Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Let's Make Bacon!" Charcuterie Class Educates & Inspires at Motor Supply Company's "Make" Event

I don't know any good southern girl that doesn't hold a deep reverence for the smell of bacon sizzling away in her Mama's frying pan come Saturday morning. It's a solid signal in the South, an olfactory alarm unlike any other. I've loved it for as long as I can remember. I thought I knew it, too-how it was made, which cuts to search my grocery aisles for whenever I wanted that same smell my childhood brought me each weekend. And then, last night, I had the pleasure of being educated about True Bacon at the "Make" Charcuterie Event with Chef Tim Peters at Motor Supply Company. I quickly learned that true bacon is thick as a steak, meant as a main dish, & should be cured to bring out the quality of a Pork Belly so fine that it could have only come from Caw Caw Creek.

Chef Tim Peters taught a full house about this southern-fried delicacy last night. In the "Make" event, guests were treated first to a selection of house-made Charcuterie by Tim & his very impressive staff. Among the bites that opened the evening were a wonderful sausage and a pate that introduced me to itself so tastefully that I will absolutely try it again. Wine & beer flowed freely from the very generous bartender, who kept guests engaged as they prepared to "make" their own bacon with the Chef.

When he took his place in front of the diversely delicious array of curing spices to speak to his guests about the art of Charcuterie, it became immediately clear to everyone in the room that Peters was much more than an expert Chef. He's that too, of course, but what was most striking about the way the spoke to folks last night went beyond his expertise in the kitchen. The passion with which he spoke, as a man who is inarguably successful, yet completely humble-a man who clearly loves and believes in his work as a Chef, is what I'm certain most will remember long after their bacon cures in a week or two. It's a rare thing in this world to see someone with that kind of joy, & Peters was more than willing to share that with his audience in hopes of inspiring & educating.

Finally, with the perfect blend of humor & direction, Peters wrapped up by answering every level of question from his guests with the utmost grace & detail. He then prepared them to choose their spices for the start of the curing process & head to a table he'd set up with all they would need to create their bacon. Following this process, guests had the option of taking their creation home to complete the curing process or the option of leaving it with Peters & his fantastic staff to finish up at Motor Supply.

It wasn't surprising to see several guests take this option, demonstrating an obvious trust in their host, his staff, and his excellent lesson on far more than just the art of Charcuterie.

You can enjoy Chef Tim Peter's creations long after Indie Grits ends by visiting Motor Supply Company, open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch & dinner on Gervais Street in the heart of theVista.

Monday, April 23, 2012

An Evening with Slow Food & the "Make" events this week at Indie Grits

A key component of the magic that is Indie Grits happens when its participants interact with one another. This has been true since that brilliant opening party this past Thursday night, where strangers filled the dance floor at 701, coming together to celebrate the beginning of what's been a most memorable opening weekend for the festival. Attending simply just doesn't cut it at Indie Grits. Participants can't help but befriend like-minded culturally conscious festival goers no matter what the occasion. They get involved. They experience. They participate.

A particularly effective participation-maker came last night, as folks reveled together in the vast variety of treats that were featured at the Indie Grits Slow Food event, held at the All Local Farmer's Market at 701. Chefs were on hand & more than willing to share their trade secrets about their featured dish. Set up at stations surrounding the perimeter of the space, participants tasted creations from Mr. Friendlys, 116, Terra, & so many other of Columbia's best restaurants that feature local and sustainable ingredients. The faces behind the food were engaged with participants in a way that was so demonstrative of the pride & passion they hold for their profession. I was particularly fond of Rosewood Market's always-tasty Shrimp Burger & 116's Chorizo and roasted Chick Pea salad.

Were the edible treats not enough to satisfy your appetite, Motor Supply Company featured a fantastic homemade Strawberry Ginger Soda that chef Tim Peters kindly gave second (and a somewhat shameful third, in my case) tasting of to thirsty attendees. Mixed with the featured Champagne being poured most liberally by the event's fantastic bar staff, it created a cocktail that served the diverse selection of entree tastes perfectly.

Tonight begins yet another round of edible entertainment with the start of the "Make" events. These events, run by Indie Grits Festival partners, aim at providing audiences with an interactive, hands-on culinary experience with two of the most talented chefs in the city. Tonight, Motor Supply Company Chef Tim Peters will engage his already sold out audience with a lesson on the fine art of Charcuterie. Participants will learn just how that unforgettably great Motor Supply Bacon comes to be by spicing and curing their own pound of Caw Caw Creek Pork Belly, which they'll take home as the ultimate Indie Grits souvenir.

On Tuesday, you can get a second dose of  "Make" with Rosso Chef Kristian Niemi, who will be running a limited class titled "Off Menu," designed to increase his audience's grill skills by offering a lesson that culminates in a dinner including a steak, salad, and American Harvest Organic Spirit Cocktail. For more details, you can contact the fine folks at Rosso at 803-787-3949.

If cooking doesn't sound so appetizing, try a third Indie Grits "Make" event, which is the already established art educational experience, "Craft. Bar. Happy. Hour," offered by the Columbia Museum of Art. Their "Make" event happens this Tuesday, April 24th at 6 pm. Attendees will be creating Voodoo Dolls of their favorite celebrities. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased here.

Whatever "Make" event you're fortunate enough to take part in this week, make it count. Get involved. Experience it. Participate.

It is, after all, the Indie Grits way.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Last night & Tonight at Indie Grits: Opening Party, Film Screenings, & Olivia Tremor Control

Folks could hear last night's Indie Grits Opening Party at 701 Whaley long before they saw it. As you approached that beautiful space, there was a definite buzz in the air. Whether from the bass being repeatedly dropped by those totally perfect deejays or the crowds of people who wouldn't stop talking about how incredible the night was-it was a solid sound that welcomed newcomers most hospitably. Upon walking in, this photo:

And upon entering, this crowd, riding the train thanks to some throwback Quad City DJs on the speakers:

Scott Hall's Artisan Grits bar was the ideal complement to the scene at hand. It's diverse selection of  toppings-I particularly got down with the collard greens & blue cheese combination-was a perfect metaphor for the crowd itself. Diverse, colorful, and more than willing to come together to create something wonderful.

Indie Grits arrived in style & in a tone that will carry itself into every nook & cranny of Columbia these next eleven days. Tonight, catch the start of the film screenings at both the old & new Nickelodeon Theaters. You've got an array of titles to choose from, all from independent film makers contributing to the Indie Grits cause. And after, carry your sweet selves on over our river to the New Brookland Tavern on State Street to watch Olivia Tremor Control kick off the music for the festival with a live show that will open with local favorites Coma Cinema and end, I suspect, much like last night did-crowds dispersing, that buzz dying on down, but still, though quietly-people tiredly talking about how incredible this town really is. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Previewing Slow Food at Indie Grits: Sunday, April 22nd

Slow Food at Indie Grits, which happens on Sunday, April 24th from 4-7 pm at 711 Whaley, is a delicious expression of everything edible, local & sustainable in our city. This conscience-friendly combination ensures that the evening maintains the mission of Columbia's own Slow Food Chapter: to work towards good, clean, and fair foodways in the Capital City.

Slow Food is an homage to the talented chefs & restaurants that treat Columbia eaters right daily with their Farm to Table ingredients and minimally processed meals that fill tables all over town. The food scene in this city is ever-changing & ever-growing towards the correct direction of organic & sustainable food preparation. Slow Food at Indie Grits aims at celebrating that progress via a friendly competition among the city's best chefs, all who employ the methods of food preparation stated above.

At the event, you'll taste dishes by-
Chef Ricky Mollohan, owner, Mr. Friendly's/Solstice/Cellar on Greene
Chef Mike Davis, owner, Terra
Chef Tim Peters, Motor Supply Company Bistro
Chef Kristian Niemi, owner, Rosso Trattoria
Chef Benoit St. Jacques, Rosewood Market & Deli
Chef Alex Suaudom du Monde, owner, Baan Sawan Thai Bistro
Chef Ryan Whittaker, owner, 116 espresso & wine bar
Chef Blake Faries, Saluda's
Chef Jessica Shillato, owner, Spotted Salamander Catering
Chef Scott Hall, owner, Bone-In Artisan Barbecue on Wheels
Chef Sean Hanley, MoMo’s Bistro

Already integrating the culinary mission of Slow Food in your daily life & meals? Share a potluck dish with fellow Slow Foodies at the event. Slow Food asks that you bring abut 20 tasting portions of your best dish that features at least one major local & sustainable ingredient. For your generosity, lower priced tickets to the event are offered at just $20. For those who want only the pure pleasure of tastes from the all-star chefs listed above, tickets are $35. ($30 for members of The Nickelodeon. That could be you! Go here.)

You've also got some high quality libations to match the measure of taste heaven happening on your Slow Food plates with a cash bar, made available by The Whig, featuring wines by Advintage & local craft brew masters, Westbrook Brewery out of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Maintaining the soul sounds necessary for proper Slow Food digestion & enjoyment are the expertly-skilled DJs from the Greater Columbia Society for the Preservation of Soul. The event will also be emceed by local and sustainable food advocate & talented blogger Anne Postic, of The Shoptart.

For fans of the chefs, drinks & sounds, this will be a familiar-face filled celebration of things you already love & value in this town. For those who haven't had the pleasure of experiencing any or all of the subjects mentioned here, I envy you. Figuring out the value of where you live via an evening with Slow Food at Indie Grits is the ultimate introduction to so many of the things that make this town great.

Tickets are here & the event, again, is Sunday, April 22nd from 4-7 pm at 711 Whaley.

PS: Festival passes are your best bet for Indie Grits. They include access to everything for one completely reasonable price. Get those here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Congaree Riverkeeper's 2nd Annual River Rocks Festival: Saturday, April 14th

When that thick summer heat hits hard come early June, there's a traditional tendency to flock to anything wet & cold in this town. In our city, that tends to mean you pack your cooler & call your friends. Park your truck at Riverbanks Zoo, suit up in a thick coat of SPF, & start the tedious task of blowing as much air into your tubes as possible before fighting the underbrush-covered trail leading to the heat-defeating waters of the Saluda River. As so many of my favorite faces in this town share my profession in public or private education, we're all on all kinds of summer vacation come that first weekend of June. And that inaugural trip down that blessed body of water always manages to start the summer off right.

Given that fact & my endless affection for bodies of water in general, I am all kinds of excited to attend the Congaree Riverkeeper's 2nd annual River Rocks Festival at Riverfront Park this Saturday, April 14th. Tickets are just $12 and can be picked up online in advance right here. All the proceeds go directly to helping keep our rivers safe & clean in the city-a job done well by the Congaree Riverkeepers, a local organization committed to keeping Columbia's natural resources safe and secure around these parts.

The festival runs from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm. It begins with a "call to service," where volunteers can earn a free pass into the fest for simply helping clean up a designated area of river nearby. Throughout the day, an array of family friendly events will take place in an effort to educate folks on the importance of maintaining the ecosystem our rivers need to survive & thrive. And then, around 3:00 pm, the live music starts.

One of my favorite memories from the summer of 2011 was being a part of a committed crowd, packed wall to wall in The Whig, singing the chorus to Shovels & Rope's "Boxcar." Folks who've never seen one another in their whole sweet lives became instant friends by that first chorus--the line "Hey, hey, cut the rope, there's no way I'm gonna let 'em get us both," all too apt to unite strangers in a spirit-soaked singalong, inside a bar that feels more like home than most living rooms I've ever visited. That's what Shovels & Rope does. It's who they are. Comprised of the truly talented Cary Ann Hearst & Michael Trent, an array of simple instruments meant only to emphasize the raw power that stems from the words & voices in the songs, & a rich Southern history hailing from Charleston, South Carolina-these two play every show with pure, unfiltered joy. And it's contagious. They make you feel fortunate to live & breathe, because every second of the songs they sing testify their own gratitude towards life & living it the best you can. Their new record will drop July 31st & is titled "O' Be Joyful." I can guarantee you'll want it the moment they hit that first endless note together in that very first song on Saturday. Shovels & Rope play River Rocks at 5:10 pm.

The last act to close out River Rocks is Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. Early fans of Jason's will know him best as a crucial songwriter in the timeless tunes created by the Drive-By Truckers. Admittedly, that's where I first fell for his songs. One song I'm particularly tethered to after spending years at WUSC playing it for my own selfish ears & those of listeners with most excellent taste is "Decoration Day." Though it was written for the Truckers, it's an obvious ode to his own lyrical & musical talents. "Decoration Day" easily stands as one of the best songs in the Truckers catalogue & demonstrates Isbell's striking ability to tell the classic Southern tale. He sings of two feuding families drenched in pride & fight that is timelessly beautiful & heart-breaking. He performs now under the name Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, having called up a cast of well-versed musicians more than ready for the very necessary job of continuing to create songs that tell unforgettable stories of our South. Their new record drops today and is titled "Here we Rest." Isbell & the 400 Unit perform at 6:30 pm on Saturday.

Consider this your first chance at beating the heat that draws nearer to our city by the day. Consider it a celebration of things this town does particularly well: Rivers, Festivals, and Live Music. Most importantly, consider it a chance at preserving these things via supporting them by coming on out for a fine time at River Rocks Festival this Saturday, April 14th at Riverfront Park. One more time-get those tickets here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Previewing Hunter Gatherer's 2nd Annual Arts Commission Fundraiser this Friday, April 13th

The Hunter Gatherer's 2nd Annual Arts Commission Fundraiser

If we're being perfectly honest, Hunter Gatherer is one of my very favorite spots in our city. I've celebrated more than one birthday there, taken more than 5 out-of-town friends by for happy hour, & spent countless summer nights on their patio, enjoying the view of Main Street downtown. Their food, which is hand-crafted and cooked using local ingredients with fantastic service that serves it up in the most gracious, southern hospitality-soaked style for lunch and dinner nearly every day of the week, is inarguably some of Columbia's best. The prices are beyond reasonable, and their self-proclaimed "pride & joy" beers, brewed on site and with tons of love, are a testament to the artistry the place holds in every sense of the word. 

And if that were not enough to make you a fan for life, they're also an establishment with a conscience for their local arts community. They'll be sponsoring their 2nd Annual Arts Commission Fundraiser this Friday, April 13th on site with a silent auction-which began its bidding on pieces from talented local artists Kevin Taylor, Woodie Wentworth, Thomas Crouch, and Bob Doster, to name a few-this past Monday. Bidding on the Silent Auction ends at midnight this Friday, the 13th. The fundraiser will also hold a live auction hosted by HG's infamous Buck Stanley with an array of goods up for grabs that are true Columbiyeah treasures. 

Audience members can bid on any of the following items: 
-$25 gift certificate to The Whig 
-Lunch for two at Immaculate Consumption
-An autographed copy of The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
-Passes to The Nickelodeon's Indie Grits Festival
-Framed artwork from The Half and Half
-Tickets to the SC Philharmonic
-A tree from local landscape artist Jenks Farmer
-Merchandise from ColumbiYeah!
-Gift certificate from Cty Yoga
-Gift certificate to The Mad Platter
-Gift basket from Sid Nancy

You've also got great tunes played live by local favorites The Post Timey String Band backing up the auction action all night long. Admission is only $5 at the door, and all proceeds from the event will benefit the non-negotiably important and crucial cause, The South Carolina Arts Commission , who works hard to continue on the unique culture of arts in the Soda City that continues to grow every year. 

The best folks, the finest cuisine, & the most fun-all supporting a most worthwhile cause. Friday night, 900 Main Street, 10 pm, & just $5 small dollars at the door. For more information, check out the Facebook event page, go ahead and click that "join," button, too-right here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

VIP Indie Weekend @ Indie Grits Sweepstakes:


In no time at all, our city will be filled with music, arts & film lovers alike all coming together to celebrate at the 6th Annual Indie Grits Festival here in town. You can purchase tickets, of course-the festival offers fantastic deals on passes for multiple events or you can pick up admission for those single events you simply cannot miss. But here's another option:

Enter to win a VIP Indie Weekend! This is an incredibly generous package offer sponsored by the Columbia Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau that will grant its winners with the ultimate Indie Grits & Columbiyeah experience. The package not only gets you in to the Indie Grits goodness, but also features meals & beverages at some of the city's very best spots. Here's what you get: 

One (1) winner will receive a VIP Indie Weekend at The 6th Annual Indie Grits Festival, including:
Two (2) nights at the Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel April 20 and 21, 2012
1-year membership for two (2) at The Nickelodeon Theatre
1-year family membership for 701 Center for Contemporary Art
Two (2) tickets to The Olivia Tremor Control at Indie Grits at New Brookland Tavern – Friday, April 20, 2012
Two (2) tickets to Spork in Hand Puppet Slam at Indie Grits – Friday, April 20 or Saturday, April 21, 2012
Two (2) priority seats next to Indie Grits filmmaker Chris White at the screening of his film ‘Taken In’ at The Nickelodeon – Saturday, April 21 5:30 pm
Two (2) tickets to your choice of Indie Grits film screenings – Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Two (2) tickets to Slow Food at Indie Grits – Sunday, April 22, 2012
Personal Phone Concierge Service for 701 CCA Columbia Open Studios tour of 69 artists’ studios across the Columbia region
$100 certificate for Motor Supply Company Bistro
$50 certificate to The Whig Pub
Two (2) Famously Hot t-shirts
Airfare or Gas expenses

Enter this killer contest, here: VIP Indie Getaway Sweepstakes . You'll want to do that soon, as it ends in just three days. One of the very best parts of this town is its ability to take folks in and make them a part of what we are here in Columbia. Fine, friendly folks with good hearts & a great city worth sharing. Enter now, locals, & then be that kind-hearted soul I just spoke about and forward it on to all your out-of-town friends.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Urban Tour 2012: Thursday, April 5th

Tonight marks the 5th annual Urban Tour as part of the First Thursdays initiative put in place by our beloved local merchants in an effort to showcase the rejuvenation & renovations taking place along the blocks of Main Street downtown. Urban Tour guests have the opportunity to take advantage of the numerous art shows & retailer showcases that put on their evening best to share the good work they're doing for our local economy every day with the fine patrons of the Capital city. Businesses that would normally close their doors along Main after 5 pm stay open, giving  guests a unique opportunity to get to know the street in a way that will bring them back again & again.

If art shows aren't your thing, try a trip through the Greyhound Pets of America set-up and challenge yourself to not be smitten with those enormous and endlessly sweet creatures. Take note of the music blasting from every block-from the Benedict College Gospel Choir to the SC Philharmonic Orchestra, guests will have the pleasure of hearing sounds for every ear in a celebration of all things local and sustainable. To quench your thirst for the Indie Grits Festival goodness that is coming your way in just two weeks time, take advantage of a sneak peak at the new Nickelodeon Theater on the 1600 block of Main Street.

Perhaps the most exciting of the mapped out itinerary, which you can view here - 2012 Urban Tour, is the Improv Everywhere Mp3 experiment, which has created a social media buzz throughout the city this week. Participants can join & get involved via the website, which is located here - Improv Everywhere: The Mp3 Experiment. The State newspaper gives an excellent run-down of the buzz here, too - "Urban Tour: Acting out in Public". All signs point to awesome on this one, & I personally can't wait until 7:10 pm when the city explodes in laughter at a public prank designed to remind us of what exactly it means to have "fun."

The event is a guaranteed good time & is completely free to attend. We've got our sacredly warm pre-spring weather in full swing, too. Chances are, it'll be a lovely night to experience one of the most prized streets in the city.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Previewing Indie Grits: Kickoff Party at 701 Whaley on Thursday, April 19th

We're just two weeks out from the kickoff party of one of Columbia's finest festivals. The sixth annual Indie Grits Festival's official opening party takes place Thursday, April 19th in the Grand Hall at 701 Whaley starting at 7 pm. Prepare yourselves for a small sampling of what's to come throughout the glorious eleven days of festivities this year as we start the festival in true Columbi-yeah fashion. 

Hometown DJ and WUSC Station Manager Will Flourance as well as Brandon from Izms of Art will spin dance music off the ever-amplified walls of 701. Guests will join celebrated chef of the city, Scott Hall, as he plays host to fancy fare that is South Carolina cuisine at its finest-a bar full of tempting tastes all flavoring the most comforting of comfort foods: Grits. You'll see a cash bar in place to keep you hydrated and in truly celebratory spirits that will be provided by The Whig. Live art exhibits will scatter the property for your entertainment via Izms of Art, while a "Make a Scene" live Drawing rally co-presented by Shigeharu Kobayashi and Shig-Nanigans will be set up for your involvement. Guests will also have the pleasure of taking a tour of our beloved city through an interactive map of Columbia.

Come and see, come and do, but most importantly-come and be a part of the start of something great. The sixth annual Indie Grits Festival is not to be missed. It aims at celebrating all things awesome in film, music, and art through a non-stop eleven day rain of parties, concerts, screenings, and cultural events.

It's all right here in town. Part of our sweet city that comes from the very heart of our city. And that is most certainly something to celebrate.
PS: You can go ahead and get those tickets here: http://bit.ly/IGkickoff