The past few weeks have been crazy. Fun, but crazy. We blew through the Charleston Wine and Food Festival week so fast that I’m left half-wondering if I was really there or if that juicy, saucy rib was just a figment of my imagination. Thank goodness I abide by the motto, “Pics or it didn’t happen”.
Must be real because Alfonso was chowing down pretty hard.
I have proof that I didn’t dream it!
I started out the week on that Thursday, happy to have been invited to a benefit dinner for the MUSC Children’s Hospital cooked by Top Chef alums, Jamie Lynch and Katsuji Tanabe. My inner (hell, and my outer) basic white girl made sure to get plenty of selfies with the famous chefs. My new friend, Charlotte, put together an ecclectic table of personalities and we dined on fancy food at the gorgeous 5 Church on Market Street. I’ve talked about the atmosphere at 5 Church before, but it is worth bringing up the stained glass windows, high, peaked ceilings, and the cathedral-like atmosphere again. It adds a pleasurable note to each dish that no edible ingredient could. The plates that made up the 5-course meal were split up between the chefs and each put together their own dishes from start to finish, as opposed to collaborating on the courses. Despite this, there was a decisive cohesiveness to the dinner. Starting with Oyster Kinilaw with lime, chili, and coconut milk we walked through Chef Lynch and Chef Tanabe’s palate-bursting creations with incredible ease, lubricated by wine pairings from 5 Church’s sommelier.
This butter-poached lobster with black beans was a surprisingly beautiful combo that you can serve me anytime.
A highlight for me was the Braised Beef Tongue Mole. I had never had beef tongue before and could not wait to try it. The tongue was tender and pulled apart almost like slow-roasted pork. And the mole. Oh the mole! We finished up with a passion fruit mousse with caramelized white chocolate. There was no shame at the table as everyone scraped up their white chocolate bits at the end of the course.
The next day I prepared for our first full-service paella and tapas pop-up, held at West Ashley’s newest brewery (and one of Charleston’s best), Charles Towne Fermentory. While I prepped, Alfonso got to help at one of Friday’s CHSWFF events, Cookin’ It Up with The Farmer and the Larder. Held at the Palmer Campus of Trident Technical College, the event showcased the culinary skills and talent of the Georgian husband and wife team. Alfonso, Mr. Big Picture, gave very few details of his first time cooking at a festival event. I’ll tell you what I know: there were big, beautiful fish, lots of flavorful spices, and he got to work with one of his favorite chefs from school. Alfonso would give his experience a 10/10.
Saturday was another prep day for Tuesday’s service, but Sunday was my favorite day of the year- locals day at the Culinary Village! We went in with a plan- biergarten, Fire zone, wine garden, tasting tent, then more FIRE. I feel like the event was just as full as it was last year, but for some reason we didn’t wait in line for things as long. So, I’m awarding the Charleston Wine and Food team the “Best Organizers” award, because “Love(s) of My Life” is already taken. I could write about the food and drink at the festival or I could show you. And who wants to read?
Presenting: The Culinary Village
Things were poppin’ at the Don Julio tent!
I just want to take a moment and draw your attention to THE BURGER. Made with bacon and cotton candy and situated at the entrance to the wine village, this creation by Josh Shea of the Riverdogs Food and Bev department was a homerun…y’all like my pun?
We couldn’t stay away from the Fire area too long.
Before the festival was officially over we had to make a little coffee and cookies stop. A little sweetie and a little warm cafelito revives the weary festival goer.
Sunday evening, with the festival behind us, we looked forward to our brewery pop-up the following Tuesday. We spent Sunday evening, Monday before and after work, and Tuesday morning forming meatballs and croquetas, making dipping sauces, and gathering some stellar ingredients for the paella and tapas dinner service. While I was still at work on Tuesday morning, Alfonso finished up the prep work, hauled it all to Charles Towne Fermentory, and set up a kitchen ready to start at 5pm on the dot! I was worried about having everything “just so” because I am the detail-oriented one in the family, but I have to admit that the set-up was just right. Maybe it’s time to stop being such a control freak.
We had a small dinner time rush, but for most of the time customers steadily came in ordering tortilla de patatas, Spanish meatballs, paella, garlic mushrooms, and Lowcountry croquettes with BBQ sauce. A big shout-out to Dennis for making our night and ordering one of everything! It was a long day and I can’t say I wasn’t cussing into the dark when my alarm went off the next morning, but it was worth it. So worth it, in fact, that we will be heading back to our favorite brewery this afternoon for a second round of paella and tapas. We even have a special surprise for our first several customers! We’ve tweaked the menu and we can’t wait for you to give it a try. And whatever you order from us, make sure not to miss the Mallard Reaction IPA by Charles Towne Fermentory. That double IPA is going to be your downfall. But, don’t worry, we’ll have paella waiting to bring you back up again.