#HottsinCharleston

Hey y'all! Happy Friday!! How's your week been?  Mine has definitely been funner than last week, when I was wining and dining my way around sunny South Carolina. Office Life > Lowcountry Life, any day.

APRIL FOOLZ!!!!

Real life is garbage, vacation is the best.

Would you, too, like to make a little jaunt down to historic Chucktown? Of course you would! It's the best!  Allow me to regale you with some Hott Tips to help you make your visit the very best it can possibly be. Trust me. When it comes hanging out in Charleston and looking good doing it, I'm pretty much an expert.

HOTTSAUCE OFFICIAL GUIDE TO CHARLESTON, SC

Liz Hott so hott charleston awkward childhood travel

Where to Stay:

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Take your pick from any of these gorgeous historical mansions!

Just kidding, stay in this parking garage. 

(photo via parkme.com)

(photo via parkme.com)

No SRSLY we stayed in an AIRBNB apartment directly adjacent to this parking garage. To enter you would walk up the steps to the second floor and then through the garage, past all the parked cars to a metal door on the far back wall, enter a code into the keypad et voila: your home for the week! Narnia meets the sharing economy.

It was actually a really nice space, probably some kind of office turned into a rental unit, with one big room with a king bed & sitting area, a smaller bedroom with queen bed, and a fancy ass bathroom. There was no stove or kitchen sink but there was a Kuerig, a mini-fridge stocked with those little half-and-half cups you get at diners which are so gross but I adore, and an ice maker that rattled all. night. long. 

The other thing that rattled all. night. long was the old windows. It legit sounded like someone was jackhammering all the live long night. OR it sounded like someone was opening and closing a door...aka it constantly sounded like someone was breaking into the apartment. Y'all know I think a serial killer is going to get me at any moment so you can guess how well I slept in a parking garage where everything constantly went bump in the night.

Not great.

Still, I'd recommend renting this space! SUPER centrally located right in the downtown area, walkable to everywhere, and a solid price. Pack ear plugs. And by earplugs I mean Ambien. 

What to Do:

hotts in charleston couples vacation travel blog

Whatever you dang well please! Don't make an itinerary. Don't even get a map! Just walk out your door and see where the day takes you. You can ask our couple friends (with whom we got along swimmingly and did not have a fourway), Brian and I were LEGIT chill on this trip. A couple of cucumbers, I tell ya. Fresh out of the garden. We pretty much walked and walked and talked and ate and drank and popped into shops and napped and took a million photos and enjoyed the slow speed of life and the warm weather and crushed the pants off life. If we can survive three easy-breezy, unplanned vacation days, I'm prettttty sure you can too. 

Where to Eat:

hominy grill charleston food blogger hottsauce

Well you should probably eat at Husk because apparently it is delicious and also every time you instagram a picture from the city someone will comment "omg eat at Husk!!" and then when you don't in fact eat at Husk you'll just feel weird and stressed and guilty about it as if you're doing everything wrong in this world and need to defend your life choices. 

GUYS I'M SORRY WE DIDN'T EAT AT HUSK!!!! WE JUST DIDN'T OK???

Don't worry tho, we def didn't starve. Here's what we'd recommend - have The Hotts ever led you astray when it comes to food?? 

For some goddamn good sandwiches: Artisan Meat Share

For raw oysters: Pearlz

For biscuits so good you'll want to take them behind the middle school and get them pregnant: Callie's Hot Little Biscuits (I now look like someone took me behind the middle school and got me pregnant but that ain't a baby, it's biscuits and pimento cheese. mmmm.)

For fresh modern Mexican by the guy who runs Husk so you can say that at least you ate some Sean Brock food while in town: Minero

For LITERALLY the best and freshest small plates of seafood your body will ever consume you'll be ruined for fish for the rest of your life: The Ordinary (this was our favorite! Beautiful restaurant in an old bank building, we sat for 3 hours and dined on plate after plate of the tastiest seafood dishes, washed down with delicious wine and I wore a fun top with NO cardigan and really what a night, gang, would highly recommend this joint if you're in town and looking to get a little schmance.)

For indulgent brunch that includes macaroni & cheese and fried cheese grits on their vegetables menu: Hominy Grill

For greasy dive bar treats with a fancy twist (think duck BLT): Tattooed Moose

For light & healthy fare: LOL go home, you're boring. 

Where to Drink: 

gin joint charleston travel blogger hottsauce

Assume you'll be partnering all of your meals with at an adult bevvie or twelve, but if you're looking for a place to imbibe while digesting, here are a few places we liked.

For Oyster Shooters: Pearlz (it's like a tiny shot of bloody mary with a raw oyster inside. SO GROSS! By gross I mean great!)

For great views and horrible service: Vendue Rooftop

For a long list of delicious craft brewz: Craftsman Kitchen & Taphouse

For touristy but surprisingly well-priced al-fresco cocktails: Fleet Landing

For creative mixology: The Gin Joint

Where to Caffeinate:

hottreads charleston city lights cafe travel blogger

You're going to need a lot of coffee to counterbalance the downer effect of all the sweet tea vodka and lard you're consuming. Might we suggest:

For charming Southern service & yummy lattes served in mismatched Fiestaware: City Lights

For "good cold brew": Black Tap Coffee (We popped into the local indie bookstore Blue Bicycle, more on dat below, and asked the tres too cool for school proprietors where we could get a good coffee nearby and were met with the following conversation:

Me - "Where can I get some good coffee nearby?"

Her - "Question: Do you want your coffee good or do you want it nearby?"

Me - "Um, I guess good? I just want an iced-coffee to go."

Her (dripping with pretension) - "Sub-question: Do you want iced coffee or do you want cold brew?"

Me - stares blankly

Her mustacioed colleague (proudly) - "we're hipsters."

Brian (valiantly saving the day) - "We'll take some good cold brew, I guess!"

Them (together) - "Black Tap."

And then they ignored us and had a private conversation about the various artisan coffee bean subscription services they use. This interaction made us laugh and laugh but also made me a little sad because bookstore people aren't supposed to be hipster douchebags! They're supposed to be the best people in the world!! I'm chalking it up to an off day. And I gotta admit, the cold brew was pretty damn good.) 

Where to Shop:

oops, I don't have any pics of stores so here's some more gratuitous house porn

oops, I don't have any pics of stores so here's some more gratuitous house porn

For Books: The Blue Bicycle! Adorable indie bookstore with new & used titles and a teeeeeeny tiny shop dog that even I thought was adorable and I'm a monster. Give the benefit of the doubt to the snoots magoots staff mentioned above!

For toiletries you forgot to pack: This Walgreens. Centrally located! Great selection! And they sell WINE!

For sweetgrass baskets and kitschy crap: Historic Market. If you want a hilarious sign about boobs for your man-cave, this is the shopping mall for you! (Also I don't think we can be friends anymore.)

For antiques and art and fancy shit like that: Everywhere!!! Charleston is overflowing with high end homegoods stores but I'm poor and think the Pier One Outlet is a sophisticated place to buy furniture so I can't really help you here, folks. 

How to Pose:

Just like this, folks. Just like this. 

Liz is still so cool!

And there ya have it. The definitive guide to the very best Charleston visit a person could ever possibly dream of. Have a great trip! Take me with you!!!!!

xoxo Liz Hott 

HOTT READS: Volume Six

hottreads version 6 bookblogger books lit

Hello and happy spring! One of the worst things (among a large amount of worsts) about adulthood is that real life doesn't come with a spring break. But fancy high schools do! You might consider teaching as a career option if you want to make the most of your March. OR go a step better and marry a teacher, so you can reap all the benefits without, you know, having to be responsible for the futures of a bunch of hormonal youths. Bri-guy always gets off the last two weeks of March and we try to sneak in a little (or huge!) getaway every year to take advantage. This year, the Hotts are headed to Charleston, SC for a few days and I can't WAIT. We jet out tomorrow AM and we're going to eat so much food. We have a pretty solid list of reccos, but if you have any to share, hit me. I'll find the room. 

We're starting the trip with a few days downtown with another couple, our first couples' getaway! So adult! Don't worry, somebodyyy already had to go and make it weird by saying "just confirming, this isn't turning into some kind of swinger thing, right?" 

I'll bet you could never in a million years guess who that somebodyyy was??

We're then going out to my Aunt's house at the beach just outside of the city. We got lucky this year that Brian's break just so happens to straddle Easter, one whole side of my family is flying down the spend the holiday together (including my BFFFF), so we're getting the best of everything: friends, family and fried chicken. It's fixing to be a pretty perfect getaway.

Of course, what would a vacation be without books?! Literally nothing! Why even live. I'm planning to use this opportunity to catch up on some Pat Conroy, who just passed away. I've only read one of his novels, South of Broad (recommended) but just picked up The Prince of Tides, now seems like the right moment. 

As for YOU my friend! Even if you can't physically get a spring break, you can always go on an adventure of literature!!! 

Yes that isthe cheesiest thing I've ever said, thanks for noticing!. 

For real, tho. Take a look, it's in a book and here are a few I recently read and loved and hope you will too. As always, all book reccos are stored under the hottreads tab riiiiight up there. This list is long, I've been on a tear, so I'll do all I can to keep it brief. (LOL, sure.)

I'm glad about you, theresa book review hottreads litblog

I'm Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck

A completely charming, relatable, grown-up love story between Allison, an aspiring actress living in NYC and Kyle, her long-term love who she left behind in Cincinnati. The novel unfolds over a number of years, as their paths cross and diverge, as Allison's star begins to rise and Kyle's complex Catholic faith keeps him rooted in Ohio, not always to his pleasure. It's smart, sexy, sophisticated and hard to put down.

Elisabeth Egan, a writer I admire, hit the nail on the head in her review for the New York Times Book Review, praising: "Theresa Rebeck’s tale of two star-crossed Midwesterners passed my screen test with flying colors. You know the one — you have a little pocket of time (15 minutes in the eye doctor’s waiting room, three minutes while waiting for the coffee to perk), and you have a choice: You can check your phone or dip into a book. When you pick the book, you know you’re reading a winner." 

I don't think I realized that was my test, too, until she put it into words and this novel absolutely hits the spot. I read it on a trip to Philly to visit my sister, devouring the first half on the way down, and found myself actually looking forward to getting back on a bus - A BUS - to return home, because it meant I could dive back into I'm Glad About You. 

Two thumbs, way up.

Recommended for: People who miss that show Smash (Rebek was the creator!), rom-com aficionados, anyone (else!) who is randomly obsessed with Cincinnati, lapsed Catholics, Midwesterners. 

the nest cynthia sweeny book review litblog hottreads

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeny

The Nest (fresh on stands today!) is one of the buzziest books of the season and meets the hype. Alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, it's the story of four adult siblings on the cusp of earning a generous inheritance until the eldest brother, Leo, finds himself in a hot-hot mess that even he, generally charmed, can't pull them out of. The author is fascinating, this is her first novel, at 55! Her maturity comes through in her writing - the characters are real, their struggles feel earned and she beautifully conveys the delicate balance of family : obligation, guilt, loyalty and alternately loving and deeply loathing someone at the same time. I adored!

This book weirdly reminded me of that Netflix show Bloodline, with Coach Taylor, a show I thought was kind of horrible but did involve complicated sibling bonds. Also murder. This has no murder and is not horrible, but there is never a wrong time or place to fantasize about Coach Taylor, friends. NEVER. 

Recommended for: Fans of Jonathan Tropper & Meg Wolitzer, people who watched that Netflix show Bloodline, with Coach Taylor, and thought: "I wish this was better and funnier and had less murder!", anyone with many siblings or a complex family sitch, trendies who like to be in the know on the latest & hottest releases. 

american housewife book review litblog hottreads helen ellis

American Housewife by Helen Ellis

I don't know what to say about this slim, riotous, deranged little story collection except to say that Helen Ellis is my goddess. Move it or lose it, Beyonce. There is a new kween in town. 

Ellis herself is also utterly fascinating (read this or this or follow her on twitter if you don't believe me!) Like many writers, she landed in NYC at 22 with a suitcase and a dream, published her first novel to mild success, got married, and didn't publish again for years, instead leapt headfirst into the role of Upper East Side Housewife...and national poker champion. 

The stories in American Housewife are darkly funny, oft satirical glimpses into the inner anxieties of the modern woman, packed with a zany brand of retro feminism and oft informed by Ellis's own experiences. We've got murdered doormen and beauty queens and reality TV and failed novels and nefarious book clubs and oh my stars, y'all (I can say that here, the author's orig from Alabama and brings a hefty dose of Southern charm...and barbs) I adore this book. I want to read it over and over and over and savor it forever.

Like all of my favorite books, American Housewife made me cry on the subway. Except this time, I was crying with laughter, not sadness. Perhaps the ultimate proof of a winner?

Recommended for: all mah ladies who like their humor prickly, their wine chilled, their bras expertly fitted and thier wainscoting installed just so. Avid readers of anything in the realm of The Toast or The Awl or McSweeney's or Shouts and Murmurs. People who want to be my best friend. 

salt to the sea ruta book review litblog hottreads YA

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Veering very far in another direction, Salt to the Sea is a YA novel about WWII so it did make me cry on the subway, but for the other, standard reason. The lives of four young people converge in East Prussia in an imagining of the true story of the doomed ship Wilhelm Gustloff, which was meant to carry refugees to safety but instead sunk, becoming the largest maritime disaster in history, the details of which are sadly known by very few. Sepetys, who also wrote the wonderful novel Between Shades of Grey (and has a hilarious story about being mistaken for EL James on an airplane), is of Lithuanian descent and lost many family members during WWII. In both books, she shares stories that are not covered in traditional history classes, beyond Germany and Poland (which are, to be true, horrible in their own right!). 

I'm generally not a YA reader and there are some tropes of the genre present which I personally don't love (I'm such a cranky old crone, I roll my eyes at teen romances. Is that terrible of me?), but don't let that keep you away. Her writing is vivid, plotting is suspenseful and the depth of her characters goes beyond what you'd expect to be aimed at teenagers. She doesn't dumb down the realities of the situation for a younger crowd and knowing the inevitable ending - that all of these people you're travelling along with are going to end up on a sinking ship - adds a heartbreaking intensity to the book. 

The novel left me in tears, thinking of the fictional characters but also the real people they represent and all of the horror stories of war that go unremembered. LIFE IS SAD GUYS. 

Recommended for: adult fans of YA (no shame!), high school teachers or parents' of teens to share with the youths in their lives, fans of The Book Thief, The Nightingale and other WWII literature, people ready to weep. 

perfect days montes raphael book review hottreads translation litblog

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

Switching tacks again, this slim novel in translation by a young Brazilian writer is CREEPY, caps intentional. The protagonist, I suppose we might call him that, Teo, is a medical student and oh, an anti-social psychopath. He meets Clarice, an aspiring screenwriter working on a film about a road trip across Brazil and proceeds to kidnap her and take her along the course of the trip in her script...as you do. 

Montes sets the eerie tone from the beginning and slowly escalating the stakes and the twists until a point of no return. There is one moment that haunted me, literally, keeping me awake all night and still makes my skin crawl when I think about it. 

Ultimately the creepiest thing about this novel - like reading any great psychological thriller with the bad guy at the center - is how you find yourself unintentionally stepping into the shoes of Teo. Not necessarily rooting for him, per se, but  seeing into his mind, nodding along at his decisions, waiting for his rationale to his behaviors. He gets under your skin in a way that's so bad, it's  good.

Perhaps the scariest plot twist in the novel is the final line in the author bio that reads "Montes was born in 1990...". KEWL. 1990! That's the thing about hot young writers. We get older, they stay the same age. 

Recommended for: people with a high threshold for horror, anyone who doesn't need sleep at night, psychopaths, Brazilians. 

breaking wild les becquets book review hottreads

Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets

I absolutely devoured this book during Winter Storm Jonas Brothers back in January (#neverforget). Set in the Colorado wilderness, Breaking Wild alternates between two female narrators: Amy Raye, a hunter who goes missing while out trailing an elk, and Pru, a park ranger who refuses to believe that Amy Raye can't - or doesn't want to - be found. The novel spins out like a great thriller as it digs deeper into the psychology of these two very complex women. I initially deemed this a "modern, feminist Hatchet" and I stand by that judgement. 

I LOVE reading about women found outside of traditional "feminine spheres" (duh) and Amy Raye and Pru bring that in spades, their version of "having it all" involves slaughtering an elk in a blizzard while also balancing family and love. Les Becquets has a deep appreciation for the power of nature and her reverence brings the book beyond an adventure narrative. I highly suggest listening to this tremendous NPR interview, which gave me some insight onto what it's like to be a woman hunter, to understand why a person could love animals and yet desire to kill them, to see how cleansing the great outdoors can be. 

Recommended for: badass feminist ladies, anyone who loves the great outdoors, hunters, people who think hunting is weird but want to understand it a little better, anyone who loves a great tale of adventure and wilderness, Gary Paulson fans all grown up. 

***

And there you have it, friends! That should keep you occupied at least until beach reads season. Happy spring, beloveds, and happy reading!

xoxo Liz Hott