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Restaurant Reviews

HōM Charleston

September 1, 2017

So, HoM (pronounced like “home”) is one of those restaurants I’d always hesitated on reviewing because I’d had so many mixed reviews in the past. And while that was true like 5 years ago, the past few times I’ve been there, I’ve had a stellar experience. I think they’ve done a lot of improving over the past couple of years, in terms of both food, cocktails, and ambience.

via GIPHY


I’ve been in a couple of times lately and been able to try a number of different items on their menu. I’ll go through each one individually! First, one of my favorite appetizers is the Calamari (fried with mixed greens, tomatoes, honey herb vinaigrette, lemon aioli, fried basil; $8).  The breading is really thin and crispy, and the calamari is cooked perfectly so it’s not too chewy. It’s great.

Lightly fried rubber bands have never tasted better.

Next up, the Vegetarian Flatbread (tomato jam, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, tomato, mozzarella, truffle vinaigrette, arugula;
$9.5)
I was a little skeptical at first, but this was actually really tasty. The bread is crispy on the bottom, but chewy throughout, and I absolutely loved the combo of the tomato jam, caramelized onions, and truffle vin.

I love flatbread because it’s basically pizza that I don’t have to feel guilty about eating.

I’ve also tried the Loaded Fries (chopped ground beef, creamy thai red curry, pepper jack, tomatoes, lettuce, roasted garlic sour cream; $10) which I really enjoyed. Last time I got these (like 2 years ago) they were super disappointing, but this new iteration is a sure winner. I am obsessed with the roasted garlic sour cream.

You had me at “loaded fries.”

On a healthier note, we also tried the Guacamole (grilled corn, chili-lime aioli, cotija cheese; $mrkt), which was tasty. It wasn’t the best guac I’ve ever had, but it was a solid option.

I’m so sorry for my use of flash, but it was hella dark in the back of the restaurant.

We split a few of the burgers amongst the group, my favorite of which was the Mr. Miyagi (two all beef patties, smoked avocado, fries, quick kimchee, sunny egg; $10). The combo of the smoked avocado, crispy french fries, and gooey sunny egg just makes for a delicious and perfect (albeit messy) burger.

Quite possibly the greatest food photo I’ve ever taken.

If you don’t like or aren’t feelin’ beef, the Green Gobblin’ Burger (house ground turkey burger, sautéed spinach & leeks, swiss, green goddess aioli, green apple; $10) is a great option. The crisp and brightness of the green apple balances out the oniony acidity of the leeks. I love a green goddess dressing, so the whole thing comes together in perfect harmony.

Why do most things get like 85% better when you add green apple to them??

Another great option if you’re not into meat is the Falafel Burger (fried with hummus, peanut relish, feta puree, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, tahini dressing; $9.5). I love the peanut relish because it complements the chickpea flavor of the falafel perfectly.

My falafel brings all the boys to the yard…

One of my favorite cocktails is the Warm Summer Day (gin, basil, cucumber, lemon; $7), which basically combines all of my favorite things. At $7 a cocktail, the pricepoint is hard to beat, especially on that end of King Street. Plus the flavor combination is perfect for late summer in Charleston!

I have a weird obsession with both lemonade and cucumber. It’s a problem.

All in all I think you get a lot of delicious food for a really reasonable price at HoM. I’m sorry I used to write it off, because it’s actually delicious. So if you haven’t been in a while, it’s time you gave HoM another try!

Burger + Pong is the new Dinner + a Movie via Facebook

Hōm Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Reviews

Eli’s Table

August 18, 2017

Last week, I was invited to dine at Eli’s Table, so I brought along my trusty sidekick, Cookin’ With Booze (well, technically Spurrier is my sidekick, but she had family in town and couldn’t join me, so Elise gladly volunteered).

Is there booze involved? Then Elise will be there.

I was, admittedly, underwhelmed at the thought of eating at Eli’s because I had a 2-star experience there at a RW meal a couple of years ago. I used to think of Eli’s as purely tourist fodder, but after the meal that I had last week, I have to say: I am a convertAs a food blogger, when I go to restaurants, they tend to up their game, but Eli’s knocked it totally out of the park.


We were greeted with champagne by the maître d’, Raymond, who had personality and charm oozing out of every pore (seriously, this guy rocks). He was super knowledgeable about every dish on the menu, which wines paired best with which dish, and details about every wine (in the whole world, I’m assuming). He’s also apparently one of the pastry chefs, and you can just tell that he loves the hell out of his job. (Plus he sounds almost exactly like Walton Goggins’s character in Vice Principals on HBO, so I was loving it).

Spoiler alert: This is not a photo of Elise and me, but it was the only photo I could find of Raymond.

We did a special tasting of many of the restaurant’s most popular dining options. To get us ready and excited, Raymond started us off with a little amuse bouche of smoked salmon on a house-made cracker with goat cheese and scallion. I’m not normally a fan of smoked salmon, but the creaminess of the goat cheese calmed the smokiness of the salmon, so it was quite enjoyable.

Stealing Elise’s photo because mine was pretty terrible. Which was a shame, because the dish itself was delicious!

To give us a taste of the best of Eli’s Table, Raymond brought us a plate of mini-versions of their most popular appetizers: the Prosciutto and Fig Crostini (local fresh figs, prosciutto, truffled goat cheese, pomegranate syrup; a normal-sized version of this app runs at $12). I’ve never had anything with prosciutto and goat cheese that I didn’t like, and this was no different. I really liked the salty/sweet/creamy combo. We also tried a mini version of the Grilled Asparagus Salad (frisée, blistered tomato peperonata, hearts of palm, mustard vinaigrette, crispy prosciutto; normally $12) in the form of a single piece of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto. The asparagus was cook so it was perfectly tender without being slimy (like what you get out of a can *yeck*).

3 more of these, please!

We also got to try a bit of the Shrimp and Grits (Smoked gouda grits, grilled shrimp, tasso gravy; normally $26). Our mini version was served beautifully in a martini glass, which I found charming and adorable. The grits were super rich and creamy and I loved the extra depth from the smoked gouda and tasso gravy. The shimp was perfectly cooked and had a little bit of spice to it… if you’re a fan of shrimp and grits, you’ll love Eli’s version!

Martini glasses are so versatile.

We also got to try their Southern Fried Crab Cake (Blistered tomato peperonata, remoulade sauce, frisée; normally $13 and only available on the lunch menu). Notice they don’t use any bread or crackers at all in their crab cake, which is refreshingly different. I loved that the outside was a little crispy and the remoulade had lots of flavor.

Sure to impress even people from Maryland!

My favorite course of the night was their Catch of the Day (Charleston “red rice risotto,” pickled green tomato-corn relish, crawfish butter; $29), which happened to be red snapper when we visited. The fish was cooked and seasoned beautifully, and was a perfect complement to the crawfish butter and red rice risotto. There was a nice bit of smokiness to the dish, which they add by using an applewood smoking gun on the sausage in the risotto, which really made the dish stand out. Even if you don’t like fish, I feel like you’d love this dish.

If all fish tasted like this, I’d eat fish everyday.

The final entree was one of their signature dishes (and one I see pop up on Instagram all the time): Duck and Waffles (Seared duck breast, sweet potato waffles, fried brussels sprouts, malted bacon glaze; $32). Because I’m a difficult person, this was probably my least favorite of everything we ate. There wasn’t anything inherently bad about it, I just found the gaminess of the duck to overpower the entire dish (and this is coming from someone who loves duck). The waffles on their own were really good, and the brussels sprouts were amazing, perfectly crispy and awesome with the malted bacon glaze.

Can I just get a bowl of brussels and malted bacon glaze kthx. 

We had a nice transition from savory into sweet with the duck & waffles, but my sweet tooth demanded more sugar. Raymond delivered with Crème Brûlée that was scorched at the table, which made me feel decadent and special (even though it’s something they do for everyone, but still). It was a stellar Crème Brûlée, and I highly recommend it!

Assuming you like some sugar with your sugar.

My favorite dessert (and probably my 2nd favorite thing I ate the entire meal) was a special chocolate dessert that Raymond made special for that day. Like me, Raymond is something of a chocoholic, and he really outdid himself with this dessert, chock full of Kahlua-soaked pound cake, house made vanilla bean ice cream, praline crumbles, fresh local blackberries, and, what I can only assume was all the chocolate syrup in a 5-mile radius. It was glorious.

I have seen heaven, and it is this chocolate trifle at Eli’s Table.

Everything, from the service to the food, was absolutely divine, and I would like to apologize to Eli’s Table for anything negative I’ve ever said about them in the past. I was wrong, and I’m sorry. I’ll be back for to try their mac and cheese in the near future, you can count on that!

Eli's Table Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Reviews

Workshop Review

July 28, 2017

In case you couldn’t tell from my original post announcing Workshop‘s concept and design, I’ve been VERY excited about Charleston’s first adult food court, featuring a rotating list of restaurants. It’s been open since about the beginning of May, and I’ve been more than a few times, so I feel pretty confident in being able to write this review, which is different than most of my reviews, because it’s not a review of a singular place, but rather a number of restaurants all at the same address. I will be reviewing all of the restaurants currently at the space and will update as old places leave and new ones take residence.

Exterior money shot

Bad Wolf Coffee – Ongoing

Bad Wolf is an “all-day café serving Four Barrell Coffee, house-made pastries, wine and small plates from chef Jonathan Ory.” It’s the only place in Charleston that serves Four Barrell coffee (which is worth the visit alone). When I first walked in, I was impressed with how clean and industrial the space was, with lots of glass, gleaming silver polished finishes, wood, and bright blue flourishes.

The succulent flourishes add a touch of whimsy!

The first dish they served us from Bad Wolf was this little tartine of fresh fruits and veggies and housemade cheese topped with some speck ham. It was very refreshing, and a great combination of refreshing, crunchy, creamy, and salty.

Is this considered healthy? If so, sign me up.


They also served a little dessert, called the Paris-Brest, a cream-filled choux pastry that was absolutely fantastic! The cream was super buttery and the outside was light and chewy in the best possible way. Think open-faced cream puff.

This one is definitely not healthy eating, but I’m still on board.

Finally, we got to try some of the famous Four Barrell coffee! I opted for mine in the form of iced coffee with half cream, half almond milk, which, before you start commenting about how basic I am, was done accidentally. The coffee was super smooth and I didn’t even feel the need to add sugar, which is saying a lot for me.

Also, check out that stellar manicure.

Beech Test Kitchen – Leaving September 3rd, 2017

Beech is the newest occupant of Workshop, marking its second location in Charleston (the first is on King Street near CofC). It replaced JD Loves Cheese toward the end of June, meaning if you want to find cheesy bread, you’re going to have to look elsewhere (I recommend Slice, but more on that if you scroll down). Beech’s whole schtick is “fruit, fish, rice, and vegetables,” and they lived up to that motto when they brought out their dishes to try, an acai bowl and a shrimp poke bowl. Both were fantastic and made me feel like I was feeding my body lots of quality nutrition. Then I cancelled that out with a cocktail, and no one was surprised.

I yam who I yam.

Juan Luis – Ongoing (thank the lawd)

I was first exposed to pitmaster John Lewis’s Tex-Mex side at his weekly Taco Tuesday events at his namesake BBQ joint on the Eastside. I wasn’t sure how a BBQ master would be able to also be skilled at Mexican food, but one puffy taco later, I was sold. At Juan Luis, I’ve tried a number of things. Although it sounds like a cop out, I’m a huge fan of the queso, which is thick and creamy, with just the right amount of spice.

It also pairs really well with a margarita.

For actual food, I love the tamales, which are stuffed with their signature red-chile pork. These are some of my favorite tamales that I’ve had in Charleston, hands down. They definitely pack some heat, so I recommend an ice cold margarita to cool your mouth down.

Then again, I’d recommend the margarita even if the tamales weren’t spicy.

I am also a huuuuge fan of the green chile enchiladas with chicken, with a side of rice and beans. Although both the refried and charro beans are delicious, I think the refried beans are much better. I’m not sure what he does differently, but they’re super flavorful and not as…slimy(? I guess is the best word?) as the refried beans you sometimes get at a typical Mexican restaurant. They have a lot more texture. And the chicken in the enchiladas is perfectly pulled and the whole thing is like a flavor explosion. I’m glad it’ll be sticking around for a long, long time.

Awww yisss.

Kite Noodle – Leaving Aug 14, 2017

I’m so sad that Kite Noodle is leaving, because their noodles truly are something special. Kite Noodle specializes in fast, fresh Korean food and is also helmed by Jonathan Ory. One of the first things I ever ate at Workshop, which remains one of my favorites to this day, was the Japchae (sweet potato noodles with vegetables and bulgogi), which is so unique and packed full of flavor.

Goodbye, old friend.

A new dish I recently tried was the Bibim Guksu, chilled Somyeon (Korean wheat noodles) with kimchi and bulgogi and an egg. Despite being served cold, these noodles have a bit of spice in them, so they heat you up from the inside.

Goodbye, new friend.

Be sure to visit Kite Noodle before they leave for good on 8/14!

So many noodles, so little time.

Pink Bellies – Ongoing

I’ve been a fan of the banh mi at Pink Bellies since they were just a tiny little food truck at the corner of St. Phillip’s and Calhoun Street. They’re known for their pulled pork & jam banh mi, which features pulled pork, mayo, blueberry jam, chilis, pickled carrots, and cilantro. It’s different, but also familiar (assuming you’re already familiar with banh mi), and is a great variation from the classic. I highly recommend it!

Banh for me, banh for you.

I’ve also heard amazing things about their Animal-style burger, so I hope to try it someday soon!

Slice – Leaving May 4, 2018

Ok, so this review is the least fair of all of the other reviews, because I’ve only had a sample of one menu item from Slice, and it wasn’t the pizza (I know, I know). But, what I had was absolutely delicious. Technically it was off menu, a take on their classic meatball sub. It was a mini slider on one of their garlic knots, and y’all. It was so good. I literally cannot wait to go back and enjoy the rest of their menu.

Give me alllll the sliderz.

 

Restaurant Reviews

Pawpaw

July 21, 2017

I had some family friends come into town recently and felt a lot of pressure to take them to a good restaurant. So rather than risk one of my favorites failing to live up to the hype, I decided to have us all try somewhere I’d never been before so that we could all experience it for the first time together! I decided on Pawpaw because we’d been out exploring the Market and they had a reservation available for a party of our size. I had messed up in counting when I made the reservation, so we were actually 1 chair short when we were seated (hey, I’m a writer, not a math-er), but the team was super great about adding an extra table so that we could all sit comfortably.

I ordered a cocktail, the Word of Mouth (Local Hat Trick Gin, Yellow Chartreuse, St. Germain, Grand Marnier, Rose Water, Vanilla, $14), which I loved. I’m really into cocktails that are refreshing and vegetal, and this very much fit the bill.


 

For appetizers, we started with the Truffle Fries (roasted pepper coulis, house aioli, $8.50), which were awesome. Sometimes restaurants go way too heavy on the truffle, but the balance on these were perfect. The sauces were also delicious, and I opted to keep the house aioli to dop my 2nd appetizer (Brussels sprouts) in.

I think aioli is my favorite condiment.

The 2nd appetizer was the Brussels Sprouts (fried with parmesan cheese and chives, $8.25), which were perfecto! Nice and crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, and seasoned perfectly. (Note that these are not on the online menu, but I just called and confirmed that they are in fact still available).

And brussels are my favorite vegetable.

Our third appetizer was the Macaroni and Cheese (parmesan bechamel, english peas, smoked pork, cheddar, biscuit breadcrumbs, $10.95). I usually prefer simpler macs, but Pawpaw did a really good job of not going overboard with the toppings, so it was delicious. A couple of people even ordered it as their entree after trying it as an appetizer.

Mac and cheese with orecchiette is growing on me.

For my entrée, I opted for the house-made Orecchiette (farm egg, smoked pork, heirloom tomato, touch of chili, $15.95), which was amazing. The egg was cooked perfectly so that the yolk melded with the pesto and created this awesome creamy sauce that was to die for. The pasta was also cooked to perfection at al dente, and it was altogether a really pleasing dish.

A top-notch pasta dish!

My mom ordered the Chef Rogers’ Recipe #88 Free-Range Fried Chicken (collard greens, potato purée, herb gravy, Nashville hot butter, $22.95) and I have to say, this is probably the best fried chicken I’ve eaten in Charleston. I’m not sure what they put in their breading, but it is fantastic. The chicken was perfectly juicy, the breading was super flavorful, and it was pretty much perfection on a plate. In terms of the sides, the mashed potatoes were creamy and rich and cheesy. My only complaint is that when asking for pepper vinegar to accompany the greens, the waitress looked at me blankly and replied “we have balsamic vinegar, would that work?” No. No it will not.

Judge all other fried chicken by this one.

All in all, Pawpaw was super flavorful and delicious and a definite crowd-pleaser for a reasonable price point (especially for its location).

Pawpaw

209 E Bay St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 297-4443
Pawpaw Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Reviews

Indaco

July 14, 2017

I’ve been to Indaco a few times now and have finally gotten around to writing a review about this awesome spot for Italian food on King Street. I first tried Indaco a couple of years ago at a Yelp event, then I went back for my birthday with my friend Lily, where we tried the Chef’s Tasting Menu. My most recent experience was at the beginning of July with my friend Caty, where we had an amazing Italian feast. I started with the Paloma cocktail (El Jimador blanco, ginger, grapefruit, basil, $10), which I loved.

I lived with a girl named Paloma in college, whose a chef now. Life is funny like that sometimes.

Caty opted for the Namaste Here and Drink (Tito’s, cardamom, ginger beer, hibiscus, lime, $11), which was essentially a Moscow Mule by another name.

Luckily, we both love Moscow Mules.

For our appetizer course, we started with the burrata (tomato panzanella, fried croutons, cucumber, red onion, herbs, $17), which was awesome. I love that burrata is becoming a super trendy food, because I think it’s delicious. Indaco’s version had an awesome array of veggies that went great with the creaminess of the cheese and the crispiness of the croutons.

I’d eat burrata at every meal, if I could.


Next up was the polpette (ricotta, San Marzano tomato, Pecorino Romano, $13), which I was a little disappointed by. They had a dryness to them that made them super crumbly, and lacked a lot of flavor on their own. In a sauce or with something else to complement them, they would’ve been much better.

The tomato sauce was on point, though.

Our final appetizer was the sausage pizza (San Marzano tomato, summer sausage, pepperoncini, marinated red onions, arugula, San Simon di Costa, $17), which was fantastic. The pizza had just the right amount of char on the super-thin crust, the sauce was in perfect proportion to the rest of the toppings, the sausage was just a little spicy, and the arugula added a nice peppery note, which was a great complement to the tanginess of the red onion. I would absolutely order this again!

Pizza party anyone?

For our 2nd courses, we opted for the seared scallops (spring onion, grilled squash, okra, peas, cherry tomatoes, green garlic, $34). I don’t normally love scallops, but these were nice and buttery, and the summer veggies gave the dish a nice refreshing feel.

Plus, it looks like a work of art!

Our favorite dish of the night was the Roman-style gnocchi (jumbo lump crab, black truffle, parmesan cream, $28), which was, by far, the best gnocchi I’ve ever had in my life. Roman-style gnocchi is made with semolina flour rather than with potato or ricotta, and apparently it makes all the difference. Also, I’m not sure what they put in their parmesan cream sauce, but they need to bottle it so I can put it on everything.

Like little pillows of joy.

Because we are pasta addicts, we also tried the lamb agnolotti (Speck, Calabrian chilis, corn, basil, $25), which was also a winner. The lamb must’ve been braised for a while, because it practically melted in your mouth. The corn tasted like it had been grilled and removed from the cob about 2 minutes before it arrived on our table, offering a nice charred flavor to the pasta that was the shining star of the entire dish.

Bright and colorful for summertime!

To satisfy our sweet tooths (tooths? teeth?), we decided to try their almond budino (chocolate shortbread, caramel, $8), which was basically an Italian custard. It was super thick and creamy, so I loved the crunchiness of the shortbread, which offered a nice variation in texture.

And plus it comes in an adorable little mason jar!

We also couldn’t resist the vanilla bean panna cotta (pomegranate, sable crunch, $7), which, while also a custard, had a much more gelatinous texture to it than the budino. The pomegranate sauce was a great balance of tart and sweet, and I loved the sable crunch. The texture of the panna cotta itself was not my favorite, but Caty absolutely loved it.

It’s like a little dessert volcano!

TL;DR Indaco has awesome food, but I highly recommend the pastas (specifically the gnocchi), the pizza, and the cocktails!

Indaco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Openings Restaurant Reviews

1Kept Charleston

July 7, 2017

I recently had the pleasure of trying out 1Kept, the new restaurant taking the place of Barony Tavern (RIP) at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Charleston. I’d been able to attend the grand opening party (where I met Andrew Zimmern, nbd), but hadn’t really gotten a chance to try any of the food, so I was excited to experience Charleston’s trendiest new restaurant with my friend and fellow food blogger Elise (aka Cookin’ With Booze).

And featuring art from local artists, too!

We started with some of their signature Black Truffle Popcorn with grated parmesan cheese ($6). The popcorn was nice and crispy and the black truffle element was subtle enough to not be overpowering, and also complemented the parmesan really nicely. Basically, put enough parmesan on anything and I’ll eat it.

Movies theaters really need to start serving this stuff.

Next up, we were really intrigued by the Duck Fat Cornbread, which was served with a red pepper jelly ($6). The flavor of the duck fat came through pretty strongly in the cornbread, but the pepper jelly was nice to cut the flavor and make it all come together really well. The cornbread itself had a nice moisture content; it wasn’t too dry or too wet, which was nice. We also saved the pepper jelly and used it to flavor some of the other things we ordered. It’s a wonder condiment!

Red pepper jelly over everything.


Because I’m addicted to Brussels sprouts, we ordered the Fried Brussels (roasted red peppers, apple gastrique, salt & vinegar, $9) and I was seriously impressed. I’m not sure if they boiled the sprouts before they fried them or what, but the stem of the sprouts (which tend to be the toughest, chewiest part of the veggie) was like butter. The outer leaves were nice and crispy, meaning I could eat them by the bushel.

Brussels sprouts for life!

The Pork Meatballs (roasted pickled fennel, carrot, balsamic reduction, $10) were really nice. They had more of a Swedish meatball consistency than an Italian meatball, with a nice springiness and a more compact mouthfeel. The addition of the pickled fennel, carrots, and cilantro gave them a nice Asian flair. Pro tip: they also taste amazing when dipped in the pepper jelly.

Also, grilled pickled fennel is one of my new favorite vegetables.

For a main course, we opted to split 2 entrees, which they graciously pre-cut and served to us so that we didn’t have to do all the dirty work ourselves, which was awesome. The first entrée we split was their signature Chicken Schnitzel (with herb späetzle, braised red cabbage, kale, caramelized onion cream sauce, $19). The panko breading on the outside was fried to a nice crisp, while the chicken inside was still super thin and juicy. The true star of the dish, however, was the caramelized onion gravy, which probably would be delicious on anything. It was creamy and thick without that weird congealyness (a word I totally didn’t just make up) that gravy can sometimes get, and had a nice depth of flavor that really went amazingly with the chicken. The spaetzle noodles had some kind of lemon zest on them which really helped to brighten up the dish and trick my brain into thinking I was eating something light and summery.

Germany meets Charleston in the best possible way!

The second entrée was the Shrimp & Grits (Pimento cheese, scallions, arrabbiata sauce, $22), which are served quite differently than the typical option you’ll find around town. The arrabbiata sauce was smoky and a little spicy and complemented the pimento cheesiness of the grits really excellently. I liked that it was a nice twist on a traditional Southern recipe so that you get something that is at once different and familiar.

Pimento cheese grits are the ticket!

Their breakfast menu looks fantastic, and I can’t wait to come back and try it once they’ve got their liquor license!

1Kept Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Queen on the Road Restaurant Reviews

Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee Part 3: Linger Longer Steakhouse

July 1, 2017

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a 4-day stay at the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee as a representative of The Daily Meal. This is part 3 of a 3-part series. For more about my experience, read my review of Gaby’s By The Lake and Georgia’s.

Keep in mind that this meal was complimentary and that for official review purposes, I was treated to a prix fixe menu. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Linger Longer Steakhouse

The most upscale of all of the dining options at The Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee was the Linger Longer Steakhouse. Chef Casey Burchfield has put together a menu that appeals to both casual and sophisticated palates in a way that is very approachable. Because I’m adventurous, he put together a special prix fixe menu for the purposes of this review. Our waiter was also a certified sommelier and took a lot of pride in pairing each course with the perfect glass of wine or cocktail. And because I’m a big jerk, I apparently didn’t take a photo of a single one of those drinks.

Seven courses, NBD


As we sat down, we were treated to an amuse bouche, which consisted of a tartare duo. The beef tartare was served on a puffed piece of beef tendon (it had the consistency similar to that of a shrimp chip), and was a very unique presentation and use of ingredients. It was big enough for 2 bites, but much less messy to eat in 1, so that’s what I did. The tuna was served on a dehydrated rice cracker, and tasted very similar to what you’d find in a sushi restaurant.

A great way to start the meal!

The first official course was lobster bisque with butter poached lobster. I’m not sure what the deal is with the Ritz Carlton, but they’ve really figured out the secret to a great bowl of soup. The bisque was rich and decadent, but still light and airy enough so as not to weigh me down, which was good because I still had 6 courses to go. The lobster was perfectly poached, making this dish a definite winner.

Lobster bisque is the key to my heart, apparently.

The second course was a grilled leek and burrata cheese with truffle and garlic. Burrata (aka cheese-stuffed cheese) is one of my favorite cheeses because I love how creamy it is, and the combination of the tangy and smoky flavor of the grilled leeks was perfect with the cheese.

“Cheese-Stuffed Cheese” will be the name of my memoir.

Course 3 was seared scallop, ramps, strawberry, and white asparagus. I was really excited for this dish–despite the fact that I don’t usually like scallops–because I had been hearing a lot about ramps being kind of the “it” vegetable of 2017. For those who don’t know, a ramp is a wild onion that grows during the spring in Eastern Canada and the U.S. It has a sort of garlicky-onion flavor and is bite-sized. The combination of the buttery scallops (which were phenomenal, btw) with the tart strawberries and garlicky ramp was a harmonious orchestra of flavor.

I’ll never eat scallops the same way again!

Chef had recently spent some time in Thailand, so the fourth course was a Thai-inspired BBQ pork with sweet onion, green papaya, and a spicy tangy sauce. The pork itself had a nice crispiness on the outside and practically fell apart on the inside. Pork usually goes well with fruit, but the combination of the green papaya and the tangy sauce was exceptional.

Why don’t we put papaya in more things?!

The fifth course was Faroe Island salmon with sweet pea puree, ragout of spring vegetables, and a garlic emulsion. The dish was absolutely gorgeous in its plating, and the flavor did not disappoint. There was a lot going on, from the pea puree to the garlic emulsion, but it all came together beautifully.

I need to take a class on how to identify which flowers are edible and which will kill me. I’m assuming these were the former since I’m still alive.

The sixth course was a prime Manhattan steak with potato puree, sweet & sour ramps (yay, more ramps!), and a bacon-mushroom bordelaise. Holy moly was this good. If I hadn’t been so stuffed from the previous courses, I could’ve eaten like 3 more plates of this steak. Chef Casey is magical!

The thing on the bottom right that looks like a baby onion? That’s a ramp.

For dessert, we had a Valrhona Chocolate soufflé with white chocolate ice cream and fresh sliced strawberries. The souffle was basically a chocolate-flavored cloud, and the ice cream was a great palate cleanser.

Chocolate is always ok by me!

As an added bonus (an after-dessert dessert, if you will), Chef sliced up some Bentons Bacon country ham, which he served to us on a charred barrel plate with a rye whisky and amaro aperitif. The saltiness of the ham plus the sweetness of the amaro was a great combination, and I almost preferred it to the sweet dessert.

This photo comes courtesy of our awesome waiter who didn’t give me any details when he asked to borrow my camera. I’m just a very trusting person, and it resulted in this badass shot of Chef Casey.

Linger Longer Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Queen on the Road Restaurant Reviews

Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee Part 2: Georgia’s

June 23, 2017

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a 4-day stay at the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee as a representative of The Daily Meal. This is part 2 of a 3-part series. For more about my experience, read my review of Gaby’s By The Lake.

Keep in mind that this meal was complimentary and that for official review purposes, I tasted smaller portions of the menu. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Georgia’s


A slightly more upscale, but still casual offering is Georgia’s. They just brought in a new chef (Shaun Thomas) and did a rebrand of their menu and the restaurant itself, so I was one of the first to try everything the new restaurant had to offer. I visited for dinner and for breakfast and both meals were fantastic.

Dinner

As soon as I sat down for dinner, I was greeted with an adorable bread basket, which consisted of a salted yeast roll, cheddar bacon biscuit, and cornbread with whipped butter and jam. They were all delicious in their own right, but my favorite was probably the cornbread, which had just a hint of sweetness to it and practically melted in your mouth.

Although it’s rare for me to meet a bread basket I don’t like.

For dinner, I tried a number of things, but my favorite–by far–was the She Crab Soup (Lemon Yogurt, Chives, normal portion: $12). I sometimes tend to be wary of she crab soups, because people can be a little heavy handed with the sherry, which is not my favorite flavor, but this was perfection. It was creamy and had a nice depth of flavor that was balanced out by the lemon. A perfect cup of soup.

More like “ME crab soup,” amirite??

Because I was officially receiving tasting sizes of the different menu items, they brought out this adorable wooden board of appetizers, which consisted of the tomato salad (Duke’s Mayo, Red Wine Vinegar, Cucumber, Red Onion and Basil, Georgia Olive Oil, normal portion: $9), and Southern spreads with grilled bread (Tomme Pimento, Peanut Hummus, Georgia Olive Oil, normal portion: $10). The

I’ll take 3 more of these please.

The Seafood Purloo (Carolina Gold Rice, Local Oysters, Shrimp and Crab, Shellfish Stock, normal portion: $26) was absolutely fantastic. I was worried it was going to be overly fishy, but it was really well-balanced without being overwhelming. Plus, the rice was cooked perfectly!

Rice is the best because it basically just becomes whatever you cook it with.

The Meatloaf (Sparta Mushroom Gravy, Spicy Ketchup Glaze, Whipped Mash, normal portion: $18) was good also. My portion had crispy bacon wrapped around the outside, which gave a little smokiness to the meat, which harmonized well with the sweet and spiciness of the ketchup glaze.

Idk why meatloaf gets such a bad rep when it’s so delicious!

One dish that really surprised me was the Charred Okra (tomato jam, lemon, $5). I tend to think that okra is best either pickled or fried, so I had kind of low expectations for this dish. But in reality, it was exceptional! Charring the okra took out a lot of that signature sliminess, while adding in just the right amount of smoky flavor from the char. Plus, the tomato jam is my new jam (pun intended); I wish I could put it on everything!

Because you’re not truly a Southerner if you don’t like okra!

Their take on sort of a baked bean dish is the Sea Island Red Peas (with cornbread crumbs, $5). They were cooked almost al dente, and the thing I love about the Sea Island Red Peas are just how much more flavorful they are than other types of peas. Plus, the cornbread added a nice touch of sweetness to the dish that was nice and unexpected.

The best peas there are!

The Collard Greens (with ham hock, $5) were pretty standard. I like that they go ahead and bring out some pepper vinegar (house made) without having to ask, which saves us all some time. If you like collards, you’ll love these!

Vegetarians beware.

The Seasonal veggie (local squash, $5) was a local squash with a ricotta and squash topping and fresh roasted tomatoes. I kind of OD’d on yellow squash a couple of years ago with a CSA I’d signed up for, so I wasn’t really looking forward to this, but it absolutely blew me away! The homemade ricotta with the squash folded in was exceptional, and the squash itself tasted like it came straight out of the garden right before it was put on my plate.

One of the only times in my life that I’ve actually enjoyed yellow squash.

The Fried green tomatoes (Poached Lobster, Herb Aioli, Blackened Butter, full portion: $14) were really unique in that they were topped with a little bite of poached lobster. It was almost like a lobster roll + FGT all rolled into one. I love the cornmeal breading they used on the tomato, which was really light and still allowed you to get the full flavor of the tomato.

Like a little lobster nugget.

My favorite dessert (and the only one I took photos of) was Mary Beth’s Heath Bar Custard (tahitian vanilla, butter shortbread crumble, whipped cream, chopped heath bar, $10). The recipe comes from Chef Thomas’s grandmother, and he says it’s “the only thing I remember her ever cooking.” I love heath bar, so I thought this was fantastic (even though each bite made me feel like my stomach might explode, since I’d already eaten so much). It’s sweet without being cloying and the crunch of the heath bar was a perfect counterbalance to the creaminess of the vanilla custard.

Breakfast

For breakfast, I kept it simple and easy by ordering the Eggs Benedict (Two Poached Eggs, English Muffin, Choice of Canadian Bacon or Smoked Salmon, Hollandaise, Breakfast Potatoes, $18). It was your typical eggs benny, and my eggs were perfectly poached and runny. The hollandaise was really tasty, and was the perfect condiment for me to dip my home fries in!

Sometimes simple is best!

Since they had also just released their new breakfast cocktail menu, I tried a few of those as well. The first was their Bloody Mary (bacon-washed vodka, house made spicy Bloody Mary mix, garnished with heirloom cherry tomatoes, house pickled veggies, lemon, bacon, and purple kale straight out of the Georgia’s garden, $15). I don’t normally like Bloody Mary’s, but I have to say that this was pretty tasty!

And when it matches the backdrop this perfectly, how can you say no?!

Next up was The Motivator (Kahlua, Godiva, Disaronno, Iced Coffee, with Irish Cream Finish, $15), which was their take on an Irish coffee. I don’t usually like to mix coffee and liquor, but this was nice and refreshing. I especially liked that it was served over ice, which made it feel a lot lighter than normal.

Coffee with a kick!

Another option is the Sunrise to Sundown (Skyy Vodka, Orange Juice, House-Made Raspberry Syrup Drizzle, $12), similar to a Screwdriver with the added touch of raspberry syrup drizzle. It was the ideal drink for sitting out on the patio with the lake as a backdrop.

A drink that really says “good morning!”

All in all, I would highly recommend this for a casual breakfast or dinner, especially when the weather is nice because the patio is awesome!

Georgia's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Queen on the Road Restaurant Reviews

The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee Part 1: Gaby’s By The Lake

June 16, 2017

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a 4-day stay at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee as a representative of The Daily Meal. Having never stayed at a Ritz Carlton before, I was expecting it to be luxurious, but my visit managed to surpass my already high expectations, not an easy feat to accomplish! I dined in all three of the resort’s signature restaurants, spent a ridiculously long time in the heated infinity pool, and even tried my hand at kayaking on the lake, something I haven’t done since college.

That’s Gaby’s right there to the far right (next to the infinity pool)

While the activities and amenities of the resort were luxurious and amazing (don’t even get me started on how much I loved the spa), the on-site restaurants really blew me away. Originally I was going to do 1 post about the entire stay, but I thought it would be more valuable to break it up by restaurant, because I ate a lot (like, an embarrassing amount of food) and want to make sure I do each restaurant justice.

The whole resort campus was a dreamscape.

For more of my Ritz Carlton adventures, read my review of Georgia’s.

Gaby’s By The Lake


Gaby’s is definitely the most casual of theThe Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee restaurants, and for good reason.The Chef at Gaby’s, Brandon Peterson, does an amazing job of keeping food approachable, while also still ensuring that it’s delicious and not something you’ll find anywhere else. The atmosphere might be super casual, but their food is anything but. It’s located adjacent to the pool and has the tagline, “no shirt, no shoes, our pleasure;” Basically, that means you can get out of the pool and walk straight in to order something for lunch or dinner (which I may have done).

And I encourage you to do it as well. After all, you’re on vacation!

I started with a cocktail, the Strawberry Fields, which was basically a strawberry lemonade with Tito’s vodka ($15) and the perfect cocktail to sip poolside on a warm sunny day. It was sweet and tart and refreshing.

It’s glowing because it floated straight from heaven into my hand.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the brussels sprouts (Korean chili aioli, pickled shitakes, crispy onions, shaved radish, $8). Oh. Em. Gee. They were so yummy. I came back and ordered them a second time for dinner, they were that good. The korean chili aioli was just a little spicy, and a very creamy, while the pickled shitakes added a nice tang, making the whole dish an explosion of flavor.

I’ll take 100 orders of brussels sprouts, please.

My favorite entree that I tried was the ribs platter. I’m not usually excited about ribs, but these were some of the best I’ve ever had. Apparently, they’re glazed with a Coca-Cola sauce, and they have just a nice hint of smoky and sweet… you gotta try them. And the biscuit and pickled vegetables are awesome side dishes, and offer very different, yet harmonious, flavors.

And just look at how colorful the platter is!

One of the things they’re most known for is the lobster grilled cheese (Havarti Cheese, Parker House Bread, $21): holy decadence, Batman. This bad boy had lots of butter, lots of havarti cheese, and lots of lobster. It’s like a lobster roll, but taken to a whole different level. I could (but probably shouldn’t) eat this every day.

I mean is it really a trip to the Ritz Carlton if you don’t eat lobster at least once?!

If you like fried fish tacos (marinated catfish, chipotle slaw, fresh cilantro, lime sour cream, $17), the ones at Gaby’s are very tasty. They’re also nice and light so you can eat them in your bathing suit and not feel gross and bloated afterward.

Is there a more appropriate pool-side food than fish tacos?

At one of the meals that I visited, we started with the Southern Hummus (boiled peanuts, black-eyed peas, Lebanese salad, Greek yogurt, warm pita and tortilla chips, $12), which was a fun play on regular hummus. I like that it had a sharper flavor than traditional hummus, and the Lebanese salad paired really well. If you like hummus, you’ll love this!

These veggies definitely negate all the cheesy, buttery lobster I ate earlier, right?

Sour Cream and Onion Baked Pretzel with local beer cheese ($12) were just ok. The beer cheese was really delicious (can I please dip some fries in this??), but the pretzels were a little on the dry side. They had good flavor, they just didn’t taste as fresh and soft as I would’ve liked.

Beer cheese is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

For my dinner entree, I ordered the grilled swordfish (cumin-spiced carrot puree, Israeli couscous with grilled veggies, cucumber and fresh herb salad, basil oil, $29), which was spectacular. The fish was cooked perfectly and paired really well with the grilled veggies and couscous. I love Israeli couscous because it’s so pearly, and each bite was sheer perfection.

I barely edited this photo. It was naturally this vibrant.

My mom ordered the 12 oz Prime NY strip (garlic and herb smashed potatoes, melted leeks and mushrooms, roasted garlic butter, smokey house steak sauce, $45) and absolutely loved it. It was cooked perfectly to her medium-well request, and was a high quality steak. The real winner of the plate in my opinion, however, was the garlic and herb smashed potatoes. We’re both pretty particular when it comes to mashed potatoes because my mother thinks she makes the best mashed potatoes in the world, so we were both blown away by how good these were.

You get the Tina Gallimore seal of approval, Chef Brandon. A truly rare occurrence.

Whether you’re staying at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds or just visiting Lake Oconee, I recommend giving Gaby’s a visit for lunch or dinner!

Gaby's by the Lake Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Reviews

Sorghum and Salt

May 26, 2017

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dining with my friend Becca at the newly-opened Sorghum and Salt on Coming Street. Although I was sad to see its predecessor, Two Boroughs Larder bid adieu, I couldn’t have picked a better restaurant to replace it. The concept of S&S is locally sourced small plates with a heavy emphasis on vegetables (mom would be so proud!). The restaurant’s atmosphere is an appropriate reflection of the menu itself: earthy, humble, and refreshing.

And also it’s a restaurant, just FYI.

Because we got so much food, I’m going to go in order of my favorites, rather than in chronological order of what food we got (although I truly enjoyed everything we ordered; they were all winners!). Keep in mind that because they source locally, some of the menu items I mention might not be on the menu when you visit. I recommend differing to the expertise of the wait-staff, because they definitely did not steer us wrong when we were ordering!

Behold, the mighty sprout!

Crispy Brussels

with raisin, local buttermilk, and chili, $12


I’m obsessed with Brussels sprouts lately, and I definitely have my favorite sprout hot spots. But after trying Sorghum & Salt’s Brussels, I think I might have to move them to the top of my list. They were perfectly crispy and the buttermilk sauce they were tossed in had the perfect amount of spice. There was a great mix of textures and flavors. I’ll be back for these alone!

Essentially a bowl full of veggies with a beef dust.

Charred Cabbage and Snap Peas

with crispy braised short rib, kimchi yogurt and mint, $14

So I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this dish, so I was completely taken aback and blown away by how delicious and packed full of flavor it was. The char on the cabbage added a nice level of smokiness and the snap peas were perfect for a brightness and some crunch. The short rib managed to be crispy without being overly dry, truly a miracle.

Queen of the tarts.

Key Lime and Yuzu Tart

with Chantilly, blackberries, graham cracker crust, $varies

So this was the dessert of the day on the day we visited, but I really hope it makes its way into the regular rotation. Yuzu, FYI, is a Japanese citrus fruit that’s pretty similar to a lemon, so it works awesome in conjunction with a key lime pie-type dish. The graham cracker crust was one of the best crusts on a pie that I’ve eaten in recent memory. I feel like a lot of times, people treat crust as an afterthought; a mere vehicle for transporting custard and fruit. But Sorghum and Salt put a lot of TLC into their graham cracker crust, and it was the perfect crunchy, salty complement to the tartness of the yuzu and Key Lime.

Pork Punch! Sounds like an alt-rock band.

Bread Service

brown sugar bread with Berkshire pork butter, $5

So a lot of places use pork fat to make their butter, but Sorghum & Salt actually puts some shreds of pork into their butter to add that extra pork punch to each hunk of bread you eat. The brown sugar in the bread was very subtle, and together the combo of the salt + pork + sugar was just short of heaven.

These sweet potatoes make me feel like I need to go to church.

Crispy Fried Chicken

with fermented collards, chili sweet potato ginger honey, $23

The fried chicken was really very tasty. Served hot and boneless (which is good for those of us who make a mess when doing battle with bone-in chicken) with a cornmeal breading and drizzled with ginger and honey, Sorghum and Salt really find a way for this southern staple to stand out amid a sea of fried chicken. But my absolute favorite part of this dish was the sweet potatoes. They practically melted in your mouth, and with the chicken grease and honey dripping onto them, felt decadent and downright sinful.

Still awaiting my conversion to beetdom.

Lavender Roasted Beets

blackberry, olive dirt, flowers, and herbs, $13

So beets aren’t my favorite food, but I let myself be talked into ordering these because the waitress loved them so much. I will say that they were absolutely gorgeous to look at and felt like a work of art. And I don’t really know what olive dirt is, but I want it on more things. The cooking technique they used on the beets, which I understood to involve packing them in salt and lavender and then slow roasting them, took a lot of the tart earthiness typically found in beets away, making them much more mild and easily palatable. I quite enjoyed these (although I’m not sure if I’m a beet convert quite yet).

Perfectly pleasant.

House Made Cheese

with tomato and zucchini, olive oil, and crostini, $13

The house made cheese was just slightly disappointing in that it was the mildest in terms of flavor. Even with the zucchini and tomato, it didn’t really pack the punch of flavor that the other dishes did. The cheese on its own didn’t really have any flavor. The crostini were baked just a minute too long, giving them the consistency of croutons. They were still a good complement to the creaminess of the cheese, but would’ve been much more enjoyable had they been slightly less done. The dish was unoffensive, but didn’t knock our socks off.

All in all, I will definitely be visiting Sorghum and Salt again (for the Brussels sprouts alone), because we had an amazing first visit. Everything from the service to the plating to the flavor of the food was exceptional, and I hope they stick around for a long, long time!
Sorghum and Salt Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Read Sydney G.‘s review of Sorghum & Salt on Yelp

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