Charleston Wine + Food

Opening night at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival in Marion Square on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

If you don’t have $395 to plunk down on a meal in Ken Vedrinski’s kitchen or $525 for dinner on Mike Lata’s porch, no worries. Those Charleston Wine + Food Festival events are already at capacity since the 68 food fans who paid at least $2,600 apiece to become “Friends of the Festival” were granted first crack at 2020 festival tickets.

But the general public this week will have its pick of approximately 110 other events scheduled for the March 4-8 run of the annual culinary extravaganza. Tickets will be released for purchase on Wednesday, with both online and in-person sales starting at 8 a.m.

According to festival spokeswoman Alyssa Maute Smith, highlights of the upcoming festival include the return of the wildly popular Waffle House Smackdown; a meal at Bertha’s Kitchen; and cooking classes, including a bagel baking session led by Asheville’s Katie Button and a pasta making class conducted by Chicago’s Sarah Grueneberg.

While the average ticket costs $154.06, the festival has planned 30 events priced at $100 or less. The following events appear to be among the better buys in the bunch:

Flick at Nite, Nov. 7, $65

The festival no longer hosts an annual ticket launch party, but it’s doubling down on its year-round programming with cooking demonstrations and podcast tapings scheduled at festival headquarters throughout the off-season. (You can catch a live recording of The Winnow, The Post and Courier’s weekly Southern food podcast, on Oct. 23.)

Unlike the events which take place during the festival proper, these programs are designed primarily for locals and priced accordingly. A screening of "Big Night" at the American Theater, preceded by a reception in the William Aiken House courtyard, sounds like a lovely way to spend an autumn evening.

Happy hour at Babas on Cannon, March 5, $45

Happy hours are a new component of programming this year, featuring food and drink in an express format. What distinguishes the happy hour at Babas is the participation of Frank Stitt, widely hailed as one of the most influential chefs in the modern Southern restaurant movement. It’s guaranteed you’ll eat and drink well in the presence of a hospitality legend.

CHSWFF Academy, March 5, $85

Champagne cocktails and caviar canapes may fade, but knowledge is forever. The festival has tinkered with the format for its educational seminars, which were previously presented in partnership with Pecha Kucha. This time around it looks like the speakers may not be confined to a stage, since the event description says there will be room for dancing. No word on whether the curriculum includes chef-approved steps.

Black Tie BBQ, March 7, $85

Barbecue has always been a literal crowd favorite, with pitmasters accustomed to preparing large cuts of meat for many people at once. That means there shouldn’t be any drop-off in quality at this sampling event featuring local smoked meat specialists Rodney Scott, John Lewis, Aaron Siegel and Anthony DiBernardo, as well as out-of-towners Amy Mills and Matthew Register, who was a hit at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.

A Moody Night at Kwei Fei, March 7, $45

When an evening’s done the Kwei Fei way, the music is loud and the food is spicy. In other words, this isn’t the budget alternative to a wine tasting led by Robert Mondavi Jr. But if Sichuan food and beer appeals, this is bound to be a fun night.

Southern Renaissance, March 8, $95

If last year’s closing event is any indication, this is a chance for some of the festival’s most talented chefs to bring their A-games. This year’s lineup includes Steven Satterfield, Scott Crawford and Michael Hudman, along with the aforementioned Lata, Stitt, Scott and DiBernardo.

And one splurge: The Ordinary Wine Lunch, March 6, $115

Mike Lata’s at-home dinner party and a FIG dinner with Ashley Christensen have already sold out, but for $115, you can still get in on a wine lunch at The Ordinary. Lunches have always been the underappreciated jewels of the festival, and this one has much to recommend it.

In addition to enjoying terrific food and drink, eventgoers will have the opportunity to experience The Ordinary’s dining room by daylight. And while the festival can slap a $185 price tag on any guest chef dinner, the host restaurant doesn’t automatically upgrade its service staff for the occasion. At The Ordinary, ticket holders will be cared for by one of the town’s best front-of-house crews.

For more information on tickets, and the complete schedule, go to charlestonwineandfood.com.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

Food editor and chief critic

Eating all of the chicken livers just as fast as I can.

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