Spirited Brunchin’

Last weekend I attended an event organized by the Post and Courier called the Spirited Brunch. This was the third year of this event, but it was my first time getting the opportunity to experience it. It’s safe to say I was not disappointed. One of my favorite things about Charleston is that it really encompasses its nickname, “The Holy City”. I love that instead of skyscrapers, the city is dotted with church steeples and that all the churches encompass a wide variety of faith traditions. This event was not only a great opportunity to taste a wide variety of food, but also was an opportunity to see inside churches most people wouldn’t think to step foot in otherwise.

The first church I went to was Trinity Methodist Church. Here, I sampled wedding pound cake, as well as small powdered sugar dusted almond cookies. Both were light, simple and delicious and would have paired delightfully well with a cup of tea. There were a few women standing outside the church offering brief histories of the church, as well as quick tours. I loved how welcoming everyone at this church was. It was a great way to kick off my tour.

Next, I ventured over to the College of Charleston Alumni center, where they had people from a couple different churches gathered at different tables, offering up food unique to their faith traditions. I sampled falafel, hummus, rice, and samosas from the Central Mosque, as well as chocolates from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Mt. Pleasant. The samosas were crispy on the outside, and rich and flavorful on the inside. The chocolates seemed to just melt right in my mouth and were the perfect sweet finish.

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I then walked over to Grace Cathedral, which was offering up samples of homemade Charleston chewies, pimiento cheese sandwiches, and brownies. You really can’t go wrong with a Charleston chewie or a pimento cheese sandwich. This church did a great job of featuring staples of Charleston food tradition and the flavor did not disappoint. The Charleston chewies were sweet and had the perfect amount of crunch from the small bits of almonds inside of them. The sandwiches were perfectly soft to the bite and full of tangy flavor.

My next stop was over to St. John’s Lutheran Church, which was offering up a plethora of snack items. They had Charleston chewies, as well as chocolate chip cookie bars, bite size pecan pies, pimento cheese sandwiches, shrimp salad sandwiches, as well as fruit and cheese on a stick! I loved the wide variety of food this church was offering. My favorite things of all the things I tried here were the bite-size pecan pies and the fruit and cheese on a stick. They were simple, yet delicious all at the same time. Everyone at this church was extremely welcoming as well and more than willing to take you on a tour of the church.

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I didn’t have to travel far to the next church, as it was just a few doors down from St. John’s! This church was the Unitarian Church. Here, I got to sample some very unique things, consisting of Thomas Jefferson’s deviled eggs and Abigail Adams’ apple pan dowdie. I felt that the deviled eggs had a very strong mustard-like flavor that I was not a huge fan of, however the apple pan dowdie had a very unique spiced apple flavor, which I loved. I found it really neat to be tasting food from recipes of such important historical figures! This church was also displaying images of its restoration process, which I found to be quite interesting.

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Finally, I headed over to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Here, they were offering up samples of their famous okra soup, as well as Irish soda bread. I loved how thick and chunky the okra soup was and that the Irish soda bread was soft and chewy, but not to sweet either. It paired quite well with the soup. I had heard great things about this okra soup and I would say that it definitely lived up to its hype.

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If you’ve never experienced the Spirited Brunch before I would definitely suggest checking it out next year. It’s FREE and you get to have the opportunity to experience all the different faith traditions that Charleston encompasses, as well as snack along the way. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon in Charleston, and I look forward to doing this tour in many years to come.

 

 

Support Local, Buy Local!

If you weren’t aware, April marks the official beginning of Farmers Market season in Charleston! The Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market had its opening day at the very beginning of the month and many others have opened back up since then. April is also known as “Eat Local Month”, deemed by the lovely people at Lowcountry Local First. This organization encourages people to shift at least $10 of their grocery budget towards eating local during the whole month of April. We loved the idea of this and wanted to show our readers how we are eating local this month. We also wanted to show our readers that its possible to eat local on a budget.

We kicked off Eat Local Month by attending the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market. Here we found a wide variety of fresh tomatoes, corn-on-the-cob, cucumbers, squash, and fresh strawberries! We also picked up a jar of homemade ketchup, made with strawberries and dates for just $6. We found a lot of stands at the market selling homemade pre-made meals for just $10 or less that would feed at least 2 people or just 1 person for multiple days. There was live music and food vendors as well, making for the most perfect afternoon at the market.

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We continued through Eat Local Month by supporting Lowcountry Street Grocery’s Community Supported Grocery program. You might remember our interview with LSG’s founder, Lindsey Barrow a couple months ago, but we’ll give you a bit of a refresher. Lowcountry Street Grocery is in fact a mobile grocery store (yes, its on a bus!) that offers fresh local produce and other local goods at an affordable price. They strive to accommodate the people with decreased access to healthy foods, and therefore travel mostly to lower income neighborhoods, though you can often find them at a few locations downtown or at some farmers markets. The best way to access their offerings however is through their weekly CSG (Community Supported Grocery) program. You can sign up for a whole month or just opt-in at the beginning of every week. A single bundle is just $30 (what I opted for!) and gives you a substantial amount of fresh fruits and veggies that will most likely get you through a whole week. Sometimes they even throw in a recipe in case you aren’t sure what to do with your bag of local goodies. What really takes the cake is that they will personally deliver your CSG bundle if you’re not too far away, or you can pick it up yourself at Munkle Brewery…maybe even enjoy a beer while you’re at it!

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Single Bundle CSG

Supporting local is SUPER important because it not only is good for you, but it also helps local farmers and businesses thrive and stay in business. Additionally, you will find that food bought locally tastes a whole lot better than food that has traveled from many miles away. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. In fact, I found that I’ve spent less than I normally would in a typical grocery store, because I’m not spending money on snacks that aren’t even locally made.IMG_3093

We hope that this post influences you to head to your nearest farmers market and stock up on all the fresh fruits and veggies you can. We also hope that it encourages you to start shifting more of your grocery shopping spending to local farmers and businesses. We want to continue to show our readers ways to buy local, while still staying on your grocery budget, so stay tuned for more tips and tricks!

 

Farmers Market Locations and Hours:

  • Charleston Farmers Market (Marion Square) – Saturdays, 8am-2pm
  • Folly Beach Farmers Market – Mondays, 4pm-8pm
  • Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market – Tuesdays, 3:30pm-7pm
  • West Ashley Farmers Market – Wednesdays, 3pm-7pm
  • Sullivan’s Island Farmers Market – Thursdays, 4pm-7pm

Elegant, Yet Simple European Eats at Babas on Cannon

To continue with our ethnic food exploration in the new restaurants recently opened in downtown Charleston, we decided to go check out Babas on Cannon. Babas has labeled themselves as “an old world cafe serving classic espresso and a fine apero”. After our delicious Spanish meal at Malagon, we couldn’t wait to have the opportunity to be transported to Europe once again. We were pleased to find that Babas did a wonderful job of creating that experience for us.

Babas offers a daytime menu Tuesday-Saturday from 7am-3pm, which consists of a variety of reasonably priced breakfast items, pastries, baguette sandwiches, salads, and a “very tall quiche”. They also have an evening menu, which is offered on those same days from 5pm-10pm, and consists of a selection of small plates, as well as a brioche grilled cheese and fried chickpea panisse. Ashley and I opted to try out their lunch options, but definitely plan to come back for breakfast and dinner, as we were not disappointed.

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Last summer I took a two week trip though several European countries, and one of the highlights of all the things I ate were baguette sandwiches. They could be found on carts on the street and at almost every cafe I walked into. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to try the baguette sandwiches at Babas. I opted for their creamy chevre, roasted carrot, and dill pesto baguette($8), which was served with a small herb salad. I loved the strong dill flavor of the pesto mixed with the creaminess of the chevre. The roasted carrots also had a slight citrus flavor. The bread was quite soft, which I liked, as it made it easy to bite into.

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Ashley opted for the “very tall quiche”, also served with a small herb salad ($7), which was filled with roasted tomato, gruyere, and carmelized onion. We loved how creamy this quiche was, as well as the tangy flavor that the cheese and roasted tomato mixed together provided. The crust was slightly sweet and perfectly soft to the bite. It definitely was a melt-in-your-mouth kind of dish.

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For drinks, I ordered a latte and Ashley ordered an iced coffee, both made with homemade peanut milk. Of all the nut milks on the market right now, I’m surprised peanut milk hasn’t made an outbreak yet, because let me tell you, this milk made my latte taste like dessert! I drink a lot of almond milk, but feel that I never get a strong almond taste in the milk. The peanut flavor in this milk was quite pungent however, making my drink taste essentially like a peanut butter latte. I wasn’t complaining.

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Babas is unique in that yes, it is a restaurant that serves classic European dishes, but it is strictly a counter service restaurant. We enjoyed this aspect of the restaurant, as it is nice to know that people can walk into the restaurant at any time and order something quick, on-the-go, or sit down for a bite to eat. The restaurant also has all their pastries and sandwiches on display, so you know exactly what you’re getting. Babas does a great job of emanating a classic European style restaurant, so much that you feel as though you are walking into a very elegant cafe.

As for pricing, we found this cafe to be pretty affordable for a fancy European cafe. Both our meals were less than $10 (minus the coffee), which is a pretty great deal considering they both came with side salads. Most of their pastries are priced at just $3, while salads being the more expensive option, cost $10 or a few dollars more. If you’re looking for a simple, yet classic (and delicious) European meal, Babas on Cannon is the place to go!

Transport to Spain at Malagon Mercado Y Taperia

In the span of the past few weeks, there’s been quite a few restaurant openings in the downtown area. We were particularly excited about the opening of Malagon Mercado Y Taperia on Spring Street and couldn’t wait to go try it out! I visited Spain a few years ago and ate a lot of really great food and the only food I have found that can closely compare to the food I had there is the paella at Barsa. I was eager to find out how much closer I could get to true Spanish cuisine at Malagon.

Upon walking into the restaurant, I immediately felt like I had been transported back to one of the really cute cafes that I visited in Spain. There is meat hanging from the ceiling at the bar, as well as freshly baked breads on the counter for purchase. The walls are filled with different kinds of Spanish crackers, wine, nuts, chocolates, and other treats, all for purchase as well. Among all of this are elegant tables set for two, four or more. The whole restaurant space is quite small, which is why it is best to make a reservation before going.

Though Malagon is a small restaurant, the menu is quite extensive. There is a snack selection, a charcuterie selection, a small and large tapas selection, a seafood selection, a meat selection, a vegetable dish selection, and a dessert selection. We decided to choose from the small tapas selection and the vegetable dish selection for our meal. We started off with the “Sobrasada con queso” ($10), which consists of two toasted slices of freshly baked bread, topped with goat cheese and soft chunks of Mallorcan chorizo, finished with a drizzle of honey. This dish was fantastic. The goat cheese was tangy and creamy, the chorizo offered a slight spicy flavor and seemed to just melt right in our mouths. The honey offered the perfect sweet finishing flavor.

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Next, we tried the “Patatas arrugadas con moho picon”($8), which are wrinkled potatoes served with cilantro and paprika sauces. We thought the potatoes tasted like an average roasted potato, but pairing them with the sauces definitely took them up a notch. The cilantro sauce seemed to have the perfect pairings of cilantro and spicy flavor and the paprika sauce was savory with strong hints of garlic. I wouldn’t have complained if they let us take home huge jars of these sauces.

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Finally, we tried out the “Setas a la parilla”($13), which are grilled king trumpet mushrooms with garlic and almonds. They were soft and chewy and filled with lots of excellent flavor. The nutty flavor of the almonds complimented the dish quite well. I sometimes forgot that I was eating mushrooms while eating these!

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We split our bill and each ended up spending $20 each, which is more than I would usually intend to spend on a meal. However, the food here is pretty high quality and I would say there is a pretty close comparison to the food I had in Spain (though I’m still a sucker for Barsa’s paella). It’s also worth noting that it would be possible to spend less than $20 on food at this restaurant, as there are various items on the menu that cost less than $10. Malagon does a great job of recreating an authentic Spanish restaurant experience, and with that along with the high quality food, I would say the price is not too shabby.

Happy Hour at Ms. Roses Fine Food & Cocktails

Recently we took our foodie adventures out to Ms. Roses in West Ashley where we partook in some fabulous happy hour specials! Ms. Roses is better known for their brunch items, but we heard they had some great happy hour deals, so we decided to go indulge in the evening instead. With items being priced at less than $7, you really can’t pass it up!

Happy hour at Ms. Roses includes items such as pulled-pork sliders ($6), a jalapeno-cheddar pretzel ($7), chicken wings ($6), baked artichoke and spinach dip ($6), and smoked brisket sliders ($7). Their house red and white wines are only $4, firefly cocktails are $5, and bubbles are $6.50. They also have some reasonably priced appetizer options on their regular dinner menu, with multiple things being priced between $7 and $9. For food, we opted for the jalapeno-cheddar pretzel, the baked artichoke and spinach dip, and one thing off the appetizer menu, which was the caprese flatbread ($8).

We started with the baked artichoke and spinach dip which was super creamy and tangy, but almost too creamy that it seemed to lack in texture. I love a good artichoke and spinach dip, but also like to be able to taste the textures and flavors of the artichoke and spinach. This dip was essentially a bowl of a very green cheese dip. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed with this dish. The pita bread did pair well with the dip and was perfectly warm and soft.

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Next, we moved on to the caprese flatbread, which was topped with spinach and basil pesto, house mozzarella, and roasted tomato. This dish was definitely more full of flavor. The roasted tomato sauce had a rich spicy and sweet flavor, which was complimented well with the slight garlic flavor from the spinach and basil pesto. However, we felt that the flatbread could have been more crispy, as it was so soft that we couldn’t hold it in our hands without the cheese almost falling off! Its safe to say though that the flavor definitely won us over with this dish, as we inhaled the flatbread in what seemed like less than 10 minutes.

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Finally, we tried the jalapeno-cheddar pretzel (not pictured). This was the most unique of all the dishes we tried. This was essentially a huge soft pretzel that was stuffed with jalapeno-cheddar cheese and was served with mustard butter and sweet chili beer cheese. My favorite thing about this dish was biting into the pretzel and having a spicy cheese flavor ooze into my mouth. The sweet chili beer cheese and mustard butter paired quite well with the pretzel as well. The beer cheese had a good combination of sweet, spicy and tangy flavors and the mustard butter was perfectly smooth and creamy. I love a dish that hits a lot of flavor notes, and this dish did just that.

I would definitely suggest visiting Ms. Roses for happy hour if you’re looking for a decent affordable meal out, but if you’re looking for slightly better quality food, I would suggest checking out their brunch, as it consists of a lot of southern classics, such as shrimp and grits and biscuits and gravy. Just know that you’ll be spending a few extra dollars for those dishes.

 

Happy hour at Ms. Roses Fine Food and Cocktails is from 4-7, Monday-Saturday.

5 Ways to Affordably Enjoy the Charleston Food and Wine Festival

It’s just about that time of year again! The Charleston Food and Wine Festival begins THIS WEDNESDAY (March 6)! The tents are currently being set up in Marion Square in preparation for the many fabulous events being held there, including the Opening Night celebration, as well as the Culinary Village. There are numerous events being held throughout the week, as well as into the weekend, but many of these events tend to be quite high in price. Through some thorough investigating, we found that there are ways to enjoy this festival without breaking your budget.

 

1. VOLUNTEER

One of the best ways we have found to enjoy the Food and Wine festival affordably is by going to the events for FREE by signing up to volunteer! In past years, we have volunteered for the festival and have been able to spend gorgeous weekend afternoons at the Culinary Village in Marion Square. It’s a great way to get an inside look at everything that goes into the production of the events, as well as having the satisfaction of helping the event run smoothly. Oh, and don’t worry..there’s a good chance you’ll get to have a little fun yourself.

2. ATTEND THE CHEAPEST EVENTS

When looking through the list of events, you will find that there are a select number of events that are under $100. Since most events are $150+, finding an event that is less than $100 is actually a real bargain. This year, we will be attending an event called “Burned”, which only costs $65 and includes food and drinks. What a steal.

3. ENTER GIVEAWAY CONTESTS

If you keep a good eye out, you’ll find that there are many ways to score FREE tickets to the festival. Good places to look are websites of local magazines, local news sources, the Charleston Food and Wine Festival website, as well as food blogger social media accounts. In fact, Charleston Magazine is currently hosting a contest, in which all you have to do is sign up for their “On the Town” newsletter to be entered to win TWO tickets to the already sold out Opening Night party! You can click here to sign up for the newsletter (ends Monday!).

4. ATTEND THE CULINARY VILLAGE ON SUNDAY (Locals Day!)

We feel that the best way to get a full-scale Food and Wine Festival experience is by attending the culinary village. It’s one of the longest running events in terms of the length of time it is held. It starts at 12pm and lasts until 5pm and goes on for THREE days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). You really get the best bang for you buck at this event because you get a full afternoon of unlimited beer, wine, cocktails, and plentiful food samples. This year, it is being held March 8, 9, and 10. We recommend buying your Culinary Village ticket for Sunday because it is Locals Day, which means locals can get a ticket for just $95, as opposed to the normal price of $135!

5. ATTEND EVENTS THAT INCLUDE BOTH FOOD AND WINE

Although we would suggest shooting for events that cost less than $100, there are a few events that are just slightly over $100, but include a full-scale meal as well as wine, beer, or cocktail pairings. If you’re feeling hungry, this is certainly another great way to get your money’s worth.

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Enjoying the Culinary Village at the 2017 Charleston Food and Wine Festival

 

*You can find a full list of all Charleston Food and Wine Festival events here. Please note that many of the events are now sold out (still tickets left for many events less than $100!), but the festival is offering an opportunity for you to obtain sold out tickets through an exchange service called Lyte. Just click on the event you want to go to, even if it’s sold out. You will find another link to click on where you can request a ticket. If an exchange opportunity arises, you will automatically be charged for the listed price of the event.

 

 

Coorg Indian Cafe: A Trip to India Minus the Airplane

I love good, ethnic and authentic food and lately I’ve felt that the culinary scene in Charleston has been lacking in ethnic restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good southern meal, but I also love trying new and different things. I was quite pleased when Coorg opened up in Mt. Pleasant. Coorg is is an authentic Indian restaurant known for their coffee that literally is sent straight to the restaurant from the coffee bean farms in the Indian district of Coorg. The restaurant also serves fresh homemade curries and desserts made from recipes that have been passed down from multiple generations of the people who work there. Everything they serve is true to the Coorg culture and traditions. Ashley and I couldn’t wait to get a true taste of India without having to even step foot on an airplane.

Among the things we tried at Coorg were the Curry Lentil, the Curry Chicken, a latte, and an iced coffee. All the curries are served with flavored rice, cucumber salad, and roti or naan bread (ours were served with roti). The authenticity of these dishes was quite evident. The curries were served in small bowls placed on a plate, which had small servings of cucumber salad and flavored rice carefully placed side by side. I’ve been to quite a few Indian restaurants, but I’ve never tasted curry quite as unique as this. It was a lot lighter in texture than most curries I’ve tried and had a distinct spicy flavor. The cucumber salad was cold and creamy and leveled out the heat of the curry. The roti was deliciously moist, had a slight sweet flavor and seemed to melt right in my mouth. I loved the slight spice and sweet flavor of the flavored rice. It offered a great complimentary flavor and texture to the curry. The coffee was much stronger in flavor than the coffee we are used to drinking, but I thoroughly enjoyed my latte. It was smooth and rich in flavor.  I definitely plan on going back for another.

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Coorg is opened for breakfast, in which they offer bagels and cream cheese, as well as croissants with sausage. Among other things they serve are desserts consisting of brownies, cakes, baklava, and other various pastries. They also serve a few different cocktails, spirits, beer, wine and mango Lassi’s.

We thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Coorg and can’t wait to pay them another visit and try more things off their menu. We hope that the opening of Coorg will open up more doors for more ethnic restaurants. As for affordability, we wouldn’t say its the cheapest restaurant around, but you definitely get a good bang for your buck. The curries range in price from $11-$14, but are all served with the roti/naan bread, cucumber salad, and flavored rice, and it ends up being more filling than you’d think! The coffee is about the average price of most coffee you’d pay for in Charleston. A drip coffee is $2 and a latte or iced coffee cost $4.  If you’re looking to spend a little less on your meal, we would suggest opting for one of their small plate options which range in price from $7-$8. Either way, you can expect to get a truly authentic meal that is sure to satisfy all your taste buds.

Local Goods Highlight: Lowcountry Street Grocery

We wanted to take some time to thank you all for your support over the past year and a half (coming up on two!). We have thoroughly enjoyed being able to show our followers ways to enjoy eating out in the lowcountry, without having to worry about blowing your budget. We have recently decided to spice up our blog a bit, and show our readers how to eat affordably, while also supporting the local economy. We absolutely love spending Saturday mornings at the farmers market in Marion Square, and I personally have made the shift to only buying my produce locally. I find that local produce tastes so much better than produce that has been shipped from miles away to grocery stores. It’s also important to support local farms and businesses because that’s how we keep these places in business and the local goods flowing. You’re also helping the environment at the same time, by buying goods that haven’t traveled on trucks all the way across the country.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Lindsey Barrow, the owner of a Charleston local goods mobile hot-spot: Lowcountry Street Grocery.

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What inspired you to start up Lowcountry Street Grocery?

A sincere need for fresh food access and food security. In our evolving food economy, we are finding the need to address that using more traditional business tools. We wanted to start something different, something that addresses the bigger picture. What we’re dealing with are systemic issues that require more than simple band-aid fixes. It’s harder to connect with change we need in local food and economy if you can’t build on it.

How long has Lowcountry Street Grocery been in business?

1.5 years, full time.

What is the mission of Lowcountry Street Grocery?

Our mission is really two-fold. We want to:

  • provide sustainable, equitable, and empowering food system solutions for our community with a particular focus on our neighbors in low-income, low-access pockets of town that lack healthy food access and food security.
  • Be an outlet for small local producers and bridge the food access gap through community business. It’s important for us to provide equitable access to healthy, quality foods, rather than get whatever we can into underserved areas.

Where does the Lowcountry Street Grocery travel to?

We travel all across the Charleston, North Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Downtown, James Island, and West Ashley. With additional buses our footprint will expand.

What is a CSG(Community Supported Grocery)?

CSG is a convenient way to shop the bus without shopping the bus. It’s a way for us to package and deliver our offerings to your doorstep (or pick up at Munkle Brewing Co). What started out as a contingency plan for bus breakdowns quickly became an additional innovative revenue stream that’s required of social enterprises like us that don’t receive donations or other means of financial assistance. This allows our followers to inherently support our mission simply by signing up for bundle of the best local foods around. This is where our “Robin Hood Economy” comes in. We simply meet demand for local, healthy and delicious goods so that we can turn around and address the need for affordable healthy food – our mission delivery. CSG is great for busy folks, as we provide a list each week of what is in the bundles and who produced it. Then we bring it to your home. It’s true community business. We hustle for the farmers, hustle for the community, so that we can effectively bridge the gaps and connect everyone. It’s a win-win-win.

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Who do you get your produce/other local goods from?

We have over 80 vendors and small farms, through which we get our produce and other local goods from. We are trying to develop logistics for vendors and want to have a home base to rely on. We throw support to small guys that can’t afford to take their crops to groceries. Our vendors and farms include:

  • Fireant Farms
  • Rooting Down Farms
  • Spade and Clover Gardens
  • Lowland Farms
  • Middleton Place Organic
  • Wappetaw Farms
  • Fili- West Farms
  • Wishbone Heritage
  • Green Grocer
  • Freeman Farms
  • Ambrose Farms
  • Joe Fields Farm
  • Tiller Baking Co
  • Counter Cheese Caves
  • Milta Tortilleria
  • Growfood Carolina
  • Limehouse Produce
  • Many, many more

Do you operate year-round?

Yes, though we are currently taking a break to do some repairs on the bus and retool for a big 2019.

What can people expect to see when the bus re-opens in February?

The bus will be updated and we will slowly be expanding everything we do. There is storefront potential, which would serve as our homebase. We’re also working hard on semi-permanent markets for neighborhoods that need more consistency. We are hoping to continue growing and expanding in the next couple of years.

Are there ways to get involved with Lowcountry Street Grocery?

Yes! We are always looking for community liaisons! A community liaison is someone who would help get the word out about us, usher in our mobile market, and help us connect to communities that need our services the most.

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Make sure you are following Lowcountry Street Grocery on Instagram and have liked their page on Facebook to stay up to date on when the bus will be re-opening, as well as find info about their weekly CSG’s! 

Sushi Ninja at Oak Barrel Tavern

The search for the best sushi in Charleston is still a work in progress, but we have recently discovered a close contender. We paid a visit to Oak Barrel Tavern in West Ashley. Oak Barrel Tavern is a small bar that is known for their large selection of local draft beers. They also have a small sushi bar called Sushi Ninja inside the tavern, which is open from 6-10pm, Tuesday-Friday.

We got to the bar around 5pm and started off with some local beers. Revelry is my favorite brewery in Charleston, so of course I opted for the Poke the Bear beer. Even better, it only cost me $5! They didn’t have it on tap, but nonetheless it was still delicious. Ashley ordered a brown ale from Frothy Beard Brewery, which was on tap. She enjoyed it, but ultimately opted for a glass of red wine instead.

Once the clock hit 6, the sushi was rolling. We ordered the Veggie roll, the Surf and Turf roll, and the Big Al roll. The Veggie roll ($7) was made with asparagus, avocado, cucumber, carrot, and red pepper, and was topped with sesame seeds and scallions. The Surf and Turf roll ($10) was made with poached shrimp, asparagus and avocado, and was topped with beef tataki, wasabi aioli, sesame seeds and scallions. The Big Al roll ($11) was made with spicy tuna, kani salad, avocado, and cream cheese, and was served with a spicy aioli. The Surf and Turf and the Big Al rolls were on the list of specialty rolls and the Veggie roll was a regular roll.

We were very impressed with the presentation of these rolls, considering the small area behind the bar where they were rolling the sushi. The rolls were beautifully garnished and each plate had flowers carefully placed around the sushi. The sushi not only was visually appealing, but also was quite appealing to our palates. We were both in agreement that this sushi was the best we had had to date. The rolls had the perfect fusion of spicy, tangy, and sweet flavors and the beef tataki on the Surf and Turf roll was tender and juicy.

It’s safe to say that this sushi is definitely a crowd pleaser, though not the cheapest option for sushi in Charleston. That being said, if you’ve just finished reading this and are now dying to go check out Sushi Ninja but don’t want to spend over $10 on a sushi roll, we would suggest opting for a regular roll instead of a specialty roll. The majority of the regular rolls are $8 or less, and you still get a decent sized portion. They also have other food options that are reasonably priced, such as Nigiri ($5), Maki ($5), Sashimi ($6.5), and salads that are between $5 and $7.

 

Mt. Pleasant Healthy Hot Spot: Kid Cashew

Last week, Ashley and I ventured over to Mt. Pleasant to check out a recently opened vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurant called Kid Cashew. Kid cashew is located on Ben Sawyer Blvd and is also the former home of Triangle Char and Bar. This restaurant has a location in Charlotte as well. We had heard great things about this unique restaurant and knew we had to check it out.

The menu consists of shared plates, homemade spreads, salads, burgers, a selection of sides and plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. We decided the best way to get a good sampling of the menu was to order a few of the small plates and share them. We ordered the Quinoa Stuffed Avocado, the Cast Iron Mac and 5 Cheeses, and the Brussels Sprouts. The Quinoa Stuffed Avocado is complete with a bowl of a couple whole avocados, topped with tri-colored quinoa, cucumber salsa, and shredded lettuce with chipotle sauce. The Cast Iron Mac and 5 Cheeses consists of a homemade mornay sauce, creamy leeks, shallots, 5 different cheeses, and gratin. The Brussels Sprouts are caramelized with a lemon vinaigrette and toasted almonds.

The Mac and 5 Cheeses was baked to perfection and despite the fact that it was made with 5 different cheeses, it didn’t seem to be too heavy of a dish. We loved the fusion of flavors we got from all of the different types of cheese in the dish. There was a bit of tang, a bit of sharpness, and a bit of sweet. Oh, and there was still enough cheese in this dish for an epic cheese pull.

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As for the Brussels Sprouts, we didn’t want to stop eating them! The caramelization of the Brussels made them extra crunchy and gave them a light sweet flavor. The lemon vinaigrette provided a slight citrus flavor that complimented the sweetness from the caramelization quite well. The toasted almonds were a great finishing touch to this dish, as we love toasted almonds mixed in with any vegetable. They provide a good nutty flavor and additional crunchy texture.

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The quinoa stuffed avocado was definitely the standout dish of our meal. Avocado is one of my favorite things, so I couldn’t wait to try this out. I will say, when I thought of quinoa stuffed avocado, I thought of an avocado with its innards scooped out and quinoa taking the place of the innards. This dish took me by surprise, as you could choose between a half or whole avocado (we chose whole), which was placed at the bottom of a bowl without the skin, and as mentioned above, was topped with tri-colored quinoa, cucumber salsa, shredded lettuce and was topped with the most delicious chipotle sauce. We felt that the chipotle sauce really took this dish to the next level. It provided a perfect spicy, but not too spicy flavor. It was essentially a super healthy taco salad, and we savored every bite of it.

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We also sampled their signature cocktail, called the “Big Fig Newton”, which consists of larceny bourbon, figs, and rosemary that is charred with a torch at your table! We thought the cocktail was good, but was lacking a bit in unique flavor, as it was reminiscent of bourbon and ginger ale mixed together. That being said, we loved the presentation of this cocktail.

Not only was our food delicious, but the prices were fantastic as well. The quinoa stuffed avocado was a very hearty dish, despite being on the shared plate menu, and cost $7.75 for a whole avocado. It’s only $3.95 for a half! The Mac and 5 Cheeses cost $6.95 and the Brussels Sprouts cost $7.95 as well. After splitting our bill in half, we both spent just a little over $10, and we left with full bellies. Can you say AWESOME deal?!? After glancing over the rest of the menu we realized that there was not one item listed that cost over $14, and that includes all the meat dishes! If you go for lunch, they have a selection of items that only cost $9.95 for two of them!

If you haven’t checked out Kid Cashew yet, you need to get on it. This restaurant is delicious and affordable all at the same time, and is sure to please vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike. We are already looking forward to our next visit.

~Laura