THE BEST Food Experiences
By Mary Gallagher & Will Davis
Food and Wine festivals can cover a gamut of venues and participants, at one in a Midwestern state the city police were a heavy presence almost guarding vendors from roving gangs. Others I’ve attended gave health department officials heart failure and a lot of ticket holder’s stomach issues.
Last year we had our first experience at the superior Charleston Food + Wine Festival and we’re returning (wouldn’t miss it) this March 5-8 for another fun food filled four days. The Charleston festival is the epitome of superb planning with well organized tents, all sorts of impressive facilities for attendees, demonstrators and VIP Cuisine related “stars.” High quality vendors with delicious samples, unique cooking and wine items and an unobtrusive security presence make your total experience smooth and rewarding.
The best gastronomic experiences of Charleston, South Carolina are showcased by tasting the unique flavors of Lowcountry in massive tents and other venues featuring many of the country’s finest and well known chefs, authors and wine makers.
Planning on some extra exploration of the area, we arrived a day early. Checking into the award winning Sanctuary on Kiawah Island for spectacular spa treatments, long walks on the beach, nearby quaint boutique shopping, their renowned golf courses and eating at all the Sanctuary dining venues.
The Sanctuary will appeal to the hard core golfer bringing his non golfing family members. There is plenty for kids and spouses to do without ever leaving the site. Plus you’re close to other area attractions and about 40 minutes out of Charleston’s historic district. I could not fault a stay at the Sanctuary anytime of the year.
Next we moved to another award winning destination The Inn at Middleton Place on the bluffs of the Ashley River. One of only two hotels in South Carolina to make National Geographic Traveler’s (NGT) first-ever, annual “Stay List.”
We had relaxing contemporary accommodations amongst great natural beauty and took the short walk to the adjacent 18th-century Middleton Place, America’s oldest landscaped gardens, and a National Historic Landmark. In addition to tours of the historic home and stables, naturalists facilitate daily guided- and self-guided walking, biking and kayaking tours of the woods, marsh and river or one can just enjoy the serenity while lying in a hammock.
Our last two days were spent at a real surprise of a dream property. The photos on the internet site for 21 East Battery Bed and Breakfast didn’t do justice to prepare us for this spectacular restored 1825 carriage house along the High Battery facing Charleston Harbor.
This privately-owned luxury bed and breakfast is nestled within the urban compound of Charleston’s historic 1825 Edmondston-Alston House, invisible to the street with parking and a one minute walk to the Battery. This two story “home” originally served as a stable and livery for the wealthy rice planter’s fine horses and handsome town carriages. We had a nice small kitchen large eating area and lots of spaces to flop down and read a book or just enjoy the view from either level. Like it? We had to be forcibly removed!
There are more than 50 events throughout the weekend at this culinary destination. Marion Square is home to the majority with dine a rounds, boat trips and special events in private homes.
Here is a sample of some of the events.
* The Opening Night Party, presented by Ben Arnold Beverage Company, on Thursday, March 5, from 7-10pm. This kick-off event features over twenty-one of Charleston’s top chefs serving small plates of the finest cuisine in the city. Wines from across the country will be poured.
* The Culinary Village officially opens from 2-5pm. The hub of the Festival, the Culinary Village is anchored by two Grand Tasting Tents hosting more than seventy companies featuring samples of specialty foods and unique wines. The Culinary Village ticket is also your passport to the BB&T Hospitality Tent, SCE&G’s Celebrity Kitchen and chef grilling station, Charleston Cooks! Book Signing Tent and the Green Living Tent.
* Come aboard the Empyrean yacht for a two hour Cocktails and Conversation cruise.
* Always a sell-out are the Restaurant Dine-A-rounds. Eighteen local chefs share their kitchens with a nationally acclaimed guest chef.
* The epicurean delights continue on Saturday, March 7, with Bobby Flay’s Burger Demo, from 10:30-11:30am, presented by The Art Institute of Charleston and BB&T. Chef Flay has gathered all the ingredients for this classic staple and will share the secrets to creating the perfect gourmet burger.
* The day continues to heat up at the Culinary Village with Certified SC Grown’s electrifying Iron-Chef style Cooking Competition.
* Several new events have been added including Pinot Envy Uncorked, from 3-6pm. Don’t miss the 1,000 point Wine Tasting + Auction, from 3-5pm, featuring ten wines that have been judged as perfect by the pros.
* The evening will end as Marion Square is transformed into an oasis of sweet sensations as the popular Bubbles & Sweets, presented by Charleston magazine and The Art Institute of Charleston, from 9pm-12am. Top local pastry chefs and celebrated national pastry chef Francois Payard create edible artistry that pair with an array of sparkling and dessert wines, a special cordial bar, and an aromatic cigar bar provided by Coastal Cigars .
* Sunday morning, March 8 a Lowcountry Gospel Brunch, at 11am. The sound of gospel music by Voices of Deliverance fill the air as some of Charleston’s top restaurants and caters serve the best brunch in town .
* And there is more so check out the Charleston Food and Wine website, be sure and get your ticket orders in early as many events sell out quickly.
* Then when you just can’t possibly eat another bite take a horse drawn carriage ride or tour many of Charleston’s sites.
* BB&T Charleston Food + Wine Festival
Call: (843) 727-9998
Purchase tickets: charlestonfoodandwine.com/2009/
* The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island
* The Inn at Middleton Place
* 21 East Battery Bed and Breakfast
* Charleston Tourism Office