Friday, November 29, 2013

A Thanksgiving Day Visit To The Boathouse Restaurant At Breach Inlet And A Spectacular Dolphin Show

The roads into the Isle of Palms from Summerville were sparsely traveled on this Thursday. Lowcountry residences were gathered around their tables with family and friends feasting on turkey and pumpkin pie, except for the few of us who selected to eat out at one of the various restaurants that chose to open their doors for the festivities. After surveying the list, the one-time ramshackled bait shop that became the Boathouse Restaurant had an appealing menu offering eight different entrees from which to choose for $36.95 per person. Reservations were set for 3:45 pm.

The November 28th sun was making its final farewell overtures with a mixed palette of oranges and yellows while a group of dolphins frolicked in the colorfully mirrored waters of the gradually darkening surroundings of Breach Inlet. Their momentary appearances for a quick breath of the cool air rippled the placid waters of the meandering outgoing tide. As I reflectively gazed out over the tranquil waters, thoughts of family and Thanksgivings past pleasantly invaded my grateful thoughts. A picture-perfect setting for the Thanksgiving Dinner offering at the Inlet's esteemed restaurant.

The entrance was marked by a rowboat hanging from the rafters above the double glass doors, a preview of what to expect once inside - more 100 year old vintage rowboats decorating its ceilings. The hostess offered us a choice between eating in the main dining area or on the porch overlooking the intercoastal waters of the Inlet. We took a quick look before finalizing our decision.

The main dining had a near full house. A nautical theme throughout, it was heavy on wood. Photographs taken in the early 1900's by Albert Cook, a famous nautical photographer, lined the walls. The porch was a few steps down, not as crowded with fans overhead and a couple of propane heaters. The view was the highlight, although hazy from the necessary clear plastic needed to keep the colder outside elements of November from making it uncomfortable. We chose the porch for the view.

Upon being seated, we were presented the menu with a respectable wine list. A server, not ours, stopped and offered water or drinks, which I thought was impressive on her part, taking the initiative. By the time our server arrived, we were ready to give our selections.

For the first of the three courses offered, I chose the Butternut Bisque. Second, I went with Roasted Turkey with Cornbread dressing, Giblet Gravy and Cranberry Sauce for the entree, which were served with a choice of two sides. I went Southern with the Grits and a typical choice for me, Mashed Potatoes. Finally, and this is where it got complicated, I chose Pecan Bourbon Bread Pudding for dessert, but unfortunately they were out. So, next choice was Pumpkin Cheesecake, but there is a story to come concerning this choice. To round out the selections, a bottle of Chardonnay by William Hill was uncorked.

The Butternut Bisque had a nutmeg-pumpkin flavor to it and was very tasty. The generous portion of roasted turkey, four slices, was mouth-watery and tender. The mashed potatoes were just right and the grits, y'all guest it, were gritty.

Now for the desert. As for the Pumpkin Cheesecake, I have no observation to give, I was informed they ran out of it also. Y'all kiddin' me. What to do, what to do. The choices left for dessert were a Chocolate Mousse Cake and Key Lime Pie, but the server tossed out another choice that was not on the menu and had the word cheesecake in it, Chocolate-chip Cheesecake-and taken. The server threw in an extra glass of wine for compensation.

Now for some particulars. The restaurant staff was hospitable. Our server, David, was attentive and helpful. The courses were brought out in a timely fashion. We were not rushed. In fact we were the last to leave, which was around 5:30 pm. The menu and presentations were classy. The restaurant has the water-front appeal, which many restaurants cannot offer. Although, I did not sit in the main dining area, what I saw was rich in the warmth of wood with a strong nautical theme. I will be returning at some point in time to try their seafood recipes featuring seafood and produce from local farmers, fisherman, clammers, and shrimpers from around the coast.

I am a frequent visitor to their rooftop bar. The view of the inlet at sunset is unrivaled. I took some beautiful pictures of the sunset over the Inlet that night and the group of dolphins that call the inlet home put on an excellent show. One dolphin swam up to the shore several times and rolled over in the water at the edge next to the restaurant overlook. Spectacular.

Location: 101 Palm Blvd, Isle of Palms, SC 29451. Phone: 843.886.8000
Winter hours of operation (begins Nov. 4th) : Sunday - Thursday: 5pm-9pm, Friday and Saturday: 5pm-10pm. Sunday brunch 11am - 2pm

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nothing Could Be Finer Than A Stay At Carolina Inn And White Gables During the Golden Years of Summerville

Upon leaving the downtown district of "New Summerville" in 1915 and entering the pine-lined, winding roads of "Old Summerville", you would have come upon a white directional sign offering you a choice between eight different lodging establishments.

Surveying the selections, the Pine Forest Inn was the recognizable grand dame, but around this year another name was emerging in popularity as an inn with exceptional accommodations and tasty cuisine.

The inn's address - the crossroads at W Carolina and Sumter Ave. But on this day of November 21, 2013, standing at the street sign marking the location, no traces of the graceful 67-room lodging with a swimming pool remained.

Unmercifully, in the 1960's, it suffered the same irreversibly regrettable fate that also awaited the Pine Forest Inn, total destruction. So, with some imagination and preserved photos, I gazed out over the heavily treed landscape and visually reconstructed the old inn.

Dorchester Inn
The property had a history as old as the trees that overshadowed it and an identity that varied as much as a chameleon changes colors. In 1810, Moore's Tavern stood on the property. It would become the Brown's Hotel around 1855 under the ownership of I.T. Brown--also called the Summerville House. The Brown's Hotel suffered damage from the 1886 earthquake. It closed around 1890 and reopened again in 1895. Next, it became known as the Dorchester Inn featuring full, wrap-around porches and numerous shuttered windows. In 1912, T.R. Moore owned the Dorchester Inn and after enlarging the structure, extensively remodeling the interior, and updating the building, it opened its doors as the Carolina Inn.

Wood-rail fencing, beautifully landscaped walking gardens, and an acquired reputation for excellent accommodations and cuisine, it would become preferred by many travelers for its discreet elegance and atmosphere in comparison to the opulence of the Pine Forest Inn. There was an east wing and a west wing with one large, window-lined dining room sectioned off into two dining spaces and table settings containing china and sterling. A third dining room was reserved for staff employees who accompanied their employers when staying at the inn. The fine cuisine included an offering of duck and quail, two dishes the inn's kitchen was renowned for.

Unlike the structured offerings of the Pine Forest Inn, there were no activities organized by management. Patrons were left to their own devices. One of the favorite pastimes of the guests was competing in bridge tournaments and competitions. Somewhat similar to tourism today, other diversions included historical tours, garden tours, maybe a silent movie at the Arcade Theatre, or shopping and sightseeing excursions into Charleston on the Southern Railway out of Summerville.

Looking down Sumter Ave toward W Carolina today.
Looking down Sumter Ave toward W Carolina in the early 1900's.
Carolina Inn is sometimes mistakenly confused with White Gables by some today--another inn found on the directional sign. A Southern adaptation of Greek Revival architecture, White Gables was built in 1830 at the crossroads of Palmetto and Richardson Streets and was purchased by Sarah Woodruff in the early 1900's. There are some interesting stories associated with the Woodruffs and White Gables. Sarah was Summerville's Scarlet O'Hara when it came to business.

There was about ten years age difference between Sarah and her husband, Harry Woodruff, a station master in Charleston. Mr. Woodruff had an infamous reputation as a gambler and according to a family story he once gambled away downtown Houston in a card game in Texas. Concerned about her husband's history and the family's monetary future, Sarah formed a plan to secure it. She always admired the White Gables property and after observing the large number of people coming from Charleston to stay at the Carolina Inn, saw a potential in the house and its servant cottages as a source of income and proceeded to boldly put the wheels in motion to purchase it.

One particular day Sarah's husband arrived at the Summerville train station from railroad business and as usual was met by the family retainer with his horse and carriage to take him home. Upon noticing a change in route, Mr. Woodruff asked the driver, "Charlie, where are you taking me?" As he pulled into the driveway, Charlie answered, "Mrs. Woodruff bought this house and this is where you live now." Sarah had no qualms about purchasing the property without her husband's knowledge. In addition, a man by the name of Henry Clay lived on the third floor for almost four years without Mr. Woodruff ever knowing. Mr. Clay was sent to Summerville by his doctor for health reasons and while looking for a place to board met Sarah and arrangements were contracted.

For nearly 26 years, White Gables was famous for Southern hospitality under Sarah's ownership. After the Woodruffs, eventually White gables became a private residence. It has survived the winds of change in Summerville. Today, it looks much like it did in the early 1900's, except some of the trees may be naturally bigger. It is presently up for sale. Would you be interested in owning a beautiful piece of Summerville history?

White Gables November 21, 2013

(Pictures taken from "Images of America-Summerville" by Jerry Crotty and Margaret Ann Michels and Porch Rocker Collections.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It Was A Sweet-ride And Tea-rific Fun-Summerville's "Good Eats On The Sweet Tea Trail Tour"

Tina Zimmerman and Fay Bell
All roads lead to Summerville--to be more exact the Summerville Visitors Center, if you have a reserved ticket for the Lowcountry Loop Trolley's "Sweet Tea Trail Tours." Two tours are offered for your consideration.

The first is a 1 1/2 hour tour of historic Summerville, the "Birthplace of Sweet Tea." The wonderfully preserved downtown district around beautiful Hutchinson Square and the historic homes of "Old Summerville" are featured on this tour with a stop at Linwood Gardens-an award winning bed and breakfast built in 1883 by Julia Drayton Hastie, heiress to the famous Magnolia Plantation on the Ashley.

The second is the "Good Eats on the Sweet Tea Trail Tour" with Summerville resident and nationally-known storyteller Tim Lowry. On this tour, you will be treated to complimentary tastes of delicacies from a number of Summerville’s restaurants and gourmet shops. As the trolley travels from one establishment to the next, Tim entertains you with the tall tales and factual stories of Summerville and its related history. This was the tour I selected.

The Summerville Visitors Center is a beautifully landscaped brick building on the west side of North Main Street next to Berlin G. Meyers Lumber Corporation(Berlin G. Meyers was mayor of Summerville for many years, something I learned on the tour). Stepping in through the doors, you are treated to colorful pictures of area landmarks with a full wall dedicated to offering a host of pamphlets, brochures and magazines containing information on things to do, area landmarks, and points of interest.

Immediately upon arrival, you are graciously greeted by Summerville's tourism coordinator Tina Zimmerman. Once everyone had arrived, the group assembled in a room lined with images of Summerville's past taken from the book Porch Rocker Recollections. Tina began the tour with an inspirational video introducing everyone to a short summation starting with Summerville's inception and concluding with Bill Collins, Summerville's present mayor, wishing all a grand visit.

With introductions completed and schedule of establishments and description of delicacies to be anticipated in hand, the group left the center and stepped onto the trolley chomping on mustache cookies served by Brad Mallett of Coastal Coffee Roasters. From that point in time, you are taken on a trip down Summerville's memory lanes immersed in the fanciful, storytelling world of Tim Lowry. We were joined by Janyce Hursey of Summerville DREAM and Barbara Hill, Linwood Gardens tour guide. I camped out all the way in the back of the trolley where I took over the whole seat with a good view of the proceedings.

From first stop to the last, the whole affair was an eclectic smorgasbord of healthy delights, delectable appetizers, and homegrown drinks hospitably served on board the trolley by each establishment(For the complete itinerary of stops for the day check out the downloaded image). In between stops, Tim entertained the predominantly senior group with informational stories of Summerville, Queen Elizabeth, and a Gullah tale all laced with his own personal brand of humor. It was a sweet-ride and tea-rific fun.

So, if you are looking for a fun, relaxing and informative tour of Summerville, I encourage to schedule a date with the Lowcountry Loop Trolley via the Summerville Visitors Center at 402 N. Main Street. I thank Tina Zimmerman for the invitation and look forward to taking the "Sweet Tea Trolley Tour of Historic Summerville and Linwood Gardens." Oh, don't forget to savor a cup of some famous Summerville sweet tea offered next to the reception desk.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Visit To The Illustrious Pine Forest Inn of Summerville-Somewhere In Time

Shrouded in a final blast of steam, the Summerville Short eased into the station; a small, elaborately decorated Victorian style structure. Stepping onto the depot platform, I glanced at my pocket watch. The bright, Lowcountry sun reflected off its glassy face. It was 2:05 pm. "Right on time," I whispered. A plume of black smoke billowed from the locomotive's smokebox and was quickly whisked away by the warm, early afternoon breeze.

Horse drawn carriages awaited arriving passengers. I surveyed the depot area for my reserved transportation. I spotted a group of coachman. One in the group was holding up a piece of paper with my name on it. I approached the smartly dressed gentleman and identified myself. "Good afternoon, Sir. Welcome to Summerville," he said. His words were tainted with a quaint accent quite different from what I was used to back in Ohio. He handed me a newspaper. It was dated April 9, 1902. I stepped aboard the carriage. With a gentle tug on the reins by my experienced driver, the carriage eased forward.

The downtown district was crowded with people. Rumors President Roosevelt and his entourage were in the Summerville area abounded--a bit of information I overheard while on the train. To the left of our advancing carriage was a fenced-in square landscaped with rows of live oaks and a diamond shaped walkway where children were at play.

On the opposite side of the square stood a row of wooden buildings dominated by a near completed triple-arched fa├žade bearing the designation, Arcade Theater. To our right, a few gentleman standing in front of a pharmacy hospitably tipped their hats as we passed. Turning the corner at an intersection, I asked, "What is the name of this road?" The coachman replied, "Main Street." I followed with an additional question. "The tall building on the right with the bell tower, what purpose does it serve?" "Town Hall, Sir."

Leaving the town square behind, we passed a white directional sign covered with wooden pointers containing the names of the various inns and hotels located throughout Old Summerville and then, several large homes bordered by white-picket fences. Each was richly adorned by a profusion of magenta colored flowers noticeably common to the area. We entered a thick stand of tall pines intermingled with aged, moss covered live oaks. Clusters of wisteria dangled freely from some of the branches. I inhaled a full breath of air. It was distinctly laced with the refreshing scent of pine.

Winding through the shaded canopy, it wasn't long before we came upon a broad, brick paved drive flanked by huge white urns containing plantings of the same flower growing throughout the town. We passed under a columned gateway surrounded by beautiful gardens--more wisteria and azaleas. At the end of the driveway, rising four stories high into the needled branches of the tall pines was the castellated center rotunda of the Pine Forest Inn--my accommodation for the next couple of days.

My carriage pulled up to the Inn's steps. Five horse riders sauntered past. I stepped off, paid the gentleman, and ascended the flight of stairs. The front piazza was impressive. Wider in the middle, it extended out on each side of the rotunda the full length of the building and ended in a hexagonal shape on the corners. Patrons were scattered about the piazza on chairs enjoying the southern exposure and their afternoon tea--likely made from tea leaves grown locally at the renowned Pinehurst Tea Plantation of Dr. Charles Sheppard. I read about it in a magazine on the train. I had a tour of the Pinehurst Tea Garden scheduled for tomorrow.

Upon entering the impressive building, two smiling ladies curtsied as I passed. I acknowledged their genteel gesture with a smile and a tip of my hat. The front entrance hall ran the full length of the rotunda. It was majestic. Arched walls set upon pillars divided the rotunda foyer from other sections. A grand staircase led to the upper floors where thick, wooden hand rails wrapped around the open upper floors. As I walked it, I estimated it to be 47 feet from front to back. Large, oak mantled fireplaces with marble hearths and exotic plants were placed strategically throughout the spacious lobby. Rocking chairs were scattered about. At the rear entrance, another long piazza served a huge three-sided courtyard.

I checked in at the desk. A double-chinned, spectacle wearing hotel clerk greeted me with a smile and a southern, "Good afternoon." I informed him of my two-day reservation. After signing the necessary papers, he rattled off some of the amenities. "There is an Amusement Hall with a bowling alley and billiard tables, two lawn tennis courts, croquet grounds, 18 hole golf course, swimming pool and a livery with 60 horses." I touched the brim of my hat and nodded my head, "Thank you." "Your welcome, Sir," and he then added, "Would you like some help with your bag, Sir?" I declined the offer. Then, he directed my attention to a tray at the end of the counter holding crystal glasses and a matching pitcher full of an iced, amber colored mixture. "Help yourself to a glass of freshly brewed Summerville sweet tea, Sir." I poured a glass and took a sip. "Interestingly tasty," I corroborated.

I turned and boarded the electric elevator that serviced the three upper floors--each floor with its own lobby and its share of the 150 suites and singles. As we slowly ascended, I engaged the elevator operator in some small talk. He willingly and gladly complied with some quick tips about Summerville. I was assigned a single on the second floor at $5 a night.

I entered the room. Large windows bathed the interior with an abundance of warm sunlight and provided an excellent view of the outside grounds below. Steam radiators lined the exterior walls. A painting of Drayton Hall hung above an elaborately carved mantle. I placed my suitcase next to the open fireplace and set the empty crystal glass on a marble topped table next to the room's large, cherry poster bed. The comfortably appointed room also included a private bath and an electric bell connected to the general office for personal service. I emptied my suitcase and freshened up a bit before setting out to further familiarize myself with the Inn's appointments.

After another short ride on the elevator, I was back to the main lobby. I curiously peaked into the adjacent dining room. Paneled in southern curly pine, the complimentary woodwork was elegant. Divided into three sections by wooden arches and comfortably filled with beautiful table settings, it seated 250 people. An American flag hung from the chandeliered ceiling. It was near 3:35 pm according to a nearby grandfather clock. The brunch crowd had already dispersed to other suitable areas. The dining room staff was busy making preparations for the evening meal.

Other common rooms included a large, main floor parlor, ladies private parlors with toilet rooms, reception rooms, library, reading room, sun parlor with exotic plants, wine and smoking rooms, and a Rocking Chair Room. Similar to the dining room, all were paneled with southern curly pine.

Women sitting in the sun parlor engaged in chit-chat centered around their families and social events. Some of them rocked baby carriages with their feet while doing needlework. They all wore fancy hats and long, lacy dresses--the ankle reveal was socially frowned upon. Gathered in the wine and smoking room, men in suits debated the latest news and talked about their golf game. The Rocking Chair Room fascinated me the most. I could never resist the invitation of a rocking chair. I would venture to say there were about a hundred chairs. Thirty, by my estimations, presently occupied. It was the right occasion for some self indulgence.

The seconds quietly ticked away with each back and forth motion. The seconds ticked into minutes. I pulled out my pocket watch. It was 4:45 pm. My restful thoughts turned to dinner. I contemplated the pleasure of indulging in the highly acclaimed blue ribbon cuisine the Inn was famous for. The first class chefs were advertised as preparing their culinary delights with ingredients gathered from local gardens along with meat and seafood delivered fresh by train from Charleston and New York markets.

After dinner, perhaps I would share a glass of wine with Florence Nightingale Graham in the wine room, shoot some billiards with Dr. Sheppard or discuss literature with Edna St. Vincent Millay in the library. Tomorrow, attend a fox hunt on Ingleside with Teddy Roosevelt.

After all, this was the illustrious Pine Forest Inn of Summerville, where the imagination had no boundaries.

(Pictures taken from "Images of America-Summerville" by Jerry Crotty and Margaret Ann Michels.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Coastal Carolina Fair 2013-A 57 Year Old Tradition

Some notable events of 1957:
- Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and the 1st to fly in a helicopter.
- The Frisbee is renamed and nationally marketed.
- Velcro was patented by George de Mestral of Switzerland.
- 61st Boston Marathon won by John J Kelley of Connecticut in 2:20:05
- Music Man, starring Robert Preston, opens on Broadway.
- Elvis Presley emerges as one of the world's first rock star.
- Leave it to Beaver premiers on CBS.
- Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story debuts on Broadway.
- "I Love Lucy," last airs on CBS-TV.
- "American Bandstand" premieres.
- Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti comes to Charleston at the instigation of Countess Alicia Paolozzi who owns a home in the city, and begins negotiations to make Charleston the American site of Menotti's Festival of Two Worlds, later called the Spoleto Festival.
- the first Coastal Carolina Fair.
And that brings us to 2013.

I made the mistake of going to the Coastal Carolina Fair on my sandals. It was somewhat nippy on the toes after the sun made its exit, but despite my imprudent choice, I muddled through the evening warmed up by the colorful display of fair lights reflecting off the lake and the soulful country ballads of Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan.

I wouldn't of had it any other way. Sundown is when the fair takes on a personality of its own. The shadows are darker, the lights more dazzling, the sounds more raucous, and the smells more decadent. And, it was surprisingly crowded for a Monday night, at least from my perspective.

There was the usual plenty of the three reasons why people go to the fair - food, rides, and entertainment. Sorry beer lovers, one thing there won't be plenty of is beer. It is a nonalcoholic fair, but you don't need beer to have fun. This is a family-oriented event.


The lines moved swiftly and I didn't have to wait too long for anything. Oh, except when I ordered my "fish" gyro for $7, which was advertised as "new", and required a wait. Apparently not a popular choice among fair enthusiasts. The vendor had to get it out of the freezer and cook it up.

After it was sizzled in boiling oil, the vendor informed me, "It's good fish," which caused me to reflect on his words. Was he honestly convinced it was good fish or was he convincingly setting me up for disappointment? I have to say it was surprisingly not-fishy and paired with lettuce and tomato smothered in the house sauce wrapped in pita. Believe it or not, I have never eaten a regular gyro. When it comes to food, I do not venture into the unknown like an Anthony Bordain and eating fair food to me is like competing in a Survivor food challenge.

Here are just a few of the depraved oddities: fried bacon-wrapped pickles, Krispy Kreme sloppy Joes, deep-fried bubble gum, fried shrimp and grits, chicken-fried meatloaf, grilled doughnuts-on-a-stick, corn dogs, kebabs, elephant ears and the most popular food item at the Coastal Carolina Fair, turkey legs, but I am not revealing any new revelations here and the reoccurring word in this assortment is fried, fried, fried. I did see one vendor that sold vegetable dishes. There are three new fried delicacies. I will let you discover what they are for yourself- happy hunting.

The entertainment list for the rest of the week is as follows:
11/6 - Grand Funk Railroad - 7:30
11/7 - Jerrod Niemann - 7:30
11/8 - Britt Nicole - 8:00
11/9 - Brett Eldredge - 8:00
11/10 - Colt Ford - 5:00
For the complete list of entertainment go to Coastal Carolina Fair.

Confession - before heading over to the Lakefront Stage to see Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan, I wickedly indulged in a dish of pumpkin-spice funnel cakes - $7. Enjoy the pictures, they speak a thousand words. Photos by Keri Whitaker.