Monthly Archives: March 2018

Charleston Sojourn Pt 2

DAY 2

Fortified by coffee and a nibble of fresh croissants, we’re off to explore more of the city.

IMG-0348.jpgFirst up, a guided tour of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, one of the oldest Jewish congregations in the United States.

IMG-0217Charleston was founded in 1670, and by 1695 the first Jewish settler had arrived. Others soon followed, attracted by the civil and religious liberty of South Carolina and ample economic opportunities. Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (Holy Congregation House of God) was established in 1749; the original Georgian synagogue was destroyed in the 1838 fire that devastated much of the city, and the current Greek Revival building was built on the same site in 1840.

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Peeling plasterwork is scheduled for renovation — a big job!

The museum traces the history of these early families through maps, books, paintings and memorabilia. There’s also a wonderful letter written by George Washington to leaders of the Jewish community thanking them for their support and affirming his commitment to religious tolerance throughout the colonies.

Charleston was nicknamed “Holy City” for its religious freedoms and numerous places of worship: Calvinist, Catholic, Anglican, Quaker, Jewish, Baptist and Protestant. The many historic churches are pretty spectacular. IMG-0223

We slip inside Mount Zion AME to hear the minister’s rousing sermon.  He exhorts his congregation to “Shake, shake, shake the devil out!” during this Easter/Passover season.

Then, it’s on to The Charleston Museum.  Exhibits include artifacts, natural history, decorative arts and vivid depictions of plantation life.  Since the museum is overrun with school groups, we beat a hasty retreat to tour the nearby Joseph Manigault HouseIMG-0238.JPGThe family still lives locally and has kept the good furniture so most displays are true to the period but not original; that’s disappointing.

Back in the now-deserted Charleston museum, we admire quilts and dinosaurs.

Next: a “light” lunch of crab cakes and hush puppies at Hyman’s Seafood, established in 1890 when portions (and people) were a lot smaller.

 

 

Then: antiquing on King Street, and a folk art exhibit at the Gibbes Museum.

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George Birlant on King Street, founded 1922

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This enormous sweetgrass basket took 3 years to craft. It’s stunning.

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I’d have gone to this dentist in the 1800’s, wouldn’t you?

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A spectacular marble bust in the permanent collection.

We meet up with T&B for dinner at FIG, which is my favorite meal so far.

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 French’s French-fried onion rings were a childhood fave. FIG’s are a bit more sophisticated.

 

A Snapshot of Charleston, SC

Last week, Dear Husband and I spent a delightful few days in Charleston, a gracious city neither of us had visited before.  Highly recommended for food, sightseeing and history!

ARRIVAL DAY

We got in late afternoon, with just enough time to check in to our swanky Art Deco hotel The Spectator— where all rooms include breakfast and an on-call butler — and check out the sweetgrass basket weavers at the Charleston City Market. 

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After meeting up with our friends T & B who’d escaped another nor’easter the previous day, we all Uber’d to dinner at Leon’s Oyster House, which was lively even on a Tuesday.

Fried oysters were terrific, though we didn’t pair them with the local champagne as suggested.  Fried food + champagne = decadence to consider for the future!

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The ladies’ room at The Spectator. I’m coveting this fab mirror and art deco faucets!

DAY ONE

Today was all about walking. Heritage sites and signage abounds, keeping you aware of Charleston’s history before, during and after the Civil War.

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First, DH had a meeting at the Dock Street Theatre. The original theater didn’t survive the Great Fire of 1740 which destroyed many of the buildings in Charleston’s French Quarter. In 1809, the Planter’s Hotel was built on the site and in 1835 the wrought iron balcony and sandstone columns were added.

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Facade of Dock Street Theatre

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The beautiful music room upstairs is used for donor events and other special occasions.

Next, we strolled down Rainbow Row and admired other nearby homes. Many have been in the same family for generations.

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Do you think the resemblance between these bushes and the statue’s butt is intentional??

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Love this old movie theater and more pastel buildings.

All that walking entitled us to overeat at Husk, local celeb chef Sean Brock’s high temple of low country cooking, featuring locally sourced ingredients served with style in a charming Victorian house.

 

We ended with a nightcap at the Spectator’s Prohibition-style bar, where Allen the bartender creates 1920’s inspired cocktails (his specialty: “The Dude Imbibes”) or whatever you fancy.

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And poured ourselves into bed to rest up for Day Two….

 

Hump Day Hacks

Happy Wednesday! Two clever tips caught my eye this week.

How to remove oil stains

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Ever dripped olive oil on your clothes, or is it just me? I recently read that one surprising item will remove the stains if you act quickly.

The usual go-to’s are dish soap and laundry detergent, which break down oil. The surprise: aloe vera. You simply soak the stained area in water and rub the gel into the stain. Next, hand-wash the piece and allow it to air-dry.

My question: if you’re hand washing with soap anyway, who’s to say the aloe vera made the difference? But, worth a try if you already have it in the house!

How to keep white sneakers white

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Unlike when I was a kid, pristine sneakers are the desired look these days. And the best way to keep them white is to wash them in the washing machine.

Step 1: The night before, sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of baking soda on the outside and inside of your shoes. Be sure to dust it off before you wash them.

Step 2: Remove shoelaces, place in a pillowcase or wash bag and put them in the washer. Taking the laces out of your sneakers makes sure they get totally clean and no remaining dirt stays caked on under the holes.

Step 3: Use a shoe brush or old toothbrush to remove any loose dirt before you put your (lace-less) shoes in the washer.

Step 4: Next, add several towels. The towels act as a buffer between the shoes and the washer, preventing them from getting too knocked around or damaged during the wash cycle. Putting your sneakers in a separate wash bag adds extra protection.

Step 5: Set your washer on the cold delicate cycle and use liquid detergent. No chlorine bleach!

Step 6: Let your sneakers air dry after washing. Never put any type of shoes in the dryer, as the extreme heat will warp rubber or metal details.

 

 

A True Story

I always enjoy my monthly massage, not least because my therapist is smart, funny and usually has an interesting story to share.

Today we were talking about the hassles of resuming our maiden names after divorce. This reminded her of someone who lived in the small Texas town where she grew up.

This fellow, the town drunk, decided one day that he wanted to legally change his name to his high school nickname, Squirrel.

He went to court and told the judge what he wanted to do.  The judge thought he was kidding, or drunk, or both.

“Squirrel?” “Really?” “Yes.” 

“Are you sure?” “YES!” 

The back-and-forth went on for awhile and both parties were getting exasperated. Finally, the judge asked again, “You REALLY want to change your name to this?” “YES!!! Squirrel!! Period!!”

And the judge legally changed his name to Squirrel Period, as he has been known ever since.

Only in Texas.

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For the Love of Carbs #3

Last week we experimented with bread porn.  This week, class entered horror movie territory as we were introduced to… The Slasher!!

The slasher, otherwise known as a bread lame (“lahm”, “lahm-uh”, or as our instructor endearingly pronounced it, “lamb-y”), is a tool used to score dough so that it can expand during baking.  For this session, we improvised with a razor on a stick, which worked pretty well.

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Our final class was perhaps overly ambitious.  We made baguettes, another sourdough, pumpernickel (which we baked at home) and pizza (which we ate during our break).

Baguettes are nearly impossible to bake properly at home since it’s difficult to generate enough steam but we all wanted to try. Abby had made the dough in advance, which looked like Jabba the Hutt as it shimmied its way from its giant pan to the workspace.

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Our baguettes ended up a bit under-baked due to time constraints, and mine got squashed on the ride home. They were tasty, though, and worth another try in the future.

The pizza was fun to make and we’d all worked up an appetite, but I’ll probably stick with Bobby Flay’s recipe. 

Pumpernickel was the most successful, perhaps because it wasn’t rushed.

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The sourdough was good, too.

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Someone asked Abby why she decided to make baking her career, not just a hobby. Her advice: If you lose track of time while you’re doing something, it means you really love it.

We certainly did!

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(Abby’s the tall one in the middle, back row. Yours truly is front row left in a scarf.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Love of Carbs #2

Bread class continued with good spirits and much laughter, as we embarked on focaccia, ciabatta and a new method of making sourdough.

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Is that apprehension I’m sensing?

First up, some brave souls brought in their starters for Abby to evaluate. We learned that a starter is ready to use if a small bit floats when immersed in water. Sadly, most of our efforts sank like a stone. (Cue “My heart will go on”.)

To make both focaccia and ciabatta, you begin with a “poolish”, which is pronounced poo-leash rather than rhyming with “foolish” which is how we felt about our sinking non-starters. This is essentially another type of starter that is ready much faster and keeps the dough nice and airy.

Abby kept us on a strict schedule so we could bake these during class. Unfortunately, my benchmate and I made the crucial mistake of flouring the tops of our ciabattas, not realizing they’d be flipped over. (Or possibly not paying attention?) And I opted not to cut the dough into rolls, ending up with a pale loaf bearing more than a passing resemblance to a manatee.

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Ciabatta in the oven

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Abby suspects they’re not quite ready.

Our focaccias weren’t much prettier, being pancake-flat. But despite their wonky appearance, both breads were pretty tasty.

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Focaccia resembling paddleboards

The big excitement of the evening came when we learned a new technique that brought out our inner dominatrix. Abby had e-mailed us a video to get us “in the mood”. It’s called the slap and fold method, or, as my friend S dubbed it, Food Porn: You slap your dough on the counter, stretch it up and slap it down again. After about 5 minutes the dough is ready to rest, and so are you.

Who knew that bread making had a racy side? Or that my wardrobe needs a black leather apron?!

                                  (Above, clockwise: focaccia at home – I added rosemary -, ciabatta, sourdough.)

I can only imagine what’s in store for us this week. Stay tuned, dear friends.