The City Magazine Since 1975

Fresh Spring Fare

Fresh Spring Fare
March 2018

Curated Selections’ Patrick Emerson shares his vegetarian spin on classic shepard’s pie, plus grilled salmon salad, creamy asparagus soup, and rich chocolate mousse

PHOTO: Patrick and Anne Emerson with their children, Lily (center) and Luke, and friend Sydney.

Advanced sommelier Patrick Emerson has set down roots in plenty of places. Born in England, he ventured to Cape Town, New York, and Los Angeles before landing East of the Cooper, working his way from busboy to waiter to bartender and beverage manager. As Emerson crisscrossed the Atlantic, he certainly got his fill of international cuisine, but his taste buds preferred the coast. “We’re pescatarians,” he says, referencing the fish-and-foliage diet that he adopted when he met his wife, Anne. “I don’t want to come across as a health nut,” clarifies the Curated Selections partner, whose role with the South Carolina-based wine distributor involves a smorgasbord of tastings. “I try every dish I pair wine with. I just choose not to cook meat myself.”

His home cooking reflects time in the kitchen with his grandmother, who loved to entertain, as well as a knack for balancing acid, fat, complexity, and depth of flavor—the product of being a skilled sommelier. His riff on a traditional springtime supper hints at his global exploits. Though he admits the food of his childhood in England was “quite diabolical,” some dishes from his younger days remain on the family menu. As his grandmother did, Emerson makes a stock for asparagus soup—only his version is vegetable-based. He then simmers the asparagus stalks before blending them smooth and finishing with a generous pour of heavy cream.

PHOTO: A supper of salmon salad, soup, and “shepard-less” pie awaits.

A grilled salmon salad nods to his and Anne’s time in South Africa. “In Cape Town, if we wanted to eat pescatarian, we had to learn to cook for ourselves—so we began grilling local fish.” He perfected the art stateside while working under S.N.O.B. chef Frank Lee, who taught Emerson to grill salmon skin-side up so that the delicate flesh retains moisture. The pink fillets are served atop butter lettuce, dill, cucumber, and radish slices drizzled in homemade lemon-garlic vinaigrette.

For a “shepherd-less” spin on the classic U.K. pie, Emerson swaps soy meat for traditional minced lamb, tossing the meat-less mixture with mushrooms, carrots, garlic, celery, and Brussels sprouts. Atop this base, he layers the obligatory mashed potatoes. “I tend to avoid potatoes,” he explains, “but if you’re going to blow your diet, do it with ace potatoes.” To prevent a gluey texture, Emerson soaks peeled Yukon Golds for an hour to remove any excess starch before boiling them in salty water. Armed with his favorite kitchen tool, the hand masher—“It’s just so primal”—he smashes the potatoes with butter, sour cream, mayo, and mustard.

And if the diet’s going all to pot, you might as well finish it off with an indulgent dessert like boozy chocolate mousse. The rum-spiked recipe comes courtesy of Anne’s family.

In the Kitchen with Patrick Emerson

Lives: In Mount Pleasant with his wife, Anne, and their children, Luke (17) and Lily (12)
Works: As an advanced sommelier, partner, and sales director for Curated Selections
For Starters: “I always like to begin a meal with Champagne, which is my favorite wine region,” he says. “We’ll have a bottle open before we’ve even started dining.”