Featured Food Blogger:? Cookin’ with Booze
For those of you who don’t know, the Charleston Wine + Food festival is 5 days of heaven for foodies and pretty much everyone else. My experience at the Charleston Wine + Food festival was completely unique because I had a different role each day. I worked as an intern for the Culinary Talent team, took photos at 3 events, and attended as a guest on Sunday. Every role I had was as exciting as it was challenging. I learned a lot and ate a lot over these 5 days, so come along with me as I recap it.
Day 1: Opening Night
Day 1 I was wearing my intern hat (not an actual hat, the figure of speech one) and helped set up the Main Stage before the Culinary Village opened. After a few hours of heavy lifting/unpacking and organizing, it was time for the magic that is Opening Night. My job during Opening Night was to make sure the chefs had everything they needed (utensils, water, etc) and coincidentally they happened to give us their food in return..
My favorite bite of the night by far was the pasta dish from Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca. In fact, I bragged about it so much that he ran out of it very quickly! It was a pasta shell filled with pork and ricotta, and it was topped with a sun dried tomato pesto and a raw tomato sauce. Raw tomato sauce is something I’ve never encountered on pasta, but now I want it on everything! The pickled shrimp and farro salad was another winner from Chef Michelle Weaver of Charleston Grill. To end on a sweet note, I had some strawberry, layered goodness from Andrea Upchurch of Magnolia’s.
Day 2: Winederlust and Photos at 82 Queen’s Garden Party
Helping set up events was a lot of walking and lifting things up and putting them down, but to see the end result was always so satisfying. Winederlust was out at Lowndes Grove Plantation, which is a beautiful venue with a view of the water. The chefs broke out giant grills and cauldrons that made me smell like charred meats for days (which I was obviously ok with) and there was plenty of wine to go around.
The most interesting bite of this event was the charred cabbage from Michael and Tara Gallina of Vicia in St. Louis. They served it with a sauerkraut cream and pancetta and it was tangy, salty, and smoky without being meat! Mind fricken blown at what cabbage can do.
After Winederlust, I headed over to 82 Queen to take photos at their “Garden of the Good + Regal” party. Queen Street Hospitality was represented all around with food from Lowcountry Bistro, Swig & Swine, and 82 Queen of course. All the food was down home Southern, but with a twist. Swig & Swine somehow transformed beef pho into egg rolls, 82 Queen had a shrimp and grits bar, and Lowcountry Bistro has fresh ceviche as well as shrimp etouffee.
They also had sweet treats, such as the banana cream pie cup that was crunchy, creamy, and photographed beautifully! Everyone had a great time at this event because of the music, the food, and the gracious hosts!
Day 3: Photos at Business of Food & watching my bosses crush at Pecha Kucha
My next photography gig was at Business of Food, which was a Q&A session with chefs about their experiences in the industry. Before the panel started, the guests were treated to food from Dough Boyz and Braised in the South. Dough Boyz came to impress with their giant pizza oven inside a trailer and their Brussels sprout, pancetta, and truffle oil pizza, which was to die for. Braised in the South kept the indulgence going with their pulled pork mac and cheese topped with fried onion strings. Just the description of it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
After Business of Food, Charleston Music Hall was transformed for Pecha Kucha, which is a fast paced presentation, which the owners of Huriyali (my bad ass bosses Tom & Ruchi) were a part of. Each presenter told the story of their business and it was inspiring to see so many passionate people looking to make Charleston a better place.
The food was a collection of food trucks including Roti Rolls, Bac’n me Crazy, Lunchbox, and City Limits Barbecue. My favorite bite of the night was the Smoked Brisket Slider from City Limits Barbecue. The brisket was tender, the sauce was spicy, and the pickled onions added some tang.
Day 4: Photos at Iron Mixologist and North Charleston Night Bazaar
Saturday was definitely my favorite day of the festival. I started with taking photos at a cocktail competition at Williams Sonoma: Iron Mixologist. This was obviously right up my ally. The contestants, which happened to be all female bartenders, were challenged to create cocktails with a secret ingredient, all in 7 minutes flat. It was a very fast-paced event, so it was challenging, but exciting to take photos of. In the end, Caroline Woodruff of Proof was crowned the champion because she was able to truly highlight the secret ingredient in each drink.
North Charleston Night Bazaar was hands-down my favorite event of the festival. We got to Night Bazaar early to help set up, and you could feel the energy as soon as you walked in. The DJ was killing it with the music and people were out on the dance floor immediately. The energy of this event was a dream come true for me, because I like to bust a move every once in a while as well as eat international food.
Another highlight of this event was that I got to geek out over meeting one of the judges on Chopped: Maneet Chauhan. She was a super sweet person and her authentic Indian street food (panipuri) was fresh and bright! I also had cold, spicy noodles from Jimmy Bannos Sr. of Heaven on Seven that were bursting with international flavors.
Day 5: Being a Guest at the Culinary Village and closing it out at Toasted
Sunday was my day to enjoy the Culinary Village as a guest, and I was lucky enough to have my whole family join me! As soon as I walked in, my mom was ready to hit the tequila, my dad the wine, and my brother all the food in sight. We simply had to get the wine yokes just to look like an even more ridiculous squad walking around.
I started off with a chorizo breakfast taco, which really fueled me for the 5 hours of eating and drinking ahead. Next, we watched the burger bash and were hand delivered burgers to snack on, which was ideal! After walking 6 miles a day during the festival, it was nice to take a load off and watch people cook burgers.
As the day went on, the lines got longer and the people more impatient. Luckily, since I had been at the Culinary Village the past couple days, I knew where to go to avoid the lines and get the most food I possibly could. My family and I had a great time at the Culinary Village and I’m so glad I was able to give them the inside scoop on this event.
To cap everything off, my intern buddy Zoe and I went to Toasted with the rest of the staff that made this festival possible. It was bittersweet as we were all congratulating each other on the success of the festival and thinking back on all the hard work that went into it. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience as an intern, photographer, and guest at?this festival and I hope to be involved again next year! Cheers to year 13!