Marion Square looks like the circus has rolled into town, and in some ways it has — if the circus had foie gras and celebrity chefs instead of funnel cakes and clown cars. The Charleston Wine + Food Fest's main events are the Culinary Village and Grand Tasting Tents, which will be jam-packed with chefs, cookbook authors, wine experts, and more starting on Friday afternoon.
Among other things, surviving the village requires a game plan, an empty stomach, and a designated driver or — even better — a nearby hotel room. We've put together some other tips to help you navigate the day without puking or puttering out.
Plan to Stay for the Day.
Your ticket to the Culinary Village and Tasting Tent gets you into the culinary village for the entire day. That means in addition to your timed entry to the grand tasting tents, you can spend the day strolling through the perimeter tents and dipping into various seminars, book signings, and events. More on that below.
Check the Weather.
Seriously. Dress for the weather. In Charleston, it could be 80 degrees and hot as blazes on Saturday or 50 and rainy. You never know until the day arrives, but you will want to be comfortable. So if the weatherman says it's gonna be really warm, leave the jacket at home. You don't want to be lugging it around as you try to stuff your pie hole with profiteroles. On the other hand, if rain is predicted, be prepared. Wear your puddle jumpers because there will be puddles — big ones.
- Scan Me!
Use the Culinary Village App.
The City Paper has partnered with the festival on the official Culinary Village app, available now on your smartphone. It's a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the Culinary Village. Navigate your way through the Grand Tasting Tent, check the schedule for upcoming events, and get the lowdown on where you can get a bite or a pint near Marion Square. There's nothing to download — just visit charlestoncitypaper.com/chswff or scan the QR code which you'll find on signs around the village.
Get Schooled in the South.
The Southern Foodways Alliance is bringing in a bunch of heavy-hitting Southerners to discuss everything from fried chicken (Martha Lou Gadsden) and peaches (Dori Saunders) to bourbon (Julian Van Winkle) and bacon (Allan Benton). Moderated by the ever-entertaining John T. Edge, executive director of SFA, you'll be treated to plenty of laughs and lots of interesting folks. Stop by their tent and say hey. They're good people.
Get Something Signed.
Take home the best souvenir: a signed cookbook from your favorite author. The Heirloom Cookbook Co. tent will have all the featured cookbooks on sale and will be hosting book signings with cocktails and nibbles all weekend. The Lee Bros. will be there along with the inimitable Southern grande dame Nathalie Dupree. Check the schedule and make plans to stop in. Heirloom is also well-known for their amazing collection of vintage cookbooks.
Learn to Cook Something New.
Demos at the SCE&G tent will cover Australian food, Southern food staples, sausage, eating with your hands, Japanese noodles, tamales, pasta, flounder, pickles, foraging, and artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches. How's that for a lineup? The chefs doing the demonstrating are well-known and respected (Zak Pallacio, Hugh Acheson, Andrew Zimmerman), the moderators have serious cred (Andrew Knowlton from Bon Appétit, Chef Michelle Bernstein, Garden & Gun Editor David DiBenedetto), and hopefully there will be samples. The nearby Avalon Wine Grilling Tent will also have outdoor grilling demonstrations from serious grill masters throughout the weekend.
Now on to the Grand Tasting Tents. You will be allowed to enter the GTTs only during the times noted on your tickets. It's a good three-hour span, plenty of time to slake your thirst and hunger. Indeed, if you can keep up the grazing for three solid hours, consider yourself a serious foodie.
Before jumping into the feeding frenzy inside the GTTs, stop by the Grand Ideas Retail tent (just outside the Piggly Wiggly tent) and equip yourself with something that will help keep your hands free: wine glass lanyards, tasting trays with a wine glass holder, or a tote bag. This is also where you can get some cute W+F gear. We like the "I PIG CHS" shirt. So cute.
Use a Pace Cup.
There is lots and lots of wine inside the GTTs. Buckets, gallons, vats. Enough to get you drunk in a hurry. There's probably an equal amount of beer. FIJI water is one of the big sponsors, so you can usually find small bottles throughout the tents. Drink some. You'll be glad you did. It will help prolong the fun and keep you from getting dehydrated and drunk — two things that will keep you from wasting your day.
Find the City Paper Booth.
Come see us in the Jet Blue Tent. We'll be serving up oysters from St. Jude Farms on Friday and Saturday with cocktails from Jonathan Calo from Speakeasy on Friday and wines from Brad Ball's La Wine Agency on Saturday. On Sunday our friends from Holy City Smoked Olive Oil and Baguette Magic will have — duh — olive oil and baguettes. Enough to soak up all that wine you'll be guzzling.