Have you ever wondered who's behind Basil and Bubbly? A face? A name? ... even a hint? I've been intentionally vague about these things since starting my blog, because I felt that my recipes and reviews were for everyone. It's not a lifestyle blog; it's about cooking and eating. Everyone does at least one of those things, regardless of income, employment, or lifestyle, and I didn't want, well, myself (!) to get in the way of sharing all of the glorious, glorious food.
But over the last year or so, something weird started happening. People started paying attention. I got recognized in public, y'all. Quite a few times, in fact. I guess the secret's out: there's a human behind these pages.
So when Borrowed & Blue, an amazing online resource for planning Charleston weddings reached out to me to answer a few questions, I thought this would be a great opportunity to open up a bit. You know my recipes, you've read my stories, and today, you can learn a little bit about the crazy lady behind it all.
“Food, booze, and a little snark” is how Marianne describes the content at Basil & Bubbly, her awesome, Charleston-based food and beverage blog—and I’m all about it! I love Marianne’s mixture of local reviews (check out the Immortal Lobster food truck AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to try that buttery poached Connecticut Lobster roll she raves about in this post) and recipe how-tos that leave my mouth watering. Borrowed & Blue’s readers will love Marianne’s practical but sassy attitude toward all things food and drinks. I’m so excited for everyone to check out this Q&A to learn more about Basil & Bubbly, Marianne, and the Charleston food scene in general.”
- Helen, Borrowed & Blue’s Charleston Market Specialist
Here’s my Q&A with Borrowed & Blue:
- Marianne! Tell us a little about yourself.
As an Atlanta native, I grew up in the heart of a major city in a fabulously Southern family, but there were no fried-chicken Sunday dinners in our house. I consider my mother's cooking style to be distinctly French, although she would swear it's "True Southern": fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden, light vinaigrettes, fresh fruits for dessert ( if any dessert at all ), and almost everything entirely from scratch. Like my mother, I love French food, and am something of a food snob. Unlike her, I've been known to rave about late night Taco Bell. I guess I'm a weird mix: I'm brutally honest, but an etiquette pedant. I am definitely a crazy cat lady. I'm a Charleston Symphony Orchestra season ticket holder, and an avid fan of gangster rap. I've been known to drink grower champagne in Target yoga pants. There's no explaining me.
- How did you get started as a blogger?
I went to school for Computer Science, but I'd grown up in the food and beverage industry and wanted to still have a creative cooking outlet once I moved into the tech industry. I started doing restaurant reviews because at that time, the other reviews were always positive, so I didn't really trust them. I wanted people to trust me, to know that I would be honest. In the beginning, my posts looked rough. I could go back and pretty them up. That's a thing a lot of bloggers do, but for now, I leave them as a reminder of where I started and where I am now, and to hopefully inspire new bloggers to put themselves out there and know that they will grow, and no one starts out with it all together! I still don't have it all together!
- What five objects do you never leave the house without?
Of course, my cellphone, although I rarely answer phone calls. It's an asynchronous communication device for me. A hair tie or two -- I almost always pull my hair back before eating. Lipstick or lip goss -- I love the way a bright lip color can give me a little confidence boost. People assume you've made a lot of effort if you've put on a bright lip. It's a fabulous little way to cheat your way into looking like a grownup, particularly when you're a food blogger who has no clue how to dress herself. My watch -- as in a real watch, not some tech thing. I know it's old school, but maybe that's what I love about it; it's something mechanical in a world of bits and bytes. The last thing I never leave the house without is my wedding ring. Even if I'm going to the gym or out to the mailbox, I put it on. I know it's crazy, but I have this weird fear : what if something happens to me, and no one thinks to call my husband? I feel like my wedding ring is this little beacon that guarantees they will.
- Describe your dream day in Charleston.
My dream day in Charleston starts at Glazed, with a Blueberry and Corn donut, aka The Best Donut To Have Ever Existed. I'd do a tour of the Aiken-Rhett house. I love touring the old houses in Charleston, and that's the last one on my list that I haven't hit yet. Then, I'd go to the Farmer's Market and look at all the cool local vendors. I'd grab a build-your-own salad from Caviar and Bananas and walk down to Waterfront Park with it. People always go to the pineapple fountain, but I like to walk all the way down towards the Yacht Club, where there's another pier that is always empty to eat my lunch in peace. After lunch, I'd stop by Goat. Sheep. Cow. to talk cheese with the people behind the counter, and pick up some obscure champagne I hadn't seen before. I'd work my way back up to Queen Street, and grab a Charleston Light Dragoon's Punch from the bar at Husk. Because I'm a homebody, my night ends with dinner! I'd end with dinner being the cooking class at Zero George, which despite being in a hotel, is my absolute favorite restaurant in Charleston right now.
- How about some favorite places to do some shopping in the area?
I love Coastal Cupboard. I can always count on them to have Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste, which is the only way I'll flavor anything "Vanilla". It is the best! Plus, they have great dinnerware and barware. I also love Candy Shop Vintage, a little jewelry shop off of Cannon Street ( but they have an online shop, too). I recently went by and met the proprietor and designer Deirdre Zahl, and she's wonderful. She's filled the shop with all of these pieces that just feel ... special, you know? You aren't going to find a million people around town with that same piece. You can also find her Charleston Rice Beads, which I'm convinced are the modern-day Southern Girl's alternative to classic pearls, and her whimsical Candy Shop Collection, a line of jewelry entirely based on cocktails, at the shop. I have pieces from both lines!
- Okay, on to the restaurant questions. What’s your favorite brunch spot in Charleston and why?
There's no question about it: Hall’s Chophouse. The impeccable service, the beautiful gospel music of The Plantation Singers, and the foooood. The French Toast is made with Lavender scented brioche, Vermont maple syrup, and espresso mascarpone cream. It's one of my favorite brunch dishes, ever. You can eat brunch anywhere, but Hall's isn't just a meal, it's an experience. You can't help but leave Hall's Gospel Brunch feeling so very grateful you're in Charleston.
- How about a dinner spot? Pick more than one if you like.
This is such a hard question to answer. For a fancy meal, I’m completely obsessed with Zero George Cafe right now. There are so many these hip farm-to-table restaurants right now, and the food is good, but I leave feeling like I could have cooked the same dish at home. There is nothing from Chef Petrillo’s kitchen that I could make at home; his food is art. Don't bother ordering from the menu -- get the Tasting Menu with the pairings.
For something more casual, it's got to be Taco Boy. Nothing says summer in Charleston to me like a Skinny Pineapple Vanilla Margarita and Guac on the Taco Boy patio. I've gone with my husband for date night, and I've also dropped by for a post-workout margarita, still in my gym clothes. And yes, post-workout margaritas are totally a thing.
- Any tips for folks who are looking to cook more at home, but feel like it’s a lot of work?
Cheat! Cheat shamelessly. Buy a rotisserie chicken, cook a box of seasoned couscous according to the package, and serve it with a bagged salad mix. This dinner literally takes 5 minutes to make, and only leaves you one pan to clean up, plus dishes. If you feel like you’ve mastered that, try cooking basic boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of buying a cooked chicken. It’s still dinner on the table in under 15 minutes, and no prep involved. Also, cheat with the salad bar. I LOVE the salad bar at my grocery store. It’s the perfect place to grab some cooked asparagus spears, raw spinach, and cooked peas to toss in some pasta with olive oil, or a slew of pizza toppings without doing any of the slicing and dicing yourself. Use all these little tricks, and then keep branching out with your technique and level of difficulty.
Don't let a bunch of ingredients weight you down, either. I think a lot of people want to cook, so they go to one of the big recipe websites and pick something that requires four hours, $80 worth of new spices and other groceries, and an entire evening of cooking. Don't do that to yourself! Make it fun. Let it be easy!
- Do you have any go-to weeknight meals that you find yourself making over and over again?
Risotto is my favorite weeknight meal. People are so afraid of risotto, but they shouldn't be. It's super easy, and a great way to use up whatever is in the fridge. You just toss some onion, garlic, and a cup of arborio rice in olive oil and butter in a sauce pot over medium heat and stir until the rice becomes transparent. Then add one cup of warm broth to the mix, slowly stirring until all of the liquid is combined. Keep adding broth a cup at a time, until you've added a total of four cups of broth. Then, add whatever leftover veggies you have hanging around, stirring them in with the rice until it's all cooked through.
- Describe something that sets Charleston apart from other places you’ve lived.
I don't know if I can narrow it down to just one thing. I think it's the perfect mix of old Southern and big city. Of course, Charleston's not a big city. It's still small. It's easy to forget how small it is until you go to another city and realize how much we have here that other cities of the same size do not have. I recently went to the west coast for a few weeks and was really excited to try some new restaurants, but the majority of them couldn't even compare to what we have in Charleston, even in the major cities there. It was a wakeup call, albeit a fun one. My little South Carolina town blows the food in these other majors cities out of the water. What else could you ask for?
There you have it! I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about me and how Basil and Bubbly came to be! A huge thank you to Borrowed & Blue for reaching to me with these great questions. Be sure to check out their site, too, a great spot for finding Charleston wedding caterers.