Coffee Bean Scene: Part 6, Christophe Artisan Chocolatier – Patissier

Coffee isn’t a choice. It has been a way of life. Ever since that fateful day my sophomore year of college when I was desperate enough for a little extra weeks during finals week, I ditched soda and sugary carbonation for the inimitable flavor and charge of that little roasted brown bean.

And whenever I travel to a new town, there three things that I have to fine in order to turn that city into a surrogate home: the local bookstore, an old bar, and an artisanal coffee shop. This blog will be a written testimony of the best coffee dens in the Holy City herself, Charleston.

Here are the basic ground rule. The establishment will be judged on the following four categories: coffee (flavor), food (variety and taste), atmosphere (presentation, seating space, music), and extra goodies (wi-fi, air conditioning, memorabilia, etc.). Also, I will exempt any national chains so as to absorb the distinct caffeinated taste of Charleston. So, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Krispy Kreme are disqualified. Without further ado, next up is…

Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier                                                                         Where: 90 Society St., Charleston, SC 29401

Coffee: 20 oz. French Press Coffee                                                                                 Given the decadent, intricate, and delightfully specific chocolate concoctions (ranging from ,but not limited to, mango rum, cinnamon, lavender caramel, strawberry marshmellow, and blue cheese), when it came to the coffee portion of my order I stuck with the traditional caffeinated beverage of France. The coffee, with a sprinkle of cream, was full bodied and flavorful (as is typical of the French press style) but it wasn’t overpowering. If your sweet tooth has drawn you into Christophe’s, then don’t be a stranger to the coffee. It’s worth indulging in.

Food: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie                                                                      This is a fair warning to any pedestrians out there in Charleston. You will want to spend all your money on the chocolate goods at Christophe’s. From their artisanal chocolates to their pecan pie and croissants, the kings of sweets don’t fall short on the food department. I opted for the simple yet textured white chocolate macadamia nut cookie because not only is it my favorite type of cookie, I wanted to see if Christophe’s could get a simple thing like a cookie right before I would venture out to their more ornate offerings. To put it simply, the cookie was a masterpiece. Well, as much a masterpiece as a cookie can possibly be. It was layered with flavor, had plenty of nuts and chocolate within its center, and it had the right balance of crunch and chewy. It was a refreshing relief that an artisanal and sophisticated chocolatier can do the sophisticated and the simple with such skill.

Atmosphere:                                                                                                                        As soon as one enters Christophe’s, one is underwhelmed with how little room there appears to be in the entire shop. But the chocolatier is sneaky in that regard. There is ample seating behind the building via a cute alleyway that leads to comfortable patio section. It is a clean, crisp almost clean kitchen environment throughout the interior. All the better to enjoy the magnificent snacks on a blank canvas so as to not interfere with the supernova that is about to unleash on any lucky customer’s taste buds.

Extra Goodies:                                                                                                                        Right off King Street and tucked into a inconspicuous alcove of Society Street, one can grab a quick chocolate or mousse and be ear shot of all the main shops and purveyors of downtown Charleston.

Final Ranking:                                                                                                                        Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier turns extravagant presentation and explosive taste into a science. The most remarkable thing is that all of that quality coffee and food won’t rob you of your wallet, with everything on the menu reasonable priced. However, it won’t matter. You’ll want to give them all your money after a few bites.

Coffee Bean Scene: Part 5, Kaminsky’s

Kaminsky's

Coffee isn’t a choice. It has been a way of life. Ever since that fateful day my sophomore year of college when I was desperate enough for a little extra weeks during finals week, I ditched soda and sugary carbonation for the inimitable flavor and charge of that little roasted brown bean.

And whenever I travel to a new town, there three things that I have to fine in order to turn that city into a surrogate home: the local bookstore, an old bar, and an artisanal coffee shop. This blog will be a written testimony of the best coffee dens in the Holy City herself, Charleston.

Here are the basic ground rule. The establishment will be judged on the following four categories: coffee (flavor), food (variety and taste), atmosphere (presentation, seating space, music), and extra goodies (wi-fi, air conditioning, memorabilia, etc.). Also, I will exempt any national chains so as to absorb the distinct caffeinated taste of Charleston. So, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Krispy Kreme are disqualified. Without further ado, next up is…

Kaminsky’s                                                                                                                             Where: 78 N Market St., Charleston, SC 29401

Coffee: Cappuccino                                                                                                                Standard concoction with a dash of cinnamon on the top, the cappuccino was substantially underwhelming given Kaminsky’s penchant for desserts and sweets. The bakery/bar is known for their delectable and late night chocolate fusions and delicacies, however, it seems, that same care wasn’t transplanted into the caffeinated realm. Uninspiring and substantially standard, the coffee at Kaminsky’s was just a neutral liquid to have with the main event: the sweet stuff.

Food: Snickers Chocolate Cake                                                                                            A cake version of my favorite candy bar? How could I say no. The chocolate icing combined with the caramel center with nuts and nougat allowed the slice to embody the taste and texture of the popular candy. This was just one of the numerous tempting chocolate and dessert goodies glowing under the glass near the entrance of the bakery. And with late business hours, one can indulge and imbibe in their favorite dessert or experiment with a new pie or cake at any time, day or night.

Atmosphere:                                                                                                                           And speaking of imbibing, Kaminsky’s has the environmental lighting and decor of a bar. Well, because, there’s an actual full stocked bar in the right corner. The alcohol also flows into the establishment’s speciality dessert drinks with such names as: a Kahlua Espresso, Curious George, Blush, and White Monk. And the bar mentality of dark lighting, bar stools and black tables permeates throughout the location. If there wasn’t a menu offering coffee drinks behind the dessert, one would be hard press to realize that you were standing in a coffee shop.

Extra Goodies:                                                                                                                       Desserts + Liquor + Late Hours = Good Times and Late Night Munchies.

Final Ranking:                                                                                                                        A bar and a bakery but not much of a coffee shop, Kaminsky’s is great if you’re in the Market Street district looking for a pick me up or want to split a dessert. But if you’re looking for a coffee shop or some intense java action, you are better off looking elsewhere.

Coffee Bean Scene: Part 4, City Lights Coffee

City Lights Coffee

Coffee isn’t a choice. It has been a way of life. Ever since that fateful day my sophomore year of college when I was desperate enough for a little extra weeks during finals week, I ditched soda and sugary carbonation for the inimitable flavor and charge of that little roasted brown bean.

And whenever I travel to a new town, there three things that I have to fine in order to turn that city into a surrogate home: the local bookstore, an old bar, and an artisanal coffee shop. This blog will be a written testimony of the best coffee dens in the Holy City herself, Charleston.

Here are the basic ground rule. The establishment will be judged on the following four categories: coffee (flavor), food (variety and taste), atmosphere (presentation, seating space, music), and extra goodies (wi-fi, air conditioning, memorabilia, etc.). Also, I will exempt any national chains so as to absorb the distinct caffeinated taste of Charleston. So, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Krispy Kreme are disqualified. Without further ado, next up is…

City Lights Coffee                                                                                                              Where: 141 North Market St., Charleston, SC 29401

Coffee: Caramel mocha coffee milkshake                                                                                A concoction that I’ve never come across, the coffee milkshake (which they have white chocolate and dark chocolate as well) is dripping with caffeinated decadence and sweet tooth adrenaline. In the hot Charleston daytime, the milkshake was the perfect remedy for a dry mouth. The coffee was spot on with a soothing coffee kick buried by caramel and mocha goodness. Even though the bean itself was covered by the powerful flavors of caramel and mocha, the coffee bean was distinct and had gentle touch. Which is fitting given the cozy confines of City Lights (but more on that later). City Lights’ beverages can best be described as coffee comfort food. From the aforementioned milkshake to the assorted frappes, lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, and macchiatos, City Lights’ palette is like the Charlie Chaplin film that shares its namesake: light, frothy, romantic and ultimately feel good.

Food: Coconut Cake                                                                                                               Sweet and with the right balance of cake and coconut flakes, the coconut cake was a soft pillow to accompany the cool blanket provided by the caramel mocha coffee milkshake. The cake wasn’t too moist or too dry and was of almost Goldilocks proportions: just right. Also available on the menu were forests of croissants, scones, muffins and bagels ripe for the plucking. Several sandwiches and panini are available as well such as the roast beef tuscan and roasted chicken on focaccia. City Lights Coffee’s food is equivalent to their coffee in that it is full of warmth and personality often lacking in the get-in-get-out coffee houses around town.

Atmosphere:                                                                                                                           With the right levels of space, wood color and tone, lighting, and kitsch, the City Lights Coffee’s interior design appears like the kitchen of the cool grandma one always wanted. Custom multicolored mugs and dishes line the upper line of the back counter, hanging just above where the coffee machinery and espresso maker reside. The main countertop hugs the majority of the room with no more than five or six tables filling up the remainder of the shop. The tight interior is a plus considering the loving personalities of the owner and employees, the colorful glassware, and the walls bedecked with custom signage enables City Lights Coffee to become Charleston’s friendly neighborhood coffee house. Where everyone can know, and probably will soon learn, your name.

Extra Goodies:                                                                                                                       Besides the standard wifi, the real extra goodies are the coffee milkshakes mentioned before. Sweet, delectable and a near perfect antidote to the onslaught of the Holy City humidity, the coffee milkshake is a singular creation of City Lights that I haven’t encountered anywhere else in town.

Final Ranking:                                                                                                                        Warm and inviting like the coffee they sell, City Lights Coffee is of a different breed from those around town. Where others feel like shops and coffee business, City Lights feels like a home. Where else does the barista behind the counter after serving people goes in the corner and practices riffs on the ukulele? No where. If one’s looking for a “usual place” for coffee, one would be hard pressed to find a better place to set up cafe roots.

 

Coffee Bean Scene: Part 3, Black Tap Coffee

Black Tap Coffee
Coffee isn’t a choice. It has been a way of life. Ever since that fateful day my sophomore year of college when I was desperate enough for a little extra weeks during finals week, I ditched soda and sugary carbonation for the inimitable flavor and charge of that little roasted brown bean.

And whenever I travel to a new town, there three things that I have to fine in order to turn that city into a surrogate home: the local bookstore, an old bar, and an artisanal coffee shop. This blog will be a written testimony of the best coffee dens in the Holy City herself, Charleston.

Here are the basic ground rule. The establishment will be judged on the following four categories: coffee (flavor), food (variety and taste), atmosphere (presentation, seating space, music), and extra goodies (wi-fi, air conditioning, memorabilia, etc.). Also, I will exempt any national chains so as to absorb the distinct caffeinated taste of Charleston. So, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Krispy Kreme are disqualified. Without further ado, next up is…

Black Tap Coffee                                                                                                                  Where: 70 1/2 Beaufain St., Charleston, SC 29401

Coffee: Slow drip dark roast coffee from Papua New Guinea.                                              Dark and enticing as a grand adventure, the bean at Black Tap is full bodied and potent. The flavor lingers on the tongue and feels like one is reacquainting themselves with an old friend. Wrapped in a a thorough embrace of the coffee palette, Black Tap are consummate task masters on the journey to cafe nirvana.

Food: Cinnamon Coffee Cake                                                                                                 A fitting accompaniment to the dark and stout slow drip splendor frolicking in my mouth. The coffee cake was chewy and sweet in wholesome bites but fragile enough to pick off little bits. Though the coffee cake was scrumptious, the food options at Black Tap are minimal with a handful of cookies, cakes, scones and croissants available to purchase. Make no mistake, Black Tap throw their coffee mixology skills around. They are skilled samurai in the arts of the coffee bean. There is no time for inconsequential things like sandwiches, parfaits and biscuits when caffeinated greatness is on the line.

Atmosphere:                                                                                                                          A minimalist outlay and decor cover the black and brown tables, chairs and counters inside the modest sized storefront. The aroma, indie music bouncing off the walls, and good cheer is given plenty of room to move, however. Huge expanses of natural light opens upon the inhabitants of the coffee shop through the expansive front windows. Vintage black and white home photos line the wall. It is a classic feel in an establishment striving to be on the cutting edge of caffeinated elixirs.

Extra Goodies:                                                                                                                       Tucked in a residential corner of Beaufain Street and just a stones throw away from the hustle and bustle of the College of Charleston’s campus and the King Street retail row, Black Tap Coffee nearly guarantees a quiet and relaxing coffee sanctuary. There is wifi but surrounded by private residences, it is hard to find the internet stream. Overall, Black Tap Coffee is for the no nonsense coffee drinker. The guys behind the counter are mad scientists intent on perfecting their concoctions for optimum bean explosion. We are lucky enough to taste the results.

 

Coffee Bean Scene: Part 2, Whisk

Whisk logo

Coffee isn’t a choice. It has been a way of life. Ever since that fateful day my sophomore year of college when I was desperate enough for a little extra weeks during finals week, I ditched soda and sugary carbonation for the inimitable flavor and charge of that little roasted brown bean.

And whenever I travel to a new town, there three things that I have to fine in order to turn that city into a surrogate home: the local bookstore, an old bar, and an artisanal coffee shop. This blog will be a written testimony of the best coffee dens in the Holy City herself, Charleston.

Here are the basic ground rule. The establishment will be judged on the following four categories: coffee (flavor), food (variety and taste), atmosphere (presentation, seating space, music), and extra goodies (wi-fi, air conditioning, memorabilia, etc.). Also, I will exempt any national chains so as to absorb the distinct caffeinated taste of Charleston. So, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Krispy Kreme are disqualified. Without further ado, next up is…

Whisk                                                                                                                                       Where: 209 Meeting St., Charleston, SC 29401

Coffee: Iced Crème Brûlée Latte                                                                                            I’ll admit this order seemed like an extravagant choice when I approached the counter to order. But this seeming luxury was well worth diving into and trying (other speciality lattes in house include Cinnamon Dulce, Butternut Rum, and the ever favorite Pumpkin Spice). A velvet smooth kiss with a kick, this latte is a among the cavalcade of taste bud treats available. As opposed to more traditional earthy roasts, the bean purveyors’s concoctions at Whisk will seduce you more and more with each subsequent visit.

Food: Sticky Bun                                                                                                                    A satisfying combo with the iced coffee, the sticky bun was a sweet blanket intermixed with the crunchy texture of the pecan bits. Other food offerings include the standard assortment of pastries and parfaits.

Atmosphere:                                                                                                                          The interior of the shop looks like a model kitchen from a Hope Depot with an eclectic mix of colorful furniture, clear tables, and black and white patterned tile. It is a crisp and clean surrounding decorated with a natural contrast of glass containers filled with plants and various fruits and vegetables so as to present a vibrant, healthy tone. The music playing throughout the building were classic rock staples from the 1950s through 1980s. Not too jarring but wish the playlist included more alternative soundscapes and artists. Overall, Whisk is an idyllic refuge from the zoo of a tourist trap of Hyman’s Seafood up the block.

Extra Goodies:                                                                                                                      Fruit smoothies are king at Whisk. With such intoxicating drink names as Immunity Please (strawberries, blueberries, bananas, ginger), East Bay Breeze (cranberries, strawberries, pineapple, apple), and Surfer’s Delight (oranges, strawberries, pineapples, bananas), you can have a quality smoothie for each day of the work week. And the healthy staples don’t stop there with plenty of fresh custom juices on the menu. The seating is comfortable. There is plenty of natural light from the Charleston streetscape. And, there is wifi for the work and social media obsessed.    

Final Ranking:                                                                                                                         Though the coffee isn’t as strong as I’d like, the number of flavors, speciality drinks, and amount of fresh ingredients in their coffee and fruit drinks elevates Whisk into a quality hangout. The dozens of tourists and seafood connoisseurs that sit outside of Hyman’s Seafood every afternoon should move a couple hundred feet down the block, their wait will be a mini-haven from the Charleston sun.                                                                                                              

Coffee Bean Scene: Part 1, Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer

Kudu Coffee and Craft BeerCoffee isn’t a choice. It has been a way of life. Ever since that fateful day my sophomore year of college when I was desperate enough for a little extra weeks during finals week, I ditched soda and sugary carbonation for the inimitable flavor and charge of that little roasted brown bean.

And whenever I travel to a new town, there three things that I have to fine in order to turn that city into a surrogate home: the local bookstore, an old bar, and an artisanal coffee shop. This blog will be a written testimony of the best coffee dens in the Holy City herself, Charleston.

Here are the basic ground rule. The establishment will be judged on the following four categories: coffee (flavor), food (variety and taste), atmosphere (presentation, seating space, music), and extra goodies (wi-fi, air conditioning, memorabilia, etc.). Also, I will exempt any national chains so as to absorb the distinct caffeinated taste of Charleston. So, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Krispy Kreme are disqualified. Without further ado, first up is…

Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer                                                                                                     Where: 4 Vanderhorst St, Charelston, SC 29403

Coffee: 20 oz. cappuccino                                                                                                      A sturdy coffee base predominates the drink. The frothy milk tickles the upper lip. And the sweet aftertaste was reminiscent of a glowing Folly Beach sunset. The bean is definitely the thing at Kudu. In addition to the cappuccino, Kudu sells all the coffee house staples to satisfy amateur and seasoned coffee nut alike.

Food: Oatmeal raisin cookie                                                                                                    A crispy crust that crumbles playfully on the plate. The interior is stuffed with a seemingly barrel full of raisins. And, most important for any cookie connoisseur, the center contained a chewy core satisfying as it was mouth watering. Kudu also has a full array of sandwiches and pastries that can assemble a solid snack or late afternoon lunch.

Atmosphere:                                                                                                                          An open interior design combined with an unassuming entrance allows Kudu to be your coffee home-away-from-home. In the late evening nights and mild summer days, Kudu’s patio is as large as the interior. The only thing better than a warm coffee is a cool breeze and a friend to enjoy it with.

Extra Goodies:                                                                                                                      A soundtrack provided by SiriusXM’s “Alt Nation” radio station fills the air in between the heavy rotation of energetic conversation and caffeinated aromas. The staff is young and gracious and work behind a fully stocked counter equipped with a sexy espresso machine with a firebird red exterior. A let down, however, was the lack of wifi to casually cruise the internet. But who needs internet when you have a wide spectrum of 20 in-house brews, almost daring you to try every last one.

Final Ranking:                                                                                                                           With a strong foundation in the coffee department and tasty treats and alcoholic drinks lining the walls, Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer is not only a scrumptious coffee outlet for anyone, it’s a charming and shouts out an inviting and relaxing vibe.

 

 

Shrimp and Grits Showdown: And The Winner Is…

Photo illustration by Nick DeSantis / Photos by Eesha Patkar

Photo illustration by Nick DeSantis / Photos by Eesha Patkar

As it turns out, our shrimp and grits “showdown” wasn’t much of a showdown at all. Even though Nic and I vowed never to speak of what we thought about each bowl until after we wrote and posted each blog, as it turns out, we shared mostly all of the same sentiments. We hated the gravy. We hated the tomatoes. Let’s face it, the only thing our Southern tongues disagreed on was the taste of the shrimp, on occasion.

last blog 2So, we decided that since our tastes were so similar, we would write on sugar packets what we thought was the best and the second best bowl of shrimp and grits. To our surprise (but not really though) we both picked the same number one and number two choice. Which is….

Winner:

1) Hominy Grill - It was pure authenticity that ultimately won out for Hominy Grill. No frills, no extras, just pure unadulterated shrimp and grit flavor proved to be the winning formula, and Hominy Grill brought the noise.

Runner-Up:

2) Swamp Fox Restaurant at the Francis Marion Hotel- While this dish contained gravy, it was the most flavorful, rich, unctuous gravy of the lot, and it provided a deep seafood flavor that enhanced the shrimp. The grits were cooked well and stood up to the thick gravy. Plus, not having those nasty tomatoes sure didn’t hurt the movement.

last blog

So, there y’all have it folks! The best bowl of shrimp and grits from what Nic and I have experienced during our time in Charleston as reporters for the Post and Courier during this year’s annual Spoleto Festival USA. We’ve eaten much more than just good old shrimp and grits -and have enjoyed sharing our meals with you!

-Love, Nic and B

Shrimp and Grits Showdown: Final Round SNOB

Photo illustration by Nick DeSantis / Photos by Eesha Patkar

Photo illustration by Nick DeSantis / Photos by Eesha Patkar

Situated on East Bay Street, SNOB, or Slightly North of Broad, brings a little bit of their name into the dining room. More upscale than any of the other restaurants B and I have tried, the same genteel, southern hospitality abounded, ridding itself of any pretension. White table linens and fancy place settings couldn’t take away what was a wholly Southern, down home experience. Final round, ding ding ding! Snob1

Getting right into it, we feasted on cornbread for a good while, waiting for the rest of our party to arrive. Equal parts sweet and savory, it was as close to down home classic southern cornbread as I’ve had since I’ve been in Charleston. Soft and buttery, moist and dense, but not heavy, the cornbread was a perfect golden brown on the outside and maize on the inside. I almost ate too much cornbread and didn’t leave enough room for the real reason why I was there. Almost.

Nic’s picks: The shrimp and grits were served in a large bowl that was almost too large. Portion size was not a problem at SNOB, and of all the places we visited that gave the biggest portions. Gravy and raw tomatoes made another appearance, and it seems like in Charleston they are a recurring character rather than a cameo. Nonetheless, we are intrepid; we carry on. I dug into the grits. The gravy was a little oily, but not as heavy as others I had over the course of the last three weeks. I tried the tomatoes, just for the sake of trying them, and immediately pushed them off to the side. They offer nothing to the dish. Not one single thing is made better by the tomatoes.

The shrimp were the best of any of the places I ate at. They were plump and tender, full of flavor. They were also abundant, something that most places have skimped on. They were perfectly cooked to a nice opaque pink color, not too tough but still providing a nice bite and mouth feel.

snob2The grits were smooth, not too watery, but not too stiff. They had just enough texture and they contained a nice corn flavor, independent from the gravy and other accoutrements. Crispy Tasso ham provided a nice textural element, that crunch that softer dishes so desperately need to break up the monotony. It wasn’t too overpoweringly salty either, which was a nice touch. The smoked sausage was a nice thought, but with the ham and the gravy, it could have been left out altogether and it wouldn’t have been missed. There was a nice garlicky bite to the dish that other restaurants lacked, and it was a nice signature to make the dish their own.

Overall, it was a good plate of food, one of the better dishes we had through our eating tour of Charleston. While a little more upscale, SNOB definitely delivered on that down home, Southern food experience.

B’s business: From the moment the shrimp and grits were served, there was no hiding either one of our distresses at seeing yet another bowl filled to the brim with what else? Gravy and tomatoes.

Almost immediately, I automatically pushed the tomatoes to the side—by now I know the cold, juicy fruit doesn’t add any particular flavor to the grits.  The gravy, however, had me torn. It had the most watery consistency of all the gravy we’ve tried, making the grits a soggy mess to pick up by fork. But it also had a good Southern flavor that reminded me of crawfish boil and shrimp boil bases used to marinated seafood back home in New Orleans. A poignant spiced yet not too salty, the gravy actually added some zest to the otherwise bland Geechie Boy grits.

Now, don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love Geechie Boy? Yellow in color with bits of actual corn added to the taste, these might be one of the best brands of grits available. But without any additional cheese added, the grits were a bit plain when consumed separately from the bowls other contents.

Which, of course, included shrimp. Easily forgettable, these shrimp weren’t anything special as compared to the other meaty contents of the bowl that included both tasso ham and sausage that added just enough briny flavor and substance to the grits. You didn’t even need to eat the shrimp, which I also chose to avoid.

Other things to look for:snob 3

The grilled chicken was some of the best grilled chicken I’ve ever had—period. Perfectly charred on the outside while still being tender and moist on the inside, the depth of flavor between the rub and the flavor of the chicken was extraordinary. The grilled summer vegetables were okay, but the goat cheese croutons (really just battered fried balls of goat cheese) were delectable and paired perfectly with the spice in the chicken. This dish was actually better than the shrimp and grits.

Stay tuned for the action-packed conclusion and our favorite shrimp and grits picks!

Tenor Madness at Jazz Artists of Charleston event

Tenor Madness

Credit: Tessa Blake

 

Tenor Madness brought jazz mania to Father Figaro Hall as part of  Jazz Artists of Charleston’s 6TH annual jazz series on Tuesday, June 4th.

 

The group, which features Mark Sternbank and Robert Lewis (both on tenor sax), played jazz standards and original compositions throughout the set.  Accompanied by Tommy Gill (piano), Kevin Hamilton (bass), and David Patterson (drums), the group opened with a snappy number and continued with an Austin Powersy piece entitled “Tom Thumb”.

 

From there, Sternbank introduced two of his original compositions, “DaySpring”and “70x7”.  “Dayspring” provided a jazzy take on a waltz—  a careful yet adventurous mid-tempo selection. “70 X 7”, which is a more modern work, highlighted a funky drum intro and a fun, sassy sax duet.

 

The next piece, Coltrane’s  pensive and melancholic “Soul Eyes” was played in memory of the late Ben Tucker, a bass player from Savannah, GA who recently passed.

 

Credit: Tessa Blake

Credit: Tessa Blake

From there, the tempo picked up with an original piece from Robert Lewis. “Clark”, based on a character from Dr. Seuss’ “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” featured a anticipatory beat that progressed to a delightful ditty.

 

Tenor Madness finished off the set with Coltrane’s version of “Summertime”, an homage to

the South Carolinian ties of  the opera Porgy and Bess, and Dizzy Gillespie’s  quick and witty Eternal Triangle. Tenor Madness explored the strength of two tenors saxophones and lived up to its name.

Shrimp and Grits Showdown: Round 5 Poogan’s Porch

Photo illustration by Nick DeSantis / Photos by Eesha Patkar

Photo illustration by Nick DeSantis / Photos by Eesha Patkar

Having Husk be your neighbor could be a tough thing; unless you’re Poogan’s Porch. Sean Doyle, the chef at Poogan’s Porch has cooked his Lowcounty cuisine in one of the most illustrious kitchens in America, the James Beard House. Kind of a coming out party for chefs, it’s a great honor and only the best chefs in the world are invited to cook there. With that being said, on to Round 5. Poogan's Porch1

Like Husk, the ambiance at Poogan’s Porch is gorgeous and inherently Southern. Beat up hard wood floors and rustic wooden tables populated the little dining room. Out front, on the porch and in the courtyard, tables were lined with white tablecloths and napkins, giving the restaurant a garden party atmosphere.

Nic’s picks: When the shrimp and grits came out, perfectly placed in a large, shallow bowl, I was dismayed; the return of the ubiquitous gravy. I thought in my mind, “Gravy? Again? What is it with the gravy?” It wasn’t thick, like at Southend or the Swamp Fox, but it was present, and that irked me. I tasted the grits first, without any other flavors. They were grainy and slightly cheesy, but they didn’t taste like grits. There’s a certain flavor associated with grits, an earthy corn flavor that just wasn’t present in this dish..

poogan5The grits also contained bell peppers and smoked sausage, both adding busting mouthfuls of flavor. The freshness of the bell peppers set against the smokiness of the sausage and the cheesiness of the grits was a nice balance. The shrimp were good, but they weren’t anything special. They were tender and rich, but they didn’t provide that much depth of flavor to an otherwise one-dimensional dish. Overall, the dish was so-so at best. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it wasn’t underwhelming either.

B’s business: Eating in a place as open and beautiful and Poogan’s Porch kept a permanent smile on my face prior to our meal even starting. The hardwood floors, the high ceilings and the porch area outside reminded me of a true Southern brunch, and I was more than ready to partake.

When the shrimp and grits arrived, however, it was more like a bowl of gravy with a side of grits.  The gravy tasted like the heavy gravy that accompanies pork chops; too much richness for a bowl of shrimp and grits. Not to mention, the grits themselves were so watery and thin, they slipped right through the fork.

The shrimp were tasty and tender, even with the added annoyance of biting the hardened tail shells off to enjoy their flavor. Since the shrimp were so good, it made it hard to ingest the Tasso ham this time, as it was salty and slimy beneath the grits.

Maybe I’m just getting used to the taste of onions and bell peppers in these Charleston based shrimp and grits, but they added a nice taste and hardened texture to the squelchy grits. poogan4

Expect the unexpected:

Nic’s picks: We ordered a few appetizers to start. For the first time in Charleston, I saw alligator on the menu. Because we’re in the South, the alligator was fried to a golden brown and delicious mound. It was served with a honey jalapeño dipping sauce, similar to spicy honey mustard. It didn’t last long, the alligator, and I’m sad to say I was a major player in it’s consumption.

We also ordered macaroni and cheese as a starter. It was creamy and warm, exactly what mac and cheese should be. It was studded with smoky bacon, and I never thought I would ever say this; there was too much bacon. It overpowered the taste of the cheese. It’s not macaroni and bacon, it’s macaroni and cheese, and the bacon masked the cheese flavor.

poogan3B’s business: Honestly, the best part of the meal wasn’t the shrimp and grits at all – it was the homemade biscuits and the fired alligator appetizers. The biscuits were baked semi-sweet and served with a whipped butter that melted atop the crispy exterior. Moistened by milk and not butter, the dough inside the biscuit was dense enough to satisfy yet light enough to save room for what came next.

Which was the fried alligator. As someone who generally stays away from fried foods, this is a New Orleans favorite I couldn’t resist. The alligator was superb – cooked and marinated with just enough flavor to be moist and not greasy, yet tender and not chewy. The batter used to fry the alligator could’ve been a bit more flavorful, however, these nostalgic pieces of white meat hit the soft spot of my Southern tongue just right.