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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category



Bennett Elegant

Charleston view from the Hotel Bennett, photo copyright Peter Frank Edwards,

Overlooking Marion Square treetops, Hotel Bennett is plush with design details and tucked-away spaces, including the very pink champagne bar, exclusive King’s Club veranda, and lovely Gabrielle restaurant.

The views are of places you know, but you’ve never seen them like this.

From a sixth floor veranda at the Hotel Bennett that opened this year on King Street, the very top of steeple of St. Matthew’s is eye level from your lounge chair.

And from a secluded, third-floor porch that feels like no one else in the hotel has discovered, you can see directly into a birds’ realm of treetops—songbirds and sea gulls out there—while below, the hotel’s terrace spills into the green of Marion Square like a Paris café.

Speaking of green, Hotel Bennett is flush with springtime greens and turquoise blues inside, in a decor layered with texture and detail. Velvet couches, glass and crystal chandeliers, coffered ceilings, patterned floor tiles, and original paintings and murals create interest and a timelessness that can be rare to find in new buildings. Charleston hotelier and restaurant owner Michael Bennett spent over two decades (and a dollar total he hasn’t shared) to purchase the site, plan, and carefully develop the luxury downtown lodging. The construction phase began in 2015.

Inside the Hotel Bennett, Charleston. Photo copyright Peter Frank Edwards,

This is a hotel to fully inhabit and explore, I think, as my heels click across the marble floors downstairs, and step noiselessly on the plush carpet of upstairs hallways. And the polished surroundings offer a happy excuse to dress up. That’s what a couple of friends and I did in early spring when we spent a few hours in Camellias, the oval-shaped, jewel box of a champagne bar downstairs. (Love the story that the design is a nod to a Fabergé egg—and that the pink granite of the bar and tabletops was salvaged from the exterior walls of the Charleston County Library on this site.)

For a summertime mini-staycation in our hometown, my photographer partner and I book a King’s Club level stay at Hotel Bennett, a top-tier option that includes exclusive access to the sixth-floor view and its outdoor lounge seating. The bellman leads us to a discreet doorway that opens to the corner suite of rooms housing the King’s Club, which is staffed with a concierge and help-yourself drinks and bar, and a changing array of tasting platters from morning until night. (There’s also Fiat Lux, the ninth-floor, rooftop bar beside the pool that’s open to hotel guests and the public, and that attracts a sunglass-wearing crowd for icy cocktails and elevated views of downtown, Marion Square, and across East Side rooftops toward the Ravenel Bridge.)

By late afternoon downstairs in the gold and green dining room of Gabrielle, which faces Marion Square, an oversized silver ice bucket of champagne beside velvet drapes is chockfull of bottles, at-the-ready for dinner service. At one of the tables dressed with Hotel Bennett-embossed fine china and diamond-textured white tablecloths, we try rich forkfuls of foie gras plated with sliced red and green strawberries, and a filet of red snapper with seared-crisp skin atop eggplant ratatouille. Meanwhile, in the adjoining bar near the piano, guests are tasting tins of Hackleback caviar and sipping Moët & Chandon, and outside in Marion Square, a young man practices soccer kicks as the sunlight softens. I lived downtown in the early 2000s, and it’s always good to be in the city overnight again—and particularly so in an ultra-comfortable and quiet guestroom just upstairs.

Returning to the Hotel Bennett on King Street, Charleston. Photo copyright Peter Frank Edwards,

In the soft light of morning, we follow a hum of conversation to the white-tiled La Pâtisserie, housed within the hotel and with a storefront on King Street. There, we meet Rémy Fünfrock, a Lyon, France-born pastry chef who sips an espresso and explains that at first sight of the pink, gold and silver decor of Camellias, he began to imagine making the signature, cupcake-sized (and larger) glossy, pink domes of Camellia Cake. He points to several of the glazed confections in the glass pastry case—each a concoction of strawberry mousse cheesecake and lemon spongecake.

“Ah,” Fünfrock says, nodding, when he recognizes that we understand his inspiration. “You have seen the beauty of the hotel.”

– By Sandy Lang, 2019

Pastry chef Rémy Fünfrock at he Hotel Bennett on King Street, Charleston. Photo copyright Peter Frank Edwards,

Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards

Wow, it’s biscuit beautiful. The mailman just delivered a case of copies of the new book by Sara Foster, Foster’s Market Favorites: 25th Anniversary Collection.

Foster's Market Favorites

Congratulations to Sara and everyone at Foster’s Market and thank you for including us! I was lucky enough to be in Sara’s kitchen in Durham this spring while the book was being created. (Sara’s recipes and flavors always make you want to gather around.) Peter Frank Edwards did the photography and it’s joyful to watch him work again with Sara—a few years ago they collaborated on Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen. Food stylist Marian Cooper Cairns cooked every day with finesse and fun in her red-shoe style. I assisted PFE with photography and I’m honored to have also earned a credit as stylist. Sara’s husband, Peter Sellers, kept us laughing, wrote a great intro for the book, and sometimes mixed icy margaritas for everyone at days’ end. (Loved those days.) Bob Morris and his creative hatchery at Story Farm did a beautiful job with the design and printing.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes’ look in a video by John Ginn on Vimeo.


– Sandy Lang, November 2015

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Blog, Food




During the Charleston Wine + Food Festival earlier this month,  Peter Frank Edwards and I met with chef Sean Brock at the Husk Bar on Saturday (before it opened for the day) and ended up spending one of my favorite hours of the weekend. PFE is doing the photography for Sean’s upcoming book (images are looking incredible), and Sean had arranged for Julian Van Winkle of the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery to stop by to be in a photo.

When Julian walked into the narrow Queen Street single house-turned bar, the only light was that coming in the windows on the sleepy, cloudy afternoon (day three of the fest). We’d all been talking, and Sean was behind the bar pulling a knife across the two-year aged Edwards’ ham to cut thin slices to set out for everyone on a wooden board. PFE and I sipped whiskeys along with Tyler Brown (the exec chef at the Capitol Grille, Nashville), who was also in town for the festival and happened to stop by. Julian took in the quiet scene and declared, “Ham and whiskey. My happy place.”

After settling in, the Kentucky Bourbon man demonstrated how to make a couple of his Rye and Bourbon “Vanhattans” and we all had a taste… not too sweet with a splash of Antica vermouth. After that, he poured a 10-year Rip Van Winkle with a wide twist of orange peel and single chunk of ice.”It’s like an automatic Old-Fashioned,” he said after a satisfied swig.

All the while, sharing plates showed up from the Husk kitchen next door, including a mound of fried beef tendon (puffed like pork rinds but lighter, and with a “Pop Rocks” crackle), fried dilly beans (couldn’t stop eating them), and hot drumsticks and wings of perfectly coated, Nashville-style hot chicken. Great day in the afternoon.

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Photo by Peter Frank Edwards: Tyler Brown, Julian Van Winkle, Sandy Lang, and Sean Brock at Husk Bar, Charleston, SC.

– Sandy Lang, March 2014

I ache for New Orleans sometimes. Many thanks to Chef Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery on Magazine Street for bringing some Big Easy to Charleston, SC today. In a beard and brown hair, and with a sleeve of inked art—redfish, crabs, a pelican—the young restaurant owner looks somehow akin to Charleston’s Sean Brock. (I ask, and he says the two are friends and have an ongoing debate about the exact ingredients of gumbo—okra or no?)
Devillier is the real deal. He’s been a finalist for the James Beard Award Best Chef-South two years in a row. I was lucky to be one of the small group in the Zero George kitchen today to pull up a stool at the counter and watch him cooking for a while. Zero George is kicking off its Guest Chef Series at the hotel.

His Chilled Blue Crab Salad was delicious and elemental—lump crab you could really taste in the lightest toss of buttermilk/aioli in even measure, lemon juice, cracked pepper and herbs. He made a pounded, but not too-thin, panko-coated, fried rabbit with biscuits and peppery-tangy green tomato jam.


And through the afternoon, he put together a Shrimp Okra Gumbo. He likes his gumbo with less flour-based thickness, and more acid and broth, he explains as he stirs the gumbo with a wooden spoon. “There’s nothing worse than gumbo that’s a floury mess, just because it’s New Orleans.”

The young chef ladled out a gumbo with a brown broth as dark as chicory coffee. You could taste the brown-ness and the okra, shrimp, and pepper (Devillier says he likes black pepper in gumbo, by the way).

He and his wife, Mia, the general manager at La Petite, are both in town for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival. They arrived sleepy from Mardi Gras. So happy to meet them on a chilly, rainy Thursday in the Lowcountry. I hope the clouds blow by so the chef can put that fishing gear he toted all this way to work on the redfish around here.

– Sandy Lang, March 2014 (avec lunch crowd, below)


Fat saffron spaghetti noodles on a pesto-like mash of dandelion greens. The ultimate comfort-food goodness. FIG’s Jason Stanhope made that dish, and earned the people’s choice prize at the StarChefs gala in Charleston this week.

It was a huge party, filling Memminger Auditorium with chefs, sommeliers, bakers, and cocktail makers from the Carolinas—each at tables offering up sampler plates or pours. I tried, but it would have been a mad feat to taste everything offered. Plus, I kept falling into good conversations, while Big Hair’s crew took care of the music and the Gin Joint was doling out cups of a “Bitter Holland Sling” with gin, aged whiskey and rum.

Other hometown favorites included the rudderfish crudo on marinated cabbage by Travis Grimes from Husk. I’ve had that riesling from Clean Slate with fish before, so I went straight in for a glassful. Then there was Stuart Tracy’s porchetta, squash, and mustard green sandwiches at the Butcher & Bee table. (This PFE pic isn’t the exact sandwich, but it’s another of the tasty B&B creations on ciabatta.)
Butcher & Bee, Peter Frank Edwards Photographs
Seeing Wendy Allen of Knife & Fork with a wing in hand led me to the sauce-dripped smoked chicken offered up by Aaron Siegel from Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ. (So good to talk with you, Wendy, and congratulations to you and Nathan… nasturtium panna cotta with sumac!)

The last thing I tasted was perfect for the night and season. Colin Bedford of Fearrington House served up a chanterelle risotto with foie gras, apple, and melty Carolina Moon cheese (a N.C. Camembert). Chef Bedford was right, it was terrific with some sips of the port pairing that I hope to find a bottle of soon. Anyone know the maker?

– Sandy Lang, December 2013  (image by PFE Photo)

That’s Arthur from L.A. proclaiming his knife-and-fork rights to the cornmeal dusted catfish at Husk in Charleston. The four of us arrived hungry, and you had to be fast when you wanted to taste something. We ordered plates for the table to share–of just about everything. If it made it your plate or placemat, it was in your dominion. My strategy was to keep people talking while I ate most of the chicken wings (dry rub of pepper, wood fire), a couple of crispy pig ear lettuce wraps, and most of the smoky dish of “Hop-N-John” with black-eyed peas and baby limas. With some sly plate sliding, I also managed for more than my share of pecan pie and Bourbon ice cream.

Here’s a close-up of my friend’s big bowl of the cream-rich shrimp and grits, and of the prized catfish.

– April 2013, Sandy Lang (images by Peter Frank Edwards Photographs)

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Food, Lowcountry S.C./Charleston



Hardwater fishing

Took off for February adventure with PFE for our latest feature for Maine magazine. Thank you to friends from South Carolina who came along, and to everyone we met in the shacks and on the ice at Baker’s Smelt Camps.

The full story runs six pages in the Jan. 2013 issue. Excerpts from the fish tales:

KENNEBEC ON ICE. Trying for smelt before the ice melts.

Even in February, the ice conditions are iffy. We’re driving through the Kennebec River towns north of Merrymeeting Bay, looking for fishing camps. Catching a bucket of smelt is our goal. But the frozen surfaces are thinner than usual this year, where there’s ice at all. Photographer Peter Frank Edwards and I drive north from Bowdoinham through Dresden, Pittston, and Randolph. Thin, silvery-pink fish often not much longer than an outstretched hand, rainbow smelt are known to live primarily in saltwater bays, but spawn in fresh water—famously, under the ice of the Kennebec River.

By chance—and because we could see actual ice—we choose Baker’s from more than a half-dozen smelt camps that pop up each year on frozen stretches of the Kennebec River and its tributaries. “This is a sweet spot,” claims Cindy Lougee. The Pittston site is situated at a bend in the Kennebec that creates an eddy; the spawning fish like to feed in the calmer water, she says. Lougee helps owner Mike Baker, a logger, to coordinate the ice fishing at Baker’s Smelt Camps. In a lined notebook, she keeps a handwritten record of the shack reservations. “People book them for a tide, and stay six or seven hours,” she explains. While we talk, guests come in to the wood-paneled office to buy beef jerky or homemade cookies, or just to soak in the heat and conversation. Lougee suggests we go down on the ice and choose which shack we’d like to reserve. She shows us what I think at first is a pizza box, but then she opens it to reveal a bed of seaweed and tangles of long red sandworms.  These, she says, are hand-collected on the Maine coast; some people cut them up into small pieces to use for bait.

To get to the ice, we descend the bank and step onto a narrow wooden boardwalk. The surface is slushy on either side of the planks, but no one seems concerned. I can hear several radios playing from different shacks. We peek inside a few that are empty and see similar layouts inside of each: a plank floor down the center, a woodstove at the rear, and a trough of open water along the length of each side, where the ice has been cut.

A few of the teenagers who work at the camp, delivering firewood and keeping things tidy, catch up with us. One of the young laborers, Steve Potter, is pulling a load of firewood on a sled and says his job on the frozen river has its odd moments. He says, “Earlier, I saw a four-wheeler go by on the river pulling a La-Z-Boy with a guy strapped to the seat for the ride.” Two other workers, Airyn Jewett and Katie Baker, are both from Gardiner. They say they’ve been coming to the camps for years, and that their fathers helped to clear the snow for an ice-skating oval a few yards from the shacks. The teenagers tell us most people hang bait lines from a horizontal post, but they’ve had good luck catching fish on handheld “jigger” poles with a short, heavy line, using the poles to jiggle bait in the water and then hook the fish. It doesn’t look like there’s room inside the shacks for jiggling or much of anything else, but I’m told some of the structures can hold up to six people who are actively fishing. We reserve number 35, a smaller shack with a decent-looking woodstove…

– Sandy Lang, February 2013 (images by Peter Frank Edwards)



Northwest travels

Lummi Island, WA, photo by Sandy Lang, Sept. 2012

On an assignment in Washington state yesterday, we hopped on the ferry to Lummi Island just in time for breakfast at the Willows Inn. Golden-orange morning light everywhere, and I loved the tea and handmade packaging from Flying Bird Botanicals…

Flying Bird Botanicals, Lummi Island, WA. Photo by Sandy Lang, Sept. 2012

We spent the day and night on the under-10-square-mile island, and I met one of the fishermen, who says he can’t believe his luck in getting to look out at the islands and mountains, including Mount Baker–the peak white with snow all year–while he waits for the salmon to swim past. At dinner, we tasted tender, ice-cold slices of geoduck. (Nothing like an Atlantic cherrystone… Chef Blaine Wetzel says he can get 20-30 servings from just one of the huge clams.) We also tried hunks of wild sockeye salmon that had been netted in a bay just down the road, and smoked all day over alder wood. I couldn’t stop looking at this fish. The salmon had the deep red color of ripe watermelon, and the taste was incredibly delicate. More Pacific tastes today, I hope…

– Sandy Lang, September 2012

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Food, Travel

“Her grandmother’s fried chicken and creamed corn were the beginning. Cynthia spent many a Chattanooga afternoon in her family’s kitchens. And besides a love for southern recipes, she developed a French sensibility early on – Madeline books in hand…”

I’ve always loved a good interview, and I had a terrific one last year with food stylist Cynthia Groseclose, who asked me to write a bio for her website (excerpted above). After training at Le Cordon Bleu-Paris, Cynthia moved to NYC and then Charleston. That’s where we met, when she began doing some food styling with Peter Frank Edwards Photographs.

Cindy is now represented by Big Leo Productions, and is featured this month on their blog.  Her delicious work has also filled pages in Southern Living, Men’s Journal, Organic Gardening and more. Beau style!

– July 2012, Sandy Lang (pancake photo by Peter Frank Edwards; photo of Cynthia Groseclose by Andrew Cebulka)

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Food, In print/published

We had to to do some heavy research for this assignment. For a 10-page summer feature in Charleston magazine, Peter Frank Edwards and I spent several days walking and driving around edge-of-the-mountains Asheville, NC  in search of great food and drink. We found plenty. The opening paragraphs…

The big news the day before we’re to drive a couple hundred miles up I-26 is an announcement by New Belgium Brewing, makers of the tasty Fat Tire Amber Ale, that it will build a large brewery along the French Broad River in Asheville. I get thirsty just thinking about it. But beyond the eco-green, Blue Ridge-bordering city’s reputation for craft beers, crafty residents, and mountain views, it has a new draw as a self-proclaimed “Foodtopia,” and meal-motivated travelers are taking notice. Last year, TripAdvisor ranked the North Carolina hot spot number 10 among the “Top 10 Food and Wine Destinations in the U.S.” That list includes the gourmet giants of New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, as well as Charleston (number four).

All the food buzz is reason enough for a road trip—a few days to eat our way through the groovy-casual town. After driving a little under four hours, we start where any hungry travelers who’ve made no stops along the highway might—at an unmarked, downtown Asheville parking lot near the post office on Coxe Avenue. (A local writer-friend had clued me in about “The Lot,” which was officially designated for food trucks this spring.) Three mobile eateries are parked there when we arrive, and we order from one called The Lowdown, which is painted with a cartoon-like mural of a picnic. Owner Nate Kelly grew up in Asheville and makes us a barbecue sandwich with peppery smoked pork, purple cabbage slaw, and spears of pickled okra between thick slices of grilled bread...

Beyond the food truck rodeo, some other Asheville favorites:  Blue Water Seafood (gumbo), Cúrate (white sangria), Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack (fire-hot wings), White Duck Taco Shop (Bangkok shrimp tacos), French Broad Chocolate Lounge (Indian Kulfi drinking chocolate), Red Stag Grill (cast iron skillet eggs), and The Admiral (everything).

More of the story is available in print or online from, along with the delicious evidence captured in images by PFE.

– Sandy Lang, June 2012

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Food, In print/published, Travel

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