my apologies… and food porn! (aka Charleston)

running, beer, girly things, and food porn…

If anyone is offended by the use of the term “food porn”, please excuse me- it’s just pictures of food. No food was wasted during my weekend excursion to Charleston (though I did kill it several times…)

So in looking back, my last post was in August. I have been busy, but the truth is I also needed a break from egocentrism. In August, I was super busy with work and had just moved. We were finishing up our third round of recruitment (enrolling new participants), and ended up with 22 great new people. But, that means a lot of paperwork to finally file and preparations (including contacting each person to ensure they are ready for randomization). My work has somewhat consumed me.

And in August, when I wasn’t working, I just wanted to lay around our apartment and not do anything. When I did have energy, I squeezed in a run (or strength training). Did you notice I said our place? Dan and I moved in together in July, and have been living in sin for the past two months. It’s actually been great, aside from the sleep deprivation– he has two cats, and I have my own cat. That’s three cats in a 2-bedroom apartment, and is two too many, in my opinion… So, the first few weeks, we got very little sleep.

Then, September came. The first weekend, Dan had a triathlon out by the beach. We stayed the luxurious Langston’s Motel at White Lake, NC on Friday night. White Lake is like the rural ‘hood. No, I am not kidding. It’s all countryside, and “there’s nothing around here”, then BAM! 10 trailer parks and 10 motels, all lakeside. But, I won’t ramble about that. We later went to the beach and stayed in Wilmington. It was a great, relaxing weekend- my first one of the summer.

For everyone else, August meant the end of summer; but for me, it meant my vacations were just beginning. I have a little lull until November, then it’s rush mode again until March.

My injury update- I started seeing my Chiropractor (Dr Stephen Saleeby in Raleigh– North Hills area) Aug 20. My left hip was way out of line, and my right shoulder/upper back was out of line, causing a pinching of my right abdomen. This was the cause of the continual abdominal strains and re-injuring. He said it would have never fixed on its own, and just would have continued to get worse and worse. So he straightened me out, and I have seen him four times. I have gotten up to as many as 3 miles, with strength training of about 30 mins/week. I even did yoga this weekend. I still have “good days” and “bad days”, but my bad days aren’t as bad, and my good days are more often. It’s still very slow, because I basically had been like that for 3-4 months before treatment began. He thinks there was likely a lack of circulation and some temporary neurosis in the area (nerve damage) from the pinching. I feel like, for the first time in 6 months, my abdomen is getting oxygen again. It’s a weird feeling too. But enough on that! I want to talk about my good eats in Charleston!

Sep 12-15 we went to Charleston.

Day 1

My coworker sent me a travelzoo link before we headed out with a major discount on a hotel in downtown for Thur night. So, we headed down to Charleston around sunset Thursday.

We made our way to STARS (a rooftop bar in the Upper King St area of Charleston). It was a very relaxed environment, completely unpretentious, even though they had delicious and innovative cocktails. I got a Hibiscus Mint Shandy (my namesake hehe). A Shandy is a cocktail that mixes beer with juice and usually adds a shot of something as well. The most popular Shandy is probably a Snakebite (half spiked cider and half lager). The Hibiscus Mint Shandy was delicious- a fresh lager, with a hibiscus-pomegranate mixture with fresh mint. It was like a delicious mojito met up with a beer enthusiast and made some sweet sweet love! We then made our way to the Grocery.

Cannon St, in Upper King St district of Charleston, SC

Cannon St, in Upper King St district of Charleston, SC

We were a little tipsy, from our 2-3 drinks at STARS, and lack of food. Our reservations were a tad on the late side- 8:45pm- but ended up being perfect timing. The Grocery was a quaint little restaurant. Scratch that- it was pretty big- but somehow kept that small-restaurant feel. I started off with the Gem Lettuce salad, and Dan with a late-season tomato salad. Meh, they were good (nothing life-altering). Then our entrees came. I ordered the Roasted Amberjack, served over a bed of hominy, crowder peas, and a green tomato relish. Nothing about that sounded bad.

IT WAS HANDS-DOWN THE BEST FREAKING FISH I HAVE EVER FREAKING HAD!

Seriously. It was life-changer. I will always compare fish to this fish. It was cooked perfectly- moist, and crumbly/ flaky with the fork. It was perfectly seasoned- enough to be interesting, but not so much to distract from the flavors of the fish itself. I can’t remember (nor do I care) what Dan had. Mine was so good, I don’t think I offered him a bite.

The dessert finished off with a delicious nutella brownie a la mode, topped with coffee ice cream and hazelnuts. It was really good. Nothing too inventive- but how could you ever go wrong with nutella?! Let me clarify- more inventive than myself, but nothing that didn’t sound good on paper as well.

Day 2

We started the day by walking from our hotel to Toast! for breakfast. Toast! came highly recommended, and we thought it was nearby. A 45-minute walk later, we were finally there. Thankfully, it was September, and about 65 degrees outside, which was perfect. Dan ordered the Eggs Benedict and I ordered the Eggs Meeting Street. [side note: In WIlmington, I had the Dixie Eggs at Dixie Grill- a fried green tomato on a biscuit, with poached eggs and gravy on top. It was delicious, and I want to recreate it at home…] We skipped the bottomless Mimosas because we planned to walk around all day. The bottomless mimosas are an attraction at Toast! ($12).

I'm not good at close-ups.

I’m not good at close-ups.

I stalked some tourists to get a normal picture of us

I stalked some tourists to get a normal picture of us

We then walked through the open market, walked down the bay, then walked back to the hotel. We decided it was a gorgeous day, so we hopped in the car and went to Folly Beach. It was gorgeous. The water was perfect- just a few breakers, then enough to keep you on your toes while lounging in the water. Around 3, we decided to head back to the hotel.

(and Dan's hairy leg)

(and Dan’s hairy leg)

We had 9:30pm reservations of FIG. Everyone said FIG was a must, so I (begrudgingly) agreed to a past-my-typical-bedtime dinner. We thought it would be nice to hang out in Charleston until our reservations. We grabbed a cab and got to downtown around 6pm. It had poured in late afternoon (after we left the beach), and the rooftop bar we wanted to go to only had wet seats available. So, we went to a fancy pants italian place and had a couple beers and bruschetta. We decided fancy pants bar was past its expiration for us, and we headed down Meeting St, and stumbled into a wine bar. I attempted to slow down, drinking a glass of red very slowly.

It didn’t matter. By the time 830pm rolled around, Dan was hungry and I was tipsy. So we did what any good foodie does- we ordered another round, and started talking shit about everyone around us. Oh, wait. That was just me shit-talking. To be fair, if you wear a delicate ivory lace strapless dress, don’t let your black bra hang so far out someone could undo it, and expose you. Just saying. And no, it wasn’t barely hanging out. It was hanging out in the front. Home girl could have looked down, noticed it was out and pull it up. But she didn’t. I bet she thought it was cute.

Around 9:00pm, we started anxiously asking for the tab, finishing our drinks, and mapping out how far FIG was from Social (the wine bar we went to- btw I liked it).

"Food Is Good"

“Food Is Good”

And we were off! Into the dark night. Cutting down alleyways for the quickest possible way to FIG. We were hungry, and I had skipped the drunk stop, and was just in sleepy town.

We were so excited about FIG. Everyone said it was the place to GO in Charleston. We rolled up to the restaurant around 930, and were seated almost immediately. They offered us a drink, we declined, and inquired about a bed, and then decided on the tomato tatin tarte.

Best decision of my life!

Scratch that- OUR lives. Both Dan and I agreed- that was the best part of our trip- that appetizer. It was a creamy heirloom tomato mixture. I really have no idea how they made tomatoes so tasty (I love tomatoes, and this was the best tomato dish I have tasted. That’s like one of the Kardashians saying he was the most beautiful black man ever). And it came with a creamy, goat-cheesy-mozzarella-like dippy-mixture on the side. DEE-F***ing-LISH-US! It was seriously one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life. Seriously. Like, I went home and googled how to make it, and gave up, deciding I would only fail if I tried. That’s how freaking good it was. I probably could have just said to the waitress “Keep ’em coming” and filled up on tomato tatin tarte all night.

Anyway, so I ordered the fish dish- Red Puggy or something. It is cooked well, and executed well. But it sat on a salsa that was lacking flavor and complexity (in my opinion). I don’t want to make it sound bad at all. It was really good. But nothing compared the Grocery’s fish from Thursday night’s dinner.

Then, came dessert. I honestly think I was asleep with my eyes open. We got coffee, but it was too hot for me to down, and I needed more than a few sips to keep me awake at that point (it was about 1030pm, after a day of walking around, spending time in the sun, and about 4-5 drinks, and you know what, Grandma goes to sleep around 930pm. I own that!)

Dessert was amazing (or so I heard). No, seriously, I just had to look it up- because I forgot what we had. And, it was delicious. I was just that tired, and basically I fell asleep in my dessert. One dessert (which Dan said was his favorite of the weekend) the Sticky Sorghum Cake (topped with cinnamon ice cream). I vaguely remember wanting to snuggle that cake hard, but can’t really accurately remember the flavors. The other was a Torta Caprese (amaretto ice cream with caramel on top, and a cookie or something underneath).

We immediately got a cab, and were grateful to get to bed as soon as we got into the hotel room.

Day 3

By this point, we had walked around most of the North and West end of Charleston. We had walked by a place called Glazed, and made a mental note of it. Dan sprung alive in the morning, declaring we were going to Glazed. If you know anything about Dan, he doesn’t typical spring, jump, run, or anything else until afternoon, so it was pre-designed- we were going to Glazed. I bet that fatty even dreamt of it Friday night.

Glazed is ah-may-zing! (I linked to their menu because it is truly food porn). No, seriously. If you like anything sweet, go there. If you do not like anything sweet, I venture to change your mind: Go to Glazed in Charleston. We were cautious, getting two doughnuts each (caramel-covered apple and mocha for me, Apple Bacon fritter and something else– I forget– for Dan). My caramel covered apple was delicious! It was like an apple pie in the middle, doughnut around it, and a caramel-apple icing drizzled across the top. So moist and just great. The mocha was great too, but my apple was smack your mama good! And one of the best things was being able to watch them prepare the doughnuts right before your eyes. We could have killed more, but I think this was the one time I didn’t even offer any of mine to Dan, and ate it all, then asked if he wanted a bite (as I was swallowing the last of it). I inhale doughnuts like I want a bigger ass overnight.

Hungry yet?

Hungry yet?

God, thinking about Glazed, I can’t even remember what else we did on Saturday. I have a doughnut problem…

Oh! We went over to Fort Sumter, the beginning of the Civil War; where we were educated about how the South didn’t surrender to the North at Fort Sumter. They actually abandoned Fort Sumter and headed for Columbia, SC.

an old man saw me struggling for a couple-selfie, and offered to take this one for us.

a man saw me struggling for a couple-selfie, and offered to take this one for us.

because a tour of a fort wouldn't be complete unless you pretend to fire a howitzer (imho)

because a tour of a fort wouldn’t be complete unless you pretend to fire a howitzer (imho)

We then went back to the hotel, to get ready for our (first) appropriately timed dinner reservation- 6:00pm- at The Ordinary. I got all fancy. I curled my hair, wore heels, and a pretty dress my old college roommate gave to me. I’ve gained a little bit of weight since I’m not running as much, and this dress now fits PERFECTLY! I felt like the most beautiful girl in the room (in the whole wide room).

Anyway, it was perfect weather. My dress flowed in the wind. It felt very romantical. The Ordinary was basically across the street from The Grocery (where we went on Thursday night), and in the same neighborhood as Glazed. It’s in an old bank, and we got a table upstairs, where it was a little quieter, with just a few tables- maybe 5 or 6 tables; which had a view of the downstairs. We started off with lobster ceviche (fancy pants!), and one of each of the 6 different oysters. They came with four different sauce options- horseradish, red wine vinaigrette, a watermelon blend (which was a great complement to the oysters surprisingly enough!), and something else that they traditionally serve that I didn’t try. The lobster ceviche was good too. We had beer, so I felt more at home than the fancy cocktails at other restaurants. I felt like I could order a PBR in that dress, and still be classy. I just felt in my element Saturday night. Dan and I meshed well- just laughing and enjoying ourselves.

The Ordinary is an oyster bar. They have plenty of small plates and large plates- hot or cold, oysters, seafood towers (wish we had more people to order one of those), and sides. Most of the options on the menu sounded good honestly. It was that perfect restaurant situation- there are so many good options, it takes a while for you to narrow it down. We ordered the Amberjack schnitzel (which was really just lightly breaded and pan-fried, and came with two sauces). One of the sauces was delectable; and one sauce we avoided at all costs (it was green and tasted weird). Dan and I laughed as we watched each other try to scrape it off. 🙂 The fish was still amazing, and a great portion to share (about 8-10 oz of fish). We also ordered fried okra, because when in Charleston… I would certainly go there again, with more people and basically order “one of everything!”

And then, there was dessert. I thought this place had the best dessert, but I think that’s because I was awake for it. We couldn’t remember everything our waiter went over, but something chocolate and something blueberry stuck out in our minds. Turns out it was a flourless chocolate torte (with hazelnut ice cream or something… I don’t exactly remember, but I almost licked the plate to finish) and a lemon-blueberry custard/parfait. Dan stopped eating the desserts, saying he was full. So I grabbed it and was double-fisting the desserts when our waiter next dropped by the table- chocolate deliciousness a fork in my left hand, parfait cup in my right. Whatever. It was good, so I wasn’t ashamed.

[Besides, I like big butts and I cannot lie…]

It seemed far too early to head home, and the sun was just setting, so we popped over to STARS for our final sunset in Charleston. It was gorgeous. And after a great night, we went back to the hotel, to get to sleep at a normal hour. Hominy Grill was set for the morning. And we didn’t want to miss that.

Day 4 (final day)

We got up, waited until 9am, and headed over to Hominy Grill (they open at 930am, and we were hungry so we wanted to get there around opening time).

Hominy Grill has some significance… When we did the Palmetto200, our van got up and crushed an entire table at Hominy Grill. I remember it as super delicious, and can’t help but think of Bruce’s inner 40-something-year-old-fat-woman asking for dessert everywhere.

bartender: “And what will you have to drink tonight?”

Bruce: “You got a dessert menu?… Thanks!” (then to the group) “Alright, who’s ready to pound some desserts with me. They’ve only got 5! …c’mon… Chandi, you’re a tiny lil’ thing. you should really eat something…”

Hominy Grill

So, this trip, we were finishing it off with Hominy Grill. We got there in perfect timing, and were escorted to our seats immediately. Dan ordered the Big Nasty (again), and I ordered a tomato omelette, which was delicious! We restrained ourselves from ordering dessert, as we felt bloated from the weekend. We made our way down to the Battery to walk around a little, I got a Charleston mug to add to my collection, and we got in the car and headed back to Raleigh.

We rode the vacation high for a few days before reality set in.

And that’s it for this time…

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today we leave… tomorrow we relay

Today; well tonight, we leave for Columbia. To begin our Palmetto200 adventure from Columbia to Charleston.

I generally go into a race with a plan. But, if you have ever done a relay, you cannot have a plan. Best case scenario, you run all your legs way faster than you planned, and everyone else sucks. All you can control is your attitude.

In a relay like this, you are counting on your other 12 11 teammates (we are down one runner). A lot can happen within 200 miles. The most likely thing to happen is a lot of fun, but still plenty of competition. For me, I will try to make friends with almost everyone. Then, realize that means I’m running too slow, and make my newfound friends eat my dust. If I can help it.

So, tonight, we set out for a crammed hotel room in Columbia, SC. We will wake up bright and early to get to the race track (how cool is that- that it starts on a race track?) by 615 for a 7am start time. Dan is leading us off, and it will likely be in the rain.

Then, Sarah, Chris, Brucy, and Will-y-em, and I will jump into our luxurious (and likely overpacked) 12-passenger van, and head to the first exchange, to drop off Sarah, and pick up wet and smelly Dan.

I will be running the last legs for Van 1, so I won’t see any members from Van 2 until I hand-off to Andrea and wish her a speedy run for her less-than-two-mile-can-you-tell-I’m-jealous run. Then, Van 2 will have to rush to get to their next exchange where they will take over playing runner’s leap frog. We will then have a few hours to rest, bond, eat, rest, go gymnastics, and oh yeah, drive to the next major exchange.

Right around sunset, Van 2 should show up, waiting anxiously for Jarod (their final runner). We will talk excitedly, and get recaps of how Sheryl rocked her 4-miler at a 9:00 pace or how Andrea and Clara almost forgot where they parked the van, or other silly randomness. Hopefully, we will all have shoes and our cell phones at that point.

Then, Van 1 will take back the slap bracelet baton, and travel into the darkness, running, pointing and laughing at reflective gear, hoping no wild dogs actually catch us, and finish up as most college kids are heading out to the bars; hoping we will sneak in some sleep in the van (and tent?)… Then Van 2 will show up, and take over until most of the college kids are heading home from said bars; then Van 1 will send Dan off in the middle of the night for his hardest (and final) leg, without coffee. Maybe. By the time I run again, the sun will be fully in the sky, and I will hand-off to Clara for the last time (which seems fitting as she handed off to me at 445am for my last leg on the Tuna200 in October).

Then, Van 1 gets to head to the hotel. Detox, shower, and go in search of beer to stock our fridge. We’ll attempt to get in a short nap, perhaps during the shower, for optimal time management. Then, head to the street to cheer Jesus in on our final leg, after the “dreaded” (beautiful, in my opinion) Cooper River Bridge. We will enjoy the sun, and sand in our toes, do some more handstands in the grassy areas, drink a few beers (or a few too many), talk about the good times we had and do a lot of remember when…?, and make our way to downtown Charleston to celebrate in style. And by style, I mean likely with a foam roller in hand, flip flops, and A&D ointment for chafing. Classy.

Charleston, here we come!

…It may take a while; we’re running to get there