The eating and drinking orgy got off to a great start on Wednesday night with some unofficial events. At McCrady's, the Southern Foodways Alliance held their Potlikker Film Festival, a casual bash that attracted a who's who of the Charleston food community. Across town at Trattoria Lucca, food writer and Esquire contributor John Mariani held court at his own party, this one a bit more subdued and with no squirrel gravy (more on that later) but plenty of delicious Italian food and wine.
Following a recipe from the 1800s, McCrady's chef Sean Brock made an amazing oyster stew with a sprinkling of benne seeds, and it was a perfect pairing with COAST's oyster stout, a big bold beer. Jaime Tenny of COAST had a good time people-watching as guests got a taste of her unusual brew.
Sarah O'Kelley and her compatriots from The Glass Onion also provided some food as did Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill.
The place was packed with a fascinating cross-section of food people. Some boldfaced names: Emile DeFelice (farmer Caw Caw Creek), Robert Barber (restaurateur Bowen's Island), Vertamae Grosvenor (author), Lee Brothers (authors), Nathalie Dupree (food personality), and, of course, John T. Edge, the ringmaster and director of the Southern Foodways Alliance.
I got an emphatic 'no' from Oak chef Jeremiah Bacon in regards to my Top Chef dream team. He's most definitely not applying, but apparently his chef de cuisine Joseph is.
As John T. herded the crowd into the screening room to watch Joe York's films about Bowen's Island, Caw Caw Creek, and Scott's BBQ, I ducked into the kitchen for a bite of Brock's squirrel before rushing uptown to Lucca for the Mariani dinner. The humble little dish was pretty tasty and quite filling. I'm sorry I missed the films, but I was glad to get the chance to eat at Lucca again. I'll post about that dinner separately. In the meantime, I'll leave you with this picture of Brock's gravy. Lip-smacking good.