My anxiety gets the better of me when I am trying hard to plan something special and unique to anything I’ve planned before, especially when it comes to travel with family or friends, birthday and Christmas gifts, special occasions, and even recipes. Such was my planning for a unique Mother’s Day this year. My challenges; Dad is hobbling around with one bad knee, Mom is still recovering from knee surgery, and I was frustrated that no matter what I came up with, I’d have to contend with it being an early day if too much walking was involved. Lucky for me, and strange as it was, a thought popped into my head regarding a plantation about an hour north of Charleston that I’d passed on my way to Georgetown dozens of times, but knew little about. The idea that of all of the gardens, restaurants, and beaches we could have visited, that this off the beaten path gem was the destination to occur to me, is still something of a mystery.
Photo Courtesy Hopsewee Plantation
Hopsewee Plantation is that off the beaten path gem I speak of. I could not have dreamed it better than it turned out to be. It only came about because I was determined to entertain my Mom for Mother’s Day with something she a my Dad so love to explore together, local Charleston history. I booked a tour online and at the last minute, as if an almost afterthought, booked reservations in their tea room. I’d be remiss if I did not mention that there was NOTHING about Hopsewee that we three did not love; our tour guide Jean, now the most knowledgeable lady on the planet about all things colonial America in my opinion, the beautiful home that is Hopsewee, and the contributions of Africans to the rice growing trade in the Carolinas. AND, do not leave before experiencing the amazing tea room. The tea room! How have I, a foodie in Charleston, not heard of this place?
We delighted in the comfort of this cabin-esque building, a new addition to the hundreds year old oaks and free-standing buildings on the property. Inside, we found a library of books and papers, comfortable over-sized wing backs in which to rest and review the library around us, a cache of tiny jars of jellies and honeys for sale, pretty packages of loose teas for sale, a signature cookbook, authored by the owners who I then recognize are cooking and running colorful plates of food we see going by. I kept pinching myself that this was in fact, going wonderfully well! How could I have known? Nobody knows of this magical place. Dually, all thorough vacationers to Myrtle Beach or to Charleston NEED to sneak a visit to Hopsewee.
We were seated in the dining room at a beautifully appointed table set for tea, complete with antique silver serviceware, dainty lace napkins, and a small carafe of simple syrup for sweetening ones tea. I opted for a mango peach Mimosa, while Mom a minted lemonade, a refreshing drink I now plan to replicate at home. We had fun watching Dad select a cold tea from what seemed like an endless number of choices, and then experiment with just the right amount the simple syrup. Karen took care of our lunch order, and was one of four or five women who appeared to be friends of the owner, Mrs. Beattie who was mingling with her guests and helping to both prepare and serve lunch. It felt more like an upscale church repose than a restaurant and I delighted in this; everything, everyone was very personal. We started with a plate of Okra Fritters and also a Lowcountry Roll, a crispy springroll filled with barbecue, collards, and Carolina Gold rice which was truly noteworthy. We graduated quickly from Mimosas and Okra Fritters to our mains. For Dad, a colorful crabcake platter with some of the tastiest sweet potato casserole he said he’s ever had. Mom dove right into (and finished!) a Hopsewee Salad plate which included homemade chicken salad with cranberries and chopped apple, a trio of potato salad, pasta salad, and bean salad with what we think was incorporated with a Feta dressing and was amazing, and a heap of fruit salad. I kept it simple with a dish of Shrimp and Grits which ended up being anything but ordinary, and was wowed by a muffin sized helping of squash casserole – amazing. All items were delicious! All of the platters we ordered came with pimento cheese biscuits on the side. To close our meal, we each enjoyed slices of Mrs. Beattie’s homemade Hummingbird cake. They were hearty slices to say the least! Karen kept our glasses full, and my Mother and I had fun laughing at my Father, who, every time he’d just get the correct parts of simple syrup to tea to his liking, would again find his glass being refilled, hence the process starting over again!
While we admired and commented on several tables there enjoying the Southern Tea Hopsewee is known for, we opted for regular lunch platters instead, but said we would definitely return for the experience. The price of $20 per person is in line with other high teas I have experienced, and all of the food we watched being served looked delightful. The little savory dishes were intriguing, particularly the curry chicken over the ginger snaps and the salmon mousse. The scones were gorgeous, and prettily served the traditional way with lemon curd and clotted cream. The desert plate was what pushed us all over the edge; lemon chess pie and the chocolate mints being the stand out sweets according the the table directly behind us.
Photo Courtesy Hopsewee Plantation
These Two Photos Courtesy Hopsewee Plantation
To end without mentioning tours of the house and the cabins are a must would be a mistake, as the guides we engaged with during our visit were fabulous. A British car enthusiasts club was meeting on the day we visited, so an added bonus for my father who immediately gravitated to the bumper of an Austin Healey, while Mom and I walked the grounds to the North Santee River banks. All told, an amazing day. There is no way I won’t be back. There is just no way I won’t contain myself when describing the beauty of this place to others. The grounds are beautiful and a perfect walk to stretch our legs. The food here is worth making a stop for.