Because she is an inquisitive pineapple, Penelope asked her concierge where she could learn about Charleston’s culinary traditions before digging in herself. As many of you correctly guessed, Penelope began her second week of vacation at Middleton Place, just a 15-minute drive from downtown Charleston.
Aside from being a lavish estate and 18th century business center, Middleton Place was a main production site for Carolina Gold Rice. The tidal creeks beside the plantation created near-perfect conditions for rice cultivation. Carolina Gold Rice made Charleston a rich city. The rice was a major export to Europe and the labor intensive process was performed by enslaved Africans. The harvest of Carolina Gold Rice was a tradition bygone -until its recent rivial at Charleston locales like Middleton Place.
Penelope happened to visit Middleton Place on the plantation’s now yearly Rice Harvest Day. After navigating the plantation’s beautiful maze of gardens, meeting artisans, roaming sheep and touring the Middleton home (close family friends of John Rutledge), she sat and looked over the Ashley River. Beneath a canopy of live oak trees, Penelope saw firsthand how one of Charleston’s greatest culinary traditions began. And then she got really hungry.
September was historically the best time to enjoy rice in Charleston – now it’s just one of the best times to eat in Charleston, period. Penelope missed Charleston Restaurant Week, so she marched over to Charming Inn’s restaurant, Circa 1886, where Restaurant Week has been extended. She started off a fine dining experience as all Circa 1886 guests do: with a Plantation Rice Roll, a nod to Charleston plantations and made from rice flour. These rolls are served with whipped olive oil, just one of Executive Chef Marc Collins’ intriguing creations.
Chef Collins has led the culinary team at Circa 1886 Restaurant for eleven years. He creates new menus seasonally and uses local items like Carolina Gold Rice whenever possible. Penelope feasted on this Charleston treasure, currently served with new menu item “General Sanders” Chicken. She then sampled the restaurant’s staple items like Antelope and Souffle (currently strawberry and served with honeysuckle ice cream…) Check out the menu for yourself here.
Chef Marc Collins noted a few of his favorite restaurants for Penelope to try during her culinary excursion. Until you see her again next Monday, you might find Penelope at these off-the-beaten-path restaurants:
Co: a Vietnamese restaurant on King Street. Aside from dinner, they have an amazing happy hour and late night menu. Chef suggests the Beef Pho.
Bon Bahn Mi: a few blocks from Circa 1886, a great spot for a fast and delicious bite. Chef suggests the Traditional Bahn Mi Sandwich
The Tattooed Moose: a popular locals bar & brunch spot made famous by the Food Network. Chef suggests the triple-decker Duck Confit Club Sandwich.