From the Office and Backyard to the Road, Boat, or Plane–Backstories and
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Archive for December, 2009

Sideshow Press

Presses stop me. When I worked at a newspaper, on breaks I used to go down to the press room and watch the huge rolls whir through. My favorite is the sights and sounds of letterpressing – the hands-on spinning of wheels, the metal plates and the wet ink, the impressions in the paper.

In Charleston, Courtney Rowson, Amy Pastre and Virginia Gregory of Sideshow Press create pieces one by one, designed with all sorts of graphics and type – of insects, antlers, flora, dress patterns, topo maps, tool guides, and more. They’ve got a new website, and I’m so pleased that they included some of my copy:

The idea is simple – to press type into paper.   The machinery is outdated, replaced in the mid-20th century by offset – and eventually digital – presses.  But for design purists, no other machine gives artwork and letters such a distinct tactile quality, mechanically pushing metal plates into the fibers of each sheet.  You can feel the type.

In the last decade or so, there’s been new interest in the old machines across the country, with vintage letterpress equipment put back to use by designers looking for creativity away from the computer.  In Charleston it took three women to bring one of the iron and steel contraptions to town, to figure out how to use it, ink it up, and start printing. Together they are Sideshow Press.

– Sandy Lang, December 2009

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Art, Craft, In print/published



Mississippi morning

cotton field Oxford, Miss. 2009 Sandy Lang

Last week in Mississippi, there was frost in Oxford two mornings in row. On a drive south and east of town, most of the fields were well-picked, with bits of cotton edging the roads where truckloads of the tufts must have rumbled past. Then there was this field, still bursting with white.

– Sandy Lang, December 2009

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Greenville1-2 Charleston Magazine Dec. 2009

Just out in the December issue of Charleston Magazine, I’ve got a travel story about leafy Greenville, South Carolina. A few paragraphs…

After an almost four-hour drive and nearly 1,000-foot rise in elevation, I had my nose in a long-stemmed glass of Bordeaux. Actually I’d get to seven glasses. It was a tasting, so there was an arc of wines around me and the 35 or so other sippers and swirlers, each glass with a tasting pour of French red. The setting was a room lined with racks and crates of wine in the 118-year-old, brick “Trolley Barn” in Greenville, now home to Northampton Wine, with its tasting room, bar, and café. There on a recent Friday, it was a heady start to a couple days in the Upstate city for an informal eat-around in the leafy downtown and nearby.

You could say the trip was a bit of a drink-around, too. Several hours earlier and about 20 miles south of downtown, we’d stopped at the Happy Cow Creamery and tossed back shots of fresh milk in tiny plastic cups. The big excitement at the farm that week was the debut of their strawberry milk, a new addition to their offerings of whole milk, chocolate, and buttermilk. I bought a bottle for the road. The cashier thanked me, adding, “Don’t forget to shake it before you drink it—get that cream mixed in real good.”

Yes ma’am, I did. That rich milk was gone before we’d see downtown Greenville’s mix of modern and historic buildings through the windshield – the Blue Ridge Mountains just beyond. I was ready to get to back to this city at the top of the Palmetto state. There’s been a growing buzz in recent years about the food scene, about Atlantans driving the 150 miles for a day-trip or dinner, and Charlestonians extending business trips, or getting to town early just to catch a meal before concerts at the Bi-Lo Center or the Peace Center for the Performing Arts. National media have been checking out Greenville, too. In last month’s issue of Esquire magazine, the chef at The Lazy Goat, Victoria Ann Moore, was named one of their “Four Breakout Chefs to Watch.”  The city’s food and wine festival, now called Euphoria and held in September, draws thousands of food followers and celeb-chefs like Tyler Florence and Frank Stitt. Personally, on previous trips I’ve had top-notch sushi at Murasaki on Main Street, tasted the melty-comforting, “48-hour Short Ribs” at Devereaux’s, and drunk tall glasses of hard-to-find Dutch beers in the cozy, Euro-feel Addy’s Dutch Café. I was ready to taste more…

The full piece is in the December 2009 issue.

– Sandy Lang, December 2009 (images by Peter Frank Edwards)

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Food, In print/published, Travel, Wine


In the annual “Food & Wine” issue of Charleston Magazine that’s out this month, I’ve got a piece on the single oysters that some of the oystermen are cultivating around here. Here’s a bit more than could fit in print:

Fresh salties by the bushel

As sure as it’s December, on low tides up on the oyster beds of Bulls Bay, in the creeks around Wadmalaw, and over on the Folly River, oystermen are pulling wild oysters from tide-washed banks.

The harvest is mostly of our Lowcountry clusters, but there should also be some new singles on the scene. Bill Anderson of the SC Department of Natural Resources says that thanks to the labor-intensive experimenting by longtime oystermen like Bill Livingston at Livingston’s Bulls Bay Seafood up in McClellanville, the local catch also now includes cultured single oysters – also known as single selects, Charleston Cups or Carolina Cups. It’s the same oyster, but is manually kept from clustering, and often grows horizontally and sometimes sub-tidally.

The results are single oysters that can have more of a cupped bottom, instead of the longer and narrower “knife blade” shape of cluster oysters that grow vertically. DNR gave a handful of grants back in 2006 to help South Carolina oystermen get single cultivation started, since the singles fetch a higher price than clusters. Livingston’s work with singles was part of that cooperative research grant program. South of Charleston, Tony Geisman got involved too. He built a platform on a creek off of the North Edisto River near Wadmalaw Island, and had some good success last year.

The holidays are a peak season for oysters, with clusters and singles at seafood purveyors like Stella Maris Seafood, a longtime wholesaler that also sells to the public. Chaz Green, who works with Stella Maris, describes the local “cups” as being more flavorful and rare than the ubiquitous oysters from the Gulf.  They’re also big, but not too big. “They’re like that one good-sized one you’ll get on a cluster,” he says. “A perfect bite.”

– Sandy Lang, December 2009

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Food, In print/published, Oysters, Travel



Farm fog


On that November Maine trip, I played with an old plastic Diana camera. Here are two favorites – of belted cows and a barn on State Route 46, and of the foggy harbor between Bucksport and Prospect. That’s the mid-1800s Fort Knox in the distance.

– Sandy Lang, December 2009

Morse Sauerkraut, Nov. 2009 Peter Frank Edwards

On a November drive on the Maine coast north of Portland, we stopped in at Morse’s Sauerkraut for a quart of their brined cabbage. I love the sour crunch, hot or cold. We met one of the owners and learned that the sauerkraut-making and farm had its beginnings back in 1910, and its farm store now includes a well-stocked German-Euro deli with a tiny restaurant in the back –  the  “Little German Cafe,” with specials like goulash and sauerbraten. In the deli, they had some just-sliced local pastrami from Bisson’s right down the road in Topsham… so cool, where else do you see local pastrami? We had to have some of that. Later at the cabin we’d make hot sandwiches, but in the car, we pulled out strips of the pastrami to try – simply dried beef with good saltiness, and not too peppery. It was delicious.

On that Thursday afternoon we had no particular schedule, which was pretty amazing in itself. But it was also a clear, cold Maine fall day. In the bright sunshine we drove the curving, rising two-lane road to the honor stand at the Glidden Point Oyster Sea Farm. Past farm fields and spruce woods, stood the small and tidy building – maybe 15-feet across – beside a house where several wetsuits were hanging over the porch rail near the back door. (They dive for the oysters in the Damariscotta River below.) You pick out the oysters you want and leave your cash in a wooden box. One by one, we counted out a dozen each of the icy Damariscotta singles that are known to be clean and sweet tasting (they definitely were); and of the flatter, rounder and more iodine-tasting Belon oysters. (I’ve been learning about these, the French-Euro oyster that Julia Child wrote of eating in Provence, and that was introduced in Maine waters in the 1950s.) An elder Mainer pulled in just after us. Wearing a flannel shirt and walking slowly with a cane, he made his way over to the coolers to choose three of the “jumbo” singles (big as my hand) that go for $1.50 each. He didn’t look up for talking, but as he counted his change into the cash box, I said hello and asked how he’d eat the big oysters. “I eat ’em with a spoon,” he said, “like any other oyster.”

Belon & Damariscotta oysters Nov. 2009 Peter Frank Edwards

At the cabin the next day, we got into the sauerkraut and pastrami for an early lunch – made a Reuben version – and a few hours later, we iced down and pried open the Belons to eat on the half shell with lemon, followed by sips of Madeira. By then, the temperatures were in the mid-thirties and I had a fire going in the woodstove.

– Sandy Lang, December 2009  (images by PFE)

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