"I can't tell you the last time I ate that many consecutive servings of protein."
I told a friend that this morning as I locked up my bike and headed into the Charleston Wine + Food Festival media breakfast. After a first day spent nibbling pig parts—thanks to Every Day with Rachael Ray Presents This Little Piggy: Pop-Up Market and an evening indulging in seven courses of Cypress chef Craig Deihl and Kate and Matt Jennings' (of La Laiterie Bistro and Farmstead, Inc. respectively) incredible meat-heavy dinner—well I was feeling... what's the word? Uhh, full. And yet, there I was, ready to break my fast at High Cotton just hours after I'd crashed from The Grocery's Lambs & Clams After Party.
Wine + Food Fest has a way of doing that to you. Just call it a glutton's delight. Welp, Seven Deadly Sins be damned, you only live once and why not do it being fat and sassy, I told myself as I shoveled one of chef Joe Palma's perfectly over easy egg onto my plate.
The Fest kicked off as usual Friday morn at Marion Square. This year's honorees included The Lee Bros., Matt and Ted who accepted the Laura Hewitt Culinary Legend Award. They explained that it was actually Mayor Joe Riley who first introduced them to boiled peanuts at a Royals baseball game when they were just boys. Their new cookbook, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, is hot off the presses, so we can only assume the added honor will boost book sales.
Chef-owner Mike Lata of FIG and The Ordinary was presented with the Marc Collins Chef Award, a no-brainer for a man whose oyster bar just made the James Beard semifinalist list for Best New Restaurant in the country!
And new this year, the Festival handed Alabama chef Frank Stitt a national chefs’ award for his years of dedication to the annual event.
Then I took a quick tour through the Culinary Village, otherwise known as "the gateway drug to Charleston Wine + Food" according to my friend Erica. After that, on to Lowndes Grove for the aforementioned This Little Piggy event. Chefs like Edward Lee and Bruce Aidells (more on him later) prepped porcine goodies while The Spotted Pig's April Bloomfield sawed her way through a Caw Caw Creek carcus. Until you've seen a British chef hack the hind parts of a pig straight down the crotch, well, I tell you... you haven't really lived. But I couldn't linger. I had words to write back at the office and took my leave feeling like the real pig of the day was the one driving my car back to work.
A mere six hours later I found myself in the private dining room at Cypress ready to tuck into round two. And who should be seated at my table but Chef Aidells, whose lentil stew I'd enjoyed earlier. Come to find out the bearded gentleman was thee Bruce Aidells of sausage fame—you likely have his chicken apple variety in your fridge—and he'd just completed his 12th cookbook. As we enjoyed our meal, from Farmstead ham biscuit appetizers to a trio of Pineywoods Rose Veal (because one just wouldn't be enough), I learned a lot about Bruce. 1. He's not a fan of verbose wine sellers, ahem. 2. He visits Italy annually, and 3. He's no longer a party animal. Five of us women attempted to convince him, the only man at our table, to come to the after party, but "No, I need my rest," he said. And that was the end of that.
But not for me. Throngs of revelers crowded the back of The Grocery where Kevin Johnson's team had laid out a spread of lambs and clams, complete with a food truck. The merry-making continued until the wee hours.
Which is why it was a slow bike ride for me today from High Cotton to the tents and off to Spirit Line cruises for the Vineyard Voyage. Yep, that's right, a booze boat, but not your average cheap swill sail. No, top wineries such as Hedges and Cantina del Pino poured for a mass of thirsty appreciators. But the biggest boon was bumping into iconic food writer John Mariani. I won't lie, my possee cornered him. But rather than fleeing from three eager-to-chat women, Mariani indulged our curiosity. Turns out the writer barely left his hotel room this morning, distracted by HBO showing straight-to-DVD film Battleship. "I have to know, what happens to Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna?" he said, sounding concerned. Needless to say we exchanged business cards, so I guess you can consider us best friends for life now.
The Culinary Village this afternoon was, in a word, packed. Hunting for samples, like truffles, eager attendees sniffed the air honing in on the best treats. Over at Palmetto Brewing, Chris Winn kept guests happy with Ghost Rider pours of their beer made with ghost peppers. That put a kick in my step enough to wrestle my way through the hungry herd, but with the afternoon waning and my eyelids shutting it was all I could do to grab a bite of EVO Bakery bread and make my escape. Because this is only day two and tonight's Festival After Hours bus shed bonanza and FIG's traditionally super schmamered final throwdown are just hours away. Follow it all at @charlestonmag