Twin Cities Food and Wine Experience
Has anyone been to this before? It's coming up again at the end of February. I was wondering if it is worth the $55 per ticket.
I went two years ago. You certainly can get extremely full and drunk for your $55. I thought it was fun, they especially had some good cheeses and chocolates to taste and if you like local wine there are lots of choices. The down sides are that it gets very, very crowded later in the day (we went on Saturday), and some of the food is not exciting at all. I have several friends that go every year and make a semi-drunken event out of it. I don't think we'll be going this year because I just have memories of how sickeningly stuffed I was that day.
We couldn't get tickets for the special chefs dinners the year we went but that seemed like a great opportunity.
You have to remember to survey all the aisles and pick the best items to try. The first time I went, I started up the first aisle trying one of everything. What a mistake!
Same thing with beverages. After the first dozen wine samples, they all start to taste the same.
If you get there at opening time, I would recommend going straight to the center of the hall where the Lund's/Byerly's pavillion is and trying that. A very long queue forms there throughout the day. (Assuming L/B is still exhibiting there. It has been a few years since I attended.)
My DW & I went to the "Taste of the Twin Cities Originals" thing at Landmark Center last week for our wedding anniversary treat. It was like a mini Food and Wine Experience with only(!) 36 restaurants. They also issued everyone a Reidel wineglass at the entry. It was pretty fun and we stuffed ourselves with some tasty food. The standout item for me was Murray's silver dollar roast beef sandwich. Oh, so tender, and so rare that I wasn't sure if it had been cooked at all.
I didn't think that the event at the Landmark for TC Originals was all that great. While some of the food was good, not all the restaurants put their heart into it (Jax and the Sample Room in particular) and the silent auction didn't look like it actually went to charity, which is just weird. I typically think of these types of events as charity events (The Food & Wine Experience benefit MPR) so it was odd that the TCO event wasn't.
TCO did the same "taste of" at the Nicollet Island Pavilion during aquatennial, Reidel and all. Terrific blast, but I got there late-ish and many of the food items, the Great Waters beer, and many of the wine pours had run out. I do hope they do it again this summer!
We have tickets to go on Saturday the 24th. We have some plans later in the afternoon, and were wondering if anyone knew how much of the F&W Experience can be... "experienced" in ~3-4 hours?
If we had to choose how to optimize our time, does anyone have advice from previous years? (This will be our first visit.)
Especially if you go early, 3-4 hours will be enough. Most of your time is taken up fighting the crowds. I believe when we went we arrived around 2 and it was starting to pick up. To get the most in, avoid the 3-3:30pm pouring break. It's kind of a pain to try and remember which wine and beer places you want to come back to when they begin pouring again.
I went a few years back, and remember the crowds, the lines, the less-than-stellar wines at the majority of the booths, and the oh-so-romantic convention center atmosphere. It was OK once, but not something I'd do again.
As a curmudgeon who hates crowds and lines, I'd rather take that $110 dollars to Alma for a quiet and romantic dinner for two. If I order carefully, I'd even have enough money left over for a box of B.T. McElrath's chocolates (the best offering at TCF&WE) from Surdyk's, which is just up the road and is open til 10pm.!
But if I haven't talked you out of going (:-), be sure to get there early and develop a plan of attack rather than attempting to try everything. Ask strangers for their advice once you're there - we got our best wine leads from watching other people's reactions!
I did the F&W show for the first ten years. At first, it was a great experience, but as the years went on, the prices went up, and the quality of what you were sampling went down. That's why I stopped going to the main event a couple years ago. The best tip I can give you is DO NOT GO ON SATURDAY. It is the most crowded day - as in capacity! They literally sell out - in the Convention Center! That means fire marshal capacity - that's a LOT of people. Best time is to go on Sunday - get there when they open, and enjoy leisurely. Oh, and Neitz's tip about getting to Lunds/Byerly's right away is absoloutely true.
Get the guide ahead of time if you can, then you can pick what kind of wines you want to sample, saving your palate (see Neitz's note on that). Be aware that since temporary liquor licenses only last four hours, that they have to stop serving for 30 minutes after the first four hours. So if you are only going for a short time, be sure you aren't there during that 30 minutes if your intent is to sample wine.
The F&W show offers a lot of other great events in conjunction with the show, such as the Grand Red tasting. That is usually held on Saturday evening at a downtown Mpls hotel. Tickets are $80, but compared to the $55 you spend in the hall, what you get at the Grand Red is afar superior value. You taste some really amazing wines, meet the winemakers, and enjoy tasty food. Go to the main event if you want to experience it, but for my money, I'd skip it and spend the extra $25 to go to the Grand Red tasting instead (which is exactly what I'm going to do this year!).
The Grand Red Tasting will be @ the graves 601 hotel this year. Haven't seen the vendor list or menus yet, but the GRT has traditionally been the best of the best of the F&W Show.