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Charleston Wine + Food

Tasting Notes


Vegging Out: The Power of Plant-Forward Eating

Going green and eating vegan + vegetarian is in and bigger than ever before. Health benefits, sustainability, and fair animal treatment are pushing foodies to give up meat and dairy. You might think that veganism and vegetarianism limit your palate, but creativity in this plant-forward community is at an all-time high. Finding non-meat and dairy-free recipes can help you explore dynamic ingredients that are both healthy + sustainable.

We’ve gathered some of Charleston’s favorite health food authorities to dish on all things vegan + vegetarian. Robin Hollis of Basic Kitchen and Greer Gilchrist of The Harbinger Bakery and Café gave us some fresh takes and pointers for shamelessly enjoying this summer.

Robin Hollis (left), Greer Gilchrist + Cameron Neal (Right)

Hollis and Gilchrist believe that plant-based diets can have a positive impact on your health, community, and the environment. Gilchrist says that going green can mesh sustainability with simplicity and even promotes mindful consumption, noting, “When you start to focus more on fresh ingredients you begin to rely less on packaged or heavily processed foods. You begin to understand how fresh food tastes and how delicious simplicity is. I think you become a better cook and develop a better understanding of what you're consuming.”

While beginning your plant-based journey can seem daunting, it all boils down to the ingredients you are cooking with. For Hollis, it’s all about cashews and chickpeas right now. “Cashews are a great option for adding creaminess to dishes and we use them in our house-made cashew caesar dressing, cashew ranch, and butternut-cashew nacho ‘cheese’.” Chickpeas are another mainstay on the restaurant's rotating menu. “We crisp them up and toss them in our Vegan Caesar, sprinkle them on our Basic Bowl, and mash them up into our house falafel,” Hollis says.

Gilchrist likes to keep things fresh and fun with local fruits and veggies. “Right now we've got peaches we are all loving, nothing beats fresh fruit in the summertime. For veggies, I'm forever a potato lover and I can't seem to stop ordering them from our farmers, which conveniently pairs well with fresh basil - another delicious favorite” she says.

Plant-forward cuisine doesn’t have to be time-consuming either. For both chefs, salads are the perfect way to experiment with new ingredients and easy enough to prepare so you can spend more time out in the summer sun. “One of the easiest ways to take advantage of the summertime produce is a big salad!” Hollis says. “The summertime is our favorite season to enjoy local produce like fresh peaches, heirloom tomatoes, berries, and sweet corn.” To keep the green wave rolling, Basic Kitchen is also launching their first-ever Salad Project where six local tastemakers will develop their own leafy creations to benefit The Green Heart Project.

Gilchrist is also a summer salad supporter, with the Harbinger serving up some of the best Charleston has to offer. Her favorite right now is their Tomato Peanut Salad. “It's got a blend of Yellow + Heirloom Tomatoes, Garlic Peanuts, and a Spiced Tamari Dressing. It's so simple but I love it. Get some good bread to sop up all the juice and maybe some baked beans too and that'd be a favorite meal for sure.”

Your snack drawer can also get a green makeover without sacrificing flavor. For summertime snacks, Gilchrist likes watermelon, peaches, strawberries, and blueberries to balance out the greasy goodness of potato chips. Hollis prefers to sink her teeth into Basic Kitchen’s roasted carrot hummus and sweet pea hummus with veggies and locally-sourced tortilla chips.

Completely changing your diet can be stressful, confusing, and seemingly impossible, but Gilchrist and Hollis assure it’s within reach. Both chef’s emphasized making the steps gradually. Hollis suggests “trying one day a week (Meatless Mondays!) or one meal a day. Breakfast is an easy way to start by swapping eggs for breakfast with overnight oats with fresh berries and almond butter or a green smoothie. Once you get comfortable with one meal switch to two, then three! Any switch, no matter how small, is a great choice for your health and the environment!”

Fresh, local ingredients are key for Gilchrist to easing into plant-forward food.  “Attending farmer's markets, shopping locally and understanding what is seasonally available will naturally give you great products to work with, while still understanding that this will, of course, supplement what can't be provided by your local environment. Eat what you enjoy...and what is accessible to you.”

Plenty of things in your refrigerator have comparable vegan + vegetarian alternatives that can elevate your plant-based eating game without giving up the taste.  Hollis suggests “[replacing] your milk with non-dairy milk like almond or oat. Once you feel comfortable with that switch, progress to non-dairy butter, yogurt, ice cream, etc. until you have incorporated more vegan products into your diet!”

For Gilchrist, the most important thing to remember is starting simple. “Grab some veggies, maybe some grains or beans, whip up a pesto and just enjoy the simplicity of what you're eating.”

That’s a (veggie) wrap! You now have some plant-fueled tricks up your sleeve from Charleston’s finest.

-Bobby Carey, Marketing + Communications Intern

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Three Dishes: Butcher & Bee

One of my favorite casual dining spots in Charleston is hands-down Butcher and Bee. Located north of the crosstown, the recently-reimagined spot offers a sleek and swanky backdrop to some truly showstopping dishes. The Butcher & Bee team is serving up a modern menu featuring locally-sourced ingredients and internationally-inspired flavors. My favorites tend to skew towards the plant-forward plates but don’t fret, Butcher and Bee’s menu has delicious meat-centric fare as well.

Dish 1: Whipped Feta

If for some reason you are only ordering one thing from Butcher and Bee’s menu, the whipped feta has to be it. The creamy dish is topped with fermented honey and black pepper and served with pita bread, making it crowdpleaser to be shared by everyone at the table.

Dish 2: Grilled Heirloom Summer Squash

The summer squash is great for anyone looking for a fresh and filling dish without any of the guilt. The locally-sourced squash is rounded out with a tasty chermoula, a marinade popular in northern Africa, and muhammara, a pepper dip from the Middle East, for a delicately balanced plate that is delicious down to the last bite. 

Dish 3: Mojo Glazed Eggplant

For those that haven’t had the pleasure of tasting a mojo sauce before, it is a savory sauce with origins in the Caribbean. The island-infused flavors pair perfectly with roasted eggplant for a dish with some zest. Served with heat-packed harissa, blistered tomatoes, and pickled pearl onions, this course is a must-have for your meal.

While these three dishes are at the top of my list, Butcher and Bee’s ever-evolving menu features loads of flavorful dishes for you to try. And for anyone looking to add some extra flair to their meal, the restaurant also boasts a delicious dessert menu and a solid wine list. 

Let us know what your favorite dishes are on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using #chswff!


-Chris Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager

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The Smoky Secrets to the Best BBQ with Charleston’s Top Pitmasters

From left to right: Aaron Siegel, John Lewis, Anthony DiBernardo

Rising temperatures and sunny skies can only mean one thing: summer’s here. Marked by long days at the beach working on the perfect tan and late-afternoon bike rides through the neighborhood, the dog days offer the chance to ditch suits for shorts and let your hair down for some fun in the sun.

Summer also means something else. Grilling. Whether throwing a backyard BBQ with your friends or just giving your winter-worn oven a rest, the smoky flavors from dishes adorned with grill marks are a staple of the season. We’ve gathered some of Charleston’s top pitmasters to find out how you can take your BBQ from boring to badass. Aaron Siegel of Home Team BBQ, Anthony DiBernardo of Swig & Swine, and John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue are sharing their tips + tricks to become a BBQ Boss in your own right.

What is your best advice for someone looking to beef up their home barbecue?

Anthony: Keep it simple.  Do as much preparation in advance as you can.

John: Order take out from Lewis Barbecue! Just kidding… In all seriousness, I like to keep it simple and have everything prepped beforehand.  My number one advice for smoked meats is starting with a quality product. Invest in premium meat and you won’t have to do much besides cooking it properly to make it taste good. Buddy up to your local butcher or even go to Costco or Sam’s Club and splurge on USDA Prime Cut from the Certified Angus Beef.

Aaron: Balance the meat with lighter, fresh sides to compliment the spread. Summer is great for fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs. Oh, and cold beer.

So, what are your must-have sides?

Aaron: Can't go wrong with some mac n’ cheese somebody's mama made, or something light like cucumber and tomato salad to balance out the meat sweats.

Anthony: Some of my must-have side dishes are corn on the cob, tomato cucumber salad, pickled shrimp, and some type of coleslaw or potato salad.

John: Green Chile Corn Pudding is our signature side dish. It’s got a little heat and is super creamy. I also love putting out pickled red onions, pickles, and white bread to soak up the sauce.

What are the most common grilling mistakes people make at home? And how can you avoid them?

John: The most common mistake I see is slicing the meat right after it’s pulled off the grill. You have to let meat rest - especially beef - before cutting into or you’ll lose all that juice and flavor you’ve worked so hard on cultivating. Be patient!

Aaron: The great thing about cooking and more specifically grilling at home, is there really are no mistakes. You're experimenting. If you liked what you made, write it down so you remember it for next time. If even the dog turned up its nose, try again.

Anthony: Rushing the process of charcoal.  Light your grill an hour before you plan to use it.

Can you cook other things on the grill besides meat?

Anthony: I like to take potatoes and onions and wrap them in aluminum foil and put them directly into the coals as I cook. Another thing I like to do on the grill is making a cobbler in a Dutch oven over the charcoal.

Aaron: At Home Team BBQ we love to grill and smoke vegetables. One of our favorite items is a salsa verde which uses grilled tomatillos, poblano peppers, and jalapeños. It's fresh, smokey, and delicious on anything from nachos to pork chops. We've also been known to grill fruit, like pineapples, that go great in making cocktails.

John: I love grilled corn on the cob. It’s an easy side and everyone thinks it’s impressive looking, but it’s super easy!

Final question, what do you do with the leftovers?

Aaron: What leftovers? Yesterday's meats are just tomorrow's tacos.

John: Tacos!

Anthony: I usually take the leftovers and just distribute them to the neighbors or buy a package of to go boxes from the grocery store and have them available for my guests to take any leftovers home

There you have it. Say goodbye to basic barbecues and get ready to be the rockstar of your next summertime celebration. Let us know what your favorite grill recipes and hacks are on social media using #chswff. Cheers!

-Chris Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager

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Best Summer Beach Bites

Summer is here and in full swing. The sun is shining and the temperatures are most definitely rising. One of Charleston’s favorite activities is unwinding with full days under the sun and wading in the waves at the beach. In Charleston, it’s no secret that there are plenty of options to eat well no matter what kind of activity you may be doing. So, where do we even begin? There are a number of hidden gems for the perfect bite both close to and on the way to each of the beaches in the area. Not only is there ample access to food you can grab-and-go on your way, but you can also easily find something tasty that will make you savor every bite. Here is our guide for the best beach bites.

Sullivan's Island

Sullivan's Island Co-Op

The Co-Op on Sullivan’s Island is your ideal one-stop-shop for all the essentials. For food needs, they provide quick and tasty sandwiches, salads, all day breakfast, and a deli section. They also offer a wide variety of beverages from coffee to juices to their famous frosé (to enjoy before going back on the beach!).  What really sweetens the deal is that the Co-Op offers delivery to any of the beach stations, so you can get any must-haves in a few short footsteps.

Middle-Street Market

The owners of Home Team BBQ have struck a balance between convenience and quality with Middle-Street Market. Whether you’re looking for a smoothie from Hustle Smoothie Bar or artisanal sandwiches inspired by historic residents of Sullivan’s Island, this “happy little market” is the place to go.

Mozzo Deli

Mozzo is conveniently located right on Coleman Boulevard less than ten minutes on your way to Sullivan’s Island. This eatery is known for their exceptionally wide variety of provisions that are quickly prepared, in fact, you may even find yourself overwhelmed. You can find just about any kind of sandwich on the spectrum from simple to sophisticated, as well as breakfast, burgers, and salads. Mozzo has something for everyone looking for something speedy.

Folly Beach

Lost Dog Cafe

Whether you want a tasty takeaway with a southern twist or a shady oasis to kick back, Lost Dog Cafe on Folly can do both! Lost Dog Cafe serves breakfast and lunch with options such as classic Charleston Shrimp + Grits, for those looking to indulge shamelessly, or a Very Berry Spinach Salad if you want something healthy. This place has a wide selection that welcomes guests to sit and stay awhile or to quickly take back to the beach that will have you feeling as bright + golden as the dogs you’re likely to see running around here.


If you find yourself on the way to Folly Beach around breakfast time, Scram is definitely the place for grab-and-go. Helmed by former FIG pastry chef, Melanie Durant, Scram is likely to curb even your most relentless morning cravings. Whether it’s a sweet custard-filled milk bun or one of their savory fontina egg and chili mayo breakfast sandwiches, this food truck will give you the elevated pick-me-up you didn’t even know you needed for a day at the beach.

Bert's Market

Known for its motto “We may doze, but we never close”, Bert's is known by many in the area for being the hub of eccentricity and friendliness on Folly. While it may have a humble appearance on the outside, this divey, one-stop-shop has won the hearts of locals and tourists alike. Bert's persistently pleasant hospitality and high variety of commodities cannot be beat. The deli provides unique specialty sandwiches, sweet treats, hot dogs, bagels, and more that are tasty + quick. From pretzel crisps to their rave-worthy homemade peanut butter, everything you need for fun in the sun at Folly is just a block and a half to the ocean and open 24 hours!

Isle of Palms

Cafe Paname

If you’re having trouble finding this place, all you have to do is look for its iconic, Instagram-worthy VW van. This French-inspired haunt is known for its friendly service + croissant-centric creations. Just to demonstrate how creative these croissants can get, you can get anything from dijon mustard to classic provolone + mayo, or even smoked salmon and pimento cheese.

Sea Biscuit Cafe

Sea Biscuit Cafe is a local favorite for quick breakfast and lunch just less than two blocks from the ocean. Their charming atmosphere and affordable prices have everyone coming back time-after-time to indulge in classic southern breakfast done right. While this humble IOP staple may look small and easy to miss upon the first impression, locals and visitors alike have raved over for their friendly service and savory bites. Sea Biscuit Cafe has without a doubt become a go-to for beachside homestyle comfort food.

Papi's Taqueria

Papi’s is a great place to spice up your day on IOP with elevated tex-mex flavor. Rusty Hamilton, “Food Network Star” runner up and chef to country music superstar Zac Brown, opened Papi’s less than a year ago. Hamilton aspired to bring creative southwest flavor to his favorite vacation spot.  This place does the trick whether you want takeaway tacos or to sit and stay a while sipping on one of their signature margaritas, all seconds from the beach.

-Bobby Carey, Marketing + Communication Intern

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Three Dishes: Chubby Fish

Born + raised in New England, it’s no surprise I’ve developed an affinity for – dare I say it – wicked good seafood. From steaming clams + shucking corn on my parents’ back porch to clamming in the Block Island waterways and enjoying lobster rolls (top-split white bread hot dog bun lightly toasted in butter – no exceptions) at Matunuck Beach, some of my happiest memories growing up involve not only food, but seafood.

When I relocated to Charleston a few years ago, I quickly learned there is no shortage of amazing seafood to be found in this port city. And Chubby Fish, tucked away in the Ellliotborough neighborhood, is at the top of my list. From its welcoming, comfortable, and intimate atmosphere to a menu board full of locally-sourced dishes thoughtfully concepted by Chef James London, I knew right away I was in for a treat. And while I definitely indulged on much, much more, these three dishes in particular left my taste buds wanting another bite.

Dish 1: Amberjack Crudo

If you’re looking for a one bite wonder, look no further than the amberjack crudo. The amberjack melts in your mouth, and is topped with a delicious avocado puree + chili ponzu. It is a perfect bite of fresh, hot, sweet, and tangy.

Dish 2: Spadefish Toast

Piled on top of soft bread with a “just right” amount of crunch at the edges, is a savory blend of flavors that are both fresh and perfectly unique. The addition of the nori butter alongside the spadefish is spot-on, and the combination of fresh herbs + radishes rounds out the plate perfectly.

Dish 3: Bluefish Curry

Curry tends to get a rep for being both sauce- and dish-heavy; the bluefish curry at Chubby Fish is anything but. Topped over fluffy coconut rice, this dish is a hearty main course while still maintaining the light + fresh vibes of the rest of the menu. With just the right amount of heat, it is an amazing combination of unique flavors, textures, and ingredients.

While I couldn’t order everything (I had to save room for a “Not Fried Chicken”!), it’s clear that you can’t go wrong eating your way through the Chubby Fish menu. From the cozy neighborhood vibes to thoughtful wine pairings and an ever-evolving menu board, adding Chubby Fish to your restaurant rotation will be well worth it. Be sure to share your favorites with us the next time you stop in. Cheers!

-Rachel Bergan, Guest Experience Coordinator

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Three Dishes: Renzo

Anyone that knows me knows I live and die by pizza. Whether its breakfast or dinner, hot or cold, cheesy or covered in toppings, I can always find happiness in a slice.

That said, my standards are set high for my pies. Luckily, one of my favorite spots is tucked away in the Hampton Park neighborhood, only steps from our office.

Set in cozy, laid-back digs, Renzo is offering up a unique take on the classics with their ever-changing menu, paired with a carefully-curated natural wine program. Chef Evan Gaudreau and his team are serving up innovative + exciting wood-fired pizzas that break the mold of your typical crusted favorites.

While their eclectic menu offers up dishes suited to just about any palate, these three dishes are my go-to’s and are the perfect starting point for your first visit to this hidden gem.

Dish 1: House Bread

At first glance, this simple dish can be deceiving. However, once you slather the salted butter on and take a bite, Renzo’s house bread is a whole lot more than your run-of-the-mill dinner roll. The crunchy edges and soft middle make this the perfect opening number for your meal.

Dish 2: Wrath of Kahan Pizza

To be fair, every pie I’ve had at Renzo has been delicious. But, if you’re looking for a unique spin on your standard fare, I highly recommend the Wrath of Kahan. The sweetness of the piquillo pepper sauce and dates pair perfectly with the little bit of heat from the chorizo to create a funky and flavorful pizza.

Dish 3: Fernet Ice Cream

No meal is complete without dessert, and Renzo’s ice cream offerings are the perfect complement to the main course. My personal favorite is the fernet ice cream which captures the sweetness and bitterness of the spirit, offering an upscale take on the creamy treat. Pro tip: add on honeycomb crunch to give it some extra texture and round out your meal.

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at Renzo. Between the excellent food, natural wines, and the friendly staff, this hidden gem has something for everyone. Make sure to add Renzo to your restaurant rotation and let us know what your favorites are. Cheers!

-Chris Bailey, Marketing Coordinator

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Lowcountry Limelight: Nick Stella

For Nick Stella, sandwiches have always been a family affair. Following his time at the College of Charleston, he decided to make the Holy City the next home for Circe's Grotto, a mom-and-pop shop serving up some of the city's best sammies. We chatted with Nick to find out how Circe's came to be + why simple food is sometimes the best food.    

How did you get your start in the restaurant business?


My mom has been in the food business for over 40 years, I've been with her for 30 of them, so I guess you would say osmosisI moved to Charleston from Scituate, MA in 2008 to attend College of Charleston. From then, a second location for Circe’s Grotto started brewing in our mind. I knew Charleston needed a good mom-and-pop sandwich shop, who doesn’t like a good, fresh sandwich? After I graduated from the College of Charleston, I went to Rincon, Puerto Rico not knowing what the next step was in life. Soon after, a friend in the real estate business called and said he had acquired the perfect spot for Circe’s Grotto in Charleston. I moved back to Charleston, we signed the leaseand started building our second Circe’s Grotto. We used the same concept of the one up in Scituate, MA, just a simpler version, minus the bakery aspect. We wanted to offer the city a good sandwich with fresh ingredients that your mom would make you at home.


Where did the name ‘Circe’s Grotto’ come from?

The name came from the Greek mythology and the story "The Odyssey" by Homer. Circe was a Greek goddess who used to turn men into pigs to teach them how to eat properly and Grotto means cave, so essentially it means the eating cave. Later on, we found out that "Circe" in the south meant small gift, so it fit perfectly.

Why did you want to bring Circe’s to Charleston?

Our love of food, hospitality, culture, diversity... and of course the weather. The college gave us the audience for a good sandwich.... home away from home. We wanted to offer patrons a good sandwich/panino made with fresh ingredients, at a fair price, that they could eat everyday.

Why sandwiches?

Who the heck doesn’t like to eat a sandwich? It's something our patrons could eat everyday.

What’s the secret to the perfect sandwich?

First off, to us, the bread is the most important part of a sandwich, and then the ingredients have to be fresh- from the produce, to the meats and cheeses- all natural and sliced everyday. It’s our goal to use the best ingredients we can possibly find. Yes, that makes costs higher, but our vision is to give the consumer the highest quality product on the market.

If someone’s visiting Circe’s for the first time, what do they have to try?

I would say to start at the top of the menu and work your way down. We have options for allnot just sandwiches and paninis, we also have signature salads as well as the option to turn any sandwich into a salad. Folks love our breakfast toasts, and classic egg sandwiches. Most people start with the Turkey Melt made with Mom's homemade red pepper mayo, avocado, red onion, and white sharp cheddar cheese.

What’s next for you + Circe’s?

Hopefully exploring more local ingredients and some additional daily specials. It is our goal to always be innovating and finding new ways to bring delicious food to our customers We look forward to serving our community each day over here on Wentworth St.
You can see Nick during the 2019 festival at Hipster Cocktail Party on Thursday, March 7 + at Circe's Grotto daily.
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Local Love List: Charleston Wine + Food Edition: Parcel 32


  Part II of our Charleston Wine + Food Festival (@chswineandfood) Local Love List took us to the newest Charleston hotspot we’ve been DYING to try since it first opened, Parcel 32 (@parcel32). We joined our fellow CHSWFF Street Team members Andrea Serrano (@charlestonshopcurator), Liz Martin (@charlestonweekender), and our favorite foodie photographer Libby Williams (@plate.south) for an unforgettable night.   So make yourself a cocktail and sit back to enjoy our second CHSWFF Local Love.


  Parcel 32 is the newest historic addition to Patrick Properties Hospitality Group. The entrance welcomes you with lush greenery, luxurious tile and lustrous lighting. It is so stunning, we spent 20 minutes taking photos and absorbing our surroundings before walking through the doors.   The spot was once the peninsula's highest-volume bakery for 75 years. Today, the house exudes a refined energy yet with a calming atmosphere. The cooling colors and ethereal greens balanced the glass surfaces. The entire interior gives nod to its heritage but with a modern twist. Elegant gold frames adorn the walls with tickets found under the William-Aiken house next door dating decades back.   We’re sure many of y’all are wondering, why is it named “Parcel 32?” Our server Amanda explained that the name comes from the designation given to its surrounding block on an 1888 fire insurance map. If there was a fire, people would provide the parcel number rather than an address when contacting the firehouse. #TheMoreYouKnow  


  Parcel 32 honors the house as a previous centerpiece of the community - a place where neighbors met to share everyday life. A place dedicated to true Charleston hospitality.     While Ian has the eye for decor, Michael notices quality service and hospitality after working in the F&B industry years ago. At Parcel 32, every single person in the house provides outstanding service. From the hostess to our server Amanda (who was litcherally ah-mahzing).   We also noticed how management went above and beyond all night to take care of every patron, dedicated to Charleston hospitality.  


  What can you expect at Parcel 32? The menu highlights the unique flavors of Charleston and the Carolinas. What makes everything taste so heavenly? Executive Chef Shaun Brian’s commitment to local sourcing - y’all know we LOVE local. He’s always on the hunt for the freshest herbs, produce, meats and fish from local farms and fishermen.   We knew dinner was going to be more than a treat after viewing the menu. There is something for everyone, including gluten-free and vegetarian options. The details of each dish describe the freshest ingredients. It is clear Chef Brian stays true to his local sourcing commitment.     There is one rule we live by for restaurants with bread service - it sets expectations. The same goes for chips at a Mexican restaurant. Y’all, we were not disappointed. The bread from Tiller Baking Co. is served alongside a Madagascar Vanilla Bean with Bourbon Butter we could eat with a spoon.   For cocktails, Ian ordered the “From The Brink,” proclaiming it as the freshest tequila drink he’s tasted with subtle hints of agave. Michael, well, he chose his drink because of the name and ordered the “Don’t Haint” … he definitely didn’t hate.  


  Sometimes the simplest dishes are the most surprising. We started with the local pickle bowl and HOLY MOLY was it unbelievable. The pickled vegetables were so fresh we swear they’re grown in a garden somewhere hidden in the house. Of course, we had to try the famous Parcel 32 Hush Puppies. The five, fried, golf ball-sized rounds have a healthy dollop of pimento cheese and a pickled peppers garnish. This is a must when y’all visit.   As the entrees arrived, we realized they were all a healthy serving. We ordered the Spiced Braised 12 oz. Short Rib, the Wood Grilled Lady Edison’s Heritage Pork Chop, the Cast Iron Seared Steak Fish, the Farmer’s Plate and the Joyce Farm’s Broiler Hen. Although each quite different, they all had one thing in common - a stunning presentation. Each plate was colorful and included a variety of complementary textures. Michael's Short Rib sat on top of Rice Grits with a Pickled Red Onion Purée. It's beauty made it almost too hard to eat ... almost.     For dessert, Amanda recommended the Hummingbird Cake and Chocolate Hazelnut Custard. Y'all. This is not a course to skip.   We do have to mention we already returned since our visit with Andrea, Liz and Libby. When Michael’s mom flew to Charleston on Halloween for 24 hours to look at wedding venues, she HAD to taste Parcel 32 after our rave reviews. Best. Decision. Ever.   Not only did we have the fabulous Amanda once again, but we also got to see Chef Shaun Brain’s killer pumpkin carving creation. Side note: Although mastering the kitchen all night, he still found time to put together a quick Halloween costume. It gave us the best example of the how to describe the environment and vibe of the restaurant and its team. Relaxed and refined.     To explore this experience as we did, check out the Parcel 32 events during Charleston Wine + Food below, because #ILoveThatForYou.   Parcel 32 Executive Chef Shaun Brian at Charleston Wine + Food Opening Night on Wednesday, March 6 from 7-10:30 p.m.   This is the official kick-off of five flavorful days + a party you definitely don’t want to miss! Located in the Culinary Village in Marion Square, this event brings together sips, bites, and live music for an experience that celebrates all that makes Charleston so special. Here you will find more than 30 of Charleston’s most distinguished chefs + local favorites preparing dishes inspired by our coastline, local farms, and charming surroundings. And let’s not forget that our Official Cocktail Competition winner will be shaking + stirring delicious concoctions highlighting American Whiskey (our official 2019 spirit!), alongside carefully curated beers + wines.   Parcel 32 Executive Chef Shaun Brian at Culinary Village in Marion Square on Saturday, March 9 from 12-5 p.m.   Located in downtown’s Marion Square, the Village is the ultimate culinary experience. Your Village ticket grants five full hours of tasting + imbibing. The main stage will be jamming all afternoon with a mix of music, chef demos + engaging conversations. The Hub will be back with some of your favorite food + beverage vendors, and our Artisan Market will be stocked full of incredible local and regional makers showcasing their masterful creations and unique flavors. Make your way to the Corkyard for a vast selection of vino, and of course, the Beer Garden for a sampling of your favorite suds.
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Beyond The Plate: The Art of Restaurant Design with David Thompson

When you visit your favorite restaurant or discover a new one, what do you notice the most about your experience? The food and drinks are of course an important part of dining out, as well as the service, but the architecture of the building around you can have a significant influence on your visit. For many new restaurants in Charleston, David Thompson of David Thompson Architect is the one who helps make the visions of restaurateurs a reality. David is the architect behind some of the most influential restaurants in Charleston, including FIG, Butcher & Bee, The Grocery and more. I had the pleasure of talking with David about how he started his career in architecture, why restaurant design has more in common with residential design instead of commercial, and about the stories behind both The Cigar Factory and The Ordinary. David will be talking even more about these two projects during this year’s Charleston Wine and Food Festival, at Flavor By Design.

  How It All Began David Thompson knew at an early age that he wanted to pursue architecture as a career (in 1st grade to be specific). It all started when a famous playground designer came to his school in Northern Virginia to create a new playground at a time where there was a movement in the industry.   “It was a revolution in playground design where they were going from the really minimalist, awesome metal playgrounds of our grandparents time to really elaborate maze-like wooden structures,” said David. The designer selected a representative from each grade to help design the playground, and David was the one chosen to represent his first-grade class. Although elements of architecture were in his genes (his father was a land developer along with a grandfather who was a house framer), this moment was what lead him to the career he has today. Upon arriving to Charleston in 1999, David worked mostly on development related projects like office buildings and strip malls, which didn’t appeal as much to him. In his next job, David primarily designed elementary schools in the Lowcountry (including Mary Ford, Malcolm C. Hursey, and the Early Childhood Development Center). Although this was a more rewarding experience, it was after he joined Reggie Gibson Architects when restaurants became part of his focus.   What Makes Restaurant Design Unique “Well, the interesting thing about restaurants is that for such a small project they are really complicated. In some ways building a new building from the ground up is simpler than designing a restaurant. Restaurants are kind of the perfect storm between residential design and commercial design. So you have all this attention to detail, craftsmanship and interior design that's much more like residential design, but in a commercial application.“ Even if designing a restaurant feels more like a residential project at times, the process is much faster. While custom residential projects can take years, the average restaurant for David Thompson Architect takes only 12-14 months - from design to opening. “It’s really fast and intense, which is fun but stressful.” Outside of the speed and intensity, there’s also a level of care and investment in restaurant design that’s not normally seen in commercial projects. During the process, an intense relationship is formed between the architect and the restaurant owner and operator. “One of the reasons the process its so rich is because it means so much to them.”
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    Uncovering the Past for the Present The Cigar Factory is one of the more notable projects David Thompson has been involved in, and for that project (like many renovation projects on the peninsula), there was a unique story behind the building that was important to preserve in its next life. “Our personal belief inside this office is that restaurant design, and really any design, is an opportunity to tell a story. So sometimes you have to make that story up - and a lot of restaurant design involves sort of a fantasy component. It's like a theater project. But it's better when it's real and it's authentic. One of the great things about renovations in Charleston is the story’s usually there- you just have to uncover it. Then it's all about how you want to present it - how does it then weave into the story of whoever's using space now? Because it's not just all about what used to happen. It’s what happened first, second, third, and now what is going to happen next.“ With some of these renovations, however, an uncovery and discovery process happens first, especially when a historic building is updated by others for modern-day use. The Cigar Factory was unique since its previous use was relatively utilitarian, which did not require much to be stripped away. The bigger challenge was preserving the architectural integrity of the building while also adhering to modern day building codes.  
  “There’s a battle of compromise of how much can you do so without losing too much - and can you just make the best of it. I'd say a good example of that in Mercantile and Mash is that although the developer already structurally reinforced all the floors, they had not done the same for the columns. So you had these big, beautiful wood columns throughout the space, and as you start to add weight to them they actually were so old they wanted to bust. The knee-jerk reaction and simplest thing would be to sandwich them with all this wood and you never see them again. We developed this really beautiful steel strap that is basically like a girdle for the column- so when under pressure and they don't explode. And it's in the style of the industrial connections you would have found through the building. I don't think people probably realize that those are new, and for me, that's a win. I think it's great when that line gets blurred. It's not a copy but it's done in the right spirit to where it doesn't jump out at you with a flashing neon light.’’ The Ordinary, from an uncovery and discovery process, was a very different project. Prior to its transformation into one of the standout seafood establishments in the Southeast, 544 King Street was home to a branch of Bank of America. From the outside, you can tell that it is a beautiful building, but according to David, no one involved, from the contractor to Mike Lata, really understood how concealed the beauty of this building was until walking inside.  
  “When we walked in there was a standard office ceiling at about 11 feet with fluorescent lights, cubicles and carpet. And the only thing you saw that gave you any hint of something cool going on was the vault door that's still there.” Once they started removing walls, beautiful brick walls with recesses that matched the windows outside were revealed, and a stairway hidden within offices in the back of the building lead to the discovery of a mezzanine.  “When you went on the mezzanine and looked over the drop ceiling, you realized there are 10 to 12 more feet up there. And then you could see the ceiling that you see today - it had just all been covered up. It was unbelievable.”   The Importance of Local As David mentioned earlier, telling the story of a building through architecture even after a renovation is an essential part of the process. On projects like The Ordinary and The Cigar Factory, David collaborates as much as he can with local artisans and craftsman. During the discovery phase of a project, so much is revealed, and having someone nearby to “freestyle with” at a moments notice is invaluable, especially when the unexpected is revealed. “You can get online and find any number of reclaimed wood guys that will sell you beams from Germany or anywhere else - beams that look really believable. But it just doesn't enrich the process. And it also doesn't do anything for your local economy. As important as the design component is the localist perspective of keeping money in Charleston and supporting local businesses.” Outside of supporting the local economy, local artisans have a sense of ownership in the process that is hard to achieve when working with someone outside of the region. “When you bring artisans in and don't try to prescribe the entire design for them, and instead let them participate, you get so much more because they believe in as much as you do and it has their signature on it.”  
To read the original article, check out http://jaieats.com/blog/beyondtheplate.  
Illustration by Tyler Pate 
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