Monday, January 31, 2011

Lowcountry BBQ Shrimp and Birthday Cake

My oldest son turns 20 on February 6th and a couple of weeks ago when my wife and I began to discuss plans for celebrating his birthday the planning got complicated. As usual, when you are planning a weekend event around the life of a college student you better be prepared to remain flexible. Actually, my work schedule provided a huge challenge to a Super Bowl Weekend celebration as much as his social schedule, so we decided at JD's suggestion, to schedule the birthday celebration for this past weekend.

Mother Nature provided a WONDERFUL late January offering of 70+ degree daytime temps, and for our Saturday evening happy hour on the back patio, it was still in the 60's a couple hours after sunset at 7pm. We enjoyed an hour or so of sitting around the fireplace telling "fish stories" from the day we had spent on the water.

The original plan had called for fresh grilled fish, but a good chef is always prepared to improvise and deal with whatever fate provides, so the back-up plan when the fish weren't cooperating was New York Strips on the grill and some delicious local shrimp from Edisto done up Lowcountry BBQ style. Since many of you responded to the picture I posted on Facebook with requests for the recipe, I thought today it would be good to post the recipe on my blog. I actually adapted my recipe from a Paula Deen recipe for New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp, but my version is uniquely Lowcountry.

I start with a cup of Worcestershire Sauce in a sauce pot, and bring that to boil, then cut back to simmer. The goal is to reduce the cup by simmering to about 1/3 of a cup. In the meantime, slice a couple of lemons thin, mince 8 cloves of garlic, trim 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, pick 3 bay leaves off of your bay tree (or get them from a can), and once the Worcestershire is reduced pour all of this into a large pot along with a 12 ounce bottle of dark beer. Allow this to cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. After 5 minutes of simmering the mixture, add a couple teaspoons of butt rub (any dry rub barbecue seasoning will do) and 3 tablespoons of Sticky Fingers Carolina Sweet Barbecue Sauce. Bring this to boil, then the main ingredient, dump 4 pounds of fresh local shrimp, unpeeled (the best part) and cook for 3-4 minutes until the shrimp are pink and firm. Note: if you have the time, prepare up to the point of adding shrimp the night before, then cool the mixture and add shrimp to marinate overnight in the fridge, then when you are ready to cook, remove the shrimp from the sauce, heat the sauce to boil and add shrimp.

While I prepped dinner with pandora radio playing the Tams, JD gave Michelle some premium shag lessons in the kitchen. It's simple, just count to three. At least if Zumba doesn't work out for Michelle, she can just shag for exercise.

For JD's dinner, I paired the shrimp with grilled steak, a twice baked potatoe and Ceaser Salad, but combining with some cheese grits or yellow rice and steamed veggies would work just as well. One tip, provide your guests with towels in place of napkins, they will love you for it.

After dinner, we even had a little birthday cake for JD. Wow, 20 years old, where has the time gone? Of course yesterday afternoon when JD packed his truck with clean clothes and the remains of his birthday cake and headed back up I-26 towards Columbia and the University of South Carolina, the memories of a classic weekend remained, but a bit of sadness permeated our hearts, like it always does when he leaves and heads off to continue the construction of his adult life.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

It Can't Get Any Better!!!

Today, was one of those days that was just to special to be referred to as "the best day of my life." I know that I am blessed and God has provided more than I deserve. I know that every day is a gift, ultimately I know that one should not allow himself to be defined by a single day in your life, but today may come close. There is something about spending time with your two sons, without the distraction of text messages and video games, on the water fishin'.

The anticipation of the coming day made it difficult to sleep.

We greeted the early morning buzzing of the alarm clock with enthusiasm. As we chugged down I-26 headed to Mount Pleasant, a hearty fishermans breakfast out of the way, off we go to meet our captain and guide for the day, David Sarratt of Searat Charters. Hoping that by the end of the day, we would be veterans of angling battles with the Red Drum on the sand flats from the mouth of the Wando River up towards Cainhoy.

All of the anticipation was energy well spent, because, my day could not be topped. Soon after departing from Remley's Point Landing near the mouth of the Wando River, our guide for the day, Dave began to educate JD and Noah about the subject of our quest, the Red Drum, affectionately known as old spot tail. He told them that this time of the year when many of the summer time bait fish have migrated from the waters around Charleston, the poirposes sought out the Red Drum to sustain them through the winter.

Consequently, according to the worthy skipper, the Red Drum liked to hang out in the shallows over top the sand bars and in the grassy areas that are covered with sea water during high tide. It was just past low tide, so we went straight to some flats where the water was just a foot or two deep and began slowly working them, up and back.

We spent most of our day fishing the flats with artificial grubs that resembled shrimp and JD even spent a little time with the fly rod in his hand, although he learned that he needs a little practice and a spare spool wouldn't be a bad idea either.

We saw some beautiful and amazing water and shoreline, we experienced the transition from low tide to high tide and we learned the different techniques for the varying conditions. Along the way we were amazed as a bald eagle soared above the maritime forest that lined the west bank of the Wando. I particularly enjoyed seeing the porpoises swimming the channel as we navigated up and down the river, and the various water fowl that seemed to be playing a game racing us as we zipped along the top of the water enroute to the next battlefield. One of JD's best memories will be the neat old house, that resembled an old school house, standing watch on a bluff overlooking the river. One can imagine roasting oysters in the yard and spending the afternoon in a hammock on the front porch or strolling along past the acres of man-made saltwater ponds that were on the property.

Speaking of our guide, throughout this post I have referred to him as "our guide" and while he was a worthy guide and skipper it is probably inaccurate to refer to him as just "our guide". We actually felt as though he was a friend with a boat and a bunch of fishing knowledge. We didn't feel like customers or clients, we felt like we were out on the water for the day with a buddy. To say this, in no way implies a lack of professionalism or ability on his part, it is a compliment to his service and will make a perfectly memorable day even more perfect and memorable.

At the end of our day on the water the poirposes had probably done a little better than the fisherman in the quest for the red fish, but, we had experienced a wonderful day with no cell phone calls, no text messages, no video games and lots of fun between a father and his two sons. It can't get any better than that...

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Friday!!!

It's Friday, and that is a magical time here in the Lowcountry. Thanks to fellow blogger Doug (Doug's Photo Blog) for reminding me about one of the special things about being in the Lowcountry, Shem Creek Shrimp, fresh off the docks, and an unmistakable flavor. Guys, if you have never enjoyed fresh, local South Carolina Shrimp, I have got to tell you, it is like comparing a fresh garden picked ear of corn to the frozen ears in the freezer at your local grocery store, get the picture? No comparision!!!

Saturday evening will go sort of like this around my back patio; happy hour with a nice glass of Merlot, a warm fire in the chimnea, wool blankets and comfy chairs. And on the grill, hopefully some fresh red drum and a skillet full of Lowcountry Style BBQ Shrimp.

I modified a recipe from Paula Deen for New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp by substituting Southend Brown Ale, from Southend Brewery. A perfect substitution because while the shrimp cooks you and your friends can finish off the ale left in the growler. And instead of tomatoe paste and creole seasoning, I use Sticky Fingers Carolina Sweet Cue Sauce. I would make my own version of Sweet Carolina Cue Sauce, but Saturday evening is about chillaxin on the back patio, so I will take the easy way out, after all, "the livin' is EEEEZZZZZYYY" you know.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday Morning Round Up From My Blog List

Well here we are again, we have arrived at the gate to the weekend, THURSDAY. I thought I would take the opportunity to share with you some great blogs on my blog list, that I enjoy checking in with every day. It also gives you a great feel for "weekend style" here in The Land of Palm Trees.

First up today, my dear friend Lisa over at Charleston Treasures wants to take you on a journey to Liberty Square. Lisa, is such a great writer, it's hard to believe she is new to blogging when you visit her site.

From treasures of one sort, I suggest you visit a treasure of another sort, Charleston Daily Photo, a longtime favorite of mine. It is truly amazing to view photos taken by a real professional, in todays photo, I am amazed at the parallel lines captured by Joan with the perfect palm, the street lamps and the church spire in the background. The photo reminds me of how blessed we are to live in a truly amazing and miraculous universe. What really blows me away though, is that tilting the camera is what created the interest.

Many weekend plans are created on Thursday, one of my resources is Charleston City Paper. I can always find interesting little pieces of news and announcements that help make Charleston such an interesting place to live and visit.

And finally, something that won't be in my weekend plans, not a new post but check out these brownies in The Charleston Foodie. Whatever your plans for the weekend, enjoy, be safe and feel blessed.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hey, Woah Woah, Geesh What Are Ya Slappin' Me For ????

As some of you know, the past year has not been a great one for my health. Just a little over a year ago years of unhealthy eating and exercise habits began to catch up with me. Last spring, after visiting with my cardiologist, pulmonologist and hematologist I realized my life had become a frickin case study from my family practice med team rotation back at WVU and the prognosis wasn't good, so I started trying to live a healthier lifestyle. It's a work in progress, but at least I am making progress, the initial goal was to live to be 50, now the goal is to turn 50 in better shape than when I turned 40. I figure I have 19 more months to work on that so I am gonna make it. Anyway, the radar doesn't look like an afternoon on the golf course, so my backup plan is an hour of interval training around the neighborhood. A quick check of the radar and it looks like I have at least an hour before the monsoon hits so off I go. Ooops, almost forgot the IPod, hmmm what to listen to today, oh there it is, todays music is Train. I hit shuffle and off I go down the street.

Now I have not taken the time to custom create my playlists by activity so I can't just choose an interval training playlist, and I am never quite sure how a chosen artist or playlist is going to relate to my walk. But the opening lines of If It's Love confirm that today's playlist is 100 percent me; "When everybody else is getting out of bed, I'm usually getting in it..." Yep, perfect for a midnight shift pharmacist. The first 5 minutes of any exercise routine is usually the hardest and today was no different, but I stuck it out and a couple of songs into the playlist I came around a bend in the walking path. Off to my left was one of the large ponds in White Gables and lining the far bank was a flock of at least 50 Canadian Geese, just standing around, crapping all over the place, staring at the cold water in the lake. A couple of yards away stood a group of five or six "local" ducks curiously watching their friends from the North. A chuckle leading to an all out belly laugh began to erupt from deep inside of me. I thought, this reminds me of the Isle of Palms on any sunny February day, a small group of locals watching the snowbird tourists from Canada standing around on the beach getting their nerve up for a dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

Another Train favorite blares through my head in the form of Meet Virginia and I re-focus on my training mission. Virginia, in the song, must be some kind of woman, "wears high heels when she exercises, ain't that beautiful...her daddy wrestles aligators and mama works on carburetors..." Wow, I see now why Train wants to meet her. At this point and with the help of the song, I am starting to hit my stride and the exercise is becoming easier, my movements more fluid.

Just as I am about to go past the lake, oh no, I notice little dimples on the surface of the water. Are those rain drops? I hope not, I am now at my furthest point from the house. I think to myself of course they are rain drops dummy, what do you think they are? Drops of Jupiter, no not the dimples on the pond, the song ringing from my ear buds. I haven't heard this song forever, and it is one of my favorites. I wonder to myself, what would it be like to "dance along the light of day and then head back to the milky way?" But I only wonder that for a little bit, then I start worrying with such thoughts that my blood oxygen level must be getting low, so I back off on the interval training a little bit.

So far, the Train playlist choice has been perfect for my walk. Nearly two-thirds of the way through my workout and my legs are really burning and my shins feel like they are about to splinter, then the song starts hitting my frontal lobe, Calling All Angels, "I won't give up if you won't give up." Wow, this is scary, it must have been destiny that I chose Train as my playlist today. At this point I realized that I was going to make it and decided to just walk and enjoy the music for the remainder of my trek.

All was going well then destiny turned into fate. I had just entered the home stretch, turning at the corner to head down one of the last streets before reaching my street. Wouldn't you know it, just then, right on cue, "Hey eh, hey eheheh, heyeheheh.. your lipstick stains on the front lobe of my left side brain..." How can a guy hear Hey, Soul Sister on his Ipod and not sing along? So, here I am, bee bopping down this quiet residential street singing along with Train at the top of my lungs, and I don't even realize it. Head up, lungs full of air, I notice an older lady walking a white poodle up ahead. Undeterred by the burning muscles in my thighs and calves I quicken my pace with the tempo of the song and just as I am about to overtake the lady from behind one of my favorite lines from the song, "I'm so obsessed, my heart is pounding out my untrim chest, I believe in you, like a virgin you're Madonna and I'm always gonna wanna blow your mind..." And with that, lyrics blaring out of my mouth, the lady wheels and smacks me in the back of the head as I pass by. For real, I am stunned, I am like, "Hey, Woah, Woah, Geesh, Why Did You Do That?" Then I got the heck away from her before she turned that poodle loose on me. She obviously was not a Train fan. But you know me, always feeling blessed and all, as I walked up the steps to my front porch I smiled and thought to myself, it's a good thing I didn't choose the Jimmy Buffett playlist today, could you imagine if I would have been singing "why don't we get drunk and ...." Wooo, that could have been ugly.

Monday, January 24, 2011

They're Going Fast Folks

One of the really cool things about living in the Lowcountry is that we have alot of visitors. As a matter of fact, some of our local friends have poked fun at us saying that we are operating a bed and breakfast. Of course, never to be caught off-guard, I always remind them that we serve lunch and supper to our guests, not just breakfast. When we looked for a house to purchase, we wanted to make sure that we had an extra bedroom to use as a guest room and we have had a blast decorating and appointing the guest room so that our house guests will be comfortable. I have to believe that we have accomplished our goal because we do get quite a few repeat visitors.

We have chosen a coastal theme for the room, the walls are adorned with picture prints of noteworthy Charleston landmarks and we even have a tide clock on the wall that is set to monitor high tides on the Charleston beaches.
A comfortable antique bed completes the room and provides for a comfortable night of sleeping so that our company has lots of energy for the fun packed days ahead.

Yes, it seems as if we are always looking forward to and planning for our next guests and that provides us with sort of a constant state of excitement. That's just how we roll here in "vacation land". Of course, there are certain periods of the year when visits are more frequent, you know, times when our guest room is in "peak season" so to speak. But regardless of the time of the year, there is always lots of fun to be had while visiting the Lowcountry. After all, Charleston has earned a long list of accolades for being a great city to visit. In 2010, Conde Nast named Charleston as the #2 American City in their Readers Choice Award winning list. Add to that, Charleston was named by Travel & Leisure Magazine as America's favorite city to visit.

In my opinion, one of the hallmarks of being a good host is to do a good job of planning for guests before they arrive and one of my favorite tools for planning is the Charleston CVB web site.
As soon as I start planning for a visit from friends or family I send them a link to the site and advise them to spend a little time surfing around. I also keep a running list of "things to do" so that I have a ready resource available. I have also found that having a personal tour guide service such as Charleston 101 helps as well. All it took for me was one trip about town with Mary Coy and I realized that this self-proclaimed fourth-generation Charlestonian can make a good trip downtown a great trip downtown for our guests. The neat thing about Mary's tours is that she doesn't just provide you with historical facts, but she mixes in current society and culture and gives her tour subjects a real good representation of what life is like here in the Lowcountry.

Most visits to the Lowcountry feature some type of activity involving the water: either a trip to the beach, or some kayak time on a tidal creek. or a visit to the South Carolina Aquarium. Of course from May to October, our guests log some significant pool time at our neighborhood club pool.

In addition to fun on the water there are dozens of golf courses to challenge many of our out of town guests. And, did I mention dining options? Charleston has an amazing choice of dining options, from barbecue to French cuisine, we truly and honestly are blessed to have it all. Of course, in spite of the temptations to patronize a five-star restaraunt downtown, after a full day at the Isle of Palms beach or Whirling Waters it is sometimes nice to grill some burgers and spend the evening doing some "front porch sittin'", a favorite activity at our house where the livin' is EEEEEEZZZZZZY.

So, if you have never visited Charleston, or if you have and you are ready to come back for another visit, hopefully the links provided will help you to plan your stay. You better start packing today, who knows, maybe a visit will ignite a dream in you like we had five years ago and you will find yourself never going home From The Land of Palm Trees. The available weeks in our guest room are going fast though.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Just A Nice Afternoon For A Walk

I will admit it, I am a hopeless romantic for the Southern lifestyle in the classic sense. When I walk down the street in Summerville or Charleston and I see the Victorian style homes from the 19th century, I imagine Southern Belles in Victorian Bustle dresses sipping lemonade and fanning themselves while the man of the house enjoys a glass of bourbon over cracked ice. I apologize for my sometimes polyanna outlook on life here From The Land Of Palm Trees but I do feel blessed and I feel most blessed when I am walking past living history in the form of large Victorian homes with 5 bay front porches, or piazzas as we call them here in the Lowcountry. You know the type of home I speak of, complete with an iron-gated driveway and a formal garden in the back or side yard that would rival an English Estate. The street is lined whith huge Live Oak trees draped with spanish moss beside Magnolia trees in full bloom, and finally a couple of Palmettos standing guarding in the front of the house.

Warm sunshine is filtering through the canopy of Loblolly Pines and Live Oaks from a mostly blue sky overhead. Get the picture? I just set the scene for you from my walk with our black lab Sammie last Thursday down Sumter Avenue in Summerville.

During the stroll, I found myself trying to imagine what life must have been like during the late 1800's after "the war", and on into the earliest decades of the 20th century. This is a period of time richly significant to the history of the town of Summerville and Sumter Avenue has it's share of homes and buildings that are registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

The end of the 19th century was not especially kind to Summerville. There were two terribly tragic events that impacted the small town just as it was trying to recover from the War Between the States. The first was a massive earthquake that caused significant damage to practically every building standing in Charleston and Summerville, followed by a destructive fire that nearly burned down the entire town square. As bad as it was, there was one piece of good luck mixed in with all of the destruction, in Paris, France the International Congress of Physicians named Summerville as one of the two best locations for treating and recovering from ailments of the lung and pulmonary system. These three events shaped life as we know it today in the Flower Town In The Pines.

On the day that Sammie and I walked down Sumter Avenue, there were men from landscape companies trimming trees, utility employees working on some public works project, neighborhood ladies out for a brisk walk, and black labs, poodles and golden retrievers patrolling the perimeters of their domains. The historic homes on this street are all in pristine condition. Life, that is modern life is ongoing behind the centuries old iron gates.

The first home we come to is a 1&1/2 story Queen Anne style at 302 Sumter Avenue, the Doctor William Prioleau House, also known as the Bolen House. How majestic she is with her steep hipped roof and two interior chimneys, one can only imagine how majestic and grand the fireplaces attached to those chimneys must be. This is a good home for me to start with because the original resident, Dr. William Prioleau was a druggist who moved from Charleston to Summerville around 1896 for the healthy environment. Hmmm, a druggist with a pioneer spirit and a dream, imagine that. As I pass by the house, I wonder what druggists got paid back in the late 1890's.

Proceeding, we arrive in front of 230 Sumter Avenue, the Brownfield House. A beauty with a 5 bay front porch and balustraded balcony above that was built in the late 1860's. I imagine an excited buzz emanating from the front porch that is filled young ladies with Boston accents. You see this house was once home to the Brownfield Academy, a boarding school for young ladies, advertised in the 1890's as being particularly well suited to northern ladies of poor health who would prosper in the healthy environment of Summerville.

Further down the street, we pause in front of 208 Sumter, the summer home of Elizabeth Arden. I imagine walking past the home in the 1940's and there on the front lawn browsing among the blooming camelias wearing a stunning pink dress is the cosmetic queen herself, waving to me and admiring my dog Sammie.

About that time, Sammy shocked me back into reality as nature made it's call and I bent over to scoop up the package into one of those little black baggies I carry in my pocket at all times when we go on our little walks. What a great day for a walk through history. If you are interested in taking a historical stride through historic Summerville, check out this map and brochure.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Nothing Takes You Back Like Childhood Memories

As is often the case for an active blogger, one published post leads to another. Over the past week while working on the Hot Dog SAUCE and Pepperoni BUNS blogs memories of my childhood have been re-visited, at least the portion of the memory bank that has to do with hot dogs and pepperoni buns. And the period of my life that produced the most subject related memories seems to have been the grammar school years of 1969 to 1974. For me, writing a blog is purely a hobby and form of entertainment. I know many serious bloggers are inspired and motivated by much more than hobby and entertainment, but as I say, for me, it is what it is. I had a hoot doing the hot dog blog, and I guess maybe if I was driven by something inside of me begging to be set free, it is possible that some sub-concious desire to re-visit a simpler time in my life may have been the subtle culprit.

I have said before, that I truly feel blessed to grow up where I did and when I did. Life was so much less complicated in the community of White Hall, south of Fairmont, West Virginia. Basically, the foundation for my life during the grammar school days was a tri-pod. My world centered around three major items: "the school", "the golf course" and "Fairmont State basketball." Now, I was a very active boy and my life was more than just those three things. There was a lot of time spent playing backyard sports, collecting matchbox cars and sled riding, but the basic pillars were as noted, the trifecta.

My childhood home was located just about 500 feet from the school playground at Whitehall Elementary and so much of those early years centered around the school. Not just the institution that was "the school" but the whole property. The playground, the outdoor basketball court, the makeshift baseball/softball field as well as the roof of the building and the iron pipes mounted on posts that lined the gravel parking lot in front of the school. Many summer days and evenings were spent on that school yard, it was indeed the center of the world for the neighborhood kids. As mentioned, it was a simpler time, schools and school yards didn't need chainlink fences or no trespassing signs. Every single day of my childhood involved something about "the school", it was mine.

If I wasn't hanging out at "the school" it was probably because I was at "the golf course." No, I wasn't so dedicated to the sport that I spent every waking moment at the golf course, it wasn't that at all. You see, my parents had a long term lease on the pro-shop and concessions at a public golf course and for several years, a large portion of my childhood was spent at Apple Valley Country Club. If it wasn't enough having your own personal school in your backyard, I had my own golf course a couple of miles away. It seems like my mom spent so much time at "the golf course" because she did. All day, every day from March until November my mom would leave the house and head to good old Apple Valley where she would run the shop and the concession stand until my dad finished his day job and showed up to relieve her for the day. And you guessed it, most of the time if school wasn't in session, she towed me along. Oh occasionally she would let me stay at home with my older sister, but my older sister always found a way to get me into trouble, like making me throw a ball through the picture window in the living room or punching little pin holes into the seat of my dads leather recliner with a bic pen. Life on that golf course was pretty cool, although, I didn't always see it that way, there were plenty of things going on back in the neighborhood, you know at "the school" that I was missing out on. But overall, it was a blast spending my days driving the family golf cart all over the course, playing 45 or 54 holes a day and winning enough quarters on the practice green hustling unsuspecting golfers as they warmed up before their respective matches. Who could resist letting a seven-year-old win a putting contest. Little did they know, I was hustling them by tricking them into a "double or nothing" bet before I would pour it on. Yep, good old Apple Valley Country Club accounted for a lot of firsts for me, some unmentionable...

Finally, the third leg of my childhood, Fairmont State Basketball. At the time, Fairmont State College was a small four year liberal arts and sciences college that had a great reputation for educating school teachers. The college had sensational sports teams that competed in the WVIAC at the state level and the NAIA Conference on a national level. While Fairmont State had good football and baseball programs, basketball captivated the kingdom and the king was none other than Coach Joe Joe Retton, the man, the legend. Coach Retton was the great-uncle of olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton. Referring to Coach Retton simply as Joe Retton wasn't good enough, a man with his coaching abilities had to be referred to by repeating his first name. I could go on and on about Coach Retton and the Fighting Falcon basketball team, but it has already been written. In fact, if you are a sports fan, or somebody with connections to Fairmont State, anybody that has any interest at all in sports, do yourself a huge favor and click on this link, from Sports Illustrated November 1981, the single best sports article I have ever read. It will transport you back to a time gone by, when heroes were indeed heroes, and the article sort of underscores how life was for me, back in the day when my life was all about three things: "the school", the "golf course" and Fairmont State Basketball.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hot Dog SAUCE and Pepperoni BUNS Part 2 of 2

In part 1 of Hot Dog SAUCE and Pepperoni BUNS we established that the spicy and meaty condiment adorning a real WV hot dog is "hot dog SAUCE" not chilli. The quest for cultural diffusion continues with Part 2 focusing on the 2nd pillar of North Central West Virginia Cuisine, the Pepperoni BUN. As mentioned, when introduced to my test subjects the delicacy has been referred to as a "that pepperoni thingy", "pepperoni hot pocket", "pepperoni bread", a calzone, and the one that makes me cringe the most a "pizza roll."

Much has been said and written about the West Virginia coal miner of the early to mid 20th century. He was a gritty and determined man full of resourcefulness and discipline. Many of the coal miners in my home town of Fairmont, West Virginia were first and second generation Italian immigrants. Behind the hard scrabble man was an equally clever and tough woman. Isn't that usually the case? The men who were all about long work days required a hardy and satisfying lunch for their dinner buckets. Their wives would send pepperoni, an italian style sausage, and hearth baked bread in their lunch pails. At least one published account credits an Italian baker in Fairmont with baking the first pepperoni bun in the late 1920's after observing the miners eating hunks of pepperoni along with their bread.

Like the beloved West Virginia Hot Dog with SAUCE, the pepperoni roll has it's own websites and pages posted in it's honor. One of the more entertaining that I encourage you to hit is Bob Hefners Pepperoni Roll page.

Country Club Bakery in Fairmont makes one of the most popular versions of the pepperoni bun and for good reason. You see the "Italian baker" mentioned earlier and reported to have baked the first pepperoni bun called his bakery Country Club Bakery. In an article in the Charleston (WV) Gazette back in 2002 it is reported that Country Club Bakery goes through two tons of pepperoni each month, and thats a lot of pepperoni buns. I love the Country Club Bakery version, it is the version that my mother used to serve at the Apple Valley Country Club along with that same hot dog SAUCE that you can now taste at Northwood Academy basketball games, but it is not my favorite. Nope, my favorite comes from a Pizza Place called Colasessano's and it is to pepperoni buns what a Ruth's Chris Steak is to the beef loin.

Part of my fondness for "Colo's Buns" is that I can remember my dad taking me there on Saturday afternoons prior to Fairmont State College basketball games. Back in the 70's Fairmont State College, now Fairmont State University had a national powerhouse NAIA basketball program, coached by Joe Retton, great uncle to another famous Fairmont WV native, Mary Lou Retton. We would meet up with old friends at Colasessano's a couple hours before heading to the National Guard Armory to watch the Fighting Falcons enroute to another victory on the hardwood. It's funny how an old memory associated with a place like Colasessano's can trigger your imagination to the degree that you can almost smell the place and taste that great pizza or pepperoni bun.

Many of us who have migrated from North Central West Virginia to various parts of the world bake our own versions of pepperoni buns. There are recipes too numerous to link available online, some look good, some look like "posers". But I have some hard and fast rules, if you will, for preparing and serving the delicacy regardless of whether you bake your own or purchase them commercially. First and foremost, do not, I repeat do not microwave a pepperoni bun, they are best heated in foil inside an oven or toaster oven. Secondly, use mozzarella or provolone cheese on your pepperoni bun, and only use some form of yellow cheese if you absolutely have to. Third, if you want a real treat, use some authentic WV hot dog SAUCE inside of a pepperoni bun, and even some mild or hot peppers, the kind that come in tomatoe sauce, not the pickled version like bannana pepper rings.

The great news is that both Country Club Bakery and Colasessano's will ship their great pepperoni buns anywhere. If you are intrigued, hit 'em up and place your orders today, you won't be disappointed. Just remember my preparation tips above and of course, when you place your order, remember, they are not pizza rolls or pepperoni hot pockets, they are Pepperoni BUNS. Hmmm, I think I might just bake a batch now.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Charleston National Golf Course and A Bunch of SOB's: A Five-Star Day

What could be better than a sunny 64 degree day on January 19th? A sunny 64 degree day on January 19th, spent on the golf course, especially when the golf course is the caliber of Charleston National Golf Club.

Add to the quality of the day, a group of the best SOB's around. Wait a second, SOB's on the golf course? Your kidding, right? It's not what you think, I am actually proud to call myself an SOB, you know, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

OK, before you arrive at the conclusion that I have totally lost any shred of self-dignity, I should explain. I am happy to be called an SOB, the name of the men's golf association at The Country Club of Summerville. SOB is merely an acronym for the "Summerville Old Boys". Once a month, twelve months out of the year, the men take to the road and travel to various Lowcountry golf courses to challenge the links, and each other. Complete the outing with dinner for forty to fifty SOB's and you have a Five-Star day. Of course it's even better when the event is held at a championship level golf course like the 7,000 yard Rees Jones design at Charleston National. And the quality grows exponentially when the mercury points to the mid-60's and short sleeve golf shirts abound in mid-January.

The course is a classic lowcountry design, located in the coastal community of Mount Pleasant. Ocean breezes swirl around the course and combine with marshlands, tidal creeks, palmetto and pine trees and miles of sand to create a challenge for golfers of any level. The entire course is very picturesque but the views get especially breathtaking on the back nine where the expansive marshland gives way in the distance to Dewees Inlet and the Wando River which seperates the upscale beach area known as The Isle of Palms from Mount Pleasant.

As beautiful as the golf course is, Charleston National is not a course that I would consider to be walker friendly.

The links are just too spread out throughout the marshland with what seems like miles of bridges over the marsh linking tees, greens and fairways. The layout also snakes through some of the most upscale homes and neighborhoods in the Charleston Area.

But what really makes days like today memorable is not the lush fairways, rolling greens and breathtaking views. It's not even the blue sky and warm temperatures. No, what really makes an SOB outing most excellent is the fellowship and comraderie of the SOB's themselves. Sharing the day with a bunch of great guys and golfers makes for a memorable outing. I for one am glad to be called an SOB.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Walking Around Charleston, One Hole At A Time

There is so much pleasure to be found in just walking around in the Holy City. So many opportunities for taking pictures, seeking out living history, and viewing beautiful people and homes. It is not hard to imagine that a blogger might choose a walk around Charleston as motivation for a blog post. No, today I am not blogging about a walk down Church Street, or a street by street tour of the area just "south of Broad." My inspiration is a different kind of walk, a walk on the various golf courses of the Lowcountry.

Over the years since the invention of the golf cart, walking around the course has lost it's popularity. And understandably so, first of all golf carts are a blast to drive and ride in. This is evidenced by the growing popularity of golf carts for non-golf course related transportation. Just go past any neighborhood pool in the summertime and you will likely see various colored golf carts with floaties and noodles bungied to the roof all decked out for a summer day at the pool. Secondly, from a golf perspective, the golf cart has made it possible to play a round of golf with less of a time committment, not always, but usually. The popularity of a round of golf with a cart may be leveling off and possibly even reversing, at least based upon my observations from golf courses around Charleston. And being somebody that prefers a push cart to one of the motorized versions, I am glad to see it.

A quick Google search of "walking on the golf course" lead me to alot of information that confirmed my suspicion was not mis-directed. In fact there are countless studies, articles, blogs and websites dedicated to enjoying the game while exercising by walking. I was shocked that some of the well designed medical studies have equated that walking an 18 hole round is equivalent to upwards of 45 minutes of high impact cardio-aerobics. My theories were not the result of work done in a lab, at least not a lab in the traditional sense, but recently while playing a round of golf with friends at Snee Farm Links in Mount Pleasant, I noticed more walkers than riders on the course.

And yesterday, while walking 18 holes at my home golf club, The Summerville Country Club, I noted several groups of walkers of all ages were out taking advantage of the break in the weather.

Interestingly enough, one of the things I enjoy most about walking while golfing, especially if I am the lone walker in a group, is the ability to think as I walk from shot to shot. Now when the competition is intense and I am really "in the zone", of course that thinking involves staying in the moment and focusing on my golf game, but that state of mind seems to be the exception rather than the rule lately. You would be amazed at the kind of things that you can sort out on those little 200 yard walks from tee to green on a good par 3. Yesterday, for example, I wrote this blog a hundred times, reflecting on what I wanted to say in a blog about walking rather than riding. Well, of course I also thought of some neat birthday gifts for my niece who celebrated her birthday last week and considered some landscaping plans for the backyard this spring.

Some golf courses are better suited for riding rather than walking, and sometimes it is the conditions that determine that riding as opposed to walking will be preferential. For instance, Charleston has two golf seasons, the hot and humid season from mid-June through mid-September, and the rest of the year. There are dozens of golf courses here in the Charleston Area that are walker friendly and a good quality push-cart makes your walk so much more enjoyable, as does a fair share of pars and a birdie every now and then. So, get out there and enjoy a walk around Charleston, hole by hole.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Oysters!!!! Oysters!!!! Oysters!!!!

I am recovering this morning from a wonderful night on the water at Bowen's Island Restaraunt with family and friends (including a fellow blogger). It's a lazy Sunday morning here in the Lowcountry and while I wait for the coffee to brew I thought I would do a quick post. Part 2 of Hot Dog SAUCE and Pepperoni BUNS is in the works, but this morning I wanted to post links to two of the blogs I follow daily and encourage you to go to them and check them out, you won't be disappointed.
The first (click on the italics to visit) Charleston Daily Photo is actually a photo blog that I discovered prior to moving to Charleston and would follow every day to help learn more about the area.

While you are at it, and most importantly, click on and check out Charleston Treasures a blog by a fellow West Virginian and one of my dining companions last night at Bowen's Island. Some great pictures, even one of yours truly shucking and sucking down a roasted oyster. Enjoy!


Friday, January 14, 2011

Hot Dog SAUCE and Pepperoni BUNS

I am a pharmacist, and pharmacists are scientific by nature. That probably accounts for the experiment in trans-cultural diffusion that I am currently conducting. The experiment involves introducing two fantastic, albeit, regional foods common to the area of North Central West Virginia from where I migrated. The topics of my study are hot Dog SAUCE and pepperoni BUNS, the words SAUCE and BUNS are emphasized here.
My study subjects have been primarily neighbors and co-workers, but recently a much wider study group has been added, more on that later. The information that I have obtained through my observations has been very peculiar indeed. The study is not really meant to glean new information related to trans-cultural diffusion, it is a well accepted phenomena that cultural elements from one culture will diffuse into a new culture as a result of migration. No, in fact, I am interested in a totally different phenomenon, one that I have not been able to understand. The test subjects have reacted in an overall positive fashion when exposed to the hot dog sauce and pepperoni buns. There have been requests for recipes and one test subject baked a batch of pepperoni buns to take on a family camping trip only to end up crying the next morning when he found that the racoons in the campground had eaten all of his buns. The one product of the study that is baffling me however, why can't they get the names right? For the life of me, I can't convince them that the sauce is sauce and NOT chili, and that pepperoni buns are pepperoni buns and not, pizza rolls or calzones, or pizza buns or pizza bread rolled up, etc. etc. etc.

This is going to be a two-part post, so for today, I will focus on hot dog SAUCE. First off, a disclaimer, now I am NOT saying that a great hot dog is native to North Central West Virginia, so fans of the street vendors in New York City and Chicago, back off. I, being a hot dog officianado, have had some great hot dogs all over the United States, but I will go as far as saying Great hot dog SAUCE is absolutely endemic to North Central WV. You have to understand, the hot dog itself takes on a whole different level in WV. To illustrate I will tell you about a very, very distinguished man, a good friend of mine and a long time US Federal Judge appointed by John F. Kennedy. Judge Robert Maxwell recently passed away in his beloved Elkins, WV. A public memorial was held and those in attendance were treated afterwards to his favorite snack, hot dogs. That's how it is in WV with hot dogs.
Anyway, why the fuss over referring to a hot dog with sauce as a chilli dog?
It's not really a fuss as much as it is correction of fact, a righting of a wrong if you will. There is a difference, a HUGE difference. Heck, you can get a hot dog with chilli on it, all over the world. For crying out loud, these days, you can get anything you like on a hot dog. Macaroni and Cheese? Yup. Mashed potatoes and gravy? You betcha. Crab meat? Of course. The point is, hot dog SAUCE is unique. The difference is evident in the texture, thickness and flavor. Not to mention the lack of beans. It may share some of the ingredients of chilli, the soup, but the method of preparation is different and to say that hot dog sauce is just a version of chilli, would be like saying 24 carat gold is just a type of metal. I mentioned that the hot dog is a thing of reverence in North Central West Virginia, and if the dog itself is reverent, the SAUCE is the holy grail. The popularity and importance of the WV Hot Dog is well chronicled, for instance, you can surf on over to the WV Hot Dog Blog
or you can join the facebook group WV Hot Dogs. For me, the mecca of hot dog sauce is Yanns Hot Dog Stand in Fairmont.
The place is legendary, their creation has even taken on an identity of it's own, "the Yann Dog." Don't believe me? Google it.

I mentioned a larger group of test study subjects earlier in the post. At Northwood Academy, in North Charleston, SC I have begun providing them with hot dog SAUCE for the concession stand at the high school basketball and baseball games. When I take my turn working the counter at games, I ever so subtly plant the term in their heads. When they order a chilli dog, I shout out, one hot dog with sauce. My wife working the other end of the counter smiles knowingly, as do my friends Erin and Kevin, a teacher and coach at the school, native Fairmonters. Now Northwood Academy hosts games against some of the most exclusive private schools from Charleston and from time to time some of the real true blue-bloods from Chawlston will frequent the concession stand and they will in a very proper and hospitably Chawston broque order a "hoault dawlg wuid chileh pliz." And it gives me such pleasure to serve them a Northwood Academy hot dog with West Virginia SAUCE. I love it, and it makes me smile to know that I am contributing to the trans-cultural diffusion of hot dog SAUCE into the lowcountry. It makes me smile, and I bet it makes Judge Maxwell smile too.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Folly Boat

I grew up in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. Life there was whimsical at times, and when I look back on my childhood, my grade-school experiences, my teenage and high school years, I realize just how lucky I was to live during that time in that place. My family didn't take summer vacations in the usual fashion, in other words, by loading up the car and heading to Ocean City, Maryland or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Our vacations usually were to visit my grandparents in Marlinton, West Virginia (for those who don't know, Marlinton is the town closest to the Snowshoe ski resort in WV). While those vacations made wonderful memories, I always felt envious when my friends would tell about their week at the beach. Other than that one year when my dad loaded us into the Olds Delta 88 and we headed south to Key West, with stops along the way in Atlanta, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale/Miami Beach, and of course every Stuckeys Pecan Log stand and Howard Johnsons along the way.
So, as I entered my adult years, my only experience with lands where palm trees grew was that one week as seen from the backseat of an Oldsmobile Delta 88 with a blue haze of combined Winston and El Producto smoke rolling out of the car through the cracked front windows. By the way dad smoked the cigars and mom the cigs. Those experiences of hearing summer after summer from my friends about the beach, would probably account, in some fashion, for the mid-life crisis and pioneering spirit that resulted in me moving my family to the land of palm trees in 2007.
I guess you could say, I went through a good portion of my life with a limited experience and knowledge of the ways of life in a beach town. When I thought of palm trees I had these wonderfully fantastic images in my mind. Like images of sand and blue water, sunshine and orange trees, tanned bathing beauties and the smell of coconut tanning oil. As I aged and my exposure to the good things in life increased, those images were enhanced by visions of margaritas, Jimmy Buffett tunes, steamed peel and eat shrimp and lush beautiful golf courses.

I have to say, moving to a sub-tropical climate like the Lowcountry of South Carolina has been all that and more. Some of the reasons we chose the Charleston area was the city, the shopping, the airport and ease of travel, the rich history, and the culture. Charleston is unique, it has it all. Here I can pretty much play golf year round, go to an outdoor restaraunt for oysters on Saturday night and head to a minor league professional hockey or baseball game on Sunday afternoon. I can catch a broadway quality musical or see The Dave Matthews Band after driving 25 minutes to get to the venue.

I can spend the day at one of the most beautiful Atlantic beaches or spend the day fishing from a boat on a lazy tidal creek. I can open up a Civil War or Revolutionary War history book, read a chapter then jump in my car, drive downtown, park and walk a 3 block area and have the history come to life.

Those are some pretty tangible examples of what makes Charleston great for me. If you asked me for a list of bullet points that make Charleston such and enjoyable city to visit and live in, I would have to begin the list with fun. Following close behind would be artistic, eclectic, hospitable, colorful, constantly changing yet maintaining it's unique identity. These are all characteristics that make Charleston, Charleston.
As a relative newcomer to the lowcountry, aka, the land of palm trees, no other landmarks, and there are plenty, strike me as being so purely Charleston as the Folly Boat. The boat, a left over relic deposited roadside compliments of Hurricaine Hugo has served as a community wide message board for over 2 decades. It is as much a part of Folly Beach as, well, Folly Beach.

For those of you who aren't real familiar with the local geography, Folly Beach is located on the Atlantic Ocean side of James Island and is arguably Charleston County's most popular beach. During the summer months on most days traffic snakes along Folly Road toward "the beach". Thousands of cars, trucks, motorcycles and other motor vehicles make the pilgrimage to Folly and while doing so, they all drive past the Folly Boat. The boat serves as an exciting reminder to all that you are close enough to the beach to smell the surf and taste the salt, a welcome sight after dealing with slow moving traffic for several miles.

Shortly after we moved to Charleston the family made the trip to Folly Beach, and the grafiti tatooed boat is what I remember most about that first visit to Folly. As a matter of fact, a couple of weeks later, when I still had not learned my way around town very well, a friend was trying to explain to me the location of a popular restaraunt."He said, you turn off of Folly Road just past the painted boat." I had no idea where the post office was, not a clue how to get to the court house, the doctors office or the bank. But, I knew where the painted boat was located and how to get there.
Not only does The Folly Boat have it's own listing on Wikipedia, there is a web site that features daily photo galleries of the artwork that adorns the boat dating back nearly two decades. As you can see from the galleries, no work of art lasts very long on The Folly Boat. As a matter of fact, last May on the last day of school, my son Noah attended a classmates birthday party at Folly Beach. When my wife and I passed by the painted boat we noticed that the kids had painted the boat earlier in the day to wish their friend Happy Birthday. Less than an hour later as we headed home, the boat had already been painted over congratulating Peggy and John on their marriage.

What makes the boat so purely Charleston? What could be more fun than pulling off the side of the road with paint rollers and brushes in hand to create a masterpiece commemorating a friends birthday or wedding? The Folly Boat must have over 5000 coats of paint on it's surface, but each time the roadside art gallery is updated or changes, somehow it just seems to work, it fits. Each new message is just as important as the one before it, it is ever changing, but it stays the same. Just like Charleston. And talk about hospitality, you couldn't ask for a better welcome mat for a beach that calls itself "the edge of America."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Too Cold For A Trip To Morris Island

It's a frosty and chilly morning here in the land of palm trees, and I am enjoying my morning coffee at the kitchen table while watching a lone male cardinal take his breakfast at the feeder beside the back patio. As I log onto my Ipod to check the weather, thoughts of a round of golf abruptly exit the entirety of my brain. With my attention now turned toward scanning the online version of the Charleston Post and Courier a video captures my attention, hmmm...., Star of The West Reenactment.

After watching the video for a split second, I think, maybe I'll take a trip down to Folly Beach to walk on the beach and snap some pictures of the lighthouse on Morris Island from the shores of Folly. After all it would provide excellent material for a blog entry on my newly revived From The Land Of Palm Trees blog. Then the brain thing activated again, it quickly said, "dummy, if it is too cold to play golf, it is way to cold to go walk on the beach." And, well, I listened. But, thanks to The Living Military History Society from The Citadel, the video had piqued my interest.

Morris Island, a small barrier island residing within the Charleston Harbor, is one of the many historical points of interest in Charleston. Morris Island is a mere 840 acres and is accessible only by boat. Thanks to shifting sands, the barrier island is under constant threat of going away. Many locals spend lazy summer days and nights anchored off of the tiny island, enjoying an adult beverage or three and letting their dogs splash in the surf. I have never set foot on Morris Island, but I have viewed the island up close from the Fort Sumter boat tour. Any visitor to one of the neatest Atlantic Beaches of Charleston, Folly Beach, recognizes the lighthouse standing 300 yards or so from the Northeast shore of the beach. The Morris Island lighthouse dates back to the late 1700's and used to be on a small patch of land but it is now surrounded by seawater. Below is a picutre of what I would have seen this morning on my Folly Beach stroll if I hadn't been such a wimp.
The tiny patch of sand known as Morris Island is associated with a variety of events that took place during the Civil War, but as the re-enactment video illustrates, on January 9, 1861 a group of Cadets from The Citadel, predecors of the same Citadel Cadets that you will surely notice mixing in with the tourists nightly on Market Street when you visit the Holy City, opened fire on a civilian supply ship as it steamed toward Fort Sumter intending to re-supply Federal troops who occupied the South Carolina Fort under the leadership of Major Robert Anderson. The cadets were said to be the best qualified soldiers in Charleston at the time. The circumstances that lead to the firing on the Star of The West are well chronicled. In December of the year 1860 South Carolina held a state convention after the election of Abraham Lincoln and passed an ordinance to secede from the Union. At the time there were 3 forts in Charleston occupied by Federal troops; Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney and Fort Sumter. The citizenry and leaders of South Carolina as a seceeded republic that the forts were in it's domain and they intended to occupy the forts with South Carolinians. Major Anderson and his men occupied Fort Moultrie at the time and President Buchannan remained in the White House. As you might imagine, there were rumors flying about and on December 26, 1860 Major Anderson, after hearing that President Buchanan was considering a decision to have Anderson abandon Fort Moultrie, decided to move his troops to a less vulnerable position at Fort Sumter. Shortly thereafter, South Carolina took possession of Moultrie and Castle Pinckney, and this prompted President Buchanan to order that the unarmed merchant vessel, The Star of the West, be sent to re-supply Anderson and his troops. Thus, a couple of weeks later when said ship attempted to enter the Charleston Harbor with it's care packages meant for Anderson et. al., the Citadel Cadets were more than happy to offer a less than hospitable greeting to the visitors from up Nawth. For those of you who are intrigued by the story, a full account of the encounter can be found in Harper's Weekly from January 23,1861.

Ultimately, this simple defense of Charleston Harbor by the cadets of The Citadel from the shores of tiny Morris Island lead to an all out attack of the federally occupied Fort Sumter and the subsequent surrender of the fort by Major Anderson, but that's another blog. So, if you are a tourist in the land of the palm trees, be sure and take a boat tour of Fort Sumter
. If you are a local, then the next time you have the good fortune of being on a boat hangin' out in the harbor, take a side trip out to tiny Morris Island, but be a good guest whilst you wander and clean up after yourself because she is a jewel in the crown that is the land of the palm trees.