The Castejóns: Bringing a Taste of Spain to the Lowcountry – Restaurant Review

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Provided by feature Food Blogger Cookin’ with Booze

One of the best parts of being a food blogger in Charleston is the amazing chefs/fellow foodies you get to meet. In the case of the Castejóns, they are a chef/foodie power couple that I aspire to be when I grow up. I met them through #TastemakersCHS (a group of top culinary social media influencers) and they were kind enough to host the group at their pop up restaurant at Charlestowne Fermentory. Their authentic Spanish cuisine with a sprinkle of the Lowcountry was so delicious I want to shout it from the rooftops (but I guess posting it on here is a better/less obnoxious option).

the dynamic duo #goals

In addition to being kick ass chefs, the?Castejóns are probably two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, which makes you feel at home when you’re enjoying your Spanish feast. In traditional Spanish style, we started with a few appetizers to warm us up for the star of the show: the paella.

holy aioli!

We started out with the fritos (fried goodies) which included croquetas de pollo (fried chicken croquettes) and empanada de verduras (vegetarian empanadas). The croquetas were crispy on the outside and had a tender,flavorful pork/chicken filling. The best part of the dish, however, was definitely the spicy aioli it was served with. I wanted to take a jar of that home to put on everything I eat from now on.

The empanadas de verduras were filled with goat cheese, caramelized onion, eggplant, and collard greens (shout out to the Lowcountry). The goat cheese made the filling incredibly creamy and the caramelized onion added a nice sweetness to it. They were served with a refreshing dipping sauce chock full of herbs, so it balanced out the richness.

Give me all the pork

Although it was hard to resist eating 20 of the croquetas, we moved on to the next course: the Serranito. The Serranito was a sandwich composed of marinated pork loin, poblano peppers, cured spanish ham, and a fried quail egg to top it all off. This sandwich struck the perfect balance between spicy, salty, and porky goodness. The runny yolk from the quail egg acted as a sauce and added a nice richness. Did I eat the entire platter of them?…maybe.

the star of the show

The last savory dish of the evening, the paella, was the masterpiece we were all waiting for. The paella is stunning in both flavor and presentation. It is presented in the cast iron skillet it is cooked in to preserve the socarrat. As Alfonso explained to us, the socarrat is the flavorful, crispy rice stuck to the pan. It is a staple in a well-made paella and I felt transported to Sevilla (their Spanish hometown) when I plated it up.

To put a Lowcountry twist on their paella, the Castejóns add in local seafood. The fresh shrimp and clams were my favorite part of the dish by far. Along with local ingredients, they also import paprika, olive oil, and saffron from Sevilla to ensure an authentic flavor.

If you haven’t had the chance to yet, head over to Charlestowne Fermentory and check out the Castejóns. You can’t go wrong with the combination of authentic Spanish food and local craft beer. Follow their adventures on their website and social media!

What to Say to Make a Charlestonian Mad

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By Mark A. Leon

You really want to know what to say to put Charlestonian’s in a mood; make us mad; crank our gears; light the flare of fury?? You get the point.? Not much makes us upset or fuels our loins, but here are a few things folks can say to locals to get them going.

Things You Can Say to a Charlestonian to Make Them Mad

  • Tell us we are not a top Southern foodie town – We take our food seriously.? We take our chefs even more seriously.? In Charleston, a chef can be treated as well as an A-List actor in Hollywood.? Food is a cultural apex in Charleston and if you step foot onto our soil and tell us we are just “ok” in the culinary arts, we will most likely send you out of town, but not before we give you a mouthful (words, that is).
  • Tell us that guns should be illegal – You want to strike up a heated debate on any Charleston street corner, mention the need for gun control or the elimination of guns.? SEWE (Southeast Wildlife Expo) is one of the biggest events in Charleston for a reason.? There are few locals without at least one firearm to go with their fishing and golf gear.? Many have multiple.? Careful what you say if you are a big anti-gun lobbyist.
  • Tell us we love having Northerners move to Charleston.? It adds to the diversity – Have you seen a “Go Back to Ohio” bumper sticker.? I would be surprised if you haven’t.? Since the economic slide in late 2008, northerners have migrated in droves to sunny Charleston.? They have looked for new opportunities and a new beginning.? The economy has recovered, but not the pace of the migration.? Many want to put the plug on this for good.
  • Traffic isn’t that bad compared to other big cities – That is a pretty stupid comparison.? New York, Chicago, Los Angeles are massive urban sectors with 20 to 40 times our population.? Charleston is a coastal peninsula that was not built to handle the roadway traffic with its current infrastructure.? Don’t bring up traffic if you don’t want to experience some road rage.
  • Tell us that housing is really cheap here – A one bedroom in downtown Charleston will run you about $1100 – $1300 with an average of $100 a month for electric (we need our air-conditioning) and $120 for cable and internet.? Don’t forget you have to pay an annual tax for your vehicle as well.? So $1500 a month for a one bedroom is cheap.? Check other parts of the country.? We are peaking up quickly as one of the higher costs of living.
  • Tell us we have ample parking for a mid sized city – In 2009, a parking ticket was $10.00.? Now it is $45.00.? The Battery used to be 2 hour free non-residential parking and free after 6 PM until 8 AM the next day and free on weekends.? Now it is 1 hour from 8 AM to 8 PM (including weekends).? The number of meters in relation to the activities (SC Aquarium, College of Charleston, TCF Bank Arena, Theater District, Restaurants, Market, Art Galleries, etc.) is not proportionate.? Also, the rates in parking garages have increased comparatively to the cost of living adjustments .
  • Tell us the dating scene is easy – If you ask around, you are going to hear crazy ratios of male to female with females having anywhere from a 4:1 to 7:1 ratio.? The truth is that Charleston is 52.5% female and 47.5% male.? Yes, females have an advantage, but that isn’t the core issue.? With so many transplants and growth of businesses like Boeing, BenefitFocus Volvo and Blackbaud, online dating has increased in popularity.? Add the factor of our drinking and social culture and nailing down a commitment is one of the hardest things to do here in Charleston.
  • Ask us if flooding is an issue in Charleston – Some of us may just laugh at you, while others may show off their insurance claims.? Many of us have more than one flood damage claim that we can lay stake to.? Either way, we don’t like to talk about the flooding.? It is almost impossible to avoid.
  • Tell us Hyman’s has the best seafood – Billy Joel ate there.? Their coupons are everywhere from the Visitor’s Center to every cruise ship that docks.? They are situated right off the market.? Still, great marketing, but not the best in town.? Not even close.? They are a fine restaurant, but they are as known in these parts as George Sink and Jeff Cook.
  • Ask us our thoughts on the Confederate Flag – Do I really need to explain this one.? Just look at any given local news broadcast since June of 2015.
  • Ask us to openly talk about racism and race related issues – We keep relatively quiet about any discussions about race and we seem to be alright with that.? We are not saying there is or is not an issue, but we reserve those conversations for friends and family, outside of the public eye.

There you have it.? What you can say to a local Charleston resident to get them mad.? Please don’t.

Are We Defined By Our “Charleston Food Brand”?

By Mark A. Leon

By Mark A. Leon

For generations, we have been defined by the brands we carry by our sides.? From Louis Vuitton to Prada, brands address other’s perceptions of our place in society.? That is why advertising is a multi-billion -dollar industry where creative and often neurotic minds sit in rooms thinking of ways to convince us of what to buy and what it’s implied value is to us.

Charleston is a foodie community.?? There is no denying it.? In fact, we flaunt it with every chance we get.? With each new restaurant opening, an unofficial holiday is launched.? We treat dining like the rest of the country views weather.? Food is a form of celebration in Charleston.? It is our opus.? With that, we pose the question, are we defined by our Charleston food brand?

Yesterday, I went to The Bearded Café.? A friend raved about this new hip new coffee shop on Spring Street and the word in the Yelp community was a huge thumb’s up.? My experience overall was wonderful, with its quaint interior, heavenly aroma and great customer service.

I entered and the very energetic barista asked me what I like.? I said naturally black coffee.? I like good black coffee.? He recommended the drip.? I ordered a 10 ounce due to the fact that this was only a quick stop on my way to brunch.

The bill:? $3.54 before tip.

This is 48% more than a 16 ounce Starbucks coffee.? Was the coffee amazing.? It most certainly was.? As I walked with that Bearded Café sleeve and thought about Black Tap, one of my other favorite coffee havens, I realized, I was walking around with a Charleston Food brand.? Were others observing my refined taste in java?? Was it worth four dollars for a ten-ounce cup?? I don’t know the answer, nor am I ready to debate it.

Then I took a deeper thought and remembered those nights at the bar.? Laughing at Halls Chophouse, parading on The Stars rooftop, lingering outside of Husk or dining outdoors at Leon’s Oyster Shop.? Being seen is important.? Where you are seen is social status critical.? With the explosion of social media, a post from one of the top Charleston restaurants can put you on the map.

Are we aware of the importance of the Charleston Brand?? Do we consciously put on our best dress or sports jacket and enjoy an extended happy hour at the finest restaurants in town?? These are viable questions.

As this city continues to evolve into a high end dining mecca, we must stop for a moment to reflect on this.? Can this Charleston brand phenomenon affect food and beverage prices?? If you are observing the rate of food price increases vs. inflationary growth, it is already happening.

Is a shrimp and grits breakfast with a mimosa and coffee worth $32 – $36 dollars per person for Sunday Brunch the right value?? I will let you decide that.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the implied Charleston brand.

Are we being praised for our linkage to certain food brands or violated?

Charleston, SC Named One of the Best Cities for Brunch in the US

Brunch in Charleston has become a way of life.? It is a weekend ritual that seems like it is as old as the colonization of this community.? Its culinary rewards are a sensation to our appetites and an event we look forward to as early as the beginning of each week.? Whether you are a foodie or not, brunch has become an unofficial holiday and one we love.

Whether it is a couple, family, friends, a fried green tomato benedict, shrimp and grits or mimosas, we flock on Saturday and Sunday to enjoy this Charleston tradition.

We have even compiled a resource guide with menus and links to some of the best brunches in the area to help you plan your next outing or serve as a check list if you want to try them all:? Charleston Brunch Guide

The fine folks at FindTheHome used Yelp and a 2014 American Community Survey data to determine the best brunch cities in the United States. SFGate compiled an analysis tool to sum up the best cities.? We are proud to say, Charleston is #3 on the list.? Congratulations to the chefs, owners, patrons and tourists that have put our brunch on the map.

Details of Analysis

The data scientists at FindTheHome, a real estate intelligence site powered by Graphiq determined the best cities for brunch based on data from Yelp and the 2014 American Community Survey then created a comprehensive rating that accounts for quality, popularity and quantity. The “Breakfast Score” equally weighs the following data:

  • Density of 4+ Yelp Star breakfast establishments
  • Reviews per restaurant, normalized
  • Number of breakfast and brunch restaurants per 10,000 people

Only cities with a population over 100,000 people and at least 50 breakfast or brunch restaurants were considered in this analysis. Restaurants needed at least one Yelp rating to be included. The following list of top cities for brunch is ranked from lowest to highest “Breakfast Score.”

Note: Because some cities are simply more active on Yelp than others, the analysis used the number of reviews at chain restaurants (IHOP, Denny’s Starbucks and Applebee’s) to normalize the “reviews per restaurant” figure across locations.

10.? Washington D.C.

Breakfast Score: 73.8
Density of 4+ Yelp Star Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 0.8
Reviews per Restaurant, Normalized: 174.0
Number of Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 2.8
Number of Breakfast Restaurants in Washington: 175

Population: 633,736

9.? New Orleans, LA

Breakfast Score: 76.3
Density of 4+ Yelp Star Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 1.7
Reviews per Restaurant, Normalized: 128.0
Number of Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 3.3
Number of Breakfast Restaurants in New Orleans: 121

Population: 368,471

8.? San Diego, CA

Breakfast Score: 77.9
Density of 4+ Yelp Star Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 1.1
Reviews per Restaurant, Normalized: 184.9
Number of Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 2.1
Number of Breakfast Restaurants in San Diego: 287

Population: 1,341,510

poo7.? Denver, CO

Breakfast Score: 84.0
Density of 4+ Yelp Star Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 1.1
Reviews per Restaurant, Normalized: 282.1
Number of Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 2.4
Number of Breakfast Restaurants in Denver: 155

Population: 633,777

6.? San Francisco, CA

Breakfast Score: 85.1
Density of 4+ Yelp Star Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 1.8
Reviews per Restaurant, Normalized: 168.9
Number of Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 3.6
Number of Breakfast Restaurants in San Francisco: 298

Population: 829,072

5.? Paradise, NV

Breakfast Score: 86.0
Density of 4+ Yelp Star Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 0.9
Reviews per Restaurant, Normalized: 272.4
Number of Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 3.3
Number of Breakfast Restaurants in Paradise: 74

Population: 223,182

4.? Minneapolis, MN

Breakfast Score: 90.0
Density of 4+ Yelp Star Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 1.5
Reviews per Restaurant, Normalized: 299.1
Number of Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 2.9
Number of Breakfast Restaurants in Minneapolis: 114

Population: 394,424

3.? Charleston, SC

Breakfast Score: 94.6
Density of 4+ Yelp Star Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 1.9
Reviews per Restaurant, Normalized: 226.1
Number of Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 4.5
Number of Breakfast Restaurants in Charleston: 56

Population: 125,458

2.? Berkeley, CA

Breakfast Score: 95.3
Density of 4+ Yelp Star Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 2.0
Reviews per Restaurant, Normalized: 209.1
Number of Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 4.5
Number of Breakfast Restaurants in Berkeley: 52

Population: 115,688

1. Portland, OR

Breakfast Score: 95.9
Density of 4+ Yelp Star Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 2.2
Reviews per Restaurant, Normalized: 248.0
Number of Breakfast Restaurants per 10K People: 3.7
Number of Breakfast Restaurants in Portland: 220

Population: 602,568

Enjoy brunch y’all.