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Table Talk: Andrew Zimmern to headline the Hippodrome's Foodie Experience

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Andrew Zimmern, host of the popular Travel Channel program "Bizarre Foods," will headline the Hippodrome's third annual Foodie Experience, according to officials.

Zimmern follows Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert and Alton Brown as main attractions at the food-centric event. A chef, food writer and teacher, Zimmern is best known for the show that sends him traveling the globe, seeking out world-class restaurants, street carts and jungle markets. In May 2010, Zimmern won the James Beard Award for Outstanding TV Food Personality.

The planners of this year's event are keeping to the one-price-for-all arrangement they introduced last year. But there are some big differences for the third edition, said France-Merrick Performing Arts Center President Jeff T. Daniel.

Instead of a post-show reception, the grazing and tasting portion of the May 12 event will take place before Zimmern takes the stage at 6 p.m.

Beginning at 3 p.m., participating restaurants and caterers will serve samples of their signature food inside the theater. Also new this year: A fleet of Baltimore's food trucks will be parked outside on Eutaw Street, which will be closed between Baltimore and Fayette streets for the event.

The changes, Daniel said, "will give the Foodie Experience more of a festival feel, like food and wine festivals in San Diego and South Beach."

The three-hour tasting before the show will allow attendees more time to sample foods and to talk with the chefs and restaurateurs, Daniel said, and the restaurants have responded favorably to the new set-up. Chefs can represent their restaurants at the Foodie Experience and still be back at their stoves for Saturday night dinner.

The all-access ticket price is $94, and the Hippodrome will be selling a limited number of $250 tickets that include a post-show onstage reception with Zimmern.

General public tickets go on sale Jan. 29 at the Hippodrome box office and Ticketmaster (410-547-7328 and ticketmaster.com)

Chocolate changes Another popular food event is making changes, too. The Chocolate Affair has a new location and is switching its format.

The annual Health Care for the Homeless benefit on Feb. 2 is moving to Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. At most previous editions of this event, guests traveled from station to station, sampling the chocolate creations prepared by Baltimore-area restaurants, caterers and chocolatiers.

There will still be sampling at this year's Chocolate Affair, but guests will get dinner, too. Tickets, which have been $85 the past few years, are now $150.

The popular station visiting will take place in two parts. Savory chocolate-inspired treats will be served at an hors d'oeuvres reception and a "dessert extravaganza" that will follow dinner. The centerpiece of this year's Chocolate Affair is a chocolate-inspired dinner, featuring a main course of scallops with chocolate risotto prepared by Marriott chef Carlos Gomez, the former executive chef of the Hotel Hershey, appropriately enough.

The changes, say Health Care for the Homeless CEO Kevin Lindamood, come in response to suggestions and comments about the popular, if frenzied, event, from sponsors, vendors and attendees.

"In the past, they've left saying, 'That was great, but we're still hungry,'" Lindamood said. "They've also told us they want to know more about our mission."

The evening's seated dinner will allow Health Care for the Homeless to do just that.

"Guests will have a much more well-rounded night out. It's a true meal of chocolate," Lindamood said. "They should be prepared to be entertained, delighted and moved by the stories that their contributions make in the world."

Tickets are available at chocolateaffair.org.

richard.gorelick@baltsun.com

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