September 2007

An Epicurean Extravaganza: 10th Annual FoodFest

Author: Becca Dupps Edwards

A sommelier or wine connoisseur would reserve the term “breed” for a wine from the best grape variety. The so called “noble-grape” wine would accomplish the classic expectations of aroma, balance, structure and varietal character to be perfect on the palate and a veritable party in one’s mouth.

Similarly, the 10th Annual FoodFest, presented by the Hilton Head Area Hospitality Association (HHAHA), has proven to be an outstanding breed in its own wondrously delicious right by succeeding in all aspects and expectations of a truly fabulous food and wine event. Thanks to this weeklong festival, the Lowcountry is able to serve up the best of the best in local flavor, fare and fun. As a result, FoodFest has become a tasty and tempting treat for not only island residents, but also the tourism industry, thus feeding our local economy.

“Cultural tourism is the buzz phrase,” said Ann-Marie Adams, executive director of HHAHA. “The term refers to what an individual or group will want to find while on vacation. It is not all about tennis, golf or sitting in the sun. For many, they are traveling to the island to try new foods and local talents and experience the culture of the area.”

Year after yummy year, FoodFest has wined and dined an array of fork-holding, food-loving folks. For the experienced foodie, the Frogmore stew first-timer and all those in between, the festival continues to whip up a finger-licking good time. According to Adams, the first FoodFest was held in 1997 and has continued to grow in popularity each year. “More than 4,000 local residents and visitors attended the event last year, with the number expected to increase this year with the expansion of the festival’s timeframe from a five-hour, one-day event to a multi-day food-focused celebration,” she said.

The 2007 festival will serve up a smorgasbord of food-oriented fun from September 11-16, at individual food establishments and at the festival’s central location of Shelter Cove Community Park. According to Adams, the celebration includes more than 13 events and activities, some of which are free of charge and others that will be ticketed for admission. “I am most excited about all of it,” she said, admitting that some of the new additions to the festival really whet her appetite.

One notable and delectable addition is “Seafood, Jazz and Brew” on Friday, September 14. From 5:30 p.m. until, those 21 years and older with a penchant for good food and great times are invited to relax along the coastal waterway on the lawn of Shelter Cove Community Park and enjoy the sounds of several dynamic jazz groups while indulging in the best seafood the Lowcountry has to offer.

In addition to numerous wine tastings, beer pairings, liquor seminars and other food-related programs at various locations, the portfolio of events includes the Hospitality Awards on the 13th. HHAHA will honor outstanding individuals in the Hilton Head Island and Bluffton hospitality industry. “By submitting a nomination, the industry is encouraging excellence in the Hilton Head Island and Bluffton hospitality industry and promoting our region as a first-rate destination for visitors,” Adams explained.

Festival-goers should get into prime eating and sipping shape for the “Grand Tasting Event” on the 15th. Participants will enjoy the best bartenders drink-making contest, the waiter’s race and a farmer’s market. This year’s festivities will also include the tailgate gourmet challenge, where local chefs and others will showcase their talent at the festival’s outdoor tailgate kitchen.

According to Adams, the association is partnering with several community organizations to deliver its food-focused celebration. The Beaufort County Library will host a section “Cooking with Books.” The Coastal Discovery Museum will offer an educational offering titled “Marshside: What’s for dinner?” The South Carolina Lowcountry Projects Committee of the Junior League of Savannah will headline the youth area of the Grand Tasting across the park with “Kids in the Kitchen.” And the Hilton Head Chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food will host several wine dinners and produce the festival’s end-note activity at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa called “Bubbles Beach and Brunch.”

With all these delectable options, The 10th Annual FoodFest will present an “a la mode” opportunity to enjoy a fully-stocked epicurean extravaganza. As Adams so aptly points out, participants of the 10th Annual FoodFest should be prepared to “take more than just one bite!”

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