Picnic Practicality Strategies

June 18, 2018 § Leave a comment

What to Pack, What to Eat, and Where to Park for an Idyllic Lowcountry Picnic Experience

By Holly Herrick – Charleston Hospitality Group Editor

Late spring and early summer in Charleston afford comfortable temperatures for outside dining, and the landscapes’ heaven-sent and generous brush of beauty across the area with gorgeous views of everything from swaying marsh grasses and open water to shaded parks or secluded gardens.

While spontaneous picnics for two or three are easily put together with a quick run to a great wine and cheese shop and a whimsical trip to the nearest park. More specialized, romantic and substantive picnics demand a little more advance planning. Here are some tips from our well-seasoned picnic team:

Picking the Best Location and Time of Day

When I was a child, every time I saw my mother pack up our huge, vintage woven straw picnic basket, I knew we were going to Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts. This was a favorite summertime destination for my family. As fun as it was, it was a long drive and I’ll never forget the warm, soggy, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that quickly filled with gritty sand with each gust of wind on the beach. So, for this reason alone, I suggest staying away from on-sand beach picnic spreads, unless you can find a picnic table at one of the beaches, such as Folly Beach under and on the pier.

Some wonderful downtown parks for a picnic include small, intimate Washington Square at Broad and Meeting Streets, White Point Garden at The Battery at the lowest tip of the peninsula where “the Ashley meets the Cooper,” and historic Hampton Park located near The Citadel at 80 Mary Murray Boulevard. The 60-acre park is the largest in town, and arguably one of the most beautiful. Dripping with Spanish moss covered live oaks, beautifully tended garden beds, a duck pond and miles of walking trails, the winding road that encircles it follows the path of the historic Washington Race Track, built in 1792. Waterfront Park near One Vendue Range presents a vast view and breezes off The Cooper River and easy swinging benches to park and take it all in or spread a blanket on the well-groomed park lawn near the gorgeous pineapple fountain in the center of the park.

Mosquitoes, the bane of the Lowcountry, tend to flock at dusk and early evening. Avoid picnicking at these times and when the earth is damp.  A sunny, slightly breezy day, will help keep the bugs at bay, and so will bug spray, if you are inclined to use it.

Picnic Menu

The two primary concerns when packing for a picnic are food safety and freshness/variety. You want to avoid using sauces or ingredients (such as mayonnaise) that can cause food poisoning when not refrigerated. Stay away from foods that are best-served hot and focus on foods that will be delicious and safe to eat at room temperature or slightly warm. Variety and the tastes of your guests is important, too. To make a slightly elegant, satisfying basket, pick from some of these suggestions:

  • One or two types of cheeses, especially those that are best slightly warm and melty, such as camembert, Fontina, or goat cheese.
  • A nice baguette of bread. No need to slice. Just tear and spread on the cheese.
  • Grapes, berries, peaches, and other summer fruits. Cube sweet cantaloupe or honeydew and skewer with ham or prosciutto and fresh basil for an easy bite of deliciousness.
  • Easy summer or tea sandwiches with butter, smoked salmon and cucumber or roasted asparagus and Dijon mustard.
  • Easy transportable desserts such as delicious chocolate chip cookies or shortbread.
  • Chilled beverages for everyone. Fresh lemonade, wine, fruity sangria.
  • Crunchy, fresh mayonnaise-free salad. I love this red cabbage slaw from my cookbook, Southern Farmers Market Cookbook (Gibbs Smith). It can be made ahead, is healthy, delicious at room temp as well as cold, and everybody loves it:

RECIPE

Red Cabbage Slaw with Bacon, Scallions, Toasted Pecans, and Roquefort

(Serves 8)

1 medium head red cabbage, cored, quartered, and thinly sliced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Garnishes:

4 scallions, cleaned and finely diced

1/3 cup Roquefort cheese, crumbled (or substitute fresh goat cheese)

7 slices bacon

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Trim the rough outer leaves off of the cabbage and discard. Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise and then cut out the core and discard. Cut the halves in half again, lengthwise. Slice each quarter into very thin, consistent 1/8-inch-thick-slices.  Toss to coat in a large bowl with vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Cover tightly with a damp kitchen towel and marinate at least 3 hours but no more than 5 hours at room temperature (or refrigerate to marinate overnight).

Rinse the scallions and trim off the root; dice finely and set aside. Crumble the Roquefort into chunky pieces and set aside. Cut the bacon into a 1/4-inch dice and cook over medium-high heat until crispy and golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels to drain; set aside.

Discard all but 1/2 teaspoon of the reserved bacon fat. Heat in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and cook until golden, tossing to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, as well as salt and pepper to taste; set aside to drain on paper towels.

Just before leaving for the picnic, put the chilled, marinated cabbage in a large, plastic bowl with a lid. Top with the scallions, cheese, nuts and bacon. Toss vigorously just before serving.

If you’re looking for something completely cooked, packed and packaged ahead, Queology makes a beautiful picnic pack including rolls, barbecue pork or chicken, choice of two sides for $29.99 (enough to feed four) and 25-piece and 50-piece wing platters. All you have to do is pick it up at 32 N. Market Street, 843.580.2244

 

Packing List

Although wonderfully nostalgic, a wicker picnic basket it not obligatory. A sturdy carrying basket or bag (ideally with built-in temperature regulation) will do. Here are a few more items to add to your list:

  • Plastic or paper plates
  • Plastic cups/glasses
  • Paper napkins
  • Cutlery as needed: knives, forks, spoons
  • Serving utensils
  • Picnic blanket/folding chairs
  • Cutting board

Happy International Picnic Day!

DITCH THE HIGH SEASON TRAFFIC FOR HAPPY HOUR

May 22, 2018 § Leave a comment

Nicely Priced Libations and Tasty Small Bites Available at Multiple Charleston Hospitality Group Locations  

Subdue the pressures of rising temperatures and increased high season traffic with a bite and a drink at one of our many happy hour locations, ranging from Ladson to downtown Charleston.

Barbecue fans will enjoy Queology’s Happy Hour, which runs from Monday to Friday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. It features $5 barbecue nachos, fifty cent brined and slowly smoked chicken wings (6 or 10), $3 Bud Light draught, $4 local draughts, $3 well drinks, $3 wines, and $4 Rumple, Jager, Jameson and Fireball drinks.  Quelogy is located at 32-C N. Market Street, downtown.

Lovers of authentic Mediterranean fare will revel in Tabbuli’s breezy, waterside infused Happy Hour, Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Hummus, Mediterranean dip, mixed olives and a selection of lamb, chicken, veggie and falafel single skewers (each served with two sauces) are $5 each. Wash it all down with $5 wines, $3 well drinks, and $2 domestic beers. Tabbuli is located at 6 N. Market Street, downtown.

East of the Cooper, get cozy at Fill Restaurant & Piano Bar’s Happy Hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday. The delicious, internationally inspired menu includes mariachi bites, bacon bombs, phyllo baked brie, and loaded mac ‘n cheese ($6 each) and mini-quesadillas and burgers for $5 ($1 extra for bacon or cheese on the burger), and a side salad for $4. Champagne ($1), domestic drafts ($2), house liquors ($3) and house wines ($3) go down easily at FILL, 1150 Hungryneck Boulevard, Mount Pleasant.

The elegance of Eli’s Table’s secret garden Happy Hour beckons Monday through Friday, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Fried green tomatoes, California burger sliders and crab cakes are just $6, and a hot cup of creamy tomato bisque and cool oyster shooters are $4.  Eli’s signature Bloody Mary ($6), ultimate mimosa ($6), house vodka, tequila, and rum (each with one mixer, $6), 7 Moons Merlot ($5) and Hahn SLH Chardonnay ($5) seal the deal. Eli’s Table is located at 129 Meeting Street, downtown.

Toast!, 155 Meeting Street, downtown, serves specially priced Smirnoff, local and domestic beers ($4 -$5) at its Happy Hour, Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.  Toast of Summerville, 717 Old Trolley Road, and Toast of West Ashley, 2026 Savannah Highway, both host Happy Hours Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. featuring specially priced drinks (ranging from $2.50 to $5) and Toast of Summerville includes $5 bar fare served at the bar and on the patio.

Kick up your heels at HonkyTonk Saloon’s countrified Happy Hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Friday with $3 tequilas, $2 Corona cans, and $2 tacos.  HonkyTonk Saloon is located at 192 College Park Road, Ladson.

About Charleston Hospitality Group (CHG) – CHG is a restaurant and entertainment group comprised of several venues in greater Charleston.

Farm to Fork Dinner Raises Funds to Support Ashley Ridge High School’s Agriculture and Culinary Programs

May 8, 2018 § Leave a comment

Culinary and Agricultural Students Grow and Raise Their Own Food to Learn Career Skills

Not every child has an opportunity or desire to go to college or culinary school. The staff at Summerville’s Ashley Ridge High School has acknowledged this in a way that goes well beyond intent and straight to a “classroom” farm and culinary training table.

The students’ education is part of Fox Ridge Farm, an educational farm on the school’s campus. The farm oversees and maintains livestock, vegetable and greenhouse production, forestry, wildlife management, and turf grass management. Fox Ridge Farm is comprised of ten acres and is the first GAP (Good Agricultural Practices ) certified farm operated by a school. School staff work with the students who are given hands-on instruction while participating in daily farm operations and responsibilities. Back in the kitchen Rachel Blank oversees the culinary program with her students.

The school held its second annual Farm to Fork Dinner on May 3,  featuring fresh produce and  hog they raised. The pig was was cooked and smoked by Sweatman’s BBQ, but all of the remaining food collection, cooking and service was performed by enthusiastic students of the culinary program.

Two members of Charleston Hospitality Group’s marketing team, Timmi-Jo Pashuta and Holly Herrick, were graciously invited to attend. The family-style dinner kicked off with a simple and exquisitely fresh salad of greens picked late that very same day from the school gardens by the students. Lightly and expertly tossed in a fresh herb vinaigrette, it was followed by platters of pulled pork, rife with pure pig flavor, delicately enhanced with smoke and pungent mustard  and vinegar-based sauces. Layered potato gratin, four cheese macaroni and cheese and fruit and fresh fruit parfaits finished the fabulous feast.

All proceeds from the Farm to Fork Dinner go back to the Agriculture and Culinary Programs at Ashley Ridge High School.  Ashley Ridge High School is located at 9800 Delemar Highway, Summerville, SC 29485.

 

The Charleston City Paper Calls Honkytonk Saloon a “Country Girl’s Dream”

April 25, 2018 § Leave a comment

In its Best Of issue published today, April 25, writer Mary Scott Hardaway writes a glowing review of HonkyTonk Saloon Ladson. The most fun you can have with your boots on. Here’s a recap:

By Mary Scott Hardaway

HONKYTONKBESTOF

The moment I entered into the dimly lit Honkytonk Saloon situated right off of I-26, exit 203 to Ladson, it was all Bud Light wishes and rhinestone dreams. I could feel the beer chasing my blues away, the whiskey drowning my worries … I knew I’d be okay. I thought to myself, grinning ear to ear, “Damn, those were some good directions.”

My sister and I first visited the country western bar on a Saturday night. It was still early, around 7 p.m., and the free hour of couple’s dance instruction was just getting started. With our fiances preferring the bar scene to the dancefloor, my sister and I partnered up with about four other couples, ’cause some days, you just gotta dance.

Two cocktails deep (this uncoordinated cowgirl needs to pregame a little to boot scoot boogie, OK?), I clutched my sister’s hand as she attempted to lead “one and two and three and four.” I looked around. We were the only couple facing the same direction in which we started. I wondered if we’d even moved.

“OK just pay attention,” I urged my sister; she nodded emphatically, sipping her vodka soda until the ice started to clink. It was only every other memory that I had of my sister chugging a rail vodka in a bar that led me to believe we were probably not going to master the West Coast Swing that night.

The instructor moved across the floor like a landslide — like one bourbon, one shot, and one beer — like a lifted F-150 on a red dirt road. You get the idea. She was a pro. She smiled patiently at our scuffling feet and swung the other dancers around the shiny wooden floor as the band from Nashville started to set up in the background. I ordered another vodka.

A week later and finally recovered from my honktonky hangover, I visited the bar on a Wednesday afternoon to chat with managers Bob Shipley and Shelly Shattuck and some bar flies. Over a shot of Jack Daniels Honey — well, two, split three ways, it was 4 p.m. after all — regulars Anthony Daubs and a man who called himself Rusty Shackelford informed me that people don’t come here for “that IPA scene.” My vodka/Bud Light/maybe some bourbon? hangover could attest to that — usually I’m a slow, steady saison sipper on a Saturday night.

“That’s out where you are, and that’s if you want to go back and relax,” say “Shackelford.” “They’re so heavy. The point here is the environment.” The single Daubs, who is here after work most days, says a Friday or Saturday evening brings out a lot of other singles. We didn’t ask him his success rate with pick-up lines, but he seemed amicable. Hell, everyone there was friendly. And not in that cheeseball saccharine, “oh let me try to sell you on this place” bullshit.They were just genuinely having a good time.

And why wouldn’t you? Even for a creature of habit who prefers clutching a crowler in a taproom to dancing on a bar, Honkytonk brought out the “Shit damn I wanna stay all night” in me. And for this 20-something homebody, that’s about as often as a cold day in July.

Even if staying into the wee hours on the weekend with, according to a security guard, anywhere from 500-700 other patrons (the place is HUGE), jamming to live country music and watching the servers hop on the bar for a coordinated dance (y’all seen Coyote Ugly?) isn’t your bottle of domestic beer. Honkytonk does it all.

“Tuesdays are open mic night, and we do a paint night for $10 on the second Tuesday of every month,” explains Shattuck. “Some Wednesdays are bike nights, with money going to a local children’s charity, some are truck/jeep nights with money going to a local PTSD foundation. Thursdays are ladies night — a lot of female regulars like to come and learn (for free) the dance the servers do on the bar. Fridays are line dancing and a DJ. Saturday is couple’s dance instruction and a live band and then a DJ later in the night. We’ve had a hypnotist, we’ve done comedy. We just started a jazz night.”

And then there’s the mechanical bull, which, “Shackelford” says you can “pay something like $5 and ride all night,” the pool tables, the laughably good happy hour prices.

“Country is hot right now,” says Shipley. “We are primarily a honky tonk, [people come here to] eat good food, drink a cold beer, dance to good music, and get great service. At the end of the day that’s what we’re about.” The spacious Honkytonk building, situated on an even larger parking lot, has changed hands quite a few times over the years. To solidify the identity of the less than two-year-old concept, Shipley knew the name was everything. “That’s why we came up with Honkytonk Saloon, we thought that said it all. There’s no doubt about what it is.”

It’s a country bar, it’s an after-work happy hour destination, it’s a hub for large, charitable events. It’s a meeting place for singles who want to dance all night, for families who come early for the barbecue, for the 85-year-old regular who, Shattuck says, closes the bar every Friday and Saturday night. It’s for a large demographic — races, genders, ages — driving in from Ridgeville, Mt. Pleasant, Johns Island, Summerville. It’s for those who stay ’til the ugly lights come on, for the cowboy who wants to prove he can ride that bull for 30 seconds. It’s as Shipley says, “the most fun you can have with your boots on.” And for this small town girl, it’s one helluva Saturday night.

Love Lines For Moms & Grads Stimulus Package

April 24, 2018 § Leave a comment

We Would Love to Hear Your Words of Love About Your Mom and Grad in Our Next Issue of Charleston DIGEST

We’ve put together two sweet incentive packages to get the love lines flowing. Charleston DIGEST will randomly select from two categories: submissions by Charleston Hospitality Group (CHG) employees and submissions from the general public.

The CHG winner will receive a $50 gift card redeemable at any CHG property. The winner from the general public will win two Champagne flutes, a bottle of Champagne, and one laser facial from @Southern Cosmetic Laser. Winners will be notified via email after the issue is published on May 11.

If you want to write a note of gratitude for the Moms and Grads love lines page, simply compose up to 144 characters. Visit charlestondigest.com and click on the PayPal link. The love line fee is $5 for the words and $10 for the words and a photo. CHG’s marketing department will follow up with an email to you to receive your love note and photo (if desired). Remember, at least 6,000 pairs of eyes will read your loving words, and that’s not counting our online audience.

We look forward to hearing from you and spreading the love! Submissions due by May 1st, 2018.

About Charleston DIGEST – Charleston Digest is a monthly newspaper featuring news about Charleston’s dining and restaurant scene, local events, local personalities, recipes, and happenings. It reaches 6,000 persons via high-end boutique hotels, spas, gyms, realtors, Charleston Visitor Center, and car dealerships and tracks readership online at charlestondigest.com. It is published by The Charleston Hospitality Group; a restaurant and entertainment group comprised of several venues.

Toast of Summerville Celebrates Its Fourth Anniversary

April 20, 2018 § Leave a comment

Four for $4 Meal Deals Served April 16 through April 20

In honor of its fourth birthday, Toast of Summerville is celebrating with several specially priced menu items.

From April 16 through April 20, Toast of Summerville will be serving four separate specially priced menus. $4 breakfast (available all day) pricing applies to your choice of a short stack of buttermilk pancakes served with bacon, sausage link, sausage patty or country ham, tropical fruit parfait, or a chicken biscuit filled with southern fried chicken breast and your choice of stone-ground grits or home fries. $4 lunch (available from 11 a.m.) pricing applies to your choice of meatloaf with mushroom Cabernet gravy, house salad and soup of the day, chicken strip basket with fries or a fried flounder basket with fries. $4 shared plates (available from 11 a.m.) pricing applies to fried green tomatoes topped with sweet pepper relish and pimento cheese, chicken quesadillas, pimento cheese served with toasted French bread, and green tomato bruschetta. $4 specialty lattes (plain, vanilla, mocha and caramel), two for $4 mimosa singles and two for $4 cupcakes will be available all day throughout the four days of the event.

Toast of Summerville is located at 717 Old Trolley Road, Summerville, 29485. For more information, call 843.900.4422 or visit toastofcharleston.com

Eli’s Table Adds Three New Seasonal Soft-Shell Crab Dishes to the Menu

April 3, 2018 § Leave a comment

Soft-Shell Crab for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Created by Executive Chef Steven Hampton

Like many Lowcountry residents and visitors, Eli’s Table Executive Chef Steve Hampton adores soft-shell crabs and finds seasonal inspiration when they become available in early spring and summer. “This time of year makes me think of barbecue, having brunch with friends, cooking with fresh local produce, and of course, soft-shell crabs. It was a combination of all of these things that provided the inspiration for each of these new soft-shell crab menu items,” says Hampton.

For breakfast, served daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. look for his Soft-Shell Crab Benedict with Texas toast, fried soft-shell crab, poached eggs, Cajun hollandaise and breakfast potatoes or grits ($17). For lunch, served daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., try a Smoked BBQ Soft-Shell Crab Sammy on a toasted croissant with house smoked BBQ sauce and pommes frites ($17). For dinner, served daily from 5 p.m. – until, Hampton dresses things up even more with an elegant Pan Seared Soft-Shell Provencal served with a sweet corn puree, black olives, roasted tomatoes, fried capers, grilled ramps and a white wine butter sauce ($38).

The soft-shell dishes made their debut on the menu on April 2 and will be available throughout soft-shell crab season.

About Eli’s Table – Tucked away in the heart of Charleston’s Historic Distric, Eli’s Table’s doors open onto a romantic dining room that extends to a spacious outdoor dining patio. The menu combines Lowcountry-French ingredients and techniques. Live Cuban jazz every Thursday. It is located at 129 Meeting Street, downtown Charleston, 29401. For more information of for reservations, call 843.405.5115 or visit elistable.com

 

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