Thursday, February 14, 2013

Columbia on Valentine's Day

A big bear hug to everyone on Valentine’s Day!!!

We saw these guys last weekend at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia. The entire weekend was planned around the boys: hotel with pool and breakfast included, a children’s museum, zoo, delicious culinary experience… Well maybe not entirely around the boys!
It all began rather inauspiciously. Columbia is only a 90 minute drive from Greenville so I timed our arrival to coincide with lunch. I had picked a bakery voted “Best in Columbia” for many years, but turns out is closed for private parties on Saturdays. My next choice was dark and shuttered and my final choice had a for sale sign in the window. We discovered later they had simply moved a few blocks down (which explained the “yeah, we’re open” phone call we made after discovering #2 was closed) but at this point, stomachs growling, we popped into 116 Espresso & Wine Bar on State Street, also on my list but winner only due to convenience. At that moment our luck turned, as we got a table rather quickly and ended up with a rather gourmet meal for such a nondescript location.

On our walk down Gervais Street
Then off to the EdVenture Children’s Museum, where the boys had a blast exploring the “World of Work” and water works, making music, playing hockey and even conducting a newscast. I can’t deny that mom didn’t enjoy hitting the puck a few times or trying out the step-activated music machine, but I will also say it was a relief when it came time to leave, as the museum was swarming with enthusiastic (read: loud) kids not always as closely chaperoned as this mother might prefer.

I found the giant child to be on the creepy side, they're hard enough to handle regular size...
As Mikus had napped at the museum we were able to follow the EdVenture with a dip in the pool. Mikus was terrified at first, by the time he had warmed up to the sensation of being with mom in the water both boys’ teeth were chattering. It has also dawned on me that when I was a kid, hotels with pools were the best places, but as a mom I’m not really looking forward to our next pool experience; the enormous blue expanse of my childhood has been replaced with a tiny, possibly not-so-clean and definitely overcrowded with rowdy and unsupervised tweens pool.
I then dragged my reluctant troop to the Motor Supply Company Bistro. With a different menu every single night depending on what is in season and chef’s preference, we could only view the menu just before departing. Even with the boys in tow, we were treated with nothing but courteous and helpful staff, and the meal was fabulous. After our time in France I often times think I might have become too picky for my own good, but this place left me satisfied and feeling like we got a great value for our money. We started with Prince Edward Island mussels, sautéed & tossed in a shallot & garlic herbed pan butter sauce, which I followed with a duo of crispy duck thighs & house smoked sausage with a petite vegetable and nettle velouté. Roberts had the sea salt rubbed NY strip topped with caramelized leek & marsala gastrique, which may sound a little snobby but was perfectly cooked to order and had me wishing I had ordered one as well. Lauris preferred the crème brûlée which I very generously offered to share with him, something I now regret, thinking of the equipment needed to make this dish at home. If you’re looking for a place to have a special dinner in Columbia, I heartily recommend the Motor Supply Company Bistro.

The handwritten menu from our visit
Motor Supply Co Bistro on Urbanspoon  

Sunday morning we enjoyed a long breakfast at the hotel before heading to the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. I’m not quite sure why I feel the need to go to the zoo when I’ve got my own right here at home, but this place was awesome! We got up close and personal with some giraffes, hung out in the kangaroo enclosure, fed the birds, and had a spectacular time! The enclosures all have a very natural feel to them and didn’t give that caged feeling I get watching the big cats in many other zoos, and through the various attractions enabled the boys to get really up close and personal with the animals. We will be taking visitors here in the future, that’s for sure.

Do you see the baby giraffe sticking its tongue out?
We crossed the river and into the gardens portion of the site. By just wandering around we ended up taking a roundabout route through the woods (the “Woodland Walk”) and along the Saluda River to the Saluda Mill Historic Museum. It wasn’t open, but the ruins of the old Confederate fabric factory were clearly visible, and the entire climb up to the ridge top I envisioned Confederate soldiers lunching on the big rocks and marching through the trees, smoke visible from the burning of Columbia. That bridge we had crossed replaced a covered bridge that was burned by the retreating troops during the Civil War, the rock foundations still visible from the modern variation.
And then we emerged into gardens so beautiful, even this time of year that I exclaimed in happiness over and over again! Reminiscent of the Keukenhof gardens we visited in Holland, our stroll through the various pavilions and gardens was an inspiration and rejuvenation. I can’t wait to return to better explore the various beds and borders in a few months, in bloom and in full color!

Columbia does not have a reputation as being a culinary center, nor a must-see destination, but our impromptu trip showed us a side of the city I had not seen. The two-day itinerary was ideal for the kids, fit well into our busy schedule and gave us a respite from the winter blues, and I enthusiastically endorse a visit to South Carolina’s capital to all visitors to the Upstate.

Lauris and the Larikeets

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...