Last week, the TSG Editorial Team took a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, to rub elbows with wine and food experts and enthusiasts at the 10th annual Charleston Wine+Food festival. (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.) We’d been looking forward to the event, which celebrates the city’s culinary heritage and culture, for weeks, and arriving in Charleston on Thursday evening was like a breath of fresh air. By the time we strolled up King Street to TSG favorite The Rarebit to unwind with a Moscow Mule and a side of fries, we felt right at home in the Holy City.
Our next stop was dinner at festival partner The Ordinary. Lauded by critics, the brasserie, which is housed in a historic building, exceeded expectations; their triple shellfish tower, which is topped with caviar-adorned oysters, is not to be missed. Elsewhere, festival goers were enjoying signature dinners put on by top chefs all over the city. It’s no secret that Charleston’s culinary scene is thriving, but to experience it amidst all of the excitement and energy generated by the festival is a one-of-a-kind treat.
Friday morning offered a variety of different workshops on everything from the story of champagne to cooking a three-course lunch to a day in the life of a distiller to crafting classic Charleston punches. After stopping by the beautiful Confederate Home, where the TSG Charleston co-sponsored event, A Bourbon Affair, took place on Friday (“there were so many handsome men there!” a volunteer exclaimed), we made our way to the Culinary Village in Marion Square. Our first destination was the Artisan Market, which was filled with culinary professionals and entrepreneurs offering samples of their work and wares. We were delighted to see TSG Annapolis’s Caroline’s Cakes (and taste their delicious pimiento cheese) and TSG Nashville, Vol. 2’s Peter Nappi, whose leather goods are unbelievably gorgeous in person (we’re still swooning over the chairs), and we couldn’t resist buying a three-bottle set of Red Clay hot sauce (made in Charleston and available from Southern Season in Richmond) before making our way out of the market, Bloody Marys in hand.
Next, we headed into the Grand Tasting Tent to scope out the site of the TSG Charleston booth. While making our way through we sampled the most delicious focaccia from Charleston-based Brown’s Court Bakery and a slider from Farm Burger catering that turned TSG Digital Director Amanda, a self-proclaimed non-burger fan, into a believer. By the time we made it to the table that we’d soon transform into a display area for TSG Charleston we were very well-fed.
With just one hour in between sessions to set up the booth, we, along with TSG Charleston editor Michele Johnson and the crew from Charleston-based Basico restaurant, with whom we shared our space, scrambled to get ready for the crowd that flooded in once the doors reopened. As the Basico team prepped their cold-smoked oysters with Guajillo pepper hot sauce, we arranged Guides, and before we knew it people were flooding in to taste and pick up copies of TSG.
Three hours later, we left feeling happy and exhausted. We made plans to meet up with Michele the next day, then headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner at Xaio Bao Biscuit, which had hosted a festival signature dinner the night before. At the Asian comfort food mecca we spotted a Top Chef winner and chatted with a Barboursville Vineyards sommelier (small world!) as we sipped cocktails and had the most divine beef carpaccio.
Saturday morning we took a brief break from food and wine to stretch our legs and stroll down King Street to visit some of our Scouted businesses. First, we ventured over to Shoes on King to check out their stunning selection of footwear. Two pairs of booties later, we headed across the street to Hampden Clothing, which is filled with gorgeous pieces, including a to-die-for Thakoon white feather stripe cape back caftan that we have not stopped thinking about. Next, we met up with Michele and her daughter at Croghan’s Jewel Box, a Charleston institution that’s been owned by the same family for four generations. We found Rhett Outten, a member of Croghan’s third generation, on the second floor, who immediately offered us a glass of champagne before ushering us into an adjacent light-filled room where a Mazza trunk show was taking place. The final stop on our King Street tour was Ibu, which had opened just three days earlier. Filled with hand-woven, spun, and dyed wraps, skirts, shawls, and home goods crafted from textiles created by female artisans all over the world, the second-story space is both beautiful and inspiring. Founder Susan Hull Walker greeted us in one of the line’s amazing caftans and showed us around the studio, and then it was time to play dress-up.
Following our King Street adventure, we made our way back to the Culinary Village, conveniently located just blocks away from our Scouted stores, in time to catch a grilled cheese competition in the Rose Garden, and yes, grilled cheese and rose is just as lovely as it sounds—especially when enjoyed in Charleston on a sunny day surrounded by people gathered to celebrate food and wine. Next, we wandered over to the Bay Street biergarten where we sampled a Holy City Amber before wandering into the adjacent courtyard where chefs were cooking a variety of meats in impressive cast iron Cowboy Cauldrons. While waiting in line for a lamb slider, the man in front of us confided that he’d thought about hiding under the table all afternoon just to be the first person to try it. This made perfect sense to us.
We wound our way back through the village, enjoying live music, spotting TSG New Orleans chef Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery and the recently opened Balise (he’d presented Bouchon & The Big Easy Lunch the day before), and soaking up the sunshine before stopping by the media tent, where people were talking about the night’s big ticket: The “On the Rocks (n’ Roll)” live music act featuring Marc Broussard—the first Charleston Wine+Food music event. We had an early departure and couldn’t attend, but by all accounts it sounds like we missed a fun evening.
The festival only ended on Sunday, but we’re already looking forward to returning next year. For anyone who appreciates food, wine, and a good early-March getaway (and isn’t that all of us?), this is a festival to put on your calendar—in ink.