The high-profile tickets sold out long ago, but if you didn’t score a pricey plate at the Daniel Boulud dinner in the penthouse, don’t despair. There’s plenty of foodie fun to go around next weekend — both officially and on the fringes.
The BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival will officially kick off on Thursday night with the sold-out Salute to Charleston Chefs party, but earlier in the day is the Perfect Pairing Winemaker Luncheons. Muse and 82 Queen will each host a winemaker and present a three-course wine-paired lunch. The catch with this one, obviously, is that you need to have a free weekday afternoon for plenty of eating, drinking, and napping. But should you have the day off and an extra $100 lying around, this event’s for you.
On Friday afternoon, you can stop by the opening ceremonies, which usually involve sabers and champagne, before ducking into the Grand Tasting Tents for the afternoon hours. Tickets are still available and cost $55. Here’s a hint: Fridays are a great day to visit because they’re less crowded. Or you could wait until Sunday and enjoy a $10 locals-only discount. Here’s another hint: become a Facebook fan of the festival and they’ll tell you about ticket deals. If you insist on hitting the Grand Tasting Tent on Saturday because you want to see the cooking competitions, well then you’ll have to pay extra for that. Saturday tickets are $75.
On Friday, the Wadmalaw Farm-to-Table Excursion should definitely hold appeal for locals who don’t get out on the water often enough. The boat leaves from the Custom House at 11 a.m., takes you out to the tea plantation on Wadmalaw for a luncheon catered by the Square Onion. From there, you’ll take a trolley ride to Irvin-House Vineyard for a tour, then you’re off to Shawn Thackeray’s for a tour of his farm and a discussion of farming practices. You’ll be back downtown at 4 p.m. Limited tickets are still available for that one at $200 per person.
On Friday night, guest chefs descend on Charleston’s kitchens to team up with the local talent to prepare multi-course, wine-paired meals. These are always a hot ticket, and sell out fast. You can check the website to see if there are any left for this one. Magnolias had a handful when we last looked, but the rest were sold out.
Another interesting excursion on Saturday is the Red, White, and Lowcountry SpiritLine Cruise. Jed Steele, John Bookwalter, Austin Hope, Philip Lolonis, and Angelina Mondavi will be on hand to discuss the art of wine pairing. An afternoon on the water and world-class wines adds up to a $100 ticket.
If you’d rather hang out with chefs and cookbook authors at a swanky downtown home, then the Celebrity Authors Reception on Saturday might be a good event to crash. (Just kidding. We don’t advocate gate-crashing.) At this cupcake-and wine-fueled gathering ($50), you can rub elbows with chefs like Michelle Bernstein, Chris Hastings, and Frank Stitt and food writers like Matt and Ted Lee. Bring your cookbooks along for impromptu signings, too.
On Friday afternoon, Anheuser-Busch’s head brewer will be holding a beer school upstairs at Rue de Jean, but this seems like a very light beer kind of event after this week’s Brewvival extravaganza.
For soul food and barbecue lovers, there are a couple of events worth catching. On Sunday, the returning BBQ, Blues, and Brew brings the festival to a close with bottomless plates of smoked meat, lovingly prepared by pitmasters like Jimmy Hagood, Robert “Bobo” Lee, and Aaron Siegel. For $75, you’ll get an afternoon of brisket and barbecue served alongside music by The Blue Dogs.
On Friday, a new event will pay tribute to the African-American influence on Lowcountry cuisine. The $100-a-plate Gullah Tribute luncheon will take place under the big tents at Marion Square and will feature some of Charleston’s most beloved soul food kitchens, including Martha Lou’s, Gullah Cuisine, Alluette’s Cafe, and Huger’s. And while we think it’s awesome that the festival is embracing a bit more diversity, it seems kind of silly to charge so much for the same soul food that we can get for $6 a plate across the street. Perhaps a smaller price tag would have encouraged a bit more diversity in the attendees as well (just sayin’).
But we should stop bitching about the high ticket prices because they do indeed serve a purpose, which is inspiring other restaurants to offer their own cool foodie events around town. Read on for our Foodie Must-List, Part II — a look at the non-Festival events that will be going on around town over the next week and a half (some of which —we readily admit — aren’t cheap either).