Working with local chefs and farmers, Vanessa Driscoll Bialobreski helps orchestrate dinners and events that bring the community together over locally grown food. Her events include Harvest Dinners, Pig and Oyster Roast, Cream of the Crop Beer Festival, Rose Festival, the Great American Whiskey Fair and – to be introduced later this year – cooking classes and a butcher paper dinner series.
After earning a degree in public relations at the University of South Carolina, Bialobreski lived in Asheville, North Carolina, where she worked with a national green events company – a position that eventually inspired her to return to Columbia and highlight the local goodness of her hometown roots. She found her true passion when she created Farm to Table Event Co., a partnership with City Roots and chef and restauranteur Kristian Niemi.
In April, Bialobreski and Farm to Table look forward to hosting the first James Beard Foundation Dinner in Columbia, before going to New York to put on a dinner at the James Beard House.
We have been making an effort to cook more at home, and we try to eat as seasonal and local as possible, so I head to City Roots Farmers Market for fresh veggies, seafood and Wil-Moore Farms meat to store in my freezer for the week. Besides the farmers market, I regularly am in and out of Rosewood Market. I love their bowls for lunch, and I pick up additional groceries. Luckily I have a job that allows me to frequent some of the best farm-to-table restaurants and chefs in town, or enjoy their cooking at our events. I am always spoiled at Bourbon and The Oak Table by Chef Todd Woods and Chef Frank Bradley because I work so closely with them. We love 116, Chef Ryan Whittaker and Chris Powell make the best mussels anywhere. We also love going to Divino’s, Hunter Gatherer, Goat's and anywhere that serves Gra Moore's Caroline Heritage Farms pork chop. The family and restaurant that will always have my heart is Blue Cactus. I’m counting the days to them reopening.
I enjoy knowing some of the best craft cocktail creators in town and being a guinea pig for them at times. Kat Hunter at Bourbon, Andy Haddock at Terra, Josh Streetman at Motor Supply, Opie Patterson at Goat’s and Jordan Moore at The Oak Table will never steer you wrong in choosing a cocktail inspired by local and seasonal ingredients to pair with your meal or just kick back and enjoy. For wine, I love Main Street either inside the historic Lula Drake or the outdoor seating at multiple restaurants all the way to the State House. If you are looking for a way to spend a beautiful day drinking good beer, River Rat Brewery is the way to go. After events and for a lazy, happy hour we always go to the Kraken and Henry’s. If I am feeling nostalgic we head to my old bartending stomping grounds Bar None--it will always be a second home for me and where the foundation of my hospitality family started and continues to be with me today.
We have an Australian shepherd puppy, LuLu, who is Facebook-famous and has lots of energy. So anything we can involve her in is a bonus. Jesse and all the great guys at River Runner have helped us outfit her to be a SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) puppy. My husband and I both have paddleboards and love taking her to Lake Murray and teaching her to paddleboard and spend as much time on the water as possible. I also love taking her to the Riverwalk and wearing her out and enjoying the view of our rivers while walking with friends.
My friend Emily and I enjoy going to the Nickelodeon for movies. The State Museum and Columbia Museum of Art always have great exhibits and events. I spend a lot of time at City Roots Farm putting on events, so I am a little spoiled by the sunsets over a farm on a regular basis.
Concerts at the Music Farm and the Township Auditorium are my favorite. Any event Dave Britt puts on – like Rosewood Crawfish Festival and River Rocks – always involves great outdoor music. The concerts at the West Columbia amphitheater at the Riverwalk are a relaxing way to spend time in the summer. For radio, WXRY and the new rock station 99.7 are programmed in my car. Usually, I am listening to Audible books about food and chefs in my office or on long drives.