2014 was an incredible year for Gap Creek Gourmet. Oddly enough 2014 was just as much about where I went and who I met as what I had the pleasure of eating! Don’t get me wrong, the food I consumed this past year? It would blow your mind, but the people I met, the people I got to know? That made my 2014. It was quite possibly one of the most amazing years of my life (so far). I’ve been working on this post for three days. I can’t possibly include everything that happened this year, but here’s a taste of Gap Creek Gourmet’s coolest people, places and dishes of 2014.
I met Chef Katie Button at Curate on my 38th birthday. Okay, to us food blogger, chefs are like superstars. Meeting Katie Button is higher on my list than say… meeting Obama. Serious. Okay, that sounds sad, but it’s really true! I follow chefs like people follow athletes or movie stars. And Katie? She’s seriously up there for me. If she had her own trading card, it would be signed and framed on my wall. I love her! She’s not only a brilliant chef, she is one of the warmest, kindest people I’ve met in the business and I can’t even tell you the exciting things on the horizon for her! The accolades just keep rolling in! I’ll be here cheering her on!
I’m hopping around 2014, so stay with me! This summer, I interviewed Quintin Middleton of Middleton Made Knives for Town Magazine. This unassuming guy makes these beautiful, high end knives for the top chefs in the South… in a shed behind his house out in the coastal boondocks of St. Stephens. He has since acquired air conditioning, but when we visited, it had to be 120 in his workshop. We were absolutely melting, but I was grinning ear to ear, having met one of the great knife makers of the South. If anyone needs to buy me anything, you can purchase one of his perfectly buffed, sparking knives on the wall at Charleston Cooks.
I met Laura Huff way before 2014, but in 2014, Laura and I partnered for our first Small Plate Crawl. By March, we’d coordinated the event, made our media rounds and I crawled my way through 19 restaurants in three days March 24-26. It was one dang successful event and most definitely a highlight of my year, both producing the event and getting to know Laura. (Here’s to Greenville Small Plate Crawl 2015 March 24-26!)
I got a fork tattoo. I wanted a tattoo for a long time but couldn’t figure out exactly what I wanted permanently marked on my body. I decided to get one of my MaMa Plumblee’s forks tattooed on my arm because of my intense connection with the food memories in her kitchen. Who better to ink me thank Greenville artist J.J. Olinger? He’s an amazing visual artist turned tatto artist and it was really cool sharing the experience with him.
Somehow the stars lined up just right and I was invited to spend three days with some of the top Southern food writers touring Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I was beside-myself happy to meet Erin Bass of Deep South Magazine and Hayley Phillips of Local Palate Magazine, and to get to know North Carolina travel book writer Jason Frye, and freelance writer, Jill Warren Lucas. During our adventures in Winston-Salem, I sat beside Nathalie Dupree at a luncheon on the lawn of Reynolda House and during our tours got to know both Nathalie and her long-time friend and food writer Ann Semmes. I seriously kept wanting to pinch myself. I know I asked myself a million times how I got there. The trip of a lifetime.
My chef friend Liz Bardsley asked me to help her cook at Bovinoche in May 2014. Let’s just marinate on that a minute. I was asked to cook. With a chef. At a meat festival. Chefs come from all over to play with Jeff Banister during his two day ode to meat in Simpsonville. And I stood behind the lines stirring with my friend Liz for an hour making risotto. A definite high point of my year. (Thank you Liz! Let’s do it again!)
I met Frank Lee. Chef Adrian had just settled in as the new Executive Chef at Greenville’s High Cotton when he invited Maverick Southern Kitchen head Chef Frank Lee to town for a dinner. Maverick is the mothership of High Cotton, in case you don’t follow the Southern food scene too closely. It was a HUGE honor to meet Frank. I took my friend (and chef) Terri Williams as my date for her birthday and we were both grinning from ear to ear. They don’t get much more revered in South Carolina than Chef Frank Lee.
I think the best dish of 2014 goes to Beef Three Ways at the July Guerrilla Cuisine dinner at Burwell’s Stone Fire Grill in Charleston. The dish was beautiful and challenging and the textures were just incredible. Chefs for the evening were Jonathan I. M. Kaldas (Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Manager of The Meeting Room Restaurant and Tapas Bar), Chef Jordan Moore (Executive Chef at Burwell’s Stone Fire Grill), Mark Heyward-Washington (Executive Pastry Chef at Burwell’s) and Jimihatt, the guy behind Guerrilla Cuisine, Charleston’s secret supper club. There was an after-dinner cocktail with Cocoa Pebbles floating in it too… good stuff!
I met Ramona Holloway! Okay, I’m still vibrating from this momentous occasion! I graduated from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC and for YEARS I listened to the Matt and Ramona Show on 107.9 the Link out of Charlotte. Any time I’m anywhere that my radio will pick up the station, I listen. Needless to say I’m a huge fan of hers. I was asked to go on the Charlotte Today show around Christmas to talk about gifts for foodies and when I started doing a little research about the station, I realized that Ramona was ON THAT SHOW! Holy crap! Ramona Holloway was going to be interviewing ME!!! It was a crazy awesome moment for me and the perfect cherry on top for a really cool year.
This was my first year going to food blogger conferences. I started with the Food Blog Forum in Asheville (best food blogger conference of the year!) and not only met amazing bloggers from all over the world, I ate my way around Asheville and mingled with some of Asheville’s top chefs. I met Jael Rattigan, one of the owners of French Broad Chocolate. I’m a huge fan of her place and her product and it was an honor to talk with her for a while. French Broad has big things in store for 2015! French Broad Chocolate was also on my Gap Creek Gourmet Holiday Gift Guide and 12 Days of Giveaways for 2014.
2014 marked the beginning of NicLive PR. I’m straying from Gap Creek Gourmet a bit, but believe me, it has still been a foodie adventure. I signed Highland Avenue Restaurant as a part of the Carolina Moon Hospitality Group in Hickory, North Carolina and have had the incredible opportunity to work with Chef Kyle McKnight, North Carolina’s “Prince of Pork”. Every day has been an adventure with these guys and the ride has just begun.
In January 2014, I asked Charlotte blogger, Fervent Foodie to come to Greenville for the ultimate foodie tour. Not only did we hit it off, we decided to be roomates at the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle. I’m not sure she knew she was signing up to room with a snorer, but she came prepared with earplugs (smart girl), and we had an amazing time exploring and eating our way around Seattle. On our last day of exploring together, we found the Sleepless in Seattle house and ate at Westward, one of my top restaurant experiences of the year. While in Seattle, I also visited the first Starbucks EVER at Pike Place (checked that off the bucket list), the Space Needle, several of Tom Douglas’s restaurants and found the most delicious yogurt of my life at Pike Place Market. Leopard Forest Coffee Company sponsored me for the International Food Blogger Conference and I’ve been working with them all year as a Brand Ambassador!
In 2014, the Wild Olive empire expanded in Charleston with the opening of Obstinate Daughter and Beardcat’s on Sullivan’s Island. I was so excited to take a foodie tour of Charleston last summer where I met Jacques Larson, Executive Chef of Wild Olive and Obstinate Daughter, and Caroline Sherman, pastry chef of Wild Olive, Obstinate Daughter, and now the brilliant mind behind the sweets at Beardcat’s. Two of the best things I ate last year were the Old Danger Pizza at Obstinate Daughter and the Olive Oil gelato at Beardcat’s.
During 2014, Travelers Rest came alive! The Travelers Rest Farmers Market BOOMED, thanks to the hard work of the new Market Manager, Adrienne Hawkins. She is a fireball! She grew our tiny farmers market to the second largest farmers market in the state. And it was an absolute joy and pleasure to drive down the mountain on Saturdays to see all of the local farmers, food purveyors, food trucks and local artists. I can’t be more proud of my hometown. It’s soaring!
We also got Tandem! This amazing little Creperie and Coffee house opened across from Sunrift and quickly became one of my favorite stops for catching up on email and an afternoon cappuccino at the bar. I remember when there was one red light in town, and now we have these amazing spots like Upcountry Provisions (one of my clients!), Shortfield’s, Cafe at Williams Hardware, and Swamp Rabbit Brewery! It’s been an amazing year for Travelers Rest’s culinary scene and there’s more to come! I’m so excited for Sidewall to open early 2015. FINALLY! Good wine and pizza in Travelers Rest (for lunch).
Goat. Sheep. Cow. This was my year of cheese. I met these ladies last summer and still find myself wishing at least once a day, that their perfect little cheese shop was in Greenville. The cheeses I tried at their shop? Life changing. They will forever be on my Charleston favorites list and I can’t wait to get back to see what unique finds they have in! It’s pure heaven to sit on the balcony watching the waves, sipping on wine and snacking on cheese and crackers.
I know so many more things happened in 2014. I could absolutely go on forever! It was a beyond-blessed year with so many cool people who crossed my path, so much beautiful food… My PR company has taken off, my blog has opened doors I never even knew would be possible and I have a beautiful family. Here’s to an even bigger, more exciting 2015!