, argyle sweater now smelled like a wet puppy. I headed over to Coastal Coffee Roasters in my truck to close out the evening. It was a good choice. Danny Trump, owner of Amazing Cheesecakes, treated me to a candy cane-mint cheesecake, which I took home and ate while watching the holiday reruns on AMC and FX.
Coastal Coffee Roasters open mic night
The final Third Thursday of 2012 was in the books. It was a satisfying conclusion to a successful year for the locally owned businesses of Summerville, and thanks to Summerville DREAM, the Third Thursday event had played an integral part. 2013 will welcome two new businesses to Summerville-Carolina Cottage Consignments opening in January and Homegrown Brew House in February. It has been a privilege meeting many of the local business owners through the course of the year and I look forward to our continued collaboration to make Summerville a great community to live in and to visit. Hope the end of 2012 leaves you and yours happy and prosperous while looking eagerly to next year and continued growth.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

There Is Plenty Going On At Coastal Coffee Roasters in Summerville-You Are Invited To Check It Out For Yourself

The red roaster
Coastal Coffee Roasters in Summerville is passionately dedicated to the idea of "transforming the best organically grown beans into the most amazing, freshly roasted coffee." To quote the owners, "We want our name to be synonymous with the best cup of coffee that you have ever tasted." But alas, I am not a coffee drinker. So, what is it that keeps bringing me back to the "red roaster" at 108 East 3rd North Street?
While offering the best when it comes to roasted coffee, there is much more brewing within the walls of this Summerville hot spot, but it is not something that can be put into a cup or a container and it permeates the atmosphere as distinctly as the freshly roasted beans that spill out from the oven chamber of its red Dietrich coffee roaster. You sense it when you first enter. You feel it as you mingle with the crowd. You see it while you sit at the hand-decorated tables. You hear it in the conversations of its most loyal patrons.

Coastal Coffee Roasters enthusiastically brews up a large batch of community, actively devoting time and efforts to fostering its well-being and its growth. It does this by graciously opening its doors to other aspiring local entrepreneurs, affording them the opportunity and the space to promote their own products and services to CCR's loyal and growing customer base. The meals, snacks, appetizers and desserts are all prepared fresh in its own kitchen by local cooks and pastry chefs. To take the edge off a busy day or simply to kick-back and relax, local craft beers, such as Holy City, are available on tap and a full rack of hand-picked wines await your pleasure.

Wine rack
Molly Durnin
But, like everything in life there is a need for being balanced-all work and no play is not good for business. CCR's love for coffee is only rivaled by its love for music and fostering talent in the community is one of its strategies. Its coffeehouse has become a gathering place for aspiring local musicians and songwriters. Its open mic night on Thursdays has become a popular collaborative jam session where anyone who has the will and desire can uncase their acoustic guitars and sing a few songs from their repertoire. In addition, Friday night is owned by the Summerville band Busker with Dave Keller on lead guitar accompanied by a collection of his talented friends, and Saturday night tops off the entertainment schedule for the week, often reserved for visiting musicians and locally popular singers.

Like its owners, Coastal Coffee Roasters from the start has never been a body at rest. It is constantly in motion, continually developing. It has always been a work in progress. I have been a keen observer of the many metamorphic changes the coffeehouse has undergone since its early days to where it is today. Recently, its interior block walls have even become the medium on which aspiring young artists have been given the opportunity to work their creative talents. Despite the progression, two things have remained constant and I consider them trademarks-the hammock above the kitchen and the basketball net on the wall. Many times I have wanted to pick up a basketball and play a friendly game of hoops. I have always said, "Hanging out at Coastal Coffee Roasters is like hanging out in a  dear friend's garage to share good times."
Wall mural in progress
Brad and Jackie
Finally, I could easily site all these things as the reasons that keep bringing me back to the home of the "red roaster", but that would not be entirely true. What keeps bringing me back time and time again is Brad and Jackie Mallett. They serve up as many hand shakes and hugs as they do cups of coffee. Coastal Coffee Roasters is a family, owned and run, and I am happy to be a part of the family.
Check out this weeks schedule and entertainment. Molly Durnin Friday, 7-10 pm.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Countries Top Mixologists Dazzle-The Methods To Their Madness

Today's top mixologists are masterful in the molecular methodologies they implement to expand their repertoires of delightful cocktails. The visually striking Nitrotini at Grill 225 is Charleston's only cocktail super-chilled to -320 degrees Fahrenheit with liquid nitrogen. Pucker your lips around the Nitro Mallow-a blend of vanilla vodka with equal parts hazelnut liqueur and butterscotch liqueur, topped off with a tall pour of Baily’s. The martini glass is rimmed with graham cracker crumbs, decorated with chocolate syrup and garnished with freeze-dried marshmallows. Lastly, 2 ounces of liquid nitrogen are carefully infused and, "Please do not stick your tongue to the glass."

Equally sophisticated are the mechanical methodologies the countries top mixologists are incorporating to infuse the ingredients of their growing repertoires. Hand shakers and muddlers are giving way to antique paint-can shakers, coffee siphon brewers, cold-drip coffee makers, red hot pokers, and centrifuges. Move over blender, make room for these crossovers from paint stores and coffee shops.

The first time I saw the siphon brewer in action, an apparatus that looks like a chemistry experiment, was at Coastal Coffee Roasters in Summerville, so I know how it works. The Aviary, a Chicago state-of-the-art cocktail lounge, uses the double-chamber siphon pot to create one of their famous cocktails right at the customer's table. Gin is poured into the bottom chamber and Rooibos tea, grapefruit, lemon zest, crushed almonds, herbs, and spices are put in the upper chamber. Heat is applied to the gin until a vacuum is created and it gets pulled into the upper chamber where it mixes with the drinks more delicate ingredients. The heat is removed and the mixture seeps back down into the bottom chamber. Voila, the Rooibos Cocktail is ready to sip and savor. Reminds me of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, famous here in Charleston, only because of the use of tea in the drink. Trivia: Rooibos tea is produced from a bush of the same name found in the mountains and valleys of the Cedarberg region of South Africa near Cape Town. It is also known as red tea.

Citizen R+D in Phoenix incorporates two of the aforementioned mechanical methodologies. Established in 2011, Citizen R+D has some engaging policies. Reservations will only be taken on one condition; you must order one of the group-size cold-drip margaritas, which must be pre-ordered because they take three hours to make. On arrival, you must first read the house rules and if you agree to adhere to them, you call the posted phone number and then wait to be escorted up the staircase to the bar. Once you are in, a loud, vigorous shaking noise from the bar inquisitively draws your attention to an old-fashioned paint-can shaker. It is used to create their ice-cold rum-based Paint Can Punch. The second oddity you will see is a tall, glass contraption that resembles a three tiered hour glass. It is a cold-drip coffee brewer doubling as the three hour margarita maker. Description not needed, just picture tequila dripping over kaffir limes and other flavorings. There are drinks made with cotton candy and drinks made with fire. They cost $12 to $18. The bar is a definite must-see.

Booker and Dax is located at Momofuku in New York City. Like Grill 225, this popular bar uses liquid nitrogen in its drinks, but the goal is not the show. It is used primarily to make drinks more delicious and serve them more efficiently. Its version of Gin and Juice is not your typical pour the necessary ingredients into a glass over ice and serve. The freshly squeezed grapefruit juice is combined with clarifying agents used in the wine industry and given a fast ride in a centrifuge to produce a pale liquid, which is then mixed with gin, sugar, and crushed ice. It is put in liter bottles and carbonated. When a customer orders the Gin and Juice, the bartender takes a champagne flute and swirls a splash of liquid nitrogen into it, the glass is cooled to subzero temperatures, and after the vapor boils off the bottled, carbonated cocktail is poured into the glass. The Fire-Breathing Dragon is another signature drink of the bar, a concoction of centrifuge-clarified orange juice, tea, and rum superheated by a high-temperature industrial heating rod called a red hot poker reminiscent of an old practice from the 1700's using a loggerhead that over time fell out of fashion, but now made new by today's technology. There is well-founded science behind the madness. If you would like to see a video demonstration click drink video.

I have not seen any of these methodologies being employed at lounges and bars in Charleston other than the liquid nitrogen. That been said, who knows what Charleston's top mixologists are conjuring up to mystify and satisfy Charleston's sophisticated nightlife patrons. None-the-less, the city has a versatile collection of lounges and bars to kick up one's heels and modestly get one's swerve on.

The Squeeze, to name one, is also nicknamed "Charleston’s Tightest Bar." If you stand directly across the street from the Squeeze, never in you wildest imaginations would you visualize an old Charleston home having stood on this block of East Bay Street, but in fact the lounge was originally a front porch. It has the longest bar top in town, boasts having the friendliest bartenders, and serves up Charleston's finest cocktails. Drink prices range from $6-$9 on average.

Stay for an extended weekend at the Pavilion Hotel and enjoy this package deal now through March 31, 2013. Or choose from one of these package deals offered at the Vendue Inn. The Squeeze is a short walk from both hotels.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Coastal Coffee Roasters Shared Samples of The Most Expensive Coffee In The World-The Place For Great Coffee And Entertainment

As you read this article, it is quite possible you may be sipping on a cup coffee, one of the most consumed beverages anywhere. Across the world, within the forests of Southeast Asia, lives a grayish, shaggy haired animal whose face reminds you of a raccoon but bears a nickname containing the word cat. Apparently this 19-inch long creature savors the sap of the palm flower, which when fermented becomes toddy, a sweet liquor. Similar to the way maple syrup is collected back in my home state of Ohio, buckets are attached to the palm trees to collect its sap. This opportunistic, masked bandit is often seen freely profiting from this harvesting practice. Therefore, because of this it is sometimes called a toddy cat.

This toddy cat is a member of the viverridae family of mammals and for most of the daytime hours stays hidden in the top of coconut trees. Thus, its fitting common name is the palm civet. Its chosen cuisine makes it invaluable to its ecosystem. It feeds on berries and pulpy fruits. Then disperses the digested seeds throughout the tropical forest in its droppings, assisting in the germination and regrowth of the forest trees.

Now, what is the connection between the fact you may be drinking coffee and the Asian palm civet. The palm civet also feeds on coffee berries for their fleshy pulp. The coffee berries pass through its digestive tract where it goes through a few chemical processes involving enzymes and amino acids. Then, the beans are defecated with their shape still intact and collected by humans for cleaning and roasting. It is highly unlikely you are drinking coffee made from these intestinally manipulated coffee beans. This highly naturalized coffee is called Kopi Luwak and costs about $100 dollars a cup. I first heard of this coffee while watching the movie "The Bucket List." Jack Nicholson's character, a wealthy entrepreneur, drank the coffee on a regular basis totally unaware it was made from cat scoop poop. Morgan Freeman, a knowledgeable stranger that became his friend, derived immense pleasure in telling him the truth about his cherished coffee.

Coastal Coffee Roasters in Summerville treated friends and patrons with the opportunity to taste this unusual coffee Saturday, December 1st. Unfortunately, I was unable to be there as a first hand observer and taster because I am still recovering from my car accident, but I was filled in by a friend on the details and judging by the humorous comments left on Coastal Coffee Roasters Facebook page, everyone enjoyed the experience. Dave Keller, otherwise known as Busker, was on hand for the fun. Dave is somewhat of a fixture at CCR.

Dave Keller and friends perform their musical magic on Friday nights at 7:30 pm. Dave's life story is an interesting one. When asked where the name Busker came from, Dave happily relates the story behind the name. He said, "While traveling around Salisbury, England, I saw a sign that said 'no busking.' I asked what that meant. The person informed me it meant no street performing. So, I came up with the name Busker from that word." Dave also fluently speaks German. He lived in Germany as a young boy. Ask him about his birthday. His answer will surprise you. Dave plays a mean acoustic guitar, the bass, and the saxophone. Busker is no stranger to Summerville, they are a local favorite. The Journal Scene named them Readers' Choice in 2011. Rick Olson is Dave's partner. Come and rock out with the gang.

Shopping Local December 7 is an event to keep in mind. It begins at 5:00 pm. Azalea Olive Oil Company and a professional gift basket designer will be on hand to give you hands-on assistance in basket creation. Bring a basket with you to create a gift for the hard-to-buy-for client, friend and family member. A unique one stop shopping opportunity to buy local food items will be on display. For a complete list of offerings go to Coastal Coffee Roasters. Music will follow the event at 7:30 pm.

There is always something going on at CCR. Come join the fun. Kevin Church performs Thursday 7-9 pm. Jeff Trimble is the featured performer on Saturday.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Summerville's Third Thursday in November-A Night Of Reading, Acting, Music, And A Party

A Very Little Bookstore
It got dark earlier on this Third Thursday.  The time change that took place at the beginning of the month was responsible. Lately the weather had been on the cool side of the thermometer and this night was not going to be an exception. One of my planned stops tonight was to be at a wonderful bookstore for children called A Very Little Bookstore. I wanted to get a schedule of their book readings.

I had soup and a sandwich at the Eclectic Chef to start the evening. The crowd on Short Central was sparse, not the usual center of activity and entertainment. The customary craft stands and product displays were missing. Most of the attendees were seeking the comfort of the warmer businesses where the traditional wine and snacks accented the friendly conversation.
I  chose to take on the outside elements, after all I am originally a Northerner, and took a stroll along Short Central. I saw a young gentleman set up at an open door of one of the businesses with a music stand and acoustic guitar in hand. I have seen many of the local musicians but his was a new face to me. I took the opportunity to introduce myself. His name is Andrew Scholz, a local high school student. I asked him if he knew Chelsea Summers, a favorite singer/songwriter from Summerville of mine, and he did. Andrew also writes songs and covers a wide range of genre including Country, Southern rock, Charleston and alternative. He was looking to build up his fan base and strum up some new gigs. I suggested he make a visit to Coastal Coffee Roasters on a Thursday and take advantage of Brad's open mike night. You can contact Andrew Scholz at Andrew Scholz Music. Leave him a message.

The Very Merry Players of Art and Soul were in full costume and on the streets. Dickens' Christmas Carol was the subject matter. It was also the night "The Fezziwig Ball" was scheduled. I just could not resist taking a picture of the poor lads and lassies while they were wandering the streets hoping to find some charitable individuals willing to give of their time and join the group for a Christmas Carol Walk hosted by Dickens himself, played by Tim Lowry. The tour stopped at various locations throughout the downtown district while Tim provided the narration of the beloved story. December 20th, they will do it all again. Get your tickets now.

Tim Lowry, Storyteller, travels around South Carolina to various schools teaching and performing the craft he learned as a young man in southeastern Kentucky. He studied drama in high school and has a degree in theater. His home is Summerville, SC. When not traveling he often performs stories of the historic South Carolina Lowcountry: Colonial Tavern Tales, Gullah Folk Tales, and Civil War Ghost Stories. You can learn more about Tim Lowry at Storyteller Tim Lowry.

It seemed the theme of this Third Thursday was the acting arts. The lights at the James F. Dean Theater were burning brightly. A dress rehearsal for their next show called "The Flowertown Players Old-Timey Radio Christmas Comedy Show Extravaganza" was underway. It is a play written by local resident David Hatch. It is about an old theater built in 1897 that has fallen on hard times and closed down. A group wants to revitalize it by putting on a show at the theater to raise money. That is where the fun begins and the laughs . Buy a ticket to find out the rest.

Despite the sun's early departure and despite the cooler weather, the local residents braved the elements and supported their local businesses, after all that is what Summerville DREAM hopes to achieve through the monthly Third Thursday event. You will even see the Summerville DREAM team out and about working hard to make it a success. I know that for a fact, I bumped into a team member outside of Accent on Wine hosting a table and greeting everyone with a big Summerville smile. Shortly thereafter, I raised a glass of spirits in her honor as she waved to me outside the window where I was sitting.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Tribute And Heartfelt Thanks To Friends And Neighbors Of The Number One Destination-Especially Those of Summerville And White Gables

I write about things to see and do in Charleston. This is more of a blanket statement because my literary ramblings include much more. Over the years, I have become involved with some of the many local businesses of Summerville and Charleston--more so recently. The very businesses that make our beloved Southern communities of the Lowcountry along the East Coast one of the most cherished destinations with so many people from around the world. But when I use the designation local businesses, I refer to the smiling faces of the hard working individuals behind the brick and glass, wood and paint structures.

Seven years ago I moved, one of those life-changing events that require adjustment and dealing with a new set of circumstances, and came to the Lowcountry from the North Coast of Ohio. I chose the historic town of Summerville because of its Charleston connection and the beautiful residential community along Central Ave called White Gables. I must also at this time insert a simple observation of my own; You can't go wrong living in a place called Summerville.

I proceeded to immerse myself into the history of my new surroundings, loved what I read and saw, and then because of my love for writing, decided to set up a blog to share what I learned with family, friends, and anyone else who was interested in my laptop excursions.

But life can change as quickly as the tide rolls in and out of Breach Inlet--a channel separating Isle of Palms from Sullivan's Island. It was a beautiful Charleston morning. Plans were set in place. The afternoon was to be spent processing pictures and video from Art and Soul's Fezziwig Party held during Summerville's popular, monthly event called Third Thursday. Then, these words rang out like the bells of St. Michaels Church in Charleston, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." I was involved in a horrendous car accident--one of those unanticipated life-changing events, abruptly reminding me things can change in a fragment of a second.

This article is not about the colorful tapestry of Rainbow Row. It is not about the splendor of the Battery. It is not about sunny walks along Charleston Bay and restful sea breezes of White Point Gardens. It is not about the sandy beaches, celebrated bridges, Southern cozy hotels, unmatched cuisine or the living history that permeates every alley, cobbled street, and iron gate throughout the Peninsula and beyond.

This article is a tribute to the people I rub shoulders with everyday as I go about the business of blogging. It is about my children, family, friends and neighbors, associates and acquaintances, who have come to me in my hour of need.

Thoughtful and caring people like my dear friends Bill and Aura Lee Summers, the Mallett's of Coastal Coffee Roasters, Charles and Pam Ward of Art and Soul, Keri Whitaker, Glen and Kathy Wilken, Byron Hager, and my many wonderful neighbors of the White Gables community who have personally assisted my family and I with well wishes, transportation, and meals. And it is still on going. I am also truly thankful to my many Facebook friends who have expressed their concern through prayers and comments. I look forward to resuming my literary quest to share my take on the Charleston experience and getting to know more of the people who put the charm and hospitality in our Holy City.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Beautiful College Of Charleston Hosted BarcampCHS And After Party At the Mynt

This was my first detailed walk around the campus of the beautiful College of Charleston. The historic aspects of the city of Charleston and its charm flow onto the campus naturally like a wave to a beach and never misses a beat. It is an elegant blend of the old with the new. I was on the campus for the annual Barcamp.

The College of Charleston was founded in 1770. It is the oldest educational institution south of Virginia, and the 13th oldest in the United States. Three of its founders were signers of the Declaration of Independence and another three were framers of the U.S. Constitution. It offers learning experiences in business, science, teaching, the humanities, languages and the arts.

When you enter the stone archways of Porter's Lodge from George Street you are treated with the grand spectacle of the College's oldest building, the Randolph Hall. It is a humbling experience when you exit the archway and the grand hall comes into view. Stately live oak trees, draped with Spanish moss, shade the brick walkways of Randolf Hall and throughout the main campus. You can see the history. You can feel the history. Its at every corner you turn, it is in every alley you walk, and every iron gate you pass through.

The college has an interesting tradition that sets it apart from other learning institutions. Students, upon completing their undergraduate degrees at the College of Charleston do not wear robes or caps for the spring commencement ceremony. Instead, women students wear white dresses and men wear white dinner jackets each spring at graduation.

BarcampCHS is all about participation. It is all about opportunity. An opportunity for local area techies, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs to share ideas. When I arrived in Charleston, the streets around the campus were crowded. Since I was not familiar with the campus, I had to solicit some directions from various students. Thank goodness for students with smart phones. I immediately began to take pictures. I registered at the Physicians Auditorium and received a bag of swag containing a t-shirt, stickers from sponsors, writing tablets, and ear jacks for plug-ins. I hit the jackpot. I got two t-shirts.

Then, there was the opportunity for attendees to pitch their ideas and we all voted on what sessions we would be interested in attending. A schedule was posted of the winning sessions with the building, room number, and time. Pizza, snacks, and an assortment of refreshments were available to grab as you went from building to building, room to room. The pizza tasted like cheese and sauce on cardboard, but what the heck, it was free. Coastal Coffee Roasters of Summerville, one of the sponsors of the event, provided the coffee, hands down the best in the Lowcountry.

In between sessions, I walked around the campus and took more pictures. There was a robot shooting baskets in front of the Honors College building. An old, black clock nearby caught my attention. It is living relic of the college's glorious history. I walked to the entrance on George Street, admired the huge iron gate used to secure the grounds. A horse carriage loaded with tourists sauntered past. The live oaks along the walkways were huge and their canopy of leaves only allowed the suns rays to penetrate in select places. The final session I attended demonstrated how to get free stuff on the Internet. College students are very creative when it comes to finding ways to earn extra money, especially those in the computer sciences.

The after party was at the Mynt, a fairly new bar/nightclub on Calhoun Street. The Mynt's interior is dominated by the richness of wood and a ceiling accented with colorful lighting and symmetrical shapes. The seating is spacious and the bar area covers a good portion of one wall decorated with ceiling high shelving framed in squares with soft blue lighting. It features appetizers with sandwiches and wraps. The party was on their outside patio. If you were a sponsored attendee you received a free Holy City glass and unlimited Holy City beer. I was not, so no freebies for me. Still, the atmosphere was great, the nighttime weather on the patio pleasant, and it was fun. If you are in town, check out the Mynt for some late night entertainment and refreshment.

Monday, November 5, 2012

An Entertaining Night Of Picture Taking In Historic Summerville-Celebrating New Friends

It was Friday. The sun had slipped beyond the horizon hours ago. A quick glance to my watch revealed it to be about the hour of 10 o'clock. The task of illumination was now the responsibility of the assorted street lights and sidewalk lamps. The live oaks on Hutchinson Square were tipping their branches ever so slightly to the gentle nighttime breeze. A gesture denoting mutual respect, perhaps. Under the gnarled branches of the old tree's protective canopy, in among their ghostly shadows, smiling scarecrows waved at the few passing cars.

Most of the businesses were locked and silent, except for the usual late night gathering spots. I was out this late hour taking pictures of the marquis and signs of the various establishments in and around the historic, old Square, the quiet sentinels that never sleep.

Accent on Wine was one of those nighttime spots still serving up the aromatic drink and loquacious fun to the few gathered around its tables and bar. I entered its doors to take some discreetly chosen photos of its interior. I was standing in front of the bar readying my camera to take a picture of the glass etching mounted among the shelves when I heard someone ask me if I would like to be in the photo, a considerate offer from a pretty young woman sitting on the right side of the bar. She had shoulder length, blond hair and was dressed very smartly. A young gentleman was with her. She was drinking wine, he a beer.

The question was the opening sentence to an enjoyable interchange. I introduced myself, told her I was a blogger. She asked the usual question, "What do you blog about?" I handed her my card and gave a quick summary. She informed me of her being new to the Summerville area and asked where in town she could find the best places to eat. She made it very clear, "I am not interested in chain restaurants. I want to experience something different."

I rattled off some of my favorite Summerville dining establishments such as Sweetwater Cafe, Perfectly Frank's, Matt's Burgers, Oscars, and a few others. At this point, I couldn't leave out mentioning the best place to get coffee, Coastal Coffee Roasters. Lizzy  said she was looking for a good coffee place. But I couldn't leave it simply with coffee because CCR is much more. It has become one of my favorite places for experiencing hometown talent and entertainment with its Thursday mike night and Acoustic Series. Craft beers, wine, and if you are hungry, there are plenty of delicacies offered to satisfy your craving.

Charleston soon entered the conversation, rooftop bars to be exact. It was then I learned they were new to Summerville, but not new to Charleston. The two of them previously lived on John's Island. Justin recently changed work locations and Summerville was the compromise between his drive to Orangeburg and hers to Trident Tech. I asked if she had ever been to the new restaurant on King Street called Stars, since rooftop bars was the topic. Stars Restaurant has a rooftop bar with a 360 degree view of Charleston.

I then said, "By the way, most people simply know me as Vacation Rick." It was then they revealed their names to me, Lizzy and Justin. Sports became the subject. They were a house divided. Lizzy was a Gamecock fan and Justin was a Tigers fan. I on the other hand was neither, since I was an Ohio transplant and a follower of professional football more so than college. Now, all hell broke loose and we ran the gamut of subjects from snow to cream of wheat.

Then, the conversation took a southern turn, transitioning from cream of wheat to grits, two very sticky substances. Justin asked me if I had ever been to the World Grits Festival in St. George. "No, haven't had the pleasure," I said. Lizzy casually captured the topic to describe in detail the rolling-in-the-grits contest and I have to say, it sounds like a funny event. They both agreed, "The best place to get grits is at the Hominy Grill in Charleston. But when you do go, take someone with you who is experienced at eating grits because you will need to know how much salt and sugar to add or you will ruin your whole experience." I must keep that in mind.

"This is what Accent on Wine is all about," I inserted. "A place to relax, sip on a glass of wine, and make new acquaintances." We shook hands and parted ways, for now. I left and resumed taking pictures along S. Main. Lizzy reminded me of someone I had seen before and it finally occurred to me who that was. It was the actress Ali Larter. I hope to see Lizzy and Justin again, maybe at the next Third Thursday on November 15th, a once a month Summerville event the two of them have not yet participated in. I hope to see you there also. I hear there is going to be a party over at Art and Soul starting 8:00 pm. Mr. Fezziwig is the host, and he knows how to have a good time.

Molly Durnin will perform at Coastal Coffee Roasters Friday, November 9th at 7-9 pm. Molly is from New York. She is an indie musician. Singer/songwriter with a rhythmic guitar groove and tuneful melodic sense that draws from the heart of Americana, folk and blues traditions.

For more information on what's happening in Summerville go to Summerville DREAM, a member of South Carolina Main Street and the National Main Street programs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Charleston Just Gets Better With Age-Number One Destination In The World Seen From The Top

Fountain at Charleston Place
What makes Charleston the number one destination in the world according to the readers of Conde Naste Traveler? The writers of the magazine cited Charleston as having the "best beaches in the southeast, allowing for some picturesque views." Commenting further on the cities coastal location, "The seaside proximity doesn't just allow for some picturesque views, but for some one-of-a-kind seafood as well." Quoting one of its readers, "The food, history, architecture and people are wonderful. A bucket list city!"

At a business network meeting on the third floor of the heady Southend Brewery, while sitting near one of the huge glass windows with the Vendue Rooftop Bar in the background, I posed that question to a well dressed gentleman I had gotten into a conversation with. Although he spoke highly of Charleston, he lamented that other cities in the world were possibly more deserving of the designation--cities like London, Florence, Sidney, or San Francisco.

Later that evening, during another conversation with a gentleman originally from England and a prior resident of San Francisco, I mentioned the earlier exchange and posed that question again. His response was strikingly different and punctuated with excited enthusiasm for Charleston. With a pronounced English accent, which he said had become somewhat muddled over the years, he summed up why he felt the recognition was deserving. He detailed, "All those other cities are sprawling metropolises, making commuting within them from one place to the other challenging. They are full of high rise structures that lack character and charm. Charleston is surrounded by water on three sides with some of the most awesome, beautiful views." He continued, "Where else can you sit on a warm, sandy beach with a drink in your hand and within ten minutes be in the heart of the city surrounded by countless dining establishments featuring the finest cuisine, all in walking distance of one another. And not just one beach, but three. It is artsy, photographic, and great festivals. And the people are wonderful, a great place to do business." The gentleman spoke more eloquently than I can type and his evaluation was spot on.

Calhoun Mansion
You, the reader, will have to plan a visit to form your own opinion on this "confounding mystery to some people" because seeing is believing. Once here, there are a number of ways to see the best of Charleston. You can board one of the numerous carriage rides located in the Old Market area.

The carriage rides are a great way to get a quick summary of notable points of interest throughout the historic district that you can later revisit to take in more of their storied history up close. Historic places such as Chalmers Street and the Little Pink house that resides there. The Calhoun Mansion, the largest residence in Charleston, featuring Japanese water gardens that can be viewed from the street. Find out why Charleston is called the Holy City.

Take a leisurely stroll through the streets and alleys via one of the many popular walking tours, either with a knowledgeable guide or self-guided. Learn about Theodosia and her mysterious disappearance or the tale of Perdita's relationship with Dr. Joseph Ladd and their connection to the Whistling Ghost of Church Street. You can enter through the iron gates of the homes and gardens of Charlestons most notable residents. The Holy City is home to over 1,000 registered historic landmarks.

Step onto the deck of one of the numerous boats and catamarans operating in and around Charleston Harbor and Shem Creek for a panoramic view of its waterfront from the tip of White Point Gardens to the pillars of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. Explore the sites that cannot be reached on foot. Charleston’s old forts, antebellum houses, and decommissioned ships are the centerpiece of many of the South’s most famous ghost stories.

Now, imagine observing all of this from a bird's eye view. You could lease a four hour block with Dinner in the Sky, an unusual and fascinating dining experience that originated in Belgium, where you dine on a platform lifted 160 ft into the air by a crane. I wrote an article about it back in May, but it is an expensive proposition.

There is a less expensive way to soak in Charleston's ambiance from above. You can do it perched on top one of the three rooftop bars located throughout the city-the Vendue Rooftop Bar, the Market Pavillion Hotel rooftop bar, and a fairly new addition, the rooftop bar at Stars Restaurant on King Street.
Market Pavilion rooftop
The Vendue Rooftop Bar overlooks the Vendue Range in the French Quarter. It was named the best rooftop bar in Charleston for the last eight years by Charleston City Paper. It has two levels with a bar on each. An amazing place to enjoy the pleasant harbor breezes and view of Waterfront Park. It remains my favorite for capping off a day in the city. Reserve one of the Vendue's rooms for a night and you can sneak a peak at the letters guests leave in the bedposts.

The Market Pavilion Hotel's rooftop bar prevails over one of the busiest landmarks in the historic district, the Old Market. The Pavilion is the only property in Charleston with a cascading pool on its roof. Very Romanesque. It boasts prime harbor views, superb cuisine, and premium drinks.

The Stars Restaurant opened in 2012. It received the name from the wonderful view guests have of the stars from its third floor rooftop, especially the Milky Way. You can soak in a 360 degree view of Charleston while courting a drink from its full service bar. It is one of the only rooftops in the country open for walking all the way around the roof's perimeter covering North, South, East, and West. The outside edge of the bar space is surrounded by beautiful wooden planters with herb and seagrass to provide a perfect green environment.

To those who doubt, remember everything is subjective. The readers of Conde Naste Traveler voted Charleston number one in the world. It is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It just gets better with age.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sunday's Cornhole Tournament Organized By AZALEA Magazine In Summerville Was Great Competitive Fun For All

While visiting my son back in Ohio some considerable years ago, he asked me if I would be interested in playing a new game he made. We went out to his backyard where two rectangular boards with a hole near the top was setup on his lawn. Six brightly colored bags were laying on one of the boards. I asked, "What do you call this game?" "Cornhole," he informed me. He proceeded to explain the rules and the scoring.

I picked up one of the bags and for want of a better word, mushy came to mind. I tossed it toward the opposite board. I would like to say it slid into the hole, but truth be told, it slid off. It was my first exposure to this engaging pastime that has found its way into just about every tavern and bar since. Quite interestingly, it is believed cornhole's uncertain beginnings were in Ohio, Cincinnati to be exact, but I am positive some ancient group of people played something similar to cornhole somewhere in this big world. We just haven't dug around in the right pile of dirt yet.

Recently, I met a talented young woman while attending a tech meeting in Charleston. She introduced herself as the director of marketing and art management for Art Spaces. Her name is B. Vordai. In the course of our conversation, Vordai also revealed she is a certified cornhole manufacturer. I didn't even know there was such a certification. But with everybody and their brother making the game these days, certain specifications must be maintained to keep its integrity in tact, like an official NFL football or professional major league hardball. By the way, footballs are often called pigskins, but an official football is made of genuine leather. Regulation cornhole bags are made of duck cloth and filled with corn.

While my son's cornhole set was finished with a high gloss polyurethane, many of the boards you see today are painted, and not just plainly painted. Many are covered with logos of their favorite sports teams, businesses, or just about anything the imagination can conjure up.

An obvious bi-product of all these games is the tournament, which is the main reason for this post. I just participated in a tournament sponsored by AZALEA Magazine of Summerville. The location where all this bag throwing took place was Short central in front of O'Lacy's Pub. The top prize was a trophy and a cornhole set with trophies also going to second and third place finishers. Keri Whitaker was my team partner and our team name was White Gables.

The teams were arranged into brackets and the winner of each bracket would move on to the next. Fairly simple arrangement. The first round of games would be decided by a best of three. After that, it would be single eliminations until the championship, which would be decided by a best of three.

When Keri and I first arrived on scene, we decided a few warm up tosses were warranted. So, with our first beer in hand, we cow pied a few, after which I checked out the competition. There were many different styles of tossing. There was the high toss, the flat toss, the flat-spin toss, and the backhand toss. There was even one person who pinched the cloth between two fingers and tossed it. The competition was going to be stiff.

The start time finally arrived. The first game proceeded slowly. At the beginning, there were many dirt bags tossed by both teams and each covered point for point. We cornholed a few and jumped out into a considerable lead once we hit 10, and then experienced a slump upon reaching 17. It was now 17-12. The opposing team picked away at our lead and the game was tied up at 20-20. It was anybodies game now. The tension was high. It came down to me. My first toss slid off and my opponent aced. I aced the second and my opponent missed. I cornholed the third, while he aced his third. I aced the fourth, so now the pressure was on my opponent. He needed a cornhole to stay alive, which he did not. First game over.

In the second game, we cruised into a big lead quickly, 8-0. Once again we cooled off and they picked away at our lead until it was 16-12. Keri then scored a Leprechaun, four bags on the board. It was 20-12. Only one point was now needed, which I failed to get on my next four tosses. Keri likewise missed on her next four tosses, but on my next round of tosses I got an ace and a slider. We took the first round.

The second round was going to be tougher. It was a one game elimination, so there was no room for error. We were playing against the Bama Buckeyes, fellow former Ohioans. We scored three points and they scored four. From there it was pretty much over for us. Every time we would ace, they would ace twice. Every time we would cornhole, they would cover with two. We couldn't get a single point. It was now 20-3, their favor. Our competition then proceeded to cornhole a shot. Keri needed to cover to stay in the competition. Her next shot would have been a good instant replay. She got nothing but hole. The elation was very short lived because our opponent cornholed his next shot. No trophy for us. None-the-less, it was fun Sunday afternoon in Summerville once again.

All thanks to AZALEA Magazine for organizing the event and its sponsors. AZALEA Magazine's beautifully arranged pictorials and commentaries are dedicated to celebrating  the best of Summerville through its novel look at the region's history, culture, and residents. Throughout its pages you get a close-up, intimate look into the lives of its unique personalities-their skills, their homes,  and their impact on the charisma of the Lowcountry. Pick one up and take a look. After perusing its pages, you will have a greater appreciation for the reasons people keep coming back to the number one destination in the world.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Great Third Thursday in Summerville October 18, 2012-Summerville Shines

Summerville parties hearty once a month, every Third Thursday to be exact. And last night's Third Thursday was phenomenal. So outstanding, the merrymaking wasn't even dampened by the presence of the "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner," Ebeneezer Scrooge, who was compelled to be there to see his equally stingy business partner, Jacob Marley, doubtfully put to rest at crowded Hutchinson Square near the hour of 6:30 pm.

The whole downtown district was filled with the sounds of laughter and music. Short Central was dancing and singing to the vibes of the Vistas as they axed out golden oldies of the past. The outdoor seating venues of the local eateries were filled. The opened doors of the local businesses seductively welcomed Summerville's loyal residents and curious visitors with the traditional wine and cheese snacks.
I began my night with a quick bite to eat at Ladles, soup and a sandwich. Six o'clock was rapidly approaching, the time set for the beginning of the burial procession to start at O'Lacy's Pub. Short Central was already quite busy and the band called the Vistas were setting up in the small courtyard in the middle. But first, I headed over to Art and Soul where the costumed performers were making the necessary preparations. The acting group, consisting mainly of Summerville's talented younger ones, were getting their final instructions from Pamela Ward and tweaking their attire. Tim Lowry, a popular storyteller and leader of this procession, was milling around talking to the young actors. They posed for some quick pictures. They all looked like the poor children from the middle decades of 19th century London they were costumed to portray, Dickens style.

At 6:30pm, Tim Lowry entered the pub to announce the demise of Marley and procure sympathy for the poor children looking in the windows, the very children who were neglected and forgotten by the likes of Jacob Marley and Ebeneezer Scrooge, men only interested in turning a crown at the expense of the needy. After exiting the pub, the group proceeded up Short Central to Hutchinson Square, weaving through the Third Thursday crowd. A few words were spoken amongst the boos and hisses from the crowd, displeased at the presence of Scrooge. I approached the cold, uncaring, insensitive Mr Scrooge to ask him if he would be so kind as to donate money to a most worthy cause benefiting the unemployed and he sarcastically questioned, "Are there no Prisons? And the union workhouses-are they still in operation?"

Eddie Bush was rockin' the Montreux. Chelsea Summers was across the street at Aura Lees performing tunes from her new CD while the shoppers snacked on cheese and kielbasa from Sticky Fingers. By this time, the sun had long disappeared beyond the trees. We sat outside of Accent on Wine courting a drink while basking under the brightly lit trees of Hutchinson Square. We finished the night beneath the orange lights of Montreux's back patio recounting funny stories from our past. My friend competed in a cornhole challenge and won a cooler pack. Another successful Third Thursday for Summerville DREAM and our businesses. Man, I love this town. Enjoy the pictures and video.
Here are some of the upcoming events scheduled in Summerville and surrounding areas:

The 2012 Coastal Carolina Fair
October 25-November 4, 2012
Exchange Park

Flowertown Players presents The Hobbit
October 25, 26, 27...7:00pm
October 27 and 28...3:00pm
James F Dean Theatre
133 South Main Street, Summerville, SC
Tim Lowry at Art and Soul for an Amazing Halloween Spooky Tales CD release Party.
Friday, October 26, 2012...7:00pm
113 W 2nd South St, Summerville, SC

11th Annual Run with the Dolphins-5k race/walk and mile fun run
Race runs entirely through the Newington Plantation Neighborhood in Summerville.
Saturday, October 27, 2012...8am: 5k, 9:10 mile fun run

Molly Durnin will perform at Coastal Coffee Roasters
November 9, 2012...7:00-9:00pm