The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival unfolds over five days like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, where the story takes unexpected twist and turns based on the choices you make, and no two outcomes are the same. With more than 50 events over the course of five days, this Festival is the most awesome food and wine and beer and spirits event in the Mid-Atlantic region something I can claim with authority and immodesty, since I was on the team that launched the festival last year. (Trust me, its a good, good time.) This year, I get to actually go to events rather than run around behind the scenes, so I've been pouring over the schedule along with everyone else to see what I can make and when. Logistically (and for a number of health reasons), you simply can't go to everything, so choices must be made, and there are tough choices ahead. If you're a major oenophile, you'll want to go to all the major wine tasting events, featuring more than 20 winemakers from six continents. More interested in craft beers? Spirits? Large tasting events? Private, intimate dinners? Vegetarian dining? Food porn? There's truly something for everyone, unless you hate to eat. I've crafted a sample itinerary for a four-day excursion through the Festival. My personal journey focuses primarily on events that showcase the creativity of local chefs and the bounty of the Mid-Atlantic region, is designed for people who love libations of all colors and flavors, stays up in northern Delaware (though there are events in all three counties of our fine state),and highlights events in the low-to-middle range of the ticket prices, with a few planned splurges. (I've left out a some great events that have already sold out like the Bacon + Bourbon Dinner at The House of William + Merry and the Pop-Up Restaurant in Historic New Castle though no guarantees that any of these events below won't be sold out before you read this. And I can't repeat often enough for every event I mention, there are two or three others that I don't list below. Check out the complete schedule, and if you see something you like, best get your tickets soon.) Thursday Interactive Sushi + Sake: Its lunch and a show. There's a full Japanese menu that includes miso soup, edamame and sushi rolls that you can customize to your own taste, while Master Chef Yasuhiro Sano from The Cultured Pearl breaks down a whole salmon to show its used. (They also promise info on how to safely purchase fish to make sushi at home something I've often considered.) Time: 11:30am-1:30pm Cost: $55 Soft Shell Crab Nouveau: The start of the soft shell season in the Mid-Atlantic is traditionally marked by the first full moon in May, which occurs just one day before this tasting event at Buena Vista House. Four chefs including local favorite Dave Banks and Chad DiFebo and visiting chefs Erik Niel from Chattanooga and Imran Ashton from the BVI will tackle softshells from their own perspectives. In these parts, crabs beg to be paired with beer, and each dish gets a craft beer pairing. Time: 6:30pm-8:30pm Cost: $65 Friday Taste of Willamette Valley Lunch: I'm an unabashed fan of Oregon wines, and this lunch is a perfect showcase for two great wineries from that region: Willamette Valley Vineyards and Le Cadeau. The owners of Le Cadeau and the always-entertaining Wende Bennette from Willamette Valley Vineyards will be there to pour wines, and lunch includes Oregon Hazelnut Cilantro Pesto Crusted Chinook Salmon from WVVs chef, Eric Nelson. Two other courses come from Skipjacks own Donny Merrill Jr., a highly-recommended local seafood joint. Time: 11:30am-1:30pm Cost: $55 Infused Beer Tapas Dinner: The folks at 16-Mile Taphouse in Newark have put together a five-course tapas dinner with an intriguing twist beers will be infused with fresh ingredients that will complement the flavor profiles of the food theyre served with. The menu is heavy on pork products, like the first course: A Tasting of 16 Mile Fed Pork: House Made Pork Rinds, Truffle Rillete of Shoulder, and House made Sausage Kale Salad with Sourdough Rye. If I was going to put a best value stamp on something at this years Festival, this might be it. Time: 6:30-9:30pm Cost: $65 Pop-Up Food Truck Night Market: If you've saved any room (or packed a second stomach in your luggage), head back to Wilmington for this gathering of local food trucks and craft breweries. Time: 9-11pm Cost: $30 Saturday Scrapplegasm at The Green Room: Celebrating the regions most famous (and infamous) breakfast meat, reimagined in a way that only the chefs at the Hotel du Pont could do. Come for the Cumin-and-roasted-garlic-scented buffalo scrapple, stay for the Mexican rattlesnake scrapple, kill for the baked chocolate, fruit and nut scrapple from Executive Pastry Chef Michele Mitchell. Time: 8am-10am Cost: $55 Festival Marketplace: Heres the central gathering place for food courses, tastings and events for the day. There are couple dozen options throughout the day. My picks?:
- Mastering Food Porn: Joel Plotkin and Jim Graham, two of my favorite local photographers to have a drink with, will offer tips on how to make your food porn the porniest out of all your foodie friends. Time: 9am-10am. Cost: $20.
- Is Black Garlic Really Black Crack: Black garlic is the Sriracha of five years from now. You heard it here. Its a flavor that's on the verge of becoming ubiquitous, and Obis One isasouth Jersey farm that's leading the charge. Time: 10:30am-11:30am. Cost: $20.
- Matts Homemade Sodas: Delawares Matt Haley offers tastes of his natural soda line that includes flavor profiles like lemon berry and Black & White. Time: 2pm-3pm. Cost: $20.
- Wine 101: A tutored tasting of eight international wines with Eric Miller, founder of the local Chaddsford Winery and author of Eating with Eric. Time: 3:30pm-5pm. Cost: $30.
Gala Winemakers Dinner: The climactic event of the Festival, this five-course, black-tie dinner at the Hotel du Pont features more than a dozen chefs, wines from 10 visiting vintners, and a world-class wine auction overseen by a world-class auctioneer, U.S. Senator Chris Coons. Time: 6:30pm-11pm. Cost: $250. Sunday Sunday Gospel Brunch: I've seenavowed agnostics shed a tear as the 60-member Combined Choir of the Calvary Baptist Church gets going on a Sunday morning at World Cafe Live at the Queen and though there's no official competition going on, local restaurants always put out something special in a quest to be the source of Sunday morning cocktail chatter. Time: 11am-1:30pm Cost: $125 Delmarva Power BBQ + Beer Garden: Devout apostles of barbecue, soldiers of the smoke, from schools both old and new, will gather for this final event at the festival, a relaxed afternoon that features everything from pulled duck sliders to pork belly pastrami to whole hogs. I know a bunch of these guys personally, and I wouldnt miss this one. Time: 2:30pm-5pm. Cost: $55 **Image Credit: Joel Plotkin