From the Office and Backyard to the Road, Boat, or Plane–Backstories and
Side Stories While on Assignment. Updates on Personal Projects, Too.

05.10

2016

Swelter Love

Backyard

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

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.

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– Sandy Lang, November 2015

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Blog, Food

01.07

2015

SILKY, ROYAL LYON

Hotel Le Royal Lyon, copyright Peter Frank Edwards Photographs 2014

Hotel Le Royal Lyon, our home base for six days in Lyon last fall, was wrapped in scaffolding for the final stages of a renovation. Inside it’s upholstered in fabrics of patterns floral or of repeating cityscape details—buildings, farms, trees, peasants, zoos. Each room is decked out in either a regal rose-red or royal blue. The lounge is velvety-red furniture and walls, with classic portrait paintings, and a carved, ancient lion sculpture (Lyon). Hotel manager Patrick Gainnier explained that all of this is French-made.

Lyon, France copyright Peter Frank Edwards Photographs 2014_

The Lyonnaise connections and respect for fabrics is strong. On a Sunday, when most restaurants were closed, we wandered along the river, to markets, and into the Musee des Tissus et des Arts Decoratifs to see Lyon’s long history of silkworms and scarf-making, flocked upholstery and woven materials for long curtains, dresses, coats, gowns, and pointed shoes with delicate treads that look too precious to have ever been worn outside.

Me, I kept walking, from Place Bellecour to the Cathedrales, boutiques, and silk shops of old Lyon.

– Sandy Lang, January 2015 (images copyright Peter Frank Edwards Photographs)

 

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Art, Craft, Travel

09.23

2014

Lyon avec PFE Photo

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We found the old and the new in Lyon this month. You can see the “Cube Orange” building (above) that’s in a row of mod architecture at the Confluence, where the Rhône and Saône meet. We happened on a wedding in a square in Vieux Lyon, the city’s oldest streets. And we ate an incredible eight-course lunch with 10 other people—a full house—made by Chef Arai Tsuyoshi and his team at the jewel-box tiny restaurant Au 14 Fèvrier that’s decked in red leather upholstery, dark wood tables, and stone walls. The tributes to Valentine’s Day amore inspires the food—a cream egg in the shell, a savory chocolate boudin concoction, a buttery fish, perfect wine matches, and a dessert of candied rose petals. After the meal we met the chef who was smiling and genuinely kind, even through my rusty stabs at trying to tell him in French about the dishes I savored the most.

Other favorite meals and sights included the pigeon and peas at a traditional bouchon, wine and local art at a wine cave on a narrow stone street, and a salad Lyonnaise with a white cloud of a poached egg before I pierced it to mix the yolk over the greens. We ate cocoa-dusted almonds and Rhum raisin ice cream. It’s our second chance to work here since last summer, and my crush on Lyon only gets deeper.

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That’s PFE at work, along with Lyon-based photographer/photography student David Fogel, who was a wonderful assistant and guide who also became our friend as we walked and took the metro in crisscross paths all around the city. (He introduced us to many things from his French perspective, including his favorite aperitif, the “Monaco,” a draft beer made pink with grenadine.)

– Sandy Lang, September 2014

 

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Blog

09.15

2014

O Canada

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Spent two nights here this summer and got the “complete Trailside” experience. Love this 1930s tavern in rural Prince Edward Island. Candles lit and local pottery and art on the wall. Delicious dinners (local mussels in coconut-curry broth; fish cakes that are just the right plate of hot, cold, crunch; and super-creamy, perfectly plain cheesecake). Wonderful songwriting musicians each night—including Bryan Potvin who was in the 1980s band Northern Pikes (bought his new album and I’m hooked). Sat on the Trailside rooftop at sunset (you actually walk across part of the roof to get to your room), followed the rail-to-trail both directions (a few hundred yards from the door,) played records in our room, drove out to the red beach and fishing towns, bought some PEI potatoes from a farmer to take on to Cape Breton. Thank you, Pat and Meghan (the hosts). We had a blast!

Did we end up going 1,200 miles or 2,000? I’m still not sure. The odometer on the old Alfa Romeo isn’t counting anymore, and I wasn’t either. We were having too much fun. The Ital sports car is a 1988, and PFE had it shipped to Maine by truck. From there, we drove north and east into the Canadian Maritimes. On PEI, we met with friends from Charleston and took the ferry to Nova Scotia and drove up the west coast of Cape Breton to Cheticamp and the Cabot Trail. There we had three days of sea cliffs, blueberry barrens and wind that whipped our towels on the clothesline out like sideways sails. No phone reception anywhere for me, and I didn’t care. Plus, swimming in the super-salty bays around Cape Breton where the water temp. was warmer than Maine(!), around 70 degrees F.

A few more pic’s from the trip:

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– Sandy Lang, August 2014  (Trailside image by Peter Frank Edwards)

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Blog

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Hit the road in North Carolina looking for live music this past weekend, including a terrific, rain-to-sun day at MerleFest.

A few snapshots along the way: 87-year-old mandolin man, Herb Lambert; beautiful singer/songwriter Shannon Whitworth in a green dress with her band; and Woody, Nicky, Graham, Charles, Mark and Mark of Steep Canyon Rangers (cut off a few of the guys in the excitement of picture-taking!).

More music and stories to come…

– Sandy Lang, April 2014

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Art, Craft, Blog, Travel

Hello azaleas, wisteria and warm sand. The ocean is still chilly, but we all stepped in past our ankles on Tybee Island, GA. The unfortunate stingray must have come in on the storm the night before.

Tybee-Savannah 2014, Sandy Lang

It was an early spring getaway to Tybee and Savannah with some of the women in my family in a beach house built to look like a boat. On the day it rained, we watched movies and told stories in old-school beach house style… a very girlish couple of days. In sunnier Savannah, we saw brides and grooms in the squares, drank tea, and looked for antiques. Meanwhile, the whole city bloomed.

Tybee-Savannah 2014, Sandy Lang

Tybee-Savannah 2014, Sandy Lang

– Sandy Lang, April 2014

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Blog, Travel

03.20

2014

SATURDAY BOURBON

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

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Frocks of cotton dyed in mud, rust and indigo float on hooks and hangers in the studio at 701 Center for Contemporary Art (Columbia, SC). I’m writing about Leigh Magar’s merging of art and fashion for an upcoming magazine feature about out her new collection, which officially opens as a gallery exhibit, working studio and shop at 7 p.m. tonight (March 18, 2014).

The snapshots are of spools and cotton, one of the frocks and her hand-painted dots, and Leigh at her vintage Italian sewing machine. More to come…

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– Sandy Lang, March 2014

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Art, Craft, Blog, People

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?)
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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.

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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)

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