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Monday, June 30, 2008

Quick Charleston faves, pals at FIG & the history of weddings

Howdy, Internet. Hope you didn't get caught in the rain this weekend. I did, but on purpose. Took a lovely walk in the soft rain yesterday. Great way to clear the head of cobwebs.

Received a comment on the blog that asked us to share some of our Charleston favorites and local photos, which we are happy to do. Look for some "local" photos this week and today I'll shout out to some of our hometown faves.

Off the top of my head favorites:
  • Kudu Coffee on Vanderhorst Street
  • B'Zar (super cool clothing, jewelry, shoes) on Upper King Street
  • Lesesne (fantastic stationery, cards, books, home furnishings) on Upper King
Just heard a good story from our Managing Partner. A frequent guest of Fish has special dietary requirements that can make dining out a challenge. The guest called Randall to ask for his recommendations for places to dine while Fish is under renovation. Randall suggested the deliciousness at FIG (one of my favorites). Randall called over to FIG to give them a heads up about our guest and was incredibly impressed by how accommodating the staff at FIG was. It's good to know that our guests are in more than capable hands while Fish undergoes its big refreshing.

Rachel, one of our illustrious Event Managers at The William Aiken House sent over this interesting article about the origins of wedding traditions. Here's a fun fact: the origin of the Best Man was basically, um, bouncer/brawn. Really. Way back when, the Best Man was armed and ready back up for the groom in case he had to oh.....kidnap his bride, fight off other dudes who might want to steal her, etc. Nice, right? To my knowledge, we've had no kidnappings or fistacuffs at either The William Aiken House or Lowndes Grove to-date. But boy, wouldn't THAT be blogworthy?!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lowndes Grove Neighborhood Open House

On Thursday night, Lowndes Grove hosted an Open House for the Wagener Terrace Neighborhood Association, a fantastic group of people who also happen to be residents of what we consider to be one of the best neighborhoods in Charleston. Everyone involved with the neighborhood association, especially President Fran Clasby, has been extremely welcoming and supportive of us since we purchased Lowndes Grove a year ago, so it was great to have everyone over for lemonade and cookies and let them stroll through the property. I had some great conversations with the neighbors and learned even more about the property. It was especially inspiring to hear people's enthusiasm as they walked through the property. Because at the end of the day, Lowndes Grove is not just a Charleston gem, it's a neighborhood gem. And we're feeling very blessed to have such good neighbors. Thanks again to everyone who came out to meet us. P.S. Check out the rest of Fran's great photos here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hanging with the neighbors

Our friends and neighbors at Garden & Gun threw a fantastic launch party tonight for the new Billy Reid store at 150 King Street. Per Billy's website, he is a "steady hearted Southener," which I think is a brilliant description and wish I had thought of it. Reid creates beautifully stylish and wearable clothing for men and women. The store is an elegant space and reminded me of a Southern grandmother's home, a gentlemen's hunt club, an antique store and a living photo album all at once. Some very tasty foie gras was provided by Mike Lata from FIG. Saw lots of people we knew, including friends from one of our Upper King favorites, Lesesne and folks from the Charleston CVB and the Post & Courier. As I left the fete while the joint was still packed and walked out into the blast of sultry heat, I couldn't help but feel grateful for this wonderful little city by the sea. 'Tis a town of warm hearted neighbors.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Break on through to the other side

That peek of light you see above (come into the light, Carol Ann!) is our fine construction team breaking through the wall at 442 King Street (Fish) into 440 King Street (soon to be Fish too). That's right, we are through! No turning back now, campers. It's full tilt boogie from here on out.

Off to Lowndes Grove in just a bit for a meet and greet with members of the Wagener Terrace neighborhood association. This group of folks have been incredibly supportive of the historic renovation that has taken place over the last few months, and we're thrilled to be able to show them them around.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

1970s style inspiration, renovation & false alarms

Sometimes a blast from the past serves as great inspiration...or at least a good laugh. Today, Heather, writer of one of my favorite blogs, received a package of Land of the Lost t-shirts. If you are familiar with Land of the Lost, you must know that I spent more than the recommended daily allowance of time in front of the t.v. watching this totally 1970s family flail their way through a pre-historic land. A true classic. I can't even tell you what that little nugget of nostalgia did for my creativity level today. I cranked out copy like nobody's business. Who knew bad 1970s t.v. could spark such eloquence?!

When last we left Patrick Properties, The American Theater, Fish and 440 King Street were rocking with renovation and expansion activity. (More photos to come tomorrow.) This morning, a cloud of plaster dust inadvertently set off a fire alarm in 440 King Street. Here at PP headquarters, we received the call from our alarm company that the Fire Department had been dispatched. Um, WHAT?!

After our Corporate Sales Manager and General Manager made quick rounds of all the properties, they found the source of the trouble at 440 King Street, as well as a number of members of the Charleston Fire Department. Seeing that there was no fire issue at 440 King Street, the firefighters jumped to the aid of Executive Chef Nico Romo and Sous Chef Trung Duong as they struggled to lug trees out of the Fish courtyard. Thanks, guys!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Everybody moo shu tonight

Noteworthy responses to the Do you moo shu? message on the windows of the currently under renovation/expansion Fish:

· I would, but I prefer to Wang Chung.
· I did once, but my hips can’t take it.
· Is this a teaser for the Beijing Olympics?
· Dude, I just quit.

And finally:

· As long as I can rest afterwards.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Scenes from Dubrovnik

So, had a great conversation with Managing Partner Randall Goldman this afternoon about his trip to Dubrovnik. (Photos to come next week.)

You know when you have one of those conversations that has so much in it that it keeps resonating well after it's over? This was one of those conversations. Which is not surprising when you consider the fascinating, at times tragic, history of this amazing part of the world.

And while I wish I could reproduce our conversation in its entirety, I thought I would first share some of the images that have been bouncing around in my head all afternoon.

Cherries and apricots are currently in season.

So is lavender and the street vendors sold it in small sachets.

No one takes food or drink to-go. If you go for coffee, you are also going for the social/cultural experience. Count on at least an hour. HAVE YOUR COFFEE.

There is a restaurant on the water where they harvest oysters fresh before each lunch or dinner service.

The sea is crystal clear.

Though they stayed in the center of Old Town Dubrovnik, Randall and Jennifer also took a trip to Bosnia. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around all that took place in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro roughly 12 years ago. There is so much I don't know. How do you look at any place in the world that survived civil war and not see its scars?

Traveling has the capacity to get us out of own heads a bit. I suppose that's why we love it. Not just as an escape from what we know, but also a chance to see, hear and experience something we haven't before. Expand our view a bit. I think that's what was so compelling about my conversation with Randall. The quality of his voice conveyed that he truly experienced something. In all honesty, at times I think he didn't believe he could express it in words.

I know you're wondering about what Randall spoke about to the students at the University of Dubrovnik, because I was too. Here these students sit, in a beautiful, historic, seaport city. With a history so long it makes Charleston look like a little kid. He spoke about what Patrick Properties does, what these buildings really mean. Bricks and mortar that become the fabric of a society. Certainly this group of students, indeed Dubrovnik as a whole, know that down to their bones. It's a pretty amazing world when you have the opportunity to go across the world, shake hands with someone who has endured. Sit and have coffee. And gaze out at the crystal sea.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bonjour, partner. French-Texan, maybe?

Isn't that a priceless gem? There's our very own Executive Chef Nico Romo tipping his cowboy hat (?!) to the ladies at Juanita Greenberg's at Fish's last hurrah after the final shift Saturday evening.

Now, check out a few sneaks peeks of the Theater and Fish renovation currently in progress. Camper, it is fast and furious in there, may I just say?

In other news, PP is donating two vacant homes located on property we own in Mt. Pleasant to the Mt. Pleasant Fire Department. The two homes will be used for fire and safety training purposes. Since we're in the business of finding creative ways to preserve and reuse, it was important to us to find a new use for these homes. For all firefighters do, we are happy to be able to do a little something to support them.

Tomorrow I'm having lunch with Managing Partner Randall Goldman to hear all about the Goldman Dubrovnik Escapades. He did happen to mention that he took approximately 1,000 photos. (Um, methinks I think I will be sharing just a nice representative sample.) Stories to come!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Which came first? The moo or the shu?

Know what's fun about marketing? Sparking peoples' curiosity. I have to say, it's one of my favorite things. Just yesterday morning, my partner in crime painted a message on the butcher paper that is now covering the windows of Fish. The message, you ask?

Do you moo shu? Coming this September.

The message hadn't been up even 24 hours before Managing Partner Randall Goldman received 2 phone calls asking if we were changing our concept to Chinese food. A fair question, I suppose, as moo shu is Chinese in its origin, although you can find a moo shu kind of recipe in most every cuisine. That being said, Fish is not changing to Chinese food.

However, our concept is, after all, FRENCH-ASIAN. So really, that leaves room for a whole lot of influences (say perhaps, China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia or Provence, Paris, Normandy).
And might I also add, unique and totally delicious.

But back to the message. The moo shu alludes to something new. Something fresh. Something you will just have to watch for. I'm sorry, I like you best when you want more, more, more. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

American Theater...I couldn't help but wonder...

Standing in the vast, empty quiet space of the nearly gutted theater this afternoon, I could help but wonder what kind of celebrations will take place here. This morning at 8 am, sledgehammers cracked against wood; workmen hollered across the vast space to each other; power saws churned out sawdust. The whole space was vibrating and echoing with noise and action. But now.

Right now, the room is calm and quiet. I stood on the stage and looked out at the expanse of space. Even in its demolition state, it is beautiful. It is full of possibility. It's like the anticipation just before the curtain rises, just before the party begins. Even in the quiet, there is a faint hum of what is about to be.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What's Up

Dear Internet,

Did you miss me? Well, here I am, back from Ohio, home of the Buckeyes and my Mom, as the case would have it. I also got to see my niece (12) and nephew (15) who were also visiting. They are fantastic young people and might I say this, their texting skills are exemplary. Truly I have never seen thumbs move so fast. I was exhausted just watching.

Today marks the return to the PP campus of none other than the globe-trotting Goldmans. That's right, folks, fresh from Dubrovnik and other choice European cities (I know Paris for sure). I have not had a chance to be in their presence long enough to be regaled with trip tales. However, I can report that at least two boxes arrived at PP headquarters from Dubrovnik. PRESENTS!

In other news, Fish officially closed for refreshing after dinner service on Saturday night. And today, members of the Fish and PP team cleared out the entire kitchen and restaurant in what I think may be record time to prepare for the upcoming enhancements. Giddy up!

And, at The American Theater, the concessions area? Yeah, gone. Stadium seats? As if. Kids, this demo crew means it, and the results are going to be unforgettable.

Oh and get this: our friend and location scout, Stephen Rhea, who has helped PP get connected with some wonderful productions (remember that scene from The Notebook in front of The American Theater?). Anywho, Stephen brought a film production team, including actor/director Bill Duke to The William Aiken House to scope it out for an upcoming project for the Hallmark Hall of Fame network. Not only is Mr. Duke a formidable actor/director, every single bit I read about him refers to his imposing height (6'4) and his shaved head. He definitely has presence, and it's not just his size. He was also extremely friendly and warm. And, he just loved The William Aiken House which, I'll admit, only made me love him more.

As if all of this refreshing business wasn't enough, PP is also getting a brand new server. That means I'm writing you from my sweet old home MacBook, as the installation may take a day or so. Soon to come, photos from the great refreshing and tales from Dubrovnik. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You calling me fresh?

Dear Internet,

I'm headed out of town tomorrow. Try not to miss me too much. I will definitely send a posting from the road, so never fear. I leave you with some of today's photos from Lowndes Grove. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A bird in the hair beats two in the...oh never mind.

I want to hang out with the woman who can rock this Charm School Design double bird headpiece, and I want her to get married at Lowndes Grove this minute! Ok? Thanks.

In other news: holy salmonella, Batman, how about those tomatoes? Here's another reason to EAT LOCAL! Um, you know it's bad when Reuters says: Florida's "whole tomato industry is in complete collapse." Just so you don't whip yourself into a fearful frenzy, bear in mind that it only applies to Florida-grown raw red plum, red Roma, red round tomatoes and products containing those tomatoes. So, be careful but not paranoid and ya know, eat local 'maters.

As of today, you can officially no longer get any kind of concession from the American Theater concession area. Moment of silence, please. And, scene.

BTW: sent out this email today about Fish's final Dollar Dim Sum BEFORE THE REFRESHING BEGINS...

Good afternoon,

We at Fish realize it’s hotter than the fringes of…well, you know.

In light of the heat, rising gas prices and the tomato/salmonella debacle, we’d like to offer a simple, delicious and affordable pleasure.

Dollar Dim Sum. That’s right. Chef Nico takes what’s fresh and tasty and puts it together in a perfectly delectable package. All for a dollar (that’s $1) a piece.

Fill up your belly. The rest can wait.

I suppose I should have mentioned that Sean would also be happy to whip up a very refreshing strawberry mojito for you as well. Yes, with local strawberries. Come over.

Monday, June 9, 2008

From seat 14 at American Theater

Today at PP starts demolition in a very real way at American Theater, and it's super exciting. Check out the pics. It's fast and furious in there! Director of Human Resources Elizabeth Kitchin came in today decked out in shorts, t-shirt and sneakers, ready to jump in and help with the removal of the theater seats, most of which are going to our pals at the Terrace Theater on James Island.

It was a big weekend for Charleston cuisine as Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill won the prestigious James Beard award for Best Chef in the Southeast. (FIG's Mike Lata and McCrady's Sean Brock were also nominated, Lata for best chef in the Southeast and Brock for rising star chef of the year.) Congrats to all! Love it when Charleston gets props for the amazing cuisine we continue to produce and refine.

Take a look at this powerful interactive piece Patagonia put together about the environmental impact of a sampling of their products. The phrasing of their environment commitment was particularly well-worded: "cause no unnecessary harm." It states the obvious: all business, whether small or large, impacts the environment, but also speaks to a mindfulness that there are lots of things we can all be doing to "tread more lightly." Nicely done.

In fish news (lowercase f), the mighty Chinook Salmon from the Pacific Northwest is in big trouble, due to a temporary decline in the plankton and the small fish it feeds upon and then, of course man-made issues. What can you do? Downshift your salmon consumption and support legislation that reduces fishing quotas and commits money to restore their habitat.

Now, in Fish news, remember, this is the last week to join us before we close for the big refreshing! Saturday dinner is our last service until we reopen. What are you waiting for? Gas is nearly $4 and you can still have Dollar Dim Sum tomorrow night and half-priced wines on Wednesday. For the love...call us 843.722.FISH or just come on by!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday at Charleston's finest hospitality company

The very good folks at Dragon Boat Charleston are stars of an incredible documentary called Awaken the Dragon by my friend and filmmaker Liz Oakley. Last weekend, American Theater played host to an Amazing Race fundraiser for the documentary that raised nearly $12,000. We received this lovely thank you through our friends at Grand Ideas:

“Thank you, my friends… I wanted you to know we had a very successful event and believe we raised over $12K for the documentary’s editing. As I told you, Liz Oakley is an amazing woman and a true professional. I can’t wait to see her collect that Academy Award! Thank you for allowing us the use of the American Theater yesterday. The event was a GRAND success and many families I spoke with at the Finish Line said we should do it next year because it was an event kids could really enjoy and there weren’t that many things for kids to do around Piccolo outside of Marion Square on Saturday mornings…"

Hey, Internet, here's your quick list of South Carolina produce that's currently in-season. Of course, it may not all be currently available, but check out the Farmer's Market tomorrow and see!
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cucumbers
  • Green Onions
  • Leeks
  • Peaches
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Yellow squash
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelons

And now, I shall be on my way. A nod to The William Aiken House, dressed in its finery for tonight's event, a wave to Lowndes Grove as the breeze from the Ashley River greets me, the sweet smell of the delicious sauces simmering at Fish. Goodnight, John Boy.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Guerilla gardening, pong & Vogue

We here at PP are all about a grass roots movement and interesting and creative ways to tackle challenges. Check out this LA Times article about the guerilla gardener movement. Basically, it's a bunch of stealthy gardeners who, under the cloak of darkness, plant and beautify land that doesn't even belong to them, like say highway medians and vacant lots. Rather cool that unused land is being turned into something beautiful and/or edible. Here at PP, we've got a pretty fantastic little herb garden near our parking lot, maintained by one of Sous Chefs, Trung Duong. He doesn't do it under the cloak of darkness or anything, but it's still quite wonderful.

By the way, over at 440 King Street, the soon-to-dining room of Fish, there is butcher paper up in the windows. Why? Because we like to surprise you, silly. Besides, we can use the butcher paper for interesting messages to curious passersby. You should definitely plan on joining us at Fish, like say on Saturday, Saturday June 14, which is our last day before the refreshing begins. Hang out with Jodie and Evan. Raise your glass. It'll be fun, promise.

In other news, Nico informed me the other day that he has purchased Wii. For those of you who recall, Nico recently injured his knee on the soccer field as well as made a truly memorable comment. Let me just say this about Wii. One, I have never played it. Two, I did, however, spend an inordinately large portion of my childhood playing Pong, Space Invaders, DonkeyKong and Ladybug (in that order). Whole years went by in a blink because of those games. We can only hope and pray that Nico doesn't become addicted to Wii, and we find one him one morning curled in a ball, fingers bleeding from Guitar Hero. Please Nico, be careful.

Received a text from Director of Events Jennifer Goldman this morning as she sped across France on her way to Normandy. (Everything in me is trying NOT to be jealous right now.) Anywho, the text said that The William Aiken House is mentioned in the current issue of Vogue, which is a really nice thing to wake up to, I must say.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Steaks, Mani-Pedis & Town & Country

If you have not spent much time on Upper King Street, you are truly missing what I can only describe as an eclectic experience. The PP headquarters offices have a rather unassuming presence (no blazing signage) on King Street. And yet, at least three times in the past couple of weeks, our wee office has been beseiged by aggressive (yet kind) sales folks. Mere minutes ago, a nice fellow stuck his head in to inquire if we were interested in purchasing "the last two boxes of steaks in my truck...really cheap, $2." As appealing as the offer was, we had to respectfully decline. A few weeks ago, we had a very energetic lad sashay up to the office and offer us discounted beauty and spa services. Steaks and mani-pedis. Really?

In other news, due to our upcoming refreshing and expansion of Fish and The American Theater, there has been a WAVE of Spring/Summer cleaning, the likes of which I've never seen currently underway at PP. Yesterday, ladies from The William Aiken House delivered an obscene amount of paper, office supplies and sundry wedding photo albums and books to PP headquarters. (Note: when in doubt, everyone says, "Give it to Marketing, they can use it.")

Anywho, while sorting through the masses, I came across a copy of Town & Country's Elegant Weddings. Published in 2001, the book is a comprehensive guide for anyone planning high-end nuptials. Though the book is only seven years old, some of the photography seems quite dated. It's amazing to see how swiftly wedding fashions come and go. Editor Pamela Fiori offered up her own wedding photographs, to which I say BRAVO. (Her 1950s dress was amazing, but her hair said '80s in a very real way.)

In happy news, congratulations to Amy Pastre of Gil Shuler Graphic Design. She and her husband are the new, proud parents of baby Otto.

And finally, some insights from my very own brother about knowing the source of your food:

"A friend of mine lives “out in the country” on an acre or so of land, large enough and sunny enough to put in a fairly good size vegetable garden and raise several chickens and ducks. We usually meet for lunch once a week at a local restaurant where he barters duck eggs for lunch. One day he had an overabundance of eggs and asked me if I would like some. I had never eaten duck eggs, so I gladly took a free dozen to try them. After that, I began to get chicken and duck eggs from my friend on a regular basis.

One morning I stood staring at an egg poaching in my morning stupor thinking to myself, “Ah, having some of Kurt’s eggs.” It then occurred to me that I had often had this same thought as I cooked my eggs. I thought of my friend Kurt in his garden. Sometimes I thought of his chickens, too, and wondered which one had laid this particular egg, because I had seen the chickens in person and knew Kurt had several breeds. Some had brown shells, some white while the ducks laid slightly larger, white-shelled eggs.

Preparing my egg breakfast made me think about my friend and wonder how he was doing. I thought about his chickens and wondered how they were doing. Had a raccoon eaten one of them or the owl that lived in the bordering woods? Were they all well? In short, I now had a vested interest in the source of my food, because I personally knew it. I wanted to know more about the farmer and the farm animals. I wanted to be sure they were safe, that they were getting good feed, and that their water was clean, because I was eating what they had eaten. I wanted to be sure they were protected from predators. I wanted to be sure that my friend, and I would meet for lunch again. It then occurred to me: people care about what they are familiar with."

Monday, June 2, 2008

What a feeling!

Dear Internet,

Okay, that is a bit dramatic, but it also sets the stage for what I have to say perfectly. I have been dying to share our big news. Really, like giddy with anticipation. Starting June 16, we’re having some work done. We meaning Fish and The American Theater. That sounds sort of like plastic surgery, doesn’t it? Of course, when you undergo plastic surgery, you don’t want people to ask if you’ve had “something” done; you just want to look fresh and fabulous, right? That’s what we’re going for.

So yes, we're expanding, refreshing. ("Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.") Want details? Of course you do.

Let's start with Fish and a little back story. Gibson, Thompson, Guess Architects were the original designers of the restaurant back in 2000. And, because they're so fantastic at what they do, they're back to work their magic once again. What's changing? Our super-cool purple heart wood bar will triple in size. Helloooo, bar dining! And behind the bar? Antiqued mirrors, stainless steel accents and of course, the original, beautiful brickwork. The "new" first floor dining room will move into the first floor of 440 King Street. Picture reclaimed cherry tables, large mirrors, creative lighting and a great vibe.

Now to The American Theater. We're revamping the second theater and concession area to make an elegant ballroom. Think Art-Deco glamour and warmth. Think Deitrich. Think once-in-a-lifetime events, like say an incredible corporate incentive gathering, a 1940s-inspired wedding reception or perhaps a royal coronation. It could happen. Glenn Keyes, who just finished up things at Lowndes Grove, leads the project. The front theater and Star’s Bar will stay the same. The reason for the change? Folks continue to throw ever bigger, ever more fabulous events and really, who are we to say no?
I know this is a lot of information to process, but don't worry, I'm here to help. And, of course, we'll be photo-documenting these changes so you're always in the know.