Savor Southern cuisine and spectacular scenery on the Georgia Coast
By Hope S. Philbrick
The Saint Simons Food & Sprits Festival had its second annual run October 1 through 6, 2013. In the festival’s second year, Getaways for Grownups was able to attend for the first time. Our verdict: It rocks.
The festival celebrates the culinary culture of Georgia’s Golden Isles while raising dollars and awareness for Hospice of the Golden Isles. It features local chefs and restaurants, celebrity chefs, culinary personalities, mixologists, food and beverage vendors and musicians from the Georgia Coast and surrounding Southeast region. Guests have ample opportunity to taste food and drink, learn techniques from cooking demonstrations, and shop local produce, culinary creations and juried arts and crafts.
The festival is comprised of several events. Among this year’s highlights…
Maker’s Mark BBQ Pro-Am
Barbecue is as pervasive as religion in the South, with as many avid followers and strong opinions, so when we say—in complete honesty—that this was the best barbecue event we’ve ever been to (so far), it’s really saying something.
The setting was lovely and just got better as the sun dipped into the marsh. The number of people in the allotted space was ideal with a balance of energy, enthusiasm and elbow room. The drinks—including craft brews by Wild Heaven Craft Beer, a couple varieties of Maker’s Mark bourbon, and cocktails created by celebrated mixologists Linda Torres-Alarcon of the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead and Arianne Fielder of Article 14, both in Atlanta, Ga.—were top quality, quenched thirst, and paired well with the food. And the barbecue was divine.
Pro BBQ Pitmasters included:
Tiffani Faison of Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars fame representing her restaurant Sweet Cheeks Q in Boston, Mass.
Jimmy Hagood of BlackJack Barbecue and Food for the Southern Soul in Charleston, S.C.
Justin and Jonathan Fox from the acclaimed Fox Bros. BBQ restaurant in Atlanta, Ga.
Chefs Jonathan Jerusalmy, John Helfrich, David Carrier and Kris Weimer, who comprise the Sea Island Resort BBQ Team, Sea Island, Ga.,
Harrison Sapp of Southern Soul Barbeque, St. Simons, Ga.
The “amateurs” were PGA tour professionals stationed at every smoker in the salty air, cooking up some fun and mixing and mingling with festival-goers.
The event offered the opportunity to sample different barbecue styles, sauces, rubs and cuts side-by-side. And the buffet of side dishes was so delicious that it rivaled the meat; even a vegetarian could have been happy at this particular BBQ feast.
Savannah’s Eric Culberson Band played the Blues for some foot-tapping ambiance. But most folks were humming “ummmm” in reverence of the food.
All-in-all, it was a stomach- and soul-satisfying good time.
Dinner and a Movie
The historic, original Saint Simons Movie House served up a feast for the eyes and taste buds.
The evening began with a mouthwatering double feature starting with the short documentary “Pimento Cheese, Please,” that showcases one of the South’s most popular creations. It was followed by “Pride & Joy,” a feature-length documentary by The Southern Foodways Alliance that showcases some food artisans and craftsmen across the South.
Watching films about food will make any audience hungry, however fun and informative those films may be, so the screening was followed with a feast featuring some foods featured in the films including pimento cheese by Carrie Morey from Callie’s Charleston Biscuits and cocktails featuring Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon ‘shine.
The evening satisfied tongues and minds.
Local Flavors Tasting Tent
The name says “tent” but there were actually series of tents at Gascoigne Bluff Park for this tasting extravaganza.
Few tasting events under white tents make an impression like this one: It’s set under a dramatic canopy of live oaks draped with Spanish moss, for a picturesque setting that also conveys an authentic sense of place.
More than 25 restaurants and 40 craft brew and fine wine vendors served samples, so there was plenty to taste and no reason to leave hungry.
On the Culinary Creations Cooking Stage, culinary talent presented informative demonstrations. This year, featured personalities included James Beard Award Winner “Best Chef Southeast” 2012 Linton Hopkins, Top Chef All Stars fan favorite Tiffani Faison of Sweet Cheeks Q, and Gena Knox of Fire & Flavor.
In the mixology tent skilled mixologists, bartenders and spirit brand ambassadors poured samples of craft spirits and creative cocktails. Best of all, the tent was exclusively available to guests age 21 and older. 21 Plus Salute!
Adjacent to the tasting tents, The Market by Viola’s Market featured 50 vendors of juried arts, crafts, farm stand and artisan-produced culinary items. There were also cookbook signings with Carrie Morey, author of Callie’s Biscuits and Southern Traditions; Libbie Summers, author of the Whole Hog Cookbook; and Gena Knox, author of three books: Gourmet My Way, Southern My Way Simple Recipes – Fresh Flavors, and Southern My Way: Food & Family.
Local musicians performed while guests strolled around sipping, snacking and shopping for a fun, flavorful afternoon in the shade.
Spiritual Sunday Brunch
How to gracefully conclude five days of eating opportunities? With a feast!
Hosted at The King & Prince Resort, this six-course brunch kicked off with the classic Charleston Bloody Mary and other libations featuring Square One and Hendrick’s Gin, sipped while overlooking the beach where rhythmic waves crashed.
In the elegant dining room where servers pampered guests with attentive service and never-empty beverages…
Carrie Morey served up an array of her piping hot Callie’s Charleston Biscuits.
Libbie Summers had guests praying for more of her “Salvation Cinnamon Rolls”—quite frankly, the best cinnamon rolls on earth.
Executive Chef Jason Brumfiel of The King & Prince served an apple and stilton tart with dried figs and cranberry compote and later chicken and truffle French toast with foie gras, pork belly lardons, wild mushroom and cauliflower veloute. Both high-quality dishes proved he’s a skilled and talented choice to reign over the resort’s kitchen.
Matthew Gray of Sea Palms served Manchester Farms Scotch Quail Egg on arugula.
Gena Knox prepared planked Wild Georgia Shrimp.
There was no need to stop for food or drink driving back to Atlanta after this brunch.
Trusting the 3rd annual will match the 2nd, this is one food festival you don’t want to miss next year!
The festival raises money and awareness for Hospice of the Golden Isles, the only community-formed, non-profit hospice serving the five county area.
-Photos © HSP Media LLC; graphic images courtesy Saint Simons Food & Spirits Festival
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.