The sixth annual BB&T Charleston Wine+Food Festival kicked off Thursday with a Locavore Luncheon at High Cotton restaurant. The idea behind the luncheon was to showcase food producers within 100 miles of the Charleston area. The three-course meal was prepared by Executive Chef Frank Lee, of Maverick Southern Kitchens, and Chef de Cuisine Ramon Taimanglo, of High Cotton, and served family-style. Winemaker Ernst Loosen of Dr. Loosen Estate paired wines with each course. Featured purveyors included Split Creek Farms, Green Grocer Farms, Kurios Farms, Ambros Farms and Blackbird Farms. One of the four desserts offered featured a caramel ice cream from Wholly Cow Ice Cream.
Thursday evening events included a VIP reception for Charleston chefs and festival supporters at Embassy Suites featuring the food of Chef Andrew Chadwick of The Woodlands. Chef Chadwick presented simply prepared tuna, yellowtail and scallops on a crudo bar that were delicious and pant negro leg of ham at another table. The ham was extra special as there are only six imported into the United States every year and, this year, Woodlands has four of the six. Served with rustic bread, tomato pulp and a gelee of olive oil, the flavor of the Spanish ham lived up to the hype and reputation of being one of the finest in the world.
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After the reception, guests attended the opening night party, a Salute to Charleston’s Chefs, presented by yhe Art Institute of Charleston. Twenty-five of the city’s best restaurants were represented. Highlights included Cypress and Lowcountry Grill chef Craig Deihl’s trio of Cypress charcuterie, mini bahn mi sandwiches and mini hot dogs with sauerkraut; Travis Grimes, of Husk, prepared pig ear sandwiches with hot sauce, mustard and slaw; Aaron Lemieux, of Virginia’s on King, presented petite lamb pot pies garnished with red onion marmalade; Maverick Southern Kitchens had two tables, the first with Taimanglo and Jim Walker had tuna crudi with gold beet chip and blood orange and fennel, the second with chefs Lee and Russ Moore had poached North Carolina mountain trout with beet ravioli and smoked citrus butter; Circa 1886’s Chef Marc Collins prepared artichoke flan with caviar, potato chip, white truffle “snow” and olive oil; and Chef Jeremy Hurst, of Anson Restaurant, presented potted foie gras with kumquat gelee and housemade granola.
A special note: playing on a loop just outside the main event tent, “Ride that Pig to Glory,” a short documentary produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance starring Midlands pig farmer (and tango enthusiast) Emile DeFelice of Caw Caw Creek Farm.
Friday afternoon’s main event was a Top Chef showdown featuring six chef-testants from previous seasons of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” program. The competitors were Dave Martin (Season 1), Marissa Churchill (Season 2), Brian Malarkey (Season 3), Ryan Scott (Season 4), Arianne Duarte (Season 5) and Kevin Gillespie (Season 6). Kenny Gilbert (Season 7) was the Master of Ceremonies and judges table featured Ted and Matt Lee.
The ingredient that each chef had to use was goat cheese from Giddy Goat Farms. Martin overcame an early incident where one of the tables at his station collapsed to win the unanimous vote from judges and fans and be declared the Top Chef winner. Martin prepared root beer braised pork with goat cheese and Nueskes wild cherrywood bacon grits.