Two-hour porkfest is a BB&T signature event

Sara Hays (left), with Sarabella’s Southern Sauces, gives samples to Sandy Redzikowski at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival on Friday. Buy this photo

This little piggy was laid out atop a stainless steel table with knives and a hacksaw neatly lined up to the side.

More coverage

Check out our Wine + Food special section for more coverage of this year’s festival.

Along came a chef, April Bloomfield of New York City’s The Spotted Pig and two other restaurants, as well as author of “A Girl and Her Pig.”

Tickets

Tickets remain for the following events at the 2013 BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival. Check the website, charlestonwineandfood.com, for information and to purchase. Tickets also may be purchased at Marion Square.

Today

Culinary Village, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. $100.

Big Bottles Tasting + Auction, 2-4 p.m. $125.

Exclusive Verite Tasting, 3-5 p.m. $295.

Party Around the World, 8:30-11:30 p.m. $100.

Sunday

Lowcountry Jazz Brunch, 11 a.m. $105.

Culinary Village, 1-4 p.m. $85 or $70 for locals.

Rigs, Pigs + Swigs, 5-8 p.m. $85.

As tidy as a cup of tea and a biscuit, the Englishwoman promptly sawed the pig’s head off and placed it front and center on the table, fluffing its ears at the last second.

So began one of the signature events on the first full day of the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival. Friday’s two-hour pork- fest at Lowndes Grove started with Bloomfield’s skilled breakdown of a whole pig.

Close to 250 people gathered under the big top on the lawn for “This Little Piggy: A Pop-Up Market.” They watched the dissection, quaffed spiced rum cocktails and beer, and chowed down on South Carolina-raised pork. Eight chefs from across the country created the dishes. For lovers of swine, it was nirvana.

Count Bloomfield among them. Bearing a “FAT PIG” tattoo on the inside of her forearm, she described her movements in a lilting British accent that seemed at odds with what she was actually doing.

“So I just took off the legs. This is the fun bit: I’m just going to take my cleaver and cut through the hip bone.”

But nobody seemed squeamish — the crowd absorbed the butchering demo like model students. Afterward they lined up eagerly at chef stations around the tent to get a taste of all things pork.

Bryan Kowert of Charleston headed straight for the dessert. Pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith of Michael’s Genuine in Miami was serving a pork belly panini with banana, toffee, coffee and bacon “dust” — rendered bacon fat mixed with malted dextrose.

Between bites, Kowert uttered his assessment: “Sweet, salty, delicious.”

Goldsmith also succinctly explained her dessert. “Fat tastes good. That’s my inspiration.”

Waiting in Bloomfield’s line, Jon Doyle of Charlotte said his favorite dish to that point had been the ham sliders with green tomato relish. His friend, Tim Hudson of Summerville, favored the lentil and sausage stew at the table of Bruce Aidells, a chef and national brand of chicken sausage.

They picked up samples of Bloomfield’s pork rillettes, akin in texture to chopped barbecue and served atop a small toast with various pickled vegetables. Hudson took in a mouthful and rolled his eyes. “That may be the best yet. Wow!”

Dewayne and Brittany Hedrick of Charleston, another pair of festival newbies, also gave the nod to Bloomfield’s rillettes.

“Hers was like an elaborate version of North Carolina barbecue,” he said. Hedrick, who is originally from the Tarheel State as is his wife, won his tickets from a radio call-in show.

“But to be honest, I would have paid for this,” he said. “The only thing I didn’t think I would like was the pork loin with blood sausage, but it was amazing.”

Earlier in the day, festival organizers and supporters gathered in the center of Marion Square in downtown Charleston for the official opening ceremonies. Under a wan sun, thanks and accolades were given and received.

Randy Byerly of BB&T, the festival’s title sponsor for all of its eight years, noted that Friday’s date was 3-1-1-3 (March 1, 2013). “For those of you who like to play with numbers,” he said.

Mayor Joe Riley delivered an enthusiastic proclamation for festival week. “This is such an enormous production that goes off seamlessly,” he said, pointing to the festival’s $8.6 million annual economic impact.

Festival Director Angel Postell thanked many, including the 450 volunteers.

Awards also were announced. Charleston-raised brothers Ted Lee and Matt Lee accepted the Laura Hewitt Culinary Legend Award, which recognizes local individuals for historical contributions to the local food culture.

Chef-owner Mike Lata of FIG was honored with the Marc Collins Chef Award.

And Alabama chef and restaurateur Frank Stitt, who has been involved with the festival since its inception, was the first recipient of a national chefs’ award named for him. He will be honored at a $1,000-a-plate tribute dinner tonight.

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