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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...