Charleston & the Drawing Room

Charleston & the Drawing Room
 The Crudo: Ahi Tuna and Scallops with a ceviche vinaigrette in the middle, olive oil powder, olive oil pudding, shaved raw fennel, jalapeños, breakfast radishes. Garnished with mustard frill and edible flowers.

The Crudo: Ahi Tuna and Scallops with a ceviche vinaigrette in the middle, olive oil powder, olive oil pudding, shaved raw fennel, jalapeños, breakfast radishes. Garnished with mustard frill and edible flowers.

Le week-end is here! Add Charleston to that and you get le perfect weekend getaway. It's a small enough city that two or three days can be enough to fill you up. And yes, I mean your belly. Any more time than that, in fact, and you may be in gastrointestinal trouble. You'll want to eat, even when you don't want to eat; you'll want to cram in three restaurants a day, two bakeries and two coffee shops cause of FOMO. If you're like me and your daydreaming of food is almost annoyingly incessant, then you too have learned the hard way that there is such a thing as gorging yourself on food when your body has had its fill.. Even if it is thoughtful or healthy-ish food.

 The carefully composed yet unfussy dishes feature ingredients from many surrounding farms, including Ambrose Family Farm, Geechie Boy, Growfood Carolina, Holy Smoke Olive Oil, St. Jude Farm, and Swimming Rock Fish and Shrimp Farm. They have an edible flower garden up on the roof, and sometimes ask local fisherman to go out on boats every day, coming back with iced fish for the fresh catch of the day.

The carefully composed yet unfussy dishes feature ingredients from many surrounding farms, including Ambrose Family Farm, Geechie Boy, Growfood Carolina, Holy Smoke Olive Oil, St. Jude Farm, and Swimming Rock Fish and Shrimp Farm. They have an edible flower garden up on the roof, and sometimes ask local fisherman to go out on boats every day, coming back with iced fish for the fresh catch of the day.

 Elderflower Semifreddo with strawberry gelée overtop. Macerated strawberries, dehydrated strawberry merengue, buttermilk sherbet mixed with strawberry-thyme sorbet. Fennel cream, thyme fluid gel, candied lemon peel and fennel. Finished with strawberry soup and edible flowers. 

Elderflower Semifreddo with strawberry gelée overtop. Macerated strawberries, dehydrated strawberry merengue, buttermilk sherbet mixed with strawberry-thyme sorbet. Fennel cream, thyme fluid gel, candied lemon peel and fennel. Finished with strawberry soup and edible flowers. 

 The Fresh Catch: Sheepshead with Beet purée, snap pea risotto. Garnished with shaved raw fennel, candy cane beets, golden beets, red mustard frill & edible flowers. 

The Fresh Catch: Sheepshead with Beet purée, snap pea risotto. Garnished with shaved raw fennel, candy cane beets, golden beets, red mustard frill & edible flowers. 

First stop: The Drawing Room for a contemporary and artful gastronomical eve in the historic French Quarter district. I was immediately drawn to feature this restaurant because of its strong focus on locally sourced seafood and produce, supporting many local purveyors and farms. So, I'm quick to support any restaurant that supports local agriculture as much as possible. Fortunately, not a rare thing for notable restaurants these days.

  The Drawing Room  is located within the boutique hotel  The Vendue , named the #1 hotel in Charleston this year by Travel + Leisure. It has an art-centric focus, reflected in the presentation of each dish. 

The Drawing Room is located within the boutique hotel The Vendue, named the #1 hotel in Charleston this year by Travel + Leisure. It has an art-centric focus, reflected in the presentation of each dish. 

 Beets Two Ways: Shaved Raw & Roasted. Candy Cane, Ruby Red & Golden Beet. Valencia Orange Purée. Smoked Goat Cheese. Duck Prosciutto. Liquorice Soil (made of star anise, dried olives and raw sugar). Garnished with fennel fronds & arugula flowers.  

Beets Two Ways: Shaved Raw & Roasted. Candy Cane, Ruby Red & Golden Beet. Valencia Orange Purée. Smoked Goat Cheese. Duck Prosciutto. Liquorice Soil (made of star anise, dried olives and raw sugar). Garnished with fennel fronds & arugula flowers.  

At the time we dined here, it was still headed by the very talented chef Jon Cropf, a Platinum member of the local Sustainable Seafood Initiative for the last five years. Pictured below.

 Executive Chef Cropf and Pasty Chef Tighe (below), have since taken their talent to Trummer's on Main in Clifton Virginia. Haven't heard of Clifton, but if I ever go, I'd defenitely see what these two are up to in the kitchen there!

Executive Chef Cropf and Pasty Chef Tighe (below), have since taken their talent to Trummer's on Main in Clifton Virginia. Haven't heard of Clifton, but if I ever go, I'd defenitely see what these two are up to in the kitchen there!

 Steamed Red Snapper encrusted with a scallop & truffle mousse. Served over sorghum grains with a pea butter, spring peas, sugar snap peas, shaved raw asparagus, mint. Dressed with white balsamic vinaigrette.

Steamed Red Snapper encrusted with a scallop & truffle mousse. Served over sorghum grains with a pea butter, spring peas, sugar snap peas, shaved raw asparagus, mint. Dressed with white balsamic vinaigrette.

As the kitchen sent out each dish, one by one to be photographed, I kept looking at Joe (duo self portrait above) with the expression "we're gonna eat the shit out of this after I shoot it". He'd return the look with "I'm here to help with anything, some impromptu white napkin holding to bounce light... and take your damned pictures already so we can eat". Cropf's artful dishes had elements of molecular gastronomy that elevated southern heritage cooking, without missing the flavor or comfort of a satisfying meal.

 The Crab & Calamari: Sautéed in Lemongrass & coconut broth. Fried tentacles and fingerling potatoes. Squid Ink vinaigrette & green curry sauce. Garnished with mustard frill and breakfast radish.

The Crab & Calamari: Sautéed in Lemongrass & coconut broth. Fried tentacles and fingerling potatoes. Squid Ink vinaigrette & green curry sauce. Garnished with mustard frill and breakfast radish.

Pastry Chef Meagan Tighe's desserts were exquisite, and perfectly balanced. The red one above, almost too beautiful to eat (scroll over that one to read all of its components!) . We were pretty full by this point, but even then Joe and I pretended as best we could to be modest and graciously share. We alternated dipping our spoons politely, but I know for me it was one of those moments of "I'm eating this whole thing. I don't care if I get cellulite and a muffin top." 

 Hazelnut Gianduja Mousse with spiced chantilly. Chocolate pearls, candied hazelnuts, dehydrated chocolate merengue, tuile crumbs, and fresh micro-mint leaves. 

Hazelnut Gianduja Mousse with spiced chantilly. Chocolate pearls, candied hazelnuts, dehydrated chocolate merengue, tuile crumbs, and fresh micro-mint leaves. 

 These wood-fired oysters... if I could only eat oysters one way, this would be it. I know, purists will not favor that comment.

These wood-fired oysters... if I could only eat oysters one way, this would be it. I know, purists will not favor that comment.

Do I need to write or say anything about James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock's Husk restaurant? Or can we all agree that it lives up to the hype. Both in Charleston and in Nashville, I walked in with high hopes for ingredient-driven southern cuisine, and walked out at the end delighted. I love how they built a huge chalkboard to display a list at the entrance with ingredients currently on the menu along with the name of the farm or purveyor from which they came. So lovely to honor the entire process and effort, a labor of love that begins far before food even enters a restaurant.

 The fried catfish dinner entrée... the lightest and most delicate fried fish I ever tried. 

The fried catfish dinner entrée... the lightest and most delicate fried fish I ever tried. 

 After the beautiful dinner at  The Drawing Room , we conveniently headed upstairs to  The Vendue's rooftop bar  for some cocktails, and more importantly, splendid Charleston sunset views. If you don't get on a rooftop at sunset in Charleston, you did something wrong. You GOTTA.  

After the beautiful dinner at The Drawing Room, we conveniently headed upstairs to The Vendue's rooftop bar for some cocktails, and more importantly, splendid Charleston sunset views. If you don't get on a rooftop at sunset in Charleston, you did something wrong. You GOTTA.  

The Park Cafe - farm to fork dining in an understatedly chic and bright cafe in the Hampton Park neighborhood. A local magazine I'd picked up was raving about the Park Lettuces salad here. Beautiful lettuces, shaved carrots and radishes, cucumber, cilantro, crisp shoestring onion aaaaand.... pickled shiitakes. I'll take pickled shiitakes on just about anything!  

The Daily - my favorite Coffee Shop during my stay in Charleston. Why? Because it is also a mini marketplace that sells goods from local makers. The food on their menu is also primarily sourced from local farmers, ranchers and fishmongers. Owned by the same folks as Butcher & Bee (conveniently on the same lot, originally popular for their carefully crafted sandwiches, really satisfying. Also a great beer selection).

 On one of my visits, I tried their Matcha Latte. If I drink coffee as often as I'd like, my body starts complaining (headaches, anxiety, restlessness). I've been drinking Matcha for about 15 years. Now it's become a trendy item on many menus. Not all matcha is created equal, though. If you want to buy matcha to make at home on a regular basis, I would recommend carefully searching for a reputable source. To get the most (innumerable, incredible) benefits, Ceremonial Grade Matcha is ideal, if you can afford it! Otherwise Premium grade is great too. I'll spare you an essay on matcha here, so google "Matcha Benefits" and go down the rabbit hole as much as you please.

On one of my visits, I tried their Matcha Latte. If I drink coffee as often as I'd like, my body starts complaining (headaches, anxiety, restlessness). I've been drinking Matcha for about 15 years. Now it's become a trendy item on many menus. Not all matcha is created equal, though. If you want to buy matcha to make at home on a regular basis, I would recommend carefully searching for a reputable source. To get the most (innumerable, incredible) benefits, Ceremonial Grade Matcha is ideal, if you can afford it! Otherwise Premium grade is great too. I'll spare you an essay on matcha here, so google "Matcha Benefits" and go down the rabbit hole as much as you please.

 If I lived in Charleston, I'd live inside  The Daily . The local goods sold range from chocolate bars, to fresh bites, farm produce, honey and syrups, hummus, local milk, eggs, quality take-away fresh-pressed juices and fresh meals... A dream, especially if you're staying at an AirBnb and want to feed your lonely fridge a few things (cause you're probably eating out 90% of the time). Also, to note, the delicious pastries and bread are all baked fresh on site. 

If I lived in Charleston, I'd live inside The Daily. The local goods sold range from chocolate bars, to fresh bites, farm produce, honey and syrups, hummus, local milk, eggs, quality take-away fresh-pressed juices and fresh meals... A dream, especially if you're staying at an AirBnb and want to feed your lonely fridge a few things (cause you're probably eating out 90% of the time). Also, to note, the delicious pastries and bread are all baked fresh on site. 

Lastly, I HAVE to give a shout out to Xiao Bao Biscuit in the Cannonborough neighborhood - an Asian Fusion restaurant. The location is awesome, great vibe. But more than anything, more than all the gastronomical sophistications we experienced.... the humble Okonomiyaki (a Japanese savory cabbage pancake) blew my mind. How could something so simple, be so delicious? I need to learn how to make this, and stalk the interweb for their specific recipe!

Ok, I leave you with that. Whenever you start planning your getaway to Charleston, leave space for me in your car... and AirBnb... and wallet. ;) I kid.