FOOD- THE DISH- Dinner and discourse: Shebeen serves up both
With the restaurant business so competitive these days– 300-plus eateries competing for the palates of a relatively small population– Dish wonders why more places aren't holding "events," something to draw a little attention and give us a reason to choose them.
Why not have speakers, writers, jugglers, belly dancers, or magicians? What about prize drawings? Special nights for certain businesses and organizations? Singing chefs? Okay, maybe that's a little over the top, but how else can a local restaurant distinguish itself from the pack?
Shebeen, the South African restaurant in the Vinegar Hill Shopping Center, will hold a special event on February 10 at 7pm: a three-course prix fixe dinner with a special performance by singer-songwriter and storyteller Jeremy Taylor, a South African 1960s rebel of the Pete Seeger ilk, only funnier.
Taylor, originally from Britain, was banned from South Africa for penning the song "Ag Pleez Deddy" criticizing the apartheid government. As with so many counter-culture rebels in America, Taylor's youthful transgressions led to fame and fortune– and, as he got older and more respectable, to a proper place in society. In the late 1980s, long after he was allowed to return, Taylor became a television spokesman for South Africa's best-selling brand of tea.
"It seemed meaningless to take sides," writes Taylor about the struggle with apartheid. "My inability to take sides left me, after fifteen years of touring my shows, marginalized by the euphoria of 'freedom,' which, with the elections of 1994, ostensibly marked the end of the 'struggle.' Instead of hard-headed governance, South Africa was suddenly awash in sentimentalism. The longed-for nirvana was fast becoming, quite simply, reverse apartheid... Can a land with the highest murder rate in the world be considered a success? Where has it gone wrong? And what has it to do with the rest us?"
According to Shebeen manager Felicia Martin, this is the first "dinner theater" event at the restaurant, and she's particularly proud of the way the event pairs the restaurant's South African theme with a bona-fide history lesson on the country's struggles.
"If it's successful," she says, "we'll probably do something like this again."
Seating is limited, so Martin suggests calling now for a reservation. In addition to a three-course meal, Martin says there will also be South African wine pairings and the political discussions that will surely arise.
Last time we spoke to 25-year old chocolatier Lindsay Watts, she was gearing up to open up her imported chocolate shop, aptly named L'Chocolatier, in Fashion Square Mall last November. Now, with her mission accomplished, the Albemarle High School grad, and former Capital Assets manager at SNL Financial, is reeling from the success she's had. Remember, this is a town that already had a home-grown chocolateer: Gearharts Fine Chocolates.
"It's been pretty much a one-woman shop, and I sold out of everything at Christmas," says Watts. "But I'm going to be bettered prepared for Valentine's Day."
Indeed, Watts is surrounded by five shipments of little red boxes.
"I've been taking requests from customers since I opened, asking them what they like," she says. "Now I've finally got around to ordering everything."
So what are some of our favorites?
"People have been really into organic products," she says, "like chocolate bars with organic nuts, so I've stocked up on a lot of 100 percent organic products."
For the time being, Watts plans to stay under the bright lights of Fashion Square, but she's already looking for a shop of her own.
"I'll be holding down the fort here until I find the perfect location," she says.
On V-Day, L'Chocolatier's chocolatier Lindsay Watts will have the goods– imported gourmet sweets for your sweetie.
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR