You hit every food festival you can with your badge proudly hung around your neck, an eager stomach and your phone at the ready just waiting to Instagram. You’re a culinary enthusiast, and food festivals are the name of your game. Prepare to witness Music To Your Mouth, the ultimate Southern/Lowcountry smorgasbord, because we just spent the weekend at the mind-blowingly beautiful Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina.
Now in its eighth year, Music To Your Mouth is a celebration of the region’s most beloved chefs, wineries and local artisans and purveyors in the heart of the 20,000-acre ode to relaxation in the Lowcountry. So you might as well relax and work up an appetite for some of the country’s best regional cuisine. Here are the highlights we enjoyed. Book your reservations for next year — this festival sells out way in advance, and there are limited accommodations available.
1. Food Of Place Cooking Classes
Festivalgoers attended two cooking classes led by beloved Southern chefs and moderated by the legendary John T. Edge, longtime director of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Tyler Brown of Capitol Grille at Nashville’s Hermitage hotel whipped up your new favorite hors d’oeuvre, an homage to Southern Foodways Alliance co-founder John Egerton: country ham pâté. Made from the trimmings of that wonderful staple of the early American larder. Brown also demoed a seasonal roasted vegetable salad with sweet, nutty sorghum seeds cooked like risotto until al dente.
Also on the menu from New Orleans chef Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery, local oysters from the May River, which runs alongside Palmetto Bluff, poached lightly in herbed chicken skin butter. Yes, you read that right. Compound butter whose compound is butter and deep-fried chicken skin.
2. Potlikker Block Party
Helmed by the mighty pitmasters of the Fatback Collective (and darn good musicians, might we add), Palmetto Bluff’s Village Green was transformed into a Spanish moss-draped wonderland of smoky grilled meat, fresh-from-the-water seafood on ice and classic Southern sides as far as the eye could see, with free-flowing local wine, beer and music. Hanging out in the treehouse with a cold beer overlooking the scene and listening to live bluegrass was unforgettable, the apex of heaven for any food and music fan.
3. Culinary Festival
Chefs set up their tables beneath a tent by the Palmetto Bluff Inn to ply guests with the very best of from their restaurant’s menus. Ashley Christensen’s pimento cheese grits with chow chow, Ed Lee’s green tea beignets with pears and Justin Deviller’s steak tartare with caviar, ranch aioli and crunchy puffed quinoa were all highlights. Our buddies from award-winning Hilton Head burger mecca Charbar were there slinging kimchi burgers (the line for which was completely worth it despite the long wait).
4. Oyster Roast
The final night we boarded trolley buses with old-school wooden interiors and headed to a part of the property called Moreland, where chicken was fried; brisket sliced, doused and served with Parker House rolls; and hundreds and hundreds of oysters shoveled onto piping-hot steel plates over massive fire pits, covered with wet burlap sacks and steamed open. The band played originals and covers, then we all moseyed over to listen to Holly Williams (daughter of Hank Williams Jr.) play some of her daddy and granddaddy’s favorites. Did I mention the pig luge? Because there was a massive ice luge shaped like a pig, which is the best way to take a shot (kiss the pig!) and end a spectacularly delicious weekend down South.
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