Monday, April 20, 2015

Charleston Wine + Food Festival

Since I first moved to Charleston (almost 5 years ago!), I kept hearing about this magical event that happens every year called the Wine + Food Festival. My college budget had never allowed me to attend this event, as ticket prices range from $60-$200 (and higher). This year I finally gave into my curiosity and attended several events. I was fortunate enough to work at the festival through the Culinary Institute, which allowed me to attend several events for free in return for setting up and breaking down events...not a bad deal at all.

Sommeliers Blind Tasting Competition
The first event I attended and simultaneously worked was a private event for local bartenders, sommeliers and beverage directors. This is an annual Food + Wine event where these local beverage specialists "compete" ( I use that term very loosely because its more fun than it is competitive) in a blind tasting competition. The winner gets a plaque in his or her place of business and all the glory that comes with beating your fellow colleagues.

Tap Your Inner Mixologist
Since I am currently in Culinary School for Beverage Management (more so to learn about the beverage industry than to become a manager) I was immediately drawn to The Tap Your Inner Mixologist event at Republic featuring renowned cocktail crafter (and absolutely adorable Brit) Charlotte Voisey. Charlotte taught us how to make three simple, yet innovative, drink recipes all with ingredients at home. Drinks included a Whiskey Sour, a Gin Punch, and a French 75. All the drinks were so delicious and surprisingly easy enough for an amateur to concoct. I have never been one to indulge in a Whiskey Sour but Charlotte's was the absolute winner; the secret is fresh lemons and limes not sour mix.

Virginia is for Wine + Food Lovers
I picked this event for two main reasons: 1) it was taking place at the Zero George hotel, which I had yet to see but heard raving reviews and 2) Many of the wineries were from Charlottesville, where my sister currently attends UVA. This event was unique because although it focused on the food and wine scene of central Virginia it also really connected to Charleston. The owners of Zero George also have several properties in Virginia including Pippin Hill and The Red Pump restaurant. The event toured us around the Zero George property by visiting different stations of wine and food pairings. Our favorite was the truffle mac and cheese by Cannon Green's chef, Amelia Scatena, with wine pairings from Pippin Hill.

The Grand Tasting Tent
The grand tasting tent was the main attraction of this food circus. This is where you could sample different wines, spirits, beers, cheese, and tapas from vendors all over the South. You could even purchase the alcohol you tried at the Bottles tent, adjacent to the grand tasting tent. My favorite part of grand tasting tent was the Goat.Sheep.Cow cheese tasting. Each cheese sample was paired with a different type of wine and it was spot on. If we hadn't been so full from the previous day's events I'm sure we would have spent more time at the biergarten and rosegarten (yes, a beer garten with rose instead). The grand tasting tent was the most crowded event since it sold more tickets than the smaller events, but nonetheless a great hands-on food and beverage experience.

While it felt like I had done so much in that one weekend, I had really only scratched the surface of the Wine + Food Festival. There are tons of events ranging from bourbon tastings to guest chef pop-up dinners. I'm unsure of where I will be a year from now, but I'm fairly certain I will somehow make it back to Charleston for this. Until next time, wine + food fest!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Charlottesville, VA

One aspect of Southern culture I admire is how each university has a story to tell. My alma mater, College of Charleston, prides itself on being the oldest college in South Carolina (13th overall in the US) and was founded by three signers of the Declaration of Independence. And if the University of Virginia could talk, it would certainly boast too. It would probably brag about how it was founded by President Thomas Jefferson. Or maybe it would casually name-drop famed poet Edgar Allan Poe as one of it's former students. Regardless, this university and it's mother city have much to offer.

UVA Pavilion Gardens
I'll have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about visiting Charlottesville. Over the past five years, the city has appeared in the news several times for some controversial cases. Aside from that, I lost a close family member of mine 11 years ago in a tragic accident in Charlottesville. I was hoping that a weekend visit to UVA to see my sister would quash my uncertainty about this city.

It was against my food morals to go to Charlottesville and not eat at Mellow Mushroom. I swear on my life that Mellow Mushroom has the best Caesar salad, so I had to have that in addition to their pizza. My travel companion (and pizza aficionado) chose the funky chicken pizza (BBQ Chicken, Bacon, Cheddar & Mozzarella cheeses, Caramelized onions). Commence nap time.

Funky Chicken Pizza
I was advised by many Virginians to make the trip out to Thomas Jefferson's estate, Monticello, while in Charlottesville. My sister had yet to visit, so we took the drive out there (< 20 minutes from campus) to admire the neoclassical mansion. We decided against the walking tours since you had to commit 45 minutes to each, and made up our own tour by tagging along with one group until we saw another one. My favorite part was Jefferson's brewery in the basement of the mansion, who knew our forefathers liked to throw one back after work?

Monticello Garden
Another notable place we dined at while in Charlottesville was The Nook, a cute diner-esque breakfast "nook" in the downtown mall. I appreciate breakfasts that are simple yet innovative, which I found when I ordered the Chesapeake: two crab cakes, a fried egg, and toast. Done. This place is your neighborhood, no-frills diner with a little twist.

The Chesapeake Breakfast
 After just a weekend in Charlottesville the verdict was easy. I loved it. It's no Charleston, but its certainly looming with beauty and history. I'm anticipating many more visits to the city during the next four years.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Quick Trip to Philly

Growing up right outside of New York City, I rarely felt it necessary to visit other cities. When I went to College of Charleston, I met lots of people who lived in cities that I had never been to before- Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, and Philly, among others. Philly is only about an hour and a half from me, yet I had never really been there before (minus a brief trip to the Philadelphia Zoo in pre-school where I contracted the chicken pox...but thats another story). So when I started dating someone from Philly, I decided it was time to bid farewell to my exclusive relationship with NYC and meet a new city.


"You've never had a cheesesteak??" my boyfriend exclaimed, as if it was a rite of passage and not solely a Philly delicacy. Thus the executive decision was made that I would have to have a cheesesteak in my short time there. The opportunity arose that night on our way back from the Jimmy Buffett concert in Camden (go ahead, laugh). After consuming more than a few Landsharks, we were pretty hungry for something greasy and carb-filled. When we pulled up next to Pat's Steaks (one of the famed Philly Cheesesteak establishments) we all looked at each other and agreed it was happening. I was warned that I "wouldn't be able to finish the whole thing", that challenge was accepted and completed. Next order of business is seeing how Gino's matches up...

Provolone Cheesesteak

The Philadelphia Museum of Art was high on my list of things to see. While I would have loved to go inside and actually view the art, we were on a time constraint because of the concert. We did walk around the museum grounds where we took a cheesy picture with the Rocky Balboa Statue, and watched tourists run up the "Rocky steps", which are actually the steps to the museum.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Rocky Balboa Statue
This was a quick trip since my primary reason was to attend the concert with my boyfriend's family, so I still have lots of Philly essentials to knock off my list the next time I'm in town. I definitely want to go to the Barnes Foundation, a private collection of Post-Impressionism paintings that recently moved from the Philly suburbs to the city. I recently saw The Art of The Steal, a fabulous documentary that tells the complete story of the collection's journey and has made me want to witness it firsthand even more.

Until next time, Philly!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cypress Gardens, SC

If ever there was a place to make you feel like you were living in a real life fairy-tale, Cypress Gardens would be it. As you browse through my pictures you may realize, wait I've seen this place before! and unless you've been living under a rock and have never seen The Notebook, then you most certainly have. The scene you are thinking of is when Allie (Rachel McAdams) visits Noah (Ryan Gosling, sigh)  after they have been apart for several years (clip below). This is arguably the greatest scene of the whole film and produces some of the best one-liners (i.e."It's not over and it's still not over!"). So you can only imagine how excited I was to relive this scene firsthand.

Surprisingly, Cypress Gardens has more to offer than just a serene swamp and weeping Spanish moss. The grounds include a butterfly garden, reptile room, alligator swamp, and bird watching area, among other attractions. I especially loved the butterfly room, which made me nostalgic for "Butterfly World", a childhood favorite of mine in Florida.

While I would have loved to taken a solo canoe ride, I decided on a guided tour to make sure I got the full Cypress experience. Our tour guide was wonderful, he made sure to include lots of facts about the history of the grounds, with a lot of emphasis on The Notebook and The Patriot, which was also filmed at the garden. Little known fact about the filming of The Notebook: it was actually winter when they filmed that scene so they had to bring in the geese to give the effect of warm weather. Not to mention both actors were freezing (so said our guide).

Cypress Gardens is a unique Charleston attraction, mostly because it is very off the beaten path. Like 45 minutes off the beaten path in Monks Corner. I have lived in Charleston for nearly five years and I just got around to visiting the grounds this year. Nonetheless, Cypress is so enchanting and dreamy, its unlike anything else that exists in the Lowcountry area. Next time you are looking for a mini weekend adventure, I would definitely recommend making the trip out here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Happenings: May/June

Even though it felt like my last semester of college would never end, I'm finding myself becoming nostalgic for it again. Maybe its because of all the uncertainty that follows graduation (When will I have a job? Where should I live? Which friends will I keep in touch with?, etc) but there was just so much comfort in college.

I must humbly accept that part of my life is over, and I'm working towards becoming excited about the next chapter. Luckily, most of my friends have decided to stay in Charleston this summer for one last hurrah. I think its the perfect way to end our college career; we're just not quite ready to say goodbye yet.

Here are some summer happenings thus far:

Nothing makes you feel older than your little sister graduating from high school, so glad she'll be joining me in the South next year! 

I moved out of my house of two years last month and it was very bittersweet. I have so many great memories in that house but its also time for a change of scenery.

I moved in with some friends for the summer and have been thoroughly enjoying having my own porch. {above} Enjoying breakfast on a rainy day with some Orange Rooibos Chai Tea and my favorite Renoir mug from the Chicago Art Institute.

I've been getting in the habit of going to Sullivan's Island by myself after work. There's something so relaxing about reading a book on the beach without any distractions.

Curry Vegetable Omelet

Brunching! (obviously). We went to this adorable new spot near Hampton Park called The Park Cafe. I had the Curried Vegetable Omelet and a cappuccino. Highly recommend getting the Aebleskiver (sweet danish popovers with homemade jam) to start!

We've been taking advantage of the warm summer nights by having little impromptu wine nights outside. We called this one "sunset picnic".

Cheers to a great summer! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The End of An Era

It was nearly six years ago that I stepped into the Cistern for the first time. Little did I know this place would one day become my home. Little did I know that I would meet so many people that would affect my life in so many different ways. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the culture, history, and beauty of this city.

The Cistern
Here I am six years later, a completely different person than that anxious high schooler standing in the cistern wondering where she'd be in two years. But honestly, there are moments I wish I could turn back time. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the carefree days of Freshmen and Sophomore year. And not because I wish I could change anything, but because I wish I could relive it with so much more appreciation and gratitude.

My First Charleston Home {Sophomore Year}
 My Second Charleston Home {Junior-Senior Year}
There are so many things I have learned in college outside of the classroom. There are the more simple things like how to do laundry, how to write a check, and how to pump gas (Jersey problems). But then there are the things that are not as obvious and clear-cut, like how to form life-long friendships, how to balance relationships, and how to rationally problem solve.

My {Charleston} Happy Place
For all of these things his I can thank college, and more importantly, the valuable friendships I've formed over the last four years. I'm incredibly lucky in the fact that I've pretty much had the same group of friends since I started college in the Fall of 2010. Of course we've had our share of trials and tribulations, but it has only strengthened our relationships.

March 2011 {Freshmen Year}
May 2014 {Senior Year}
When I look back on the last four years I can honestly say I wouldn't change a thing. This is an ode to all the amazing people I've met, memories (and mistakes) I've made, and places I've been. Heres to the end of an era, and the beginning of a new chapter.

"Do not go where the path may lead, instead go where there is no path and leave a trail"- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lighthouse Inlet, Folly Beach, SC

Folly Beach is not my first pick when it comes to Charleston beaches. I'll always consider myself a Sullivan's Island girl. But when it's just too windy for Sully's, Folly will do the trick. What I like most about Folly Beach is that it has its share of secrets. Just past the washout is a little inlet called Lighthouse Inlet, home to pods of dolphins, driftwood trees, and of course that adorable Morris Island lighthouse.

Earlier this week I took a little trip to Lighthouse Inlet at sunset which, in my personal opinion, is the best time of day to stroll on this part of Folly. Now be forewarned, it is a bit of a hike from where you park your car to the inlet entrance, but the lush greenery and chirping wildlife are sure to distract you on your way.

There couldn't be a more perfect way to end the day than watching dolphins swim into the horizon as the sun set....and I got to spend it with this guy ;) life's always better at the beach.