Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Charleston's Entertaining Ghostly Side--Landmarks And Stories To Put A Scare In Your Visit

We all like to be entertained with a good scare once in awhile. Remember the fun times sitting in a semi-dark room on a stormy night or around a crackling campfire taking turns telling scary stories and seeing who could come up with the most sinister plot. This was how Mary Shelley gave birth to her first spine tingling novel.

While vacationing on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Mary and her friends amused themselves by reading German ghost stories, which prompted a suggestion each write a supernatural tale of their own. Mary's scary tale was conceived in a waking dream she had one night. She wrote a short story about her horrific dream and later expanded it into the story of "Frankenstein." Needless to say, her tale took the honor of being the scariest on that infamous night.

Looking for inspiration for a winning scary novel? Charleston's sister city to the south, Savannah, GA, was dubbed by The American Institute of Parapsychology as "America's Most Haunted City." The Sorrel-Weed House at 6 W Harris Street on Madison Square could be a stimulating subject. It was featured on Ghost Hunters and is one of the top ten creepiest places in America. Be sure to take the 10:30 pm tour for the greatest affect--if you dare.

Charleston's darker side most certainly could incite the imagination and inspiration for a winning, frightful tale--Travel Channel designated Charleston "America's Most Haunted Places." It is well-known for its old homes, church graveyards, cobbled streets and intimate alleys--many with bizarre tales of ghostly encounters and things that go bump in the night.

Old City Jail
The Battery Carriage House Inn caters to the "gentleman ghost" and the gruesome headless torso--rumored to occupy room 8. Poogan's Porch's resident apparition is an old lady by the name of Zoe St Amand--often heard banging things in the kitchen or waving to guests staying at the Mill Street Inn. Junius Brutus Booth, father of John Wilkes Booth, is said to appear at the Dock Street Theater and Lavinia Fisher, before being hanged, is famous for saying, "If you have a message you want to send to hell, give it to me-I'll carry it." She haunts the Old City Jail. And then there is the story of Ruth Lowndes Simmons, a Charleston lady with unfulfilled expectations.

Ruth was the daughter of Rawlins Lowndes--an American lawyer, politician, and president/governor of South Carolina in the 1700's. She was in love with a childhood friend and John's Island planter by the name of Francis Simmons. In the course of time, Ruth made the unwitting mistake of introducing Francis to her closest friend, Sabina Smith. Francis fell in love with Sabina immediately.

In a desperate move to counteract this unintended turn in fortune, Ruth put in motion a plan incorporating deception. She told Francis Sabina was planning on announcing her engagement to another gentleman by the name of Dick Johnston. Heartbroken, Francis stepped aside. On a visit to Ruth sometime after, Francis showed her a handkerchief with his initials on it and said, "Wouldn't you like to have such beautiful initials?" Ruth took that as a proposal. Next, Rawlins Lowndes called Francis to his home to discuss the proposal. Assuming Sabina would never be his wife, Francis accepted and arrangements were made for his marriage to Ruth.

The wedding was now one day away and Francis was walking down Church Street, which took him passed the Smith house and a happenchance rendezvous with Sabina. During their resulting conversation, Ruth's deception was uncovered. Sabina told Francis she never intended on marrying Dick Johnston. Raised a honorable southern gentleman, he resentfully honored his word and stuck to the agreement, thus losing Sabina forever. Bitter about the trickery, he told Ruth she would be his wife in name only.

On November 15, 1796, Francis and Ruth exchanged vows at the home of Ruth's father. After the wedding, they went to their new townhouse at 131 Tradd Street. Francis escorted Ruth to the door and then departed. He lived at his plantation on John's Island until purchasing the property at 14 Legare Street where he built the home he lived in until his death twenty years after marrying Ruth, leaving their union unconsummated--in my opinion, very ungentlemanly.

14 Legare Street
The townhouse is long gone, but it is believed Ruth haunts a long, narrow alley on Tradd Street whose entrance is marked by tall, brick columns. In the late hours of the night, the pounding of horses' hoofs and the rumbling of coach wheels can be heard passing by in the dark alley. Charlestonians believe it is Ruth Simmons being driven to her townhouse and her deserted bed. The narrow pathway is rightfully called Simmons' Alley.

It's October, the days are getting shorter and darker, the perfect atmosphere for a scary tale. Charleston's long history provides the ideal plots and its streets and alleys offer the perfect ghostly backdrop. You can choose from a variety of tours offered by the numerous hosts located throughout the historic Charleston Peninsula. Before or after your selected tour, be sure to make a stop at the Southend Brewery on E Bay Street and clink glasses with its resident ghost.

Tour companies: Black Cat Tours, Bulldog Tours, Ghostwalk, Charleston Ghosts Hunt, Ghosts of the South, Charleston's Best Tours, and Tour Charleston.
Old Charleston Walking Tours-$15 ($31 value) for admission for two or $29 ($62 value) for admission for four and Ashley on the Cooper Walking Tours-$20 ($40 value) for admission for two to the Chilling Charleston Macabre Ghost Tour.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Photos Of Summerville's Sweet Tea Festival Celebrated On Third Thursday, September 18, 2014--It Was Sweet Tea-rific

It was Third Thursday in Summerville. The Birthplace of Sweet Tea celebrated its highly anticipated, ever popular Sweet Tea Festival. It was sweet and it was historical.

Summerville restaurants presented a sampling of their popular culinary delights and participated in a sweet tea challenge. Festival attendees purchased commemorative Sweet Tea Mugs for $5, sampled the various restaurant's original sweet tea drinks, and voted for their favorite.

Live music was at every turn of the corner from Hutchinson Square to Short Central and in between courtesy bands from around the Lowcountry. It was a huge success thanks to the tireless efforts of Summerville DREAM, the Town of Summerville and the residents and visitors who filled the streets and businesses. Great fun was had by all. Enjoy the photos.

Visit and discover the Birthplace of Sweet Tea. Check out Summerville's Trolley Tours, Festivals and Celebrations, Culinary Events and Summerville's informative museum--be sure to check out its new outdoor mural.

Trolley Tour reviews:
Sip And Savor Summerville's Popular Drinking Establishments--The Newest Addition In The Trolley Tours

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Waverunner Safari Adventure--Tidal Wave Water Sports High Velocity Thrill Excursion to Capers Island

Eagerly awaiting this moment since awakening, the appointed time finally arrived. "You may want to leave your hat," the young lady at the outdoor counter suggested. Declining the proposal, I turned my hat around. A decision that would later have an unusual outcome. I was sized up and handed a life jacket. I snapped it on while listening to the guide begin his introductions. Needless to say, my emotions jumped to the next level of excitement.

The weather worn wooden dock rocked gently in the creek's fluid current while our guide wrapped up his final instructions with some pertinent safety tips, "In the no-wake zone, stay 20 feet apart at all times. Once we leave the no-wake zone, keep 100 feet between yourself and everything else. There are hidden sandbars and oyster beds, so follow in my wake at all times."

We collectively mounted our assigned personal watercraft and familiarized ourselves with its various controls and buttons. After hooking the shut-off cord to our floatation vests, our slumbering high velocity watercraft were one by one gently nudged from their plastic cradles. After fully slipping into the warm, salty waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, I immediately depressed the start button. With my jet ski aroused to consciousness, I squeezed the throttle propelling it forward onto the first leg of an unbelievably riotous Waverunner Safari Adventure with Tidal Wave Water Sports.

Waverunner Safari Adventure takes you on a high velocity cruise through the intricate coastal waterways of Charleston's northern barrier islands. It begins at the docks of Tidal Wave Water Sports in the IOP Marina and proceeds up the Intracoastal Waterway. Once you leave the no-wake zone, you are turned loose to get a feel for your jet ski. For fifteen minutes, you can jump waves, spin out, pretty much do whatever you want as long as you maintain the 100 foot rule.

Several times my jet ski was launched skyward off the waves of passing larger vessels momentarily suspending me weightless in the air and once beneath the waves completely baptizing me in salt water. It was here I lost my hat.

After honing our skills, our guide took us full throttle 15 miles through the beautiful coastal waterways of Dewees and Capers Island to the tidal river of Price Inlet. It was here we beached our jet skis and for the next fifteen minutes, I let the beauty of Capers embrace me, sunk my grateful feet into its soft sands and happily allowed its soothing waters wash over me in full view of Bulls Island, my next planned excursion. Too quickly, it was time to depart the serenity of Capers.

For the final time, I mounted my jet ski, powered up and once clear of the shoreline, took off in a sudden burst of acceleration leaving a turbulent swathe of water behind me. Following in the playful and trick-filled wake of our guide for the next fifteen miles, we weaved in and around patches of sea grass and marshland until we entered the no-wake zone of the Intracoastal Waterway back to the IOP Marina and the Tidal Wave docks totally satisfied with a well spent 1 1/2 hours on a thrill ride cruising 30 miles through the unspoiled coastal waters of Charleston's northern barrier islands--unfortunately without my hat, forever lost in the waters of Seven Reaches.

Our tour guide, Donny, was personable and friendly. Fully knowing the dangers involved in operating watercraft at a high velocity, he responsibly took his oversight seriously giving helpful and vital instructions to the age varied group of seven.

On the safari, we were afforded the freedom to be daring as long as we stayed within the parameters of the earlier stated rules and used common sense related to each individuals skill level.

The jet skis were well maintained, the docks were organized. It is a tour I would gladly do again and highly recommend it to everyone, families and individuals, looking to put daily physical restraints aside and freeing oneself to experience something different and exciting. It was a blast.

As regards my hat, ten minutes after leaving the IOP Marina I received a phone call from the young lady at the counter informing me my hat was retrieved from the merciful waters of Seven Reaches--amazing.

Tickets: Single $119.00, Double $139.00
Drivers must be 16 years old, 18 years old with a passenger

Isle of Palms, SC
(843) 886-8456 69
41st Avenue
Isle of Palms, SC

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Visit To Charleston's Number One French Brasserie During Restaurant Week--39 Rue de Jean Was Sumptuous

This would be my first visit to the posh 39 Rue de Jean--a French brasserie located between Meeting and King on one of Charleston's most notable streets. With the Charleston Museum close by, the museum's newly constructed glass enclosed building housing the first locomotive built in America could be seen from my vantage point at the entrance of the beautifully landscaped alleyway that separated the restaurant from the oldest building on the block, the Charleston Music Hall.

In the distance, magenta and purple neon lighting brightly bathed the alley's inviting walkway of odd sized stone pavers while the overhead lights of Rue's covered patio softly immersed the table settings along the alley's right side. This was a part of John Street I thus far had not ventured down on previous outings.

Reservation was set for 7:00 pm. I checked in at the front desk and was promptly taken to a small table with a single chair and a booth-style burgundy bench topped with stainless steal rails. Identical on both sides, it ran along the right-middle of the main dining area. Full booths and scattered tables filled the rest of the space. A bricked archway led to additional seating beyond and glass doors flanking the bar opened onto an outdoor patio. Two aged-smoky looking mirrors covered one wall and a full bar covered another. A patterned ceiling reflected the age of the building. The table was covered with white paper--the perfect medium for doodling on or writing the lyrics of a new hit song or sonnet, if you were moved to do so. Hey, Edgar Allen Poe did it.

My server promptly arrived with a carafe of water, filled a glass and shared some of the preferred specials from the main menu aside from the 3 for $30 menu prepared by Rue for Restaurant Week. I immediately informed the server I would be choosing from the 3 for $30 and selected my cocktail--a Citron Mojito. The concoction of mint leaves floating in Absolut Citron, key lime juice, and simple syrup topped with a slice of lime arrived a few moments later and I took my first sip. It was the perfect opener.

The first course on the 3 for $30 menu was a choice between Cauliflower and Brie Bisque, Smoked Salmon Maki Roll and Varietal Greens Salad. I chose the Varietal Greens Salad with Roasted Pecans, Pickled Golden Raisins, Figs and Goat Cheese Vinaigrette. Second Course offered four options: Poulet Confit, Pork Belly, Braised Cod, and Vegetable Dauphinoise. Braised Cod was my selection. It was an entree of Fennel, Curry, Cherry Tomatoes and Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes. Dessert options were between Brown Butter Crepes and Chocolate Pate. I hesitantly picked the Brown Butter Crepes prepared with Caramelized Apples, Creme Anglaise and Powdered Sugar.

The Varietal Greens Salad was a generous portion of locally grown greens. The nutty flavor of the pecans superbly complimented the delightfully fruity taste of the pickled raisins while the cheesy vinaigrette dressing pleasantly accented the total combination. It was very sumptuous.

The Braised Cod arrived to the table steamy hot and at the hand of a helper with a French accent--aside from the menu, the only French I encountered all evening. The fennel, curry and cherry tomatoes were buried under a fillet of cod surrounded by the whipped potatoes. The curry mixed in with the whipped potatoes made my eyes water from time to time, but overall was tolerably delicious. The fennel covered with a crisp coating was very good as were the cherry tomatoes. The texture of the cod was perfect, flaky to the fork and not dry.

My hesitancy in selecting dessert was justified. I am not saying the Brown Butter Crepes wasn't good, to the contrary, it was satisfying, but I should have not passed up the Chocolate Pate with fresh strawberries, creme anglaise and berry coulis. It would have been more colorful with the red of the strawberries and the berry coulis drizzled all over it.

Andre was a very attentive server, checking in from time to time and filling the water glass when it was near empty. The delivery of the various dishes was timely and the presentation was artful. The removal of spent dishes was prompt and replacement silverware was provided when needed. Additionally, mixed in with the meal, I like to engage in a little small talk with the server, more than just, "Is everything satisfactory?" or "Can I get you anything?" It was a busy night at the Rue, so I do understand the server's limitations in this regard, but it is something to give consideration to when dealing with patrons.

The upscale casual Rue de Jean is ideally situated between Meeting and King Street next to one of Charleston's finest venues, the Charleston Music Hall. Its marquee style entrance is eye catching. The main dining area is comfortable and not cramped for space. It offers outdoor seating on a black rail enclosed covered patio with a front view of historic John Street and a beautifully landscaped alleyway even more picturesque at night under the lights. I give high marks to the chef and kitchen staff for a skillfully prepared, elegantly presented culinary experience on my visit during Charleston Restaurant Week.

Side note--If you are looking for a mouth-watering burger, 39 Rue de Jean was named Charleston's number one brasserie for burgers.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Charleston Restaurant Week Begins September 3rd--Make Your Selections Now And Savor

The next installment of the highly anticipated, ever popular Charleston Restaurant Week is set for September 3-14. With more fine dining establishments per capita than any other city in the South, the list of recognized and celebrated restaurants participating in the 3 for $30 and 3 for $40 specials is extensive.

I find my exclusion process pleasantly challenging as I critique the choices. The criteria for my final selection is simple. It must be a restaurant I thus far have not had the pleasure to dine at and their medley of menu offerings for the week--different from customary is the operative word. 39 Rue de Jean and Circa 1886 are on my radar.

39 Rue de Jean, called "Rue" for short by locals, is patterned after the classic French brasserie, which is the French term for brewery, but the French use the term to describe informal restaurants with a relaxed setting that stay open late, don’t require reservations, and may be open for several meals a day. The food is simple and hearty. You can enjoy it with beer, wine, or any variety of drinks.

A two story brick warehouse built in 1880, it was a building used by the Charleston Manufacturing Company for storing finished products, redesigned in 1943 for adaptive office space, and a bagging company complex in the 1940's before it lastly opened as the "Rue" in 2001.

With a distinctive marquee style entrance, there is no mistaking your arrival at its John Street location. Inside, it is decorated with stainless steel, mahogany, reds and tans, and has a brick archway with a long bar. Outside, a red covered patio with a quaint alley view that is also pet friendly. It will be offering a 3 for $30 menu in typical "Rue" fashion. It has been voted Best French Restaurant year after year by the Charleston City Paper. Located at 39 John Street.

Located in the original carriage house of the historic Wentworth Mansion, Circa 1886 is one of Charleston’s best restaurants. It serves a seasonal menu with a focus on local product, high quality ingredients and Southern flavors and has an extensive wine collection that is stored in the original wine cellar of the Wentworth Mansion.

Many of the buildings original features still remain such as the stable doors, wood-burning kitchen fireplace, and heart-of-pine floors. Upon your arrival and hopefully available, request seating in the arched-covered booths in the main dining room--very cozy.

The entrance is marked by a long walkway lined with pergola style post and beams. Outdoor seating is available on a stoned patio. Circa will be offering a 3 for $40 selection. It has been voted one of the country's '20 Best Restaurants for a Date' and is consistently recognized by Wine Enthusiast as one of America’s Best Wine Restaurants. Located at 149 Wentworth Street--reserve a table.

Charleston Restaurant Week is the ideal opportunity to sample the culinary creations of the finest chefs in the Holy City at a reasonable price and the perfect occasion to explore a new restaurant. Downtown streets and alleys will be saturated with captivating aromas and famished restaurant patrons. The Charleston Restaurant Association provides a full list of participating restaurants, their menus, and their websites for you to peruse to assist you in making a final determination. In some cases, a link is included to reserve your table.

So, make your reservations now and assure your place at one of the tables at the restaurant of your choosing. One last thing, j'espère que vous avez un bon moment.