I spent a lot of time chasing food and foodies last week. By my math, I visited every event in the Savannah Food and Wine Festival except for three. Two were a result of not being able to be in two places at one time, the other (River Street Wine Stroll) was because of my staff obligations at WSAV-TV. The best feeling was seeing how excited so many people were about this event. Were there people at the Celebrity Chef Tour dinner that didn’t know who some of those Celebrity Chefs were? Probably. But that can’t extinguish for one second the enthusiasm I witness from so many people who were beyond excited to see an event like this finally come to fruition in Savannah.
By my math, I logged about 35 hours chasing down festival events. We shot about 25 hours of footage for our TV show. Dozens upon dozens of “tweets”. Countless Facebook posts. Several hot dogs (more on that later), bottomless cups of coffee, little sleep, hundreds of photos. Scores of handshakes. Endless smiles and enough fun to last me about 51 weeks until we do it all again. With all of that as a backdrop, I thought I’d break down my Savannah Food & Wine Festival experience into a Top 10 list. My top 10 moments from the biggest culinary celebration our great city has ever seen.
10. It is all about the food and the wine right? I heard from a good many people, obviously, all week about the quality of the offerings for the week. We should be proud of how well our local chefs put their best feet forward (yeah, I said that). I nibbled here and there and got feedback from a handful of people who attended multiple events. The two most talked about dishes the Root Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs on a Three Cheese Grit Cake prepared by Kirk Blaine at Driftaway Cafe. And Duck Three-Ways (Seared Breast/Foie Gras/Confit) prepared by Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham at the Celebrity Chef Tour Wednesday Night.
9. “Covering” this week long event didn’t really give me a chance to eat anywhere. Sure, I was offered bites here and bites there, but I figure I tasted about 10% of the food this week. Don’t feel badly for me. I got to try about 80% of the wine. It was a great week!
8. Speaking of the Celebrity Chef event. Elizabeth Terry offered me her first course crab salad in the kitchen at The Mansion. She handed it to me in a sort of dixie cup type of container. When she saw me searching for a utensil, she said “Oh, just eat it like a jello shot”. Yeah, she’s got street cred, too.
7. In that kitchen, there were student chefs from Savannah Technical College. All getting the opportunity to assist James Beard Award Winning Chefs. They do have to keep their game faces on, it is all business, but I got one to very quietly confide to me while he worked, “this is pretty badass.” With a HUGE smile on his face.
6. The moment when Jan Gourley, C0-Founder of the entire Festival, walked up to me 45 minutes before a huge dinner and said, “I left my clothes at my house. On Hilton Head Island!”. Ouch.
5. Had an older gentleman walk up to me at Taste of Savannah and tell me “I love your show, Blanco! I don’t wake up that early to watch it, but I record the s*** out of that thing!”. Well, thank you!
4. Had to laugh when I got home and realized I’d been wearing one blue and one black sock all day. Maybe I should have cut myself off at 50% of the wine.
3. The breathtaking beauty of all of the events I attended. The Ballroom at the Mansion on Forsyth Park for the Wednesday event and the just amazing display at The Westin Savannah Harbor for the Mondavi Family Estate Dinner.
2. Thursday night, 9:02pm. Dancing with Savannah Stars was wrapping up and a friend was dancing last. I had it timed perfectly, but I was delayed leaving Sapphire Grill by a guest who was very impressed with dinner. The look on that lovely couple I saw walking as I sprinted through Johnson Square to get to the Lucas theatre was priceless. They even moved out of the way for me. I was in full sprint from Sapphire to the Lucas. I was three minutes late. Missed the dance.
1. The turnout. Whether it was a wine dinner for forty at Circa 1875 or Ruth’s Chris or a gala event at the hotels, or even Taste of Savannah on Saturday. Not only did Savannah turn out for this, but I met people from Atlanta, Charlotte, Michigan, and Vancouver. All who had come to town for this event. Congratulations, Savannah! You did it.
Can’t wait to do it again.
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