Tag Archives: Charleston SC

Charleston, Va “Benne”

How is it our last day already?! We cram a lot into our final historical dive, as well as two excellent meals.
First, a morning ferry to Fort Sumter, the strategic site where the American Civil War began. The excursion takes about two hours: a 30-minute ferry ride to and from the fort and 60 minutes on the island. During the ride, a recording describes various points of interest and the history of Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor. Best part: we see dolphins off the side of the boat.
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Construction of Fort Sumter was still underway when South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. Despite Charleston’s position as a major port, at the time only two companies of federal troops guarded the harbor.
The Confederacy (500 soldiers) captured the fort in a short but intense artillery bombardment of the US Army garrison (80 soldiers) on Apr 12 – Apr 13, 1861, following months of siege-like conditions. The Confederate victory marked the official start of this bloody war, although there were no casualties in this battle.

 The site includes a museum which details these events.  As a lifelong Yankee/Northerner, it’s fascinating to read the Southern perspective on slavery and other issues of the day. IMG-0273

We get back by noon and Uber over for lunch at the deservedly popular Rodney Scott’s BBQ. Our friends are eager to try the ribs, which could feed a modern-day army and are as fabulous as anticipated. Pulled pork is pretty great, too. Rodney stops by to say hi — we’d talk longer but our mouths are full!

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IMG-0290IMG-0291Next up: the McLeod Plantation, which takes an unsparing look at all aspects of plantation life. The plantation was built on the riches of sea island cotton – and on the backs of enslaved Gullah men, women and children. The stories of these families – black and white, enslaved and free – are vividly told through narrative and photos.  It’s sobering and terrible, yet the triumph of survival is ultimately uplifting.IMG-0293It’s 5:00 somewhere — oh, here! — so we conclude our last day with drinks and dinner. We discover a great bistro and bar right near the restaurant we’ve reserved.

The Ordinary is, in my opinion, rather ordinary.  Food is good but nothing special, the cavernous space (a former bank) is noisy, and the kitchen can’t get everything upstairs at the same time so some of us are eating while others are waiting. Wish we’d stayed at Felix!

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Finally, here’s a recipe for benne (sesame) wafers, a Gullah favorite — and now, one of mine too.

Benne Wafers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (+ optional splash of lemon juice)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper.
  2. Place the benne (sesame) seeds on an ungreased baking sheet and toast until light brown (about 10 minutes). Watch closely so they don’t burn!
  3. In a large bowl mix the brown sugar, melted butter, egg, vanilla extract, flour, salt, baking powder and toasted sesame seeds together until combined.
  4. Drop dough by spoonfuls (each about ½ teaspoon) 1½ inches apart onto the baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 4 to 6 minutes, until light brown.

Let cookies cool for about 2 minutes before removing from baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen, depending on the size of your spoonfuls.

 

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….