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Fun, Food & Wine

Article by Shannon Sigafoos. Photos by Brian Shaud.
June 02, 2014

Chef Emeril LagasseOn the celebration of its fifth anniversary, the Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Festival proved why it has become one of the most eagerly anticipated culinary happenings of the year. The festival has continued to deepen its commitment to the local dining scene, featuring 40 restaurants over 3 days - from Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown, Pine Forge, Morrisville, Kutztown, and Pottstown - proving that attendees can truly get a taste of the entire region under one roof.

From May 30 through June 1, several thousand patrons flocked to the Sands Bethlehem Event Center not only to taste the best bites, but also to sip wines from around the world without having to pack a suitcase and head out of town. The festivities kicked off Friday afternoon with a sold-out culinary demonstration by Chef Emeril Lagasse. Chef Emeril Lagasse and the winners! Though some accidentally-added cayenne pepper spiced up his recipe a bit more than he'd intended, the true sizzle of the event came when six NCC culinary and hospitality students found out they'd been awarded the opportunity to travel to New Orleans and work alongside Lagasse in his restaurants. The students - Komal Shah, Wilmer Ramirez, Steven Brett (culinary) and Valerie Barnes, Anna Novak and Rosaline Rubin (hospitality) - will make the trip thanks in part to the generosity of sponsors Chris and Diane Martin.

NCC's students also had the opportunity to prepare and serve cuisine throughout the remainder of the weekend, starting with the Burger & Beer Bash on Friday night and then through two rounds of Grand Tasting events on Saturday and Sunday. Spuds and Roosevelt's 21st Bethlehem took home 1st and 2nd prize, respectively, at the burger event that drew more than 1,900 hungry fans during its second year. Surprise toppings were the theme of the weekend, as the only topping more talked about than Spuds' peanut butter and bacon combo was the gutsy move by Vintage Restaurant to offer up brown sugar rubbed pork belly dipped in a chocolate fondue with New Mexican chili at the Grand Tastings. Other celebrated dishes included Korean beef short ribs with kimchi slaw (Hampton Winds), ale braised short ribs with horseradish aioli (Two Rivers Brewing Company), deconstructed shrimp remoulade (The Bayou) and scallops with bulgur salad and beef carpaccio (Gracie's 21st Café). In all, the festival offered something for every palate, with each restaurant upping their game in terms of taste and presentation.

The weekend was rounded out by several excellent culinary demonstrations and wine seminars that were part of one all-inclusive ticket for the first time this year. Chef Cher Harris (Executive Pastry Chef at the Hotel Hershey), Master Sommelier Kevin Vogt, Chef Chris Wilson (Culinary Director at Emeril's Homebase), Chef Stacy Calles (sous chef at Emeril's Chop House), and Chef Darryl Harmon (Executive Chef at Mana Bistro in Jersey City) entertained packed rooms of audience members who enthusiastically asked questions, sampled prepared specialties, and listened to the advice given about how we can all make the most of the food and wine endeavors happening in our own kitchens.

View more photos from this event at Flickr.
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