They came, they ate, they conquered.

This weekend, we recognized a group of 72 finalists representing extraordinary food blogs, essayists, photographers, and Instagrammers at the 8th annual SAVEUR Blog Awards, hosted in conjunction with Explore Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. At an awards ceremony and dinner that took place at The Dewberry, 23 of these finalists took home a SAVEUR Blog Award, with categories ranging from Most-Inspired Weeknight Dinners to Best Food Photography and the Food Obsessive Award for Best Single-Interest Blog. This year marked the first year the Blog Awards have taken place in Charleston, and also the first-time we opened up the event’s activities to a select group of lucky SAVEUR super-fans.

The two-day affair kicked off with an evening rooftop cocktail hour, which doubled as a meet-and-mingle and a friendly cocktail competition featuring recipes from two of our booze-loving finalists: Arsenic Lace and Apartment Bartender. Judges and local bon vivants the Cocktail Bandits awarded the prize to Arsenic Lace, who took home a set of Cocktail Kingdom bartending gear and some goodies from Patrón Tequila. After the opening reception, the SAVEUR team led the finalists for a three-destination cocktail crawl across downtown Charleston, with stops at the Charleston Cocktail Club, the Darling Oyster Bar, and finally, The Ordinary.

After a late night, we were up bright and early for a big day of panels and workshops, but not before an all-out biscuit breakfast buffet provided by Carrie Morey of the famed Callie’s Charleston Biscuits and coffee from King Bean Roaster at the Le Creuset test kitchen. Minds ready and bellies full, attendees kicked off the morning with the “Behind the Brand: Building, Promoting & Monetizing a Small Food Business” panel, featuring Carrie Morey and Brooks Reitz of Leon’s Oyster Shop, moderated by cookbook authors Matt and Ted Lee. After the panel, guests were treated to an al fresco Bloody Mary bar put on by Charleston Mix, before heading into panel number two: “Blogs to Books and Back Again: What Publishers Don’t Tell You After Offering a Book Deal,” moderated by SAVEUR’s Max Falkowitz and featuring author and SAVEUR test kitchen director Stacy Adimando, along with author Nathalie Dupree, Le Creuset’s Nate Collier, and Smitten Kitchen‘s Deb Perelman.

From the Le Creuset test kitchen, we headed to High Wire Distilling Company, where we were greeted by a whole hog feast and fixings being prepared by local pitmaster Rodney Scott of Rodney Scott’s BBQ. As attendees wolfed down pulled pork, chicken, and collards, Post and Courier food editor and critic Hanna Raskin dove into our next panel, “Food (is) Culture: How to Talk About Food with Loaded History,” a conversation about race in food with Rodney Scott and Gullah Geechee culinary artist chef BJ Dennis. The last panel of the afternoon was a boozy one: “Whiskey with a Sense of Place,” featuring High Wire’s Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell as well as University of South Carolina professor Dr. David Shields explored the revival of heirloom grains and their spirited uses.

The night’s festivities took guests back to the Dewberry Hotel, where the ballroom and courtyard were decked out for dinner and an awards show. Presenting the awards in each category were the Taneka Reaves and Johnny Caldwell of the Cocktail Bandits, Stacy Adimando of SAVEUR, and Chef BJ Dennis. The final activity of the week, taking place the following morning, took finalists all the way out to the ACE River Basin for a rice-farming lesson and shrimp-and-grits lunch with Jimmy Hagood of Lavington Farms.

Congratulations to all the nominees, finalists, and winners of this year’s Blog Awards; and a huge thank you to all of our panelists, moderators, guest presenters, judges, and the venues and partners who hosted all of us for this incredible event in Charleston, South Carolina. Click here to see a full list of finalists and winners. Until next year!

“Trophies” were provided by the folks at Le Creuset. Matt Taylor-Gross
SAVEUR editors pre-gamed the opening night festivities with brunch at Le Farfalle, including this pulled pork hash. Matt Taylor-Gross
Attendees spent their first day walking around Charleston’s charming historic district. Matt Taylor-Gross
bar dewberry
The awards took place at Charleston’s new Dewberry Hotel, home of one of the city’s best bar programs. Matt Taylor-Gross
gift bag
Guests received gift bags loaded with local goodies from around Charleston, put together by the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Matt Taylor-Gross
Guests toasted with wines at the opening night of the ceremony hosted at The Dewberry. Matt Taylor-Gross
blog awards
Kerry Welch of Touchpoint Communications, pit master Rodney Scott, and Alyssa Maute Smith of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival catch up at the opening night cocktail reception for the 2017 Blog Awards. Matt Taylor-Gross
The opening night reception pitted finalists Arsenic Lace (Natalie Jacob) and Apartment Bartender (Elliott Clark) against one another in a cocktail competition. Pictured here is Clark’s Chicago Fall cocktail. Matt Taylor-Gross
SAVEUR Editor-in-Chief Adam Sachs introduces chef of the Dewberry, Geoffroy Deconinck. Matt Taylor-Gross

Smoke in the Orchard

Arsenic Lace’s Smoke in the Orchard cocktail was the winner, as voted by guests and judges the Cocktail Bandits. The winner took home a set of cocktail gear from Cocktail Kingdom and Patrón Tequila.
drinks bloggers
Arsenic Lace’s Natalie Jacob (left) and Apartment Bartender’s Elliott Clark (right) pose for a photo amidst the friendly cocktail competition. Matt Taylor-Gross
Best Instagram finalist C.R. Tan (@xlbcr), guest Jolene Sng-Ong, best food photography finalist Michal Korkosz, and SAVEUR deputy digital editor Dan Q. Dao pose for a group shot. Matt Taylor-Gross
cocktail competition
Cocktail competition judges The Cocktail Bandits, Johnny Caldwell and Taneka Reaves, crown the winner Arsenic Lace’s Natalie Jacob. Matt Taylor-Gross
cocktail club
After the opening cocktail reception, team SAVEUR took the finalists on a three-stop bar crawl starting with the Charleston Cocktail Club. Matt Taylor-Gross
Next, attendees stopped at The Darling Oyster Bar for drinks, oysters, and this clam chowder “poutine.” Matt Taylor-Gross
shrimp cocktail
There were also shrimp cocktails at The Darling Oyster Bar. Matt Taylor-Gross
On Sunday, Carrie Morey of Callie’s Charleston Biscuits prepared breakfast for the lucky attendees at the Le Creuset test kitchen. Matt Taylor-Gross
Toppings for the biscuits from Callie’s Charleston Biscuits included homemade pimento cheese and chopped bacon. Matt Taylor-Gross
Cookbook authors Matt Lee, Nathalie Dupree, Carrie Morey, Ted Lee pose for a group photo before the panels begin. Matt Taylor-Gross
From left to right: panelist Brooks Reitz (Leon’s Oyster Shop, Little Jack’s Tavern), moderator Ted Lee, panelist Carrie Morey (Callie’s Charleston Biscuits), and moderator Matt Lee Matt Taylor-Gross
bloody mary
Guests took a break from panels with a Bloody Mary bar provided by Charleston Mix. Matt Taylor-Gross
bloody mary
Yes, we said Bloody Mary bar. Matt Taylor-Gross
cookbook panel
Executive digital editor Max Falkowitz moderated the “From Blogs to Books and Back Again” panel featuring SAVEUR test kitchen director and author Stacy Adimando, author Nathalie Dupree, Nate Collier of Le Creuset, and Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. Matt Taylor-Gross
cookbook panel
Cookbook authors and panelists Deb Perelman, Stacy Adimando, Nathalie Dupree, and Nate Collier gather for a group shot. Matt Taylor-Gross
high wire
For lunch, guests headed to High Wire Distilling Company. Matt Taylor-Gross
pulled pork
Pit master Rodney Scott prepared a whole-hog feast for the blog finalists and winners, served at the High Wire Distilling Company. Matt Taylor-Gross
pulled pork
Chef Rodney Scott smiles as he prepares his famed pulled pork. Matt Taylor-Gross
barbecue lunch
What a plate. Matt Taylor-Gross
culture panel
Post and Courier restaurant critic Hanna Raskin moderated a “Food (Is) Culture: Talking Food with a Loaded History” panel with chef Rodney Scott and chef BJ Dennis. Matt Taylor-Gross
whiskey panel
High Wire Distilling Company’s Ann H. Marshall and Scott Blackwell join Dr. David Shields, professor at the University of South Carolina, for a discussion of Jimmy Red, an heirloom corn variety being used for a new spirit. Matt Taylor-Gross
jimmy red
Jimmy Red corn is a heirloom variety that has been recently re-discovered. Matt Taylor-Gross
dinner awards
The Dewberry knows how to throw a party: for dinner, guests and attendees dined on the likes of lamb, lobster, oysters, shrimp, and more provided by the hotel. Matt Taylor-Gross
dessert dewberry
And don’t forget about dessert. Matt Taylor-Gross
awards ceremony
Matt and Ted Lee of The Lee Brothers, Charleston Wine + Food Festival executive director Gillian Zettler, and SAVEUR Editor-in-Chief Adam Sachs are all smiles at the SAVEUR Blog Awards ceremony. Matt Taylor-Gross
fresh seafood
Fresh seafood was on the menu. Matt Taylor-Gross
Let the awards begin! Matt Taylor-Gross
opening remarks
Editor-in-Chief Adam Sachs presents opening remarks for the SAVEUR Blog Awards ceremony. Matt Taylor-Gross
food obsessive
Chef BJ Dennis presented Mica McCook of Let’s Taco Bout It blog with The Food Obsessive Award, editor’s choice. Matt Taylor-Gross
Chef BJ Dennis presents the Food and Culture Best Essay Award (readers’ choice) to Brianna Plaza of Hook and Blade. Matt Taylor-Gross
Mica McCook of Let’s Taco Bout It poses with her award, The Food Obsessive Award: Best Single-Interest Blog (editors’ choice). Matt Taylor-Gross
Hellen Die of Necro Nom-nom-nomicon took home the The Food Obsessive Award: Best Single-Interest Blog (readers’ choice). Matt Taylor-Gross
CR Tan (@xlbcr) poses with his editors’ choice award for Best Food Instagram. Matt Taylor-Gross
Michal Korkosz took home both the editors’ and readers’ choice award for Best Food Photography. Matt Taylor-Gross
Uma Raghuraman (@masterchefmom) was pleased to receive the Best Food Instagram readers’ choice award. Matt Taylor-Gross
kate wood
Kate Wood of The Wood & Spoon was the readers’ choice winner for Best Baking & Sweets Blog. Matt Taylor-Gross
brianna plaza
Brianna Plaza cradles her cherished readers’ choice award for Food & Culture Award: Best Single Essay or Article. Matt Taylor-Gross
group photo
The winners of the SAVEUR Blog Awards 2017 come together for a group photo. Matt Taylor-Gross
mara king
Mara King of People’s Republic of Fermentation is all smiles with her award for Best Food Video. Matt Taylor-Gross
From left to right: Taneka Reaves of the Cocktail Bandits, chef BJ Dennis, the Southern Fork’s Stephanie Burt, Apartment Bartender’s Elliott Clark, Johnny Caldwell of the Cocktail Bandits Matt Taylor-Gross
justin iso
Justin Iso has a sweet smile for his Best Baking & Sweets Blog editors’ choice award. Matt Taylor-Gross
tunde hellen
Finalist Tunde Dugantsi of The Gingerbread Artist and Hellen Die of Necro Nom-nom-nomicon raise a glass, er, bottle to their accomplishments. Matt Taylor-Gross
Kathryn Pauline of Cardamom and Tea, Yulia Dyukova of The Foodie Miles, and guest pose are a stunning trio. Matt Taylor-Gross
kathryn pauline
Kathryn Pauline of Cardamom and Tea is all smiles for her Best New Voice editors’ choice award. Matt Taylor-Gross
photo booth
After the ceremony, guests and attendees mingled with SAVEUR editors at the photo booth. Matt Taylor-Gross
michal adam
Michał Korkosz of Rozkoszny presents Editor-in-Chief Adam Sachs with a gift from the mayor of his hometown, Rzeszów, Poland. Matt Taylor-Gross
From left to right: SAVEUR’s Adam Sachs, Stacy Adimando, Stef McNamara, and Dan Q. Dao Matt Taylor-Gross
ace basin
The morning after the awards, the finalists and winners took a field trip to ACE basin to learn how to harvest rice. Matt Taylor-Gross
jimmy hagood
Jimmy Hagood of Lavington Farms in the ACE Basin demonstrates rice farming to the finalists and winners. Matt Taylor-Gross
shrimp grits
Jimmy Hagood prepared a meal of shrimp and grits for the finalists using rice harvested at his farm. Matt Taylor-Gross
dewberry hotel
The sun sets over Charleston and we capture the stunning view from the Dewberry Hotel. Matt Taylor-Gross