I Tasted Everything, Thank You

E. Louise

Last Thursday, my friend Martha and I dressed in the exact same outfit (black wraparound dress, boots, and clutch) and headed out to Lowndes Grove to do some "tasting." We didn't mean to wear the same outfit, nor did we care enough to force the other into changing. I didn't include a picture, because you don't really record those kinds of things. You move on.

The occasion? Fellow Grit blogger and cookbook author Holly Herrick and her culinary cohorts invited me to the Autumn Affair for the Charleston chapter of Les Dames d' Escoffier. Officially, it's a philanthropic society of women specializing in food, fine beverage and hospitality. To us, it's where you can find hard-working epicurean gals like Herrick, Nathalie Dupree, Michelle Weaver, and Teresa Taylor swapping delicious stories and secrets, and raising funds for scholarships and other educational initiatives. This was their second annual fundraiser, and it was held along the banks of the Ashley—right at sundown, no less. Tickets were $45 to taste as much vino as you want (more than 100 different wines) and sample all kinds of great local bites. Think shrimp and grits from the Glass Onion, ham biscuits from—who else?—Callie's Charleston Biscuits, fresh goat cheese omelets from the Culinary Institute (cheese from Burden Creek Dairy on John's Island), and way more.
My intention, of course, was to attend this philanthropic event and return that charity by taking note of some of the standout wines I drank—ideally, in the form of an impeccably organized list that cross ranks region, preference, etc.—and pass this along to you. What I learned is, that's kind of a pain. It takes a lot of putting this down so I can note that, and "Please, sir, do you mind turning around so I can use your back as a clipboard?" The result was me losing interest in note-taking in under five minutes. As a result, I opened my program the next day to find: a scribbled, barely legible note in the Austria portion, closest to the Lois Gruner Veltiner (which I can't pronounce properly), saying it is "very light." And also helpful, apparently one of the Spanish wines is available at the Wine Shoppe (no indication of which of the nine in that section that refers to). You're welcome. 
Below are some real highlights:
We got to Lowndes Grove around 6:30pm. (photo by Camilla Nilsson)
Here's Grit blogger Holly Herrick (right) with Nathalie Dupree—both book signing and chatting with fans.
Little tasting bites of Celia's famous lasagna (image courtesy of Celia's of Charleston). Tara Guerard blogged about this a few weeks back, and I can attest—it's worth a splurge.
This is Martha stalking Jeanne DeCamilla of Olinda's Olives & Olive Oil, like she does every Saturday at the Farmer's Market. Subtle. But hey—now you know where to find both Martha AND good, local olive oil on Saturdays.
Fresh bread from EVO's Bakery (photo by Camilla Nilsson)
This is just one table of wine. There were roughly 10 tables like this... (photo by Camilla Nilsson)
Abby Lockhart from Advintage pours a spicy Cote Du Rhone Reserve. 
Pumpkin chocolate bread pudding by Jenn and Enan Parezo of Twenty-Six Divine. I didn't know about this little restaurant—they're way up King Street, in the 600 block, and seat only six or seven inside. I think he may have said they have outdoor seating too, though. Check them out. 
Also, meet Lavanya. She makes the best curry sauce—Martha and I each bought a jar to take home. I'd have taken a picture of her delicious curry chicken and rice sampling plate (of which we had TWO), but come on—even the best curry looks a little brown and sad and scary in pictures. She's much prettier, so I figured I'd show you her instead. Check her out at Lavanya's House. A great find at this fun event...
Last but not least... the view as we walked the dirt drive back to our car...
Charleston really knows how to serve it up, don't we?
For more information on the Charleston chapter of Les Dames d' Escoffier, check out www.ldeicharleston.com. It's an invitation-only philanthropy group, but that—plus delish bashes like last week's at Lowndes Grove—make it a great organization for local epicureans to keep on the radar.