Ambassador of Good Taste

Who: Philip Lader is truly a man of the world. He started out as a lawyer and went on to serve in the federal government as Deputy Director of Office of Management and Budget, Head of the Small Business Bureau, and Deputy Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton. For eight years, he was US ambassador to Great Britain. Phil has "settled" down in Charleston, where he currently teaches at The Citadel, is a partner in a major local law firm, and acts as senior advisor to Morgan Stanley's international operations, particularly involved in their real estate ventures in China. Somehow he still finds time to serve on the board of such major institutions as Lloyd's of London, advertising and media conglomerate WWP, and the Rand Think Tank — as well as take a leisurely lunch with this writer.

Favorite Lunch Spot: Lader could live anywhere, yet chooses to reside in Charleston, and he could eat anywhere, and chooses to lunch at Slightly North of Broad (SNOB). Why? "It's so casual, I can bring people from all stations of life and backgrounds here and they would feel comfortable." (If you met Phil, you would know that putting people at ease is one of this gentleman's priorities.) Phil made sure our able server, Jennifer, heard him claim, too, that "the best thing about this restaurant is the service." In addition, Phil is acquainted with the owners, Dick and Dayna Elliott, and admires how they operate their trio of Maverick restaurants and a cooking school.

Favorite Dish: Lader, who could also order anything he wants, almost always starts his lunch with Red Bean Soup, "slow-cooked with peppers, onions, celery and garlic, served with tomato-jalapeno salsa and sour cream." The soup is so artfully decorated one almost hesitates to turn over the surface with a spoon. Next, because he likes two of the restaurant's offerings so much, he just alternates. One lunch he will feast on Coastalina Shrimp and Grits and the next meal — such as today — he will savor their Grilled Southern Medley: "chicken breast, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes with basil pesto, balsamic vinaigrette and goat cheese croutons." For a beverage, our guest ordered unsweetened iced tea, accompanied by exactly two slices of orange, two of lemon and two of lime, neither more nor less. Phil said he drinks this juicy blend of tea to ward off scurvy. Whether he was kidding or not, I have no idea. But the drink was nevertheless novel and delicious; I'll order it again, and if I am lucky, I may avoid the ravages of scurvy for the remainder of my life. And I will owe my health to this ambassador of good taste. —Roy Freedman



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