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F&W Festival @ National Harbor: The Viking Culinary Stage

foto 1: thanks to Dusty Lockhart for the click of my camera

foto 2: Carla and Ariane — in sync … on target.

F&W 01 0609 I had a blast as the master of ceremonies at the 2nd Annual Food & Wine Festival at National Harbor on Saturday. Besides seeing many friends and associates (too many to try and list right now), the depth and variety of talent on the stage for me to introduce was a pleasure on all levels. We hit the mark on every start time and over delivered on entertainment — that's because the RAMMY Hot Restaurant Bar Scene nominees CoCo. Sala, Marvin, Clyde's Willow Creek Farm and The Source; Top Chef Duo Carla Hall and Ariane Duarte (true, it was advertised as a Trio but Spike Mendelsohn was a no-show); Barton Seaver; Mary Ann Jung as "Julia Child – Queen of Cuisine" and Stanley Dukes from the Towson, Md. Giant Foods were all on time, well prepared and engaging with their audience.

We opened with the Rums of Puerto Rico cocktail hour from the RAMMY nominees at 1:30 but little did we know we were serving cocktails to the 2:30 folks that were in those seats early to give their love to Carla and Ariane. I'm not sure what happened to Spike but someone said something about a roof on the homefront, but although a milk shake would have been nice, C&A — F&W 02 0609 the Top Love Chefs were a hit from the moment they appeared to cheers from the crowd. Barton Seaver deserves the "I committed so I'll be here" award for coming in on Day 5 of his new restaurant Blue Ridge after serving 200 on Friday and a full brunch Saturday morning. Thanks, Barton.

Mary Ann Jung as Julia was almost too real and if you had a problem with Julia's voice, this caricature could find your last nerve after 15 minutes. But it was like running through the pain and in the end she was drawing people back in and finished with a full crowd of happy partakers of history enactments.

One of the unknowns of the day (obviously something he rectified by the end) … Giant chef Stanley Dukes took the stage at 6 for the last slot (a deadly one as usually people want to move on at the end) but the held the crowd and filled the rest of the seats as he tackled marinated shrimp, chicken, dry rubbed steak, a black bean and tomato tortilla soup — all in 20 minutes. Oops … I forgot the sweet potato biscuits. Dukes is dedicated and talented … he vowed the crowd by pleasing their palates.

Mystifying though is why there was no recycling at the festival … everything went into grey barrels. One show staffer said National Harbor vetoed recycling and when the staffers volunteered to make it happen … they still refused. It's said to be considered for next year, but not yet a definite.

One last note … my wife and I met Laurie Forster, the Wine Coach and author/wine educator, at the Old Hickory Steakhouse lounge (in the Gaylord National) for a evening's end glass of wine and cheese plate … I wanted to say hello to the best cheese person in the area: Carolyn Stromberg, Old Hickory fromager. She dazzled us on every level … knowledge, personality, and immaculate care of her cheeses on the floor and in the cave she maintains. Thanks again from the three of us.

About the Author

Michael Birchenall is Editor and Publisher of Foodservice Monthly, a regional trade publication covering the foodservice industry of the Mid-Atlantic (DE, DC, MD, VA). Foodservice Monthly has been recognized as the Restaurant Association of Maryland's Allied Industry Member of the Year and by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington as the Joan Hisaoka Associate Member of the Year.

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