Food fit for a festival

Photo by Allan E. Dines, Northst

It’s a perfect combination: the beauty and relative solitude of fall on the Vineyard, plus good food and wines, plus chefs, vintners, and food experts from all over. Such a winning melange of multi-sensory delights, in fact, that the sixth Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival was recently included — along with events in Napa Valley, New York City, and San Sebastian, Italy – in a Forbes Magazine article of the “10 Festivals to Taste this Fall.”

The four-day festival, presented by the Edgartown Board of Trade in partnership with Boston Magazine, took a year off in 2012 only to reemerge this year with more events, more diversity, and an increased focus on Island offerings. Included in the lineup are wine dinners, tastings, seminars, a Sunday brunch, a dance party, and even an opera dinner. The main Grand Tasting event featuring samples, demos, and access to celebrated chef and vintners takes place this year in downtown Edgartown under a huge tent allowing the spillover to give a boost to local businesses.

Extending the shoulder season was one of the original objectives behind the festival. “We wanted to make it a nine month season and try to get more people here at such a wonderful stime of year,” said Edgartown Board of Trade president Christina Cook. Judging by the number of sell-out events and the demographic range of scheduled visitors (from California to Chicago to Florida and beyond, according to publicist Robin Jones) the festival is proving to be a boon for the Island.

Special event manager Beth Lopes is responsible for coordinating and overseeing all the elements of the festival. She has worked on numerous high-profile events around New England including the Boston Wine Festival. As a specialist in food and wine events, Ms. Lopes works closely with five star chefs in the Boston area and wine producers from all over.

“I have been doing food and wine festivals for many years all over Massachusetts,” she said. “And what I think is so different about this event is that it is an intimate food and wine experience. It is not a trade show, which, more and more, many food and wine festivals are becoming. It’s a gourmet extravaganza, it’s about ingredients, preparation, presentation, and tasting. Guests have direct access to our chefs and vintners and have the opportunity to really learn from them. That’s the specific feedback that I have continually gotten about this festival.”

The theme of the 2013 festival is “Farm to Table” and, appropriately, the festival kicks off Thursday with an evening called “Fresh Off the Farm” featuring chef-prepared foods from local farms, Joseph Carr Wines, and live music by Vineyard favorite Good Night Louise. The event is a fundraiser for Island Grown Initiative’s Island Grown Schools program.

Keeping with the theme, the festival’s Feature Chef this year is Suvir Saran, who, as well as being a restaurateur, Indian cooking expert, cookbook author, and a member of the Bravo Top Chef Masters hall of fame, operates his own farm in upstate New York where he raises heritage-breed animals.

Mr. Saran is one of the demo chefs participating in the Grand Tasting on Saturday and will lead one of the Saturday morning seminar-tastings. A variety of seminars will shed some light on artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, chocolate, and oysters among other gastronomic goodies, along with wines presented by acclaimed vintners and semolliers.

Among the nationally recognized chefs participating in the festival this year are a number from the Boston area including Andy Husbands (Tremont 647), Tim Cushman (o ya), Barry Maiden (Hungry Mother), Tony Maws (Craigie on Main), as well as chocolatier Alex Whitmore. Top local chefs, farmers, and provisioners will be equally represented at the festival. “There’s such great talent on the island,” said Ms. Cook. “The food scene on the Vineyard is just as exciting as Boston, so we thought, why not mix it up?”

Two new events will spotlight other locals whose talents lie in areas other than food. On Saturday morning, architect Patrick Ahearn hosts a discussion about Martha’s Vineyard architecture and Edgartown history paired with a beer and food sampling.

Wendy Taucher of New York and Martha’s Vineyard brings an opera extravaganza to Saturday night’s dinner at Lure Grill at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort. Ms. Taucher, known for her colorful, star-studded productions both here and at venues around New York City, will import four virtuosic singers who have performed variously at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, and Lincoln Center. The evening, dubbed If Opera Be the Food of Love, Eat On, features operatic showpieces and comic turns.

Eat on. Drink on, mingle, dance, and cheer on. This year’s festival will provide a feast of both culinary and artistic delights.

M.V. Food and Wine schedule

Thursday, October 17

Fresh Off the Farm, 7–9 pm, Agricultural Hall, West Tisbury. Tastes by Jan Buhrman of Kitchen Porch Catering, Nathan Gould of Water Street, Everett Whiting of Local Smoke, and others. Wines from Joseph Carr Winery. Music by Good Night Louise. $40

Friday, October 18

Sommelier Throw Down, 2–3 pm, l’etoile, Edgartown. Four small plate courses by chef Michael Brisson paired in a competition among teams of sommeliers and vintners. $40.

Opening Reception 6–8, Water Street at the Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. Meet the celebrity chefs, enjoy hors d’oeuvres from Harbor View Hotel executive chef Nathan Gould, and dance to DJ music. Ticket includes admission to the after party.

The Party After the Party, 8 pm, Flatbread Company, M.V. Airport, Edgartown. Music by the Sultans of Swing plus Flatbread pizza. $25.

Saturday, October 19

Grand Tasting, 2–5 pm, Mayhew Lane (in front of the Kelly House). Demos by Nathan Gould Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown; Suvir Saran, Sacred Monkey, San Francisco; and Alex Nagi, Copper Wok & M.V. Chowder Company. $100.

Joseph Carr Winery Dinner, 7 pm at Saltwater Restaurant, Vineyard Haven. With chef Joe DaSilva: three courses and dessert. $110.

Opera Dinner, 6:30 pm at Lure Grill at the Winnetu. Dine on food by chef Matthew Passalacqua while enjoying selections from NYC opera virtuosos presented by Wendy Taucher Dance Theater Opera. $185.

Dinner and Tasting, 7 pm at Detente Restaurant. Five-course meal from chef Kevin Crowell paired with wine from Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard. $115.

Seminars on Saturday

Backpacking Through Europe, 11 am–12 noon at Black Sheep. Cheeses, charcuterie, and more with wines of the world. $40.

Wine 101, 11 am to 12 noon at the Winnetu with Suvir Saran and Joseph Carr. $50.

Sweet Petites Tour Italy, 12 noon to 1 pm at Atlantic Fish and Chop House. Italian wines from Dan Michaud of Ruby Wines and local oysters. $45.

Architecture and Beer with Patrick Ahearn, 12:30–1:30 pm at private residence. Bites by Jan Buhrman. $40.

Chocolate and Wine, 1–2 pm at Eleven North. Alex Whitmore, Founder of Taza Chocolate and Lisa Kaplan (noted wine expert) do pairings. $40.

Sunday, October 20

Grand Sunday Brunch, 10 am to 2 pm at Water Street at the Harbor View Hotel. $50.