My Sweet Charleston

With all I had read about Charleston over the years – its rich history, beautiful grand houses with manicured lawns, picturesque waterfront, juxtaposition of old world charm and modern ways, beautiful weather all year round, not to mention a wildly growing culinary scene – it seemed too good to be true. Now that I have visited, I actually experienced all of that and still think it’s too good to be true. It’s a city I’d gladly return to, if not just for another few days of Southern hospitality, grits and a whole lot of cookies !

My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)

Before we get to the sweet stuff, there’s only one place to begin: breakfast ! And in Charleston, that means Hominy Grill for good ol’ Southern fare. It had been over 10 years (!) since I last had a plate of shrimp & grits, not to mention hush puppies, okra, fried green tomatoes and bean pie. I was a student at Duke University, making the pilgrimage to the famous Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill (make no mistake, no Tar Heel here, a Blue Devil I was !). My breakfast in Charleston took me right back there: a plate of creamy grits, topped with sauteed mushrooms, scallions and crisp bacon (hold the Tabasco), with a biscuit on the side.

Every waiter and waitress seemed to be smiling at Hominy Grill, as they made their way in and out of the kitchen, their blue t-shirts reading “grits are good for you.” You’ll leave with that as mantra, and forever consider macaroni and cheese a vegetable too.

My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)

What follows breakfast ? Dessert, but of course ! And so my sweet tour of Charleston began. This foodie town certainly has no shortage of coffee shops or bakeries, easily filling my few days there. When driving between two sweet addresses, a sign for Brown’s Court Bakery caught my eye, almost hidden in a little nook. It was still early, so not all of the breads were on the shelves yet. But what were sitting right at the entrance, welcoming me ? Trays of oversize freshly baked cookies. I went with chocolate chip and cookies & cream. They didn’t last very long.

I had already returned before lunch wanting to buy several more of the chocolate chip cookie. Sold out ! Truly disappointed, I tried to distract myself by peeking around in the back of the bakery to see what else they had. And luckily I did. I found well more than solace in their award-winning French style baguette and my personal favorite pretzel rolls (three cheers for authentic lye !). I also grabbed a foursome of small Hawaiian buns, without knowing much about them. This year-old bakery’s take on a southern specialty, these soft, compact rolls made with potato flour and flavored with coconut were incredibly light, sweet,… and addictive. I will definitely have to explore this tropical treat on my next trip south. And get more of those cookies.

Speaking of which, owner and head baker David Schnell let me know that while his chocolate chip cookie is indeed a perpetually hot item, naturally gluten-free and made with Van Leer dark chocolate, his personal favorite is the monster cookie. Oats, brown sugar, peanut butter, M&Ms, milk chocolate chips and Reese’s Pieces. Yes ! For those of you lucky enough to head to the bakery soon, please have one for me. And keep your eye out for his seasonal kugelhopf, or rather, gugelhopf, showcasing his German roots !

My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)

While Brown’s Court wowed me with the stellar chocolate chip cookie (gluten-free to boot !) and high quality breads, my award for best sweet address and feel-good bakery goes to Sugar Bakeshop. From the welcoming mint green decor (the color of owner Bill Bowick’s grandmother’s kitchen) and smiling team behind the counter, to the impressive selection of cookies, cupcakes and jars filled with different colored sprinkles, it’s hard not to be won over by this place. And hard to choose what to get too. I always go with the classic chocolate chip cookie when it’s offered, and I wasn’t disappointed. Nor was I disappointed with the ginger molasses cookie (luckily not too spicy) or the bite-size buttermilk tart or the “pecan chewy” (what old recipe books would call a Texas cookie, below, middle right) or the pumpkin tart either. See what I mean ?!

When I popped behind the counter with Bill (below, top left) and co-owner David Bouffard, to watch a young girl frost cupcakes, I tried to find out their favorites. Not an easy question for them either. The ginger molasses cookie was mentioned a few times, as was the popular lemon cupcake with lemon curd. I have a feeling that answer may change the next time I ask. And perhaps mine will too when I taste those cupcakes.

My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)

The cookie monster in me struck time and time again in Charleston, and another that topped my list was at Two Boroughs Larder. Oatmeal Marshmallow Crunch, need I say more ?!

My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)

I’m sure you have noticed what’s missing from my adventure in Charleston here… chocolate ! Kristina Gill, editor of the popular series, In the Kitchen With at DesignSponge.com, luckily pointed me towards Johnny Battles of Sweeteeth Chocolate in North Charleston. I had heard about this handcrafted chocolate a few years back, but never had the chance to taste. Fast forward to a perfect morning hanging out with a lifelong friend of mine from New York, our curious babies (of said chocolate, strange looking utensils and Johnny’s many, many tattoos) and the ever charming Alabaman chocolate maker in his quiet kitchen space (shared with King of Pops popsicles).

With almost a one-man operation, Johnny is making his artisanal “chocolatey goodness with a twist” that’s now renowned across the country. His penchant for savory even more than sweet and real passion for playing with flavors is clear right away when you take a close look at his bars: peanut butter and chipotle pepper, port wine caramel, or ginger and popping sugar. The attractive packaging with a vintage feel also deserves a closer look, not to mention an impressive multi-folded technique for the inside wrapper. Names like The A’Chocolypse and O’Snap, the latter being white chocolate with gingersnaps, only add to the fun. Biggest winner of all continues to be Sea is For Caramel, his dark chocolate bar filled with a thick, chewy, vanilla flavored, almost burnt caramel and a heavy handed sprinkle of fleur de sel.

* My baby girl couldn’t keep her hands off a bin of sweet potatoes below Johnny’s working table. I’ll have to keep my eye out for his next bar using that as ingredient, and naturally named after her… =)

My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)My Sweet Charleston (SC)

It was a memorable and delicious trip down south and I hope to revisit in 2014.  Here are my favorite addresses below that I’ll be sure to return to. Feel free to share your Charleston favorites in the comments too, thanks y’all !

~

My Charleston Address Book
(and what I’ll go back for at each)

Sweeteeth Chocolate
www.eatsweeteeth.com
sea is for caramel

Sugar Bakeshop
59 Cannon Street
www.sugarbake.com
ginger molasses cookie, chocolate chip cookie, buttermilk tart

Brown’s Court Bakery
199 Saint Philip Street
www.brownscourt.com
chocolate chip cookie, pretzel roll, hawaiian rolls

Two Boroughs Larder
186 Coming Street
www.twoboroughslarder.com
oatmeal marshmallow crunch cookie

Wildflour Pastry
73 Spring Street
granola

Hominy Grill
207 Rutledge Avenue
www.hominygrill.com
shrimp & grits

Xiao Bao Biscuit
224 Rutledge Avenue
www.xiaobaobiscuit.com
japanese cabbage pancake with pork candy

Butcher & Bee
654 King Street
www.butcherandbee.com
sandwiches & cookies of the day

The Ordinary
544 King Street
www.eattheordinary.com/
oyster lovers, look no further

and last but not least…

mac & murphy
74 1/2 Cannon Street
www.macandmurphy.com
stellar curated selection of cards and paper accessories, including prints by artist Sam Sidney, who did our fabulous family portrait on wood

~

22 Responses to “My Sweet Charleston”

  1. kugeldad says:

    Absolutely love this post, and now long to return to Charleston. I know it was a super fun, super sweet trip with your ol’ friend Sam, and it all came across on the post. With typically fabulous pictures.
    My vote for best name of a product: “Sea is for Caramel”.

  2. Sam says:

    Fantastic post my friend! You have An amazing eye for photography, and an excellent writer too. Clearly this is one of my favorite posts of all time. Your post brought me back to a few weeks ago during a super amazing visit!

    Loved sharing my favorite little town with one of my favorite little friends! And now I may need to hop in the car and head downtown for some sweets.

    I love the way you signed off! Thanks y’all!

    You truly have a gift for writing and food. I ha e no doubt yor passions will take you near, far, and back to charleston again too!

    Xxoo

  3. kelleyn rothaermel says:

    You were just a few hours away from me! I love Charleston. It is such an amazing town. So glad you enjoyed your visit with some sweet treats to boot. Will have to check out these places the next time I go!

  4. Victoria says:

    Thank you for this – I am in Charleston for work quite regularly, and all of these are news to me. I’ll have to check out several next time!

  5. Kerrin says:

    kugeldad, you said it best – super fun and super sweet it was ! You’re longing to return to Charleston too ? Ok, that means one thing… Feldman / Kraus / Sidney / Rousset ping pong round robin in 2014 ! haha

    Sam, love how you much you love this post – and love your comment ! :)) You lucky thing – get out there and have some cookies for us, please !

    kelleyn, thanks so much – and yes, Charleston really is a cool place. Hope you enjoy some of these sweet spots the next time you get there. Happy holidays !!

    Victoria, you are most welcome ! =)

  6. Rosa says:

    A wonderful city that I’d love to visit!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  7. wanderingeducators says:

    Oh MY. I’d like several of each, please. I knew Charleston was a food town, but I didn’t know it was a DESSERT town. YUM!

  8. Kiki says:

    ?
    bother….. bother….. I just wrote a comment, saying that I haven’t got the time NOW to read it all but that I will come back and that I’m probably the only person reading this who absolutely has no idea what GRITS are…. and that I ? Charleston very much….. and then when I came with the ? – the comments space was empty….
    still, sending you a hug right now! Kiki

  9. Kerrin says:

    wanderingeducators, HAHA. Total dessert town. Or, at least, towns often become all about dessert to me ;-)

    Kiki, looks like there was a bit of a technical difficulty with your comment above, oops ! But I got the hug, thank you ! And I’ve got an answer to your question too… what on earth are grits ?! Swiss Germans have birchermüesli, whereas Southerners in the USA have grits. Here you go:
    http://www.grits.com
    I was going to compare it to polenta for you; here’s the difference though:
    http://www.thekitchn.com/polenta-versus-grits-whats-the-difference-187807
    Hope that helps :)

  10. Ilana says:

    Yet another place to put on my “to-visit” list… Thanks for the great info and delectable pics (as always!)

  11. Paula Kraus says:

    Loved the blog!!!!! Definitely a “Sweet Treat” for more than one reason.
    Charleston is a beautiful and a very sophisticated city. Most European City in the US!!!!!!

  12. Food News Tuesday, December 17 - Food News Journal : Food News Journal says:

    [...] San Francisco - David Lebovitz Chocolate, Berry and Cream Cheese Danish - White on Rice Couple My Sweet Charleston - My [...]

  13. Bert Kraus (Bertie) says:

    So, what is the word? You know it’s “son’t”, but don’t you think that your words and thoughts aren’t great! What a beautifully written and expressive account of your stay in Charleston. I shared your experience with Sam, Darren and the kids, and know what a warm, fun filled time you had. Paula and I are excited about our plans to visit with you and Olivier and little Chloe…. Can’t wait. Keep writing, keep creating, keep enjoying….. Xxxx Bert

  14. Kerrin says:

    Paula, YES, the sweetest treat for so many reasons ! :)) And I can totally see Charleston as the most European city in the US – that’s perhaps why I loved it so much, haha. We may just end up visiting YOU and Bertie there one day too ! ;-)

    Bertie ! What a most wonderful, fabulous comment above – THANK YOU. We are so excited to show you our home this summer. Counting down until then…

  15. El says:

    Looks like you had an amazing trip. Thanks for sharing your finds. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  16. What We’re Reading – Jan 1, 2014 | Chef Deborah Reid says:

    [...] If you love food and are planning a visit to Charleston, My Kugelhopf has a fabulous itinerary. [...]

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    [...] If you love food and are planning a visit to Charleston, My Kugelhopf has a fabulous itinerary. [...]

  18. valentina says:

    Feliz Ano novo first of all!!! Great write up as usual – as your friend Sam says you do have a fab writing style. If I lived in the US i’d even plan a visit to Charleston. I’ve actually forwarded this post to a friend who lives in (N/S) Carolina – can’t remember which of the two, but sent it to her anyway. Those buns have got me dreaming here. I have the softest spot for good bread.

  19. Stephanie says:

    Wow! Charleston looks amazing! I’ll definitely have to check it out soon and sooth my sweet tooth. So excited to see Kugelhopf in an American bakery!

  20. James Schiller says:

    Excellent list of must-visit dining places. Lovely photos too!

    Charleston, SC is indeed a great place to unwind and relax. Food is great and the ambiance is laid back and calm. You would not run out of activities to do in South Carolina. You might also want to visit nearby areas such Isle of Palms SC, Kiawah Island, Sullivans Island, and Daniel Island. If you love the beach, it is advisable too check Kiawah Island homes.

  21. James Schiller says:

    Excellent list of must-visit dining places. Lovely photos too!

    Charleston, SC is indeed a great place to unwind and relax. Food is great and the ambiance is laid back and calm. You would not run out of activities to do in South Carolina. You might also want to visit nearby areas such Isle of Palms SC, Kiawah Island, Sullivans Island, and Daniel Island. If you love the beach, it is advisable too check Kiawah Island homes.

  22. Kerrin says:

    El, thank you so much ! I hope 2014 has gotten off to a fantastic start for you and your family.

    Valentina, muito obrigada !! I have a soft spot for fresh bread too. And if it’s warm – forget about it ! haha. I bet you could bake rolls just like those. If your friend lives nearby, hope she can enjoy some of these goodies – for you and me too :)

    Stephanie, YES ! Three cheers for kugelhopf !

    James, thank you very much – for your kind words and for these excellent suggestions. It’s certain that we will visit Charleston again one day, so it’s great to have ideas for exploring the area even more. I already can’t wait !

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