If you go
WHAT: 2013 BB&T Charleston Wine + Food FestivalWHEN: Feb. 28-March 3WHERE: Culinary Village at Marion Square and off-site events all over Charleston areaEVENTS, TICKETS: charlestonwineand food.com
The BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival seems to have bacon ’n’ eggs on the brain this year.
The eighth edition of the festival, set for Feb. 28-March 3, has two new breakfast meals on its calendar, at The Grocery and Two Boroughs Larder. That Saturday’s headliner event also is inspired by a.m. fare — a Waffle House Smackdown, with chefs showing off their short-order skills.
Then there is the bacon thing. There will be plenty of that and more pork parts for lovers of swine, with three events where people can, well, pig out on pig.
One is a new, sit-down “Barbecue Coronation Supper” at Jim ‘N Nicks involving, yes, a crown and scepter. Another is the annual barbecue finale, now renamed “Rigs, Pigs + Swigs” and relocated to the Mount Pleasant Waterfront Memorial Park.
And at noon March 1, Lowndes Grove Plantation will open as “This Little Piggy: Pop-Up Market.” Six guest chefs from across the country will be turning various cuts of the pig into creative dishes while a live demo shows the breaking down of the whole animal, like Cypress chef Craig Deihl did in 2012 at the Culinary Village in Marion Square.
“That got such a great reception,” explains festival Communications Director Ashley Zink. “People were fascinated by it.”
Artisan pork products also will be for sale in a mini market at the “Pop-Up” event.
While the Waffle House Smackdown, which was “years in the making,” Zink says, is sold out, several other events are not. Nevertheless, with only five weeks in the homestretch, remaining tickets soon will be gobbled up if past years are any indication.
Among other attractions with tickets still available are a few of the Perfectly Paired Dinners, better known as “dine-arounds,” as well as a couple of the craft beer dinners and the Big Bottles Tasting + Auction.
One big ticket that’s usually snapped up early but is still around is the tony, $1,000-a-plate “Food +Wine With a View” held in a private penthouse overlooking the lower peninsula. For the first time, festival organizers decided on a tribute dinner and picked renowned Alabama chef and restaurateur Frank Stitt as the honoree. Local chefs Mike Lata and Sean Brock will do the honors, joined by a bevy of other Southern toques hand-picked by Stitt. Only 60 tickets are offered to the event.
The festival After Hours party at the Bus Shed also has a new theme this year, “Around the World.” Food, drink and decor will span the globe, Zink says. “That should be very fun, very different from any other event.”
Another fresh format is the pairing of local and national authors with winemakers in private home receptions. Each group had their own event in the past, but now will join forces as “At Home With Celebrity Tastemakers” and will be circulating between two historic downtown homes.
The popular Culinary Village at Marion Square remains available all weekend long, as of today. Admission is $100 on Saturday and $85 on Friday and Sunday. Locals get a break on Sunday at a price of $70.
Zink says the festival is shooting for a “better balance” of food and beverages in the Grand Tasting tents based on patron feedback in the past.
“We’ve definitely been very conscious about actively pursuing food vendors. We’ve also tried to involve local restaurants more, and local chefs. ... The restaurants (are) a work in progress, just because of the sheer number of people coming through. It can be kind of daunting.”
One new face in the village, that of the Southern Foodways Alliance, will have its own tent and “culinary hub.” The alliance, part of the University of Mississippi and based out of Oxford, studies, documents and celebrates food cultures of the South.
During the festival, its tent is intended to serve as a “front porch” kind of place for food conversation and socializing. The SFA also will be showing short clips throughout the weekend in a “Pot Likker Film Festival.”
“A lot of the people in the films are actually coming to the festival,” Zink says. “So you can watch Alan Benton talk about country ham in the film, and then he’ll do a little discussion up on stage afterward.”
Charleston’s own Lee Brothers, Matt and Ted, are teaming up with James Beard awarding-winning chefs for “The Charleston Dinner” that will celebrate the foods of early spring. Not surprisingly, it was a quick sellout.
Zink says the dinner will be held in a private home, an arrangement that came about in an unusual but very-Charleston way. Seems the Lee Brothers, dressed in suits, were skateboarding down Legare Street when a homeowner came out and said, “I know you.” That sparked an instant friendship that led to the location of the dinner.
Though the dinner is no longer available, fans will be able to get their hands on the brothers’ latest book, “The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen,” during its launch at the festival.
Zink says festival ticket sales at this point are about the same as last year. “We’re pretty much right on track.”
Last year’s festival drew about 22,000 people, Zink says. About 62 percent of those were locals and 38 percent from out of town.
But year No. 7 in 2012 didn’t turn out so lucky for the festival weather-wise, with a deluge of rain on Saturday that kept attendance down, especially walk-ups to the Culinary Village. The weather also required implementation of a “rain plan” — extra tents and the like — that drove costs up.
“We hope that kind of rain can’t happen two years in a row,” Zink says. “We all bought rain jackets, so we think that since we’re prepared, it won’t happen.”