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All posts in Events

Up Next: Asheville Wine & Food Festival August 20-22

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We continue our adventures in good taste exploring the country’s best wine and food festivals. One to add to the list is the Asheville Wine and Food Festival, set in the beautiful backdrop of the North Carolina Mountains. In its 7th year, this year’s festivities kick off with ELIXIR, a craft cocktail contest which reveals the area’s best mixologists. Local distilleries including Blue Ridge Distilling, Davis Valley Distillery, and TOPO Distillery will be present.

Asheville

On Friday evening, enter Candyland , with the festival’s SWEET event celebrating desserts, champagne, wine, spirits, and shopping. We’re most excited about Saturday’s Grand Tasting, a three-tier tastings taking place at the U.S. Cellular Center located in downtown Asheville. Local and international wineries, area breweries, regional distilleries, restaurants, artisan food producers, chefs, and more will all be present showcasing the best delectable eats and quenchy drinks. We can not wait!

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Indigo

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Indigo

Fantastic accommodations at the nearby Hotel Indigo put us right in the center of the action. I’m especially excited for this decadent weekend as a celebration of the big 4 0 -1 as I like to call it, i.e. turning 39. Hoping to cheers and celebrate with you there. For more information and for tickets, please visit Asheville Wine & Food.

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What We’re Crushing on Now – Atlanta Food & Wine Festival May 28-31

Photo courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Photo courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

In its 5th year the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival will once again take midtown Atlanta by storm – in a good way – Thursday, May 28 – Sunday, May 31. Elizabeth Feichter and Dominique Love are the dynamic duo responsible for the growing success of this four-day, exquisite and delicious event. Chefs, sommeliers, and those, in the wine and food know, from all over the South will come together to present seminars, Champagne Brunch, exclusive dinners, and a collaborative experience of the Tasting Tent event. Here guests can sample and sip their way through the South while chatting it up with fellow foodies, wine and distillery peeps, and top-tier chefs.

SPIT: Eric Crane of Empire Distributors says he won’t stop till he’s a Master Sommelier POUR, SABER AND SWIRL: (clockwise from left) Five Atlantans dedicate their lives to becoming Master Sommeliers  There are 211 Master Sommeliers in the world. Eric Crane, Matt Bradford, Marie Ballard, Justin Amick, and Joon Lim are vying for spots on that exclusive list.

Eric Crane of Empire Distributors Photo courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

VODA Magazine had a chance to catch up with Atlanta local, Eric Crane, advanced sommelier and Director of Training and Business Development for Empire Distributors. Crane will be presenting two seminars within the wine industry. He shares what he’s most excited about, how the festival has grown, and professional tips on how to make the most of your Atlanta Food & Wine Festival experience. Hint it involves always having a “party pal.”

In the Festival’s 5th year Crane enthusiastically says, “They’ve made it this far, there’s more synergy. It puts a nice spotlight on Atlanta and the Festival allows you to eat and drink your way through the South.” Another one of the Festival’s highlights are the Tasting Tents. Crane’s recommendation is the fried chicken section. He says, “There’s nothing better on the planet but that, usually.” He refers to festival Sunday as “Lazy, Southern Sunday.” “By that time everyone’s had too much fun during Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.” There’s a Champagne Brunch on Sunday that I’m personally looking forward to. For me bubbles are always welcomed. To get the most out of your festival experience, Crane advices to stay hydrated and pace yourself. Lastly he adds, “Always have a drinking partner, a party pal. There’s less errors.” Eric will be co-presenting on Friday, May 29 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM American Oak in All Its Glory seminar. Then on Saturday, May 30 from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM is the Acid is Your Friend seminar. For more information and for tickets visit, www.atlfoodandwinefestival.com

 

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A Trip to the Happiest and Coolest Seaside Town – Beaufort, NC

Beaufort, NC Waterfront

Beaufort, NC Waterfront

When a coastal town gets rated number one “Happiest Seaside Town in America” by Coastal Living Magazine and “America’s Coolest Small Town” by the readers of Budget Travel Magazine, you go. And when your friend calls you up to attend a wine and food festival in that same town, without hesitation, you go now! I quickly packed an overnight bag and headed east for approximately three and half hours to the Southern Outer Banks, also referred to as the Crystal Coast.

I arrived on a rainy Saturday afternoon, but it didn’t halt the charm of this coastal town. It sits on an inlet with oak tree-lined streets and quaint, yet stately homes with huge porches occupied by friends and families gathered for a weekend getaway. I was there for a total of 24 hours and while I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, a friend of mine described it to me as, “A college town for older, wealthy people.” Although, there is not a college there and the people aren’t retirement-age old, but more like baby boomers and their children – most of them counting Beaufort as a second home.

Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

The waterfront boasts breathtaking views that go on for miles. Sailboats dot it like sprinkles on an ice cream cone. If you aren’t one of the lucky few to own a home there – or have friends that do – there are options for accommodations like endearing bed and breakfasts and an Inn along the waterfront, which is where I chose to stay, the Inlet Inn. My room was adequate for the short time I was there.

Best in Show Beaufort Food & Wine Festival

Best in Show Beaufort Wine & Food Festival

Once freshened up, I drove a short, two miles to the Boathouse where the festivities of the Beaufort Wine & Food Festival were taking place under a huge white tent. My dear friend, an advanced sommelier and director of training and development with Empire Distributors, pointed me in the right direction to start off with some bubbles and then over to his brands for a taste of some divine reds.  I was pleased to find a sparkling I had not had before the Etoile Brut from Domaine Chandon, yes please! It is toasty and delicious! The best in show went to a line in the Kendall-Jackson family not found in your typical grocery chains like other Kendall-Jackson wines. It was the 2012 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County and one word can describe this beauty, quenchy! It was juicy, soft, and elegant.

Local Chocolates from Raleigh

As I perused the tasting tables for some bites, I spotted Cary’s own Le Farm Bakery and discovered the most delicious, artisan chocolates from Raleigh. The name is Escazu and I fell in love with the Single Origin Guapiles variety from Costa Rica. The Goat’s Milk Single Origin Carenero from Venezuela came in as a close second. The goat’s milk offered this subtle tang while lending a creamy mouth feel.

I asked the locals at the festival which dining spots are not to be missed and twice Aqua came up. I spotted their tasting table and while the samples were not gluten-free, they looked exquisite as did their menu. I loved what chef had printed on the top of the menu that was on display, “Dining out should be both memorable, but fun.” Chef Jayson Foster puts his twist on classics and knowing they source their wine from the region’s top distributors, I knew a visit here would not disappoint.

Caprese Salad with Microbasil at Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

Caprese Salad with Microbasil at Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

The gracious and lovely manager, Kim, welcomed me in with open arms even though I came at an hour when they were getting ready to close. I promised not to linger and ordered cold menu items to try to be respectful to the kitchen team. I decided on chef’s version of a caprese salad and the seared tuna. The caprese salad was modernized with bits of fresh cantaloupe and microbasil, instead of traditional basil leaves, and the flavor it lent danced on the tongue. Equally as delicious was the seared tuna to which chef added thinly sliced bits of green apple. I was in heaven. To add to this delight, and from the recommendation of the knowledgeable and friendly bartender, I paired these two courses with a cherry bomb in a glass, otherwise known as the 2012 Cherry Pie Stanley Ranch Pinot Noir from Ranch Carneros, Ca. At $25 a glass it was worth every exquisite sip.

Tuna with Granny Smith Apples at Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

Tuna with Granny Smith Apples at Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

My time in Beaufort, NC concluded with a rainy, yet enjoyable walk around the charming town and along the waterfront to take in the sea air and observe the locals and tourists out for a their Sunday morning exercise and pre-brunch gatherings. I can’t wait to get back to this cool Crystal Coast gem and get another dose of happiness.

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Best in Show 2015 Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance Shines

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In its third year, the Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance is well on the heels of the more established Pebble Beach and Amelia Island classic and luxury car shows. Taking place on the greens of famous Pinehurst #2 golf course best known as the premiere course for the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Opens that take place there every few years, 2014 being the most recent. Without a cloud in the sky, and the weather a flawless 75 degrees and sunny, the setting, day, and scenery could not have been more perfect on this second day of May when the main event took place.

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Doors opened at 9 a.m. and a lucky few were able to hear Pinehurst Concours President, Jay Howard, speak about this year’s show, what makes it stand out from the other tony shows, and new exciting things taking place this year. The feature that stood out most is Pinehurst’s near perfect location. Located about an hour south of the Raleigh/Durham area this pristine locale boosts the beautiful greens of Pinehurst number two, has nearly no traffic, and is equipped with ample parking. Folks, we may have found utopia and the word is spreading. This year ticket sales were up by an astounding 4,000 more than last year.

The show features 280 cars and the fairway offers abundant room to properly display these works of beauty. Rows of cars situated into 13 classes line the greens. New this year was bringing in a national act to the evening’s events. Three Dog Knight performed to a baby boomer-centric crowd. A highlight for me was admiring Rita Hayworth’s 1953 plum-hued Series 62 Coupe by Ghia Cadillac. It was stunning! My eyes gravitated towards the fabulous Jaguars dating from the 50s and beyond and the BMWs. I have an affliction for the 800 series popular in the 1990s.

Photo courtesy of the Pinehurs

Photo courtesy of the Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance

This year’s best in show was the 1919 Pierce Arrow Model 66 A-4 Tourer whose owner is Robert Jepson, Jr. from Savannah, Georgia. The evening closed out early to the sounds of the band and all went home just a little more enriched as the Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance graced our beautiful locale.

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Feast and Fête – It’s Spring Gala Season

Photo Courtesy of High Museum WIne Auction

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

Gents, dust off your tuxes, and ladies, it’s time to get svelte to slip into those gala gowns – Spring time has arrived so let the soirées begin. High on our list (no pun intended) is the 23rd Annual High Museum Wine Auction “Uncork A Southern Tradition.” Wine Spectator magazine named this the fifth largest, charity wine auction in the US. Events start on Wednesday, March 25th and run through the weekend.

Photo Courtesy of High Museum WIne Auction

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

We’re most exited about the Industry Tasting on Thursday, March 27th and the Vintners’ Reception and Live Auction on Saturday, March 28th. The Industry Tasting was ranked the most prestigious tasting in the Southeast. Here, we’ll meet guest vintners educating and introducing us to their choice selections. We’ll mingle with over 900 wine-trade attendees at this premiere tasting.

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

We’ve left our schedule open on Friday evening and may pass on the Friday Fête. This event is for the gourmand and party-goer. James Beard chefs will feature their succulent selections, guests can bid on silent auction items, and attendees will shake their groove thing to sounds of a live band. We may save ourselves for Saturday when the grand finale happens at the Vinters’ Reception and Live Auction. Top-notch chefs and winemakers will showcase their finest savories and sips and the highly-anticipated 23rd Annual High Museum Wine Auction will feature rare and fine wines, art, trips, and dining experiences. Uncork A Southern Tradition benefits the High Museum in Atlanta. Let the bidding begin!

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

For more information, please visit call Carole Ashworth at 404-733-4543 or carole.ashworth@woodruffcenter.org

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A Saint Patrick’s Day Tradition in Chicago, The Dyeing of the Chicago River

Credit Choose Chicago_St Patricks Greening River Outside HRD 533

Dyeing of the Chicago River: Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago

St. Patrick’s Day is almost upon us and all over the city of Chicago, local Irish-Americans and even”Irish for a Day” party-goers are gearing up for the festivities.

Irish Americans have very deep roots in Chicago.  In the history of our city over a dozen mayors have been of Irish descent.   Our south side major league ball park (Comiskey Park – Home of the Chicago White Sox) was named after its founding owner Charles Comiskey, son of Irish Immigrants. Even the cow, and suspected arsonistwho singlehandedly (single-hoofed?) was responsible for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which then ushered in the rebirth of the city into the world-class metropolis it is today was an O’Leary.    Indeed the Irish have played a huge part in shaping the culture of the city, including how we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

March 14th in addition to the usual suspects: green beer, corned-beef and cabbage,  pints of Guinness and shots of Irish whiskey, we also have the strange custom of Dyeing the Chicago River green.  This started somewhat unintentionally in the early 1960’s when local plumbers used a chemical dye called fluorescein to look for signs of pollution.  The whole thing looked pretty festive and has been a yearly tradition ever since…though the local plumbers union have long since switched to something a little more environmentally friendly.

The View from the Hyatt Regency Chicago.  Photo Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago

The View from the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Photo Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago

Each year thousands will line up along the river the event.  A great vantage point to see the river dyeing is at the  Hyatt Regency Chicago .    This year the Hyatt Regency has The Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band’s performing traditional Irish music in the lobby throughout the day to get you into the St. Patrick’s Day spirit.  Of course while you’re there you could go upstairs to BIG Bar and order Corned Beef Flatbread Pizzas along with Irish Mules and Irish Car Bombs; The view from up there is pretty good.  If you want to go traditional, head back downstairs to American Craft Kitchen & Bar and order the Oxtail Soup or Corned Beef and Cabbage; a pint obviously.  You can’t go wrong with way.

Corned Beef and Cabbage at American-Craft Kitchen Bar.  Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago

Corned Beef and Cabbage at American-Craft Kitchen Bar. Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago

 

 

 

 

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“A Night at the Nutcracker” at the JW Marriott Chicago

Female ballet dancer

 

For the third year in a row the  JW Marriott Chicago (151 W. Adams St.) joins official partner, the acclaimed Joffrey Ballet, to ring in the magic of the holidays with “A Night at the Nutcracker” package available Friday, December 5 through Saturday, December 28.

Throughout the month of December the world-class dance company will be performing the enchanting holiday classic Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.  Guests of the JW Marriott who book the “A Night at the Nutcracker” package will receive two VIP tickets to the performance as well as many extras.

On December 6, guests were treated to a one time only special ballerina meet-and-greet after the matinee show.  Also through the 28th of December the Lobby Lounge is mixing their signature drink The Dancer’s Delight, (vanilla vodka, simple syrup, soy milk, chai tea, and amaretto)

If you have a little ballerina in the family, this could be a start of a wonderful family holiday tradition (along with the lighting of the tree at Daley Plaza and lunch at the Walnut Room)  Of course if you love the splendor of classical dance, that’s fine too.

 

Photo Courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet

Photo Courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet

The “Night at The Nutcracker Ballet” package includes:

  • Overnight stay in deluxe guest room
  • Hot chocolate nightcap in-room (spiked hot chocolate for adults also available)
  • Ballerina welcome cookies
  • Breakfast for two in-room the next day
  • Two VIP tickets to The Nutcracker (additional tickets available for purchase upon request, an over $15 savings)
  • Nutcracker “swag bag” that includes a signed pointe shoe, Nutcracker commemorative program and poster, as well as a signed photo of a dancer
  • Package rates start at $429.00 with rate code ‘ZJL’ (an over $100 savings); availability December 5-28 here
  • Reservations can be made by calling 312 660 8200 or online; 72-hour cancellation is required
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Trick-or-Treat

halloween

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Soho House Chicago Opens Today in the West Loop

Photo courtesy of Soho House Chicago

Photo courtesy of Soho House Chicago

Today, August 11, 2014 marks the date for the iconic opening of  Soho House Chicago.  A new addition to Chicago’s West Loop, the Chicago property joins 10 other Soho Houses located in the UK, Berlin, Miami, New York, and West Hollywood. The houses were designed as a place for creatives to gather and provide unique meeting spaces, dining areas, and the not-to-be-missed pampering at the Cowshed Spa. The Chicago property features a hotel with Small and Medium Bedrooms offering 300-500 square feet, walk-in rain showers, and 100% cotton Egyptian sheets. The Medium Plus Bedrooms offer spacious 600 square feet with free-standing tubs, a dining table for two, and sitting areas. Read more…

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Eyes to the skies in style

Chicago Air & Water Show

Chicago Air & Water Show

Where to stay for the 55th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show – August 16 & 17 Read more…

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