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Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category



Swelter Love


If it’s like last summer and most of the last several around our James Island backyard, it will be, again, the summer of rosé.

That’s a swelter-beater right there—a cool, coppery-to-rosy pink wine in one of those short, practically-unbreakable Duralex cafe glasses. I love it all, so French. (Likewise for a chilled Lillet Blanc cocktail with blood orange bitters downtown at Proof on King Street—another summertime sipper.)

So, the grill’s already going on a chunk of bluestone that we’ve set in a clearing near the largest of the three pecan trees. It was startling a couple years ago when a summer thunderstorm hit, and a bolt zippered down a centerline of the bark of this tree, sending pieces shooting off in all directions. The tree service experts said the old pecan would need to come down completely. But we couldn’t do it—and allowed only the most damaged sections be trimmed.

We always gather up some of the smallest dropped branches and snap them into pieces to throw on the hot coals right before grilling to give the chicken a pecan-brown color and a nut-sweet smokiness. (Peter Frank was born and raised in Charleston and always cooks chicken and ribeye steaks this way. It’s the same method for summertime corn on the cob. And when we have shrimp, he’ll sometimes wrap those in pecan leaves before grilling over the charcoal and pecan wood.)

I circle the yard again in an evening tour, with clippers in hand. It’s time to cut and bring in some of the pale blue hydrangea blossoms, and a few long sprigs of rosemary. Every year I plant several packs of zinnia seeds in the tomato and pepper garden, and we count on those reliable flowers all summer, so I check on the zinnias, too. If they’re still blooming, I gather some of the coreopsis wildflowers that we’ve been letting grow tall in the side yard—it can be hundreds of blooms at once, with gold petals leaning in.

What’s that? Peter Frank reminds me of basket left on the counter. I’d stopped to see the man who parks a truck sometimes on Maybank Highway to sell produce. You’re right, I tell him, we need to make ice cream with all of these peaches.

Here’s to swelter, and to looking at summer through rosé colored glasses.

Sandy Lang, May 2016

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)



Hunt and sip

A year ago this month, I had the honor of mingling with some smart and scrappy hounds and horsesand the tweed-wearing ridersat a fox hunt near Landrum, South Carolina.  This part of the Upstate is great for antiques’ shopping and wine touring, too. From the opening paragraphs of my story, “Art of the Chase,” for Charleston magazine:

Everything is hovering around 30 on the morning of the fox hunt in a rural corner of Greenville County.

The Upstate air is a frosty 30 degrees, and today the count for the Tryon Hounds’ hunt is a field of about 30 riders on horseback with 30 yelping hounds. Anita Williamson, the “road whip,” has offered to let us ride in her truck to tail the party once the chase begins—throughout the hunt, she’ll follow the riders’ progress, open fence gates, and watch for any stragglers—canine or equine.

This is one impressive and natty hunt club. Attire of the men and women at the meet includes white riding pants, black wool caps, and brass-buttoned blazers that are as red as a holly berry. The well-groomed horses sport trimmed or braided manes. The day’s huntsman, Jordan Hicks of Pickens, is tall and trim in a scarlet coat. He opens the gate of a transport truck and releases the lanky, tricolor hounds. The carefully bred foxhounds bound into a scene of winter-bare trees and country pageantry as one twisting mass of yelps and sniffs. The pack is bursting with energy and confidence. Watching them, I wonder if they know they’re descended from old Virginia bloodlines…

You can read more in the print version (a few pages below) or online here.

– Sandy Lang, January 2013  (photography by Peter Frank Edwards)



Schooner sunset

“Everyone is washed over in the end-of-the-day amber sunlight.”

Check out the latest cover of Maine magazine (May 2012)… a Peter Frank Edwards‘ shot on the Schooner Olad out of Camden. We’d gone out on a sunset sail with Captain Aaron Lincoln and some great people from Alabama and Texas. Wine + cheese + salt air… not sure how PFE caught me without a glass in hand. Our story in this issue is about bicycling in midcoast Maine. Several of the friends we made from Summer Feet Cycling are in the schooner photo, above.

– Sandy Lang, April 2012


Just back from the ferry boats, footpaths and winding roads of Capri, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello…

The mountains on the Amalfi Coast rise right up out of the sea, and the towns are built into them, terraced and layered in the stone. Stairsteps and lanes wind between stone walls and everywhere there is a patch of ground, someone is carefully growing something – fruit and olive trees, bougainvillea, tomato and aubergine plants, basil and wild fennel. So many lemons. This Mediterranean variety was long and lumpy and big as grapefruit. We met a local limoncello maker who was cutting off the peels to soak in vodka. “Dulche” he said about the sweet peels. I bit into the juice and zing of the lemon sections themselves. All was yellow and sunshine, pure lemon-ness.


Everything we saw growing we’d also see on the plate. On most menus there’d be a some kind of rustic, handmade pasta. Sometimes it was a fat spaghetti, other times it was twisted into tight curls. In Pogerola, a small town high above Amalfi, we walked by the open kitchen window of an osteria named Rispoli and could see the steam rising. Across the narrow lane was a patio of 6 or 8 tables, and there – at a square table with a pink plaid tablecloth and views of the hillsides above Amalfi, Atranti and the sea – we ate plates of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, a whole panfish with lemon, and pasta vongole with those tiny Mediterranean clams that are so full of flavor in their ridged purple-white shells. For dessert – we’d started to talk with guests beside us from Switzerland, so wanted to stay on longer – we shared a cold and creamy rum baba with wild strawberries. On other tables I saw plates of sardines and olive oil, and of fried squid and prawns, of pitchers of a beer-golden wine. One wiry sister, Marina, waited on guests and called out orders through the kitchen window to another sister at the stove. The pasta was yellow with yolk and roughly cut into wide, flat pieces, as if it had been hand-rolled and cut it with a knife. Bravissimo. And Rispoli had no wine list but a choice of bianco or russo served in glass pitchers for four Euros per litre.  Oddly frizzante and almost foamy at first, their bianco tasted better and better as we drank into the night, and eventually walked happily back down the hill to our hotel.


– Sandy Lang, June 2010 (photo’s: roadside lemon stand, the beach at Positano, my favorite car in Amalfi)

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Food, Travel, Wine

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


Typically I’m not much of a lush, but last weekend I got pretty well intoxicated by Greenville, South Carolina. The premise was an assignment about the city’s food scene, and we spent the better part of two days along the leafy Main Street lined with café patios.

I’ll write more soon, but for now, here are a few images by PFE… at a bar known for its Limoncello and Campari cocktails (even George Clooney has stopped in, they say), an afternoon by the Reedy River, and the line-up of Bordeaux wines at a Friday testing. (I loved that Château de Fieuzal, Pessac-Léognan 2005.)


– Sandy Lang, October 2009

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Food, Travel, Wine

lapin, tart

Carafes of Bordeaux and water on the table, then the escargot in a hot ceramic croc with its handle missing; a basket of bread that we’d tear into pieces to push into the little snail cups to soak up the beurre and garlic after the snails were gone.  All was warm and vin-blurred in the upstairs room of tables at Chez Paul with its white tableclothes, portrait paintings, windows open to the Rue de Charrone. The large worn pages of the menu were handwritten en francais, the restaurant open since the 1920s in Paris.  There were models – gaunt, cold-looking beauties from the Paris Fashion Week – at the downstairs bar of wooden walls, café tables and coat racks. We’d walked up the narrow staircase behind the bar, following Ian, our young waiter who I’d already noticed was almost always moving, gliding quickly to tables, brown hair brushing low to his eyes. After the escargot there was a mound of steak tartare for Peter Frank avec pommes frites, and I put knife and fork to lapin avec carrotte et epinard – a saute of de-boned rabbit in another wine-soaked sauce so delicious we asked for more bread. For dessert, it was tart tatin avec crème fraiche, with cognac and coffee to help us through the Metro transit of three train changes to return to our hotel in Montparnasse.

Another night we took the Metro to the Temple stop (love to come up the stairs at that one… already seeing the statue of Place de Republique in the distance) to Chez Omar on Rue de Bretagne in Le Marais.  The idea was to get some good comfort food, both for me, who was sad about having to leave mon Paris the next day, and for Peter Frank who’d just finished another long day of shooting for Virtuoso Life magazine.  (His assignment was what had brought us to Paris… for shots of Chloé fashion, Baccarat crystal, Thierry Mugler parfum, French antiques, etc.)  We ordered couscous, which meant that our tiny square table would soon fill with steaming plates of couscous, and of whole chick peas, carrots and zucchini in a light tomato-y broth.  Then there were plates of crispy pan-broiled chicken (about 1/3 bird) and a shank of lamb that was oven-roasted to the color of burgundy wine (also our wine that night, drunk again from le pichet), and a small croc of spicy red harissa to smear on the meats, stir into the sauce. Tout était parfait.
Temple stop/Metro, Eiffel

Besides Chez Paul and Chez Omar, we ate big bowls of mussels in curry broth at the tourist-magnet Leon de Bruxelles (our Parisian photo assistant suggested it would be more fun than gourmet, and it was), and we made a couple of meals of bread, wine, cheese from the corner markets.  One of the nearest Metro stops to our hotel was the Edgar Quinet.  That’s a creperie district, where I stopped twice for crepes topped with crème de marron, getting to watch the crepe maker pour the batter on the round griddle, steam rising, smear it with the brown chestnut paste, then hand the folded crepe to me in white waxed paper.  (Chestnuts were just then ripening all over Paris, falling on the park lawns.  We never did get any roasted ones.)  Also in Edgar Quinet, there is an artist market on Sundays.  I walked through the stalls in the wind and rain (there is tenting) and found and bought a tiny painting of man sleeping on the Metro.  It was painted on an oatmeal-colored canvas by Jacqueline Chesta, who told me she’ll be in NYC next month to show her work there.  Will you be there?  She asked.  “Oui. C’est possible.”

Somehow, I want to keep this Parisian sentiment going, the romantic blur of food, art, discovery.  I keep thinking of what Hemingway wrote, that “there is never any end to Paris.”

– October 2008, Sandy Lang


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Art, Craft, Food, Travel, Wine



West meets South

June 2008 cover

My travel piece about the Seattle food scene earned a headline on the cover of this month’s Charleston Magazine. The cover image is by Peter Frank Edwards, who besides shooting the Seattle piece and wine piece, below, has 18 pages of very cool location fashion in this issue. (In pre-production, I helped with props and locations, so I’m particularly proud of this shoot.) The Seattle piece ran 12 pages strong, with a nice layout and a sidebar to debunk how much it rains… much of the East coast actually gets more inches of rain each year, it’s just that Seattle has many more cloudy days.


The opening paragraphs of “Seattle by the Forkful”…

Within an hour after our plane flew over the still snow-capped Cascades and touched down in Seattle, we were walking down the steep streets to Pike Place Market to skirt around the men tossing fish up to be weighed, wrapped and iced for customers (we’d watch that spectacle more intently later on), and followed the walkway to Place Pigalle, a narrow café nearly hidden on the backside of the landmark market. From a table by a window we watched a rainstorm bring a wash of gray across Puget Sound and drank a couple glasses of Washington state red – I don’t remember the vineyard, but know if was fine, perfect even, with a plate of smoked tomatoes and Alaskan halibut, a vinegary red-skinned potato salad. (Set so far up the coast, Alaskan fish is considered local/regional here, with Seattle marinas lined with “Deadliest Catch” style boats and stacks of huge iron crab pots.)

This was a good start. I’ve spent time in San Francisco and visited Vancouver, but had never been to this Northwest city where the rugged mountain-meets-the-sea landscape has given rise to Bill Gates and his Microsoft, to Jimi Hendrix and his psychedelic guitar riffs, to the coffee world domination of Starbucks. What a mix, a draw. So on a late winter Friday, we’d made the eight-hours of flights (one connection), not only for the Pacific scenery and the cool vibe, but to taste some of the freshest food to be found in the country these days. At least that’s what I’d heard… that up in Seattle the farm-and-sea-to-table scene is tremendously rich, sometimes trendsetting. Not to be overwhelmed by all the possible sights and activities in such a city, it seemed the thing to do in Seattle was to allow food be our guide. We’d let the smell of coffee and the clink of wine glasses lead us through this unfamiliar city that’s smaller in land size than Charleston, but with even more water in its boundaries – it’s dotted with islands, criss-crossed with ferries – and is home to seven times as many people…


– Sandy Lang, June 2008

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Food, In print/published, Travel, Wine



One for the Road

Also in the June issue of Charleston Magazine is a short article about an afternoon spent in Sonoma County last year, when we talked our way into a private barrel tasting at Fritz Winery, with advance help from friends in South Carolina. Here’s an excerpt, a slightly different version than what ended up in print:

She was from northern Germany, we were from South Carolina – and I’m not sure where Chancellor, the vineyard’s regal yellow Labrador was from. That afternoon we were all in a cool hillside cave in Sonoma County surrounded by barrels of wine, of French oak. This was a trip to the source. On the recommendation of Bruno Rosin, the Vicenza, Italy-born wine consultant at a grocery store near my house (just had to slip in another international reference), we’d included a visit to the Fritz Winery on a trip to San Francisco last year. (Bruno’s fondness for wines comes naturally, growing up visiting farms and vineyards with his father, a bread baker in Vicenza, Italy.) The suggestion was a good one.

Christina Pallman, the German-born winemaker we met there, was gracious enough to give us a casual barrel tasting in the bunker-like caves that the Fritz family first built into their vineyard’s hillside in the 1970s. As Chancellor followed along and Christina spoke in German accents, we explored the cool subterranean rooms that have proven perfect for the making and aging of the small label’s wines. Here and there, she would stop and turn a tiny tap, releasing the cabernets, the zinfandels, the pinot noirs – whether they were ready or not. We were in luck, as so many were delicious. Fritz has a focus on single-vineyard wines – some bathed by Pacific Ocean air – and creates limited editions that are sold only in California. But some Fritz wines can also be found in South Carolina, brought here by John Hilton and Palmetto Distributing. And that brings me back to how this all started, with a conversation around the grocery cart with my longtime “wine guy” and friend Bruno, who arranges the wine department at the Harris Teeter store on Folly Road, including three or four varieties of Fritz. Many times since I’ve brought home a bottle, and let the Sonoma afternoon memories flow again. Cincin!


– Sandy Lang, June 2008

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Travel, Wine

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