Category Archives: for foodies

Spring 2018 Roars in Like a Royal Lion

While the Northeast is battling fallen trees and pounding wind and rain, Charleston is astir with the sights and scents of Spring.  Escape! Do whatever you can! Come quick!  Bright yellow bursts of Lady Banks Rose, Carolina Jasmine, and points of snapdragons are in my garden along with the smiling faces dancing in the wind of the pansies, poppies, and  johnny jump ups that bounced back from the rare winter ice and snow along with mounds of cilantro and lettuces for salads. It seems our wintry blast has given us the beginnings of a spectacular spring that is satisfying the color deprived eyes to behold.

Did my citrus survive? All my friends want to know who depend on gifts of my homemade calamondin marmalade.  While I lost a satsuma orange tree in the back garden that had produced the most prolific crop of its life, my two calamondin orange trees are showing green stems and the first hint of leaves to come.  The grapefruit tree is in a new coat of tender green leaves, which is a surprise because grapefruit are the least cold tolerant.  That is why I planted it closest to the house. Last night I saw what took my breath away in the back garden.  I actually thought  someone had put little wispy white lights on my persimmon tree on every to-the-sky reaching branch. It was the clusters of new leaves catching the full moon light, a magical moment from the Light of Heaven. When you come on my tour, ask me to show you these behind the scenes treasures of mine.

Another treasure recently acquired is an American mahogany secretary-desk-linen press.  While it doesn’t produce fruit, it does fit into my tour and has the added bonus of hiding my daily used books and linens.  It is the kind with thirteen panes of glass on each of the two doors.  Thomas Chippendale designed such secretary desks, which then were made by cabinet makers on both sides of the Atlantic.  While Chippendale did not have our Thirteen Colonies in mind, the design in time came to be associated with celebrating America’s Thirteen Colonies, Great Britain’s most valuable possessions, when the sun never set on the British Empire, and then our Liberty.  I had gone to one of my favorite antique shops to buy a wedding present, having felt compelled to go at that moment, though out of my way. I found the silver wine coaster wedding present and was reading the write up on the secretary desk, not really considering buying it, when I heard a voice behind me saying, “You know, you really should buy that piece.”  “Who is this brazen salesman?” I thought as I whisked around.  It was Jeff Miller, our minister at St. Philips, the Billy Graham of Charleston!  How much more clear a direction can you get than that?  Come and see! It is a practical, utilitarian piece made back when furniture was also a work of art.

Charleston was a haven for such creativity of skilled craftsmen: cabinet makers, silversmiths, iron workers, all vying with each other as to who could come up with the most pleasing design.  The subtle inlay and crotchet mahogany  and valanced pigeon holes show the skill of an artist who loved his work.  I think it must have been the desk of the lady of the house with it having slides on the bottom half for linens.

What tidbit of history thrills me most to have recently learned?   I have been quoting our state motto for years without knowing how it came to be ours.  Dum spiro spero.  While I breath, I hope. There is a narrowing ring within the ring of Charlestonians with whom I enjoy talking history who are the keepers of The Knowledge.  Vic Brandt, who came to my father’s 88th birthday dinner party and gave wonderful toasts, told me the origin of our State of South Carolina motto.  It was the motto of our namesake, King Charles I.  He wrote it all his life in the front page of his books along with his name.

If only while he breathed and hoped he had called British Parliament to meet, King Charles I may have managed to keep his head.  As it was, for this offense, Parliament, under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, said, “Off with his head!” As King Charles I was bound as a common criminal and led to the gallows, he objected to this undignified treatment.  His chaplain said, “Do you not see that this is the last likeness to our Lord and Savior Jesus, who like you was treated as a common criminal?”  With that word, Charles I went quietly to his death.

Our guys, who were given Carolina,  the eight lords proprietors, were on his side.  These eight lords risked their own lives and properties to REESTABLISH the monarchy after it had been abolished in a very memorable way.  Cromwell had the head of King Charles I stuck on one of the spokes of the Houses of Parliament.  When Oliver Cromwell died of natural causes and his son Richard Cromwell proved ineffectual, these eight lords got together to reestablish the monarchy, searching high and low for the king’s son, Charles 11, who had been chased like a fox by the hounds all over Great Britain by the Puritans. He had found refuge in France where he was raised like a member of the court of France and as a Catholic, the only option, when France was burning French Huguenots at the stake. To be king of England, Charles II had to give up Catholicism and become Anglican, which became The Church of England.  In appreciation, Charles II gave these eight lords this land from where I write, called Carolina, which was North and South Carolina, Georgia, and large parts of Florida. By the way, Charles II also stuck Cromwell’s head on the spokes of the Houses of Parliament with the difference being Cromwell had been dead for quite some time.

Thus began the reign of the Merry Monarch during whose reign we were established. This period in England is known as The Restoration Period, when England was restored to herself.  The history of Great Britain is that of being a monarchy. Artwork and literature and theater life came out of the Restoration Period.  Ask to see our Hogarth etching original from the copper plate.  I gave it to our daughter, Olivia, for her 21st birthday because she had studied the Restoration Period that  summer at Oxford University.  As theaters reopened in London that had been closed during the Puritan era, we here in Charles Town built the first theater in America, the Dock Street Theater, then “little more than a barn at the corner of Church and the Streete which leadeth to the Docks.”  Adam style woodwork from the Thomas Radcliffe House was recycled into its drawing rooms in the 1930s making it a more elegant drawing card for theater life today. Search out what is playing for your visit and order tickets now, especially if coming later during the Spoleto Festival in late May and early June.

June and I do the tours as you call for reservations on weekdays only as we take you to private houses and gardens of hospitable friends who love us.  We are blessed to share the blessings with those of you who appreciate the sacrificial spirit of hospitality still alive in America. We look forward to hearing from you.  Thank you for reading.  It is a fascinating history we have here.  I can’t wait to show you what I am writing about.  Laura Wichmann Hipp 843-708-2228

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Filed under 13, Antiques Shop Til We Drop Tour, Calamondin Marmalade, Charleston Food and Wine Festival, Charleston in spring, Charleston Wine and Food Festival, Easter in Charleston, Festival of Houses, for foodies, Founding Fathers, Gardening, Uncategorized

Dine Like a Charlestonian

Frequently I am asked, “Where is your favorite restaurant?” With so many nationally renowned ones, new ones, and ones that have stood the test of time, it is hard to narrow it down.  But when it comes down to it, I have to admit my favorite place to dine is in my friends’ homes and my own.

 

The art of entertaining is the art of hospitality.  And you do not have to be accomplished to entertain. You just have to care more about your friends than your fear of failure.  Pull out all the stops, not to impress but to delight and for breaking routine.  Your guests will feel they are worth the trouble when you pull out the family heirloom china, crystal, and silver. It is the culture of dining with friends and family around the table, where conversation and breaking bread together are passed on to us in Charleston, that is worth perpetuating.

Why have nice things if you are not going to use them?  Charlestonians have continued through the generations to dine with beauty: home made food served on china platters, covered silver vegetable dishes, with white linens and fresh flowers gracing the table as enjoyed in Downton Abbey. As implied by the circle motif of the Guilloche Pattern in the woodwork of the Antebellum home of the doctor who delivered me, “May the circle be unbroken.”  From generation to generation, the heritage, faith, and culture are passed on.  “The chain is only as strong as… the weakest link.” Who is going to pass on the beauty and culture of Western Civilization in daily life? If not us in Charleston then who? If not now in Charleston than when?  If not here in Charleston than where?  Charlestonians and the Chinese have a few things in common: we both eat rice, drink tea, and worship our ancestors! (Old Charlestonian saying from my parents era.)

Spring flowers from our gardens to grace our tables. Luminescent orbs like Chinese lanterns were my persimmons hanging in my downtown back garden from my  persimmon tree, from which I made persimmon sorbet and pudding. I am picking kale, and lettuce leaves for salads from a raised bed.  After spreading a year’s worth of compost: vegetable, egg shell, coffee and tea scraps, the contents of my warm compost bin, onto the raised beds, I scattered the fuzzy flowering lettuce seeds I saved from last years’ lettuces that bolted. In November and all through the winter til spring I have had a carpet of lettuce, much more than from seed packets or nursery bought plants. The shopping basket becomes the garden basket as I get closer to the earth, like Francis Marian, the Swamp Fox.

We see the portrait of Francis Marion’s aid-de-camp, ancestor of owner, dramatized as Luke in the historic novel, Celia Garth, by Gwen Bristow. The owner’s grandfather was Lucas Simons, descendant of Keating Simons in the portrait.”That Old Swamp Fox” is what the British called Francis Marion. The ancestral portraits in this private home are worthy of art museums.  Mrs. Porter, mother of The Reverend Anthony Toomer Porter, who started Porter Military Academy, which today is Porter Gaud School, is by Samual F. B. Morse.  Toomer Porter gathered together as much of “the seed corn” as he could, as encouraged by Mrs. Jefferson Davis, so as not to lose a generation.  The chain is only as strong as the weakest link, as emphasized in the Guilloche pattern in the woodwork.  The tensions were building in the Antebellum Period where they felt the importance of passing on the culture, the history, the heritage, and the faith to the next generation even as they felt they were entering the unknown at the end of an era.  C’est la meme chose maintenant.

843-708-2228. Laura Wichmann Hipp

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2016 in Charleston, Antebellum Charleston, breaking routine, camellias, Charleston Arts and Antiques Forum, Charleston is world's top spot, Charleston Wine and Food Festival, Charleston, S.C., Downton Abbey, entertaining, for foodies, Francis Marion, Gardening, Greek Revival, January in Charleston, Manners in Charleston, persimmons--puddings and sorbet, private lunch and group meeting conference room, Restaurants, shopping basket, South Carolina Wildlife Exibition, South Eastern Wildlife Exhibition (SEWE), Suzanne Pollack and Lee Manigault, The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits., the Swamp Fox, Valentines Day

Come Quick! Spring is Bursting Out all Over with an Easter Message!

Purple clusters of wisteria, the most photographed in Charleston being the one along the fence of the Timothy Ford House across the street from the Nathaniel Russell House, 51 Meeting St, are now starting to show color with its first blossoms.  It will be coming on slowly with the cool weather and its many remaining clusters still in that translucent stage.  But that metamorphosis has begun from what looks like dead wood and lifeless burs  to luxurious clusters of wisteria dripping with Southern charm. My yellow Lady Banks Rose is in the first stages of bloom  along the yellow brick post that we share with the Coast Guard of Charleston.  We look across their lawn to the Ashley River.  The tiny clusters of yellow are in great abundance, especially noticeable behind our  bare twiggy citrus grove with the freeze having dropped their leaves for the second year.  We did get two grapefruit and lots of kumquats, which we ate.  Our two Meyer Lemons show no life and  may have to be replaced. Being this near the Ashley River, we felt safe.  One of my two Calamondin Orange trees is in green bud. Before the freeze, I got one harvest for Calamondin Marmalade. Taste and see! The large Formosa Azalea is showing color, and the first buds are open.  Light pink azalea blossoms surround towering pink tulips in our pedestal bowl on the white linen table, the picture of Easter! All the windows and doors were open in our house today with a robust breeze caressing the fluttering blossoms. A living, breathing house is a true Charleston home, designed to catch the breezes, not to be sealed up with storm windows that never open. The award winning garden on Montagu we visit is coming on with its first azalea blossoms opening.  We’ve only just begun! Johnny Jump-ups, blue and purple violas, adorn my flower boxes and candlesticks enjoying the cool weather. It is warm enough to harvest cilantro and lettuces and Swiss chard from my garden, as well as to plant tomatoes I grew from seed!

I took a branch of Red Bud to Cornelia’s baby born the first day of spring.  Her lips are like rosebuds!  Cornelia has given birth to the only grandchild of her parents and her FIRST baby at the tender age of 45!  She is the last of our friends to have a baby, the youngest of three sisters.  This baby’s grandmother was the only child of her mother.  This is a rare blood line to continue of Southern graciousness and charm. When this baby’s grandmother had her first of three girls, her mother’s advice was followed: Wear your white gloves for the important events in your life! She did… in delivery! I loved Harry D. Jones, this baby’s grandfather.  Harry D. would talk to me for hours with my taking notes on the memories of his escapades growing up in Charleston. There was a police officer known to all the boys downtown. He rode a bike.  He would chase boys outside in the early day when they should have been in school. They loved the chase. “—Ride the Rooster Just Like You Used To,” the truant boys would chant.  This Harry D. Jones grew up to be a fly fighter pilot in WWll, escaping the deadly chase of Nazi planes.  He returned home to finish college and to meet the love of his life, Catherine Oliver, at the College of Charleston, who later studied at the Sorbonne and was a Fulbright Scholar, teaching French for many years at Ashley Hall..  I am blessed often to go into the garden of Catherine’s good friend, Molly, who was there with her when Harry D. and Catherine met at the College of Charleston.

Magic is in the air this Spring 2015 as the world becomes a wonderland of hope and new possibilities. My own baby is now a tenth grader.  She is on spring break and slept in this morning.  In her long sleep, she indulged in dreams not cut off by the alarm.  She had two girlfriends spend the night but told me alone in the kitchen that she dreamed it was the time of Christ’s Second Advent.  She was in our home with our family and youth group friends from St. Philips.  She said that in the dream our home was a mansion. (My husband smiled proudly when I told him, as if her dream was stating reality.)  She was wishing in the dream that she had realized His Second Advent would be so soon.  She said she would have been bolder in telling more friends about Jesus, urging them to live for Him, taking more seriously the time.  She said life was carrying on as usual with her body feeling hunger, etc,  but all knew His coming was at hand.  The day had come when people least expected Him, and all eyes could behold Him.  Out of the mouths of babes!  Victoria’s dream this morning is my Easter message to you.  Can an Easter message be any more a message of renewal?

Just as the prophets foretold His first coming as the Son of David, born in Bethlehem, the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world, so the prophets also foretold his Second Coming as King over all the earth.  We believe that He shalt come to be our Judge. People abusing the system to get more money any way they can will be caught short.  Pray with me for those who are pulling down our democracy to turn from their ways while there is time.  “People get ready, there’s a train a comin…  All you need is faith to hear the whistle blowing.  You don’t need no ticket; you just get on board.”

In Charleston we are surrounded by what many call mansions.  It is the Life of the Spirit of Christ Jesus that makes these homes come alive with something real,  with the sense of community we have akin to the Kingdom of Heaven. It can happen anywhere.  At our High Tea after the tour, I pray, “So create a desire within us to desire what You desire for us, that at Your Son Jesus’ Second Advent, He may find in us A Mansion, prepared for Himself, who lives and reigns with You, one God, now and Forever!”

Maybe that is what our daughter Victoria dreamed, that she had prepared a mansion within, fit for Him, with many lovely rooms…

A deep history lesson with The Charleston Tea Party Private Tour awaits your arrival.  Life is precious. Call us at 843-708-2228 for a morning tour, year round, weekdays, beginning with breakfast overlooking the harbor and Ft. Sumter, ending with High Tea at my house overlooking the Ashley River, with many beautiful sights and lessons from history where we step inside and in between. Charleston is a treasure trove of architectural beauty enhanced by well tended gardens coming into bloom this April. Wherever you are, lift up your head and have a  Happy Easter! Laura Wichmann Hipp 843 708 2228

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Filed under Calamondin Marmalade, Charleston in spring, Easter in Charleston, for foodies, Gardening, Historic Charleston Foundation, Meyer Lemons

Camellias are our Winter Roses; Persimmons and Calamondins our Winter Fruit

I dreamed that a profusion of roses was in bloom everywhere I went.  Despite the threat of thorns, I was exhilarated as I rode my bike at the sight of a new view of life in the everyday with such beautiful roses of all shades and scents and heady clusters.  I thought I must be in England.  I will have to go see my mother’s family and have a cup of tea, I thought. My mother was the rare English Rose of Beauty.  She loved giving tours with me and wanted nothing more than to get well to get back to them again.  We lost her to throat cancer in late August.

I awoke with a sense of expectation for the New Year.  Will it be filled with briars, or roses?  As I stepped into our back garden, what had been green buds were transformed overnight into round jewels of camellia balls about to open into many petaled delights.  With the winter green rye grass up, and now the camellias in bloom, we are a winter wonderland without the snow.   All summer and fall I scrub with leftover tea leaves the scale from under the foliage of camellias in anticipation of these winter delights.

Nothing speaks Charleston more than the camellia, developed by Andre Michaux here in the 18th century for the court of France.  In addition to introducing the camellia to North America through Charleston, he also brought us Crepe Myrtles, which are water nymphs, cursed, and put on land as these trees, with their fluid bark- like sculpture; and our beloved Tea Olive, the essence of Charleston when its tiny flower blooms in the spring and in the fall. Charleston gardens were designed to bloom in the winter for the highlight of the social season in the 18th and 19th centuries, The Races.  Many of the plantation owners were the trainers and breeders of these magnificent thoroughbreds. The Races were held at Washington Race Course, now Hampton Park, near The Citadel.  Hampton Park is a beautiful camellia and rose garden with a pedestrian bridge over a pond.

My white table cloth is now the snowy contrast to show off the three arrangements I have of camellias.  Two bowls are of silver and the center is a ver de gris pedestal bowl with handles on either side and classical swags.  My husband bought it for me one year for our anniversary from The Charleston Garden Shop.  I use wet oases in it to arrange my jewels of camellias interspersed with a few calamondins to give it a zing!

Calamondin oranges are being made into marmalade in my kitchen, the perfect thing on a cold winter’s night.  I risked life and limb to pluck these winter fruits yesterday on the tip top of our ladder in our back garden while hugging the tree’s upper branches.  Ours reach for the sky.  They are no bigger than golf balls, but they make the Queen of Marmalades. Our family had a calamondin deseeding party with our three daughters and friend, Jon, ’round the table after dinner last night.  We played vintage albums on our new phonograph we got from Santa!  We laughed until tears came to our eyes, giddy with light-hearted low stress after the holidays.  Now, for the adding of sugar to my copper jam pan;  nothing saves time in marmalade making like a copper pot.  It cuts the time in half.

For those who have been followers of my calamondin marmalade in the past, I did not have any to share last year due to the rare freeze.  I only put up one batch.  This year there is only enough for one batch as well; however, I will be serving it upon request at our tea parties at the end of the tour in jam tarts and in glistening dressing over golden beets and goat cheese, Russian onion dome style.  These are a few of my favorite things. It is served on Blue and White Cantonware China, the 18th and 19th century everyday ware of Charleston, shipped here in abundance on clipper ships. The English Tea Clippers were the fastest.

Persimmons are the luminescent orbs of transparency, like tiny Chinese lanterns,  hanging from an otherwise leafless tree in our back garden.  There is an abundance of persimmons despite my having picked at least 50 to put in floral arrangements and to make persimmon sorbet.  They have been bitten by frost, which is good for them; their chalkiness has been transformed into sweet, velvet lushness to the palate. My handy husband got out his loppers, and I got out my big round basket; he lopped, and I danced underneath to catch the persimmons.  Those that split were an invitation I could not refuse to receive to my salivating mouth.  If not me, then the squirrels and birds will get them.  When I go out before dawn, I hear an early bird squawking that the persimmons are its feast, not mine. Many have been transformed into persimmon sorbet with the help of cool Simple Syrup, and my electric ice cream maker. One calamondin is the citrus in place of  a squeeze of lemon that marries well with persimmons to give it that… je ne sais quoi!  My friend, Pringle, thinks I must have subtle spices included, but it is clean-and-easy and the best thing you have ever put into your mouth. Come while the supply lasts.  Persimmon pudding and persimmon bread to follow. Persimmon bits tossed in a salad with the different lettuce leaves, garlic and chopped swiss chard from my raised beds in the back garden made this an all fresh garden to table salad in January grown here on Tradd Street in Charleston.  Why didn’t I think to put persimmon in our kale salad tonight?

My neighbors, the Deans of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits,  Lee Manigault and Suzanne Pollak, are invited to pick persimmons in my back garden. According to Lee, they have been having to BUY them for their recipe Twelve-Months-a-Year Parsley Salad on page 31 in their newly published book : The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits; with Etiquette and Recipes.  P.S. Who do I have to thank for this Christmas gift?  It is my favorite read with only Lee and Suzanne’s signatures.

It is a good year.  Look for the Good News.  Report it to others.  My husband’s numbers are good.  The dream of roses foretold it.  The Dream Maker is on the move, listening and speaking in that still, small voice.

Come to Charleston to renew your dreams, and to feel afresh the Wonder of Life.  Charleston is where Magic happens, which is one of the reasons she is called The Holy City.  Her history makes America’s history make more sense when you understand what first happened here, and the correlation to quotes from the Founding Fathers and diarists.  I never tire of telling it.  Few really know it. It is like looking at the moon that you have gazed at all your life, but from a side you have never seen before.

Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday.  Make a long weekend of it. The South Carolina Wildlife Exhibition will be in February followed by the Charleston Wine and Food Festival  March 4-8; then the Cooper River Bridge Run, and the Festival of Houses and Gardens. Charleston Arts and Antique Forum is coming up soon as well.

As Audrey Hepburn said of Paris, Charleston is always a good idea.

Call me on my cell phone for reservations at 843-708-2228.  Tours are weekday mornings starting at 9.

Laura Wichmann Hipp, founder of the Charleston Tea Party Private Tour

Our 1773 tea party was before Boston’s!

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Christmas in Charleston Tea Party Private Tour 2014

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a good read must be in want of a hot cuppa tea.  Reach over to the wall and pull the needle pointed bell pull and have your scullery servant put the kettle on for a pot of tea.  Now, start singing, “I’m dreaming of a white-less Christmas!  Just like the ones I used to know,” in Old Charleston.  Just think, no snow to shovel, no salt to smear your windshield, no bones to break slipping on the ice!  I know you may really miss all that, but you will adjust in no time.  “Oh, the weather up North is frightful, but down South it’s so delightful.  And since you are invited on my tour to go, leave the snow, leave the snow, leave the snow!”

Come here and set your feet to a saner tempo.  You will think you are in a Dickensian London.  The warm days are producing a  gentle fog at night over the water and at the morning’s light.  Many houses have the soft glow of gas lights on either side of the front door donned with a fresh wreath. With the indigenous materials in abundance to work with of magnolia leaves, popcorn berry trees, and shaggy cedar, there is an Old World look about us that makes even those from off feel they have arrived home.  We keep all the other places from seeming natural. Christmas is when we are looking most authentically ourselves, dressed up for the Holidays, like my husband tall and handsome in black tie, his tails flying as he dances to Beach Music, our South Carolina State Dance.  You should have seen him at our daughter’s debut dancing with the tall and beautiful Miss Elizabeth Scarborough, a Taylor Swift impersonator on stage last summer in Myrtle Beach and Charleston debutante this season.  HOT!

My beloved went out this afternoon on what we call “de bo-at’ –Gullah for our family boat, and zipped over to Morris Island with “the boys” to play Bocci on the beach today.  How was your first Wednesday in Advent?  While he and his constant companion, Chesterfield, our English Springer Spaniel, were gone experiencing a slice of Lowcountry heaven, our college graduate first born daughter, Olivia, and I put up live green cedar garlands and red bows on our second floor porch railing overlooking the Ashley River.  It is great to have her home for the holidays.  With days of sun and laughter like today, the green garlands may have golden highlights before Christmas is over! Turkey Gumbo was delicious tonight, my reward after emptying the spice cupboard, cleaning, consolidating, and reorganizing it while Hubbie was out..  Whew!  I love that organized feel and easy turn of the rotating spices.   I cleared out about a dozen salt and pepper disposable canisters meant for the boat making my husband laugh with hilarity and incredulity when he saw them in his cubbie.

Christmas Cake preparation was the real achievement tonight after plowing through my mother’s and my hand written, hand cut and pasted recipe book that will not close. Picture a wide V.  Brandy is poured over the glass bowl of currants and sultanas with care, in hopes that your family soon will be here.  There will be English steamed Christmas pudding in vintage molds, mince meat tarts, and baked ham with muscadine and peach chutney. It’s the Hap-Happiest Time of the Year! Come let us spread some cheer to you and yours.  My brother and I both will be making and baking my dear English mother’s Christmas recipes, comparing notes, keeping our English- Charleston family traditions alive into this next generation, as she has past them down to us.

My tours are week days from 9 to 1:30, starting with a full Southern breakfast and the fattest Christmas tree overlooking the Charleston Harbor.  This house on High Battery is dressed to the nines for Christmas.  We also go into the house of the doctor who delivered me. (Thank you, Dr. Wilson! Thank you, Mumse!)  His ceiling is probably the most elaborate with more layers in the plaster and woodwork than any house in Charleston. I love the acorn, and egg and dart motif. It was built in 1856 by a signer of the Ordinance of Secession.  Christmas 1860 is the focus of our history on my Christmas in Charleston Tea Party Private Tour.  Camellias are our winter flower in bloom in our gardens.  I will take you into one that won a national garden award, in which I am the only guide allowed in by the owners, who are hard working,generous friends of mine.

The greening of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, known in the 18th century as the most elegant church in the English colonies, will be this Friday, as will the Garden Club of Charleston’s decorating of the Joseph Manigault House.

Call me to reserve a spot on my private tour as I take small groups. The tour ends with an invitation to a High Christmas Tea at my home on Tradd Street.  I hope to see you soon.  843-577-5896  Laura Wichmann Hipp

Post Script  I went to the Garden Club Tea at the Joseph Manigault House yesterday.  You must see it dressed up for Christmas as it would have looked in the time of the Manigaults, the early 1800’s. It is on the corner of John and Meeting Streets across from the Charleston Museum. It is open for tours daily. Out of the corner of my eye, I detected clutter on the stairs to the third floor.  Just as my children would leave toys where they last were playing, so too there are 18th and 19th centuries toys as if where the Manigault children last left them before being called down to dinner.This Christmas Tea for Garden Club members yesterday is the only time this museum house is used for entertaining as it was designed to be with homemade tea fare and coffee punch. Garden Club members keep up the garden all year.  I went with my fellow member, June McKnight, who was responsible for the pomanders hanging in the windows in an upstairs room. She is coming over to make some more with me for my windows, too!  Everyone was congratulating June on acing the City of Charleston Guide exam.  She made a 98!  The last time it was offered, sisters Therese and Mary Helen were two of four to pass out of 40!  It is an oral and written exam.  June has been interning with me and will be helping me with tours.  Like my precious, late mother, who did the tours with me for 25 years, June is a pretty,petite, elegant, and very well read lady.  She is reading everything she can get her hands on to do with Historic Charleston, all the classics.  I am encouraging her to have some available for you to purchase from her since she as well as I highly recommend them and quote from them on our tour.

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Charleston Festivals Launch First Signs of Spring with Walking the Preferred Mode of Transportation

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

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Local Food, Locally Sourced, on the Wild Side!

I have smoked and slow cooked my first wild boar.  I feel like one of the boys now.  The hardwood charcoal did the job along with Albert Heyward who shot the young thing from our land in the country.  I smoked it with hickory chips on our simple round charcoal grill in the back garden.  Actually it is the pork that flavored our okra soup this week, though I was afraid to admit it.

Tackling a wild boar, even though a small one is Nothing compared to tackling twenty five years of marriage to the same man, Preston Hipp!  Now that is Wild!  Our silver anniversary is today and I did not need a thing.  What did The Man do?  He gave me silver, naturally, from Croghans, no less, a well worn path created for his mother by his father, Charles Rucker Hipp.  Preston’s family came to Charleston because of the Heywards, whose ancestor Thomas Heyward signed the Declaration of Independence, whose descendant shot that wild boar, you see.  What was the silver he gave me?  Come and see!  It is something I do not have and something I will always cherish.  Two gifts actually.  He was giddy with excitement like the young man he was when he had the diamond ring in his pocket for a few weeks before he asked me to marry him.

He gave me this morning at breakfast an old silver basket lined in an etched glass vase for which I picked the last of the daffodils on John’s Island.  It had arrived that very day to Croghans.  But then he saw a silver jar to hold tea leaves; he thought, a tea caddy, and  Lover that he is,  he bought that for me, too.  I asked why both, why not one or the other.  He said he liked the tea caddy one and wanted me to have the other, too.  I will keep it on the tea tray cart to add more tea when serving.  The real miracle he said is that they are from the man who the real estate market has not been kind to these last few years.  A silver wedding anniversary only comes around once.  We have the silver punch bowl that was the silver anniversary gift from old Mr. Harleston to his wife, Frances, from Birlant’s Antique store where he proudly bought it.  That punch bowl graced many a table for church events as I was growing up before she passed it on to me.  Little did I know that in referring to it as their silver wedding anniversary gift, I was setting a standard for my own.

A day of wine and roses it has been.  Kind thoughts of guests for today’s Charleston Tea Party Private Tour, and friends…but then my husband says we should share the hurts of life, least all should think we live behind a veneer of perfection.  My beloved mother, who has kept the walking tour going until last spring, is turning into an octogenarian this month.  She alas has begun this week treatment for the C word in her throat we all hate.  My own husband, 53, the most loved and best looking man in Charleston, fit as a fiddle, has  that prostate C word, too.

We are not immune to the visisitudes of life; but we are blessed with a community of life as it should be being lived out.  It is not just a shell of a city of historic houses.  There is a heritage of the faith of our fathers that runs deep and steadies us still.  It is an attitude of gratitude.  Come, partake; eat and drink.  You will leave us wiser than when you came.

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