An Insider’s Guide to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival

TSG Charleston Photo by Andrew Cebulka for Charleston Wine + Food

In just a few weeks, we’ll be packing our bags and heading South for five days of fun and fantastic fare in one of our favorite locations. A celebration of the city’s rich culinary heritage and culture, Charleston Wine + Food is an ideal early March getaway for anyone who appreciates great food, delicious wine and cocktails, and the incomparable style and flavor of the Holy City.

Last year was our first time attending the fest, and while we had a blast sampling food and beverages in the Culinary Village, attending events all over the city, and popping over to some of our favorite Scouted King Street shops, we left feeling like we could have benefitted from some insider’s advice on how to maximize our time at the fest. Therefore, as we prepare to head back, we asked a few of our TSG Charleston members for some tips on how to enjoy Charleston Wine + Food like a local.

Planning Your Trip

An Insider’s Guide to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival Photo by Andrew Cebulka for Charleston Wine + Food

First, we turned to Laura Kate Whitney, Marketing and Communications Director for Charleston Wine + Food, for advice on how best to plan our trip. Starting with a Cheers to Charleston! kickoff party on Wednesday, March 2 “The ultimate celebration of local flavor,” says Laura Kate), followed by four full days of activities to choose from, we wanted to know how to make the most of our time at the festival.

“There are plenty of unforgettable—and tasty!—experiences to enjoy throughout all five days,” Laura Kate says. However, if you’re thinking of making a long weekend out of the trip, aim to arrive early enough on Friday to catch the Official Opening Ceremonies at Marion Square (Friday, March 4 at 11 a.m.), and don’t plan on leaving before the end of the fest. “Our finale event, Toasted: Up in Smoke (Sunday, March 6, 6 – 8:30 p.m.) always provides the perfect cap to an incredible weekend,” she notes before adding a pro tip: Consider leaving on Monday afternoon to give yourself a day to recover from feasting.

As for how to decide between all of the delicious options presented by the fest, Laura Kate lists an afternoon spent in the Culinary Village as an absolute must. “This year we have lots of new sights, sounds, and flavors added to the menu,” she says, including The Hub, an open-air tasting experience. “The $100 ticket offers five full hours of tastings, demos, chef sightings, schmoozing, spirits samplings, shopping, and more.” See the full Culinary Village schedule here

In addition to an afternoon in Marion Square, Laura Kate recommends planning a festival menu that includes a class that will send you home with new skills, an excursion that will let you experience even more of the Lowcountry, a beverage workshop (“Our lineup is really outstanding this year, it includes both rare experiences and tastings as well as small-batch gems,” she says), a signature dinner one evening, a signature event another evening, and some Charleston sight-seeing. [Editor’s note: Be sure to sign up for The Scouted Life newsletter to read about some of the festival schedule highlights!]

Where to Stay

An Insider’s Guide to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival Once you’ve settled on your dates, it’s time to book your accommodations. Luckily, Charleston has a variety of beautiful and comfortable options that will ensure your stay is nothing short of extraordinary. We asked TSG Charleston’s Susan Hull Walker, owner of the global textile design and retail boutique ibu, for recommendations on where to make a reservation; here are her picks:

Zero George (above). With 18 studios and suites surrounded by charming Charleston residences and two brick carriage houses, this boutique hotel is the epitome of Southern chic. Less than a 10-minute walk from Marion Square, it’s conveniently located for trips to the Culinary Village, and boasts its own foodie-approved destination: Zero Café + Bar.

The Spectator Hotel. Located a block from the Historic Charleston City Market in the center of the French Quarter and Market Street districts (and a 15-minute walk to Marion Square), this sophisticated, 1920s-inspired hotel has style to spare.

The Restoration. Situated a stone’s throw from some of our favorite King Street shopping destinations—and just a 10-minute walk to Marion Square—The Restoration is a casually elegant option complete with charming Southern touches.

Planters Inn. A Relais & Chateau boutique hotel in the Historic District, the gorgeous 64-room Planters Inn is a Charleston institution. Home to the lauded Peninsula Grill, the hotel is just a 10-minute walk to Marion Square.

Wentworth Mansion. Wonderfully gracious and bearing luxurious amenities, the 21-room Wentworth Mansion is a great choice for someone seeking a smaller hotel in the Historic District. A 15-minute walk from Marion Square, it is home to Circa 1886, a seasonally-inspired restaurant that will host Life of the Party: All Things Entertaining with Tara Guérard, one of our TSG-sponsored lunch events!

Where to Dine and Shop

Next, we tapped the stylish ladies behind Croghan’s Jewel Box, a charming King Street jewelry store with beautiful new and antique pieces that’s been family-owned for more than 100 years, for some shopping and dining recommendations. Sisters (and third-generation owners) Rhett Outten and Mariana Hay, along with fourth-generation sisters Mini and Kathleen Hay, graciously shared some of their must-visit destinations, though they admitted it was tough to narrow down their list. “We’re so lucky to live in a city that has outstanding shopping and terrific restaurants. We have a hard time keeping up with all the openings!” Rhett says.

Below are a few of their favorites at the moment that Rhett says is in no way comprehensive. “While we have many different opinions on what our favorites are, we all agree that we haven’t even scratched the surface. We didn’t even get to tell you about our favorite spots for cocktails!”

Insiders Guide to Charleston Food and Wine Left: Goat. Sheep. Cow. image by Holger Obenhaus. Right: Leon’s Oyster Shop image by Hong Thaimee

Where to Dine:

Breakfast: Mini and Kathleen both love to stop at Mercantile and Mash for breakfast on their way to work, and Kathleen’s favorite neighborhood haunt for breakfast, lunch, or dinner is The Park Café. Rhett recommends Christophe on Society Street for melt-in-your-mouth almond croissants, burnt-edged canelés, and baguettes filled with brie and turkey or chicken and pesto.

Lunch: Mariana is hooked on Butcher & Bee. She recommends following them on Instagram for delicious insights into their daily menu. For a quick lunch, Rhett says caviar & bananas on George Street cannot be beat.“Their kale salad, lobster Cobb salad, and daily sushi selection are absolutely delish,” she says. And, she adds, Goat. Sheep. Cow. on Church Street is a treat. “Their fresh cheeses, charcuterie, and limited daily sandwiches wrapped in butcher paper and tied up with twine are out of this world—and sell out early,” she says.

Dinner: Mini adores meeting friends for supper at Indaco. “Their pizzas and pastas are perfect for sharing,” she says.  Meanwhile, the cozy and crowded Italian phenomenon Fulton Five is Kathleen’s “must try” for dinner. And according to Mariana, Leon’s has become a fun, low-key supper spot for the whole family. “Try the baked oysters and fried chicken,” Mariana recommends.

Insiderst Guide To Charlestong Food and Wine Photo by Peter Frank Edwards

Where to Shop:

Hampden Clothing , which is only two doors down from Croghan’s, is Mini’s go-to store for designer shopping. She recommends Shoes on King (above) for fabulous boots and shoes, and notes that they have really great sales. (We took advantage of one such occasion during last year’s fest and came home with two pairs of boots.)

Mariana’s good friend owns Worthwhile on King Street and tempts her with unique clothing and housewares like a handmade blue and gold quilt of Charleston’s coastline as well as Paris flea market finds. She also recommends Birlant’s, which has been their family’s go-to spot for antiquing for generations. “We have great memories of auctions on their cavernous 2nd floor back in the day, and we can always find what we are looking for in their well stocked shop on King Street,” she says.

“For retail therapy, ibu is an upstairs, out of the way shopping experience on King Street not to be missed,” Rhett says. “And The Hidden Countship is like a spur-of-the-moment trip to Italy. Its rustic stucco townhouse complete with tiny glass solarium peeks out from under a huge festively decorated oak tree on Burns Lane.”

Kathleen is a fan of Gwynn’s, a locally owned department store she says is worth the trip across the bridge to Mt. Pleasant for everything from formal dresses to great shoes. She also notes that Cynthia Rowley’s store on King Street always has a great selection (and good sales).

Of course no shopping itinerary would be complete without a stop at the ladies’ King Street gem. “You must stop by the Jude Frances trunk show at Croghan’s!” Rhett says. The jewelry artist’s rings and bracelets, which are perfect for stacking, will be on display and available Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5. (Having attended a trunk show at Croghan’s during last year’s Charleston Wine + Food, we can attest that it will be a lovely affair.)

What to Wear

While it’s first and foremost about the food, Charleston Wine + Food is undoubtedly a stylish event, and you’ll want to look sharp while sightseeing throughout the charming city as well. To help make sure our attire is on point, we asked Stacy Smallwood of the impeccably curated (aforementioned) boutique, Hampden, to share her picks for a successful fest wardrobe. Here are her recommendations:

Daytime Festival: (Note: This would be the perfect outfit to wear to the TSG-sponsored lunch, Fried Chicken for the Southern Soul, which will be presented by Veuve Clicquot and hosted by Cannon Green, and take place on Saturday, March 5 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.)

An Insider’s Guide to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival Acne Studios Odette Linen Pant / T by Alexander Wang Sky Cotton Poplin Cropped Shirt / Acne Studios Swift Leather Jacket in Dark Red / Loeffler Randall Pia Silver Platform Sandal / Anya Hindmarch Crossbody Smiley in Mustard / Karen Walker Super Duper Strength Sunglasses

An Insider’s Guide to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival Stella McCartney Shereen Dress / Proenza Schouler Large Lunch Bag in Black Python /  Tibi  Milla Sandals / Proenza Schouler PS11 Double Bracelet in Ultramarine

An Insider’s Guide to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival

Self-Portrait Lace Peplum Midi Dress /  Rupert Sanderson Cassandra Sandal / Edie Parker Flavia Happy clutch / Dana Rebecca Designs Sarah Leah Diamond Huggies

What to See

Insiders guide to charleston food and wine Photo by Peter Frank Edwards

In addition to shopping, dining, and festing, sightseeing in the city of Charleston is an absolute must. With so much beauty and history, you could spend endless hours walking around taking it all in, so we asked Sandi Clerici of the Preservation Society of Charleston, an organization dedicated to preserving and saving Charleston’s historic places, to recommend a couple of tours during Charleston Wine + Food that would appeal to visitors.

Clerici’s first suggestion is for a tour called “Doin’ the Charleston Renaissance,” which is designed around the movement that roared into the 1920s as artists, writers, musicians, poets, and preservationists revitalized the city’s social, cultural, and artistic identity. Her second recommendation will appeal to the literary inclined: an excursion designed around The Invention of Wings, a novel by Sue Monk Kidd. The tour will invite people to walk in the path of the sisters at the center of the book and hear how life in Charleston was for both the privileged elite and the enslaved masses, and it will complete the tale of how the two women shaped future generations.

With so much to taste and take in, there’s likely little room left in the schedule for additional exploring. However, for additional recommendations on where to go and what to do, browse TSG Charleston here, and look for the new volume of the guide, which will arrive just in time for the festival!

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Scouted: Love Who You Want Journal

Scouted: Love Who You Want Perfect for use year-round, this Christian Lacroix notebook would be a particularly wonderful gift on Valentine’s Day. With 120 ruled, gilded ivory pages; 11 whimsical, stylish figures split into horizontal panels that allow you to mix-and-match them into new characters; 22 witty stickers; and a striped ribbon marker, it is an elegant and entertaining journal that is sure to be treasured.

Box Turtle  //  Little Rock, AR  //  501.661.1167

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Bedside Bliss

tsg-mcalpine-1 It might seem like a strange compulsion, but we are constantly reimagining our bedside setup. Whether we’re hunting for the perfect matching nightstand set, searching for an option that affords storage while looking attractive (like the handsome chest of drawers in the space above by Atlanta’s McAlpine, Booth & Ferrier, which also happens to be the perfect height), or trying to find a solution for a tight space, the right piece of furniture can be oddly elusive. Then, of course, there are additional essentials—lighting; a place for a good book, fresh flowers, and a glass of water; and any other pieces that we prefer to have near us while we sleep. Given the fact that we spend roughly a third of our lives resting, it makes sense that we should take time to carefully consider our surroundings, so we sought out some inspiration from our network of experts.

tsg-st-romain-mary-jo-bochner-2 Symmetry is always a beautiful thing. We adore the way the matching lamps and marble-topped nightstands mirror each other and echo the gilded piece above the bed in the space by New Orleans’s St. Romain Interiors (top). Meanwhile, the above scene by Savannah’s Mary Jo Bochner achieves wonderful balance through coordinating lighting and art as mismatched bedside tables offer an opportunity to play with height and scale.

tsg-valerie-grant-nonj-1 How serene is this bedroom by Northern New Jersey-based Valerie Grant Interiors? The chinoiserie panels are just beautiful, as are the coordinating linens and accent pillows that add additional warmth and texture. And who wouldn’t love to wake up to lilies?

tsg-westbrook-3 It’s hard to decide what we love most about the wonderfully eclectic space that Atlanta’s Barbara Westbrook has created above—the lighting, the bench topped with books, the stunning canopy and cozy-looking linens, the classic and simple table decor that could double as a still-life…this is bed perfection.

tsg-collins-sean-anderson-2 Sweet dreams are made of these neutral palettes and nature-inspired elements. Left, Dallas-based Collins Interiors (one of the parent design companies of Blue Print Store) employs clean lines and muted hues to create a gorgeous, functional space. Right, Memphis’s Sean Anderson Design marries similar textures in a beautiful bedside scene anchored by a dresser doing double duty.

tsg-sean-anderson-memphis-2 Finally, this space by Sean Anderson Design laid our fears of never finding the perfect bedside table to rest thanks to a charming stool and a single sconce. Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest.

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Scouted: Tilley King Bed

Scouted This sculptural piece from Jackson, Mississippi’s SummerHouse is ready to dress up your bedroom. With an oak frame and tufted headboard available in a variety of fabrics, the bed is both a beautiful place to rest and a fabulous focal point.

Summerhouse  //  Jackson, MS  //  601.853.4445

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Animal Instincts

Animal Prints This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed the merits of animal prints here—and it won’t be the last. Ideal for when you want to add an instant dose of style (and easy to incorporate into any decor or wardrobe), images like the above from Atlanta-based interior designer Robert Brown’s portfolio are enough to convert even the most pattern-averse into lovers of zebra, tiger, or leopard.

Animal Prints How great is the animal print ottoman in the above room by Houston’s Caroline + Morgan Interiors?  From the dark wood paneling to the luxurious purple velvet chairs, the gorgeous portrait above the mantel to the peacock in the corner, this library has style to spare, and the pop of leopard is icing on the cake.


Ready to add a wild touch to your decor (clockwise from top left): Fine pair of French 19th Century giltwood fauteuils in vintage leather from James & Jeffrey Antiques part of Antique Row-West in Palm Beach; a large Slab of Rare Stromatolite on Lucite Base available from Katy Briscoe in Houston;  a Pair of Lacquered Regency Style Armchairs available from James & Jeffrey Antiques, part of Antique Row-West in Palm Beach; and a recently auctioned Pair of Regency Style Black Painted and Parcel Gilt Bergeres from Doyle New York auction house.

Townhouse by Robert Brown We admit that the above image from Robert Brown is one we revisit again and again. The gilt detailing mixed with zebra and a perfectly placed pair of loafers inspires us every time.

tsg-animal-prints-janie-molster We love the way Richmond-based interior designer Janie Molster layers color, pattern, and texture throughout her projects. Above, a zebra rug beautifully completes a sitting area with serene grey hues punctuated by vibrant accessories.

Animal Prints Left: Jackson, Mississippi’s Nancy Price Interiors creates an elegant space anchored by a zebra rug and adorned with stunning sconces that draw the eye up. Right: Houston’s Meg Lonergan tucks a sleek zebra bench under a clean-lined console in a well-appointed entryway.

Animal Prints Of course an animal print roundup wouldn’t be complete without including any apparel. Above is one of our favorite pieces: a gorgeous linen coat by Emerson Fry available from Pinehurst’s Patricia Finds.

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ARANEA CASHMERE THROW Wonderfully soft and bearing beautiful details, this ivory cashmere throw is the perfect companion for a cozy night spent by the fire. Featuring an eye-catching spider, the  hand-finished intarsia knit piece will surely become a treasured accessory for years to come.

Rani Arabella  //  New York, NY  //  212.221.1711

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