Francis Marion Square is full of white enclosed tents for the Wine and Food Festival that began March 6. Bacchus is there in the spirit of conviviality, mirth, and enjoyment of all good tastes and comradeship in which Charleston abounds. “Ho! Everyone that thirsteth. Come ye to the water!” It started wet and chilly here, but chances are not as chilly as where you are, from what I see on the news. No snow and ice are to be found here. “For lo, the winter is past.” Red Bud is in bloom and the purple Japanese Tulip tree, what you may call Magnolia. “Daffy Down Dilly is come up to town; in her yellow petticoat and her green gown.”
We were kindly the guests of Lisa and Glenn Kline of Houston, who bought our beloved kitchen house on Legare Street. The Wine and Food Festival culminated with the Jazz Brunch at the Gov. Thomas Bennett House in the garden. It was actually warm! The sunshine day was what you picture more of Easter than the day we spring forward. Our table started with the most delicious poached egg on an open face benne seed biscuit with an artistic sprinkling of tomato bits and candied bacon, baby arugula, melting Gruyere cheese , and lemon mayonnaise. My husband, who is used to only the best homemade fare, aptly said,”This is not your salad for the masses.” We then found out it was only our table and one other who had that menu. I told our server to tell the chef how impressed we were. Rick Widman at that next table popped over to say it is on the menu at HIS restaurant, 208 King Street KITCHEN, next door to his Fulton Lane Inn, where he used to have the Victoria House Inn. I have done tours for years out of his inns but never imagined he would venture into the realm of restaurants. We do break out of the box every now and then, as has his daughter, Lauren, home for sunshine from phd studies in psychology from Wheaton C0llege in Illinois. She is called to take her counseling skills to places of need around the world, perhaps Turkey. See KITCHEN208.COM for her dad’s restaurant with great fare and fresh air.
CAMELLIAS are in full bloom, our winter flower that peeks in late February, early March. I have a platter mounded on my table of choice camellias from the 19th century summer home of the Draytons of Magnolia Plantation, owned now by the Shelbournes in Summerville, some of our best friends and our teenage Godson, Sloan. While my husband was on a quail shoot at Edisto, I got a spur of the moment quick get-away to bask in their company, home, and camellia garden over last weekend, just as people on my tour get away with friends to invest themselves in what really refreshes the soul, time apart spent with loved ones in a beautiful place like Charleston. I awoke to see the windows full of camellia bushes, gargantuan in size, all in full bloom. You can imagine the choice camellias there from the Drayton’s time in the 19th century. Magnolia Gardens and Plantation now has the largest planting of different varieties of camellias in the world. Gardens here were designed to peek for the highlight of the social season, The Races, held at Washington Race Course in the 18th and 19th centuries, now Hampton Park. Plantation owners were the breeders and trainers of these magnificent thoroughbreds. Camellias compliment the season of festivals beginning today.
Charleston Art and Antiques Forum, celebrating 300 years of Georgian architecture in Charleston, is March 12-16. Our own Tom Savage, past curator here of the Nathaniel Russell House before moving on to the White House and now Winterthur, will be back home speaking at the Forum. Charleston Antique Show sponsored by Historic Charleston Foundation is unlike any other in its quality of furniture and fine arts as well as in the authenticity of the Old Charleston experience. It’s no flee market. The prices reflect it. You get what you pay for, and it is worth it. It is March 21-23.
Overlapping the Charleston Antique Show, the city swings into high gear with The Festival of Houses and Gardens, March 20-April 19. All through college I was their indispensable volunteer docent for these spring candlelight tours for the Historic Charleston Foundation, being moved hither, dither and yon, to wherever they had a need. The rest of the year I gave tours on weekends and holidays of the Edmonston -Alston House and the Nathanial Russell House. Frances Edmunds, the director for almost 40 years, was my role model and tutor. I was blessed to receive a dual education while in college at The College of Charleston, the best a home grown girl could have. I rose to be Assistant Administrator of the Edmonston-Alson House at 21 E.Battery, a job I stepped into when I graduated from college. Remembering to lock the door behind me was a challenge!
Come as soon as you can get down your icy road or onto a flight out of your snow and sleet. I hear there are new great flights into Charleston. Spring comes in March to Charleston.
WALKING is the best way to see Charleston. Whoever calls me first can determine the mode of transportation for that day, our feet, or my van. As on a golf course, the price is the same whether you walk or ride. As I wrote this paragraph, a lady called for a 60th birthday celebration in Charleston, cheering that they get to walk April 1st. We start with breakfast on the Battery in one of the mansions overlooking the Harbor. Walking, we stay South of Broad. We go into the home of the doctor who delivered me, unsurpassed in antiquities and plaster and woodwork. We see gardens and end with High Tea at noon in my house overlooking the Ashley River. I gave a walking tour to a happy Yoga class here from Texas for a retreat. We covered so much of the nooks and crannies of Old Charleston on foot. They inspired me to stay active with walking tours offered as well as my van tour. Varnetta, who works for me, spoke to them at High Tea at my house in her Gullah dialect, saying, “My Daddy was a fushamun cross de Cupper…” I told Varnetta while making the tea fare together that there was no one else in the world I’d rather be with preparing for this group. We are a team. You can meet her on Tuesdays and Fridays, she who my husband calls the core of our family’s sanity. I can’t wait to hear from you as your plans shape up to visit the Holy City of Charleston, which like George Washington, was first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of all Americans.–Laura Wichmann Hipp–843-577-5896