Magic is happening in a small, unassuming home on an unassuming street in an unassuming neighborhood outside downtown Greenville, SC.
You wouldn’t know anything out of the ordinary was going on, driving by the place. But if you’re lucky enough to have been to a dinner at The Secret Table, a monthly underground dinner, you would know the side driveway leads to a small parking area for 4 or 5 behind the house.
I figured we’d slip in the back since the porch was right there, but no. Porch as prep and staging kitchen was going on. After walking to the front and in the door, it was easy to see why the porch was so busy; the modest kitchen was even busier.
Moving smoothly from counter to stove, to fridge, to sink, to porch, and back were Chef D. Taylor Waldrep, Chef Lamar Reddish, and Katherine O’Leary-Cole Waldrep. They’ve been doing Secret Table dinners for almost three years and definitely have it down.
The three became friends while working at Greenville’s Augusta Grill. They had Sundays and Mondays off and “figured we have a day off, we should do something.” Secret Table was launched on a Sunday evening and continues on Sundays now.
Katherine, welcomed each of us at the door with a flute of Cruse Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne.
Before taking our seats, my friend Nancy and I mingled with four other adventurers. There are usually six to ten people at each intimate dinner.
As we settled in at the table, bread arrived in beautiful pottery bowls.
One of the coolest things about these dinners is the space. There’s not a lot of it and it’s open from dining table to kitchen, enabling an ongoing exchange between diners and Chefs while they’re working. As each of six to eight courses is served, one or more of the team comes to the table to talk about the dish, their thoughts behind it, any challenges faced creating it, and the paired beverage. Fascinating.
Another fun thing about these dinners are interesting and sometimes unusual beverage pairings with almost every course. Each is selected with a course in mind, but if you have a favorite, there’s usually a little extra. Just let them know you’d like a repeat.
Lindeman’s Framboise (naturally fermented Belgian raspberry ale)
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras over sweet toasted Hawaiian roll with lime-pickled shallot vinaigrette
During the introduction to this Amuse Bouche, it was explained that a sweeter drink typically accompanies Foie Gras. Not necessarily beer, but in this case a sweet raspberry ale was house choice. I’d never tasted such a thing and loved it. It tasted more like a sparkling rosé than beer.
The Foi Gras was amazing in its own right, but combined with the vinaigrette – just fantastic.
Lindeman’s Framboise (naturally fermented Belgian raspberry ale). You have GOT to try this beer! If you don’t like “sweet”, though, take a pass.
Peach-Plum White Wine Sangria with Blenheim’s Spicy Ginger Ale Float
Fried Chicken Gravy Ball with Sriracha Aioli
Fried Chicken Gravy Balls? What? Yes. Somehow, take chicken gravy and deep-fry it in the shape of a ball. Don’t ask why or how, just try it. You’ll be surprised at how tasty these things are. Think hush puppies, but not.
Chateau de Cornemps Bordeaux Rose
Curry and Brown Sugar Rubbed Dehydrated Bacon “Pig’s Tail” stuffed with Romaine Lettuce, topped with housemade Ranch and chopped heirloom tomatoes
Otherwise known as a “BLT Wrap“. A piece of Romaine had been inserted in a cylinder of Burgundy Curry (red curry – brown sugar mix) Rubbed Bacon. The bacon had first been wrapped on a wooden dowel and dehydrated. Served over clover sprouts, topped with heirloom tomatoes and then drizzled with Ranch dressing, these were definitely a hit.
Seemingly simple, yet delicious! Loved the textures as well as the flavors. I’d love to serve these at home.
2008 Antica Corte Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico Superiore
Philly Cheesesteak Pasta with A1 Sauce over Fresh Pasta
On wine pairing “rules”: “Let them play with their food. Let them play with their palate.” ~ Chef D. Tyler Waldrep
A1 Fredo? That’s right. Over house-made fettuccine and topped with some chiffonade (“made of rags” in French) Arugula, “for a little pepper”. The funny thing is that we all forgot about the A1 and were trying to identify spices and herbs that flavored this dish. Chef finally reminded us about the A1, saying “we like to do things here that you usually aren’t allowed to do in a restaurant.”
2010 Chateau Lanessan Haut-Medoc
Seared Local Filet with Fried Onion Nest and Black Truffle Cream Sauce
As this course was being described, Chef Waldrep talked about the courses served this evening being similar to a typical Italian dinner (in Italy). He reminisced about dining in Italy and how he just about exploded, calling it “fantastically horrible”.
I remember this course well. If you’re a regular reader, you know I love Filet Mignon. This seared Filet was procured from a family farm belonging to friends of Chef Waldrep. The filet was perfection, served as each of us had requested. Strangly, what caused the most chatter were the fried onions. We were convinced they had some secret formula, they were so good. I’m still thinking about those onions . . .
Terrine of Sweet Corn Semifreddo with Raspberry Sorbet topped with local blackberries
Moving from savory to sweet, I loved, loved, loved this palate cleansing course! That is all.
2003 Castlenau de Suduiraut Sauternes (sweet dessert wine)
Ricotta Panna Cotta coated with Whole Grain Tart Crumbs, Caramelized Cherokee Purple Tomato Jam and Tuscan Herb Olive Oil Drizzle
An epicurean take on a “cheese course”, Katherine continued with sweet, but pulled in just enough savory with the heirloom tomatoes (jam and roasted) to make this dish really pop.
Also paired with the 2003 Castlenau de Suduiraut Sauternes
Frozen Cantaloupe-Basil-Cashew soup with Vanilla Yellow Beet Puree, Sake-Kiwi Granita
Katherine: “This dessert is a little different. Taylor and I spent some time debating this, so just go in with an open mind.”
Going for “sweet and a little earthy” at the same time, I have to say I liked layers one and three, feeling the beet puree – although tasty in its own right – could use a some tweaking when used in this dish. Gotta’ give it to Katherine for creativity, though.
Housemade Coconut “Bailey’s” over Coffee Ice Cubes
Dark & White Chocolate Cups filled with either Butter Pecan Ice Cream or Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Espresso Beans
Yes, we WERE about to explode! But how do you say no to this montage of deliciousness? Couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ve never had chocolate cups filled with ice cream before. So actually HAD to try a few in the name of research.
What you need to know:
- The Secret’s out – kind of.
- Keep up with the latest news: The Secret Table Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheSecretTable
- Want to get on the mailing list? Email Katherine at: [email protected]
- Tickets for this dinner were $75. Bring cash or check. Nancy and I both tipped.
- We may be witnessing the creative process behind the birth of what could be the hottest new restaurant in Greenville, SC.