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I ate, I sipped, I listened, and now, I am full, happy and cultured.

The 12th annual euphoria festival wrapped up Sunday and while, full disclosure, I did not get to attend everything, I enjoyed what I did. Here, in no particular order, are my favorite moments from the event:

  • Husk. Perhaps this goes without saying, but truly, it is magical to watch an artist in their element. And, at the Greenville Kick-Off party Thursday night, Sean Brock, Jon Buck and their team were. Their Georgia pine sap glazed potatoes with caviar was a favorite dish of mine. I might have had two. OK, maybe three.
  • Bacon Bros. Public House. Executive chef, Anthony Gray is somewhat of a master of meats, and it showed at the Kick-Off. His smoked quail was one of the tastiest dishes I think we sampled. It was Manchester Farms quail stuffed with mortadella. But what I really appreciated was how the chefs considered every element of the dish. The quail was served with chanterelles mushrooms, 2-year aged country ham and tomato jam, but the kicker was the creamed hominy. It was masterful and interesting in taste and texture and really brought the dish home for me.
  • New restaurants. It was pretty cool to get a sneak taste of some of Greenville’s just opened and soon to open restaurants. Abanico, the Spanish tapas bar and restaurant which opened in August serves up some tasty paella and potatoes, but my fav part was the piquant sauce served on top.
  • Limoncello, the authentic Italian concept coming from the owners of Larkin’s Restaurants, was serving up some delicious penne arrabbiata and bracciole. And the best part, Larkin’s COO, Bob Munnich was working behind the station. And It. Was. Good.
  • LaRue Fine Chocolate. It was pretty cool to hang out with one of Greenville’s most talented chocolatiers, Elizabeth McDaniel. The owner and artist behind LaRue Fine Chocolate was out and about Thursday evening at the Kick-Off and also taught a class on pairing chocolates and spirits (which I sadly missed due to some confusion about the venue) Saturday. But still, I think that is kind of what is so unique about euphoria is that you get to actually talk to the people creating your food, and not just in passing, but often one on one, because they are often attending events as well. So it creates a different kind of dynamic and, I would argue, understanding about what they create.
  • Curtis Duffy. One thing I remember about last year’s euphoria is getting to meet Curtis Duffy in person. The three-star Michelin chef and owner of Grace Restaurant in Chicago has made euphoria a priority in his very very busy schedule since 2015, and he is incredibly nice. He also has a deep and personal interest in healthy eating and childhood obesity, and participates in the Healthy Lunchtime Throwdown each year. Duffy has two daughters, ages 8 and 11, and so is kind of on the front lines of feeding children. And guess what parents, it’s hard. It’s not just you. Even Curtis Duffy struggles. I’m still cracking up over his story of making handmade chicken fingers with his kids only to have his daughter say they tasted “rotten.”
  • Dominique Crenn. So full disclosure, I got to interview Dominique Crenn for a story in The Greenville News a couple weeks before euphoria, and it was one that stuck with me. Crenn, a 2-star Michelin chef and owner of Atelier Crenn, is charismatic, kind and unapologetically passionate about her ideals and her food. She spoke at an event at Michelin Friday afternoon and I was transfixed the entire time. Both she and her sous chef, Felix Santos, who was also in attendance, shared such interesting insights about the world of restaurants and food and humanity. Some takeaways: food is a great unifier that can help us form connections; if you are rude and pompous to Crenn’s staff she will not hesitate to ask you to leave her restaurant and when in doubt, always add more butter to your grilled cheese.
  • Work. Truly, all the staff, all the volunteers and all the participants – chefs, beverage folks and musicians – put a lot of effort into creating a seamless experience that was fun, educational and uniquely Greenville. And the work showed.

Catching up on euphoria – my favs from this year’s festival