Saturday Culinary Village Charleston Wine & Food Festival
Saturday in our Wine & Food Festival week in Charleston was devoted to that feast of all feast, that sampler of all samplers, the Culinary Village, held in Charleston’s Marion Square.
We started off our day with a very light breakfast (Therese skipped breakfast – I had a little oatmeal). We wanted to save as much space in our bellies as humanly possible for noshing!
Surprisingly, when we checked in at the admission gate, we only got a wine glass – no lanyard to hang the glass around our necks, no shopping bag to carry that and all the other goodies in. Luckily, our new friend Joann Susser, who we met earlier in the week at the Dockside Dinner, had gone to the Culinary Village the day before, and she told us: first thing, go to the Le Creuset booth – they are giving out nice sturdy shopping bags. So we did, and lo and behold, you had to ask for the shopping bag (they had them hiding under a table), so good thing we knew about them.
Le Creuset Deviled Egg Platter in new Marine Color
I am glad we went to the Le Creuset display, because they were showing off one of their newest products, a Deviled Egg Platter, and I instantly fell in love (fast forward to now: Therese bought it for me for my birthday). Not only is it great for serving deviled eggs and other sorts of things, but it can also go in the oven – we think it will be the perfect dish for baking bacon wrapped dates, one of my favorite Spanish tapas, in.
With our Le Creuset bags over our shoulders, we began the marathon process of visiting every section of the village and sampling all the food (to cut to the chase, I don’t think we sampled every single food, but we came close). Here’s the map of the village, to help you orient yourself as I describe our adventure:
Culinary Village Map
The first area we visited was the “Third Space”, a large tent you can see in the upper middle of the map. This tent was divided into four sections, with stations offering samples related to four what I am calling elements: Earth, Land, Sea and Air. We only visited the Earth and Land sections. The Earth one as I recall had a vegetarian offering (very nice), while the Land one gave me a chance for my first dairy free moment.
Chicken Salad Pita from Kairos Mediterranean Kitchen and John Ondo
Chef John Ondo from Kairos Mediterranean Kitchen was offering a pita with chicken salad – however, I could see from its description that it featured tzatziki, which usually has yogurt in it. I asked if I could have one with no tzatziki, and after making a quasi-humorous show of being annoyed that I wanted to something special, he made me one. It wasn’t bad – it was early, so just tasting our way into things was what we were all about.
From there, we moved to the beer garden area (or if you prefer the German, Biergarten). We were eager to get some free beer glasses, try the beer and maybe sample some good food. We were successful in all three of those endeavors.
Baystreet Biergarten Sign
We also visited the “corkyard” which was an area filled with wine offerings. Therese encountered a new favorite wine, Whispering Angel Rosé, offered by the owner of the winery himself.
From there, we proceeded one quarter turn counter-clockwise, to the area called “The Hub” where most of the food stations were. I cannot recall every single thing we ate, but I will give you some highlights.
For example, Cuisine Solutions was there, showing off their sous-vide skills. Their sampler was a brisket that had been “sous-vided” with some au jus over grits. Yes, grits are everywhere in Charleston, and sometimes, in situations like this, I just have to do my best to eat around them (or go without), since they always have butter and cheese in them. I did pretty well, and the beef was tender and juicy.
Brisket Over Grits from Cuisine Solutions
I know that for many people, duck is a luxury item. But my attitude is, if you would spend some bucks to get steaks or what have you, why not spend the same and eat duck every so often? Anyway, the Tasty Duck folks had a booth, where they were giving away slices of maybe the best duck breast I ever tasted. Other than seasoning it well, I don’t think they did anything special in cooking it. That’s the thing about duck – as long as you get a quality duck, it is going to taste good.
Eat More Duck Sign
Among all the beef and pork products, at this Culinary Village, there were lots of very delicious vegetable offerings. The broccoli over sweet potato puree pictured here was one of my favorite bites of the day. Regrettably, I don’t remember who was offering that. But it was not the only memorable vegetable dish of the day!
Broccoli Over Sweet Potato Puree with Pistachios
After we had worked our way around most of the Hub area, it was time to find a spot to sit down and relax. Therese went to the Rosé Garden, way off in the northwest corner of the park (to sample some more Whispering Angel), while I went to check out who was doing a demo at the Main Stage, which was between the Biergarten and Corkyard. It was none other than Vivian Howard, whose show on PBS, A Chef’s Life, we have watched many times.
Chef Vivian Howard at the Charleston Wine & Food Festival
Chef Howard’s Demo From Above
At this point, there were just two areas we had not visited: the Fire Pit, next to the Third Space where we had started our day, and the Artisan Market, where people are offering things for sale (including things like ice cream and jarred sauces and that sort of thing). The lines in the Fire Pit were long, but we waited patiently – I think one of the things there was a rib eye or something. All the eating was starting to dull my senses, including my mind, by that point.
We did get some ice cream (by which I mean sorbet, of course) in the Artisan Market. I also found about a line of vegan (really allergy free) snack bars that are sold in the area that I will definitely try out once we move down in June (yes, we will soon be Charleston residents). The other thing we were interested to explore was Bulls Bay Sea Salt. These folks make salt the old fashioned way, from the bay’s salt water, retaining the more mineral-rich profile that we usually associate with kosher salt. Another vendor we will definitely frequent when we are neighbors (actually we took a sample back to New York with us, and ordered more on line which I have happily been using in my cooking).
Culinary Village Wristband Sign
What a day! And what a week! We still had one more day to go (if we could manage to manufacture any appetite after all the eating we had already done). But for that day at least, we were done. We settled into our hotel room for the evening, enjoying the sunset and eventually suppering on some leftovers from our hotel room refrigerator.
Susnset from the HIlton Garden Inn