Friday, November 25, 2011

South Carolina City is a Culinary Destination

Euphoria: A Celebration of Food, Wine and Music in Greenville

By Lynne Brandon

Greenville, SC- Food, wine and music lovers get a sensory overload when Euphoria rolls into town every September. The four-day event showcases the best-of-the-best in an artistic smorgasbord that has something for every foodie, wine lover and music fan. The event was started in 2005 by award-winning singer/songwriter Edwin McCain who lives in Greenville, and restaurateur Carl Sobocinski, owner of the Soby’s, the five-restaurant group. Combining food, wine and music draws record crowds to the small city with a European-like downtown.

Euphoria is not just about eating, drinking and being merry. It is an event with a heart and funds the “Local Boys do Good” Foundation created to benefit local non-profit organizations. “We started this event for charity,” said Sobocinski. “It has evolved into tourism and put us on the map. People used to drive right through Greenville. Now, we are starting to be a weekend destination for folks from Atlanta and Charlotte.”

McCain noticed the change in the food scene when Soby’s opened and embraced the concept of music, food and wine as vehicles to raise money for needs in the community. The two have grown the event with the help of many volunteers who work tirelessly to bring in acclaimed chefs like Frank Stitt, Master Chef Whitney Miller, and famed wine experts for cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, and other events.

At the 2011 event, local chefs were showcased at the “Taste of the South” food event where Upstate culinary artists wowed all with masterful presentations at the Peace Center Amphitheatre. Regional fare from Soby’s, The Plaid Pelican, The Lazy Goat, and others served up shrimp and grits, seafood paella, pork and steak which pared well with regional rum and other drinks, beer and wine. Decadent desserts like carrot cake cupcakes with goat cheese icing from Stella’s ended the tasting on a sweet note. Afterward, diners enjoyed listening to the tunes of Edwin McCain, Maia Sharp and Will Hoke while lounging on the banks of the Reedy River under the stars.

Maia Sharp: Living Life on Her Terms

Fringe artist cuts a path with message lyrics

By Lynne Brandon

And, any time I think that I might drown in all this standard issue gray and I’m feeling small and pushed around, I close the door and draw the shades ---- I put on my red dress, I put my red dress. Can’t take my red dress away. I learned to grit my teeth and smile. Let’em think they’ve boxed me in. Inside I’m still the problem child that I always was, so I guess I win ---nah nah nah nah nah nah… - “Red Dress”

Greenville, SC- She’s cool and unassuming, and I am fairly certain that she lives life on her own terms. I heard her for the first time in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina. Maia Sharp was in the southern city for the annual Euphoria wine and food event that brought together all good things in life: exquisite Southern food by the nation’s top chefs and folksy-bluesy-southern rock music that stirs the soul and pulls on heartstrings. Sharp entertained the crowd solo with her powerful lyrics and at the side of friend and fellow musician Edwin McCain, Greenville’s hometown boy and co-founder of Euphoria. Sharp is the producer of McCain’s new album and co-wrote many of the songs on “Mercy Bound.” She wrote her first song at the age of five.

The Los Angeles native is California based but has the appearance of Nashville with jeans, t-shirt and boots. “If a drawl shows up now and then it's because I've spent so much time in Nashville, and around my grandmother in Bakersfield who never dropped her Oklahoma accent,” said Sharp.

Sharp’s soul stirring tunes bear a message: being true to self is the only path to take. Her words soothe those who have felt slighted or “less than” in life. Courage, conviction, loss and love are central characters. The busy woman took a few minutes to share what it’s like having a nontraditional career, working with Edwin McCain, and writing songs.

Lynne: Did you know early on you would follow a non-traditional path for a career?

Maia: I think I did. My father, Randy Sharp, is and has always been a singer/songwriter/musician/producer and my mother is a professor of anthropology and a photographer so non-traditional was par. Before I started playing saxophone I wanted to be the first woman to play major league baseball and they encouraged that as well. I'm very lucky to have a family that has no problem at all with non-traditional.

Lynne: Who have you written songs for?

Maia: I've had my songs recorded by the Dixie Chicks, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Cher, Keb Mo, Lisa Loeb, Edwin and others but unless I'm writing with the artist him or herself I just write and think about who might want to record the song later. Sometimes the song ends up being right for me and I do it on one of my own albums. Or, sometimes it needs a different home or maybe it shows up on both. It’s different every time.