Juicy, Tender, Succulent
30 May 2008 | Charleston, SC
That's the way my dinner tasted the other night, and that's how this area felt to me.
Jim and I took the water taxi over to Charleston on Thursday afternoon, (leaves the marina on the hour - costs $5 one-way or $8 round trip per person), wandered around the streets to enjoy the sights and sounds, and devoured several of those heavenly southern concoctions of pecans, butter and sugar - pralines. They have to be one of my all-time favourite sweet treats - especially warm and fresh out of the pot.
We took the trolley back (free for Marina or Resort guests - leaves resort on even hours - like 2,4,6 - and returns about 15 minutes later from the Ben and Jerry's store on Market Street at Meeting St). Even though I complained that this marina is not as convenient as the City one, as long as one is willing to work around the trolly/taxi schedule, getting to historic downtown Charleston is not difficult.
We discovered that the Mount Pleasant side - where the Harbour Marina is located - has a different - and quite juicy feel! We got a real sense of the tides as we strolled along the wharf beside mud banks littered with oyster shells. Brown pelicans flew by us, perched on posts air-drying their wings much like the cormorants we have further north, and dove for fish. The water smelled salty - that smell that I can't even begin to describe - not unpleasant, not strong - just a bit of a tang - a juicy smell. Green grasses grew up luxuriantly along the mud banks, and more birds sang loudly from the midst of them. Laughing gulls with black heads and white bodies swooped around, and the occasional snowy white egret stalked along the edge of the water. For all the life above the water, we knew there was as much and more under it: fish, oysters and shrimp and crabs, dolphins and any number of plants and insects. The air was filled with the richness of all of them too. The word "succulent" came to mind and when I looked it up to see if it fit, the definition "full of vigour and richness; not dull" seemed just right.
Jim and I both remarked that we're not sure we could go back to fresh water. We love the possibility of spotting marine mammals, the buoyancy of salt water and the smell. We love the tides - that continuing reminder of the ebb and flow that is part of our own lives and of life on a larger scale. We love the way the currents help us get places, and the way the depth changes - giving us new vistas to see. (Well ... we don't always like the depth changes!) It is easier to see the channels at low tide, and there is more room for error at high tide. I kind of like the way the tide forces us to conform to a rhythm greater than our own - even when it means we have to get up early or stay out late to make a passage.
Dinner on Thursday night was succulent too. Gail left a message on the website that we should explore Shem Creek. Dixon, the trolley driver, told us one of his favourites was the Shem Creek Bar and Grill and drove us over there. On the porch, we met Mark, who volunteered that the food was the best there is and who walked us right inside. With all that, how could we go wrong?
Just before that though, we lingered on the bridge over the creek to watch the evening action. Shrimp boats lined both sides of the creek - with their long netted arms all neatly folded up. Pleasure boats were tied up wherever they could find a spot. Fishermen hosed off boat decks and diners lounged on restaurant decks. In the middle of it all, dolphins surfaced and dove as they fished the creek; pelicans floated between the boats, flew up and swooped down to fill their pouched beaks with dinner. The place was fully alive with both people and creatures.
Once inside the Shem Creek Bar and Grill, the choices were almost over-whelming - everything looked delicious. We finally settled on a couple of dishes and proceeded to eat one of the best meals we've had. Jim's big bowl of shrimp and scallops in a creamy sauce over white grits was perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was my platter of assorted seafood, all lightly sautéed in butter and garlic that blew us both away. There was a chunk of mahi-mahi, a stuffed crab shell - that was mostly crab and not filler, juicy pink shrimp, and creamy white scallops that were soft and sweet and tender. The veggies - slices of yellow and green summer squash and carrots and long, thin beans were all crunchy-tender, and the grains of red rice were chewy. Oh - it was a feast and we ate and aahed and ate and aahed!
Juicy, tender, succulent, rich; we were filled in more ways than one when we got back to the boat that night.