Charleston Christmas chowdown

Juanita Goldberg's "nachos"

Includes (all in Charleston, SC): Juanita Greenburg’s, Joseph’s, Kaminsky’s, S.N.O.B., Peninsula Grill   

We sure did manage to do some dining damage in a little more than 24 hours . And I’m frightened to see the damage I’ve done re: the scale … aaaaarrrggghhh! Oh well. It was worth every mouthful. Merry Christmas to me.

As tasty as Beaufort was, Charleston’s food scene is off the chart.

We started off yesterday with lunch with yet more rarely-visited cousins at Juanita Greenberg’s. What a fun name for a hole-in-the-wall, outstanding Mexican place. (And no, I don’t know the story behind it.) Simple, simple menu, and very cheap. Every item we ordered was perfectly executed. Mom and I shared one order of fish tacos and one of “nachos.”

The tacos were decent, but the nachos were the superstars. They weren’t nachos in the traditional sense at all. Instead, the dish was a pizza-sized, crispy flour tortilla covered with pico and jack cheese and baked in the oven. The nachos reminded us a little bit of Tucson’s “cheese crispies,” except the Arizona version uses cheddar (and a lot less of it) and no pico. I’m not sure how the tortilla remained so perfectly crispy, even after the dish sat and cooled as we caught up with our cousins.

We enjoyed fine Southern hospitality at dinner last night with friends in Hanahan. Props to Ric for the excellent gumbo and Barb for the most unusual eggnog I’d ever had. Instead of Bourbon, she spiked it with Kahlua. Fabulous! Sorry, but the pictures didn’t turn out well.

Neither did the photos of the outstanding sweet potato pancakes with toasted pecan butter I had for breakfast at Joseph’s Restaurant. Mom loved the beignets as well as those as Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Joseph’s was obviously a locals — as opposed to tourist — place. Delicious.

We were too full from our breakfast to eat a full-fledged lunch. But after walking all morning in the brisk (all right, downright cold!) seaside air, we stopped at Kaminsky’s Most Excellent Dessert Cafe for a hot drink. We had walked and walked for blocks trying to find a coffee shop with no luck. (Although later we discovered there were several within a few blocks — don’t know how we managed to miss them.) We finally settled on Kaminsky’s, which is on Market Street adjacent to the historic market, and looks more like a bar than anything else. But boy, were we glad we stumbled upon it.

Kaminsky’s has a full bar that features both alcoholic and non-alcoholic coffee drinks, toddies, hot ciders, shakes, dessert martinis and more, plus fantastic-looking desserts that we unfortunately didn’t have room for.

I ordered an Indochine Tea: chai tea with ginger liqueur. Mom indulged in a Caramel Latte with a shot of Bailey’s Caramel. Both were indulgent and body-warming and just what we needed on such a cold afternoon. To top off the experience, our waiter was one of those outstanding servers who was cheerful and delightful and helpful, despite the fact that he was working on Christmas Eve.

Dinner tonight was at S.N.O.B. — or Slightly North of Broad. (South of Broad Street in downtown Charleston is where the largest and oldest and most expensive town center homes are located. Some say the attitudes of the owners are aligned with the homes’ pedigrees. That’s what makes the restaurant’s acronym so clever. And indeed, it’s located just a few blocks north of Broad Street.)

Slightly North of Broad is a beautiful, nicely designed restaurant, on the smaller side. Lots of wrought-iron decorative elements and an open kitchen.

We both ordered specialty cocktails, it being Christmas Eve and all. I had a vividly beautiful orange drink called Aperol Royale. The bartender explained that Aperol is a bitter orange Italian aperitif. Combined with champagne and an orange twist, it was a festive and heady selection. Mom had Conroy’s SOB — named for her hero and new best friend — which was private label vodka, lemonade and a splash of sparkling wine served on the rocks with a lemon twist. Ho ho ho!

We both ordered off the evening’s specials menu. I must say that both my selections were truly outstanding. My local mixed greens salad featured warm and crispy duck confit, goat cheese, wonderfully crunchy toasted hazelnuts, oh-so-thinly sliced radishes and balsamic vinaigrette. It was a very unique and flavorful salad, perfect for winter time. It was so rich I couldn’t finish.

My entree was pan-seared mahi mahi with lobster risotto, a grapefruit and avocado salad and champagne vinaigrette. When it arrived at the table I was floored by the huge hunks of perfectly cooked lobster that studded the risotto. Studded is too weak a term, actually. I had expected a few bits, or even lobster essence. But the risotto, delicious as it was, merely served to bind together the many lobster pieces.

The avocado paired with the lobster and creamy risotto was so velvety and luscious. (It reminded me of the best-omelet-I-ever-had in Key West earlier this year, which featured lobster, avocado, key lime hollandaise and melted white cheese.) I didn’t realize how fast I was eating that portion of the meal until it was nearly gone!

Once I got over the astounding richness of the risotto and avocado salad, I started to more fully appreciate the mahi, which was perfectly cooked and delicately tasty. All together it was an outstanding meal.

We saved the best for last. I’d long heard of the Peninsula Grill’s coconut cake. I’ve seen it on Food TV and read about it in newspapers, magazines and online. Fans have it mailed to them for $100 plus shipping and handling. We couldn’t wait to try it.

The bar of the Peninsula was very small and all the chairs were taken when we arrived. The maitre d’ seemed to turn up his nose once he discovered we were only in search of cake and weren’t dining in the restaurant, but we didn’t care.

When we finally nabbed spots at the bar we ordered prosecco and one piece of the famous cake to share. (We had queried the bartender first, who informed us that a single slice weighs a whole pound, and she wouldn’t have let us each order a piece!)

My god! It lived up to the hype. Six layers of pound cake (with coconut cream in the batter, we read later) alternated with six layers of coconut-infused buttercream, with toasted coconut on the outside edge. Extremely moist. Talk about indulgent … We tried our best, but couldn’t finish.

The leftover bit — which is the size of a normal piece of cake — is awaiting me in our hotel mini-fridge. I just might have to have it for breakfast in the morning. If my Tums go to work overnight, that is.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

About atarheeltastes

I'm a passionate foodie who started this "temporary" blog during a gustatory tour of Tuscany. I decided to continue, since I love to dream about, plan for, prepare, eat and write about food!
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2 Responses to Charleston Christmas chowdown

  1. cyndi says:

    I’ve had the coconut cake at Peninsula and I agree…totally decadent and super-delicious!

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