13 October 2009

A 'Taste' of Local Flavor

For nearly 30 years, the Taste of Charleston has celebrated Lowcountry cuisine, featuring some of Charleston’s finest, nationally renowned chefs. This year’s event, spread out over the entire weekend, brought together more than 40 of Charleston’s best restaurants to host more than 10,000 locals and tourists alike. Put on by the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association (GCRA), the Taste of Charleston has long been lauded one of the “top 20 events in the southeast” by the Southeastern Tourism Society. The addition of three new events to this year’s schedule catered directly to visitors, enticing a weekend-long culinary indulgence from regional and national tourists. 

For the first time, the Taste of Charleston offered a full weekend of events that included a local Iron Chef competition and a downtown art walk, but it was Sunday’s main event at Boone Hall Plantation that drew huge crowds. Visitors poured into Boone Hall to take advantage of the first-rate food and live entertainment, set amongst one of Charleston’s most historic backdrops. Fine representations from Charleston’s best restaurants offered visitors a true “taste” of Lowcountry cuisine and a chance to sample local fare without the huge impact to their wallet.

Live music and good libations may be enough to draw a steady crowd to Taste of Charleston on a muggy October day, but it is the food that keeps people coming back year after year.  Standouts included seared duck with broccolini in a fig-wine reduction from the Library at Vendue Inn as well as the Maverick Southern Kitchens menu, which featured a vegetable tart with pickled shrimp and beef sliders done right. Most notable though was the abundance of fresh ingredients – much of what has recently been available at the farmer’s market presented itself in many of the restaurants’ tastings. Local event-goer Lindsay Branciforte said, “To be able to create so many small plates at such high quality is truly a testament to these restaurants, and all with the historic Charleston experience of Boone Hall Plantation. The only thing lacking about the Taste of Charleston is the parking.”

The Taste of Charleston also serves as a forum for the GCRA to give back to the community in which it thrives. The GCRA represents the largest private sector employer in the tri-county area and serves as the voice of the Charleston Area food industry. The Taste of Charleston and the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival, both sponsored by the GCRA and held at Boone Hall Plantation, raise funds for local charitable organizations such as the Hollings Cancer Center and Charleston County Schools enrichment programs. For more information about these events, visit www.charlestonrestaurantassociation.com

06 October 2009

Recession Savvy Foodie

If there is an upside to the nation's economic woes, it is that locally, businesses are embracing unprecedented customer service and benefits, offering pocket-friendly deals to customers in order to maintain their bottom line. This is no where more evident than in the food &  beverage industry. Many of Charleston's best restaurants and specialty stores are modifying their businesses to best serve their customers. 

Tristan's Dinner Incentive Card offers half price on any bottle of wine on Monday/Tuesday nights (under $75) in addition to their new (and affordable) bar menu and Sunday brunch. They have a new chef and everything we tried recently was tasty. 

Red Drum Gastropub (Coleman Blvd.) has added a Margarita Madness happy hour on Thursdays as well as a Sunday Brunch. The Red Drum never disappoints, and the brunch menu is cheap and diverse with plenty of Chef Berryhill's signature Southwestern touch.

Fish Restaurant is doing half price wines on Monday and "Mercy of the Chef" night on Tuesdays - 3 courses for $25, 5:30-8:30pm.  But as long as you go early, they have a deal every day of the week. 

Oak Steakhouse even has a Sunday Brunch, and recently held a recipe contest awarding one local talent a night at Oak for two. 

I have also noticed a serious surge in wine, sake, fondue and sushi tastings, in-store cooking demos and foodie classes- from Queen St. Grocery, Caviar &
 Bananas, Avondale Wine & Cheese, Ted's Butcherblock, Bull St. Gourmet and the like, you can sample new and different store pairings for a nominal fee ($10). I want to try the sushi tasting at Caviar & Bananas next. Who's with me? 

So, I say thank you, recession. For forcing businesses back to their customer base, and for breeding new and innovative ideas. I look forward to reaping the benefits.

Fish on Urbanspoon
Tristan on Urbanspoon
Red Drum Gastropub on Urbanspoon
Oak Steakhouse on Urbanspoon