Hilton Head

A draft of this post has been waiting around for well over a month. It is time. Let us venture back to Mother’s Day weekend, so I can tell you all about my lovely weekend getaway with Banana Man and his mom. From Charlotte we drove 4.5 hours Southeast to Hilton Head on a Thursday morning. We spent most of the day Friday in Savannah and then the rest of the weekend back in Hilton Head and returned to Charlotte late Sunday. I feasted heavily and shamelessly all weekend long. It’s all in the name of research so you my friends will have all the needed info for Hilton Head dining, wink wink.

I’m feeling out of order so with that we shall work our way backwards in time from Mother’s Day. It was Sunday and we were afraid everything was going to be crazy packed in Hilton Head given it’s relatively small size and limited dining choices in the area. We had reservations at the recently remodeled Westin Hotel for their touted buffet. When we arrived they sat is in a very cold dining room when it was beautiful outside. We looked at the buffet and promptly left. The Westin was not Mother’s Day material. We headed out, disappointed and hungry. Our new destination was Skull Creek Boathouse where we had dined previously in the week for dinner.
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I had an amazing seafood quiche smothered in sinful hollandaise sauce. We shared a baskets of beignet-like donuts and tons of peel-and-eat shrimp. The weather was glorious on the patio by the bay. I was so lucky to have immediately pounced on a high top table as a couple was leaving. There was well over an hour wait on the hostess list inside.

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Chris had a bloody mary on multiple occasions this trip, it is after all a great excuse for early drinking in the day on vacation. The Skull Creek Boathouse is on my top 3 restaurants in Hilton Head. It’s location is awesome, the vibe is so relaxing, the servers are super friendly, and the food is overall pretty darn great…especially considering the volume of food they are pumping out.

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The most original/authentic low country restaurant we went to was hands down Roast Fish and Cornbread…yes that is the name of the restaurant. Chris said that our meal that night was the best of his life! I didn’t have quite the gusto he did but there is no arguing it was the best food we have had in Hilton Head.

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This place was eclectic and kind of “out there”. It’s the kind of place that they just close the doors if they feel like going fishing and very may run out of several things on the menu. It’s about as casual as place can possibly be. It’s like going to your aunt and uncle’s house for dinner, and it’s ready when it’s ready. The servers feel like family too. They’re all just kinda hangin out but workin at the same time.

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Chris had a seafood platter which included a plethera of choices which could be prepared various ways. He chose “Blackened style” for a trio of scallops, local trout and shrimp. You can also choose your sides which was a very difficult task. He got sweet potato corn bread, gumbo and black beans. We heard that their collard greens and macaroni and cheese are epically delicious but that night the collards were overly salted and the macaroni was out. 😦

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I apologize for the dark and blurry photos. It was not good lighting for documenting food and I never think fried things photograph that well. I rarely order fried things when dining out but when you are in Gullah country there ain’t no way you are getting out of place without eating something fried. The Gullah people have mastered the art of frying and it is not the same as the greasy spoon dives you’re familiar with.

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I had a fried catfish sandwich and a cup of the gumbo. I would like some of that gumbo shipped to my house by the bucket, please and thank you.

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One of the most interesting things you may or may not have ever had: Conch fritters. These were really tasty. Apparently conch is frequently eaten in the Caribbean but it’s all new to me. It was like a hush puppy with seafood in it. The aioli with it was the perfect combo.

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Another restaurant of note was the Black Marlin. We dined there twice: once for dinner and once for breakfast. Both times we sat outside on the patio. Both times we loved everything about it! I had some eggs benny, they were good but not the most memorable thing in the world.

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What made us come here was the bloody mary bar. This set up was genius. When you are seated you choose your vodka or tequila (bloody Maria) and they bring you a glass to go concoct your masterpiece. I love that they had pickled green beans. I am obsessed with dilly beans, and had Chris bring extras back for me. For me an awesome bloody mary is all about the garnish so this had the “Wow” factor.

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For dinner at the Black Marlin we ordered this appetizer they called Ahi Nachos. I’ve had versions of this before but this is the best I’ve had. Maybe it was the atmosphere and feeling of being on vacation that just makes food taste better. Basically it’s just wonton wrappers with avocado slices, sashimi grade ahi, a little wasabi drizzle, pickled ginger and siracha. I wanted to order more for my entree! I ended up getting a scallop entree with walnuts and side of sweet potato fries. I know that sounds weird but that’s what I wanted! Chris ordered an unmemorable entree but he got collard greens as a side. He had never had collards before and it was a revolution for him. It was southern food nirvana. He may not remember anything else about that meal but he will forever remember his first bit of collards.

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Back to Skull Creek Boathouse…this is a terrible photo but worth posting since you can sort of see what an enormous pot of food Chris ordered. It’s one of things Skull Creek is known for and it’s called a “Boil”. This Boil has clams, mussels, shrimp, crab legs, andoille sausage, corn…everything but the kitchen sink.

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Check out our amazing sunset view from the deck!

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Just so you don’t think our entire trip was spent eating, although those were the highlights for me…here’s a photo of the pool we hung out at the hotel. Our room had a huge balcony looking over it. The slide was pretty sweet and banana man loves his pool slides. The beach in Hilton Head is one of the best flat white silky sand beaches in the country. It’s great to ride your bikes on and the water was surprisingly warm. (It’s always a surprise to me since I come from Monterey where you have to wear a wetsuit to put your toes in year round)

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Our very first stop on our way into Hilton Head was for a late lunch at Low Country Backyard Cafe. I would not have had it any other way. This is truly a hidden gem…as pretty much everything is Hidden in Hilton Head. All the buildings are tucked behind trees and any signage must be neutral/earth tones that blend into the environment. This fact is both the beauty and an initial frustration with the environmentally friendly town. You must have a good GPS to get to know the place and rely heavily on tripadvisor, Urbanspoon, yelp, etc. Otherwise, you will be LOST LOST LOST.

Me being me I did my research and thus the decision for low country back yard. 2:30PM was the perfect time to be seated there since we missed the lunch time rush. We sat by a cute fountain in the “backyard” which was covered in gravel. Our server was so Southern I could barely understand her. She embodied southern hospitality.

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I have to talk about this pie. This is Root Beer Float Pie!!! I had to have it since it was their special and because I have never before had a root beer float pie. It delivered. I am going to do my best to recreate this pie at home and hopefully provide you with a recipe some day soon!

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Chris had a meatloaf sandwich on flatbread. This is not surprising since he is a meatloaf loving freak. He orders it almost every time he sees it on a menu. I loved how they did this with flatbread. I’m not a sandwich person but I’d totally order it.

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Even though Chris’s meatloaf was good I think I ordered the real winner of the day with my BLT salad with grilled shrimp. It had fried green tomatoes, candied bacon, goat cheese, corn and a killer home made dressing. This is the kind of food that inspires me to be creative in my own kitchen. It’s something homey and comforting but totally easy to replicate without being boring. These are my kind of eats!

All in all I’m completely Over The Spoon for Hilton Head and it’s food scene, even though it had the potential to be a complete tourist trap I was surprised to find great local and unique eats. So if you are planning a trip anytime soon Low Country Backyard, Roast Fish & Cornbread, Skull Creek and Black Marlin are all reliable places to really enjoy your vacation. My final advise: wear loose fitting clothing and do not go here on a diet!

A Kiawah Island and Charleston Vacation

So I started this post back in early September when we actually went on this trip….yes it is now November, it’s terrible how neglected my poor little blog is but I can’t really apologize because priorities are priorities.

Here we go:

Banana man was truly going banana’s at work. He has needed a real vacation, the kind where he can lay on a beach or by the pool and do nothing if he wants to. Our last several trips, while all fun for me, have been primarily work trips for him.

Kiawah Island looked very apeeling. Pun intended. It was only about a 3 hour drive and it was an easy drive at that.

Our first stop on our way to Kiawah Island was the Tattooed Moose for lunch. I had researched all the restaurants prior to leaving and this one was high on the list after reading both the reviews and that it was featured on DDD.
Visit their website www.tattooedmoose.com If I die tomorrow I would want The Lucky #1 to be my last meal with an extra side of their house made pickles and pickled spicy green tomatoes. Seriously BEST THING I EVER PUT IN MY MOUTH!

“Lucky #1” Sub $8.25
BBQ Braised Pork Belly, Seared on the Grill, Topped with House Made Kimchi, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Crispy
Onions, Cilantro, Wasabi Mayo, & Sweet Red Chili Sauce, All on a Roll!

 

Chris ordered the Duck Club which is already pretty famous and the main sandwich featured on DDD. In the picture below I am stealing a bite.

Mike’s Famous “Duck Club” $13.5
It’s been said to be the best sandwich ever made! A Triple Decker filled with Duck Confit, Apple Smoked Bacon,
Smoked Cheddar on Sweet Hawaiian Bread with Garlic Aioli, Lettuce, Tomato, & Red Onion

 

If ever you are in or anywhere remotely near Charleston you must come here, you must, you must. It was our first stop on the way in and our last stop on the way out. I liked it even better than Husk which was just nominated for one of the best restaurants in the country. Just goes to show it doesn’t have to be fancy to have a great meal!

We did a lot of walking around downtown Charleston on our own but then we took a Historic Walking tour with Mike that our concierge had highly recommended. I’m really glad we did that tour. He gave a lot of information on Charleston’s role in the Civil War from the Southern perspective of course, very interesting. Most of the architectural pictures were taken while walking on that tour.

Charleston is a great city for a foodie like me and was the perfect balance for Chris too for the laying on the beach part of the trip. We did two nights at Sanctuary on Kiawah Island and two nights at the Courtyard downtown Charleston. I wouldn’t have done anything differently.  I’m really looking forward to going back and seeing, doing and tasting more of the town.

Cake and Babies

CAKE!!!!!!….CAKE!!!!!…..MORE CAKE!!!!!

MacKenzie turned 1 and we had a super fun beach party for her on a very windy yet sunny Saturday afternoon. Chris and I had flown in the night before and it was the first event of the 12 day trip back home to Monterey. I felt the party to be such a momentous occasion since Mac is the first baby in my immediate family and now that we live all the way across the country these kind of family gatherings just mean a lot more in general. When we first drove out to Cannery Row to help set up around noon the wind was making me cranky and I thought Kimberly had lost her mind having a party on the beach for a 1-year-old. Once we got things set up and the wind died down I got a little less judgy and just went with it. I can be a real uptight jerk when I can’t control the elements. So I removed the pole from my butt about an hour or so into it and actually admired all the work and planning my little sister had put into her baby’s first birthday. I was impressed…minus the melted cake and cupcakes…

Fish shaped cupcakes
These were way cuter before they semi melted in the car, ackk! They still tasted awesome though. Kimberly made vanilla and chocolate because you can never go wrong with the classics. She arranged each individual fish cupcake into a school of fish in a giant shape of a fish (does that make sense?)
cake and cupcake casualities
The transportation of meltable goods was not so brilliant for the event. Leaving the icing to melt in the car while setting up tables makes for sad cakes. The octopus is still smiling though, poor guy!
MacKenzie's Octopus Birthday Cake
See what I mean? His tentacles started to melt off…it was the cutest cake ever too before it got all jacked up. The designer is a friend of Kimberly’s named Luz and let me tell you she is exceedingly talented. I so wish I could have photographed the pristine version of this cake.
MacKenzie with her Daddy
No she’s not having any fun at all! Hahaha
Octopus Dip
What a clever idea! Kimberly made hummus and used a bell pepper to make an octopus.
The Beach Party Setting
Not a bad location eh? What my dad is sneakily doing in the background I have no idea, plotting to take of the universe I think!
MacKenzie goes for a walk
MacKenzie just started walking about a month ago. It’s so crazy how much different she is since I last saw her only a couple months before.
She has her eyes on that pigeon.
Big Girl Chair
I feel like she is about to demand a beer or something. Definitely a classy baby. What do you think the caption for the photo should be?
MacKenzie's Great Grandma arrived
This was such a cool moment. My grandmother, who’s 90th birthday we would be celebrating the next day, has arrived and all the kids are running over to greet her! She is a great grandma now 6 times over and they all call her GG Ma. It’s pretty darn cute.
Mac Surrounded by Presents
Spoiled much!? Well, duh!
Ryan and Nancy
My cousin Ryan the Rocket Scientist…yes he really is and that is how I always refer to him now. I told him his status as a rocket scientist has both dwarfed all of our accomplishments and yet elevated the coolness status of all the rest of us in the family just because we are related to him. He will soon be moving to New York so hopefully I will get to see more of the guy and brag to random strangers about my cousin the rocket scientist. My Aunt Nancy (on the right) is exceedingly happy he made it to the party. He took the train up from Santa Monica just for the day. That’s like 8 hours of traveling for Mac’s birthday. He’s pretty cool even if he wasn’t a rocket scientist!
The fam bam
Good times, good conversation. I imagine my brother is telling Ryan right about now about his new truck and his sick new gps system thingy….he was talking about his truck a lot that day. Thanks Cameron, we know you got a new truck, cool, happy for you….
Oh what funny skin you have GG Ma!
Birthday Princess Throne
Mac is set upon her princess throne and commences royal cake devouring
Cake Smash
just getting started, think it tastes good but not sure yet
Are you sure this is allowed?
“Are you sure this allowed mommy?” Hahaha, face full of cake
East some more cake
Yes it does taste good.I think I’ll have some more, please and thank you.
Sugar High
…..and the sugar high commences! “Arggghh, this is the stuff!”
save some for us
Thank God she saved some cake for us. Look at that deliciousness!
Tutu time
After the cake Mac put on her new tutu over her bathing suit. She is real fashionista that one. She had so many gifts she didn’t know what to play with first!

Chris and I gifted her the book Madeleine, which I remember loving when I was a little girl. Mac already loves books, the cardboard kind anyway. I think she’s gonna be a reader! Among many other talented things. It was a fun day! After the party us adults needed a drink and so Chris, my brother, sister , my cousin the rocket scientist and my bestie Ashley all went over to Baja Cantina for dinner and Margaritas. Whew! The next day I woke up with a headache for my grandma’s 90th birthday, oopsie! So that and the following 11 days I will tell you about in future posts! Wishing you all good cake and happy babies!

The Larsens Go To The Biltmore: A Trip in Photos

The trip to Asheville and the Biltmore with my nieces was a successful one. We spent nearly 8 hours walking around the mansion, the gardens, the farm and gift shops. As you will see from the photo’s I went a little crazy taking pictures of flowers. The gardens were really spectacular and I probably enjoyed them the most. Unfortunately no photography is allowed inside the Biltmore so for that you will just have to go and see it for yourself. We opted to do the audio tour which was very informative so I’m glad we did it. Even the girls were interested and listened to it!

The ice cream was delicious and even though I asked for a single scoop on my waffle cone, it was enough ice cream for 4 people! The girls each got rainbow sherbert on their sprinkled chocolate waffle cone. That sounds pretty disgusting to me but they absolutely loved it and check out the sugar high pics. Cassie was wired!

I’m so glad we decided to spend the night in Asheville after such a long day at the Biltmore, we were exhausted. The next day the girls wanted to go paint some pottery at a place called Fired Up and then also go “gem mining”. If I can figure out how to upload video onto this site then I will have to post the video of the girls gem mining. It’s quite the experience.

I was very excited about this trip not only to see the Biltmore but also because I had just gotten my camera and it was the PERFECT place to really experiment with it and see what kind of results I could get with it. All of the photos in the gallery below are unedited.