You know a festival has grown up when the fringe events surrounding the official happenings become an attraction themselves. This year, tons of pop-up events will be happening all over the place, from private parties to ticketed dinners. We've singled out a few that should be on your radar.
Wed. March 5
- Anne Quatrano
Anne Quatrano just made the semifinals for the James Beard Award's Outstanding Chef, a national recognition reserved for the most accomplished chefs. She's been a heavy-hitter in Atlanta's scene for two decades and a staunch proponent of sustainable food and practices from the start. She and her husband Clifford Harrison run Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Quinones, Floataway Cafe, and Abbatoir, along with an organic farm called Summerland, from which they source much of their ingredients. Summerland is also the name of Quatrano's first cookbook, which was released last fall and features seasonal recipes that celebrate the harvests.
On Wednesday, she'll be hosting a luncheon and book signing at Básico in North Charleston. If she follows her cookbook's advice, a beautiful March day calls for a lamb fete, with a Preserved Meyer Lemon Collins cocktail, lamb tartare, Italian wedding soup, a lamb dish like pot au feu or merguez sausage, and for dessert, baked sheep's milk ricotta or maybe a charred pomegranate popsicle.
The lunch costs $50 and benefits Wholesome Wave South, a charity that Quatrano champions for its work getting fresh food from farms to under-served communities. Lunch will be served outside on the patio at Básico, which is part of the Mixson Bath & Racquet Club.
Slow Food Charleston, the local outpost of the international sustainable agriculture and culinary movement, will be hosting Slow Sips on Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Kudu Coffee and Craft Beer. The casual event is aimed at helping locals connect with other slow food enthusiasts, from small farmers to home brewers.
Meanwhile, in Ansonborough, boutique hotel Zero George will debut its Guest Chef Cooking Series. The cooking school events are designed for intimate classes of eight and each features a different topic. Classes take place in Zero George's 17th century carriage house.
On Wednesday afternoon Atlanta chef Chris Hall of Local Three will demonstrate the versatility of local ingredients when he cooks Georgia mountain trout in four culinary preparations, including Southern and Asian interpretations. Later that evening Zero George's own Chef Randy Williams will create a contemporary Lowcountry meal of chilled asparagus salad, braised veal cheek, and an enticing rye and butterscotch bread pudding. Thursday afternoon will see New Orleans Chef and current James Beard Best Chef South semifinalist Justin Devillier school his pupils on a classic Louisiana menu of blue crab salad, shrimp and okra gumbo, and fried rabbit biscuits. Reservations are required, and can be made by contacting the hotel.
The City Paper is getting into the mix this year with a Dish launch party. Stop by Prohibition on King Street between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., grab the latest copy of Charleston's best dining guide, drink some free booze, nibble on some of Chef Stephen Thompson's treats, and mingle with us.
Thurs. March 6
- Tara Guerard
Local tastemaker and nationally acclaimed event planner Tara Guérard will throw open the doors to a temporary hostess oasis. Located at 420 King Street, the Life Is a Party pop-up shop will be just a stone's throw from the festival's culinary village in Marion Square.
The shop will open on Thursday morning with a coffee bar anchored by Charleston's own King Bean Coffee Roaster, which will run every morning until the store's closing on Sunday. Shoppers will find entertaining accessories and interior furnishings hand-picked by Guérard, including tabletop pieces and edible treats. With a line of stationery and other paper products already under her belt, Guérard will be presenting her debut collection of custom linens in playful prints like "Edisto Toile" and "Wadmalaw Garland."
When some foodies see the cover of Jon Bonne's new book, The New California Wine, they might chuckle, wondering what, exactly, is new about California wine. But to Bonne, wine editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, so much remains undiscovered about smaller California winemakers and the lesser known regions that they're conquering. He'll be stopping by Heirloom Bookshop on Thursday afternoon from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. for a book reading and signing, with a wine tasting curated by Harry Root of Grassroots Wines. The cost of the event is the purchase of Bonne's book, which will amply prepare you for any discussions of terroir or fruit bombs encountered during the festival weekend. Reservations are required for that one because space is extremely limited.
If anyone's bringing a lot of award hardware to the Festival, it's Michael Anthony. The executive chef and partner of the Gramercy Tavern won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant just two years into his tenure and picked up the top prize for Best Chef, New York City in 2012. The team at Le Creuset will welcome him to their l'Atelier on Thursday afternoon to prepare items from The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook.
The Oysters + Bites event will feature Clammer Dave's oysters in several preparations along with signature High Wire Distilling cocktails. Considering that Anthony got his start in Tokyo and then cooked in France before settling in the Big Apple, it's not a stretch to imagine a collection of flavors that go beyond the Lowcountry's tried and true oyster palate. They'll also be serving an oyster stout from the newly opened brewpub Edmund's Oast, but perhaps most impressively, the event will include an oyster shooter station with a variety of flavors prepared by The Ordinary's Mike Lata and High Wire Distilling.
And Drink Bourbon
Charleston Brown Water Society has been a semi-secret society that celebrates all that is bourbon. To mark their debut and welcome new members, they are throwing a private bash. But here's a tip — if you know one of these bourbon folks, try to finagle an invite. Each member has been allotted a certain number, so you just might be able to get one for yourself.
Oenophiles fond of Spanish wines will want to head to the Macintosh on Thursday evening for the Wines of Rioja dinner. The four-course dinner will be preceded by passed hors d'oeuvres and includes a three-course wine pairing. Rioja's diversity will allow Executive Chef Jeremiah Bacon to create a menu that includes golden tilefish, duck galantine, and prime strip, while Dhane Chesson from Wines of Rioja guides diners through the various vintages being uncorked.
Fri. March 7
Brooks Reitz had a big year in 2013. He was named an Eater Young Gun and moved on from his role as general manager of The Ordinary to begin developing not one, but two concepts that are already eagerly anticipated 2014 openings. But he's most known for those brown apothecary bottles from Jack Rudy Cocktail Co., and from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Life Is a Party pop-up shop at 420 King Street, you'll be able to taste how his Small Batch Tonic builds a proper Gin &Tonic.
- Mark Gravel
Chef Alex Lira is so talented that he's turned The Lot, a restaurant that shares space with a live music venue, into a suburban dining destination, thumping beats and all. He first won us over with his farmers' pick plate — a collection of fresh veggies in a vibrant pile of snappy goodness with a smear of aioli bringing it all together.
The menu at the Lot may be diminutive, but it delivers a big wallop of flavor and technique. With experience making sausage and curing meats from his time spent at Craft and Marlow & Daughters, Lira makes all sorts of treats for your mouth: housemade hot dogs, trotter cakes, country pate, porchetta, and he has just as much finesse with veggies.
Lira is coming downtown for the festival weekend, teaming up with Mark Andrew Gravel, a freelance chef who has put together conceptual pop-up events from here to San Francisco and back to Brooklyn, published food 'zines (food + sex), and wrote a visual cookbook called Kill the Recipe.
- Alex Lira
Lira and Gravel will be taking over the tiny Elliotborough Mini Bar for SloCuts, which they're touting as a fun and affordable event during the Wine + Food Fest weekend. For $15, you'll get an evening of house-made charcuterie like head cheese, smoked meats, pickled vegetables, slow-cooked cowpeas, housemade frank and beans, and the market pick salad. They'll be serving the food right off a smoker. (Beer and wine will be available for purchase at the bar).
Gravel, who met Lira at Marlow & Sons, says they've booked the Travelin' Kine and Steady Hand String Band for music and promises it will be a good time.
And Then Some Cocktails
The U.S. Bartender's Guild (USBG): Charleston and Icebox are hosting a pop-up bar at Charleston Distilling Company. A roster of talented local and national bartenders will make specialty cocktails with brands from the Bacardi Global portfolio (Patron, Grey Goose, just released Bombay Sapphire East, Bacardi, Dewars), the new Jim Beam Single Barrel, Virgil Kaine Ginger Bourbon, and Whispering Angel/ Château D'Esclans Rosé. Palmetto Brewery will also provide some fresh suds for the event.
The lineup roster includes Nathan Gerdes (Portland, Ore.), Omar Yeefoon (Dallas, Texas), Scott Mayer (Atlanta, Ga.), Ryan Pines (Tampa, Fla.) along with locals Boris Van Dyck, Jackson Holland, John Aquino, and David Szlam. The event will run from 9 to midnight. If you'd like to attend, you must RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org to get an invite which will be good for 2 people. Donations at the door will go to the USBG Charleston Chapter. Charleston Distilling Company is located at 505 King St.
Sat. March 8
- Lionel Vatinet
For years baking has been reduced to its least common denominator, with cupcake shops popping up on neighborhood corners almost as quickly as Starbucks outposts. But if you've ever dissolved a packet of yeast in warm water and experienced the ensuing agony over whether or not fermentation was proceeding correctly, then you will appreciate Lionel Vatinet's expertise.
A master baker and the owner of La Farm Bakery in Cary, N.C., Vatinet will be signing copies of his recently released cookbook, A Passion for Bread, on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at Southern Season in Mt. Pleasant. Vatinet leads the reader on a journey of technique, with summaries at the end of each chapter detailing exactly how much time is necessary for each step, from mixing and kneading to fermentation. As an apprentice of artisan guild Les Compagnons du Devoir, Vatinet learned French baking techniques dating to the Middle Ages, making A Passion for Bread a tome that is just as educational for the experienced baker as it is for the yeast-defeated novice.
Tracy Blanchard has been winning over fans of her Big T's Coastal Provisions crab dip with one simple conviction: to never use imitation crab meat. Early last year the accolades poured in from the likes of Garden & Gun and Charlotte Observer Food Editor Kathleen Purvis. If you haven't yet picked up a batch of her jalapeño crab dip from the grocery store, then swing by the Life Is a Party pop-up shop on 420 King St. on Saturday afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. for a tasting of the stuff. Blanchard will also be debuting their new shrimp dip — together, both dips should make a perfect snack before you dash off to one of the various festival dinners happening later in the evening.
Cooking for one rarely gets much love. That doesn't have to be the case if you follow the recipes of Joe Yonan, food and travel editor of the Washington Post. After years of penning the Post's Cooking for One column and overseeing a staff that won the James Beard award twice, Yonan released Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook. The vegetarian cookbook has applications beyond the bachelor set, with pared down recipes for vegetarians or vegans and smaller servings for those searching for creative side dishes.
He'll be conducting a cooking class Saturday at 5 p.m. at Southern Season in Mt. Pleasant. The legume-rich menu will include dishes like bean and poblano chile soup and Asian bean and barley salad. Yonan's known for hitting his dishes with a squeeze of citrus or unexpected flavors like cinnamon and coconut, so be prepared to look at beans in a whole new light. The cooking class is $50 and can be purchased on Southern Season's website.
It's beginning to look a lot like Spoleto as Le Creuset and Local Palate magazine take a page from the late spring arts festival's social playbook by hosting a garden party at a private downtown residence. The Saturday evening event is just another sign that the Wine + Food Festival is becoming even more ingrained on the Charleston social calendar.
The Tastes of the South Garden Party is perhaps the best setting to probe local Chef Jacques Larson for details about his new Sullivan's Island restaurant, The Obstinate Daughter (or you can read our profile of him on p. 48). Larson will be in attendance, along with Chef Bob Carter of Rutledge Cab Company and Craig Rogers of Border Springs Farm. They'll be creating a menu of small bites along with Chef Anthony Lamas of Louisville's Seviche and Chef William Dissen of The Marketplace in Asheville. Mixology duties will be in the able hands of Gary Crunkleton, owner of Chapel Hill's beloved cocktail club The Crunkleton. Tickets to the feast are $150, with all proceeds benefitting Grow Food Carolina.
A field of grains may hold only a passing interest for even the most serious champions of farm-to-table cooking, but for Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills, that field never ceases to capture his attention. Close to two decades after he began growing small plots of Carolina Gold Rice, Roberts will be bringing his enthusiasm for fresh milled grains to Circa 1886 for the Anson Mills Grain Dinner.
Chef Marc Collins of Circa 1886 has dug up some 19th century receipts for the meal, which will feature grains like organic heirloom barley and antebellum coarse yellow grits. The menu will include Lowcountry-inspired fare like buckwheat beggar's purse stuffed with crab and shrimp Newburg, but also includes a goetta, cabbage, and paprika course that's an interesting take on Austro-Germanic fare.
Sun. March 9
And Biscuits for the Finish
If you're kicking yourself for not buying tickets to Saturday morning's now sold-out Wake and Bake at Callie's Kitchen, owner Carrie Morey will be making a stop at the Life Is a Party pop-up shop on Sunday afternoon. She'll be sampling her famous biscuits while signing copies of her cookbook, Callie's Biscuits & South Traditions. And then go home and take a nap. You earned it.