Excellent Italian lunch WITH wine, a chance to hear legendary chef Daniel Boulud chatting with some of his favorite former employees who are now well-known celebrity chefs in their own right, and dinner at a cozy up-town tavern. Also known as Friday in Charleston Wine & Food Festival week. Or continuing an awesome week of mixed pleasure and business. Any way you want to slice it, we were having a fabulous time in Charleston, and this day continued this trend, and then some!
Originally, we didn’t have anything planned for lunch on Friday. If anything, I think I was planning we would eat somewhere on upper King, not far from the Woolfe Street Playhouse, where our afternoon event was taking place. But a funny thing happened. One morning earlier in the week, two housekeepers at our hotel followed up a loud verbal fight with actual punching and wrestling, including one them getting slammed into our hotel room door by the other. We were horrified, called the front desk, and as part of handling the situation, the hotel offered us some free tickets, namely, to this Wine Lunch at Indaco.
A very fine Italian restaurant on upper King Street, Indaco on this occasion was doing even better than usual. The restaurant’s usual chef, Elliot Cusher, was being joined in the kitchen by Portland, Oregon Chef Joshua McFadden. And the wine to go with the lunch’s courses was curated by local Adam Verona, representing the wines of Italian Michele Chiarlo Winery.
The antipasto plate that I pieced together from the large plates of fresh well-treated ingredients offered at the front of the restaurant can be seen at the head of this post. Therese and I were a little late, though; so no sooner had we had a bite or two, but we were ushered into the terrace room, on this occasion with the windows closed and the overhead heaters on (this was, after all, March, with a bit of a chill).
The one challenge I had with the food allergy-wise was the radiotori pasta, which came sprinkled with goat cheese crumbles and bread crumbs. My attitude was goat cheese, bad, bread crumbs, good, so I tried to pick off the one but leave the other. I did pretty well, and there was so much other food to enjoy that I didn’t fret over it. The saffron tagliatelle that accompanied the other pasta as first course was wonderful, and the main course of suckling pig, beans, and sauteed vegetables was just as hearty and filling as you might imagine it would be (oh and this suckling pig was the leanest, with the most meat, of any I have seen). The wines were quite nice, although that is not really my area of expertise – if pressed to name a favorite, I would go for the Moscato d’Asti “Nivole” that accompanied dessert. The wine was the focus of my dessert anyway, since I could only nibble at a strawberry or two and a tiny piece of brioche.
After such a lovely and extensive lunch, I could’ve gone for a nap. Sadly, that was not in the cards. On the contrary, in less than two hours, we would be attending a panel talk, not the kind of thing to be snoring through. So I brought up a stop I had planned for us to make, for coffee at Five Loaves Diner, just two blocks west of King Street on Cannon Street. The coffee was decent, the atmosphere relaxing, and I love the way the tables are decorated with whimsical sayings from famous folks.
Perked up, we made our way to our next event, the “Descendants of Daniel” panel talk put on at the cozy Woolfe Street Playhouse. The talk was moderated by Gail Simmons – known now as a judge on Top Chef (my least favorite judge, but that’s my problem), she started her career working in the office for Daniel Boulud. In addition to Chef Daniel (of course he was there – how could he not be?), there was a quartet of some of his most successful proteges – Jean-Francois Bruel, Andrew Carmellini, Gaven Kaysen and Michael Anthony.
What a fun event it was! For me, it was pure entertainment, hearing about the many lessons learned working for the famous fireball of a chef (I gather Chef Daniel is a bit of a screamer, but also quite the master of the giving people the hairy eyeball when needed). The person who I found most appealing of the bunch was probably Carmellini. Though I have lived for years in New York City, I have never eaten at any of his restaurants, and hope soon to fit a visit to Bar Primi or Locanda Verde into our schedule.
Wouldn’t you know, they had food after this event – little single bites, but still yummy things. Before we left, we unexpectedly ran into Chef Jamie Lynch, who we had seen so recently on Top Chef Charleston. He was eliminated from the competition due to an act of gallantry on his part, and we talked about that for a minute. His restaurant, 5Church, was having an event as part of the festival, but we were already spoken for at that time. We agreed to visit his place when we return to Charleston over the summer.
After returning to the hotel for a – y0u guessed it – little nap, we got freshened up and took an Uber a couple miles to the north for dinner at the Tattooed Moose. I’ll be honest – I picked this restaurant because of the name. But I also thought, after all the sophisticated meals we had eaten, going for some kicked-up bar food might be a nice change of pace.
And we enjoyed it, but don’t know if we would go back. Yes, they gave me some mayonnaise to go with my french fries, and the duck club sandwich was not bad. But kind of a young university crowd – admittedly, a phenomena hard to avoid when school is in session in Charleston, and if you don’t like hanging around students, you might find yourself occasionally wishing you were elsewhere. I was just looking for something a little less noisy, I guess.
Our Uber driver back to the hotel was helpful, reminding us of some of the more obscure pronunciations of street names in Charleston (Legare is pronounced “luh-GREE”, for example). Five days of fun in Charleston was already behind us, but ahead of us was still a weekend filled with food and beverages that would leave us with food memories enough to last us until our next time in the Holy City.