Cypress / Charleston, South Carolina

Michael and I

Michael and I

There is a lot to be said about Charleston’s history, food culture, and the lovely people who inhabit the peninsula.  What most sticks out in my mind about that town, however, is the rain.  In the Midwest, we get a significant amount of rain, enough to make you want to stay home and read a book or something moody like that.  We don’t though, because we have lives and rain boots.  The rain in Charleston is nothing like this, though.  Because the town was built on a marsh, when it rains, there is no stopping it-and nowhere to put it.  Below is what we drove through.

Flood

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After this, the town essentially shut down.  Shops closed, people went home, and that was that.  Had we not had dinner reservations at Cypress, we might have joined them.  I am glad we didn’t.

We entered the massive dining room, immediately feeling underdressed in our raincoats and soaked hair.  Our gracious hostess immediately calmed our worries, and led us across the empty dimly lit purple dining room.  Seated next to the open kitchen on tall white clothed seats, our waitress chatted us up about the weather of Charleston and filled us in on the chef’s impressive credentials.  A James Beard award winner for his charcuterie program and a tantalizing menu that highlighted local food, I looked over as Michael’s eyes began to twinkle.

Cypress's Open Kitchen

Cypress’s Open Kitchen

Promptly ordering two charcuterie boards and oysters, we tucked into our house made bread.  Soon, our appetizers arrived and we discovered why the chef was so celebrated for his meats.  The salami board featured fennel salami, picante, saucisson sec, and Tuscan beef, all plainly displayed on a white platter.  Flavorful, succulent, and expertly crafted, there was no oversalting or overpowering flavor.  The second board featured summer sausage, pork pate, braunschweiger, and bologna with a few pickled vegetables and flaky buttermilk biscuits.  It was difficult to sneak in words to describe our satisfaction between bites.

The boys daringly tried their oysters adorned with tuna.  Marveling at the briney, but less than fishy taste, they finished the slippery, fresh buggers in minutes.  Our main courses arrived promptly, and my mom and I dove into our toasted ricotta gnocchi with corn relish.  A mere side dish on the menu, this selection deserved its own category.  Each little pillow was cooked just enough to make the outside crunchy, but leave the ricotta smooth and creamy on the inside.  Our side of charred okra and eggplant was a little too rich for our taste, but the char really brought out the divine flavors of fresh okra.

The boys meals faired equally.  Between Michael’s scallops and pork belly with succotash, and my dad and Austin’s pork and egg, they were all in carnivore heaven.  The heirloom tomato and dill sauce salad was an effortless homage to the beauties of a Southern summer.  The sauce was a tangy contrast to the vibrant burst of the tomatoes.  The croquettes were the only low point to the boys’ meals, as instead of the traditional mashed potato mixed with cheese, these were simply breaded and cooked whole baby reds.

Finally, our bellies were sufficiently stuffed, but we couldn’t leave without dessert.  The chocolate hazelnut torte created small bubbles of sugar on our tongues, simultaneously cleansing our palette and satisfying our sweet tooth.  Our creme brulee was nothing short of the expected crusty custard.  The chocolate sauce on top was decidely decorative, but detracted from the overall flavor.  Finally, our cheese board, filled with Fiscalini, Green Hill, Point Reyes, and (my absolute favorite cheese) Humbolt Fog, topped off the meal nicely.

Walking out of the restaurant into the sprinkling shower summer night, we all agreed that driving rain or not, we were sure glad we stayed.

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