As you might remember, we went to a construction-themed “before” party for event planners Southern Protocol this summer. A big, cavernous, tangerine box wedged between a Pure Barre studio and a UPS store, Southern Protocol’s shop wasn’t much to look at. Though we enjoyed the screwdrivers and sliders, it didn’t seem likely that they’d be able to transform the place into a store you’d want to buy your wedding gown and plan your nuptials.
But at Southern Protocol’s grand opening last Wednesday, we found out we were wrong — way wrong. From floor to ceiling, the whole place is now ivory and dove gray with gold and black details and a sparkly glitter floor. Witchcraft? Nope, just epoxy, glitter, and a lot of sealant. Today, Southern Protocol looks like the lovechild of a Pinterest “engagement” board and a Herb Ritts photo, but somehow isn’t so girly that your groom couldn’t be dragged in.
Charleston’s wedding planners, stationers, bakers, and designers were out in force to celebrate the opening. Much more subdued than the Village People-y fête a few months ago, this go-around guests snacked on cheese straws and salted caramel cupcakes while we took in the retail area. Nothing’ll make you feel refined like champagne splits and looking at dresses that’ll set you back a couple months rent.
On Sunday night, we made our way to Boone Hall Fright Nights. Full disclosure, we scare pretty easily. Around the CP office, our boss will jump around the corner and roar, causing lunch-spilling leaps, so we were prepared to be thoroughly frightened. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. The setup was the same as previous years — four different scary scenarios to go through. Not sure where to begin, we opted to start with Twisted Terror, a 3-D maze of clowns. While we don’t necessarily suffer from coulrophobia, we’re not really fans of Ronald McDonald and his kin — this year’s Best Of Charleston party was pretty tortuous — so this haunted happening was not easy. The 3-D glasses did their job and disorientated us as clowns popped up and chased fright nighters around. Life lesson: running in 3-D is hard. You will trip.
We then moved on from there to Zombie Town. As we meandered through a fake abandoned town, scores of zombies continuously popped out at us and moaned. It’s not really that frightening when, one, there’s a lot of them, and, two, you know they’re coming because they never stopped coming. All this attraction did was leave us wondering how the zombies’ throats survived hours of groaning.
Next up was the Nightmare Factory. We were told this was the scariest attraction, so we were ready to scream and possibly cry. In all honesty, it just left us sweaty. After all, dark warehouses are innately stuffy. And as we worked our way through the darkened paths, we jumped a few times, but we were most excited to get some fresh air.
With one ride left, we put all our expectations into one pot: the Haunted Hayride, which totes guests through the woods at night. There were a few truly frightening moments, like when the monsters and villains managed to appear out of nowhere and breathe creepily in our ears — not cool, monster man, not cool. However, the mechanical dinosaur at the start of the hayride just set the wrong tone. It looked more like a member of the 1990s Dinosaurs sitcom than a flesh-eating T. rex, not really striking fear in anyone. That said, maybe we’ve just attended this event too many years in a row to get really freaked out anymore.
You know what’s way better than clowns? Good food. Even better, good food for a good cause. And few other fundraisers warm our hearts like those that give back to children. Sunday evenings’ No Kid Hungry event at L’Atelier de Le Creuset was one such fundraiser. A huge tent full of people gathered to not only enjoy a four-course meal prepared by the city’s best chefs, but to also raise money for the organization that aids underfed children. Indigo Road’s Steve Palmer emceed the event. Although Palmer spoke of his own family’s tough times growing up, it was the statistics shared, like the fact that 24 percent of children in Charleston County are food insecure, that really brought home the message. And it couldn’t have come a moment too soon as wine flowed and guests nestled in for dinner — it’s easy to forget what you’re there for when you’re staring at an incredible plate of duck roulade.
Each area of the tent was served by different neighborhood chefs. Our quadrant, “Off the Peninsula,” featured The Granary’s Brannon Florie, The Glass Onion’s Chris Stewart, The Wild Olive’s Jacques Larson, and Bacco’s Michael Scognamiglio, a fab four if ever there was one. We slurped up seafood stew from Stewart, then nearly wept over the perfection of Florie’s short ribs with Brussels sprouts (if there’s a heaven we suspect Florie’s Brussels are the side dish served with everlasting life). Midway through polishing our third plate, ABC News 4’s Tom Crawford, took the stage to start the bidding in the night’s auction. The crowd was just tipsy enough to really open their purse strings, and the first item — an insane line up of a half dozen dinners at local restaurants — had guests raising their hands with $5,000 and $6,000 bids. We stayed safely scooched down in our seat. We love us some kids, but we just don’t have the pocketbook to accidentally bid a couple grand. Luckily the other guests in attendance were ready and willing to share their earnings with those less fortunate, and for that we thank them.