Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wine, Beer, & Food Festival - November 2011

In its fourth year, this festival provides a wonderful opportunity to taste various wines, beers, and food. We checked it out Friday night and briefly again on Saturday afternoon. But it does come at a price.
Your $15.00 ticket gives you admission to the seminars and food workshops, a tasting glass (choose wine or beer glass) and the opportunity to purchase “tasting” tickets.  
Our friendly, taste ticket seller recommended starting with $20.00 of tickets per couple. So with the initial investment of $50.00 per couple, and our free and empty glasses in hand, we began our tour.  
Starting in the Riverfront Market, we slowly moved through the vendors situated in the hall and found plenty to eat and just a little to drink. Many miscellaneous vendors were also represented here (bread, jewelry, kitchens, etc.).
Walking into the ballroom, one is greeted by 40,000 square feet of exhibitors. Restaurant representatives were located along the outside walls and the middle was full of wineries and some breweries/distilleries. My preference would have been to have more food interspersed with the wineries/breweries as it would keep the experience a little more varied as one winds through the aisles.
In the entry area off Lyon Street, we found the Michigan Craft Brew Hall. (Incidentally, this hall with its facade is the only remaining portion of the old Civic Auditorium.)  We sat here for a few minutes to enjoy a slider and a beer but the live music was too loud to talk.
The vendors were very informative and not overly aggressive. All pours were very short, which allowed for more tasting but there goes three more tickets...
It’s definitely awkward eating from  a small plate and holding a beverage while moving about the room. There are some seating areas on the outskirts and a few high top tables in the main room, more of which would be most helpful.
Five restaurants offered a three-course meal with wine pairings at set times with prices ranging from $30-$45.00 per person. This was a little daunting on top of the $50.00 already spent but it would have been an entertaining and most likely delicious dining experience. We have been at each of the five restaurants and reluctantly had to pass on them Friday night.
Next year we may just pass on the taste tickets, or purchase fewer, and go straight to a three-course meal with wine pairings.
On our way out (tickets gone, the last on a communion size cup of vodka), we were invited to a wine tasting that was about to start in one of the seminar rooms. It was the “no-charge” that got our attention. So we did an about-face and found four open seats in a session hosted by Michael Schafer, the Wine Counselor.
The four wines served were not paired with dinner but were expertly and experimentally  matched and tasted with three different cheeses. (The pours were larger than in the ballroom.) This ended up being our favorite part of the evening. Schafer was knowledgeable, down-to-earth, humorous, and nowhere near being a wine snob.

It was an altogether enjoyable Friday evening, a little overwhelming but a definite must for next year. There were contests and give-a-ways, all to get you on a mailing list (been there, done that) but hey, somebody wins.

If music plays to an empty room, does it make a sound?

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