The BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival

The 7th annual festival kicks off with a party celebrating Charleston’s vibrant dining scene
The BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival
Ali Rosen

With blue skies and record-high temperatures, the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival is underway!

In its seventh year, the festival is attracting some big out-of-town names — including John Besh, Michael Laiskonis, Anita Lo, Marc Vetri, and Christina Tosi — but the first night's focus was all about Charleston. The "Salute to Charleston’s Chefs: Opening Night Party" was held at the South Carolina Aquarium, where chefs from more than 20 Charleston restaurants served their signature dishes while fish swam behind them and a jazz band played well into the night.

The chefs put out an array of Southern specialties, such as Graham Dailey's (Peninsula Grill) toasted fennel sweetbreads with country pâté and a shaved rainbow carrot salad with mustard seeds. Others highlighted the region’s outstanding seafood, like Frank Lee and Forest Parker's (Slightly North of Broad) golden tilefish crudo with strawberry caviar, micro arugula, and roasted beets.

Two true highlights of the night were Sean Brock's (McCrady's and Husk) octopus with parsnip, hazelnut, black truffle, and fennel, and Jeremiah Bacon's (The Macintosh) hot and sour pork belly soup. Both were perfectly executed — a true feat considering that chefs were cooking in small booths with fish staring at them from every angle.

After the opening event wound down, Indigo Road Restaurant Group kept the party alive at Oak Steakhouse, where locals, members of the media, and chefs such as Hugh Acheson and Drew Robinson indulged in burgers and cocktails while partygoers enjoyed games of blackjack.

After a successful kick-off, the festival will continue through the weekend with events such as Taco Turf Wars, An Oyster Ode to "Goat" Lafayette, and the Lowcountry Gospel Brunch. Follow all the events using the hashtag #chsfww and check back with The Daily Meal for updates.