The Woodlands will transform into a foodie paradise for the 7th Annual Wine & Food Week. This year’s theme is Southern hospitality, and the event celebrates cuisine from the region and wines from around the world.
The week-long festival, which runs June 6-12, includes 40 events and features more than 500 wines, 50 restaurants, craft beers, wine producers and culinary figures. Organizers expect more that 10,000 people to attend.
The Food & Wine week also offer wine education classes, chef demonstrations, cookbook author events, live and silent auctions and casual to fine wine-and-dine experiences, including the Ladies of the Vine Luncheon, It’s a Guy Thing and the Capital One Bank Platinum Wine Vault tasting.
The first Wine & Food Week was held in 2005 and had more than 4,000 participants. Co-founders Clifton and Constance McDerby came up with the idea for the festival shortly after moving to Houston from New Orleans 12 years ago. Nostalgic for their favorite festival, the New Orleans Food and Wine Experience, they set out to create a similar event in their new city.
H-E-B in The Woodlands offered to sponsor the event if the McDerbys would hold it in the neighborhood.
“At that time Market Street and Waterway were still under construction,” Clifton McDerby said. “Town Center had a long way to go, but we could see the vision.”
The couple now owns Food & Vine Time Productions, a corporation that produces events of all sizes based around food, wine and beer, mostly to benefit charities. The company has donated more than $350,000 to local charities since its inception in 2005.
“There’s a wine culture and a food culture, and they complement each other very well,” McDerby said. “And there’s definitely a strong food culture here.”
McDerby said that with the variety of events, the festival aims to please everyone from wine aficionados to the novice who wants to learn more about wine culture.
“There will be rooms serving wines that are several hundred dollars a bottle and then there’s the Sips, Suds & Sliders event. There’s something for everyone,” he said.
This year’s official “Wine Wizard and Master of Ceremonies” is two-time Super Bowl Champion Jarvis Green, a defensive lineman for the Houston Texans.
Off the football field, Green is serious about wine, explained event spokesperson Robin Cavanaugh. “He’s a big foodie and a wine collector,” she said. Green will officially launch Wine & Food Week with “Wine Collides with the Southern Divisions of Professional Football” – a guided tasting and pairing at Kirby’s Steakhouse, at 1111 Timberloch Place. The evening is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on June 6.
Green will take guests on a “Tastes of the NFL” culinary tour through the two southern divisions, featuring some of his favorite wines paired with his favorite foods enjoyed when visiting cities for games.
“This is what I’m really looking forward to, because it’s a totally different experience,” McDerby said. “We always have great wine experts. Jarvis Green knows his wine.”
Kirby’s Corporate Executive Chef Daniel Nemec is preparing signature foods for each football host city.
Nemec said Kirby’s has been involved with the event since its inception. The restaurant will host six events for the festival, and then Nemec will head to the Marriott on Saturday for the main banquet.
“Food & Wine Week is such a great event,” Nemec said. “It really focuses on restaurants in The Woodlands and showcases the talented chefs in the area.”
The H-E-B Wine Walk at Market Street will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 9 at 9595 Six Pines Drive. The evening benefits the Signature Series of The John Cooper School.
Attendees are encouraged to come dressed in Southern attire for a casual evening of wine tasting while shopping in Market Street. Throughout the center, 40 tasting stations will offer wines from around the world, craft beers and food samples. There will also be chef demonstrations and live music.
“It’s one of the most extensive wine events in the country,” McDerby said. “If you have any interest in wine, there will be something for you. And it’s very casual. You can wear your shorts and flip-flops and sip wine.”
Sips, Suds & Sliders
This year will be the first time the group will host Sips, Suds & Sliders in The Woodlands. The event features live music, craft beers, wine-tastings and a gourmet slider competition on 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10 at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott, 1601 Lake Robbins Drive.
Houston Community College culinary students and chefs will step-up to the grill competing for the People’s Choice Shining Slider Award. Entrance includes samples of the sliders, as well as beer and wine tastings. The Robert Hartye Band will provide live music.
“Chefs will do something unusual to get people’s attention,” McDerby said. “Last year, we had all kinds of sliders, including shrimp and buffalo.”
The Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting and Texas Monthly Chef Showcase
The Wine Rendezvous will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 11 at The Woodlands Marriott Waterway, 1601 Lake Robbins Drive.
“There may be a lot of events like this, but it’s the best one I’ve ever been to,” McDerby said. “It always gets really great reviews. We have great food and great wines. You can try new things or find your favorites.”
The banquet includes the Texas Monthly Chef Showcase where guests can choose to sample from hundreds of wines and also can try the foods prepared as chefs representing more than 50 restaurants compete for the national Wine & Food Week’s Waterford Crystal “Chef of Chefs” Award.
Judges for the competition include Wine & Food Week’s Wizard Gourmet Rebecca Lang, chef, author, and contributing editor to Southern Living and myrecipes.com. Lang will be joined by Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Syd Kearney, Southern Living senior food editor Shirley Harrington, Director of the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio David Kellaway, Ernie Manouse, host of “InnerVIEWS” on HoustonPBS and Texas Monthly restaurant critic Patricia Sharpe.
The evening also includes the “Just Desserts” contest presented by My Table. The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize and will be judged by Houston Community College chef Eddy Van Damme, journalist Tanji Patton, and Sarah Rufca, associate editor of food at CultureMap.
The evening’s auctions benefit the Culinary Program at Houston Community College System and Swing for a Cure.
For schedules and ticket information visit www.wineandfoodweek.com or call 713-557-5732.
Visit Michele Flory at www.MicheleFlory.com for more information on The Woodlands community.