Writer - Bill Swarts
Last Summer, my wife I, taking a break from retirement’s rigorous routines, spent a getaway weekend at Sunset Beach, just above the North and South Carolina border.
On our last night, we dined at a highly recommended restaurant, The Rectory, just over the state line in South Carolina. The name was a genuflection to the building’s history-- in the mid-1880’s, it had been a Methodist church. A Chancery-scripted sign at the door read:
The interior reflected the building’s heritage. Antique stained glass windows collected from various old churches throughout the South decorated the walls. Soft background organ music alternating with Gregorian chants in the background, and a slight waft of incense enhanced the ambiance. The wait staff was dressed all in black except for narrow round white collars.
Once seated, our waiter came over, “Good evening, I’m Peter and I’ll be your server-confessor tonight. Shall I lead Grace tonight, or would you rather say a silent prayer of your choice?”
The menus he handed us smelled like musty old hymnals. Across the top, in gilt lettering, was this absolution: HERE GLUTTONY IS NO SIN.
First drinks. Susan ordered a glass of a hearty Saint-Emilion red. I asked for any vintage wine that had been turned to water. When Peter brought our drinks, he recited the evening’s specialties: Coquilles St. Jacques; Galilean angel fish pan-sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, served with braised Jerusalem artichokes; spit-roasted Lamb Nazarene, pre-spiced with a spearmint vinegar sauce; and tortellini basilica. “We also are offering an all-you-can-eat special; hand-crafted house-baked loaves made with hand-reaped wheat and fresh locally caught fish.”
Susan and I decided on the specialties. She the fish, I the Lamb. “An excellent choice,” Peter commented. “The Lamb’s divine.” He must have been infallible as proved by my first bite. A red meat revelation. An epiphany of flavor. Verily, this was how lamb was meant to taste. And that’s the gospel truth.
As always my wife and I shared dessert--a tray of assorted pastries: navettes de Saint-Victor, gateau Saint-Honoré, and hot cross buns—finished up with an espresso demitasse made from San Domingo coffee and a sip of Brandy and Benedictine.
Then it came to pass that it was time to render unto Caesar. Actually, given our heavenly meal, the check, an illuminated manuscript presented on a small offertory plate, was quite reasonable—$40. We paid in silver dollars and double-tithed this amount for Peter’s gratuity. As we got up to leave the dining room, he said a sotto voce, “Bless you” farewell.
We became committed converts, solemnly vowing to return to this miraculous ecclesiastical, yet ecumenical, eatery--gourmand pilgrims to a gourmet shrine (or is it the other way around?).
Oh yes, dear reader, I know what you’re thinking. And you are absolutely right. It is an indulgence.