Thursday, October 24, 2013

Southern Living Taste of Charleston

Southern Living Taste of Charleston
September 29, 2013
Sponsored by Delta Faucet
At the end of July, I was invited by Delta Faucet to attend the Southern Living Taste of Charleston (SLTOC) event in Mt. Pleasant, SC on September 29th as one of their sponsored bloggers. Both my husband and I was so excited to be visiting one of our favorite places - the Charleston, SC area - to do one of our favorite activites - eat good food!
Mt. Pleasant, SC
We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful fall day for the event with crisp blue skies and comfortable temperatures. And, we certainly couldn't have asked for a more beautiful venue than Boone Hall Plantation. This was my first time visiting the plantation and it was absolutely gorgeous! I can't wait to go back and explore it more closely. 

Upon our arrival at the event, we checked in with our sponsor, Delta Faucet, who was sharing a tent with Southern Living. We got to check out their newest faucets featuring the Touch2O Technology. Talk about a dream for the busy cook - touch-free faucets. I can't tell you how many times I've been working in the kitchen and have left a huge mess on my faucet. That will all be history when I get one of these beauties installed in my kitchen. Besides being highly functional, they're absolutely beautiful, too.

The new faucets really generated a lot of excitement with event visitors. Delta gave out faucets as door prizes throughout the day and the lucky folks who won were so excited to get their faucets . 
Cookbook author Rebecca Lang introduces Norman King at the Southern Living Taste of Charleston. Norman whips up some fried green tomatoes from his new book, The Way to Fry. This segment of the event was sponsored by Delta Faucet and features the beautiful Touch20 faucet.
One of the highlights of the event was a cooking demonstration from Norman King, Southern Living's Test Kitchen Editor and author of the new cookbook, Southern Living The Way to Fry. Norman cooked up some fried green tomatoes for the crowd and served it up Po' Boy-style .

Unfortunately, I only sampled the sandwich my eyes and nose. It looked and smelled delicious! This was my first experience watching a live cooking demonstration so I enjoyed watching and smelling the food coming together, much better than watching it on television.

I was in cookbook heaven. There were stacks of Norman's and Rebecca's cookbooks on display in the tent. While the books were for sale, some of them were given away as door prizes.  
After the cooking demonstration, Norman autographed his cookbook for the fans. I received a copy of the cookbook the night before the event. If you're a fan of fried foods, you'll love it. It's amazing how many nontraditional foods can be fried. 
This was one of my favorite displays which featured Rebecca Lang's cookbook, Southern Living Around the Southern Table. The display was sponsored by Fig Newtons. The abundance of fruit also known as nature's props made for a beautiful tablescape. 
Views from around the event
The grounds of Boone Hall Plantation were filled with white tents which represented restaurants and food businesses from all over the Charleston area. Upon entering the event, we bought tickets which we used to purchase food items. Each vendor had several dishes available for purchase.
I personally enjoyed fried shrimp, Greek pasta salad with chicken, feta and basil, a BBQ sandwich and hash and rice. My husband and I shared some of these dishes. He also had a crab cake and a second...or possibly, third...BBQ sandwich. There were so many vendors that it was almost overwhelming to choose how to spend our tickets.

Vlasic had a popular display with samples of their newest Farmer's Garden products. In addition to the bread and butter chips, they also had dill and kosher version of the pickles. We munched on dill chips with pickled garlic.  

Don't worry! There was plenty of barbecue. And, I think my husband sampled every one of the BBQ vendors. We're familiar with Duke's Barbecue so I grabbed a sandwich and hash and rice from them. It never disappoints.
The Biltmore Estate Winery had a classy display. I loved the flower arrangement. Unfortunately, this tent was set up so close to the music so it was almost impossible to hear anything when you spoke to the vendors. I felt for them.
While we did not bring our children to the event, there were activities for kids so I could bring them to future events. My 8-year-old would have enjoyed the Kona Ice and balloon animals. My 10-year-old would have been more interested in the food tents. Like mother, like son...
I had to stop a moment to be entertained by a belly dancer and stiltwalker. I wish my kids would have been there to see the stiltwalker. They would have gotten a kick out of him. This guy had quite a way with the ladies.
All in all, it was a beautiful day full of food and fun. I want to thank Delta Faucet for inviting and sponsoring me at the event. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will always remember.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weekend in Charleston, SC {Part I}: Dinner at Circa 1886 Restaurant

at Wentworth Mansion
Charleston, SC
A couple of months ago, I was contacted by Delta Faucet and asked if I would like to participate in a special event that the company was sponsoring that was coming to Charleston, SC - the Southern Living Taste of Charleston. They offered to sponsor me to attend and blog about the event. Since Charleston is a town that is near and dear to not only my heart but my husband's heart, too, I definitely wanted to participate. In addition to attending the event at Boone Hall Plantation on September 29, 2013, as a Delta Faucet blogger, I was also invited to attend a special, private dinner hosted by Southern Living on the night before the event.
The dinner took place at Circa 1886 Restaurant which is located on the grounds of the Wentworth Mansion in downtown Charleston. We couldn't have asked for better weather for the event. It was an unusually pleasant day in the city for a late September evening. There was a cool breeze and the humidity was fairly low. My husband and I arrived at the restaurant a little early and spent some quality time together sitting outside of the mansion and enjoying our surroundings.

This is the view from the back entrance to the mansion. It was absolutely gorgeous and I may have gone a little crazy taking photographs of the place. Since I thought of this as a once-in-a-lifetime event, I didn't want to miss capturing it from every single angle.

Every view from the yard was surreal, much like a postcard. I couldn't help but capture the entrance to the restaurant to show it to you. Love the tree-lined lane. I think this would be a good time to admit that I was a little nervous about this whole event. I'm very shy around strangers and this was the first event that I've ever officially participated in as a blogger. And, to think that my first time would be with two major players like Delta Faucet and Southern Living was quite overwhelming. As I walked this tree-lined lane to the door of the restaurant, I silently prayed, "Please, Lord, help me to be better than I am!"

Just breathe...

Upon entering the courtyard outside of the restaurant, I met everyone who would be part of the evening's festivities. The Delta Faucet rep, Sarah, greeted me immediately and put me at ease. In addition to the kind folks at Delta, I also met several equally friendly people from Southern Living including the Test Kitchen Editor, Norman King, who connected with my husband over the subject of SEC football as men tend to do. I was one of five bloggers invited to the event. All of us were from the general southeastern vicinity with one from North Carolina, three from South Carolina, and yours truly from Georgia.

We spent the social hour in the restaurant's courtyard chatting and munching on a vegetable tray and spicy egg rolls. With each blogger bringing a guest, plus the Delta and Southern Living crews, we had a total of 17 people. Between the friendly and welcoming atmosphere and the intimate number of guests, I immediately felt at ease and knew that there was a lovely night ahead of us.
After the social hour, we all moved into the restaurant to a private dining room. Because we were a room full of food bloggers and our hosts were all foodies, too, we were told to take photos and Tweet to our hearts' content. It was so fun to see so many iPhones and cameras whipped out and in use as every delicious course of our dinner was served.

First Course
A Shot of Shrimp n' Grits Soup
Second Course
Rice Paper Wrapped Romaine Heart Salad
Main Course
Pan Seared Organic Chicken
Sweet Finish
Warm Pineapple Upside Down Cake

As you can see from the photos and menu, we were really in for a wonderful meal of traditional and comforting food. The soup was drizzled with white truffle oil. I have a can of white truffle oil that has never been used. Now, I am inspired to try it with shrimp. The salad was served with a spicy pecan dressing, a perfect choice for a Southern salad. The main course included Hoppin' John risotto that was out of this world. I may even brave making risotto now. That course was also served with one of our favorite sides, grilled asparagus, and was accented with a drizzle of truffle and chive demi glace. Will I ever be so bold as to attempt demi glace? My husband said that was his favorite part of the meal, of course. I've been inspired on so many levels.
Every corner of the dining room was decorated with Southern Living photographs. Since I am a big fan of fall magazines, I couldn't help but be drawn to this one with the magazine's cover featuring a beautiful caramel apple blondie pie. All of the bloggers were gifted with an autographed copy of Norman King's new cookbook, Southern Living: The Way to Fry. When Norman announced that he uses Crystal Hot Sauce on his fried chicken, my husband and I knew that Norman knew his way around some fried food. Delta Faucet also gifted us with a nice swag bag which included our tickets to the next day's big event!
The whole evening was like sensory overload for me from the people, to the food, to the atmosphere. I just kept telling myself, "remember this and remember that." "Take in every moment!" It has all been absorbed and locked away in my memory for safe keeping. In the end, I didn't really have to be someone better than I was, I was just me. And, I think that was good enough.  
The McCallies taking in the atmosphere and anticipating a good night...
Stay tuned for my next post from the Southern Living Taste of Charleston, sponsored by Delta Faucet. More food, more fun...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pretzel Crisps® Review and Recipe

Are you a fan of Pretzel Crisps®? My son and I discovered them about a year ago and we've been hooked ever since. My 10-year-old has been a pretzel fanatic from the very beginning. I can't tell you how many bags of pretzels I have purchased over the years. I, myself, have never cared for the density of pretzel, but I have always loved the salty outer coating of pretzels. Enter Pretzel Crisps® which has created a product that takes the best part of the pretzel and turns it into a crispy snack.

When I asked the makers of Pretzel Crisps® if I could work with their products, they were more than generous and sent me a large bag filled with a broad selection of deli flavors: Original, Garlic Parmesan, Buffalo Wing, Everything (think bagels), Sesame, Jalapeno Jack, and Chipotle Cheddar. According to the Pretzel Crisps® web site, there are also holiday flavors, Dark Chocolate and Peppermint and White Chocolate and Peppermint. Definitely, something to look forward to in the coming months.

Besides being a healthy alternative to crackers, these crisps taste delicious and, with so many flavors to choose from, you're sure to find one that is just right for you. If you are a salty snack fan, you'll love these. The original crisps also make the perfect base for sweet indulgences, too. Use them to dip into a toffee or hazelnut spread or sit down with a bag and a jar of peanut butter. 

While these crisps are perfect alone without any dip at all, I felt inspired to create a dip using the Buffalo Wing Pretzel Crisps®. This dip like the Buffalo Wing Pretzel Crisps® has a mild kick of heat. Splash on more hot sauce if you feel the need.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup hot sauce
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
3 green onions finely chopped
Serve with Buffalo Wing Pretzel Crisps®

In a mixing bowl, combine the Ranch dressing mix, cream cheese, and hot sauce. Using a mixer, blend until fully combined. Stir in the chicken and green onions. Stir until evenly coated. Sprinkle on a little extra hot sauce for an extra kick. Serve with Buffalo Wing Pretzel Crisps®.

Disclaimer: Pretzel Crisps® provided me with products to review; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.