charleston, i love you
The first thing I noticed was the perfume of honeysuckle hanging heavy in the air. We’d taken the first flight out of DC so it was still quite early in the morning but, despite a legitimate lack of sleep, the promise of sunshine, salt water, and exploration overwhelmed any desire to stay in the hotel. So we propelled ourselves onto Meeting Street and began our mini Charleston adventure with unbridled enthusiasm.
I’ve long heard rave reviews about this southern city but it was only a few months ago that I made my first visit. And I’m officially in love. While I’m not quite ready to abandon my District life just yet (I love you too, DC), I’d be lying if I said that Ken and I didn’t sneak a peek at real estate listings during our trip. If we’d stayed in town any longer it is entirely possible that we’d have tackled an unsuspecting real estate agent unlocking the doors to an open house. But as we were only visiting for the weekend – our current career paths, landlord, and chocolate cookie taste-testers can breathe a collective sigh of relief – we behaved and committed ourselves to only two activities. Celebrating the marriage of two dear friends. And eating lots of food.
Since our evenings were filled with gleeful wedding festivities we decided to tackle our foodie explores during the day. A great decision, it turns out, as a lunch time table was all that Husk could offer us more than a month prior to our visit. (That’s cool. We have Komi; we know how this game works.) But, with the restaurant all of a half-block from our hotel, strolling out into the sunny, honey-scented breeze and making the one-minute stroll to our lunch date was hardly a trial. Taking our seats in the bright dining room humming with relaxed conversation, I kept thinking over and over again: pork butter.
Yes, there is pork fat in the butter. And it was one of the first things to arrive at our table, along with homemade rolls and the day’s lunch menu. Everything that the Husk team cooks up comes from the region; Chef Sean Brock’s motto is “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door.” And while that is a bummer for lovers of olive oil, I can’t say I felt deprived in the slightest. The menu is created daily based on what is fresh and available to the kitchen and while there were only three or four offerings under each section of the menu, we still did a stupendous job indulging ourselves. Fried pickles. I’d gone however-many years never having one, only to consume a large quantity within a 15-minute period. Crunchy and golden on the outside, crisp, juicy, and tart on the inside; I may never be persuaded to try making them in my own kitchen but I was a quick convert on that Saturday.
Embracing the leisurely and thoroughly Southern approach to lunch we didn’t jump from appetizer straight to main course. Rather we lounged our way through a first course that, surprisingly, was my favorite moment of the meal. It could have been the crafted wooden bowls in which the food was presented, or the sheer vibrancy of the colors, but I was enthralled by my strawberry soup. Smooth and silky, subtly sweet with a bite from the fresh greens on top and texture born of pieces of crab meat hidden in the depths. And while the cheeseburger that followed was tender and juicy, it wasn’t as unexpectedly delightful as the soup. I suppose that is the result of allowing oneself to be seduced into ordering an entrée by watching plate after plate of it pass by, and patron after patron sink their teeth into the towering mass of meat with sighs of satisfaction. I won’t claim to be disappointed by my choice – can that quantity, or quality, of melted cheese ever really be disappointing? – but I didn’t win that round at the table. That was definitely Ken. His shrimp and grits (one of us had to order it) was gooey, spicy, and so tempting that he ate it before I could convince him to let me capture a photo of it. The empty plate wasn’t nearly as photogenic.
Slowly making our way back into the afternoon, roused from our postprandial lull by strong cups of coffee, we wandered away from Husk utterly full and sated by our lunchtime indulgence. I do regret that on this particular trip we weren’t able to pay a visit to the bar, which stands apart from the restaurant in an aged building renovated to a rustic, speakeasy atmosphere. But that’s ok. When next the honeysuckle air of Charleston comes calling I already have my first stop marked on the map.