Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Down South Again! Part Two - South Carolina - A New (Rusty) Friend Plus A Ryan Lochte Lookalike

From Tennessee, we drove through the Smoky Mountains to western South Carolina to visit G and A.. Everyone always thinks of the ocean side of South Carolina, but the inland areas are stunning:

A and I went to a museum I’ve never been to before - The Upcountry History Museum in Greenville (SC). Its goal is to preserve the history of the upcountry region of South Carolina, which is bordered by North Carolina and Georgia and extends down to the state’s central plains. (The other part of South Carolina is called the Low Country, located along the coast.)

We learned a lot about cotton mills and how Greenville became a mill town (for good and bad) and about baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was the product of a cotton mill sports team.

There was also a photo exhibit of old-time Greenville and the many areas that have been improved and revitalized. One interesting fact that I didn’t know - Jesse Jackson was one of 8 people in 1960 fighting for desegregation of the Greenville public libraries. There’s a photo of the so-called Greenville 8, including the oh-so-young Jackson, standing on the steps of the library with his fellow protesters before being arrested.* He was a high school freshman at the time. Their protest took place in July and by September the public library of Greenville was integrated by court order.

We took a wonderful trip to Highlands, North Carolina. It’s almost 4000 feet up and it was a very LONG and WINDY road to get there. But A drove so carefully that I was hardly carsick, which is a real trick for me. Our ultimate destination was the Old Edwards Inn for lunch, but we strolled around the charming town first. We stopped in at the Bucks Coffee Café, which is NOT part of that larger chain with the same-ish name.

                        Bucks Coffee Café

Like everyone, I appreciate Starbucks on highways and in airports, but little local coffee shops are really a good way to take the temperature of a place. Service was leisurely and friendly and it made a comfortable stopping point after a long drive.

We stopped into some lovely shops:
Stone Lantern:


...and Potpourri 2 and Acorns Boutique, which is part of the Old Edwards Inn.

On to lunch, we sat in the beautiful dining room of Madison’s Restaurant for lunch. Our first course was excellent – a Trout Pâté. SO good. I loved the smoky salty flavor, served with wonderful Buttermilk Crackers.


A let me order for both of us and then we split everything, but I think I picked wrong(ly?). The Specialty Pizza sounded fantastic when they said it was on their HOMEMADE Grilled Flatbread. Well, the flatbread itself was EH! It needed a lot more grilling and bit more zing in the flavorings. (Even more salt…).

Half the Specialty Pizza
But the Pulled Pork Sandwich was divine, even if the Cole Slaw was lacking in tang and a bit too warm. The homemade (I think) potato chips were fantastic!

Pulled Pork Sandwich
The Lemon Buttermilk Crème Brûlée was first rate (and I never need fancy flavorings with my crème brûlée) and the White Chocolate Almond Biscotti was perfect. 



Later we had coffee in the Wine Garden, where the service was much better than the restaurant. (The server in the restaurant smiled a bit too much and paused after every statement. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to applaud or just nod enthusiastically at her. We did the latter.)

The Inn itself was very picturesque.

 Some views of the public rooms:



On the way to the Inn AND on the way back, we passed an interesting sight of brightly colored tin roosters all in a line. 

You couldn’t help but be captivated by their “charm”. Well, I couldn’t anyway. A had a different opinion when we drove by the first time. But by the time we had passed them again on the way home, A could see how taken I was. She showed amazing driving prowess as she turned around on a crowded road and pulled into this slightly ramshackle (actually, not slightly at all) storefront. 

I loved them even more close up, but was I ready to make such a "rustic" (or maybe just rusty) statement in my yard?

It could have been worse. It could have been a tin goat that got my attention.

I examined the roosters carefully. There was something about them that really touched me. (Yeah, you could say I was definitely a bit touched.) The big ones were too big, too out there. BUT THEN...we saw the perfect one. It was a small one ON A STICK! It had the same slightly rusted, casual paint job as the big ones, but it was just right for my backyard. I think he looks at home. 


It might be my imagination, but I’ve noticed less squirrel and bunny action since he came to live here.


One more stop in South Carolina. We walked through a marvelous plant festival in downtown Hendersonville.



At first I thought I found something that would keep my rooster company. It was on a stick too.

Then I got a closer look. Umm, they were sculptures of…plates…and cups…and bowls, glued together to look like…flowers(?). 

I felt that my rooster could stand on his own, so I left those plate pieces for others to take home. Oh, one more thing, in many of the fancier craft and art gallery type shops we went into, what did we see? THOSE EXACT SAME ROOSTERS taking up floor space and apparently flying out the door with popularity. But I bought MINE in its native habitat (there really could have been chickens wandering about) AND it was the only place that had little ones on a stick…

Two great meals in Greenville:
Rick’s Deli, run by successful Greenville restaurateur Rick Erwin, is a fabulous place for lunch or a quick dinner OR for food to take away for later. The space is modern and bright and really comfortable. 

Rick's Deli and Market
But the best part (besides the food) was that A grabbed Chef Emmanuel Hodencq and his wife/manager Vivian for me to meet. Chef Hodencq and his wife owned and operated a one star Michelin restaurant in the Auvergne region of France in Clermont-Ferrand, which interestingly, is where the headquarters of the Michelin Tire Company is. 

Chef Emmanuel Hodencq, Manager Vivan Hodencq and Moi!
Look how cute Vivian is. Don’t you love her Frennnshhhhhhhhh sense of style?  


Chef Hodencq is a maestro with pastries and the selection is amazing. But first we somehow had to get through lunch. ;-) 

A had a yummy chicken salad sandwich and I had a huge Cobb salad, (even if I had known how big it was, I probably would have ordered it anyway) with an amazing croissant on the side. I could tell there was a Frenchman in the kitchen.


But the desserts! Ahhh, good patisserie really is good for the soul. Everything we tasted was superbe. If I lived even 50 miles away from Rick’s Deli, I would be a regular customer.

Here’s the Pear and Almond Tart - buttery, rich pastry with an almond filling and perfectly cooked pears on top:


The Macarons were the really special thing. Oohlala, they were beautiful and tasty too! We had Pistachio, Lemon Basil, Mocha (my favorite) and Strawberry.

Mmmm, which to have?  Okay both.


The macarons went instantly and somehow we didn’t have trouble finishing the tart either. 

We had another great meal in Greenville at Devereaux's. Our server looked like so much like Ryan Lochte that it was distracting, but he was much more on the ball. AND he was delighted with every question and comment I made, so I was (even more) delighted with him.

I had duck confit in two different courses. The Sweet Corn Soup had a duck confit ravioli. The duck did not overpower the rich, but delicate. soup. 

Sweet Corn Soup
My entrée was Duck Two Ways, with a confit leg and a breast. The leg was moist and hearty and the breast was done super-rare, just like I like it. It was soooo tender.

Duck Two Ways
We shared a Blackberry Pot De Crème. Excellent, rich custard, sprinkled with Benne Crackers and topped with a peanut butter cream. You might have thought the peanut butter would be strange, but I liked its stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth richness next to the tang of the blackberry.

Now more about that server. I tried to take a few photos on the sly, but it wasn't easy. I know it's a bit dark, but can you tell how much he looks like RyRy here? 

Clearly, I was having camera issues, plus it's not that easy to take a picture while you're pretending not to. Maybe this one is better: 


Okay...just one more - Here's an action shot, where I think you can really see what I mean. Right?!!

Anyway, just before we left, I walked up to the open kitchen, which is at one end of the restaurant. I wanted to tell the chef how good dinner was. There was a cute young guy standing in front and an older guy actually IN the kitchen. So I asked the older guy if he could point out the chef to me. (I actually thought he WAS the chef.) They played around for awhile, pointing at different people, one of whom I think was a dishwasher. Finally they identified the youngster in front as the chef. OMG, he was cute and looked like he should be college. I couldn’t bear to use a flash in his sparkling (blue?) eyes, but can you get a sense of what I’m talking about? 

And wouldn’t YOU also have thought the guy in the back (with no hair) was the chef?

Anyway, Chef Spencer Thomson was very fetching as well as being an excellent chef. AND the good thing is that he’ll be around for ages!

That made a fitting end to a great southern sojourn. We went to so many places this year in Tennessee AND South Carolina, I may actually have to take up golf next time. (Never!) Thanks so much to M and B and G and A for being the hosts with the mostest!  If y’all come up No’th, I’ll show you my rooster!


*This is the caption of that photo, which includes the 8 protesters with their 2 attorneys – “The Greenville 8 stand in front of the segregated Greenville County, S.C., public library in 1960. Front row, from left: Joan Mattison Daniel, Elaine Means, Margaree Seawright Crosby, Dorris Wright and Hattie Smith Wright. Second row: Jesse Jackson, Benjamin Downs. Back row: Willie Joe Wright (with glasses), attorney Willie T. Smith Jr. (wearing hat), and attorney Donald Sampson (with mustache).”


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

The southern mountain regions I know are places my husband wants to visit. Since I changed jobs I have so little vacation time and my two weeks vacation for 2013 are done with in July and I already have my two weeks booked for 2014. We hope to do some long weekends throughout the year and these are the kinds of places we want to go. Your post is quite useful.

I like your rooster. It reminds me of a yard bird my mother has that she bought in Chincoteague.

Sue said...

Hi Rach,
A LONG weekend is what you'll need. It's an 11 plus hour drive, but I guess they have these things called planes that would make it possible.

My rooster is really cool. I'm liking it more and more.