With the sticky heat of humid D.C. descending amongst the unusual amount of rain, it's nice to think of non-traditional weekend trips to escape the weather (and explore the flourishing East Coast food scene).
Foremost on my list: the sweet southern charm of Greenville, S.C., which, coincidentally, is following a similar arc of urban renewal as D.C.
Situated a rapid-fire 35-minute flight away, or a much more leisurely drive, downtown Greenville is -- shockingly -- an oasis of food and fun.
Two things I neither expected there: being able to walk to a hundred different shopping, food, bar and other conveniences within a two-mile grid downtown, or that so many culinary delights would charm my tastebuds.
For brunch, I would definitely try either The Green Room (200 M. Main St.) or High Cotton (550 S. Main St.). The Green Room has a wicked stuffed french toast, served with two sausage links.($10). Made with thick bread stuffed with raspberry cream cheese and coated with Frosted Flakes, french toast was fluffy but strong, somehow absorbing the drowning amounts of syrup I could not stop pouring over it. Perhaps it was helped by the highly unusual, but fantastic, coating of Frosted Flakes. Either way, not to be missed.
Nor is High Cotton. Located right by the little river abutting it, High Cotton has great views to go with their tempting menu. Of course, they do offer more than just brunch, but the huevos rancheros was so fun to eat! The salty, mind-meltingly intense flavors of the beef hash was complemented by the fresh, chunky house-made guacamole. Centered within were the eggs: rich, runny, free-range and farm fresh. I loved the adventure of eating this dish. An absolute must as it was the only dish, the entire weekend, of which I ate every single last bite. One caveat: The chips were re-fried in house, but honestly, I couldn't tell.
To walk off these calories, I recommend taking a stroll to WISH (103 N. Main St. #101), a cute clothing store, which was packed on a recent Saturday. I walked away with two blouses for slightly less than $80. I also loved the Greenville Historic Walking Tours, where I found out that the fancy spa in Greenville used to be the prison. Yep. Plus, tour guide John Nolan is a passionate fan of the city. You can learn so much -– and for the $35 fee, you also get to eat and drink at several Greenville restaurants.
Now, if you're an aspiring chef, don't miss Charleston Cooks! (200 N. Main St.).
Mark Pollard runs the kitchen, and he is absolutely hysterical, a hybrid of the Food Network and Comedy Central. I took a two-hour cooking class ($60), where he taught the class to make several southern-style dishes. Worth the money -- and not just because you get to eat and drink what you made. Plus, you'll get a discount on every tool used in your class.
Nantucket is the more formal (AKA, expensive) type of dining D.C. is used to, but it's worth it -- the seafood is not to be missed. My recommendation: the Pomodoro Seafood Pasta. Jumbo South Carolina shrimp, dry scallops and PEI mussels are sautéed with roasted garlic, plum tomatoes and baby spinach. Then all of this is tossed with trottole pasta and finished with parmigiano reggiano. Fabulously tasty. My one knock is I ordered the mac and cheese, and the waitstaff forgot to bring it out. I didn't make a fuss about it since I was so absorbed in my La Ardilla Moscato, but still a bummer that they missed a dish.
The Lazy Goat is more of the affordable, yet still good, dining one would expect.Try the crispy brussels sprouts. Lightly fried, they're coated in a sherry glace and then tossed with Serrano ham and shaved manchego. How can I adequately describe how much I adored the sweet and salty flavors except to say I really adored it? Best thing on the menu by far!
If after all of this, you still have the room in your stomach and a spring in your step, I would wander over to SIP Tasting Room and Rooftop Lounge (103 N. Main St., Suite 400), the only rooftop wine bar in the city.
Whatever you do, don't leave the city without stopping by Poppington's Popcorn (30 South Main St.) for some of their amazing popcorn flavors. The kettle corn is beyond words, but I loved the mint chocolate, too. Ask for Rose -- she'll treat you as well as your mother ever did.