Monday, October 24, 2011

"Mac" Off Jack!!!

Charleston SC has arguably some of the best chefs and restaurants in the United States, if not the World. To illustrate consider the bragging list currently reads something about like this:

1- Husk Restaurant Bon Appetit magazine Best New Restaurant of The Year September 2011
2- 2008, 2009, 2010 “Best Chef Southest” James Beard Award(
3- 2008, 2009 "Best Rising Star Chef" Awarded to Sean Brock of Husk Restaurant Charleston
4- Anthony Bourdain tabbed Charleston as "One of the Most Underrated Food Towns In America"

And I must dutifully inform you that by no means is this an exhaustive list since the primary purpose of this expose is not necessarily to promote Charleston as a food destination, although it is. No at the risk or misleading you, the reader, my emphasis on Charleston as an all out mecca for foodies is simply to establish that when it comes to food, good food, one can confidently say that the chefs and restaurants in Charleston are major leaguers.

Having said that, you might be surprised to find out that some of the most famous and critically acclaimed chefs and restaurants in the world will be pulling out all of the stops next week in a cook-off that will determine, are you ready for this? The best Macaroni and Cheese in the Holy City. That is a lot of attention and importance to be commanded by a dish so simple and comforting as "mac-n-cheese." But, in the South, there are few dishes that occupy the designation of being a "southern staple" any more than mac-n-cheese. Oh sure, there are plenty of foods that are labeled as "Southern" and I know, people all over the Country, if not the World consume the cheesy casserole, but I didn't say it was exclusively Southern. I will say that Southerners approach their "mac-n-cheese" from an entirely different perspective though. For instance, at Thanksgiving, while turkey is king all over the U.S.A. including the South, the familiarly cheesy tureen occupies a spot right alongside ol' Tom Turkey on most Southern sideboards. Back in 2007, when we were "new" transplants to the Lowcountry, my wife took a very informal survey of her first-graders at Berkeley Elementary School asking them what was their favorite aspect of Thanksgiving Dinner. Mac-n-Cheese was the overwhelming first choice. She laughed all the way home from Moncks Corner that day to tell me that her kids all think that Macaroni and Cheese is a Thanksgiving dish. Later that evening, we went to a pre-Thanksgiving potluck at our church, yep, you guessed it, ummmm, the baked and extra cheesy kind. So for the past 3 years at our home in White Gables, we have included along with the local oysters in the stuffing, a nice big casserole of baked Mac-n-Cheese.

So, if you are in town this weekend and looking for something fun to do, check out the Charleston Mac-Off at the Charleston Visitors Center Bus Shed Friday October 28th from 7pm-11pm. Live entertainment, samples from each competitor and the chance to have a say in The Best Mac & Cheese in The Holy City. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What Did You Say?

I spent most of this beautiful Autumn day indoors attending an educational session so that I can satisfy the Boards of Pharmacy in the two states where I am licensed to practice, West Virginia and South Carolina. Sometimes continuing education seminars can be very dry and tedious, especially when the sun is shining and there are a million other things that one could be doing in The Land of Palm Trees; insert riding a bike around town, walking on the beach, fishing, playing golf, etc.

During today's session, in a successful attempt to add some levity and energy to what could be an energy zapping afternoon, the moderator presented a couple of slides containing southern slang medical terminology. It accomplished it's intended purpose, and it got me thinking about how we have begun to learn an entirely new dialect, now that we have been coastal southerners for five years or in other words, were a fixin' to have lived heh nearabout five years. Y'all need to carry y'allself down heh where y'all can up the window in your bedroom at night before ya cut the light.

Thought y'all might enjoy this humorous look at medical terminology, Southern Style.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Summerville D.R.E.A.M. Third Thursday

Every month on the third Thursday, the restaurants, bars, storefronts and art galleries of Historic Summerville, South Carolina come to life for a street celebration and art walk known as Third Thursday. There are live entertainers in the form of musicians, street-actors and dancers performing at different spots throughout the district. Many of the stores and street-side vendors sponsor give-aways and provide complimentary wine, soda and goodies to the patrons.

This afternoon autumn arrived in earnest with a chilly Northeast wind and a cobalt blue sky. Perfect weather to spend a couple of hours browsing in Historic Downtown Summerville. The only problem? My wife had a meeting so I would have to go by myself. It's not that I have an aversion to going places without my wife, it's just not as much fun visiting the art galleries and strolling through town alone. I retrieved my son Noah from football practice and told him that we were going to stop off to take in some of the festivities downtown. I detected one of those "oh no I have to humor dad" kind of looks on his face, and off we went.

We began our excursion at the Art Central Gallery on Short Central in the heart of Historic Summerville. After spending a little bit of time admiring the fine watercolor originals that adorn the gallery walls, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting the enchanting Helen K. Beacham, one of the feature artists at Art Central. Mrs. Beacham was happy to answer my amateurish questions regarding several of her works and even explained to me her use of yupo paper as a media
allowing the artist to produce some remarkable effects with coloration and contrasts attributed to the translucent properties of the paper.

From there we visited with several vendors and artists occupying kiosks on Short Central. I stopped to buy a Georgia Pecan Pie candle at a booth occupied by my friend Danielle from The Ol' Tin Candle and Craft Co. Michelle loves scented candles and pecan pie is one of her favorites. Along the way I discovered the most unique birdhouses I have ever seen. Sea-Town Mosaics features true one-of-a-kind cedar birdhouses completely covered with cut mosaic glass tiles. Really, really neat stuff.

Four Green Fields Gallery & Gifts will definitely be on my Christmas Shopping itenarary, I found the perfect gift for my brother (not pictured) and the ultimate gift for the Lowcountry Barbecue Master who has it all (pictured). I also discovered that Four Green Fields sells my favorite store bought Bloody Mary Mix.

I had just about exhausted every ounce of patience and congeniality in my fifteen-year-old son so we made a token appearance on Hutchinson Square to watch the authentic German band perform a selection, and headed for the car. I am not sure how much enjoyment Noah gets out of little jaunts about town with his dad, but it sure does indulge el padre.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Changes in Attitude

click on color-highlighted links for information

We were drawn to the Lowcountry by our love of the South Carolina Coast and it's beaches. So it is only logical that times spent on the Charleston beaches play a maj
or role in our lifestyle here in the Land Of Palm Trees. In fact, what better way to transition from seven nights of the high stress and on demand nature of working night-shifts in a busy hospital than to hit the soft sand with a chair, a good book and a bottle of water. Nothing assists with my transition from night shift pharmacist to easy livin' than a couple of hours watching and hearing the waves gently roll onto the shore, gazing with wonder at the pelicans as they gracefully fly in formation just above the ocean surface and watching the shrimp trawlers as they rythmically work the near shore waters for that delicious pink crustacean we call local shrimp. Even the seagulls take some time off to enjoy the awesome weather this time of the year.

We have the choice of five different beaches within a 45 minute drive of home but as time goes by we are growing to love the beach at Sullivan's Island most of all. Sully's is mainly a locals type beach although recently Michelle and I were surprised to find a decent crowd of Carnival Cruise Ship customers spending a part of their port day enjoying the relatively calm water and massive sandbars at Station 22 of Sullivan's Island under the watchful eye of the Charleston Lighthouse located adjacent to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island.

For me, the one of the coolest things about the beach at Sullivan's Island is what happens at the beach from low to intermediate tide. Huge sandbars are exposed by the low water. It's great to stroll up the sandbar with the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and a 4-6 foot channel of calm water on the other side. It's not uncommon to see folks on paddleboards cruising around on the calm water especially this time of the year when the water temperatures are still decent but the heat and humidity of Summer has gone away.

A couple of hours in the sunshine at Sully's provides for a nice afternoon get-away. Those are the kinds of options that you have when you are a year-round resident of vacation land. On the way home I detoured over to Shem Creek, a great little spot along a tidal creek winding through the salt marsh coming out of Charleston Harbor. Thought I might try to find some blue crabs or fresh shrimp. One of the shrimp trawlers that I had watched earlier working the near shore waters was offloading their haul for the day and I picked up a couple of pounds of local shrimp for dinner. Freshly caught South Carolina wild shrimp steamed in beer with Old Bay, MMMMMMMPPPPH!!!! That's how we roll From The Land of Palm Trees.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Coastal Carolina Fair

There probably isn't a more striking dichotomy relating to the different perspective on life in the "dirty south" versus life "up there" than the contrast you will discover while examining the upcoming Coastal Carolina Fair to be held at Exchange Park Fairground in Ladson, South Carolina during the last week of October and first week of November. Where I come from you hope for warm and sunny weather during fair or festival week. On the other hand, when I talk to Lowcountry residents about "the fair" nearly every person says that what they really hope for is crisp and cool weather, maybe even cloudy and overcast days. The kind of weather that a native of West Virginia might consider sweater weather, but to the Charleston, South Carolina natives it's time to pull out the winter jackets, stylish wool caps and matching scarves and gloves. After all, here in The Land of Palm Trees, 56 degrees feels cold. But it's true, if you stop by the 55th Annual Coastal Carolina Fair next week you will surely see lots of cold weather gear and thousands, make that tens of thousands of smiling faces.

The Coastal Carolina Fair has been held at the Ladson location of Exchange Park since 1979. The fairgrounds occupy 165 acres along Highway 78, and is built around a series of small lakes lined with palm trees giving the fair a truly "coastal flair." Like most fairs, there is an abundance of food, entertainment, carnival rides and traffic. Throughout the 10 days of the fair, over a quarter million patrons will enjoy the festivities.

The Lakefront Stage will feature quite a diverse lineup of internationally known stars this year with names like Marty Stuart, Crystal Bowersox, Easton Corbin and John Michael Montgomery. And admission to the Lakefront Stage show is included in your admission price. Seating at the Lakefront Stage offers a tremendous vantage point to view the nightly fireworks as well.

Maybe you aren't really looking for musical entertainment, there are two other stages at the CCF providing entertainment ranging from Dancing Bears to trained Seals to hypnotists. If you are a fan of carnival cuisine the CCF offers a smorgasbord of tastes like fried turkey legs or a deep fried Snickers Bar. With dozens of food vendors, you will surely find something to tantalize your taste buds. If thrill rides are more your speed, the midway at CCF features 65 rides, including a great selection of gentle rides geared toward the youngsters in your group.

As you can see by clicking on the video below, the Coastal Carolina Fair is a great way to spend a late afternoon and evening in The Land of Palm Trees. Hopefully you will have a chance to visit the fair this year.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Boone Hall Fright Nights

I am enjoying yet another beautiful Lowcountry evening here on my front porch. A gorgeous pink sky sunset framing a moon on the rise that is just past full moon stage makes for a perfect southern night.

Meanwhile, over in Mount Pleasant across the Cooper and Wando Rivers a much different scene is playing out for my youngest son Noah at Boone Hall Plantation where he is visiting the annual Boone Hall Plantation Fright Night. Since moving to the Charleston area in the summer of 2007 Michelle and I have been absolutely amazed at the "over-the-top" observation of Halloween here in the Lowcountry. Trick or treat night here in White Gables is truly an event, we even invite some of our friends from outside of the neighborhood to come by and watch as hundreds of costume clad trick or treaters, adult and child, descend upon the streets of this quaint neighborhood with the colorful Charleston style homes. I am not talking about your run of the mill, Wal-Mart $19.99 costumes, last year we had pirates, wizards, super heroes and princess fairies, not to mention a couple of vampires and wolves. Dozens of our neighbors put out displays like the spookie graveyard scene in this picture from our neighbors house down the street.

Speaking of over-the-top entertainment, Boone Hall puts on a professionally produced show, complete with professional actors, sets and special effects that rival anything that you will see in Mickey's world. The show is created by DVE Productions and wow, do they pull out all of the zombies for this one. I have told Michelle to prepare for Noah to join her in our bedroom tonight after he gets home from this show. Click on the video, you will be amazed and frightened. I know I was.

Boone Hall Plantation is located just off of Highway 17 North off of Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant, SC. Fright Night will continue to run throughout October, Friday and Saturday nights, from dark to midnite, all other nights from dark to 10pm. Check it out, if you dare.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saying Goodbye So That They Can Say It's Good To Be Home

Growing up, I was blessed by maternal grandparents who provided me with ten of the "world's greatest" Aunts and Uncles, not to mention a whole passel of playmates, first cousins whom are now spread all over the world, as in "big wide world."

It fascinates me to consider what life must have been like during those hard-scrabble days of the early twentieth century to parent eleven very active children. The sheer hustle and bustle of the whole process is perplexing to me, the mere logistics of the task is daunting to say the least. Owen B. and May Curry spent the earliest years of wedded bliss living in the sawmill company town of Cass, West Virginia prior to moving their ever-growing family to the County Seat of Pocahontas County, Marlinton, where O.B. served as the jailer and the family occupied the living quarters attached to the large stone building that housed the county jail.

The emanation of an acclaimed family legacy undoubtedly had it's origin amidst the life and times of the Curry Children's occupation of the Pocahontas County Jail. After their stint in the jail, life took a somewhat mundane turn as O.B. Curry transitioned from jailer to grocer and butcher at Curry's Semi-Self Serve Market. That is, as mundane as life with eleven children could be. How hectic life must have been in that big white house at 711 Ninth Avenue with teenagers coming and going to football and basketball games and cheerleading practice, it must have been a constant flurry of activity. And from the assiduous clan was spawned a compilation of accolades, awards, distinctions and degrees that you would not predict from a brood native to a tiny isolated mountain village located hundreds of miles from the sophistication and urbanity of the Pre-World War II American cities of the Eastern United States. There were decorated military veterans, nurses, a physician, a lawyer and a pharmacist. The family had state officials and a sheriff, and over the years the siblings migrated to San Diego, Atlanta, Wisconsin, Washington D.C. and locations in between.

I maintain an ardent envisage of the gaiety that emanated from that house on 9th Avenue when the entire family would gather at holiday time. If there is one characteristic that embodies the descendants of O.B. Curry it would be frivolity.

Not all of the Curry Clan scattered across the land. The oldest son, Wilbur, stayed back in Marlinton where he joined his father in the grocery business. And Dale, the pharmacist, returned to his hometown to own and operate the corner drug store, just down the street from the market. As the years passed and the family grew with a new generation of progeny. A trip to Marlinton to visit Grandma and Grandpa Curry was always a highly anticipated event. Of course a trip to Marlinton also included a chance to hang out with two of your favorite uncles, Wilbur and Dale. I can only imagine the excitement that both of them must have felt in the days leading up to visits from their nieces and nephews. Their excitement probably matched the "dread" that their siblings, the parents of all of those nieces and nephews must have endured in anticipation of all of Dale and Wilbur's fun aimed at spoiling the kids.

Recently during Uncle Wilbur's last days I was talking with one of his grandsons, and I told him that long before there were grandchildren, Uncle Wilbur had practiced on nieces and nephews, and he did. And I might add, he got it right. Unfortunately, saying goodbye has been all but to frequent in our large family. All but three of those FABULOUS aunts and uncles are now together in heaven, leaving us behind with lots of fabulous memories and the grief of missing them. But as we grieve over the loss of those great fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents we are sustained by each other. In fact, they live on through our lives. The lessons they taught go with us no matter where we are. We can all be proud of our lineage and heritage. We are lucky, we have a tremendous family and as we say our goodbyes to those who have gone before us, we will always see reminders of them in each other and with this our blessing and their legacy will continue to live, even as the tears fall upon our cheeks our hearts are strangely warmed knowing heaven has gained another angel in the form of a Curry kid and oh what joy there must have been in heaven last Thursday as the oldest son Wilbur came walking through the gates.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Real Pickle

Is this what it comes down to? Blogging about a pickle? Yep. But not just any pickle. It's a locally grown and produced pickle, prepared using a traditional non-heat method of pickling that enables the product to be produced without a ton of preservatives and salt. Salt + preservatives = sodium, and the pitfalls of sodium speak for themselves. But the low sodium aspect of this pickle is secondary in my delight with them. The real deal is the taste and texture of this pickle. It just screams Granma's kitchen.

The Charleston Pickle Company produces and markets these tasty little chips, and many of the finest restaurants in Charleston (the most underrated foodie city in America according to Anthony Bourdain) serve them.

Check them out, they are one of those little know secrets of the Lowcountry. Hope you are making some fun plans for the upcoming weekend, stay tuned to From The Land of Palm Trees, Michelle and I are headed by boat down the Intercoastal Waterway from Charleston to Hilton Head early tomorrow morning with some friends for the Northwood Academy vs. Hilton Head Prep varsity football game Friday afternoon. A unique twist to Friday Night Lights, the Hilton Head Prep home varsity football games begin at 4pm because the lights from the football field would be disruptive to the loggerhead turtles that are nesting along the Atlantic Coast at Hilton Head this time of the year. We are so happy that after five games out with a severe knee sprain our favorite Charger will return to action Friday at Hilton Head. At any rate, we are going by boat to the game and then spending the rest of the weekend at the Disney Vacation Resort in Shelter Cove.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Love What You Do!

Today we are blessed with yet another AWESOME weather day here in the Lowcountry. I know my readers from "up there" always think that I love to rub-it-in but I am just reporting the weather as accurately as I can. Quite simply, 76 degrees with a slight breeze off of the Atlantic Ocean and a deep blue sky overhead with no clouds in sight is just about perfect. If it bothers you that I talk about it then you should wonder why it doesn't bother me when you talk about cold and rainy weather with 9 inches of snow in your backyard. Just kidding, of course I am rubbing it in, that's my shtick.

Anyway, this morning I found myself walking down a closely cut Bermuda grass fairway, just me and my golf clubs. It is amazing how peaceful a dew shrouded golf course can be, and with the sun low in an early morning sky the shadows that are cast from the towering long-needle pine trees and sprawling live-oaks decorated with Spanish moss contrasted with the various textures of grass growing along the fairways, greens and rough areas creates a landscape so picturesque that words cannot create a worthy image. As I strolled down the center of the fairway toward the green past a canal that borders the fairway, I paused to admire a great-blue-heron as he fished along the edge of the lagoon. This majestic bird stood nearly three foot tall and he craned his neck ever so slightly in order to watch me with slightly more acuity and interest than I displayed toward him. I veered away from him so as to not spook him; after all, he was there before I sauntered past. Arriving at the green, I knelt to line up a makeable 15 foot putt when I noticed a stunning red-hawk gliding among the loblolly trees near the green. The hawk landed about midway up in one of the pines directly behind the green and I stood there amazed at this prolific hunter. He was a beautiful hawk, and while he obviously felt safe half-way up the tall tree I knew that if I wanted to capture his picture that I would have to be very still and keep my distance. I watched him for a good while before he soared off high above the trees and out of sight. I missed the putt, barely, but didn't mind, after all, I had just been presented the opportunity to enjoy two of God's wonderfully winged creatures within a span of about a hundred yards.

With my attention back on my golf game, at least for the time being, and playing the next hole I soaked up the warm sunshine and begin to feel just a bit too warm in the sweater vest I had thrown on this morning but the breeze was cool and my golf ball had come to rest in the shadows cast by the trees that lined the fairway so I enjoyed the contrast in temperature compared to just a moment earlier. That is one of the beautiful things about living in the Lowcountry during this time of year, the combination of 80 degree days and 60 degree nights is wonderful, and the early mornings and late afternoons are just the best times of the day for reading on the front porch or enjoying a beverage in front of a fire on the back patio. And if we are lucky, the pattern holds out until after Christmas and New Years Day. Standing over the ball preparing for my next shot, I calculated that I must be roughly 200 yards from the pin, so I chose my favorite golf club, the 3-iron with which to hit my shot. There are few feelings as sweet as a crisply struck 3-iron and I watched as the ball sailed to the green and settled with a soft landing on the short grass. Those of you who are golfers will appreciate the story, those of you who aren’t; well you have probably moved on by now anyway. Walking to the green all was right with the world, and it occurred to me that nothing is better than time spent doing what you love to do. For me, I have several interests, golf is but one of them, and I can't even say it is my favorite, although it is at least in the top ten. I hope you had the opportunity to do something today that you love to do, if you didn't, well there is always tomorrow so make time for it and go do it. I didn't spend the entire day on the golf course, I got a few projects done at home, and hopefully my wife will appreciate my efforts. What do you think? Here’s to doing the things we love, From The Land of Palm Trees.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Nice Recipe For A Sunny Fall Afternoon

Fall in the Lowcountry provides many opportunities for just kicking back and enjoying life. It may be a football tailgate, an early evening neighborhood block party or just a couple of cold beers on the back patio whatever the occasion, some local shrimp and this recipe will add to the quality of a sunny fall afternoon. I made this a couple of weeks ago when we headed up to Columbia to visit our oldest son, J.D., at the University of South Carolina for USC Parents Weekend. We enjoyed our pre-game tailgate for the Vanderbilt game even though a quick splash and dash thunderstorm occurred just as we were pulling into the lot.

2 pounds cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium red onion, sliced and separated into rings
2 medium lemons, cut into slices
1 cup pitted ripe olives, drained
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a 3-qt. glass serving bowl, combine the shrimp, onion, lemons and olives. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the remaining ingredients; shake well. Pour over shrimp mixture and stir gently to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf before serving. Yield: 14 servings.