Category Archives: Charleston

Five Onion “French Onion Soup” ~ Best Recipe!

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French Onion Soup

This really is easy to do, it just takes about 40 minutes prep time and a couple of hours of cooking time. I always make a large pot of it. It freezes well and keeps in the refrigerator for at least a week.

Ingredients:

  • 8# of assorted onions: Red, Sweet & White, cut in half and sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  • I cup of TSTE dried Shallots (or 2# of fresh shallots coarsely chopped)
  • 4 leeks greens cut off, cut in half then sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons of TSTE Vik’s Garlic Fix
  • several grinds of TSTE Four Peppercorn Blend
  • 1/4 cup TSTE Sweet Onion Sugar
  • 6 stems of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon TSTE dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil 
  • 1 bottle dry vermouth
  • 6 quarts of stock. I used duck, but chicken, beef or even vegetable stock is fine. DO get low sodium though if you buy it.
  • Splash of cognac
  • For each serving: 1/2 cup of Gruyère cheese, shredded and 1 slice of toasted baguette

Duck Stock

Method:

  • In a very large stock pot pour in the olive oil and add the onions and leeks in stages allowing the onions to caramelize a little before adding more.

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  • After all the onions are cooked deglaze pot with a bottle of vermouth. This adds immense flavor to the soup, so don’t skip this step.
  • Add seasonings, stock and the dried shallots (if you use fresh, add them with the onions).
  • Bring to a boil then allow to simmer with the lid off for about 2 hours, stirring once every 15 minutes. Liquid should reduce by about half.
  • Add the cognac to taste
  • Turn on broiler
  • Toast the baguette slices.

cheese

  • Fill oven proof crocks with soup. Place on a cookie sheet for transferring to the oven. put a baguette slice in each of the crocks. Add a tiny bit more soup on top to soften. Pile with cheese and put under the broiler till the cheese starts to brown and bubble. Remove and serve.

SO easy and so delicious!!!

Perfect Prime Rib and Yorkshire Pudding

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Slice of prime rib

This was our Christmas Eve dinner, but it would also make a lovely Sunday dinner or a great New Years Eve dinner. It is so much easier than many people think.

When buying your rib roast, look for choice or prime meat. You really need good quality meat for this. Buy one rib bone per person, or if you want leftover for prime rib sandwiches, then buy a little extra. I was only serving 2, so I got a three rib roast. Adjust your seasonings for a larger roast.

Standing Rib Roast

Ingredients:

Roast 1

Method:

  • Blend all together in a mortar and pestle or food processor to form a thick paste. Cover the entire roast with it and allow it to sit for one hour, placing the onions on the bottom of the roast in the roasting pan. Preheat oven to 500 degrees 
  • Pour the wine and stock in the bottom of the roasting pan
  • Once the oven has reached 500 and the roast is at room temperature put the roast in the oven.  
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325. Check the temperature of the the roast every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven when it reaches and interior temperature of 110-120, higher if you do not like rare roast, but not too high, never more than 130.
  • Put foil over the roast and let it rest.
  • Strain off the fat and juices.

*Note: You can make a lovely sauce with fresh horseradish and cream or sour cream… easy peasy.

Meanwhile. make the Yorkshire pudding. This part must be served straight out of the oven, so have everything else ready.

Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire pudding

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pan drippings from roast prime rib of beef

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. (it should only take a few minutes since you just took the roast out)
  • Sift together the flour and salt in a bowl.
  • In another bowl, beat together the eggs and milk until light and foamy.
  • Stir in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.
  • Pour the drippings into a 9-inch pie pan, cast iron skillet, or square baking dish. Put the pan in oven and get the drippings smoking hot.
  • Carefully take the pan out of the oven and pour in the batter. Put the pan back in oven and cook until puffed and dry, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately, it will deflate slightly like a souffle. 

The Best Lobster Bisque

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Bisque 2

I make this every time we get live lobsters, which is only a few times a year. Over the years I have tweaked this. I always have to buy an extra lobster or two tails to add some meat to the soup. It is the best soup I have ever tasted. While it is rich, a single bowl and some bread make a fine supper with champagne.

Lobster

Lobster Bisque 
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 1- 2 pound live lobsters

For the stock:

  • Lobster shells
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 cups of lobster cooking water
  • Water to cover shells

For the Bisque

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, large dice (I use a sweet onion like Vidalia)
  • 1 large celery stalk, rough chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 20 grape tomatoes (or one large tomato rough chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons dried tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8-10 whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry (plus more for serving)
  • 4 cups lobster stock
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Lobster Stock (about 4 cups)
  • Chives and fresh black pepper for serving

Method:

To make stock:

  • Bring large pot of water to boil.
  • Add 1/4 sea salt.
  • Add lobsters head first and boil until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer lobsters to large bowl.
  • Reserve 2 cups cooking liquid. Cool lobsters
  • Working over large bowl to catch juices, cut off lobster tails and claws. Crack tail and claw shells and remove lobster meat. Coarsely chop lobster meat; cover and chill. Coarsely chop lobster shells and bodies; transfer to medium bowl. Reserve juices from lobster in large bowl.Or you can serve the lobsters and save the shells, reserving extra meat for the bisque.
  • In a clean pot add shells, onion, carrot and reserved cooking liquid. Add enough water to cover the shells with an additional 2″ of water.
  • Cook low and slow for several hours (I have a simmer burner and let it simmer over night), until the stock has reduced to the level of the shells. Strain over a large pot.
  • You can cool and save this in the freezer or refrigerator or use straight away.
  • Discard solids

Bisque:

Bisque beginning

  • Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over high heat.
  • Add onion and next 8 ingredients. Boil until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. *Note, if you are using tails for the meat, put them in with veggies and cook till meat is white, about 4 minutes Use one tail per serving. 
  • Add lobster stock
  • Simmer 1 hour.
  • Remove bay leaves
  • Use a stick blender to puree
  • Strain soup through sieve set over a pot, pressing firmly on solids. Whisk tomato paste into soup. Add sherry and cognac.
  • Simmer until soup is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate at this point)
  • Add cream to soup and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water.
  • Add to soup and boil until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. 
  • Ladle soup into bowls and top with a pile of lobster meat, some fresh chives, freshly cracked black pepper and a drizzle of sherry. 

Best Fried Green Tomatoes… Southern Bliss

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I never even thought of Fried Green Tomatoes as a recipe until a few people asked me how to make them. They are super easy and very tasty when done right. My great grandmother used to make them, though hers were made with just flour, not the combo of flour and cornmeal that I use now. This method if dredging, dipping and dredging again is the secret to fried chicken and most any coated fried food. The final dredge changes, anything from seasoned flour to panko, but the method stays the same. In the fall green tomatoes are pulled from the vines before first frost, but here in the south, people treasure them all year and green tomatoes are sold in our farmer’s markets. To keep them from ripening, store in the refrigerator till ready to use. They will keep several weeks. I never refrigerate ripe tomatoes, as that kills the sweetness.

fried green tomatoes

Set up a dredging station:

Pan 1: All Purpose flour

Pan 2 :1 cup of buttermilk 1-2 eggs whisked in

Pan 3: This is where you get a little creative:

Then slice up the green tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. This thickness allows for a crispy crust and tender interior.

Heat canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan, about 1  1/2 inches deep.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the buttermilk mixture, making sure that the entire slice is covered in liquid.

Finally dredge the slices in the seasoned flour, making sure that all surfaces are covered.

Place in the frying pan, taking care not to crowd. fry till crispy and golden brown on each side and remove to a rack to drain. Repeat.

They can be served with a remoulade sauce, sweet chile sauce or put them on a BLT! They are even good cold.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Remoulade

Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho

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pineapple 1

This is so easy and so delicious… completely refreshing.

2 cups fresh (must be fresh) cubed pineapple

2 cups chunked peeled English cucumbers (no seeds)

1 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 sprigs fresh mint, torn

1 finely chopped jalapeno

3 tablespoons finely chopped onions

1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Place all in a blender and pulse till well blended but still a little chunky

Serve  with additional nuts on top or a sprig of mint.

This will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

pineapple 2

Southern Macaroni Pie

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Macaroni Pie

Macaroni…. an ubiquitous word. For hundreds of years in the south it was the word for any pasta, which was basically only spaghetti until mid 20th century.

Pie… yet another all present culinary term in the south. Many “pie” recipes here are savory, not sweet and sometimes served in a variety of casserole dishes. Generally they did start out in a pie dish, but were expanded to larger dishes to feed more people.

The inspiration recipe, from my friend Nathalie Dupree, comes from Social Circle, Georgia. Her mother in law made it and Nathalie figured it out over time. I made a smaller amount, as I was only feeding 2 (plus leftovers) and so I did make mine in a pie plate. If you get Nathalie’s book, Mastering the art of Southern Cooking  you will find the original recipe on page 268, along with the original Charleston version from 200 years of Charleston Cooking. Another friend of mine who lived in Charleston many years makes hers with sour cream. I wanted to make mine with the traditional spaghetti but I was lazy, I only had penne, so that is what I used. I also added freshly grated nutmeg, it was calling out to me. I also choose to bake this in a bain marie, as that is how I usually cook custards.

A little about Pasta in America:

Pasta first came to the U.S. via Thomas Jefferson served as minister to France from 1785 to 1789, and was introduced to pasta during a trip to Naples. He returned to the U.S. with crates of “maccheroni” and a pasta-making machine (which he proceeded to redesign). In Most sources, including the National Pasta Association, credit a Frenchman with establishing America’s first pasta factory, in Brooklyn in 1848. A flour miller from Lyon, Antoine Zerega, had a horse in his basement to turn the millstone; and like the Neapolitans, he hung his spaghetti strands on the roof to dry. Today, the fifth generation of Zeregas run the leading supplier of pasta to the foodservice industry in North America.

Spaghetti and meatballs had yet to appear. Macaroni had been brought to England earlier by the Genovese sailors, and the British baked it with cheese and cream—in essence, making macaroni and cheese, a preparation also popular in the north of Italy. They also baked pasta in sweet dessert custards, similar to German-Jewish noodle puddings. These recipes crossed the pond and were enjoyed by 19th-century Americans. According to Corby Kummer, upper-class Americans also purchased pasta imported from Sicily, which then, as today, had more cachet than the domestic product. The information in the remainder of this article comes largely from Mr. Kummer’s extensive piece, Pasta: Where It Came From And How It Got There. 

As other pasta factories sprouted up, the cost of pasta became more affordable. By the time of the Civil War (1861 to 1865), even the working classes could afford a pasta dinner. Cookbooks of the period indicate that the common way to prepare pasta was still baked with cheese and cream.

  • In the mid-1880s, according to food historian Karen Hess, cookbooks published as far west as Kansas included recipes for macaroni, some involving a tomato and meat sauce.
  • But pasta did not become the beloved dish it is today: It lost its cachet once the masses could afford it. The fashionable restaurants of New York, which served Continental cuisine, did not serve pasta or any other traditional Italian dish, even though many of these restaurants were run by Italians.

The huge wave of Italian immigration that began toward the end of the 19th century was ultimately responsible for pasta becoming an American staple.

And on on to our Macaroni Pie…

This recipe is for enough to fill a large pie dish. Feeds 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked and drained spaghetti
  • 3 Tablespoons butter melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 a nutmeg, grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 pound sharp Cheddar or Gruyere cheese, grated

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Boil the pasta to al dente

While the pasta boils:

  • Lightly whisk the eggs with the milk
  • Add the mustard, salt, nutmeg, peppers and half the cheese
  • Cut the pasta into 3 inch pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter
  • place half of the pasta into a deep pie dish
  • sprinkle with cheese to cover, then ladle on 1/2 of the custard mixture
  • Add the remaining pasta
  • Ladle on the remaining custard
  • Top with cheese and remaining butter

Bake in a water bath (bain marie) for 30 minutes. check to see if it is browning, if so, loosely top with foil. Reduce heat to 325. Bake 20-30 minutes longer. Insert a knife in the center. If it comes out clean, it is ready. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Big Daddy Does Pho

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Pho 3

Big Daddy makes a few cooking attempts to ease my busy schedule. Last night he hit a homerun. Pho (pronounced FA), the simple (yet complex) Vietnamese Street food charmed him when we lived in Hawaii. He is not one for exotic flavors, so this surprised me a bit. Since then we have been to several restaurants here in Charleston that serve Pho. He decided to make it and it was an astounding winner. We paired it with a Belgian Ale and that was a fantastic match too. We had some leftover rare beef (tri-tip) so he froze it and sliced it thinly. I usually ask for my meat on the side when ordering Pho in restaurants, I don’t like it over cooked. We have enough broth for at least two more meals.

ready for soup

Pho 

INGREDIENTS:

Soup
4 quarts beef stock (homemade is best)
1 large onion, sliced into rings
6 slices fresh ginger root or galangal if you can get it
2 small stalks of fresh lemon grass tied in a knot
1 pound sirloin tip, cut into thin slices
1 (8 ounce) packages dried rice noodles
 
Garnishes and Sauces
1/2 pound bean sprouts
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced into thin rings
2 limes, cut into wedges
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha (Rooster) sauce
Fish sauce
METHOD :
1. In a large soup pot, combine broth, onion, ginger, lemon grass, star anise, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.
2. Arrange bean sprouts, mint, basil, and cilantro on a platter with chilies and lime.
3. Soak the noodles in hot water to cover for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain. Place equal portions of noodles into large soup bowls, and place raw beef on top. Ladle hot broth over noodles and top with beef. Pass garnishes and sauces.

Pho 2

Quinoa and Corn Chowder from Ecuador

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This fabulous recipe was inspired by the book The Latin Road Home by Jose Garces. The book explores the cuisines of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba and Mexico. This is one of the best cookbooks I have picked up in a while. In this recipe, I used fresh corn, but good frozen corn would work too. I also added some seasonings and chiles to the recipe. I make my own achiote paste, but you can buy it in Hispanic or Asian markets. Quinoa is an amazing chenopod, full of protein and fiber.

Quinoa and Corn Chowder

Crema de Quinoa de Zuleta; Quinoa Chowder with Sweet Corn

Ingredients:

2 cups Canola Oil for frying

2 small russet potatoes, peeled and cut into match sticks or cut on a spiral cutter 

Kosher Salt

2 Tbs unsalted butter

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil.

½ Spanish onion, finely chopped or TSTE dehydrated shallots reconstituted

6 cloves minced garlic or 2 Tablespoons TSTE Vik’s Garlic Fix 

1 Tbs achiote paste (click here for my recipe)

1 ½ cups quinoa (any color)

Kernels cut from 3 ears of corn or 1 cup of thawed and drained frozen white sweet corn

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup heavy cream

2 Tbs minced fresh parsley

1 Tbs Aji Amarillo Chile Powder 

4 roasted poblano chiles, seeds and membranes removed, then diced

2 Tbs minced fresh chives (or leave in 1 “ strips)

Sliced Avocado for serving (optional)

Method:

  • Fry the potato strips in 375 degree oil till crispy and drain, season with salt
  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat, cook the onion and garlic till translucent, about 10 minutes.
  • Rinse and strain the quinoa
  • Stir in the achiote paste and cook for another 5 minutes
  • Stir in the quinoa and corn.  And cook, stirring often, till the quinoa is lightly toasted
  • Stir in the roasted poblano chiles

Add the cream and stock and bring to a light boil. Lower the heat to a light simmer,  uncovered till the quinoa is tender and the liquid has reduced by about one quarter, about 45 minutes.

Quinoa and Corn Chowder 2

To serve, fold in the parsley, and top with fried potatoes and chives. Garnish with avocado. This also goes perfectly with the Yuca Cheese Bread and Guava Chile Butter I posted last week.

yuca bread close up

The BEST New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp

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BBQ Shrimp close up

This is one of the best dishes I have made or tasted in a long time! I have been curious about this dish for a while. When I managed The Spice and Tea Exchange I had a lot of requests for a seasoning blend for making New Orleans BBQ Shrimp. I did some research, found some recipes (which varied greatly), asked some friends who had lived there and came up with this recipe. I have to say, it is one of the best things I have ever made! It takes a LOT of butter (one recipe called for TWO pounds of butter) and in fact I ended up using half butter, half Olive Oil, but you can save the sauce and use it a few more times as it is really only a poaching liquid, you don’t eat much of it, just the bit in the bowl that you dunk your bread into. It just gets better and better. I have butter poached lobster before and this recipe is a spicier form of that. This recipe can be tweaked to meet your more or less spicy palate, but it is meant to be spicy in a Cajun kind of way, full flavored. I also used wonderful Low Country Shrimp which have excellent texture and a sweet flavor. Not everyone has access to these, so of course, find the best quality shrimp you can find.

New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 pound of unsalted butter (yes, that is a lot)
  • 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons (I used Meyer because that is what I have and love)
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Ghost Pepper Salt (or sea salt)
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Salt
  • LOTS of freshly rough ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika(I used hot, but you can do half sweet and half hot)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon  dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (pull stick out after cooking)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped (more for serving
  • 2# of high quality shrimp, heads on if available. De-vein  if you want to, but leave the shells on (yes, it will be messy but have much better texture and flavor if you cook it in the shells)

Method:

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  • In a large oven proof saute pan, melt the butter, whisk in the oil and add everything but the shrimp and parsley. Simmer on very low flame for 20 minutes to incorporate. While this is cooking, preheat oven to 225.
  • Add shrimp and parsley and bake for 20 minutes (this can be done on a low burner too, but you will have to stir it), you just want to poach the shrimp, not over cook them. This is the reason for the low temperature.

BBQ Shrimp in bpwl

Serve with crusty French Bread and a salad.

BBQ Shrimp plated with tomato pie

Reserve any leftover cooking liquid and you can re-use it again.

Heart Woodfire Kitchen

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Tucked away off of Folly Road on James Island, Heart Woodfire Kitchen is a very special place. It is fun and hip and the first thing that hits you when you open the door is the sweet deep aroma of wood burning. This touches me tenderly, as I once owned a wood burning oven at my cooking school in Chicago and I miss it so much. The very core of this place is the Valoriani wood burning oven and a wood fired rotisserie grill. It does not stop there. Clever cocktails, local produce, pork and chicken raised in the Low Country, nice wine and beer selections and a creative upscale menu without being pretentious. This is not fast food, not BBQ and not white tablecloth dining, it is great flavorful dining at the mid price level, something we do not have a lot of in Charleston.

We went on a Tuesday night after going to see a film. It was balmy outside, so we opted for outside dining. The restaurant was unusually busy for a Tuesday and it was obvious that this was a bit unexpected for the staff. The assistant manager became our server because they were short staffed and we were very lucky because she was on top of her game and gave us second glasses of wine on the house because the kitchen was jammed. The food was excellent. Full of smoky flavor and interesting textures.

splendi heart woodfire

We started with a small order of one of their “Speidie,” little skewers. cooked close to the flame. We had the Fontina wrapped in prosciutto & balsamic with a wheat berry salad. 2 skewers for just $6, quite the perfect thing to nibble on while you are drinking one of their fabulous cocktails. They offer two other Speidie, one with Beef Short ribs, rosemary oil & almonds and another with Bacon wrapped Chicken Livers & chimichurri. The menu has several other small plates including some interesting soups& salads  that change with the seasons.

We shared  a spinach salad with roasted beets, wheat berries, romaine,onions and a green garlic vinaigrette.  It was crisp and yet warming with the roasted beets. The green garlic vinaigrette was perfect. I would have liked a little piece of their fabulous house made bread to go with it.
spinach salad
My husband ordered the blackened catfish sandwich which comes on one  of their sturdy house made rolls. It was round and he was expecting more of a poor boy style bread, but the flavors were fabulous and the fish was crusty with spices on the exterior and warm, tender and white on the interior, just as it should be. He ordered creamed mustard greens as his side and they were stellar. I had a few bites and we brought the rest home because after a bag of popcorn at the movies we were fuller than we thought we were.

flat bread

I had one of their signature flat breads, really a crispy little pizza. I opted for the vegetable flat bread with Acorn Squash & Goat Cheese, fennel, cauliflower & arugula pesto.I bought some home and will be having it for lunch today.

We are looking forward to going back and trying some of their local fish from the wood fired oven. We also saw dishes of their baked pasta with four cheeses walk past us and they looked delicious. Their rotisserie chicken looked fantastic and I can only imagine that their Grilled Butcher’s Steak with roasted mushrooms & onions, herb butter is fantastic. The Wood Fired Vegetable Stew, basmati rice, basil pesto, lemon yogurt, toasted almonds & apricots also sounds interesting to me.

Wood fire cooking

They have an extensive lunch menu and what looks like a fun brunch menu. They have happy hour from 4-6 and the offerings are a good way to taste several things at a reduced price.

My suggestion? Run don’t walk to this hidden gem of a restaurant. Heart Woodfire Kitchen at 1622 Highland Ave Charleston SC 29412  (843) 718-1539 Look for this sign off of Folly Road:
Heart woodfire