Thursday, March 25, 2010

She-Crabs in Charleston!

Well this past weekend I had a 3-day vacation in Charleston, SC... mostly due to the Good Neighbor promotion (you know - the creepy old guy in the street asking if you want to go see the harbour?)... anyways.

I have been to Charleston before and graded these items in my mind - but now - I am putting them on 'paper.' For those who don't know, She-Crab soup is the big thing in Charleston. You can find it EVERYWHERE. There is not really a crab that's a 'she-crab' but it's a female blue crab that is found off the coast of SC. I ended up trying the She-Crab soup at three places (and with my summary):

1) Amen Street -
The soup arrived hot and was served in a good sized bowl. The consistency of the soup was thick and taste had a good balance between the 'chowder' feel and the 'kick' of the low country spice. I was happy to find large lumps of crab within the soup - which made it seem more fresh. The soup did not need any additional seasoning and was very filling. A great lunchtime meal.

2) Poogan's Porch
I ordered a cup of this soup before my dinner. I was surprised that the soup arrived already with the sherry added on top. Disappointingly, this gave the soup a warm and watery substance. The overall flavor was ok and it definitely was more soupy than chowdery. There were no true crab lumps as they seemed to be blended into the heavy cream.

3) 82 Queen
Last but not least, 82 Queen. I hear all the raves about this place (and have been several times) and it has won the best She-Crab soup in the city. The soup arrived with the sherry on the side (a plus). This soup was also hot and had a nice, chowdery consistency. There were pieces of noticeable crab but not as many 'lumps' as the Amen soup had. I will mention that I ate this soup prior to my main meal (in which I got food poisoning - be careful of pork, folks!). It was a nice beginning to a sad and painful night.

Here's my rank:
3) Poogan's Porch
2) 82 Queen
1) Amen Street (and yes, can I get an AMEN!)

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Liberty

The Liberty is a new restaurant in the South End. Opened by Tom Condron (the chef behind Harpers), The Liberty fashions itself as Charlotte’s first Gastropub and is located in the old McIntosh's. Upon entering The Liberty, the décor is cozy in a pub-feel way. I enjoyed the keg pillars, wood-cracked walls and the beer foamed lighted pictures. I went at lunch so unfortunately I could not get a beer (but will next time!). The beer menu has 20 beers on tap and many bottled-beers. The menu has the typical pub fare – pretzels, homemade pickles, fish and chips, burgers and bangers as well as salads and sandwiches. I did notice that some of the lunch main courses were also on the dinner menu but at a difference of $5-$7 (the moral of this story – go for lunch anywhere to taste the main dishes at a lower price).

I ended up meeting the spouse since it was a good central location during working hours and we both decided to order a cup of soup – the Creamy Fall Tomato Soup with White Cheddar Popcorn – it was a blistery, windy day outside. For my entrée, I ordered The Liberty’s Chicken and Dumplings and the spouse settled on the Shrimp and Grits.

The soup quickly arrived. It was a creamy tomato soup topped with about 5 popcorn pieces. The soup was hot and warmed me up. The popcorn gave a nice contrast to the soup with a slight cheesy taste and some slight texture. I did notice that the soup was pretty salty – however, I did finish. Shortly thereafter, the entrees arrived. My chicken and dumplings – to my surprise - was lightly fried chicken on the bone served with ricotta dumplings, spinach, carrots and mushrooms. I guess that’s why the Chicken and Dumplings is presented as “Chicken and Dumplings” on the menu. The dish was similar to the M5’s chicken dish I ordered (see M5 review). The chicken seemed a little dry – especially for the dark meat portion. I ended up tasting more the the lightly fried part than the chicken flavor itself. The ricotta dumplings were actually ricotta gnocchi. They were nice and plump and had a nice, crisp flavor and was the redeeming quality of this dish. The sauce served with the dish was more like a beef broth + butter concoction and was ok – I have had better. The sauce seemed more like an afterthought. Comparing this dish with the chicken/gnocchi dish at M5 – I would choose the M5 dish 100 times over. The spouse’s shrimp and grits dish was pretty large and was topped with pepper relish and gravy. I tasted the dish and the grits were well cooked however the gravy seemed very soupy – almost watery – and covered just about the entire dish to where you couldn’t tell if there were grits in the bowl. It wasn’t the typical ‘gravy’ I have had with shrimp and grits… but all and all… the spouse ate it up. I compared this with the shrimp and grits at the New South – and again, I would choose the New South’s shrimp and grits.

The service was ok. It wasn’t overly busy but the waitress seemed preoccupied and rushed. Our meal for lunch was pretty expensive ~$45 with tax and tip. I think I was expecting more from all the hype I have heard from it. May be the freshman jitters but I give The Liberty 2 ghosts. I plan to visit again in the future once it’s settled some.
1812 South Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28203-4730
(704) 332-8830