Where did we leave off? I believe it was on the brink of FIRE. Fire, in this case, meant the grilling section of the Charleston Wine and Food Culinary Village where talented local and out-of-town chefs used massive cauldron-esque grills to make me fall in love with them. Tricky.
Before Sunday I had never had sweetbreads, and to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what organ they belonged to or what they were supposed to taste like. Enter Chef Fonzi. (That’s Alfonso’s kitchen name. There’s even a puppet to go with it and everything. Come over for beers and you might see it.) By the time he schooled me, we were at the front of the line. Bring on the sweetbreads; I have been informed!
Am I the only one who thinks massive amounts of the same small plates together are mesmerizing? This is my zen sand garden.
After we stepped away from the chaos of plate grabbing, I was able to get a close up of this gorgeous piece of protein. Just look at it:
Plump, juicy, charred, on a bed of fresh, tangy slaw. Y’all, food really doesn’t get better than this. It was a home run for Rob McDaniel of Springhouse in Alexander City, Alabama. He sure knows how to say, “Helloooooo Charleston!”
We started to realize that the best way to make it through all the stations was going to be to eat the previous station’s goodie while in line for the next. Foodies abound in Charleston and I think we were absolutely all there in the Fire arena at the exact. same. moment. Luckily, Fireball (the Fire section’s sponsor and my past lover) had set up a handy little booth to help us pass the time until we got to THIS:
Bam! People still think Emeril is cool, right?
Made with lots of local ingredients, this gumbo-type stew is one of the best representations of down-home, belly filling, comfort giving, just plain good food. The cornbread soaks up the juices and you realize that all the fancy plates in the world can’t compete with this Lowcountry cooking.
Do you see what I’m talking about?
Crafted by our own Jon Cropf of Drawing Room, this rabbit couldn’t have been more tender or mouth-watering. It was as delicate as it was hearty, rich in flavor and quickly sopped up by smoky, grilled bread.
Between grill bites, we ran out of fireball. Good thing the rosé wasn’t far off.
What goes perfectly with rosé? If your answer was brisket on a biscuit, then you are right! Actually, if your answer was brisket on a biscuit please shoot me an email because you can obviously read my mind. I have some psychic questions I need cleared up.
Psychic or not, this brisket slathered with some kind of beur blanc (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, fellas) and minced, vinegar-y slaw then placed on a fluffy pillow of a biscuit will make your mouth ache with desire to grow more taste buds.
I ask that you all bow you heads for a moment of silence.
Have you ever heard that good things come in threes? I bet whoever said that knew Jason Scarborough and Bill Brooks of US Foods. These gentlemen whipped out the big guns on Meyer natural angus ribeyes and plated up 3 stellar beef dishes.
Plate one was a first for me, but Alfonso was old hat, having made versions at the restaurant. Complexus Beef Tartare with pickled and micro okra laid out on a lattice chip made for the most elegant version of meat and potatoes I have ever seen or tasted.
Boasting a definite, full fresh beef flavor, the ribeye was expertly accented with notes of acidity and creaminess. The crunchy, salty chip was just the complimentary bottle of champagne in the penthouse suite. 5 star dish.
Up next on our ribeye tour was EVO Seared Spinalis of Beef “Tataki” with raw young collards and Holy City vinaigrette.
This dish is how I usually like my steak- grilled ’til perfect, not a second longer and over tangy greens. I appreciate the chef’s restraint of hand in this simple dish. No need to be fussy.
If the previous dish was masterfully simple and tasteful, the next was Elton John in Ibiza on spring break. Hanging out with Lady Gaga. It was flashy, dressed to impress, and a party in your mouth.
The smoked ribeye heart, bedded on fingerling sweet potato hash and Hickory Hills buttermilk creamed spinach and dressed in smoked demi, brought the house down for the ribeye finale. After we left I told Alfonso that, starting now, I’m only eating ingredients prepared 3 ways on cute little plates with delicious garnishes. He said, “Good luck.”
With several round of grilled meats in our bellies, we now felt prepared to head back to the biergarten and give it a proper once over,
stopping for a quick sample from Captivating Croatia Tours.
I don’t know what it is, but the consensus was that we’d be down for a trip to Croatia to find out.
Back in the biergarten we enjoyed samples from tons of local breweries and few out-of-towners too, all while feeling like a somebody with our swag bags.
Nothing like promotional bandanas and flashlight keychains to make you think you’re a celebrity. Get over yourself, this isn’t the Daytime Emmy’s.
I jumped back over to the Hub for a second to snatch this little dessert before toasting with our last beer of the 2016 Charleston Wine and Food Festival.
Here’s to a great year this year and an even better one next year. Y’all certainly have your work cut out for you.
Oh and look. They wrote me a love letter.