Sunday, January 15, 2012

Restaurant Week In Charleston-Make a Date With The Cities Top Chefs And Restaurants

It is that time of the year again food lovers in Charleston. It is Restaurant Week, and not just in Chartleston, but all over South Carolina. So, if you are feeling adventurous or romantic and want to spend a night away from homebase, let's say in Myrtle Beach, you have a whole list of participating establishments to choose from for your stay. But for this article I am going to focus on the capital of what has become known as Lowcountry Cuisine, Charleston.

Lowcountry Cuisine is closely associated with the cuisine of another popular southern city, New Orleans. The cultural influences found in New Orleans are very much similar to those of Charleston, which include the English, French, Spanish, Irish, Italians, Africans, and Caribbean Islanders who settled here over three centuries ago. They all brought with them the tastes from their native lands and over these passing centuries have blended their distinctive recipes together using Charleston's geography as the food palate because its geography is a critical factor in distinguishing the region's culinary identity.

Charleston's rich estuary system provides an abundance of shrimp, fish, crabs, and oysters captured daily aong with locally grown squash, green beans, broccoli, spinach, okra, collards, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, a number of different lettuces and a variety of herbs that are the prime ingredients used to capture this flavor of Charleston. Some Lowcountry signature dishes are she-crab soup, Huguenot torte, benne wafers, fried green tomatoes, sweet potato pone, crab cakes, shrimp and grits, and frogmore stew.

Today, it is much more than just the Lowcountry Cuisine. American, French, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cajun, Creole, and about anything else food experts crave can be found in the Holy City. Charleston is home to many internationally known chefs. Some of the better known are Chef Jason Houser of the Muse, Chef Jon Cropf of Blu Restaurant and Bar, Chef John O'Brien of Bocci's Italian Restaurant, Chef Jude Wagner of The Library at Vendue Inn, Chef Steven J. Lusby of 82 Queen, Chef Marc Collins of Circa 1886, and Chef Sean Brock of McCrady's to name a few. Charleston has more fine dining establishments per capita than any other city in the South.

My first dining experience in Charleston, some eight years ago, was at Hymans Seafood. It became a favorite during those early years of vacationing here before deciding to make Charleston my home. On those occasions I looked forward to seeing what celebrity previously sat at the very same table I was now seated. The restaurant had a custom of putting the names of notable people that visited their establishment on the tables. An unfortunate circumstance, my camera was stolen by one of its employees, changed all that, and I never returned.

My most notable dining experience was at the Woodlands Inn in Summerville. The staff treated us like royalty. They were hospitable, gracious, and attentive from beginning to end. The setting of the table, the care taken in clearing it for each course of the meal, and the presentation of each dish was professional. What I really appreciated was the opportunity they gave us to sample various dishes that were not a part of our selection. It most likely was a plus that a nephew of mine worked in the kitchen.

So, go ahead, pick one from the long list of participating restaurants. Now is the opportunity to check out the one restaurant you have been wanting to experience. May I suggest Bocci's, one of my favorite. High Cotton, whether it be breakfast or dinner is always an excellent choice. Make it a family affair or a romantic evening out. All are ready to cater to your taste buds with their own personal blend of herbs and spices perfectly matched to the offering sprinkled with a pleasing ambience and southern hospitality.

Some available hotel romance packages. Woodlands Inn specials and packages.

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