By Michelle Farnham
Nov. 7, 2021
WATERCOLOR – The fifth annual 2021 Harvest Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting was a celebration of wine, a celebration of food, but it also celebrated a return to normalcy. After public health concerns canceled the weekend’s premier event in 2020, wine lovers turned out by the hundreds to WaterColor’s Cerulean Park Nov. 6 for an afternoon of sunshine and fall flavors.
Guests enjoyed samples from 51 tables, including food, wine and spirits tents, and the beer garden.
Fox Bros. B-B-Q owners Jonathan and Justin Fox were back, this time collaborating with fellow Atlanta restaurateur Craig Richards of Lyla Lila. The trio rolled out a multi-course menu, starting with burnt ends and provolone arancini with pepperoni sausage. Later in the day, they offered tasters of cacio e pepe agnolotti over smoked beef cheeks, then pit-smoked porchetta with giardiniera.
Seagrove hotspot Old Florida Fish House was on hand, as Chef Michael Sichel brought the flavors of fall with his crab and butternut squash risotto. He was energized to see the sold-out crowd out enjoying food and wine again.
“It’s lovely to see everyone, everyone feels safe and comfortable in their environment,” Sichel explained. “The hospitality world is all about making people feel good about themselves, so to be able to have this event today and have everyone feel so free, I just love to be a part of it.”
Those lucky enough to score a VIP ticket were treated to a set from local up-and-comer Skylar Capri, singing her “Maybe We Should Run Away From Here.” VIPs also enjoyed bites from Alys Beach newcomer The Citizen, The Henderson and Sunquest Catering. Roy Estates was pouring alongside Purlieu Wines and local favorites Idyll Hounds.
Representing The Citizen, Chef Drew Dzejak plated Calabrian shrimp with homemade focaccia – heralded by many as the best bite of the day.
“To be out here, it feels like normalcy again,” Dzejak said with a smile as he stirred a pan of shrimp. “It feels normal to get back to the food, and the VIP tent is always the best place to be!”
Other food offerings included goat cheese crustini from Perfect Pig, tuna poke bowls from Jackacuda’s, and tuna dip from Destin Ice Market 30A.
Among the capacity crowd was Cathy Perschbacher of Dallas, who has been bringing her family to the 30A area for years, but she and her girlfriends recently were thrilled to learn about the Harvest Wine Festival.
“It’s a totally different experience from coming with your family, you know, a girls’ trip. We’re having a great time,” she said.
Her strategy was to ditch the tasting guide, not worry about bottle prices, and let her tastebuds do the deciding.
“I take pictures of my favorites with my phone, and that way I know what I want to buy on my way out!” Cathy explained, pointing to the retail tent.
The Harvest Wine & Food Festival is presented each year by the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, benefitting Northwest Florida children’s charities. The weekend includes private winemaker and celebrity chef dinners, a Sunday brunch, and virtual silent auction. The DCWAF’s next event is April 22-24, 2022, as part of the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival.
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Photos by Michelle Farnham