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.

 

 

“God of Carnage” Would Wreak Better Havoc with Age-Appropriate Actors

Review of “God of Carnage,” part of the Stelle di Domani series.

It takes a minute to get used to seeing a pair of college students discuss their 11-year old son.

As part of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, the College of Charleston’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents “God of Carnage,” Jasmina Reza’s dialogue dense 90-minute production. “Carnage” traps two sets of parents in a living room as they deal with their sons’ playground scuffle. Christopher Hampton translated Reza’s tight French into equally tight English, bringing a whole new meaning to “fighting words.” But, all these words put a lot of pressure on the actors.

The cast of "God of Carnage"

The cast of “God of Carnage.”

Margaret Nyland and Peter Spearman play Veronica and Michael Novak, parents of Henry, who gets whacked in the face with a stick. Nyland is a University of Virginia graduate taking classes at the College of Charleston. She’s older than her undergraduate cast mates, which really works to her advantage. She moves and sounds like a harried young mother standing up for her son after a child’s fight. Spearman, as her nebbish husband, nails the hesitant speech of a spouse who is clearly not the dominant one in the marriage. Although only a college junior, Spearman acts old enough. He employs that particular brand of fatherly pride when he learns his son has a little gaggle of boys who follow him around like a gang. Novak’s boy is a ringleader in a way that Novak hasn’t been since before he got married.

College of Charleston senior Diana Biffle and junior Christian Persico play the other married couple, Annette and Alan Raleigh. The Raleighs’ son, Benjamin, hit Henry with a stick because Henry wouldn’t let him join his gang. Biffle and Persico are clearly college actors. They look young and sound young. Benjamin would more likely be their kid brother than their son. It doesn’t help that the Raleighs’ dialogue in “Carnage” naturally calls for an annoyed attachment to Benjamin. “He’s a savage,” Alan declares to explain away his son’s behavior in the park.

Costume designer McKenna DuBose doesn’t help the dilemma when she employs a hackneyed trick: make a young girl look older by suctioning her luscious hair into a dour bun, then add glasses. It’s the same trick used in movies to make a pretty girl look like a dork. Because we’re so used to it, we become less swayed to believe the design. Biffle is left looking like a cute kid toddling around in her mother’s heels. The same goes for Persico who wears a trench coat that swallows him whole. He fishes around in the large pockets of his trousers every time his blackberry rings, reminding us that he is as uncomfortable in these grown men’s pants as he is with bandying about legal advice over the phone. Alan works as a corporate litigator.

What does end up saving “Carnage” is when Nyland, Spearman, Biffle and Persico all work together, talking on top of each other and exhausting their characters at the same time. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts in this production. When Spearman’s Michael breaks out a bottle of perfectly aged rum, a catalyst among college kids as much as full grown adults, the show turns quite nicely.

Alliances shift from husband and wife batting for the same team, to the two husbands playing against the two wives. Of course, Hampton’s translated dialogue dictates this shift, but without the clever chemistry of the core four actors, you wouldn’t have felt the necessary comedy in “God of Carnage.”