Monday, February 20, 2012

Water's Edge Inn, Folly Beach SC -- Vacation Delight

As I type, I am running a bubble bath (in The Charleston Room on the first floor), which is filling up in a volcanic limestone Victoria + Albert soaking tub, and I am sipping from the bottle of cava the management left chilling for me as a birthday gift upon check-in yesterday.

There is a timer-operated fire flickering in the hearth, and the excellent wi-fi has been working brilliantly for 24 hours.

This morning, I padded upstairs to the small reception lounge, where I was able to get many cups of fabu locally roasted coffee; scones, muffins, bagels & pastries from Saffron Bakery in downtown Charleston, fresh fruit salad, a bunch of other stuff, and a little hot plate full of crispy, delicious bacon. All complimentary. Hellllloooooo.

And at happy hour, 4-7pm? Light beers, red + white wine, a liquored up, low-calorie cranberryish lemonade called Welcome Punch (literally they fixed me a glass upon check-in), with lots of little cheeses, nuts, salames, etc. and guests hanging out either at the outside patio or up in the lounge.

Oh, and the outside patio? They have some satellite radio station going on low volume that is, I swear to god, the "Margaritaville Station" -- same is piping out by the 24-hour outdoor hot tub. Which in some moods would just kill my soul, but this place somehow makes it work really nicely.

The hot tub, which, btw, looks out onto a marsh. And has rainbowy lights in it. And a nice little deck around it. I just spent a half hour in there as the afternoon light shone in and I feel way good, let me just say.

I'm a big ole hotel snobberina and this place totally ranks up there. I appreciate little details like the "dream machine" clock radio with an iPod hookup next to my bed, which has been playing ocean sounds ever since I got here.

I just don't really see a reason to turn it off.

UPDATE: I like my room so much that when it came time to order small plate #2 at Blu at the Tides Hotel -- where chef Jon Cropf uses (and lists on his menu) the stuff that comes from local or sustainable farms, I got my bison cannelloni to go.

So that I could get back to my awesome winter work retreat zone back at the Water's Edge. Man, it's great here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Afternoon burger @ Hall's Chophouse, Charleston SC

Mardi Gras Columbia and the Krewe de Columbi-ya-ya parade at City Roots urban farm was all 100% amazing yesterday.

Thus, the need for an afternoon burger at a fancy restaurant. An excellent cure.
Rolling into Charleston, South Carolina at 4pm, square outside of normal dining hours, I ask myself, "What Would The Shop Tart Do?"

Seriously -- she does great CHS food coverage for us Columbia, SC peeps.

So after confirming that neither McCrady's nor Slightly North of Broad serve an afternoon bar menu, I recalled Anne writing on about having some great meals at Hall's Chophouse on upper King Street.

And behold! I get what I want. Dry-aged beef ground in house, parmesan truffle fries (so early 00s but who cares?), good pinot noir, and lots of dijon.

Looked overdone colorwise, but was juicy enough. (Still -- it was *not* medium rare, despite the bartender's kind comments.) Bored by the out of season tomato and romaine, but gruyere salamandered on top makes it all OK.

It's fancy in there, but you can totes get away with jeans and a fleece vest like the guys having burgers down the bar from me.

(It *is* Southeastern Wildlife Expo weekend.)

Now: off to take a nap by the sea.

UPDATE: Way too much truffle oil, dudes. I was tasting truffle oil all night. Like into the next morning. Yikes!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Broccoli Raab Pecorino Lamb Chile Fennel Bacon party

This is a great consequence of growing broccoli raab in my back yard.

My dear friend Tali taught me this easy, fabu recipe!

Spicy Fennel + Sausage Pasta with Pecorino + Chile Flakes

1. Boil up some pasta to al dente. Orecchiette is best, but penne or angel hair are fine. Whateva! You'll toss it in at the last minute. Reserve 1/2-1 cup of pasta water in case you need it to lubricate your sauce later.

2. Brown up some sausage or ground meat. Sweet Italian sausage is best, but ground lamb is awesome, or any pork sausage. Ground beef, chicken or turkey will do in a pinch. How much? 1 big link per person. Cut open the casing and crumble the meat before you cook it.

3. Mortar and pestle some whole fennel seeds and red chile flakes. About 1/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds and 1/8 teaspoon chile flakes per big sausage link.

4. Throw the fennel and chile flakes in toward the end of your sausage browning process.

5. Chop up a big handful of broccoli raab per sausage link and throw it in! Salt + pepper to taste. Saute it all until the broccoli raab wilts, then throw in the pasta. You might need a splash of pasta water to get it all bubbling and cohesive.

6. Grate 1/8 to 1/4 cup of pecorino romano cheese per sausage link and scatter it in at the last minute. Turn off the heat, toss it all together, then serve.

7. Eat the pants off of this quick, delicious meal!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Grilled lobster, kittens, sea glass & a decompression chamber hiperbaric!

I was just recalling fondly the best grilled lobster I've had in a long, long time. (Well, since a fabu Monday Lobster night at Rosso Trattoria last year. Which isn't actually that long to be honest.)

This lobster was flippin' great.

Nice and browned on the outside, moist and yummy on the inside. I would like to eat one of those right now, actually.

But it wasn't just the lobster that was great.

The lobster was procured for my belly from this huge, sprawling all-porch-all-the-time, outdoor restaurant called El Veradero de Oscar, located far from all the other restaurants in the main part of tourist town, way down the main North-South road on Isla Mujeres. (Note: There is also an El Varadero, which is a Cuban place on the bay, mid-island, as well.)

Ya, that dreamy little funky vacation island off of Cancun, Mexico + the Yucatan Peninsula. 

We happened upon El Varadero de Oscar on a golf carting expedition on the North-South road between Playa Norte and the Sac Bajo road -- where Villa Rolandi and Playa Lancheros and the floating plastic bottle island and the Tortugranuja are located.

We thought, "Hm, that place is on the waterfront, they have a lobster tank with little miniature *grottos* in it where the lobsters hide out (the guy showed us when we popped in in the middle of the afternoon, not hungry but just curious), and their light fixtures are old fish net buoys with mod-retro holes drilled in them."

Um, yeah. Kindof no question there.

So we made a point of taking a taxi back down there for dinner one night.

It was a great decision. We are very smart. We were the only ppl there -- which was a little weird feeling, but it was also really great. (It's really far from the very pleasant, albeit very busy and touristy, zone of Playa Norte.)

There was optimal deliciousness. There were cold, tasty top shelf margaritas. There were many delicious salsas and fabulous guacamole. There were boats clinking against one another ever so gently in the marina right there.

The trend of many hungry, skittish little island cats continued at El Varadero de Oscar, but this cat was different -- she liked getting petted.

So I snuck her bits of lobster skrittle (that's not a real word) and petted her and drank great margaritas with Debi and loved that Derek discovered the apple-flavored soda, Lift!

Oh, and Debi's man Derek ordered this fried fish that was beyond insanely out of this world delicious!

There were cinnamony cinnamon overtones to the breading, perhaps with some allspice or nutmeg? Who knows. It was awesome.

Oh, and that mayonnaise? It's in an onion layer cup. That's right, a cup made from a layer of onion flesh. I'm SO stealing that idea for a dinner party (but maybe not the gross squeezy mayo look).

After we taxi'd back to Playa Norte, I went for a nighttime walk (yup, Isla Mujeres is weirdly safe like that) over to the eastern side of the island, which was beaten up super horribly by a hurricane a few years back.

A lot of properties on that shore still haven't bounced back.

Cool pool though.

That side of the island, all rocks with no real beach, is 100% amazing for finding sea glass, btw.


Back to the nighttime walk.

I continued strolling around like an American lady on vacation, and I found...the hyperbaric decompression chamber!

Best. Infographic Mural. Ever.