The Mid-Atlantic Wine Festival will bring the region's finest vintages and the best seafood dishes area chefs can prepare with them to the county fairgrounds this weekend.
A Cooking-With-Wine competition is a new twist to the wine festival, now in its 11th year.
The festival is one of the larger wine events in the area, offering samples from 24 wineries in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Maryland and North Carolina. It was organized to promote local wines, and this year planners hope local restaurants will win new customers too.
"It's good exposure for myself, my banquet chef and the hotel restaurant," said Terry Feehley, chef of the Atrium Cafe at Doubletree Guest Suites at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, who said he is looking forward to the competition.
"I'm up against some stiff competition. Some of these guys have competed in Germany. They're hot."
The idea for the cook-off came from another festival -- Winefest on the Beach in Ocean City -- which has had well-received cook-offs the past two years, said Nancy Johnson, who organizes both festivals.
Seven chefs from the Washington metropolitan area will compete Saturday and 11 from the Chesapeake area Sunday, serving ounce-size samples of wine-laden seafood dishes with such ingredients as couscous, mustard sauce, cilantro and papaya.
"We get to be outside and actually with the guests," said John Rocca, executive chef at Loews Annapolis Hotel, who plans to compete. "You get to show off your culinary talent."
Some of the chefs will use wines from the 16 categories judged in this year's competition to marinade, saute and glaze hundreds of pounds of rockfish, flounder and shellfish. Many of the recipes are new creations that may show up -- along with the festival's winning wines -- on local menus.
"I like to do something new and different and try it in front of a large audience," said Hemingway's corporate chef, Michael St. Ledger, of the grilled rockfish over couscous with a spicy sun-dried tomato and papaya relish he plans for the competition.
St. Ledger and the other chefs will mix, dice, boil and grill in front of the audience during cooking demonstrations, offering tips on searing and deglazing and using wine as a meat tenderizer and for flavor.
Then the chefs will serve 500 sample portions between noon and 3 p.m. Judges get dinner-sized portions.
It costs $5 extra for visitors to taste and judge the chefs for themselves. Proceeds will benefit Chrysalis House, a residential facility to help women in crisis and their children, and will help in the development of a hospitality high school Washington.
For those who can get beyond the bouillabaisse, there's plenty more atmosphere to drink up at the festival -- the fruity, the nutty, the woody and the blush.
Festival-goers get a commemorative wine glass and as many free wine samples as they desire. If people like what they try, they can buy it by the glass, bottle or case.
Also on tap will be microbrewed beers, arts and crafts and music -- jazz, rock, reggae, blues, pop rock, new age jazz.
The festival goes on rain or shine at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds on Generals Highway from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Today is the last day to purchase $13 advance tickets at Fresh Fields Food Markets in Mount Washington in Baltimore or at Annapolis Harbor Center. Tickets are $16 at the gate for those 21 and older. Visitors younger than age 21 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Tickets are $5 for those ages 7 to 21, Children younger than age 7 are admitted free.
Pub Date: 6/25/98