Wow! When I received reservations from Travel and Leisure readers telling me my tour is in their November 2012 edition, I did not realize my tour was listed as one of 101 best things to do IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD! Oh my word! How did this happen? The Charleston Tea Party Private Tour is listed as THE only recommendation for Charleston. Do not tell my friendly competitors or they might not be so friendly to me. On Friday’s tour at lunch we toasted Travel and Leisure with our tiny liqueur glasses of my private stock of Loquat Liqueur made from Charleston grown loquats or Japanese plums as we also call them. Tonight I went to Barnes and Noble and bought my own copy of this month’s issue. Seeing is believing, and yet I still cannot believe it. I am in debt to Travel and Leisure for having the faith in my product to put my tour on this select list. I am humbled to be chosen. I will endeavor to serve your readers and travelers to out fair city as personally as I can what is the essence of Charleston. I look forward to trying some of the other recommendations myself, a list to keep hold of for future travel!
Category Archives: Press
Yesterday I broke routine to receive a phone call from someone to whom I had written a letter because of an article in the Post and Courier. Later his mother called to thank me for my letter her son had just read to her. I am thankful for the boundless opportunities provided by our reporters to step into someone else’s shoes and not only to be thankful for what we have in contrast but to make a difference in the lives of those in our Charleston community we read about in our newspaper.
Everyone feels compassion, the kindness of a stranger for victims of tragedy and life’s sudden reversals. Feeling compassion does not make you a compassionate person; it is acting on that heart tug that can make the difference. We think, how can I make a difference with my little mite, but if we follow through with that urge and mustard seed of an idea, we can change the course of someone’s day, and perhaps someone’s life.
I read the article on Mills Adams at Mars Hill College in the Sports section, to which I rarely turn. It was lying open on the kitchen counter when I came down to cook breakfast for the family and caught my eye with its title of “It Feels Like I’m Playing with Fire”. I learned that whites as well as blacks can carry the sickle cell trait as Mills does. He is living his dream of playing football for college, despite playing with fire with the risks associated with being a carrier of sickle cell.
I wrote him that I had a heart for those with this ailment from my association with the late Albertha Stokes, the beloved Gullah Flower Lady on the corner of St. Michael’s Alley and Meeting. Though her baskets were not the most impressive, I always encouraged my tours to buy from her because her heart was always in songs and spirituals. We loved each other so. She would bake me lemon cream cheese pound cake for my teas parties in appreciation, telling me after many years, that my support made a difference in the care she was able to provide for her daughter, who she said had “the sickle cellemia”. This daughter would eventual pass away before her mother and father.
I also wrote Mills that I would like to offer him and his family a complimentary tour of Charleston, enclosing a signed gift card for my tour business, which has always been my career.
He said I had no idea how much this letter and offer meant to him, that he was a history major, and though from the Charleston area, he had NEVER been in ANY historic houses of Charleston. He had always wanted to see inside some and learn the history, but he dared not even mention it to his mom, because as a single mom, he says, she trys so hard to make ends meet for her two boys, sacrificing her own needs.
When his mother called, she gave me a fleshed out picture of their challenges, struggles, and reversals. Just an encouraging word to let them know that there are those who care in Charleston meant the world. The Post and Courier article is what made this connection between us possible.
I want give money to either the Coastal Community Foundation or to St. Philip’s and designate that money be given to help this family this Christmas. The mom needs to buy a car as she does not have one at the moment. She also needs help with presents for her boys, one still home in highschool. There are no life’s extras for them. It will be a challenge for them to get to Charleston for my tour and for her son to get home from the North Carolina mountains for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But with this mom, where there is a will, there is a way. She has moved mountains already for her children.
I do not pat myself on the back. There are many opportunities I intend to take and miss. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The important thing, I tell myself, is to act on the little that is on our heart to do and not to delay a day. Respond to that still, small voice only our heart can hear. We each can make a difference in being a city on a hill, whose light cannot be hidden, the best city in America. Carpe Diem!
People who have come on my tour, who are either fans of these icons or have worked for them, have flattered me. I succumb very easily to such praise. Ask professional recording guitar artist Bruce M. Wallace, my first boyfriend, who I saw for the first time since 1979 this past week due to this web site, who told me I had not gained an ounce! As with Oprah, it is always a challenge, since I love my cooking more than anybody. To be honest, these following comments may be the closest I ever get to these Grand Dames of America.
The memorable reference to Oprah came from someone who was wild over the taste of my homemade Loquat Liqueur served as an aparitif at the end of the tour after lunch. “Wait til Oprah gets a hold of you and your Loquat Liqueur! You won’t have TIME for your tours anymore! Everybody will be wanting a bottle. We had better keep it a secret to keep you in the tour business.” As my father says, “Flattery will get you everywhere.” I am down to my last box of my home made bottled Loquat Liqueur. I also use it in marinated chicken and home made peach iced cream! The seed gives it an almond flavor; the fruity taste is closer to a peach but wilder, more exotic. This spring’s batch of Loquat Liqueur is infusing now and will not be ready until the six month period is over, around Thanksgiving. Then I will strain it with cheesecloth and my Georgian silver funnel shaped decanter, which I bought in Rochester, England, after plucking with my mouth the juiciest mulberries from the tree in the Rochester Cathedral garden with late friend Steve Dixon and family after our children’s choir sang inside.
The comment about Martha Stewart was a closer hit. It was from a lady who has been her right arm women in every capacity working for her for years. I think it was my elderflower iced cream with the Johnny Jump Up blossom on top that sealed the deal for her, or it may have been the roasted beet slice cut with a cookie cutter on top of our tabouli salads with herbs fresh from my garden, though my memory is fuzzy on the details of the hit food that day… As she walked out the door, I remembered that her friends had told me on the phone that she worked for Martha Stewart. I asked her about her work. She responded saying, “Believe me, this is right up Martha’s alley, and I am going to email her about this tour as soon as I leave. She would love this. This is just her cup of tea, literally!” That tops my Martha Stewart comments. Later she wrote me saying,
“We loved every minute with you on the house and garden tour. We learned so much and felt transported back in time. Your knowledge, enthusiasm, and passion for Charleston history were infectious! It seems you truly love your work. Lunch was absolutely delicious, and MARTHA would have enjoyed your attention to detail and Southern Hospitality. I was so touched and surprised that you baked a lovely birthday cake –how sweet of you. All in all, it was a perfect day!–Cathy
Why do I bring up this subject of my praise now rather than when it was fresh in my mind? Because my husband tonight over a special Eve of Bastile Day Dinner I prepared was praising our friend, Dr. Ann Gregorie Kulze, better known as Dr. Ann. She has written the ultra diet/lifestyle book, Dr Ann’s Ten Step Diet, and now a cookbook, Eat Right for Life. She has her own radio spot. Husband Preston said tonight, “I do not know why OPRAH has not snatched her up and gotten her connected to all the Fortune 500′s to teach their executives the basics of healthy eating.” He waxed poetic as I have never before heard. I marveled. He said he sent her an email to this effect. My eyes lit up. Does he know, I thought, what my faithful flattering fans have said about ME? Maybe one day he will be chiming in with them, or even be taken by surprise!
South Carolina’s motto is,”While I Breathe, I Hope !”
Husband Preston actually is a part of the winning team and deserves a lot of praise; he came home from his office to help me get the plates served for my tour today for two families, one man, Frederick Gasman, being a return visitor now with his wife and three children from Denmark, having been on my tour with his brother in 1988! It being the hottest day of the year, I sent them swimming in my friend’s pool on the Battery after the tour today. Twenty three years ago, Preston took them in his green machine to his family land in the country to swing out from a live oak tree into the Stono River.
In this new economy, I am humbled by those willing to invest their time and resources in my private tour during their precious vacation. Making your break from the every day routine COUNT is very important for healthy living. When you go back into your daily life, my hope is that I have given you something here in Charleston to feast upon when you need to transcend to a place of serenity, something more than food, a memory of a city that time forgot, that still has that elusive something to give those who visit in a receptive mood that will make life forever richer. Call me to make a reservation for my private tour and leave a message if I do not answer. I will return your call. Also, check out my Shop Til We Drop Antiques Tour at the top left of the page.
Thank you for reading my musings of the day. – Laura Wichmann Hipp–843-577-5896
From November through February, Laura Wichmann Hipp hangs a handwritten sign on her Tradd Street fence post:
The golf ball size citrus fruits you see on these trees are calamondin oranges, which make the queen of marmalades. The Queen of England has a tree that I have seen in her orangery at Buckingham Palace. You can imagine that perhaps she enjoys calamondin marmalade on her toast, as we do, too!
“A lot of people are curious about what the fruit is. Others knock on my door to ask if they can harvest it,” laughs Laura of the oranges along the fence separating her lawn from the Coast Guard Base. “The sign is a nice way to let them know I use the fruit.”
Laura planted the calamondins six years after she, husband Preston, and their three daughters moved into the home in 1998. “I thought a citrus grove would be more interesting than a staid hedge. And of course, oranges are very much part of the peninsula’s history,” says the Holy City native and pro tour guide.
She also needed the calamondins to carry on another tradition: marmalade-making. “While I was on the Preservation Society of Charleston board in the late 1980s, a colleague, Katherine Whimpy Carey, brought me a bag of calamondins along with her mother’s marmalade recipe,” says Laura. Over the years, those gifts have yielded many more. The Hipps make large batches to give as holiday presents and donate to St. Philip’s Church for sale in their spring tearoom.
The spread has also become a signature element of the Charleston Tea Party Tours Laura has run for some 20 years . These intimate affairs—which visit private downtown houses and gardens before ending with lunch in the Hipps’ home—have been mentioned in publications such as The Washington Post and Financial Times of London’s How to Spend It magazine. “For tour guests, I’ll use marmalade on top of a goat cheese salad, in a tart, or to glaze a cake,” says Laura. “The idea is to give visitors a taste of Charleston hospitality.”
For this same reason, when the Hipps’ flagstone walk is clouded by summer zinnias, Laura puts another sign in her yard: If you enjoy my flowers, please pick some so you can have flowers in your home, too.
“These days, people need extra gestures of kindness. Offering them flowers from your garden or marmalade from your kitchen can turn their day around,” says Laura. And that’s Charleston hospitality at its finest.
I just went to McCrady’s Tavern kitchen, where Sean Brock is the reknowned chef there and at Charleston’s newest hit restaurant, Husk. Both specialize in local food, locally grown. Since my successful dinner party with Quail Picatta using my tipsy loquats, I thought these fine kitchens may be interested in what I grow. They bought my tipsy loquats and calamondin marmalade and loquat liqueur, thereby becoming members of The Society for the Preservation of This Historic Charleston House. I am thrilled as if I won the jack pot!
For those interested in reading an article on my calamondin oranges, order the April issue of Charleston Magazine. If you come on my tour, I will have copies available.
Blooming right now in my front garden are my calamondin orange trees, Meyer Lemon trees, and grapefruit tree. The calamondin that is the biggest is the one by my yellow Lady Banks Rose. People are stopping to smell the sweet, exotic citrus blossoms, which are white and wide open. I make calamondin marmalade, of which I will give you a taste at tea, as well as Meyer Lemon Sorbet, and tea cakes with citrus. I love to experiment with these edibles from my garden. I am also picking my lettuces, cilantro, and snow peas for our salads amongst the johnnie jump ups. They are not only lovely to the eye to behold, they are delightful to the taste buds. Matt, the assistant chef at McCrady’s kept saying, “WOW,” over and over when the explosion took place in his mouth with my tipsy loquats.
It is wet and chilly today, keeping the spring flowers fresh and blooming longer in time for your visit. Call me with reservations for the Charleston Tea Party Private Tour, where we will have lunch and tea at the end of of our morning tour. I will personally call you back, if you leave a message, to confirm your reservation for a 9:30 a.m. tour Monday through Friday.
843-577-5896–Laura Wichmann Hipp
If you ask ahead with reservations for my private lunch and tour, I will make you chicken picatta with my home made loquat liqueur and tipsy loquats!