September 28, 2016

A Food-Filled Weekend Guide to Charleston

My husband and I just got back from a whirlwind weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. Combine that with another quick trip we took last summer, and we’re officially hooked on its Southern-meets-European-meets-beach-y vibe. If I had to combine the best experiences of both trips, here’s how I’d do it all again:

Raw bar & cocktails at The Darling Oyster Bar
This is the first place we visited upon arriving on Friday afternoon, and it was my overall favorite experience. The Darling has it all: amazing seafood plus Southern classics, a full and creative bar, and vintage ambiance & design. It was like a crazy blend of a French brasserie and Wes Anderson movie set, and it was delightful. We got the “seafood plateau,” hush puppies with sorghum butter, several drinks, and a fun introduction to King Street nightlife.

Callie’s pimento cheese sandwich, and food souvenirs a-plenty. Left photo by Micah Johnson.

Breakfast biscuit at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Callie’s serves perfectly flaky biscuits with an array of sweet and savory fillings. We tried the pimento cheese sandwich and a jam-slathered option. This place is cute but tiny – it’s advisable to grab-and-go (unless you can snag one of the stools – then stay forever.)

Another great grab-and-go option for breakfast or lunch is Caviar & Bananas, a gourmet market and cafe with a few locations in Charleston. I love buying food items as souvenirs; there are always those specialties you can’t quite justify when at home but are a great way to relive a specific place or meal. There’s a lot of things like that at C&B. This time we brought home some freshly-roasted coffee beans, handmade pasta, pepperoncini-infused oil, and a few bottles of craft beer.

Walking around South of Broad
You’ll inevitably get a good feel for King Street (Charleston’s main commercial drag) from just navigating your way around downtown. But we also carved out time on Saturday to walk around south of Broad Street – which is basically the tip of the peninsula – home to Charleston’s older residences and a lot of history.

There’s “Rainbow Row,” a strip of pastel-pretty houses and shops, plus lots of gorgeous churches and graveyards, dark mossy alleyways, and secret courtyards. We sipped iced coffees and partook in some major real estate stalking. We also stopped for more food & drink souvenirs at goat.sheep.cow. and Charleston Beer Exchange.

Lunch or dinner at Xiao Bao Biscuit
This is the only place we went to on both trips, and will continue to frequent on all future trips to Charleston. Housed in a reincarnated gas station, Xiao Bao Biscuit brings together the tastiest plates from several different Asian traditions, “inspired by kick-ass grandmothers everywhere.” It’s all guaranteed to be great, but the okonomiyaki (“cabbage pancake,” but also so much more than that) always stands out.

We hit up Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream on the way home for inventive, seasonal scoops like “Gooey Butter Cake” and “Sun-Popped Corn.” Note to self: next time, bring a cooler for potential food souvenirs that would need to be kept cold on the drive home.

The view from the pier at Folly Beach.

The just-right double cheeseburger at Butcher & Bee. Left photo by Micah Johnson.

Folly Beach & Final Brunch
On Sunday morning, we visited Folly Beach, mostly just to feel the sand between our toes, and take in the view from “the Edge of America.” Then we headed to north Charleston on our way out of town for one final meal, at Butcher & Bee. They specialize in fresh, local sandwiches, bowls, and drinks, and have a majorly fun and bright interior.

Edmund’s Oast is right next to Butcher & Bee, and it’s impossible to visit one without wanting to stop by the other. We shared a snack and cocktails, but their beer list is most impressive (featuring dozens of in-house and regional brews), and the whole place feels like a cool modern Viking hall.


February 16, 2015


Our den was an addition to the original house, added on about two years after it was built (here's what it looked like when we bought it). It's by far where we spend most of our chill time. I love the built-ins, the wood-burning fireplace, the huge windows and sliding door to our patio... but not the faux-slate tiles. When we moved in I bought some neutral cheap rugs from IKEA to create a cozy "island" in the middle of the room. When when we got our bigger couch a few months ago, it seemed... not enough. I wanted that cozy island to become a whole cozy room, with a little more life in it – and the den seemed like a good space to go a little more vivid and out-there since we also have a more chill, mid-century modern "formal living room." Replacing the tile with carpet or wood isn't an option at the moment. I also realized it was the only room in the house without pattern... so I bought that pouf on clearance at Target. But then the pouf looked totally sad and out of place.

It was time to buy some crazy rugs.

One of the many upsides of being a designer is the power to use Photoshop to imagine things. I've done this with paint colors and artwork before, but never shared it. I wasn't even planning on sharing this (you can see my Starbucks cup on the desk in the background, nothing is styled or smoothed or fluffed...), but I'm too excited by how my room is going to look that I can't help it.

This is the beginning of the Great Rug Layering of 2015. I got all three of these on Overstock (though I also love RugsUSA) for under $400 total. I'm honestly not super comfortable with pattern, so I wanted to make sure the combo wasn't too crazy, that the colors tied together well, and just see what it did to the vibe of the room. I wasn't even going to buy the rugs that day... but after seeing this I just had to immediately (I also didn't want to over-think it). The power of Photoshop!

They'll be arriving in the next week or two. Down the road I think I'll buy another, larger jute rug for under my desk / the back half of the room, and maybe some smaller (grey-based?) rugs to fill in holes. But this is a solid, cozy start.

January 28, 2015


Above: some Instagrams of recent favorite corners of the house.

I use this blog as a journal, to remember, and I love randomly checking posts from a year or two ago, just to see where I was in contrast to where I am. Last late January I was expanding and contracting during a time of intense change and growth. It was one of those "everything is very bright and a little overwhelming and when will winter end" times, that thankfully has passed. 

A year later, things are just now clicking into place (except for that peskily-cyclical winter bit). I can finally look back with some clarity and appreciate, by contrast, the calm of my life right now. We chose to elope and it was absolutely the best decision for us. Micah found a job – and it ended up being better than anything we could have imagined. We were able to start saving up for things again, and bought a big new bed, and a cozy new couch (photos soon). Our house is feeling more like a home. We're both building creatively-fulfilling careers. 

I just wanted to acknowledge this period, to validate Past Liz, and to reassure Future Liz. Everything contracts and expands, this too shall pass, just keep swimming, all that. And when in doubt, read the archives of your own silly blog, to see how far you've come. It's always further than you remember.

January 26, 2015


I've officially jumped on the juice bandwagon, and so far I'm loving it. As per Bon Appétit's recommendation (my favorite magazine subscription right now), I bought myself this juicer a few weeks ago, plus a book of recipes to get me started and keep me out of ruts. So far my favorite combos are (from top to bottom): carrot + grapefruit + ginger, beet + apple, and kale + spinach + celery + lime.

So far, I'm averaging about one big juice every other day. I've been careful to always use more vegetables than fruit (sssugarrr). These aren't meal replacements for me – more like hearty snacks, or a supplement of sorts, to make sure I'm getting enough plant power. I recently worked with a client who was trained as a raw food chef, and during one of our meetings she said, "Raw food is alive, and it will transform you from a cellular level. You're literally putting life and light into your body." It's really stuck with me, and I can totally feel that in those first few sips. So bold and fresh and potent – just the COLOR alone is transformational, no?

As healthy as all this jazz is, my mind can't help but wander off to the delicious cocktail possibilities that my new toy also opens up. We had fresh-squeezed orange juice for mimosas last weekend, and that green juice got me thinking about combining cucumber + lime + maybe a little jalapeño? + gin, or making a home-made Bloody Mary mix...

December 8, 2014


Micah and I just enjoyed our first alone-together Thanksgiving. Without any restriction or obligation to familial tradition, we planned out a menu that began some traditions of our own. We bought a great bottle of wine (to complement the duck), set the table the day before, then prepped the meal over the course of a few Bloody Marys. The best part? We were finished eating (table cleared and dishes in the dishwasher), and watching a Harry Potter movie in our pajamas by 3:30pm.

November 18, 2014


I'm working from Oklahoma City this week, missing my husband... and just now realizing we totally missed our six-month anniversary a few weeks ago. What better excuse to post some of our "portraits" (the more candid, the more I like it) from our elopement in May? Here's to another six-and-a-half-ish months (AT LEAST) of boozy adventures and insuppressible laughter.


Additional viewing: part one and part two. 

November 1, 2014


I've been hearing about fire cider for a few years, but always assumed it some sort of secret folk medicine that was too complex or arcane for anyone but like, Appalachian witch healers to make. Turns out, it's basically raw apple vinegar cider, infused with all kinds of powerful immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, decongestant, and circulatory-assisting plants and herbs to literally and figuratively warm your ass up and protect it from illness during the cold winter months. And all it really takes to make, is patience.

There are a lot of recipes out there, but they all center around a base of chopped horseradish, onion, ginger, garlic, and citrus. I followed the basic proportions of this recipe, but didn't add some of the "extra" herbs like thyme, parsley, or the peppercorns (though those all sound like awesome additions). Some of the more esoteric recipes also call for making this on a particular moon phase, and burying the jar in your yard for a month for extra... potency. I happened to make mine on the new moon in Scorpio (also known as grocery day), and it sounds badass, so it can't hurt. I'm storing mine in a cool dark cupboard, and shaking it whenever I remember to. There also seem to be a lot of differing opinions on how long the cider needs to "steep" – from two weeks, to two months. I think I'll wait a month (or a full moon cycle), then strain out all the non-liquid, and add raw local honey to taste – and for additional health benefits.

Fire cider can be taken straight, as a shot, or in a tea with hot water and more honey; some even use it in salad dressing. I think I need to taste it first. I actually like the taste of vinegar (and garlic, and ginger, etc, etc), but horseradish is a different story; even chopping that was a sinus-clearing, nosehair-burning experience of its own. Luckily, I've still got a few weeks to get my courage up.