Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chef Fest at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai (Big Island, Hawaii): Preview Dinner at LA's Redbird

by guest blogger Bryan Tsunoda (discovering LA)


From Oct 4 - Oct 7, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai will play host to Chef Fest, a culinary experience featuring high profile dinners paired with wine, food and wine tastings, interactive cooking classes and special cocktail experiences with top mixologists. Attendees will also have the opportunity to get cooking tips from top chefs Neal Fraser, Andy Ricker, Jonathan Waxman and others.

I recently attended an advanced tasting of this year’s Chef Fest at Redbird in LA. Executive Chef Neal Fraser (Redbird) and Executive Chef Thomas Bellec (Four Seasons Resort Hualalai) were on hand to prepare a five-course meal paired with wine that evening.

We were greeted with island cocktails made with Ko Hana Agricole Rum (made by Manulele Distillers in Oahu). During that time, I had an opportunity to speak with both Fraser and Bellec. 
I found them both to be down to earth and personable. Bellec was previously the executive chef at the Beverly Wilshire and is classically French trained. We had a good conversation about food sourcing and I learned that 75% of the ingredients used at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai are obtained from local farms.

We started with the Oysters Brûlée. Bellec made the preparation entertaining as he used a large butane torch to scorch the fresh oysters. 
They were topped with yuzu curd and finger lime caviar. The taste was unique as it was slightly tart with a mild smoke flavor.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Summer Cookout at Element Boston Seaport Hotel

I recently had a staycation at the Element Boston Seaport hotel and had a summer cookout with friends. No, really, the Element hotel rooms are equipped with a kitchen and their patio has a grill that guests are welcome to use, as well, making it easy for both short or longer-term guests to "eat in" while they're staying here.

Element Seaport
Yes, we cooked this at a hotel
First off, the Element is a new hotel that opened up in Seaport last year, just across the street from Lawn on D.
Element Seaport
Element has rooms and suites, both of which are equipped with kitchenettes.
Element Seaport

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sumiao Brings Hunanese Cuisine to Kendall Square (Cambridge, Boston, MA)

Boston honestly doesn't have too much regional Chinese cuisine, but this is changing with the arrival of Sumiao in Kendall Square. Sumiao brings Hunanese cuisine, which is hard to find in most places, and combines it with a chich decor and solid cocktails.
Sumiao

The regular menu already has a number of authentic Hunanese dishes, but on weekends they add even more authentic recipes as specials. I got to try the Homemade La Rou with Mushrooms ($28)
Sumiao
La rou is like Hunanese bacon - it is pork belly that's been smoked then hang-dried. This is one of the quintessential Hunanese food. In Hunan, they like to smoke their meats, which is then stir fried with some chili and vegetables (because Hunanese also love their chilies!). They also have la rou with a different preparation on their lunch menu for $13, and I encourage you to try it.

Hunan tofu pot, pork belly, green chili, black bean chili sauce, $18)
Sumiao
As I mentioned, Hunanese love their chilies. Chairman Mao hailed from Hunan and reportedly once said "you can't be a revolutionary if you don't eat chilies!" The Hunan tofu pot was one of the spicier dishes. The spice isn't too bad but it does build up (but if you want more, you can ask for "authentic spicy"). This was one of our favorites that day, with the nicely fried tofu and the flavorful pork belly.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Discover Classes with CourseHorse: Wine Tasting Class at Dave's Fresh Pasta (Somerville, MA)

CourseHorse is a portal to discover local classes, varying from tech classes, languages, life skills, and of course cooking and wine tasting classes. Even fitness classes are listed. I was invited to experience one of CourseHorse's openings, so naturally I looked for the food-related ones. Browsing through the selection I found numerous cooking classes, a cocktail making class at No. 9 Park, and a number of wine tastings. You can look through the current culinary offerings in Boston here.

I decided to take one of the wine tastings offered at Dave's Fresh Pasta in Somerville. Dave's Fresh Pasta is a gourmet food and wine store, but they also hold events like this wine tasting on a few Thursdays 7:30-9PM each season. The wine tastings at Dave's Fresh Pasta is typically $55 per person. I was there for their Local Cheese and Spring Wines tasting with Vineyard Road, a wine distributor based in Framingham. We tasted five different wines paired with food.

We started with 2015 Murgo Lapilli from Sicily, Italy ($11.95). This wine is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Sauvignon Blanc, which are typical grapes of Italy.
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The wine's apple notes pair well with the Hudson Valley Camembert cheese, apple butter, and apple slices on cracker.
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2016 Domaine Lelievre from Cotes de Toul, Lorraine, France ($16.95). This rose wine is a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir.
Lorraine is in the northern center France. This region used to make a lot of wines in the 1500s but a lot of disease had diminished the planted area.
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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Spending Bastille Day at Taix French Restaurant (Los Angeles, CA)

by guest blogger Bryan Tsunoda (discovering LA)

I look forward to eating out on the holidays of other countries because it is an opportunity to experience something new. For that reason, I enjoy eating out on the French National holiday of Bastille Day.
I was happy to learn that Taix was featuring bouillabaisse as their special that day. Given a choice or proteins, I veer towards seafood and within that food group, I prefer shellfish. Therefore, bouillabaisse satisfies that craving.

Visiting Taix is like taking a trip backwards in time. Driving into their lot, you are warmly greeted by a valet. Entering the restaurant, you walk down a dimly lit hallway. To your right is the bar and straight ahead is the maitre d' station. Inside the dining room are large comfy booths and frosted glass for privacy.

On Bastille Day, the male employees wore red felt berets. My server, however, was female and she wore a ribbon with the French national colors around her neck.

The Tour de France was taking place in France and Taix featured specials each race day. Even the highlighted wines were from areas near each stop on the tour. Also taking place through Friday is Dine LA and Taix is one of the participating restaurants.

When you sit down in one of their plush booths, you receive fresh sourdough bread and crudité. I ordered Claudia’s beet salad from the Dine LA menu and the special that day, bouillabaisse.
The beet salad was nicely plated. I like that the ingredients were chilled, the butter lettuce was crisp, the oranges were juicy, and the garlic vinaigrette complemented the beet salad.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Tapas Tasting at Toro, a Boston Mainstay

I have long wanted to try Toro. This tapas bar from duo Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette has been around for many years (since 2005), but there's still always a long wait every night since they don't take reservations, even after they've opened other locations in New York and Bangkok. I finally went to try it when I saw a Gilt City voucher for it. The voucher for a tasting menu wasn't cheap at $100 but it was 8 courses including wine pairing, but the best part is that it allows you to make a reservation! If you've never used Gilt City, you can save $25 off your first order with my invite link.

The tapas tasting started with a Tortilla Espanola (egg, onion, potato, nettle, aioli). A nice rendition of the traditional Spanish dish. The ratio between egg and potato is just right.
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Uni Bocadillo (pressed uni sandwich, miso butter, pickled mustard seeds)
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This is similar to the uni sandwich at Coppa. Of course, I'm always happy to get uni on a tasting menu.

Since my friend is kosher, we got different third courses - I wanted at least one porky dish. I got the Jamon Blanco (Toast with lardo, marinated Jonah crab, black garlic, crispy shallots and avocado)
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While this wasn't what I had in mind when I wanted a "pork" dish, I enjoyed the toast regardless.

Friday, July 14, 2017

5 TV Shows That Are Suprisingly Filled with Food Porn

You don't have to watch food reality TV or food shows to be enticed by food porn on the screen. In fact, there are quite a few TV series that don't revolve around food yet is surprisingly filled with some amazing scenes foodies would gawk at and salivate over. A lot of these shows are available for free or on demand to stream if you have Verizon Fios account (even if they're not, you'll still want Fios' near-gigabit internet speed so you can stream seamlessly!). Now that summer is here, it's a great time to check out theses shows, if you haven't yet. Just be sure your fridge is stocked when you do.


Hannibal


OK, so this show has beautifully shot and amazing looking food scenes, thanks to the supervising of Chef Jose Andres. Hannibal is a food connoisseur and a great cook, but of course, each food scene is a bit unnerving, especially when Hannibal is cooking a meat dish. Could it be human meat? Knowing Hannibal, probably! That's why Gillian Anderson's character will only eat oysters - though I think lobster would be fine too ;) Still, even with the underlying unease, the cooking and dining scenes in this show are some of the best out there.

Master of None
credit: Popsugar
Aziz Ansari's character Dev takes an impromptu weekend trip to Nashville and was late catching his flight home to go get BBQ. He lies to his parents and skips out on prayers to go binge out on more BBQ at Smorgasburg. He's basically just eating around Italy in the beginning of the second season, because "eating in Italy is my favorite thing!" Hats off to Aziz for somehow getting a dinner at Osteria Francescana in the show and making it a business expense.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

WaterFire Lighting in Providence, RI

WaterFire has become one of the top attractions in Providence, Rhode Island in the summer. WaterFire is a sculpture/art installation by Barnaby Evans on the three rivers in downtown Providence, creating a line of bonfires on the water.
Waterfire
Over the years, the installation has been expanded to 100 braziers, and there are multiple lighting events throughout the summer, taking place at sunset (mainly on the weekends).
Waterfire
Most of the lighting activities take place in the basin at Waterplace Park, surrounded by the Providence Place mall and the visitor center. During the lighting, boats with firewood receives fire from a mime, and the braziers are lit one by one as fire acrobats perform on the boats and music is piped all long the river.
Waterfire

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Pangea Nutrition, the Mediterranean Diet Meal Kit Delivery

I recently tried a new meal kit service called Pangea Nutrition. Pangea Nutrition is started by two Boston-based doctors. Dr. Christos Mantzoros (Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, as well as Director of the Human Nutrition Unit of the Division of Endocrinology Diabetes and Metabolism at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) and Dr. Jason Paruthi, who completed his residency at Harvard Medical School as well as entrepeneurship courses at MIT Sloan School of Management. They combined their medical and nutrition knowledge with the entrepreneurial streak in Pangea Nutrition.
Pangea Nutrition
Pangea Nutrition abides by the Mediterranean diet to make it easier for people to adopt this healthier lifestyle.

Different from other meal kit services, Pangea Nutrition actually utilizes Amazon Fresh for their deliveries, while the recipe cards come separately in the mail. This means you can get Pangea Nutrition if there's Amazon Fresh service in your area.
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Solo Travel and Meet Locals with Homestay.com

Solo travelers have plenty of accommodation options these days: hotels, hostels, AirBnBs, Couchsurfing ... but have you considered a homestay? Homestay.com is a website dedicated for that.

Unlike AirBnBs where these days you have people buying properties exclusive to rent out, or people who rent out their homes while they are away, with Homestay.com each home will have a host present during your stay. This way, travelers will get to interact with a local, who are happy to share their knowledge of the area. The room price also includes a "light breakfast" although some hosts may provide more meals as well that will be detailed on their page.

This website provides more personality information of the hosts than AirBnBs (think Couchsurfing) such as their hobbies, so you can find hosts with common interests, or what they like to do when they're hosting or how involved they like to be.

Homestay is based in Ireland but currently has hosts in more than 150 countries and the price ranges widely depending on location, from a $10/ night in Seville, Spain to a $248 beachfront room in San Diego (much cheaper options in San Diego are also available).

The website typically charges 15% fee to guests (based on what the host charges) but if you book via this link you will get a discount, bringing the fee down to 10%!
How this normally works is that you will pay 15% deposit to Homestay.com (10% with the link above), and the remaining balance will be paid directly to your host. Hosts can set their preference on payment methods, such as Paypal, bank transfer, etc.

If you're looking for a more local experience during your upcoming travels, give Homestay.com a look!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Thai AYCE Brunch Picnic at So Long, Hi! (Downtown LA)

Brunch is all about indulgence, and there are quite a few bottomless mimosa brunches around LA, but what about bottomless food? How about some bottomless Thai food?
So Long Hi
So Long, Hi! in downtown LA started just that with their brunch picnic on Sundays. For those who aren't familiar, So Long, Hi! is the latest restaurant from David Tewasart (Sticky Rice, Side Chick) and Bryan Sharafkhah-Sharp (White Guy Pad Thai).

The picnic is $25 per person and it's an all-you-can-eat family-style affair, where the kitchen sends out food as it is prepared. The picnic menu will range from old favorites to off-the-menu specials. This is also a chance for the kitchen to prepare special dishes they don't normally serve on the menu and play around with their cooking. Either way, there will be more than enough food.

You may not expect it in downtown LA, but So Long Hi has a big sunny patio in the back that's perfect for a picnic.So Long Hi
We sampled some dishes that might be on future picnic menus, like the Thai beef jerky
So Long Hi
There were noodles and roti served with green curry.
So Long Hi

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Travel Tips: Summer Road Trip to Maine!

It's summer! (or SUMMAH, as some would say). Summer is the time for road trips and summer TV. With Verizon Fios Mobile app, it's easy to keep the whole family entertained on a long road trip, since you can download movies and TV shows to stream offline (or online without eating up your data allowance if you have Verizon wireless service).

Going up to Maine to eat lobsters is one of my favorite trips to do in the summer from Boston, both for the food and for the coastal views. You can drive all the way up to Acadia National Park and stop at various great spots along the way! It's a long ways, but with some movies or TV shows streaming, it will fly by.

Stop at Footbridge Lobster in Ogunquit or The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport. The lobster roll at The Clam Shack has won multiple awards, but honestly I prefer lobster rolls at other places in Maine, though I still highly recommend their whole lobster.
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Portland, Maine is a must stop and there are a lot of options here, including my favorite lobster roll at Bite Into Maine. You can enjoy your lobster roll here with a view of the Portland Head Light at Cape Elizabeth.

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Unless you stay overnight, you'll likely miss the amazing sourdough bagels at Scratch Baking Co, but you can still get some potato donuts at Holy Donuts, oysters and more lobster rolls at Eventide Oyster Co, or duck fat milkshake at - where else- Duck Fat.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Thompson Island, a Private Event Venue that Educates Public School Students

Summer is eventually coming to Boston, and when it does, it's time for harbor cruises and visits to the Boston Harbor Islands. Thompson Island is also gearing up for the season. Thompson Island is open for one of two purposes: 1) a private event on the island, or 2) Outward Bound, an experiential education program for students.

The two are connected, and I recently visited the island on their Open House to learn more about both and the great cause the island is supporting! While the education center provides educational programs for students of all ages (corporate team building included), the private events that are booked on the island provide the funds needed for Outward Bound to offer FREE summer programs to Boston public school students!
Thompson Island
The wonderful cause isn't the only draw for having your event on this island, though. Let's take a look at what they offer. The island is a mile off of downtown Boston and takes about 30 minutes with the Boston Harbor Cruises ship.
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It was nice to get off the boat and head to our own private island - at least for the evening.
Thompson Island

Monday, June 5, 2017

Meats and Mixology at Boston Magazine's The Cue, Back on August 15, 2017

Summer is a time for bbq and day drinking. It's also the season for food festivals in Boston, including Boston Magazine's annual food festivals. In August, the two-night affair The Cue and Battle of the Burger is returning to the Cruiseport.

Last year, I was invited to attend - since I was flying out for a friend's wedding, I only managed to check out The Cue right before heading to the airport!

The Cue
Pecan smoked baby back ribs from Coppersmith

The Cue is a celebration of BBQ and mixology - what a great pair, right?
The Cue
There are meats and ribs galore - prepare your heart and stretchy pants before you come here! Guests get to vote for the best bbq and the best cocktail, no naturally you have to be fair and taste everything, right?

Last year's participating restaurants include Andy Husbands' The Smoke Shop BBQ
The Cue

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bite of the Beast Dinner at Locanda del Lago (Santa Monica, CA)

by Bryan Tsunoda @discovering_LA

I watch for restaurant special events because it is an opportunity for a chef or an owner to execute a concept that makes them stand out above the others. My latest discovery was Locanda Del Lago’s Morso Della Bestia or “Bite of the Beast”. The last Thursday of every month, Locanda Del Lago hosts a communal meal, featuring animal roasts and traditional, rustic Italian dishes. The Morso Della Bestia includes a 4-course dinner featuring the choice animal, and an optional wine pairing.

For the May dinner, the “animal” was salmon. Locanda Del Lago created a four course meal to feature this popular fish. To make the event extra special, they partnered with the Italian winery, Fasoli Gino, to provide a unique food and wine pairing.

The first course was a Salmon Tartare.
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It was surrounded by a delicious avocado puree, pine nuts, giardiniera and wild arugula. The salmon tartare was extremely fresh and creamy to the taste. It was paired with a clean tasting pinot grigio from Fasoli Gino.

Salmon that was cured with limoncello liqueur was combined with fresh herbs, chicory and asparagus.
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This dish had a lot of bold flavors and I was surprised that chicory worked well with this dish. The Soave, a dry Italian white wine, was fruity with a nice amount of acidity to balance this dish.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bites Around Ireland: Researching My Trip through TV Shows

What do you do when you're researching an upcoming destination that you're not familiar with? For me, I definitely turn to the Instagram pages of my friends and other travelers, and then I watch TV. Yep, TV.

For my recent trip to Ireland, I looked up the episodes from Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, etc on Ireland. Thankfully, this "research" was painless and buffering-free thanks to the fast Verizon FiOs internet that has now landed in Dorchester.

I had to see what else I should be eating and drinking other than a ton of Guinness!
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Unfortunately I couldn't go try all the places Bourdain went to - you can only do so much in 4 days!
The place I did try was Leo Burdock, which is Dublin's oldest "chipper" - what they call a traditional, take-away fish and chips place.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Carnivorous Birthday Dinner at Bazaar Meat (Las Vegas, NV)

I spent my birthday weekend last December eating and drinking my way through Las Vegas with some friends from LA. We had some pretty stellar food throughout the weekend, including a meat-centric birthday blowout at Jose Andres' Bazaar Meat!

One of the hardest decisions you'll have to make during a dinner at Bazaar Meat is which cow you want your steak that night to come from. One of the most special meats they have is the Vaca Vieja, which means "old cow". This is 8-10 year old Holstein dairy cow (cattle for beef is typically slaughtered starting from 18 months and dairy cows from 4 years), and vaca vieja is typical meat found in Basque Country. Because of the age, there's actually more flavors to the vaca vieja meat, but the server warned that it could be an acquired taste.

Since we wanted to try as many things as possible, and the steak tartare is made with vaca vieja, we decided to try that particular meat as a tartare, and try a different one for our steak!

The components of the steak tartare was beautifully plated and then later mixed tableside. We ordered the Classic Tartare ($32)
Bazaar Meat
See the dark color of the vaca vieja? It's very distinct from other beef at the restaurant.
Bazaar Meat
The tartare was a sirloin cut, prepared tableside with Savora mustard, egg yolk, HP sauce, and anchovy.

Bazaar Meat

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Making My Own Gin at Thirst Boston

Thirst Boston has come and gone, leaving us satiated and hungover after a liquor-fueled whirlwind of a weekend. There were parties and booze tastings, and of course, a number of educational seminars. I attended a hands-on Gin Lab where I got to make my own gin!
Gin Lab
The seminar/lab was led by William Codman from Diageo, and he started off with a history of gin. From how the British discovered Genever during the War in Holland, to various political situations and bans that led to the popularity of gin (often distilled at home back then) in England. Apparently it was so popular that it became a huge problem since people were drinking way too much. The craziness is depicted in this Gin Lane painting by William Hogarth.
Gin Lab
Well, now we mostly drink gin in moderation, thankfully ;)
We also learned about the different classifications of gin. To be called gin, the liquor has to be a neutral spirit that has juniper in it. When it's not redistilled after juniper and flavors are added, that is called "compound gin". A "distilled gin" means that the spirit has been re-distilled after the juniper and botanicals are added, but other flavorings can still be added after the redistillation.

We mostly know of London Dry Gin these days. London Gin is redistilled using traditional still, and flavorings can only be added during the distillation, not after, and they must be natural flavorings. No coloring may be added, although sugar may be added.

With this classification, we basically made a compound gin that day!

After the history lesson, we took turns "foraging" for our botanicals. OK, not really foraging, we went to the back of the room and picked out our botanicals from what they've prepared. Too bad were limited to five! But that's probably a good thing, as I might've gone crazy with the flavor combo otherwise.

Gin Lab

Friday, May 19, 2017

20th Annual Taste of Allston on June 24 + GIVEAWAY!

Allston is home to some of the best restaurants in Boston, so wouldn't it be great to be able to try a couple dozen of them at the same time? You can at Taste of Allston, which is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year! Spend Saturday afternoon on June 24 tasting food from 20 restaurants, and enjoy the summer (which is finally here!) with live music, lawn games, and other activities! More details (plus a giveaway for a pair of tickets!) are below:

They will be rolling out the list of participating restaurants over the next few weeks. Current confirmed restaurants include White Horse Tavern, Roxy's Grilled Cheese, The Avenue, Loui Loui, and more. They're also promising cool treats from FoMu, FroYo World, and LimeRed Teahouse!

Watch their Facebook and Instagram pages for more restaurant announcements in the coming weeks.

There will be free parking, bike racks, and free bike valet.
Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased here. OR ... you can try your luck and ENTER TO WIN a pair of tickets below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 12, 2017

Maya Indian Grill (Wakefield, MA)

I was recently invited to try out a new Indian restaurant in Wakefield, MA - about 12 miles north of Boston. The reviews for the restaurant all seemed really good, so I accepted and drove up to try the lunch buffet at Maya Indian Grill one weekend.

As we sat, they delivered hot, fresh naan to the table. Bonus points!
Maya Indian grill
The buffet items change daily, but there are about a dozen options - both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. They had the usual staples like chicken biryani, chicken tandoori, saag paneer, chana masala, and also a nice goat curry, which was probably my favorite of the savory dishes that afternoon.

Monday, May 1, 2017

2nd Annual Masters of Taste Takes Over Pasadena's Rose Bowl on May 7

Summer is the season is food festivals. Up next on the calendar: Masters of Taste will be back for its second annual event on May 7 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Guests will get to stroll the Rose Bowl's 50-yard line while sampling bites and cocktails from 45 of LA's top restaurants and bars.
Masters of Taste
This year's restaurant lineup includes Miro, The Raymond 1886, Nerano, Alexander's Steakhouse, Hamasaku, Little Beast, Kato, and Redbird.
Masters of Taste
There will be plenty to drink including cocktails, beers, and wines. Participating bars include Bar Mattachine, Birds and Bees, and 1886. You can find beers and spirits from Indie Brewing Company, Kikori Whiskey, Mezcal El Silencio, as well as various wineries.
Masters of Taste
They didn't forget about desserts. You can cool down with ice creams from Choctal and Magpies Softserve, or much on treats from Street Churros, Spirnkles, and Nothing Bundt Cakes.

General admission tickets are $105 per person which provides festival admission at 4pm and unlimited food and beverage tastings. VIP admission tickets are $185 per person and include early admission at 3pm, access to VIP lounges and seating, and special access to limited release tastings. 100% of the proceeds will go to benefit Union Station Homeless Services. The organization works to identify causes that led to each individual or family’s homeless and provide the resources they need to end their cycle of homelessness. Purchase tickets here and get 15% off with code GPIGS.

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