THANKSGIVING DAY


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North America » United States » South Carolina » Charleston
November 28th 2019
Published: November 29th 2019
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TarragonTarragonTarragon

Enjoying the good life
The initial plan was to sleep in a little and then go to the Frances Marion Hotel, for their buffet breakfast. The Frances Marion is a historic hotel named after, yes you guessed it, Frances Marion, also known as the Swamp Fox, as he used the swamps around Charleston to hide from the British during the Revolutionary War. This was of course our plan, but instead we slept in a bit more and are leisurely getting ready for our pre-Thanksgiving dinner walk.

Tarragon, is now fully settled in to his Southern lifestyle. Truly enjoying the comfortable and cozy king-sized bed. While I had my coffee, I watched a bit of the pre-parade run/walk, looked like most of the down was running or walking down the street.

This is a good opportunity to give some general impressions of the city. It is a very compact downtown area, making it easy to walk around and see things. It is very pretty, but not as quaint or charming as Savannah. The people are friend, but seem to be mostly transplants, not a lot of the southern accent being heard, with the exception of some of the tour guides. Even they are not natives, but from other areas in the South. The food is very good and if you don’t want southern there are many options available to you. We of course aren’t here for Thai or Italian. We are here to absorb the local culture and the especially means eating southern cooking.

Traveling in your home country is of course always easier, no language barrier, you understand the culture and etiquette and being in a very red state, we don’t have to apologize for our president, especially since this state voted for him. We obviously are not discussing any politics here, it’s bad enough we are Yankees, without expressing our very liberal point of view. I assume that Charleston is a bit of a blue bubble, but I could be wrong.

I like traveling around the U.S. and it is part of the grand plan to visit all 50 states before we retire to Europe. With South Carolina now checked off the list only 13 more to go. Most of the remaining states are in the South, we have a big Southern Driving Tour planned in a couple of years that will check most of the 13 states off in one trip.

While I do enjoy seeing all parts of this very vast country, I must admit that foreign travel is still our preferred vacation. The cultural and historic differences are so very fascinating.

Today we are mainly just walking and looking no tours. No tours open on Thanksgiving Day anyway. Most of the day will be along the battery and water front.

****

We must have walked half of the city today, at least the lower part. We first went to the store to get some more cat food for Tarragon, wine and water for us, and a snack to hold us until dinner later tonight. One thing I have not mentioned yet, is that everyone seems to own a golf cart, in addition to their car. You see them everywhere; several were at the grocery store. We got a couple of chicken salad sandwiches on a croissant, not bad for store purchase. I also got some macaroni salad, Jerry wouldn’t even look at it let alone taste it, appeared to have half a jar of mayonnaise in it.

By the time we got back to the room from shopping the room was clean and Tarragon settled in for his mid-morning nap. We had our sandwiches on the balcony before heading out for the rest of the day.

French Huguenot Church – Gothic (1845)

The stop was the nation’s only practicing Huguenot congregation. Only one service is in English the rest in French. The Huguenots escaped France during the time of Louis XIV and fled to the New World among other places. The church, appropriately enough is in the French Quarter section of Charleston. There is quite a bit of French presence still in the City and many of the founding fathers were themselves Huguenots. While speaking of religion, another early church in the city was the Anglican church, there are actually two of them in the City. There are a lot of churches here and the steeples are prominent throughout the city.

Waterfront Park

From the church we continued down Queen Street to the beginning of waterfront park. This is a very nice park the goes along the Cooper River. It was a beautiful day, sunny clear skies 64 degrees and a perfect breeze to keep you cool. The park was pretty crowded for a Holiday. People must have either been walking off turkey dinner, or justifying eating later today. One of the main attractions of the park is the Pineapple Fountain. The houses along this part of the river are not nearly as grand as those that line the battery and south battery.

The Battery and South Battery

The park ends at the Yacht club, where you head back into the city and join East Bay Street. This street then runs in to the Battery. The Battery made the water side of the wall that once surrounded all of Charles Town. The Battery was a significant par of the Civil War. The confederate army placed cannons at the southernmost point to protect against Union Attack. Now the cannons are plugged and piles of cannonballs line one side of the park. The South Battery is lined with large Georgian and Neoclassical style houses. I can just imagine the dinners that were being prepared in those houses today. Out in the distance in the harbor you can see Fort Sumter. We will be visiting this on Monday.

Between the water and South Battery street is the White Point Garden. It is a nice park full of very large old oak trees. An interesting thing about the parks here, is that they all seem to be no leash for dogs, during the morning at early evening hours.

We strolled down South Battery and long side White Point Garden, enjoying the weather, houses and old oaks. From there we headed back up King street, right on Tradd and back towards E. Bay Street.

Rainbow Row

As we walked through the neighborhood, I could begin to detect the faint smell of Thanksgiving. Several men were outside in their aprons and fryers tending their deep fired turkeys. Others were standing by the smoker staring at their phones, I assume watching football. The weather was definitely not Thanksgiving weather, but the smells were definitely of fall.

We had a nice stroll through the affluent neighborhood to the section known as Rainbow Row. It has this name, because the Georgian styles houses number 79 – 103 are all painted bright colors, some brighter than others. It is actually law that they must remain painted that color. Original, merchants and sea captains lived there, then they fell in to disrepair and the area became the slums and the red-light district. In the 1920, the restoration began and they are not possibly the most photographed spot in the city. Architecturally there is nothing striking about them, they are the single largest string of Georgian houses in America. The most interesting part of Rainbow room is there connection to the Gershwin opera Porgy & Bess, the back of the houses where the garden is, is the inspiration for the staging of the opera. This just happens to be a current Opera that the Met is doing this season, and we are hoping to go, but tickets are very unreasonably priced, so I don’t know if it will fit our vacation/entertainment budget.

We next walked down Broad street heading towards the old city jail. This took us through some more very nice neighborhoods and eventually to the poorer section of the city. The old city jail is in much need of restoration. There are guided tours most days and even ghost tours at night. It looked haunted.

The area is also home to the parish school and the French Huguenot Society building. We continued on back towards our hotel and wine-thirty. We did pass two French bistros, both had fairly authentic
Braised RabbitBraised RabbitBraised Rabbit

Dish of the Day
menus. Returned back to the hotel just in time for the hosted wine hour. There was a large, ill-mannered family, just checking in, who felt that it was necessary to completely block the entrance to the room for the social hour and the entire hallway. I guess that they thought the hotel was there only for them. I bit my tongue, well kind of, and managed to squeeze through to the wine bar. We had a nice 20-minute conversation with Kevin the hotel manager. The conversation centered around the local food, it also led to a change in upcoming restaurants based upon his recommendation.

Have a about 2 hours before dinner, could only get an 8:30 reservation for tonight, but that is fine, we are typically late eaters anyway. This gave me the opportunity to get the blog done, except of course for Thanksgiving Dinner. Tarragon is enjoying some fresh air on the balcony with Jerry, which I am headed to now.

Charleston Grill at the Belmond

Thanksgiving dinner was at the restaurant inside the Belmond Hotel. Expectations were very high for a few reasons: First, it is owned and operated by the Belmond the same company that owns the Orient Express (train from Paris to Istanbul, or some may think of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express). Next, a credit card was required to secure your reservation and no shows charged $50 per person, cancellation had to be done 24 hours in advance to avoid the charge, it might have actually been 48 hours. Finally, it was not an easy reservation to get and we called 45 days in advance and pretty much got the last table at 8:30.

As far as the food went expectations were exceeded, the service was adequate but not what I would expect from an establishment of this caliber. In fact, we were treated quite differently than other tables (because we were two men). You can read into that what you wish, but we got the point. The service was a bit rushed and not very attentive for American standards, if we would have been in Europe the attention (lack of check backs) would be expected and welcomed, but here you actually needed the check backs so you could request things that were missing.

It was a three-course meal and the Menu we were able to view ahead of time so we pretty much knew what we wanted going in. The wine list was expansive, but mostly unapproachable. We were able to find a St. Emillion Grand Cru (2015) at a reasonable price. We of course started with the standard glass of Champagne.

I do have to give them high marks for taking one of the entrées and making it a half portion so I could have that as an appetizer. Speaking of appetizer’s, the menu was as follows:

Appetizer

Jerry had Charleston Grill Crab Cake with creek shrimp, lime tomato vinaigrette. The crab cake was very good, and not really a cake. It was in the standard crab cake form, but it was basically 100%!c(MISSING)rab, not breading, scallions, etc.

I had Braised Rabbit, Black pepper, Chanterelles potato dumplings and shaved truffles. The sauce was a very nice rabbit stock with a hint of mustard. I was initially concerned that the truffles would over power the Chanterelles, but they came shinning through and they were generous with the Chanterelles, which by the way were from Oregon.

Entrée

I went traditional and had the Herb Roasted Free Range Turkey, with all the trimmings; southern cornbread dressing, sage gravy, garlic butter haricot verts (green beans for you non-Frenchies), sweet potato purée and of course orange-cranberry relish. The turkey breast was the moistest I have ever had. The gravy was also very good, but of course they didn’t give you enough and I had to waive a server down to request more.

There was also a nice selection of warm bread to choose from, sour dough ciabatta, rosemary focaccia and a few others. I only listed the ones we had.

Jerry had Prime Center Cut Beef Tenderloin, parsnip purée, crispy shallots and a Pinot Noir Jus. The steak was cooked perfectly and melted in your mouth.

Dessert

We did not have pumpkin pie, but did have a very traditional southern dessert, Hummingbird Cake (no it was not made with hummingbirds). It is a banana cheesecake (nothing like a New York Style) very light and not dense. It was served with Dulce de Leche Ice cream and sweet fried pecans. It was a very nice way to end our Thanksgiving dinner.

Even with the slightly off service and a tad bit of discrimination, it was probably one of the best Thanksgiving dinners we have had that I didn’t cook.

After dinner we retired back to our room for a nightcap and straight to bed, very early day tomorrow as we are off to the Plantations.

Dish of the Day: Braised Rabbit.

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29th November 2019

No Such thing ad Enough Gravy
Wow! Charleston sounds like a must see. Thanks for the vivid details. Dinner sounds wonderful, and I would have probably been asking for a second helping of cornbread dressing (that was about one-third of my plate at our dinner). Loved the picture of Tarragon on the bed and reference to opera at the Met (that’s on the agenda for our October 2020 visit to NYC and Philly).
29th November 2019

Looks wonderful
You make it sound very relaxing to be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. The Thanksgiving dinner sounded exceptional!

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