By Adele Chapin Posted February 14, 2012, 5:21 PM EST
WASHINGTON Last weekend, the Washington, D.C., International Wine & Food Festival returned to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, drawing 5,000 attendees for the Mid-Atlantic’s largest industry event dedicated to food and wine.
The weekend’s activities kicked off Thursday evening with a new event, a “Sommelier Showdown.” The contest pitted wine experts from Taberna del Alabardero, J&G Steakhouse, Adour at the St. Regis Hotel, Chef Geoff’s, and the Coterie against each other, testing their knowledge with a wine-centric quiz and a blind taste test that required them to match nine glasses of wine to their respective labels. Held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the invitation-only event hosted approximately 250 guests and included hors d’oeuvres from chefs Todd Gray of Equinox, Jaime Montes de Oca of Zentan, Michael Bonk of Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar, and Xavier Deshayes of the Reagan Building.
On Friday, the festival brought back a Valentine’s Day-themed “Cupid’s Not Stupid, Cocktails to Fall For” cocktail party that featured top mixologists like Gina Chersevani. This year the party moved to Aria Pizzeria and Bar, where planners didn't have to cap ticket sales, enabling them to double the capacity to a total of 250 people. “We changed locations to accommodate the crowd,” said show manager Kelly Morris of KSM Marketing. And at Saturday and Sunday’s main event, members of the public and an industry crowd sipped more than 500 wines offered by 100 wineries at the Grand Tasting presented by the Washington Post.
The organizers also introduced a restaurant row on the show floor, where eateries like Jack Rose Dining Saloon dished out snacks. “We’ve always had gourmet food; now we’ve added restaurants,” Morris said. The Farm Market in the Atrium Ballroom was also new, with representatives from community agricultural groups and artisanal food companies. A new Spain Pavilion in the atrium joined returning favorites from South Africa and the Finger Lakes Wine Country, and highlighted wines from across the country along with food from Taberna del Alabardero and participation from the Embassy of Spain.