The event may be called the Charleston Wine and Food Festival, but we can't look past the fact that craft beer pairs well with food too. A few hoppy, sud filled events debuted at the 2012 festival, and they were even more popular this year.
We led a tour of 68 eager beer drinkers to all four of the current local craft breweries with fellow craft beer enthusiast, Timmons Pettigrew. At each location, Caviar and Bananas set up food stations with tasty treats that complimented the hops and malt. Pimento cheese on a bacon biscuit pair well with Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pecan Dream at Holy City Brewing Company and the pretzels with beer cheese were a great compliment to the Palmetto Pale Ale.
Craft beer dinners were all the buzz too. On Friday, we made our way over to the 82 Queen for a beer-filled evening with Ben Dobler, Brewmaster of Widmer Brothers Brewing, and 82 Queen Executive Chef Steven Lusby. We laughed, we drank, and we ate, with the highlight of the night being a plate of venison short ribs, toasted grits, apple, Brussels sprouts, pine nuts, and cherry compote paired with the toasty, spice-filled South by Northwest dark ale.
We moved over to Craftsmen Kitchen and Tap House on Saturday night, where we got a glimpse at what the stunning new craft beer bar has to offer. Executive Chef Todd Garrigan teamed up with Josh Fruchtman from Dogfish Head Brewery for a night of big beers paired with big food. A delicate mountain trout with lemon spiked vegetables and pistachio hummus went well with the 90 minute IPA, but the best was saved for last — a warm sticky bun, Carolina gold rice pudding with caramel paired with the big, oak-aged Burton Baton. (Sorry, this one was gone before we could snap a picture.)
One of the biggest parties of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival is always the After Hours event. This year, the Art Institute of Charleston hosted a Party Around the World fête at the Visitors Center Bus Shed. A variety of countries were represented in decoration, dance, food, and drinks. The entire space was packed with different tastes from almost every big name restaurant in Charleston. We had trouble trying them all.
We started with a pork skin noodle bowl with spicy red pepper shiitake broth from Husk and were impressed that they were poaching eggs on site. Our favorite bite was the braised oxtail empanadilla with chimichurri and local radish from Barsa Tapas Lounge and Bar. It was perfectly fried with a rich and savory filling and had a nice crunch from the radish. Fuel had a lighter offering of local shrimp and veggie escabeche lettuce wraps. The most creative use of ingredients was Hamby Catering’s shrimp and grit sushi with spicy tasso mayo. By the time we got to the Caviar and Bananas tent, we were feeling too full to finish their marinated white beans with garlic poached shrimp. However, we did leave a little room for something sweet, and ended with a Mexican chocolate and dulce de leche crepe from the Charleston Crepe Company.
Taking a break from eating, we watched the Flamenco dancers contort into positions we couldn’t even think of recreating. After the performance, guests filled the dance floor for their chance to show off their best moves. We chose to rest in one of the lounge areas and contemplated if we could possibly consume anymore. Next year, we might bring a to-go container.
It’s been a few years since Sideways sparked the Pinot noir craze and according to yesterday’s event, people still love the varietal. Charleston GI and The Local Palate hosted the popular Pinot Envy Uncorked! event at the Pavilion at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.
It was a chilly day on Saturday and it seemed the best way to warm up was to try as many pours of wine as possible. We were fond of the offering from Crossbarn and went back to the Perception table a few times. If the Pinot didn’t warm you up, then the roaring fireplace in the venue stayed ablaze to make everyone feel cozy.
In addition to the flowing wine, this year’s party also emphasized pairings of the “Lambs and Clams” variety. Craig Rogers of Border Springs Farm Lamb and Travis Croxton of Rappahannock River Oysters supplied the ingredients for chefs. We were excited to see how each restaurant compared to one another using the same proteins. Eurasia Cafe and Wine Bar offered a delicious lamb cassoulet as well as a braised lamb over a grit cake paired with a beer braised clam. Anson Restaurant served Littleneck clams with a lamb bacon and a lamb lardo crostini. We enjoyed the fava beans in the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina dish of cured lamb belly and smoked tomato poached clams. Guests shivering in the cold weren’t too discriminating about the food — as long as the vendors were offering a warm bite, they were happy to try it.
If you were looking for a place to work off those extra Charleston Wine + Food Festival calories, then we should have spotted you on the dance floor at the Jailhouse Shake-Up last night. The music filled the air for blocks as we walked up to the intimidatingly spooky facade of the Old Jail. No need to worry about ghosts though, the revelers were whooping it up at the raucous party and surely scaring any haints away.
Presented by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, the food and drinks offered at the event loosely reflected a Caribbean theme. Anson Restaurant served up a crudo of local fish, jalapeno sorbet, shrimp cracklings, and cucumber relish which was refreshing but a strange sensation to be eating a frozen item while bundled up for winter. We quickly warmed our palate with the drink offering from the Gin Joint. With a bit of spice and sweetness, their Milagro Anejo tequila cocktail named “Vagos Motorcycle Club” was our favorite of the evening. We got a taste of what is to come from Republic Reign as they mixed up a “Norm’s Neck” cocktail with Sailor Jerry rum and beet juice.
The longest line was at the Mediterra Catering tent. The lure of mojo braised pork and Ambrose Farms sweet potato cakes with blackened local shrimp had everyone queued up. Cru Cafe and Catering served a baby artichoke and sunchoke salad featuring an overwhelming blue cheese, but we went for seconds of their delicious yellowfin tuna with mascarpone and English pea risotto. Guests missed out if they didn’t get a chance to grab a lump crab and local shrimp salad crostini from Twenty Six Divine. The catering company also offered a dessert for partygoers in the form of a dark chocolate and cherry liqueur truffle.
The biggest hit of the fête however was the man parading around in a pirate costume. Everyone wanted to take their picture with him and towards the end of the evening he indulged the crowd by getting down with the ladies on the dance floor. DJ Mateo was serving up some interesting tunes — John Cougar Mellencamp mashed up with M83? Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and we heard several guests singing along as the tequila and rum took hold.
The main dining room on the second floor of 82 Queen was as packed as it’s ever been on Friday night, so says Stephen Kish, owner of the historical restaurant downtown. The restaurant hosted a sold-out craft beer dinner with superb food prepared by Chef Steven Lusby and beer parings courtesy of Widmer Brothers Brewing.
The décor in the room was definitely focused on beer. Even the nametag holders were creatively constructed with bottle caps.
The dinner started with an opening beer as people filed into their seats (I chose the easy-drinking hefeweizen). Five courses came out promptly with an elegant presentation.
All of the pairings seemed to work well except for the seared scallop and the Drifter Pale Ale. The dish alone was one of the top two of the night, but the hoppiness of the beer overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the dish. Either way, the dish was still a winner.
The standout of the night was the apple-smoked venison short ribs with a sweet, BBQ-like blackberry-ancho sauce that came with a acorn squash gratin and Brussels sprouts. This was originally paired with the Pitch Black IPA, as per the menu, but a wise decision was made to serve this with the Barrel Aged Brrrbon, which was such a wonderful combination.
Bon Dodler, the brewer, was on hand to talk about the various beers and answer questions, and a special guest was present. Daniel Bradford, publisher of All About Beer Magazine, played a key role in helping organize the Great American Beer Festival in the ’80s. This guy knows beer.
I left the event satisfied and with a final thought — Chef Steven Lusby can really cook. He’s been flying under the radar the past couple years, but his food speaks for itself and he definitely deserves some attention. Job well done.