Exploring Provo In The Turks And Caicos

Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos
Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos
Grace Bay, Providenciales

Provo is what the locals have endearingly nicknamed Providenciales, their beloved island in the Turks and Caicos and home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Provo is what dreams are made of. White, soft sand, turquoise water, vibrant reefs full of colorful coral, fish and sea turtles and “feet-in-the-sand” dining. Everything you’ve read is true and yes, the water does really looks like that, no photoshop required.

Beaches

There really isn’t a bad beach on the island but two in particular stuck out for me.

Grace Bay is the most famous and offers many exciting ocean excursions and water sports. A great spot to watch kite-boarders, play volleyball or just relax with a rum punch. Check out the fish fry every Thursday night at Bight (Children’s) Park. Tourists and locals come from all over the island to eat food prepared by local restaurants, listen to live music and shop. Grab an icy cold mojito from Travis at Mr. Mojitos and a curry goat taco from Kalooki’s before hitting the dance floor.

Grace Bay
Grace Bay

Sapodilla bay offers all the beach rentals you will need including beach chairs and umbrellas. Snorkeling, jet skiing, paddle boarding and kayaking are among the most popular water activities there. Ask for Jamesly, owner of Tropical Waves, he’ll get you what you need in order to have a perfect day at the beach.

Eat & Drink

There is a ton of great spots to eat and drink here. Many of which you never have to leave the beach to go to. Fresh local snapper, grouper, octopus and of course conch are the main attractions and peas and rice are almost always served along side. When it’s lobster season you can expect to see it on every menu you come across. Jerk chicken, curries and tacos are also common dishes here.

Fresh coconuts at Bugaloos
Fresh coconuts at Bugaloos

Da Conch Shack“Feet-in-the-sand” dining, delicious jerk chicken and conch are what you can find here. When you aren’t gazing out at the crystal clear waters you’ll be watching as people go up to the bar to play the ring game – literally a ring that hangs from the roof on a string that you have to try to make on to a hook fixed to the wall across from you. Surprisingly entertaining for hours. This is also were the infamous (to the island at least) Peppa Joy hot sauce is made. Peppa Joy is all-natural, made with locally grown Delano’s peppers and is good on just about everything.

Da Conch Shack
Da Conch Shack
Jerk Chicken with slaw, peas and rice at Da Conch Shack
Jerk Chicken with slaw, peas and rice at Da Conch Shack

Bugaloo’s – “Feet-in-the-sand” dining with live music. Have them crack you a fresh coconut while you snack on local conch fritters and grilled snapper. Chances are you will be serenaded by a local with a mic and guitar while you watch children play in the ocean in front of you. Great little lunch spot.

Conch fritters at Bugaloos
Conch fritters at Bugaloos
Conch salad at Bugaloos
Conch salad at Bugaloos
Lunch at Bugaloos
Lunch at Bugaloos

The Shore Club – Just one of the many luxury resort options in Provo. Have cocktails at the sleek and sexy Rope Bar, overlooking their world class pool and cabanas. The restaurants at The Shore Club offer some of the best fine dining options the island and the property sits right on Grace Bay.

The pool at The Shore Club
The pool at The Shore Club

Stix Beach BarThis “Feet-in-the-sand” bar at The West Bay Club is a lively spot to hang out at for afternoon cocktails. The bartenders are fun and the customers usually get pretty smashed making it an entertaining spot for people watching.

Turks Kebab – Cool little casual lunch or dinner spot serving lamb gyros, kofte, hummus and other Turkish and Greek delights. Lamb is carved fresh off the spit to order.

Turks Kebaba
Turks Kebaba
Kofte and lamb gyro at Turks Kebab
Kofte and lamb gyro at Turks Kebab

Coco Bistro – Fine dining set inside a coconut palm grove on Grace Bay. Service was exceptional and the lamb chops were cooked perfectly. I recommend making a reservation well in advance so you don’t miss out on this one.

Somewhere CafeThis open air restaurant is the perfect place to dine before or after an ocean excursion leaving from Grace Bay. Live music daily. Huge menu with something for everyone.

Las Brisas – Sip on cocktails poolside while you look out on to beautiful Chalk Sound.

Melt – I don’t want to stereo type but this one is for the ladies. This “dessert bar” offers cocktails, a stellar wine selection, house-made ice-cream sundae’s and shopping all under one roof. The mojito here will blow your mind and the sundae’s are big enough for four.

The Banana-Caramel Sundae at Melt
The Banana-Caramel Sundae at Melt
Mojito at Melt
Mojito at Melt

Kalookis – Open air restaurant on the beach. The DJ will dance with your kids while the bartender pours you shots. A fun, party atmosphere with a killer oxtail stew.

Where to stay

From what I saw when I was there you have two options for accommodations on this island – stay at a resort or rent a vacation home. I stayed in a killer vacation rental on our trip called Villa Capri.

Villa Capri

If you are looking for the ultimate high-end vacation experience in the Turks and Caicos I highly recommend Villa Capri, a vacation beach house rental on Chalk Sound.

Villa Capri
Villa Capri

Staying at Villa Capri is pure luxury. The house and view look like an advertisement for the Turks and Caicos, like you would find in a fancy travel magazine. It’s modern and sleek but comfortable at the same time. Inside you will find beautiful white tile floors and countertops, a massive fully stocked kitchen with Wolf stove, modern furniture and Samsung Sound audio equipment for blasting your favorite jams throughout the house.

Villa Capri
Villa Capri

The selling point on this house however, is the expansive back deck overlooking Chalk Sound. Out here you will find towering palm trees, a state of the art outdoor kitchen with grill and flat screen TV and a swank infinity pool. Walk down the back steps to a sweet little dock where you will find a kayak and paddleboards waiting for you to explore the sound with.

Villa Capri
Villa Capri

John and Janine go out of their way to make your stay special. Their attention to detail and hospitality goes way beyond most other vacation rental home experiences. Special touches like stocking the kitchen with fresh fruit, local beer and cold bottled water make it feel like they really care. The complimentary soaps and lotions that are provided in the bathrooms show their sophisticated taste. They spare no expense when it comes to your comfort. My favorite amenity is a book they have put together for you that lists all of their favorite bars, restaurants and excursions on the islands, all with their personal review of each one attached. They even give you the names of the bartenders so you can roll in like a boss and fit right in with the locals.

Local lager by Turks Head Brewery compliments of John and Janine
Local lager by Turks Head Brewery compliments of John and Janine

Resorts

Here are some resorts I recommend if you go that route….

The Shore Club

Seven Stars

The West Bay Club

Come for the beaches, remember the locals

All epic beach experiences aside what I will always remember about this island is the warm hospitality I received from every local I met. Their always positive outlook, sense of humor and zest for life are something most people can only strive for. They are amazingly generous, thoughtful and delightful to be around. They truly made my trip. If you are thinking about a trip to the caribbean, Provo in the Turks and Caicos is the place to be.

provo

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.
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Big Miami Little Havana

miami little havana
miami little havana
Little Havana, Miami

When I started planning my trip to Miami there was only one thing on my mind – Cuban food. Locals say that the Cuban food in Little Havana actually rivals the food in Cuba. I’ve never been to Cuba but after eating my way through the neighborhood I can definitely take their word for it.

I tell you what, outside of hanging at the beach for a couple hours and hitting a couple of must do establishments like Joe’s Stone Crab (best spot for fresh Florida snow crab) and legendary dive bar Mac’s Club Deuce (ask for Allie, she kicks ass) I really didn’t spend much time on Miami or South Beach and I’m totally cool with that.

Macs club deuce
Macs club deuce
Joes Stone Crab
Joes Stone Crab

If you ever find yourself in Miami and are tired of paying $8 for a beer in South Beach and want to check out the local scene here’s what to do…

  1. Start at Versailles for breakfast. 3555 Southwest 8th St. Miami, FL 33145

Don’t go inside the restaurant, instead hang out at La Ventana (the walk up counter café) and chat it up with the locals. It will be crowded but there is really no line so just walk right up, get someone’s attention and order. Seriously, it’s like a free for all.

Versailles
Morning pastry counter at Versailles

I recommend you definitely try a cortadido. It’s a very strong Cuban espresso made with evaporated milk. It’s small but don’t be fooled it’s all you need to get your day going. Along with that grab some freshly made pastries – guava pastelitos, croquetas, espinaca emapandas and ham and cheese empandadas are delicious here.

Cortadido and pastries at Versailles
Cortadido and pastries at Versailles

2. Next walk over to El Palacio de Jugos for their epic lunch buffet and a fresh fruit juice. 1545 SW 27th Ave. Miami, FL 33145

Palacio de los Jugos
El Palacio de los Jugos

Every Cuban dish you have ever read about will be here and every fruit you can think of is made into a juice.

Palacio de los Jugos
El Palacio de los Jugos

This is where I learned about mamey a delicious fruit that looks sort of like a papaya when you open it up. It’s grown in Central America and South Florida and tastes like a cross between a sweet potato and a melon. I like it because it has a creamy texture and is not too sweet. It is also jam packed full of nutrients.

Fresh mamey at Palacio de los Jugos
Fresh mamey at El Palacio de los Jugos

3. After that take a walk down to Calle Ocho. SW 8th Street between SW 12th & SW 17th Ave.

Calle Ocho
Calle Ocho

This is the epicenter of Little Havana. Here you will find high end Cuban Cigar shops, restaurants and statues of chickens painted in beautiful colors on almost every corner.

Calle Ocho
Calle Ocho

4. Check out the old timers playing dominos at Maximo Gomez Park A.K.A. Domino Park. On the corner of Calle Ocho and 15th Ave.

Domino Park
Domino Park
Domino Park
Domino Park

5. Order a mojito and hear some live Cuban music at Ball and Chain. 1513 SW 8th St. Miami, FL 33135

Ball and Chain
Ball and Chain

6. And then grab a frita con queso at El Rey de las Fritas. 1821 SW 8th st. Miami, FL 33135

A Frita
A Frita at El Rey de las Fritas

It’s the Cuban version of a hamburger. A well seasoned patty on a sweet bun stuffed with crunchy shoestring fried potatoes.

Little Havana
Little Havana

 

7. On another day (or the same day if you like to get after it like I do) I recommend checking out the neighborhood of Wynwood. Here you will find Wynwood Walls, a collection of warehouses in the center of town filled with street art murals painted by artists from around the world. There’s also good shopping and food in this ‘hood as well. 2520 NW 2nd Ave. Miami, FL 33127

Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls
Wyndwood Walls
Wyndwood Walls
Peter Tunney
The Peter Tunney exhibit at Wynwood Walls

8. A little off the beaten path but not far from the Walls is Enriqueta’s. 186 NE 29th St. Miami, FL 33137

This is where you come for your Cuban sandwich or Media Noche (a Cuban sandwich served on a sweet roll) or anything else Cuban you would like. The menu is solid and the service is sweet. We ate at the counter where you can talk it up with the locals and friendly staff.

Enriquetas
The Medio Noche Cuban Sandwich at Enriqueta’s

9. Save some room for dessert and grab a slice of pie afterward at Fireman Derek’s World Famous Pies. His key lime is insane. 2818 N. Miami Ave. Miami, FL 33137

Fireman Derek's World Famous PIes
Fireman Derek’s World Famous PIes

Miami is unique place. Never been anywhere like it. The awesome art deco buildings make you feel like you have been frozen in time. The beaches are big and beautiful, the ocean is warm and you can order a beer right on the beach. Most of the bars are open until at least 4 or 5am and people are out partying every night. There is a ton of beautiful art everywhere you go and the Cuban food in Little Havana of course, is epic.

Little Havana
Little Havana

One last tip, the “slow” time to go is right after spring break until November because it gets hot. Flip side though is a little less traffic, a little more room on the beach and a few less people in the bars. We went in April and it was perfect.

South Beach, Miami
South Beach, Miami
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.
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Getting Low In South Carolina

Charleston Pineapple Fountain
Charleston Pineapple Fountain
Charleston Pineapple Fountain

The region along the coast of South Carolina, suitably called lowcountry, is a fascinating place. Rich in history, geographically intriguing and culinary wise, offers some of the most soul satisfying food you will ever try.

Cruising around lowcountry is an attraction in and of itself. At low tide a sea of tall grasses shoot out of the muddy marshland for as far as the eye can see. At high tide the grasses disappear and the water fills in just about to street level like a sheet of glass.

Lowcountry marshland
Lowcountry marshland

A mix of lumber farms and palmettos line the highways and mossy oak trees and magnolias can be found in neighborhoods and along side streets.

The intercostal waterway provides channels, inlets and rivers that snake through dozens of sea islands. Oyster roasts and lowcountry boils (also known as Frogmore Stew) are common gatherings here. Crab nets hang off residential docks and cluster oysters can be harvested all along the muddy banks of the marshland.

South Carolina Intercostal waterway
Part of the South Carolina Intercostal waterway – Dataw Island (St. Helena Island)

My trip through this area started real low, working my way up the coast with a grand finale in Charleston eating some of the best soul food I’ve ever tried in my life. The trip looked like this….

St. Helena Island –

This is where my trip started. It’s known for its plantation homes, Gullah influence and the community of Frogmore (yes, like the stew). I was particularly weary walking around the ponds on this island, which were inhibited by very large alligators. The “no see ems” are relentless here so a daily dousing of bug spray is a must. But don’t let the gators and the bugs deter you, St. Helena Island is a lovely place to visit.

Dataw Island (St. Helena Island)
Dataw Island (St. Helena Island)
Carolina Cider Company
Carolina Cider Company – coffee bar and great selection of locally made foods and pastries
Sunset on Dataw Island (St. Helena Island)
Sunset on Dataw Island (St. Helena Island)

Port Royal Island –

Right next-door is Port Royal Island where I visited local events like the Saturday farmers market and the Soft Shell Crab Festival.

At the farmers market you can find local vegetables like collard greens, and locquats, vendors selling everything from iced tea to periogis and chinese food and live music. My favorite food stand was Hank’s lowcountry. They sell local favorites like she crab soup, Charleston crab dip with saltine crackers and crab cakes the size of softballs.

local collard greens
local collard greens
Local loquats
Local loquats
Crab dip
Crab dip at Hank’s Lowcountry
Port Royal Farmers Market
Port Royal Farmers Market

The annual Soft Shell Crab Festival is where you’ll find deep fried soft shell crab, more local live music and an antique car show.

The car show at The Soft Shell Crab Festival
The car show at The Soft Shell Crab Festival

Beaufort –

Located on Port Royal Island with its cannon lined shore is the town of Beaufort. Antebellum style mansions, horse drawn carriages and a few nice restaurants. But the town’s biggest commodity now days is local artwork.

Beaufort
Beaufort

Many films have been shot throughout the years in this region of South Carolina. The Great Santini, The Big Chill and The Prince of Tides were just a few that were filmed in Beaufort. Scenes from the movie Forrest Gump where shot all over Port Royal and St. Helena islands.

Folly Beach –

Probably one of the biggest and nicest piers I’ve ever been on. Come to fish, take a stroll or shop. There’s even a full bar. Down below is an enormous sandy beach and a lively main strip with fun little dive bars like Planet Follywood and the Sand Dollar Social Club that the local’s charmingly call “the dirty dollar”.

Folly Beach
Folly Beach
Folly Beach Pier
Folly Beach Pier

Charleston –

Come ready to walk and eat because you will want to do a lot of both here.

A particular highlight for me was The battery, a long stretch of historic mansions and parks all along the water. Start down at King St. and Murray blvd., walk all the way up Murray as it turns into East Battery and eventually into East Bay St. Weave in and out of museums if you like, eventually making a right on Exchange street and a left at Concord St. ending up at the infamous pineapple fountain.

Historic mansions along East Battery
Historic mansions along East Battery
The Battery, Charleston
The Battery, Charleston
One of the many beautiful gardens in Charleston
One of the many beautiful gardens in Charleston

If it’s a nice day another awesome thing to do is take the water taxi across the river. There are 4 stops the boat makes and there are things to see and do at each one. Although, I think the boat ride is enough in and of itself. The captain is a great guy and you will more than likely have a few dolphins swimming right along side you almost the entire time.

Charleston river taxi
Spencer and I on the Charleston river taxi
Charleston River
Charleston River

Catch the sunset at the Vendue rooftop bar. It’s a lovely way to wind down your day and get ready for the evening. There are 360 degree views of the city and the river from up there.

Sunset at Vendue rooftop bar
Sunset at Vendue rooftop bar

People are super friendly in Charleston. Small talk is encouraged and a “hi, how are you” to strangers is common when walking down the street. I had to laugh when a local complimented me on my “Gamecock tattoo”, the University of South Carolina’s basketball team mascot. I smiled and said thank you. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was a Kauai rooster.

The food in Charleston is great, although at times a bit heavy. For a list of places to eat make sure to check out my top 10 best restaurants in Charleston SC list. I cover everything from lowcountry soul food to innovative Asian cuisine.

A final thought on Charleston. If you’re in the restaurant industry the industry shot here (surprisingly) is Grand Marnier. So, when someone offers you a “Grandma Shot” that’s what you’re in for. An awesome industry bar if you’re looking for one is The Recovery Room. This bar’s claim to fame is that they are the #1 seller of PBR in the country. I met one of the most talented bartenders I’ve ever seen in all my years of dive bar hopping there. He ran circles around the other bartender maintaining complete control while remembering multiple orders at a time, cracking jokes and swapping stories with customers from all sides of the large square bar. All while slamming back shots one after another. He was hysterical and had us entertained all night.

So whether you are a history buff or enjoy hanging out on a picnic table cracking crab, lowcountry has something for you. Just be careful if you are planning your trip during the summer. It’s hot as hell and you can cut the humidity with a knife. Spring or fall is the way to go!

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.
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My Top 10 Best Restaurants in Charleston SC

Husk
Husk Restaurant
Broadbent country ham with buttermilk biscuits and Carolina Heritage pork with local vegetables and sunflower romesco at Husk

Whether you are looking for soul food or fine dining Charleston has you covered. Most menus are pork and shellfish heavy and you’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that doesn’t serve at least a couple of deep fried items on the menu. Many chefs have impressive charcuterie programs and you’ll never eat collard greens as tasty as you will eat here. This is country southern cooking at its finest.

Here are my Top 10 Best Restaurants in Charleston SC:

  1. HuskAsk any tourist walking down the street where they are going to dinner while they are in town and they will say Husk. It’s everyone’s favorite here, including the locals and rightfully so. Chef Sean Brock is the man in this town. You can’t get food much more locally sourced than here not to mention the dramatic plate presentations and southern hospitality are also exceptional. The menu is very pork heavy offering southern staples like Broadbent country ham with buttermilk biscuits to innovative craveable bites like Kentuckyaki glazed pig’s ear lettuce wraps with sweet vinegar marinated cucumber. My favorite guilty pleasure on our visit was the southern fried chicken skins with pimento cheese “ranch” and Espelette pepper. I had to finally step away from these crunchy, salty bites smothered in that addictive sauce so that I could eat the rest of my meal. Come hungry, order as many dishes as you can and save room for dessert. There isn’t a bad choice on the menu and selections change daily. There is some serious talent in the kitchen here. **Important tip – Make a reservation well in advance or show up at 5pm and stand in line to put your name on the list. They’ll shoot you a text when your table is ready (which could be 2-3 hours from then). 76 Queen St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 577-2500 
    Husk
    Husk
    Husk
    The Southern fried chicken skins with pimento cheese “ranch” and Kurios Farms bibb lettuce salad at Husk

    Husk
    Dessert at Husk
  2. Xiao Bao BiscuitI was beginning to feel the wrath of southern cooking when I stumbled upon this place. I felt like I was back in San Francisco. Once an old gas station now a beautiful eclectic space filled with succulants and Asian imports offers up an exciting menu of what they call Asian soul food. Classics from Korea, China, Japan and Thailand are reimagined and refined using local ingredients, modern techniques and elegant yet rustic plating style. We ordered every dish on the menu I kid you not. Words cannot describe the complexity of flavors you will experience. I think the photos speak for themselves. Enjoy this one. 224 Rutledge Ave. Charleston, SC No reservations – first come, first serve    
    Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Local spring vegetable salad with creamy yuzu, tempura and cured egg yolk at Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Thai style minced beef at Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Okonomiyaki – Japanese cabbage pancake with farm egg at Xiao Bao Biscuit

    Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Mapo dou fu – Spicy Sichuan pork and tofu at Xiao Bao Biscuit
  3. Bertha’s Kitchen – Bertha’s and Martha Lou’s are a dead tie in my book. Both restaurants offer the best no frills soul food I’ve ever had in my life. Even though they are equally good they do have their differences and that is why you must try them both. Bertha’s is a little bit further out of town but worth the cab fare. Customers line up everyday before the doors open and once they do the line remains there all day long so just be prepared to wait. Don’t worry it goes fast. Once you get up to the front of the line there is no menu. You point and they scoop. Every plate comes with cornbread and 2 sides and their offerings are subject to change on a daily basis. Their fried chicken is a must – it’s the best I’ve ever had. I also recommend their okra soup, lima beans, hopping johns, collard greens, red rice and braised cabbage. You can not go wrong with anything you order here so go crazy. 2332 Meeting Street Rd. Charleston, SC 29405 (843) 554-6519 
    Soul food at Bertha's Kitchen
    Soul food at Bertha’s Kitchen

    The line at Bertha's Kitchen
    The line at Bertha’s Kitchen
  4. Martha Lou’s Kitchen – Martha Lou is a culinary legend in these parts. At 86 years old she still takes orders and runs food. The restaurant is tiny, I think I remember it only having about 7 or 8 tables. The fried chicken (which you are going to get) is fried to order so it takes a while for the food to come out but it’s worth the wait. If you want a cold beer you’ll have to ask because they aren’t listed on the menu. She usually has a stash of Budweiser in the back though. If they aren’t already sold out order the chitterlings, she is known for those. I also recommend the lima beans, collard greens with rice, braised cabbage and mac and cheese – all ridiculously good. 1068 Morrison Dr. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 577-9583 
    Fried chicken, mac and cheese, lima beans and braised cabbage at Martha Lou's Kitchen
    Fried chicken, mac and cheese, lima beans and braised cabbage at Martha Lou’s Kitchen

    Martha Lou
    Martha Lou
  5. The Ordinary – This is where you come if you are in the mood for seafood and especially shellfish. Their claim to fame are their shellfish towers. Huge trays piled with ice, oysters, clams, crab and whatever else they are throwing on there that day. They have an innovative selection of cold and hot small plates offering everything from vegetable crudos to oyster sliders. They even do caviar. I loved this place for wine and apps. 544 King St. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 414-7060 Closed Mondays.

    Vegetable crudo at The ordinary
    Vegetable crudo at The ordinary
  6. The Butcher and Bee – When you are ready for something a little bit healthier cruise over to this place. They are open breakfast, lunch and dinner and offer a wide variety of choices. To drink you can get a cold-pressed juice, a finely crafted coffee, specialty cocktails, local beer and wine. Their bakery produces fresh daily pastries like donuts, croissants and cinnamon rolls. Try an avocado toast for breakfast, a brown rice and vegetable bowl for lunch and come back for Moroccan fish and grits or braised half chicken for dinner. The menu is loaded with vegetables, salads and whole grains. I wish I could have eaten here 3 times a day, every day of my trip to try everything. 1085 Morrison Dr. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 619-0202 

    Avocado toast, cheesy grits and cold-pressed green juice at The Butcher and Bee
    Avocado toast, cheesy grits and cold-pressed green juice at The Butcher and Bee
  7. The Macintosh – With a name like Jeremiah Bacon you know this chef is going to have some pork on the menu. The “Bacon Happy Hour” Monday-Friday 5-7pm offers fun snacks like pork belly banh mi and totchos (tator tots served in the style of nachos). The menu is constantly changing to make room for new local vegetables and fish in season. Besides pork you will find interesting dishes like Asparagus with fish sauce, fried breadcrumbs and poached egg. I recommend grabbin’ a spot at the bar for dinner with it’s fun lively atmosphere. 479B King St. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 789-4299 

    House-made Bratwurst at The Macintosh
    House-made Bratwurst at The Macintosh
  8. Cypress – I ate the biggest hot dog I’ve ever had in my life here. If you have sat upstairs in the bar and/or are in the industry you know what I am talking about. The chef here has a damn fine charcuterie program and makes things like mortadella, bresaola and headcheese. But he also makes amazing hot dogs! He serves them on a house made pretzel bun with bread and butter pickles and ballpark mustard. But beware this thing is massive. Oh yeah, and they have amazing other food too like Lobster Bisque and Steak Diane which you can enjoy in a very fancy high end dining room. I like to sit upstairs in the bar and look down into the kitchen to see what they are up to where it’s a little bit more casual. 167 East Bay St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 727-0111 

    House-made charcuterie at Cypress
    House-made charcuterie at Cypress
  9. Slightly North of Broad – Charmingly nicknamed, SNOB this restaurant has almost a cult like following in this city. Like almost all restaurants down here the place is packed daily so reservations are encouraged. Think upscale lowcountry cuisine with a party atmosphere. You’ll find classics like she crab soup, shrimp and grits and soft shell crab here. 192 East Bay St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 723-3424 

    Beef Carpaccio at S.N.O.B.
    Beef Carpaccio at S.N.O.B.
  10. McCrady’s – Located in a building established in 1778 this beautiful upscale bar and restaurant is an elegant place to come and enjoy a romantic dinner. The tasting menu created by Sean Brock (also of Husk restaurant) includes beautifully prepared, locally sourced ingredients like Virginia oysters, Ossabaw pork and Charleston ice-cream. 155 East Bay St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 577-0025 Closed Monday and Tuesday
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.
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Savannah Showtime

Oglethorpe Avenue, Savannah Georgia
Oglethorpe Avenue, Savannah Georgia
Oglethorpe Avenue, Savannah Georgia

In 1974 my Dad moved from New York to a small town called Wilmington, just outside of Savannah, Georgia. With him was his wife and what would later become my half sister, who was then 2 years old. They moved into his Mother and Father in law’s home on a large oak tree lined property along the Wilmington River until they could get on their feet.

My Dad, an up and coming piano player and his wife would perform folk music in a restaurant on River St. in downtown Savannah. To make ends meet he held side jobs like working in the shrimp market and managing a radio shack. My sister remembers setting daily crab traps off the dock behind their house and Dad playing piano for the neighbors.

A couple years later my Dad left Savannah to move to California. He would eventually meet my Mom and have me.

Still frustrated by not “making it” as a musician in NYC he and my Mom started performing rhythm and blues together in San Diego. They recorded his first album around 1980. It was called, Savannah Showtime. The first song on the album entitled “Sweet Mary Blues” was based on a old woman he cleaned shrimp next to in that Georgia shrimp market.

It was that story that led me to Savannah.

A tour guide through Savannah

Savannah was America’s first planned city. Founded in 1733 it’s laid out in a series of squares and parks lined with rows of live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss (which I’m told is neither Spanish nor moss). Out of the 24 original squares, 22 still exist today.

In addition to the Oak trees you can find Palmetto and Magnolia trees and an interesting phenomenon called the resurrection fern – a fern that remains grey and shriveled until the rain comes, turning it bright green and causing it to unravel and wrap all around the branches and trunks of the Oak trees.

Resurrection fern. Beaufort, South Carolina (just outside Savannah)
Resurrection ferns. Beaufort, South Carolina (just outside Savannah)

My visit took place in April. Usually, a nice time of the year to go, to avoid  heat and humidity. This particular weekend was unseasonably cold however and I laughed at the fact that I had to wear the only pair of pants and long sleeves I brought everyday of my trip.

Never the less I enjoyed my stay. The city is extremely walkable and there is a trolley you can hop on and off anytime as well in order to get around.

Here are my recommendations for Savannah….

Accommodations

If you are going to go, do yourself a favor and stay somewhere in walking distance of downtown. You are going to be walking around down there a lot. There are many lovely bed and breakfasts to choose from and nice hotels. I opted for a retro motel with a little more personality and a cheaper price tag.

The Thunderbird InnThis 60’s roadside style motel offers modest rooms blocks from downtown. It’s kitschy service offers RC cola and moonpies upon arrival and a variety of  retro candies in the lobby. Crispy cream donuts are set out every morning for breakfast and do wop music pumps through the hallways. Me being the healthy locavore that I am skipped the junk food amenity but it was charming never the less and fit the brand.

The Thunderbird Inn
The Thunderbird Inn

Food & Booze

Although you will find primarily low country cuisine in Savannah there are some elevated versions of it as well as some out of the box thinkers that step outside grits and fried food. This city is always a flurry of tourists so make sure you make dinner reservations well in advance.

Cotton & RyeThis was one of my favorite dinners in town. The house-made rye bread, cornmeal fried chicken livers and the local fish of the day were all very tasty and the service was on point.

Crispy chicken livers at Cotton and Rye
Crispy chicken livers at Cotton and Rye
Fish of the day at Cotton and Rye
Fish of the day at Cotton and Rye

The VaultThis old bank turned hip, pan-asian restaurant is an excellent choice when you want a release from rich low country cooking. I recommend their chicken lettuce wraps, tuna tartare and spicy Korean BBQ tacos. They offer a complete sushi menu as well.

Chicken lettuce wraps at The Vault
Chicken lettuce wraps at The Vault

The GreyOriginally a 1980’s art deco bus terminal. If you can’t score a resi stop by and have some snacks during happy hour at the bar. They have specials on oysters and wine and offer snacks like fried croquettes and pickled eggs.

Happy hour at The Grey
Happy hour at The Grey

The Olde Pink HouseTouristy but fun. When first built in the 1700s this house was originally considered a mansion because it had a laundry room included in the basement (a luxury most homes did not have at that time). It later went on to become a bank and then a tea room before reincarnating into The Olde Pink House Restaurant in 1992. Here you can find refined low country classics such as she crab soup and fried quail over black eyed pea and corn succotash.

The Pink House
The Pink House
The fried quail at The Pink House
The fried quail at The Pink House

Garibaldi – Old school Italian steakhouse. We sat at the bar and had great service. Our bartenders were from Philly and Jersey and had us in stitches the entire time.

39 Rue de JeanFrench brasserie classics like French onion soup, crispy sweetbreads and frisee lyonnaise. Unexpected sushi menu with inventive options like foie gras nigiri. High end service.

The AtlanticGood luck getting in. This place fills up fast. They do have a great patio out front however where we enjoyed a glass of rose sitting around a fire pit watching customers play Jenga.

Treylor Park –  Kitschy “white trash” trailer park theme restaurant with nice little beer garden out back. Craft beer and comfort food.

The beer garden at Treylor Park
The beer garden at Treylor Park
Treylor Park
Treylor Park

Pinkie Master’sAfter scouring downtown for a good dive bar we finally came across Pinkie Master’s. Say hi to Matt (the owner), relax with a tall PBR and hear all about the tumultuous history of this local favorite bar. Don’t let Google and Yelp fool you this place is NOT permanently closed. It’s alive and well at 318 Drayton St.

Pinky Masters
Pinkie Master’s

The Forsyth Farmers MarketEvery Saturday on the southside of the park from 9am to 1pm you can find local farms and vendors such as…

Forsyth Farmers Market
Forsyth Farmers Market
  • Gruber Farms – Strawberries and a variety of vegetables.
Gruber farms
Gruber farms
  • Sprout Mama Breads – Danish rye, brioche, and sourdough.
Sprouted Mama Bakery
Sprouted Mama Breads
  • George’s Gorgeous Greens
George's Gorgeous Greens
George’s Gorgeous Greens
  • Canewater Farm – The only certified organic farm in the low country. They make honey, stone milled grits, cornmeal and corn flour and grow greens and other vegetables.
Canewater Farms
Canewater Farms
Canewater Farms
Canewater Farms
  • Hunter Cattle – beef, pork, sausages, bacon, burgers.
Hunter's Meats
Hunter Cattle
  • Alake’s Georgia pecans.
Fresh Pecans
Alake’s Georgia Pecans
  • Fresh Pastries.
Locally made pastries
Locally made pastries

Other restaurants and bars that I didn’t get the opportunity to try out but that were recommended by the locals are:

The Florence

Alley Cat Lounge

Local 11ten

Abe’s on Lincoln

The Pirate’s HouseI’m not one for tourist traps so I didn’t end up going here. But, if you are then this would be the spot to check out. This is the spot where pirates would capture drunk men, kidnap them through an underground tunnel and take them to their ship where they would sail off forcing them to work as deck hands. I’m told my Dad and his first wife used to eat here a lot.

Leopold’s Ice-creamIf you can stomach waiting in that line (which doesn’t let up all day) then check this place out. They are rumored to be one of the top 10 best ice-creams shops in the world.

Leopold's Ice-cream
Leopold’s Ice-cream (that line though…)

Craft Beer

Savannah, like most major U.S. cities these days, has a pretty respectable craft beer scene. More often than not when you step into a bar you will find local favorites like these just as much if not more than a bud light.

Service Brewing Co. – Veteran owned and operated.

  • Compass Roase IPA – Citrus and pear notes.

Coastal Empire

  • Savannah Brown Ale – Rich and malty with a hint of caramel and roasted nuts.
  • Southern Delight Praline Amber – Reminiscent of Georgia candied pralines.
  • Tybee Island Blond Beer – This is your light, mildly hoppy, Kolsch style ale for swilling.

 Southbound Brewing

  • Scattered Sun Belgian Witbier – Coriander and citrus notes.
  • Hostess City – Tart cherry and orange zest notes.

Attractions

If you want to see all of the squares and learn a bit about each one take the Hop On Hop Off  Trolley Tour. I am usually not one for guided tours but it was actually a very interesting way to explore the city. I have to say I learned a lot about both Savannah’s history and current events that I would have never learned if not for taking the trolley tour. You’ll see  a variety of architecture from historical mansions, to brightly colored Victorians and federal style brick homes.

Down by the river you’ll stroll along streets made of ballest stones, a commodity from England once traded for cotton.

The ballast cobblestone streets near the river
The ballast cobblestone streets near the river

Forsyth Park – With an impressively beautiful white fountain in the center, this bustling park is the finish line for the Savannah woman’s marathon, the Saturday morning farmers market and the centerpiece for many amazing historic mansions.

Forsyth Park
Forsyth Park

Chipowa Square – The claim to fame of this square is Forrest Gump’s infamous “life is like a box of chocolate” speech. The scenes where Tom Hanks sits on the park bench in the park talking to strangers were all filmed here. Ironically, there is no bench here. lol.

The Forrest Gump bench (minus the bench)
The Forrest Gump bench (minus the bench)

Jones Street – Considered one of the best walking streets downtown. Lined with beautiful old mansions and horse drawn carriages. You will want to bring your camera for this walk.

Jones Street
Jones Street

The Mercer House – The famous murder house from the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. A best selling book turned Clint Eastwood film that tells the story of the  famous murder that took place in Savannah in the 80’s while depicting the quirkiness of the city.

The Mercer House from the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"
The Mercer House from the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”

St. Patricks Day – Savannah is home to the 2nd largest St. Patricks Day party in the U.S. New York City is #1.

Tybee Island

If you’re in Savannah I highly recommend you rent a car and drive out to Tybee Island for the day. This cute little beach town has a nice pier, a white, sandy beach and lots of fun restaurants and dive bars.

Tybee Island Pier
Tybee Island Pier

Bubba GumbosOn the way in stop here for fresh fish caught right there where you eat. I was told by one of the regulars that there isn’t a freezer in sight in the kitchen. In fact the fish of the day special is often times caught by the Chef himself right out the back door. Your other option is to catch your own fish, use the filleting station outside and then bring it to Chef and he’ll cook it for you. The day we were there, there were guys fileting whiting and sheepshead out back.

The Marina at Bubba Gumbos
The Marina at Bubba Gumbos

Order a bucket of beer, some hushpuppies and a basket of peel and eat shrimp and convene around one of the outdoor tables. Each one conveniently has a cut out hole in the center with a trash bin underneath for you to throw shrimp and oyster shells into as you eat.

Bubba Gumbos
Bubba Gumbos
Bubba Gumbos
Bubba Gumbos
Tybee Island Marina
Tybee Island Marina

Tybee Social ClubFresh seafood, tacos and a stellar cocktail program. Live bluegrass on Sunday afternoons.

Doc’s BarHad to go here. My Dad worked at a bar called Doc’s Landing in San Diego for years. This cozy little dive bar made me feel right at home.

Doc's Bar
Doc’s Bar

Huca Poo’sStop here on your way off the island back to Savannah for a drink and a slice of pizza (beware each slice is the size of a half a pizza!). The ambiance is on point, like an old attic decked out with albomn covers from the 60’s, old signs and license plates. It’s probably never been dusted. The pizza is really effing good after a day of drinking at the beach.

Huca Poo's
Huca Poo’s

Live Music

Savannah likes to party. They have no problem with you strolling the streets of the historic district in and out of bars with an alcoholic beverage (just make sure it’s in a plastic or styrophome cup without a lid). At night there are many options for live music of all different types of genres. Congress street is usually a good place to start. Start walking, listen for something you like and pop in to check it out.

Music Venues –

The Jinx We saw an amazing band here. Their style of music was somewhere between rockabilly and heavy metal. The front man had an amazing sense of humor and finished his set off by jumping into the crowd and doing the worm all the way out the front door.

Molly MacPherson’s Scottish Pub – a fun neighborhood spot to watch a local cover band. I think I saw the band pound 3 beers and 3 shots each during their set for the short 45 minutes we were there.

The Bayou Café We hung here until 3am where we watched a guy perform Jimi Hendrix classics all night. I felt like we were watching Hendrix himself. This guy did everything the same just short of playing the guitar with his teeth. Live music starts around 9pm everyday of the week here.

The Bayou Cafe
The Bayou Cafe

I’m told Barrelhouse South and Congress Street Social Club are also good music venues to check out.

Savannah Music FestivalLucky for me this festival was taking place the week I was there. Musicians from all over the U.S. were there to participate so I decided to take in a show at one of the concert venues owned by SCAD. (A lot like The Academy of Arts has taken over much of the real estate in San Francisco, the Savannah College of Art and Design (nicknamed SCAD) can be found on almost every corner, encompassing 67 buildings in Savannah.)

The performance I went to was called Gerald Clayton’s Piedmont blues: A search for salvation. It was inspired by the Piedmont blues music that was created in the tobacco factories and warehouses in Durham, North Carolina in the 1920s and 30s. Gerald, a jazz pianist performed with a 9 piece jazz ensemble, had tap dancer Maurice Chestnut and showed reels of Film and photography behind them as they played.

Savannah Stopover FestivalBands travel through Savannah Georgia every year on their way to Austin’s SXSW music festival to play at the Stopover Festival. For 3 days local venues showcase big acts rocking the city of Savannah before hopping on the highway to Texas.

Whether you are looking for a history lesson or just to have a good time, Savannah is a marvelous place to visit. It’s full of characters, it’s stunningly beautiful and it’s oozing with southern hospitality. I can see now why my Dad was so drawn to it.

Wilmington, Georgia
The property where my Dad lived during his time in Wilmington (Savannah).
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.
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San Francisco to Mendocino: A Perfect Weekend Getaway

wild lilies mendocino
wild lilies mendocino
Wild lilies along the coast of Mendocino

One of my favorite road trips to take is the one from San Francisco to Mendocino. It only takes a few hours to get there, there’s plenty of farms and wineries to visit on the way and once you get there you feel like you have been transported to another world.

Getting there is half the fun!

Lets start with getting there. This could take you three hours or all day depending on how much time you have and how much you want to see.

Penny Royal Farm
Penny Royal Farm

On my most recent trip we started out by taking the tour at Penny Royal Farm. Biodynamic farming is pretty much the norm up in these parts. Animals and nature do most of the work with the help of some very skilled and passionate farmhands. Penny Royal, in Boonville, is the sister farm to the very popular Navarro Vineyard in Philo. Both towns are easily accessible on your way up to Mendocino.

Penny Royal Farm
Penny Royal Farm

We started our tour at Penny Royal Farm by learning a bit about how they process their goat and sheep’s milk for their farmstead cheeses. Unlike other farms Penny Royal drives the milk up to their creamery and pours it into vats slowly by hand as opposed to pumping it through underground pipes. This prevents the milk from getting overly churned giving their cheeses a smooth velvety texture.

The curing room at Penny Royal Farm
The curing room at Penny Royal Farm

From there we got to meet and pet the goats (including the ridiculously cute baby goats, OMG) and sheep. The animals are separated by age group and are kept in surprisingly clean and neat conditions. Lets just put it this way, if I am coming back reincarnated I want to come back as a Penny Royal goat.

The goats at Penny Royal Farm
The goats at Penny Royal Farm
Baby goats at Penny Royal Farm
Baby goats at Penny Royal Farm
The Sheep at Penny Royal Farm
The Sheep at Penny Royal Farm
Baby daddies at Penny Royal Farm
Baby daddies at Penny Royal Farm

Penny Royal also makes wine. The vines are just tall enough to where they can let miniature Babydoll sheep run through the vineyards to mow the grass but not eat the grapes. A moveable chicken coupe comes along behind the sheep to aerate the soil helping to mix the sheep’s fertilizer into the soil and eat pests. And of course, you can also buy eggs from their chickens in the tasting room. They also have an enormous composting system and an organic garden.

Penny Royal vineyards
Penny Royal vineyards
The garden at Penny Royal Farm
The garden at Penny Royal Farm

The tour finished off with a beautiful wine and cheese tasting and a primer in Bootling – the local (and nearly extinct) jargon of Boonville, since many of their cheeses have  names such as Laychee, which means milk in Bootling.

Penny Royal Cheeses
Penny Royal’s Boont Corners Tomme and Velvet Sister Camembert style Cheese
Fresh and tangy Penny Royal Laychee cheese
Fresh and tangy Penny Royal Laychee cheese

Continuing the drive through Anderson Valley is a tasty one. This is pinot noir country but also home to some very elegant Alsatian style wines like Gewürztraminer and Reisling. You really can’t go wrong at any of the wineries you pass along the 128 but Navarro and Balo Vineyards are two of my favorites. Across the street from Balo you can also taste wines at Drew Family Cellars and have an artisan pizza at Stone and Embers Pizza. Oh, ya and if you are still in Philo in the evening make sure to stop for dinner at The Bewildered Pig, a local favorite specializing in dishes made with local heritage breed meats and produce.

Navarro Vinyards
Navarro Vinyards

If you are up this way in the fall make sure to visit The Apple Farm in Philo. It wasn’t apple season this time when we stopped by but the farm still stocks their homemade jams, apple chips and famous apple juice – probably the best apple juice I’ve ever had in my life. I learned about The Apple Farm, Penny Royal Farm and Navarro Vineyards from Sarah Henry’s book, Farmsteads of the California Coast. If you like to geek out on this kind of stuff like me I recommend picking up a copy. It’s full of fun facts about each farm and the fascinating stories behind the people who run them.

The Apple Farm's apple juice
The Apple Farm’s one ingredient apple juice
The Apple Farm farmstand
The Apple Farm farmstand

Where to stay in Mendocino

If you are staying the night in Mendocino you’re staying in a bed and breakfast. I’ve stayed at a couple of really cool ones – The Algeria Inn and The McCallum House. The Alegria is right on the ocean and serves up a killer breakfast. The McCallum House has, in my option, the best restaurant and cocktail program in Mendocino. Both are centrally located in town and since Mendocino is all of about 3 blocks long,  you really can’t go wrong with either option.

The trail at The Alegria Inn to Big River Beach
The trail at The Alegria Inn to Big River Beach
Big River Beach, Mendocino
Big River Beach, Mendocino

Where to eat in Mendocino

I love the food here. Most restaurants try hard to use organic produce and sustainably farmed meat. As I said before, McCallum House is my fave. Their cocktails and food change seasonally and are always interesting. They also make everything in house from their sourdough bread, to ice-cream for desserts and bitters for drinks.

The cocktail of the day at The McCallum House
The cocktail of the day at The McCallum House

The Mendocino Cafe is my second favorite. Great for lunch or dinner you can always have a really solid meal here. Their menu is sorta all over the place ranging from curries to dumplings to Italian pastas but still manage to do all of them well. We even had meatloaf and mashed potatoes last time we went that would put your Mom’s to shame.

If it’s a nice day have lunch or a glass of wine on the patio at Flow, the only restaurant with an ocean front patio. Trillium is also a great option for dinner if you want to go high end. If you want a throw down local’s joint Patterson’s is a fun Irish pub that serves a huge menu of comfort food like fish and chips and shepard’s pie.

The bluff across the street from Flow Restaurant
The bluff across the street from Flow Restaurant

I even love the grocery stores here. Harvest Market is your main grocery store with all the regular staples plus a great local wine and housewares section.  Corners of the Mouth health food store is a not-for-profit worker operated collective like Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco only smaller. Like Rainbow they have an extensive bulk foods section filled with ingredients like spices, teas, whole grains and misos. They also carry locally made foods and skin care products.

Corners of the Mouth Market
Corners of the Mouth Market

Meandering through Mendocino along its winding beach trails is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. If you are there during the spring the whole bluff pops off with wildflowers, clovers and if you can believe it collard greens!

Wild collard greens
Wild collard greens
Wild clovers and collard greens
Wild clovers and collard greens
Succulents
Succulents
Flower garden made of wood
Flower garden made of wood

Breathtaking views, clean air and a break from the city madness await you when you travel from San Francisco to Mendocino. It is truly the perfect weekend getaway.

Beach trails in Mendocino
Beach trails in Mendocino

 

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.
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Local Spotlight – Temescal Oakland

juhu beach club Temescal Oakland
juhu beach club Temescal Oakland
The spice shelf at Juhu Beach Club

Once a tiny village scattered with horse and buggies, now a hipster heaven, the neighborhood of Temescal Oakland is as vibrant and colorful now more than ever.

Last Sunday I hopped on BART and ventured over to Oakland for an Edible Excursion, led by local food writer and author, Sarah Henry.

Edible Excursions is a company founded by Lisa Rogovin, formerly of Gourmet Magazine. The concept is simple – meet with a group led by one of her expert trained staff for a day of restaurant hopping.

Since I consider myself a bit of a pro at this glutinous foodie pastime I was all over it.

So, I get off BART at Rockridge station, walk down Shafter street past the twentieth century homes decorated with succulent gardens proudly displaying “black lives matter” signs, hang a left on 51st and arrive at Telegraph ave, the epicenter of Temescal.

This multicultural ‘hood just about defines the word gentrification these days. Housing is expensive, the streets are becoming safer and there’s an abundance of excellent restaurants and trendy retail shops.

I have to admit I was pretty much in heaven when I saw what Temescal had to offer. Vintage clothes, barber shops, hand-made jewelry, a punk rock record store, locally made ice-cream, apothecaries and a DIY shop not to mention amazing ethnic cuisine and plenty of gourmet food establishments, including a few owned by Chez Panisse alumni.

We met Sarah outside of Juhu Beach Club (positioned between a pawn shop and a check cashing store) which, looking back now, I realize I could have spent all day hanging out at.

Juhu Beach Club Temescal Oakland
Juhu Beach Club

Juhu Beach Club is the brainchild of former Top Chef contestant,  Preeti Mistry.  But after tasting her food the TV show is not her claim to fame, the way she navigates around indian spices and innovatively redefines the foods of her culture to make them more “oaklandish”, is.

The theme of her menu is Indian street food like you would find at Juhu beach in Mumbai. It’s fun and playful but still complex in flavor.

 

Sarah sampled us on three items there – the iced masala chai, the vada pav and desi jacks.

Preeti makes a beautiful house-made chai spice which she expertly crafts with black tea, whole milk and a dash of sugar to create her refreshing iced chai. It’s the perfect palate cleanser and fatty buffer to pair with the spicy vada pav we tasted – India’s version of a slider.

Juhu Beach Club Temescal Oakland
The Iced Masala Chai and Vada Pav at Juhu Beach Club

She starts with a perfectly crispy fried potato puff, tops it with three house-made chutneys – ghost chili, tamarind and cilantro and pickled red onion. Then she sandwiches it in-between two pieces of glazed squishy buns, baked fresh daily from Starter Bakery.

The bread is reminiscent of what is used to construct the sweet pork buns you would find at a dim sum restaurant.

The spicy, crunchy, pickly, sweet concoction of this sandwich lights your mouth on fire but keeps you coming back for more. I could have eaten two more of these things but I knew I needed to save room for the rest of the day’s offerings.

On the way out, Sarah provided us with tiny cups filled with what Preeti calls desi jacks. A tricked out version of cracker jacks that I would rather have over the ballpark kind any day. It was a mixture of indian spiced popcorn, pistachios and peanuts. Salty and sweet and wonderfully addictive.

Juhu Beach Club Temescal Oakland
The Desi Jacks at Juhu Beach Club

It also touched my heart to notice that for every bowl of “Mom’s guju” chili Juhu Beach Club sold a dollar went to the fire relief fund for victims of the Ghostship Oakland fire. That’s true community spirit right there.

The next stop on our adventure was the Temescal Urban Village Farmers Market, or the DMV farmers market as the locals call it, due to it being located in the DMV parking lot.

Being the farmers market junkie that I am I wanted to stop at every stall but we were on a schedule so aside from sneaking in a taste of turmeric-almond milk at The Living Apothecary and stopping by the Farmhouse Culture stand I stuck with the group.

We had baja style fish tacos waiting for us when we walked up to the Cholita Linda stand. Crispy battered tilapia, topped with salsa roja, green cabbage slaw and mexican crema on soft warm tortillas. The stand also offers tacos de carnitas, tacos de tofu and a variety of aqua frescas.

Cholita Linda Temescal Oakland
Cholita LInda Tacos de Pescado

If you want to see what else Cholita Linda has to offer you can walk a few blocks down the street to their brick and mortar shop. You’ll know when you get there because there will be a line out the door.

cholita linda temescal oakland
Cholita Linda at The Urban Village Farmers Market

After our tacos we cruised over to the Starter Bakery stand. The same guys that make the crazy good sweet buns for Juhu Beach Club. Here we sampled their Kouign-Amann, a pastry they have become famous for.

starter bakery temescal oakland
Starter Bakery

It’s a french style crunchy, laminated dough. Think of it like a compressed glazed croissant. It’s heavenly. I took a few bites and wrapped up the rest to take home with me to have with tea the next morning. Which I did.

Starter Bakery Kouign-Amann
StarterBakery’s Kouign-Amann

After the farmers market we headed over to to the Temescal alleys, a collection of mom and pop businesses set up in the same stalls trolley car horses were kept back in the day.

 

We had a scoop of house-made ice-cream made with  Straus milk at Curbside Creamery, I ogled over tinctures and spices at Homestead Apothecary and bought a bracelet at Marisa Mason. Again, I could have spent most of the day just hanging out there.

curbside creamery temescal oakland
Curbside Creamery

From there we landed at The Sacred Wheel Cheese Shop. A shop that has been on my to do list for years now. We were greeted with trays of warm PBR infused tomato soup and crispy grilled mac n’ cheese squares drizzled with sweet chili sauce by the shop’s cheese expert, BJ. Um, hel-lo delicious comfort food! Apparently they hold the title of “best mac & cheese in the bay area” and I can see why. The flavors are bold and white trash fabulous. A concept after my own heart.

sacred wheel temescal oakland
Mac n’ Cheese with sweet “cock sauce” and PBR tomato soup at Sacred Wheel

We took a spin around the shop where you can find local artisan goods, gift baskets and of course lots and lots of cheese. Bring a few shopping bags when you come here, you’re going to need them.

sacred wheel temescal oakland
The Sacred Wheel Cheese Shop

Abesha Restaurant was our next stop where we sampled Ethiopian Cuisine. Sarah explained to us that we would be eating with our hands in the traditional manner and thoughtfully directed us to a hand sink in the back of the restaurant.

Alesha Ethiopian temesal oakland
Alesha Ethiopian Cuisine

Our server brought us out a wonderful assortment of slow cooked vegetarian delights accompanied by injera, a fermented spongy flatbread made with teff used for scooping up each bite of food with.

Abesha temescal oakland
Abesha’s injera

We had YeAter Kik – yellow split peas simmered with onions, herbs and spices, YeMisir Wot – lentils in berbere (a classic ethiopian spice blend) sauce,  Tikil Gomen Carrot and Dinich – cabbage, carrot and potato in a vibrant yellow sauce, Shirro – chickpeas simmered in berbere sauce and Mushroom Wot – quartered mushrooms cooked with onion, herbs and spices. The flavors were mild but fragrant and comforting. I could imagine lingering over a tray like this with friends for hours catching up on old times.

Abesha temescal oakland
Abesha’s vegetarian selection

The finale of our tasty tour of Temescal was a Korean feast at Bowl’d. We arrived to a long table set with an array of kimchees and pickles, known as banchan..

Bowl'd temescal oakland
Pickles and Kimchees at Bowl’d

Minutes later spicy kimchee pancakes,  jhap chae – sweet potato glass noodles tossed with mushrooms, carrots and cabbage and hot steamy bowls of bimimbop hit the table, one with beef one vegetarian. A warm soothing barley tea was served along side.

Bowl'd temescal oakland
Bowl’d bibimbops
Bowl'd temescal oakland
Bowl’d kimchee pancake
Bowl’d Jhap Chae

 

Bowl'd bbq temescal oakland
Bowl’d BBQ Korean Stone Grill

I didn’t think this meal could get any better until Sarah arrived at the end with a tray full of Job’s tear shots. This Korean drink is made with nuts (traditionally walnuts, almonds and/or pine nuts) and job’s tears (also known as Chinese pearled barley). The nuts are coarsely ground so what you get is almost a  porridge consistency. To me it tasted like warm peanut butter milk. So good!

bowl'd temescal oakland
Job’s tears at Bowl’d

The Oakland Temescal Tastes tour, curated and led by Sarah Henry is a delicious way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Come hungry, wear your walking shoes and be prepared to want to come back.

Temescal is a neighborhood worth being savored.

temescal alleys
Sarah Henry touring us through Temescal Alleys

 

Edible Excursions leads walking tours in SF, Oakland and Berkeley. Join a group or book a private tour and experience behind-the-scenes experiences with some of the best Chefs in the bay area.

The Temescal Tastes tour is held on Sundays from  11-2pm in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland. 

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.
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Local Spotlight – Taos and Santa Fe

I’m sitting in what’s probably the tiniest airport in America. I’m one of five people here. The TSA checkpoint doesn’t even open until my plane arrives. The power just went out and I have to laugh because even with power back on wifi is, I’m guessing, not an option. No airport bar, no food, two rental car agencies, two airlines, one terminal. This is Santa Fe.

I have just spent five unforgettable days in New Mexico. To call this place “the land of enchantment” is an understatement. The history of the native American Indians, the adobe architecture and the endless works of art unique to this area are both humbling and powerful.

When planning my trip here I knew exactly who I wanted to take with me on my journey. My Mom. It took one phone call, no convincing and a couple months later we were landing here in this tiny airport.

This trip offered so many nutrients in these four areas of health – self-care, spirituality, local food and relationships. I was nurtured both physically and emotionally and will be reaping the benefits for years to come.

Taos

Our trip started by driving an hour north. Miles of uninhabited desert dotted with shrubby green bushes as far as you could see, casinos after casinos, the run down town of Espanola, plateaus, arroyos and finally we drop down into the town of Taos surrounded by desert, lined with mountains, dark grey clouds in the distance.

We arrived at El Monte Sagrado Resort just in time for dinner where I had my first plate of New Mexican green chile enchiladas and Mom had her first experience of eating elk.

El Monte Sagrado
El Monte Sagradon

Self Care. The following day I had one of the most extraordinary spa experiences of my life at The Living Spa in the resort. It started with using their steam room, sauna and taking a hot bath in a Japanese cedar tub.

Then I went in for my treatment which started with body brushing followed by an application of clay enriched with sage, cedar and juniper essential oils to my entire body. I was then tightly wrapped  to promote

The Living Spa
The Living Spa

sweating allowing the clay to pull out and trap toxins. While I was wrapped the massage therapist placed Staurolite crystals indigenous to Taos all along my chakras, applied reflexology to my feet and treated my face with exfoliation and the same clay mask. I was then instructed to shower and return for a thirty minute full body massage. The session was complete with a glass of cold coconut water. I felt f-ing amazing.

Lampert's
Lampert’s

Local Food. Taos has a quaint downtown filled with shopping aimed to tourists. We had a lovely lunch at Lambert’s of hummus, tabouli, pita, feta, olives, grilled local trout and vegetables.

For dinner in the evening we enjoyed regional, organic fare at The Love Apple. The lamb albondigas, red chile tamale and blue corn cake baked and served in cast iron were smoky, rich and provided some serious aromatherapy.

Spirituality. The next day we explored the Taos Art Museum at The Fechin House, the Taos Pueblo, the Rio Grande Gorge and visited the Earthship community – a completely off the grid community of homes built from recycled materials, dirt and adobe.

Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo
Rio Grande Gorge
Rio Grande Gorge
The Earthship Community
The Earthship Community

Local Food. We also visited two farmers markets where we found organic cherries, yams, garlic, apricots, squash, eggs and greens. What I also noticed is everywhere we went herbs such as Echinacea, lavender and sage grew wild.

Local New Mexican chile powder and piñon
Local New Mexican chile powder and piñon
Local yams
Local yams
Red Willow Farm
Red Willow Farm
Local Garlic Scapes
Local garlic scapes
Wild Lavender
Wild Lavender
Wild Echinacea
Wild Echinacea
Desert Sage
Desert Sage

Self-care. Before heading down to Santa Fe we decided to indulge in a little hydrotherapy at the sacred Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. Ojo Caliente is unique in that it is the only hot springs in the world that offers four different types of mineral waters – lithia, soda, arsenic and iron. Each pool offers different therapeutic properties at different temperatures. Lithia offers relief from depression, soda relieves digestive issues, iron supports the immune system and blood and arsenic relieves arthritis, is good for digestion and heals skin conditions. They are all good for toning the skin and detoxing. There is also a mud bath which is made of clay. The idea is you slather yourself with mud and then lay out in the sun to let it harden on your skin which to extracts and traps toxins from your pores.

Santa Fe

New Mexican Lamb at Geronimo's
New Mexican Lamb at Geronimo

Local Food. We hit the ground running with a fine dining experience at Geronimo restaurant. House made sourdough and flatbread dusted with spices and sesame, seared foie gras with local cherries and roasted strawberries, Asian pear salad with blue cheese toast, arugula, endive and cashews, New Mexico “four corners” rack of lamb and Durham Ranch roasted chicken. We even went all out for dessert with banana cream pie accompanied by cinnamon chocolate ice-cream, a feather light orange “creamcicle” reminiscent of tres leches cake with lemongrass ice-cream and espresso and tea with star anise cookies. Wines too were fantastic. As was the service.

The hotel we stayed in, La Fonda on the Plaza, hosts a live band every night of the week. Music has always been an important part of our lives. A great way to end the night, which we did on both nights of our stay.

Avocado Toast at Pasqual's
Avocado Toast at Cafe Pasqual’s

Local Food. Santa Fe has a ton of shopping, museums, art galleries and restaurants that surround a central plaza. Cafe Pasqual’s was on point for brunch with their more healthy approach to New Mexican fare. House-made whole wheat toast with avocado, poached eggs, house-cured bacon and a seed and spice mixture called dukkah was a stand out. Their more traditional chile relleno and vegetarian tamale with black beans, jicama and cilantro rice were also exceptional.

Georgia O'Keeffe
Hawaiian flowers – Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Spirituality. We went to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum where I was mesmerized by her iconic artwork and passion for New Mexico.

Self-Care. Off the beaten path we discovered Milagro Herbs. They forage local herbs, make holistic skincare products and herbal medicine. They also have an extensive assortment of medicinal teas, clays and essential oils.

Local Food. Just down the street from there is Kakawa Chocolate. They make ancient recipe chocolate elixers, truffles and ice-cream. Smoky red chile finds its way into all three. Pinon (pine nuts), a commonly used ingredient in this area, were used in delicious caramel chocolate truffles.

Kakawa Chocolate House
Kakawa Chocolate House

Local Food. The Cayote Café is another worthy restaurant just off the plaza. Their tuna poke was fresh and vibrant with the addition of diced watermelon and avocado. I had the salmon with house-made cavatelli, chard and English peas. Mom had a decadent pork osso buco with Israeli cous cous. Marsala-tomato sauce and apple salad.

Santa Fe Municipal Airport
Santa Fe Municipal Airport

 

On the last day Mom flew home early back to San Diego. I went for a swim at the hotel, sat in Cathedral park and had a delicious Salmon nicoise salad at La Casa Sena. As I drove back to the tiny airport I took in the desert for the last time. The adobe homes, the squatty green bushes, the majestic mountains and the dark clouds, always in the distance, never once over me.

It was monsoon season in New Mexico but it never rained once.

Travel for good health

This trip fed my soul and promoted good health in so many ways. The vast deserts, local Indians and culture offered an amazing spiritual experience. The healing power of mineral baths, clay, massage, essential oils, reflexology and the warm sun re-energized my body. The local organic food nourished me.

Relationships. But the most rewarding aspect of the trip hands down was the quality time I enjoyed spending with my mom laughing, eating, getting pampered, exploring, talking and sharing. Deepening our relationship and connecting with new experiences we had offered the most nutritional benefit of all.

Me and Mom
Me and Mom
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.
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