Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rave Review on Vintners Dinner

Thoughts and Opinions on Charleston Area Restaurants by a Seasoned Restaurant Critic

By cookbook author and former Post & Courier restaurant critic, Holly Herrick

Sunday, January 25, 2009

One Hundred Percent Technically Correct
When Johnson & Wales packed its bags and headed to Charlotte a few years ago, many predicted that Charleston's restaurant scene would falter in the absence of the culinary and hospitality school giant. While the loss was both massive and preventable, Trident Technical College has seriously stepped up to the challenge plate to fill in any potential culinary training gaps in greater Charleston. Indeed, on Friday night, the school, its students and its faculty proved itself to be a world-class culinary tour de force with its "A Night in the Valley" fund-raiser.

I attended the event and was immediately wowed by the facility before the evening got underway. Champagne and appetizers flowed from a series of ultra-modern, commanding cooking laboratories that made Le Cordon Bleu, Paris facility (at least when I attended 15 years ago) look seriously small and antiquated. Students, clad in their chef's togs and wearing broad smiles, served graciously and pridefully. It was wonderful to see how much joy and pride they took in their work, for this the school's biggest annual fund-raiser. Most people don't realize that many culinary students choose the profession after already pursuing another career. They go to culinary school because they want to, not because mom and dad say they have to. They go because they have a hunger to understand the fundamentals of cooking and from the looks and taste of things, they're getting it here, in spades.

After cocktails, dinner was served to a packed house. The tables were impeccably dressed with linens and more wine glasses than I could count. Students stood at the ready to serve, and then came a remarkable stream of Italian inspired goodies, starting with spanking fresh bread baked in-house that very morning. A sweet/tart eggplant caponata starter was balanced with the mellow counterpoints of grilled radicchio. Next, a thin-as-air flutter of ravioli stuffed to the brim with fresh lobster and crab; a delicate seafood reduction sauce was the luscious complement. I had to leave before the entree and dessert were served, but ponder the decadence of a center cut grilled veal chop with a porcini sauce, spinach aioli and a risotto cake followed by a milk chocolate hazelnut pave with popcorn ice cream. All the well-paired wines served with the dinner were imported from Italy, to boot. Everything I tasted and everything I experienced on this fine evening was without fault and fully enjoyable.

Pulling off a meal of this complexity served to this large of a crowd (550 warm bodies!) with this much positive energy and panache, is no small feat and is not one that happens by chance. It happens with the teamwork, knowledge and skill of the school's staff and the radiance and pride and talent it evokes in its students. Charleston is lucky to have Trident Technical College and I was lucky to have a chance to attend this remarkable event. Next time I'll stay for dessert!

Trident Technical College, Main Campus700 Rivers Avenue, N. Charleston(843) 574-6111

Posted by Holly Herrick at 8:40 AM

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