A couple weeks ago, I was at home looking over photos I'd taken of food and restaurants and was wondering what the new normal was going to look like for the culinary industry when my phone rang.
I figured it was one of the many eateries in Georgetown calling to ask for advice, how to prepare for reopening or just to have someone to listen to them get their feelings off their chests.
Yes. In this time of uncertainty, what I do has become a landing pad for those who just want some comfort and who understands them. And I have humbly accepted the role.
It's very important the industry has someone in their corner. Someone who has been there before this, through it and will help them afterward. And, to me, it means the world I am thought of in such regard.
I love the industry and all in it.
That phone call.
When I answered with hello, this voice responded with enthusiasm and vigor. It was a voice I wasn't familiar with, but when he said his name I knew I was in for an exciting conversation.
Chef Patrick Runey has owned T.W. Graham & Co. for more than seven years. The restaurant, of course, has been around since 2003 and the building has been used for different purposes, like a general store, for more than 100 years.
As we talked about the current pandemic and the latest regulations for restaurants and updates on reopening, I told Patrick I was here for him and his staff and would help in any way I could to provide advice and support.
It was at the end of the conversation I knew where I had to be in the next few days.
The trip to the #MCVL was planned for a Saturday evening. The weather that day was picture perfect, and we ate outside, under an Oak tree with a beautiful sunset as the backdrop.
When we arrived, we were greeted pleasantly by staff, then chef Runey himself came out with a smile from ear to ear. As excited he was to see me, I was far more excited to be dining at the restaurant, outside, in such a portrait atmosphere.
Funny, it takes a pandemic to slow you down, recharge and assist in focusing on the precious things in life.
There was some history preserved from the past owners. Local seafood, simplistic recipes and bountiful flavors remained. But, Runey and his staff tweaked the rest and made it his own.
And he kept true to the roots of the eatery. Respect the past, treat the folks like family and show them all a big heart.
Regarding simplicity, let's talk about the tarter sauce. Or, as I dubbed it, tarter slaw.
It has a slaw-like consistency and is so complimentary to the seafood. It's not your regular tarter sauce, friends.
Runey checked on us periodically, but by 7 p.m., it was getting close to closing time and there were quite a few people waiting on to-go orders. The waitress made sure our sweet tea was topped off, safety-minded, and that we had what we needed to enjoy our meal.
The pictures tell the visual, but our taste buds were literally gasping with each bite. It was that good.
More, it was the ability to dine outside in a village known for peace and quiet, with friendly faces walking the sidewalks.
I think my favorite bite was the flounder. So fresh and filleted as perfectly as it was cooked.
Our food was packaged in to-go boxes as it was served to us, so it made it quite easy to pack up and leave. As we headed out and placed the tip in the jar, I stopped Runey and told him the fried scallops, shrimp were super good and the flounder was divine. I wanted him to know the food and service was great and his down-home personality was very appreciated.
I then asked for a photo of he and I. He obliged.
Before he left, he said he was appreciative of me and what I do for the restaurants. I said in return that it was I who was appreciative of you and all of those in the culinary industry. History doesn't just involve buildings and what they're used for. It also encompasses the people, the relationships, the smiles and the overall satisfaction enjoyed in them. The food you all cook and serve writes a history that should never be forgotten.
Nor the people who create it.
With that, we thanked him and headed back to Georgetown with stomachs full and souls recharged.
It was a great day in McClellanville.