Culinary Tours of Charleston-Savor the Flavors
My new MO is simple. If I’m visiting a new destination, I’ll be going on a food tour. As I’ve said before, food tours are a fantastic way to not only sample great new cuisine, but to also get a bit of history and cultural background on the place you’re currently in. So when it came time for planning my girls’ getaway to Charleston with my mom, a food tour was obviously on the to-do list.
Although there are a couple of food tour companies in Charleston, I liked Culinary Tours of Charleston the most since their Savor the Flavors tour seemed to offer exactly what I wanted-it was Southern food focused. While food is food and I have no doubt any of the places you’re taken to on a food tour are delicious, if I’m in the South, I want to try Southern items I don’t get to eat up North, being a Yankee and all.
While our tour group wasn’t as small as the one I went on in Miami (that had only three including myself ), this had eight, which I liked. A large enough group and yet it still felt intimate, good since I had a chance to engage with just about everyone.
Diane, one of the staff members at Bulldog Tours (the name of the company that runs Culinary Tours of Charleston), said that Dani would be our tour guide and that I was in for a real treat. She wasn’t joking. Dani is like my idol- former flight attendant (back in the Golden Age of air travel), has been to countless countries, and is a culinary instructor (she offers classes on Moroccan cooking, how I wish I lived closer). She also lives in France half the year. So yes, needless to say she was quite knowledgable. And just like on our Boston food tour, she would also periodically rattle off recipes, which I loved.
The Savor the Flavor tour lasts approximately 2.5 hours and makes a total of six stops which are as follows:
Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe
This might have been one of my favorite spots of the tour. Here we were served sweet tea (or as it’s referred to in the South, “table wine,” it’s basically just very sweet ice tea), stone ground grits, and sweet potato corn bread. Dixie is a family run establishment that’s existed for decades. It’s not fancy but one of those places where you know the food is going to be good and it is. It was extremely crowded when we were there.
This is actually a kitchen store and here we were served benne wafers. If you’re not familiar with them (I wasn’t until I started researching Charleston), they’re basically sesame seed cookies, whose origins date back centuries. In the West African Bantu language, benne means sesame and the African slaves were the ones to first introduce benne to the southern United States. This was probably the weakest link of the tour since I just wish there had been a bit more, either something else to try or a better locale instead of being among kitchen gadgets. (Another site in the city better tied to the city’s slave owning past?)
The Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston
A culinary saveur’s delight. It was here that we tried the many different concoctions the Spice and Tea Exchange had created using their various spices, rubs, and seasonings. The store was so fantastic that my mom and I returned later on that day and bought some articles to take back with us (I was beyond excited to purchase strawberry shortcake tea!). It’s located right by the City Market, making it extremely convenient to stop at.
I can see this being quite the noisy stop if you happened to be there during happy hour/evening dinner rush. Thankfully it wasn’t too bad around lunchtime, although its location right on Market Street still made it quite jumping. Here we had a delicious hush puppy (a savory food made from cornmeal batter that is deep fried or baked), collard greens, red rice, and fried green tomato with chipotle aioli. This reminded me a lot of the first stop I made on my food tour in the Bahamas, simple and classic home cooking.
Market Street Sweets
You can’t go to the South and not have a praline. This was more of a pickup and eat on the go kind of treat, but decadent all the same. This is the same company that runs River Street Sweets in Savannah. It’s a candy store I definitely recommend visiting.
When your food tour ends with pulled pork and cheese biscuits, you know you can die a happy death then (if need be). Nick’s is a popular spot located right on King Street and just like Noisy Oyster, it was quite loud, but what you’d expect at a place serving comfort food favorites. We also were served collard greens here but as they’re not my thing I can’t really comment on which was better. My mom reported that both were delicious- succulent, suffused with bits of meat, and tasting of the bacon fat they surely were cooked in. A Southern staple to savor.
My food tour with Culinary Tours of Charleston was definitely a highlight of my trip to the Holy City and I’d recommend it for anyone who’s visiting.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary tour in exchange for my review,
but as always, all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.