Garden & Gun Jubilee 2013

IMG_0299

This past weekend I attended the first ever Garden & Gun Jubilee in Charleston, SC.

G&G’s inaugural celebration of Southern tastemakers was a huge success.  It was held in Charles Towne Landing, a 663-acre state park which preserves the site of the first English settlement in South Carolina. The natural setting was the perfect backdrop for bringing the pages of the magazine to life with experiences such as fly-fish instruction, a litter of adorable Boykin Spaniel puppies and insanely good Rodney Scott BBQ.

For four years, the magazine has hosted a Made In The South competition, allowing many of the region’s most talented artisans to showcase their crafts.  This year, G&G brought the winners together to form a marketplace just in time for the holidays. From trunk shows featuring creative leather goods and one-of-a-kind sporting gear to tents filled with fascinating antiques and mouthwatering Southern-made foods, the folks at G&G set the bar high for next year.

CHARLESTON

CHARLESTON

Y56A2207blog

Y56A2215blog

Y56A2217blog

CHARLESTON

Y56A2221blog

Y56A2416blog

Y56A2260blog

Y56A2297blog

Y56A2402blog

Y56A2408blog

Y56A2382 blog

CHARLESTON

Photography by Evelyn Laws

Why Charleston is America’s Favorite City

CHARLESTON

For the third year in a row, Charleston has been selected as America’s favorite city by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler.

In this month’s issue, Charleston native Christian L. Wright asks herself the same question I ask every time I visit the Holy City: why don’t I live here?

Backed by hometown credentials and an honest perspective, the author paints a beautiful portrait of this jewel of the South. You can check out the article here.

It’s a timely read as I sit on a runway waiting for my flight to Charleston.  My daughter and I are on the way to Garden & Gun’s Jubilee, a holiday event celebrating the best of the South. It will also be my daughter’s first time in Charleston. I’m so excited to be sharing this city that I love with her. And if she is anything like her mother, she will feel tugs on her Southern heart strings and start wishing she lived here too.

CHARLESTON

CHARLESTON

CHARLESTON

CHARLESTON

CHARLESTON

CHARLESTON

CHARLESTON

CHARLESTON

CHARLESTON

CHARLESTON

 

Photography by Evelyn Laws

Music To Your Mouth 2013

Nov 2013 Photo Stream - 274

It’s a damp, frigid day in New England–the kind that makes your bones hurt.

But right now, I’m warming up little by little.

I’ve got some hot cocoa and one of my favorite Nashville Indie bands, Moon Taxi, cued up as I browse through pictures from my most recent trip down South.

Last weekend, I attended the ultimate Southern epicurean experience: Music to Your Mouth. The annual festival sponsored by Audi is held in the pristine low-country waterfront resort, Palmetto Bluff, and features the region’s best cuisine, libations, and artisan crafts.

MTYM2013-0215

The spanish moss-covered destination sits on a 20,000 acre preserve on May River in Bluffton, South Carolina.  It’s the perfect setting for this celebration which is described by the event promoters as a “gathering of culinarians, winemakers, growers, and artisans, brought together to accentuate the abundance of ingredients from surrounding waters, woods and local farm.”

It was my second time experiencing MTYM but it certainly won’t be my last!

Here are a few shots that capture some of the magic of the weekend.

MTYM2013-0135

MTYM2013-0210

MTYM2013-0228

MTYM2013-0191

 

MTYM2013-0386

 

MTYM2013-0132

MTYM2013-0246

MTYM2013-0231

MTYM2013-0090

MTYM2013-0287

MTYM2013-0301

MTYM2013-0344

MTYM2013-0345

MTYM2013-0326-2

MTYM2013-0383

MTYM2013-0410

MTYM2013-0416

MTYM2013-0418

MTYM2013-0429

MTYM2013-0423

MTYM2013-0437

Photography by Susan Scarborough and Doug Landis, a Southern gentleman (via California) and honorary SXNE photographer.

Husk, Where Have You Been?

I must say, I am getting pretty darn excited about going to Charleston for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival (CFWF). Just like Music to Your Mouth, I will be surrounded by some of the greatest chefs in the country.

One of those chefs, Sean Brock, recently had a restaurant ranked in the top 3 of the country by Bon Appetit. It’s no surprise his restaurants receive such accolades, considering the star chef running them has been given the James Beard award for “Best Chef Southeast”, winner of Food Network “Next Great Chef” and competed on “Iron Chef America.” Chef Brock has been in this business for a long time now and has built a reputation of not only preparing the most mind-blowing dishes but of leading the movement of heritage foods preservation and refining the farm to table efforts now sweeping the country.

I was in Charleston recently with my partner in crime, Evelyn, and paid a visit to Mr. Brock’s establishment, Husk. It was an early Sunday brunch on our next to the last day in the city. More importantly it was (gasp) our first time in. We moved quickly after scanning the menu and did what any two proper Southern girls would do…we ordered one of everything.

Okay, maybe not one of everything, but more than enough. Our waiter suggested her favorites and we picked some other irresistible dishes. The first course included three appetizers (we weren’t messing around). We had the trend-setting Fried Chicken Skins, Pimento Cheese crostini, and the Kenutckyaki glazed pig ear wrapped in lettuce and served with orange marinated cabbage slaw with toasted peanuts and cilantro. Yep. You heard nothing after glazed pig ears, did you? I was a little skeptical about them myself, but the older I get the more open I am to trying new things. (Not ready for the lamb “fries” just yet, though). All of the first courses were equally divine but my favorite was the Pimento cheese crostinis.

Our next course was the classic low-country dish–shrimp and grits, offering a less than predictable and delicious version that was a lovely surprise with every bite . It was a marriage of creamy charred scallion grits and sweet corn, peas, and bacon in a bowl with plump red shrimp thrown in there, all topped with a poached egg.

Incredible.

When we decided it was time to leave Husk–they weren’t going to bring us any more food–we paid our bill and left by the way of the wall-sized blackboard in the foyer listing all local sources for their foods. Quite impressive, as were the shelves of canned vegetables stacked neatly in front of the open kitchen.

I was so pleased to finally eat at Husk. We loved the whole experience and can’t wait to see what the Chef whips up for the wine and food festival in a few weeks!

Photography by Evelyn Laws.

Rhett House Inn

We all have attachments to our childhood. For some of us, the cravings or longings to return to the places of our youth are based on memories of families, seasons, friendships and first loves. For others, the wish to return home is founded on idealistic notions of a life we wished we would have had.

I fall into the first category. When I think of my home in foothills of the Smoky mountains, I get an overwhelming sense of belonging.  Nostalgia flows over me and I get lost in memories. In a more honest moment, I admit my intense love for the Palmetto State might be shaped by a wish for simpler times. Who doesn’t miss a life with fewer responsibilities, and a time before the realities that come with growing older?

But there is much more than memories for this historically rich, complex state.

I got a chance to go back home this past weekend. Not the upstate I usually call home, but a visit to the Lowcountry. The culinary super-fest,  Music To Your Mouth, was held in Palmetto Bluff.  My timing was a little late on booking accomodations at the resort so I thought I would make the most of it and book something in nearby Beaufort.

At the last minute, I came across the historic Rhett House Inn located in the heart of downtown Beaufort, just overlooking the water. It’s a beautifully restored Greek Revival antebellum home turned bed and breakfast. The property is surrounded by live oaks draped with spanish moss and resurrection fern. My favorite feature was the wrap around porch with the blue-painted ceiling.

We were greeted at check-in with a glass of champagne before being shown to our first floor room off the parlor. We hardly had a chance to put our bags down when were offered a plate of rich mini red-velvet cupcakes. This place was amazing.

Rhett House Red Velvet

Before we rushed out the door that night, our host let us know that every evening guests of the inn were invited to the parlor for drinks around the fire. It looked so cozy but we didn’t have time. That is until we were stopped in our tracks with the quintessential Southern melt-in-your-mouth cheese wafers brought out warm from the oven. I couldn’t stop eating them and to be honest, I helped myself to more than my fair share over the weekend. They were so good in fact, I begged for the recipe before I left and they were kind enough to oblige.

The hospitality wasn’t limited to food and imbibing. It was so comforting to be back in a place where the words “y’all” and “honey” dripped off everyone’s lips. I felt so at home and felt the comfort of familiarity even though this was my first visit. This Carolina bed and breakfast is definitely on my “must stay” list.

Photography by Evelyn Laws

Music to Your Mouth

BRTRUCKcropped

Whoever first coined the phrase “you can’t go home” was probably in the middle of a long weekend at Palmetto Bluff, the setting for the 6th Annual Music to Your Mouth Festival (MTYM).

MTYM is a food festival to end all other food festivals.

It’s hard to explain the first time you enter the 20,000 acres that is Palmetto Bluff. The vast beauty of the conservation preserve filled with spanish moss and 32 miles of riverfront is breathtaking. Without a festival to attend, one could still get lost for days in the beautiful residential community with a resort spa and Jack Nicklaus signature golf course. And if being pampered or hitting the links is not your thing, there’s always kayaking, biking, and fishing.

Adding a weekend of culinary indulgence to this serene environment, and you’ll think you’ve gone to heaven. It’s hard to name another event that features so many of the South’s finest chefs in such a relaxed, approachable setting.

Sean Brock, Drew Robinson, Hugh Acheson, Chris Hastings, John Currence, Allan Benton, and Ashley Christensen were just a few in the all-star lineup. The James Beard Foundation and Southern Foodways Alliance were active participants with awards and showings of short films showcasing the legendary bourbon-maker, Julian P. Van Winkle, III and the godfather of pork, Allan Benton.

IMG_0510

Two days of bluegrass music created the perfect soundtrack to this Southern foodie weekend. But the best part, for me, was walking from table to table sampling the best in culinary creations while listening to interviews by John T. Edge and demonstrations by some of the finest chefs of the South.

Limited tickets meant no long lines, which is a good thing when you are transfixed by the smoked ham and cast iron skillets of bacon on Allan Benton’s table. Or when you’re being served a plate of Jim ‘n Nick’s perfectly smoked pork on white bread drenched in BBQ sauce and a couple of their divine cheese biscuits. Hungry yet? And since there was only a small band of Southern food worshipers,  finding a spot at fire pit to roast your gourmet s’mores was easy.

The MTYM folks got it right even more by donating a portion of every ticket to Second Helpings, a local organization set up to fight hunger.

From the potlikker block party to the oyster roast, the event was Dixie at its best. After all, a festival which sports a Bacon Forest and Game Day Beer Garden just takes things to another level, right?

IMG_0542

IMG_0566

I survived the weekend of indulgence. My waistline wasn’t so lucky. But I have a year to work off the damage before next year’s Music to Your Mouth Festival!

Photography by Evelyn Laws