For the past ten years, Food & Vine Time Productions has hosted Wine & Food Week in The Woodlands featuring a multitude of wine dinners, seminars, food competitions and tasting events. Last year nearly 11,000 people attended events during the week, and this year, co-founders Clifton and Constance McDerby expect more than 12,000 participants.
Wine & Food Week kicks off on Monday, June 2, and lasts until Sunday, June 8, celebrating "The Magic of 10 Years."
"The theme this year is 'The Magic of 10 Years,' so we are really wrapping a lot of the interactions and activities around magical experiences," Constance says. "We will have magicians; we'll have things that kind of trick the eyes -- jugglers, unicyclists, and some of the types of things you would see if you are going to a Vegas-style magical performance. That will be woven into the large, as well as the small, events."
Each year, Clifton and Constance invite two experts in the culinary and wine worlds and deem them Wine Wizard and Wizard Gourmet. But, this year each Wizard will be joined by two more iconic figures in both the food and wine fields.
Gary Midyette, director of winemaking operations at Robert Mondavi Winery in California will be the Wine Wizard, and chef John Moeller, a previous White House Chef and author of "Dining at the White House," will be the Wizard Gourmet.
Midyette will be joined by actor and historian George Webber, who brings the Count of Buena Vista Winery, Count Agoston Haraszthy, to life, as well as George Taber, author of "Judgment of Paris."
"He [Taber] was the only journalist present at the 1976 Paris Tasting when California wines were blind-tasted by French judges against French wines and won," Constance says. "So, George Taber will be here and will be doing a Judgment of Paris tasting himself. A lot of people try to do this and they do it on their own, but to have the person who was actually sitting in the seat at the time that it happened, and the gentleman who wrote about it, is a rarity. We are thrilled to have him."
Chef Darren McGrady, The Royal Chef, and chef Michael Isabella from Bravo Television's Top Chef, will join chef Moeller on the culinary side.
The week kicks off with the Law, Order & Judgment event on Monday, June 2, at Morton's Grille beginning with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by a seated dinner paired with wines from Buena Vista Winery.
As a special treat for the 10th year celebration, tickets to the Wine Walk at Market Street on Thursday, June 5, are half-price. Constance says this is first year they have offered discounted tickets. Guests can stroll through Market Street and sample wines from more than 40 stations, beer from the beer garden and chef-prepared food for just $25. The first 1,000 guests will also receive a gift bag courtesy of H-E-B.
The rest of the week includes tastings, dinners and seminars for everyone -- you don't have to know everything about wine to attend the events.
"The crowd shifts and that's one of the things about it that I love; it's not just for those core people who are wine connoisseurs, it's for everybody that enjoys wine, beer or food," Clifton says. "You could only like food and come to the events and enjoy it."
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If you're wine-newbie, Clifton suggests attending the Sips, Suds & Sliders event on Friday, June 6, at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., or the H-E-B Wine Walk at Market Street.
For $20, guests of the Sips, Suds & Sliders event will have the chance to try the mini burgers from restaurants competing for the Shining Slider Award. Participants include Fielding's, La Madeleine and Brio Tuscan Grille. After noshing on some burgers, guests can sample beers from participating breweries, such as Real Ale, Dogfish Head and Brooklyn Brewery, as well as wine from several wineries; it's a casual event where guests can easily talk to representatives about their libation offerings.
But, if you're a lover of beer, food, wine or all three, then the Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase is the event for you. The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center will be filled with food sampling stations, live chef demonstrations and the opportunity to sample more than 500 wines, though, you probably won't get to taste all of them. As you eat and drink your way through the event, you'll have the chance to watch chefs compete for the Waterford Crystal Chef of Chefs Award and pastry chefs duke it out for the "Just Desserts" Award.
The restaurants represented in the Chef of Chefs competition include Haven, Peli Peli, Radical Eats, Max's Wine Dive, Jasper's, Latin Bites, Cordua Restaurants and many more; the Just Desserts participants include Drew's Pastry Place, Johnny Sweetcakes Chocolates & Confections, Celebrations & Sweet Creations and a few others.
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Before the Grand Tasting event, Clifton and Constance will induct chef Carmelo Mauro of Carmelo's into the Chef of Chefs Hall of Fame, a special recognition for restaurateurs or chefs who made a significant impact in their particular field.
"During his tenure serving as the president of Houston Restaurant Association, he created the first culinary program that was ever put into Texas public schools and now there are a lot of those types of programs; so he pioneered that," Constance says. "Again, that is something that changed the landscape of the culinary world because it gave students an opportunity early on in high school to try their hand at it and see if that's something that they want to pursue for a career."
Ten years ago, Clifton and Constance had no idea how well their event would do. Many individuals told them it was a crazy idea and that it would never work, as nothing on this scale had ever been done in Houston before. But, the event has grown from only 4,200 individuals attending the activities and events, to more than 10,000.
Purchase tickets to any event at wineandfoodweek.com. Don't wait too long because tickets to events, especially The Big Three (Wine Walk, Sips, Suds & Sliders, and the Grand Tasting) sell out fast.