Monday, February 27, 2012

Grab Your Corkscrews and Tastevins, Its Food And Wine Festival Time In Charleston-March 1-4

As February unpretentiously leeps off the calendar, the arrival of March harolds the beginning of spring in Charleston. I write unpretentious, in reference to the weather. Although, it could have fooled this once-upon-a-time Northener. If it wasn't for the calendar, I would have thought it to be spring already. Aside from the few brief spats of cool weather, this has been the winter that never was. Admittedly, speaking from a Northeners point of view.

March springs in like a lion in Charleston. It sets in motion the beginning of the yearly round of festivals showcasing the reasons why it has become the number one destination of choice for travelers. So, let the festivities begin and what better way than the Charleston Food and Wine Festival, now in its seventh year. The Holy City's famous culinary traditions run deep and its "makes you weak in the knees" Southern cuisine stands in a class by itself. The chef's behind Charleston's prized culinary creations are noted among the best in the country and are the stars of this festival. Joining the best of Charleston will be a long list of guest chef's from all over the country.

Lest we not forget the wine that makes the heart rejoice, the perfect companion of great food. The varieties of wine are many, their names poetic, and to a commoner like myself, foreign. Chardonnay sounds like a name for a perfume to me and muscatel sounds like a men's after-shave. So, if you are like me, a person lacking in the fine wine skills of pairing the perfect vino to the meal, the festival affords you the opportunity to learn from the best sommeliers and wine connoisseurs. Local restaurant sommeliers as well as big name vineyards will offer you their expertise and knowledge.

Don't know what a sommelier is? Not to worry, I did't. That is until I came across the word while researching restaurants. A sommelier is a wine steward usually employed by fine restaurants who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food matching. A sommelier may also be responsible for the development of wine lists. They work along with the culinary team and also work on the floor of the restaurant and are in direct contact with restaurant patrons. Thursday March 1st, the Culinary Institute of Charleston Presents Charleston’s Top Sommelier Competition at the Palmer Amphitheater on Columbus Street. Unfortunately, it is an invitation only event. Last years Top Sommelier Champ was Patrick Emerson of Maverick Southern Kitchens.

The heart of the festival will be Culinary Village at Marion Square. Marion Square is a six and one half acre greenspace in downtown Charleston bounded by Calhoun, Meeting, and King streets. There will be 90 food, wine and spirit stations blended together throughout the Square, an open-air courtyard and an official Festival merchandise boutique along with the Grand Tasting Tents. Grilling demonstrations at the Outdoor Living + Grilling Area, food talks and hands-on demos, and the Thermador Cooking competitions are just a few of the attractions. The Thermador Cooking Competitions take place on Saturday, March 3 only in the Celebrity Kitchen. Lowcountry chefs will face-off against one other as they battle for the title of Charleston’s number one iron chef.

Something new for this years Food and Wine Festival is the Perimeter Pass at Culinary Village. It is an easy way to come to the Festival and enjoy the cooking demonstrations, competitions, grilling area, book signings and specialized seminars and talks. The ticket is $25 for the whole day. Times are 11:00 am to 6:00 pm on Friday and Saturday and Sunday 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Each year a poster is selected to represent the Food and Wine Festival. Local artists are called upon to enter their inspirations into the competition. All entries were to be submitted by September 16, 2011 for a chance to win $1000 and the honor of seeing their creation featured at the Festival. The winner was chosen on November 17, 2011. Jessica Crouch became the first woman in the history of the Festival to earn the recognition.

So, hurry up and click on event tickets. They are going fast. Next, pack up your sommelier knife and tastevin and get yourself to the Food and Wine Festival March 1-4. Then, anticipate on having your taste buds not only tickled, but pleasantly roughed up. Celebrate life, celebrate Charlerston.

To conclude, here are some parting quotes. "Wine is bottled poetry." "Blind tastings are to wine what strip poker is to love." "Wine gives courage and makes men more apt for passion." "When it comes to wine, I tell people to throw away the vintage charts and invest in a corkscrew. The best way to learn about wine is the drinking." Cheers.

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