We Came, We Tasted, We Scouted

Photo by Nickie Cutrona for The Scout Guide

It’s been less than five days since we returned from the Charleston Wine + Food festival, and we already miss the flavors and beauty of the Lowcountry. At least we went home knowing that we took advantage of every opportunity to try new flavors, engage in exciting culinary experiences, and be inspired by the incredible talent brought together by the fest. Charleston Wine + Food promised to have something to please any palate, and we can definitively say that they delivered; from the moment we arrived on Wednesday to our final pre-airport coffee run on Sunday, we were either sipping, savoring, or Scouting.

Our Charleston adventure began before the festival officially opened, so we got acclimated with a King Street stroll. First off was a visit to the new location of the gorgeous home furnishings and apparel boutique Ro-Sham-Beaux, which had a stunning collection of light fixtures on display, followed by Michell Hill, another home furnishings store filled with statement-making pieces, artwork, and items to fill our shelves and dress up our coffee tables. Next, we popped into Charleston Krewe, the sister store to New Orleans-based NOLA Couture, which is filled with colorful, preppy attire perfect for the Southern gentleman and, it turns out, their pets (we may or may not have purchased a seersucker dog collar). Shoes on King was next, and luckily we planned ahead while packing and left a little extra room in our suitcases, because we walked out with new pair of suede booties. Our final stop was Croghan’s Jewel Box, where we checked out their beautiful collection of estate jewelry before heading home to change.

Following drinks and dinner at Husk, whose chef, Sean Brock, seemed to be everywhere throughout the fest, we made our way to our first fest event: “Cheers to Charleston,” the Charleston Wine + Food opening night party at the recently renovated Gaillard Center. The guests were decked out in chic cocktail attire, a deep roster of great chefs were serving up Lowcountry fare, cocktails were flowing, a live band was playing, students from The Art Institute of Charleston were modeling creative and beautiful designs, and images of iconic Charleston scenes were projected onto the walls. It was a festive and fitting kickoff.   

We decided to sneak in some sightseeing on Thursday, so following breakfast at gourmet shop and cafe Caviar and Bananas (recommended to us by Rhett Outten of Croghan’s Jewel Box) we made a beeline for Rainbow Row, followed by a stroll along the water and a walk down Meeting Street during which we peered into some of the beautiful private gardens. Charleston has the ability to make you feel like you’ve been transported to another place and time, and after spending a couple of hours taking in the architecture and natural beauty we understood why many people who visit decide to never leave.

Photo by Andrew Cebulka courtesy of Charleston Wine + Food.

Our Thursday evening festival activity, a pop-up goat roast at 652 King Street, was absolutely delicious. Chefs from New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, and points in between served a variety of dishes throughout the tented space while a fife and drum band played and beer, wine, and cocktails were poured. We washed down Chef Robert Newton of Brooklyn’s Nightingale 9’s roasted goat pozole with charred jalapeño, cilantro, and curry with a cocktail comprised of gin, vermouth, grapefruit bitters, and thyme, then enjoyed charcoal-roasted North Carolina goat prepared by Andrea Reusing and Zach Faulisi of The Durham in Chapel Hill with Fullsteam brewery’s iced coffee porter (don’t judge—we don’t pretend to be experts at pairings, we just go with what sounds good). Between the band, the food, the stylish crowd, and the smell of meat roasting over an open flame, the event was a feast for all the senses. It was also delightfully low-key, which is one of the great aspects of Charleston Wine + Food: at the same time we were sipping cider in jeans, elsewhere festival attendees were dressed to the nines  enjoying an entirely different experience at a soiree under the stars or comfortably seated at a signature dinner at one of the city’s best restaurants. There truly is something for everybody.

Photos by Nickie Cutrona for The Scout Guide

Friday morning, it was time for the TSG HQ team to divide and conquer. Between helping the TSG Charleston crew (pictured below, left) man the media booth in the bustling Culinary Village located in Marion Square and being on hand to mingle with guests at the TSG-sponsored “Life of the Party” luncheon hosted by acclaimed event designer Tara Guérard at the private room in Circa 1886 restaurant, being in “work mode” has never been more fun. Not surprisingly, Guérard led an elegant luncheon, and everyone in attendance was all ears as she shared tips for entertaining in style. The food was excellent, as were the drinks: AIX rosé and Tanqueray cocktails, made all the more special because the AIX vintner, Eric Kurver, was at the luncheon, along with Tanqueray Brand Ambassador Rachel Ford. 

Photos by Nickie Cutrona for The Scout Guide

The whole TSG team reunited at the media booth post-luncheon, then took turns strolling through station after station of chefs and food and beverage exhibitors serving up tastes of everything from Campari cocktails and rabbit pate to chicken wings and IPA. The weather was absolutely perfect, and as we entered the rosé garden for a grilled cheese cook-off, we couldn’t imagine being in a better place.

Photo by Andrew Cebulka courtesy of Charleston Wine + Food.

In the spirit of adventure—our modus operandi for the festival—after dinner at The Rarebit we ventured to 148 Williman Street for an event billed as Chicken Sh*t Bingo, and arrived just in time to see the game wind down and chef Sean Brock announce the lucky winner. Live music, barbecue, a mechanical bull, and plenty of beer rounded out the lively scene, which was somehow the perfect way to end a packed day. 

After hearing about Cannon Green for over a year, we finally got to see the restaurant and event space in person on Saturday morning when we arrived to get ready for the TSG and Veuve Clicquot-sponsored “Fried Chicken for the Southern Soul,” and it is beautiful. The open, airy buildings and lovely central courtyard were the perfect setting for what turned out to be an incredibly stylish affair. The champagne sponsor’s signature yellow umbrellas, glasses, and balloons dotted the space, creating a sunny and cheerful atmosphere while ten chefs, including Daniel Lindley of TSG Chattanooga’s Alleia and TSG Nashville’s 5th & Taylor and Steven Devereaux Green of TSG Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill’s The Umstead, prepared and served tasty spins on fried chicken. 

As soon as the party wrapped up, we headed over to the Culinary Village, where we caught Chef Justin Devillier of TSG New Orleans’s La Petite Grocery and Balise serving up marinated octopus with Louisiana citrus—the perfect light and bright bite to follow our foray into fried chicken. The next couple of hours in the Culinary Village flew by as we strolled the Artisan Tent, the Biergarten, the Hands-on Kitchen, and the VIP Lounge (where copies of our guides to dozens of cities were on display). 

Just as the sun was setting, we stepped onto the roof deck of global textile boutique and design studio ibu, where founder and owner Susan Hull Walker was celebrating the first year anniversary of being in the stunning space. Along with TSG Charleston editor Michele Johnson, we toasted the talented ibu team, heard about Susan’s upcoming projects (Charleston Fashion Week, followed by a trip to India), and browsed the gorgeous antique and hand-woven goods throughout the beautiful store below. 

Bottom: photo by Andrew Cebulka courtesy of Charleston Wine + Food.

Although the festival would continue well into Sunday, our morning flights dictated that Saturday night would be the end of our culinary adventure, so we were determined to make the most of it. So at 11 p.m., we found ourselves at Palmetto Brewing Co., where Esquire Network was filming an episode of Knife Fight during which Charleston chefs Kevin Johnson and Josh Keeler faced off cooking shad roe and…squirrel. We left feeling like we’d seen it all (even though we were cutting our fest experience short), yet already hungry to go back next year.


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