Circa 1886: Fine Dining at its Finest

circa 1886 charleston restaurantOne of the things I was looking forward to the most when we decided to come back to Charleston was the restaurant scene. Nashville has a really fun and budding foodie culture and new restaurants opening all the time, but there’s something special about this city, where the art of a well-made meal has long been held sacred. This week, I had the wonderful experience of dining at one of Charleston’s best, Circa 1886.

The restaurant is located behind the fabulous Wentworth Mansion inn, which was rated this year the #2 Best Luxury Hotel in the U.S. by TripAdvisor. I’d been to Circa 1886 before, but not when the weather was nice enough to dine on the patio. If you get the chance before it gets too hot this summer, do it. Flanked by blooms and topped with a vine-covered trellis, it feels quaint, like a backyard dinner with friends — a feeling that’s only reinforced by the charming staff. Ask them the history of the mansion and carriage house, and they’ll happily tell you about the original fireplace, the barn doors now hung like art on the wall, the Rodgers family who built the mansion and lived there, and the arched booths that pay tribute to the original carriage stalls.

circa 1886 charleston restaurant

circa 1886 charleston restaurant patio

circa 1886 charleston restaurant

circa 1886 charleston restaurant

We started with cocktails, a selection of which are only $5 at happy hour, including my Mansion Mule. They make their own ginger beer in-house, and it’s a perfect balance of spicy and sweet. We sampled specialty drinks from their recent Bourbon and Bacon dinner (an annual event), and talked cocktails with John, the restaurant’s beverage director, who is currently drafting the menu for their first-ever Rum Dinner. He served us a smoky concoction he called a negroni-meets-manhattan, spicy with chiles and sharp with campari but tempered with sweet vermouth. It was exactly what you’d imagine the alcoholic pairing to a bacon-themed dinner would be, and it was wonderful.

circa 1886 charleston restaurant

circa 1886 bourbon bacon dinner





circa 1886 charleston restaurant

circa 1886 charleston restaurant

The chef sent out tasting spoons of charcuterie and lobster bisque, which were fabulous. Then came the real fun. To start, a farm egg over asparagus with pimiento hollandaise, shaved chestnuts and fried chicken “essence”; foie gras with cherry crème brûlée, pickled pineapple sambal, and vanilla corn bread crumble. For dinner, I ordered the jerk-brined antelope (“Chef always has some variation of antelope on every menu,” our waiter informed us. I decided if he had been serving it for over 10 years, it ought to be experienced). Paired with key lime grits, red cabbage and yam hash, coconut curd, mango rum gastrique, and cilantro pistou, it only took one bite to prove I wasn’t wrong. I also sampled the duck, which went wonderfully with Thomasville Tomme gratin potatoes and a mouth-watering haricot verts salad.

circa 1886 charleston restaurant foie gras

circa 1886 charleston restaurant



I finished with the peach soufflé, which was light and airy as a cloud. It comes served with streusel to sprinkle on top and decadent vanilla-peach anglaise for pouring inside, not to mention a little dish of brown sugar ice cream that is heavenly — the perfect ending to a perfect meal. If you’re a Charleston local or passing through on vacation, I highly recommend an evening at Circa 1886. Come for the food, fall in love with the friendly staff, and leave already planning your next trip back.

circa 1886 charleston restaurant circa 1886 charleston restaurant circa 1886 charleston restaurant

A Stay at the Hotel Del Coronado


I’m an East Coast gal, through and through. I’ve always had an affinity for our dark gray waters (ignorance is bliss!) and hot, hot summers. But I can honestly say I’ve never had a better beach experience than lounging Pacific-side at Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island. Let me paint the picture for you.

My stay at the Del began in the early days of April. I had my husband and one of our dearest friends as company. The weather was pretty consistently between 70-74 degrees. The breeze was calm and refreshing, and somehow it all came together to strike that magical balance of not too hot, not too cold. This translated into 8-hour beach shifts that never got uncomfortable. But it was the Del’s beach cabanette that truly made the experience. The day bed must have been king-sized, comfortable enough to split with 2-3 people, and came with chair-side bar service, all under the canopy of a clam-shell shade, which could be adjusted for more or less sun. Lounging on a literal bed with a drink in my hand and some seriously fresh chips and guacamole? Yeah, that’s pretty much the crown jewel of beach experiences.

Speaking of crowns, did you know that Coronado is Spanish for “Crowned One”? The entire town is sprinkled with crown imagery, and the Del is no exception. Their Crown Room ballroom is opulent with its overhanging crown-shaped chandeliers. Everything about the hotel transmits that same old-world glamour. From the golden-gated, 125-year-old elevator to the posh shopping downstairs and fine dining by the sea, the hotel is the definition of luxury.

One of my favorite parts of my stay at the Del was the spa. During the summer, the hotel operates two pools, one for adults-only and one for families. During our stay, however, I found the best way to relax aside from the beach was to book a treatment at the spa and spend the rest of the day lounging by its gorgeous infinity pool. Reserved for guests of the spa, the pool is quiet and calm. It also gets you access to the whirlpool and steam rooms, private showers and bathrooms, getting ready stations with hairdryers and toiletries, and pitchers of fruit water and snacks. You can also order food and beverages by the pool, which was glorious. I got a piña colada and took it with me for my pedicure! I highly recommend this technique. My technician was thorough and kind, and two weeks later, my toes are still looking fresh.


On the chilliest day of our stay, I traded in my bikini for an afternoon of exploring the island on wheels. We rented cruisers and cycled around the hotel and surrounding beach for a while. Overall, the island and its streets are very bike-friendly, though around the Del itself there’s a little too much foot-traffic to really get going — I would suggest biking a little further out on the island. After a little bit of exploring, we decided to all go in on a three-person rickshaw-looking contraption called a surrey. It was basically a canopy-covered bench with bike pedals on either side and a small space in the middle. This is what you rent if you want to laugh — hard — at yourself, or get a leisurely tour of the island sardined between your two most muscular pals.

There’s tons of shopping at the hotel, both on the main lobby floor and below. It reminds me of a similar hotel here, The Charleston Place. There are ice cream and candy shops, shops selling spa and body products, and apparel and kids stores. I borrowed a few babes and grabbed photos of some of my favorite items from their signature store and a women’s boutique called Weekends.

It’s impossible to choose a favorite restaurant at the Del, so instead I’ll just share a few of my favorite meals, starting with the Diver Scallops and Smoked Pork Belly at Sheerwater. This meal was decadent — rich and creamy and perfectly balanced with the salty bits of pork. Their potatoes, absolutely drenched in truffle butter, still make my mouth water when I think about them. Craft brews and artisan pizza at ENO was another favorite. The cheese plate is fabulous, and the pizzas were mind-blowing. We ordered the prosciutto pear, topped with rosemary and gruyere, and jalapeño business, sprinkled with bacon, chicken and generous dollops of cream cheese. So good. The final meal I’ll mention was the last night of our stay. It was, how do I put this, room service ice cream in bed. Sometimes you just need a night in, with a pint to yourself and sides like fresh berries, caramel sauce and candied nuts. Amen and amen.


All in all, our visit to the Del was incredible, and one I’ll be dreaming of all summer long. Until next time!


Spring Bohemia

Earlier this winter, I was driving the long highway home to the place where I grew up. It’s a funny stretch of road, buried by the overhanging oaks, dotted with half-collapsing houses and intermittent wide openings of marshland and men casually casting their lines into the water. It’s a wild land, overgrown and untamed. It’s beautiful but dreary. Alive but somewhat sleepy. Many of the cinderblock houses burst out of the underbrush with shouts of color. A bright blue dwelling here, there a harlequin green. You get the feeling that the inhabitants have always been there. That those houses and trees have seen more than most. The air is thick with memory. It’s heavy with struggle and spirits, and the feeling of being forgotten.

At certain points, there are newer residents. They have tall houses and mowed lawns. They’ve left the city in exchange for acres. One, close to my turn, has decided to start raising alpacas. My mind starts to wander.

Three months later, I’ve put together a shoot inspired by wild things. I wanted to contrast colorful and exotic pieces with the drab landscape of a late winter afternoon, and then take them over the top with unexpected animals. I wanted to convey a bohemian feeling, with nothing really to do with the South. But it won’t be ignored. The Lowcountry is woven into these images, and why shouldn’t it be? If exotic is to be defined as bizarre, extraordinary, and romantic, is there anything that encompasses it more?