Deep in the woods after a really long hike or ski or other such recreational bliss, I can get down on just about any food. Canned lentils. Cold meat. Peanut Butter. Are you with me on this? Being abroad or feeling similar in an Alaskan village, if you put something in front of me, I’m going to try it at least once. Years ago, I had a cook in Greece when I worked in the black market for the olive groves and she would make these insanely strange dishes with loads of okra that tasted like heaven, but looked like piles of dog poo. It didn’t matter-I ate it. I didn’t use to be this way, but one thing I believe adventure prescribes is the ability to eat anything when you’re hungry. Along side these experiments when you can afford it, you also get to dine on the fine side of things, and grow your taste buds using a higher sort of fashion: fine cuisine, wines, tapas…..
I’ve never really labeled myself as a foodie, but I think I’m becoming one. I can still grab a hold of those canned lentils, but at the same time, I’m way into the finer lifestyle. I want the lamb chops. The asparagus in wine. The fancy fish dish I can’t pronounce. However, I can’t really afford all of that out nor do I want to be surrounded by that culture too often so I’ve learned how to enjoy and prepare fish, whether that’s out of some tin foil, a very expired cabin baking pan, or dressed up real nice with a marinade you can only find off Epicurious. In Alaska, you must respect the fish regardless of how it is prepared. Exploring food reminds me of my childhood somewhat as my parents required dinner at the table; we would eat the boxed pasta sometimes, but typically, we were eating some nice cuisine in the dining room because that is what my parents loved. They still do dinner at the table with nice meals, which has rubbed off on my siblings as well. They also loved cooking in the woods with the bare essentials. Nowadays, I find myself emailing my friends with recipes I’ve tried and I throw spices together just for the chance of it tasting like something I’d want to have again. Where is that coming from?
These days, I’m traveling to Charleston, South Carolina frequently and if you haven’t been, the main thing you need to know outside of its water beauty is that it is one of the most celebrated foodie towns in the USA. I didn’t know or realize this until I started venturing there more regularly, but with each visit, I’m adding to my restaurants to try list because the locals keep adding suggestions. I can’t really keep up, but I’m determined to try them all!
The other thing you need to know is that the south sucks at coffee. While I’m drowning in glorious food options, I’m not feeling the same about the coffee of the south. It’s actually just brown water: Dunkin’ Doughnuts, Waffle House, Diners…..places that serve espresso are non-existent. You can’t find a decent cup of joe to save your life. Because Alaska has turned me into a total coffee snob, it is somewhat depressing. I admit that this is particularly materialistic and abundant of me, but it’s the truth. Now that I drink coffee regularly, I want it to be good. They’ve got beer barns and breweries, but they are simply behind when it comes to coffee. While some of my Alaskan friends would agree that Starbucks is “real” coffee, I have to say that it is just alright for me; it’s the back up when there isn’t anything else. Starbucks is everywhere in the south, but small local coffee shops can’t be replaced. So, I’ve resorted to packing my coffee on these trips and I’m a light packer so for me to go that far seems ridiculous, but yet, I continue to do so. I guess that kind of aligns to the idea of becoming a foodie; I’ve resorted to packing coffee. It might also suggest that I need to adjust my lifestyle!
Here are a few recommendations from one foodie to the world:
A regular place for my co-workers and me now, this place serves local veggies, amazing soups, and mouth-watering entres that meet your budget! One of my favorite dishes is their tilapia, a common white fish dish in the south, but their version tops the list. They also have daily specials that always feature some sort of seafood, and if you’re into wine, go on Wednesdays because bottles are half off!
One of my biggest complaints about living in Alaska is the lack of real bbq around here. It isn’t that I ate a lot of bbq when I lived in the south, but when I wanted some straight up pig, I could find it, and most of the time, it was amazing. It could be coming out of a food truck, dive, or restaurant-it didn’t matter. The same goes for fried chicken, but more on that later. When I learned that I’d be working in the south regularly, I have to admit I immediately thought of bbq-finally, I’d be able to get some on a regular basis. This place is right on target. Not only is the bbq some of the best I’ve had in my life, it is set up just like a homestyle joint should be: you get in a line, you order your type of meat, and then you choose 2 sides from their side menu because alongside the mouth-watering bbq, you must also have some tremendously unhealthy sides. You then pay a way cheap price for this mountain of food. I try to be semi-good in this department, but they offer an array of sides and I haven’t had one I didn’t enjoy yet. If you’ve got a hankering for some bbq, go to Home Team!
The other thing that happens to you after you live in Alaska for a while is that you start not ordering seafood when dining out, at least the kind you’re catching yourself. It isn’t worth it. You learn how to make it just as good, and way cheaper than in restaurants; however, I still order seafood out that I don’t cook at home such as scallops. In the south, especially a place like Charleston, you’re going to find loads of seafood restaurants that offer a total different line of fish dishes so I am partaking for sure in this! While a lot of white fish varieties are served, you run across unique options that most people haven’t tried yet or heard of in their surroundings. When I’m in Charleston, I’m trying to branch out and try fish that I haven’t experienced, but I’m also looking for scallops or tuna done right. This place has a unique, small menu and everything on it is perfection that combines ingredients I’ve never tried together such as the scallops that are served with this cauliflower puree, noodle apple and cabbage pancake. It sounds strange, but comes out as something you want to eat every night of your life. They too have a wine special night: half off on Mondays!
There are lots more to cover, but maybe this will turn into a series post!
I have another mission while being in the south: finding the best fried chicken. As hard as I try to adhere to certain lifestyle choices, I can’t eradicate my total love and addiction for my favorite junk food. It doesn’t even have to be fancy-I’ll take the stuff out of the grocery deli. While thumbing through a magazine one day, there was an article that featured the best fried chicken joints in the south and these are not of the KFC variety. One of the things I’ve noticed about foodie southern towns is that they specialize in “upscale” southern cuisine and this includes things like chicken and waffles. Charleston has loads of these places and I’ve only scratched the surface. Having said that, this magazine rated a total trailer dive off the side of the road as the best friend chicken in the south. I’ll for sure be writing about my experience at Martha Lou’s Kitchen in the very near future!
Martha Lou’s Kitchen
Cheers, and happy eating!