Fans of magazines including Food & Wine and Southern Living will this spring have the opportunity to experience Charleston as Time Inc. editors see it.
The Charleston Insiders' Weekend is the result of a partnership between the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and the New York-based publishing company. The May 1-3 collection of dinners, tours and parties marks the first time that Food & Wine, Southern Living, Coastal Living, Departures and Travel + Leisure have collaborated on curating an event for readers.
While the event includes a fair amount of programming devoted to food and drink, Charleston Area CVB Executive Director Helen Hill says the schedule was designed to celebrate the city's shopping, history, culture and architecture, in addition to its culinary scene.
"With its schedule of mostly intimate events, the Charleston Insiders' Weekend will be an incredible lightning-in-a-bottle experience for visitors who truly love Charleston and want to see it from the perspective of esteemed magazines with passionate, loyal readers," Hill says.
The weekend begins with a two-hour block of "shopping and socializing," followed by four ticketed dinners at The Macintosh, The Ordinary, Peninsula Grill and Charleston Grill. Each dinner, priced between $150 and $175, is hosted by a magazine editor. While the menus haven't been hammered out yet, the Peninsula Grill dinner with Southern Living editor in chief Sid Evans could feature dishes designed to provide a sense of the South.
Other events on the weekend agenda include a self-guided eat-around sponsored by Travel & Leisure, a Kiawah Island golf outing led by Departures and a tour of Sullivan's Island homes hosted by Coastal Living.
Coastal Living also is sponsoring a Magnolia Cemetery tour, as well as a "Gullah Experience" with demonstrations by blacksmith Carlton Simmons and chefs Charlotte Jenkins and Kevin Mitchell.
Travel & Leisure is organizing a cooking class with Maverick Southern Kitchens' chef Frank Lee, a cocktail cruise with Husk's Roderick Weaver, a cocktail workshop at Proof and a tasting conducted by freelance chef BJ Dennis and Butcher & Bee's Stuart Tracy.
"We're confident that frequent visitors and locals will enjoy something fun and new, while first-timers will leave wanting to return again soon," says Evelyn Webster, executive vice president of Time Inc.
Event tickets go on sale Thursday. For the complete itinerary, go to coastalliving.com/charleston, departures.com/charleston, foodandwine.com/charleston, southernliving.com/charleston or travelandleisure.com/charleston.
For diners who've eaten their way through Charleston Restaurant Week's top menus, this month might present an occasion for a road trip.
Under the auspices of the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, restaurants across the state will offer promotional prix-fixe dinners today through Jan. 18. Although Charleston restaurants dominate the list of restaurants participating in the event, now in its fifth year, highly rated restaurants in Columbia and Greenville also are preparing three-course menus.
Restaurants located beyond big-city limits are on the participant list, too. According to association spokeswoman Katie Montgomery, restaurants in Loris, Florence, Ridge Spring and Belton are signed up for Restaurant Week South Carolina.
"Restaurant Week South Carolina offers a great opportunity for diners to not only take advantage of tremendous deals at their favorite restaurants locally, but also a chance to go out and explore all South Carolina's culinary scene has to offer," Montgomery says. "From Charleston to Greenville, Beaufort to Rock Hill, and all points in between, diners can savor world-class cuisine at greatly reduced prices."
Most restaurants offer three courses for $30, although deals vary by restaurant. For a complete list of participants statewide, go to restaurantweeksouthcarolina.com. Or, if you're looking for Charleston-specific details, check out the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association's website.
When Blake Joyal wanted to grill at Palace Hotel, the site of his first executive chef gig in Charleston, he fired up a Big Green Egg on the Eastside bar's back patio. But at his upcoming James Island restaurant, he'll have the benefit of a custom-made, eight-foot long unit being billed as the "showpiece of the restaurant."
Screen Door general manager Herbie Gimmel, whose sister-in-law Kit Thrash owns the building at 1271 Folly Road, designed the wood-burning grill and rotisserie. According to a press release, Joyal's crew will use the grill to create "simple but intelligent dishes" such as "gourmet burgers" and "refined seafood." The menu also will include pizzas and salads.
"Screen Door will serve high-quality food and drinks at affordable prices in a comfortable and energetic neighborhood restaurant setting," the release promises, emphasizing the fun ambiance plotted by Reggie Gibson Architects, the firm responsible for projects including The Obstinate Daughter, Hall's Chophouse, FIG and McCrady's. The building, which previously housed Lucky's, opened in 1995 as an Applebee's.
Thrash is new to the restaurant business, but Gimmel - like Joyal, who collected excellent reviews during his six-month tenure in Palace Hotel's itty-bitty kitchen - is a veteran of the New York City food-and-beverage scene. He managed bars at the Gansevoort Hotel and Empire Hotel.
The restaurant is scheduled to open in the spring. While the website currently features only a logo and email address, the Facebook page (already a cache of well wishes from Gimmel's relatives) is being updated during construction.
Asked whether he and his wife, Jessica, have much experience in the culinary tour field, Reid Surface readily admits, "We've been on food tours, but we've never led food tours."
Still, the Surfaces were troubled by the dearth of organized restaurant tours beyond King and East Bay streets, the city's most noted culinary thoroughfares. The couple this month launched Chow Down Charleston Food Tours, offering a stroll-and-sample tour that starts at the corner of Broad and Church streets.
"We try to go to where the food is," says Surface, who works part-time at Whole Foods Market. "We want to hit up places that not everybody knows."
By incorporating lesser-known restaurants, the Surfaces hope to appeal to locals as well as out-of-town visitors.
"Not everyone is going to know about a place like Queen Street Grocery," Surface says.
In addition to Queen Street, the three-hour tour stops at Fast & French, Brown Dog Deli, Kitchen 208, Lowcountry Olive Oil and Christophe. Surface insists the itinerary's French tilt was inadvertent.
"It just happened to be that way," he says of the French chocolates, crepes and comfort foods offered by Christophe, Queen Street and Fast & French. "But we're having grits at Kitchen 208."
Tours at 11 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays are $55. Go to chow-downcharleston.com.