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Friday, December 28, 2007

A Trip Down T.V. Lane

As a child of the 1980s, I watched quite a bit of television. I sat there, mouth agape, as Buzz Aldrin planted the MTV flag on the moon. As the Buggles serenaded the dawn of a new cultural movement.

I also spent a lot of time watching some much quieter programming. Like The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. (If the phrase, "happy little trees" does not make you smile, I am truly sorry.)

But one of the shows that is forever burned in my memory was an elegant culinary show simply called: Madeleine Cooks. The star and host, Madeleine Kamman, captivated my young imagination in a way that still befuddles me today. Throughout the course of the show, Ms. Kamman spoke to the audience in a most polite, informative way. Her thick French accent added a special mystique for me. (I hadn't yet met anyone with an accent other than an Irish brogue.) And, though she had a certain grandmotherly quality (her lovely grey hair was swept up into a loose bun), I also remember noticing that she was quite beautiful. Looking back on that now, I see how amazing it was, since as a child, I tended to view people more simply: either young or old. Friend or authority figure. Ms. Kamman was an interesting mix of both. While she seemed very nice on-screen, she also had this intonation in her voice (which may have just been her accent) that to me, had undertones of, "Hey, pay attention and don't mess this up!" Which I love now, more than ever. And, what I now know is that Ms. Kamman is held in high regard for her skill in blending traditional French cooking techniques with seasonal American cuisine. She uses the freshest ingredients and time-honored techniques resulting in nearly perfect, delicious good.

It's funny what a child remembers. A French woman gliding effortlessly through the kitchen, deftly slicing and dicing, drawing me nearer to my glowing t.v. screen as she lifted the lid on a steamy pot of simmering soup and said, "Eeeet smells lovely, no?"

Oui, Madame Kamman. Bien sur.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy & Warm

Coming to you from my warm and toasty couch. And yes, it is a bit cold in Charleston tonight. Currently, I'm feeling warm, safe and blissful. Someone very sweet has made me some homemade kipfel (a nut, flour and confectioner's sugar mixture that is simply lovely). I just googled it and found any number of variations from all parts of Eastern Europe. Suffices to say that these cookies melt in your mouth and should anyone ever offer one to you, you should say yes immediately. That's all for now. I hope this post finds you enjoying, relaxing and peaceful wherever you are.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

When Hospitality & Politics Meet...

It has been such the political month around here. First, Samantha Power, foreign policy advisor for Obama, lunches with us at Fish. Then, over at The William Aiken House, we played host to a press conference for Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and former Oklahoma Congressman Brad Carson during which they announced their support for Barack Obama.

Then, Goldman hits me with the news of his possible run for Vice Presidency of the U.S. on the Colbert ticket. While I'm at it, here are some Vice Presidential Fun Facts:
  • 2 VPs shot a man while in office: Aaron Burr & Dick Cheney

  • 3 VPs were the target of assassination attempts (all 3 unsuccessful)

  • 3 VPs became Nobel Peace Prize Laureates: Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Gates Dawes & Al Gore

  • 2 VPs resigned: John C. Calhoun (went to the Senate) & Spiro Agnew (no contest to pesky bribery charges)

Call me crazy, but I think that proves there is A LOT of room for improvement, vice presidentially speaking, that is.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New Year's Eve

I have to be honest. I really don't care for New Year's. As my friend Anne says, "It's amateur night." And more than that, I think it's a lot of build up and then a big let down. Have I sufficiently bummed you out? What I think is fun at New Year's is getting together with friends, laughing, talking and singing (yes, singing) over some fantastic food. And NO, this is not some shameless plug for spending your New Year's Eve with Fish. I mean, it sort of is, but it's more about me talking about what happens when great food and good people get together and spend some time. 'Tis rather magical.

But of course, I will give you our New Year's Eve prixe fixe menu. Roasted butternut squash soup. Truffled crimini mushrooms with five-spice pecans.

Then, you get to choose. Maybe you're feeling the broiled Alaskan King Crab legs with spicy cilantro aioli and fava bean salad. No? Perhaps the open short rib dumpling with truffled crimini mushrooms and coffee tamarind sauce. HOLY MOTHER, it is divine. Perhaps you'd like the roasted breast of duck with pumpkin, French lentils, pearl onions and five-spice glaze. Finally, there is the pan seared filet of red snapper with sautéed sea bean asparagus, fried noodles, candied ginger and green curry cream.

Oh, and lest I forget desserts by our new Pastry Chef, Susie Ieronemo: to include chocolate mousse cake sundae and coconut custard, cherry curd & ginger caramel. I know. That's what I'm saying. Yes, New Year's can be a ridiculous romp of sappy songs and bad champagne. But New Year's Eve with fine folks, fine food and libations and the time to enjoy it all? Near perfection, my friends. Time's a wastin'. Please call 843.722.FISH for reservations.

My plans? My couch, Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve and mallomars. Lots of 'um. (Kidding.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Goldman May Run As VP On Colbert Ticket

Today, while squelching rumors that The American Theater is "going condo," Patrick Properties Managing Partner, restaurateur, hospitality mogul, Scorpio (November 14) and all around swell guy, Randall Goldman, announced that he may run as Vice President of the United States on the Colbert ticket. Goldman has already formed an exploratory committee and expects to announce his decision in January.

When reached for comment, Goldman said, "I think America deserves me. I see mints on every American's pillow. No child left untucked. No infused-liquors served without a cocktail napkin. Make reservations, not war. That's what I've got so far. Colbert and I are working out the rest."

Late this afternoon, for no particular reason, Goldman said, "Really, I just want an espresso." We'll keep you updated.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Holla-Day-Eee! Cell-A-Bray-Eat!

It really doesn't take much to get me to burst into a Madonna song (though I'm not sure our bluegrass buddies Yee Haw Junction do any Madonna, but I digress). But actually, there is a good reason. Sunday night was the Patrick Properties Holiday Party, and it was a true Lowcountry celebration. An oyster roast at Bowen's Island, plus barbecue, desserts made by Managing Partner Randall Goldman and Director of Events Jennifer Goldman and the sweet bluegrass sounds of Yee Haw Junction. As luck would have it, the balmy weather we'd been having disappeared on Saturday. And last night was downright cold and breezy on the water. No matter, our holiday cheer and good company kept us warm. Mad props to young Liam (just two years old) who tried his very first oyster (and didn't spit it out). A true Charleston gentleman. Check out some of the pics.

Mmm, steamy oysters.

Hey, Nico! Look out, rogue oyster!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Power To The People

Samantha Power, foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama, dined with us for lunch today. (She spoke at the University of South Carolina School of Law last night.) I must admit; I was in full admiration mode. Power is, among many other amazing things, a Pulitzer Prize winning author for her book A Problem From Hell: America In The Age of Genocide. In the opening of the book, she wrote "We have all been bystanders to genocide...The crucial question is why." I have been stuck on that thought throughout the day. I know, not cheery, but certainly worth pondering.

A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law, she came to the U.S. from Ireland at age nine. From 1993 to 1996 she covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a reporter for the U.S. News and World Report, the Boston Globe, and The Economist. She remains a working journalist, reporting from around the world, including Burundi, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, and contributing to the Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.She also wrote a New Yorker article on the horrors in Darfur and Sudan which won the 2005 National Magazine Award for best reporting. She has seen some of the modern world's greatest horrors and brought it to the world through word. Her most recent work, a political biography of UN's Sergio Vieira de Mello, is due out in February.

No matter who you support politically, it's good to know that people like Samantha Power are out there: being the scribes, the witnesses and giving us the perspectives we need to be better citizens and people of a world that grows smaller every single day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Take Me To The William Aiken House or Lose Me Forever

Charlotte, who handles our corporate events, forwarded me this email she received from a group who recently had their company holiday party chez William Aiken.

"Charlotte, we all had a blast! Best turn out we've ever had for a holiday party! The house was gorgeous, and the food was perfect! Everyone insists we have the party there again next year."

How cool is that, when people INSIST on having their party with us? Like they wouldn't go to the party if were elsewhere?! I love it. It's so darn DECISIVE.

Now. On a completely different note, here's the quote of the day sent to me by a dear friend: "Oh yay - my Moravian love feast buns have arrived."

If you need some back story (because I sure did), here it is. Personally, I find what my mind dreamed up wayyy more interesting than the back story, but what can I say, we're dream makers here, we think big.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Charleston Food + Wine Festival Brings It

Yesterday, we attended a planning meeting for the 2008 Charleston Food + Wine Festival. I'm personally totally psyched for this year's festival. It's my first one alongside Nico, our Executive Chef, and Susie, our Pastry Chef. And, one of my current favorites Suzanne Goin, chef of Lucques in Los Angeles, will be there. Not only did Goin work at Chez Panisse (we have already established my adoration of all things Alice Waters, right?), she also walks the walk when it comes to creating dishes that match both climate and season. In fact, her approach seems very in line with what we do at Fish: it's not just about wonderfully fresh food and wine. It's that people are spending the time to get together in the first place. It's the experience that is at once appealing, dynamic and communal. If you haven't been, you must make this your year. The festival begins February 28.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why We Do What We Do

Emails like this don't just make our day. They make us absolutely positive that we are in the right business. Thank you.

"I just had to send a special thank you. The reception dinner was spectacular. The setup of the room was perfect. The servers were so friendly and professional. The presentation of food was beautiful. All of the food was delicious - our thanks to Chef Nico.

In my two trips to Charleston this year I took the opportunity to dine at many highly recommended restaurants...they were all spectacular, but nothing beats the food at FISH. I absolutely love the Chef's menu, the commitment to freshness, the combination of seasonal flavors, and that wonderful peacefully friendly atmosphere. All the employees there have always displayed a genuine happiness to have me there - and that makes a person feel special. Everybody has been raving about the entire afternoon at FISH that day - you made it special for all of our family and friends. For that, we can't thank you enough."

Friday, December 7, 2007

Don't Mess With Texas

On Wednesday, Fish played host to a group of 40 Texans led by Amanda Manning at Carolina Food Pros who run the city's finest culinary tours. Executive Chef Nico Romo put together a tasting that included crab rangoons ( jumbo lump crab, Boursin cheese and plum coulis), butternut squash soup (with five-spice pecans and cinammon cream) and a homemade cocktail sample of our pomegranate-infused vodka. See Nico sharing culinary secrets below.
The room grew really quiet once the food was served, and you KNOW the food was good if it made a room full of Texans quiet (I'm just saying.) Sing it with me: "deep in the heaarrrtttt o' Texas!" P.S. Don't you love this man's hat?

And, so you have a face to put with the name: here's our new pastry chef, Susie Ieronemo hard at work making something delicious and chocolate just for me, I mean our guests.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Serious Yet Fun-Loving Group

Yes, that's how I like to sum our happy little family here at PP. While out at Lowndes Grove the other day, I snapped a photograph of one of the many incredible architectural details: this ceiling medallion. Even without a chandelier it is exquisite.

And, just received this little gem from the hardworking pranksters at The William Aiken House. While doing some organizing at The American Theater, they came across some miscellaneous treasures, including this "lady." Of course, they immediately put her to good use, posing as Catering Manager, Richard Jones' "girlfriend" (patiently waiting for him by his motorcycle.) Can't. Stop. Laughing. Must. Go.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Someone, Hand Me My Pink Bass!

Inspiration is coming from all sides this week. Went out to Lowndes Grove with my trusty photographer yesterday to check out the renovation progress. It was absolutely incredible to stand in the Main House, free of furniture, window treatments and decor of any kind. In its raw state, you can see the wood and the architectural touches in their simplest form, and it is all simply stunning.

Standing by the river, we watched the sun begin to set over the golden marsh. It was so peaceful and beautiful, we didn't even want to move for fear of breaking the magic of the moment.

Had a brainstorming session this morning with the sharp minds at The William Aiken House. Let me tell you something, these women know their business, know what's classic and what's a trend and darnit, they KNOW how to throw a party.

And last, but certainly not least is this. Watching The Today Show this morning, I was absolutely blown away by Miss Gabi Wilson, a 10-year old musical prodigy who played A Touch of Honey's "Boogie Oogie Oogie" like it's never been played before. I have my new hero. She is 10 and plays a funky bass.

Check it out. (Note: You have to watch a short commercial first.)

This young girl has a musical gift!
This young girl has a musical gift!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dessert Has A New Name

Say it with me: Susanna Ieronemo. That's right, we're pleased to welcome Susie Ieronemo as Pastry Chef at Fish Restaurant. That means she'll be creating delicious pastries for events at The William Aiken House and Lowndes Grove, too. AND, for the first time EVER, we'll offer wedding cakes, because: Susie has MAD WEDDING CAKE SKILLS. (I told her I was going to say that, but I'm not sure she believed me.)

In an effort to get to know Susie better, we spent a few minutes chatting this morning so I could get the inside scoop, which of course I'm sharing with you good people.

Originally from: River Forest, Illinois (has spent lots of time in the Portland, Oregon area)

Been in Charleston for: Nearly five years, on and off

Previous Gigs: Pastry Chef at Cordavi, Seabrook Island Club and Stephen Duvall Catering

School: Fine Arts degree from Southern Illinois. Planned to study culinary arts at the Providence, Rhode Island campus of Johnson & Wales University. However, through a rather fortuitous miscommunication, she found herself studying in Charleston and has been hooked on the Holy City ever since.

Why the culinary arts? She didn't think she could make a living in ceramics. And did I mention MAD WEDDING CAKE SKILLS?

Name confusion: She has no blood ties to the Apache Chief Geronimo. Yes, even IF their names sound similar.

Best thing she makes: Chocolate cake (pardon me while I swoon)

Favorite sweet to make: Cupcakes

Dream of the pastry chef? Waiting for the day when someone asks her to make entire platters of Hostess-style treats.

Sweet stuff appearing nightly: Susie's pastries are already garnering praises. Come see us.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Hospitality Class With the Most Um, Hospitality

A very big thank you to Dr. Stephen Litvin and his Hospitality and Management class at the College of Charleston for their enthusiasm, hard work and ideas. We genuinely enjoyed our time with you this semester. Here's to creating concepts and ideas that resonate with every generation (not just the cynical 20-somethings-Randall's quote, not mine!). Good luck and stay in touch.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What I Did On My Thanksgiving Vacation

While some of us (read: me) were braving the elements, (read: winding greens around my Mom's lampost in the bitter Heartland cold. Love you, Mom!) other PP staffers were gallavanting across the pond. Feast your eyes on lovely Dublin city. (Courtney Jo has all the fun.) Slainte! (Gaelic for cheers, people.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Focusing Our Energies

By now, you've probably gleaned that we are a group of folks who have a deep reverence for historic and unique spaces. We've been doing this preservation and hospitality thing for more than 10 years now, and we love it. This week, we had a good sit-down, focused our energies and discontinued the planning process for the hotel project.

As you know, Lowndes Grove came to us as an unexpected, wonderful once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Currently, we're in Phase 1 of a three-phase renovation led by Glenn Keyes Architects, Sheila Wertimer for landscape design and interior designs by Paula Adams. We know from experience that historic properties always present unique challenges during the renovation process, and Lowndes Grove is no exception. It’s requiring a lot of attention and resources, which it richly deserves. We want to give it our undivided attention, but with the hotel planning also in the works, we just couldn’t do both effectively. And, since preservation is what we’re all about, Lowndes Grove is our top priority.

I mean, what's not to love about Lowndes Grove? It's on the National Register of Historic Places; it's waterfront and once this renovation is complete, three events could take place simultaneously and the peninsula will truly rock. So, we're going to keep doing what we do so well: preserving and protecting historic Charleston properties. And create authentic moments in venues that can never be duplicated. Thanks always for your support and friendship.

Happy Birthday, Jennifer Goldman!

Yes, today is Director of Events Jennifer Goldman's birthday. Know what's cool about working for Charleston's finest hospitality company? We know how to throw a party. (See name on the marquee.) And, there were some yummy treats at the lunch party, y'all. (Charlotte's nearly illegal sausage dip, Elena's Polish comfort casserole, Britt's excellent sweet tea and let us not forget Steve's cookies.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Some Advice for The Presidential Hopefuls

Read an interesting New York Times article yesterday about what the presidential candidates are eating on the campaign trail. Every candidate and I mean EVERY is on some kind of diet, some self-imposed; others spouse-imposed (Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani). But of course, all bets (or diets) are off when it comes to several important states...like say Iowa or South Carolina. A few weeks ago Fred Thompson spoke/ate at one of Mt. Pleasant's local favorites, Alex's. And Senator Obama apparently hunkered down on a corn dog and some caramel corn at the Iowa State Fair. And, while visiting Tama, Iowa Hillary Clinton even had a loose meat sandwich. What does it all mean?

In the Times article, Walter Scheib, former White House chef to the Clintons and the Bushes, says "There are few things more personal than eating...and if you reject someone’s food, you kind of reject them.” Are we really saying that if you eat the elephant ear you'll win the vote?

A few words of advice:
  1. If you really want the vote, forget the local dives and find the local farmer.

  2. Visit the local farmer's market, and buy what's in season.

  3. Make it your business to know what's grown locally, who's growing it and who's serving it. That's how you get to know a community and what makes it tick.

  4. Understand that what you put in your body matters. Can I trust the judgment of a President who's only nourishing herself or himself with diet drinks? Or say jelly beans?

  5. Understand that when you know where your food comes from, you are more likely to care about the environment in which it grows. You're more likely to preserve and protect it.

  6. Understand that eating is, itself, a political act.

Don't believe me on that last one? Earlier in November, flood waters ravaged the Tabasco region of Mexico affecting nearly a million people. The Tabasco region, as it happens, produces nearly 80 % of the world's cocoa crops, which will need to be revived. Mills will need to be rebuilt, etc. What do you think this might do to the cost of cocoa-based products? See where I'm going? It all matters. Maybe someone could bring this up during the next round of YouTube debates. In the meantime, I'll leave you with one more piece of advice: eat local.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Uber Scallop

Some Fish restaurant guest lucked out Saturday night when they ordered scallops. Check out this bad boy: nearly 12 ounces! (a restaurant record) Who needs steak?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bird Is The Word

Greetings from the heartland where my Mom is currently wrestling/cleaning a 20-pound turkey. The turkey says hi too (notice wing wave). And the weatherman just said the dreaded words, "wintry mix." Just a quick post to say safe travels to all of you who are currently or soon to be on the road. And for those of you who are up to your elbows in turkey giblets, I hope next year you get upgraded to gravy or potato mashing. Cheers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sweet Caroline, Disco & The Holiday Inn

Is it me or is the teeniest bit weird that all of a sudden Neil Diamond is feeling compelled to tell the world who was the inspiration for his hit "Sweet Caroline?" It's Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. I'll give you a second to ponder that.

What's more mysterious is that Diamond says the inspiration for the song came after he saw a photograph of young Caroline decked out in her riding gear in a news magazine. Goosebumps?
Anyone? Think about the lyrics for a minute. As usual, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg handled what could potentially be a creepy moment with her usual style and grace. Diamond said when he shared the news, Caroline "seemed really, really happy." Mmm hmm.

Random thought: Best use of "Sweet Caroline" in a movie? Beautiful Girls, of course.

In other news, I spoke with Jenny Smith from The Post & Courier about an article she's putting together on unique weddings and receptions. Interestingly enough, I had a great story to share about a wedding that took place this weekend at The William Aiken House. What started out as an elegant and traditional Jewish wedding got a shot of funk as the hour got later. What unsuspecting guests didn't know was that the carriage house parking lot had been transformed into a disco! A red carpet and velvet ropes led guests into "Club Hahn" where they were greeted with a red-lit bar, white shag carpet, retro couches, fantastic music from The Maxx and some really fun food like fondue, cupcakes and donut holes. I only wish I had seen it firsthand.

And lastly in today's random ramble, while doing some hotel research, I came across this fantastic photograph of the old Holiday Inn signage (which is currently being revamped as they rebrand), and memories of my childhood came flooding back. Nearly every summer, my family made a trek to visit my Mom's family. One of our stops was Oil City, Pennsylvania. Some children go to Europe for the summer, some go to Venango County, PA.
We always stayed at the local Holiday Inn and may I just say that I LOVED IT. I loved the pool; I loved the restaurant downstairs; I loved the little soaps wrapped in paper and MAN, I loved the ice machine. All that good stuff just from seeing a photograph. Makes you think.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Time For Our Winter Refreshing

You know those people who disappear for a few weeks during the winter months and then emerge like a spring flower: refreshed, rejuvenated and somehow more fabulous than before? (Tip: check their hairline!) We're sort of feeling like that, but in a no-stitches, feel-free-to-peruse-our-hairline kind of way. Here's why.

The season's last wedding at Lowndes Grove is Saturday, November 24. Come November 26, the refreshing begins! As we've mentioned before, Lowndes Grove is undergoing a multi-dimensional renovation with some of Charleston's heavy hitters at the helm: Glenn Keyes Architects, Sheila Wertimer landscape designs and Paula Adams interiors. All to restore the historic gem to its stately splendor, and of course, make it the ideal venue for both brides and corporate clients. We'll be talking to you a lot during the refresh, giving you sneak peeks and otherwise whetting your appetite. Why? Because we like you. Feel free to call 843.853.1810 to be among the first to see us in our finery come spring.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fish Comes Out...

...in support of AFFA! Nearly 30 members and friends of AFFA, the Alliance for Full Acceptance, wined and dined at Fish this week in celebration of their nine-year anniversary. AFFA is a social justice organization achieving equality and acceptance for GLBT people. The Charleston non-profit got its start nine years ago when a handful of concerned citizens banned together to confront the challenges facing the community. Linda Ketner, one of the founding members and first President, was the evening's honored guest. Cheers to the organization for nine, incredibly successful years!

Special thanks to Sean, Evan, Sarah, Jodie and the culinary staff who truly outdid themselves. Tip: If you're feeling a tad under the weather, ask Evan the bartender about his delicious hot toddy. (We haven't figured out if it's a cure, or if it just makes you not care that you're sick.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sweet & Solid Jazz at Fish

We’re loving Jack McCray’s review in the Post & Courier of our Wine Wednesday stars: The Charlton Singleton Trio, featuring Singleton on trumpet, David Linaburg on guitar and Ben Wells on bass. When Fish General Manager Caroline Jackson found out that Singleton was available, she made a beeline to book him for Wine Wednesdays. She knows a good thing when she hears it. Seriously, what’s better than sipping great wine from a stellar, HALF-PRICED list while you listen to an eclectic mix of jazz standards? Put it on your to-do list.

It’s especially cool that Jack McCray took notice. After all, he’s putting together a book, Charleston Jazz (Arcadia Publishing), the first comprehensive history of jazz in the Holy City. And he’s the co-founder of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival Jazz After Hours Series, founding President of the MOJA Arts Festival and co-founder of the Charleston Jazz Initiative. So he knows a little something about jazz.

McCray dates the roots of Charleston jazz back to 1891 when the Jenkins Orphanage was established by Reverend Daniel J. Jenkins, a former slave who became a minister. The first African American orphanage, now a National Historic Landmark, hired two local Charleston musicians, P.M. "Hatsie" Logan and Francis Eugene Mikell, to tutor the children. Shortly thereafter, the first and only black instrumental group in South Carolina was born. The band “premiered” on the streets of Charleston dressed in discarded Citadel uniforms. Soon, The Jenkins Orphanage Band began performing around the U.S. and England – and eventually at President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1905.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Everyone Wants A Frenchman In Their Kitchen

You know you do. Our very own French native (American citizen, thank you very much) Chef Nico Romo recently put together an incredible 50th birthday dinner at a private home here in Charleston. The 5-course dinner for 13 included: butternut squash soup, a duo foie gras, (au torchon and pan seared, if you must know) sweet potato puree and five spice pecan, pan seared red snapper with coconut curry sauce, seabean asparagus, red pepper and fried noodles; pan seared filet with caramel sauce, roasted pumpkin and haricot vert and finally, a dessert trio of passion crème brulee, bread pudding and chocolate banana tart. The equally amazing wine pairings included: Blandy’s Madeira Vintage 1870, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005, Penfolds “Grange” Hermitage 1994, Chateau d’ Yquem Sauterne 1994 and Dow Port Vintage 1957. The happy and very full guests had nothing but raves for the food and fine service. In-home catering...sounds like a lovely holiday gift, no? We'll even put a big red bow on him. Okay, Nico?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Food for Thought

As you may have noticed, food's been on my mind lately. Today, I was reading "The Delicious Revolution" by Alice Waters. First of all, she's incredibly articulate. Secondly, she's a fantastic chef and third, she constantly strives to be a great citizen and human being on this earth. I will stop gushing now.

In all of the recent talk about what's happening in our environment, the power of personal choice comes up time and time again. And for questions like, "Do I NEED an SUV?" the answer, to me, is simple. But as Ms. Waters so eloquently points out, it's astounding (and I include myself here) how often we forget those choices when it comes to what we eat. When I think of how inspiring my life, job and friends can be on any given day, it's even more unbelievable how often I sit down to a totally uninspired meal.

When I was a child, my Dad often baked bread on the weekends. It was a nearly day-long process of dough-mixing, kneading, tossing, resting, rising and finally, baking. He had an antique stainless steel pail with a giant, hand mixer that attached with clamps to a wood stool. Mixing that dough together was no easy feat. I remember him stopping to catch his breath for a moment before soldiering on. The smell of that bread baking is forever burned into my brain, and as for the memories, well, you're reading them. Such a simple choice my Dad made when you think about it. He chose to make some homemade bread. But, as Cezanne said and Ms. Waters quoted and I will too, "The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution." Just as certainly, a loaf of my Dad's bread changed my life. Now. Go eat something good.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Member of The Chicago Clean Plate Club

Got back from Chicago late last night and am still reveling in sweet memories of fine cuisine. Friends at Wagstaff gave me a phenomenal list of recommendations, and I did my best to hit most of them. Highlights include: A Mano's celery root salad, ahi tuna crudo with celery and lemon salsa, pizza with arugula, proscuitto and mozzarella and the robiola and ricotta cheesecake (see ravaged plate above). And, at Green Zebra, I dove headfirst into the Lacinato kale cannelloni and sweet potato tart with bourbon maple syrup, blue cheese and roasted shallot. Finally, let us not forget the apple crisp tart with caramel and white chocolate and lavender ice cream. All was just shut-your-mouth good. Thanks, Chicago. We look forward to returning the hospitality sometime soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What Our Hotel Won't Look Like

Not that there's anything wrong with doing it up BIG, and let's face it, that's how Trump rolls. Above is a photo of the soon-to-open Trump International Hotel & Tower here in Chicago, one of the many sights we took in as we hopped around the city yesterday.

Peeked in at the newly renovated Palmer House (in fact, renovations are ongoing), and well, wow. The Palmer House, part of the Hilton family, is a historic and architectural wonder in and of itself. Its "ongoing restoration" includes a refreshing of its Beaux Arts ceiling that was "meticulously restored by a Florentine artisan noted for his work on the Sistine Chapel." Oh. Is that all? Simply stunning.

Also stopped by The Intercontinental who just recently refurbished 790 guest rooms and suites. I am exhausted just typing that. The hotel is a masterpiece of 1920s architecture, and I felt that child-like wonder as my eyes moved from one breathtaking feature to another. To boot, the hotel boasts ENO. Chicago's Master Sommelier leads the charge at ENO where it's all about wine, cheese and chocolate from around the world. Pure, unadulterated decadence.

The final hotel of the day was the former House of Blues Hotel, The Hotel Sax. Holy hipster, Batman. This place is hot. From the "front desk" that was essentially a showcase of fine crystal to its Crimson Lounge which feels part old-world salon, part Opium den with a mix of textures, fabrics and art that envelop you in its vibe. (Notice friendly Chicago lady above enjoying herself.) The whole place felt like being transported. I am really not sure to where, but it's a trip worth taking.

And, one quick note. Thank you to Brad Wilson, CEO of The James who sent us a great comment on our post from the red vinyl chair here in our fantastic digs. We've loved our time here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Post From The Red Vinyl Chair

I've been up since 4:00 am, so forgive this post if it's a bit wiggy. Oh, lovely Chicago. The architecture, the food, the people, the accent! So, my research and development has taken me to The James Hotel, a seriously cool and yet still inviting and warm place to crash. Apparently, I was lucky to get a room anywhere in the Windy City this weekend because there are about 400 conventions going on. Give or take.

What is interesting about The James (and there's a lot), is the mix of sleek, modern touches (which can feel cold and austere if not done right) with organic elements. The side table in my room is carved wood, full of interesting texture and inherent history. It sits right next to the SWEET red vinyl chair and matching footstool pictured above, which is not only sassy but very comfortable. In fact, I wrote this very post seated upon it. All of this research just gets me more excited about our upcoming hotel. I can't promise red vinyl chairs, but how about something Charleston has never seen?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The 3 Most Pressing Things On My Mind Currently

Much to tell you. Where to start? Sometimes I do best with a list, so here goes...

1. We're super happy to announce the launch of the Lowndes Grove website. You'll see that it has a very handy calendar so you can know when "the peninsula's last great waterfront estate" is available for your fabulous party. You like that, don't cha? Sure, you do. You're a planner.

2. Um, the weather is truly chilly in Charleston today. My suggestion for the perfect little warm up? So glad you asked. Evan and Sean, our illustrious Fish bartenders, have come up with some very tasty beverages made with the season's freshest ingredients. If you dig on cosmos, I can totally recommend the fig-infused vodka. And my personal favorite: the pumpkin-infused bourbon. Over ice. Are you kidding me? It will warm the cockles of your heart. I promise I would not steer you wrong.

3. I'm going to Chicago tomorrow. Why, you ask? I would tell you, but that might spoil the surprise. Actually, I'm going to do some R&D (research and development) on boutique hotels. Yes. I'll be assessing the thread count of linens, stealing, I mean SAMPLING luxurious toiletries and deciding which bathroom lighting makes me look the most lovely. Now, I must away to pack my heaviest sweaters. It's 41 in Chicago currently, and my Charleston blood is thin. More tomorrow from the Windy City!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Election Day Randomness

First of all, thanks to Heather Solos who added our lovely little blog to The Post & Courier's list of Lowcountry Blogs. We feel a bit like Sally Field on Oscar night way back when..."You like us, you really like us!"

In six-degrees-of-separation news, this weekend, Charleston native, COC alumna and promotion director at The New Yorker, Maura Hogan, married Scott Watson, marketing director of Gluckman Mayner Architects in New York at Lowndes Grove. In the small world that is Charleston, I actually had a great conversation with the bride several years ago (she's a friend of a friend) during which we discussed our favorite books, Ireland and all of the lovely quirkiness that is Charleston. Congratulations, Maura and Scott!

Oh, and if you haven't already, get out there and vote, people!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Totally Rockstar or Shall I Say DOCKstar?

Had an interesting meeting with Joe, our dock permitting coordinator, today on the plans for the new dock at Lowndes Grove. (Note to self: How does one become a dock permitting coordinator?) Tomorrow, Joe's heading out on the Ashley River to monitor the depth at both high and low tide to make sure we are in tune with all elements and the environment. The current Lowndes Grove dock is closed, as in you can't even go crabbing on it. The proposed plans for the new dock will enable guests to arrive via boat and include two floating docks, a covered pier and a five-foot wide boardwalk with handrails. How rockstar will it be to arrive for your corporate meeting, wedding, oyster roast or shindig on your boat? Um, TOTALLY.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Blue Jean Conversations

That's the name of the informal get-togethers the Patrick Properties team is having with Professor Steve Litvin and his Hospitality & Tourism Marketing class. We think of it as a grassroots effort for the upcoming hotel project. Plans for the as-yet-unnamed boutique hotel received approval from the Board of Architectural Review for height, scale and mass in September. Soon after, PP reached out to Steve Litvin and his class.
Why you ask? Because hey, they're studying this stuff and who couldn't use some fresh ideas from some of the exuberant intelligentsia? Over the coming weeks, the students will brainstorm marketing strategies, meet with the PP team to pose questions and finally, present their marketing plans to the PP team. Who knows, maybe we'll get the next big idea from an up and coming hotelier?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I Am My Own Wife

I know it sounds like one of my sassier headlines, but it's actually the title of the intriguing Charleston Stage production that opened last night at The American Theater. Actor Mark Chambers stars as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transvestite struggling to survive amid the 20th century madness of Nazism and Communism. The internal and external conflict Charlotte endures confronts the dichotomies in both politics and gender identity. Yes, it's heavy. And riveting. And get tickets already.

November 2, 7 - 9, 15 - 16 at 8pm
November 1, 10 at 9pm
Tickets: $19.50 - $26.50, call 843.577.7183

So, to sum up: one actor, 35 characters, written by Doug Wright, a 2004 Tony Award winner for Best Play. Oh and I happen to know this great little restaurant right next door for a pre or post show dinner...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nothing Says Halloween Like...

Gold lame? Platform boots? Red sequins? Or D: all of the above? I think D. Please enjoy this behind the scenes shot of "Right On,"who truly brought the funk Saturday night at The William Aiken House. Now, you kids be safe out there tonight!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Some Parties Need No Headline, Honey

There are parties at The William Aiken House and then there are PARTIES at The William Aiken House. Know what I'm saying? Was perusing Harper's Bazaar latest issue and came upon the lavish spread on Mimi van Wyck and Ham Morrison III's Charleston wedding extravaganza that took place back in April.

Quick history on the bride first. Mimi (Mary Ann) van Wyck is the daughter of Mary Ann and Bronson van Wyck of Tuckerman, Arkansas. That makes Mimi a descendant of Cornelius Barentse Van Wyck, one of the original Dutch settlers in the New Amsterdam colony (before New York was New York); Richard T. Van Wyck, in the Revolutionary War; Charles H. Van Wyck, governor of South Carolina during Reconstruction and later a congressman from New York and senator from Nebraska; Robert A. Van Wyck, the first mayor of greater New York City; and Augustus Van Wyck, a New York Supreme Court Justice.

And before you ask, the Van Wyck Expressway? Yes. I KNOW. Also, Mimi's brother Bronson and their mother own Van Wyck & Van Wyck, an event planning company known for its party prowess, extravagant props and impeccable style. They've planned shindigs for the likes of P. Diddy, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to name a few.

By the by, bridgegroom Ray "Ham" Hamilton Morrison III is just as fab. Currently, he restores historic Charleston properties and races a pretty mean stock car in his free time.

Anywho, The William Aiken House played host to the couple's stunning rehearsal dinner where an array of VIP guests dined on sole and corn pudding (true to the Arkansas-born bride's roots) in the rooms and on the piazzas dressed in true Van Wyck & Van Wyck style. For you fashionistas, Mimi wore an Alexander McQueen white sheath dress and jewelry by Kara Ross. And to wind this up, it's been confirmed that at the reception, the bride brought down the house with her own personal cover of Madonna's "Lucky Star." (That's after her brother warmed up the crowd with Madonna's "Hung Up" accompanied by Madonna's actual dancers.) For real. Gosh, I love Charleston.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Our Carb-Heavy Past

A while back we received a letter from Charleston native Kathy Puckhaber Baxley. She's the owner and editor of A Wonderful Wedding, a magazine and website for weddings in our fair city. Turns out Ms. Baxley's family, originally from Germany, was the previous owner of the building in which Fish restaurant now resides. Back then, that's the late 1800s, the building was a bakery, one of the very first in Charleston. You just gotta love Charleston for that. All of its inherent history, a story on every corner. That's the good stuff. Can't you just smell the fresh stollen and stroopwafel now? Don't act like you've never had one.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Whole Lotta Lowndes

Exciting things are happening every day at Lowndes Grove. I am not even kidding.

On Wednesday afternoon, folks from Sheila Wertimer's office presented their plans for the landscape refresh to the PP team, architect Glenn Keyes and the construction team. Then, Glenn and the construction folks led the PP team on a walk through of the construction that's gearing up. Then, on Wednesday evening, the Bar of Architectural Review approved plans for the construction of a catering kitchen on-property. Like The William Aiken House, Lowndes Grove will be serving the fine food prepared by the Fish restaurant catering team led by Nico Romo and Richard Jones.

And this morning, I had a great conversation with interior designer Paula Adams, the creative mind behind the interiors at The William Aiken House, its carriage house and Fish. When asked to describe her vision for the Lowndes Grove interiors, she began with one word: serenity. Which hello, that's fabulous. The obvious difference between Lowndes Grove and the William Aiken House is simple: one's on the water and the other's not. There too lies the difference in their interior design. Ms. Adam's vision for the riverfront estate is as simple: to pay homage to the formality of the estate's architecture while reflecting the serenity and beauty of its natural riverfront setting. That means soft colors that recall nature and drawing one's eye always to the bucolic setting outside. If that doesn't sound dreamy and wonderful, I don't know what does.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Do You Know This Man?

Patrick Properties Managing Partner, Man About Town and all around good egg, Randall Goldman turned up in the Post & Courier this morning. I know. AGAIN. This time he's in an ad describing how reading the daily newspaper enriches his life. Ahem, I'll quote: "It (the P&C) paints the rainbow in full color." I'll just let that sink in, shall I?

Anywho, we're always amazed at how effortlessly Randall segues from real estate to hospitality to advertising and marketing. Must be those triple espressos. I'm sure he's fielding television and film offers as I write this.

P.S. If you get tired of reading the ad, I'm pretty sure you can make out the Lockhorns and Ziggy cartoons from the other side.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

One California Day at American Theater

Our thoughts go out to those who have lost so much during the wildfires in California. At a time like this, we felt like we should concentrate energy on all of the amazing things about the state, like its thriving surf culture.

One California Day: A Collection of Stories About the California Surfing Experiences, a documentary by Mark Jeremias and Jason Baffa, premieres tomorrow night (Thursday) at the American Theater (446 King Street) for just two shows: 7 pm and 9 pm. Tickets ($10 each) are ONLY available at the door prior to the show.

The stunning visual journey travels through six distinct coastal regions, capturing the California surfing experience through the senses of seven surfers who live it. Shot in brilliant super 16mm color film, One California Day looks at the unique relationship surfers have with California and its magical waters.


Joe Curren

Jimmy Gamboa

Tyler Hatzikian

Alex Knost

Chris Malloy

Dane Perlee

Joel Tudor

Tyler Warren

Concessions, including popcorn, soft drinks and a full bar, are available before and during the show. And, as if the stunning visuals weren't enough, the soundtrack for the film is sick. (That's me, using the lingo.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Romo Rocks the Sustainable Seafood Festival

I'm totally showing my age here, but you just can't put a headset on anyone in my presence without me mentioning Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation or Madonna's Express Yourself. There, I said it. Now I'm done. (Sorry, Nico.)

So, Sunday's Sustainable Seafood Festival was a smashing success. Many thanks to all who attended. Our very own Executive Chef Nico Romo wowed the audience with his culinary skills (and sassy French accent) as he prepared a gorgeous poached, local flounder with marinated ginger carrot, haricots verts (green beans, you heathens!) and spicy garlic butter.

Members of the Fish restaurant team were also on hand to support our culinary guru and spend a day in the sun eating and drinking to their little hearts' content. Happy sigh.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Little Lowndes Grove Love

First of all, thanks to everyone who came out for the 4th Annual Sustainable Seafood Festival. We had a great time and will soon have the photos to prove it, so stay tuned.

Now, onto the newest member of the PP family. As you may already know, this summer we purchased Lowndes Grove, the peninsula's last great waterfront estate and oldest surviving plantation. Nestled on 14 acres along the banks of the Ashley River, the property includes a 6,800-square-foot home circa1786, a carriage house, river house, a swimming pool and a dock. Nice, right?

It gets better. After taking a strategic look at the property, we discovered ways to make better use of both of the grounds and the structures. During the next two "off-seasons," we'll be working to return the estate to its original splendor. Which is a whole lot easier with the help of people like Glenn Keyes Architects, interior designer Paula Adams and landscape designer Sheila Wertimer. Plus, it doesn't hurt that we're working with really cool stuff like Georgian and Regency style architecture, sweeping piazzas, arched porticos and a pristine black cypress exterior.

While we're at it, here's a sneek peek from our recent photo shoot. The fine dresses are courtesy of our friends at Maddison Row. Special thanks to our fantastic models and the talented Taylor Stewart.