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I overheard event planner Mitchell Crosby greet Nikki Hardin and Julie Perretta near the entrance to the “big top” dominating Marion Square all weekend as the epicenter of the BB&T Charleston Food + Festival. The third annual Bubbles & Sweets event, presented by Charleston magazine and the Art Institute of Charleston, certainly lived up to its billing, and more. “Is this your new gig? Lucky you,” Louis Yuhasz told me later, noticing the 35mm camera hanging about my neck. But I was too busy greeting and clicking to indulge much in the artful creations of some of Charleston’s best pastry chefs (not to mention the concoctions of local mixologists, as well as various wines, port, and, of course, Champagne—oh, yeah, and an aromatic cigar bar that I regret not taking advantage of).

Following my nose into the main part of the tent, I was too entranced by the aroma coming from the Sanctuary table to even notice the table…or was it a woman? No, it was both!…right inside the entrance
serving Van Gogh cocktails. The Ice Queen ensconced in the table was vaguely reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ winter witch, what with so many rich temptations (Turkish Delight, anyone?) and the dreamy ambiance from the mood lighting suspended from the ceiling. Come to think of it, arriving guests whisked past a gauntlet of hanging coats checked near the front entry, a bit like Lewis’ fictional wardrobe.

But back to the Sanctuary table: it was a downright sinful chocolate display (what recession?) masterfully presided over by pastry chef Laura Fieberg.
Her clever edible chocolate boxes filled with cream, chocolate cake, and raspberries (appropriately named Chocolate Decadence Tower) were nestled among huge blocks of raw chocolate strewn about with truffles, grapes, and a giant chocolate cartouche with a gold vine border centered by a gold S.

If that epitomized elegance, taking a different departure, wizard Kevin McCarthy of Embassy Suites Charleston Area Convention Center created a whimsical display. Decked out in a lab coat, he was mixing up a little weird science—the Everlasting Gobstopper—served in test tubes wreathed about with smoke from dry ice
. The scene was attracting a queue of curious partygoers, where I ran into Jonathan Miller (sans wonder dachshund) and Meredith Jarvis . He eyed my camera suspiciously and asked, “Are you qualified to use that thing? I thought you were a writer.” (No idea, Miller. You’ll have the check the to find out.)

Scott Lovorn of Circa 1886 took a decidedly Lowcounty tack with his Plantation Rice Parfait with Sweet Rice Cream, Praline, Peach Ham, and Benne Crunch. Across the room, guest celebrity chef Francois Payard of New York’s Payard Patisserie & Bistro was serving up Hot Pina Colada, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and an assortment of his housemade chocolates. Rumor has it people were spraying his new line of perfumes—a chocolate pistachio scent and a lychee something-or-other, but I didn’t see it (or rather smell it) first hand.

The party momentum was already building, perhaps from the sugar and bubbly buzz, when Charleston editor-in-chief Darcy Shankland, F+W executive director Angel Postell, Art Institute president Rick Jerue, and pastry chef poster gal of the evening M. Kelly Wilson of Cypress took the stage for an opening toast. Even amidst the speechmaking, Wilson was tending her Pineapple Brown Betty, Bana Yuzu Jam, and Coconut Ice (mmmm, the aroma of swirling butter). The glasses had hardly finished clinking when DJ Moo Moo began ratcheting things up a notch with his lively mixes, a promising prelude to the dancing to come—a perfect outlet for all that energy absorbed from the indulgent fare.