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Archive for September, 2013

Charleston Area Dining

Posted by eemilla on September 29, 2013

Much to my delight I had better dining options in the Charleston area than I had anticipated.  After Savannah, my expectations were pretty low, and I had some meals that were truly memorable.  Below I’ve given my quick thoughts.

Wasabai came into our sites after wondering around the College of Charleston’s Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and some of the King Street and East Bay Street shops.  The basil rolls were tasty as were the standard veg sushi offerings of cuke and avocado makis, and all of the portions were fine.  My vegetarian pad thai tasted less than vegetarian, and our service was a bit slow.  The restaurant overall is a bit dingy, and it just doesn’t look like it belongs in a busy downtown area (more like a strip mall that has lost its anchor store).  However, it does have a good selection of draft beer.
Wasabi Sushi & Asian Fusion on Urbanspoon

One night my honey joined a large contingent of my family to eat at The Wreck, LB and I decided to try Mustard Seed (which my honey and I had failed to check out last time we were in Mt Pleasant).  The service was exceedingly fast in all regards, but the food was not anything to write home about.  Both of our pasta dishes were super cheesy with generous portions and low cost.  The pecan pie in the dessert case looked as if it might be a science experiment, and the key lime pie was not to my liking with its sweetness.  However, the price was very reasonable if you are looking for vegetarian pasta dishes with lots of cheese.
Mustard Seed on Urbanspoon

For a weekday lunch LB and I found Lana Restaurant & Bar in the cute Radcliffeborough area; it reminded me of the Virginia Highlands of Atlanta and Montford of Asheville.  We shared some french fries and a wonderfully delicious puttanesca pasta, and our service was fine.  The portions and prices were in line with each other, and the atmosphere is upscale casual.
Lana Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Puree Organic is right beside Mustard Seed in Mount Pleasant, and it was a much better food experience.  The service was considerably slower (from taking the order to bringing the check) than Mustard Seed even though there are far fewer seats in Puree.  However, the food was leaps and bounds better.  The prices are overall higher, but they are in line with the quality increase.  The portions were generous, and they have kid sized smoothies on their kids menu in addition to the usual kids menu suspects of quesadillas, nut butter and fruit, and fried protein strips.  I loved my seitan chimichurry  wrap, and my honey’s veggie bahn mi was also delicious.

Puree Chimichurry wrap Puree bahn mi Puree kid black bean quesadilla

Puree Organic Cafe on Urbanspoon

My favorite drink deal was at Bacco; I enjoyed a huge $6 Tanqueray up with a twist, and I was rather tempted to have another.  The mixed olive appetizer was a hit with LB even though my husband and I grew tired of pitting olives.  My eggplant dish was just a bit less than both LB’s pizza and my honey’s sandwich combined, and it did not warrant the cost in either quality or quantity.  The pre-meal bread and the pizza crust were great.  Our service was fine, and overall the food was okay.

Bacco $6 Tanqueray Bacco Eggplant Bacco Margherita Bacco Salumi Panino

Bacco on Urbanspoon

Triangle Char and Bar was selected for proximity to our current location and a decent number of vegetarian selections.  Our food was fine even if the menu descriptions oversold it; the hummus beat the caprese salad by a mile.  The table was sticky and the open windows allowed flies unfettered access to one’s food.  Our service was prompt and attentive.  It is a bar, but one of the family friendly sort.

Triangle Char & Bar kid grilled cheese & fries Triangle Char & Bar side salad Triangle Char & Bar fish tacos Triangle Char & Bar hummus Triangle Char & Bar caprese

Triangle Char and Bar on Urbanspoon

My mom wanted to visit Fort Moultrie, and Taco Mamacita was right on the way.  Some other members of our party had recommended it although they seemed to favor another place at Folly Beach.  The service was slow, and the drinks were expensive and weak.  The food was fine, with the best value being the guacamole and salsa bowl appetizers.

Taco Mamacita Veg Jerk Taco Mamacita margarita

Taco Mamacita on Urbanspoon

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Family vacation

Posted by eemilla on September 21, 2013

For the past few years I’ve been lobbying my maternal family to forgo the end of the year gift card exchange in favor of a family vacation, and last year everyone finally seemed to agree it was time to do something different.  Then interest dissipated for about four months so my honey and I planned a trip to Manhattan thinking we would not be taking a vacation with the extended family.  An almost collective itch to travel brought the idea back to the fore after our vacation had been booked for months.

My idea was to travel somewhere new or exciting or exotic which was in direct conflict with economic concerns and comfort levels that limited us to the Charleston area or the Savannah area.  As we’d just visited Savannah and Tybee Island last year and only I wanted to visit the Outer Banks, my honey and I were all for Charleston.  After spending hours searching for houses in both locations that met all of the various needs of everyone (pool, close to the beach, large kitchen, bath for every bedroom, enough bedrooms) the group decided the Charleston area had better large house options for the money.

Once we narrowed it down to the Charleston area we had to find a large enough house available and in our price range.  While the task sounds easy enough it required hours of searching between three or four members of our group.  My frustration was that there were multiple folks who were non-commital about if they would be joining us or how many people would be in their party.  Without having one person footing the entire bill another concern was the best way to distribute rooms without having to haggle over different pricing, and fortunately everyone acquitted themselves admirably.

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great room panorama great room panorama from dining area
bar in need of an icemaker 2nd floor alcove laundry room
king sans daybed one of 2 jetted tubs walkin shower
king bed with day bed king with daybed bathrom king with shared bathroom shared bathroom twin room twin room bathroom
view of screened in pool from twin room balcony 2nd floor balcony with view of twin room balcony spiral staircase to rooftop rooftop

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Including the couches in the living room there was enough room to sleep 20 adults based on double occupancy in each of the king beds, and there were enough areas for everyone to mingle or retreat as needed.  The crows nest or rooftop was a favorite place to escape the noise, and the patio chairs were comfortable even though a few were worse for the wear.  The second floor balcony was sparse without any furniture, and the balcony off the twin room was so small it seemed superfluous.  My honey and I didn’t want to have to spend the extra money to rent a house with a pool, but we were certainly sold on the benefit of having the pool to float around in especially after the ocean.  I believe the house came with two separate gaming consoles, and there was a nice flat screen over the fireplace in the great room.

For a house with a 20 person capacity, the refrigerator/freezer/icemaker was the feature that everyone agreed to be insufficient; it was a double door deal so there were narrow shelves which made it difficult to accommodate groceries.  Even after the ice maker was replaced it took about eight hours to make a tray or so of ice which left of us purchasing bags of ice for the sodas, iced tea, and blended adult drinks.  There is a nice wet bar with a wine cooler, and a stand alone ice maker would be perfect there.  The maintenance man said the freezer’s ice maker had repeatedly been an issue.  The large gas range was more eye candy than functional; all five burners had two temperatures: on and off (which for a gas stove is really irritating and unexpected).  We also had to have a towel rod and a door knob replaced on the first day, and although we mentioned the additional three of the five (in addition to the one that was replaced) atrium doors had alarmingly loose handles they were not replaced.

With so many cars it was difficult to juggle them as the two driveways were a car’s width, and the street was much too narrow to park on.  The golf cart created most of the tension as people wanted to pocket the key rather than leave it in the lockbox, but it was an even better feature than the pool as we could cart our gear to the beach rather than lug it the few blocks on foot (especially as any parent knows the kid will want to walk then insist on being carried whilst you juggle the beach bag and/or chairs).  The key to main house also had a lockbox which really came in handy as we had about fourteen adults sharing three keys.

The house was a few blocks from a public beach access point, but we were so far down on the Isle of Palms that the beach was never crowded even though we were there during the high season.

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Grandfather Mountain

Posted by eemilla on September 19, 2013

On our list of things we’d like to do was to visit the Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain.  Our day ended up being a cloudy and overcast day with moments of sunshine, and I found that I am more disturbed by heights than I had previously thought.  LB also found the heights scary, and she was quietly insistent on returning to the parking lot and putting distance between herself and the mile high bridge.  The entrance fee is steep ( at $18 per adult), but overall we did enjoy the vistas and the small zoo.  I left my wrap at home so we had to lug LB around on our hips which dissuaded us from hiking from the parking lot or doing much hiking on the far side of the bridge.  It was quite laughable to encounter the below sign shortly after the admission gate.

It is my understanding that you can hike from the parkway and avoid the entrance fee, but even with the wrap my stamina is quite insufficient for any sort of steep grade traverse.  We packed a picnic lunch to enjoy at the ample tables at various locations.  The otters and eagles were the crowd pleasers of our zoo visit, even though the bears were pretty active too.

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The trees on top of the mountain reminded me of oversized bonsais.

I didn’t think that the bridge would scare me or make me feel so grateful to return to the mountain as I love roller coasters and the like.   I made it across, and if I had felt so anxious about it on my first few steps I wouldn’t have complete it; however it wasn’t until I was on the last portion that I began to feel uneasy.  I didn’t notice any severe wind or some clown jumping on the bridge so I cannot say why I had a sudden urge to get back across and be done.  Maybe it was LB’s fear.   Needless to say, I did not take any photos on the bridge.

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Victory Garden flop

Posted by eemilla on September 18, 2013

We started the year looking forward to another productive victory garden, but we were undone with the rain and the slugs.  Below are the photos before we gave up after green tomatoes sporting rot before ripening.  One out of four our basil plants survived, and we’ve harvested a dozen leaves once.

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Avoid the lines at brunch and enjoy dinner

Posted by eemilla on September 17, 2013

After our return from Manhattan, we dined at a few favorite spots like Reza and Chai Pani.  We also decided to stop in and say hello to one of my honey’s former co-workers at Sunny Point Cafe.  My last visit was a few years back when we were a one car household and I drove my honey to his job on Sunday before 8am.  I figured surely so early on a cold winter morning the wait wouldn’t be that mad, but there were enough people to pretty much fill the restaurant as soon as they opened the doors.  The free coffee was pretty tasty, and the food was good too.  However, I hate waiting to eat so I never returned.

On my second visit we went for dinner so there wasn’t a wait, and they serve breakfast all day.  LB had carrot pancakes, and my honey enjoyed egg rolls and hush puppies.  I had a nice fresh salad with delicious rice cakes.  My visit reminded me how much I love a simple salad alongside dinner.  The patio was nicer than I recall it, and our service was good.  I loved the cute signs about the rules for the playground.

cut up carrot pancakes

fluffy biscuit

egg rolls

hush puppies

the rules

rice cakes with salad

Sunny Point Cafe & Bakery on Urbanspoon

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