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Tale of Three Brunches 

In order to maintain our BFF-status, I will never say to my friend Jule, “Let’s go to brunch on Sunday.” Mind you she lives 2,500 miles away so it’s kind of an idle threat. But to discover why she is (gasp) opposed to brunch culture, check out her classic column from the DC City Paper. Unlike my friend Jule, I appreciate the brunch culture and all that the spectrum of a Sunday brunch can offer.

Meet up with friends or stay in your pajamas watching a Bravo marathon. Eat a healthy omelette to make your My Fitness Pal happy or drown your pancakes in syrup. Linger over a Bloody Mary while you convince yourself that there is a veggie serving included, especially here in Charleston where they put a crudité platter in your glass. Or you can try a smoothie with ingredients you would never welcome to your dinner plate. The potential is to either have brunch be the one thing you accomplish on a Sunday, or the kickoff to getting the most out of your last day off before the work week begins anew.

My tale of three brunches includes a brunch at 492 in Charleston, Rustic Table in Pawleys Island and a Sunday brunch at home.

Review: 492

The plethora of great restaurants in Charleston makes some things very difficult. For example, I look dumbfounded when someone asks me, “What’s your favorite restaurant in Charleston?” But some restaurants make life in Charleston a little easier by including their address (or part of their address) in the restaurant name.

Charleston locals and tourists don’t need Waze to find 82 Queen (82 Queen St), 39 Rue de Jean (39 John St), Fulton Five (5 Fulton St), Grill 225 (225 E Bay St), Kitchen 208 (208 King St), Bin 152 (152 King St) or Zero Restaurant & Bar (0 George St). But just as a warning to Charleston tourists, there are exceptions, 5 Church (32 N Market St) and 167 Raw (289 E Bay St).

492 is one of those easy finds. It is located at 492 King St in a beautifully restored 1800s building. Not only am I thankful that this building was saved, but I am also thankful for the lightly fried soft-shell crab on fluffy scrambled eggs I recently devoured. It reminded me why I love brunch so much. Would I want to eat a soft-shell crab at 7 in the morning? Probably not. But in the middle of the day, the creaminess of the eggs and the saltiness of the crab ensured that every bite was the perfect brunch bite. Soft-shell crabs are only in season for a few weeks but their regular brunch menu has a soft scramble which I am sure is delicious.

My husband had the carbonara because if it’s Sunday, John must eat pasta. I was very busy with my seafood scramble so my fork never had a chance to visit his plate. But it looked very cheesy with tender pieces of short ribs. And judging from the empty bowl our server carried away, I’m surmising it was exquisite.

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Carbonara at 492

Next time I will probably order the daily special because this is the kind of place where you trust that the chef’s special really is special. Their regular brunch menu has some great options like a double bacon cheeseburger with thousand island dressing and hash with pork belly and Brussels sprouts. I am also planning to take home a sourdough sticky bun next time because I think Mondays wouldn’t be so painful if I started with that.

Review: Rustic Table

Pawleys Island is about 90 minutes north of Charleston and heralds itself as “the oldest seaside resort in America”. The 2015 census estimated the population at 107 residents. I am not sure 107 residents need all of the great restaurants they have, but I think all of the great restaurants in town are needed to feed the tourists that flock to Pawleys year-round to take advantage of the great beaches and temperate South Carolina weather.

Adam Kirby is the chef/owner of both Rustic Table and it’s neighboring sister restaurant, Bistro 217. When our current United Nations Ambassador was South Carolina’s governor, she started a Chef Ambassador program. This annual program selects chefs to represent the best of South Carolina cuisine and Chef Kirby is a 2017 Chef Ambassador. The press release for the Chef Ambassador program mentions that the chefs are selected for their “dedication to using healthy, locally-grown ingredients.”

I must have missed the menu options that were the “healthy, locally-grown ingredients” because I was blinded by the description of the Pawleys Island Sandwich. It was everything I enjoy about Southern cuisine in one sandwich: buttery toast, creamy pimento cheese, thick fried green tomatoes and two types of pork (smoked bacon and spiral ham).

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Pawleys Island Sandwich

It is our tradition when eating with our friends who met us for brunch to have ice cream every time we get together. While there was an ice cream shoppe nearby, we decided to have dessert at Rustic Table, enticed by their combinations of sweets and homemade ice creams. Homemade vanilla ice cream over warm peach cobbler and chocolate chip pecan pie with a side of the vanilla ice cream were the hits of our brunch finale.

Chef Kirby certainly was selected to represent South Carolina because of his unique takes on traditional Southern cuisine. The service at Rustic Table was excellent and we didn’t feel rushed at all while we caught up with our friends. As a side note about brunch tipping, I recommend using 20% as a starting point and increase it based on the time you sat at the table. And only stick around if there is no line of people waiting to enjoy their brunch so that the servers can turn over their tables.

Recipe Review: Cornbread Waffles

Jule once told me she considered owning a waffle iron a sign of being an adult. I think perfecting waffles is the true sign of being an adult. A few weeks ago Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for cornbread waffles which challenged me to test my adulthood.

Between segments of CBS Sunday Morning, I threw together the batter in about five minutes. The recipe is only nine ingredients and yielded four giant waffles. We ended up eating two of them for brunch and then had the other two with our dinner the next night. I had my waffle with a fried egg and salsa and John enjoyed his with the last of some real Vermont maple syrup gifted to us by a friend. I recommend giving these a try when you have that random half-used carton of buttermilk in your fridge you don’t want to throw out. Were they perfectly crunchy on the outside and doughy in the middle? Not really. But I guess I am not quite an adult yet.

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Smitten Kitchen’s Cornbread Waffle

So how does my tale of three brunches end? Sunday brunch is my favorite meal of the week regardless of if I am meeting friends at a new restaurant or at home trying to perfect waffles. But there is nothing better than just sitting at home in my pajamas, reading the newspaper, having an extra cup of coffee and hoping time will stand still so that the “tick, tick, tick, tick, tick” of “60 minutes” won’t remind me that tomorrow is a work day and I don’t have the sourdough sticky bun from 492.

I am Amy. And this is my feed.

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Chicken Soup for the Soul and the “I’m not sick”

I hate being sick. I hate my husband being sick even more. He is empathetic and caring when I am sick making sure my pillow is cool, bringing me ginger ale and leaving me alone on the couch to watch random shows on Bravo. I wish I could be his Clara Barton when he is sick. But he never stops working long days and frequently says, “I’m not sick” as if admitting he was sick was the actual cause of his illness.

This time around he got some meds from the doctor early on but this creepy crud just won’t go away. Paging through the March issue of Dr. Oz’s The Good Life magazine, I found a recipe for “Chicken Soup with Lemon and Orzo” which reminded me of the soup found in Greek restaurants. With most of the ingredients on hand, I decided to give the “feed a cold; starve a fever” adage a whirl.

These were my shortcuts to the recipe below. I know it’s cheaper and more flavorful to do some things differently. For example, I have been given about four different “it’s so easy” types of stock recipes. But I am still emotionally scarred from my last attempt at stock where I absent-mindedly poured the hours-in-the-making stock down the drain rather than in a bowl. So boxed stock it is for me.

  • I had purchased pre-chopped celery and carrots earlier this week for snacking so it made it super easy to prep the celery and carrots.
  • My husband doesn’t like onions and since this soup was for him, I kept them out.
  • I used regular orzo rather than whole wheat orzo.
  • I used prepackaged stir-in paste dill.
  • I used a grocery store lemon pepper rotisserie chicken and boxed chicken stock.

The result was lemony delicious and it tasted better the next day (as all soups do) even with mildly soggy orzo. Next time I will cook the orzo seperately and just add it to the broth per serving. The dill paste made the broth taste delightfully dilly fresh without dill specks getting stuck in my teeth. And (best of all) it took only about 20 minutes to throw this together, but it had the flavor of something cooking all day. I credit the rotisserie chicken from Publix which I patiently stalked the deli counter for in order to get one fresh from the oven.

I wish I could say that John said he felt instantly better after a big bowl of this soup. But that would mean he would have to admit he was sick. And that’s about as likely as it is for me to make my own chicken stock.

I’m Amy. And this is my feed.

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Chicken Soup with Lemon and Orzo

Serves 4 

Ingredients

1 Tbs olive oil

1 onion

2 celery stalks

1/2 cup diced carrots

1 tsp coarse salt

3/4 cup orzo

6 cups chicken stock

dill (to taste)

juice of 1 lemon plus 4 thin slices of lemon

pepper (to taste)

2 cups baby spinach leaves (I used an 8 ounce bag of spinach)

Directions

Heat oil over medium heat. If using onion, cook for 4-5 minutes and then add the celery, carrot and salt. Cook until all the vegetables are soft (about 5-6 minutes).

Add the orzo, stock and some dill. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the orzo is cooked (about 5-10 minutes). This gives you time to pull apart the chicken.

Add the shredded chicken, lemon juice, lemon slices and some pepper and simmer until the chicken is warmed. Throw in the spinach until the spinach is wilted. Give it a taste and add some more dill if so inclined.

Recipe adapted from: Spungen, Susan. “World’s Best Chicken Soup.” Dr. Oz The Good Life 4.2 (2017): 97-101. Print. .

 

 

 

Skinnytaste: Kale Caesar and Grilled Chicken Bowls

It was good while it lasted but like all food fads (see sweet potato fries, eggs on hamburgers, cauliflower “mashed potatoes”), I am about two meals away from bidding adieu to kale. But I have been loving the recipes in “Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick-Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes” so decided to give this a try.

I halved the recipe for the salad because there is only so much kale my husband and I are willing to pretend to like but I made the full recipe of the dressing. I used a whole can of anchovies because the recipe called for just a few of the salty delights and I’m not sure that’s something I want to stick in my packed fridge and forget about. I also used a whole lemon rather than 1/2 a lemon because I do love all things citrus.

Even letting the dressing coat the kale for about 30 minutes, the kale still tasted like…kale. The few hard boiled eggs and pan grilled chicken didn’t mask the fact that we were eating a bowl of kale.

The salad dressing is definitely worth a second try so I have included the recipe below but I recommend using it on a different green.

Is it odd to be nostalgic for the good old days of iceberg and romaine lettuces?

I’m Amy. And this is my feed.

Salad Dressing from Kale Caesar and Grilled Chicken Bowls

Ingredients

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

4 anchovy fillets (I used the whole can)

1 garlic clove

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon (I used a whole lemon)

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Directions

Put all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Recipe adapted from Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick-Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes by Gina Homolka. Copyright © 2016, published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.