Barbecue master John Lewis says he's feeling pretty good about Music to Your Mouth, coming up at Palmetto Bluff this weekend.
"I'm excited," he said. "I heard there were some really good bands there."
The Texas native, who helped put Austin barbecue on the map after he helped open the famous "Franklin Barbecue," said he would be working on his signature Hatch chile sauce in preparation for the food and wine event held at the Bluffton gated community each year.
Made from the green peppers of Hatch, N.M., the sauce and Lewis' slow-cooked beef short ribs, which he is also planning to do, will undoubtely have a lot of people talking at the prestigious culinary event, now in its ninth year.
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The event, which was nearly sold out as of late last week, was overhauled last summer, but organizers for Palmetto Bluff's signature affair said they would continue to focus on "the places, processes and ingredients that make Southern food intriguing."
"Even though we were nervous that we were making this big change, it wasn't a departure from our core mission of what we offer," said event director Courtney Hampson.
The event -- which boasts a variety of food and music -- had lost some of its original intimacy, organizers said over the summer, as it grew in popularity and crowds by the hundreds swarmed individual tasting events looking for a special story or connection to take away.
Bringing in new blood like Lewis was part of the changes.
Returning to smaller, more intimate settings, or "salons" that only cater to about 20 people at a time, was another.
"So we take one great chef, one great farmer, one great mixologist and put them into a home with a couple dozen people," Hampson said.
The move was a risky one, she said, but if recent ticket sales and sponsor interest are any indication, "Music to Your Mouth" will continue to succeed.
"All evidence points to a good decision," she said. "Now we just cross our fingers for the execution."
For Lewis, who recently relocated to Charleston where he plans to open Lewis Barbecue on the Upper Peninsula over the winter, it's a way to introduce his signature style to the region's food lovers and style influencers.
"These things are great," he said. "They allow us to reach more people than we would have otherwise reached."
Which is important since his style of barbecue -- using more beef than pork and using different techniques such as a dry heat -- is something a little different for this part of the South.
"So as much as trying to show people what I'm doing, being at something like this is all the better."
Music To Your Mouth
For more information or to find out which events are still available, call 843-706-6449 or visit www.musictoyourmouth.com.
Follow reporter Mindy Lucas at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.