It’s a well-documented fact that food tastes better when eaten outside, and when it’s being prepared by Top Chef alum Hugh Acheson and a few of his chef pals, you can bet it’s going to be darn tasty. Acheson was the star attraction at the Carolina Dirt Fair’s farm-to-table dinner Sunday night at Mullet Hall Equestrian Center. After a day of music, gardening workshops, and cooking demos, guests gathered under a tent near the horse barns for a family-style dinner featuring plenty of locally sourced food and cocktails. The tables were decorated with fresh flowers displayed in reclaimed wood boxes, and Chompin’ at the Bit String Band played bluegrass tunes throughout the night.

The Gin Joint’s bowtied barkeeps mixed up a selection of cocktail pairings for the meal, including a see-through bloody mary (their first cocktail ever made with vodka), a gingery Moscow Mule, and a super frothy Strawberry Fizz. The chefs — also including Kiawah Resort’s Nick Hunter and Jonathan Banta — stayed busy prepping food in a nearby barn, and a posse of Dirt Fair volunteers kept the dishes coming. The first course was a vibrant spring salad made with local baby greens, purple and gold pickled beets, breakfast radish, and goat feta, and then the servers trotted out massive platters for the family-style main course — shrimp and grits, lemon and mint-rubbed chicken, hoppin’ john, and mixed spring vegetables. Acheson came out mid-meal to greet guests, and he happily grabbed a beer for someone who apparently mistook him for a server. Dessert was a soft, subtly sweet honey bread topped with strawberries and whipped cream and micro basil — it paired perfectly with the indulgent Strawberry Fizz cocktails.

Following the dinner, guests grabbed a coffee and strolled the grounds, quickly congregating around the mechanical bull, where the bravest attendees risked losing their supper for a chance at bull-riding glory. Acheson chatted up guests and signed books at the Heirloom Books table as the band attempted to get the few remaining folks on the dance floor for some moonlit contra dancing.

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