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November 2013

Eat + Drink, Chef's Table:
A Thanks for Giving Feast
Written By: 
Marion Sullivan
Photography By: 
Peter Frank Edwards

How’d you like to share a holiday potluck with some of the town’s best chefs? Join hosts Mickey and Ellen Bakst for a special Thanksgiving dinner with their fellow F&B friends­—and pick up some delicious recipes and clever tips along the way
 


 “Welcome to our Home!“ announces the Lowcountry’s own Mr. Hospitality, Charleston Grill G.M. Mickey Bakst, as he throws his arms open wide in his customary all-encompassing embrace. In addition to being the most welcoming front man in town for the last nine years, Bakst has arguably been the most charitable, organizing huge fundraising events after the tragedies of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the deaths of the Charleston Nine, as well as working hard for Crisis Ministries, East Cooper Community Outreach, and Meals on Wheels with the support of Charleston Place Hotel. Mickey and his wife Ellen’s guests for this “Thanks for Giving” potluck are close friends: Charleston Grill’s Michelle Weaver, Grill server Bryan Austin, FIG and The Ordinary’s Mike Lata with wife Emilee, and Oak and The Macintosh’s Jeremiah Bacon with wife Liz—“chefs who all are an important part of the charitable community here, each offering their services and skills to numerous organizations,” says Mickey.

Each is also involved with Mickey’s far-reaching effort, Charleston Chefs Feed the Need, which he created in April 2009 when Crisis Ministries announced that its financial shortfall meant fewer meals for the city’s homeless. “To date, more than 60 different restaurants have participated at least once in Feed the Need with some organizations, such as The Indigo Road group and Whole Foods, volunteering monthly. Since its inception, we have provided roughly 75,000 meals,” explains Mickey. “Every Wednesday, 300 to 500 meals are prepared and served at either Crisis Ministries, Tricounty Family Ministries, or Neighborhood House.”

Although Ellen has single-handedly prepared Thanksgiving dinner for the 13 years that the couple has been together, she finds that being part of a potluck—especially among these local talents—isn’t a bad gig for the person who also readies the Baksts’ handsome Mount Pleasant home and lays their finely dressed table. “I always love planning the Thanksgiving menu,” she says, this time acting as coordinator for the team effort. Appetizers are kept super simple: Michelle Weaver’s capered deviled eggs and a tower of Mike Lata’s Massachusetts’ Mayflower oysters on the half shell kissed with Meyer lemon mignonette. The guests are greeted with glasses of Krug NV Grand Cuvee Brut, the Baksts’ house champagne.

Ellen and Michelle share turkey duty, producing a bird notable for its moistness and complemented by Michelle’s crispy corn-bread dressing. Lata’s bread-crumb-topped turkey liver and rice-stuffed sweet onions bring a modern twist to that old-fashioned favorite flavor found in giblet stuffing. And as Jeremiah Bacon puts only a whisper of cream in his scalloped root vegetables, he renders the dish holiday worthy yet not overly heavy. His long beans with brown-butter emulsion raise the status of the obligatory green vegetable. Ever the gifted cook, Ellen has a frangipane-filled pear and cranberry tart and a pumpkin roulade with toffee and caramel waiting in the wings for dessert.

Coming to the table with plates piled high, the group of renowned culinary talents raises its glasses. “May each and every one of us be grateful for the gifts we have every day of the year,” Mickey blesses. “Thank you for all the giving back that we do together.”

Wine

“After 40 years in high-end restaurants, my philosophy is simple: Wine is not about anything other then the individual’s taste. If they like a big red with a light fish, give them a big red,” says Mickey. For this dinner, the affable host chose wines that he “loves to serve because of their remarkable quality and also because of years of watching wine drinkers love them.” In addition, he has offered a more budget-conscious list of easy-to-find wines that would complement a Turkey Day dinner.

Mickey’s Break-the-Bank Picks:  
■ Krug NV Grande Cuvée Brut: The Champagne of kings! Full, creamy, layered, and intense with a toasty finish  {$150-$180}
■ Peter Michael L’AprÈs-Midi 2011: A legendary sauvignon blanc from one of California’s premier producers—light, crisp, and fruity {$65}
■ Ramey Platt Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2010: A clean, cool chardonnay that’s not too rich and very food-friendly {$55}
■ Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches Rouge Beaune Premier Cru 2006: A deep red pinot noir with a velvety texture and full of lush fruit. I have a long, very dear friendship with Laurent Drouhin, so I always love to share one of his great wines with my guests. {$65-$110}
■ Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008: A 97-point Robert Parker wine filled with black currants and spicy notes—full but not overpowering {$229}

Mickey’s Wallet-Friendly Picks:
■ Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs: A blend of pinot noir and pinot muenier that is soft and creamy in texture with lovely red fruit tones {$22}
■ Cederberg Bukettraube South Africa 2012: An aromatic and delicate white with hints of sweetness but good acidity {$14}
■ Joseph Drouhin Laforêt Bourgogne Pinot Noir: A pinot with ripe, red fruit and a beautiful silky texture from a great family whom I personally adore {$20}
 




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