Happily Leaving Big-City Life Behind for Charleston's Charm"I knew Charleston was beautiful, and a great tourist spot and hot in the summer, but otherwise it was a rather random choice."
If you were to pick a city that's the complete opposite of Los Angeles, you might choose a place like Charleston. That's precisely how Caroline Nuttall ended up leaving behind an exhausting career in the Hollywood entertainment industry five years ago in favor of a more laid-back Southern lifestyle.
"I knew Charleston was beautiful, and a great tourist spot and hot in the summer," she recalls, "but otherwise it was a rather random choice." What she found was a city that was surprisingly cultured, with vibrant food, fashion and contemporary art scenes. She started her online magazine, Charlie, to spread word that Charleston is more than a historic city.
Nuttall loves to convert her big-city L.A. and Manhattanite friends to Charleston fans by showing off the city's hip side at events like Piccolo Spoleto, the hyper-local (and cheaper) spawn of the acclaimed parent arts festival Spoleto Festival USA, both of which take place each spring. Or she'll swing through some of the city's contemporary art galleries, like the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art or Redux Contemporary Art Center.
By far, her favorite thing to do in the city is eat. "I became a full-fledged foodie when I came here," she exclaims. Under the guise of research for Charlie, Nuttall spends plenty of time dining and imbibing. She could live off the cheese and charcuterie menu at Bin 152, for instance. And while everyone in Charleston is flocking to eat at the newest culinary darling, Husk, you'll find Nuttall at the cozy bar, sipping one of the establishment's inventive bourbon cocktails.
What sets Charleston apart from other great cuisine locales is the way in which this small city is able to redefine the term locavore. "You get very invested in these places because you know you're supporting a chef you know, a farmer you've met, a bartender you know by name," Nuttall explains. Her favorite event of the year is the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, but to really get to the heart of revolutionary Southern cuisine, she tries to keep abreast of the movements of underground supper clubs like Guerrilla Cuisine, which brings strangers together for a mysterious meal prepared by an anonymous top local chef.
Although Nuttall's job necessitates a certain amount of time on the "scene," she still slips into the slow Southern stream that attracted her from California. "Every weekend I can go on vacation in my own city," she says. "I live very close to The Battery, and I love to walk or run in Battery Park. It's a beautiful stretch, with gorgeous, huge homes on one side and water on the other, with Fort Sumter in the distance."
There's something decidedly more European than American about the Charleston way of life. It's a distinction that becomes apparent to Nuttall on lazy Sundays when Charlestonians fill restaurants and cafes for leisurely brunches that extend for hours. More than once, Nuttall has tucked into the French toast at High Cotton with a visiting friend who had to make a last-minute flight reschedule for Monday morning so as not to miss the next round of mimosas.
Check out Caroline's Charleston.