Wine + Food, Rain or Shine…Let’s Dine!

So another blowout day of the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival has gone down in the record books. From sun up to sun down and way beyond, the festival kept us moving all over town all day long.

The firsts:

chicken taco by Annita Lo and spicy shrimp taco by Ken Oringer

I had my very first pork rind (accidentally!) and ate more tacos than I ever imagined possible at the Taco Turf Wars yesterday at the beautiful Lowndes Grove Plantation.  Chef Anita Lo (annisa, NYC) served a chicken taco with pork rinds; Ford Fry (JCT Kitchen, Atlanta) served a pork belly taco that must have been amazing because the line was always so long, it’s the only one I didn’t get to try; Ken Oringer (La Verdad, Boston) served a spicy, saucy shrimp taco that was more sauce than shrimp.  Melissa Perello (Frances, San Francisco) served a crab crepe taco that I loved, pastry chef Michael Laiskonis (Le Bernardin, NYC) had two crazy desserts that were clearly a hit–have you ever had mango caviar?!– and Rene Ortiz (La Condensa, Austin, TX) killed it with a venison taco, pickled cucumbers and a creme sauce that was simply delicious.

The decor was gorgeous, simple and bright; flowers arrangements had easy grace in old coffee cans and vintage glasses.

Kim Bowling and Adam Lawrence of Cincinnati dined with us at Lowndes Grove.  Kim and Adam are husband and wife, both nurses, who have traveled to wine and food festivals all over the country.  This was their fourth or fifth visit to Charleston–they’ve lost count!–and they love it here.  They had plans for last night’s Perfectly Paired Dinner at McCrady’s and the Grand Tasting Tent today.

The Crab Crepe taco by Melissa Perello of Frances, in San Francisco

A new twist on a festival staple…

The day continued with the King Street favorite, Shop, Sip + Savor which took guests in and out of fine retailers along King Street.  This year’s event was a little different, with more variety of beverages (vodka and rum spiced up the previously all-wine event) and a great variety of hors d’oeuvres were served from Bull Street Gourmet and Leaf Cafe.  Was happy to see the folks from Childress Vineyards again; they have a meritage wine that is so underrated, most people miss out on a great wine by not being adventurous.  I met a couple who came down from Philadelphia just for the Festival, and are loving every second in Charleston.

The After Party at Cypress was a hot ticket.  People were pulling all the strings they could to get in.  The poor girls manning the guest list and the door had their work cut out for them.  Incredible drinks, food and people.   Star chefs everywhere.  It was a culinary geek reunion.  It was also a chance to gobble Cypress’s incredible oysters on the half shell topped with fresh tuna (I lost count after my sixth…) sliced lamb in steam buns…Chef Craig Deihl served hot dogs from his Artisan Meat Share program…they even cut up a whole pig.  And I got a Bacon Jam 2012 koozie!

I officially lost my voice last night, which provided much comical fodder for Social Restaurant + Wine Bar‘s manager Zach Smith.  Thanks for the memories, Zach.

This morning we had a Southern (media) breakfast at High Cotton where the Festival guest chefs, staff and media got to enjoy shrimp and grits, bloody mary’s and mimosas, and the best buttermilk biscuit I’ve had in a long time.  Vegetable omelets, smoked salmon on bagels, house made sausage patties, thick cut bacon with a perfect crisp…it was divine.  We ate breakfast with Chef Rene Ortiz and Pastry Chef Laura Sawicki of La Condesa in Austin TX the Taco Turf Wars and Culinary Village Grand Tasting Tents today, and the girls of Obviouslee Marketing.  Great conversation, great people.

I’m going home to find rain gear, and head out to Charleston Harbor Resort for the Pinot Envy Uncorked! at 3pm.  The event has been moved indoors, so look for festival staff and volunteers to lead the way.  Tonight’s game plan: Festival After Hours and the Lambs & Clams FIG after party.  Stand by, darlings.

Twitter fans, follow:

#chswff, @kinsey_gidick, @figrestaurant, @MikeLata, @jcf2expore, @FishCharleston, @angelpostell, @ChsWineandFood, and of course, me, @shuggins1229

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