Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Charleston Social Diary, Part I

Guest enjoying cocktails under the live oaks along Adams Creek.
Charleston Social Diary, Part I
By Ned Brown

If you live above the Mason-Dixon line, and contemplate visiting Charleston, fall, particularly October and November, are my favorite months. Northerners appreciate the spring after a long winter (particularly last year's), but fall for us is the transition from hot, humid summers. Or, as author, Pat Conroy, describes Charleston summers as "like walking through gauze or inhaling damaged silk." After Manhattanites have retreated from their summer homes to their New York apartments, and joined the start of the indoor fall social season, Charlestonians are coming out to celebrate the blissful fall weather of warm temperatures, low humidity, the orange perfume scent of tea olive tree blossoms, and the sweetgrass with their newly-turned red fall plumes gently swaying in the breeze.

The front entrance of the Ambrose Family house.
One of the great kick-off fall events is the annual outdoor dinner that benefits Lowcountry Local First (LLF). The annual Field Feast dinner for LLF was started by local p.r. talent, Annie Byrd Hamnett, to support agricultural initiatives and to strengthen local farms by creating partnerships with local restaurants.

So, when you experience the great Charleston cuisine, many of the premier chefs are adamant about sourcing much of their ingredients (produce, fruit, meat, fish and poultry) from Lowcountry farmers and fishermen. Each year, LLF finds a nearby family farm or plantation to host the annual fall dinner celebration.

This year, it was at Pete and Babs Ambrose's wonderful historic family home along Adams Creek in Rockville, SC — about thirty minutes from downtown Charleston, but a world away. And how many people do you know that have a bonafide commercial shrimp fishing boat docked in their backyard?

The multi-generational Ambrose family owns a nearby farm where they grow organic produce. The house itself was built as a replacement mid-circa nineteenth century, and has continued in the family ever since. The house and the setting epitomize simple, elegant South Carolina coastal living, and the Ambroses are very gracious in their hospitality. The family and their home reminded me of Rhett Butler's comment in Gone With The Wind, "I'm going back to dignity and grace. I'm going back to Charleston, where I belong."
The Ambrose Family house.
A great porch overlooking the marsh.
Babs with daughter, Lyla Ambrose, welcoming guests to their home.
A very comfortable country living room.
The inviting entrance to the porch ... A little welcoming ... and some instructional guidance.
Leslie Turner, Martin Krediet (center, backs turned) and other guests enjoying the porch view.
The Ambroses' commercial shrimp fishing boat.
Guests were greeted on the front lawn with music by the Gaslight Street Band. Innovative cocktails were served out of a converted mini-trailer turned into a mobile bar, while everyone strolled under the live oak trees with Spanish moss streaming down.

I met Martin Krediet, who runs Francis Ford Coppola's property, Turtle Inn, in Belize, who remarked, "This is my first visit. I absolutely love it. I am going to ask Francis to join me next year." Before we all moved to the tables under the live oaks to begin a dinner prepared by chef Kevin Johnson of The Grocery, one of Charleston's premier restaurants, we were treated to a glorious sunset over the marsh.
The Gaslight Street Band.
An innovative (converted trailer) cocktail dispensary.
Homemade cocktail ingredients. A partial list of cocktails.
The view back up the lawn towards the Ambrose home.
Local oysters with cilantro.
Nicki Root and Annie Byrd Hamnett enjoying the oysters.
Our eclectic dinner group included Callie White (of Callie's Biscuits fame on the Food Network, Martha Stewart and the Today Show), renowned architect Alison Spear with husband, Alex Reese, who keep a 2nd home in Charleston when not at their home in the Hudson Valley, their friend, former Elle Décor Editor-In-Chief, Marion McEvoy, Martin Krediet, Leslie Turner, and Charleston/DC high-end wedding planner, Christina Baxter.
Callie White, Alison Spear, John Pope, Marion McEvoy, and Leslie Turner.
Dinner tables and settings under the great live oak trees ...
Two days later, I was back in downtown Charleston for an important reception at the home of David and Mary Lou Wertz, two US citizen and London transplants — we've got loads of those in Charleston. Mary Lou and her friend, Laura Farish, joined to celebrate the recent recovery of their friend, Leslie Turner (the former Mrs. Robert Edward "Teddy" Turner IV), from a double mastectomy, and to promote a wonderful organization, Share Our Suzy (www.shareoursuzy.org).
Lin Ann Harder, Leslie Turner, David Wertz (supportively dressed), and Susu Ravenel.
Kimberly Rosbe, John Paul Huguley, and Christina Baxter.
Suzy McGrane, a talented local photographer, died a few years ago from breast cancer that spread, and was only in her twenties. While undergoing treatment, Suzy learned that many other women undergoing treatment faced tremendous financial hurdles to cover daily expenses, while also paying for their treatment. Matters as essential to daily existence as paying for gasoline to get to and from their treatment, can often be an issue while also paying for their treatment. Share Our Suzy tries to relieve some of the financial pressure by helping with daily expenses, like funds for babysitters while at treatment, gasoline and keeping the utilities on.
Leslie Turner addressing the gathering. Nurse/Navigator Shelley Usher speaking of her patient experiences
At the reception, Leslie Turner spoke of her own experience, thanked everyone for their financial support of SOS and their friendship during her ordeal. She particularly thanked Shelley Usher, a nurse/navigator (I learned a new and enlightening term) from the breast cancer center at Roper St. Francis Healthcare Center in Charleston. Ms. Usher spoke of her own experience and commitment to patients, and the financial hardships they shared with her. And a particularly favorite guest interview of mine at the event was little Reese Mello, who spent much of the day personally picking-out her pink outfit, and one for her dollie, Miss Muffin.
Pretty little Reese Mello in the dress she selected, and ... Miss Muffin in backpack spot.
Guests gathered in the Wertz's courtyard.
Coming up in Part II: a day at the Carolina Cup Steeplechase Races and a side-trip to Jamaica, which more and more Charlestonians are finding as their elegant winter refuge.
The Wertz's King Charles' chaperoning from their couch perch.

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