Eat, drink and be merry at Greenwich Wine + Food Festival

WinePrepare to be wined and dined to the max this weekend at the third annual Greenwich Wine + Food Festival, taking place Oct. 3-5, when distinguished chefs and local restaurants will aim to win over attendees’ tastebuds with a wide array of culinary treats.

The event, taking place at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, will feature 120 vendors from all over Fairfield and Westchester counties, 13 celebrity chefs and a number of special guests, such as Richard Blais of Top Chef, Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes and the previous winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Pastry Chef of the Year award, Francois Payard. But the festival isn’t all fun and games — proceeds will be donated to Paul Newman’s The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, an organization dedicated to providing healing to children and their families coping with cancer, sickle cell anemia and other serious illnesses.

The festival will once again be presented by Serendipity magazine along with a number of other sponsors, including Anheuser-Busch, which will provide mahogany bars in the Culinary Village and Southern Bash areas of the event, according to Suni Unger, publisher of Serendipity and the mastermind behind the event.

New to this year’s Food + Wine Festival will be a mixology tent where local and national talent will educate attendees with wine demonstrations, a brewmaster class and a whiskey seminar from 1:30 to 4:30 on Saturday, Ms. Unger said. There will also be a BBQ Pit Masters Demo Tent in the Southern Bash area of the festival, where attendees may watch the ultimate barbecue pit masters as they serve up ribs, pulled pork, BBQ salmon, beef brisket, and other Southern favorites from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Ray Lampe, known as “Dr. BBQ,” will be present, she added.

The Southern Bash will also feature a variety of beers and a live bluegrass performance.

Additionally, Ms. Unger said, the festival will feature a one-day Culinary Village, the center of the entire event, taking place on Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. The village will offer savory tastings and demonstrations from food, wine and spirit vendors, she said.

Returning by popular demand, the festival will bring back its Burger Battle at 4:30 on Saturday. Local restaurants will prepare their best full-size burgers for celebrity chef judges including Graham Elliot and Michael Psilakis while Joe Bastianich hosts the competition, Ms. Unger said.

Additionally, for the first time ever, fans may vote online for their favorite Burger Battle contestant in the new Foodies’ Choice Award. A winner selected by the judges as well as a People’s Choice winner will each receive $500 and will be announced on the main stage at 7 p.m. Participants may vote online at Facebook.com/GreenwichFoodWineFestival.

Performances by the Ian Murray band at 6:30 and indie rock band Dispatch at 8:30 will also take place Saturday. Dispatch, known as “the biggest band nobody’s ever heard of,” even boasts one of Greenwich’s own — singer and guitarist Pete Francis, who attended Brunswick School, Ms. Unger said.

And although Saturday is the festival’s main event, there are plenty of special events taking place on the nights leading up to it as well, Ms. Unger said. On Thursday, the event’s Kick-Off Party will jump-start the festivities by allowing attendees to mingle with culinary experts, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp patrons, and sponsors, all surrounded by the world’s most famous luxury cars, courtesy of Greenwich’s Miller Motorcars. The night will also feature fine wines from Ninety+ Cellars and gourmet hors d’oeuvres, along with a silent auction and exclusive Serendipity gift bags.

Friday’s Grand Tasting Gala is particularly enjoyable, Ms. Unger said, as the event’s 13 celebrity chefs serve up their signature dishes. The meals are prepared right before attendees’ eyes as a live demonstration for all to enjoy, she said. Additionally, fine wines from The Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, beer from Stella Artois and creative cocktails from American Harvest will be available to sip on. Country music star Pat Green will also be on hand with live entertainment, and a second silent auction will be conducted.

According to Ms. Unger, this year’s “enormous” silent auctions will feature unique prizes that can’t be found elsewhere, such as a private dinner with Graham Elliot. Each of the festival’s celebrity chefs went above and beyond for this year’s auctions to raise extra money for The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and turned it into something of a competition among themselves as they developed their auction offerings, she added.

With 4,000 people expected to attend the weekend’s festivities, it’s important to remember that the main purpose of the event is to support The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Ms. Unger said.

“It’s amazing watching the money and how it allows kids to attend this camp,” she said.

The other function of the event is not only to engage local “foodies” but also to help show off the culinary talents of local establishments, Ms. Unger said. The people most excited to attend the Food + Wine Festival are usually the participating restaurants, who want to show off what they can do, she said. The result has often been greater success for those establishments, who find their restaurants are packed after the community encounters their food at the festival, she added.

Tickets for Saturday’s festival are available beginning at $125 per person, with VIP tickets available for $250. VIP tickets include access to the Festival VIP Tent, which is equipped with a private lounge and restrooms, full bar, elite wines, and specialty treats.

Additionally, a new ticketing option this year includes access for just 100 attendees to “A Little Bit Country” on Saturday, offering bourbon tastings, private barbecue dining options from Bobby Q’s, private musical performances, a cigar bar, and the opportunity to meet the attending celebrities.

For all ticketing options, visit the festival’s website at Greenwichwineandfood.com/tickets.

 

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