Charleston, SC Adventures

It’s been a long and hard search to replace my favorite US city, since we now live in it – Seattle – but I think I found it… Charleston, SC.  This past December the husband and I went to Charleston for a friends wedding and now understand why people love it there: the food scene (mmm grits), the shopping, the weather, and the amazing southern charm – to just name a few.

Craft Brew

When we arrived in Charleston, we went straight to our friend’s brewery. The craft beer seen in Charleston is really taking off and what craft brewers are doing, like my friend at Frothy Beard, is pretty darn amazing. Have you ever had jalapeno cilantro pale ale or a peppermint porter? The guys at Frothy Bread really do a great job of using what’s fresh and in-season to make amazing seasonal brews in addition to some of their staples. They have definitely turned my stouts only opinion around.  If you have a car the next time you are in Charleston, I highly recommend taking a detour from the airport and visit their brewery.

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Lodging

After visiting our friends at Frothy Brewery we finally made it to our hotel – the Francis Marion Hotel. Situated in the heart of the city and walking distance to many yummy food spots and shopping delights. We checked in pretty late and I have to admit I was concerned about finding a place to eat at 11 PM. Boy was I wrong.

Foodies Unite

After we dropped our bags off I was amazed by the amount of people out and about the town. In Seattle, we’ve gotten pretty used to happy hour being packed and things calming down around 11 PM or midnight. In Charleston, every place was packed. We ended up at Halls Chophouse, which I have to admit was a little more than what we were initially craving but the food was tasty.  The she crab soup and the creamed spinach were just what I needed to get me in the southern mindset.

The next couple days we found a few other mouth-watering restaurants.  The first was The Ordinary. This place has been getting a lot of delicious press lately.  If you love fresh seafood then this is the place for you! They have a quite the menu, including a three-tier shellfish tower, an amazing twists on pumpkin soups and Caesar salads. Drinks are tantalizing on the taste buds and the atmosphere is fresh and clean.

For brunch on our third day we went to Husk.  This is another place that gets a lot of buzz and was recommended to me by many of my friends who had been to Charleston before. Trying to choose just one item is a very difficult decision. The bartender makes out of this world drinks and saying their shrimp and grits were to die for is an understatement.

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Cocktail Delights

Two watering holes we went to get our libations fix were The Gin Spot and Proof. The Gin Spot had a great cocktail and bar snack menu. If you are feeling adventures, you can tell the bartender two words from a list of bartender’s choice (Smokey & Savory, Refreshing & Vegetal) and they will make you the drink you didn’t even know you wanted but wanted all along. Proof is another bar (close to the Francis Marion) that serves a mecca of cocktail treasures. The bartenders there are friendly and they serve traditional cocktails (such as an old fashion, without the fruity additives).  Their special the night I was there was a French 75 with a splash of absinthe. Pretty much all of my favorite things in one cocktail glass. Heaven is all I can say. If cocktails are not your thing, they also had a great selection of beers on tap (including a variety of local craft brews).

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San Francisco Adventures

The other weekend the husband and I went to San Francisco to visit my brother and his wife. We’ve both been to SF a handful of times but this was our first trip together. I’ve often heard Seattle be called the smaller San Francisco, but I really look at them as equals. I mean, when you think about it, they are both are surround by mountains and water, often surrounded by a bit of grey (however, I admit the grey burns off in SF much faster than Seattle), and booming with great food, music, art, libations, and yes, start-ups (in particular technology).

This most recent trip was heavily focused on the food and drink aspects of SF and I had to share (at the very least so that I wouldn’t forget for future visits). Here are some of our new finds in SF:

Watering Holes:

Bourbon and Branch: I absolutely love speakeasy joints. Places that tell you the house rules. It makes the evening much more enjoyable because you focus on your company and not on your phone. Bourbon and Branch reminded me of Seattle’s Bath Tub Gin meets Needle and Thread. It’s located in the Tenderloin district and requires a reservation and password to get in. Once you’re in, you get a three-hour reservation to explore their extensive drink menu. The ambiance is cozy and dark, very speakeasy and the drinks are innovative and delicious. It truly is a hidden gem and a place that turned an anti-scotch and whiskey girl into an occasional scotch and whiskey lover.

Fig and Thistle: Want a place that has limited seating and a copious selection of wine and beer? Then Fig and Thistle is where you need to be. Before our weekend adventure I read a great article on Refinery29 that listed their favorite small libation spots in SF. While the article says to get their early, we wandered in without around 9 and found a spot for four without any problems. The drink selection is great, but they only serve beer and wine. The ambiance is cozy and the music was great all night long.

Wineries and Distilleries:

Bluxome Winery: Our first night in town we walked over to the SOMA urban winery Bluxome. It was my second time visiting and I fell in love with the wines all over again. Last time I visited they had a great weekend farmers market where you could purchase handmade chocolates, fruits, vegetables and meats from local vendors, all the while tasting the delicious pinot noirs, chardonnays, and syrah’s from the winery. On Fridays, the winery invites a food truck to sell their tasty bites while enjoying the wine. This time it was the Rib Whip food truck, where they serve great BBQ pulled pork, ribs, and tri tip to name a few. If you’re ever in the search for a new food truck in SF check out #theribwhip on Twitter for their current location.

Rams Gate and Robert Hunter Wineries: Saturday morning we rounded the troops and headed out to the Sonoma area. This was a first for me and I was super excited to explore the Sonoma wine region. Our adventures took us to 2 spectacular wineries. The first was Robert Hunter where we started the day with a tour of the grounds and a tasting. This winery was unique from others because they do not sell their wines to retailers. You can only purchase their wines directly from Robert Hunter and when you visit it is by appointment. Twice a day, 7 days a week, they offer a tour of the winery, which is the winemaker’s family home. The grounds are breathtakingly beautiful. The winemaker’s wife Ann Hunter was originally from Seattle and an avid gardener. The rare plants and trees found in their cultivated estate is something you wont find anywhere else. Robert Hunter is considered the smallest champagne house in California and truly one of the most intimate winery experiences I have ever had. If you are like me and visit this place, you wont go away empty handed. The wines are impeccable and the intimate tasting experience one you will never forget.

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rb2rb3After your tour of Robert Hunter we drove down to Rams Gate for lunch and a flight of chardonnay and pinot noir. The grounds are amazing (even in January) and the food deliciously and mindfully paired with each of their wines. I was pleasantly surprised by the complexity of their chardonnays and happy to see they did not fall into the category of California buttery chard.

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On our way back to the city we detoured to Oakland for a tour of St. George Spirits (where Hanger One is made). Located in an industrial park, St. George Spirits has some wonderful history.  They’ve been around for 30 years, founded by Jörge Rupf, and in 2004 moved to their current location at the Alameda Naval Air Station. For $20.00 you can get an Advance Training of St. George Spirits, which includes a tour of the distillery and a tasting of the spirits selection. The tour was very well done and you can tell it isn’t their first rodeo show giving the tour. Not only do you get a great history lesson of the distillery, but you are also showered with many delicious facts about the spirits they create.

Foodies Unite

Now let’s talk about the awesome food. There are some many places in San Francisco to make your taste buds go crazy. This trip include 3 new spots:

The Creamery: The Creamery is a well-known café that serves great coffee, breakfast & lunch options, and where techie startups happen.

Mochica: All I can say is wow, what a great surprise. Mochica was a new adventure for me, Peruvian food, which blends the flavors of Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and African cuisine. Check this place out and you wont be sorry. You will leave a happy person with a very full belly.

Yank Sing: Coming from Seattle, I absolutely love dim sum. So much that the husband and I have been known to drive to Vancouver for dim sum and then back to Seattle. Yank Sing did not disappoint with their traditional and contemporary dim sum. A bit on the pricey side (in comparison to what I’m used to in Seattle) but the dishes were mouth watering good!

Ferry Building Marketplace: On the last day of my trips to San Francisco I like to stop at the Ferry Building Marketplace. Usually, because it’s a Sunday and I know I wont be able to make it to Pikes Place Market. There I pick up a few items to tide me over until I can make it to the market to do my typical grocery shopping routine. If you’ve never been to the Ferry Building, then you are missing out. Just like Pike’s Place Market, the Ferry Building is a mesh of tourist and locals all shopping and munching on tasty goodies.  Blue Bottle has amazing coffee and is actually a techy coffee start-up that has expanded. The first time I had Blue Bottle was in Brooklyn and it was so delicious. Far different from the burnt flavors of Starbucks and cappuccinos frothed with perfection. If only they would expand to Seattle. My other must have is Acme Bread where you can find great rustic loaves stuffed with all sorts of herbs.

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Playing Tourist:

It wouldn’t be a complete trip without one touristy item on the list. This time is was the California Academy of Science (http://www.calacademy.org). Right now they have a great Earthquake preparedness. Growing up in the Midwest, earthquakes were never a threat; however once we moved to Seattle I was introduced to earthquakes drills at the office. Having never experienced one (knock on wood) the earthquake simulation at the California Academy of Science was a very educational experience. They simulate what the 1906 and the 1989 earthquakes felt like and what you can do to prepare for the next earthquake. The Academy of Science to me was like the Chicago Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History all rolled into one. Great place to spend the day and absorb an array of knowledge.

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Oh! And to top off our awesome San Francisco adventure our Saturday night excursions ended with a ride from the BatLyft (https://twitter.com/BatLyft). Typically, Lyft and Uber rides are just that, rides with friendly drivers… but this time we were picked up by Batman himself! Keep a lookout for him if you are ever in the area! He literally has a Batman suit that he wears, Batman and Robin masks for passengers, Batman lights strung around the car and yes The Dark Night Rises score music playing! Literally, the icing on a cake for a great night out.

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Portland Adventures President’s Day Weekend

This past weekend I had an extended weekend thanks to President’s Day and decided to venture down to Portland. I’d never been to Portland and am often told it’s a cleaner version of Seattle. Only being a 2.5 hour drive why would you not go to Portland?

I wanted to share some pictures here but also direct you to my Pintrest board to find out all the fun things we did on our mini-vacation. I’m totally obsessed with Pintrest and have found it to be a great way to share not only the things I love and are inspired by, but also a great way to collage the places I’ve been share with others. Now, the next time we venture down to Portland I’ll have a place that snapshots everywhere we went!

You can also check out more of the pictures that were taken on my Instagram and Tumblr.

Hope you all are enjoying your Thursday afternoon and are planning some wonderful things this weekend!

Seriously the best soaking tub ever. I didn’t want to leave.
Hanging out at the Japanese Gardens

Down by the marina