CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Mom!" Did you know Charleston's going to have a Restaurant Week?! Isn't that cool?! That's so exciting! Dad! They have Restaurant Week in Charlotte!"
"What is it?" Dad asks.
"A celebration of all our local restaurants."
This enthusiastic delivery came forth from my high school senior. Then she proceeded to list each one by name, eight restaurants, without missing a beat. It is cool -- it's so cool that they're talking about it in high school!
Restaurant Week -- lots of big cities host these tasting events annually. It's a great way to highlight the local dining scene and encourage locals and tourists both to flock to the featured restaurants, try something new.
Every year, I attend an event in Charlotte, N.C., that coincides with their Queen's Feast Charlotte, inviting diners to "indulge in a foodie fantasy." It's a great concept -- dine in the featured eateries and enjoy some of their signature menu items, paired as three-course selections, all at a special price.
In Charlie West, this inaugural event features just a handful of our local offerings, but considering the buzz around town, it is sure to grow.
According to Dickinson Gould, president of Buzz Food Service, this promotion is a way to give back to the local restaurants. Gould suggested that this is just a starting point and that he foresees growing the event to include many more restaurants and the possibility of offering lunch specials the next go-round.
What is so exciting to me is the variety of cuisines represented in the lineup.
When I moved to Charleston in the early 1990s, none of these eight restaurants even existed. Today, each of these is well established, each offering both unique menus and atmospheres.
Choosing where I will go won't be easy. I have dined in each of these local establishments, and had the true privilege of working in one of them.
I bribed my way into a kitchen job at Soho's in the weeks before they opened.
I showed up with a plateful of brownies and the chef/owner took a bite and asked, "When can you start?"
And so began a rich friendship with Bill Sohovich, one of Charleston's pioneers in locally owned dining rooms.
Bill had already created the dessert menu for Soho's, but I urged him to make room for one more: the Soho Brownie. I spent two very enriching years in Soho's kitchen and thought about changing directions. Instead of cooking for people, I wanted to teach them to cook.
Bill encouraged me to pursue a career to "bring cooking back" (my words). When I left Soho's, my heart ached.
Bill, in his memorable voice that I miss so much, assured me, "April! You and I will be friends for life."
And he was right -- over the years, he continued to mentor me, but, unfortunately, his life ended much too soon. We lost Bill nearly a year ago.
The last time we spoke, he shared his ideas for new menu items that he wanted to explore for Soho's. I know he would have served up something with flair for Restaurant Week and would forever go on about how cool it is that our town is hosting this remarkable affair.
"Most elegant," he would say.
So head out and enjoy this sophisticated celebration of our local restaurants, and wherever your preference leads you, raise your glass to Bill, a friend to all, and a true original in the Charleston dining scene.