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2011 WILD at Wingswood Welcomes Top Chefs to Center for Birds of Prey

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2011 WILD at Wingswood Welcomes Top Chefs to Center for Birds of Prey
Photo by Ben Thomas

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of avian conservation programs in the Lowcountry, the 2011 WILD at Wingswood fundraiser brought together top chefs to wow the bird-loving crowd. A special visit from Jack Hanna and his cadre of exotic animals from the Columbus Zoo added to the owl and eagle flight demos, which carried the high-flying affair well into the night.

The mission of the Center for Birds of Prey is to identify and address vital environmental issues by providing medical care to injured birds of prey and shorebirds as well as conduct research and conservation initiatives. “As we prepare to enter our third decade, we are thankful for all the financial support we receive, and we plan to continue our work for the benefit of future generations,” said Jim Elliott, the Center’s Executive Director.

Charleston cookbook aficionados Matt and Ted Lee joined Jungle Jack during the VIP hour. Birds of prey, an armadillo, and even a penguin were on hand for educational purposes and for photos. Hanna signed autographs before making his way to eat the Bruschetta with fall flavors and Grouper picata that Chef Casey Glowacki from Five Loaves had prepared.

After a sunset flight display that was equally beautiful and majestic, the temperature began to dip on this late October evening and the party continued under a tent that offered heating stations and culinary fare perfect for the field. The Lee Brothers introduced all of the chefs to the appreciative crowd, and Jack Hanna gave a fascinating and passionate speech about the recent animal crisis in his home state of Ohio.

The crowd with a flair for the outdoors tasted a variety of soups, stews, pasta and meat dishes. Husk restaurant served Border Springs lamb and Charleston gold rice hash. Anson Mills stone ground grits with a sherry-shrimp butter and smoked pork belly came from Michelle Weaver and Charleston Grill. Craig Deihl from Cypress offered a duck patte with mustardo frissee.

A full bar presented other options to keep warm but the Peregrine Punch presented by the Southern Bartender was a great way to tap the festive spirit. A popular Halloween offering came in the form of Palmetto’s Bocat beer. Other cats, both large and small, prowled the party when Hanna brought out a rare Malaysian Cloud Leopard, which stole the show with its warm demeanor. The African leopard was in no mood for a crowd though, looking pensive in the brief moments that the magnificent cat made memorable.

What outdoors event is complete without chicken bog? Thanks to Robert Stehling at Hominy Grill for the bog with chicken and sausage and Tabasco on the side. A Lowcountry Seafood ham hock gumbo came from Frank Lee at Slightly North of Broad. The buzz of the night came from none other than Graham Dailey of Peninsula Grill, who appeared on the cover of the inaugural issue of The Local Palate. His bisque of roasted butternut squash and tupelo honey, with duck confit and toasted pecan hash, was very well received.

Jason Stanhope from FIG served a ‘Pasta e Fagiolo’ soup bowl topped with cheese, and Ken Vendrinski from Trattoria Lucca made ‘Salsiccia del Cinghiale.’ After a sufficiency of food and beverage the live auction offered birding trips in the Santee Delta and in the ACE Basin, plus original art and even a concert by band Flatt City, of which Birds of Prey Education director Stephen Schabel is a member. Jack Hanna praised the avian facility in Awendaw as one of the best in the country, and the WILD at Wingswood event showcased their ability to maintain a benchmark of excellence that is already set very high.