Category Archives: shopping basket

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

“Times, they are a changin.”  Azaleas in January and February?  Yes, at least here in Charleston.  We cannot keep it back.  Like the rising sea levels, spring keeps on coming.  Preston and I got married April 9, TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO this coming April!  Our Silver Wedding Anniversary.  I am such a lover of silver but I cannot think of A THING I need.  When we got married in April, we had photos taken across the street from St. Philip’s in the grave yard because the azaleas were in full bloom.  This is February, not March or April, and they are in bloom now!  Consider the fig tree…  Now the promoters of Charleston tourism do not want you to know this flower report because they are afraid you will cancel your plans for the spring tour season.  Do not cancel. We will have plenty else in bloom then.  I am just saying that you should come quick, NOW, if you can.  You will have the Holy City (and me) to yourself!  It is empty of visitors and is so beautiful, especially a treat not to be delayed for those in blizzard and freezing conditions up North and out West.

We have had nonstop rain, but now the sun is out, and the sky is a deep blue, illuminating what looked so gray, now transformed to brilliant colors.  White By the Gate is my glorious, snowy white camellia in bloom in the back garden right by the back steps, so white it is an affront to all impurity. Our Old Charleston Carolina Gray brick wall has green moss appliqued by time on rose brick making that brick more than just building material. The very bricks have become saturated with emanations of heroism.  What deeds of sacrifice and patient toil have gone into this city’s making and preservation!  Charleston is a City Mellowed By Time, as captured by the Charleston Renaissance artist, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner.  Once you get Charleston under your skin, she gets in your blood, bidding you to return, like a pilgrimage to refresh the soul and to set it in order, or as a lover with her siren call.  As a vegetable lady street vender with her wheel barrow said who went away and then moved back,”Chas’n keep  dem uda places from seemin natchel.”  Ain’t it just the trute!

I discovered a new shop that I had only run past and noted before.  It is hidden away on Burns Lane between Meeting and King, The Hidden Countship.  It is actually owned by count and countess.  (My brother’s Godson, Edward Scarborough, works there.  His father and I sailed together on the sailing team at the College of Charleston, he the senior and i the lowly freshman.)  The Count and Countess were in Savannah, leaving for Italy, when someone challenged them to come to Charleston saying they had not seen the South if they had not been here, and so close to Savannah.  They delayed their return home a day, came to Charleston, and bought a house here the next day!  They prefer Charleston to anywhere in Italy!  Wow!  No wonder Conde Naste voted the same way, with Charleston being the number one destination in The Whole Wide World!  We are blessed beyond measure!  A delightful retired Dartmouth professor, Dr.D’Lia, on my tour introduced me to this shop.  It is filled with interesting things, new and old.  I have a painting of an Italian villa, La Peggio, in an arch over my dining room door, which they have on their ad card.

For those who go on my Shop Till You Drop Antiques Tour, it is added!  You can see my most recent purchase, a functional piece of equipment, an 18th century mahogany linen press.  It is in the humble butler’s pantry, a room newly wallpapered along with my dining room in Fra Angelica’s glistening gold as in San Marco in Florence.  The light has to be right in both places to capture it.  I am using the linen press for storage of cookbooks and crystal and china, but also for additional counter space!  The trays slide out, one inch high, so as to provide additional space to plate food when the marble counters are full of dishes.  A practical piece it is,  for me to enjoy using as well as regarding from the kitchen.  Thank you, Lord, and thank you, the guests on my tour!  I am enjoying the fruits of my labor.

If you cannot find an affordable place big enough, I have a vacation rental by owner in downtown Charleston some of you may wish to consider.  It is booked for most of May but has openings for the last week of February and most of March. It is listed with Home Away # 5127820805, and VRBO #404882  as Charleston Tea Party Private Tour Launches Vacation Rental.  I has 3 bedrooms, a living room, dining area, and a full kitchen, and two full baths.  It sleeps up to 7.  I have enjoyed furnishing it with vintage finds from Charleston antique shops and estate sales.  It is not luxurious, but is easy, with a two car garage, unheard of in Charleston.   It is within walking distance of Hominy Grill, a popular restaurant where you  must have fried grits.  It is better than it sounds!  there is also a free trolley pick up a minute walk away to take you all over the historic city’s peninsula.

I love it when people can stay a week, not because I make more money, but because you get free nights if you stay past 4 days!  I want you to come and experience what it is like to live here.  My vacation rental is for those who make Charleston part of their spiritual renewal, what keeps them hanging on.  Times they are a changin, but Charleston just improves, like a good rich wine.  Come!  Drink deeply!  Call me for a tour or a stay or both at 843-577-5896–Laura Wichmann Hipp

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Get Your Peaches …

Get Your Peaches Now–Sunny Side Up!

If you are lucky enough to live near a Piggly Wiggly, they have the final sale of the summer on peaches, 88c  lb.  I have been watching and waiting.  At least here in Charleston they are the South Carolina peaches, as big as a base ball, and juicy and real like a peach should taste.  I bought a basket also from the Vegetable Bin in Charleston on East Bay.  Mr. Leonard and I sit on the “courtin bench” together and recall the days of his youth when fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.  He is a living monument and has the Old Charleston Gullah-Geechie dialect, but not the color.  He told me the price would not come down, but it did at his friendly competitor, Piggly Piggly, on Meeting Street.

What to do with all those peaches?  For Tea this week, I have made peaches and meringues into “Sunny Side Up Eggs”.  I am proud to say it is my own invention, trompe d’oile!  Bake whipped egg whites with sugar in circles dipped in the middle at 200 degrees for 4-5 hours, preferably on a dry day if you can find one.  Dip a toothpick in peppermint extract and touch each unbaked meringue with it, redipping for each one. That touch gives the meringues that je ne sais qua. Peel and halve peaches.  Place peach sunny side up on meringue; glisten peach with honey or my calamondin marmalade.  Announce the next course by saying you hope they like their eggs sunny side up!  They look like ostridge eggs! Serve with a pot of tea in a chilly air conditioned house.  Have fun in the last days of summer.

I will also be putting up peach chutney and brandied peaches and loquat liqueured peaches.  Each morning I peal one for my husband and me have them on our muesli.  I also make peach iced cream with loquat liqueur.  The possibilities are endless.

I also baked a Victoria sponge recipe in a flan tin and put the fresh sliced peaches on top when cool with a glaze of loquat ligueur syrup I boiled up.  The sponge cake had a hint of the tiny calamondin orange I pureed and added for moistness and flavor.  This morning I did the same recipe but did it as an upside down peach cake for my family’s Sunday breakfast tea before church.  I forgot that peaches sink and batter is displaced.  Don’t worry; I ate those drips before they fully burned!

Thank you, South Carolina farmers, for selling your peaches to Piggly Wiggly at a price we can all afford.  With the price of peaches in Charleston at 88c a lb, all IS well with the world after all and we still are The Holy City.  Thank you Piggly Wiggly for passing on that savings to us, your faithful customers.

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August 11, 2012 · 3:28 am

Some Things in Life Really are Free

Yippee!  I am slow to catch on, but when I do, I am ON!  The downtown trolley really is free!  I had had the question put to me if it was true.  I could not imagine it was.  Today I went to the Meeting Street Visitors Information Center to get some Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Guidebooks.  The wonderful staff there told me the map has the route and the trolley stops of the FREE trolley bus service.  This service is a gift to Charleston residents and visitors.  I think that means we do not have to buy our teenagers a car!  Isn’t that right?

The other good news is that my vacation rental, which you can stay in this summer,  is a one minute walk from one of the stops on the corner of Ashley and Cannon Streets.  This service saves you either gas money, time, or your feet.  Save your feet for the streets you do not want to miss.  I tell you those on my tour that are musts,  where the streets of Charleston have something to give those who walk them in a receptive mood that will make life forever richer.

Scroll down a few articles to read about my launching a vacation rental.  It has been booked solidly since I started it in March.  I do have openings late this summer and early fall.  I have a big pot in the full kitchen for boiling up a mess of crabs.  We had some last night ourselves with our daughter home from college and a cousin graduating from the College of Charleston.  My vacation rental is also around the corner from a bakery called Sugar.  Warning!  It is addictive, heavenly,  and better than your imagination.  You can take tarts, etc back to your own home away from home and have a tea party!  I have a tea pot and tea and a tea strainer and of course cups and saucers.

Do not miss Spoleto in late May-early June when Charleston comes alive at this world renowned arts festival.  The buildings the oligarchy of Charleston built are still the landmarks used today to make this city have a sense of place and authenticity.  The trolley system will really help during Spoleto and the HCF Spring Tours andPreservation Society fall tours as there are not enough cabs for all going in different directions for the many tours, cultural, visual, and performing arts events.  The CARTA trolleies run from 8am to 8:30pm daily.

Our friend Mariana Ramsey Hay of Croghans Jewel Shop on King, whose picture welcomes all on the back of the trolley bus, says she hops on and off all the time, zipping up and down King St and to her home, which saves her time and money.  I love it!  Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life!

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Filed under breaking routine, shopping basket, Uncategorized, Where to Shop

More English than England, There is No Place Like Charleston, America’s Top City by Conde Nast

Though I am of necessity to all things English born with my mother being a native of the British Isles, yet having just returned from an unexpected visit to England, I have to admit, I could not wait to get back to Charleston.  Granted, this visit was not a pleasure trip.  I was in a new, modern,”sculpture” town visiting my Auntie Edie Breyer in Princess Alexandra Hospital, where she lay after a stroke last Wednesday after 98 years of living on her own in another village.  There in this new, unknown town I stayed for five days in a modern hotel, it being the nearest to the hospital, though  a 45 minute indirect walk through busy traffic.  I carried my old brown wicker English shopping basket to and fro containing my Sainsbury edibles, my books, extra cardigan, and wallet, looking more English than the English.  After walking through a roped off rape crime scene the first day,  an essential part of my route, it took me a few days to decide to be my effervescent self and greet people with “Good Morning”.  The English in this town do not look you in the eye or offer greetings.  There is a wariness and unease.  I found, however, that as I greeted each person on my routine walk each day, their old habits fell into play.  The ladies in particular would return with a cheery “Good Morning” and a smile as if remembering that all was well with the world after all; however, the men would glance furtively with their eyes, not turning their heads,  as if to say, “Do I know you?  I don’t think so.”  Returning from the hospital to my hotel after dark each evening, I left off greeting.

The new middle to low income housing in England is an attempt to make living more human scale without highrises.  But I am from Charleston, which as a Gullah “Weggytubble Lady” with her wheel barrow said many years ago,” Cha’ston keep all t’other places from seemin natchal.”  There was nothing historically comely to rest the eyes upon architecturally.  I am spoiled having in Charleston a daily feast visually on every street.  My mind would retreat to the Charleston scene of the  etched glass door at 5 East Battery, my friend, Francess Palmer’s home, which has been in her family for three generations.  I pinch myself every time I see my reflection in the glass with the morning sunlight dancing on the harbor reflected behind me.   As part of my morning routine on a tour, I  go  to this preserved home on the Battery with my guests.  I have never taken it for granted.  Being in another daily routine in an unromantic part of England, put me in someone else’s shoes for a week of my life, a self imposed fast of all things aesthetic.  Now I have the actual daily experience similar to many to contrast with what I bring visitors to share every day with me in Charleston.  I always hope that visitors will take mental flash shot images of Charleston to which to return when in the daily, dull routine of life, a place of serenity from which to draw, to retreat and refresh.  I found myself following my own advice,  dipping in to the images of Charleston, contrasting my daily life to those of this town in England, counting my lucky stars that I get to return to Charleston, where as Rhett Butler said, “There’s still grace and charm left in the world.”

My thanks to the few people who were kind and understanding though disappointed to miss my tour.  I am glad I went, though it was a hard trip.  My Auntie Edie’s mind is still there, though she cannot speak.  I did finally decipher some of her scribble with her left hand.  The first word she wrote with great effort was “pay”.  She wanted to pay for me to have gone to the trouble and expense to come visit her.  She nodded her head vigorously, thrilled that I got it!  But of course, there was no pay necessary for the duty of love and family.  Pointing out my diamond wedding ring convinced her not to worry.  The next she scribbled was “Go to Loo”, quite an ordeal for a stroke victim of 98, but with help from the wonderful staff, we managed to get her there three times that day.  The major literary work she had been trying to write, I finally got the last day.  “Tell (Auntie) Pam to feed Tara (her beloved cat)!”  as if she would not know to be doing that.   Auntie Edie never married.  She has lived for her cats as she said once I live for my children, knowing their likes and dislikes, as no one else can.

Reading by her side to her The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, her favorite of CS  Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, singing hymns from the 1916 little black Bible with Church of Scotland hymnal in the back, cleaning her nails and giving her a manicure, and getting her using manipulatives from the physical and occupational therapists’ “gym” next door became the highlights of our days together.  She would conduct music as I sang, using her head to keep time.  With her good hand she would applaud onto the lifeless hand.  Though in a stroke ward with open doors and windows where sound traveled, no one ever complained of my singing.  The tunes and words brought back old associations for others I could see as one lady smiled and looked contented and  another made inaudible sounds fervently praying along.  There are four stroke patients to each room.  One attractive  lady never gained full awareness, sleeping always.  They are ministering angels, the staff who work with these stroke victims daily, unflaggingly patient, showing their kind hearts that drew them to this profession and the Judeo-Christian heritage of hospitals in the United Kingdom.  And yet, it takes a loved one sitting by their side to attend to all the difficult to communicate needs.  The staff does not have the  time to spend to figure out what each is trying to say.  Being there to “translate” helped.  It was a maternal instinct to drop everything and go, an indebtedness to  Auntie Edie as the eldest member of our English family and her hospitality to me in my staying with her in my early years of travel and study in England.

Though I was desperate to see my husband, children and Charleston again, I wept when I left her, such is the debt of gratitude I owe my mother’s half sister.  She was only 7 when her mother died.  Twenty years after her birth and her father’s remarriage, my Auntie Pam and my mother were born.  Out of these unexpected extra children has come help for the present for this  century old spinster, who would have been otherwise alone in the world.

If you have loved ones in hospital or a nursing home, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust  corrupt, nor thieves can break in and steal, and make it a part of your daily routine to visit and stay by their side.  “Though the way be cheerless, I will follow calm and fearless.” No matter where we live or what our daily life is like, we have so much to be thankful for if we have our health and faith.  We can break up the monotony of those who are in prison in their own bodies by attending to them.  God bless those who already do this act of charity or are caregivers at home.  “Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you have done it unto Me.”  I see The Holy City of Charleston  preserved as a place of refreshment for visitors who are following the weary and heavy laden way in which they should go, keeping their homeland strong, doing the hard work needs to be done.

“Still the weary folk are pining for the hour that brings release

and the city’s crowded clangor cries aloud for sin to cease

and the homesteads and the woodlands

plead in silence for their peace” — Henry Scott Holland, 1902

I hope you can take some time set apart and see Charleston, South Carolina with me.  I look forward to meeting new friends every day  Despite this necessary unaesthetic side of England in a  hospital,  I am exploring taking a group on a tour to England and Scotland next summer .  I did it three years ago and have some wonderful  new ladies ready to sign up.  I will be working out the expenses and itinerary.  We will see private English and Scottish  Country Houses and gardens far from the Madding Crowd.  Let me know if you are interested.  You have to have come on my tour first of Charleston.

–Laura Wichmann Hipp-843-577-5896

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Filed under breaking routine, Conde Naste, Low Income Housing, modern sculpture towns, More English Than the English, Other Places, Princess Alexandra Hospital, shopping basket, wheel barrow