The debate is settled, at least for this year: Columbia’s best shrimp and grits comes from Midlands’ Modern Southern Food Arts, the restaurant inside the Columbia Marriott. Executive Chef Jeremy Lane took home the People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice awards Saturday at the first Columbia Shrimp & Grits Fest.
Midlands may have benefited from home field advantage, as the event took place in the Marriott ballroom, where hundreds of people gathered to sample shrimp and grits from 14 of the Columbia area’s top chefs. Marcus Lattimore, Corey and Ramone of 2 Fat 2 Fly Wings, Soda City founder Emile DeFelice, Destiny Chance of WACH Fox, Twila Jones of the Columbia CVB, and the Colatown Foodie took on the tough task of serving as judges, choosing Midlands over a strong field of contenders including Blue Marlin, the Community Table, Capital City Club, Bistro on the Boulevard, Private Property, Sea & Salt at Nonnah’s, Rise Gourmet Goods & Bakeshop, Bricktown, Creekside at the Old Mill, Publico, Capital City Catering, Arkos and Chickadees Diner.
The night also included live music and dancing, samples of Topper’s Rhum, and a silent auction including signed jerseys from Lattimore’s days at USC and with the San Francisco 49ers. Chef Sarah Simmons and her team from Rise Gourmet Goods and Bakeshop claimed the Most Creative Shrimp & Grits award.
The event was organized by Columbia Food Tours, and part of the night’s proceeds will benefit the Marcus Lattimore Foundation. “We love shrimp and grits, and every restaurant you go to they have it on the menu,” said Kristin Cole, who along with her husband Brian owns and operates Columbia Food Tours. “It’s kind of like a battle: we wanted to see who has the best.”
The Coles have partnered with the Lattimore Foundation in the past, and thought the former Gamecocks star would be a perfect fit for this event. “Marcus is a big foodie,” Kristin said. “We wanted to do an event where he was excited to do it.”
Kristin said Midlands will have a chance to defend its crown, as she and Brian plan to make the Shrimp & Grits Fest an annual event, but there will be some changes just to keep things interesting. “Everything’s going to be different every year.” she said.
More information on Columbia Food Tours is available here, and more photos from the Shrimp & Grits Fest are available at the Midlands Anchor Facebook page.