Best bets for this weekend's Food+Wine festival 

Invasion of the Foodies

Like a traveling circus for the taste buds, the BB&T Charleston Food + Wine Festival has staked its ground, erecting giant tents in Marion Square and laying the groundwork for four days of glorious gluttony.

Choosing which of the 30 events to attend might prove to be a bit overwhelming, until you learn that most are already sold out. But it's not too late to break off a bite of fun when some of America's top chefs, sommeliers, cookbook authors, and pastry experts come to town.

And this year, organizers promise there will be plenty of space for perusing the goodies: two grand tasting tents will house the Culinary Village, which will feature more than 70 companies holding wine tastings and food demonstrations. Outside, chefs will team up to present the very best of their culinary capability in Saturday afternoon's cooking competitions. We've heard whispers of olive oil-poached sheepshead, international flavor fusions, pickled cucumber garnishes, and more. Salivating yet? Although tickets are selling out faster than you can say "foie gras," there are still plenty of choice options to get your food on, but you better act quick and pick your poison.

Must Hit F+W Events

Salute to Charleston Chefs:

2008 Opening Night Party

Off the chain is pretty much the only way to describe the opening night party. Presented by the Ben Arnold Beverage Company, guests will indulge in an over-the-top tasting menu celebrating all things Lowcountry. Chef Marc Collins of Circa 1886 will dish out barbecue crab sandwiches with chow chow, micro cilantro, and white cheddar cheese; McCrady's Sean Brock promises S.C. Tamworth Pork with collard green consommé and vegetables from their restaurant's garden, and the wine will flow faster than a speedboat on the Ashley River. Gulp down some Bridlewood Viognier, MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir, and Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon, and toast four days of gastronomical fun.

The Brewmaster's Beer School

Do you heart hops? Then this bud's for you. Scheduled on both Friday and Saturday, the Brewmaster's Beer School teaches beer enthusiasts about the intricacies of the brewing trade and the differences in beer styles. Expert Angelo Cayo of Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Catersville, Ga., demystifies the myth that wine is the only option for upscale cuisine. In fact, beer can pair just as well with food, and Cayo will show you some perfect food companions. Plus, you'll get to sample some brewskies.

Picnic Lunch with the Stars

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Ruth Reichl, editor-in-chief of Gourmet, Chef Scott Peacock of Watershed restaurant in Atlanta, and Bob Bath, sommelier of RLB Wine Group, are the VIPs at the Picnic Lunch with the Stars. Guests will enjoy a picnic lunch of southern favorites — Callie's biscuits and Gullah fried chicken — while discussing the roots of Lowcountry cuisine with these luminaries of the culinary world. Angioplasty not included. —Kinsey Labberton


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