By: Lisa Marie Carter
Each year my girlfriends and I meet in South Carolina for a weekend (actually, now it’s grown to nearly a week) of fun and frivolity. We plan this trip during the Charleston Food and Wine Festival which typically happens the first weekend in March.
Since almost all of the girls are from out of state, we found it was easier and more affordable to rent a home rather than trying to get several hotel rooms. With the wide variety of home rental sites like Air B&B, Trip Advisor, VRBO, etc., in addition to local rental agents and property management companies, finding a home is much easier now. You can basically give them all your criteria and then you chose the home that everyone agrees upon, which can be a bit tricky with about six to eight women involved.
Each year we try to do something different and try some new places to eat. Typically, we pick one night to go out for a nice dinner. We try to pick an upscale restaurant, something unique or highly rated, and we rent a limo or car service to take us and pick us up. This year we switched things up and brought the upscale unique evening to us. How did we manage this? We brought in a personal chef for the night.
After some research online, we chose Personal Chef Emily Lane. Her bio and reviews seemed to fit perfectly what we were looking for. We wanted a fun, laid back night where we were able to indulge in a culinary delight prepared for us in the comfort of our rental, wearing what we liked, drinking what we liked and not worrying about anything but having fun and eating.
She told us one of the reasons she chose to become a personal chef was the interaction of it. She loved being able to chat with and educate the people she was cooking for, and this was perfect for us. Another high point was she focused on healthy cooking with fresh local ingredients, and we all loved that too. We had also wanted a very casual dining experience, so rather than a four course, formal meal, we opted for some smaller appetizer type dishes to be served at the kitchen island while watching her. And before you say “Healthy? Who wants that on vacation?” you need to see our menu.
- Blackened Carrot Fries with a Lemon Garlic Greek Yogurt Dip
- Local White Fish & Chili Spiced Sweet Potato Noodles
- Beef Tenderloin Bites Blackberry Red Wine Sauce
- Curried Broccoli Bites Cranberry Sunflower Seed Crumble
- Cinnamon Apple Cast Iron Skillet Fried Pies Orange Citrus Ice Cream
Prior to our arrival week she had worked with us to cover all allergies, dislikes and preferences and prepared a menu for the evening for all of us to approve.
She arrived at our rental house about 4 hours prior to our first course to prep all the fresh ingredients she brought. As we arrived back from some fun at the beach she was finishing up her prep work so we all grabbed some of our favorite drinks and sat around the kitchen island to watch our gourmet meal preparation. She brought everything needed to cook the meal. We only needed to supply the oven and our own alcohol (which typically is in abundance on girls week).
As Chef Emily cooked, we all chatted, sometimes about what she was doing and the food she chose, and other times about her life, our lives and just life in general. We learned several interesting things like the benefits of nutritional yeast, and the best ways to spiralize your sweet potatoes as well as numerous other tips and tidbits about healthier cooking and food options she uses.
With each course there were ohhhs and ahhhhs all around the island. The blackened carrot fries may sound a bit boring, but they were anything but. She used several different color carrots which added to the wow factor of this first course. The creaminess of the lemon yogurt helped balance the heat of the blackening spices.
The white fish was amazing, so light and flakey, and worked great with the sweet potato noodles, even for those who claim they don’t care for sweet potatoes.
To the meat of the meal we went next, and it didn’t disappoint. I think everyone said they could drink the blackberry red wine sauce it was so good. That sauce would have gone well on almost anything you could think of!
If you have a problem getting anyone to eat their broccoli Chef Emily’s Curried Broccoli Bites with Cranberry Sunflower Seed Crumble will convert even the most adamant broccoli hater. This is the dish she put the nutritional yeast on. It added such a unique, almost cheese-like, flavor. The flavors of the dried cranberries along with the curry and nutritional yeast took that broccoli to a new level!
After all of that we still had desert coming, and no one could pass up the fresh baked hand pies with Chef Emily’s orange infused vanilla ice cream, no matter how full we all were. Funny thing, as full as we all claimed to be, I don’t remember any leftovers of dessert being put in the fridge.
As the meal ended, Chef Emily cleaned up everything, packaged any leftovers and had everything back to the way it was before she arrived. We didn’t lift a finger the entire night, except for when lifted our glasses! The food was simply amazing, but we all agreed the best part our evening was Chef Emily’s personality. She fit right in with us. She laughed along with us and our craziness and put up with some of the shenanigans that tend to happen when six life-long girlfriends gather once a year to reconnect and rejuvenate.
Our group all agreed, as much as the wine festival and beach house is a must on each girls week, so too is Chef Emily now! I can’t recommend this enough to anyone on vacation in the Charleston area. Having a personal chef, even if you only do one night like we did, is worth every penny!
You can learn more about Chef Emily and contact her via her website – www.charlestonpersonalchef.com