Blog and Tips

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Three More Reasons to Love Dining Outdoors

Three More Reasons to Love Dining Outdoors

Three More Reasons to Love Dining Outdoors

There’s a lot to love about Summer in the Lowcountry (besides the obvious beach days). Warm-weather produce is back on the menu, festival season is in full swing, and Old Town Bluffton is bustling with locals and visitors enjoying the sunny weather. We love hosting guests on our patio to indulge in great food, great weather, and even better company.

If you’re like us, you probably already ask for a table outside every chance you get, but here are a few more reasons to dine outdoors this summer.

You Get to Enjoy Some Fresh Air

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans, on average, spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. Fresh air has a profound effect on your mood and health – from cleansing your lungs to raising your levels of serotonin, your happiness hormone – so you might as well nourish your body in multiple ways by moving your meals outside.

The Relaxation Value

Plant lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike know that surrounding yourself with natural elements, like greenery and sunlight, is instantly relaxing. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of your daily life by enjoying some soothing scenery while you eat your salad. The fresh air also lowers your stress hormones and blood pressure, so you’re more relaxed and even focused while you eat. People are less likely to focus on their food when they’re stressed, causing them to overeat or enjoy their meals less. Eating outside will help you savor the moment (and every bite).

It Keeps You Social

Not only is our patio the perfect place for people-watching, but it’s easier to chat with your friends outside than it is over the voices of other indoor guests. People are also more likely to stay at the table longer to enjoy the weather and views, giving you more time to spend with the people who matter most.

Whether you’re a Lowcountry local or an out-of-towner, there’s a seat for you on our sunny patio! Join us for breakfast Mon-Fri (9-11 am) or Sat (8-11 am), lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm) to see why we’re consistently voted Bluffton’s best outdoor dining location.

How to Make Your Favorite Southern Foods a Bit Healthier

How to Make Your Favorite Southern Foods a Bit Healthier

Whether you’re planning to visit the Lowcountry soon or are lucky enough to live here, two things are probably on your mind this month: beach season and indulging in your favorite Southern foods, especially as RBC Heritage week approaches. But your two priorities don’t work well together…right?

Southern food has a bad rap for being unhealthy, but you don’t have to give up your clean eating habits to try this cuisine! With a few simple swaps, you can enjoy Lowcountry fare while staying on track to meet your wellness goals.

  1. Load up on the veggies. Southern food is based on simple ingredients, many of which are vegetables. Collard greens, okra, and mashed sweet potatoes are both nutritious and flavorful. Try trading fried sides for plant-based alternatives, or order a salad as your main meal. The Cottage’s salads are anything but basic: our Avocado Caprese with Grilled Shrimp and Beets and Blue salads are made with the freshest ingredients and a little Lowcountry flare.


2. Pay attention to portion sizes. The nutritional value of Southern food doesn’t only depend on what you’re eating – it also depends on the portion size. If you want to sample a traditional dish without committing to an entire meal, order one of our appetizers, like our famous Fried Green Tomatoes. We can also split any of our entrees so you and a friend can share.


3. Look for lean proteins. The Lowcountry is known for its world-class seafood, which is a smart choice for health-conscious consumers. It’s a lean protein that delivers a host of health benefits, including omega-3s. Fish and shellfish are lower in saturated fat than red meats and are also lower in cholesterol than other proteins. Try our Blue Crab, Shrimp & and Avocado Roll or the Fish Taco Salad. Not a fan of fish? Ask for a grilled chicken breast instead.

Not ready to give up jambalaya, shrimp and grits, and pimento dip? Neither are we. But choosing lighter alternatives of your favorite Southern dishes is a great way to fuel your body while savoring the region’s classic flavors. We’re open Mon-Fri (9-11 am) and Sat (8-11 am), for lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or for Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm)!

Three Ways to Make a Better Cup of Coffee at Home

Three Ways to Make a Better Cup of Coffee at Home

A day without coffee is like…just kidding. We have no idea. If you’re like us, you can’t start your morning without a hot cup o’ joe, whether you brew it at home or stand in line at your favorite coffee shop, wondering how the barista serves up everything from cold brew creations to specialty drip roasts with (seemingly) little effort. And no matter what you order, the taste is always 10 times as rich as whatever you get from your old coffee pot, no matter how many grounds you add. So if you crave that rich, café-style coffee taste but don’t want to spend $6 every day on a latte, then keep reading: we’re sharing our favorite tips for making better coffee at home.

Start With Great Coffee Beans

A great cup of coffee is made from the ground up – literally. So if you buy high-quality beans, you’re more likely to brew a richer, more flavorful cup of coffee. For a lighter, brighter, coffee, go with a light or medium roast. If you want a deep, more complex flavor, go for a dark roast. We love coffees that are infused with unexpected flavors (like Creamed Honey, English Toffee, or Maple Brown Sugar), but no matter what you wake up craving, make sure that your coffee beans are fresh, and, if possible, locally roasted.

Coffee beans can last up to a month if they’re stored in a cool, dry place, but immediately after roasting, compounds begin to escape from the beans in a process called degassing – taking a lot of flavor with them. After 8 days, up to 70% of those compounds will be gone. As time goes on, you lose more flavor and are left with stale-tasting coffee. Buying local coffee ensures that less of your coffee’s “shelf life” has been wasted on packaging and transportation.

Get On the Daily Grind

We know what you’re thinking: grinding coffee yourself is pain. But it’s really not…so long as you use a great coffee grinder. Different brewing methods require different grind sizes to make great coffee, so make sure you pay attention to your grinder’s coarseness (or fineness) setting. If the coffee brews too quickly, it means the grind was too coarse. If it brews too slowly, it means the grind was too fine. Additionally, if the coffee tastes too acidic and sour it usually means the grind was too coarse, and if it tastes too bitter, it means the grind was too fine. Generally speaking, espresso requires a fine grind, pour-overs and AeroPress require a medium grind, and French Presses require a coarse grind.

Use the Right Amount of Coffee

Your coffee-to-water ratio will determine how strong or weak your cup of coffee will be – but exactly how much coffee should you use? As a general rule, use 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water, but feel free to experiment with your measurements depending on the coffee’s flavor (and fast you need to wake up).

Too much morning and not enough coffee? We can fix that. Enjoy a mug (or two) of locally-roasted May River Coffee Roasters coffee over breakfast then buy a bag of beans for later. Each small batch is infused with inspired flavors like Banana Cream Pie, Chocolate Covered Oranges, and Blueberry Cream. Learn more about May River Coffee Roasters here:

What Southern Hospitality REALLY Means


What Southern Hospitality REALLY Means

Southern hospitality is more than a catchphrase for Lowcountry locals – it’s a lifestyle. If you’re from out of town, the saying likely conjures up images of rocking on the front porch, sipping sweet tea, and sit-down family dinners. But the roots of this down-home friendliness run deeper than inviting friends over every once in a while. So, how exactly do you define Southern hospitality?

You asked, and we’re answering. Here are the top qualities locals use to define Southern hospitality.

Great cooking.

Entertaining and delicious food go hand-in-hand in the South. We embrace tradition in the kitchen, often preparing time-tested recipes that are prepared with a whole lot of love (and maybe a little butter). One dish is never enough, as you never know who might be joining you for dinner. There’s nothing quite like Southern comfort cooking to warm you from the inside out, which is why we take care in preparing our Shrimp & Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Chicken and Waffles.

Guests are treated like family.

The saying, “There are no strangers, just friends we haven’t met yet,” is especially true in the South. Guests are treated like family here, so it’s clear why people are drawn to the Lowcountry’s inviting atmosphere. At The Cottage, our service philosophy is to every customer – new or returning – as if we go way back.

Unhurried conversation.

We don’t get in a hurry down South. Instead, we talk slowly to let guests know they’re welcome and to connect with them on a deeper level. The conversation flows seamlessly from the front door to the back porch, where you roll up your sleeves, sip sweet tea, and the only agenda for the day is enjoying the company of others.


You can forget about fixing your own plate or washing the dishes when you’re in the South. We take pride in cooking for others and serving our guests, lending a hand to our neighbors, and offering bits of hand-me-down wisdom. We’ll be the first to offer recommendations or point you in the right direction if you’re lost on some old back road – that is, if you don’t mind navigating by town landmarks.

Customers come to The Cottage for our award-winning food, but they return for our hospitality. Experience our café and bakery’s old-world charm at breakfast Mon-Fri (9-11 am) or Sat (8-11 am), at lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or at Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm). We can’t wait to see you!

Ten Surprisingly Delicious Southern Foods

Ten Surprisingly Delicious Southern Foods

From creamy pimento cheese to crispy fried pickles, the South undoubtedly has some of the most decadent, delicious, and downright bizarre cuisines in the nation. Born from a rich mix of culinary traditions and ingredients you might not find outside of the bottom states, Southern food is truly unlike anything else – which tends to confuse visitors.

While you might not see recipes like Ambrosia salad or tomato pie outside of the South, don’t knock ‘em until you try ‘em, especially if you’re visiting the Lowcountry. We’ve rounded up ten surprisingly delicious Southern recipes for you to try this month.

Shrimp and Grits

Creamy, savory, buttery, and rich are just a few words to describe one of our all-time favorite Southern foods: shrimp and grits. If you’ve never started the day with a bowl of stone-ground grits topped with local shrimp and scallions, you’re missing out.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Red tomatoes? Never heard of them! For this dish, unripe green tomatoes are sliced and dipped into a cornmeal batter and given a good fry. These crispy delights are the perfect summer snack, especially when they’re served in our Cajun tomato cream sauce or with cool ranch dressing.

Ambrosia Salad

It’s best not to ask too many questions when it comes to this dessert. One bite of this orange-grapefruit-coconut-cherry-marshmallow concoction says it all.

Fried Chicken and Waffles

Is it breakfast? Lunch? Both? Neither? Whatever it is, fried chicken and waffles have a permanent spot in our hearts and on our Sunday brunch table. Dunk a forkful of battered chicken and fluffy Belgian waffle in maple syrup for the ultimate sweet-and-savory flavor experience.

Pimento Cheese

This creamy, spicy cheese spread is the glue that binds the South together. Spread it on crackers or grill it between bread to taste the sharp cheddar, or add a dollop to your basic bowl of shrimp and grits for a next-level breakfast.

Pepper Jelly

Just add cream cheese and a stack of crackers to assemble a pepper jelly-based, fancy-ish, Southern-style snack.

Tomato Pie

Before you imagine a disaster that ended up on your Thanksgiving dessert table, picture this: a flakey, puff pastry crust, layers of heirloom tomatoes, four cheeses, four herbs, and crème fraîche. Need we say more?

Possum Pie

Speaking of unlikely pies, possum pie is both completely delicious and completely roadkill-free. Made with chocolate, pecans, and cream cheese, this dessert is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Pineapple Casserole

When you read the ingredients list – pineapple, Cheddar cheese, crushed Ritz crackers – you may be tempted to pass on this particular dish, but don’t you dare. Mind your manners and start scooping.

Sweet Tea

It’s not summer in the South unless you’re sipping a glass of sweet tea on a sunny patio. If you’re ordering and you want your tea unsweetened, you have to say so. (You’ve been warned.)

No vacation would be complete without sampling the local foods. Join us at The Cottage for classic Southern dishes with a little Lowcountry flair.

Join us for breakfast Mon-Fri (9-11 am) and Sat (8-11 am), for lunch Mon-Sat (11 am-3 pm), or for Sunday brunch (8 am-2 pm). We’re excited to see you, seat you, and serve you some delicious Southern cooking!

Seven Insider Tips for Shopping Your Local Farmers Market

Seven Insider Tips for Shopping Your Local Farmers Market

Farmer’s markets are summertime staples, especially here in the Lowcountry. Between the sunny weather, fresh foods, and some good old-fashioned Southern gab, shopping the stands harkens back to a time when goods were bought and sold between friends and neighbors.

We love our Bluffton Farmers Market vendors here at The Cottage, but we get it: it’s easy to find yourself confused and flustered by the crowds and options at the farmer’s market. Is it okay to sample or to ask a lot of questions? Can you bring your dog? What’s the best time to go? Or maybe you just don’t go because it feels too exclusive. If you’ve been missing out on the market day because you’re not sure what to do or where to start once you get there, we’d like to change that. Here are seven insider tips for shopping at your local farmer’s markets.

Take a lap.

Like Cher Horowitz said in the cult classic Clueless, “Let’s take a lap before we commit to a location.” And while she said this in reference to a high school party circa 1995, the advice applies to market day. Walk the whole market to scout that day’s options before doubling back to make your purchases. It gives you the chance to find the foods you really want before settling and might help you discover some little-known stands in the back.

Arrive early.

Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open, so if you arrive early, you’re less likely to find yourself peering at a bunch of carrots over anyone’s shoulder. The most popular goods tend to sell out first, so if you know you want those morning buns or fresh berries, set your alarm and head straight for the stands.

Look past the produce.

While nothing beats the crisp lettuce, shiny heirloom tomatoes, and farm-fresh fruit you’ll find at the farmers market, don’t limit your list to produce. You can also get fresh eggs, homemade cheeses, local honey, and – eh hem – delicious baked goods at select stands. Just remember to bring extra bags (and maybe a buddy) to help you carry it all. 

Respect the merchandise.

A common complaint we hear from produce vendors is that customers get too rough with their fruits. Don’t squeeze tomatoes, avocados, and fruit. If you’re not sure about how ripe something is, ask the farmer to help you. Questioning whether something’s fresh isn’t an insult, and it may help you learn something new about fresh foods.

Bring small bills.

While there’s been an uptick in the vendors using smartphone apps to process card payments, some only accept cash. Paying in small change is much easier than breaking down large bills, so stock your wallet with 5’s and 10’s in advance.

Don’t negotiate.

Travelers know that bargaining is appropriate – if not expected – at some markets, but farmer’s markets are not the place for negotiations. Shopping for quality is just as important as looking for the best deal.

Talk to the vendors.

Our favorite thing about market day is the chance to chat with our customers. Don’t be shy about asking vendors questions about their businesses, products, or pairing recommendations. We love getting to know our Cottage customers, and visitors to our farmer’s market stand are no exception.

Thursday is the only day of the week we like more than Friday.

Find us at the Bluffton Farmers Market every Thursday from 12-5 p.m. to shop our selection of decadent cookies, gooey cinnamon rolls, or fresh bread, and other baked goods. Our stand is located directly in front of The Cottage, the perfect place to get lunch once you’ve finished shopping.

The Cottage Grilled Bread Salad

The Italian classic panzanella gets a new spin when you grill the bread. This added dimension, I think, further brings out the summer sweetness of dead-ripe beefsteak tomatoes. The juxtaposition of the caramelized, toasted bread against the sweet-tart tomatoes makes for plenty of contrast in flavor and texture. You can also try this without grilling the tomatoes, if you prefer. Just don’t make this salad too far in advance. You want the bread to have a little structure and crispness.


Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces day-old Italian bread, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
6 dead-ripe meaty tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into quarters
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/3 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
7 or 8 grindings black pepper

Step 1

1. Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. When it’s about half melted, throw in the garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, allowing the garlic to take on a little bit of color. Remove from the heat and brush this mixture on both sides of each slice of bread.

Step 2

2. Oil the grill racks. Preheat your grill using all burners set on high and with the lid closed for 10 to 12 minutes.

Step 3

3. Place the bread on the grill, close the lid, and cook, turning once, until well marked. Careful here; depending on the moisture content of the bread, this could happen as quickly as 2 minutes (or about 1 minute on each side), but it usually takes about 4 minutes. Place the tomatoes on the grill, close the lid, and cook for a few minutes per side.

Step 4

4. Remove the bread to a cutting board, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the tomatoes, onion, olive oil, vinegar, herbs, salt, and pepper. Toss gently with your hands to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings if you desire. Serve at room temperature.

The Cottage Grains

This was super yummy but I think I would cut down on the butter next time. Way too much. Added in some fresh roasted peppers and used thyme instead of tarragon. Really good! Will be making this again. Soon.

The Cottage Pumpkin


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. For the crust: Combine the gingersnaps, brown sugar, and ginger in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the cookies are fine crumbs. Drizzle the butter into the crumb mixture. Pulse 8 to 10 times to combine.
  3. Press the gingersnap mixture into the bottom, up the sides, and just over the lip of a 9-inch glass pie dish. Place on a half sheet pan and bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool crust at least 10 minutes before filling.
  4. For the filling: Bring the pumpkin puree to a simmer over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the half-and-half, nutmeg, and salt. Stir and return the mixture to a simmer. Remove the pumpkin mixture from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.
  5. Whisk the brown sugar, eggs, and yolk until smooth in a large bowl. Add the pumpkin mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour the prepared filling into the warm pie crust and bake on the same half sheet pan until the center jiggles slightly but the sides of the filling are set, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for at least 2 to 3 hours before slicing. Pie can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. Pie is best the day after it is made.
  6. For mini-pies: Evenly divide the crust mixture between 5 (5-inch) pie tins and bake on a half sheet pan for 5 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before evenly dividing the filling between the pans. Bake until the center juggles slightly but the sides of the filling are set, 25 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for 2 hours. Spread 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar on the top of each pie. Melt the sugar using a torch to form a crispy top. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Puree:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Slice a small piece of skin off the one side of the pumpkin so when laid on its side, the pumpkin will lay flat without rolling. Remove the stem and split the pumpkin in half from top to bottom, using a large cleaver and a mallet. Scoop out the seeds and fiber with a large metal spoon or ice cream scoop. Cut the fibers with kitchen shears if necessary. Reserve seeds for another use.
  3. Sprinkle the flesh with kosher salt and lay the halves, flesh side down, on a parchment paper-lined half sheet pan. Roast until a paring knife can be easily inserted and removed from the pumpkin, 30 to 45 minutes. Test in several places to ensure doneness.
  4. Remove the half sheet pan to a cooling rack and cool the pumpkin for 1 hour. Using a large spoon, remove the roasted flesh of the pumpkin from the skin to the bowl of a food processor. Process until the flesh is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

The Cottage Lemons


For the crust:

For the filling:


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
  3. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
  4. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
  5. Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
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