Tangled Branches: Satiated

riveting tales of how we sustain ourselves

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Long and the Short of Our Trip to Charleston (part 4)


We had lunch at Jestine's and enjoyed it very much. That's why I felt odd when I found out that it isn't quite what it seems. It seems to be an old-time local hangout, run (previously) by a long-lived (112 years) African-American lady named Jestine. Well, um, not quite. Jestine was the housekeeper for the family of the owner of the restaurant which bears her name. But as I said, aside from feeling deceived, we really liked the food. I had a daily special - sausage gumbo; DH had a pecan whiting sandwich (fried fish sandwich with pecans in the coating). Prior to bringing our order, the waitress set a dish of vinegared cucumbers & onions on the table. Just like Aunt Emma's, only without the dill. We shared the Coca-Cola cake for dessert, but didn't care much for it - the icing was grainy with sugary crystals - reminded me of something you might find at a bake sale where the bakers were not very talented.

Dinner was at Sermet's Corner. This was the only real clunker meal we had in Charleston. Maybe we were there on a bad night or something, because it has received good reviews elsewhere. It's a funky corner storefront with artwork by the chef/owner on the walls (and tables?). Almost every dish was an example of a good idea ruined by poor execution. For instance: Roasted Tomato & Muschroom Soup (sounds good) - seasoned heavily with grit from improperly cleaned mushrooms (poor execution). Or: Chilled Cucumber Yogurt Soup with Dill (should be good if the owner is Turkish) - minus the dill (maybe they ran out?) plus some very chewy cucumber peels (lack of attention to detail). Main courses were no better - shrimp & sausage over pearl couscous had a nice sauce but couldn't disguise the tasteless shrimp. DH had a seafood-tomato concoction over pasta, which didn't have any major flaws, but was just OK, not good. The bread they served was excellent though - probably the best bread we had in Charleston; the downside was that it was served with a flavorless olive oil that had been seasoned with something (flecks clearly visible) that had no taste either. We didn't order dessert.

We were starting to wonder why Charleston has a reputation as a great restaurant city, but things improved with our very next meal. We had gone to visit Middleton Place in the morning and were looking for a light lunch to tide us over until dinner time. We found the Bookstore Cafe and ordered just one sandwich to share (and they were very nice about it), and it was wonderful (and large). Fried Green Tomato with Pimento Cheese, on toasted bread. Served with something they call chips - a cross between potato chips and home fries - either really thick chips or really thin fries. Reminded me of the fried potatoes we had at Cesar in Berkeley a couple of years ago, and which I've been thinking about ever since. Anyway, if we're ever back in Charleston, we will revisit the Bookstore Cafe.

39 Rue de Jean
was just steps from our hotel (we relocated to a cheaper place for the weekend). Wow, this was a nice meal. A French bistro with what DH says was a very authentic atmosphere (noisy lively but a bit smoky). I ordered the Truffle Potato Soup, and it arrived thick, savory and very fragrant from a generous hand with the truffle oil. DH had mussels served with aioli, which provided about 2 weeks worth of garlic (yum) - one of the six ways mussels are offered here. We were in a carnivorous mood - for the entrees, I chose the Steak au Poivre and DH chose the Braised Lamb Shank. Both were excellent. We were planning to skip dessert, but we're glad we didn't. The chocolate paté was a slice of ganache (or something very like it) served with creme anglais and raspberry coulis sauces. A richly flavored end to a delicious meal.

posted by Entangled at 3:28 PM 0 comments