When I go to the theater, I eat. Even if I have dinner shortly before a film, I still order popcorn. When I heard the Food Film Festival was making its way to Charleston, I knew I had to check it out. Maybe there'd be no hot-buttered popcorn, but I would get to sample the food that I'd see onscreen Sounded good to me.
The Food Film Festival features several short food films with food pairings. The festival director, George Motz, founded the festival in New York seven years ago, and added another event in Chicago in 2010. This was the festival's first year in Charleston, which will become an annual event. More details about the festival can be found in an earlier post, but here's the lowdown on my recent experience.
The Hot Southern Shorts! on Saturday night kicked off with some tasty bites and cocktails courtesy of The Grocery. Kevin Johnson was serving a crostini with smoked mackerel, spicy dill and sumac yogurt, and cucumber, as well as Kurios bibb lettuce filled with strawberry bar-b-jus glazed pork belly and green strawberry relish.
Hallie Arnold crafted two cocktails to go along with Johnson's dishes. The Loretta lemonade consisted of strawberry infused Maker's Mark, fresh ginger, and lemon and my favorite of the two, the Gin and Consequence, was concocted of Dorothy Parker Gin, cucumber, mint, dill, and lime.
Guests had time to mingle while enjoying wine, cheese, and a few options from Palmetto Brewing Company before the lights were dimmed and the films began.
Seven short films were played, with Motz giving commentary in between. The list included the world-premiere of Motz's documentary, Head On, which gives fantastic insight to the world of Lowcountry shrimping. Shortly after the film we enjoyed a sample of spicy shrimp Fra'Diavolo, from Almifi's. The seductive short, Food Porn, involved two individuals feeding each other grapes, strawberries, and bananas to seductive music. The film was appropriately complemented with strawberries and cream.
Hot Wet Goobers gave an inside look at a Georgia boiled peanut business while we munched on the soft green peanuts from Hardy Farms, and Mama Sugar's Sweet Potato Cobbler, which was about as seductive as Food Porn, was followed up with incredible sweet potato pie made by Lauren Mitterer from Wild Flour Pastry.
The first two films were both inspiring and comical. Mr. Okra follows New Orleanian Arthur Robinson as he coasts the streets of NOLA in a truck filled with fresh produce, using his P.A. system to let residents know what he's currently got in stock. "Aint no sense in cookin' if you aint cookin' with fresh food and fresh vegetables," he says. He continues with,"As long as I have that wagon out there, I have no trouble getting women." In honor of Mr. Okra, Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill served a marinated kale salad with peas, corn, rice, and pickled radish and okra.
Mickle's Pickles is a tragic film about pickler Mickey Fluitt and the picklenapping of his most prized possession: a giant pickle. Ok, not so tragic, but pure comedy. The stolen pickle became so famous that when it was returned, everyone wanted pictures with it. After the short film, guests got to enjoy the Not Hot Jalapeño pickles as Mickey talked about the pickle business.
Sticking with the Southern theme, the night ended with an all-you-can-eat Lowcountry shrimp boil. What a fun, creative, and outstanding night. This is a great new festival to add to Charleston's ever-growing festival lineup.
When it comes to straightforward, descriptive titles, we think Revival Foods wins the blue ribbon here. The heritage meat distributor is partnering with Charleston Beer Exchange to host their first-ever Meat Beer Fire on LJ Woods Farm, a 680-acre wooded farm in Sylvania, Ga. that's home to around 600 cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. It runs from 2-6 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, and tickets are $75.
Bradley Taylor, the farmer behind LJ Woods and founder of Revival Foods, got into the farming biz because he's passionate about preserving locally-adapted heritage livestock breeds like the Pineywoods cattle and Ossabaw hog. These and the other breeds that wander LJ Woods are smaller and hardier than commercial livestock — as Taylor says, they haven't had the survivability bred out of them. They're also adapted to every aspect of living in the Lowcountry, from the humidity to the bugs to the short winters.
These are the animals that will make up the meat portion of Meat Beer Fire. The menu will feature Pineywoods Rose veal, Gulf Coast Native lamb, Spanish goat, and Ossabaw Island pork, all of which offer unique flavors that you simply can't get from a grocery store. And that's not to mention that you'll be significantly cutting your environmental impact, as well as supporting humane livestock practices and the local food economy, by eating LJ Woods meat. There's honestly no down side here.
Now for the beer. Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of EvilTwin Brewing is creating two special craft brews specifically for the event. EvilTwin Fire is a pale ale brewed with jalapenos, and EvilTwin Meat is brewed with Pineywoods beef jerky. There will be other options too if spicy, meaty beers aren't your thing.
And finally, the fire will be tended by Cypress chef Craig Deihl, who's a big fan of Taylor's heritage meats and uses them in his restaurant. Deihl will be cooking everything outside using grilling, fire roasting, and smoking methods. The bluegrass group the Mosier Brothers Band will be playing throughout the afternoon.
The trip to Sylvania will run you about two to two-and-a-half hours each way, but if you don't want to do the driving yourself, Revival's reserved a party bus that will take you from the Beer Exchange in downtown Charleston to the farm. And they do mean party bus: along the way, you can enjoy EvilTwin beer and Deihl's famous charcuterie.
There are only 150 spots total for the dinner, and 50 spots on the bus, so make sure you get your tickets soon. Reserve them online.
Last week, Halls Chophouse hosted an elegant dinner with Peter Mondavi of Charles Krug Winery as part of the Charleston Wine +Food Festival. Charles Krug Winery is Napa's first winery, which started in 1861. The Mondavi family bought the winery in more than 69 years ago and it's still a family run business (unlike that of Robert Mondavi Winery).
The night started off with a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc and small bites before moving into the main courses.
Four carefully crafted courses were created by Executive Chef Matthew Niessner. A confit of quail, fall-off-the-bone tender, crisp gaufrette potatoes, and a medley of forest mushrooms paired well with the 2011 Chardonnay, which exudes citrus and peach flavors with a buttery texture. The spicy berries and hints of vanilla of the 2011 PInot Noir complimented the antelope pate, pistachio biscotti, and black cherry gastrique.
Each dish was tasty in its own way, but there's no leaving Halls without a perfectly cooked steak. The dry-aged prime New York strip was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, sliced, and then fanned out on top of a creamy bed of black truffle risotto. The 2010 Reserve Generations, a deep garnet blend, revealed a mouthful of dark berries and nutmeg, which went hand in hand with the beef.
The good company and great pairings made for a wonderful night. Before the dinner, I had heard of Charles Krug Winery but had not tried any of the wines. I must say, the wine is quite impressive. Yesterday, I picked up one bottle each of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Cheers to Halls Chophouse and Peter Mondavi for that.
Butcher & Bee hosts an array of full-flavored pop-up dinners — Vietnamese, Gullah, and Italian cuisine to name a few. Last week, we were fortunate enough to snag some seats at the sold-out Sustainable Seafood dinner starring Chef Charles Arena from The Boathouse on Breach Inlet.
Chef Arena teamed up with Mark Marhefka (Abundant Seafood), Tommy Edwards (Miss Judy Too), George Nelson (Sweet Bay Produce), and E.T. and Mark Van Buren (Tobias Seafood) to create a five-course dinner with local fare.
The meal kicked off with a zesty amuse bouche of smoked black sea bass ceviche with pickled onion and pickled avocado. Fresh from the sea, this little bite was a clear winner.
City Paper editor Stephanie Barna says she loved the ceviche but was head over heels for the Carolina Gold rice cake, which held a crispy red flounder filet. The irresistible grains were surrounded by a savory and salty country ham jus.
I particularly liked the South Carolina shrimp that was poached in olive oil and skewered with crispy twigs of rosemary. Bibb lettuce was wrapped in thin slices of cucumber and then topped with toasted pine nuts, prosciutto chips, watermelon vinaigrette, and heirloom tomatoes — a vibrant, flavorful dish.
Other courses included a creamy smoked amberjack spread and Breach Inlet clams with greens, house-cured bacon, oven-roasted tomatoes, and ricotta gnudi.
I’ve now been to two pop-up dinners that featured Chef Arena (The tequila-fueled Patron dinner in April was amazing), and both have been quite delicious. It's nice to see him step out of his shell at The Boathouse and flex his creative muscle. The Boathouse has a simple plan and it works, but Arensa obviously has more to offer.
I'll leave you with dessert: ricotta creme brûlée with local berries and basil.
Last Thursday evening Patrón Spirits hosted one of their exclusive Patrón Secret Dining Society events. It was the latest installment of their secret dinners for tequila enthusiasts who are part of the Patrón Social Club.
The Charleston dinner featured Charles Arena, executive chef of The Boathouse, and award-winning mixologist Morgan Hurley of Blu Restaurant at Folly Beach. Throughout the evening, the chef and mixologist educated guests about the range of flavors tequila can deliver while demonstrating the versatility of Patrón through their pairings.
Patrón Social Club members won their spot at the table by answering a riddle via the Social Club’s website. From more than 150 entries, only 20 lucky winners and their guests received a coveted invitation. The majority of the event’s details were kept secret until the day of the dinner.
The initial instructions that I received were to arrive at the College of Charleston Baseball Stadium located at Patriots Point at 6:30 p.m. sharp in cocktail attire. I put on my best spring jacket and tie and made my way over to the point where I was told to send a text message to a specific number for further instructions. When I arrived a saw a group of people that appeared to be dressed for such an event all staring at their phones, eagerly waiting for a response. Texts started pouring in and the group shifted to the Cold War Submarine Memorial where we were greeted by a representative of Patrón and given Patrón bottle tags engraved with the acronym “BHP.” From there we boarded a bus and started heading north on 17. I knew right away where we were heading, Boone Hall Plantation, hence the "BHP" on the tags.
We got off the bus and made our way to an old barn on the water where cocktails were waiting for us on the deck with an amazing view of the marsh.
Reception cocktails included a take on Carolina tea made with Patrón Silver and Carolina Plantation tea and a refreshing Patrón Reposado, watermelon, jalapeño, and basil concoction.
Alongside the drinks, we were served skewers of Carolina Quail glazed in cilantro and Patrón Silver, and succulent jalapeño and Patrón Silver braised pork belly, which was so good I had to tell the server to stop coming back with the tray.
There was a quick introduction from the folks of Patrón, and then we were seated at a long table for dinner where we enjoyed four more courses with pairings.
I particularly liked the Carolina grouper poached in Patrón Reposado and olive oil with braised lobster, fennel, and citrus salad. A vibrant, zesty dish that paired well with a "white negroni."
Three quarters of the way through dinner the ovens went out, causing a slight delay, but I give Chef Arena and his staff two thumbs up for working it out and producing a fine piece of medium-rare beef with a big, solid shrimp cake, mashed potatoes, and chimichurri. It was simply delicious.
I also have to give credit to Hurley for using my favorite fruit — blood orange — in the El Diablo Añejo, made with Patrón Añejo, blackberry liqueur, spicy sweet vermouth, blood orange, sparkling wine, and soda water.
Both Arena and Hurley explained how they used Patrón for each dish and cocktail. They bounced ideas off of each other for weeks until they came up with the menu, which wasn't finalized until the day before the event.
As dinner came to a close guests enjoyed a few extra cocktails until it was time to board bus and head home. During the ride, some guests sang 100 bottles of Patrón on the wall while others talked about what a fabulous night it was — a true one-of-a-kind experience.
The Patrón Social Club membership is free and open to anyone of legal drinking age, simply by registering at www.patronsocialclub.com. For members not selected to attend the event, Patrón offers the chance to win one of three 'Treasure Troves' that include select products along with a "How To" book to help members host their own secret dinners.