Out and About: The Park Cafe, Charleston, SC

I took a little road trip recently to the Holy City of Charleston, SC. One my absolute favorite places in the absolute world (ok, at least among the many places I’ve visited), Charleston hosts, among other things, some pretty fine eateries. From farmers markets’ fresh fruits and veggies to the soulful fare and Southern cuisine on E. Bay St. to local taquerias on King St. (not to mention Shem Creek, IOP and Mt. P, oh my!), there are endless epicurean adventures to be had, particularly on the weekends. Hello, brunch! With my dear soul sister, Ms. Disco Teepee herself, Meggie, leading the way, we took to a cafe in her new neighborhood for Sunday brunch with our close-knit framily in tow.

The Park Cafe, a gem in the Hampton Park neighborhood of Charleston, is just… well…wonderfully… honest. That is the best and only phrase I can use that even comes close to conveying the look, feel and flavors of this place. A come-as-you-are, welcoming hideaway that reminds me of what it felt like when I was growing up and ate lunch at a next-door neighbor’s house on a Sunday afternoon; her mom genuinely concerned that the food we ate was healthy, yet tasty and satisfying, having prepared our meal with care. Not overly casual, nor pushy, superficial or pretentious, just attentive, genuine and familiar, and…honest. As they say, themselves: “At The Park Cafe, we believe that great food isn’t complicated.” #True. Every dish we ordered was made of simple ingredients, locally sourced, and was just superb, as you’ll see! (ALERT: your mouth may water when you see the French Toast.)

One last thing: As we all know, the dining experience is more than just the food quality, isn’t it? Lousy service or rowdier-than-necessary (especially before the first round of coffee) can quickly tarnish the entire experience. No worries on either of those fronts at Park Cafe. From the servers, to the manager, to the clientele themselves (some even four-legged and furry!), the entire experience could not have been more lovely.

If you are in the Charleston area and looking for a refreshing, honest-to-goodness spot to savor your Sunday (or any day, really!), Park Cafe should be your g0-to. I am absolutely mandating it be on the agenda for my next weekend in CHS.

Enjoy!

 

Park Cafe Matinee
THE PARK CAFE
An incredible brunch spot in Hampton Park, Charleston, SC!

 

Ambience with fans
THE PATIO
We lucked out with an available table on the patio on a beautiful Sunday morning. I love the fans and lighting fixtures that are au naturel (and a little bit bee hive-y, don’t you think? So fun!)

 

Ambience wall of ferns
THE ICONIC WALL
Many a time photo’d, this wall is quite literally a breath of fresh air. Park Cafe is not a very large place, but the ample natural lighting, man-made illumination and greenery open up the dining room giving it a deceivingly spacious feel. The ambiance is truly refreshing and peaceful , yet lively and fun. (They have plants hanging from the walls and allow dogs outside! Of course it’s alive and fun 🙂 )

 

Cappuccino
Why, A SOY CAPPUCCINO, of course!
As Meggie promised, this was one of the best soy cappuccinos I have ever had. Something about this specific roast of coffee beans and the gentle sweetness of the soy made for a simply decadent first cup. (There was also a second, I won’t pretend.)

 

Meggie Needs Coffee
MEGGIE
Finally caffeinated.

 

Katherine got coffee
YAY COFFEE
It’s hard to say whether my excitement was derived from the Cup o’ Joe or just lingering from an incredible weekend in one of the places on this earth that just makes my heart brim over. …It was really good coffee, though…

 

Puppy 1
SWEET PUPPY #1
You can probably tell by her cautious, yet gentle demeanor in this picture that this sweet pumpkin was not really sure about her Sunday morning adventure, but for us, she was a welcomed surprise. We were not expecting any canine companions that morning, but her arrival made us all smile. Maybe she was just trying to move us along with those puppy dog eyes… after all, we did have a prime spot!

 

Cafe Potatoes
CAFE POTATOES
As a girl who relies on potatoes a good deal as her “go-to” gluten free brunch carb, I must say, I know potatoes. And these potatoes were quiet probably some of the BEST “hash browns” I have had in a very long time. The outside crispy, the inside cooked and soft, not grainy or dry at all. The onion and garlic lent wonderful flavor without being overpowering. Everyone nibbled away at them until we ordered a second serving.

 

Shirred Farm Eggs
SHIRRED FARM EGGS
with Soubise, Soldiers & Parmesan
Shirred Eggs are new to me, and I must say, I was quite intrigued with Lauren ordered them. If you aren’t already in-the-know, this tres chic dish is served with “soldiers” or thin toast slices and is actually baked eggs with cream, herbs and cheese. Unfortunately, I could not take part in this traditionally French fare, but the rest of the table could, and they raved.

 

Toast with Fresh apple Butter
TOAST
Fresh Butter & Apple Butter
Fresh butter and homemade apple butter? It was all I could do not to just sample a little on my spoon! Divine.

 

Veggie Mess
VEGGIE MESS
Farm Egg Scramble, Vegetable Curry, (sans) White Cheddar, Avocado
Although I dare say I could not recreate the curry to a “T,” I will try my hand at a homemade curry veg scramble in the near future as this one opened my eyes (and tastebuds) to the possibility. Peppers, carrots, peas, onions and cauliflower added a sprinkling of both color and texture to this dish. As you see, I opted out of cheese, but I don’t think it took away from the scramble a bit!

 

House Omelet with Arugula Salad
HOUSE OMELET & ARUGULA SALAD
Beech Mushroom, Leek, Brie, Espelette…and bacon
The salad with a light vinaigrette was the perfect substitute for Josh, who enjoyed the freshness of the vinaigrette in contrast to the earthiness of the mushrooms and creaminess of the brie. Of course, he liked the bacon, too 😉

 

French Toast
FRENCH TOAST
Portuguese Sweet Bread, Caramel, Bananas, Pecans & Whipped Cream
Where to even begin with this … Just looking at it, you can easily enjoy not just the beauty of this “French Toast,” but the sinful richness of each mouthful! Let’s just say that, thankfully, Dodd is a good sharer because I don’t think he had a choice when this one hit the table. Bananas, walnuts, a homemade buttery maple syrup, and spongy sweet bread? It’s a wonder he even got a bite at all!

 

Puppy 2
THIS GUY
Oh my goodness, this absolutely adorable creature provided at least 30 minutes of entertainment for us! He was hanging out immediately next to our table, and his zeal for this large stone (that looks like a ball in this picture; however, it most certainly was NOT) was contagious! He played with it as though it was his long-lost toy, and his joie de vivre made us stop mid-bite and just laugh. He was lost in enjoying himself, and so were we!
Oh man, did he make us happy!

 

Friends with Nosh
JOSH, aka “NOSH,” & MOI
With subtle French influence in the menu, I figured I’d sprinkle a little into the commentary (My French is a bit limited!) 🙂

 

Friends with Lauren
LAUREN & MOI

 

Friends Meggs and Nosh
AH, MAIS OUI!
Caffeinated, fed and enjoying our Sunday!

 

 

Backsliding to Benadryl: Coping with a Surprise Reaction

Benadryl, anaphylactic, allergies, food allergies, kids with food allergies

Just when you think you have it all under control, life throws you a curve ball.

My recent zinger really threw me for a loop. On a recent trip to Connecticut, I was just delighted to belatedly celebrate  my birthday with a soul sister at an exquisite local farm-to-table restaurant; however, my enthusiasm overshadowed my good judgment when I either A) disregarded my instinct to have the crushed pumpkin seeds left off of the mouth-watering sea trout dish I could hardly wait to try, or B) took a bite of chocolate garnishing the chocolate peanut butter gelato. Ugh, just when I thought I was done having reactions, this mysterious menace left my face a hot, inflamed tomato. Why this oh-so-delightful new face pigment couldn’t have found a home in only my legs, so that I could have easily concealed it with pants or a cute maxi is beyond me!

allergic reaction, nuts, sensitivities, food allergy, kids with food allergies, what it feels like to have an allergic reaction
Did these seemingly innocent, yet suspicious seeds leave me looking like an open pomegranate?

 

chocolate peanut butter, Community Table, farm to table, connecticut, south kent, gluten free on the go, nut allergy
…Or was this decadence to blame?

Sigh.

After all these years of learning the in’s and outs, of formally studying coping and avoidance techniques in a slew of various situations, of  finally feeling like I had a grasp on this nonsense, I thought I had my reactions all figured out! Oof, how much I am still learning!

It was a truly humbling experience to not only been knocked off my safe buoy in the sea of anaphylactic up’s and down’s, but in such a visibly & unattractive manner. I truly felt like the Hunchback of Notre Dame! (So much so that I insisted we not take any pictures to document the flare-up… sorry, guys, but no visuals of the “incident.”)

Backsliding to Benadryl is bound to happen. Almost like a metaphor for life, we will inevitably be caught off guard. From time to time, we will find ourselves physically compromised and feel vulnerable as a result.

A few important things to remember:

    • ALWAYS be prepared
      Carry Benadryl, an epipen, a snack bar, whatever you need to carry to keep your personal anti-allergy arsenal fully stocked. Think ahead, plan ahead, and pack your purse.

      Cope, benadryl, anaphylactic, nuts, allergies, food allergies
      Sisterly support definitely helped me cope!
    • Make sure those around you know your triggers and will support you
      Thankfully, my dinner date has known me my whole life and has been there for previous reactions. She recognized the symptoms and was sensitive to how I needed to handle. She kept an eye on me and asked me throughout the evening if I was doing ok and if I needed anything. That kind of support helped me stay calm and feel comforted – a HUGE help in the throes of backsliding.
    • Don’t beat yourself up
      It was hard for me to quiet the gut response, “I should have known better.” Eh, shoulda, coulda, woulda as they say. I did the best I could with the situation, thinking all was safe on the plate, and yes, I made a mistake, but I handled the unfortunate consequence effectively because I had packed my trusty antihistamines. Next time, I’ll know. Speak kindly to yourself as you care for yourself in the recovery of any reaction. The chemicals and adrenaline are pumping to help you survive, and the last thing your physical body needs is introducing the stress hormones that result when we beat ourselves up.
    • Give yourself time to bounce back
      Again, the chemical response that ensues after your body combats the histamine response has physical and emotional effects that last beyond that 2-20 minute reaction time. Take it easy the next couple of hours or days. Listen to what your body needs and honor those messages. If we don’t take care of our bodies, where will we live? Check in with yourself and take care of you.

Here’s to fewer Benadryl-Epinephrine aperitifs!