Reporting Sara Pelissero
Two hundred exhibitors, 350 wines, lots of local food and more than 75 specialty beers — all inside the warm comforts of Target Field’s Metropolitan Club. Need I say more?
The 18th annual Food and Wine Experience kicks off this weekend, returning to Target Field for a second time after outgrowing its Minneapolis Convention Center home.
With the finest food, wine and local purveyors in the state on hand, this Minnesota Monthly event is the perfect place for food enthusiasts to chat with their favorites chefs, winemakers and craft brewers.
Some of the Twin Cities top restaurants will be there, including Heidi’s, Masu Sushi and Robata, Solera, Dakota Jazz Club, Forepaugh’s, Seven, Barbette, Red Stag Supper Club and more.
Before the big event gets underway, Marketing and Public Relations Manager Alex Huerter gave us the scoop on what we can expect.
Q: Tell us a little bit about this year’s event.
A: This is the 18th annual Food and Wine Experience. We have 200 exhibitors, 350 wines and there’s going to be over 75 specialty beers. We’re having it again, it’s our second year at Target Field and it’s inside the comfort of the Metropolitan and Legends Club. It’s a beautiful way to see the stadium and sample all these wines and food from local restaurants and local craft brewers.
Q: What’s new this year compared to previous years?
A: Yeah, we’re going to have the Mill City’s Farmers Market there. They’re going to be taking over the Midwest Pantry, so we’ll have a lot of vendors that people would’ve seen during the summer at the Mill City Farmers Market and they’re all going to be represented in one location on the main floor. The Minnesota Craft Brewers will be back again. Surly will be owning their bar again, so it’s not new, but they’re going to be owning the large bar at the Metropolitan this year. Washington Wines, we have a huge area just dedicated to Washington Wines — they’re the second largest wine producer in the United States (only second to California). So they’ve actually about doubled their portfolio they’re bringing this year.
We’re going to have two lounges, one of them is the Dakota Jazz Club. They’re going to be transforming an area in the Metropolitan Club to look like their Dakota Lounge at the restaurant. They haven’t decided on the musicians they’ll be bringing in, but there will be some kind of musical element. They’re going to be making craft mocktails and showcasing food from their two new chefs. And Treasure Island Casino is going to have another lounge, which will be interactive on the other end and it’s just a nice place for people to sit down and rest in between tastings. The Science Museum is also coming in, they’ve got their big pirate exhibit right now so they’re doing a treasure map, and that’s going to be throughout the show floor. People just have to click on QR codes and they’ll be entered to win prizes from the Science Museum.
Q: This being the 18th year of the event, how much has it grown, would you say, since the beginning?
A: Oh it’s completely changed. I believe it started at INS (International Market Square). So it started really small. We’ve grown over the years and eventually moved to the Convention Center. We spent countless years at the Convention Center but it started to get too large. Too many non-food vendors. So we brought it to Target Field last year — to bring more of an intimate experience, have it be more food and beverage heavy and provide a more upscale environment for people to really talk with winemakers or chefs.
Q: Since bringing it to Target Field, how has that atmosphere changed?
A: Well I mean, the space is so beautiful. It’s very upscale, beautiful, open, airy space so you don’t feel as confined as in the Convention Center. It’s just a much nicer, more relaxed experience.
Q: What kind of advice would you give to someone who’s coming to the Food and Wine Experience for the first time?
A: Go slow. You’ve got four hours and you want to see everything. Be choosy about what you taste and don’t fill up too quickly. It’s pretty easy because the Club level gives an automatic path that people can take, so they can just walk around the corridor. Take it all in. Also, Sunday attendees will receive a free commemorative Riedel wine glass, so it’s just a really nice wine glass that they get to take home with them.
Q: How many people are you expecting?
A: We get about 4,500 total.
Q: Is one day more popular than the other?
A: Saturday is sold out, but Sunday we still have limited tickets available. And all of the proceeds for the event benefit our parent company, Minnesota Public Radio.
The Food and Wine Experience is from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4 at Target Field. Tickets are on sale for $75 in advance (available at foodwineshow.com) or $80 at the door. Saturday is sold out but there are still a few tickets available for Sunday. For more information, visit the website.