The Wilmington Food & Wine Festival held its fourth annual weekend celebration showcasing local restaurants and beverage connoisseurs. The four day event featured a luxury wine dinner at Manna (check out one of my first reviews here), a Kentucky Derby style Bourbon & BBQ cocktail party, a Bubbles, Brews, & Street Eats Food Truck round-up, and the main showcase: the Corks and Forks Main Tasting Event. Talk about a foodie’s dream! We bounced around the idea of purchasing the three-day event pass, but decided to only attend the Corks and Forks Main Event. You’ll see why in a pending blog post 🙂 Held on the grounds of the breathtakingly beautiful Bellamy Mansion in downtown ILM, this event was the perfect taste of all things Wilmington and southern charm.
I woke up SUUUUUUUUUUUUPER early the morning of this event because I couldn’t contain my excitement! Food, wine, and an excuse to dress up! YAAAAASSSSSSSSS! I was busy curling my hair when Grayson asked me what shirt he should wear. It worked out perfectly that one of the two options he gave me just happened to have the same color scheme as my dress, so I just grinned and pointed to the matchy-matchy one.
I was ready before him for a change, call it excitement I guess?! I grabbed my box of business cards and stuffed a handful into my gold, glittered card holder and went to wait as patiently as I could in the car for him 😉
Before I knew it, I was standing on the sidewalk ,being shaded by a massive oak tree, looking up at the beautiful, stark white Bellamy Mansion. I could hear the excited banter of the guests that were already partaking in the festivities and I caught a faint whiff of braised meat. I envied those that were inside before me! My stomach nearly pulled me past the kind gentleman who was checking my ID and placing my over 21 wrist band on my arm. Simmer down…it’ll be there when you get there..I tried desperately to convince myself.
There were two large tents situated on the grounds outside of the mansion. Each tent had multiple restaurants showcasing samples of their best dishes in addition to numerous wine industry representatives. Additionally, the first and second floor of the mansion boasted more local restaurants and wines from all over the world. There were over 150 wines featured and around a dozen restaurants.
Now, I couldn’t possibly name everything I ate while I was there.
Actually, that isn’t true. I totally could. Because I love you all so much, I wrote down everything I put in my mouth while I was there. Imagine trying to do that while carrying a clutch, wine glass, paper & pencil, using one hand to eat, wearing heels, AND consuming wine. It is true love for my readers <3.
HOWEVER, I’m not going to bore you with every-single-detail. What I WILL do is point out what some of my favorite highlights were and which restaurants I think would be worth your while. There are some phenomenal local restaurants that had some overwhelmingly delectable foods to sample!
Upon entry, the first person I met was Amanda from Sea Love Sea Salt. Amanda is local to Wrightsville Beach and makes her own specialty sea salts using a solar greenhouse. I cannot say enough good things about her Rosemary Sea Salt. Perfect for cooking and adding that extra hint of rosemary that some dishes cannot go without. A friend gave these awesome salts as wedding favors a few months back. What a great idea?!
With wine glass in hand, I set out to quench my thirst. The first table I arrived at was the One Hope wines. I’m a red wine (Cab Sav) drinker at heart, but dang if it wasn’t warm out and I just wanted something chilled. I went with the Sparkling Brut and it more than hit the spot! Not super sweet, but not too dry. Just right. Grayson sampled their Cab Sav and was a fan. One reason why I love the One Hope wines is because they donate a portion of sales to different charities which you can find here. I’ll drink to that.
Conveniently situated right beside them was The District Kitchen & Cocktails. For my sampling pleasure, Karen had homemade lamb meatballs with tzatziki dipping sauce and were skewered with a spring of fresh rosemary. Oh. My. Word. Soooo yummy! This place is on our To-Try list and these meatballs helped bump them up a few spots in addition to their kindness and excitement for the day and to meet people!
We meandered around the campus trying different wines and foods before we went inside the mansion. The mansion is huge, yet inviting. The old, classic southern charm is an undeniable beauty. It makes me so proud to call this state my home.
Inside the mansion, each room was set up very similarly to the tents outside; showcasing numerous beverage distributors and restaurants.
We stumbled upon the samplings for Ceviche’s, which was easily the most beautifully decorated table. I tried their tiny tuna tostadas which were killer! Tuna ceviche in a sriracha-soy sauce with pineapple salsa, jalapeno, pickled onions, yuzu aioli, and cilantro (good thing I took a pic of that…cause no way I would’ve remembered any of that past the tuna part). This was sweet, spicy, and savory and I loved every second of the roller coaster ride it gave my taste buds. Ceviche’s took home the 1st place award for this dish! Added them to our T0-Try list also!
We tried tons of wines. So many that I give up on trying to tell you all which would be my favorite because there were so many great ones. However, I did try this beer which I’m a huge fan of! Super smooth and paired very nicely with a chocolate peanut butter brownie.
A few more wine samples here…few more foods there….
Lastly, we sampled what was, by far, my most favorite thing there. 22 North served a moonshine braised pork cheek with collards and jalapeno cheese grits. The meat was crazy tender and fell apart as my spoon touched it. The flavor was smokey, yet had a subtle sweetness. The cheesiness of the grits offset the slight heat offered by the jalapeno. There just is no other way to say it. It was phenomenal and my overall favorite dish of the day. We have eaten here numerous times before and it never ceases to wow us. I suggest you add it to your to-try list.
Grayson and I had such a blast at this event! I made sure to ask judges in passing what their personal favorites were so I could make sure I wasn’t missing out on the best of the best.
Speaking of judges, I’m making it a personal goal of mine to judge this event next year! Don’t you think I would kick butt and take names doing so? Wilmington Food and Wine Festival…I have my eye set on you 😉