In 2014, The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa decided to host a premiere seafood and spirits event to raise money for its nonprofit, the Savannah Harbor Foundation. They created AquaCurean not knowing if the event would catch on.
Now, the seafood extravaganza has expanded to three days of food, drink and fun with tastings, wine dinners, cocktail challenges and a Sunday brunch that hosts a menu of epic detail. The event takes place Aug. 26-28 at The Westin.
According to David Moses, complex director of PR and communications for The Westin, the event just keeps growing and growing. Aside from the ticketed events, there is also a pre-event scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25. The Rodney Strong Costiera Italiano Wine Dinner takes place at Pacci. Limited seating is available, so reservations should be made by calling 912-233-6002. The event is for ages 21 and older only.
Coastal Chef's Table
"Last year we instituted the tasting dinner which is also our kickoff dinner, and we are expanding it this year. We have some really fantastic chefs this year; a celebrity chef ... an expert on sustainable seafood and other chefs big in the foodie scene.
The Chef's Showcase takes place from 6:30-10:30 p.m. Aug. 26. The evening will feature five chefs preparing a six-course culinary journey showcasing the flavors of the Mediterranean. Each course is paired with wine and spirits and guests will have a chance to interact with the chefs and participate in culinary demonstrations.
"The chefs will also talk about what interests them the most," Moses adds.
"John Cox is the chef and owner of Cultura Comida y Bebida [in Carmel, Calif.] and he is the world recognized champion of sustainable seafood, so he'll be talking about why it's important to consider sustainability in seafood and harvesting seafood ... It's a topic that is very important to understand."
Moses says Cox will present a Greek-inspired plate.
"Our own Chef Jean Vendeville will be here to represent French Cuisine," he adds. Vendeville is the department head of the Culinary Institute at Savannah Technical College.
Craig Richards, the executive chef at St. Cecilia in Atlanta, will also join the group.
"If you haven't been to St. Cecilia in Atlanta, you need to put it on your itinerary," Moses says. "It's a totally revolutionary way Italian food is represented.
"We also have Carl Ruiz; he's a celebrity chef featured on Food Network's 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' and he has his own restaurants, Marie's Italian Specialties and Marie's Chicken Joint ... We are so excited to have that side of the culinary world as well.
"And then we have Rafael Velazquez from Florida; he is our hospitality expert for the event." Velazquez is a 15-year hospitality industry veteran and executive chef of Makoto restaurant at the Bal Harbour Shops in Miami. "He will be creating a Spanish-themed plate," Moses says.
"And of course we cannot forget our own chef, John Hart of The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. So, that's six renowned culinarians preparing great cuisine for all our guests that evening."
And while most of the AquaCurean events are known as coastal casual, Moses says this event is a little more cocktail formal.
"It's a more intimate setting than the big event on Saturday ... and it is essentially the gala for our charity, the Savannah Harbor Foundation, which gives money away to local children's charities." Last year's AquaCurean event raised $10,000 for the foundation.
"... This evening is really about the flavors, music and the stylistic elements of the Mediterranean."
And Moses adds that all of the events for AquaCurean have an "all-around the world appeal."
"When you are walking around the event space, tasting this and tasting that, it gives you the sense you are experiencing the best chefs around, the best cocktails and wine, and not only the best Savannah has to offer, but the best the world has to offer on a Friday night."
Moses says Saturday is the main event.
"It's the AquaCurean Challenge and Cocktail Challenge Competition, but we call it the resort takeover. It's hot in August, and that why it is inside. If the weather is nice, we can still pop outside and enjoy the beautiful views."
The event features live music, seafood tastings from local chefs as well as spirit, wine and brew tastings. The AquaCurean Challege handcrafted cocktail competition will be decided by attendee votes during the event.
The AquaCurean Challenge takes place from 2-5 p.m. Aug. 27 and there are two ticket options for Saturday's events. Tickets for the Event Haus Premier Pour Tent include admission to the AquaCurean Challenge and are priced at $125 each. This exclusive event will feature gourmet, small plate samplings from guest coastal chefs and and high-end spirits tastings. These tickets also include admission to the AquaCurean Challenge. Tickets for that event only are $75 each.
"Our main goal is to showcase the new talented artisans that are in Savannah today ... Savannah is on the precipice of a great awakening in cuisine and knowing where it's headed.
"... This is an opportunity for restaurateurs and bartenders that are of a certain caliber and passion to showcase their talent and have a little friendly chef competition to go along with it," Moses say.
The cocktail challenge will be narrowed down to 12 finalists and features Macallen Scotch, Cooper's Craft Bourbon, Herradura Tequila, Bacardi Rum, Hendricks Gin and Absolut Vodka.
"These mixologists know what they are doing and these things are delectable," Moses adds. "We will have areas throughout the hotel and guests can vote for who they believe has the better cocktail ... but the real winners are the guests."
Moses says the resort will host about 40 to 50 vendors for the event, so all the furniture in the lobby and upstairs will be removed to make room. "Vendors will be set up throughout the property so guests can meander through and sample everything ... Chefs from the Friday event will also join us in the VIP area.
"If you ever wanted to do a progressive dinner around town and hit 12 or 15 of the best restaurants in town, then this is your opportunity ... It's our opportunity to celebrate our neighbors in town ... and enjoy the best Savannah has to offer."
While the food and drinks will be the feature, Moses adds that Event Haus Rentals is going to be designing the space in conjunction with Kelli Corn Events so "the style and design elements for both days is phenomenal."
Fresh Catch & Cocktails Jazz Brunch
Moses also adds that the best way to wrap up the gourmet seafood and spirits festival is with Sunday brunch.
"It's just a good day to decompress, have a Bloody Mary and relax and renew with the best view of the city in the city," he says.
The Fresh Catch & Cocktails Jazz Brunch takes place from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Aug. 28.
The event features a Bloody Mary bar, champagne and a seafood and breakfast buffet. Local favorites Jeremy Davis Equinox Trio will provide music and admission includes a special AquaCurean souvenir item.
"As this event grows, we'd love to have events around town as well, like we did this year with the Rodney Strong event at Pacci," Moses adds. "It's not just about the resort; it's about Savannah, and we hope to continue to grow."
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
AquaCurean is from Aug. 26-28 at The Westin. Get tickets at www.aquacurean.com. The Rodney Strong Costiera Italiano Wine Dinner pre-event is at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at Pacci, 601 E. Bay St. RSVP to 912-233-6002.
6:30-10:30 p.m. Aug. 26
Coastal Chef's Table, $125 or $225 per couple
Kick off AquaCurean with a five-course pairing dinner featuring in-room course preparation and cocktail demonstrations. This premier Mediterranean event will feature a seated five-course culinary journey with paired wines and spirits.
2-5 p.m. Aug. 27
AquaCurean Challenge & Coastal Pop-Up, $75 or $125 VIP
The Westin hosts a resort "takeover" with live music, spirits, wine and brew tastings, Flare Bartenders and seafood culinary delights from the region's best restaurants. The AquaCurean Challenge includes a seafood recipe competition and a hand-crafted cocktail competition deÂcided by popular vote.
Event Haus Premier Pour Tent
The exclusive VIP event will feature gourmet, small plate samplings from guest chefs and high-end spirits tastings. This interÂactive culinary and beverage VIP experience includes a ticket to the AquaCurean Challenge & Coastal Pop-Up.
12:30-3:30 p.m. Aug. 28
Fresh Catch & Cocktails Sunday Jazz Brunch, $65
Enjoy cocktails and shrimp tails, a Bloody Mary bar, Champagne, seafood, breakfast buffet and jazz music from the Jeremy Davis Equinox Trio. Admission includes a special AquaCurean souvenir item.