by Andrew Marder, special to EdibleDC
When you go to the first annual Frederick Wine Festival, the last thing you expect is to bump into a guy from your philosophy master's program. I mean, you might not be expecting it because you majored in something that "has value in the marketplace," but I'm saying it even as a guy who actually got a master's in philosophy.
That bump-in was just one of the many surprises the inaugural event had in store for my August afternoon.
Frederick hit all the highlights of a booze-laden Saturday afternoon without falling into the usual traps. The food steered clear of the overdone festival standards, the music sounded completely unlike dying cats, the venue wasn't a converted cow pasture, and organizers seemed to actually know what they were doing.
Seeing as around 2,000 people ended up buying tickets, it's a good thing the folks behind the scenes had a clue.
I spoke to Chef Chris Spear, a culinary instructor and the man behind the Perfect Little Bites blog. He also happens to be one of the driving forces pushing the Wine Festival.
"I didn't want the usual line-up of food trucks," he said. Instead, the festival brought in smaller, local chefs who paired their offerings with the wines being sampled.
Wineries from Middletown to Kennedyville tipped out their favorites, with attendees buying up case after case of the good stuff.
Spear said that the Wine Festival is just one step to raising awareness of the culinary scene in Frederick. He takes inspiration from Richmond, Baltimore, and DC, all cities where local chefs have come together to build a strong community.
Events like Farm to Frederick, the spiritual successor to Farm-to-Fork Frederick, are already starting to build those community bonds. Famers are working closely with local chefs, who are in turn promoting those farms in their restaurants.
"There's still a ways to go," Spear said, but it's clear that the foundation has been laid.
I can't over emphasize how impressive this event was as a first go -- or a tenth anniversary, for that matter. When I bumped into the former classmate, he was shocked to hear that it was the inaugural event. Frederick pulled out all the stops, and the hard work showed.
DC foodies may not think of Frederick as a destination yet, but that seems likely to change over the coming years.
Hold on. How did we make it this far without talking about wine yokes?
VIPs, who entered the festival two hours before the rest of the ticket holders, got a few gifts along with admission. One of those gifts was something called a wine yoke. It's like a lanyard from a Charles Shaw summer camp.
You can slide a wine glass -- 18.5 ounces worth of wine glass, if you're sporting the Frederick Wine Festival commemorative VIP glass -- into the necklace, keeping your hands free to grab cheese, grilled cheese, or even some non-cheese thing, if you've got to.
Seriously, you need to pick up one of these wine yoke things. It's the closest you'll ever get to a butler.
Andrew Marder is a writer living in Hyattsville, MD. He enjoys playing with his son, having dinner with his wife, and sitting quietly with good friends. When he’s not awake, he’s asleep.