Gwen Fowler



Charleston Wine and Food Festival opens with salute to local chefs

Posted 3/1/2013 4:55:00 PM

An appreciative crowd sampled specialties of more than 30 of their favorite chefs Thursday night at one of the most popular events of the Charleston Wine and Food Festival

The Opening Night Party is the festival’s salute to the city’s chefs. Attendees circled two floors of the S.C. Aquarium, tasting delicious and imaginative dishes and chatting with the chefs.

Even the fish got in on the act. Near the main entrance, two divers in a tank held silver platters with treats for the fish.

One of the more daring dishes served was the sweetbreads with pancetta oven roasted tomatoes and Geechie Boy polenta prepared by Wild Olive Chef Jacques Larson. While some people might be a bit squeamish about those organs, everyone I saw sampling it loved it.

At the station set up for Husk and McCrady’s, a long line of people waited all night, many to taste the pork Chef Sean Brock was serving, but also to congratulation him. He recently was named one of 20 semifinalists for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef award.

Chef Jill Mathias of Carolina’s was serving Clammer Dave’s clams with smoked pork shoulder. It was a delicious combination, cooked with garlic, shallot, scallions and coconut milk. I’ve heard of Clammer Dave for a long time and finally met him at the party. He’s Dave Belanger of McClellanville, and he supplies many restaurants with clams, oysters and shrimp.

FIG and The Ordinary, the restaurants of Chef Mike Lata, shared a station, with FIG serving a rich chicken liver ragu, and The Ordinary serving potato and skate wing terrine. The Ordinary, which opened in December, is a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in the James Beard competition.

Another James Beard semifinalist, Chef Craig Deihl of Cypress, offered guests his country pate with pickled walnuts and dried fruit. For the third year, he is a semifinalist for the Best Chef Southeast. For the past two years, he’s been a finalist in that division.

Among some of the other delicious offerings at the Opening Night Party:

Chef Michelle Weaver of Charleston Grill served tom-yum-goong, a spicy Thai soup with shrimp.

Chef Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca served quail two ways, in lasagna and scallopini.

Chef Kelly Kleisner of Fat Hen satisfied sweet teeth with beautiful caramel mousse and fudge tortes.

Chef Demetre Castanas of Grill 225 at the Market Pavilion Hotel prepared appetizers for an earlier Sponsor Recognition and VIP party.

The festival continues through Sunday.