The Big Event
If Houston's best restaurants and wine bars seem ever-so-slightly less crowded this weekend, it's probably because every foodie in the Inner Loop will be hanging out in Sugar Land.
That's the site of The Grand Wine & Food Affair, one of the pre-eminent multi-day food and wine festivals in the region, now in its seventh year. With events running from today to Sunday, TGW&FA will feature the fare of approximately 30 chefs from Houston and beyond, as well as more than 45 wine vendors.
"We really started out with the goal of being the region's premier event, and bringing people in. And even from the first year, 75 percent of guests were from outside the Fort Bend area, and people travel in from all over the country to attend," says Keri Schmidt, director of The Grand Wine & Food Affair.
Festivities kick off today with a wine dinner at wine connoisseur Piero Selvaggio's PS Valentino Vinbar, featuring the single-vineyard chardonnays and pinot noirs of California's Patz & Hall, with proprietors James Hall and Anne Moses on hand.
On Thursday, the oenophile fun moves to Mockingbird Bistro, where chef John Sheely will prepare his artisan American bistro fare to complement wines from Beaulieu Vineyards, with BV's Jeffrey Stambor as the special guest.
"The wine dinners are much more intimate and great for people who really want to learn about wine and interact with the vintners," Schmidt says.
Arguably the main event is Friday's The Grand Tasting, a cocktail party inside Sugar Land's Marriott Town Square where the wineries will be pouring their best varietals alongside chefs looking to impress with their culinary creations. The Grand Tasting tends to be the hottest ticket and with 45 wine tables serving up to six varietals each, well ... we understand why. (And for the same reason appreciate the location at the Marriott — no designated driver required.)
"We seek out chefs from all over — for example, this year we have the O'Heas, who run an inn in Maine. Chefs like Kevin Williamson [from Austin's Ranch 616] and Jeffery Balfour [from San Antonio's Citrus] come every year. We really just try to have lots of cuisines represented."
Saturday brings festivities back inside the Loop, with morning tours of farmers markets and the Saint Arnold's brewery with My Table's Teresa Byrne-Dodge for a glimpse at the growing local food scene.
But by afternoon, learning will be on hold and the partying will return to the forefront at the Sienna Sip & Stroll.
"The Sip and Stroll is the biggest change this year, still at Sienna but at the new resort area, all set poolside to some great Jimmy Buffett-style music," Schmidt says. "It's basically one giant party, people tend to come in groups and move tent to tent. It's a great time."
The final culminating event is the Bistro Brunch on Sunday at Sugar Land's Town Square, featuring vignettes of global cuisines and wines, from France and Spain to Brazil, Lebanon, Japan, New Zealand and more.
Of course, when it comes to an epicurean weekend of wine and food, Sunday always comes too soon.