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2016 Atlanta Food + Wine Festival Recap: One Country’s Best Culinary Events

2016 Atlanta Food + Wine Festival Recap: One Country’s Best Culinary Events

You can't help but feel the energy when you pull up each year to the Loews Atlanta Hotel for the annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. Partners Dominque Love and Elizabeth Feichter have created and produced what has become one of the best culinary events of its kind.

Once you get out of the car, you're face-to-face with chefs and beverage professionals from all over the south who are lugging coolers filled to the brim with brisket, heirloom vegetables, and fresh seafood from their home town, all to serve to an international audience who comes in for the annual fete. There lots of hugs and high fives happening as you make way into the lobby. And not just any lobby. The place that folks hang at all hours to catch up, meet, and toast the successes and challenges of the year.

We’ve been coming since the inaugural year and things just get better over time. This is a major task since similar festivals have popped up in every known and unknown city around, but yet the organizers in Atlanta keep it fresh, and produce events and learning sessions that beg you want to come year after year.

Some of the highlights of this year:

  • Vineyard in the City: Yes, you heard correctly. The team decided it would be a fun experiment to see if a vineyard could grow successfully in a major metropolitan city. So amongst the high rise building flanking the area, eight grapevines from North Georgia, were planted in rows 12 feet long. It was such a cool place to hang for an event, whether a fancier dinner or a chef after party, you could not help but look at awe at what they had accomplished.

  • New Location and New Times for Tasting Event: It was a trek to get to Piedmont Park, but it was well worth it once there—the new location for this year’s Tasting Events. The park provided the perfect backdrop and again, you felt transplanted from a major city into a luscious and expansive park that allowed for various levels for participating chefs and beverage companies to set up under the tents.

    A night time session was added, which was an instant hit filled with thousands of folks. Somewhat lost was Jennifer V. Cole’s Southern Porch Party where she and friends chatted up various southern topics while sipping on a bourbon spiked drink, rocking in chairs. You felt like you were on her porch and we hope to see that space is expanded and highlighted more in the years to come.

  • Connoisseur Lounge: For those that splurged on a Connoisseur Badge, you had access to one of the best views of the hotel. Overlooking the sights of Atlanta, attendees could enjoy special events and parties, seminars, and a place to get a delicious cocktail or bite of food. One of the best ways to kick off the morning was the Visit Houston Breakfast featuring popular chefs from the area like Bryan Caswell, Richard Knight, and Marcus Davis. Knight of Hunky-Dory Tavern in Houston served a dish featuring with smokes salmon, herb rice, poached egg, and papadums with curry sauce that was a great boast for the full day ahead.

  • Learning Sessions: One of the best activities all weekend is the jammed packed schedule of learning sessions offered at the Loews. There are 10 plus options to choose from at any given time which makes for an extremely difficult decision on what to attend. The outdoor grilling classes are always entertaining and a great way to get some sun while watching a demo.

    The cocktail technique labs are extremely informative and depending on what time they start could result in a serious buzz before noon. David Wondrich hosted a class discussing the history of the Chatham Artillery Punch. As he shared documented stories of three different version of the punch, attendees were served a healthy portion. The laughs got deeper the further into the discussion and Dave’s breath of knowledge on the subject is remarkable.

  • Sunday Brunch: Our schedule did not allow us to stay for the Sunday Brunch but on paper the event looked to be one of the best. Chef Kevin Gillespie led the event and organized a Gunshow inspired dim sum service where chefs including John Currence, Jeremiah Langhorne, Justin Burdett, and Chris Stewart served carts of southern inspired brunch dishes.

  • Ballard Design Chairs: It was not an official event but the Ballard Design chairs were a standout at this year’s event. Partnering with Festival talent, various chefs sent a questionnaire in advance about their hobbies, personality, and favorite things that Ballard took to create custom chairs to match their responses along with a plate setting to complete a table setting. Attendees got a chance to peruse the designs and grab a recipe card placed at each chef area.

Must-see Atlanta places:

Aside from attending a schedule packed with events, we had the chance to go visit some new and long standing restaurants and bars not to miss:

  • Staplehouse: newly opened after years of plans and preparation, Staplehouse is well worth the wait. When the Wally World inspired painted garage door opens, it shows off the petite patio garden and seating area which leads around to the intimate dining interiors. After greeted by the owners including the chef cooking in the open space, you dive into either a tasting or an al la carte menu. Whatever you decide, be sure to order a round of puffs.

  • Revival: Chef Kevin Gillespie went the total opposite direction with Revival, a mom and pop type restaurant. You walk up to an extended porch filled with rocking chairs, and inside walls are filled with old timey photos and décor. The menu makes you feel like grandma is cooking your meal with lots of southern favorites—fried chicken, iron skillet corn bread, sides, pies, and more.

  • Miller Union: A trip to Atlanta is not complete without a visit to Steven Satterfield’s veggie centric Miller Union. Satterfield’s menu changes daily serving what is delivered in the backdoor by local farmers and purveyors. His vegetable dishes are some of the standouts, such as the trio of tartines or the ever changing veggie plate.

  • Linton’s: The newest restaurant by Chef Linton Hopkins and wife Gina, is as charming as they come. Located in the Atlanta Botanical Garden, this “garden-to-table” concept compliments his already established popular spots like Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House. Be sure to order the salad or soup of the day and skillet chicken livers.

  • Amer: Looking for a place to get away and grab a cocktail, Amer is a place to visit. It is small and might be challenging to grab a seat, but be sure to get to the bar and order off the menu that is in sections—Shaken, Built, Stirred, and Sodas.

  • Ticonderoga Club: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to raise your glasses and drink, Ticonderoga! Ticonderoga! Ticonderoga!” is just part of the story that describes this hot spot where Greg Best resides behind the bar at Krog Street Market. There is hoochy cider punch, fortified wines, a variety of special cups, and fine liquors which all pair well with the solid menu served.

  • Kimball House: There are so many treasures to find at the Kimball House. The décor makes you feel cozy and comforted, and a little bit academic with books and antiques on walls and shelves throughout. The bar is a great place to sit and order drinks from the informative team or grab a booth which is perfect for larger parties. They offer absinthe service and a caviar, raw bar, and a three course steak dinner.

  • The Fox Bros: Looking for you meat fix, look no further than Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q. Fixtures in the national and local barbecue scene, the two brothers/identical twins are some of the best pitmasters around. They are also some of the most giving, responding to any request to help a worthy cause, or friend in need.


Recap: Good Times at Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest 2020

Where can you mingle with celebrities, taste delicious wine, sample craft beer, get free swag, feast on tasty food, try your luck at slot machines, and dance to hits from a DJ? This ISN’T a trick question and there IS an answer. And that answer is the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest.

On January 25 and 26, I had the pleasure of attending the weekend long festival on behalf of CTBites. 2020 marked the seventeenth year of the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest and seven years since I first attended in 2013. A great deal has changed since its inception. This year commanded a plethora of A-list chefs and had an array of events to supplement Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

The weekend kicked off on Friday January 25 with a Bourbon Tasting, which started at 6pm. Guests had the opportunity to sample spirits from Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Toki Japanese Whiskey. Those looking for an alternative to bourbon could partake in El Tesoro Anejo Tequila and Courvoisier VS Cognac. Everything was paired with mouth-watering fare from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, like Smoked Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Brisket, and Burnt Ends. Sweet tooths got their fix from Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp in the center of the room. All attendees left with a cigar from Boutique Cigar in Cromwell, CT that they could pair with their newfound favorite bourbon.

From there, we made our way to the Grand Tasting Preview. The newly built Earth Expo & Convention Center served as the backdrop for this as well as Saturday’s main event. In addition to scoping out the food, wine, and beer vendors, celebrity chefs like Food Network’s Michele Ragussis and Below Deck’s Ben Robinson got us excited for the weekend with cooking demonstrations coupled with audience interaction. Chef Ben showed us how to make flavorful homemade pasta (which he “makes faster than you can make it from a box”) and revealed behind the scenes secrets in an audience Q & A (both Hannah and Kate are equally as difficult to work with).

On Saturday January 26, we returned to the Earth Expo & Convention Center for the Grand Tasting itself. VIP ticket holders could enter as early as 11am while the doors opened to the public at noon. This year boasted two stages with chef demos. Chef Todd English, who also operates esteemed restaurant Tuscany in Mohegan Sun, started off the exhibitions on the main stage. He made a persuasive case for using Wagyu beef while expertly preparing it in front of our eyes with truffle, Woodland mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, potatoes, and lots of butter. Spectators had the chance to sample his food and ask him questions about his restaurants, techniques, and history in culinary world.

Chef Maneet Chuahan followed with a beautiful presentation of her take on Seafood Cioppino. She selected two members from the audience to help her create a dish with shrimp, clam, and lobster rife with flavors inspired by India and her restaurant in Nashville. Top Chef Alum, Food Network personality, and restauranteur Richard Blais took the stage after her. One part stand-up comedy routine, one part science experiment, and one part cooking demo, he wowed the audience with his use of liquid nitrogen and his own homemade flame thrower. The day continued with even more chef headliners, like Aaron Sanchez.

Wine enthusiasts (like me!) had several interesting bottles to choose from. Fine Terroir presented some of the more eclectic selections of the day: Wines from Illyria. The bottles heralded from Bosnia and Herzegovina and embraced indigenous varietals. Emporia Blatina (BLAH-tee-nah) proved to be one of my favorites from the line-up. From Herzegovina, it had up front fruit flavors with tertiary notes of leather and rose. The sip concluded with a beautiful burst of spice on the backend of my palate. Wine drinkers could also head into the adjacent ballroom for a Vintage Grand Cru Tasting, an additional ticketed event that was part of the festival. Here, they could sample premium pours like wines from Antinori, Michael Keenan, and Chacewater while interacting with winemakers and representatives from the vineyards.

Breweries were there in droves, with places like Two Roads, Wormtown, Outer Light, New Belgium, Epicure Brewing, and more pouring craft ales for the crowd. Larger brands were also on hand to introduce new products. Corona debuted Corona Refresca, a slightly sparkling canned drink perfect for summer. I particularly enjoyed the Guava iteration. Bud Light showed off its answer to spiked seltzer giants like White Claw and Truly: Bud Light Seltzer. Despite the name, the beverage contains no Bud Light. It is gluten free, low-cal, and canned for convenience.

The true highlight of the weekend- the Celebrity Chef Dine Around- unfolded in the Uncas Ballroom from 8pm-10:30pm. Imagine your culinary idols in one room personally serving you their dishes, explaining their techniques, engaging in casual conversation, and posing for pictures. It may seem far-fetched, but the 2020 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest offered this opportunity. With over 20 celebrity chefs, this edition of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around was bigger than ever and boasted powerhouses like Rocco Dispirito, Amanda Frietag, Betty Fraser, Chef Plum, and Govind Armstrong in addition to those that had already presented earlier in the weekend. All of their dishes were paired with full pours of premium wines carefully selected to complement the food.

While I expected long lines, the dine-around proceeded quite seamlessly. We had more than enough time to sample all of the dishes, interact with the chefs, and party with the DJ. Despite the sea of people in the ballroom, there were plenty of surfaces where we could stand and sit to enjoy our plates.

My favorite dish of the evening belonged to Chef Ben Robinson of Below Deck fame. He proved himself to be more than a reality TV Chef and prepared Shrimp with Thai Papaya Salad and Stuffed Daikon with Peanut Sauce. It was truly the most delicious Peanut Sauce I’ve encountered in my life. Layered with flavor and accompanied with actual peanuts for a hint of crunch, I could have eaten it by the spoonful.

The sweet tooth in me loved Chef Manouschka Guerrier’s lavender and CBD infused donuts. The chef-to-the stars created perfectly sized confections that could be eaten in two delightful bites. The dough was fluffy but structured and topped with icing to impart balanced sweetness. Chef Todd English also experimented with CBD, offering guests Wagyu & CBD with Black Truffle Pesto, Paradise OG Whipped Potatoes, Crispy Cauliflower, Wagyu Slider, Frisee Salad, and Aioli. While several chefs plated mashed potatoes, I found his some of the tastiest of the evening. Other standouts included Govind Armstrong’s Seared Duck , Aaron Sanchez’s Tacos de Carne Asada, and Richard Blais’s lamb chop.

As far as wines went, I enjoyed the Tri-Appellation Boen Pinot Noir. 5th generation Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on Belle Glos. Boen is one of the new labels that he launched under Copper Cane. What stood out to me about this Pinot Noir was its depth of flavor and body. While Pinot Noir is known for its lighter characteristics, this one was rich and ripe. It could stand up to meat dishes like Richard’s Blais’s lamb chop or Maneet Chuahan’s shortrib. At the same time, it did not overwhelm more delicate dishes.

And if celebrity chef appearances weren’t enough, Bravo TV fans had the thrill of spotting Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey partaking in the feast alongside her new fiancé, Mike Hill. Even more stunning (and tall!) in person, she took time to greet and pose for pictures with fans while perusing the chef’s tables. Mike Hill is just as nice- and just as tall.

“Me being tall was a requirement for her marrying me,” he joked.

They returned the next morning to participate in the Champagne Brunch presented by Truly Hard Seltzer, where they were joined by Vanderpump Rule’s Tom & Tom. Everyone involved in the Wine & Food Fest also headed to Saturday Night’s After Party at novella, located within the casino.


Recap: Good Times at Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest 2020

Where can you mingle with celebrities, taste delicious wine, sample craft beer, get free swag, feast on tasty food, try your luck at slot machines, and dance to hits from a DJ? This ISN’T a trick question and there IS an answer. And that answer is the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest.

On January 25 and 26, I had the pleasure of attending the weekend long festival on behalf of CTBites. 2020 marked the seventeenth year of the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest and seven years since I first attended in 2013. A great deal has changed since its inception. This year commanded a plethora of A-list chefs and had an array of events to supplement Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

The weekend kicked off on Friday January 25 with a Bourbon Tasting, which started at 6pm. Guests had the opportunity to sample spirits from Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Toki Japanese Whiskey. Those looking for an alternative to bourbon could partake in El Tesoro Anejo Tequila and Courvoisier VS Cognac. Everything was paired with mouth-watering fare from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, like Smoked Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Brisket, and Burnt Ends. Sweet tooths got their fix from Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp in the center of the room. All attendees left with a cigar from Boutique Cigar in Cromwell, CT that they could pair with their newfound favorite bourbon.

From there, we made our way to the Grand Tasting Preview. The newly built Earth Expo & Convention Center served as the backdrop for this as well as Saturday’s main event. In addition to scoping out the food, wine, and beer vendors, celebrity chefs like Food Network’s Michele Ragussis and Below Deck’s Ben Robinson got us excited for the weekend with cooking demonstrations coupled with audience interaction. Chef Ben showed us how to make flavorful homemade pasta (which he “makes faster than you can make it from a box”) and revealed behind the scenes secrets in an audience Q & A (both Hannah and Kate are equally as difficult to work with).

On Saturday January 26, we returned to the Earth Expo & Convention Center for the Grand Tasting itself. VIP ticket holders could enter as early as 11am while the doors opened to the public at noon. This year boasted two stages with chef demos. Chef Todd English, who also operates esteemed restaurant Tuscany in Mohegan Sun, started off the exhibitions on the main stage. He made a persuasive case for using Wagyu beef while expertly preparing it in front of our eyes with truffle, Woodland mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, potatoes, and lots of butter. Spectators had the chance to sample his food and ask him questions about his restaurants, techniques, and history in culinary world.

Chef Maneet Chuahan followed with a beautiful presentation of her take on Seafood Cioppino. She selected two members from the audience to help her create a dish with shrimp, clam, and lobster rife with flavors inspired by India and her restaurant in Nashville. Top Chef Alum, Food Network personality, and restauranteur Richard Blais took the stage after her. One part stand-up comedy routine, one part science experiment, and one part cooking demo, he wowed the audience with his use of liquid nitrogen and his own homemade flame thrower. The day continued with even more chef headliners, like Aaron Sanchez.

Wine enthusiasts (like me!) had several interesting bottles to choose from. Fine Terroir presented some of the more eclectic selections of the day: Wines from Illyria. The bottles heralded from Bosnia and Herzegovina and embraced indigenous varietals. Emporia Blatina (BLAH-tee-nah) proved to be one of my favorites from the line-up. From Herzegovina, it had up front fruit flavors with tertiary notes of leather and rose. The sip concluded with a beautiful burst of spice on the backend of my palate. Wine drinkers could also head into the adjacent ballroom for a Vintage Grand Cru Tasting, an additional ticketed event that was part of the festival. Here, they could sample premium pours like wines from Antinori, Michael Keenan, and Chacewater while interacting with winemakers and representatives from the vineyards.

Breweries were there in droves, with places like Two Roads, Wormtown, Outer Light, New Belgium, Epicure Brewing, and more pouring craft ales for the crowd. Larger brands were also on hand to introduce new products. Corona debuted Corona Refresca, a slightly sparkling canned drink perfect for summer. I particularly enjoyed the Guava iteration. Bud Light showed off its answer to spiked seltzer giants like White Claw and Truly: Bud Light Seltzer. Despite the name, the beverage contains no Bud Light. It is gluten free, low-cal, and canned for convenience.

The true highlight of the weekend- the Celebrity Chef Dine Around- unfolded in the Uncas Ballroom from 8pm-10:30pm. Imagine your culinary idols in one room personally serving you their dishes, explaining their techniques, engaging in casual conversation, and posing for pictures. It may seem far-fetched, but the 2020 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest offered this opportunity. With over 20 celebrity chefs, this edition of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around was bigger than ever and boasted powerhouses like Rocco Dispirito, Amanda Frietag, Betty Fraser, Chef Plum, and Govind Armstrong in addition to those that had already presented earlier in the weekend. All of their dishes were paired with full pours of premium wines carefully selected to complement the food.

While I expected long lines, the dine-around proceeded quite seamlessly. We had more than enough time to sample all of the dishes, interact with the chefs, and party with the DJ. Despite the sea of people in the ballroom, there were plenty of surfaces where we could stand and sit to enjoy our plates.

My favorite dish of the evening belonged to Chef Ben Robinson of Below Deck fame. He proved himself to be more than a reality TV Chef and prepared Shrimp with Thai Papaya Salad and Stuffed Daikon with Peanut Sauce. It was truly the most delicious Peanut Sauce I’ve encountered in my life. Layered with flavor and accompanied with actual peanuts for a hint of crunch, I could have eaten it by the spoonful.

The sweet tooth in me loved Chef Manouschka Guerrier’s lavender and CBD infused donuts. The chef-to-the stars created perfectly sized confections that could be eaten in two delightful bites. The dough was fluffy but structured and topped with icing to impart balanced sweetness. Chef Todd English also experimented with CBD, offering guests Wagyu & CBD with Black Truffle Pesto, Paradise OG Whipped Potatoes, Crispy Cauliflower, Wagyu Slider, Frisee Salad, and Aioli. While several chefs plated mashed potatoes, I found his some of the tastiest of the evening. Other standouts included Govind Armstrong’s Seared Duck , Aaron Sanchez’s Tacos de Carne Asada, and Richard Blais’s lamb chop.

As far as wines went, I enjoyed the Tri-Appellation Boen Pinot Noir. 5th generation Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on Belle Glos. Boen is one of the new labels that he launched under Copper Cane. What stood out to me about this Pinot Noir was its depth of flavor and body. While Pinot Noir is known for its lighter characteristics, this one was rich and ripe. It could stand up to meat dishes like Richard’s Blais’s lamb chop or Maneet Chuahan’s shortrib. At the same time, it did not overwhelm more delicate dishes.

And if celebrity chef appearances weren’t enough, Bravo TV fans had the thrill of spotting Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey partaking in the feast alongside her new fiancé, Mike Hill. Even more stunning (and tall!) in person, she took time to greet and pose for pictures with fans while perusing the chef’s tables. Mike Hill is just as nice- and just as tall.

“Me being tall was a requirement for her marrying me,” he joked.

They returned the next morning to participate in the Champagne Brunch presented by Truly Hard Seltzer, where they were joined by Vanderpump Rule’s Tom & Tom. Everyone involved in the Wine & Food Fest also headed to Saturday Night’s After Party at novella, located within the casino.


Recap: Good Times at Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest 2020

Where can you mingle with celebrities, taste delicious wine, sample craft beer, get free swag, feast on tasty food, try your luck at slot machines, and dance to hits from a DJ? This ISN’T a trick question and there IS an answer. And that answer is the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest.

On January 25 and 26, I had the pleasure of attending the weekend long festival on behalf of CTBites. 2020 marked the seventeenth year of the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest and seven years since I first attended in 2013. A great deal has changed since its inception. This year commanded a plethora of A-list chefs and had an array of events to supplement Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

The weekend kicked off on Friday January 25 with a Bourbon Tasting, which started at 6pm. Guests had the opportunity to sample spirits from Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Toki Japanese Whiskey. Those looking for an alternative to bourbon could partake in El Tesoro Anejo Tequila and Courvoisier VS Cognac. Everything was paired with mouth-watering fare from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, like Smoked Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Brisket, and Burnt Ends. Sweet tooths got their fix from Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp in the center of the room. All attendees left with a cigar from Boutique Cigar in Cromwell, CT that they could pair with their newfound favorite bourbon.

From there, we made our way to the Grand Tasting Preview. The newly built Earth Expo & Convention Center served as the backdrop for this as well as Saturday’s main event. In addition to scoping out the food, wine, and beer vendors, celebrity chefs like Food Network’s Michele Ragussis and Below Deck’s Ben Robinson got us excited for the weekend with cooking demonstrations coupled with audience interaction. Chef Ben showed us how to make flavorful homemade pasta (which he “makes faster than you can make it from a box”) and revealed behind the scenes secrets in an audience Q & A (both Hannah and Kate are equally as difficult to work with).

On Saturday January 26, we returned to the Earth Expo & Convention Center for the Grand Tasting itself. VIP ticket holders could enter as early as 11am while the doors opened to the public at noon. This year boasted two stages with chef demos. Chef Todd English, who also operates esteemed restaurant Tuscany in Mohegan Sun, started off the exhibitions on the main stage. He made a persuasive case for using Wagyu beef while expertly preparing it in front of our eyes with truffle, Woodland mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, potatoes, and lots of butter. Spectators had the chance to sample his food and ask him questions about his restaurants, techniques, and history in culinary world.

Chef Maneet Chuahan followed with a beautiful presentation of her take on Seafood Cioppino. She selected two members from the audience to help her create a dish with shrimp, clam, and lobster rife with flavors inspired by India and her restaurant in Nashville. Top Chef Alum, Food Network personality, and restauranteur Richard Blais took the stage after her. One part stand-up comedy routine, one part science experiment, and one part cooking demo, he wowed the audience with his use of liquid nitrogen and his own homemade flame thrower. The day continued with even more chef headliners, like Aaron Sanchez.

Wine enthusiasts (like me!) had several interesting bottles to choose from. Fine Terroir presented some of the more eclectic selections of the day: Wines from Illyria. The bottles heralded from Bosnia and Herzegovina and embraced indigenous varietals. Emporia Blatina (BLAH-tee-nah) proved to be one of my favorites from the line-up. From Herzegovina, it had up front fruit flavors with tertiary notes of leather and rose. The sip concluded with a beautiful burst of spice on the backend of my palate. Wine drinkers could also head into the adjacent ballroom for a Vintage Grand Cru Tasting, an additional ticketed event that was part of the festival. Here, they could sample premium pours like wines from Antinori, Michael Keenan, and Chacewater while interacting with winemakers and representatives from the vineyards.

Breweries were there in droves, with places like Two Roads, Wormtown, Outer Light, New Belgium, Epicure Brewing, and more pouring craft ales for the crowd. Larger brands were also on hand to introduce new products. Corona debuted Corona Refresca, a slightly sparkling canned drink perfect for summer. I particularly enjoyed the Guava iteration. Bud Light showed off its answer to spiked seltzer giants like White Claw and Truly: Bud Light Seltzer. Despite the name, the beverage contains no Bud Light. It is gluten free, low-cal, and canned for convenience.

The true highlight of the weekend- the Celebrity Chef Dine Around- unfolded in the Uncas Ballroom from 8pm-10:30pm. Imagine your culinary idols in one room personally serving you their dishes, explaining their techniques, engaging in casual conversation, and posing for pictures. It may seem far-fetched, but the 2020 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest offered this opportunity. With over 20 celebrity chefs, this edition of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around was bigger than ever and boasted powerhouses like Rocco Dispirito, Amanda Frietag, Betty Fraser, Chef Plum, and Govind Armstrong in addition to those that had already presented earlier in the weekend. All of their dishes were paired with full pours of premium wines carefully selected to complement the food.

While I expected long lines, the dine-around proceeded quite seamlessly. We had more than enough time to sample all of the dishes, interact with the chefs, and party with the DJ. Despite the sea of people in the ballroom, there were plenty of surfaces where we could stand and sit to enjoy our plates.

My favorite dish of the evening belonged to Chef Ben Robinson of Below Deck fame. He proved himself to be more than a reality TV Chef and prepared Shrimp with Thai Papaya Salad and Stuffed Daikon with Peanut Sauce. It was truly the most delicious Peanut Sauce I’ve encountered in my life. Layered with flavor and accompanied with actual peanuts for a hint of crunch, I could have eaten it by the spoonful.

The sweet tooth in me loved Chef Manouschka Guerrier’s lavender and CBD infused donuts. The chef-to-the stars created perfectly sized confections that could be eaten in two delightful bites. The dough was fluffy but structured and topped with icing to impart balanced sweetness. Chef Todd English also experimented with CBD, offering guests Wagyu & CBD with Black Truffle Pesto, Paradise OG Whipped Potatoes, Crispy Cauliflower, Wagyu Slider, Frisee Salad, and Aioli. While several chefs plated mashed potatoes, I found his some of the tastiest of the evening. Other standouts included Govind Armstrong’s Seared Duck , Aaron Sanchez’s Tacos de Carne Asada, and Richard Blais’s lamb chop.

As far as wines went, I enjoyed the Tri-Appellation Boen Pinot Noir. 5th generation Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on Belle Glos. Boen is one of the new labels that he launched under Copper Cane. What stood out to me about this Pinot Noir was its depth of flavor and body. While Pinot Noir is known for its lighter characteristics, this one was rich and ripe. It could stand up to meat dishes like Richard’s Blais’s lamb chop or Maneet Chuahan’s shortrib. At the same time, it did not overwhelm more delicate dishes.

And if celebrity chef appearances weren’t enough, Bravo TV fans had the thrill of spotting Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey partaking in the feast alongside her new fiancé, Mike Hill. Even more stunning (and tall!) in person, she took time to greet and pose for pictures with fans while perusing the chef’s tables. Mike Hill is just as nice- and just as tall.

“Me being tall was a requirement for her marrying me,” he joked.

They returned the next morning to participate in the Champagne Brunch presented by Truly Hard Seltzer, where they were joined by Vanderpump Rule’s Tom & Tom. Everyone involved in the Wine & Food Fest also headed to Saturday Night’s After Party at novella, located within the casino.


Recap: Good Times at Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest 2020

Where can you mingle with celebrities, taste delicious wine, sample craft beer, get free swag, feast on tasty food, try your luck at slot machines, and dance to hits from a DJ? This ISN’T a trick question and there IS an answer. And that answer is the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest.

On January 25 and 26, I had the pleasure of attending the weekend long festival on behalf of CTBites. 2020 marked the seventeenth year of the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest and seven years since I first attended in 2013. A great deal has changed since its inception. This year commanded a plethora of A-list chefs and had an array of events to supplement Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

The weekend kicked off on Friday January 25 with a Bourbon Tasting, which started at 6pm. Guests had the opportunity to sample spirits from Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Toki Japanese Whiskey. Those looking for an alternative to bourbon could partake in El Tesoro Anejo Tequila and Courvoisier VS Cognac. Everything was paired with mouth-watering fare from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, like Smoked Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Brisket, and Burnt Ends. Sweet tooths got their fix from Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp in the center of the room. All attendees left with a cigar from Boutique Cigar in Cromwell, CT that they could pair with their newfound favorite bourbon.

From there, we made our way to the Grand Tasting Preview. The newly built Earth Expo & Convention Center served as the backdrop for this as well as Saturday’s main event. In addition to scoping out the food, wine, and beer vendors, celebrity chefs like Food Network’s Michele Ragussis and Below Deck’s Ben Robinson got us excited for the weekend with cooking demonstrations coupled with audience interaction. Chef Ben showed us how to make flavorful homemade pasta (which he “makes faster than you can make it from a box”) and revealed behind the scenes secrets in an audience Q & A (both Hannah and Kate are equally as difficult to work with).

On Saturday January 26, we returned to the Earth Expo & Convention Center for the Grand Tasting itself. VIP ticket holders could enter as early as 11am while the doors opened to the public at noon. This year boasted two stages with chef demos. Chef Todd English, who also operates esteemed restaurant Tuscany in Mohegan Sun, started off the exhibitions on the main stage. He made a persuasive case for using Wagyu beef while expertly preparing it in front of our eyes with truffle, Woodland mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, potatoes, and lots of butter. Spectators had the chance to sample his food and ask him questions about his restaurants, techniques, and history in culinary world.

Chef Maneet Chuahan followed with a beautiful presentation of her take on Seafood Cioppino. She selected two members from the audience to help her create a dish with shrimp, clam, and lobster rife with flavors inspired by India and her restaurant in Nashville. Top Chef Alum, Food Network personality, and restauranteur Richard Blais took the stage after her. One part stand-up comedy routine, one part science experiment, and one part cooking demo, he wowed the audience with his use of liquid nitrogen and his own homemade flame thrower. The day continued with even more chef headliners, like Aaron Sanchez.

Wine enthusiasts (like me!) had several interesting bottles to choose from. Fine Terroir presented some of the more eclectic selections of the day: Wines from Illyria. The bottles heralded from Bosnia and Herzegovina and embraced indigenous varietals. Emporia Blatina (BLAH-tee-nah) proved to be one of my favorites from the line-up. From Herzegovina, it had up front fruit flavors with tertiary notes of leather and rose. The sip concluded with a beautiful burst of spice on the backend of my palate. Wine drinkers could also head into the adjacent ballroom for a Vintage Grand Cru Tasting, an additional ticketed event that was part of the festival. Here, they could sample premium pours like wines from Antinori, Michael Keenan, and Chacewater while interacting with winemakers and representatives from the vineyards.

Breweries were there in droves, with places like Two Roads, Wormtown, Outer Light, New Belgium, Epicure Brewing, and more pouring craft ales for the crowd. Larger brands were also on hand to introduce new products. Corona debuted Corona Refresca, a slightly sparkling canned drink perfect for summer. I particularly enjoyed the Guava iteration. Bud Light showed off its answer to spiked seltzer giants like White Claw and Truly: Bud Light Seltzer. Despite the name, the beverage contains no Bud Light. It is gluten free, low-cal, and canned for convenience.

The true highlight of the weekend- the Celebrity Chef Dine Around- unfolded in the Uncas Ballroom from 8pm-10:30pm. Imagine your culinary idols in one room personally serving you their dishes, explaining their techniques, engaging in casual conversation, and posing for pictures. It may seem far-fetched, but the 2020 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest offered this opportunity. With over 20 celebrity chefs, this edition of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around was bigger than ever and boasted powerhouses like Rocco Dispirito, Amanda Frietag, Betty Fraser, Chef Plum, and Govind Armstrong in addition to those that had already presented earlier in the weekend. All of their dishes were paired with full pours of premium wines carefully selected to complement the food.

While I expected long lines, the dine-around proceeded quite seamlessly. We had more than enough time to sample all of the dishes, interact with the chefs, and party with the DJ. Despite the sea of people in the ballroom, there were plenty of surfaces where we could stand and sit to enjoy our plates.

My favorite dish of the evening belonged to Chef Ben Robinson of Below Deck fame. He proved himself to be more than a reality TV Chef and prepared Shrimp with Thai Papaya Salad and Stuffed Daikon with Peanut Sauce. It was truly the most delicious Peanut Sauce I’ve encountered in my life. Layered with flavor and accompanied with actual peanuts for a hint of crunch, I could have eaten it by the spoonful.

The sweet tooth in me loved Chef Manouschka Guerrier’s lavender and CBD infused donuts. The chef-to-the stars created perfectly sized confections that could be eaten in two delightful bites. The dough was fluffy but structured and topped with icing to impart balanced sweetness. Chef Todd English also experimented with CBD, offering guests Wagyu & CBD with Black Truffle Pesto, Paradise OG Whipped Potatoes, Crispy Cauliflower, Wagyu Slider, Frisee Salad, and Aioli. While several chefs plated mashed potatoes, I found his some of the tastiest of the evening. Other standouts included Govind Armstrong’s Seared Duck , Aaron Sanchez’s Tacos de Carne Asada, and Richard Blais’s lamb chop.

As far as wines went, I enjoyed the Tri-Appellation Boen Pinot Noir. 5th generation Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on Belle Glos. Boen is one of the new labels that he launched under Copper Cane. What stood out to me about this Pinot Noir was its depth of flavor and body. While Pinot Noir is known for its lighter characteristics, this one was rich and ripe. It could stand up to meat dishes like Richard’s Blais’s lamb chop or Maneet Chuahan’s shortrib. At the same time, it did not overwhelm more delicate dishes.

And if celebrity chef appearances weren’t enough, Bravo TV fans had the thrill of spotting Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey partaking in the feast alongside her new fiancé, Mike Hill. Even more stunning (and tall!) in person, she took time to greet and pose for pictures with fans while perusing the chef’s tables. Mike Hill is just as nice- and just as tall.

“Me being tall was a requirement for her marrying me,” he joked.

They returned the next morning to participate in the Champagne Brunch presented by Truly Hard Seltzer, where they were joined by Vanderpump Rule’s Tom & Tom. Everyone involved in the Wine & Food Fest also headed to Saturday Night’s After Party at novella, located within the casino.


Recap: Good Times at Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest 2020

Where can you mingle with celebrities, taste delicious wine, sample craft beer, get free swag, feast on tasty food, try your luck at slot machines, and dance to hits from a DJ? This ISN’T a trick question and there IS an answer. And that answer is the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest.

On January 25 and 26, I had the pleasure of attending the weekend long festival on behalf of CTBites. 2020 marked the seventeenth year of the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest and seven years since I first attended in 2013. A great deal has changed since its inception. This year commanded a plethora of A-list chefs and had an array of events to supplement Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

The weekend kicked off on Friday January 25 with a Bourbon Tasting, which started at 6pm. Guests had the opportunity to sample spirits from Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Toki Japanese Whiskey. Those looking for an alternative to bourbon could partake in El Tesoro Anejo Tequila and Courvoisier VS Cognac. Everything was paired with mouth-watering fare from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, like Smoked Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Brisket, and Burnt Ends. Sweet tooths got their fix from Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp in the center of the room. All attendees left with a cigar from Boutique Cigar in Cromwell, CT that they could pair with their newfound favorite bourbon.

From there, we made our way to the Grand Tasting Preview. The newly built Earth Expo & Convention Center served as the backdrop for this as well as Saturday’s main event. In addition to scoping out the food, wine, and beer vendors, celebrity chefs like Food Network’s Michele Ragussis and Below Deck’s Ben Robinson got us excited for the weekend with cooking demonstrations coupled with audience interaction. Chef Ben showed us how to make flavorful homemade pasta (which he “makes faster than you can make it from a box”) and revealed behind the scenes secrets in an audience Q & A (both Hannah and Kate are equally as difficult to work with).

On Saturday January 26, we returned to the Earth Expo & Convention Center for the Grand Tasting itself. VIP ticket holders could enter as early as 11am while the doors opened to the public at noon. This year boasted two stages with chef demos. Chef Todd English, who also operates esteemed restaurant Tuscany in Mohegan Sun, started off the exhibitions on the main stage. He made a persuasive case for using Wagyu beef while expertly preparing it in front of our eyes with truffle, Woodland mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, potatoes, and lots of butter. Spectators had the chance to sample his food and ask him questions about his restaurants, techniques, and history in culinary world.

Chef Maneet Chuahan followed with a beautiful presentation of her take on Seafood Cioppino. She selected two members from the audience to help her create a dish with shrimp, clam, and lobster rife with flavors inspired by India and her restaurant in Nashville. Top Chef Alum, Food Network personality, and restauranteur Richard Blais took the stage after her. One part stand-up comedy routine, one part science experiment, and one part cooking demo, he wowed the audience with his use of liquid nitrogen and his own homemade flame thrower. The day continued with even more chef headliners, like Aaron Sanchez.

Wine enthusiasts (like me!) had several interesting bottles to choose from. Fine Terroir presented some of the more eclectic selections of the day: Wines from Illyria. The bottles heralded from Bosnia and Herzegovina and embraced indigenous varietals. Emporia Blatina (BLAH-tee-nah) proved to be one of my favorites from the line-up. From Herzegovina, it had up front fruit flavors with tertiary notes of leather and rose. The sip concluded with a beautiful burst of spice on the backend of my palate. Wine drinkers could also head into the adjacent ballroom for a Vintage Grand Cru Tasting, an additional ticketed event that was part of the festival. Here, they could sample premium pours like wines from Antinori, Michael Keenan, and Chacewater while interacting with winemakers and representatives from the vineyards.

Breweries were there in droves, with places like Two Roads, Wormtown, Outer Light, New Belgium, Epicure Brewing, and more pouring craft ales for the crowd. Larger brands were also on hand to introduce new products. Corona debuted Corona Refresca, a slightly sparkling canned drink perfect for summer. I particularly enjoyed the Guava iteration. Bud Light showed off its answer to spiked seltzer giants like White Claw and Truly: Bud Light Seltzer. Despite the name, the beverage contains no Bud Light. It is gluten free, low-cal, and canned for convenience.

The true highlight of the weekend- the Celebrity Chef Dine Around- unfolded in the Uncas Ballroom from 8pm-10:30pm. Imagine your culinary idols in one room personally serving you their dishes, explaining their techniques, engaging in casual conversation, and posing for pictures. It may seem far-fetched, but the 2020 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest offered this opportunity. With over 20 celebrity chefs, this edition of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around was bigger than ever and boasted powerhouses like Rocco Dispirito, Amanda Frietag, Betty Fraser, Chef Plum, and Govind Armstrong in addition to those that had already presented earlier in the weekend. All of their dishes were paired with full pours of premium wines carefully selected to complement the food.

While I expected long lines, the dine-around proceeded quite seamlessly. We had more than enough time to sample all of the dishes, interact with the chefs, and party with the DJ. Despite the sea of people in the ballroom, there were plenty of surfaces where we could stand and sit to enjoy our plates.

My favorite dish of the evening belonged to Chef Ben Robinson of Below Deck fame. He proved himself to be more than a reality TV Chef and prepared Shrimp with Thai Papaya Salad and Stuffed Daikon with Peanut Sauce. It was truly the most delicious Peanut Sauce I’ve encountered in my life. Layered with flavor and accompanied with actual peanuts for a hint of crunch, I could have eaten it by the spoonful.

The sweet tooth in me loved Chef Manouschka Guerrier’s lavender and CBD infused donuts. The chef-to-the stars created perfectly sized confections that could be eaten in two delightful bites. The dough was fluffy but structured and topped with icing to impart balanced sweetness. Chef Todd English also experimented with CBD, offering guests Wagyu & CBD with Black Truffle Pesto, Paradise OG Whipped Potatoes, Crispy Cauliflower, Wagyu Slider, Frisee Salad, and Aioli. While several chefs plated mashed potatoes, I found his some of the tastiest of the evening. Other standouts included Govind Armstrong’s Seared Duck , Aaron Sanchez’s Tacos de Carne Asada, and Richard Blais’s lamb chop.

As far as wines went, I enjoyed the Tri-Appellation Boen Pinot Noir. 5th generation Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on Belle Glos. Boen is one of the new labels that he launched under Copper Cane. What stood out to me about this Pinot Noir was its depth of flavor and body. While Pinot Noir is known for its lighter characteristics, this one was rich and ripe. It could stand up to meat dishes like Richard’s Blais’s lamb chop or Maneet Chuahan’s shortrib. At the same time, it did not overwhelm more delicate dishes.

And if celebrity chef appearances weren’t enough, Bravo TV fans had the thrill of spotting Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey partaking in the feast alongside her new fiancé, Mike Hill. Even more stunning (and tall!) in person, she took time to greet and pose for pictures with fans while perusing the chef’s tables. Mike Hill is just as nice- and just as tall.

“Me being tall was a requirement for her marrying me,” he joked.

They returned the next morning to participate in the Champagne Brunch presented by Truly Hard Seltzer, where they were joined by Vanderpump Rule’s Tom & Tom. Everyone involved in the Wine & Food Fest also headed to Saturday Night’s After Party at novella, located within the casino.


Recap: Good Times at Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest 2020

Where can you mingle with celebrities, taste delicious wine, sample craft beer, get free swag, feast on tasty food, try your luck at slot machines, and dance to hits from a DJ? This ISN’T a trick question and there IS an answer. And that answer is the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest.

On January 25 and 26, I had the pleasure of attending the weekend long festival on behalf of CTBites. 2020 marked the seventeenth year of the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest and seven years since I first attended in 2013. A great deal has changed since its inception. This year commanded a plethora of A-list chefs and had an array of events to supplement Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

The weekend kicked off on Friday January 25 with a Bourbon Tasting, which started at 6pm. Guests had the opportunity to sample spirits from Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Toki Japanese Whiskey. Those looking for an alternative to bourbon could partake in El Tesoro Anejo Tequila and Courvoisier VS Cognac. Everything was paired with mouth-watering fare from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, like Smoked Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Brisket, and Burnt Ends. Sweet tooths got their fix from Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp in the center of the room. All attendees left with a cigar from Boutique Cigar in Cromwell, CT that they could pair with their newfound favorite bourbon.

From there, we made our way to the Grand Tasting Preview. The newly built Earth Expo & Convention Center served as the backdrop for this as well as Saturday’s main event. In addition to scoping out the food, wine, and beer vendors, celebrity chefs like Food Network’s Michele Ragussis and Below Deck’s Ben Robinson got us excited for the weekend with cooking demonstrations coupled with audience interaction. Chef Ben showed us how to make flavorful homemade pasta (which he “makes faster than you can make it from a box”) and revealed behind the scenes secrets in an audience Q & A (both Hannah and Kate are equally as difficult to work with).

On Saturday January 26, we returned to the Earth Expo & Convention Center for the Grand Tasting itself. VIP ticket holders could enter as early as 11am while the doors opened to the public at noon. This year boasted two stages with chef demos. Chef Todd English, who also operates esteemed restaurant Tuscany in Mohegan Sun, started off the exhibitions on the main stage. He made a persuasive case for using Wagyu beef while expertly preparing it in front of our eyes with truffle, Woodland mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, potatoes, and lots of butter. Spectators had the chance to sample his food and ask him questions about his restaurants, techniques, and history in culinary world.

Chef Maneet Chuahan followed with a beautiful presentation of her take on Seafood Cioppino. She selected two members from the audience to help her create a dish with shrimp, clam, and lobster rife with flavors inspired by India and her restaurant in Nashville. Top Chef Alum, Food Network personality, and restauranteur Richard Blais took the stage after her. One part stand-up comedy routine, one part science experiment, and one part cooking demo, he wowed the audience with his use of liquid nitrogen and his own homemade flame thrower. The day continued with even more chef headliners, like Aaron Sanchez.

Wine enthusiasts (like me!) had several interesting bottles to choose from. Fine Terroir presented some of the more eclectic selections of the day: Wines from Illyria. The bottles heralded from Bosnia and Herzegovina and embraced indigenous varietals. Emporia Blatina (BLAH-tee-nah) proved to be one of my favorites from the line-up. From Herzegovina, it had up front fruit flavors with tertiary notes of leather and rose. The sip concluded with a beautiful burst of spice on the backend of my palate. Wine drinkers could also head into the adjacent ballroom for a Vintage Grand Cru Tasting, an additional ticketed event that was part of the festival. Here, they could sample premium pours like wines from Antinori, Michael Keenan, and Chacewater while interacting with winemakers and representatives from the vineyards.

Breweries were there in droves, with places like Two Roads, Wormtown, Outer Light, New Belgium, Epicure Brewing, and more pouring craft ales for the crowd. Larger brands were also on hand to introduce new products. Corona debuted Corona Refresca, a slightly sparkling canned drink perfect for summer. I particularly enjoyed the Guava iteration. Bud Light showed off its answer to spiked seltzer giants like White Claw and Truly: Bud Light Seltzer. Despite the name, the beverage contains no Bud Light. It is gluten free, low-cal, and canned for convenience.

The true highlight of the weekend- the Celebrity Chef Dine Around- unfolded in the Uncas Ballroom from 8pm-10:30pm. Imagine your culinary idols in one room personally serving you their dishes, explaining their techniques, engaging in casual conversation, and posing for pictures. It may seem far-fetched, but the 2020 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest offered this opportunity. With over 20 celebrity chefs, this edition of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around was bigger than ever and boasted powerhouses like Rocco Dispirito, Amanda Frietag, Betty Fraser, Chef Plum, and Govind Armstrong in addition to those that had already presented earlier in the weekend. All of their dishes were paired with full pours of premium wines carefully selected to complement the food.

While I expected long lines, the dine-around proceeded quite seamlessly. We had more than enough time to sample all of the dishes, interact with the chefs, and party with the DJ. Despite the sea of people in the ballroom, there were plenty of surfaces where we could stand and sit to enjoy our plates.

My favorite dish of the evening belonged to Chef Ben Robinson of Below Deck fame. He proved himself to be more than a reality TV Chef and prepared Shrimp with Thai Papaya Salad and Stuffed Daikon with Peanut Sauce. It was truly the most delicious Peanut Sauce I’ve encountered in my life. Layered with flavor and accompanied with actual peanuts for a hint of crunch, I could have eaten it by the spoonful.

The sweet tooth in me loved Chef Manouschka Guerrier’s lavender and CBD infused donuts. The chef-to-the stars created perfectly sized confections that could be eaten in two delightful bites. The dough was fluffy but structured and topped with icing to impart balanced sweetness. Chef Todd English also experimented with CBD, offering guests Wagyu & CBD with Black Truffle Pesto, Paradise OG Whipped Potatoes, Crispy Cauliflower, Wagyu Slider, Frisee Salad, and Aioli. While several chefs plated mashed potatoes, I found his some of the tastiest of the evening. Other standouts included Govind Armstrong’s Seared Duck , Aaron Sanchez’s Tacos de Carne Asada, and Richard Blais’s lamb chop.

As far as wines went, I enjoyed the Tri-Appellation Boen Pinot Noir. 5th generation Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on Belle Glos. Boen is one of the new labels that he launched under Copper Cane. What stood out to me about this Pinot Noir was its depth of flavor and body. While Pinot Noir is known for its lighter characteristics, this one was rich and ripe. It could stand up to meat dishes like Richard’s Blais’s lamb chop or Maneet Chuahan’s shortrib. At the same time, it did not overwhelm more delicate dishes.

And if celebrity chef appearances weren’t enough, Bravo TV fans had the thrill of spotting Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey partaking in the feast alongside her new fiancé, Mike Hill. Even more stunning (and tall!) in person, she took time to greet and pose for pictures with fans while perusing the chef’s tables. Mike Hill is just as nice- and just as tall.

“Me being tall was a requirement for her marrying me,” he joked.

They returned the next morning to participate in the Champagne Brunch presented by Truly Hard Seltzer, where they were joined by Vanderpump Rule’s Tom & Tom. Everyone involved in the Wine & Food Fest also headed to Saturday Night’s After Party at novella, located within the casino.


Recap: Good Times at Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest 2020

Where can you mingle with celebrities, taste delicious wine, sample craft beer, get free swag, feast on tasty food, try your luck at slot machines, and dance to hits from a DJ? This ISN’T a trick question and there IS an answer. And that answer is the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest.

On January 25 and 26, I had the pleasure of attending the weekend long festival on behalf of CTBites. 2020 marked the seventeenth year of the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest and seven years since I first attended in 2013. A great deal has changed since its inception. This year commanded a plethora of A-list chefs and had an array of events to supplement Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

The weekend kicked off on Friday January 25 with a Bourbon Tasting, which started at 6pm. Guests had the opportunity to sample spirits from Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Toki Japanese Whiskey. Those looking for an alternative to bourbon could partake in El Tesoro Anejo Tequila and Courvoisier VS Cognac. Everything was paired with mouth-watering fare from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, like Smoked Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Brisket, and Burnt Ends. Sweet tooths got their fix from Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp in the center of the room. All attendees left with a cigar from Boutique Cigar in Cromwell, CT that they could pair with their newfound favorite bourbon.

From there, we made our way to the Grand Tasting Preview. The newly built Earth Expo & Convention Center served as the backdrop for this as well as Saturday’s main event. In addition to scoping out the food, wine, and beer vendors, celebrity chefs like Food Network’s Michele Ragussis and Below Deck’s Ben Robinson got us excited for the weekend with cooking demonstrations coupled with audience interaction. Chef Ben showed us how to make flavorful homemade pasta (which he “makes faster than you can make it from a box”) and revealed behind the scenes secrets in an audience Q & A (both Hannah and Kate are equally as difficult to work with).

On Saturday January 26, we returned to the Earth Expo & Convention Center for the Grand Tasting itself. VIP ticket holders could enter as early as 11am while the doors opened to the public at noon. This year boasted two stages with chef demos. Chef Todd English, who also operates esteemed restaurant Tuscany in Mohegan Sun, started off the exhibitions on the main stage. He made a persuasive case for using Wagyu beef while expertly preparing it in front of our eyes with truffle, Woodland mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, potatoes, and lots of butter. Spectators had the chance to sample his food and ask him questions about his restaurants, techniques, and history in culinary world.

Chef Maneet Chuahan followed with a beautiful presentation of her take on Seafood Cioppino. She selected two members from the audience to help her create a dish with shrimp, clam, and lobster rife with flavors inspired by India and her restaurant in Nashville. Top Chef Alum, Food Network personality, and restauranteur Richard Blais took the stage after her. One part stand-up comedy routine, one part science experiment, and one part cooking demo, he wowed the audience with his use of liquid nitrogen and his own homemade flame thrower. The day continued with even more chef headliners, like Aaron Sanchez.

Wine enthusiasts (like me!) had several interesting bottles to choose from. Fine Terroir presented some of the more eclectic selections of the day: Wines from Illyria. The bottles heralded from Bosnia and Herzegovina and embraced indigenous varietals. Emporia Blatina (BLAH-tee-nah) proved to be one of my favorites from the line-up. From Herzegovina, it had up front fruit flavors with tertiary notes of leather and rose. The sip concluded with a beautiful burst of spice on the backend of my palate. Wine drinkers could also head into the adjacent ballroom for a Vintage Grand Cru Tasting, an additional ticketed event that was part of the festival. Here, they could sample premium pours like wines from Antinori, Michael Keenan, and Chacewater while interacting with winemakers and representatives from the vineyards.

Breweries were there in droves, with places like Two Roads, Wormtown, Outer Light, New Belgium, Epicure Brewing, and more pouring craft ales for the crowd. Larger brands were also on hand to introduce new products. Corona debuted Corona Refresca, a slightly sparkling canned drink perfect for summer. I particularly enjoyed the Guava iteration. Bud Light showed off its answer to spiked seltzer giants like White Claw and Truly: Bud Light Seltzer. Despite the name, the beverage contains no Bud Light. It is gluten free, low-cal, and canned for convenience.

The true highlight of the weekend- the Celebrity Chef Dine Around- unfolded in the Uncas Ballroom from 8pm-10:30pm. Imagine your culinary idols in one room personally serving you their dishes, explaining their techniques, engaging in casual conversation, and posing for pictures. It may seem far-fetched, but the 2020 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest offered this opportunity. With over 20 celebrity chefs, this edition of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around was bigger than ever and boasted powerhouses like Rocco Dispirito, Amanda Frietag, Betty Fraser, Chef Plum, and Govind Armstrong in addition to those that had already presented earlier in the weekend. All of their dishes were paired with full pours of premium wines carefully selected to complement the food.

While I expected long lines, the dine-around proceeded quite seamlessly. We had more than enough time to sample all of the dishes, interact with the chefs, and party with the DJ. Despite the sea of people in the ballroom, there were plenty of surfaces where we could stand and sit to enjoy our plates.

My favorite dish of the evening belonged to Chef Ben Robinson of Below Deck fame. He proved himself to be more than a reality TV Chef and prepared Shrimp with Thai Papaya Salad and Stuffed Daikon with Peanut Sauce. It was truly the most delicious Peanut Sauce I’ve encountered in my life. Layered with flavor and accompanied with actual peanuts for a hint of crunch, I could have eaten it by the spoonful.

The sweet tooth in me loved Chef Manouschka Guerrier’s lavender and CBD infused donuts. The chef-to-the stars created perfectly sized confections that could be eaten in two delightful bites. The dough was fluffy but structured and topped with icing to impart balanced sweetness. Chef Todd English also experimented with CBD, offering guests Wagyu & CBD with Black Truffle Pesto, Paradise OG Whipped Potatoes, Crispy Cauliflower, Wagyu Slider, Frisee Salad, and Aioli. While several chefs plated mashed potatoes, I found his some of the tastiest of the evening. Other standouts included Govind Armstrong’s Seared Duck , Aaron Sanchez’s Tacos de Carne Asada, and Richard Blais’s lamb chop.

As far as wines went, I enjoyed the Tri-Appellation Boen Pinot Noir. 5th generation Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on Belle Glos. Boen is one of the new labels that he launched under Copper Cane. What stood out to me about this Pinot Noir was its depth of flavor and body. While Pinot Noir is known for its lighter characteristics, this one was rich and ripe. It could stand up to meat dishes like Richard’s Blais’s lamb chop or Maneet Chuahan’s shortrib. At the same time, it did not overwhelm more delicate dishes.

And if celebrity chef appearances weren’t enough, Bravo TV fans had the thrill of spotting Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey partaking in the feast alongside her new fiancé, Mike Hill. Even more stunning (and tall!) in person, she took time to greet and pose for pictures with fans while perusing the chef’s tables. Mike Hill is just as nice- and just as tall.

“Me being tall was a requirement for her marrying me,” he joked.

They returned the next morning to participate in the Champagne Brunch presented by Truly Hard Seltzer, where they were joined by Vanderpump Rule’s Tom & Tom. Everyone involved in the Wine & Food Fest also headed to Saturday Night’s After Party at novella, located within the casino.


Recap: Good Times at Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest 2020

Where can you mingle with celebrities, taste delicious wine, sample craft beer, get free swag, feast on tasty food, try your luck at slot machines, and dance to hits from a DJ? This ISN’T a trick question and there IS an answer. And that answer is the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest.

On January 25 and 26, I had the pleasure of attending the weekend long festival on behalf of CTBites. 2020 marked the seventeenth year of the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest and seven years since I first attended in 2013. A great deal has changed since its inception. This year commanded a plethora of A-list chefs and had an array of events to supplement Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

The weekend kicked off on Friday January 25 with a Bourbon Tasting, which started at 6pm. Guests had the opportunity to sample spirits from Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Toki Japanese Whiskey. Those looking for an alternative to bourbon could partake in El Tesoro Anejo Tequila and Courvoisier VS Cognac. Everything was paired with mouth-watering fare from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, like Smoked Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Brisket, and Burnt Ends. Sweet tooths got their fix from Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp in the center of the room. All attendees left with a cigar from Boutique Cigar in Cromwell, CT that they could pair with their newfound favorite bourbon.

From there, we made our way to the Grand Tasting Preview. The newly built Earth Expo & Convention Center served as the backdrop for this as well as Saturday’s main event. In addition to scoping out the food, wine, and beer vendors, celebrity chefs like Food Network’s Michele Ragussis and Below Deck’s Ben Robinson got us excited for the weekend with cooking demonstrations coupled with audience interaction. Chef Ben showed us how to make flavorful homemade pasta (which he “makes faster than you can make it from a box”) and revealed behind the scenes secrets in an audience Q & A (both Hannah and Kate are equally as difficult to work with).

On Saturday January 26, we returned to the Earth Expo & Convention Center for the Grand Tasting itself. VIP ticket holders could enter as early as 11am while the doors opened to the public at noon. This year boasted two stages with chef demos. Chef Todd English, who also operates esteemed restaurant Tuscany in Mohegan Sun, started off the exhibitions on the main stage. He made a persuasive case for using Wagyu beef while expertly preparing it in front of our eyes with truffle, Woodland mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, potatoes, and lots of butter. Spectators had the chance to sample his food and ask him questions about his restaurants, techniques, and history in culinary world.

Chef Maneet Chuahan followed with a beautiful presentation of her take on Seafood Cioppino. She selected two members from the audience to help her create a dish with shrimp, clam, and lobster rife with flavors inspired by India and her restaurant in Nashville. Top Chef Alum, Food Network personality, and restauranteur Richard Blais took the stage after her. One part stand-up comedy routine, one part science experiment, and one part cooking demo, he wowed the audience with his use of liquid nitrogen and his own homemade flame thrower. The day continued with even more chef headliners, like Aaron Sanchez.

Wine enthusiasts (like me!) had several interesting bottles to choose from. Fine Terroir presented some of the more eclectic selections of the day: Wines from Illyria. The bottles heralded from Bosnia and Herzegovina and embraced indigenous varietals. Emporia Blatina (BLAH-tee-nah) proved to be one of my favorites from the line-up. From Herzegovina, it had up front fruit flavors with tertiary notes of leather and rose. The sip concluded with a beautiful burst of spice on the backend of my palate. Wine drinkers could also head into the adjacent ballroom for a Vintage Grand Cru Tasting, an additional ticketed event that was part of the festival. Here, they could sample premium pours like wines from Antinori, Michael Keenan, and Chacewater while interacting with winemakers and representatives from the vineyards.

Breweries were there in droves, with places like Two Roads, Wormtown, Outer Light, New Belgium, Epicure Brewing, and more pouring craft ales for the crowd. Larger brands were also on hand to introduce new products. Corona debuted Corona Refresca, a slightly sparkling canned drink perfect for summer. I particularly enjoyed the Guava iteration. Bud Light showed off its answer to spiked seltzer giants like White Claw and Truly: Bud Light Seltzer. Despite the name, the beverage contains no Bud Light. It is gluten free, low-cal, and canned for convenience.

The true highlight of the weekend- the Celebrity Chef Dine Around- unfolded in the Uncas Ballroom from 8pm-10:30pm. Imagine your culinary idols in one room personally serving you their dishes, explaining their techniques, engaging in casual conversation, and posing for pictures. It may seem far-fetched, but the 2020 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest offered this opportunity. With over 20 celebrity chefs, this edition of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around was bigger than ever and boasted powerhouses like Rocco Dispirito, Amanda Frietag, Betty Fraser, Chef Plum, and Govind Armstrong in addition to those that had already presented earlier in the weekend. All of their dishes were paired with full pours of premium wines carefully selected to complement the food.

While I expected long lines, the dine-around proceeded quite seamlessly. We had more than enough time to sample all of the dishes, interact with the chefs, and party with the DJ. Despite the sea of people in the ballroom, there were plenty of surfaces where we could stand and sit to enjoy our plates.

My favorite dish of the evening belonged to Chef Ben Robinson of Below Deck fame. He proved himself to be more than a reality TV Chef and prepared Shrimp with Thai Papaya Salad and Stuffed Daikon with Peanut Sauce. It was truly the most delicious Peanut Sauce I’ve encountered in my life. Layered with flavor and accompanied with actual peanuts for a hint of crunch, I could have eaten it by the spoonful.

The sweet tooth in me loved Chef Manouschka Guerrier’s lavender and CBD infused donuts. The chef-to-the stars created perfectly sized confections that could be eaten in two delightful bites. The dough was fluffy but structured and topped with icing to impart balanced sweetness. Chef Todd English also experimented with CBD, offering guests Wagyu & CBD with Black Truffle Pesto, Paradise OG Whipped Potatoes, Crispy Cauliflower, Wagyu Slider, Frisee Salad, and Aioli. While several chefs plated mashed potatoes, I found his some of the tastiest of the evening. Other standouts included Govind Armstrong’s Seared Duck , Aaron Sanchez’s Tacos de Carne Asada, and Richard Blais’s lamb chop.

As far as wines went, I enjoyed the Tri-Appellation Boen Pinot Noir. 5th generation Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on Belle Glos. Boen is one of the new labels that he launched under Copper Cane. What stood out to me about this Pinot Noir was its depth of flavor and body. While Pinot Noir is known for its lighter characteristics, this one was rich and ripe. It could stand up to meat dishes like Richard’s Blais’s lamb chop or Maneet Chuahan’s shortrib. At the same time, it did not overwhelm more delicate dishes.

And if celebrity chef appearances weren’t enough, Bravo TV fans had the thrill of spotting Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey partaking in the feast alongside her new fiancé, Mike Hill. Even more stunning (and tall!) in person, she took time to greet and pose for pictures with fans while perusing the chef’s tables. Mike Hill is just as nice- and just as tall.

“Me being tall was a requirement for her marrying me,” he joked.

They returned the next morning to participate in the Champagne Brunch presented by Truly Hard Seltzer, where they were joined by Vanderpump Rule’s Tom & Tom. Everyone involved in the Wine & Food Fest also headed to Saturday Night’s After Party at novella, located within the casino.


Recap: Good Times at Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest 2020

Where can you mingle with celebrities, taste delicious wine, sample craft beer, get free swag, feast on tasty food, try your luck at slot machines, and dance to hits from a DJ? This ISN’T a trick question and there IS an answer. And that answer is the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest.

On January 25 and 26, I had the pleasure of attending the weekend long festival on behalf of CTBites. 2020 marked the seventeenth year of the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest and seven years since I first attended in 2013. A great deal has changed since its inception. This year commanded a plethora of A-list chefs and had an array of events to supplement Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

The weekend kicked off on Friday January 25 with a Bourbon Tasting, which started at 6pm. Guests had the opportunity to sample spirits from Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Toki Japanese Whiskey. Those looking for an alternative to bourbon could partake in El Tesoro Anejo Tequila and Courvoisier VS Cognac. Everything was paired with mouth-watering fare from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, like Smoked Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Brisket, and Burnt Ends. Sweet tooths got their fix from Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp in the center of the room. All attendees left with a cigar from Boutique Cigar in Cromwell, CT that they could pair with their newfound favorite bourbon.

From there, we made our way to the Grand Tasting Preview. The newly built Earth Expo & Convention Center served as the backdrop for this as well as Saturday’s main event. In addition to scoping out the food, wine, and beer vendors, celebrity chefs like Food Network’s Michele Ragussis and Below Deck’s Ben Robinson got us excited for the weekend with cooking demonstrations coupled with audience interaction. Chef Ben showed us how to make flavorful homemade pasta (which he “makes faster than you can make it from a box”) and revealed behind the scenes secrets in an audience Q & A (both Hannah and Kate are equally as difficult to work with).

On Saturday January 26, we returned to the Earth Expo & Convention Center for the Grand Tasting itself. VIP ticket holders could enter as early as 11am while the doors opened to the public at noon. This year boasted two stages with chef demos. Chef Todd English, who also operates esteemed restaurant Tuscany in Mohegan Sun, started off the exhibitions on the main stage. He made a persuasive case for using Wagyu beef while expertly preparing it in front of our eyes with truffle, Woodland mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, potatoes, and lots of butter. Spectators had the chance to sample his food and ask him questions about his restaurants, techniques, and history in culinary world.

Chef Maneet Chuahan followed with a beautiful presentation of her take on Seafood Cioppino. She selected two members from the audience to help her create a dish with shrimp, clam, and lobster rife with flavors inspired by India and her restaurant in Nashville. Top Chef Alum, Food Network personality, and restauranteur Richard Blais took the stage after her. One part stand-up comedy routine, one part science experiment, and one part cooking demo, he wowed the audience with his use of liquid nitrogen and his own homemade flame thrower. The day continued with even more chef headliners, like Aaron Sanchez.

Wine enthusiasts (like me!) had several interesting bottles to choose from. Fine Terroir presented some of the more eclectic selections of the day: Wines from Illyria. The bottles heralded from Bosnia and Herzegovina and embraced indigenous varietals. Emporia Blatina (BLAH-tee-nah) proved to be one of my favorites from the line-up. From Herzegovina, it had up front fruit flavors with tertiary notes of leather and rose. The sip concluded with a beautiful burst of spice on the backend of my palate. Wine drinkers could also head into the adjacent ballroom for a Vintage Grand Cru Tasting, an additional ticketed event that was part of the festival. Here, they could sample premium pours like wines from Antinori, Michael Keenan, and Chacewater while interacting with winemakers and representatives from the vineyards.

Breweries were there in droves, with places like Two Roads, Wormtown, Outer Light, New Belgium, Epicure Brewing, and more pouring craft ales for the crowd. Larger brands were also on hand to introduce new products. Corona debuted Corona Refresca, a slightly sparkling canned drink perfect for summer. I particularly enjoyed the Guava iteration. Bud Light showed off its answer to spiked seltzer giants like White Claw and Truly: Bud Light Seltzer. Despite the name, the beverage contains no Bud Light. It is gluten free, low-cal, and canned for convenience.

The true highlight of the weekend- the Celebrity Chef Dine Around- unfolded in the Uncas Ballroom from 8pm-10:30pm. Imagine your culinary idols in one room personally serving you their dishes, explaining their techniques, engaging in casual conversation, and posing for pictures. It may seem far-fetched, but the 2020 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest offered this opportunity. With over 20 celebrity chefs, this edition of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around was bigger than ever and boasted powerhouses like Rocco Dispirito, Amanda Frietag, Betty Fraser, Chef Plum, and Govind Armstrong in addition to those that had already presented earlier in the weekend. All of their dishes were paired with full pours of premium wines carefully selected to complement the food.

While I expected long lines, the dine-around proceeded quite seamlessly. We had more than enough time to sample all of the dishes, interact with the chefs, and party with the DJ. Despite the sea of people in the ballroom, there were plenty of surfaces where we could stand and sit to enjoy our plates.

My favorite dish of the evening belonged to Chef Ben Robinson of Below Deck fame. He proved himself to be more than a reality TV Chef and prepared Shrimp with Thai Papaya Salad and Stuffed Daikon with Peanut Sauce. It was truly the most delicious Peanut Sauce I’ve encountered in my life. Layered with flavor and accompanied with actual peanuts for a hint of crunch, I could have eaten it by the spoonful.

The sweet tooth in me loved Chef Manouschka Guerrier’s lavender and CBD infused donuts. The chef-to-the stars created perfectly sized confections that could be eaten in two delightful bites. The dough was fluffy but structured and topped with icing to impart balanced sweetness. Chef Todd English also experimented with CBD, offering guests Wagyu & CBD with Black Truffle Pesto, Paradise OG Whipped Potatoes, Crispy Cauliflower, Wagyu Slider, Frisee Salad, and Aioli. While several chefs plated mashed potatoes, I found his some of the tastiest of the evening. Other standouts included Govind Armstrong’s Seared Duck , Aaron Sanchez’s Tacos de Carne Asada, and Richard Blais’s lamb chop.

As far as wines went, I enjoyed the Tri-Appellation Boen Pinot Noir. 5th generation Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on Belle Glos. Boen is one of the new labels that he launched under Copper Cane. What stood out to me about this Pinot Noir was its depth of flavor and body. While Pinot Noir is known for its lighter characteristics, this one was rich and ripe. It could stand up to meat dishes like Richard’s Blais’s lamb chop or Maneet Chuahan’s shortrib. At the same time, it did not overwhelm more delicate dishes.

And if celebrity chef appearances weren’t enough, Bravo TV fans had the thrill of spotting Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey partaking in the feast alongside her new fiancé, Mike Hill. Even more stunning (and tall!) in person, she took time to greet and pose for pictures with fans while perusing the chef’s tables. Mike Hill is just as nice- and just as tall.

“Me being tall was a requirement for her marrying me,” he joked.

They returned the next morning to participate in the Champagne Brunch presented by Truly Hard Seltzer, where they were joined by Vanderpump Rule’s Tom & Tom. Everyone involved in the Wine & Food Fest also headed to Saturday Night’s After Party at novella, located within the casino.


Recap: Good Times at Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest 2020

Where can you mingle with celebrities, taste delicious wine, sample craft beer, get free swag, feast on tasty food, try your luck at slot machines, and dance to hits from a DJ? This ISN’T a trick question and there IS an answer. And that answer is the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest.

On January 25 and 26, I had the pleasure of attending the weekend long festival on behalf of CTBites. 2020 marked the seventeenth year of the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest and seven years since I first attended in 2013. A great deal has changed since its inception. This year commanded a plethora of A-list chefs and had an array of events to supplement Saturday’s Grand Tasting.

The weekend kicked off on Friday January 25 with a Bourbon Tasting, which started at 6pm. Guests had the opportunity to sample spirits from Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Toki Japanese Whiskey. Those looking for an alternative to bourbon could partake in El Tesoro Anejo Tequila and Courvoisier VS Cognac. Everything was paired with mouth-watering fare from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, like Smoked Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Brisket, and Burnt Ends. Sweet tooths got their fix from Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp in the center of the room. All attendees left with a cigar from Boutique Cigar in Cromwell, CT that they could pair with their newfound favorite bourbon.

From there, we made our way to the Grand Tasting Preview. The newly built Earth Expo & Convention Center served as the backdrop for this as well as Saturday’s main event. In addition to scoping out the food, wine, and beer vendors, celebrity chefs like Food Network’s Michele Ragussis and Below Deck’s Ben Robinson got us excited for the weekend with cooking demonstrations coupled with audience interaction. Chef Ben showed us how to make flavorful homemade pasta (which he “makes faster than you can make it from a box”) and revealed behind the scenes secrets in an audience Q & A (both Hannah and Kate are equally as difficult to work with).

On Saturday January 26, we returned to the Earth Expo & Convention Center for the Grand Tasting itself. VIP ticket holders could enter as early as 11am while the doors opened to the public at noon. This year boasted two stages with chef demos. Chef Todd English, who also operates esteemed restaurant Tuscany in Mohegan Sun, started off the exhibitions on the main stage. He made a persuasive case for using Wagyu beef while expertly preparing it in front of our eyes with truffle, Woodland mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, potatoes, and lots of butter. Spectators had the chance to sample his food and ask him questions about his restaurants, techniques, and history in culinary world.

Chef Maneet Chuahan followed with a beautiful presentation of her take on Seafood Cioppino. She selected two members from the audience to help her create a dish with shrimp, clam, and lobster rife with flavors inspired by India and her restaurant in Nashville. Top Chef Alum, Food Network personality, and restauranteur Richard Blais took the stage after her. One part stand-up comedy routine, one part science experiment, and one part cooking demo, he wowed the audience with his use of liquid nitrogen and his own homemade flame thrower. The day continued with even more chef headliners, like Aaron Sanchez.

Wine enthusiasts (like me!) had several interesting bottles to choose from. Fine Terroir presented some of the more eclectic selections of the day: Wines from Illyria. The bottles heralded from Bosnia and Herzegovina and embraced indigenous varietals. Emporia Blatina (BLAH-tee-nah) proved to be one of my favorites from the line-up. From Herzegovina, it had up front fruit flavors with tertiary notes of leather and rose. The sip concluded with a beautiful burst of spice on the backend of my palate. Wine drinkers could also head into the adjacent ballroom for a Vintage Grand Cru Tasting, an additional ticketed event that was part of the festival. Here, they could sample premium pours like wines from Antinori, Michael Keenan, and Chacewater while interacting with winemakers and representatives from the vineyards.

Breweries were there in droves, with places like Two Roads, Wormtown, Outer Light, New Belgium, Epicure Brewing, and more pouring craft ales for the crowd. Larger brands were also on hand to introduce new products. Corona debuted Corona Refresca, a slightly sparkling canned drink perfect for summer. I particularly enjoyed the Guava iteration. Bud Light showed off its answer to spiked seltzer giants like White Claw and Truly: Bud Light Seltzer. Despite the name, the beverage contains no Bud Light. It is gluten free, low-cal, and canned for convenience.

The true highlight of the weekend- the Celebrity Chef Dine Around- unfolded in the Uncas Ballroom from 8pm-10:30pm. Imagine your culinary idols in one room personally serving you their dishes, explaining their techniques, engaging in casual conversation, and posing for pictures. It may seem far-fetched, but the 2020 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest offered this opportunity. With over 20 celebrity chefs, this edition of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around was bigger than ever and boasted powerhouses like Rocco Dispirito, Amanda Frietag, Betty Fraser, Chef Plum, and Govind Armstrong in addition to those that had already presented earlier in the weekend. All of their dishes were paired with full pours of premium wines carefully selected to complement the food.

While I expected long lines, the dine-around proceeded quite seamlessly. We had more than enough time to sample all of the dishes, interact with the chefs, and party with the DJ. Despite the sea of people in the ballroom, there were plenty of surfaces where we could stand and sit to enjoy our plates.

My favorite dish of the evening belonged to Chef Ben Robinson of Below Deck fame. He proved himself to be more than a reality TV Chef and prepared Shrimp with Thai Papaya Salad and Stuffed Daikon with Peanut Sauce. It was truly the most delicious Peanut Sauce I’ve encountered in my life. Layered with flavor and accompanied with actual peanuts for a hint of crunch, I could have eaten it by the spoonful.

The sweet tooth in me loved Chef Manouschka Guerrier’s lavender and CBD infused donuts. The chef-to-the stars created perfectly sized confections that could be eaten in two delightful bites. The dough was fluffy but structured and topped with icing to impart balanced sweetness. Chef Todd English also experimented with CBD, offering guests Wagyu & CBD with Black Truffle Pesto, Paradise OG Whipped Potatoes, Crispy Cauliflower, Wagyu Slider, Frisee Salad, and Aioli. While several chefs plated mashed potatoes, I found his some of the tastiest of the evening. Other standouts included Govind Armstrong’s Seared Duck , Aaron Sanchez’s Tacos de Carne Asada, and Richard Blais’s lamb chop.

As far as wines went, I enjoyed the Tri-Appellation Boen Pinot Noir. 5th generation Napa Valley winemaker Joseph Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on Belle Glos. Boen is one of the new labels that he launched under Copper Cane. What stood out to me about this Pinot Noir was its depth of flavor and body. While Pinot Noir is known for its lighter characteristics, this one was rich and ripe. It could stand up to meat dishes like Richard’s Blais’s lamb chop or Maneet Chuahan’s shortrib. At the same time, it did not overwhelm more delicate dishes.

And if celebrity chef appearances weren’t enough, Bravo TV fans had the thrill of spotting Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia Bailey partaking in the feast alongside her new fiancé, Mike Hill. Even more stunning (and tall!) in person, she took time to greet and pose for pictures with fans while perusing the chef’s tables. Mike Hill is just as nice- and just as tall.

“Me being tall was a requirement for her marrying me,” he joked.

They returned the next morning to participate in the Champagne Brunch presented by Truly Hard Seltzer, where they were joined by Vanderpump Rule’s Tom & Tom. Everyone involved in the Wine & Food Fest also headed to Saturday Night’s After Party at novella, located within the casino.


Watch the video: 2021 EPCOT Food u0026 Wine Festival. BookishPrincess (December 2021).