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Friday, March 28, 2008

Coconut rice crepes, daytime TV stars, cawfee talk

Here's a sneak peek of our new printemps (I'm not reminding you this time) dessert menu courtesy of Pastry Chef Susie Ieronemo.

In France, crêpes were traditionally served on a church holiday, La Chandeleur, on February 2. I say, why limit yourself? Our coconut rice crepes are filled with hazelnut cream and served over frozen orange mousse with blood oranges. And, just because we can, we flambé it with Grand Marnier. Yes, we like you that much.

Oh, while online today, I ran across the photo above of Days of Our Lives actors, Mary Beth Evans and Stephen Nichols, who recently did a meet and greet at The American Theater. For those of you NOT in the know, Ms. Evans and Mr. Nichols were one of THE POWER SOAP OPERA couples of the late 1980s and '90s. As a totally random aside, although I was just talking about dessert, Mary Beth Evans started her own pie company, too. I understand that you might need something a bit more cerebreal from me now.

By the by, earlier in the week, I mentioned the new Starbucks idea blog. The #2 most popular idea? A very loud, OFFER FREE WI-FI! Here's the latest from their blog:

Back in February we announced that we're switching to AT&T as our Wi-Fi provider in our U.S. company-operated stores. As Brad Stevens mentioned in his post on March 24, we're thrilled to be rolling out two hours of complimentary Wi-Fi service for customers who have a registered Starbucks Card. It'll be simple to sign up. All you have to do is:
1, Register a Starbucks Card
2. Sign up for an AT&T Wi-Fi account (and limited ATT marketing)
3. Come to Starbucks and login

If you ask me, that's three steps too many. We'll see how the masses react.

In the meantime, stay tuned for new Lowndes Grove photos and some random silliness.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hooked on a feeling

Not a day goes by here at PP without a story. Here's one of today's: our Sous Chef was cleaning a big honkin' local grouper (big honkin,' that's the scientific name). There, in the belly of the grouper, was a smaller fish, about 6 or 7 inches long. In the mouth of the smaller fish was the ENORMOUS hook. (Pictured with dime for size reference.)

What a world. That little fish survived the GIANT HOOK of humans only to get eaten by a big honkin' grouper that, in turn, got caught by humans. 'Tis ponderous.

In other Fish news, I sampled the new madeleine bread made by Pastry Chef Susie Ieronemo. Madeleine pastry, red onion and cilanto. It's quite divine.

And now to sports! Members of the PP staff, including yours truly, got trounced at our arena soccer game last night. However, Executive Chef and goalie Nico Romo took a turn at offense last night and SCORED! GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLL! It was very exciting and I only WISH we had video of his victory dance. Priceless.

The rest of the game was rough. We got muscled all over the place, and some yahoo who apparently is still working out some angst from junior high, drew back, blasted the ball in my face and bloodied my lip. Um, this is a recreational team, sir, not the World Cup. Ease up.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Charleston's Green Acres

A near-perfect day for a photo shoot at Lowndes Grove! We were there at 8 am this morning to catch the gorgeous morning light, and we're soon heading back for some late afternoon sparkles. Many thanks to friend and photographer Lynn Mitchell.

Our local grower friends are getting some nice press today. It kicks off with Rita Bachmann and Pete Ambrose of Ambrose Family Farms. Rita currently farms a few acres at Ambrose Family Farms in Wadmalaw Island. A year ago, owner Pete Ambrose was nearly ready to leave the acres he'd worked for 32 years due to competition from large, commercial farms/corporate monsters. Then he met Rita, a passionate and well-known grower and local product advocate, and everything changed. It helped that three farmers announced Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in the Charleston area. The CSA concept? Consumers pay a set fee for a share of the season's harvest. (Approximately $300 for a family of four.)

Other Wadmalaw growers, Dan and Karen Kennerty of Kennerty Farms, were profiled in today's Post & Courier. The couple, who work the land with their two children, specialize in unique gourmet and heirloom produce, a favorite with chefs constantly searching for that next new thing.

And, on that note, Fish's upcoming printemps (French for spring!) menu is chock full o' great local ingredients. Like arugula and radishes from Rita. Tomatoes, cucumbers and Bibb lettuce from Moncks Corner. And goat cheese from Split Creek Farm in Anderson, SC. Yum, yum and might I add, yum.

Alright campers, off for more pretty photos. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Victory Gardens, Starbucks, Photo Shoots or A New Jeopardy Category Waiting to Happen

So, was talking with a friend recently about the fact that we've been at war for 5 years. And today, The New York Times ran a mind-blowing, eerie, albeit creative piece about the 4,000 soldiers who sacrificed their lives over the past 5 years.

I wonder if we would be reacting differently to this war if we were all faced with the restrictions of a 1940s wartime America. Food rations. "Victory gardens." According to the Food + Wine magazine blog, some 20 million gardens were planted in the U.S. during the 1940s. Why not now? If I was working in a factory that made munitions for the "war effort," would I feel more connected to the 49 South Carolinian soldiers who died? Would my government get them home sooner? Something to ponder.

Okay, radical topic change. Starbucks launched a new social networking site that empowers their customers (fans, detractors, lovers, haters, etc.) to "Share. Discuss. Vote. See." In their valiant efforts to get back to the coffee that made them famous and loved in the first silly place, they're asking YOU, dear reader/coffee drinker what YOU THINK. Check out the "ideas." Free coffee and Wifi seem to be the big winners. P.S. If Starbucks turns your idea into a kajillion dollars, you get...nuttin'. Maybe a free cup of coffee? (I make no promises.) And, in the category of "someone's-always-watching-category," I give you this genius blog.

Finally, we'll be out at Lowndes Grove for a photo shoot tomorrow. Will have new loveliness to share soon!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ah, printemps! (French for spring, people!)

You just never know where your historic property is going to turn up. Adrienne, one of our fabulous Sales Managers, recently ran across the book, Creating Outdoor Rooms by Leeda Marting. That's the Lowndes Grove entryway on the cover pictured above. Cool!

By the way, Managing Partner Randall Goldman's interview for ETV radio's South Carolina Business Review with Mike Switzer will be airing this coming Wednesday at 7:52 am on our local (South Carolina) NPR stations. I know it's early. Bring coffee. I'll remind you.

Was just reviewing the Fish printemps menu (that's French for spring) with Chef Nico and Pastry Chef Susie Ieronemo. SUCH deliciousness, I tell you. Lots of local seafood and produce. And some truly imaginative desserts. Coming soon, I promise.

Oh, and just ran across a supercool pre-Easter kids event happening tomorrow at Rosebank Farms on Johns Island. There will be baby chicks, bunnies and other barnyard animals, PLUS a wagon ride around the Farm with owner Sidi Limehouse and helloooo, THE EASTER BUNNY. The day finishes up with an Easter Egg Hunt and refreshment. All for $5. Can't beat that with an Easter bat. (Children 3 and under are free.) P.S. Rosebank Farms also has amazing produce and gorgeous flowers.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Roadtrips, military vehicles, weddings, photography & other pursuits

Back from Columbia and a great interview with Mike Switzer at ETV radio. Managing Partner Randall Goldman and I did NOT break the sound barrier on the roadtrip as planned but hey, you do what you can. Will let you know when the piece on us airs. Should be sometime in the next two weeks.

What we did see on our roadtrip was a rather somber reminder that we are five years deep into a war. The Anteater, as it's called, is a super-resilient military vehicle made by company called Force Protection. I hate that there is still a need in the world to build them.

In OTHER news, The photo of the gorgeous Lowndes Grove staircase above is courtesy of Arthur Howe, a location scout for film, TV and photography based here in town. Thanks, Arthur!

And, check out these lovely photos from a recent wedding at The William Aiken House on photographer Evan Laettner's blog.

Gooood mooooorning, South Carolinaaaaa!

On our way to Columbia shortly for an interview with Mike Switzer, host and producer of the South Carolina Business Review on ETV radio. Roadtrip!

Last night, Snyder Events hosted an informational meet and greet at Lowndes Grove for local planners and event folks to showcase their latest and greatest tents, which just happen to be up on our property. Our Pastry Chef Susie Ieronemo made sure everyone got a little to-go gift of deliciousness: a mini chocolate, cream cheese wedding cake!

Am also awaiting word on how our soccer folks did last night...Team? More later today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Local first and hey, our 100th posting!

Check it out: it's our 100th blog posting! Cue the parade! What fun! Truly, writing this blog is one of the best parts of my job. It's been really interesting to watch its evolution. It's like a journal, but with a little more attitude, at least I hope so. Thanks to all of our kind readers who take time out of their busy surfing to pay us a visit.

Now, onto today's events. Spent the morning chatting with the folks at Lowcountry Local First who hosted a great meeting with restauranteurs, chefs, local growers and some folks from the SC Department of Agriculture who helped put together the Certified SC Grown program. Some very thoughtful ideas came out of today's meeting. In the first place, it's so rewarding to hear the perspective of the growers. It brings your focus down to the micro level: what's happening with the weather, what's happening with the land and what's in season. What we realized is a lot of what we need to connect chefs with local growers is actually already in place. It's just reminding people of who people are, what's out there and slowly but surely, changing people's habits. Why aren't more chefs buying from the Farmer's Market in Marion Square? Why can't chefs and growers have more of a dialogue? Rather than go after the big guns, the giant, open air, Pike's Market model, perhaps it's a change that truly needs to happen within first. One step at a time. One chef to one grower. And from them, momentum. Friendships. Mindfulness. Fresh, local produce and meats. And ultimately, the community we all want to be part of. (By the way, the peaches pictured above won't be in season locally until May. Now you know.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bob Carter Throws Down with Bobby Flay at Lowndes Grove

My head's about to pop off.

Not only did Lowndes Grove open Saturday for its first wedding of the season to rave reviews by a most thrilled bride and groom. Not only did The Food Network set up early this morning to film Peninsula Grill's Chef Bob Carter cooking up his award-winning coconut cake...But shortly into the shoot, a non-descript SUV quietly pulled up to the front of Lowndes Grove...and out rolled none other than...wait for it, WAIT for it: Bobby Flay, celebrity chef and host of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Shut. Up.

It's safe to say that the audience on hand went a little nuts for Mr. Flay (decked out in a green shirt for St. Patrick's Day, by the by). The next thing we knew, Bob Carter and Bobby Flay were engaged in the heat of battle: bring on the coconut cake! Let's just say: there were dueling Kitchen Aid mixers, , some serious smack talking, great cooking tips and the gorgeous backdrop of the Ashley River at our very own Lowndes Grove. (Seriously, not bad for day 3 at our little waterfront gem.)

Once the cakes were prepared, two local judges were called on to do a taste test. I cannot tell you who won the contest. You MUST tune into The Food Network in the coming weeks (I'll share the air date as soon as I hear), and find out for yourself! In the meantime, enjoy the photos.

In other news, thanks to Robert Behre of The Post & Courier whose wonderful piece on Lowndes Grove came out today.

And, congratulations are in order for the winners of the 2008 Addy Awards given out by The Charleston Advertising Federation. This year's festivities were held at The Riviera Theater, and a big time was had by all. Mad props go to our friends at Gil Shuler Graphic Design, Blue Ion, Brainstorm Web Design, Garden & Gun and Amy Reed at Helium (to name a few!)

What a day. Many, many thanks to Chef Bob Carter who recommended Lowndes Grove to The Food Network and the Charleston CVB who are always wonderful support for us.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pre-Opening Jitters? Ha!

Jitters, we scoff at you! Actually, it's a buzz of excitement, not jitters that's permeating every square inch of Lowndes Grove. Tomorrow's the big day! I think we may be more excited than our lovely bride.

This morning, several members of the renovation team met with Robert Behre of the Post & Courier. (Glenn Keyes, Jim Rhodes, Paula Adams, Managing Partner Randall Goldman, Director of Events Jennifer Goldman, General Manager Ashley Gunnin and lil me.) I think it's safe to say that Mr. Behre was quite awed, not just by what he saw but by the passion and care that's apparent in each story the renovation team told. It's quite something to hear about the level of detail that goes into a project like this, from the architect, the Managing Partner, the head of construction and the interior designer.

I will regale you with some of the finer stories next week. In the meantime, here are the facts: this phase of the Lowndes Grove renovation began right after Thanksgiving. It reopens tomorrow. That's what we call a tight timeframe, folks. Congratulations to the hundreds of hands that made light work of this incredible project. Take a deep breath, the magic's about to begin.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fun Fact & Lowcountry Still Life

Fun fact: the window seals at Lowndes Grove have nails in them that are numbered. To what do those numbers correspond? To their matching shutters, which are also numbered. So smart, those 19th century craftsmen.

I did not go to Lowndes Grove today, mostly because I didn't want to get caught up in the melee that is the last push to get things ready for Saturday. I liken the flurry of activity to a small, localized, highly organized tornado. Lovely!

Tomorrow, I'll be meeting with calligrapher extraordinaire Elizabeth Jones (thanks to Amy Pastre of Gil Shuler Graphic Design for the recommendation). She's going to help us with some in-room messages that are both beautiful and entertaining.

Ok, it's too pretty out. The opening photo is ode to a Charleston Spring Day. Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fish is "Fancy!" And has a garden! More Lowndes Grove pics too!

Holy exclamation points, Batman. It's exciting times here at PP.

And with spring comes a garden. That's right, there is a lovely garden beginning in Fish's backyard. Sous Chef Chou Duong was hard at work this afternoon tilling the soil. Yes, really! When asked what's being planted, Chou enthusiastically launched into a laundry list of goodies: jalapenos, thai basil, green onions, cherry tomatoes, mint, lavender, chives, thyme and rosemary.

In other Fish news, many thanks to the folks at the Post & Courier who ranked us tops in the Fancy Seafood category in their 2008 Restaurant Guide. Also, congrats to EVO for picking up tops in the Pizza category. I have to admit the FANCY seafood monider does make me giggle a bit. As in, who you callin' fancy?

But I do so LOVE the P&C's definition: "For our purposes, a "fancy" seafood dinner is about the imagination, innovation and creativity of the chef in making the most of the best seafood he can get. It's about knowing when to let the beautiful fresh tuna or grouper or scallops or shrimp speak for themselves. It's about attention to detail. And it's about a certain grace in the presentation."

What else, you say? Spent a few moments at Lowndes Grove today. Again, my kingdom for a time-lapse camera! The landscapers are in full-effect and the lovely and dramatic greenery is highlighting the spectacular house and grounds. Take a look at the latest pics.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lowndes Grove, The Food Network, Ace Hotel & Madonna, in that order

Hi, hospitality fans. Sorry to have missed you yesterday. Had a trying day full of bad sinuses and car trouble. But Tuesday is a new day and with it, we are one step closer to the Lowndes Grove reopening.

Big news: Our Corporate Sales Manager, Jessica Kafer (you recall her and her heart-shaped self, don't you?) was contacted by the lovely folks at The Food Network who were venue shopping for a shoot showcasing Peninsula Grill's Bob Carter and his uber yummy coconut cake. A few conversations and photographs later, poof! A TV shoot at Lowndes Grove during our very first week. We are utterly stoked and extremely grateful.

By the way, tonight is Tuesday which means Dollar Dim Sum at Fish. And if you haven't been yet, I'd like to know what exactly it is you're waiting for, mister. Show me any other Charleston establishment where you can eat your fill of fresh dumpling goodness for a few dollars. For real, grab your co-worker, your girlfriend, whoever. Sit at the bar and let Sean spoil you. The last time I partook of the dollar dim sum, Sean made me the best dirty martini I've ever had. 'Nuff said.

What else? My newest hotel crush, actually it's ongoing, has GOT to be the Ace Hotel, who will soon be opening their New York location. Oh rapture, oh joy! Not only am I a huge fan of their graphic design, their copy and concept are just spot-on. "They (the partners) also wanted their hotel to be linked to the local culture, a living part of the community -- like an experience of staying with friends who are plugged into the local scene."

And I cannot leave today without saying: 1. Congratulations to Madonna on her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (Say what you will. She was an integral force during my formative years.) 2. Who but Madonna could get Iggy Pop and The Stooges to perform covers of "Burnin' Up" and "Ray of Light" with such frenetic energy?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Thoughts from the Lowndes Grove sette

Lots to report on this rainy Friday. First: Lowndes Grove. Tick, tick, know what I'm saying? A mere 8 days until the mighty reopening and first wedding of the season. New photos are up.

It's now interior designer Paula Adams' moment to shine. Yesterday, we took a peek at some of the incredible furnishings. It's fascinating to see how each part of the renovation works together with the next for this overall WOW effect. You'll see.

Sat down with Chef Nico and Pastry Chef Susie Ieronemo earlier to discuss the upcoming spring menu and, more importantly, WEDDING CAKES. (Sidebar: Nico was wearing a GREAT French soccer scarf.) As you may recall from earlier posts on Susie, she has mad wedding cake skills. In fact, the mini version of her wedding cakes at January's Client Appreciation/CVB Travel Council Party nearly caused a riot. (Word to the wise: NEVER, EVER get between a Southern woman and her dessert.) I just love that we now have wedding cakes in our repertoire. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I can occassionally score a free sample. Nothing at all.

On the tomfoolery front, friends and Mac-enthusiasts over at Blue Ion cracked me up this morning with this little homemade gem that highlights the fun you can have with the upgraded Photobooth.

In style news, was reading Mouthing Off, the Food + Wine blog and ran across this intriguing website for tableware that, in effect, lets you set your own table. It's like a dressing room for your dining room. Just go look.

And, finally: I can't believe that I forgot to mention that Master Sommelier Bob Bath spent some time with us over Food + Wine Festival Weekend. Friday evening before dinner service began, the Master Sommelier spent a few minutes talking wine with the Fish staff. (Of course, I sneaked in to catch some of his brilliance.)

This is a man who loves his job. His enthusiasm, in-depth knowledge and passion were evident in every moment. He encouraged questions and wanted so much to hear about what our guests are looking for in their dining and wine experience. I have to say: in just the 10 minutes I spent eavesdropping, I took notes AND left feeling energized and excited. Thank you again, Bob. It was our sincere pleasure to spend time with you.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Congratulations, EVO.

The Charleston City Paper came out yesterday with its Best of 2008, and I'm proud and happy to say that our friends at EVO Pizza won Best North Charleston Restaurant. Not only are owners Ricky Hacker and Matt McIntosh wonderful chefs and people, they are also committed to using only the freshest local ingredients. And they make damn fine pizza.

I have had the unique opportunity to watch this business grow, because I am friends and colleagues with EVO's marketing/accounting mastermind (as well as Ricky's wife), Elena. She and I have been friends and workmates through 2 jobs and nearly 5 years. I have watched in amazement as she ran from her "full-time office job" to her "full-time restaurant job." I have watched in admiration as EVO grew from the most successful pizza cart in town to a flourishing Park Circle restaurant with a most loyal clientele.

Yesterday, while we were celebrating and talking, Elena said, "Four years ago, Ricky came home and said 'I'm quitting my job and Matt and I are gonna sell pizza from a cart.'" As we all laughed over the sheer hilarity, bravery and vision of that moment, it occured to me that most great ideas start out sounding rather outlandish.

It has been an incredible lesson in dedication, hard work and commitment to watch EVO flourish in such a competitive business. It's even better to watch your friends succeed by staying focused on what matters most to them: great food, community and the desire to share their passion with anyone who wants to jump on board. Congratulations, EVO and P.S. Happy Anniversary (4 years for the business, 1 year for the restaurant.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Storm's blowin' in!

We're actually getting ready to close shop a bit early today at PP due to some seriously bad weather heading this way. So, I'll keep this short and sweet so as to not blow away like a tumbleweed down King Street.

Ran across this really cool website for a combination organic restaurant and yoga studio called Ubuntu. (And before you ask, yes, it's in California. Napa to be exact.) Not only can you eat delicious food grown in their own biodynamic garden, but you can also partake in your choice of oh, about 53 yoga classes per week. Holy, downward dog!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Lots & lots

12 days and counting! Met with my friend and photographer this morning out at Lowndes Grove to scout it for an upcoming shoot. Mere days before we reopen, we'll be doing a shoot of both the property and the Main House. (Yes, we LIKE pressure.) Oh, and yes, I will be sharing those photos with you, in COLOR even.

"Nico Romo's words, and even his accent, sounded exactly like Desi Arnaz in the old "I Love Lucy" show.

"Happy anniversary, honey, I love you!" he crooned from the stage, waving to his wife in the audience."

We're so grateful to be the lead in the story, so thank you. However, let me take a moment to bring some clarity to what seems to be a rather confused part of the Charleston population. Our beloved Executive Chef Nico (Nicolas) Romo hails from Lyon, France. His accent is indeed strong. I would compare it to the accents of fellow Frenchmen, Gerard Depardieu or say, Jean Reno.

On the other hand, Desi Arnaz, born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III, also known as Ricky Ricardo from "I Love Lucy," was born in Cuba.

Nico = France. Desi = Cuba.

Any old way, though Nico and Marc Collins didn't win the cooking competition, it certainly wasn't for lack of talent or effort. Both did an outstanding job, and a bunch of us were on-hand to cheer them on and check out all the festivities.

Pastry Chef Susie Ieronemo rocked Bubbles & Sweets with her pineapple tart (don't be fresh). And, here's an inside scoop for ya: Susie is super allergic to pineapple. Like, she can't touch them without gloves. So, as she and I talked about her spring/summer dessert menu, I suggested this name: Susie's Pineapple Adrenaline Tart. Get it? In case of allergic reaction, adminster EpiPen. I know, you can hardly wait.