Thursday, April 18, 2013

Seeing Stars in Charleston

Charleston garden gate South of Broad
There are some places that will always feel like home, no matter how far away I move or the time that’s grown between present and the past. Charleston, South Carolina is one of those places for me. I only lived there for about a year while in culinary school, but the city managed to seep deep into my soul in that short time. In many ways, I grew into an adult when I was there, I learned what it was like to truly work hard there, and I found the path that was meant for me.
    Thankfully that road often leads me back to Charleston for work.  As a mother and an author, I'm lead in so many directions that it’s not often that I have the chance to go out to eat with my parents and simply visit as a daughter and a friend. Thanks to a trip to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, we had that opportunity. My parents were my dates for a weekend that was gloriously filled with more wine and food than should be legal. The night we’ll remember forever was at Charleston Grill. I’d eaten at the acclaimed restaurant on other trips to the Lowcountry, so I knew it would be nothing short of a treat for my parents (and for myself).
    To say we enjoyed ourselves would be a massive understatement. The jazz band was playing, not one piece of sterling was out of place, no server off-key, and all the timing was perfect. It takes a lot of stars to align for a dinner experience to be magical. The heavens were certainly in our favor this night.
    It doesn’t take a food writer to see that the driving forces here are marching to the beat of the same hospitable drum. General Manager Mickey Bakst and Chef Michelle Weaver are noticeably in sync. They make the door between the back and the front of the house swing seamlessly. Mickey glides through the night making everyone feel like they are the most important soul that’s ever come through the door. He seems to float around the dining room managing every detail effortlessly, all the while knowing the names of nearly everyone and ensuring their favorite drinks are being stirred and shaken at the bar. He is truly one of a kind.
    Michelle’s talent is obvious with each plate and every bite. On a previous visit, I ordered foie gras with black cherries and was sent into such a state, I literally couldn’t speak. Words simply are not worthy. I couldn’t wait to have the menu at my fingertips again. Not surprisingly, I ordered more adventurously than my parents. Once again the meal was incredible, but this time it spanned two generations.
Charleston Garden
    The night was a much-needed reprieve from everyday schedules and all that they entail. We drank, we ate as much as physically possible, and listened as the band played “Take Five” (Dad’s favorite song). We took in each bite, savored each second, and made a memory that will last a lifetime. The desserts finished out the night in a fashion that we still talk about. Very, very rarely does a dining experience, either at home or in a restaurant, have every single detail right, including the company. And when it does, life doesn’t get much better.