Thursday night, a huge crowd of Winos + Foodies crammed into the S.C. Aquarium for the Salute to Chefs. Like most W+F events, attendees were handed an official festival wineglass upon entering the venue and were challenged to keep it full throughout the night.
We were encouraged to head upstairs when we first arrived to avoid the downstairs bottleneck, but upstairs wasn't much better. Still, after a bit of waiting we managed to snag some plates from local chefs and begin the balancing act between wine glass, plate, clutch, and camera. It's never easy. Several guests were spotted sporting wine glass lanyards and plates with a cupholder from previous years — we were very jealous of these people.
The dozens of chefs scattered throughout the Aquarium really seemed to enjoy the challenge to flex their culinary muscles — there wasn't a stinker among the bunch. With jellyfish, albino alligators, and scuba divers in the Great Ocean Tank providing a unique backdrop, the chefs dished out lobster and bone marrow tortelloni (Tristan), golden tilefish crudo with strawberry caviar and roasted beets (Maverick Southern Kitchens), and olive oil poached shrimp (Blossom) — obviously, if you didn't like seafood you were out of luck (and the irony of eating fish while surrounded by fish is never lost on us). Our favorite dishes of the night were Trattoria Lucca's yellowfin tuna crudo and the pork belly hot and sour soup from Macintosh.
Outside, guests wound down with an official festival cocktail and/or cigar before either heading home or to the afterparty at Oak Steakhouse. At Oak, servers passed out beef-heavy bites like juicy sliders and crunchy pork belly skewers. Upstairs, guests tried their luck at the gambling tables, a nod to the restaurant's seventh anniversary (lucky seven, get it?). When we left just before midnight, we heard whisperings of a not-so-secret party happening on the Battery later that night. But Ms. Barna should be able to fill you in on that one.