Thursday, September 14, 2017

Downtown Sumter Revitalization & Progress


     I'm sitting in C. Anthony's Menswear devoid of customers as Hurricane Irma closes it's jaws on the South Carolina coast.  Good time to write as it is quiet except for some Bob Dylan on Pandora.  Feeling blessed we skirted disaster - unlike my friends in Florida.

     Looking out the vast 60 feet of windows from my store into downtown Sumter, I'm reflecting on what all has transpired since my move to downtown in Feb. 2015.

    I knew a lot of projects were getting ready to transpire when I made my move, but seeing a lot of it coming to fruition is very exciting.  The Hyatt Place Hotel is advancing at a rapid pace, expecting to be open by March 2018. 

     To the East across the street on Liberty St. is Sumter Economic Development's new building which has some older folk in Sumter "stunned" with it's modern looks.  The project should be done by year's end. 

Personally I like the modern with the traditional.  The building stands for industry and it's progression in Sumter's community. It is nothing short of positive for future prospects. Kudos.

     Here is the rest of the scenario for downtown's near future progress in entertainment, restaurants & bars.  To my South on N. Main is J. O'Grady's restaurant who was an early fixture in downtown revitalization. 

Great food, local sports legends theme, a good people watching spot with out door tables.  Next just South a few spots is Sumter Cut Rate & Soda Fountain.

A throw back to the fifties with an excellent cheeseburger, meat & 3, real milkshakes & the famous Cut Rate club sandwich that adds their famous chicken salad - open for breakfast & lunch.  

Just South on same side of sidewalk is Serendipity, a meat & 3 & catering restaurant.  

Soon to open a few doors down from Serendipity is The Sidewalk Cafe.  

Located in the newly renovated Watson Building, the Sidewalk Cafe is investing 1 million into the project.  According to owner Dr. Tracy Fleming they will have a restaurant & separate coffee shop.  Downstairs "A healthier approach to Southern cuisine".  Upstairs will be the Coffee Shop, and Fleming says "all bets are off" for healthy eating, which will feature homemade bagels, bagel breakfast sandwiches, muffins & a homemade "whoopie pie".  We will welcome her project soon.

     Turning to the North of my store on N. Main one spot down will be Hyatt Place Hotel with just shy of 100 rooms.  It has a more historic flavor to it's exterior and will soon electrify "walk-ins" for our restaurants, bars, entertainment and retail merchants.  How impelling that guests can sleep, walk to restaurants, retail shopping and bars.  Nothing of the sort is in Sumter without taking a risky walk on the highway.

     Walking North on the West side from The Hyatt Place are 2 bars.  "Main Street Tavern is a favorite of many of the younger crowd. 

 "The Tavern" has good bar food, good booze and lots of friends.  Over 75 different domestic craft beers and an awesome staff to boot.  North of  The Tavern is Sidebar Downtown Sumter.  

A bourbon inspired bar with over 100 selections is paired with a phenomenal bar food menu.  From pimento cheese burgers to a local favorite "Taco Tuesdays" which include 6 type of tacos.

     Back to C. Anthony's and the eastern side of N. Main St. & Liberty.  A new Subway in a renovated building.  Open for breakfast, lunch, supper.  Walking North is the newly renovated Sumter Opera House (S.O.H) which is consistently becoming a sound venue for great music & comedy acts.

  This will play well with the Hyatt located directly across the street from S.O.H.

     Left of and in same building of  S.O.H. is City Centre, a venue that you can rent for events up to 200 people. With original hardwood floors & big windows that overlook Main St. is a comfortable space.

     Next door to S.O.H. is a renovation by Hamptons Restaurant, which is presently located right around the corner on Hampton St., rated in the Top 10 Restaurants in South Carolina and a regular on Wine Spectators Top Awards winner.  Sumter is lucky to have such a treasure.  Executive Chef Raffaele Dall'Erta's philosophy is simple "I want to create good food that makes people happy".  He always makes us Happy!  

                         Hamptons Menu

Hamptons' menu is filled with fresh local ingredients, including local seafood, produce & meats.  The menu is a showcase of regional cuisine with an international flair.  The new Hamptons is currently under a full renovation  with a state-of-the-art kitchen.  Fine dining downstairs and a large private dining room upstairs.  Adjacent upstairs will be a new bar "Rafters" with a roof top bar that over looks La Piazza, a new outdoor venue next door that will boast a 60 foot bar, stage, sustainable wall, fire pits & heaters. The menu will be Italian inspired with wood fired pizzas &                         
charcuterie boards.  Live bands are scheduled for La Piazza on the new stage & you can rent the space that will hold up to 400 for wedding receptions or large parties.  What a great addition downtown thanks to visionaries Greg & Danielle Thompson.

     Next to La Piazza is a downtown staple, Jin Jin Chinese restaurant.  Most use as a pickup but they do have in house dining. 

 Jin Jin is known for their lunch preparation and easy pickup.

     As I understand several more restaurants are unfolding on the horizon.  Right now downtown is at 9 venues & the S.O.H.  Should have around 11-15 within the near future.
      Come Visit.

                                Chip Bracalente

Thursday, July 17, 2014


     Bourbon, my favorite spirit and a subject of conversation I delight in, is now available in a new form.  As a Whiskey-centric cocktail bar and Cajun-creole restaurant on Columbia, SC main street.  Bourbon recently opened in the old Capital City Café building.  The building has been refurbished, and as GM Rick Crowe explained to me, they used the old floors to panel the walls and below the bar.

     Bourbon Columbia has selected an impressive list of Bourbons from the coveted 20 yr. Pappy to an Elijah Craig 21 yr., to 4 kinds of Jefferson.  It's a who's who of Kentucky Classics.  I quit counting at 100.

      My wife started with a refreshing Summer Thyme cocktail which consisted of Grey Goose Le Melon, fresh thyme, lemon and celery bitters.  Summer time in a glass.  I went for a Woodford Reserve double oak - 2 oz. for $13.00.  Very oaky with hint of caramel and vanilla - will make for a wonderful after dinner bourbon.  Friends Mark and Kim Hodge joined us and Kim tried the Harvest Mule.  American Harvest organic vodka and Cannonborough Ginger beer (specially made for Bourbon Columbia in Charleston, SC) and lime.  Very light and refreshing.  The ginger beer is an excellent mixer.  Mark went with the Kentucky Mule which is the same except they use Evan Williams 1787 Bourbon instead of Vodka.  With everyone happy we started with appetizers.

     Mark's son, Bobby, is a chef in Charleston and he worked with Chef Gordon E. Langston formerly at the Fat Hen in Charleston and Gordon is now at the helm at Bourbon.  Gordon was born in  Braintree, Massachusetts, and grew up in Columbia. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.  Columbia is lucky to have such a talented chef.  Our food was errorless.  From the appetizers to the desserts the food was incomparable to what I've eaten in Columbia.  It's rare I love a meal at any restaurant.  Even rarer to enjoy the drinks, wine, service and surroundings as much as all of us enjoyed Bourbon Columbia.  There are no reservations and the place fills up by 6:30, so either arrive early or go after 8:00.  Bourbon is on Facebook if you would like to see their specials before you go.  Any complaints you read about Bourbon are the wait time and slow service, which I did not experience because we got there at 5:00 and our company at 6:00.

     Chef Gordon arranged several appetizers for us to sample.  We tackled Gordon's play on surf & turf.  The surf was a Sea Scallop and sweet corn cream with a little pickled mustard seed paired with the turf which was a Heritage Farms Cheshire pork cheek from North Carolina, collard greens from City Roots.

     Next was : Nola BBQ shrimp, charred green onions, sherry, brown butter, grilled nacho bread.

     Pasta shells with his signature Creole Pimiento Cheese.

     Roasted green tomatoes, caramelized onions, smoky bacon jam, some Split Creek Farm goat milk feta and pickled jalapeno vinaigrette.

     Green beans with spicy tomato and pine nuts.

     For entrees we tried Grilled Bavette Steak on top of Black eyed peas and Brussels sprouts sauté, fingerling potatoes, and the famous Creole pimento cheese.

     Seared Maple Leaf Farms duck breast with a local succotash of speckled butter beans, okra, charred green onions, tomatoes, mushrooms & spinach and a lemon-pink peppercorn sorghum glaze.  This dish I will be experimenting with soon and will post " how to cook" on TPHE website and Facebook.  It is fantastic and not as hard to make as it sounds.

     If we didn't have enough we also tackled some great desserts.  Beignets, which the chef keeps a separate fryer ready just for these light beauties, dusted with powdered sugar.

A blueberry tart and strawberries and chocolate truffles.  I'm getting hungry just writing about this meal.

                                                         Visit Bourbon Columbia soon!

                                                                 Bourbon Columbia
                                                                 1214 Main St.
                                                                 Columbia, SC
                                                                 (803) 403-1404
                                                          Eat Well & Dress Well!


Monday, December 9, 2013

It's ˈDe-byu̇-ˌtänt Season

The ˈDe-by-ˌtänt Season is in full swing! 
It's extra special for me this year as my daughter Mary Bennett Bracalente will be debuting! 
Mary Bennett Bracalente

Jimmy Wood Photography -
Debutantes debut during their sophomore year of college and they pick two sophomore males to escort them.  Generally, not a significant boyfriend, since they could wreck the party at the last minute.  There are also Sophomore Sons who are sons of a member of the Cotillion Club.  More on that later.

Originating from 17th Century European customs, the debutante was a young woman who was eligible for marriage, and part of the purpose was to display her to eligible bachelors and their families with a view to marriage within a select upper class circle.  Things have changed and evolved over the centuries.  I know all Fathers involved in this Debutante Season are not ready to "display" their daughters for marriage.  Present day Debs are Sophomore college students who are making a formal debut into society, usually at a Cotillion.  The Cotillion is a formal ball and social gathering for debutantes during the debutante seasons.  So, to review so far:  Ball, Cotillion, Club and Assembly all go hand in hand with deb-u-tante.

In Sumter and Clarendon counties in South Carolina we have the following clubs: The Lord Clarendon Cotillion, The Azalea Ball, The Camellia Ball, The Cotillion Club, The Epicurean Club, The Trian Club, The Carolinian Ball and The Sumter Assembly.  Most clubs require "an invite" to join.  Our club, The Carolinian, is no different.  We know everyone in our club.  Most are neighbors and all of the Debuting Debs and Sophomore Sons went to the same High School and are great friends. 
The Trian Club

Jimmy Wood Photography -

There is a rigid Dress Code for the Cotillions and that's where I come in, since I rent a lot of the tuxedos for this Black Tie event.  Some gents, me included, like to break tradition.  I like to see David Merchant stroll into the ballroom with his velvet jacket, or tartan trousers or yes, velvet slippers to lighten up the sea of penguins.  This is for the Haberdasher, or the confident, not the beginner.  My advice at C. Anthony's Menswear is by the book.  If a gent is persistent to be different then let's roll with a vest or long black tie, but first we go by the rules.

The Carolinian

Jimmy Wood Photography -

White Tie - white tie means white tie.  The Debutante's Father, the escorts, and the Sophomore Sons will wear tails (preferably peak lapel), white pique shirt & vest and patent leather shoes.  White tie means tails, tails mean white tie.  You would never wear a black tie with tails.  Just as you would never wear a white tie with a dinner jacket.
The Camellia Ball
Jimmy Wood Photography -

Guest Attire:  First, the invitation is like a wedding invitation and should be answered immediately.  The hosts have carefully invited you since there are usually only 4-8 guests allowed per debutante.  These are mostly directed at single men or family.  Let's keep your formal attire simple.  Black tuxedo, black satin stripe pant, wing or regular collar white shirt, black bow tie and vest, wear a cummerbund - pleats always worn open side up.  The open side up dates back to the time when tuxedos were worn regularly to dinner.  The open pleats would catch the bread crumbs at dinner.  Keep cuff links and studs simple - no whimsy.

So the Fathers, Escorts, and Sophomore Sons have assembled their black tie look, now it's time to head to the Cotillion to discover what joys will be waiting there.  It goes like this: There will be a receiving line of Debutantes (they have never looked better) and their families (they have never looked better).
Lord Clarendon Cotillion
Jimmy Wood Photography -
You yourself have probably never looked better.  It feels good.  You will be introduced and move on to the reception area to down a few toddies before a formal sit down dinner. 
The Carolinian
Jimmy Wood Photography -
The Debutantes, Fathers, Escorts and Sophomore Sons will be presented.  Then the Cotillion or dance party will ensue with a live band.  Mostly in South Carolina the band will play beach music since The Shag is our State dance.
The Camellia Ball
Jimmy Wood Photography -

KEEP THE CODE all evening gentlemen.  Never remove your jacket or tie and please don't desert your date.  Be attentive - stand when she stands, remove her chair, remove her coat, open her door, retrieve her drinks.  Be attentive to the Debs - you would not be here if it wasn't for them.  In other words, be a gentleman and hold your liquor.  Stay away from your camera and for goodness sake leave your cell phone at home.  Only leave when you date is ready and don't drink and drive.  A limo is ok.

Get dialed up and ready to dance! 
Happy Eating & dress well - Cheers!

Chip Bracalente - T.P.H.E

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pack' s Landing Duck Breasts

There is a special place deep in the woods accessible only by boat.  It was built by several gentlemen from Sumter several years ago to escape from work, reunite with
friends, family and nature.  Verne Newman, one of my closest friends and a draftsman by trade, designed a cabin in the woods.  It can best be described as "architecture in the woods."  A two story cabin with running water, a four burner stove, a shower if you like, a front porch with a fire pit and seconds away from duck and hog hunting, and some of the best fresh water fishing in S.C. 

Verne and I had a lot to catch up on since we haven't seen much of each other since last year's Dove Season.  We were to leave after work and settle at the cabin for some seared duck breasts, red wine and a fire.  Catch a good nights sleep and return to work in the morning.  Easy cooking and relaxation for 2.  What transpired next took me off guard.  Verne likes to text.  He text "it will be 4", "then 6", "then 8"!  Luckily, I had just scored 8 duck breasts, skin on, from Maple Leaf Farms.

Maple Leaf Farms' Duck Breasts
I buy mine from 5 Star Distributing and Mike Mazzante will deliver to your home or office.  They are thick and juicy with nice fat content that makes a great crispy skin when scored the correct way.

We left out of Verne's cousins landing called Pack's Landing - check it out on Facebook.  We were spending the night at the cabin so we left our truck in the trusty leadership of two Labrador retrievers - Black Duck and Killer.  The Chevy was in good hands.

We putted across the flats of Pack's through all the stumps and structure to end up at our destination.  The scenery was magical as always.  There are no words to describe the beauty of this swamp, but I did manage to take some good pictures.  Most say they go here to escape reality.  We go there to get to reality.

We meet up with the gang for the night at the cabin and I started my prep work while they solved the problems of the world.

I like to derive my menu's from the season at hand.  I stopped by Bradley's Market to check out what Robert Bradley had purchased that day.  He bought some heirloom tomatoes from Lexington, SC. 

A great fall crop that produced a tomato with great acidity flavor and colors of deep purple, green and red.  I thought these would make a great tomato salad for a side dish.  Bradley's had no shortage of fresh apples - about 10 varieties.  I settled on the Honey Crisp Apples.  I needed a sauce for the duck, so I kept it seasonal with some apple cider and splash of Bourbon since I'm sure that would be present at the cabin. 
I grabbed a few bags of Cole Slaw mixture and applewood smoked bacon from the grocery store and loaded the Yeti with my meal.  The menu would consist of : Pan seared duck breast with an apple cider & Bourbon sauce, heirloom tomato salad and cabbage with applewood smoked bacon and sweet onion.

After a few toddies, the gentleman assembly was telling true and untrue - no harm done either way.  David delivered a great blessing before supper and we broke bread, drank some wonderful red wine that paired nicely with the duck. 

We laughed a lot which was great for the soul and ease the pain of having to leave Pack's to go back to work the next morning.

There is something about being in the swamp and eating duck.  Try and keep your sauces seasonal and don't be afraid to try making up your sides by what's in season.  Enjoy the pictures of the swamp.

Eat good and dress well!
Chip Bracalente - T.P.H.E.

Pan Seared Duck Breasts with Apple Cider & Bourbon Sauce

6-8 large duck breast halves, skin on or off
3 Tbsp. grape seed oil
1 Tsp. Kosher Salt
1 Tsp. Garlic powder
1/2 Tsp. black pepper (course)
2 cups apple cider
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup Bourbon
1 Tbsp. Lemon juice
3 - 4 Tbsp. chilled butter
1/4 cup green onions, shredded
1 firm apple, cut into matchsticks
Score duck breasts without touching the meat.
Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet to medium high.  Season duck with salt, pepper, garlic powder.  Add duck to pan skin side down for 4 - 6 minutes or until skin is crispy and browned.

 Flip and cook to rare to medium rare.  Remove and place on a cutting board to rest.

Add cider, Bourbon and lemon juice and reduce liquid to 1/4 cup.  Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter until emulsified.
Slice duck, arrange on top of the cabbage mixture on plate, spoon sauce over and top with onions and apple match sticks.

Tomato Salad

This salad is good with duck, but also makes a great side to chicken dishes.  It's the simplest ingredients but the flavor is phenomenal.  One of my favorites.
4 - 6 Heirloom or other ripe tomatoes cut into 1/4" squares
10 basil leaves fresh, diced
1/2 cup Feta cheese (optional)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar
Pinch Kosher salt
Incorporate all ingredients and add a pinch of salt.  Serve room temperature.

Cabbage & Carrots with Applewood Smoked Bacon & Sweet Onions
This is a great side dish for duck and pork.  In the swamp or camping it's easy to grab Cole Slaw mixture and throw it in the cooler.
3 bags Cole Slaw mixture (cabbage, carrots, purple cabbage)
1/2 lb. of Applewood Smoked Bacon (Wright's thick cut) diced into 1/4" cubes
2 sweet onions diced
1/8 cup Apple Cider or white wine
Cook bacon over medium to low heat until almost crispy.  Remove and place to the side on paper towels.
Place diced onions in bacon grease and sauté.  Place Cole Slaw mixture in bacon grease with the onions and sauté for 2 minutes - add bacon pieces back to pan and add Apple Cider or white wine and let liquid reduce.  Can cover with lid to keep warm.


Eat good and dress well!
Chip Bracalente - T.P.H.E.

More Pictures - Enjoy