I honestly didn't know much about Columbia, South Carolina so when Garden and Gun invited us to visit I didn't have any expectations. I was happy to come and see what I could discover and invited my friend Raisa along for the trip.
After arriving Friday we went straight to the Bricker and Beam workshop. Here Josh Cox and his team make custom, hand-made furniture with a clean modern design mixed with a touch of rustic for homes and businesses. Picture a sleek walnut table with a live edge for example. They also make the cutest dog beds I've ever seen through their sister line Bricker and Bark. If I had a dog I would definitely need one of these beds. During our visit, they took us through the different steps involved in making their furniture. Raisa also got to geek out with Josh over woodworking tools.
Our next stop was Columbia Craft, a local brewery and tasting room. We ordered a flight of Carolina Weisse Sours described as "A Berliner Weisse style beer which is a low alcohol, refreshingly tart wheat inspired kettle sour beer. " They tasted a bit like an alcoholic komboucha - except better.
Dinner Friday was at Terra. Led by chef Mike Davis, Terra serves low country inspired food sourced from local ingredients. The vegetable dishes and the fish are especially good.
Also, amazing is the lamb mac!!!! If you come here you MUST order the lamb mac'n cheese. Made with smoked lamb shoulder, poblano peppers, goat cheese and fontina it's the most addictive mac'n cheese I've ever tried. Everything we tasted at Terra was delicious and we rolled out of there in a bit of a food coma.
Saturday morning we woke up early to see the sunrise and to try to burn off some of the previous night's dinner. We headed out to Congaree National Park for a hike. About half of an hour outside of Columbia, Congaree is an old growth bottomland hardwood forest. Basically it looks like a swamp on the bottom with beautiful hardwood trees growing out of it. Luckily there are boardwalk trails so you can enjoy hiking without getting your feet wet at all. It was unusually cold the weekend we came to Columbia so the ground was actually frozen when we there but it was still a beautiful walk.
After hiking we went into Drip Coffee to warm up. We loved the friendly vibes of the place and the small record store attached. We made a four legged friend who definitely won for best winter jacket. That hood though! Speaking of friendly, everyone from the woman at the rental car agency to our hotel staff to the people we met on the street were super friendly. I know friendliness is a southern trait in general but this was next level!
We only meant to stop for coffee but everything looked so good we ordered breakfast. Cherry jam butter french toast on buttery brioche for me. Notice the word butter in the title 2x? Yes, that means I HAD to order it. It was just as good as I imagined. Raisa ordered biscuits and jam and she enjoyed them so much that she bought a whole bag of them to bring back to DC.
Next stop was the Soda City market where vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables, hand made crafts and prepared foods. Shoppers and vendors were more sparse than usual because of the cold but we were told it's normally bustling. We had some boiled peanuts because we're in the south and it seemed necessary and also some hot chocolate because we wanted to "live the dream" too!
This Peanut guy was hilarious and had the best signs on his truck!
As if we hadn't eaten enough, it was time for lunch at Motor Supply Co. where we shared a plate of shrimp, black eyed peas and rice. The beans were perfectly cooked and flavored. We finished it and wanted more! We also ordered a delicious fish dish but the shrimp was definitely the star. Next time we're in Columbia we'll come back to Motor Supply to try more of their dishes.
We popped in to The Grand for a bit of bowling and a Bloody Mary at the bar. We had stopped by late the night before and it was full of 20somethings drinking, eating, bowling and playing jenga. This afternoon there were more young families bowling and brunching. My kids would love this place!
Dinner Saturday night was at Lula Drake, our new favorite wine bar. Long and narrow with very high ceilings, red walls and warm lamps everywhere it felt like the kind of place you'd find in Woody Allen's Paris. But this place is real and it's the obvious heart and passion of owner Tim Gardner and his wife. Tim had looked for a space in Columbia for over three years and had finally given up when the current space opened up and he knew it would be perfect. The one thing they couldn't figure out was the name until one day in the middle of renovations the contractors called Tim to say they had found a hidden basement. In it they uncovered a steamer trunk from the 1920's belonging to Lula Drake a woman who had previously owned a hat shop in the space. Lula had been a trailblazer and possibly the town eccentric. They knew they had to name their wine shop after her.
The bar is decorated with mounted cases of Tim's beautiful and sometimes hilarious collection of antique wine bottle openers.
The wines are all natural and they have a small menu of frequently changing dishes. This fazoletti (handkerchief pasta) with lamb and blood oranges was was the perfect balance of flavors.
Sunday morning we slept in a little bit (meaning until 7:30)! We were staying at Aloft Hotel in downtown Columbia. The hotel was in a great location. We could walk to most places and it had one of my most important criteria in a hotel -plenty of places to charge phones, batteries etc. Downstairs there was a bar and a nice hang out room with a pool table and comfy chairs. My favorite perk though was the nesspresso machine and pods! Hotels that don't offer in-room coffee- why not????
We're obviously using the copy of G&G below as a prop BUT we did actually bring it to read. It was fun seeing people's reactions when we told them we were collaborating with Garden & Gun. Everybody down here LOVES this magazine.
We went for a walk to check out the South Carolina statehouse. It's a beautiful building and it was still dressed up for Christmas.
Raisa especially loved the African-American monument near the statehouse as she's from South Africa and U.S. history is fairly new to her.
Also near the statehouse and with a beautiful view of it was one of our favorite restaurants in Columbia, the Oak Table.
We started brunch with cocktails....of course!
Wood tables and counters at the Oak Table created by our new friends at Bricker and Beam.
On the left (below) is bread pudding french toast with chantily cream, bacon, bourbon apples and maple honey. On the right, are citrus ricotta fritters. I'd like to say we just had a couple of bites and left it but I'd be lying. We finished both plates, clean. True story, after we ate we spoke with the chef. He wanted to know who had managed to finish all of the french toast. I was too happily satisfied to be ashamed.
Another favorite were these devilish eggs, dyed pink with beet juice.
We included a veggie frittata so we could feel like we were being healthy.
Our last stop before we had to leave was the Columbia Museum of Art. We would have liked to spend more time there but we were only able to check out the Matisse exhibit before we had to leave to catch our flight. We hovered and listened in on a gallery tour and actually learned quite a bit about Matisse's book illustrations. Do you ever do that in a museum, listen in for a bit on an ongoing tour? I love catching parts of the talk even when I don't have time for a whole tour.
We were both sad to leave. With amazing food, beautiful parks nearby, friendly people and lots of young creative energy Columbia is definitely a city on the rise. We'll be back sometime to check it out some more.