11 AM: It’s a gorgeous day, so I’m road-tripping through John’s Island, a more rural area southwest of downtown Charleston. My first stop is JB’s Smokehouse, where, for $9.50, you get a Styrofoam plate and a cup of ice and entrance to their buffet.
I plunked myself at a family-style table to chow down alongside lots of Southern gentlemen: kindly postal carriers, muscled young dockworkers, construction workers, police officers, etc. They all seemed tickled pink to have a young woman prance in with a bright blue backpack and a massive appetite. I got lots of restaurant recommendations, sadly none of which I had time to act on.
I tried as many things as I could. Clockwise from top: Collard greens, macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, baked beans, white beans, stewed okra, Southern hash and rice, tomato-bell pepper salad, and a mini corn fritter in the middle.
The barbecue was my least favorite thing at this so-called smokehouse; it simply didn’t have much flavor. I preferred the smoky-sweet baked beans, mixed with the white beans to cut the sweetness. I liked the bright, fresh salad, greens, and stewed okra. Southern hash, which I had never heard of before, was also tasty. I think of hash as a crisp mixture of chopped meat and potatoes, but “Southern hash” apparently means a soupy mix made with leftover barbecue meat, spooned over rice.
2 PM: I turn onto a tree-lined dirt road that leads to the Angel Oak.
This magnificent live oak tree is estimated to be 300-400 years old. Its largest limb is 89 feet long and 11.25 feet around.
From a height of 65 feet, it drapes thick branches generously around spectators, creating a still, hushed enclave that offers coolness even on a warm bright day.
I never expected to find my own little Lothlórien in South Carolina.
And…there was a clown photo shoot, also. ::shrug::
5 PM: At the Charleston Tea Plantation, which is the only site in the United States to both grow and commercially manufacture tea! You’ve likely drunk their wares as Bigelow Tea.
I took the brief but informative factory tour, which has been video-recorded by two of the Bigelows and guides you through one batch of tea. All tea comes from the same plant, Camella sinensis. Whether tea is black, oolong, or green is determined by the amount of oxidation the leaves receive before they are dried.
To make green tea, leaves are steamed immediately to prevent any oxidation; for black tea, the leaves oxidize for 50 minutes first. Other flavors are added after the tea is processed. (While only the most pretentious among us would call you out for the error, herbal brews like mint, rooibos, or chamomile are technically not “tea,” they are “tisanes.”)
Afterwards, I browsed the gift shop, then sat on the porch with a complimentary cup of Earl Grey. Nothing more pleasant than sipping tea and gazing over the fields while warm breezes blow. Especially when there’s a handsome fella to keep you company.
8 PM: Having failed to get satisfactory BBQ earlier at JB’s, I headed to Melvin’s for dinner. Their mysterious pricing scheme meant that a half-rack of ribs and two sides was only two dollars less than a half-rack, two sides, AND pulled pork. Pretty sure that’s a divine omen, telling me to take pulled pork home. My flight back to Boston tomorrow looks better already.
The ribs, which I drizzled with Melvin’s mustard-based Golden Secret Sauce, were everything I’d hoped for. Moist and tender, well-seasoned, with a nice crisp on the outside. Greens and cornbread rounded out a satisfying meal, with stewed apples for dessert.
11 PM: Packing, packing. I’ve had a wonderful time in Charleston, and hope I can come back again someday!