Oyster Time

Emily:

Before I moved to Charleston, I'm not sure I had ever tried a raw oyster. Now, I wait for months with the letter 'R' with the best of them. The local, raw, steamed ones are still rolling out at most spots, so you might want to call ahead to confirm. But otherwise, raw, fried, as a cocktail or fancy as can be, we have a list (and juicy photos - pun intended) for you to make sure you never miss out when in search of the perfect oyster around town.

When You're Feeling Fancy:
The Ordinary (Downtown)

When You'd Like to Combine it With Booze:
Pearlz (Downtown/ W. Ashley)

When You Want to People Watch:
The Darling Oyster Bar (Downtown)

When You Want to Try Out the New Joint:
Rappahannock (Downtown)

When You Want to Host a Roast:
St. Jude Farms (My house or yours? Tips on making your oyster shucking table.)

When You Want a Sunset:
Bowens Island (James Island/ Folly)

When You're Looking for a Date Night:
Amen Street/ Coast (Downtown)

When You Want a Variety of Options:
Leon's (Downtown)

When You Remember the Secret Spot:
167 Raw (Downtown)

When Your Counterpart Wants Pizza: 
Wood & Grain

What's your favorite spot to grab oysters around town? You can truly find oysters at almost restaurant in Charleston! Favorite type? Memory? I still long for the fried oysters at the now shuttered Leaf and have the best memory of shucking with my dad at the spot that is now a barbecue spot (imagine that) on Coleman in Mt. Pleasant.

Make sure to mark your calendar for the Lowcountry Oyster Festival on January 28 of next year.

Bonus:

My son, Grant, last night at Bowen's Island after eating his actual weight in food

My son, Grant, last night at Bowen's Island after eating his actual weight in food

Lowcountry Superbowl Extravaganza

While we may not be the biggest NFL fans, we do love a good party. In honor of the Carolina Panthers making it to the Super Bowl (as close as a hometown team gets for us), we decided to focus this week's post on the essentials for a great Super Bowl Party. It only takes a few things to make a party great with your friends and family: fan wear, decorations, good food, and entertainment (or good old fashioned competition with lawn games). 

Fan Wear & Decorations
The Vault - 307 King Street, Downtown (map)
Alex and Ani - 346 King Street, Downtown (map)
Etsy Carolina Panthers Market- Online
Dick's Sporting Goods ('other team' gear available here)- 1114 Bowman Road, Mt. Pleasant (map)
Party Plan It- 847 Houston Northcutt Boulevard, Mt. Pleasant (map)

@thevaultchs

Good Food
We recently fell in love with Doc Crombie's Bootleg BBQ sauces. Emily's husband Trevor recently made some delicious chicken with Habanero Havoc. Recipes available through Doc Crombie's site.

It wouldn't be a true party in the Lowcountry (in the months with the letter 'R', at least) if we didn't have oysters. We're even being called the Napa Valley of oysters. Check out these fancy accessories:

Lawn Games
What better way to get a party going, than to create some friendly competition? These are just two of our favorite lawn games to get your guests mingling:

Cornhole
If your guests fall in love with this game, may we suggest checking out the Charleston Cornhole League?  We discovered this group when they dominated Dunes Properties' Annual Battle of the Bags Tournament benefiting The Folly Angels. Want your own set of boards? Have a custom set made locally by Board Spaces.

Kan Jam
This is what you'll find most of our friends playing Sunday afternoon, before the big game. Although, they'll most likely be improvising by tossing the frisbees into recycle bins, unlike those fancy people on Wikipedia. And yes, there's even a social league for Kan Jam in Charleston. For that added Angela/Emily insight, we actually met through Ultimate Frisbee, but neither of us play. Want to learn more? Buy us a drink. Angela will have a mocktail.

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Let's face it, hosting a party can be a lot of work!  Not up for it?  Check out Charleston's Largest Super Bowl Party with plenty to please everyone.

Not really into the big game, but still need to eat? Check out Eater Charleston's suggestions for finding food on Sunday.

Safe travels to all of our friends who are lucky enough to attend the big game in person. We'll be cheering from home with friends, BBQ, oysters, and fun!

Getting Outside of the Lowcountry 'Burbs

Today's guest blogger is our friend and newlywed, Erica Olivier. You might remember the Few Fun Days on Folly post we did last month for her wedding guests. Well, her wedding was held in one of the most gorgeous locations on the exterior of the Lowcountry line and today she's here to share more points of interest that lend a good, outdoors adventure.

Erica:

When I moved to the Lowcountry 10 years ago (wow, has it really been that long?!) to attend the College of Charleston, I was excited to live in such a beautiful and historic city with a chance for water views pretty much every time I went to the grocery store.  I was pleasantly surprised at the many opportunities available to enjoy the natural beauty of the nearby marshes, forests and waterways.  Whether you’re outdoorsy in the sense that you enjoy brunch in the sun or you want to brush up on your survival skills after the latest episode of The Walking Dead, the Lowcountry has something for you. 

You don’t have to travel too far from beautiful Charleston to get your nature fix. Just south of Charleston proper is the ACE Basin, a 217,000 acre nature preserve and one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the east coast.  The name ACE comes from the three rivers - The Ashepoo, the Combahee and the Edisto - that run through the state and drain to create the St. Helena Sound, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean between Edisto Beach and Beaufort.  

The ACE Basin is home to several wildlife management areas - WMAs for short.  A visit to one of these can offer the chance for some incredible nature trail hiking and wildlife watching, especially for coastal birds.  My favorite so far is Bear Island WMA.  Getting here requires a 40 minute drive on 17S to Bennett’s Point Road, which will take you down to the preserve adjacent to the South Edisto River.  These waters are some of the most pristine around, and it’s all because they’ve been protected by NOAA and SCDNR (thanks, guys).  

In fact, the ACE Basin waterways are so pristine, that they allow for quite the aquaculture presence here in Charleston.  You like those plump, bright and briny local oysters that are in season, right now?  Most of them come from the ACE Basin.  Beaufort Cups, Single Ladies from Lady’s Island, ACE Blades, Otter Island Roasters and Charleston Salts are all sourced from this area, if you hadn’t already guessed from their names. I could go on and on about the oyster farms, fisheries and general “merroir” of the ACE Basin and surrounding  Lowcountry that makes for some of the best seafood around, but that’s another blog post (Emily: Yes, please!)…

Ok, so let’s take a trip down the Edisto River headed toward the beach.  There is plenty of outdoor fun to be had along the way.  We’re going to start up in Canadys, which is about half way to Columbia.  It’s far enough upstate that there isn’t even a trace of brackish in the river water.  Here, you can kayak or canoe to a primitive treehouse camping spot.  Wait, treehouses?  Yes, true story.  Channel your inner Swiss Family Robinson and spend a night here.  No electricity, but there is running water and you’ll see and hear all sorts of wildlife from your deck.  This is your big chance to sit around the fire and sing kumbaya, or whatever strikes your fancy.  

If you haven’t had the opportunity to do a river float down the Edisto from Givhan’s Ferry State Park, you should.  I shied away from this for quite a while because of my alligator hunting history… (bad karma?) but finally bit the bullet and loved every minute of the floats I’ve participated in, free of gator bites no less.  Pack your car full of friends, snacks and drinks and spend an afternoon floating down the river in a tube (Recommendation: River Run  2, space for you and a small cooler).  It’s relaxing and you’ll see several miles of beautiful blackwater river.   It’s a unique opportunity to catch up with friends if the busy-ness of life has gotten in the way.  You know, because you’re stuck in a tube next to them for 5 hours, but that’s where the cooler comes in.   

Our friends, Adam and Stacey Bailey, modeling their River Run 2 on the Edisto

Our friends, Adam and Stacey Bailey, modeling their River Run 2 on the Edisto

Continuing our trip down the Edisto River, you can enjoy a picturesque drive down SC 174 towards the beach.  It’s a 2 lane road that winds through marsh, forest and live oaks which hang over the highway itself.  It takes about 20 minutes from the left turn off of 17S to get to Edisto Beach, and along the way there are several places worth a quick stop.  

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If you trail a boat, you can put in at the public landing by the McKinley Washington bridge - known as the Big Bridge to locals - crossing the river to Edisto Island, and run up the river towards Willtown Bluff.  Keep an eye out for alligators!  They’re everywhere out here, and some of them grow upwards of 14 feet long.  If you decide to venture out by boat into the St. Helena Sound, one spot not to be missed is Monkey Island.  It’s officially named Morgan Island, but it’s aptly nicknamed because of the colony of Rhesus monkeys that were relocated there from a research facility in Puerto Rico in the 70s.  Crazy, right?  I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes and then immediately Googled to get the back story.  

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Once you get to Edisto Island, be sure to pull off at King’s Market.  King’s is a family run farm and market where you can find some of the freshest local produce around.  They also package up frozen meals and other treats to go in their commercial kitchen.  The tomato pie was pretty much life changing for me and there is always an assortment of yummy casseroles.  Pick up some snacks and wine for a picnic at Botany Bay which is another few miles down the road.

Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and WMA is yet another nature preserve within the limits of the ACE Basin.  The drive from Charleston takes about an hour so it’s perfect for an afternoon trip.  Two working plantations used to operate here, and traces of them can still be seen as you make your way through the park.  Bring a camera, because there are miles and miles of breathtaking marsh views and ancient live oaks.  A short walk down a gravel path through tidal marshes will bring you to Boneyard Beach, named for the fallen oaks and large driftwood washed up on the shore.  It doesn’t look like any of the other beach in the lowcountry and serves as a stunning backdrop for photography or a romantic stroll.  Note - Botany Bay is closed for hunting from time to time, so be sure to check the website before making the drive out there.

Erica's stunning bridal portrait on Botany Bay (courtesy: Dreampop Media)

Erica's stunning bridal portrait on Botany Bay (courtesy: Dreampop Media)

Enough reading... go explore! After this rainy season, of course.


A Few Fun Days on Folly Beach

This week's post is about all things Folly Beach, or as it is commonly referred to by locals, the "Edge of America." 

Our friends Erica van Bavel and Eric Olivier happen to be getting hitched in the Lowcountry this coming Saturday, with family and friends (hi, guys!) staying on Folly. We decided to map out a fun few days to fill in the gaps, while they're not celebrating with the happy couple, but this could apply to anyone looking for a long weekend away on Folly.

BACKGROUND
Folly Beach is a barrier island that sits just south of the Charleston peninsula. The island is mostly residential with beach house rentals, bed and breakfasts, and few hotels available.  Folly in the fall is one of my favorite times of year. This is the time when the weather and water are still relatively warm, the bugs are at bay, and you can take your pooch to the beach without worry. 

WEDNESDAY
At Folly River Park, you will find a small local Farmer's Market this evening. Start your long weekend here, grab dinner from a food truck and enjoy some local music. This is a great place to pick up a few locally handcrafted souvenirs including one of those famous sweetgrass baskets. If the food trucks aren't what you had in mind for dinner, consider checking out one of my favorite restaurants on Bowen's Island, just down the road from Folly. In October, Bowen's Island Restaurant serves up some of the best oysters in the area. This place isn't fancy, but definitely worth the short trip over the bridge. The Tides Hotel also shows movies on Wednesday nights at dusk on the beach. These are free, just bring a towel or blanket and check out their page for this week's movie pick!  The Tides Hotel also is home to the great Blu Beach Bar where you can get a great view of the ocean while sipping on a cocktail.

THURSDAY
Beach day! If you're looking for a beautiful path to the beach, check out the public beach access located where E. Ashley Avenue meets 13th Street. As you walk through the lush green tree lined path, you will emerge onto one of the best surf spots at Folly Beach. You may also notice areas on the dunes roped off with stakes and tape. These areas are marking sea turtle nests and are not to be disturbed. If you go out for a night walk, you will notice that Folly Beach is a "light's out" beach, as not to confuse the hatchlings. Walk to the north from this public access and you can catch a glimpse of the Morris Island Lighthouse. More beach fun can be found walking through the Folly Beach County Park in search of sand dollars and shells or checking out the Folly Beach Pier. Looking for dinner? Enjoy a bite, beer, or live music at Chico Feo.

FRIDAY
Friday fun day could be spent playing cornhole or shuffle board at The Barrel. The view is beautiful and the drinks are cold here.  You could also checkout Crosby’s Fish & Shrimp Friday Night for a fun night of live music and seafood on the dock. The family friendly affair is run by the Crosby family and open to the public, beginning at 6pm (weather permitting). If it's late night dancing you're after, shake it on over to Snapper Jacks for some rooftop fun or stop by Surf Bar for some more local music.

SATURDAY
Today would be the day to venture into town. The Charleston Farmer's Market at Marion Square, downtown is bustling with people, food, activities, and more local vendors to find just what you're looking for to make this trip memorable. While you're downtown, stroll down King Street for some additional shopping. If you get there early enough, Glazed may still have some fresh doughnuts available! Before you head back to Folly for the evening, make sure to check out at least one of the downtown, rooftop bars to get a complete view of the Holy City.

SUNDAY
Breakfast or Sunday brunch at Lost Dog Café is a must!  This is one of our all-time favorite breakfast spots. It's a popular place, so you may have to wait, but we guarantee it is worth it. If your pooch is accompanying you on this trip, they are welcomed on the porch here. If it's just a cup of coffee you're after, check out Black Magic Cafe just off of Center Street.

Our congratulations to Erica and Eric. We can't wait to see you two walk down the aisle with this beautiful Lowcountry backdrop. Many happy days ahead!

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You might have heard a thing or two about it flooding these last few days in the Lowcountry. We're happy to report that both of our homes and loved ones stayed safe during the rains, but not everyone was so lucky. We are very grateful to the first responders and everyone that continues to work together to keep us all informed on safety precautions and what is ahead of us. For now, we're all looking forward to the sun predicted on Tuesday. Our friend (and van Bavel bridesmaid) Stacey appeared on CNN to discuss her experience with the flood downtown. Somehow, we always tend to keep a sense of humor in this town- and a pair of rain boots at our front door.