A dinner dedicated to Dad

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Seth Morton, the sous chef at Morgan Ridge Vineyards, is a young man with big dreams.

He’s passionate about cooking and food, and passionate about his wife, Jana, and his mother and brother Derek and his late father, Roger Todd Morton.

“My Dad was my best friend,” Seth says. They went fishing together and hunting together and worked in the family contracting business together.

But Roger had health problems. “He had diabetes real bad,” Seth says. “And he had kidney problems.”

Seth was in high school when his father started having serious medical issues.”He was the toughest man I’ve ever known.”

He remembers his father throwing up every morning, then going to work as a contractor. Seth’s grandfather started the business, and his son was his best friend, too.

“He liked working with Grandad. Dad learned to be quiet and listen.”

The family moved to Stanly County because one of Seth’s grandmothers lived there and they would be closer to Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, where Roger was being treated.

It was there he had the kidney transplant in 2011. Seth remembers his father felt better immediately, but his mother took a long time recovering from the removal of her kidney.

For about two years, Roger Morton took “lots of medication, like anti-rejection drugs” and then things started going downhill again.

Seth and Jana were engaged in 2011, and married in June 2013. Shortly after that, he learned his father was not doing well. “God has a plan for everything,” Seth says. “We may not understand it at the time.”

His father gave him his clan kilt — Mortons are part of the Douglas clan — just in case something happened to him.

Seth and Jana went to Alaska for their honeymoon — somewhere his father had always wanted to go. Roger got sicker and sicker. Then he had a stroke. He was at Baptist Hospital for 11 days. Seth’s mother had to go back to work as a teacher. Seth stayed with him on his days off and tried to do things for him, like take him for a haircut. “Dad wasn’t himself. He didn’t want to wait. He wanted a cheeseburger. Now I knew he wasn’t supposed to have it, but I got him a cheeseburger.”

The decline came quickly. On Oct. 12, 2013, at 3 a.m., Seth got a call. His mother was hysterical. She’d never seen Roger in so much pain. When Seth drove to their gated development, the gates were broken down. There was an ambulance and a firetruck in front of his house. Paramedics were doing CPR.

“I just knew he was not in that body anymore,” Seth said. Still, “it was the most sick feeling I’ve ever had in my life. … There were so many things left unsaid.

“To this day there is a void in my heart. He was my hero. I looked up to him. I think about it every day.”

Seth worked at Old North State country club for a chef who said little and spent little time in the kitchen. Seth was frustrated that they couldn’t work together, that he got nothing but negative feedback. His Dad told him to shut up or do something about it. So when Jason Nain asked him to come work at Morgan Ridge, Seth went. Jason showed him how to do things, then let him do it on his own. “His passion for food reawakened mine,” Seth says.

So much so, that after a while in the kitchen, Jason told Seth he could make up a menu to dedicate to his father as one of Morgan’ Ridge’s Wine Down Friday nights.

Roger Todd Morton’s name is prominent on the menu, with his birth and death dates.

This is not just a labor of love, but a celebration.

The menu starts with a Scotch Egg, a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, breaded and browned, with an herb sauce.

It’s followed by a velvety tattie, onion and fresh haddock soup. Tattie is the Scottish word for potato, and the recipe comes from a fishing town in Scotland. With it will be smoked salmon with a Cheshire Dressed Salad (Cheshire was home to the Mortons at one time)

A sorbet made from IRN-BRU, a popular Scottish soft drink said to have 32 flavors, will cleanse the palate.

Then diners have a choice of sea bass and scallop rollmop — a traditional rollmop used herring rolled around onion or something pickled, or a Scottish Gigot Lamb, a herb-roasted leg of lamb topped with fire roasted peppers and portabello salsa, served with a sauce of chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar.

If you can squeeze dessert in after all that, it will be shortbread with Cranachan Whipped Cream and Raspberries, a traditional Scottish dessert. Cranachan is made with whiskey soaked toasted outmeal, whipped cream and honey.

And when you see Seth, clad in his father’s kilt, you may see a tear in his eye, and a twinkle, too.