Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mosaic Café and Catering, Mt. Pleasant, SC

Not A Great Meal But A Great Recovery
In the Iron Gate Plaza on Hungryneck Boulevard is tucked a small, charming restaurant named Mosaic Café and Catering. Recently a friend of ours said it was her favorite place to take her daughter for lunch.  She hasn’t steered us wrong yet, so we decided to give it a try.

The restaurant whose vision is to “effectively nourish the body and soul while preserving the highest level of quality and value” is warm and inviting.  Our server, Lauren (who we also found out was one of the managers), was very knowledgeable and helpful. 

Inside Mosaic
The day we had lunch there was the first day for their February “monthly specials” menu. Lauren reviewed the menu with us and I decided to order the BBQ-ranch chicken sandwich which was advertised as a pan fried chicken breast tossed in balsamic BBQ sauce, topped with pepper jack cheese and cranberry cole slaw, on a Kaiser bun. My husband ordered a cup of white bean turkey chili and a Charleston chicken roller which was a wrap with grilled chicken, bacon, smoked Gouda pimento cheese, spinach, tomatoes and basil mustard. (This sandwich is rated as a Mosaic favorite on the menu.)

The menu itself is interesting. It offers a wide selection of salads, sandwiches, pasta and has an entire “fit” section where all of the menu items are 450 or less. It was difficult to chose.

BBQ Ranch Chicken Special
The restaurant got busy but when we ordered it wasn’t and our lunch was served very quickly.  We found the white bean chili to be very bland, but the Charleston roller was great. I again, had unfortunately ordered the wrong dish.  The sandwich was as described and the cole slaw was an interesting “purple” (literally), but the sandwich was so overpowered by the taste of vinegar that it was barely edible.  The pasta salad that I ordered as a side was al dente and then some, bland and tasted gritty.  I had thought that by ordering one of the specials, especially on the first day would have be a win, but it wasn’t. 

Lauren did everything she could to apologize. I usually temper my feedback if something is not great, but this time I found myself saying it was “simply awful”.  She also offered to get me anything that I wanted on the menu, but we were on a time schedule and had to run.

Turkey Chili &
 Charleston Roller
A few minutes later another manager came to the table. She explained that the cole slaw and the BBQ sauce both had balsamic vinegar (no kidding), so that must be what I was tasting.  I mentioned that I liked the vinegar, but it was just too much.

She really did a nice job apologizing, offering me a different lunch option – anything that I would have liked.  But THEN she did something that was really unnecessary, and to me, somewhat over the top. She comp’d my sandwich AND she gave us a gift card to come back. Often times when a meal is bad the manager will comp an item but I’ve never had a manager give us a gift card to insure we came back and gave them another try.  What a great recovery!

We will try Mosaic again. They really want you to have a great dining experience and it shows. I am certain next visit will be the charm. 

Mosaic Cafe & Catering on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Feature - Conversations With The Owners

Conversations With The Owners

We've started a new series here at Dining Around Charleston called "Conversations With The Owners".  Each month we'll sit down with the owners of some of your favorite Charleston restaurants and get their view on the industry, how they run their restaurants, where they see the industry going and anything else they'd like to talk about. 

Since, we started Dining Around Charleston, I've been focused on reviewing the areas restaurants and providing you, the viewers, with my thoughts on my experiences.  In starting this new section we hope to achieve a balance in our reviews by giving the owners a chance to provide feedback and their thoughts on the industry. 

We hope you enjoy this new feature and if you'd like to have me sit down with the owners of your restaurant please contact me directly at susie@diningaroundcharleston.com

In the meantime, Happy Dining and we'll see you around Charleston's gems and dives as we continue to explore the cities hidden jewels.

Susie Gorsline
Chief Blogging Officer
Dining Around Charleston

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lowcountry Oyster Roast 2011

At Boone Hall Plantation January 30 10:30 - 5:00PM

It's oyster season in Charleston, SC.  Join other oyster lovers in celebrating that salty delicacy.  This annual Oyster Roast will be held Sunday January 30th, 2011 from 10:30 AM to 5:00 PM, and gates open at 10:30 AM.  Boone Hall Plantation will host this annual Charleston event as usual, located right off of Highway 17, on Long Point Road. 

Tickets are $12 in advance or can be purchased at the gate for $15. Tickets can also be purchased in advance at all Southcoast community banks. Kids 10 and under are admitted free with accompanying adults.
To purchase advance tickets online, click here.
Sunday, January 3oth…An oyster-lover’s dream … It’s early on a cold Sunday morning and two gigantic tractor trailers filled with 65,000 pounds of oysters roll onto the back lawn of Boone Hall Plantation... the prelude to the Lowcountry Oyster Festival.  Highlights of Sunday’s “rain or shine” Main Event include the legendary “Oyster Shucking & Eating Contest,” selection of domestic and imported beers, live entertainment on the Main Stage, and a Kids Corner (complete with pony rides and jump castles). 

For those who are not keen on the mighty mollusk, there will be alternate food selections from Gilligan's Steamer and Raw Bar, A.W. Shuck's Seafood Restaurant, North Towne Greek Restaurant, Red's Ice House, Wild Wing Cafe, Grindz Burgers & Brew, Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q, and Hyman's Seafood Company. 

2011 Lowcountry Oyster Festival at Boone Hall Plantation
Boone Hall Plantations & Gardens
1235 Long Point Road
PO Box 1554
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29465
Ph 843-884-4371
Fx 843-884-0475

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Halls Chophouse, Charleston, SC

A Cut Above....
Bar At Halls Chophouse
There is only one word that could describe our recent dining experience at Halls Chophouse – perfect!  In an era where great service and unbelievable food seems hard to find, at Halls Chophouse it is plentiful.

I must admit that I’m not a big red meat eater. Even though we’ve walked by Halls and have been intrigued, I haven’t had the desire to eat there. Let me say that those words are a thing of the past.

Invited by our friends Dean and Lisa for a birthday celebration, we were looking forward to trying it out.  Let me just say that Halls Chophouse exceeded our expectations.

Upon our arrival we were quickly greeted by a gentleman who not only shook our hands, offered to take our coats and offered to put the flowers that I was carrying into water (they were a gift).  He also mentioned that he was Billy Hall and if there was anything that he could do for us during the evening, we should not hesitate to ask.

Since we were a tad early for our dinner reservation we met our friends at the bar and enjoyed a beverage.  Service there was stellar.  Beverages were delivered promptly, glassware was sparkling, frosted if needed and the bartender was friendly, yet not intrusive.  When we went to inquire about being seated (since we had passed our scheduled reservation time) we were told, “When you are ready, so are we.  Take your time.” 

Dining Room
Upon departing the bar and heading upstairs to the dining area, servers were quickly called to carry our drinks for us.  A large bottle of sparkling water also ordered would be, “Taken upstairs for us”. 

We were quickly poured water and greeted by our server, Kara (I’m sorry if I am spelling her name incorrectly as it could be Cara).  She offered some suggestions and also told us the specials.  Piping hot sourdough bread and creamy butter were quickly brought to the table. Any and everyone on duty that walked by were quick to say “Happy Birthday” to our friend, which was nice.

1/2 Chop Salad
After some deliberation we landed on what we would order.  The French onion soup was served hot, with a pile of melted cheese and crispy fried onion strings, the ½ chopped salad was a cool mix of great flavors with a crisp ring of chopped bacon encircling it. My “simple salad” was fresh, lightly dressed and topped with dates, goat cheese and halved grape tomatoes.  We could not wait for our entrees to arrive.

Before you knew it our table was being cleared.  The service style for lack of a better analogy could be described as “ants on a cookie”.  People were all over the table, and then just as quickly, they were gone.

Broiled Maine Lobster
Dinner arrived, all at once as multiple food servers descended upon the table. My Maine Lobster was steaming hot and the size of my arm, the Cedar Planked Broiled Salmon was in fact served on the plank with an accompaniment of succulent tomato and cucumber yogurt sauce.

But the crowning event had to be the steaks.  The Bone in Rib Eye and the (32 oz.) Bone in Porterhouse were a sight to behold.  Not only beautiful, but they were cooked perfectly.  As we ate our meal someone remarked, “Oak Steakhouse should be embarrassed.”  We couldn’t agree more.

Bone In Rib Eye
We ordered a few side dishes (since a half a cow wasn’t enough…), and the servers plated them for us, coming back frequently to see if we’d like anything else.  This was simply a terrific team approach.
Upon leaving Mr. Hall was at the top of the stairs shaking everyone’s hand, wishing them Happy New Year and inviting everyone back.  At the bottom of the stairs Billy Hall was doing the same.  I even saw him hug a few people and again wished our friend Happy Birthday.

As we walked to our cars we could not get over what a “Wow” experience this had been, truly a cut above.   I can’t wait to go back.

  We gave Halls Chophouse 5 out of a possible 5 plates!

Halls Chophouse on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rice Market, Charleston, SC

Low Country Dining Shouldn't Mean Low Flavor Dining.
Bar at Rice Market 
The Rice Market is a place that you want to see be successful.  A beautiful renovation, a great location, and local restauranteurs all could be a recipe for tremendous success.  Not so much on the night we were there.

First, let me say that the restaurant is beautiful – elegant, yet warm, and very pretty. They have also added an expansive patio area, which in the spring, I would imagine, could be a lot of fun.

We found the staff on shift that evening attentive and very personable.  One of the waitresses was even kind enough to open the door and welcome us in. The restaurant however, was very slow so we chose to sit at the bar versus at a table in the empty dining room.

Shawn our bartender was delightful.  As you know one of my pet peeves is when a server doesn't introduce themselves.  Shawn went beyond the intro and inquired as to whom we were, how long we've lived here, etc.  He was very engaging.  And now on to the menu…

Lettuce Wraps
We started with the Lettuce Wraps that featured basil and cilantro diced chicken, rice noodle crisps, cashews, carrots and a lime peanut sauce. Unfortunately, this was not a winner. The portion was small, the chicken was dry and the sauce was very bland.  A flavor profile that we would come to see in all of our food that evening.

Although the menu is not small, it still feels limited.  I asked Shawn what he liked on the menu. One of the things that he suggested was the Bacon Wrapped Wood Grilled Crispy Pork Tenderloin. It sound very interesting but it was served with marinated cucumbers.  I asked Shawn if I could substitute something else for the cucumbers.  To my amazement he said that, “The kitchen was getting used to the menu, and no substitutions were allowed.”  Counting the two of us there were 10 people in the restaurant – how tough could this be? 

Rice Market Fried Chicken
Another suggestion was the Rice Market Fried Chicken served with Hoppin’ John, Seasonal Vegetables and Red Eye Gravy.  Shawn explained that the Red Eye Gravy was made with veal stock, coffee, tomatoes and spices. I asked Shawn what Hoppin’ John was and he struggled with an answer. Luckily, there was a manager perched at the end of the bar doing paperwork. When Shawn tried to ask him what was in Hoppin’ John the manager mumbled “black eyed peas” and walked away.  At a time when there were so few customers, you would think he’d want to win some of us over.

We also ordered the Wood Grilled Moroccan BBQ Lamb Chops with Moroccan style rice, and house made Harrisa (a hot chilli paste typically found in North African cooking). We waited anxiously for our dishes to arrive.

Moroccan Lamb Chop
Not surprisingly our meals were served by a food runner in no time.  They were hot and looked great.  You know, another one of my pet peeves is when the food served is not hot.  Hot food served fast usually wins me over.

However, this was some of the blandest meals I’ve eaten in a while.  Shawn mentioned that he was taking suggestions for the chef, etc., and before I could even say anything, he said, “We have been getting a lot of comments that things are bland.” Even the Red Eye Gravy tasted bland. Zero, I mean zero flavor.

As for the lamb chops..... They served 3 , 2 of which were fine both in size and the temperature. But the third little chop was about the size of a quarter and way over done.  I mean beyond well done.  Getting three of the same size chops shouldn't be that hard either.

One of the owners has been quoted as saying that the design of the restaurant was important and, “We want people to go to the space for the space.”  I get that, and the restaurant looks and feels great. Now how about going to the space for the food, which as of right now, is a big disappointment.  

We gave the Rice Market 3 out of a possible 5 plates..

Rice Market on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Charleston Restaurant Week 2011

As I said earlier this month, Restaurant Week in Charleston  is right around the corner.  Charleston restaurant week runs from January 14 - 22, 2011. This is a great chance to get out and sample some of the finest cuisine from great restaurants throughout Charleston and the surrounding area. I know I plan to get to as many of these great restaurants as time permits.

Below is a list of the restaurants that will be offering special deals during the 9 day eating fest.  Click on the links to see the menus offered for the select prices during Restaurant Week.

We hope to see you there.  Enjoy!

 --- 3 for $20 ---

Queen Anne's Revenge

 --- 3 for $30 ---

Oscar's of Summerville

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Laura Alberts Tasteful Options, Daniel Island, SC

A Quaint Restaurant With Tasteful Choices
As I thought about the word or words to describe Laura Alberts Tasteful Options the only one that really came to me was “quaint”.

Nestled just a stone’s throw from the Tennis Stadium on Daniel Island lies a hidden gem of the Low County.  Laura Alberts (named after family members) Tasteful Options was a pleasant surprise.  It’s a restaurant that also offers a few gifts, a very large wine and craft beer selection and some very interesting menu options.

They are open for lunch Monday – Saturday and also offer brunch on Saturday.  Dinner is served on Wednesday only from 5:00 – 9:00.  The menu is not only creative it’s also very large. I found it interesting that a small place like this (it probably seats 50+) has such an aggressive menu.  It is a fresh, local menu serving certified South Carolina grown products. It ranges from Appetizers (7) to Soups & Salads (7 – with the additional option of 7 toppings), Specialties (9), Warm Sandwiches (9) Cold Sandwiches (8) and side dishes (9).

Wall Of Crafted Beer
Each page of the menu also offers “Beer or Wine” Complements from their extensive hard-to-find craft beer and large wine selection.  This is the first menu in SC that we’ve seen that suggests beer or wine with their menu items. It was tough to make a decision. PLUS… they offer a daily specials page of about 6 items.  Phew, I was exhausted.

We settled on a Chipotle Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with melted provolone cheese, a side of “mojo” dressing, and a choice of a side. We chose blue cheese cole slaw as the side.  We also ordered the “catch of the day” which was penne pasta tossed with shrimp, asparagus, grape tomatoes, parmesan cheese in a lemon butter white wine sauce.  We couldn’t wait for lunch to arrive.

Chipotle Pork Tenderloin
I must admit though that pet peeve #7 (being called "honey") was hard at play here. The server whose name we did not catch continually addressed me as “hon” or “honey”, which I felt was very inappropriate.  We have found the folks in the Lowcountry to be incredibly respectful, polite and kind, but this was not endearing. The server doesn’t know me, I’m not her friend, and I’m definitely not “honey”. Enough said.

Lunch arrived quickly and my pasta was piping hot. The Chipotle Pork Tenderloin Sandwich was tender and when topped with the “mojo” dressing, it gave it a nice spice and a little heat. The blue cheese cole slaw was fabulous, some of the best we’ve tasted.  But alas, I did it again, I ordered the wrong thing. From such a large menu I had a world of possibilities, but apparently, didn’t pick the right dish.

Shrimp Penne Special
Yes, the dish was piping hot. Yes, the shrimp was cooked to perfection and the plate dotted with halved grape tomatoes and bite-sized pieces of crisp asparagus.  But the flavors that I thought it would have – lemon, for one, was completely lost. The dish was swimming in white wine.  Not tossed, but swimming as in the deep end. The flavor of the white wine was so overpowering that the dish was really not great at all.
“Why didn’t you say something to the server?” You ask? Other that when I flagged her down to ask for some additional shredded parmesan cheese, we didn’t see her again, so she couldn’t have asked us how our lunch was.

At $36.00 for lunch and two diet cokes, the place is a tad steep.  Not that I wouldn’t give it another try, since the menu looks like it has some great selections. Just not the one I chose. And don’t call me hon.  

We gave Laura Alberts Tasteful Options 3 out of a possible 5 plates.

Laura Alberts Tasteful Options on Urbanspoon

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