I love shrimp and grits.
I first tried the real deal in Charleston on my birthday a few years ago. It was three months after I had separated from my then-husband, and the holidays that year had been nothing short of torture. My dear friend Ali suggested that I get away from everything and come visit her in South Carolina for New Years. I’m SO glad I did!
Ali and her husband, Bright, have an incredibly tight group of awesome friends. They all have children, and they do a TON of fun things as a pack. They take care of each other, pick up each other’s kids as needed, share babysitters, support each other’s causes. Coming from Utah where things were completely falling apart, to see that kind of bond between friends was really inspiring. And the whole group welcomed me with big, loving open arms. It was a weekend of making new friends, New Year’s Eve dinner parties, super fun dance parties, New Year’s Day Southern traditions and football.
And on my birthday, the day after New Year’s, a whole table full of fabulous ladies rallied to celebrate a new year and a new beginning with me. It was just what I needed.
I ordered shrimp and grits.
Over the last few years, I’ve returned to Charleston 4 or 5 times. I consider the people I visit there friends of mine, too, not just friends of Ali’s. I’ve never had a bad time there– I love it!
So when John and I decided to take a trip together to Charleston last weekend, I was really excited- despite all of the traveling I’d been doing. We landed at the tiny airport just in time for happy hour followed by a delectable dinner at Lucca with two other fab friends, Monica and Alex. Any place with a gelato sampler is ok by me.
Ali and Bright have an absolutely dreamy home. Ali’s specialty is art, and her eye for design is apparent in every corner of her home. It’s modern and classy, but lived in and comfortable. They have a great yard with a garden and a treehouse for their twin boys. I kind of want to live in it.
John and Bright went out with a fishing guide on Friday, so Ali and I spent a delightful day on King Street, a successful shopping extravaganza followed by a lovely wine lunch on the patio at Leaf. The boys had some success, too!
After a power nap, we cleaned up and headed out to an event called Bubbly and Brew, a benefit for an organization called My Sister’s House that supports victims of domestic violence. My good friend Kathryn works hard on this event with her husband and it was a ton of fun- yummy food and drink, a band, and an auction, in a space that included a patio with a view of the bridge, right on the water. The evening continued with friends and a mini dance party back at Ali’s house. So fun.
Brunch at Red Drum the next morning fueled us for a fun day out on the boat. We picked up boiled peanuts (a Southern favorite snack!) and packed the cooler, and headed out onto the creek. Our goal was Shark Tooth Island, where I was told there are shark’s teeth all over the place. Hmmm.
It was a tad overcast, but the weather was warm and it was spectacular being out on the water. We cruised past creekside restaurants and bars, expansive estates, shrimp boats. Multiple porpoises guided us in their playful way toward the open water. What a life!
When we got to Shark’s Tooth Island, I was shocked to discover that, indeed, there were shiny black shark’s teeth all over the place! We scavenged the beach for them for awhile with the twins, enjoying the sea, and then headed toward shore to meet up with a few friends for happy hour.
A bluegrass band was playing and the kids frolicked around the grass area for awhile. After a stop for dinner, we headed home to watch Saturday Night Live under blankets. Heavenly.
There’s a Sunday morning tradition when I visit Charleston: brunch at High Thyme. There’s always a big table full of grown-ups and a gaggle of kids running around. There are mimosas and biscuits and yummy Southern breakfast things. It feels like a big family meal and I love it!
John and I had reserved Sunday night to ourselves, a night away with just each other to reconnect and take a breath before returning to Utah for WEDDING MONTH. On Bright’s recommendation, we booked a room at the gorgeous Wentworth Mansion. Built in 1886 for a family with 13 children, the place is huge, and has been painstakingly restored. Additional touches like a wine and cheese reception each afternoon, brandy and cognac in the library for guests, handmade chocolates with turndown service, and a full breakfast included with your stay made it feel completely decadent.
We sipped wine and nibbled cheese and relaxed on our private little veranda. Another special feature at the Mansion is the cupola. A spiral staircase leads up to a 360 degree view of Charleston. Glorious.
For dinner, at Ali’s urging, we took a rickshaw (pedi-cab) to McCrady’s Restaurant. The ride to the restaurant was awesome, through side streets of Charleston in the cool evening air. We had a cocktail at the bar before dinner, taking in the scene. Only one word can describe it: classic. It was dark, gorgeous, and they served cocktails from another era.
Our dinner was a 4-course meal for each of us, and we had a selection of items for each course. We ordered differently so we had eight things to sample. We both agreed that it was one of the best meals we’d ever had. From presentation to the service to the food itself, it was absolutely delicious! A perfect, romantic date.
On our last day in Charleston, we ambled over to Circa 1886 for breakfast. It’s the restaurant connected to the Wentworth Mansion. I was surprised to find not a continental breakfast spread but a full menu and sit-down breakfast awaiting us. Everything was so lovely– such a nice way to start a day.
We spent a bit more time with Ali and Bright before heading to the airport and bidding the South adieu. Regardless of how much I adore Charleston and all of the people there, we needed to get home, settle in, and get married. It’s time.
But don’t think I didn’t have my shrimp and grits for breakfast on our last day. Mmmm.
Until next time, Charleston!