Euphoria: a feeling of well being or elation.
What would you think if you received an invitation to an event called Euphoria?
My first thoughts were of Woodstock and I had visions of a sea of humanity partied out and swaying to the music of some of the greatest musicians of the 60s and 70s, such as Jimi Hendrix and The Who.
While it has been 44 years since that 3-day festival at a farm in New York State, the hippie generation of that era has definitely not given up their weekend long festivals. They’ve just shifted focus. Instead of looking for acid at Woodstock, they’re searching for antacid at food and wine festivals across the country.
Euphoria is one of those food and wine festivals. Held in Greenville, South Carolina, it was one of our favorites that we attended last year. Euphoria was founded in 2006 by platinum-selling singer and songwriter Edwin McCain and restaurateur Carl Sobocinski.
Both the city of Greenville and Euphoria were a pleasant surprise on that fall weekend in September. The city was engaging and the event was an impressive mix of talented chefs, excellent food and wine, and enjoyable music.
The first event we attended at Euphoria was Friday evening’s Taste of the South. A great way to kick-off the weekend, this evening was all about Southern food, wine, beer, and music. The tasting tables were set up in remains of the original Duke’s Mayonnaise factory, known as The Wyche Pavillion. This unique venue adds a bit of history and contrast to the new buildings along the river which are home to a mixed use and entertainment complex.
This entire park-like area with the The Peace Center Amphitheatre just steps away, is the main venue for several of the events at Euphoria, and is situated alongside the Reedy River in the revitalized downtown area of Greenville.
As the sun began to set over the city that evening, guests enjoyed small bites and drinks while listening to the music of local musicians, including one of the founders, Edwin McCain.
The following two full days of tasting tents, seminars, cooking demos, and Sunday Brunch provided an interesting mix of food, excellent wines, and good times. It was nice that the tasting tents were not overcrowded. There was a great turnout for the festival, but there still was plenty of room to move around and have access to chat with the chefs and wine and spirits representatives. We liked the intimacy of the event.
While we had a great time during the days and a few late nights out with friends, the highlight of the weekend had to be the two dinners we attended, The Wine Dinner at High Cotton Saturday evening and Sunday Supper at The Wyche Pavillion.
Chef Gary Mennie of High Cotton in Greenville (who has since left and has moved to Atlanta) and Guest Chef Craig Deihl of Cypress in Charleston, South Carolina prepared an impressive (and much lauded) dinner. Six courses with wine pairings began with Deihl’s House Cured Culatello served with Melon, Goat’s Milk Fromage Blanc, Watercress, and Bay Syrup and was followed by a collaboration of dishes by the two chefs. The next courses included: Seared Maine Scallops; North Carolina Guinea Hen; Bethel Trails Rabbit; and Veal Breast. Every dish was outstanding.
The menu was paired with some lovely Oregon wines chosen by Adelsheim Vineyard’s Bill Blanchard along with suggested musical selections for each course. Ending on a sweet note, Roasted Quince Strudel with Local Honey, Marcona Almonds, Apple Cider and Muscadines was paired with Déglacé, Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon 2011. The final course and dessert wine were enjoyed with the song, Whiskey River by Willie Nelson.
Euphoria’s weekend finale, Sunday Supper, was the perfect way to finish a weekend of Southern hospitality. This dinner combined the talents of Blackberry Farm’s executive chef and the 2013 James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef Southeast, Joseph Lenn, Cassidee Dabney (also from Blackberry Farm) and High Cotton’s Gary Mennie along with his culinary team.
The Wyche Pavillion provided the setting for a gorgeous early fall evening enjoyed outdoors. The meal, served family style, and paired with some unique cocktails (which just might have included bourbon), featured classic Southern dishes such as Blackberry Farm’s Sweet and Spicy Fried Chicken served with Squash Casserole and Georgia Olive Oil Braised Greens.
Some other favorite dishes at our table were the: Chopped Vegetable Salad with Manchego and Sherry Wine Vinaigrette, Heirloom Tomatoes, with Bennie and Barrel Aged Soy; and the Cedar Planked Wild Salmon with Anson Mills Faro Verde, both prepared by Chef Mennie and the culinary team from High Cotton.
Following Sunday Supper, there was a late night and a few more cocktails shared with friends, ending the evening and the weekend on a high note. It also provided a little inspiration for an article or two.
Euphoria was a wonderful surprise as was the town of Greenville. We have often driven through Greenville on our way to other destinations for our travels, but this was the first time we settled in to enjoy this quaint Southern town in the Northwest corner of South Carolina. Their downtown is a great testament to the city’s effort to revitalize the area and bring people back into the city.
Get in your car and set Greenville as the destination point on your GPS this September 26th and attend the 8th year of Euphoria. You’ll be glad you did. BTW, be sure to bring the antacid.
* Disclosure – We were guests of Euphoria for this event. I was not asked to write any articles about the event and have in no way been compensated. The opinions expressed regarding our experience are my own.
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