The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair 2017

While the Houston area may boast several events for wine and food enthusiast, the ultimate food and wine celebration in Houston is the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair.  Over the past 6 years Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair has been raising the bar on the culinary standards in the city with a decadent celebration of food, wine and spirits in a collaboration that is truly unforgettable.  This year the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair is making some exciting changes to the mix to not only showcase some of the best food Houston has to offers and the top tier of wine and spirits from around the world.  Attendees win as the festival gives you an insider’s glimpse that will take your knowledge and appreciation to the next level.

In lieu of some of introductory events the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair will take on the road as teacher as it showcases food and wine in a more intimate setting.  In order to provide the perfect setting the On the Rocks Bartender Challenge has been replaced with private dinners to kick off the weekend festivities.  Choosing either the Boiling Point seafood boil or The Italian Invasion Dinner guests can mix great food and wine with intimate company and some great insight as they enjoy their favorites or try something new.  Additionally the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair has added several learning experiences that guest can attend Friday and Saturday.  There is nothing like identifying the why of your love for some of your favorite flavor profiles.  Taking the time to get deeper into the educational side only strengthens your appreciation for your favs and gives you clues on how to find other top picks based on your own palette.

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair made sure not to mess with the best, with their program changes, and Friday nights Grand Tasting is sure to be one for the books.  The Sugar Land Marriott Town Square serves as the perfect location to meet food and wine nirvana.  With everything from inventive culinary creations (I still dream about the upscale Frito pie) and tried and true favorites from HEB and local restaurant superstars the event provides a something for everyone in an unforgettable night.

Other favorites, such as Saturdays Sip and Stroll will keep more recent location changes, now done at Constellation Field but enhanced it with a two day option so you have all of Saturday and Sunday to get a chance to grab your favorite bites and beverages while enjoying some of the great performers who always deliver during the event. As the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair promises more of the core that has built its following as well as some great new opportunities to appreciate the food and wine on a different level this event is going to be a must on any food and wine lover’s schedule.

Spring fun at the food and wine festival of festivals: The Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair

Sugarland Wine and Food affair logoThis weekend the Sugarland Wine and Food Affair rolls into town and without question for me this is the most well organized and memorable wine festivals that Houston and the surrounding areas have to offer.  From bartender challenges to wines from all over the world to more food that can be conquered in a weekend the event offers the best of what local chefs and internationally wineries have to offer.

Starting tonight you can get in on the fun with the New Amsterdam Vodka On the Rocks Bartenders Challenge.  The event lets the creativity of five of the top local bartenders shine through as each bartender offers their unique spin on the featured ingredient.  As this year New Amsteredam Vodka is the main ingredient I am sure the variation of concepts will be mind blowing.

As TGIF rolls in the weekend offers an assortment of events all meant to give you the finest of food, wine, beer and cocktails.  Friday presents the premier event, the Grand Tasting.  Come hungry, thirsty and ready to have some fun.  As the event is inside it is the only opportunity you have to enjoy the pleasures the festival has to offer all inside, and sometimes climate control is a win in Houston weather.  With the festive crowd and the delicious cuisine inside it is an event not to be missed.

If being outside, or drinking beer, is more your cup of tea check out the Sip and Stroll on Saturday.  This events offers variation galore with food samplings sprinkled throughout the two building setup.  Even better for your beer lover there is a beer garden dedicated to give you the variation in familiar and new tastes of beers that you can get at a few other venues.

To wrap the weekend, the Bistro Brunch is a great way to not dread the end of your weekend as you are surrounded in the savory and sweet better known as brunch.  The brunch provides a smooth finish to a weekend of fun with live jazz in the middle of Sugar Land Town Square.

Barre non this event is the crème de la crème.  For more details of the fun of the weekend check out last year’s recaps!

http://playhardplaybook.com/on-the-rocks-bartender-challenge-recap/

http://playhardplaybook.com/my-top-10-loves-from-the-sugar-land-wine-food-affair-grand-tasting/

http://playhardplaybook.com/sugar-land-wine-food-affair-sip-and-stroll/

http://playhardplaybook.com/bistro-brunch-recap/

Bistro Brunch Recap

The Bistro brunch of the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair changed up the status quo from the rest of a weekend celebrating wine by shifting the focus seamlessly from wine to food.  From Wednesday to Saturday the wine and spirits were the momentum that pushed the event.  Of course the food for the duration of these days was delicious and a great compliment to the extensive drink selection but it was clear on who was the superstar.  For the final event of the Affair the festival spotlighted food during their brunch extravaganza.

Indian Dance TroupBrunch without question is one of my favorite meals of the day.  I love savory foods but often crave some of the sweet treats that you can only find on your plate at breakfast.  Brunch offers the best of both worlds as culinary creations can range from sweet to savory to salty all in perfect harmony.  Additionally there is no better buffet offered that what comes with brunch.  Because you choose what selections make up your plate combo you can nibble on smaller qualities but a much wider variety than most meals.  The Bistro Brunch hit the ground running by choosing the central location of Sugar Land Town Square to showcase some of the variety and creativity that can come from brunch.  By offering food selections from paella to French toast and brunch drink staples like Bloody Mary’s and mimosas as well as a wide wine selection the Bistro Brunch covered all the basis of deliciousness.

Lobster and waffles Although I had some really great surprise selections in favor from bagels to salad there was one clear stand out favorite in my book.  The masterminds over at the Burning Pear in Marriott Sugar Land Town Square cooked up a showstopper in their Fried Lobster and Waffles with honey butter and the bacon wrapped quail with jalapeno jam.   As the Houston summer was on the rise it was a toasty out on Sunday, making waiting in line not my top priority.  Nevertheless I decided to wait my turn and mockingly teased Chef Kourtenie Tyson when approaching the service that it better be worth the wait.  At that Chef Tyson ensured I would quickly be in the midst of a foodgasm.  Long story short…he was right.  Fried Lobster and bacon wrapped quailWith stuffed quail wrapped in crispy bacon giving off a kick of spice in the jam and fried lobster that would make me gladly slap my momma the offering was a little slice of heaven on an early Sunday afternoon.  Top that off with a great band that makes you want to move your feet and a fun performance by NAACH Bollywood dancers the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair left an impression that has me drooling in anticipation for next year’s fun.

My top 10 loves from the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair Grand Tasting

IMG_5487The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair Grand Tasting puts most wine tastings in the Houston area to shame.  Not only is there a phenomenal selection of delectable food and wines and cocktails, but the planning and set up flows seamlessly.  Instead of being bogged down in one line or another you can quickly flow from food to wine to spirits to conversation in the striking setting of the ballroom in the Sugar Land Marriot Town Center.   There are hundreds of reasons to enjoy this event but here are my top ten loves from a fantastic night in Sugar Land.

10. The Crowd:

The CrowdYes festivals are supposed to be fun but I have been to more than my fair share of them that had the fun drained out by a grumpy crowd.  The crowd for the Grand Tasting came ready to celebrate food and wine in high spirits.  Mixing drinks and lines can be tricky but everyone was ready to mingle and share their discoveries of what moved them from the festival.

9. Don Julio:

Don JulioThis is an old favorite for me but tasting like this really allow some brands, like Don Julio tequila, to showcase not only the great traditional approach but also shine through in a new light.  Don Julio made some great cocktail creations that hit the spot when circling the Visit Mexico tables.

 

8. Tullamore Dew:

Tullamore DEW

If you are not careful at a tasting all the new wines you taste can become pretty murky in your memory.  There is nothing like a brief break to wake up your palette and Tullamore Dew provided that for me.  They are the epitome of service with a smile, always willing to share the great legacy and tips to make the whiskey more accessible to drinker’s palettes.

7. Grand Auction:

Grand AuctionSome auctions try to get a little for a lot but the Grand Auction really showcased some heavy hitters in wine, food and travel.  The auction was irresistible as soon as you enter and really got your imagination going on all the possibilities that the night could hold.  I got away with a trip to the JW Marriott San Antonio for a steal and am ready for my getaway.

6. Chef Interactions: For a foodie there are few things that connect more to the food than the getting into the mind of the person who created it.  Being able to talk to the chefs first hand at some of the best restaurants in Houston gives you a glimpse into what is store when you visit their restaurants.

5. Flora Dora:

HendrickI thought Thursday I had explored all I could explore with Hendrick’s gin.  The Flora Dora was a great light and refreshing getaway from the wine selections that abound that night.  The ginger beer was really a great hidden ingredient and offered some of the great ginger flavor while lightening up the gin flavor.

4. Merlot Rosado:

Merlot RosadoHonestly I have never heard of a pink merlot until last night and it was instantly love at first sip with this offering form Dubacano Wines.  The wine was a great match for both red and white lovers as it offered the full bodied favor of a merlot with a smooth balance usually found in a rose.

3. Haak Madeira Blanc Du Bois:

HAAK MadieraOffering a port with undertones of Carmel seemed like a stretch to me but Haak Wines delivered on their Madeira Blanc Du Bois.  It is a great after dinner treat where you can quickly forget pulling out dessert plates as the drink offers dessert in a bottle.

 

2. Photo Booth:

Photo Booth FunI have a baby obsession with photo booths but I hate when you are limited in space or props.  The photo booth at the Grand Tasting was stocked with easy to use equipment, fun props and pliantly of room to play and a staff to show how it all works.  A review station let everyone get in on the fun to review your pics, find fun pictures from other guests and quickly send the ones you love via SMS or email.

1. Bon Bons!

Frenchs Bon BonsI walked up impressed with dainty display and cookie bon bons, grabbing two and sliding to the next booth.  With every bite of bon bon deliciousness though I was regretting every step away from this delicious treat.  Mister French’s Gourmet Bakery really outdid themselves with the sweet treats in several delicious favors that were truly finger licking good.  It was the one thing at the tasting I wanted to make it back around for round two but atlas, the delicious secret had been exposed and the table wiped clean.

Discover your own favorites at the Sip and Stroll today!

Making a map back to your favorites at a wine tasting

tequilaCeviche

I love the opportunity to explore that wine and food tasting presents.  You have a real opportunity to try out new things without feeling bound to your order when you find it’s not exactly your cup of tea.  In this moment you can tap into your sense of adventure and try tastes and smells outside of your normal palette range.  With the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair upon us there is the perfect opportunity to try out some of the best of the best when it comes to food and wine in the Houston area and beyond.  There is, however, some skill required to successfully bringing what you love from a tasting into what you love at home.  The challenge can be overwhelming when at a tasting as there are good food and smells all around.  Ambiguous attempts to try everything can result in being too full of food and drinks to remember which ones were the perfect fit.  Even when you find something right up your alley it may slip from your mind two or three stops later.    Here are some tips to winning after a tasting so you not only find the treasure but also complete the map back to it so you can find it again.

1. Less can be more.  It is very tempting to start off a tasting in a sprint and end up at a slow crawl.  Trying some of everything can be an impossible task.   An important lesson can be learned here from the tortoise as slow and steady can really win the race at a tasting.  Unless you absolutely love it, you are not obliged to finish it.  By going at a manageable and steady pace you have space for the things you love while giving more items a shot at make the list of favorites.

2. Devil is in the details.  You know what you like so finding what moves you can come easy while tasting.  It’s two or three days or weeks later that it becomes more of a challenge to remember what you loved and more importantly why.  You may, for instance, find a vineyard with a wine you adore and quickly jolt down the name to purchase later.   When you show up at the store, however, choosing from the merlot or cabernet can seem a lot less clear.  When you write down what you like give yourself more specific details like the type and why you like it.  Your answers to the “why” helps with the recall when the restaurant or wine would work perfectly for your craving or occasion.

3. Ask questions.  Tastings are a great opportunity to get one on one with the people who know the product the best.  Take advantage of the opportunity to engage them on how things are made and why their brand is so different than the rest.  Taste may be the most important factor, but other factors like availability, price, and even where it is made may make an impact on you purchasing the product in the future.

4. A picture says a thousand words.  The schedule of wines provided by most tastings is nice but how often do you keep it long enough to really gain from the notes you made in it.  I like to take a picture of what I love in my phone.  It is pretty easy to make an album in most phones and by dedicating an album to your foodie or cocktail loves you can go back to the things that catch your eye quickly and with ease.  If you have a group of folks who have a similar palette you can also share the album and get everyone in on the fun that discovering food and wine can be.

 

Food, fun, and wine…On My!

winepairingOne of my favorite events, the Sugar Land Wine and Food Festival, is on deck this weekend and I could not be more excited!  The festival offers a multitude of events so regardless of if you like more of a low key experience or the equivalent of the wine tasting decathlon, there is something perfect for you.  Here is a peak into what you can expect for a weekend of jam packed events, learning, food, and fun.

On the Rocks Bartender Challenge: Thursday the festival events spring into action at the Sugar Land Regional Airport.  Houston has really developed its mixology prowess over the last couple of years and this event is meant to showcase some of the best of the best in the bartending world.  An event this fabulous has to have a great foundation, so the drinks of the event will feature Hendrick’s Gin.  For old and new gin drinkers alike Hendrick’s is a pleasant surprise.  The gin’s small production and unique recipe of flowers, roots, and fruits break the mold on what you would expect in a gin.  With the five competing bartenders all sure to bring it for the competition you are sure to experience gin and cocktails in a way you have never seen them before.

Fred Parks Wine Seminar – Battle of Sexes: This seminar prepares to tackle the challenge of what wine really does fit men vs. women.  Put away your preconceptions and really face the challenge head on to see where you are on the palette scale as you explore the gambit of wines in a flight from reds to whites to sparkling.

Herradura Tequila Seminar: With Cinco de Mayo coming up now is the time to power up your tequila knowledge.  Herradura Tequila sources from carefully grown blue agave to produce a masterful tequila loved by aficionado’s everywhere.  The seminar offers a chance to learn about the love and people who go into making one of my personal favorites.

Whiskey Seminar – Tullamore Dew: I recently heard about the Tullamore Dew story at a seminar and the incredible history of a boy working at a distillery that transformed into an Irish whiskey powerhouse was only topped by the smooth taste of this single malted spirit.  You are sure to have a great time raising a glass to some fun Irish toasts throughout the event and learn some facts about whiskey as well along the way.

The Grand Tasting: When you combine the best of food and spirits how can you not be guaranteed a phenomenal night? The grand tasting is an unbelievable opportunity to reconnecting with some of your old favorites as well as find new ones as you make your way through the ballroom.  With 14 of Houston’s best restaurants and 28 different wine and spirit companies represented I double dare you not to have the time of your life!

Sip & Stroll at Imperial: More of a daytime or outdoor type of person? Well you can have all of the fun of the Grand Tasting on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with a celebration of the best of the best in food and wines.  Take the spirit of the food celebration home with you by stopping by one of the pop-up book shops and come face to face with some of your favorite cook book authors.

Bistro Brunch: The perfect weekend is wrapped up with the perfect meal…Brunch!!!! The mix of savory and sweet brunch when combined with the global reach of this event is a memorable way to wrap up the weekend of fun.  The event is sure to leave a great final impression so you can start the 362 day count down until next year!  Plus you can work off some of the calories from the weekend to the sounds of Joel Guzman, Sarah Fox, and Los Aztex to prevent the guilt from creeping up on Monday.

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