Papers, Please! Passport To Pairings event unfazed by cold weather.
By Patrick Graham
After traveling 3000 miles from Seattle to Charleston, Bodegas Ontañón wine representative Kathryn Kirkland was accustomed to temperatures of 41 degrees and rainy on a regular basis, but she basked in the warmth of the devoted fanbase of the 2014 Charleston Food + Wine Festival: “I love Charleston--I think it’s quaint and the people here are very, very sweet, and I like the charm of the city.” Having been pleased with the reception given to the Spanish winery’s Vetiver Blanco (made exclusively from the Viura varietal) and the astounding Reserva (a 95/5 blend of Temperanillo and Graciano), Kirkland affirmed the raison d'être for this celebration of the senses: “[It’s] the people who are thoroughly enjoying food and wine…this is why we do this.”
The “Passport To Pairings” gathering at downtown Charleston’s Governor Thomas Bennett House has been but one of the events during the annual culinary bonanza that arrives every year on the cusp of spring here in the Holy City, and a courtyard covered with tents turned out to be a challenge rather than a hindrance for wine purveyors and restauranteurs alike. For the Daniel Island Club’s executive chef Tyler Dudley, a chance to mingle with the local community and chefs from all over the country made for a good couple of days.
“We’re a private club on Daniel Island, so we try to get outside the box a little bit…with a private club, you get stuck in your little area because you’re dealing with member dining all the time, you don’t get to express yourself to the public. We take this opportunity every year--this is our sixth year we’ve been part of this festival--to show what The Daniel Island Club is all about and tell the people that come here all about the Club and show the people what we can do foodwise. It’s great to network with the other chefs here in Charleston, and with all of the others that come in from all around the country to this awesome event and we get to show what Charleston’s all about.”
Part of Dudley’s vision of what Charleston is all about is his reinvention of the pervasive deviled egg. He and I agreed that the iffy part of the deviled egg is the yolk, so he played around with the presentation a little bit by offering pimento cheese instead of the yolk filling. To give the egg a bit more body and elegance, a strip steak tartare sat on top of the cheese, and a sliced gherkin pickle completed the picture. This screamed “brunch” or “picnic”, depending on your situation.
Membership in the higher echelons of viticulture has its benefits. Trevethan Family Vineyards’ vice-president of sales Joe Cusimano made it all the way from the winery’s Napa Valley headquarters to show that merlot no longer has to be victim of a Paul Giamatti rant in Sideways. With a healthy dose of cabernet sauvignon in this blend, I found their 2010 vintage to have a lovely leathery characteristic that I’d never had before. As for the gathering, “We’re overwhelmed with the quality of people coming in, the interest level in wine and food, and our brand in particular, and it makes me feel really good.”
Personally, my favorite dish turned out to be something that I never order in restaurants, but always sample during festivals, weddings, and the like: it’s duck. I never order duck in a restaurant, because, frankly, I’m an idiot. I always order a steak over duck, but, in a silly way, that keeps it exotic for me. Executive Chef Matt Greene of Duvall Catering’s events division put medium-rare duck breast together with what he called “sweet potato fettucine”, ostensibly sweet potato run through a ricer to get it into long strands. Local pea tendrils gave this amuse bouche some extra texture, but the blackberry-pinot noir gastrique, in the parlance of David Letterman, “blew the roof off of the dump”. I put that together with Ontañón’s Reserva to create my perfect pairing for the day.
Sadly, the event had to end for me at some point, but not before an especially grand interpretation of the humble strawberry shortcake made its appearance. Michelle Diminich, a pastry instructor at the Art Institute of Charleston, informed me that these little jewels with almond cornmeal cake, strawberries and citrus marsciapone cheese were created by her students for the occasion, and it gave me hope that one day I may be able to replicate such a dish.
The Charleston Food + Wine Festival may have come and gone for another year, but for more and more foodies throughout the country and around the world, our little city has made its mark once again…and next year, I’ll take the whole weekend off.
- Tags: Charleston Wine and Food