Last Thursday evening Patrón Spirits hosted one of their exclusive Patrón Secret Dining Society events. It was the latest installment of their secret dinners for tequila enthusiasts who are part of the Patrón Social Club.
The Charleston dinner featured Charles Arena, executive chef of The Boathouse, and award-winning mixologist Morgan Hurley of Blu Restaurant at Folly Beach. Throughout the evening, the chef and mixologist educated guests about the range of flavors tequila can deliver while demonstrating the versatility of Patrón through their pairings.
Patrón Social Club members won their spot at the table by answering a riddle via the Social Club’s website. From more than 150 entries, only 20 lucky winners and their guests received a coveted invitation. The majority of the event’s details were kept secret until the day of the dinner.
The initial instructions that I received were to arrive at the College of Charleston Baseball Stadium located at Patriots Point at 6:30 p.m. sharp in cocktail attire. I put on my best spring jacket and tie and made my way over to the point where I was told to send a text message to a specific number for further instructions. When I arrived a saw a group of people that appeared to be dressed for such an event all staring at their phones, eagerly waiting for a response. Texts started pouring in and the group shifted to the Cold War Submarine Memorial where we were greeted by a representative of Patrón and given Patrón bottle tags engraved with the acronym “BHP.” From there we boarded a bus and started heading north on 17. I knew right away where we were heading, Boone Hall Plantation, hence the "BHP" on the tags.
We got off the bus and made our way to an old barn on the water where cocktails were waiting for us on the deck with an amazing view of the marsh.
Reception cocktails included a take on Carolina tea made with Patrón Silver and Carolina Plantation tea and a refreshing Patrón Reposado, watermelon, jalapeño, and basil concoction.
Alongside the drinks, we were served skewers of Carolina Quail glazed in cilantro and Patrón Silver, and succulent jalapeño and Patrón Silver braised pork belly, which was so good I had to tell the server to stop coming back with the tray.
There was a quick introduction from the folks of Patrón, and then we were seated at a long table for dinner where we enjoyed four more courses with pairings.
I particularly liked the Carolina grouper poached in Patrón Reposado and olive oil with braised lobster, fennel, and citrus salad. A vibrant, zesty dish that paired well with a "white negroni."
Three quarters of the way through dinner the ovens went out, causing a slight delay, but I give Chef Arena and his staff two thumbs up for working it out and producing a fine piece of medium-rare beef with a big, solid shrimp cake, mashed potatoes, and chimichurri. It was simply delicious.
I also have to give credit to Hurley for using my favorite fruit — blood orange — in the El Diablo Añejo, made with Patrón Añejo, blackberry liqueur, spicy sweet vermouth, blood orange, sparkling wine, and soda water.
Both Arena and Hurley explained how they used Patrón for each dish and cocktail. They bounced ideas off of each other for weeks until they came up with the menu, which wasn't finalized until the day before the event.
As dinner came to a close guests enjoyed a few extra cocktails until it was time to board bus and head home. During the ride, some guests sang 100 bottles of Patrón on the wall while others talked about what a fabulous night it was — a true one-of-a-kind experience.
The Patrón Social Club membership is free and open to anyone of legal drinking age, simply by registering at www.patronsocialclub.com. For members not selected to attend the event, Patrón offers the chance to win one of three 'Treasure Troves' that include select products along with a "How To" book to help members host their own secret dinners.
The main dining room on the second floor of 82 Queen was as packed as it’s ever been on Friday night, so says Stephen Kish, owner of the historical restaurant downtown. The restaurant hosted a sold-out craft beer dinner with superb food prepared by Chef Steven Lusby and beer parings courtesy of Widmer Brothers Brewing.
The décor in the room was definitely focused on beer. Even the nametag holders were creatively constructed with bottle caps.
The dinner started with an opening beer as people filed into their seats (I chose the easy-drinking hefeweizen). Five courses came out promptly with an elegant presentation.
All of the pairings seemed to work well except for the seared scallop and the Drifter Pale Ale. The dish alone was one of the top two of the night, but the hoppiness of the beer overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the dish. Either way, the dish was still a winner.
The standout of the night was the apple-smoked venison short ribs with a sweet, BBQ-like blackberry-ancho sauce that came with a acorn squash gratin and Brussels sprouts. This was originally paired with the Pitch Black IPA, as per the menu, but a wise decision was made to serve this with the Barrel Aged Brrrbon, which was such a wonderful combination.
Bon Dodler, the brewer, was on hand to talk about the various beers and answer questions, and a special guest was present. Daniel Bradford, publisher of All About Beer Magazine, played a key role in helping organize the Great American Beer Festival in the ’80s. This guy knows beer.
I left the event satisfied and with a final thought — Chef Steven Lusby can really cook. He’s been flying under the radar the past couple years, but his food speaks for itself and he definitely deserves some attention. Job well done.
With humidity taking a backseat and the fall air coming in, I can't think of a better way to spend an evening than sipping stellar wine and noshing on great food with some fine people in a cozy environment. Ben Berryhill and Charlie Chance provided just that opportunity at Next Door in Mt. Pleasant on Wednesday night.
For the first time since opening, an eight-course wine and food tasting was made available for only $25 a person, or $40 a couple. Take a look at the menu and tell me that's not a steal.
While the sun was still gleaming, guests started rolling in to claim seats in the beautiful patio in front of the restaurant. The weather was mild and Charlie Chance had all hands on deck to assure an amazing evening.
A crisp prosecco was poured upon arrival and soon after came Deep Bay oysters out of Vancouver that were very clean, sweet, and not too briny.
As guests sucked down their oysters, wine glasses were replaced with a small cup of sweet Thai coconut soup. The creaminess of the coconut and the strong presence of ginger made for a delightful pairing with an acidic, earthy Pinot Gris. The soup was so good I found myself setting down the spoon and drinking straight from the cup.
Next we were served crispy shrimp and scallop spring rolls with sweet chili sauce, paired with sparkling wine. What a great presentation.
The pairing of the night came next. A stunning hand-crafted spinach and butternut squash ravioli was complemented with a lush, nutty, and buttery chardonnay. The ravioli was delicious, but a whole new array of flavors were brought out with the wine.
Though I was sad to see my empty plate, it wasn't long before I was staring down the pork cheek with creamy polenta and crispy leeks. The savory dish was paired with a lighter, vibrant Pinot Noir from Germany. A wine with a little more tannins would have gone well with the pork, but the minerality of the wine was complex and offered a completely different flavor profile for a pinot noir, which was refreshing.
At this point guests were chattering about what a great deal it was to have all this food and wine at such a small price. And to think, we still had two more courses to go.
The mini "smothered" burger came out open-face with onions, mushrooms, and 10-month aged white cheddar. Tender, juicy, and piquant. I can see myself eating the bigger version of this dish. It paired beautifully with a spicy malbec.
In the midst of all this food, a couple — Josh and Paisley — were celebrating their recent engagement. Nice party. Congrats.
The night was capped off with a 10-year port from Portugal paired with panna cotta with salted caramel and a silky Saint Nectaire Brie.
There's no question that the tasting was a huge success. It's worth noting that everything at the tasting is available on the full dinner menu, in larger portions of course. If you missed out, don't worry, there will be more events like this in the future. As the main menu changes, tastings will be offered. Will you be at the next wine paired dinner? I know I will be.
Tonight, the Harbour Club downtown is hosting a big wine tasting, featuring 30 wines and light hors d'ouevres for $12.95.
Over in West Ashley, get a jump on your favorite non-holiday at Avondale Wine & Cheese's Uno de Mayo happy hour. Live music and bottomless sangrias ought to make it worth the $15 entry fee.
Tomorrow, in the morning, hit the Farmers Market, and then you can head out to Freshfields Village for the Make-A-Wish Wine Festival from 6-9 p.m. For $35, you can taste over 85 wines from around the world and nosh on Lowcountry cuisine by Charleston Eats while helping grant kids' wishes.
On Sunday, Fast & French throws its all-day anniversary bash at the City Gallery, as much an art event as a foodie one, and the Chef's Potluck takes over Middleton Place. At Fenwick Hall, you can get Inside the Chef's Kitchen at a Charleston Collegiate fund-raiser where Brett McKee, Donald Barickman, and Robert Carter will be pairing signature dishes with wines. On James Island, you can stop by the twice-monthly farmers market and craft fair at the Pour House from 11-3 p.m.
Up in Summerville, Farringdon Bistropub hosts a First Founders Brewery Dinner. For $40, you'll get five tapas-style courses and six specialty beers.
On Tuesday, La Fourchette brings in special guest Jean-Philippe Bourgeois of Bourgeois Family Selections for four-course dinner paired with five wines from the southern regions of France.
Coast will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo on the actual date with live music, South of the border brews, margaritas-a-plenty, and chef’s Latin-inspired feature plates befitting the evening’s theme.
And a heads up for hardcore oenophiles: Master Sommelier Robert Bath will be in town for a "Weekend of Wine" at Woodlands May 15-16. There's only enough room for 30 people, so if you're serious about wine, make your reservations now.
A year or so ago, Oak Steakhouse hosted a salsa party with dance lessons and music that lasted until the wee hours. It was the talk of the town for days. If you missed it, don't be stupid enough to miss tonight's fun event.
They'll be kicking off spring with a dance party from 11 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. tonight.
Bryan Mahanes will be spinning tunes and celebrating his birthday, and Brett McKee will be serving a Sangria special.
Dinner and dancing might just be the best capper for this beautiful day.