Last night, the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival celebrated the pig in a big way. The occasion: the official launch of the 2010 festival.
The Charles Towne Landing Founders Hall served as the setting for a spectacular salute to the grill master, which was code for pig, lots of pig.
Inside, chefs from High Cotton, SNOB, Cypress, and McCrady's doled out an endless supply of charcuterie — salted, smoked, and cured meats, handcrafted in their kitchens. The McCrady's spread was insanely large with tender slices of white lardo jostling for space with baskets of crispy-fried cheek bacon and beer-flavored pork rinds. Chef Sean Brock also had big jars of pickled vegetables including wild ramps and sunchokes. His team sliced for four hours in preparation of the event.
As chefs like Frank Lee and Anthony Gray and organizers like Laura Hewitt and Angel Postell politely stuffed their faces with coppa and prosciutto inside, a whole other collection of foodies hung around out on the porch and sprawling patio where there were tables of barbecue from the likes of JB's Smokeshack, Home Team, and Jim N Nick's.
The official business of the night was announcing worthy new nonprofit charities — Louie's Kids and Slow Food Charleston — and welcoming new sponsors. They also thanked BB&T for their continued patronage as the title sponsor.
Festival tickets went on sale at 5:30 p.m., and Executive Director Angel Postell wasn't kidding when she urged everyone to get their tickets quickly: "They will sell out."
And indeed, several of the Dine Arounds and the Daniel Boulud Wine + Food with a View already have. The TV celebuchefs are always the first to go. The Tyler Florence/Robert Carter at Peninsula Grill tickets are long gone. Also sold out is Charleston Grill's all-female lineup in which Chef Michelle Weaver hosts Barbara Lynch from Gruppo in Boston and Michelle Bernstein from Michy's and SRA in South Florida. And forget about the McCrady's Dine Around too. The Sean Brock-Paul Liebrant team proved an easy sell-out.
Other dinners are already close to selling out, including Top Chef Brian Marlarkey, who will cook at Tristan, where the host chef has yet to be determined. Marlarkey owns and operates Oceanaire Seafood Room in San Francisco.
Over at FIG, Chef Mike Lata has yet to announce who he'll be hosting, but that hasn't stopped him from nearly selling out. A few minutes ago, Erika McMillan at the festival told us there was only one ticket left!
But, you know, every single Dine Around on the docket promises an amazing lineup. At Cypress, Craigh Diehl will host Clifford Harrison and Anne Quatrano from Bacchanalia in Atlanta.
At Anson, Gabrielle Hamilton from Prune in NYC will join Kevin Johnson. At Red Drum in Mt. Pleasant, Jan Birnbaum of San Francisco's EPIC Roadhouse will be paired up with Ben Berryhill.
Jeremiah Bacon at Carolina's will cook with Linton Hopkins from Restaurant Eugene in ATL. Marc Collins at Circa 1886 welcomes Kyle Ketchum from the Sliced Pear in Newport.
Former McCrady's head chef Michael Kramer returns to Charleston to cook with Frank Lee at SNOB. At High Cotton, Anthony Gray brings in Bruce Sherman from North Pond Restaurant in Chicago.
Robert Stehling will cook with Andrea Reusing from Lantern in Chapel Hill. And Ken Vedrinski will host somebody at his new restaurant Introdaqua (That's what I went ahead and bought tickets to). And I haven't even mentioned who the chefs that Lana, Fish, Oak, and Magnolias will be welcoming. You'll have to do that legwork yourself. I've run out of time. And you could too if you wait to buy your W+F tickets.