If you spend enough time living in or visiting Savannah, you quickly realize what an amazing and wonderful gift and treasure this quintessential Southern city has become.
We want the rest of the world to see our passion and come to the conclusion we have already realized. In this case, that Savannah has something to offer everyone, from our maritime-influenced splendid climate, our robust and burgeoning food scene, our eclectic music scene, our diverse tourism attractions, to our fascinating and storied history all rolled up in the finest quaint, old-world Southern charm and hospitality.
With these thoughts in mind, Michael Owens, Jan Gourley and the Tourism Leadership Council and many others conceived of a festival to share what we already know with the rest of the world, and the Savannah Food and Wine Festival was born.
On Nov. 11, the inaugural festival will begin, replete with wine dinners, tasting events, celebrity chef tours, a farm to table dinner, film documentaries, Taste of Savannah, River Street wine stroll, after parties, riverboat cruise dinner and tastings, jazz and bubbles brunch and even a dinner with Rob Mondavi Jr. thrown in for good measure. Just like the city of Savannah, this event will have something for everyone!
I'd like to focus in on a few of the more fascinating and exciting events: all of the astonishing dinners that will take place around the city during this week of epicurean and oenophile delights.
On Nov. 11, as a kickoff event the festival will feature a "Farm to Table" dinner on the Bethesda Academy grounds. This will be an outdoor, tented evening with dinner amid a backdrop of marsh, moss and oaks on the school's historic campus on Ferguson Avenue. Master Sommelier Robert Jones will be carefully pairing some outstanding wines for each course. He will also be sharing his vast knowledge and expertise on the chosen wines with the guests.
The dinner will feature former Savannah restaurateur Elizabeth Terry of Elizabeth on 37th. The main course will be prepared by Kirk Blaine, executive chef of the popular Sandfly restaurant, Driftaway CafÃ©, with dessert being prepared by Executive Chef Dusty Grove of The Landings Club.
The festival also will feature six Connoisseur Wine Dinners around town. These dinners will showcase our vastly talented local foodies and incredible chefs. The first three will all start at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12, and the hosts are Elizabeth on 37th with Groth Winery, Circa 1875 with Master Sommelier Michael McNeill and Noble Fare with Eberle Winery.
Elizabeth on 37th will feature a splendid six-course tasting menu that will showcase Groth's timeless Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and white wines. How does this sound to you? Blue Crab Served Three Ways: Crabcake over Creamed Corn; Gullah Skillet Fried Rice; Chilled Crab Salad with Green Tomato and Celery Root masterfully paired with Groth Sauvignon Blanc. I'm getting hungry just typing it!
Circa 1875 will feature a French food and wine pairing featuring Master Sommelier Michael McNeill. Braised Pork Cheek, Apple and Rutabaga puree, glazed carrots, shaved truffle and Domaine Lucien Muzard Satenay Champs 2009 sounds absolutely delectable to me! Michael will take you on an exploratory journey through France with wines to go gracefully with Circa 1875's culinary creations.
Noble Fare has teamed with Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery in Paso Robles, Calif., for a fantastic evening of fun and libations. Chef Patrick McNamara is keeping his menu a closely guarded secret, but it will surely impress everyone in attendance and pair sublimely with Eberle's distinct red and white wines.
On Nov. 14, the last three Connosier Wine Dinners will take place. These dinners will all start at 8 p.m. and feature Ruth's Chris Steak House with Heitz Cellar of Napa Valley, The Olde Pink House with Thomas George Winery and Sapphire Grill with Pahlmeyer Winery in Napa Valley.
Ruth's Chris will feature one of the oldest and most well-respected pioneers of Napa Valley with Heitz Cellar and Jeanne Cabral, who has been part of the Heitz team for more than 24 years. This dinner will feature one of the greatest Napa Valley Cabernets in the 2005 Heitz "Martha's Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon divinely paired with Ruth's Chris Signature Beef Wellington with Mushroom Duxelles and Potato Gaufrette. Another pairing will showcase the Heitz Cellars Grignolino with Roasted Local Wreck Fish crusted with Sun Dried Tomato and Panko. My taste buds are salivating just thinking about it!
The Olde Pink House will host Thomas George Winery of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma, Calif. One course will feature Wahoo Ceviche, sparkling grapes and the Sparkling Pinot Noir from Thomas George. A playful rendition of the childhood game will be featured in their Duck, Duck, Goose course, which will showcase duck terrine, duck ham, gooseberry jam and pear chips with the Thomas George Estate Chardonnay. Tag me in for that one!
Sapphire Grill will welcome Pahlmeyer Winery from Napa Valley, an iconic Napa Valley producer of delectable red and white wines. No doubt Chef Nason's Champagne Poached Maine Lobster & Compressed Early Winter Fruits, Garden Leaf, Crystalized Sage and Roe will embrace the Pahlmeyer Sonoma Chardonnay 2010 expertly. The Barbecued Pork Cheek and "Deviled" Ham Egg with Fingerling Radish Salad, Garlic Chive Soda and Preserved Peach showcases the Pahlmeyer Jayson Pinot Noir 2011 supremely.
There's also the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at 700 Drayton that will focus on an ultimate collaboration dinner, featuring several award-winning James Beard Foundation Chefs. This promises to be one of the most exciting events at this year's festival. Chef Elizabeth Terry, Chef Steven Satterfield, Chef Hugh Acheson, Chef Chris Hastings and host Chef Geir Kilen will be preparing this scrumptious feast.
On Nov. 15, there is the Savannah Riverboat Cruise Dinner. Host Chef Christopher Myhre will be joined by Food Network celebrity guest Chef Anthony Lamas, who will be combining their talents to create the ultimate epicurean wine experience as you cruise the Savannah River. Host Vintner Joy Sterling will pair each course with the outstanding wines of Iron Horse Vineyards.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Ultimate Festival Wine Dinner, hosted by Mondavi, at 8 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Westin Resort. A showcase of wines by the Michael Mondavi Family, guests will enjoy top wines from Isabel Mondavi, Emblem Napa Valley and the company's flagship M by Michael Mondavi from magnums. In addition, the evening will feature a rare and exquisite Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1971 vintage.
Don't wait to reserve your seats for any of these events, as they are all on sale now at www.savannahfoodandwinefest.com or over the phone at 912-232-1223. All of these events will sell out.
Now, if I can only find a way to clone myself to make all of these scrumptious events!
Douglas Snyder is a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Before relocating to Savannah, he was the import and pacific northwest manager for Juice Wine Purveyors, a wine wholesaler in North Carolina. He has more than 20 years' experience in the wine, spirits and hospitality industries. He is the wine director and general manager at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Savannah. His email address is email@example.com.