Upcoming Events: Margarita, Queso and Caesar Salad Competitions, Beer & Whiskey Dinners & More

Reserve 101 hosts a tasting of Glenfiddich single malt scotch whiskey on Tuesday, October 8, at 6:30 p.m. David Allardice, brand ambassador of Glenfiddich, will be there to offer samples of his company's whiskeys and to answer any questions you have about the distillery. Each ticket costs $20 and all proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Lucky Dog Rescue. Helping a good cause by tasting some quality whiskey: That's what we call a pretty sweet deal!

On Thursday, October 10, don't miss the Be Bold Margarita Competition at Cottonwood. This year's margarita competitors include 11 local amateur teams, among them Six Foot Studios, Houston Roller Derby and Linn Energy. Cottonwood will provide Mexican-themed appetizers and their famous Asian and Buffalo wings, as well as their signature deviled eggs. For the first time, the margarita competition will include a Queso Throwdown, with chefs from Cottonwood, El Gran Malo, Mia's, Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen and executive chef Hugo of the Sam Houston Race Park; each team will be vying for the Judges' Choice and People's Choice awards. Deborah Duncan, the host of KHOU's Great Day Houston, will be the emcee for the night, and Edward Sanchez, of Vanity Lounge, will be the judge.

Thursday, October 10, also marks the first day of the 35th Annual Houston Italian Festival at the University of St. Thomas. Each day is filled with various free activities paying homage to Italian culture, such as the Pasta Eating Contest on Saturday and Sunday, in which 12 contestants will race to finish a heaping portion of pasta and sugo. First- and second-place winners will receive a special prize, and if you don't finish your food, well, you get to take whatever is left on your plate home for free. The rest of the festival includes a celebrity chef demonstration by Rossella Rago, host of the online cooking show Cooking with Nonna, as well as sampling events on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Mancuso Farms products, including cheeses, fig preserves, marinara sauce and wine.

Caesar salad has the potential to be so much more than just cheese, croutons, crisp Romaine lettuce, anchovies and garlicky Caesar dressing, and in this year's Caesar Salad Competition, Houston chefs and restaurateurs will show off their culinary creativity as they compete for the title of Best Caesar Salad. On Friday, October 11, from 5 to 8 p.m., each salad creation will be judged in the categories of Best Classic Caesar, Most Creative Caesar, Consumers' Choice and Best Overall Presentation. The night will also include a silent auction of dining and lodging opportunities. Tickets cost $45 in advance and $50 at the door, but if you don't want to pay for your food and wine for the night, be one of the first ten people to show up in a toga and get in for free. This year's event takes place at the Hilton University of Houston, and proceeds will benefit the Food & Beverage Managers' Educational Endowment.

The Hay Merchant is holding a beer dinner hosted by Jef Versele, owner of the Brouwerij Van Steenberge brewery, on Monday, October 14, at 7 p.m. Versele is the grandchild of the brewery's original owner and has come all the way from Belgium to talk with guests about his passion and love for beer, share some information about the brewery, and, oh yeah, drink some of his beers served with food from The Hay Merchant. Tickets cost $105. For an extra treat, The Hay Merchant will unveil its in-house chardonnay barrel-aged version of Van Steenberge's Gulden Draak.

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