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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Third Thursday's Surprise Event Will Bring A Bit Of The Dickens Out Of You-October 18, 2012

What the dickens is going on this Third Thursday in beautiful Summerville? While Charles Dickens has long been famous for coining some of the most creative character names in English literature and propelling hundreds of new words and expressions into our language, he is not credited with coining the word dickens. Where am I going with this and what the devil does dickens have to do with Third Thursday? If the question is leaving you somewhat "flummoxed", the answer is going to give you "the creeps." Hopefully, the partakers won't experience a case of "butter-fingers."

Summerville DREAM, our illustrious host of Third Thursday, is teaming up with Art and Soul of Summerville for the presentation of a somber procession based on a character fabricated by Charles Dickens. They will be putting to rest the money-loving business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley. It will begin on Short Central near OLacey's Pub promptly at 6:00 pm. Short Central is a fitting setting for this Dickens inspired event. Its brick pavement, little shops, and local pub gives it a somewhat English flare, with a little imagination thrown in. Now, if the weather cooperates and produces a misty fog, the scene will be near perfect. The procession will proceed up Short Central and end at Richardson Square where a eulogy will be delivered and a dirge will be had at 6:30 pm. Hopefully, Marley will stay put, but I wouldn't be so foolish as to put a wager on it.

After paying your respects to Marley, take a short walk to 112 S Main Street. It is the address of  A Very Little Bookstore. When I visited this bookstore for the first time, it reminded me of  The Shop Around The Corner from the movie You Got Mail. In the movie, The Shop Around The Corner was a small, privately owned bookstore that suddenly found itself competing against another bookstore called Fox Books, a conglomerate similar to powerhouses like Amazon, Borders, and Barnes and Noble. It was a quaint store where the owner and customer knew each other personally and was a central part of the community. The staff was knowledgeable and neighborhood children were entertained by scheduled book readings.

When I walked through the door of A Very Little Bookstore, I got the same impression. The store inside and out screamed kids. The walls were lined with cabinets of different heights and shapes and packed with books of varying sizes and colors written by many different authors. Co-owner, Natalie Sober, was out on the main floor talking to the patrons, fielding questions about book titles, and sharing her own personal viewpoint on favorites. Children were sitting at small tables thumbing through their chosen picks.

During my brief conversation with Natalie, she emphasized the popularity of children's books by local writers and the numerous requests she gets for them. The bottom line for this little bookstore, adjacent to Hutchinson Square on Little Main, is the satisfaction it gets from promoting to children the joy of reading and then seeing the excitement on their faces when they take the book into their hands.

So, take that short walk and meet the Sober's. Smell the print, feel the paper, see the story. No better time to immerse yourself into someone else's wonderland than on a Third Thursday. And bring your little dickens with you.

That's not all. Summerville DREAM has conjured up more for your entertainment. Everywhere you go, every corner you turn in downtown Summerville this coming Third Thursday, there will be a street vendor fair and performances by Summerville's Got Talent contestants. Now, all you have to do is show up and show support for our local businesses. And don't be a Scrooge about it either.

Final note: The word dickens is often used as a substitute for devil or an imp, and in reference to children usually used affectionately.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Mysterious Side Of Charleston-Uncommon Things You Don't See Everyday

Dock Street Theater
Charleston is charming, but also mysterious. It is renowned for its old homes and church graveyards, many with bizarre tales of ghostly encounters and things that go bump in the night. The Battery Carriage House Inn has its “gentleman ghost” and the headless torso and Poogan's Porch's resident apparition is an old lady by the name of Zoe St Amand. Junius Brutus Booth, father of John Wilkes Booth, is said to appear at the Dock Street Theater and Lavinia Fisher, famous for saying, “If you have a message you want to send to hell, give it to me – I’ll carry it,” haunts the Old City Jail. Many other such tales abound throughout Charleston and its streets. Even its barrier islands tell of pirate ghosts and confederate soldiers.

I have not personally experienced any of these types of encounters, but I have seen things that border on the peculiar. While traveling in and around Charleston you could see some strange and unusual things. Not saying that Charleston is the only place in this big country you could be confronted with the bizarre and unusual, other places have their own unique blend of quaint happenings. In the Lowcountry, the farther off the beaten track you go, the more bizarre some things may get. Some of them make perfect sense and others make no sense at all. Although, to the originator it probably appears very practical.

The first is the blue bottle tree. While I wouldn't categorize this as being bizarre, it is unusual. You see them all over the Lowcountry, on peoples front yards, gardens, porches and even one at the corner of a busy Summerville intersection called Five Points. To the originators, slaves from the Congo, the blue bottle tree was more than a lawn ornament and the idea behind its creation made perfect sense to them. Its purpose was to protect the home from evil spirits. The blue bottle tree was placed outside, near the home. The threatening evil spirits are drawn to the sparkling,blue bottles, cobalt blue to be more exact. Once inside the bottle they can't get out. The sun rises in the morning and burns them up, as one version tells it. Another version relates the bottles being corked and thrown into a river to carry the evil spirits away. Anyway you bottle it, the home was thus protected.

Both strange and unusual are appropriate adjectives for the next entry. I first happened upon this soon to become an iconic piece of Edisto Island history some years ago while driving the roads less traveled, at least by me. It was an old mattress hanging by four ropes from a large oak tree. Admittedly, at first I thought the peculiar sight to be rather repulsive. A mattress left outdoors, subject to the heat and humidity of the Lowcountry summer, would likely become a smelly, heap of decaying fibers over time. But then, as I reflected back over the uncommon spectacle, I found it to be amusingly uncanny, and so did many others who happened upon this contrivance posing as a double-wide hammock. It was the famed "Mattress Swing" and the place at which it hung was known to some of Edisto's oldest islanders as "Mattress Point." It was an ingenious invention of practicality and southern comfort. It was audacious. So audacious, the maker and owner of the swinging quilted pad, Frank Gadsden, charged drive-bys $10 to take pictures. The "Mattress Swing" no longer hangs from the old oak tree standing at the bend in the road on SC-174. Time and unforeseen circumstances have vanquished it.

White Gables, a quaint southern community development off of Central Ave in Summerville, is patterned after the colorful row houses of Charleston. One delivery man referred to it as the crayon box houses. The main entrance drive is flanked on each side by ponds, and once you past the first stop sign, lined with live oak trees. A clubhouse straight ahead and beyond a green area with benches and gazebos, stands as a center piece and hub of activity. It is a close knit community where the uncommon is as foreign as a Steeler jersey in the Dawg Pound of Cleveland Stadium. Until one day, a friend happened upon a freakish sight sitting on the lawn of a resident and shared it with me. A mechanical conjoinment of two dissimilar objects reminiscent of the Transformers. Someone finally discovered a way to mix work and play with this amalgamation of steel and wheels. It was a bike and a grass mower fused into one.

My final entry is unusual, but not bizarre. I happened upon it while visiting one of my favorite hangouts in Summerville, the Coastal Coffee Roasters, which is a contradiction for me because I don't partake of the dark, aromatic brew. While freshly roasted coffee from organically grown beans is Coastal Coffee Roasters niche, it is much more. Spending time there is like hanging out at a neighbor's garage for a community party complete with beverages and live entertainment, and if you are so inclined you can bring your own acoustic guitar to pick a few of your own favorites. CCR calls it open mic night.

It was on such a night I saw this unusual object sitting on CCR's counter. At first glance, from a distance, it looked like an oil lamp, but when the burner was put underneath, it eerily resembled a chemistry experiment. "What is that," I inquired. Brad answered, "A Japanese coffee siphon brewer." To satisfy my insatiable curiosity, I demanded an explanation, which involved another science, the laws of physics. So, a demonstration was needed, because seeing is believing, or something like that. Brad lit the burner and we watched. The whole process defies the laws of gravity and the end result is a pure cup of brewed coffee that even I had to try.

See you around the Lowcountry and beautiful Charleston.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A One Day Visit To Enchanting Savannah, GA-Charleston's Sister City

It was a beautiful southern morning for a one day trip to Charleston's sister city to the south, Savannah. We headed up Central Ave to 17A going toward Walterboro, a sleepy old town, where we would pick up I-95. By the way, if you are a person who likes antiques and collectibles, Walterboro's old Washington Street is lined with shops filled with these items. At the present, they are renovating the sidewalks and road, but when it becomes finished, it will be a centerpiece for residents and visitors alike. But I am getting ahead of a very important controversy and challenge that arose while on our way to Walterboro.

While chatting about Savannah my traveling partner, who has never been there, brought up the name Paula Deen. She said, "Paula Deen is a big name in Savannah." Even though I tried to look like I knew what she was talking about, she caught the underlying puzzled look in my eyes and followed up with the remark, "You don't know who Paula Deen is, do you." She lives for these moments. She continued, "She has a cooking show and a restaurant in Savannah." I innocently responded, "Well, I'm drawing a blank on the name right now, but I am sure I have seen her before." I could see she was basking in the moment.

So, to account for my apparent lack of knowledge on the matter, I quickly formulated a plan for redemption and presented a challenge. I contested, "When we get to Savannah, I bet you the first man I stop on the street and ask if he knows who Paula Deen is he will draw a blank just like me." "I'll bet you they will know who Paula Dean is," she reaffirmed. The challenge was on.

A hour and ten minutes later we crossed the Savannah River into Georgia and in a few moments were making our way to the heavily touristed Bay Street. Our first objective-finding a parking spot. It was a Saturday, so locating a parking spot could have been difficult, but we were fortunate and found one quickly. Our first stop was the ticket office for the River Queen located on the historic and very popular River Street near the Hyatt. We bought two tickets totaling $85.90 for the Saturday Luncheon Cruise. Boarding would begin at 11:30am. Since it was 11:00am, we had time to walk around and do what Keri does best, shop. There were already plenty of tourists milling around on the street and in the stores.

We boarded the old riverboat and selected our table on the restaurant deck. It was elegantly decorated with fancy dressed waiters. We noticed the drinks being brought to an older couple seated next to us and I inquired about their selection. Her drink caught my curiosity. Conversation continued from that point. The couple was on a three month vacation traveling up the East Coast.

I decided it was now time to put my challenge to the test. I asked the older gentleman if he had ever heard of Paula Dean. I was feeling pretty confident I had this one in the bag seeing he was an older man from Iowa. He smiled, but his wife answered, "Funny you should ask. We have plans of going to her restaurant called The Lady and Sons for dinner." I looked at Keri, now grinning from ear to ear. She toasted her victory with the declaration, "See. I was right." I quickly sought a recovery. The waiter had just then arrived with our drinks. I asked him, "Do you know Paula Deen?" Wrong person to ask. So, I figured it was time to put the controversy to rest and accept the defeat.

It was time to eat. The buffet had a selection of honey glazed barbecue pork loin, Southern fried chicken, Chef's special, creamy squash casserole, fresh fruit, assorted salads and deserts. The Captain related the history of Savannah and the riverfront as we cruised up and down. The food was excellent and the warm sun on the upper deck was great. Most of the scenery was uninteresting, consisting mainly of old docks and rusted warehouses, except for the section along Old River Street, which was more picturesque. You can take a picture of The Waving Girl Statue as the boat passes by. It honors the bittersweet life of Florence Martus, Savannah's legendary "waving girl." She had a tradition of waving at all the ships that passed by her cottage with a handkerchief by day and a lantern by night. She did it for 44 yrs. It remains a mystery as to why she did this, but there are unsubstantiated stories of a lost love with a sailor that never returned to Savannah.

After the cruise, we spent a considerable amount of time checking out all the old stores and candy shops along the riverfront and up on Bay Street. We did some wine tasting at a shop that sold wine from the Horse Creek Winery in Nashville, GA. I bought a bottle of strawberry wine called Red Jewell and Keri bought a bottle of blackberry wine called Blackjack. We had some brews at the Moon River Brewing Company on W. Bay Street. Very rustic atmosphere and attentive bartenders. Regrettably visited Paula Deen's restaurant and asked the question one more time. Kissed Paula Deen goodbye. More shopping in the City Market, a four-block area of restored warehouses and shop fronts adjacent to Ellis Square. Listened to some live entertainment while having a free beer on a rooftop bar. There is a story associated with the free beer, but I'll save it for another time. Walked through some of Savannah's famous squares taking pictures.

We ended the day back on River Street where it was packed with people enjoying the lights and nightlife. Ate at the Exchange Tavern. More shopping and picture taking. Bought a t-shirt at the Blue Parrot. Watched a trumpet player annoy a bride with the "Wedding March" song. Solo musicians playing for tips are common along the waterfront at night.

What I learned-There are two things you will see plenty of when you visit the shops and stores of Savannah, Paula Deen and "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", a movie filmed in Savannah and directed by Clint Eastwood. You can even take a tour called "A Walk Through Midnight". Sadly, there is also a "Paula Deen Tour". Savannah has been rated by Walking Magazine as "one of the 10 Best Walking Cities in America." A city of tree-lined streets, beautiful squares, and magnificent parks.

It was a fun day visiting the sister city of Charleston. Two very different and very similar cities of the South.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The 2012 Southern Living Taste Of Charleston Served Up A Platter Of Food And Fun

Historic and beautiful Boone Hall Plantation is an appropriate backdrop for the Taste of Charleston. From the moment you enter the plantation gates, driving under the canopy of the broad and spacious Avenue of Oaks leading the way to the house, you sense the grace and charm that is the trade mark of the Charleston experience. The event is a celebration to the culinary expertise of Charleston's renowned chefs and famed restaurants overshadowed by its historic roots. A perfect confluence of the past and the present.

The day promised to be overcast with the possibility of rain. It was humid, but the clouds kept the temperature at a comfortable degree. Despite the grey skies and unsure forecast, Charlestonians and visitors were not going to be deterred from partaking in the culinary festivities. I arrived around 11:00am and the cars were beginning to line the driveway and extend down Long Point Rd. The parking of the cars appeared to be going smoothly. I grabbed my camera, exited the car and headed toward the entrance. I paid the fee. I could already hear the music and smell the food just beyond the treeline.

Once you navigated the gauntlet of raffle ticket selling and simulators, a long line of tents stretching across the expansive plantation grounds, divided in the middle by the Beer Garden, awaited your consideration. I paid my homage to the main sponsor of this wonderful event and took a few moments to watch a cooking demonstration at the huge Southern Living stage. I entered a contest where you had to get a post card stamped by four different travel hosts representing South Carolina Parks, Baldhead Island, and Charleston's sister city, Savannah. I had been to Savannah the week before and bought a t-shirt that was a big hit with the Savannah tent. Next, I had my picture taken for the cover of the Southern Living Magazine and it was now time to move on to satisfy my hunger.

A ticket tent offering souvenirs was to the right and a large stage was set up directly across from the restaurant tents. Before I made my first food selection, I walked from one end to the other to get a quick overview of what each restaurant was offering. I made a close observation of what others were eating as I went and listened for any helpful comments. A trip to the ticket tent was next, 2$ for one ticket.

Bricco Bracco's tent was my first stop. The fried ricotta and fried mozzarella caught my eye. I grappled a bit with this first selection but settled for the fried ricotta. The ricotta was, well ricotta, but the tomato sauce made the dish and the tiny tomatoes were delectable. It was off to a good start. Next, I wanted to seek out a restaurant I was not familiar with, not that I never heard of it, but one I had not previously dined at. My decision did not come easy. It was between Poogan's Porch and Queen Ann's Revenge. I love the dog story and Blackbeard is a popular Charleston pirate. I hope Zoe didn't take offense, but I went with the chicken salad at Queen Ann's Revenge. It was the right choice. The chicken was great and the dressing accented the salad perfectly. I was stopped by quite a few people who were curious about my opinion on the salad. With so many excellent restaurants featured, it wouldn't have mattered who you chose, they all are the best Charleston has to offer. You can only reasonably spend so much money.

Homemade Wine provided the musical entertainment. When you succeed at getting people up to dance, you must be doing something right. They rocked the house.

The Waiter's Race was a highly anticipated event and it didn't disappoint. Plenty of precious wine from the Biltmore Estate was spilled in this one. Jason Alderman from 82 Queen won.

Other highlights of the day was watching a copter camera take off and fly over the crowd, swooping down for closeups. If you were fortunate enough for it to hover over you, you got a reprieve from the humidity by way of a strong breeze. Finally, it was entertaining to watch a group of guys work their artistic wonder on a ice sculpture dedicated to Southern Living and the Taste of Charleston.

White Gables of Summerville was represented very well by our friends and neighbors with their own tent strategically set up near the WEZL van and the stage. I thank the group for inviting me in for some pictures and conversation. They know how to have fun. It was a blast.