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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Parting Words

Two and a half years ago, I opened Foraging Foodies with the intention to explore the Carolinas and share my eating discoveries. With that in mind, I dined my way through the South, meeting some really incredible people along the way who put out some really incredible dishes, and in general learned more about food then I ever imagined I would.

And I wrote. And wrote. And wrote, about everything I could find and share about. It was an invigorating experience finding a new gem and sharing it with the public, a feeling which I still can't fully describe. And you all responded, with more warmth and generosity then I could have ever imagined, for which I am eternally grateful.

Two years later though, with all the knowledge and experience I accrued, Foraging Foodies suddenly didn't feel like the direction I wanted to be. I've grown so passionate about everything local, from farm to table, in the hands of locals working for the love of their community and their craft, so much so that the idea of criticizing the hardworking locals who have put so much effort into adding to their community became too awful to think of. I've also learned so much about the culture of food and began understanding the many different ways food acts as an expression of self, and have made so many new friendships through that. Talking about restaurants wasn't enough for me anymore, not when there is so much more to say. Filled with new questions and ideas, I finally decided that I needed to move on to new adventures to keep growing and understanding everything I've come to learn in my short time as a foodie. So with great sadness, I have decided to shutdown Foraging Foodies, to pursue those desires.

Before we depart from foraging foodies, however, I wanted to list some gems that never got the opportunity to make the blog, because there are many out there, more than I could ever list in just a single post. I wish I had the time to go and do these fine eateries the justice they deserve, but I will instead leave it in your hands to go and check these recommendations out, and perhaps you can give the community your own words of wisdom.

The Unmentioned, for Columbia, SC:
Cellar on Greene - One of the best romantic deals in Columbia with their $19 three course meal, of which is so substantial and delicious, it is a shock to behold.
Sunming - The best Chinese food in Columbia, and the most authentic. Bring friends and share a family meal off the Chinese menu. Yes, those exist.
Crust - Amazing, amazing foccacia, and really good bread. Come early, they sell out fast.
No Name Deli - Cash only, just flat out good local fast food. Be prepared when you walk in, it's like the soup nazi in there.
Chocolate Nirvana Bakery - Tucked away in the historic houses of Columbia is perhaps one of the most decadent, moist chocolate flourless cupcakes you've ever had in your life. Really cute location too.
Lady Antoinette's - If you haven't heard of their beignets, you are missing out.
Motor Supply Bistro - How have I not talked about this place? It's amazing, just go. Possibly best brunch in the city.
Camon Sushi Bar - Stashed away on the side of Assembly St. where surely no one looks is one of the coolest places you can go for a quiet, not really authentic but still just really solid piece of sushi.
Bombay Grill - In my experience, the current champion of Indian food in the city. Prices are unusually affordable for Indian, and just flat out good. It is without a doubt better than Spice Junction in my book, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Terra - Well-deserving of all the praise it receives as one of the city's finest, and no where near as wallet breaking as you may think with their weekly specials.
Original Pancake House - It is a chain, but I really don't care, because it's mighty fine diner food, packed with bacon.
Just Us Cafe - Even more diner-ish than Original Pancake, but with even bigger portions.
Golden Chopstix - Just a terrible name and location in general, but the massuman curry here will blow your mind.

The Others:
McCabes BBQ, Manning, SC - The absolute best sweet potatoes I've ever had, and just a great buffet in general in that classic South Carolina way.
Autobanh Food Truck, Charleston, SC - Fried chicken banh mi with pickled okra and sriracha-honey drizzle. You are welcome.
Glazed Gourmet, Charleston, SC - The greatest donuts you will ever have in your life.
Voodoo, West Ashley (Charleston), SC - Truffle fried tater tots and bacon s'mores and it's a tiki bar and really do I need to say more?
Parker's, Wilson, NC - East Carolina bbq in the most delicious way. Amazing fried chicken, great sides, and ridiculously awesome prices. Just ten minutes off I-95, well-worth a stop.

And that's it. Again, I want to take everyone for their support and just taking the time to read any and all of what I've wrote here at Foraging Foodies. It's been a real honor, and I hope to see you all in my future foodie endeavors. Until then, keep on foraging folks, the world's waiting for you.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Columbia Eats: British Bulldog Pub

I didn't realize Columbia was sorely in need of good Irish-y pub food until I stepped into the British Bulldog Pub last week. If you asked me prior, I don't think I could possibly name an Irish place off the top of my head in the Capital City, one that really did potatoes and meat pies some justice at least. Fortunately, this problem has rectified, and everyone can sleep at night again.

In a nutshell, Bulldog is pretty great. And by great, I mean the best thing you'll find on Harbison, hands down. In a land of not just awful chain restaurants, but all the awful chain restaurants, Bulldog is positive step in the right direction. The menu is kind of surprising; a host of meat pies along with the usual suspects headline the list. Shoving a fish and chips craving aside, I grabbed an order of the chicken, bacon and leek pie. The pie itself was an easy decision, but Bulldog sweetened the deal with something I've never seen before as its side - an order of mustard mashed potatoes. Hand mashed potatoes with a burst of tangy mustard seed, it was kind of awesomely good in a way I wasn't expecting at all. The meat pie was great too, full of potatoes and stuff, in a flaky dough and slathered in nice gravy just because. The photo I think says it all. If a potato, chicken, leek and bacon pie sounds good to you, then you'll like it, no doubt.

Fish and chips did make the table, and delivered just fine. I've had a lot of really great fish and chips this year, so these may not stack up as the best I've had all year, or in Columbia for that matter (check out Bone-In Artisan's monstrosity if you see them rolling around a corner near you). They were totally fine though, and came with grilled lemons (totally cool in my humble opinion, but a distant second to the malt vinegar any day as far as fish and chips are concerned). Bulldog is kind of the most authentic pub I've been too in awhile also, serving mushy peas as an optional side. I've never had them before here, and they certainly weren't my favorite thing in the world, but they are there, and I imagine they are about as decent as mushy peas get.

This being my first visit to Bulldog, it might be absurd to call this one of my favorite places in Columbia, but I definitely liked what I had on this visit and have plans to come back often as long as I'm in the midlands. The beer is a touch pricey (decent collection though), along with the food, but as an occasional splurge, I think it's totally worth it, especially if you're wandering the Irmo area for something to eat.

The British Bulldog Pub on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Guide to Korean Food

Everyone knows Chinese food. And most people at least know what sushi is, and have had a bowl of ramen in some way, shape or form and can pretend know what the gist of Japanese cooking is. Thai curries and pad thai have acclaimed much fame, and Vietnamese even kind of has exploded and become a bit of a thing everywhere with pho and banh mi becoming mainstream. But as far as Korean food is concerned, that's been surprisingly under the radar for a lot of people, especially in the South. Defiantly authentic, unlike it's other counterparts which have sacrificed a lot of tradition in favor of dipping a bit into the melting pot for business, Korean food has always been made for Korean people, unfazed by the pressures of American taste buds. Fortunately, it's really delicious, and fairly no-fear stuff, featuring flavors we all know and love in an Asian backdrop. The following is the big information dump that you need to know before entering the big, beautiful world of Korean cooking.

Banchan, The Initial "Whoa Man" Moment
Banchan is your typical set of a bijillion side dishes that unload the table during each meal. They can be a lot of things (I've had up to 16 dishes at once at some places), but the staples tend to be kimchi (we'll talk about this), a spicy cucumber thing, cold potatoes with a sweet cream, japchae (sweet potato noodles, personal favorite) and often some cold blanched beans sprouts. There are many more, all of which are tasty, delicious, and varying in textures and taste.

Kimchi, The Must Know of Korean Food
Spicy fermented cabbage really wasn't a winning name, so we keep to calling it kimchi here in the United States. And it really is so much more delicious then its unglamorous description. Spicy, crunchy, and like wine, full of varying flavors that make each and every jar a bit different, it's the must-have at every Korean meal, whether as a side or incorporated into the main dish in some delicious way. Koreans are known to fly back to the United States with cases of this stuff. The most authentic kimchi is a long and complicated process, but there are also several recipes for quick kimchi you can make at home as well.

Bulgogi, the National Dish for Meatlovers
Every culture has a great meat dish to prey on, and for Koreans bulgogi (sometimes called Galbi, difference is in how thick or thin it is sliced) is the basic signature they like to stand on. Beef, chicken, or pork can be used (almost always beef though), but the key being the special marinade of soy, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, pepper, and other magical things, grilled over open flame that make it so magical. The fanciest serving is often over a burner right at your own table, ensuring the fresh and hottest bites you can get, often making for a fragrant meal. Bulgogi often goes into various dishes as well, particularly their big rice dish, bibimbap.

Bibimbap, What Fried Rice Wishes it Could Be
One of the most comforting Korean things you can have after a long hard day, bibimbap basically means "mixed rice." It comes in two ways, the basic way where a rice is topped by a variety of vegetables, usually kimchi, shredded carrots and various greens along with a fried egg on top, or the spectacular and often worthy of the extra dollar or so dolsot bibimbap, which puts the rice in a hot stone bowl which caramelizes and crisps the rice to perfection. Both bowls usually come with a bottle of magical red pepper paste sauce, which gives the dish a deep sweet and spicy flavor. It's really pretty when it hits the table, but the secret to eating it is to get everything together and mash the hell out of it until you get something like a fried rice consistency, and then enjoy.

Panjeon, It's the Savory Person's Pancake
No really! Usually vegetables thinly sliced with chunks of seafood depending on the type of panjeon, or just vegetarian, it's a thin savory pancake often served as an appetizer. I sometimes wake up in the morning and fry up a batch for breakfast for a hearty breakfast (surely breaking some ancient rule).

Duk Bokki, Let's Pretend That's What it is Called
Think of it as the Korean version of gnocchi, these chewy pieces of dough are made from rice cakes, pan-fried lightly and then tossed in a spicy sauce for a warm and comforting bite. Really addicting with the chewy rice cakes and sauce.

There's plenty more to explore as far as Korean food is concerned, but this guide hopefully acts as a decent head start into the world of Korean cooking. It's really tasty stuff that's fairly healthy and just flat out good. Do yourself a favor and head out to a local restaurant to get a big, giant bowl of bibimbap with all the fixings now!

Places to Try:
DJ House, in Columbia, SC
Blue Cactus, in Columbia, SC
Tasty Korean BBQ, in Greenville, SC

Friday, November 9, 2012

Columbia Eats: Il Giorgionne Pizzeria and Wine Bar

"mmmmmmm!" exclaims Brittany Walter.
If there was one thing that Columbia always had, it was a wealth of Italian restaurants at every corner - Dianne's, Pasta Fresca, and Garibaldi's, Ristorante Divino, Delucca's, Moe's Grapevine, and Villa Tronco are just a few that come to mind (let's not even get started on those awful chains). In the last few years, however, a flood of newcomers has popped up all over Columbia, filling in those gaps and causing some buzz comparable to the food truck explosion. Rosso in particular made itself a fixture of not just Forest Acres, but in the community as a whole, supporting local events and making itself a staple of Soda City.

So here we stand, at yet another Italian addition to the capital city, Il Giorgionne. After all that, what exactly sets apart Columbia's newest Italian member from the rest?

Well, for starters, authenticity.

This is not an Italian-American joint. Though it's interiors are clean, sleek and contemporary American, the stuff that hits the table is what one might consider Italy to be. No caesar salad or garlic bread or fried calamari, but rather plates of imported cheese and cold cuts, a caprese of tomato and fresh mozzerella, cheese on pretty much everything in fact (a classic clear-cut path towards customer satisfaction if I do say so myself) line the appetizer menu. Paired with a large wine list, the restaurant lives up to its wine bar namesake fairly well.

The entree list at Il Giorgionne is lean and focused, packed with simple, classic Italian dishes including carbonara, spaghetti aglio olio e Rapini (garlic, good olive oil and broccoli rabe over pasta), pappardelle (egg pasta with bolognese meat sauce) and of course pizzas, including margherita and romana. I tried the carbonara and tortelloni alla Stefania on my visit. Carbonara, the classic pasta dish of pancetta, pecarino, pasta finished off with a creamy egg at the end is something that you have to really go to great lengths to mess up, and Il Giorgionne certainly does not here. The pasta was fresh, and the sauce was cheesy and yolky as it should be, just a really fine dish.

The star was the tortelloni though, stuffed with cheese and sitting on a rich, creamy tomato sauce that we were sopping up with any bread we could get our hands on well after the tortelloni were gone. The portions look deceptively small when they come to the table, but the richness of it all certainly makes up for the difference, leaving you feeling very fine by the end of the meal.

The prices, compared to its upscale neighbor Diannes and other Italian eateries are a touch lower, making for a good, local place to get some solid Italian food without breaking the bank. Life-changing it may not be, but Il Giorgionne is certainly satisfying in its own right, and a fine addition to the Columbia Italian scene for what they do.

il Giorgione Pizzeria & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 12, 2012

Columbia Eats: Lunch at the Oak Table

The sister restaurant to the fantastic Macintosh in Charleston, the Oak Table landed on Main Street a couple of weeks ago and immediately became a twitter sensation in the area, garnering critical acclaim from locals for their American Bistro fare. Just this past week, they added lunch service, allowing this foodie on a budget a taste of the hottest new restaurant in town. I can happily say that, just like the Macintosh in Charleston, the Oak Table is going to be the place to be here in Columbia for what I think will be a very, very long time if this lunch was any indication. 

Warning: This is going to be a bit of a food porn heavy review. 

On the surface, we're talking about some really American stuff going on here. It is American bistro afterall, and looking up and down the list there's no doubt about it. The menu at Oak Table for lunch is fairly lean and mean, with your standard burger, BLT, salad options, and some steak options. There's even a mahi mahi dish. They do not mess around with the genre. What they do different, however, is really punch of the sex appeal of all these classics. The BLT, for example, is slathered in a lemon-garlic aioli, topped with the classic Southern fried green tomato and swabbed with some fresh pimento cheese on brioche. The bacon was reliably great as bacon always is, but the pimento cheese they slather here is what makes all the difference. Really creamy and tangy, with the crisp, chewy brioche and the excellent fried green tomato on top of that, it was a BLT that put all others to shame. There was also a housemade sausage sandwich floating around that looked spectacular, and came with an interesting beet Dijon to set it apart from the norm.

For all the interesting things they do, they don't mess with the classics completely though. The burger, for example (which was perhaps 90% of the lunch hour's orders, I understand Columbia, you love your burgers), is done how you want it and the way it should be, topped with a thick slab of cheddar and some applewood bacon. Take that beast and throw some bistro fries next to it that were cooked in truffled oil. Just straight solid and delicious. (Some people give a bad rap towards truffle oil. That might be true for a lot of things, but as far as fries are concerned, they are extraordinary and perhaps the To really set the Oak Table's lunch towards upscale, there's also the Oak Table Butcher Board sandwich, which this foodie had to order, hands down. Smooth chicken liver with a pork terrine, housemade pickles and pickled red onion with a slather of preserves, this was a real treat and a welcome find in a town where charcuterie is a rarity.  Like a classic Vietnamese banh mi, it just had all the wonderful livery taste on top of the terrine, which were extenuated by the pickled cucumber and red onion. I know this may be a little out of bounds for a lot of people, but if you are into this kind of stuff, this is a no-brainer. Served with truffle fries, it was a steal at $9.

Columbia, and Main Street in particular, was sorely in need of a place like the Oak Table. With elegant indoor seating and casual outdoor seating, it brings an upscale atmosphere that's incredibly lacking in our downtown, and the fact they are producing what may be some of the best food in town right now makes it all the more exciting. Bring the party there for dinner, bring yourself there for lunch. You will not be disappointed.

The Oak Table on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Soda, Schnitzel, and Songs: This Week in Columbia, SC

Jam Room Music FestivalIt's another busy week in Columbia this weekend with festivals and fairs going on everywhere, particularly the beloved South Carolina State Fair. Though exciting and a fine choice for entertainment this weekend, my money for this Saturday is on Main Street, where all the action will be going down starting at 8 AM when Soda City makes its debut. Formerly the All Local Farmer's Market at 701 Whaley, the new market aims to land on the constantly evolving Main Street, including Paradise Ice and in the near future, the new Drip on Main. Expect to find all all your favorite Whaley vendors this weekend, and more exciting additions as the ambitious new market expands on Main. After Soda City, you can hang around and get ready for the much hyped Jam Room Music Festival, which really needs no introduction after all these weeks of hype in the capital city.

If you're looking for more humble offerings this weekend, Octoberfest fun continues in Columbia, this time at the Incarnation Lutheran Church. Lots of live German music and dancing (particularly all day Saturday) and of course great German food aka schnitzel everywhere.

For those who missed the first announcement, Lake Carolina's Food and Wine Festival is also this weekend. For $30 (of which go to Children of Columbia Charities), you can sample various Carolina wines along with great food from some of Columbia's best, including Cafe Caturra and Solstice.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Columbia Eats: Spice Junction

Blessed and cursed with a generous amount of hype from local bloggers and news makers, Spice Junction garnered a lot of talk about its Indian buffet. Folks clamored over its wide array of unique, tasteful Indian dishes that have dazzled eaters in West Columbia since its grand opening last year. It was obvious that the minute I got back to Columbia, this was the place I had to go. 

Turns out, I may have been wrong. 

I sat down to eat at Spice Junction last weekend - well, walked in and scurried to the buffet line that is. It's only buffet at Spice Junction, and for the most part you are alone in servicing yourself, with a water machine to the left and buffet in the back waiting. The owners are always active in the back though, ready to guide you if you have any questions and serve you other drinks if you are craving. 

The selection was fit and fine. Samosas, the staple butter and chicken curry, a spicy cauliflower dish, some tandoori and the usual saag panir (curried spinach dish). There were the less usual suspects though, including some spicy, curried lentil dishes and a goat biryani. A goat biryani! In my buffet line! That alone should have cried wonderful. 

Unfortunately, a lot of their dishes just weren't up to par. The spice level on a lot of the dishes, for one, was slightly strong, maybe even overpowering for someone who has a low tolerance level. The chicken curry was filled to the brim with far too dry chicken. Loaded chicken may be a good thing in a lot of dishes we eat, but I really pine for the thick curry and succulent bites of chicken in between to swab up with my piece of naan (Indian flatbread). That just wasn't there in the curry, and for a lot of the dishes in fact. The butter chicken may have been the only fair one, but its richness in a buffet setting makes it a hard sell for having a lot of it along with anything else. The goat biryani, though, was interesting and definitely worth a taste, but alone not enough to save everything else going on.

There was good though. The samosas were crispy and flavorful. The vegetable samosa had the right balance of crisp, potato, dough and spice that you want in it. And the naan. Good god, the naan. If there were one reason to come back to Spice Junction, it would be just to sit there and eat mountains of their warm, buttery naan. This was really where I was crying for some good dishes to mop with, because it seriously is some of the best naan I have ever come across, and for sure miles ahead of any other naan in town.

So there you have it. Great, really great, naan. Pretty tasty samosas. A bit flat in the world of everything else. I really want that rich curry, some good, dependable saag panir for my naan, and some really comforting, maybe even surprising dishes that bring not only flavor, but the right balance of it that makes good Indian cooking so extraordinary. In those departments, Spice Junction let me down a bit. 

Spice Junction on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 5, 2012

Lake Carolina's 10th Annual Wine and Food Festival, October 13, 2012

Lake Carolina's Wine and Food Festival celebrates its tenth year this October! There will be lots of great activities including a silent auction, live entertainment, and demonstrations from various local chefs. Of course, there will also be great food and wine pairings from many of South Carolina's finest as well, including Solstice, Cafe Caturra, and Sweet-T Gourmet, to name a few. Smoked gouda-applewood bacon mac and cheese, roasted red pepper hummus, or pumpkin-spiced gooey butter cake anyone?

If that weren't enough, all proceeds for the event go towards Children's Charities of the Midlands, a nonprofit that actively works for the improvement of health, welfare and education of youth in South Carolina. Food, fun, and a good cause. What more do you need?

Head over to the event's main page and find out more about this exciting event just around the corner.

Additional Info from the folks at Lake Carolina Festival:

Wine & Food Festival
Saturday, October 13, 2012
2pm – 5pm

Tickets are now on sale for Lake Carolina’s 10th Annual Wine & Food Festival on Saturday, October 13 from 2pm – 5pm. The festival kicks off at 8:00am with the Wine Glass 10K sponsored by Velocity Distance Project and continues with wine & food tastings in the afternoon.

Lake Carolina’s 10th Annual Wine & Food Festival pairs Columbia’s best culinary chefs with the area’s finest wineries for a mouthwatering afternoon on the Village Green. Festivities include live entertainment, chef demonstrations a Silent Auction and more. Savor the flavors on Saturday, October 13, 2012 from 2-5pm.

Proceeds from the 2012 Wine & Food Festival benefit Children’s Charities of the Midlands, a non-profit corporation formed specifically to raise funds and contributions primarily for the betterment and improvement of the health, welfare and education of children and youth in the South Carolina community.  

Visit for tickets and information.

Details: $30 per ticket, must be 21yrs. of age or older. Includes parking, event entrance, wine tastings and food samplings. $15 per child 12 years and under.
Where: Lake Carolina Village Green, 100 Lake Carolina Boulevard, Columbia, SC 29229
When: Saturday, October 13, 2012 2pm – 5pm
How: Buy Tickets at or at the Lake Carolina Sales Center. To register for the Wine Glass 10K, click here.
Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for Event Promotions, Giveaways and Festival Highlights.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Columbia, SC: First Thursdays on Main

Hey folks, this week in Columbia is First Thursdays on Main Street! Every first Thursday there's arts, crafts, food and more going on downtown. This month's First Thursday is sounding pretty terrific, with Godzilla Karoke (I kid you not) down around Paradise Ice, a Nickelodeon Parade to celebrate the new location, and the tapping of a "rare" keg by the Whig! I think 2 Fat 2 Fly and Bone-in Artisan Barbecue Food Trucks will be out also.

Parade starts around 7 I think, stuff going on all evening though. More info on time tomorrow if I find it. Don't miss out, should be a lot of fun!

Get more info on the events going on here.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Columbia Eats: Crepes and Croissants

The spaces inhabiting the strip on Sumter Street behind the Marriott Hotel, despite it's prime location in the downtown area has been an oasis of bad news bears. While M Cafe and Greek Boys are genuine staples of the area, everything in between has been in a losing battle for survival, Cabo Fresh Taco and Palmetto Sandwich Shop being the most recent victims. Crepes and Croissants, however, looks to change all that with incredibly authentic French cooking on the fly with some actual French cooks behind the counter. What happens when you put people who know what they are doing in the kitchen? Really damn good things.

Inside the sleek, contemporary eatery is a very lean, but ideal menu of, of course, crepes and croissants. I've been by a handful of times now, and I can confirm that the crepes are in fact, light, soft, chewy and more often then not packed with delicious things. The Greece, for example, is stuffed with a a fifth of a pound of goat cheese, with spinach and honey. The Provence comes with a light ratatouille of summer vegetables and more wonderful cheese (reasons to love the French). The sweet crepes are properly sinister and live up to their descriptions. Try the classic brown and try to tell me there isn't enough butter and cinnamon in it. Even with all of that stuffed in, the crepes are so light that you don't really ever feel like you committed a crime.

Better yet, and perhaps the reason you may want to go here on a daily basis is for something not in the cafe's namesake. Tarts. Amazing, buttery, tarts filled with incredible seasonal vegetables cooked in the right amount of butter that perhaps only a Southerner or Frenchman could understand, they definitely are well worth the visit alone. Unlike the crepes, these are every bit as filling and satisfying as you want them to be, between the pastry and wonderfully crafted ingredients packed on top of these rich tarts. Make sure you check the case when you walk in and see what's available as items are always rotating from the menu.

They've just recently started adding some weekend hours to the mix and doing brunch for the weekend crowd (something that'll be much admired when the new Main St. farmer's market opens in October). Primarily open weekdays for breakfast and lunch, if you're looking for a little change-up from your usual soup and sandwich, make the walk out to Crepes and Croissants and get a tomato tart or savory crepe. I promise, it will be worth it.

Crepes & croissants on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Update: What's Happening in Columbia, South Carolina

So, it's been kind of busy in the capital city this week. Things moving around, new places opening, and a lot of events either around the corner or in the making. About seven years ago when I moved to Columbia, SC, admittedly it kind of sucked living here. Nothing was going on outside of a few festivals and the food scene was kind of a whisper. In the past few years though, some good souls have done wonders in changing all of that, and now the cities buzzing with events all the freaking the time. Check out what's going on this week:

Cafe Strudel Reopens at its New Location on 300 State St.

Strudel closed it's doors last month to make a short move down the street to its new, larger location on State St., adding more hours and more events to their menu. You can still get those amazing hangover hashbrowns seen here that earned them a mention in Southern Living, or try out their new Vista West Sandwich, a roast beef thing that comes more excitingly with duck fat fries. They're also doing Sunday suppers every week from 5-10 PM. Round up a few friends or family and head over to Strudel for a family style meal this weekend!

Drip Starts Construction on New Main Street Location

Nickelodeon Theater helped push the word this week on facebook that they'll be getting some nice new neighbors soon with the construction of a second Drip in the works. Two places to get the best coffee in town along with incredible baked goods and a host of amazing sandwiches? Yes, please. Keep a tab on things at Drip on Main's facebook page.

New Restaurant Called "The Oak Table" Opens this Week on Main!

Foraged salads, truffled fries, duck confit fritters, and hearty entrees, the Oak Table promises solid American bistro dining on Main, bringing a new affordable lunch spot to the table along with a new upscale evening eatery all in one. Their menu is a lot of American favorites, but with some clever culinary twists here and there to set them apart. The menu sounds promising, here's hoping for yet another welcome addition to the continuing Main Street renovation.

Viva la Vista is Back this Weekend!

Food and music collide in the Vista this Saturday with the yearly festival, featuring loads of great eats from your favorite Vista restaurants including Motor Supply Bistro, Gervais and Wine, and more. Word is there will be some quail stuffed with scallops in the works. How can you miss that? The area will be closed down for the festival, which goes from noon to night this Saturday, featuring three stages of music and other great events all along the area.

Possible New Farmer's Market in the Works on Main Street, Coming Soon!?

Eva Moore at the Free Times reported that Soda City, a major project which originally planned for the Rosewood area but sunk, is now currently in the works for a weekly Main Street invasion. The proposed market would expand on the things going on at 711 Whaley, bringing more local produce vendors, crafts, and artisans into Columbia. City Council votes on the plan this week, stay tuned to find out what goes down.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Columbia Eats: Mojitos Tropical Cafe

I was really excited about finally being able to find some time to venture out to Mojitos Tropical Cafe. The talk around it was glowing since it's opening a year or so ago, and with myself firmly back in the city, I had been eager to make it out and finally get a taste of the Caribbean that I had been hungering for all these months.

It was a late weekend night when my crew arrived at Mojitos, not wasting much time to order some of their namesake along with beef empanadas and a smashed plantain thing kind of like a flatbread. I am certainly no mojito expert, but they packed a giant mint punch which tasted great and really refreshing. Certainly worth a glass if you are open to one. The flatbread plantain things weren't as crispy and crunchy as I was expecting them to be, but came with a damn fine sauce that kind of resembled thousand island with more of a twist to it that I can't explain. Not bad, but not as great as the empanadas which were flavorful and wonderfully rich. Nothing like meat pies to make you happy.

For my entree I decided to go for a bit of everything in the roasted pulled pork plate, which came with choice of red or black beans, rice, yuca and fried plantains.

So, the roasted pulled pork was really good; lots of flavor, tender, and pretty much perfectly cooked as advertised. For the extra four dollars over a vegetarian plate, it might not be a worthwhile investment because I would have been totally happy with the sides alone. The black beans and rice were flavorful and a great combination together, the yuca was starchy and delicious, and the fried plantains that came with the plate were exactly what I was looking for in the meal. Together, these were pretty darn filling and worthwhile in every way. The roasted pork was good, but for the extra price maybe not the price of admission if you're on a budget. If you want a little more, try the empanada plate which comes almost exactly the same way, but with those great empanadas that we talked about earlier instead, and for a bit less of the cost.

Overall, I was fairly pleased by Mojitos, though not entirely blown away like I had hoped to be from all the talk around it. The food seemed decently authentic and flavorful; totally worth the occasional lunch visit for sure. It didn't, however, stand out for me in anyway to call it one of the cities best restaurants. Definitely good, but not great. Not yet. That being said, I'm totally open to returning for more plantain and empanadas. Mojitos is a more than welcome and much needed addition to the Vista, one that I hope to continue seeing there for a long, long time.

Mojitos Tropical Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Follow Me on Tumblr!

Get more foodie news and extra reviews in the future at I'll be doing everything from recipes to book recommendations to other more hipster-ish foodie stuff over there. Don't fret though, you can still expect to find more restaurant reviews and updates here at The Foraging Foodie. In the meantime, here's a recipe from the new blog:

Fire Roasted Tomato Soup
Simple enough that anyone could do, but clever enough that it sets itself apart from the usual and looks really fucking fancy, this fire roasted tomato soup is a pretty nifty pantry recipe to have on a cold, gloomy day. I basically took a glance at this recipe from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks and ran with it, adding my own touch here and there to jazz it up the way I like it and make it slightly pretend Asian-y with some sriracha. 

1 medium onion, diced
2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon sriracha
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
3 cups water 

Serves 4. 

Doing It

Heat some oil in a medium-high heat pan and throw in the onions with a sprinkle of salt to get them going. Once the onions start losing their color, add the curry and cumin to open up their flavors for about 30 seconds. Pour the entire can of fire roasted tomatoes into the pan, along with the three cups of water. Season with some salt and pepper to your liking. Add sriracha to your liking (no more than a half teaspoon in my opinion, don't die), stir and let the pot simmer for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Take a taste at this point and see how you feel about it. If you want it a little sweeter or if it is too tart or spicy for your taste, add a squeeze of honey to balance the flavors. I like it sweet regardless, so I usually add a bit. Let simmer for a few more minutes, then take it to the food processor or blender (hand blender works too) and get it pureed to your liking.

I prefer this as Heidi proposes, over some brown rice with some toasted almonds and a dollop of yogurt. You can drizzle some good oil over the top to get that kind of Italian fancy shit going, or do as I did and be hipster-ish with a drizzle of some honey on top for both nice effect and an extra bite to the dish. The combination of the nutty rice, toasty almonds, creamy tang of the yogurt with the sweet and spicy tomato stew along with the occasional pop of honey here and there, really special.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Columbia Eats: The Rosewood Round-Up Edition

It's been busy times for this blogger, which means a bit of neglecting on the blogging side in the past few weeks. That doesn't mean this foodie hasn't been around and about though. Productive, sometimes stressful times call for some relief, and Rosewood provides plenty of that with the vast land of pubs, taverns, and bars hiding all along the street. We're talking about the three of the better today, including one made famous by a presidential visit years ago.

Rockaways Athletic Club

Even though President Bush made a visit to this local dive years ago to take a bite of the iconic state burger, this Rosewood mainstay somehow still manages to avoid most of the city's radar with their sign-less business-like brick building, almost nonexistent internet presence and slightly ironic name. It's a real neighborhood joint that sort of aims to stay that way, thanks to its loyal clientele that's kept the place running. The majority of the menu is good old American bar food, filled with fried things and burgers with fried things on it. There's really only one reason you need to come to Rockaways for: the pimento cheeseburger. Oozing in pimento cheese, it's a big, messy, tasty burger cooked just right with juices dripping everywhere. Washed down with a beer or root beer float, and you've got one of the best "this day sucks and I need something crazy" meals to get you through your day. Avoid the pimento cheese fries though, as they can be one of the most hit-and-miss items you'll ever have, and stick with the burger. Also, don't expect to be in and out in a hurry here. It's a bar, so plan on staying awhile if you want dinner at Rockaway.

Rockaway Athletic Club on Urbanspoon

Cock n' Bull Pub and Grille

Formally down the street where the Tap Room is now, Cock n' Bull moved to it's new location closer to USC about a year or so ago. It's a real football pub, and we're not talking about the football going on down the street. Signed soccer jerseys and memorabilia fill the walls of the restaurant, and games are constantly going on their screens when the major seasons are going on. For a pub though, their menu is limited and more American bar-ish, with burgers, po boys and the such. For the most part, it's decent, but rather ordinary stuff. I had their shrimp po boy the other day, which came with not that much shrimp, and overall just an okay eating experience. They have "bistro french fries," basically just shoestring fries, but admittedly pretty crispy. Overall, if you are a soccer fan, this is the place you need to be going, but for the food I would rather take a hike down to Rockaways for better versions of the same fare.  

Cock n' Bull Pub-Grille on Urbanspoon

Tap Room

I usually just focus on the food, but for the Tap Room I have to say it's all about the beer. They've got the best selection of beers on tap hands down in the Rosewood area, and some very generous, knowledgeable guys behind the counter always willing to let you try out what they've got or talk beer in general. Located in the old Cock n' Bull location, as far as food is concerned they have the most limited menu of the three, but for just a relaxing, chill location for beer, it's pretty nice. For a drink, and maybe some team trivia Bingo on Tuesdays (not as mundane as it sounds, I promise), worth a visit.

Tap Room on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 13, 2012

Columbia Eats: Mediterranean Tea Room

I've been pretty eager to try out the Mediterranean Tea Room since A. Mediterranean food and B. I love tea, so it was only a matter of time before I got off the bed and head over to Shandon eatery. Located in a charming spot across from all the shopping on Devine St., the Tea Room is a pretty cute and enchanting little spot. Colorful walls, and a large, bright tea room highlight the inside, making for a welcoming experience right off the bat, particularly on the drizzling week day it had been in the Capital City.

The vegetarian plate. THAT FETA.
The menu at Mediterranean Tea Room is on the light side all things considered, featuring all the Greek and Middle Eastern dishes you'd come to expect, including hummus, baba ghannouj, falafel, kebobs, and chicken in every healthy way you can imagine. It was dinner with my favorite this night, and after a long week of heavy eating we decided to go with some vegetarian options for the night, including the tea room vegetarian plate as seen above, and the mijadarah, a lentil and rice dish. The vegetarian plate was huge, filling, and wonderfully packed with a gigantic pile of the best feta cheese I've had in ages. The hummus and tabbouleh weren't the best I've ever had, but tasted very fresh and fine. The falafel was crispy and flavorful, and a nice contrast with the rest of the dish.

I wasn't sure what to expect out of the mijadarah being just a rice and lentil dish, but it turned out to be a real knockout. Cooked in cumin and spices, and topped with caramelized onions, it was a really hearty dish that really delivered on taste. The mijadarah came with a heeping side of falaheen salad, nicely covered in good olive oil and lemon juice. The two together definitely made for a really balanced and filling meal, particularly with a pot of English Afternoon tea on the side.

Mamuul. Pastry filled with dates. Amaaazing.
 Despite feeling pretty full by the end of our meals, we decided to venture for a little desert anyway, especially since they were only $1.50 a piece. We got the pistachio baklava and a mamuul, this ultra-flaky cake with a date filling. The pistachio baklava was flaky and just the right amount of sweet, but a bit on the small side, which may not have been worth the $1.50 entirely. The mamuul though, I was prepared to order 15 of. Buttery, rich, and sweet, with a super date-packed filling, it's what I wish Fig Newton's really tasted like. I'd consider stopping by on occasion for a cup of tea and this any day of the week.

Overall, we were pretty ecstatic about our meal. The portions were huge and the food was satisfying. And the mamuul! You have to get the mamuul. My only gripe would perhaps be the fact that for a place called the tea room, there wasn't necessarily a very generous amount of tea options available, although certainly more than most places in Columbia. That wouldn't deter me from coming back though.

Mediterranean Tea Room on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Columbia Eats: Paradise Ice

Main Street's restoration continues to get more amazing with its latest addition, Paradise Ice, an Italian ice and organic frozen custard shop. While Columbia has a lot of great things going for it food-wise, handmade, local icy treats are one of the few things the capital city has been missing and in dire need of in my humble opinion. Paradise Ice, however, solves that issue with some innovative ideas and just flat-out wonderful flavors.

Tangerine Lime Italian Ice. Wonderful.
I wandered in with some friends this past week and was immediately in struck in awe at the bold flavors on their always-rotating menu. We sampled just about everything that could be sampled, from the rich coffee and cinnamon and decadent apple pie custards to the refreshing, sweet and tangy pomegranate blueberry Italian ice. We even had a scoop of their curious concoction of the week, an Adluh grit and berry custard which had the strangest, yet unusually wonderful texture and taste I have had the pleasure of trying in a long time. Everything at Paradise Ice really popped in flavor and had a wonderful homemade quality to it that made decision-time a real challenge. I ended up going with the tangerine lime, which exploded with huge tangerine flavor, along with some really nice subtle lime. You could see all the bits of lime rind in the cup, which made for a really refreshing afternoon snack to cool down with during another hot and humid Columbia summer day.

Overall, I'm ecstatic about Main Street's new addition. Along with the Mast General Store and the Nickelodeon's grand opening coming in September, downtown Columbia is finally starting to look like a place to be for once, and that's really exciting news. Support local by heading over to Main St. and helping Columbia become a real place to be!

Paradise Ice on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Columbia Eats: Menkoi Ramen House

The Free Times, Twitter and Facebook were stirring this past week in Columbia when word let out that a ramen house opened up in the Vista. Sato, who manages Columbia's Inakaya, had decided to open an a noodle shop in a the vacant spot next to Mojito's and across from Mellow Mushroom, providing hungry students and downtowners with one of the staples of Japanese culture. With all the buzz on Menkoi going on, I knew I just had to take the opportunity to stop by and take a bite of what's been all the rage.

The menu at Menkoi consists of a short list of ramen bowls in its few possible orientations were the dishes of choice, along with the typical list of Japanese sides such as gyoza and edamame. I decided to go for their most straightforward bowl of ramen, which came with slices of pork, a fish cake, some bean sprouts and a piece of nori while my friend opted for the spicy version.

Growing up with bowls of pho and ramen, I couldn't help but be a little on the judgmental side when it came to the review. The broth, for starters, was just average. Consisting of chicken, beef, and pork bones, it definitely had a certain sweetness to it, but lacked a number of aromatics to make me want to down the entire bowl. The spicy broth my friend had, however, packed a little more excitement to it and was something I may have considered slurping. The noodles tasted like they were housemade, and had a decent chewiness to them. The best part of the noodle bowl was easily the slices of pork, which had sopped up all the broth, making for a decently unctuous bite. The fish cake was also decent and sizeable; a nice punch of sweetness and texture to make the bowl more interesting, something that the bean sprouts also added to. Not being a big fan of nori, the giant piece in the bowl was less appealing for me, especially completely drowned in the broth after awhile. Overall, the ramen bowl was fine, but I think if I were to come back, the spicy ramen would certainly win out for me for it's greater complexity.

I also picked up a salmon rice cake to try out. I would probably not spend the couple of bucks for it again; it was a really small portion of salmon and only average rice cake. It's a neat novelty, but not worth the price of admission in my book. Grab a bowl of ramen (preferably spicy) and run with it. Overall, however, for a bowl of noodles I think I would still rather run to Pho Viet for it's namesake, but for the Vista area, I would say Menkoi is a fine addition that has the potential to be great in the future as they hone their craft. And with it being open late till 3 AM, Menkoi may be a students best friend after a long evening out in the Vista or during a dreaded exam cram.  

Menkoi Ramen House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Columbia Eats: Pawley's Front Porch Food Truck

Today's review is about as easy as it gets. Pawley's Front Porch needs little introduction to most locals. Food Network's Diner's, Drive-In's, and Dives somewhat immortalized the Five Points location two years ago as Columbia's go-to place for foodies venturing into the midlands, though whether or not they were quite ready to handle such a load is another question. Soon after their rise to stardom, however, they launched their mobile eats food truck, spreading their SC island burgers across the city. In many ways, I think the truck may be the best way to get a bite of Pawleys; though the main restaurants sweet potato fries and larger list of burgers and tacos are tempting, the truck itself has been known to crank out their very best burgers fast and quick, delivering the amazing bites that were promised from their television appearance, consistently hot and loaded the way they were meant to be.

A sign of the beast. The caw caw burger.
I visited their truck this past week at the Palmetto Tomato Festival, where they were featuring a couple of tomato burgers, such as this monstrosity scene above, the caw caw burger. Exploding with caramelized onions,  lettuce, caw caw bacon, jalapeno "pimp" cheese, pickled green tomatoes, and a perfectly medium-cooked locally sourced caw caw burger, it may have been one of the best I've had in recently memory, and for sure the best I've had in the Columbia area. Was it messy? Most definitely, but in a glorious way that was worth every dirty bite. The fries were fries, and as much as I love to eat them, they were probably something I would have been okay with doing without after slaying the beast. They could have been crispier for sure, but not a deal breaker for me at all after the burger. If you're roaming around town for lunch or dinner and you see spot Pawley's mobile eats around the corner, don't hesitate to stop and savor what might be Columbia's best burger.

Looking for the truck? Check their twitter at or their webpage at 

Pawleys Front Porch Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 13, 2012

Columbia Eats: The Diner

I've been really excited about trying The Diner, Columbia's new and much hyped family restaurant. Other fellow bloggers got to it pretty quickly, along with local media, praising their take on Southern staples and unique twist and turns on a few of the classics. It opened with a bit of a rocky start, but critics have said they've ironed out a lot of their early issues and hit their stride. Hearing that, I decided it was finally time to take my turn at the wheel and see what was going on at The Diner.

The menu at The Diner is pretty lean and muscular, with staples like sandwiches, burgers, and very diner-ish, but still Southern fare. I decided to go for the blue plate special of the day, fried trout with Charleston red rice and a Greek salad. I had high hopes for this dish, especially the red rice, but for me everything about it was kind of one note. Nothing was bad, but the salad was a salad, the red rice had a little bit of tomato with some kick - nothing memorable - and the fried trout was well, fried trout. Everything was seasoned fine and filling, but just lacking that wow factor to push it over the top. My friends ordered the meatloaf and chicken fried chicken, both of which were also nicely done, but neither claimed to be extraordinary in any way. Though we weren't necessarily disappointed with anything we had, nothing quite lived up to the hype that the Diner has acclaimed since it's opening. At least, not entree-wise.

Lemon-berry marscapone cake. Yum!
Desert, however, shimmered a little more with a nice variety of cake and chocolate dishes. Best of all was this lemon berry marscapone cake. Creamy, sweet, with a little tartness from the berries and sauce, it was a charming bite that sent the meal off on a much better note. I would come back just for a slice, and I very well might since there's a lack of great affordable cake slices around town. Compared to other desert dishes, this was definitely a bang-for-your-buck choice as well as the slice of pecan pie and brownie offered was just a bit on the small size for the same price.

Though I was disappointed in my experience, The Diner wasn't bad by any means, but rather simply just another solid, new offering for the Columbia area. In many ways, I think I still would rather frequent a place like Yesterday's which offers much of the same fare. The Diner is a touch cheaper then its Five Points competition, but for dishes like the meatloaf and chicken fried chicken, I believe Yesterday's edges the Diner out on quality and quantity for that matter. There is still brunch at the Diner for me to venture to, which I have heard good, even great things about, especially their chicken and waffles. Outside of that though, the Diner is worth a visit for a little change of scenery at the dinner table, but it shouldn't be shifting the masses in its general direction quite yet from what I've had.

The Diner on Urbanspoon