Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Greenville's Euphoria: A Weekend of Music, Food, Booze and Good Cheer!

Sometime this whole starving-freelance-journalist gig actually pays off.

The band at Saturday night's Drive Associates Traffic Jam.
 A few weeks ago I was a journalist guest a.k.a. freeloader at Greenville's Euphoria. I had passes to several of the events spanning the long last weekend the end of September.

For the unwashed, Euphoria is a celebration of food and drink that began in 2006. Chief honcho of Table 301, Carl Sobocinski, founded it and remains sort of its Godfather. Key events run from Thursday through Sunday and include tasting events, beer/wine seminars, live music, cooking demonstrations/competitions, multi-course dinners and whatever else the planners can tie into the theme.

Master chefs at one of the cooking competitions.
 I was always out of town for this annual downtown fiesta and had never attended. When I discovered by my calendar that I would actually be in Greenville this year, I decided to try to attend an event or two. My buddy Kate was on board to check things out as well, but what would we attend?

Some of the action at Taste of the South.
Not one of the events is cheap; although most are fairly priced. The Sunday Jazz Brunch, which Kate and I attended, cost $45. The St. Francis Health System Tasting Showcase in the same three-tent area the day before was $75 – the bargain of the entire weekend. The Verizon Wireless-sponsored Taste of the South at the Larkins amphitheater on Friday evening was $125. And so on and on it went. Most of the multi-course guest-chef dinners, which I had no interest in, rang the register at $150, and all pretty much sold out. A VIP pass to access several of the events was, gasp, $795. 

Some pickin' and grinnin' at Taste of the South.
 I contacted the Euphoria PR firm – TK PR – and leveraged my covering travel for AAA of the Carolinas Go magazine to get a media pass to the major goings on during Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Wow, am I glad I did.

Of course, I was more interested in the featured alcohol than I was the food, but hell, I love wine, whiskey and beer. I was impressed with the caliber of the vendors at the big tasting events. 

Relaxing at Drive Associates Traffic Jam.
 This isn't a half-assed, anyone-can-set-up-a-tent, lynch-mob free for all. Planning for next year's Euphoria is already underway. It's a well-orchestrated undertaking. Wandering around for the three days, I spoke to several of the participating vendors. In several instances, actual reps from the distilleries, vineyards and breweries were behind the tables, pouring and describing their wares. 

At the Taste of the South on Friday I spent a lot of time with the Virginia Wineries. Barboursville Vineyards was there. I ate dinner at the winery a few years ago when I was doing a AAA travel piece on the Monticello Wine Trail. The next vendor over was Trump Winery. Trump Winery? I engaged its head of marketing, who happened to be there, asking which Monticello Wine Trail winery Trump had recently purchased. Trump certainly wasn't there three years ago. Turned out it was Kluge Estates that I had also visited on the same trip. 

Chicken and waffles...Mmmmm.
 Just so you know that I did more than swill alcohol during my weekend's research, I had some wonderful dishes from the score or more of Greenville restaurants providing samples. It was my first brush with chicken and waffles provided by Larkins. Yummy! Soby's Braised Beef Short Ribs and the Bittersweet BBQ Spareribs from the Roost were also outrageous. 

Spirits as far as the eye can see.
 I have to say, the weekend event that most impressed me was the St Francis Health System Tasting on Saturday. Three huge tents covering about a quarter of an acre were lined from stem to stern with distillers, brewers and wine makers. The scope of this thing was nothing short of staggering. There were so many tasting tables, I literally didn't know where to begin. There is no way one person could possibly begin to sample everything.

I really am a big fan of booze. I am fascinated by the processes, the nuanced flavors and the passion of the folks making this stuff. I spent a lot of time at several of the distillery stations. 

Sipping a little Larceny and making new friends.
 I chatted up the girls at the Heaven Hill table who were representing the Bardstown Whiskey Society's American Whiskey Collection. I sampled their Larceny small batch bourbon. I am a big fan the Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon that they were also pouring, and always have a bottle of that in my stash. 

Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery had a station close by. It's a start up located in Nashville. Andy Nelson was behind the table and we spoke at length about what he was doing, as well as his Belle Meade Bourbon.

Greenville's Dark Corner Distillery was there, too. I was most familiar with Dark Corner as a maker of moonshine, but it is cranking out a variety of spirits. Paul, one of the distillers, was manning the table to answer my questions. I was amazed by Dark Corner's Lewis Redmond Bourbon.

I have neither the time, the space, nor the energy to describe all the breweries and vineyards that were there. Oh, and there was food, too.

Enjoying the Jazz Brunch with my buddy Kate.
 My last gasp at Euphoria was the Sunday Jazz Brunch. Again, it featured food samples from dozens of area restaurants. My favorites were the Southern Eggs Benedict using corn bread from Larkins and the corn pudding from VooDoo Barbeque....oh, Momma.

Of course there was live music at all of these events. I'm not wild about Jazz, but even the band at the Jazz Brunch was pretty good.

Even if I don't secure a media pass next year, I'll at least spring for the St. Francis Health Care Tasting Showcase. It was that much fun.

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