Johns Island Daytime Eatery Serves Up Twice Monthly Eclectic Wine Dinners
Jeff Walker, Restaurant Review
While they are primarily a full service and casual dining eatery catering to breakfast, brunch, and lunch KISS (Keep It Simple & Sunnyside Up) Cafe on Maybank Highway Johns Island like to throw patrons a curve ball twice monthly when they host KISS @ Night, a Chef Dinner & Wine Pairing featuring five course small plates, paired with 4 to 5 select wines.
Presented mid-month promptly at 6:30pm on back to back Wednesdays, KISS Cafe have been holding the much talked about wine dinners for several years often to sold out patrons ready to take part in a unique dining experience. Husband and wife team Tim Wickey & Leslie Mastranunzio with certified sommelier Tony Avenia act as your overall hosts, with Tim describing carefully prepared plates and Tony detailing the specific wines paired with each entree.
Don’t let their Johns Island location inside Live Oak Square or the fact they are essentially a daytime brunch cafe fool you, the staff at KISS Cafe have the chops and dedication to provide the ‘wow factor’ during the wine dinners. Tim honed his trade as a teenager growing up in New York City, before attending culinary school which led him to become a chef at a country club, later running a cafe in Charlotte. He brings over 30 years of blood, sweat, and talent to KISS Cafe. His commitment to the craft is un-paralleled,
Tony is equally passionate about describing the many facets that go into wine-making, providing an appropriate background as regard to region, type of grapes, aging, and whether the wine is smooth or nervous to the palate. Quite frankly, Tony is zealous when talking about fruit of the vine. Much like she does everyday, Leslie is the ‘head cheerleader’ for KISS Cafe, and is quite adept to welcoming guests, and visiting tables throughout the roughly two hour epicurean adventure.
Together the trio along with pleasant wait staff work the dozen or more tables that accommodate 30 diners, doling out their food & beverage knowledge all the while providing the overall hands-on attention required for such an occasion. They are further supported by Britt their chef de cuisine, and a knowledgeable kitchen staff including a seasoned sous chef.
Tim likes to say he and Tony work well together and anticipate each move when it comes to the twice monthly wine dinners. Preparation is usually last minute because they like the element of surprise. Patrons are not privy to the menu which can range for European to low country cuisine.
Tim could go all seafood one night and all French the following month, or if he’s feeling particularly inventive, he’ll mix and match entrees. And it’s a sure bet that none of the dishes served will be repeated anytime soon. As for the wines, Tony likes to include selections from all over the world as well as some of the best from different regions in the United States.
What is etched in stone is that there are four awesome entrees followed by a sumptuous dessert. There is no rhyme or reason to the food and beverage that will be offered up, with diners left in the dark minutes before Tim describes what he has prepared. Another tried and true feature is they serve the same menu on consecutive Wednesdays, which plays to a different dining crowd, so they too have no clue what they will be eating until dinner begins.
With more than 150 on her current email list, Leslie admits the two nights usually fill up within hours or in the same day. Given that KISS @ Night takes place in the middle of the work week, most of patrons live on Johns Island or from neighboring Kiawah, Seabrook, and James Island, but it’s not out of the ordinary to entertain newcomers monthly, and Leslie says they welcome first-timers. KISS Cafe is 15 minutes from downtown Charleston and West Ashley.
If you’re looking for something different to do midweek, perhaps stepping outside your comfort zone, and enjoy tickling the palate I suggest putting KISS @ Night on your radar. You can come as you are, dressed up or casual, and if you enjoy any of the wines offered up on a particular night, they will take orders and have them available for you the following week for pick up. All in all, it’s a win win dining experience.
For more about KISS Cafe visit https://www.kiss-cafe.com/
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