Looking to Create a Culinary Destination

Food and Wine Festival Brings In Top Chefs, Gourmet Fare

The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Prince George's County, a new addition to the Gaylord Hotels chain in D.C., boasts an 18-story glass atrium, multi-level indoor gardens, and a rooftop lounge.
By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 17, 2008

Looking to expand your taste buds? Try some chocolate grapes by renowned chef Michel Richard or some whole-grain bread from King Arthur Flour in Vermont. Then wash it down with an oak-aged cabernet or crisp chardonnay from Maryland's own Boordy Vineyard or selected organic wines from Argentina and California.

If you like to cook, check out the latest kitchen gadgets. Or learn from Wilo Benet of Puerto Rico how to use rum in recipes.

These are just a few of the offerings that guests will be able to take part in today and tomorrow during National Harbor's first Food & Wine Festival.

The debut festival is the kind of event that has eluded Prince George's County, where residents have long felt ignored by developers of upscale projects, attractions and destination spots.

County officials said the festival at the $4 billion waterfront development in Oxon Hill, and other public events that will be held there will elevate the county's status in the region and across the country.

"It's going to change people's perceptions of Prince George's County," said J. Matthew Neitzey, executive director of the county's Conference and Visitor's Bureau. "I really think it already has."

Neitzey predicted that the festival, which has an emphasis on food, will be the beginning of National Harbor becoming a "center for culinary tourism." National Harbor, which opened last month, is a 300-acre development that when completed in about a decade, will have a mix of shops, condominiums, offices, hotels and restaurants.

"It's a whole niche market," Neitzey said. "There are people who will plan their leisure travel based on a fine dining experience, and in this case you have Potomac River. It's a perfect setting."

Those who attend the festival, which has a theme of "Think Global. Taste Local," can expect to meet top chefs from across the country. Some of the celebrity chefs and presenters include Richard of Michel Richard Citronelle in the District, Suvir Saran from New York City's Déviand Benet of Puerto Rico's Pikayo restaurant.

Lynn Schwartz, the event's manager, said one of the things that distinguishes it from other wine festivals in the region is that "we embrace food in a bigger way."

Pavilions have been set up along the pier, and a separate emporium will be filled with crafts and accessories related to food and wine.

Schwartz said the event will take place regardless of the weather.

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