Garden Failings and Menu Successes

I am going to attribute my own crankiness (similar to my nephew's above) to the weather.  I'm sure it has nothing to do with the post wedding let down or the impending first day back to work.  It is just freaking HOT here right now.  I like to believe that I can always endure the heat and tropic humidity if there is an ocean nearby with some salvation of a breeze (obviously I need to think about this for my retirement years).  There is just nothing but hot here.  With only hairdryer breezes and more hot and humid on the way (115 heat index through the end of the week with 90% humidity).  We have not even had any weekends to escape to the lake for temporary relief.  The garden has taken on my mood it seems.  We had a PROLIFIC garden last season.  10 foot tomato vines, huge bushes of kale and greens, sweet potato vines everywhere.  This year?  Not so much.  I can't figure out what has happened.  I am sure there are several factors at play.  Late planting because of the rain?  The second year of similar crops in the same spot?  Early heat that we normally don't see til August?  10 days of Jurassic weeds that seemed to take over?  Critters that figured out we have a buffet in our backyard?  Who knows.  I just know that this pittly stuff I'm pulling in as "harvest" is starting to piss me off.    There isn't even enough to photograph, for Pete's sake.  But enough about the failings of the garden.  I promised some more info on the wedding and I intend on delivering.

As you are all well aware, Steven and I are foodies.  When I started the planning of the wedding supper, I knew that we wanted one of the best chefs that Charleston and the Low Country had to offer.  I wanted someone committed to using locally grown/fished foods and would think that menu planning for 5 courses for a handful of folks was way more fun that planning for 100.  We just appreciate that kind of artisan cooking.  I had called a restaurant on Kiawah that I love, Jasmine's Porch, but they didn't cater.  Then I found several culinary articles about McCrady's, where Chef Sean Brock has earned a James Beard Award and continues to create magic out of his kitchen in downtown Charleston.  I was very interested in this place from all of the articles.  Our food values seemed to be in line and I called but they did not cater either.  I booked us reservations for when we were in town anyway (AMAZING FOOD!!).  When I found a vendor list from Kiawah, I started looking at the catering websites and quickly discounted all but one. 

The Pampered Palate immediately seemed to have a finger on the pulse for foodies with really interesting sample menus.  When I called, I discovered that Chef Merrit Brady (center of picture) had been at McCrady's for years and the kismet circle was complete.  We had a great talk and I knew he was our man.

I LOVE the challenge of a great tasting menu.  I love all of the factors that are at play with multiple course; the building of each course, the subtlety of flavors working together, figuring out what needs to be a segue, will there be a star of the night or will they all share the spotlight equally, which of my Low Country favorites to include, when to put myself exclusively in the hands of Chef, how to get everyone to the end together without being too full, just the general commitment of it all.  Chef was there with me every step and had a great menu to start with out of the gate.  We tweaked and reworked to make the menu so personalized and finally this beautiful thing was created.

After the food menu was complete, I called on my friend, John Johnson, at The Wine Rack here in Louisville to put together the wine tastings for the night.  I did not want to use someone in Charleston that I had never worked with before, that did not know my tastes, etc.  I also wanted to send my once in a lifetime major spending to him because he is just an all around great guy, running a fantastic wine shop and we are pretty adamant about using local businesses when at all possible.  Oh did he ever come through.  I had a much higher budget for this tasting than I have in the past (and probably ever will in the future) and it was a rare treat to taste wines in another stratosphere altogether.  I knew when I picked up the cases and he told me that the Cabernet for the evening was going to "Melt your brain it's so good" that we were in for a treat.  He also knows the tastes of my family since we all shop there regularly and so it was a highly personalized menu.  This is the benefit of using folks you know and trust.  

Needless to say, the evening was perfection and each course of the menu built on top of the last and at the end of the evening we were all exhausted, sated, and our palates had been stimulated beyond all reason.  Proof of this was the chicken fingers and burgers we ate for dinner the next night.  

I must return to work in a short two weeks.  This summer has slipped through my fingers before my eyes.  Each year it seems to go faster and faster.  I can remember when summers lasted forever.  Apparently I am getting old.  Ugh.  Until the return, I will try to be the garden whisperer and get more than bugs and burnt up greens out of the garden.  Grow or Don't, Damn It!        

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