Queen of the Food Age is Readers’ Choice Best Food Blogger

A few weeks ago, I asked you, my loyal readers, to vote for me for “Best Food Blogger” in Charleston Magazine’s 50 Food & Bev Favorites… and guess what? You did it!

Pick up a December copy of the Charleston Magazine, and you’ll see me listed as the Readers’ Choice Best Food Blogger in Charleston!

My next recipe? Humble Pie.

My next recipe? Humble Pie.

I’m very thankful for all of your support. Continue to support my efforts (and keep me eatin’) by nominating me for Best of Charleston’s “Best Local Interest Blog.” Nominations go thru January 6th. Let’s do it!

The Rarebit

Most nights in Charleston when I end up going out for a drink, I’ll either end up at Rec Room or Rarebit (or realistically, both). Their menu is delicious (and designed by my newest chef obsession, Brannon Florie). Their drinks are creative and tasty and the atmosphere is usually pretty fun. Plus I’m a sucker for their Moscow Mule (Smirnoff vodka, Sweatman’s ginger beer, limeade, $8), which uses the best ginger beer in town.

I'm a sucker for a good mule.

I’m a sucker for a good mule.

But mostly I go there for the mac and cheese ($3.50 as a side). (Prepare yourself. There will be lots of pictures of mac and cheese in this post). This is probably my second favorite mac and cheese in Charleston. It’s creamy and cheesy and just so delicious.

I mean, just look at it.

I mean, just look at it.

All their food is flavorful and fresh, and I’ve never had a bad meal. The Country Fried Steak (skillet fried, battered steak with buttermilk pepper gravy served with creamy mashed potatoes & green beans, $15) is my standby favorite. I order it 9 times out of ten and I’m never disappointed. It’s served hot and crispy, topped with a flavorful pepper gravy…the whole thing just comes together perfectly.

And of course I get it with the mac and cheese. I mean, are you even surprised?

And of course I get it with the mac and cheese. I mean, are you even surprised?

Lily has ordered the Southern Fried Catfish (local farm raised catfish served with mac & cheese and sauteed spinach, $14) is good, too. It’s also served hot and crispy and perfectly seasoned. I’m not usually one to order fish, but I’d definitely order this again.

Oh, hey, look. More mac and cheese!

Oh, hey, look. More mac and cheese!

They even have food for vegans! The Vegetable Rarebit (baked squash, zucchini, seasonal vegetables, spinach & portabella saute served over a chili pepper chutney garnished with a glazed baby carrot, $11), which is awesome. Just make sure they don’t put honey on it like they do their “vegan” burger. Someone in the kitchen is not vegan enough for the vegans I know.

When Naomi ordered this, she definitely thought that carrot was a hot dog and almost passed out.

When Naomi ordered this, she definitely thought that carrot was a hot dog and almost passed out.

After 10, they only serve their breakfast menu, which is ok with me, because they consider a Patty Melt (two pressed flat Angus patties topped with American cheese & caramelized onions on rye toast) to be breakfast food. And it’s a great burger (better than their actual burger, in my opinion). Especially at midnight after one too many Moscow Mules.

via Yelp

If there even is such a thing. Photo via Yelp

Speaking of catfish, the Catfish Po Boy (fried catfish with lettuce, tomato & housemade mustard remoulade on a New Orleans French roll, $9) is just awesome. You get the same piece of catfish as pictured above, served on a freshly baked N’awlins roll, with their sweet and tangy mustard remoulade. What’s not to love? We got it was a side of the breakfast potatoes which are also really great. They’re cubed and fried so that they’re nice and crispy on the outside and soft and potato-y on the inside. Exactly what you’d want.

Did I mention that I'm usually here at night?

Did I mention that I’m usually here at night?

As far as their sides go, they’re delicious. Here are a few of my favorites (other than the mac & cheese, obviously). The Succotash Salad (lime beans with fresh corn & sundried tomatoes, $3.50 as a side) is healthy food disguised as a treat because it tastes so darn good. A great option if you’re dieting (like me) but don’t want to feel like you’re missing out on all the good food.

Or just don't even try to pretend like you're being good and order it with the mac and cheese, which is what I'd do.

Or just don’t even try to pretend like you’re being good and order it with the mac and cheese, which is what I’d do.

The Bacon Lentil Salad (exactly what you’d expect, $3.50 as a side) is also a good “healthy” alternative. Lentils are healthy, right? These guys are delicious and just a little smoky from the bacon. Not your typical southern comfort food, but it gets the job done. Ok, the one thing I’ve been disappointed by in all of my visits, was the Track Burger (pressed flat steak burger with ketchup, mustard, and pickles on a Cuban bun. Single, $4, Double, $6, Cheese, $1). The meat is absolutely perfect, very flavorful and yummy, but the problem is that the patty is just so flat compared to the bun. There’s really no point in even ordering it unless you get a double.

Pictured here with the Track Burger and (you guessed it), mac and cheese.

Are you bored with all the mac and cheese pictures yet?

I went with Lala one time when she ordered the Tomato Soup (roasted tomato and basil puree, $5), which I really enjoyed. I’m a little iffy about tomato soups, but this one tasted homemade and not like it came out of a can. It also had a bit of creaminess to it that I really appreciated. She ordered it with a side of grits ($3.50 as a side), which came out really dense and a bit dry, still in the shape of the scoop they portioned it with. They were a little disappointing, but not bad. She also got bacon (because hey, why not) which tasted like bacon.

I love it when food keeps the shape of the thing it was in before it was on your plate. Love. It.

I love it when food keeps the shape of the thing it was in before it was on your plate. Love. It.

It can get a little crowded on a weekend night, but I love the atmosphere of the place. The wait staff is dressed in like a modern take on a 1950’s diner, and the decor is fun and modern as well. It’s usually pretty dark inside, and seating is a bit limited, but I still love it.

I'm obsessed with the decor in here. How cute is that light??| Photo via Acacia Falzone Photography

I’m obsessed with the decor in here. How cute is that light??| Photo via Acacia Falzone Photography

The Rarebit
474 King St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 974-5483
The Rarebit on Urbanspoon

The Cheeses of Europe

**Note: I received a free cheese tasting in exchange for this non-biased review of The Cheeses of Europe**

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from a representative of The Cheeses of Europe who wanted to come by my office and do a cheese tasting to promote a number of small cheese brands out of France. Free cheese, you say? Ok.

cheese-tasting

This is my happy place.

Four cheese experts representing various cheese companies came to the matchstick office with plenty of cheese for us all to sample. They were all very knowledgeable and the cheese they brought to sample was delicious and relatively inexpensive (and you can get it at Costco or Whole Foods!)

How does one achieve the title of "Cheese expert?"

How does one achieve the title of “Cheese expert?”

I really enjoyed all of the cheeses, but the ones that came from Isigny Ste Mere were my favorite by far. The 2 round pumpkin looking ones are the same cheese, just aged for different periods of time. The orange one, mimolette, was aged 3 months and was creamy and tangy, and the one above it was aged for 18 months and was hard and sharp and amazing. They also brought some butter which we tried on a cracker and it was some of the best butter I’ve ever had.

This is my happy place.

Channeling my inner Paula Deen and eating plain butter on a cracker.

Here’s a more professional shot of the mimolette. Is it possible to be attracted to cheese??

This is a $200 wheel of cheese, NBD.

This is a $200 wheel of cheese, NBD.

I really liked the spreadable cheese from Interval cheese, which was a cow’s milk cheese that went really well on crackers. Kind of like a whipped cream cheese, but better. They also had a bleu d’auvergne which was an amazing blue cheese (bottom right) that I imagine would be amazing on a cheeseburger or in a salad. Their final cheese was a triple cream brie (bottom left), which was really creamy and rich and smooth. It went really well with the wine we were drinking and it made an amazing baked brie later that night!

cheese-splosion

I love cheese. Cheesy, cheese, cheese. Here it goes down, down into my belly…

The rep from Lactalis also brought brie (Le Chatelain), which tasted like it should be way more expensive than it was. This one was really delicious and also made a great baked brie with raspberry preserves. You can get this one at Costco, which is kind of dangerous knowledge for me to have.

Dat cracker tho.

Dat cracker tho.

In case you’re interested, here’s a list of all the cheese we tasted:

  • Le brie – Isigny – smooth, mild, creamy
  • Mimolette – Isigny – Hard, sharp, delish
  • Butter – Isigny – Smooth, salty, rich
  • Epoisses – French Cheese Club – Smoky and stinky
  • Pont l’eveque – French Cheese Club – Buttery, tangy
  • Delice de Bourgogne – French Cheese Club – kind of tasted like broccoli
  • Blue d’auvergne – Interval – Tangy, sour, creamy
  • Saint Angel – Interval – Creamy, buttery, mild
  • Whipped Cheese – Interval – Super creamy, mild
  • Le Chatelain Brie – Lactalis – Creamy, mellow, rich
  • Le Chatelain Camembert – Lactalis – Creamy, buttery, sharp-ish
cheese-party

So much cheese. This is the best.

So if you want to impress your family and friends at Thanksgiving this year, you should pick up some of these cheese and some fancy crackers and I guarantee you’ll be the talk of the party. Thanks Cheeses of Europe for letting me sample your awesome cheesy goodness!

 

McCrady’s

*Note, I received a free meal at McCrady's as part of a luncheon I was 
invited to on behalf of Wines of Provence*

Last week I was invited to a wine-pairing lunch at McCrady’s. Since that sentence contains some of my all-time favorite words, I was quick to respond “yes!” (that should come as no surprise, since you should be aware of my obsession with Sean Brock by now). Upon arrival at the McCrady’s banquet room, I was given a glass of M Rose by Minuty ($19.99/bottle), and it was delicious. Fruity and light and basically everything I wanted in a rose. We all took our seats and were treated to a short presentation about rose Wines of Provence, which I found very informative. Afterward, we got a 5-course lunch, prepared by Lucas Weir, the banquet chef at McCrady’s.

I have a love/hate relationship with prix fixe menus

I have a love/hate relationship with prix fixe menus

I have personally always preferred rose wine to red or white because I think it’s a perfect balance. One of the diners at our table who’s been in the wine business for a number of years remarked that rose is “the only wine [he] knew of that really goes well with BBQ.” And if that isn’t a good enough reason to drink rose wine, then I don’t know what is. #PinkWineMakesMeHappy

Especially 5 bottles of pink wine.

And 4 bottles of pink wine makes me sing horrible renditions of 80’s songs. But that’s a bit long for a hashtag.

Course 1 – Grilled Shrimp with Persimmon, Peanut and Benne paired with Hecht & Bannier Cotes de Provence Rose ($17.99) and Mâitres Vignerons de la Vidaubanaise Le Provençal ($14.99). I loved this dish. It was fruity, but much more savory than sweet. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and served with the perfect amount of persimmon sauce, with a little bit of crunch from the benne seeds. Both of the wines paired perfectly, but I preferred the Hecht & Bannier with the food (but the le provençal was better on its own).

I wish all shrimp tasted like this.

I wish all shrimp tasted like this.

Course 2 – Steamed Sea Trout with Turnips and Carolina Gold Rice paired with Gassier en Provence Sables d’Azur and Maison Saint Aix, AIX. I’m usually not a fan of trout, and I never would’ve ordered this on my own, but it was absolutely delicious. Very mild, citrusy, and creamy. The citrus and creaminess went really well with the AIX Rose, which I really enjoyed. It had a nice hint of grapefruit and was absolutely perfect with this meal. The Sables d’Azur I found to be a little blander and although it was still good, I preferred the AIX.

You can eat the skin, I'm told. But I never eat the skin.

You can eat the skin, I’m told. But I never eat the skin.

Course 3 – Ember Roasted Pork with Chestnuts, Grapefruit, and Truffle paired with Chateau la Gordonne La Chapelle Gordonne ($29) and Chateau de Bernes Terres de Berne ($19.99). The pork was superb. It melted in your mouth and was bursting with flavor. I wasn’t as big a fan of the chestnuts, as they had the same consistency as undercooked beans. But maybe that’s the way chestnuts are supposed to be eaten? I’m not sure. In terms of the wines, I preferred the terres de berne for sipping on its own, but the la chapelle gordonne was absolutely perfect with the pork (and now I totally understand what he meant about roses pairing well with BBQ).

Now I'm going to be really bougie and only order rose with my BBQ.

Now I’m going to be really bougie and only order rose with my BBQ.

Course 4 – Green Hill Camembert, Honeycrisp Apple, and Appalachian Red Corn paired with Chateau d’Esclans Les Clans ($65). This was one of my favorite courses. I loved the cheese with the apple and the mustard sauce that came with it. They made the Appalachian red corn into little crisps that tasted like cornflakes and were just a little sweet. Everything about this dish, from the taste to the preparation, was absolutely delicious. The wine that was paired with this dish was my least favorite of all the ones we tasted (and it’s a good thing too, since it was also the most expensive). It was very acidic and oaky and had a distinctly bitter and smoky taste. Just not my cup of tea.

I think all meals should have a cheese course.

I think all meals should have a cheese course.

Course 5 – Banana Cake with Coffee and Black Walnut paired with Chateau Paradis Rouge ($17.99). This was probably my least favorite course. The banana cake was dry and bitter from the coffee. The wine was nice and fruity and I opted to make that my dessert and gave up on the cake.

A sad ending to an otherwise perfect meal.

A sad ending to an otherwise perfect meal.

All in all I had a wonderful meal at McCrady’s (like every other meal I’ve had there), and I appreciate Wines of Provence for inviting me and helping open my eyes to the wonders of rose wines. Now that I know how well they pair with pork, and how inexpensive they are, I’ll definitely be having a few glasses of these roses in the future!

And I'd like to sit right here while I drink them, please and thank you.

And I’d like to sit right here while I drink them, please and thank you. Photo via Facebook

McCrady’s
2 Unity Alley
Charleston, SC 29401
(843)577-0025
McCrady's on Urbanspoon

Quote of the Week 10/27/14

Halloweekend is here! I’m celebrating with 2 different costumes, in addition to the Hocus Pocus costumes we did earlier this month. I can’t wait to post pictures for you guys!

What are you dressing up as?

“I only eat candy on Halloween. No lie.”
–Michael Trevino

 

We see a microphone, he sees an ice cream cone. via flickr / Gage Skidmore

We see a microphone, he sees an ice cream cone. Photo via flickr / Gage Skidmore

Sweeney’s (Johns Island, SC)

Sweeney’s has been on my list for a while now, but for some reason, whenever I found myself on Johns Island, I’d end up eating at Wild Olive or JB’s BBQ (because I’m a creature of habit). This restaurant week, however, I convinced Becca to join me at Sweeney’s for dinner. The atmosphere is cozy and quiet, but we were one of only 3 tables of people in the whole restaurant.

And I am OBSESSED with this patio.

And I am OBSESSED with this patio (via Facebook)

It had been a tough day at the office, so I felt like I was justified in ordering a cocktail. I went with the Appalachian Trail (Midnight Moon Blueberry Moonshine, Lemon and Mint, $9) and it was sooo good.

blueberry-moonshine-cocktail

Dangerously so.

For my appetizer, I opted for the Kale and Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad (Apples Walnuts Bleu Cheese and Creamy Citrus Vinaigrette, $9), which was really great. I loved the sweetness of the apples, paired with the tanginess of the blue cheese & kale. This is a winner.

I would definitely order this again.

I would definitely order this again.

Becca decided to try the Tempura Broccolini (Chili Aioli, $7). I’m not a huge fan of tempura in general, but these weren’t bad. I probably wouldn’t order them again, but that’s more of a personal preference. I will say that Sweeney’s version was far less greasy than I’ve had elsewhere, which I appreciated.

And that sauce was pretty yummy, too.

But that chili aioli, though.

For some reason I was also hankering for a bowl of soup, and decided to try the vegetable beef soup ($6). I’m pretty picky when it comes to tomato-based soups, but this one surpassed my expectations with flying colors! It was very fresh tasting and bursting with flavor, and I could tell it was homemade and not from a can.

The only thing Campbell's Soup is good for is pop art.

The only thing Campbell’s Soup is good for is pop art.

For my entree, I opted for the Braised Beef Short Rib (with whipped potato, collard greens, heirloom tomato jam, $25) and it was out of this world. The beef was literally falling apart and the heirloom tomato jam added a nice bit of sweetness to it. I don’t usually like mashed potatoes, because my mother’s have spoiled me, but these were probably just as good as my mom’s (just don’t tell her that).

I want to crawl into that bowl and live there.

I want to crawl into that bowl and live there.

Becca went with the Pan Seared Chicken Breast (Tasso Ham, English Peas, Roasted Mushroom, Angel Hair Pasta and Brown Butter Cream, $20). I stole a bite (or 3), and I have to say, it was pretty dang good. The noodles were cooked perfectly, and the sauce was indulgent without being too heavy.

A big bowl of happiness.

A big bowl of happiness.

For dessert, I ordered the Chocolate Pie (Chocolate Ice Cream and Toasted Marshmallow, $8). It was good, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by it the way I was with the rest of the meal.

Note: Don't order this if you don't like marshmallows.

Note: Don’t order this if you don’t like marshmallows.

The only part of the whole meal I have to complain about is that as we were waiting for our dessert to come out, we noticed that the table next to use (who came in right as we received our entrees), received a plate of cornbread after they ordered their meal. After looking around, we noticed that all the other tables in the restaurant had gotten cornbread, but we seemed to have missed the cornbread train. As we were paying our checks, we brought the cornbread situation up to our waiter who apologized profusely for forgetting to bring our cornbread out and happily packed us up some cornbread to go. I was stuffed, so I waited until I got home to try it, and I have to say, it was some of the best cornbread I’ve ever eaten. Ever. It was sweet, but not too much, and it had a consistency that was almost cakey. It was perfect.

 

I couldn't find a picture of the cornbread, so here's another picture of the patio! via Sweeney's.com

I couldn’t find a picture of the cornbread, so here’s another picture of the patio! via Sweeney’s Website.

Sweeney’s
3157 Maybank Hwy
Johns Island, SC 29455
(843) 559-5633
Sweeney's on Urbanspoon

Vote for Charleston Magazine’s “50 Best Food & Bev Faves” [UPDATED]

[Updated 12/8/14] We did it! The Queen was named the “Readers’ Choice Top Food Blogger” for Charleston Magazine. Thanks for voting everyone!

My next recipe? Humble Pie.

My next recipe? Humble Pie.

——————

Voting for CharlestonMag.com’s 50 Food & Bev faves goes until 11:59pm on Thursday, October 23rd. This is a great chance to vote for some of your favorite Charleston restaurants, bars, breweries, and more.

Pay special attention to #21, as I would love it if you, my lovely readers, would vote “Queen of the Food Age” as “Best Food Blogger” in Charleston!

50 food and bev

Minero

I’ve been waiting for Minero to open for what feels like my whole life. From the minute I heard that my culinary obsession, Chef Sean Brock, was opening a Mexican restaurant, I knew that was a place I was going to enjoy.

Be still my corazon!

Be still my corazon!

So when I got word that last Friday would be Minero’s official first day, I grabbed Lily and Sheena and forced them to wait 45 minutes for a table in order to try and be one of the first people to try it out. Considering all the hype around the opening, I was surprised the wait was only 45 minutes. While we were sitting outside patiently (and by that I mean “the opposite of patiently”), an older gentleman (who looked not unlike a retired sea captain) who’d just finished his meal stopped to tell us that “it’s defintiely worth the wait. And order el Satánico! Blended!” So when it was finally our turn to be invited in, that was the first thing we did.

As well as the Titán and Dragón Rojo

As well as the Titán and Dragón Rojo

The space is super cool and very inviting. I’m obsessed with the exposed brick, soft lighting, and general earthy feel of the whole place. It’s a little narrow, but the ambiance was spot on for a Friday night dinner. While I was trying to figure out what to order, I noticed Chef Brock walk past our table and let out an audible, involuntary gasp. My hero! In the flesh! Right there! I’m embarrassed that I acted like a 12-year old fan girl, but honestly no one was surprised.

Loading

Full house for the night.

View on Instagram

The menu is relatively short, which I think is a good thing because I was already having a hard enough time deciding on an entree. To start, we ordered the guacamole ($8), which was topped with radish, mexican chili powder, and plenty of cilantro. It was super flavorful and fresh, but a bit on the small side. The tortilla chips were perfect and served in a warm mitten (I don’t know what to call it) and were seasoned well enough to be delicious all on their own. And they better be since he sampled over 40 kinds of corn to perfect them.

guaca-guaca-guaca, mole mole mole. A dip! A dip, dip!

guaca-guaca-guaca, mole mole mole. A dip! A dip, dip!

We also ordered the queso fundido ($9), which is the opposite of the kind of queso that immediately springs to mind (thanks, Moe’s. You’ve ruined me forever). It’s thick and melty and made with smokey roasted poblano, spicy chorizo and meant to be eaten with soft corn tortillas, rather than crispy chips. It was delicious and I think we polished it off mere minutes after it was brought to our table.

You can't go wrong with melted cheese, though, really.

You can’t go wrong with melted cheese, though, really.

Because we had trouble deciding which tacos to order (despite there only being 6 varieties on their menu), we decided to each order 2 and share them so we could get an idea of how each one tasted. Lily picked the fried whiting (pickled green tomato tartar, cabbage, red onion, $4) and the pork carnitas taco (confit, jowl, chicharron, salsa verde ,chilmole, $3.5). They were both delicious, fresh, and flavorful, although if I had to pick a favorite of the two, the carnitas would win hands down.

I don't know if I've ever met a taco I didn't like...

I don’t know if I’ve ever met a taco I didn’t like…

Sheena opted for the grilled steak taco (charred onions and peppers, queso fresco, garlic-amarillo, $4), and the tacos al pastor (marinated and grilled pork, pineapple, avocado, $3.5). The tacos al pastor were awesome with the pineapple, giving a tart and savory flavor to the spiced meat. The steak tacos, though, were out of this world. They were so full of flavor and the meat was tender and juicy…

Dat steak though...

Dat steak though…

I got the final two options, the chargrilled chicken taco (mango, cotija, lime pickled red onion, pasilla de Oaxaca, $3) and the green chorizo taco with potatoes and grilled onions ($4). The chicken tacos had a nice smokey taste from the chargrilling and were very good. However, the chorizo tacos made me stop and close my eyes, chewing slowly so as to really savor the flavor. Each of us had the same reaction. If you’re debating, I definitely recommend the green chorizo taco over all the others.

I'm glad I tried the chicken taco first, or else I would've been super disappointed.

I’m glad I tried the chicken taco first, or else I would’ve been super disappointed.

After our taco feast, we were still a little peckish, so we decided to try the Hotdog confit and deli ham torta (avocado, tomato and chipotle mayo, $9.5), because we were way too intrigued to not try a confit hot dog. I’m so glad we did. The sandwich was huge, but it was unlike anything I’ve ever had. It was topped with some kind of shredded greens (cabbage, I think?), which gave an extra hint of freshness to the salty pork.

Do you see how big this sandwich is??

Do you see how big this sandwich is??

Basically, I want to live in this restaurant. The prices were really reasonable for everything and the quality was top-notch. The service was absolutely awesome, some of the best I’ve ever had. I left feeling like I was best friends with our server by the time we left. In fact, let’s just put a little plaque under table 13 that says “Reserved For The Queen.”

Or just add my name to the sign, that works, too.

Or just add my name to the sign, that works, too.

Minero
155 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 789-2241

Minero on Urbanspoon

 

Quote of the Week 10/8/14

I know we still have like 3 more weeks until Halloween, but I’m going to a big Halloween party this weekend so I’m definitely in that mode. For example, I’ve started craving tiny candy bars for some reason.

“Whoever thought a tiny candy bar should be called fun size was a moron.”
–Glenn Beck

 

Aaaand that's about the only thing we agree on.

Aaaand that’s about the only thing we agree on. Photo via Flickr / Shankbone

Quote of the Week 10/1/14

I feel like I say this at the beginning of every month, but I really can’t believe it’s October already. I’m going to a Halloween party next weekend. It can’t already be Halloween time already, can it? Can someone please take 2014 off of fast forward mode?

“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!”

 

–Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

 

I think she and I could be friends.

I think she and I could be friends.

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