Ruta Smith

Say "Snickers Macaroon Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwich" three times fast, after several mini-pours of featured wines in the Wine + Food souvenir wine glasses that now, happily, makes up the majority of my stemware, and you get the sense of last night's Opening Night party. A lively, delicious, decadent mouthful, plus a raucous tent load of people who didn't let mud-caked shoes stop them from dancing and noshing the night away. And if the macaroons weren't the be-all-end-all, there was that mighty layer of cream cheese frosting atop the Tropical Carrot Cake from Charleston Grill, complete with a candied jalapeno. Sweet and fiery, just how I like my food fests.

Of course there was plenty of real food too, not just sweets, and those little bamboo tray-dishes kept getting dished up, from a who's who of beloved chefs, including James Beard semifinalists like The Grocery's Kevin Johnson, folks from Pawleys Island to Bluffton to Spartanburg, and the festival's chef chairman, Jacques Larson of Obstinate Daughter and Wild Olive. Plenty of local beer on tap, with Tradesman showcasing some imaginative brews, as well as wine and winemakers galore. 
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The opening night, sponsored by Edible Charleston and the Discover SC Chef Ambassadors, was easier to maneuver than last year's, and its evolved into a more casual vibe than earlier years, with access to chefs, vintners, and a general eat-well-have-fun esprit. Proving she's the master of secret ingredients, Gillian Zettler, the festival's chief cook and bottlewasher (read: executive director), nailed it by hiring the local musicians of Motown Throwdown who got the crowd to dance off more than a few calories. "It's not a party without a great band," she said. Here's hoping the rest of the festival is as lively and festive as its rockin opener.

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