“Seeing Stars” is the name of the Michelin dinner on Saturday night of euphoria but could easily also be the theme of the entire day.
First of all, let’s discuss the number 18. That’s the number of official euphoria events scheduled on Saturday (media brunch and talent after party included). Add two fringe events to make 20, and that most definitely sends anyone trying to DO ALL THE THINGS into a panic.
Or in keeping with the theme, trying to mentally process the sheer amount of food and beverages in your future for those 12-14 hours is a bit like a cartoon character taking a blow to the face, setting off an orbit or stars around its head.
The reality is, one person cannot do even half of those, but it’s fun to try.
Feast by the Field has become the event to survive of the weekend. With just about twice as many drink vendors as food, it’s very easy to get caught up in trying, say, the entire catalog of Suntory liquors before you encounter a single food item. Add in the inevitable late summer heat with grills and smokers going under the tents, and you have a recipe for a dehydration disaster unless you follow the one-to-one alcohol to water ratio rule. If you don’t, you too will very shortly be seeing stars.
Accepting the challenge to hit multiple events at once, I bounced from Feast at Fluor Field to Foxcroft Wine Co. for a Rosé All Day class with wine expert and funny lady Laurie Forster, where I learned my drinking name (favorite alcohol and mother’s maiden name) is Bourbon Gingery. Couldn’t have planned that better if I tried.
Then it was back to Feast to collect my adorable mini bottle of Chandon from the Wine House/NESS fest area, caught a glimpse of various competitions and demos taking place on the culinary stage, snagged a gluten-free focaccia with house ricotta from the Rocket Surgery (Travelers Rest) table and a fried grits bite from Millers All Day (Charleston) and bounced back down Main Street to Encore for the Call Me Old Fashioned class with Stefan Huebner of cocktail club Dot Dot Dot in Charlotte.
If you’re keeping score, you’ll notice by this point I’ve had way more alcohol than food. Don’t worry, I make up for it later.
Back to Old Fashioneds. Huebner, a whiskey expert, and I, a whiskey consumer, share one thing in common: we judge a cocktail bar by its Old Fashioned. If that iconic cocktail is good, chances are the other drinks will be on point as well.
Huebner took us back in time to the first style of the drink with the sugar settling to the bottom and topped off with cold water. Basically, the majority of sips tasted like a diluted shot of whiskey with a dash of bitters. Since I normally drink mine neat, I didn’t mind it at all. My non-whiskey drinking cohorts shuddered their way through while I attempted to suppress the urge to bestow upon them a condescending “bless.”
Other classroom events took place throughout the afternoon as well — a Pinot party, an ice cream workshop, and a funky beer class.
Dinner events on Saturday totaled nine — eight sit-down dinners and one giant party:
- Three Michelin starred chefs — Curtis Duffy, Val Cantu, and Melissa Rodriguez, wowed guests at Avenue with a dinner worth the $400-price tag.
- A former Noma chef (only the No. 1 restaurant in the world) who was born in Greenville — chef Joe Cash — came back from his current home of NYC to join Stella’s Southern Brasserie for a seafood-centric dinner.
- Topsoil Kitchen & Market chef Adam Cooke partnered with Southern Pressed Juicery’s Brian McKenna to serve a creative plant-based dinner.
- Grits & Groceries threw a Cajun fais do-do with New Orleans chef Alex Harrell.
- Two James Beard best chef Southeast nominees — John Malik (Greenville) and Jacques Larsen (Charleston) joined with Blue Cheese Creamery for a cheese-centric dinner at the Loft at Soby’s.
- Wicked Weed brought the funk to pair with Asheville chef Jacob Sessoms’ and Nose Dive chef Eddie Wiles’ dishes at Table 301 Catering & Kitchen.
- Andy Little, a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist, of Josephine in Nashville joined chef Samuel Dominguez of Halls for a dinner steeped in Southern roots.
- Five Charlotte chefs along with chef Adam Hayes of Larkin’s used Green Egg grills for a five-course dinner at Larkin’s Sawmill.
Now, all of those events are tempting in their own way, but if you asked anyone Sunday morning where the real party was the night before, they’d say, without hesitation, Trailblazer Park in Travelers Rest. More than a dozen restaurants served up savory dishes (I ate almost all of them) for Party in the Park while Steel Toe Stiletto — one of the most sought-after event bands in the Carolinas and beyond — had the crowd dancing for two hours under the stars.
The dance floor’s proximity to the Lunazul tequila table was a happy coincidence undoubtedly responsible for 80 percent of the dancers’ antics; though I then neglected my one-to-one hydration survival technique for the entirety of the night.
Oh my stars, was that a bad idea.