It’s the most wonderful time of the year — Charleston Wine + Food Festival! That time of year when the city is buzzing with well, buzzed foodies, attending fabulous dinners, tastings, tours, and more in celebration of the food and culture of our beloved city.
I was honored to attend the Opening Night: Rooted in Charleston event, which kicks off the entire festival the way that every festival should be started: a glass of sparkling rosé in a custom wine glass. Despite the fancy commencement gift of bubbles, the event was a fairly casual affair — with large variety yard games both inside and outside of the tent, including a small-scale tennis court, large-scale checkers, and coffee-table sized Connect Four games flanking the lounge areas.
For the liquor drinkers, a pedestal of a display with the event’s signature rum cocktail ( “Storm the Beach” ) from Ryan Welliver of The Cocktail Club. For the wine enthusiasts, many of the area’s local distributors had bars set up with some of their favorite wines; the still rosé from Advintage Distributing was my favorite wine of the night.
Inside the tent, tables of upon tables were lined up with well-crafted small plates from local chefs. Many of the ingredients were locally sourced, and almost all of them included some kind of meat or seafood ( just a warning for your vegan friends ). To me, this was a bonus: I spent the evening trying everything from quail to foie gras to scallops to smoked duck.
Of all the choices, my favorite dish was in a darker side of the tent and despite my best efforts, I could not get a picture of it that would do it justice: the Lowcountry Seafood Pilau from Kevin Johnson of The Grocery. Chatter around the tents revealed that many other festival goers also felt this was the shining star of the night. The Grocery has been one of my Top 5 Favorite Restaurants in Charleston for years. Even as other establishments have cycled out of that list, The Grocery remains consistently superlative, and I knew that I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try their offering and shake Chef Johnson’s hand. I was thrilled with the dish and am now intensely regretting not securing a ticket to one of their seated events this week!
I usually reserve my enjoyment of live music to the sounds of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, but I must admit that JD McPherson killed it and created a lively atmosphere in the tent that would have otherwise been missing. Many of Charleston’s foodies were dancing in their favorite Lowcountry Casual attire; naturally, I had stuffed myself so full of food, that the best I could muster was some enthusiastic watching of that particular festivity before I called it a night.
Next year, don’t let the opening night of Charleston Wine + Food Festival pass you by — it’s one of the most fun-filled events of the festival and an amazing kickoff for the coming week!
You can read all about the other fabulous foodie events I attend in Charleston on my blog, at Basil & Bubbly.