Euphoria 2011 has come and gone and my palate (and brain) are frantically waving a white flag. I spent the weekend in foodie bliss, learning about wine, grazing on dishes by some of America’s top chefs, and mingling with fellow writers, local celebs and fans of all things food.
(above: me, American Grocery’s dish of goodness, my empty glass, and chefs Rob Wiedmaier and Victoria Moore)
Stella’s Southern Bistro gets the Gap Creek Gourmet Cupcake award for their Spiced Carrot Cupcake with Split Creek Farm Goat Cheese Frosting and Salted Caramel drizzle. The cake was heavy and moist and the icing was whipped into a delicate cream. I finished very few dishes during the weekend (for fear of bursting from eating too much), but I almost licked the bowl on this one. Their Dirty CheeseGrit and Cornbread Souffle with Smoked Chicken Gumbo and Crispy Country Ham was also amazing.
Smoke on the Water gets the best all around award for three solid dishes (and they are affordable enough that I can recommend it to most everyone on my Facebook page). I loved their (perfectly cooked) Smoked Beef Tenderloin over Loaded Mashed Potatoes with Teriyaki BBQ Sauce. Their food isn’t over the top complicated, but the presentation was nice.
(above: top: Grilled Shrimp and Grits from Smoke on the Water and Cupcake from Stella’s Southern Bistro, bottom: Smoked Trout on Corn Cake from Nantucket and the Euphoria crowd)
American Grocery Restaurant’s Caw Caw Creek Porkbelly over Anson Mill Grits with Bourbon Maple Sauce totally won me over. Salty pork, creamy grits and sweet maple in beautiful harmony (there was a grilled apple slice on the pile too). Best dish of the entire weekend.
Already star struck by the local chefs, I ran into the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore. I convinced him to put his healthy living habits aside and taste an Iced cupcake with me and we discussed the qualities of a good Red Velvet Cupcake. (This one missed the mark.) Among the other amazing people I met were the Taryn Scher, the very stylish PR genius behind Euphoria, Chrysti Shain, South Carolina Dept. of Tourism’s SC Insider editor, SC Food Insider Gwen Fowler, and fellow freelance writer Clayton Hensley from Knoxville. I ran into former massage clients Dan and Reba Collins and caught up with my friend (and new Thomas Creek Sales Director) Casey Smith. I also chatted it up with some complete strangers, which I am prone to doing.
Full belly and wine in hand, I wrapped the night with a serenade by southern rocker, Edwin McCain. (No, he wasn’t just singing to me, but I can pretend, right?)
I headed down the mountain bright and early Saturday morning for day 2. Under the big tents at Main and Broad Streets I found wine mecca: tables and tables of vineyard reps and wine merchants surrounded by hundreds of bottles of vino. Some of the hightlights of the day were talking to Christopher Barefoot from Flowers Vineyard, Michael De Loach from Hook and Ladder Winery (we talked about vine origins…he’s a real character), and tasting and talking wine with the J. Lohr guy.
I also discovered The Chocolate Shop Wine. I would never have purchased a wine called Chocolate Shop. The name just doesn’t say good wine, but when I stuck my nose in that glass I was transported. Seriously. I don’t know how they did it, but they bottled the essence of chocolate. When it hit the tongue I tasted sweet red wine and then the sweet smooth chocolate set in. Definitely a guest at my next cupcake tasting event! I found a tasty Korean Taco and Mint Lemonade for lunch, listened to Jacob Johnson tear up the guitar on stage and watched a cooking demo by Robert Wiedmaier, chef and owner of Brasserie Beck in Washington DC before heading home.
Sunday’s brunch and culinary cookoffs were a nice end to a busy weekend. I grabbed a cup of coffee and decided on Soby’s Crabcakes and and a lavender cupcake from Iced. Nicely flavored icing with a crispy lemon candy on top, but I just can’t get behind their cupcake batter… it’s like a store bought muffin… not my fav. I also chatted with some friends and watched a bit of the top chef style “NOLA Smackdown” between chefs Haley Bittermann and Heidi Trull and chefs Drew Dzejak and Shaun Li. After taking some last minute pics, I headed out… back up the mountain to my family and my own kitchen.
(below: Jim Cantore, Michael De Loach and Jacob Johnson)