What better way to travel around the world, without leaving home, than by quaffing a global sampler of fine wines?
The 23rd annual "Around the World in 80 Wines" on Friday evening helped kick off a new event celebrating food and drink in Westport, as the Downtown Merchants Association uncorked the first Westport FoodieFest.
"The Westport Downtown Merchants Association is a great organization," said Steve Violette, president of the Westport Sunrise Rotary Club, which has run the wine tasting and silent auction fundraising wine event since its inception.
"We've done some cross-promotional stuff and we're unofficially the kick-off," he said.
"They're trying something now," said Harvey Skolnick, owner of the Liquor Locker, which has sponsored the event since the beginning. After 44 years on Main Street, Skolnick's store recently relocated to a Post Road East storefront.
"It's their biggest fundraiser," he said of the wine event, which has net over $350,000 for various charities over the past 22 years.
A variety of vendors poured wines from Australia to Argentina.
"Everybody's here," said Donna Pace of Westport, president of Gathering Harvests, which features wines made by family-owned vineyards that utilize sustainable practices. "It's part of the first FoodieFest. It's really nice."
"It's beautifully done, and for a great cause," said Jonathan Goldstein of Westport. "You wander around the world, and it's a great showcase."
"It was really exciting that Rotary decided to move this event," said Cathy Colgan, special events producer for DMA.
"It's a fantastic turnout tonight," she said, and 600 tickets were sold for Saturday's FoodieFest Biergarten event on Veterans Green.
"It just goes to show that Westport likes to party," she said.
Other events for the Westport FoodieFest occur throughout the weekend, starting with "Autumn Breakfast," set for 9 a.m. Saturday at the Westport Library Cafe. Participants are invited to enjoy a cup of freshly brewed pumpkin spiced coffee and assorted pastries and baked goods in a casual breakfast at the cafe.
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, there is a food drive at the Gillespie Center to benefit Homes with Hope. People are invited to drop off perishable and non-perishable food item. The Staples High School Culinary team will offer baked goods and samples of local fare. Tours of the Gillespie Center will also take place. People also can drop off food for the collection from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Biergarten on Veterans Green.
At noon, there will be a cooking demonstration and lunch with Chef Pietro Scotti at his Riverside Avenue restaurant, just across the Post Road bridge. People can enjoy a demonstration of fall harvest favorites, followed by a three-course lunch. Featured dishes include sweet potato gnocchi in brown sage butter and walnuts, filet of wild salmon filled with scallop mousse, and a dessert of pumpkin panna cotta with crème anglaise.
Biergarten on the Green will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. The DMA and chef/cookbook author Ian Knaueras co-host this "tasting event." Knaueras will prepare beer-infused, seasonal fare utilizing farm-to-table ingredients designed to enhance the craft and micro beers available for tasting all afternoon. Taste dozens of local, national and international beers, including Westport's own Beaver Beer and Compo Hill. Each Biergarten guest will receive a complimentary tasting mug along with a specially designed Oktoberfest lunch. Music will be performed by the Zany Oomph Band. Kids.
A "Galloping Great Happy Hour" begins at 5 p.m. at the Spotted Horse on Church Lane, featuring a two-hour wine and beer open bar, including draft and bottled beer, as well as appetizers at 25 percent off.
"Champagne & Charcuterie" starts at 5 p.m. at LUXE Modern Wine & Cocktails on Main Street. People can taste French champagnes from Louis Roederer, paired with LUXE's assortment of artisanal cheeses and specialty cured meats. The event will include a performance of Le Sabre du Champagne, the "beheading" of a bottle with a sword or saber, which has its roots in Napoleon's cavalry.
Autumn dinner at Blue Lemon restaurant begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The menu includes choice of three appetizers, including chef Bryan Malcarney's award-winning Grilled Baby Squid with Ginger and Lime Vinaigrette, and choice of three entrees including dishes such as Homemade Braised Beef Ravioli, or Seared Wild Bass over Swiss Chard.
At 8 p.m. Saturday, "Barbecue, Bourbon & Beer" begins at Bobby Q's on Main Street. BBQ fare is featured with small batch and single-barrel bourbons with aged barrel cocktail from Saugatuck Grain & Grape.
The Foodie Fest concludes at 4 p.m. Sunday with Food and Film with a screening of the film, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" at Town Hall. The documentary is the story of 85-year-old master sushi chef Jiro Ono, his business, and relationship to his son who is his eventual heir. After the screening, the Westport Historical Society will host a sushi and sake tasting with Paul Teoh of Matsu Sushi.
For more information, visit http://www.westportfoodiefest.com