It took me a week to recover from Euphoria. At least that's my excuse for being a week late with this post. Between wine seminars, tastings, parties, and dinners, Greenville's wine, food, and music festival tuckered me out.
We've been making the trek north for the last few years to witness the growth of the festival, which was founded by musician Edwin McCain and restaurateur Carl Sobocinski in 2006. Quite a few features have been added over the years, and I thought this was the best year yet for the young festival.
We arrived on Friday evening and made a beeline for the Taste of the South event at the Peace Center Amphitheater. Set in the heart of downtown Greenville by the Reedy River, the event featured small plates from chefs at local eateries like Devereaux's (hoison-glazed quail) and The Green Room (lobster salad). Portion sizes were generous, so it was difficult to try everything. Although many chefs started packing up nearly an hour early, the event was still my favorite of the festival because of the picturesque setting, musical entertainment, and some really great dishes from the friendly, accessible chefs.
A stroll through downtown Greenville brought us to the after-party at the Old Cigar Factory, a truly stunning space. The upper floors of the building have been removed, leaving a big brick shell that's a perfect blank canvas. Cool vintage furniture was set up throughout, Gatsby-esque waitresses passed out cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, and a DJ spun standard party fare from atop shaky scaffolding. In the back of the building, red lights and big couches gave a sex den vibe, perfect for sampling salmon-wrapped quail and artichoke shooters. The crowd, made up mainly of older deep-pocketed VIP types, enjoyed themselves but kept things pretty tame.
After schmoozing with other writerly types from across the country at the media breakfast on Saturday morning, we headed to the tents on Main Street for the weekend's main event: the Tasting Showcase. As in previous years, there were more wines that we could possibly sample and, for the first year, a beer area as well, with brews from Sweetwater, Bohemian, Allagash, and others. Various chefs gave lively cooking demos throughout the day, sharing their finished products with all of the audience members. While the food was hardly a highlight of this event, it was more of a focus than in the past, with hearty pulled pork sandwiches, tacos, and fresh-made pralines along with local honey and olive oil samples. Crowds were manageable and quite well-behaved, even toward the end of the day.
Later that day, we boarded a party bus headed to Simpsonville for a wine dinner at Stella's Southern Bistro. Abattoir's Joshua Hopkins was scheduled to team up with Stella's Jason Scholz, but he couldn't make it, so he sent his sous Carlos Baez, who did an admirable job. The menu was adventurous, pushing our boundaries with octopus salad, rabbit stuffed rabbit with veal sweetbreads, and the biggest hunk of pork belly I'd ever laid eyes on. Meanwhile, a rep from Row Eleven Wine Co. led us through the wine pairings.
Sunday morning, we made our final stroll down to the tents for the Jazz Brunch, which has improved greatly since previous years. While in the past, more generic caterers have served the bulk of the food, several of the now-familiar local eateries (Soby's, the Lazy Goat, Nosedive) offered their own take on breakfast fare for the event. A few chains were present as well, but even their food was undeniably good; Ruth's Chris Steakhouse's Cajun shrimp 'n' grits was one of my favorites. Volunteers poured a steady stream of mimosas and bloody marys while guests watched an Iron Chef-style cook-off and, later, music.
Sadly, we had to leave before the Sunday Supper, cooked up by Sean Brock and Frank Lee, but we're guessing it was probably one of the best meals of the fest. But maybe we're a little biased. Greenville's food scene is growing before our eyes, and we can't wait to see how far they've come at Euphoria 2012.