And the James Beard Finalists are….

Chefs Mike Lata of FIG, Bob Waggoner formerly of Charleston Grill, and Sean Brock of McCrady’s have all made it to the final round of the James Beard Awards, which means they’ll be heading to the ceremony in NYC in May to see if they will win in their respective categories. Lata and Waggoner are finalists in the Best Chef: Southeast category, which Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill won last year, and Brock is once again a finalist for the Rising Star Chef of the Year award. Brock is up against some stiff competition: Nate Appleman of A16 in San Francisco, Johnny Monis of Komi in Washington, D.C., Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon in Portland, Michael Solomonov of Zahav in Philadelphia, and Sue Zemanick of Gautreau’s in New Orleans. Interesting fact: Johnny Monis studied at Johnson & Wales in Charleston, but left before graduating to work at McCrady’s (under one of Brock’s predecessors). Unfortunately, Ken Vedrinski’s Trattoria Lucca did not make it to the finals for Best New Restaurant, but getting some national recognition for opening a little Italian restaurant in the outer regions of downtown Charleston is a pretty big deal nonetheless. May the best chefs win. —Stephanie Barna

MeritÄge Closed
(for real this time)

A recent commenter on our website took us to task for not writing about Meritäge closing yet. It’s funny he should want us to say something, because we erroneously reported that Meritäge closed back in November. We got it wrong. But they were indeed in the throes of death and hung on a little bit longer before finally giving up the ghost this winter. Sorry to hear that they finally closed, even if it does prove that we were just a little bit right after all. —Stephanie Barna

Anson gets big feature in Wash. Post

Anson’s pig booth was quite an attraction in the Charleston Food + Wine Festival’s grand tasting tent, and the Washington Post‘s Bonnie Benwick published a piece in last Thursday’s paper about Chef Kevin Johnson and his inspiration for the booth — namely the pigs of Keegan-Filion Farms. It’s great to see an often-overlooked local talent getting national coverage. Johnson told us he ordered two “250 pound pigs … to celebrate.” He should have some pretty tasty porcine specials on the menu right about now. Go check them out. —Stephanie Barna

Speaking of Butchering

Last week we got an invitation from owner Beth Anne Crane and Chef Jason Houser at Muse to come by and witness the butchering of a lamb that they got in on Wednesday. Our intrepid web guy and all-around MacGyver Joshua Curry enthusiastically took on the assignment and headed over there to take some (gruesome) photos. We posted them on the Eat blog last week if you’re interested in looking at them. If you’d rather eat the lamb, then stop by Muse this week for one of their tasty dishes. —Stephanie Barna

Charleston F+W Fest Numbers

Some highlights from the Charleston Food + Wine Festival: attendance was up by 2,000, every event sold out, and they saw a significant increase in local ticket sales. Not too surprising, considering this was the first year the festival offered a locals-only ticket for the Sunday culinary village. They also had a marquee celebuchef to help pull in the crowds. Don’t underestimate the popularity of Bobby Flay. The level of talent they bring in is pretty impressive, which has a lot to do with the participation and reputation of our local chefs. This year, the festival made a big commitment to being more green than ever. Their janitorial service worked with Fisher Recycling to pick up cardboard cases and wine and beer bottles each day at the culinary village, and they brought in 15 of the city’s new recycling bins for events to encourage attendees to recycle. They’ll announce their recycling numbers this week. Did you attend this year’s event? Got something to say? Head over to the festival’s website and take the survey. —Stephanie Barna

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