By: Amanda Thomas
Spending the weekend at the beach to help settle a few last minute details for an upcoming wedding landed myself, two friends, and one soon to be mother in law in the streets of downtown Charleston. Peninsula Grill had already been deemed our destination for dinner, so we decided to stop by early to make a reservation. Once we left the hostess stand and made our way through the enchanted outdoor walkway, I couldn’t help but notice a tour group stopped on the main sidewalk. The walking tour guide was talking to the group about our chosen meal venue when I heard him say, “I’ve heard several people say you should never call anything ultimate unless it truly is ultimate, and here at the Peninsula Grill they have THE ultimate coconut cake…” Well if it’s being shown by a tour guide, it appears we have chosen wisely.
After a few hours of light King Street shopping we return to the restaurant ready for dinner. Unfortunately they were not able to take reservations, but they assured us that the wait time wouldn’t be too long for a table outside in the warm Charleston air. Lucky for us, the bar was right beside the hostess stand
Immediately after settling in our sleek bar stools, one of the two bartenders offered to take our shopping bags and store them for us until we are finished with our meal. Once the visual of our moneybags was removed we were able to discuss specialty cocktails and recommendations with our new friend, the bartender. With sleepy eyes we ask for something that will awaken us so that we can fully enjoy the night and he quickly recommended their house Paloma. Three Palomas’ and a grey goose martini ordered, and our night was off to a riveting start already.
After our cocktails we decided to order a bottle of wine to share, but unable to make a decision we once again called upon our new friend. He kindly offered to bring out the house sommelier to further discuss our likes and dislikes in order to help us select the perfect bottle for us. After much discussion the sommelier recommended a bottle that he has recently found love with, that seemed to peek all of our interests. Once the bottle was popped and four glasses poured, we were all satisfied with the selection. A smooth, distinctive red that would turn any white wine lover into a red wine addict within one sip.
Soon after our first glass of wine was poured, it was time to be seated for our upcoming feast. The hostess guided us outside to small-gated patio that was drenched in southern greenery. Our quant round table and iron swirled seats awaited us towards the farther section of the patio. Once we were seated and our napkins laid and folded into our laps the waiter quickly filled our water goblets and recited the daily specials for us. Eyes wide and stomachs growling we listened to his poetic descriptions and we were already prepared to order. Three of us decided to go with the heirloom tomato-goat cheese-balsamic salad and an order of oysters Rockefeller to share. For entrees, the four of us were split between the land and the sea. Two opted for the New York Strip, another the triggerfish, and as for me…I went for the seductive pan roasted jumbo sea scallops. We were giddy just ordering it all.
Our oysters arrived prior to our salads on a saucer with four large oyster shells covered with gooey arugula and asiago and herbs. The oysters were devoured in the blink of an eye, just in time for our salads…and a fresh bottle of wine. The salad was a dressed garden in a deep bowl of protection. Large slivers of heirloom tomatoes, halves of grapevine tomatoes, diced cucumbers, and delicate spheres of goat cheese all generously doused in homemade balsamic dressing. The perfect combination of elegance and freshness for a warm May night in the south.
Only a few moments for our stomachs to rest, and the entrees were presented to us. I wish I could tell you that all of our meals arrived beautifully, but I was too star struck with my own plate to even notice the initial reveal of the others. Four glorious scallops laid in a sea of creamy, braised buttered lettuce, savory chunks of lobster, and garlic chive mashed potatoes, all topped with a citrus lobster broth. Romeo and Juliet have nothing on this plate and myself because this was indeed, love at first sight.
That first bite into scallop was the type of bite that makes you bring one hand to your chest, close your eyes, lean your head back and “mmm” as you chew…and that is exactly what I did. The scallop was seared to perfection so that each flakey bite was packed full of delicious flavor. The next bite was a fork-full of lettuce, lobster, and potatoes that blended together like two ballroom dancers born to waltz together. Everything about this meal spoke to me deep down in my soul…and my overly satisfied stomach.
A clean plate and a few sly bites of steak later, my dinner was coming to a close. But wait…we still have to have coconut cake! There was no physical possibility of all of us having our own slice, but one large slice to share and a bottle of champagne to seal it all together. The champagne label was presented and the plate laid in the middle of us. Sitting up straight and tall, the cake was beautiful. Immediately you can see the six separate layers of the cake creating a geometrically perfect vision; cake, icing, cake, icing. To complete the food presentation, the cake was accompanied by sliced strawberries and drizzles of white and milk chocolate on the side. Pop, fizzle, clink and time for that first bite. As I begin to life my fork with the snowflake white cake attached I start to think to myself, ‘There’s no way that this is that ultimate. This simply can’t be better than my meal, or my salad, or the oysters!’ I continue to lift my fork closer and closer to my slightly parted mouth until suddenly there it is. That is the moment I tasted the ultimate coconut cake. It was moist, it was soft, it was creamy, it was flavorful…it was everything anyone could ever want a cake to be, and with four forks attacking it like a lion pack after it’s prey, it was gone all too quick.
Plates were being cleared and we knew that our dinning experience was coming to an end before our eyes. Our stomachs layered like lasagna with our different courses and the wine between and blended in. We go back inside to retrieve our rested shopping bags and make our way to the car. I take one look back at the spot we resided at for the past two hours and the memories that had just bloomed over that small table. Food gone too quickly but moments that will last a lifetime, but the real lesson of this story: Always listen to your tour guide.