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Jewels of the Lowcountry

Jewels of the Lowcountry

Photo by Andrew Stephen Cebulka

The Festival Blog News You Can Use

From Brunch to Bar-B-Que: Day Four at the Festival

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Nothing’s better than brunch on a sunny Sunday morning, and the final day of the Festival held no exception. Guests arrived at the Governor Thomas Bennett House to find the beautiful gardens decorated for the Lowcountry Jazz Brunch presented by the Post and Courier and Motley Rice LLC. Bartenders served up mimosas and bloody marys under the Spanish moss as a quartet of musicians including Charlton Singleton, Lee Barbour, Kevin Hamilton, and Quentin Baxter played a collection of jazz tunes. Guests were seated for a three-course brunch, provided by some of Charleston’s best restaurants and caterers including BLU Folly Beach, Fleet Landing, Kitchen 208, Mediterra Catering, and Poogan’s Porch. As if the bright décor, perfect weather, and delicious food didn’t make this event great enough, add in the sharp dressed guests and southern hats, and it was a home run!

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That perfect weather also brought out droves of people back at the Culinary Village in Marion Square. The Festival saw a huge increase in sales on Sunday as many locals, who received a discounted price on Sunday tickets, decided to treat themselves to all of the options that came with their Culinary Village ticket. The Bay Street Pop-up Biergarten was just about full the entire day as people enjoyed sampling brews outdoors. Overall, this year’s Culinary Village concept was highly successful, and according to guests, well worth the ticket price.

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The 2014 Festival wrapped up with the popular Rigs, Pigs + Swigs event presented by the Charleston Harbor Fish House and took place at the Memorial Waterfront Park located beneath the Ravenel Bridge. You could smell this event from a mile away! Some of the South’s best pitmasters including Aaron Siegel of Home Team BBQ, Rodney Scott of Scott’s Bar-B-Que, and Jonathan + Justin Fox of Fox Bros Bar-B-Q posted up along the edge of the Cooper River and served up succulent barbecue dishes. Guests snacked and enjoyed beer, wine, and cocktails all while enjoying the entertainment of Mark Cooke. Cooke, a country music singer-songwriter, kept the crowd dancing with contemporary country tunes and classic covers well past sundown. The event was the perfect end to what seems like the best Festival yet!

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Can you believe it’s already over? This weekend was a delicious blur, and we hope guests enjoyed every minute of it! We sure did, and we’re already planning for next year! Save the date: March 5-8th, 2015 – our 10th anniversary!

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Saturday Smackdown and More: Day Three Recap

Shepherd. Gillespie. Lata. Hudman. Four chefs came in the hopes of earning the coveted title of Master Blaster. Saturday morning, the SCE&G Celebrity Kitchen was filled with guests hungry for steaming grits served alongside heated competition for the Second Annual Waffle House Smackdown presented by the Charleston City Paper. After being recognized as one of the best events of last year’s Festival, staff brought it back, and it (not surprisingly) sold out almost immediately. At the event’s 10:30am start time, every chair was occupied and each guest feasted on grit bowls as they awaited the beginning of the battle. Judges for this year’s competition included representatives from the Charleston City Paper, Thermador, Waffle House, and audience members who received special Golden Tickets in their copy of Charleston City Paper’s food issue given upon entering.

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Andrew Knowlton, Restaurant Editor of Bon Appétit magazine, served as emcee for the event, and introduced the contestants, who included Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis, Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta’s Gunshow (actually a former Waffle House Employee), Chris Shepherd of Houston restaurant Underbelly, and Mike Lata of FIG, who took home the title and the Golden Waffle in last year’s competition. Chef Gillespie and Chef Hudman were up first, with Chef Gillespie reigning supreme. Chefs Shepherd and Lata battled next, and Shepherd ending up ousting last year’s defending champion. In the final round, Chef Gillespie and Chef Shepherd were paired up, with Chef Shepherd taking the prize due to his high scores in accuracy, measured by the contestant’s ability to follow the Waffle House plate marking and arranging protocol that the chefs learned during their training sessions at Waffle House locations in their respective cities.

Just when Chef Chris Shepherd thought he had grasped waffle glory, actual Waffle House Master Blaster, local grill operator Jeff Appleman, who has worked for the company for six and a half years, entered the tent, adding a new twist to this year’s competition in which the winner would have to cook against a Waffle House team member. Chef Shepherd was visibly worried about this added challenge, and enlisted the help of runner up Chef Gillespie. Ultimately, even two top chefs couldn’t match the taste, presentation, and accuracy of Jeff, who was given a perfect score. Despite Master Blaster Jeff’s obvious victory, Waffle House representatives still awarded Chef Shepherd with a golden omelet pan, and also gave the additional participants plaques that aptly read, “I got scattered, smothered, and covered at the Waffle House Smackdown.” Once again, the Waffle House Smackdown was a major success.

The Waffle House event ended just in time for Stacked: A Sandwich Showcase presented by Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine and featuring Brown’s Court Bakery Bread and Creminelli Fine Meats. The Art Institute of Charleston Main Event Tent was transformed to resemble the perfect picnic, complementing each of the participants’ takes on the Italian sandwich.

Saturday evening, guests arrived back at the reinvented Art Institute of Charleston Main Event Tent, entering into a disco paradise full of drinks and munchies provided by participants such as Outta My Huevos food truck and CO. Guests were dancing and having a great time, but when Quiana Parlor and the Shiny Disco Ball Band took the stage, the crowd went wild as they performed a variety of tunes including everything from Marvin Gaye to Beyonce, ending the night on a memorable note.

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Thursday Night at the Festival: What Rain?

The countdown is over. The Festival is here and rain or shine (literally), Festival staff put on quite a start Thursday night to the 2014 Festival.

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The William-Aiken House served as the backdrop for the Official Sponsor Recognition and VIP Party presented by BB&T. Guests enjoyed escaping the chill and exploring the historic rooms and sampling hors d’oeuvres prepared by Nico Romo of Fish. Each room had a new surprise to intrigue guests, from a representation of the Festival’s poster in ice sculpture form to a pyramid of clothes-pinned charcuterie.

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Directly after the VIP Party, doors were opened to the Salute to Charleston Chefs: Opening Night Party presented by the Art Institute of Charleston, which returned to its home in the Main Event Tent in Marion Square. Guests were immediately transported out of the chill into a cozy lounge environment complete with rich draperies and leather furniture, surrounded by the best of Charleston’s chefs presenting tastes of dishes, savory and sweet.

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Hallie Arnold, who won the Festival Mixologist Competition back in February, served her cocktail named Swan Song to guests eager to try the 2014 Festival’s Signature Cocktail. Everyone enjoyed its fresh, unique taste with flavors of guava, fennel, and Szechuan peppercorn.

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The Festival’s Executive Director Gillian Zettler said a few words of thanks to the chefs and sponsors making this weekend possible, as well as acknowledged the vision of the Festival staff. Dillon Snider from the Art Institute of Charleston spoke positively of the Festival’s benefits to the students and the schools in the Charleston area. Randi Weinstein, Director of Events, presented the Chef Mark Collins Award to Chef Frank McMahon of Hank’s Seafood restaurant, raving about his enthusiastic involvement in all aspects of the Festival.

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Braised Palmetto Beef Oxtail, Oyster Mushrooms, and Geechie Boy Grits prepared by Jason Rheinwald of The Ocean Room

Braised Palmetto Beef Oxtail, Oyster Mushrooms, and Geechie Boy Grits prepared by Jason Rheinwald of The Ocean Room

Soft Corn Taco with Fish Crudo and Spring Vegetable Guacamole prepared by Chef Kevin Johnson of the Grocery

Throughout the rest of the evening, guests enjoyed the sounds of Charlton Singleton and his  band and mingled with some of Charleston’s finest. It was a great event; here’s to a great Festival!

 

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Dinner Tickets Still Available!

The Festival is only a week away (can you believe it?), but tickets are still available for dinners at popular locations both downtown and in Mount Pleasant! Read on for more information, and get your tickets soon so that you can join in on the fun!

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Closed for Business + Stone Brewing Craft Beer Dinner

Thursday, March 6th at 7:00PM

Located at Closed for Business, home to one of Charleston’s best beer selections, this one-night-only event will surely thrill all beer lovers. A five-course tasting menu featuring Closed for Business’ signature Southern twist on pub food will complement beers from California’s Stone Brewing, known for its bold, unusual brews, paired with each course. Chefs and Drink Experts include Italo Marino and Leila Schardt of Closed for Business and Steve Wagner of Stone Brewing.

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Charleston GI Perfectly Paired Dinner at Red Drum

Friday, March 7th at 7:00PM

Now a Festival tradition, Charleston chefs and restaurants open their doors to guest chefs and winemakers from around the world for one-of-a-kind dinner experience. Each pair of local and guest chefs works together to create a five-course tasting menu to showcase their unique culinary perspectives. An expert winemaker determines wine pairings for each course and will be on-hand at each restaurant to speak to the evening’s selections. One of the Perfect Paired Dinners this year will take place at Mount Pleasant favorite, Red Drum, and will include guest chef Anthony Lamas of Seviche Restaurant, Red Drum chef Ben Berryhill, and Master Sommelier Sara Floyd of Jorge Ordonez + Luli.

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Charleston GI Perfectly Paired Dinner at Opal Restaurant + Bar

Friday, March 7th at 7:00PM

Another Perfectly Paired Dinner will take place at Opal, also in Mount Pleasant. Chef Patrick Owen, who opened Langdon’s Restaurant + Wine Bar in Mount Pleasant  with a goal of serving delicious, well-executed food in a refined, fine-dining setting, will host this dinner his second restaurant, Opal Restaurant + Wine Bar, where he brings the same attention to detail and service in a friendly and inviting space. Chef Owens will join guest chef Chris Hall of Atlanta’s Local Three as well as pastry chef Lauren Mitterer of WildFlour Pastry, and Joe Davis of Arcadian Wines to host this event.

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Bay Street Biergarten Cocktail Dinner

Saturday, March 8th at 7:00PM

This cocktail dinner takes place at one of the hottest new additions to Charleston’s dining scene, Bay Street Biergarten. Chef Jason Walker will work with Charlotte Voisey, Brand Ambassador for William Grant & Sons, and Jim Ryan, Hendrick’s Gin Brand Ambassador, to pair dishes with original cocktails featuring Hendrick’s Gin, Tullamore Dew, Reyka Vodka and Lillet. While known for his innovative take on Bavarian cuisine served daily at Bay Street Biergarten, Chef Walker will draw on his diverse experience at restaurants including New York City’s WD-50 and Momofuku Ssam Bar to create unique dishes especially suited to their cocktail pairings at this event.

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SieMatic presents The New + Notables Dinner

Saturday, March 8th at 7:00PM

Executive chefs are nothing without the chefs de cuisine, sous chefs, and myriad other kitchen staff who work to bring their culinary ideas to life. The New + Notables Dinner presented by SieMatic recognizes some of the country’s top up-and-coming chefs who are recognized by their peers as rising talent in their respective kitchens and culinary communities. Nominated by the first participants of the 2013 New + Notables dinner, this elite group represents the future of food as we know it and will work together to prepare a memorable menu and evening. Chefs include Brett Cooper of Outerlands, Justin Burdett of Ruka’s Table, Michael Toscano of Perla (2014 James Beard Nominee for Rising Star Chef of the Year), Jason Stanhope of FIG, pastry chef Jenna Hodges of Colt & Gray, and drink expert Noah Dorrance of Banshee Wines.

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Charleston Harbor Fish House + Widmer Brothers Brewing Craft Beer Dinner

Saturday, March 8th at 7:00PM

Take advantage of the Charleston Harbor Fish House’s breathtaking views of the Holy City skyline you enjoy a pairing of fresh seafood from the East Coast with brews from the West Coast. Fish House Executive Chef Charles Arena, known for using sustainable ingredients with a modern flair, will work with a representative from Portland, Oregon’s Widmer Brothers to develop a multi-course dinner menu with beer pairings that is sure to excite and delight even the most seasoned palate. There’s not really a better combination than sea air, fresh fish, and great beer!

As you can see, you still have an opportunity to attend some really tasty events. Time is running out, so go ahead and get your tickets today! For more information, visit the Festival website.

See you soon!

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Tips from Master Baker + Cookbook Author Lionel Vatinet

Let’s face it: making bread is intimidating. All that talk of yeast and rising and kneading can lead the novice cook to abandon the effort all together. Have no fear! Master Baker and Festival participant Lionel Vatinet has demystified the process in his first cookbook, A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker. In it, you’ll find pages of advice, 65 recipes, and almost 500 photographs guiding you, step-by-step, to bread-making glory.

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Lionel has sent some advice our way to get you going! Here are his top five tips for baking at home:

Always use a digital kitchen scale to measure ingredients. Lionel notes, “Since accurate measurements are essential to bread (and pastry) making, a solidly built, reliable kitchen scale is an absolute necessity.” You can find more information about this tip on page 35 of his book.

Use a digital thermometer. Once again, this tip has to do with the importance of accurate measurement in bread-making. A digital thermometer allows you “to draw an instant and precise reading of dough and water temperatures.”

“Work with the flour, not in the flour.”

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Use flour to clean off your hands after hand mixing. If you are wondering how to get all the dough off your hands after mixing by hand, rub a generous amount of flour over your sticky hands and rub the dough off. It should come off pretty easily.

Stainless steel bowls are not just for mixing. Use a stainless steel bowl in the oven to create steam (stainless steel bowl method), covering your bread for the first 10 minutes.

This advice is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the bread wisdom that Lionel gives in his cookbook. Interested in purchasing a copy? You can find more information about Lionel and his La Farm Bakery, as well as buy his book and other tools on his bakery website.

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Want to see the master in action? You will have two great opportunities at the Festival. He will be signing cookbooks at the Manchester Farms + Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine present At Home with Celebrity Tastemakers, and demonstrating the ins-and-outs of bread-making in his cooking demo at the SCE&G Celebrity Kitchen, Master Class: Breadmaking 101 Cooking Demonstration + Tasting with Chef Lionel Vatinet.

Now get out there and bake some bread!

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