Southern snacking

Some people can eat their breakfast, lunch and dinner per 24-hour cycle and call it a day, not a single snack in between and it’s all good.

I, sweet reader who probably already guessed this, am not one of those people. (Also, for the record, I’m not one of those people who ever just forgets to eat. It doesn’t matter how busy I am, I always remember to eat. Who are you, people who forget?)

Happy hour's the best hour. Ask this Moscow mule.

Happy hour’s the best hour. Ask this Moscow mule.

My sister and I were already one full meal and several snacks into our first day in Charleston when I realized that this girl right here, needed a snack. And a drink. (Friday afternoon and out of town? Bartender!)

On a trusted friend and local’s recommendation, we popped into The Rarebit, a cute bar with an even cuter draw: $5 Happy hour Moscow mules.

FIVE dollars? Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit! (I love that saying and I don’t ever get to use it, and here I am writing about southern food so I’m rolling with it. Follow me.) It wasn’t some rinky dink mule either. This was a crisp, deliciously cold, wonderfully refreshing Moscow mule made with Smirnoff vodka, Sweatman’s ginger beer, and zesty limeade, served in a traditional, gorgeous copper mug.

No bad time for grits.

No bad time for grits.

And because the point of our afternoon stop was to appease our peckishness, we got a couple things to eat. A sidenote here: I love breakfast. I love it in the morning, I love it in the afternoon, I love it at night. There’s no designated time for it in my book, because any time’s a good time for breakfast, especially if and when it involves one of my favorites: grits.

Fried okra, cause this is the south, dammit.

Fried okra, cause this is the south, dammit.

In addition to being a cute bar with friendly service, flattering lighting, and those beautiful Moscow mules, The Rarebit also serves all day breakfast, which because hello the south, includes grits. Sigh. Be still my heart.

We ordered a side of them (you know, just a casual snack) and they were surprisingly some of the best grits I’ve ever had. Just plain ol’ grits, no cheese or bacon or shrimp or any of those things that make a good thing great, served with no frills packs of butter, and yet…delicious. Not too runny, just perfectly creamy and thick, warm and comforting.

A side of grits would barely be enough for one De Angelis, much less two, so to go with it and to keep with our theme of when-in-Rome-eat-as-the-Romans, we also got fried okra. One of the most traditional southern veggies, these particular green pods were crusted in a crispy, crunchy coating and served with a tangy, creamy sauce.

How, knowing that this kind of deliciousness is out there waiting to be had, could someone not want to partake between meals, or worse, just forget about it all together? I tell ya, sometimes I just don’t know about people.

Good breakfast is always a great thing

If there’s one thing I could eat tirelessly it would be breakfast. Well, no, really it might also be pizza, ice cream, mac and cheese, or pork buns but that’s besides the point. Today, for the sake of this post, it’s breakfast.

Eggs, bacon, pancakes, ALL of it— I. Love. It. And last week, on a day off in the middle of the week, I had a great breakfast (or brunch I suppose) at one of the best spots for it in town: Clinton Street Baking Co. & Restaurant. On the weekends, people line up outside before the place even opens, but during the week, in the middle of the afternoon, you can just walk right in and help yourself to a table, which is exactly what we did.

Rosemary Salty Dog and Cucumber Cooler, fine company on a day off.

Drinks are a necessary part of the brunch experience so I went with the Rosemary Salty Dog, a rosemary-garnished, salt-rimmed mix of gin, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and rosemary simple syrup on the rocks.  It was citrusy and tart with just the perfect bit of herbal sweetness from the rosemary. Flaneur, always shying away from overly sweet drinks, went with the cucumber cooler, a crisp mix of vodka, cucumber puree, lime and mint with a refreshing bite to it.

Probably the best blueberry pancakes I’ve ever had.

Earlier that morning, Flaneur had rolled over in bed and said, “I want pancakes,” so at Clinton Street, which is known for its pancakes,  he ordered the blueberry variety. They were perfect in their soft fluffiness and had big fat blueberries throughout with a delicious bunch of more wild Maine blueberries on top. But what really had me literally licking my fingers was the delicious maple butter these came with. Instead of just traditional maple syrup, these pancakes came with warm maple butter, a ridiculously good concoction that was simultaneously sweet and just a tiny bit salty.

Southern breakfast in all its glory.

But because we had agreed to split something sweet and something savory, I ordered the southern breakfast: two eggs (ordered sunny side up because I go bonkers over runny, orange yolk), cheese grits, sugar-cured bacon and fried green tomatoes. Yes, that’s right, fried freakin’ green tomatoes! It’s not every day I see those on a menu, and with cheese grits no less! The only thing missing was a biscuit, but that was ok because the bacon more than made up for it. The ideal thickness and crunchiness, it had a sweetness to it that made me want to eat plate after plate of it.

After eating at Clinton Street, I get why people line up outsides on the weekend, which makes me even happier to have days off during the week.

A cold glass of Engrish

Nothing takes the edge off a long week like a little booze. Which is why, even though the week was still one day shy of being over, I was psyched yesterday when a friend brought me a little souvenir from a lunch-time trip to Koreatown: a bottle of soju.

Mmmm mmmm awkward!

This was doubly exciting because first of all, I love trying new things when it comes to food and drinks. Soju, a Korean distilled beverage similar in taste to vodka, but usually made from rice, tapioca or in this case, sweet potato, was nothing I’d ever had before. (I Googled it. How did I live before Google? In the dark apparently.)

Oh engrish, you never cease to amuse me.

But best of all, this gifted soju was great because of its hilariously awkward bottle, complete with a busty Korean girl (I’m assuming that’s where she’s from) in a semi-skanky top, trying to entice the drinker with the words, “Feel~! So Cool” Everything else, aside from that and a small alcohol content description (19.5% alc. by volume) was in Korean. A classic example of grade-A engrish.

Had a swig after dinner that night and although it wasn’t anything mind-blowing, the label did provide for a good laugh and a funny photo op. Thanks, Chum Churum soju, I did “Feel~! So Cool”

A Ruskie surprise

A wise man once said, “Life is life a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” But so is New York. You just never know what you’ll come across. Or what, randomly on a 14°, bitingly cold Friday night, you’ll stumble upon when walking down an otherwise quiet, unsuspecting street on the way somewhere else.

The bf and I (who from here on out will be called Flaneur) were making our way through the Lower East Side, killing time before our late dinner reservations, when something across the street caught our eye: a tiny, almost literal hole-in-the-wall bar. No name, no neon Bud Light signs, no smokers milling about outside. Not even a clear indication that it was open.

Forget your scarf, this’ll keep you warm.

Intrigued (and slightly frostbitten), we crossed the street and opened the door.
Inside was a small cluster of tiny tables, maybe enough for about 30 people tops, all crammed into a dimly lit, cozy space. Some people were eating, others just drinking, so we sat down, still not even knowing what the place was called or what kind of bar it was. Could’ve been the meeting place for swingers for all we knew.

The waitress came by and dropped off the menu: Anyway Café.

Ahh! That’s where we are. Hmm, never heard of it.

One side of the menu listed food and the other drinks. Looking to put our liquid jackets on, we skipped straight to the booze. Listed were a few beers, a few wines, and lots of vodka. Organic vodka by the shot or carafe in every infusion imaginable from chocolate to mango to lychee to apricot. Then a whole listing of vodka brands and a slew of martinis. We opted for the latter of the three vodka offerings. Honey ginger martini for Flaneur and chocolate for me. (Was it even a question that I would get anything else?)

Artsy bars call for attempts at pseudo artsy photos.

Sometimes chocolate martinis are dense and syrupy, like someone squirted half a bottle of hot fudge into a martini glass, but this one was different. Smooth and light, with a cocoa powder rim, this was sweet and warming. With the couple of floating coffee beans and a maraschino cherry at the bottom, I felt like this drink was made specifically for me. Flaneur’s was a little less sweet and a little more dry, with the ginger giving it a slight zing.

We only stayed for one drink because we still had to find our restaurant but as soon as we were back on the sidewalk, cold wind seeming to seep into our bones, I wished I was inside. Skip the martini this time. Make it a carafe.