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Philanthropy tastes good in Gig Harbor

Wine and Food Festival benefits park, museum

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Tired of outdoor festivals that are centered on people standing in long lines in the sun waiting to eat food made in a truck and sold at prices that would be laughed at in a real sit-down restaurant?

Get ready for Saturday's Gig Harbor Wine and Food Festival. In its third year, this epicurean outing is more than just another opportunity for public displays of gluttony. The festival's fundraising efforts will help connect the Cushman Trail in Gig Harbor with Harborview Drive in the museum district. Hands-on classes, cooking demonstrations and wine seminars are offered, including a seminar where visitors can learn how to make sparkling wine with Gail Werner-Forecki. Gary Winn of Kitsap County's Silver City Brewery will share the key to making great beer. Chef Maggie Inge of Bella Kitchen Essentials will share the know-how on pairing beer, sake or wine with sushi. Learn about sustainable Pacific seafood, and how to cure fish with liquor from chef Becky Selengut of Cornucopia Cuisine. Carol Davis of Wildside Wine teaches a wine and food pairing class. Kris Blondin, owner of Stink Cheese & Meat, tackles salumi, cured meats mostly made from pork. Blondin pairs wines and salumi together in a class meant to educate through tasting and determine personal flavor profile preferences. Forty-six spots are available for each class offered; class times and registration are on the festival website.

More than 30 wineries and breweries and 20 restaurants will be represented. Restaurants, food vendors and wineries will have booths inside the grand tasting tent where they will offer tastes to tantalize. Festival goers will want to tour the silent auction area and place bids on dining packages and insider experiences before meet-and-greets with authors at book signings.  Demonstrations begin at 12:15 p.m. in the celebrity tent with Anthony's Restaurant executive chef Pat Donahue and chef Tony Ring. Dishes such as King salmon with rhubarb cherry coulis, and curried mussels will be prepared.

A real life showdown of culinary talent will take place as the highlight of the festival in the Viking Celebrity Chef Cook-off Kitchen. Owner of Café Juanita, of Kirkland, chef Holly Smith from the Food Channel television program Iron Chef will go head to head with challenger and recipient of two American Culinary Federation Gold Medals, executive chef Tin Nguyen of Suquamish Clearwater Casino. A panel of five judges comprised of locals will determine which chef creates the best appetizer and entrée utilizing fresh Dungeness crab in one hour.

"I don't tend to use much crab at Café Juanita, if any. It truly will be a challenge," says Smith of creating the two dishes under time constraint. "Time is the real battle though. We can handle an hour; we do that every day in a restaurant, but some thing's need to rest or set-up in the fridge."

Smith will bring along her sous chef from her restaurant. Two festival attendees will have the opportunity to bid on being assistants to both chef Smith and chef Nguyen. The lucky helpers will be right there in the midst of the live action.

"It will be great entertainment and fun for everyone involved," says chef Smith of the live cooking challenge and offers a few words to would-be home cooks and up and coming chefs alike. "There are really no mistakes in cooking. There are certain techniques that are tried and true, but in the rest there's room to play. Some things are better than others, and there will always be foods that I like that you don't and vice versa. Just get in there and have fun - don't be a slave to a recipe."

A free shuttle to the festival will be provided by Around the Sound Transit and is sponsored by Ohana Harbor Coffee Company.

Gig Harbor Wine and Festival is for attendees 21 years of age and older. Festival hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased at

The festival itself takes place on the grounds of Gig Harbor's Harbor History Museum at 4121 Harborview Drive.

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