Paradoxically, it starts with dessert and ends with brunch. And in between a dessert and liqueur pairing on Friday and the event-closing Sunday brunch, the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival will take guests through many menus and many nations with wine pairing dinners, seminars, and cooking classes. The fifth annual festival starts on Friday evening, Oct. 14, runs all day Saturday, and concludes with the grand buffet brunch at Water Street at the Harbor View Hotel on Sunday.
Participating in the festival will be chefs from Island restaurants, a number of chefs from around New England and California, and wine maker Joseph Carr, among others.
Highlights include the Grand Tasting on Saturday evening at which guests can sample a variety of global wines and foods prepared by local and celebrity chefs; the Joseph Carr wine dinner featuring food by chef Joe daSilva of Saltwater Restaurant in Vineyard Haven; a cooking class by Chef Dante deMagistris, executive chef and co-owner of Restaurant Dante in Cambridge; and a tapas challenge between Levon Wallace of Water Street in Edgartown and Andy Husbands, owner of Boston’s Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel. Mr. Husbands competed in the sixth season of Fox Television Network’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and has written two cookbooks.
This year, for the first time, the festival will have as its beneficiary a single Island organization — the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club. In previous years, a percentage of the proceeds was split among various charitable groups, including the Edgartown-based after-school facility. Says Robin Jones, the festival’s publicist, “We’re aligning it with a mission of helping kids make healthy choices nutritionally. We want Island kids to have access to healthy foods.” The money raised for the Boys and Girls Club will go towards installing an up-to-date operating kitchen and jumpstarting an after-school nutritional snack program. Ms. Jones says, “In the beginning there was no real mission behind the festival. All of a sudden the festival has real legs and we needed a mission.”
An effort has also been made this year to include chefs and restaurants beyond the festival’s Edgartown base. Saltwater in Vineyard Haven will host a dinner, and events in Oak Bluffs were scheduled but were cancelled due to limited advance ticket sales. Says Ms. Jones, “Our goal is to make it truly an Island-wide event. We have the support of the Chamber of Commerce and the Edgartown Board of trade, and the Oak Bluffs community.”
According to Ms. Jones, the MV Food and Wine Festival began in 2007 when a group of business leaders in Edgartown wanted to do something to extend the business season beyond the Columbus Day weekend. Since then the Festival has grown and has become a destination for visitors. Last year, approximately 500 guests attended the Grand Tasting.
“We think the Vineyard has outstanding food and hospitality,” Ms. Jones said. “The goal is to promote Vineyard chefs. From major restaurants to smaller ones, all were invited to participate.” A further effort is to bring well-known chefs to the attention of Islanders. Says Ms. Jones, “Not everyone on Island can go off-Island to go to Boston restaurants.” She adds, “The local chefs love pairing up with Boston chefs.”
Says Mr. Husbands of Boston, who has been involved with the festival since the beginning, as well as many other festivals nationwide, “What’s really great about the chef community is that we’re all kind of related. If we don’t know each other, there’s at least that six degrees of separation.” He just returned from China where he travelled with a group of 10 chefs. Even prior to the Vineyard festival, he had spent quite a lot of time on the Island and notes that it was “a no-brainer” when he was initially asked to participate. “I love, love, love to cook. It’s such a fun thing to be able to travel and work.”
Ms. Jones says of the Vineyard guests, “We were very impressed last year. The people were very sophisticated. This is an affluent, educated crowd who comes. We’ve never wanted it to be a 20-something event.”
Ms. Jones notes that, unlike other festivals, the small scale of the Vineyard event adds to its attraction. “It’s pretty intimate. It isn’t a trade show,” she said. “You really get the time to sit with Joe Carr or Nancy Cushman [sake sommelier and co-proprietor of o ya restaurant in Boston] having very one-on-one, in depth conversations with vintners.”
For a schedule of events, visit mvfoodandwine.com.
Gwyn McAllister, of Oak Bluffs, is a frequent contributor to The Times.