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G & Steve's Wedding Day!

"Are you going to Flog your own wedding?"

I was asked this by a number of people, and I replied, "Of course – why wouldn't I?" I've been neglecting the Flog for the last month, but I have a good excuse: Steve and I got married on Saturday, April 25th. It was a spectacular day, filled with family, friends, food and fun. It astonishes me how many different moving parts and components can go in to planning a single day, but every cog in the wedding machine worked and resulted in an amazing day that we will never forget.

The Big Day

The day started early. Wendy (my Maid of Honor and best friend in the whole wide world) and I stayed in a beautiful 1200 sq. ft. suite at the Intercontinental (Thank you for the upgrade, Intercontinental).





I didn't sleep well; I woke up at 3am, 4am, 6am and finally give up at 6:40am. I had an anxiety dream that it was 3 weeks before the wedding and my photographer cancelled on me. I attempted to hire a new photographer (who was Bob Odenkirk from Breaking Bad) but he kept refusing to look to see if he was available. I woke in tears. I learned later that Steve had his own anxiety dreams involving his Holy Cross classmate Fred screaming at him.

The weather was 57 degrees and mostly sunny, a perfect setting for pictures. I had been checking 3 different weather sites (weather channel, accuweather and weather underground) everyday, starting 10 days before the wedding. Needless to say, I was relieved.

7:45am – Rosalba Mortone(http://www.albaroseartistry.com/) and her assistant Ashley arrive for hair and makeup. Those who know me, know that I don't wear makeup on a daily basis and that my hair gets approximately 5 seconds of brushing in the morning, so the concept of professionally done hair and makeup was foreign to me. But, I was told over and over again, it was important for the photos. Bridesmaid Christine and her sister Stefanie were first to arrive, followed by Marijane, Allison and Jes. The Food Network played in the background as we all took turns in the chairs. Time flew by, and we had sandwiches from Panera (thank you Stefanie for picking up lunch!), and peach mango bellinis. Rosalba and Ashley were great; they finished everyone's hair and makeup by 12:30pm, right on schedule. Ashley told me that my skin was "like butter," – which is a strange (after all, isn't butter greasy?), but sweet compliment.



11:00am – The flowers arrive. I ordered my flowers from Whole Foods. I had decided against centerpieces - there would be no room on the table once the food started, so I only had 7 bouquets, 6 boutonnieres and 2 corsages. WF did a wonderful job; the bouquets were beautiful and the order cost a fraction of other quotes I had received. My bouquet was composed of white calla lilies and red tulips; the bridesmaid's were red roses and white tulips.



12:00pm – Lauren, the first photographer arrived right on time. The second would arrive at the church at 3pm. (http://www.laurenpagewadsworthphotography.com/). She took the mandatory shots of us getting ready, and then some fun shots of me and the girls. Getting in to my dress was easy enough, but tying the red sash was a trial. I hope Lauren got pictures of how it took 5 grown, educated women to tie a knot. It was pretty funny. At 1pm, she headed to the men to get shots of them getting ready. I heard later that there was an undershirt issue and Steve sent his best man, Bryan, to Marshalls. Steve told me that at 12:50pm, he was standing alone (everyone was a little late) and shirtless, but ten minutes later, everyone (Chris, Andi, Stracco and Joe) and his undershirt were there, just in time. Christine helped them with the boutonnieres.

1:15pm – First look pictures. I decided I wanted to do our pictures before the ceremony since we would want to spend as much time as possible with our guests. The only problem with this is that you don't get to capture the classic "look on the groom's face as the bride walks down the aisle" picture. So instead, Lauren had Steve wait outside, eyes closed, and I was led to him and we opened our eyes at the same time. It was a lovely moment of joy, mixed with the realization that this was really happening.



1:30pm – Formal pictures. Everyone gathered in the back waterfront area of the Intercontinental. The men looked dapper in their Calvin Klein tuxedos (2 button, notch lapel, apple red vests and bowties) and my troop of ladies looked stunning in their dresses. I had told my bridesmaids that they could pick any dress they liked at David's Bridal, as long as it was in apple red, chiffon and knee length. I wanted them to feel comfortable and beautiful and there was no way that was going to happen if I made them all wear the same dress. I was really pleased at the visual; coincidentally, no one picked the neckline.





My flower girl, Ava (daughter of Steve's groomsmen Joe and Joy (both lifelong friends of Steve's) was absolutely precious. She was in a lovely shantung silk dress with a full tulle skirt and a matching red sash. She was a superstar throughout the whole day - not a single complaint or whine all day long. She listened and followed all the photographer's directions and was a joy to be around.



I had scoped out different areas around the Intercontinental where I wanted shots; over the bridge, down on the dock, in front of the Boston Tea Party ship. Steve’s mother Joyce arrived, wearing a cream silk blouse and a beautiful long fuchsia skirt, custom designed for her by Denise Hajjar. We got lots of pictures and I can't wait to see them.



3:30pm – Heading over to the church. The guys hit the bar and the girls went for caffeine, while Steve and I finished our pictures. We had a couple of different cars at the hotel, so we split up. Steve and Joyce took an Uber car and Ava and I were riding with Christine and her sister. The first hiccup of the day occurred when the valet couldn't find Christine's car. 20 minutes passed and still no car. I thought Christine was going to commit homicide, but I told her that it was okay – they were not going to start without me. Finally, it was located and the short drive landed us in the parking lot at 4:10pm.

On a side note, when Steve and I were considering a Chinatown wedding, the first question was "where is everyone going to park?" I was thrilled to discover we could rent a Tufts parking lot through the church that was conveniently located between the church and restaurant.

4:30pm – Game time. We lined up in the vestibule. Someone commented that weddings never start on time and I replied that if they knew me, they should know that if the invitation said 4:30pm, we were hitting the aisle at 4:30pm.

Joy was a huge help; she organized us and then sent us down the aisle in order. First was Joe, escorting Joyce. All the bridesmaids went in order of height, then Wendy and then Ava. I could hear, on my side of the heavy doors, the change in music and the people rising. Deep breath. Final adjustments on the dress and veil. Back straight, shoulders down. Smile.

I know that we asked the string quartet to play Pachelbel 's Canon in D for my procession, but I was so focused on walking slowly, not tripping, and smiling that I do not remember a single bar of music. I could have walked down the aisle to the polka and would not have known it. The Novo string quartet was tremendous; people told us over and over again about how wonderful the Mass was, especially the music. I wish I had video of the procession, just to confirm it wasn't the polka.

5:20pm – Our rehearsal had taken an hour and 20 minutes, so the Vegas odds were that it was going to go long, but the ceremony went smoothly, ending 10 minutes early. The readers were great, and the homily was short. People loved that we had 2 priests, including a Chinese one. There was a bit of a communion traffic jam, due to the placement of the quartet. People made their way to Hei La Moon, a short .2 mile walk away. We took some altar pictures with everyone and then Steve, Wendy and I walked with the photographer through Chinatown. There is a picture of me and Wendy, when we were 3 years old, standing in front of China Pearl, holding hands. She actually referenced the picture in her speech. I wanted to re-enact it 35 years later. I'll frame them together, side by side.

5:45pm – Introductions. The bridal party lined up on the stairs. My DJ, Mark Simpson (http://newenglandsdj.com/) asked if he should play something exciting and I joked, "Sure – like Eye of the tiger?" He opted for Thunderstuck by AC/DC, which was pretty hysterical. We went right into our first dance. We had taken 3 private lessons at Ballroom in Boston (http://ballroominboston.com/) for a simple rumba. Finding a song for our first dance was no small feat, as Steve and I have very divergent taste in music. We finally settled on a classic, "As Time Goes By" by Jimmy Durante, the love theme in Casablanca. I'm happy to report that he did not drop me during the dip.

6:00pm – Speeches by Bryan and Wendy - lovely sentiments by our dearest friends. Wendy told me that she was expecting waterworks, and I did well up a little. I don't know why Steve and I didn't stand up to thank everyone for coming at this point. I wish we had.





6:15pm – Food. The appetizer platters hit the tables, a spread of suckling pig, roast duck, slices of beef, chicken, all surrounding a pile of jellyfish. I thought the duck and pork were the best. I was pleased to hear that most people tried the jellyfish. The second course took forever to come out, so Steve and I made our rounds and toasted every table. It was a nice opportunity to ensure we spent time with each and every guest.

So, even though I said I would flog the wedding, it's hard to write about the food, as I barely ate any of it. Deep fried sea scallops were on my menu, and I found out later they were swapped out for honey walnut shrimp. Lots of people told me that was their favorite dish of the night, so I guess it was okay. But the scallops are meant to symbolize wealth, so if Steve and I are ever destitute, I'll know to blame the restaurant.

Here was the menu:

Traditional appetizer platter of suckling pig, jelly fish and assorted roasted meats
Fried sea scallops
Stir – fried seafood in a taro basket
Crab & sweet corn soup
Fried crispy whole chicken
Wok-sautéed lobsters with ginger and scallion
Sirloin steak stir-fried with broccoli
Pan-fried fish
Yang Chau fried rice
Vegetable E-Fu noodles
Chinese Dessert – Red bean soup.











In addition to the appetizer platter, I had the chicken, lobster and fish, which were all good, especially the lobster. I had the soup and I did not like the gelatinous texture of it. I was disappointed to hear only some tables got the red bean soup. I also heard raves about the noodles at the end, but a lot of people were too stuffed to even try them.

8:00pm – Cake cutting. The food was coming out more slowly than I had anticipated. I assumed the dessert would be served at 8pm and I scheduled the cappuccino cart (http://www.espressodave.com/) to start at that time. So, despite the fact that courses 9 & 10 (the fried rice and noodles) were still to come, it was cake cutting time. We went non-traditional and cut the cake to "Short Skirt Long Jacket" by… Cake. I wanted to scoop ice cream to Sarah McLachlan's "Ice Cream," but Steve hates that song.



I had the toughest time estimating the correct quantity of desserts to order. I ended up getting 13 dozen cupcakes, 18 dozen cookies and 7.5 gallons of ice cream.

The cupcakes were from Quebrada Bakery in Arlington (http://quebradabakingco.com/) and I had a mix of chocolate mocha, chocolate coconut, vanilla, and carrot cake. They told me if I could wait till 1pm to pick them up, they would bake them fresh that morning. I was thrilled with the idea of less than 12 hours from oven to mouth. Normal wedding cakes take 2-3 days to bake, cool, frost, assemble and decorate. That is why wedding cake tends to be dry; it's been sitting around for 72 hours. I had 4 dozen cupcakes left over.



The cookies were from Lakota Bakery (http://lakotabakery.com/): Florentines, Lemon filled Macaroons, Rum Balls, Tuxedos, Chocolate Chip, Old School Peanut Butter, Raspberry Linzer, Ginger Molasses, Chocolate Ginger, Hazelnut Shortbread, Snickerdoodle, Oatmeal Raisin, and Coconut Almond Joy. There were cookies left over at the end of the night, but people were taking them home, so it's hard to get a real count. I would say there was 3 dozen leftover. The lemon macaroon is my absolute favorite.



The ice cream was another hiccup. I had ordered three containers of 2.5 gallons of ice cream from Christina's (http://christinasicecream.com/). Two were standard flavors (Coffee and chocolate explosion) but the third was a custom flavor (black cherry vanilla). When Brian went to pick up the ice cream (Thank you, Brian for getting all the desserts!) they did not have my order. He subbed a French Vanilla instead. The bright side is they did not charge me for any of it. There was far too much ice cream, and at the end of the night, the waiters were digging in to it.

Espresso Dave and his cappuccino cart was a last minute addition to the wedding. The restaurant, being Chinese, does not serve coffee and Steve declared that we had to have coffee with dessert. I investigated a bunch of options, including a table of Dunkin' boxes of Joe or renting my own coffee urns, but all plans had flaws (could you imagine a table littered with cardboard boxes of coffee?). I googled coffee catering and found Espresso Dave. I was excited at the prospect of custom hand crafted espresso beverages. I hired him, only to find out that although he offered cappuccino, lattes, mochaccino, chai lattes, all in regular or decaf, hot or iced, flavor shots, and non-dairy options, he did not offer… coffee just plain old Joe. I was worried the older generation would be overwhelmed by the fancy schmancy coffee, but I think it turned out okay. I didn't have any complaints about the lack of normal coffee. Steve thought the cappuccino cart was awesome and enjoyed an iced mochaccino to cool off from the dancing.

The bar was manned by my co-worker Kristin and her sister Nicole. The restaurant allowed us to bring in our own liquor, and we offered Frei Brothers Cabernet and Chardonnay on the tables, and more wine, beer (Bud, Bud light, Lagunitas, Harpoon IPA, Sam Adams, Stella Artois, non-alcoholic beer), hard cider and hard lemonade at the bar. Kristin and Nicole did an amazing job managing the alcohol. I used a drink calculator and estimated 6 drinks per person. At the end, people drank approximately 4.5 drinks on average, so my guests did not drink enough.

8:30pm – Group pictures. I flubbed. I made a list of all the shots I wanted and then failed to email it to the photographer. I was bummed that there were some pictures I wanted but missed (like the hockey team or our trivia crew). We gathered different groups on the dance floor, like the McDevitts and the Francises. Steve got a nice shot of all the Holy Cross Alumni with the school flag. We had a mob of bridge players; I can't wait to send that picture to the Bridge Bulletin.

8:45pm – Mother/Son Dance. Steve and Joyce danced to Sinatra's The Way You Look Tonight. They looked so happy.



8:50pm – Dancing. We had given Mark, the DJ, a list of music to play during the meal and we let him know that 80's was probably the best way to go. He played some questionable songs (Poison? Baby got Back?) but people seemed to love it and got into singing and dancing, so what do I know? People were so enthusiastic crystals got knocked off the chandelier, TWICE.

11:00pm – Last call.

11:15pm – Last dance. We chose Mazzy Star's "Fade into you," which is a lovely, soulful ballad, but is utterly inappropriate for a wedding as it is about falling in love with someone that is damaged and incapable of living up to expectations. That said, we both love the song.

Other notables during the wedding:

Chinese tourists – hysterically enough, people from the rest of the restaurant were fascinated enough to take pictures and videos of the wedding. I'm sure there is a video of Steve and Joyce's dance on the Chinese version of YouTube.

Full service bartenders – apparently Kristin and Nicole gave Steve's cousin a ride back to the Legion in Medford, and then had drinks with him! What other bartenders would serve you and then make sure you got home okay?

Mama & Papa Tsoi – I think they were completely overwhelmed by the festivities, but they took it in stride and warmly greeted everyone who came up to meet them.

Favors – Playing cards with our names and the wedding date on them. We met playing while bridge – what could be more appropriate as a favor?

Matthew D. – Our apologies if he hit on or said or did something inappropriate to you or your spouse, but, it is part of his charm.

Uber – We opted to use Uber instead of a limo service. Our driver from the restaurant back to the Intercontinental was so tickled pink, we took a picture of us in our wedding garb in his backseat.

My dress – I joked that it looked like something out of a CSI episode: I tore the hem during the pictures, the train was filthy from walking around, the bustle was busted from busting-a-move, it was stained with wine (Thank you, Matthew D.) and what I thought was blood, but turned out to be chocolate. I didn't care – after all, I wanted to dance and have fun, not worry about the dress. I'll be donating my dress to Brides for a Cause (http://bridesforacause.com/donate-your-wedding-dress/).

If you are still reading, thank for sticking with me to the end. People always talk about how fast the big day goes and how it was all a blur. For me, it was important to get these words down, so that I could remember every detail that I could before it fades away. Regardless, what I won't forget is general feeling of elation all day and how happy and blessed I felt that all these people came near and far to celebrate with us. It was truly a once in a lifetime day.

Santouka Ramen, Cambridge

Santouka is a Japanese based ramen chain that has outposts all over the world; Harvard Square is the first New England location. I went to Charles and Sumita on a Monday night. Unlike my other ramen experiences, we were able to walk in and get a table without waiting. The space is industry and sleek; a stark contrast to the homey feel of Yumewokatare.

They claim to still be in the soft opening phase, so there is only a limited menu available. I had the Shio ($11.25) which is their signature ramen. It is a mild and creamy soup seasoned with salt. I opted for the 5 addition pieces of pork belly ($4). You can upgrade for a dollar more, or down size for a dollar less.



I liked my noodles; they were yellow and springy. The pork was also tender and unctuous. My only complaint was that it was a tad salty. Shio means salt in Japanese so maybe that was to be expected. The menu prices seems high, but Harvard Square real estate is costly. Overall, I prefer Yumewokatare, but it's hard to justify waiting in line for 45 minutes when there are alternatives.

http://www.santouka.co.jp/en/

Georgetown Cupcake, Boston

The DC based cupcake chain opened it's only Boston location on Newbury Street, 3 years ago. I never made an effort to get there before, but my friend Amy was picking out new glasses at Warby Parker, which happens to be in the same building.





The displays are beautiful and the cupcakes were attractively presented in a takeout box. We tried 3 cupcakes: Cherry Blossom, salted caramel and chocolate coconut. The cupcakes were moist enough, but the flavors were weak; the salted caramel was not salted enough and the coconut was too sweet. The cherry was the best of the bunch, but none were worth the $3 price tag.



https://www.georgetowncupcake.com/

Sono Sushi, Arlington MA

After an afternoon of furniture shopping, my friend Leslie and I were ready for a very early dinner. We were in Burlington, so I suggested going to Sono Sushi, a Japanese restaurant in Arlington that is on my 2015 to go list. Happily, Leslie is usually game for any dining experience.

It was only 4 o'clock, so it was no surprise that the restaurant was completely empty, but our hostess jumped up from her napkin folding and cheerfully greeted and seated us.



We started with the hamachi kama ($11), which I had read about rave postings about on chow.com. This is the collar of the hamachi, glazed and then grilled. The appetizer portion was big enough for two, and it was tender and delicious.



The cold rainy weather steered us toward a large bowl of udon noodle soup. We opted for the Nabe Yaki udon ($14) which came with tempura shrimp, fish cake, chicken, egg, vegetable and noodles. The udon noodles were deliciously toothsome and the broth was like drinking a warm hug.





Lastly, you can't go to a place called Sono sushi and not get a few rolls. We opted for a very perfunctory eel and avocado roll ($6.25) and then the more exotic Cherry Blossom roll ($13). The cherry blossom had salmon, avocado and tempura crumbs wrapped in a Maki roll , and then it was topped with tuna and served with a nice seaweed salad. I did not like the tempura crumbs; They were a little too dry and crunchy. However all the fish was fresh and sliced well.

The portions are large, and we certainly could've done without the eel and avocado roll. Our waitress was friendly and diligent about water refills. Prices are slightly high, but sushi is not a place where you want to go cheap. I enjoyed our meal, however Toraya in Arlington is still my favorite sushi restaurant, but it’s worth stopping at Sono for the hamachi kama.

http://sonoarlington.com/

JNJ Turo Turo, Quincy

There is a dearth of Filipino food in the Boston; JNJ Turo Turo is the only Filipino restaurant in the area, and it is only open Friday – Sun, from 11-8pm. "Turo-Turo" literally means "point-point" in Tagalog and you can do just that – there is a steam table with the day’s selections available to you. The website is misleading; only a handful of dishes are made a day. There is also a small list of made to order foods, which I opted for instead of the pre-made. Steve and I got the Lechong Kawali (deep fried pork belly, $6.5), whole fried fish ($12.5) and Pancit Bihon (Thin rice noodles with vegetables, large $6.49)







I was disappointed with the meal – both the Lechong Kawali and the whole fish were over fried and dry. They desperately needed a sauce. The pancit was okay, but had an overly fishy taste – maybe they used too much fish sauce.

I may need to go to New York to have better Filipino.

http://www.jnjturoturo.com/

Blackbird Donuts, South End

In case you haven't gotten the memo, cupcakes are out and gourmet donuts are in. Blackbird donuts, from the team behind Gallows restaurant, is Boston's newest entry into the trend.

My friend Leslie lives near the shop so she bought me some to taste. She selected salted toffee, lemon coconut, and pepperoni pizza .



I'll start with the pepperoni pizza donut – this was basically a pizza bagel, except on a softer and mushier base. The donut added nothing to the experience; it felt more trendy than delicious.

Luckily, the sweet donuts were far better. The salted toffee had enough salt, which is something a lot of salted caramel things lack. The lemon coconut also had a punch of tart lemon and a generous amount of coconut. My only issue with the donuts is that the flavorings were only on the exterior. Some kind of filling would've been great.

The donuts themselves are raised donuts, different from the cake donuts that are more common. They will cost you three dollars a pop, which seems to be the going rate for a specialty donut. I would say that Blackbird is on par with Union Square donuts, but demerits for the silly pizza donut.


http://www.blackbirddoughnuts.com/
It was our last morning in Charleston and we knew we had to have biscuits one more time. The short walk to Callie's Hot Little Biscuits awarded us Virginia ham biscuits with mustard and cheddar.

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It was easily the best biscuit of the whole trip. We are also very close to glazed gourmet doughnuts, a shop specializing in, you guessed it – glazed gourmet doughnuts. We had a tiramisu doughnut, a black-and-white filled with chocolate doughnut and a bacon apple fritter. The doughnuts were pretty good, tender and lightly fried. My only complaint was that the bacon apple fritter did not have enough bacon in it.

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http://glazedgourmet.com/

Our flight was at two, so we had enough time for a quick lunch. We went to Martha Lou’s, a pink shack near the overpass of the highway. I learned about it when Shawn Brock's raved about it on Mind of a Chef, stating it is one of his favorite places in Charleston. Martha Lou has been cooking soul food for 30+ years, and has brought her daughter as well as her granddaughter into the family business. For $10 I got a quarter of a fried chicken (your choice of white or dark) and three sides. I opted for red rice, collard greens, and mac & cheese. I was sad they had no biscuits. All of the chicken is cooked to order, so we had to wait longer than I had anticipated for our food. Sadly, that meant we had to rush through our lunch. It's too bad because the chicken was perfectly fried, crispy and delicious. I would have enjoyed it more if I had not burned my tongue on the first bite.

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Our flight was, of course, delayed so we could've taken the time to savor the chicken properly.

http://marthalouskitchen.com/

I had an amazing weekend with my friends – Charleston is a super fun and delicious food-filled city. I would highly recommend it as a gateway spot for your next vacation.
Hominy Grill

How can I possibly not go somewhere where they serve something called the Charleston nasty biscuit? It is a piece of fried chicken and cheddar cheese sandwiched between a big fluffy biscuit drenched in sausage gravy.

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Hominy Grill has been featured on plenty of food TV shows – people rave about the shrimp and grits and, of course, the famous biscuit. To be honest, after two days of vacation eating, I was getting kind of full, so I was happy I was able to convince Wendy to share the biscuit ($9.5) with me – that and a side of grits ($3) completed our breakfast. The grits were good - creamy and cheesy, but nowhere comparable to Husk’s grits from the previous night.

Everyone enjoyed their breakfast. The prices were affordable and the service was friendly. Definitely make Hominy Grill a stop if you are in town.

http://hominygrill.com/

Crab Shack, Folly Island

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Monday's weather was sunny and 70 degrees – a nice charge from the cold rain. So we decided to take a drive to Folly Island, one of Charlston's outer beach islands. We had lunch al fresco at the Crab Shack and Wendy and I shared a Charleston steamer basket ($30). It had snow crab, oysters, shrimp, potatoes and corn, simply steamed and seasoned. I've never shucked oysters before, so this was an adventure in eating. I'm pleased to report I managed not to stab myself with the knife, but it took a long time to find the sweet spot on each of the oysters. I think from now on I'll let someone else do the shucking for me. The seafood was tender and flavorful; there’s nothing I like more than eating seafood in the sunshine.

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http://crabshacks.com/

Rooftop at the Vendue

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Most of the girls left on Monday, so by the evening there was only Allison and I left. We decide to go to the Vendue, one of the city’s famous rooftop bars. The view was lovely - you could see the sun setting over the buildings in the horizon.

Southend Brewery

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It started getting chilly so then we move to the brewery across the street.
Drinking on an empty stomach is never good plan for me so I had an order of onion hush puppies ($3.5). They were crispy and a perfect bar snack.

http://southendbrewery.com/

Jim ‘n Nick’s BBQ

I sincerely thought we were done eating (and drinking), but by 9pm, we couldn’t resist the siren song of BBQ just around the corner.

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We shared a combo plate of pulled pork, Buffalo wings and beef brisket. It came 2 sides – we opted for mac & cheese and fried green tomatoes, as well as 2 cheese biscuits.

The brisket was the best, tender and a decent amount of fat. The pulled pork should have been smokier and the wings were perfunctory. I enjoyed the mac & cheese more than the tomatoes, which needed salt. I was offended by the “biscuits” which were more mini-muffins than biscuits.

http://www.jimnnicks.com
Charleston Cooks

Charleston Cooks is a "bustling kitchen retail shop with fun-filled classes," I thought it would be fun for all of us to take a class. I picked a participation class (versus a demonstration class) because as my friend Wendy said "if we are going to pay, I want to cook, otherwise I can just watch Food Network,"

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The class was on Southern Sunday brunch ($69, each) and the menu included: Creamy Stone Ground Grits; Fried Chicken and Waffles with Peach Syrup; Pecan Sticky Buns; Pulled Pork and Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Eggs; Shrimp and Grits; Sweet Potato Biscuits with Bacon Jam; Bloody Mary Gazpacho.

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There were 12 participants in the class; Chef Haley was capable and knowledgeable. She also had one assistant, Tom. We broke in to groups of 2 or 3, each taking a menu item. Jes and I were on the biscuit team and I actually learned something; the recipe had us laminating the biscuit dough to create more flaky layers. I do this with pie crust, but I never thought about using this technique with biscuits.

How good the food is depends on how competent your classmates are. Luckily, most of the food was delicious (grits were over cooked, but none of us were on that station). I would definitely recommend checking out the class schedule if you are in the area.

http://www.charlestoncooks.com/charleston/

Husk

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Husk was my reason for picking Charleston in the first place. Executive Chef Sean Brock has won James Beard awards and has garnered national acclaim for his dedication to local Southern ingredients. He narrates half of the second season of PBS's Mind of a Chef. I could tell from watching just how passionate he is about regional cuisine.

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We started with warm, soft rolls topped with benne seeds, an African cousin to the sesame seed with lard butter.

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We had Brock's signature Southern fried chicken skins drizzled with hot bourbon honey ($10) and it was extraordinary. Sean Brock is a mad genius and this ranks up there as an all-time favorite appetizer.

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We also had the slow smoked TN pork ribs with red pepper sorghum BBQ topped with puffed pork skins ($14). Our waiter perceptively noted that there were only 4 ribs to an order and did we want to add a fifth ($3.5)? Yes sir, we do. The ribs were tender, sticky and flavorful. The meat had the right amount of chew and smoke. I realized that with the pork rind garnish on the ribs, we had not one, but two different skins on the table.

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I ordered the VA heritage pork with heirloom red peas and boiled peanuts ($30) The bone in pork chop was perfectly cooked and for lack of a better word, deeply porky. I was less impressed by my side of beans and peanuts, but there was still chicken skin to munch on, so I was happy.

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For sides ($8, each) we had a skillet of cornbread with TN Bacon and grits with cheddar. I thought the cornbread was a little dry and I barely tasted any bacon. I am also a Yankee and like my cornbread sweet, so I may be biased. The grits were outstanding; they were creamy, cheesy and silky.

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We shared 4 desserts ($7, each): Meyer lemon chess pie, Carolina Gold rice pudding
sweet vanilla doughnut holes and a peanut butter pie. It's hard to beat hot munchkins, especially with chocolate dipping sauce, but the lemon pie was a close second. I thought the peanut butter pie was really similar to my recipe. The rice pudding had "rice crisps" that were too hard and crunchy.

The cocktails and spirits flowed and the service was attentive and thoughtful. I would definitely recommend Husk to anyone going to Charleston.

http://www.huskrestaurant.com/
This is the first of many posts about the amazing weekend I had celebrating my upcoming nuptials in Charleston, SC. Maybe the title of this series should be How to consume as many biscuits and fried chicken as possible, as during my 4 day trip, my girlfriends and I ate everything in sight. Hunger was a distant, forgotten concept. I am used to planning my vacations around meals and the destination restaurants, but I was worried that my travel companions would be unprepared and overwhelmed at the amount of gluttony. Fear not, Allison, Christine, Jes and Wendy were troopers – never once did anyone complain about stopping for a biscuit, having more fried chicken or ordering one more dessert. I have the best bridesmaids ever.

FIG (Food is Good)
I called exactly 2 months to the day and snagged an 8pm reservation at this popular restaurant.

We started with the rabbit and pistachio terrine ($13) and ricotta gnocchi with beef
Bolognese ($15).

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I liked the terrine, but the rabbit was not very distinctive. The gnocchi were huge. The meat sauce was hearty and a good foil to the tender ricotta.

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I had the flounder with polenta ($29) which was good, but paled in comparison to Wendy's slow baked beeliner snapper ($30). She declared it the "best dish she has ever had in a restaurant," I don't think I would go that far, but her fish was amazing.

Jes seemed to like her grouper ($30) and the fish stew ($29) got raves from Allison and Christine.

Everyone loved the roasted beets with sherry vinegar, sea salt ($8) and I enjoyed the side of sautéed greens ($8)

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We all shared the citrus soufflé and the vanilla malt cake for dessert ($9, each). Both were excellent. I was not expecting a chilled soufflé, but the texture was creamy and fluffy with a tart blood orange flavor. I also love the contrast of the salted pistachio crumble on top.

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The vanilla malt cake was not fancy, but a perfect example of a tender, rich and flavorful cake. The roasted banana ice cream was not banana-y enough.

The cocktails and the service were great. They were attentive and knew it was a special occasion, hence the candles on the desserts.

http://www.eatatfig.com/

After dinner we went to Club Pantheon, danced and watched several drag queens strut and shake their stuff. By 1am, we were ready for some re-fueling. Luckily, Callie’s hot little biscuits is open till 2am and just a few blocks away from the club. There were only 3 types available for the late night menu: blackberry jam, black pepper bacon and cheese and chives ($4 for a pair). We got all three.

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The biscuits were great – flaky yet tender and terrific flavors. My favorite was the black pepper bacon, but the rest of the group felt the blackberry jam was the best.

The biscuits were so good that Allison and I went back on our last morning for one more biscuit. We tried the Virginia ham and that was by far the best - the salty ham, with the melty cheese and sharp mustard all sang together. I would love one right now.

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http://www.calliesbiscuits.com/pages/callies-hot-little-biscuits

Lots more Charleston food posts to come - stay tuned!

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