Tag Archives: pickles

Plantation Cafe, the Angel Oak & Charleston

Hitting the road for Charleston today. It is a short drive but we are taking a 40 minute detour to see the Angel Oak. We are going to breakfast around the corner at the Plantation Cafe. Full up when we get there, we wait ten minutes and are seated inside. By 10 it is too hot to eat outside.

The cafe menu has plenty of southern classics and some creative breakfast choices. I’m brought a really good cup of coffee and some oj. The chicken fried steak is frozen. Pout. I choose Ellie’s breakfast but substitute country ham for sausage. Our waitress assures me it is the real deal, not processed crap. Rob orders the True Southern Breakfast.

Plates arrive. My breakfast comes with two prefect fried eggs, a delicate, fluffy angel biscuit, three slices of fried green tomatoes, grits and a huge slice of country ham. The grits are unseasoned. This is the second time this trip. I add a pat of butter, salt and pepper and then they are delicious. A light bulb goes off. I ask our waitress if unseasoned grits are how they are served here in the southeast. She said generally yes. People like to doctor them to their own tastes…more butter, less butter, salt no pepper, and maple syrup. The fried green tomatoes are disappointing. No seasoning and no heat. I don’t eat them.

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Country ham is a thing of beauty. Salty. A slice of meat off the haunch. Real meat not processed. We do not get ham like this in Ottawa. If ham is offered for breakfast in a restaurant home, it is processed. The tomatoes are forgotten.

The true southern breakfast came with excellent golden, crispy shredded hashbrowns, 2 eggs, another fluffy angel biscuit, well made pancakes and sausage patties that were absolutely ordinary.

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Time to head north. The short drive brings us by the Marine Corp Air training center, with several fighter jets on display, trailers, open fields, swamps, vegetables like okra, butterbeans are on offer by the roadside, boiled peanut stands, antiques, churches, fireworks and a vineyard. A billboard advertizes The Edisto Beach Shagfest(!). A fireworks store announces “Everything 25 cents and up. Mostly up.” Gas stops stock camo Redbull.

About 15 minutes out of Charleston, we follow a dirt road to the Angel Oak, a live oak tree that may be up to 1500 years old. It is magnificent. The trunk is 8.5 meters in circumference. The branches arch and dip gracefully to the ground and rise up again, growing, reaching. Many of the limbs have supports to manage the enormous weight. The angel oak is something to behold and it is almost impossible to get the entirety of this tree in a single camera frame.

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Before leaving the oak we visit the gift shop and discover an interesting treat. Benne wafers. Africans brought benne seeds with them to America and made them into sweet wafer treats. They taste nutty of sesame, honey and caramel and are nice and crunchy.

We are almost upon Charleston, our destination today and home for two nights. Bags are dropped and we are off to explore. The city is charming and colonial. The waterfront park has children splashing and wading in fountains, cruise ships anchored and boaters enjoying the final weekend of summer.

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It is baking hot. We last a scant forty minutes before finding sustenance at the Blind Tiger. Vodka Gimlets. A seriously refreshing growed-up drink. A small nosh and back to the surface of the sun.

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Dinner tonight will be at The Craftsman Kitchen and Tap House, a short stroll from our hotel.

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Craftsman has 48 taps and an impressive 200-plus bottled beer selection about which our waitress is quite knowledgeable. Rob starts with a Festina Peche, a Berliner Weissbeer from Doghead Fish Brewery in Delaware and I’m having a really excellent Long Day Bohemian Lager from Red Hare Brewing Company in Georgia.

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For dinner,  we decide to split the Crunchy Dame Sandwich, stout braised pork belly, cherry jam, raclette cheese, grainy mustard aioli and a  fried sunny on sweet Hawaiian bread egg. The sandwich is small but rich.

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It’s too hot for a large meal. We order some highly recommended squid fries, beer battered squid with pickled onion, house cured bacon and a lemon aioli.

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Next, we have some some very tasty General Tso’s wings – – 8 wings in a sticky soy garlic sauce with a mild chili bite, served with a cucumber soy pickle.

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The house made pickle plate included squash, green beans, red pepper, more cucumber soy, cauliflower and napa cabbage. The pickles were salty and vinegary. No subtlety. Not a favourite for sure.

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We have a second glass of beer, local Thai white, with Thai spices, that our able waitress has selected for us. Excellent end to satisfying meal.




RT6 – To Burlington, VT

Got up this morning to another gorgeous summer day. Got a walk in, spent some time with my kitties and hit the road around 11 am. The pale summer sky has a pinky-gold wash. Ahhhh…nothing like the open road  — very uplifting to a spirit with wanderlust. We pass cottagers returning home, colourful kayaks strapped to roofs, hawks wheeling over late July corn, the ever-changing wildflower palette  and the beautiful, peaceful farms of Eastern Ontario. We cross the International border at Cornwall and head into Mohawk land, past mom and pop smoke shops, casino signs and souvenir stops.

We travel on and enter upper New York state’s Amish country. We don’t encounter any horse and buggies this pretty Sunday. Our progress through the state takes us to small town America, past tiny, neat churches, volunteer fire departments, dilapidated trailers, pretty houses with front porches and waving American flags, horses grazing contentedly, their long tails swishing away flies , an abundance of abandoned farm implements as lawn ornamentation and cows. Lots and lots of cows. We cruise into picturesque Rouse’s Point and cross the bridge over sparkling Lake Champlain into Vermont, the green mountain state.

My entire view is green, green, green, hazy with mountains, blue sky and pure white cloud. My only regret is passing incredible, rustically beautiful barns and livestock sheds in a variety of stages of decay, many invaded by wildflowers, and not being able to stop and photograph each and every one.

Shortly we exit from our brief stint on I-89 into downtown Burlington, a quaint college town on Lake Champlain. Hope to explore a bit of the main drag before continuing on to Portland tomorrow.

Relaxing in my hotel room, I am treated to a beautiful view of the lake, dotted with sailboats, a mountain rising in the distance and more stark, white clouds. We decide on an early dinner and head out to Farmhouse Tap and Grill, a nice walk from our hotel.

The Farmhouse Tap and Grill is immediately comfortable, with a hip college vibe, but is populated with couples young and old, and young families with well-behaved little ones. This does not appear to be a hangout for students. Maybe they come later – it’s only 6pm. We decide to eat inside as the day is still quite hot. The Farmhouse, open in front with raised glass garage doors, has a breezy, pleasant atmosphere. Decor is chalkboard hipster with distressed wood tables, chairs and padded benches. No annoying music of any kind. Good date kind of place.

The menu at Farmhouse is small, eclectic and makes use of the best local product. The beer menu is extensive and unique. It includes a $45 Brooklyn Black Ops. Our server brings us an unexpected amuse bouche of asparagus in a mustard vinaigrette, incorrectly labeled aioli. This is the only misstep in the entire meal. Our server though barely shaving, is subtly charming and very knowledgeable. The menu features Vermont cheeses and we wish to choose a combination that is not offered. Not a problem. He goes over our beer choices with us, Doghead Fish Festiva Peche, a sour wheat beer with a hint of peach, and Allagash, a Belgian white, and is able to comment intelligently. We also order the house made pickled vegetables.

Our cheese platter includes a Cobb Hill Ascutney Mountain firm cheese, Green Mountain Boucher Blue and a Champlain Valley Triple Cream, a smear of apple butter and some crisps. All three cheeses are high quality. The blue is creamy, medium strength in flavour and outstanding overall. The pickled veggies are a quick pickle of cucumber and fennel. Lightly sweet, vinegary, crisp and excellent. The Doghead brew, a sipper, nicely compliments the cheese course.

 We had not ordered dinner at this point and our server returns to see if we would like anything more. I order the buttermilk fried chicken with potato puree, fresh farm greens dressed in blue cheese and El Cortijo buffalo sauce (a habanero based sauce from a sister restaurant specializing in Authentic Mexican).

Rob orders the pulled pork, cornbread and apple cabbage slaw. Since we are walking, we decide to indulge in more alcohol. Rob has been actively studying the beer menu to this point and orders a $25 bottle (large) of Allagash Victoria Ale, a Belgian style beer brewed with Chardonnay grapes for me and a Scottish Crabbie’s Ginger Beer for himself.

Our meals arrive  at a relaxing pace (the joint is full and there are people waiting but there is no rush). My chicken is sublime. Boneless breast meat battered and fried perfectly, pairs wonderfully with the peppery greens and light blue cheese dressing. The habanero sauce lends big heat that is tempered by the potato puree. By all accounts, a truly outstanding entree. Robs’ pulled pork received a B grade (although his high standards are shaped by the outstanding pulled pork of North Carolina). The cornbread was sweet but freshly baked in a oiled skillet with a golden crust.

We opted out of dessert but were severely tempted by what was carried to other tables. The Farmhouse Tap and Grill, a real treat,  was recommended to us by a fellow Ottawa Foodie, a great community, resource and fount of knowledge. Check them out at www.Ottawafoodies.com.

We walked back to our hotel room, to be treated by the sun setting over Lake Champlain. First day of road trip 5 is in the books.




Dish #6: Favourite Pickled Peppers

On a road trip throughout the US Southwest we picked up a delicacy offered in places where hot peppers were a common addition to peoples’ table – Bread and butter pickled jalapenos. These are sliced jalapenos, pickled with bread and butter pickle brine with pickle spices and sliced onion. They are sweet, have only mild to moderate heat and became instantly addictive.

We sourced them to a company called West Texas Chile Traders and are now a repeat customer of all of their products. On their website, they mention a significant trial and error process that resulted in the current flavour profile of their flagship products and it is evident that considerable care was taken to arrive at a perfect balance of juicy, sweet heat.

They also clearly have their ear to the ground, because their product line has grown by leaps and bounds based upon the realization of how customers enjoy their food.

I found myself using the brine from the pickle jars in salad dressings and marinades and it wasn’t long before they made it available by the bottle as a separate product. The onions in the jars full of jalapeno were like little crunchy jewels and in a couple more months, you could buy the onions pickled the same way.

As well, I often chopped up the peppers finely to put on burgers and in other foods an lo and behold, the company made that exact product available as jalapeno relish.

Most recently they took the same lovely brine and are now offering an actual bread and butter pickled cucumber product – which is crazy enough that it just might work.

 We always have the four pickle products on hand, and with that much on the go, we usually don’t have a need to buy the brine separately, but we usually have a bottle available as well. These have become a core staple in our household and rarely would I dream of having a sandwich, a burger, or anything served in a tortilla without them.

You can order all of these products and more from their website and they gladly ship to Canada.




The Dish #5: Pickles

There’s something disarming about a hand drawn, home-printed label on a locally grown and made food product. It’s what originally attracted us to bread and butter pickles from The Pickle Patch. on a recent, regular Saturday drop-in at Piggy Market. The label was roughly torn and held on to a mason jar by a rubber band. The Pickle Patch is a local (Dalkeith, ON) provider of “pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, nitrite-free, naturally smoked bacon peameal bacon, sausages, ham & pickles”. While the pickles appear to be a side-line to their meat business, one shouldn’t think of them as an afterthought.

These are a perfect mixture of sweet and tangy and are an excellent example of a home-made bread and butter pickle. What sets them apart, however, is that they sliced almost paper thin. This makes them excellent for doing double duty as a relish to add texture and flavour to sandwiches or piled on a plate next to some cheese and some fresh Art-Is-In bread. These pickles are a repeat buy for us and we keep them in the fridge pretty much at all times.

Check them out. You’ll thank us when you do.


You can see how thin these pickles are.

Night-time nosh: Spitzer’s Corner

After our huge lunch at Katz’s deli on our first day in New York, we were not hungry for a big meal in the evening. We ventured out around 9pm to the corner of Rivington, steps away from our hotel. Spitzer’s Corner is a Lower East Side neighborhood joint.

Spitzer’s at night.

The vibe is young, the decor urban rustic, the volume set to 11. Long wood plank tables provide a communal dining experience as well as an awkward exit from the table, especially for the ladies. Do not wear a skirt. We were penned in for the duration. Conversation is difficult unless you are interested in your neighbour’s chat. We were not, and yes, Tony it is you, by the way.


Communal tables.

The beer was local, cold and good, and the sandwiches were inspired and perfect for a light meals. Spitzer’s is a great way to try new beers. They have 40 on tap and more in bottles. The sliders, apps and small plate selections compliment the brews. The Pickle Guys, a Lower East Side purveyor of pickles, supply the half-sours.



At 9 pm we were advised of a 20-30 minute wait. After a comfortable 10 minutes with a Chelsea Blackberry Wheat beer, locally brewed, we were seated.


A bowl of half-sours.

We ordered a bowl of the pickles and a sandwich each. I opted for the Salt-Baked Shrimp (cucumber, housemade tartar sauce, parsnip, scallion, arugula) and Rob chose the Braised Pork Belly (ginger, soy, garlic, chilies, cucumber, scallions, arugula).  The sandwiches were both well made and peppery with arugula. We shared an interesting Sea Dog Blueberry wheat beer from Portland Maine, paid the bill and went out into the bustling Saturday night in New York City to recover from the noise.