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Quit whining; wine festival season is here
By Deborah Pankey | Daily Herald Food Editor

Emeril Lagasse

 

Associated Press

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Published: 9/8/2010 12:00 AM

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As vineyard workers from California and Oregon to New York and Vermont start harvesting plump grapes from the vines, around here we celebrate the grape harvest with wine festivals. During the next several weekends you'll have ample opportunities to swirl and sip at events around the suburbs. Here are a few:

Festival of the Vine: Geneva's 29th annual Festival of the Vine runs Friday to Sunday, Sept. 10 to 12 with sampling under a big tent downtown and in nearby shops and inns.

Nineteen restaurants will offer food (tickets cost $1; food priced one to four tickets) and 17 wines will be available for purchase by the glass (four to 10 tickets). The around-town samplings range from free tastes to opportunities to pair wine with cheese and chocolate and learn about wines from around with world.

If you stop into Geneva's iconic The Little Traveler (and really, why wouldn't you?) make sure to say "happy birthday" to winemaker Gunther Schlink. Schlink, who turns 80, has been pouring samples of his namesake wines, Schlink Haus, during the festival for more than 10 years and plans his annual trip to the States to coincide with the festival. Get complete festival details at genevachamber.com/festivals.html.

Naperville Wine Festival: The historic Naper Settlement provides an idyllic backdrop for trying some 250 wines and noshing samples from the town's top restaurants. The festival runs 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17 and 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18.

Tickets cost $25 ($35 at the gate) if purchased by Sept. 16. The price includes a souvenir wine glass, 10 tastings, a program, access to food and wine demonstrations and musical entertainment. Designated driver tickets cost $10 and additional tasting coupons are available at the fest.

Get tickets at napervillewinefestival.com or (877) 772-5425.

Fork, Cork & Style Festival: Emeril Lagasse headlines this daylong tailgate-themed celebration set for 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 at Arlington Race Course in Arlington Heights.

Lagasse will present a cooking demonstration, as will "Top Chef" finalists Brian Malarkey, Eli Kirshtein and Casey Thompson and chefs from our area.

There are two ticket tiers for this event. For $25 ($35 after Sept. 25) you get in for the bands, demos and food. A $50 ticket gets you all that plus access to a three-hour grand tasting where more than 150 wines will be available for sampling. More at forkcorkandstyle.com.

Life of lunch: I've talked often with my boys about the life cycle of insects and animals, but the life cycle of lunch? I can't say that's been a topic of conversation. A new exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago sets out to change the way we all think about our food choices and their impact on our health and the health of the environment.

The permanent exhibit, Nature's LunchBox, sponsored by Dominick's, illustrates the life cycle of food - from the farm, to the market, to the compost bin - with educational displays and interactive components.

Visitors will learn why locally grown, seasonal food is good for their bodies and the environment. Then, it's off to the supermarket, where children can win a "jackpot" by selecting the right combination of fruits and vegetables. They can also visit the deli counter and sniff out foods that are nutritious and tasty. The exhibit demonstrates urban gardening and closes with a guide to beautifying urban nature by recycling, reusing and composting waste.

For homework, so to speak, the museum is issuing a challenge to parents and guardians: banish unhealthy, uninspired lunches by taking part in its Fresh Start Monday campaign. The campaign challenges people to make a fresh, healthy and creative lunch each Monday. Recipes are available at the museum or under the Discussions tab on its Facebook.com page.

The museum is at 2430 N. Cannon Drive. Admission costs $9 for adults; $6 for children 3-12 and $7 for seniors and students. See naturemuseum.org or (773) 755-5100.

Cooking for a cause: Join me as I cook alongside culinary students at Elgin Community College during Epicurean Delight, a fundraiser for Renz Addiction and Counseling Center on Saturday, Sept. 25.

The walk-around food fest, held at Spartan Terrace restaurant on the ECC campus, includes cooking demonstrations and a carving demonstration by Food Network favorite Kevin Molidor, wine presentation and tastings, a cash bar and raffle prizes. Other "celebrity chefs" are David Bear of McDonald's Restaurants of Elgin, Mary Hyatt from Kane County Court Services and attorney Jeff Risch of Smith Amundsen.

Tickets cost $70 and proceeds benefit prevention and treatment programs at the Elgin center. The event raised $12,000 last year. Get tickets at (847) 742-3545.

Cheesecake fest canceled: What would have been one tasty event, Eli's Cheesecake Festival, has been canceled for 2010.

Eli's president Marc Shulman wrote to say that fiscal issues prompted the cancellation, but the company still will accept canned food donations and cash for the Greater Chicago Food Depository at Eli's Cheesecake World, 6701 W. Forest Preserve Drive, Chicago.

Plan your drop-off between 1 and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and catch a free presentation on Eli's history and a sample.

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at food@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4524. Listen to her discuss food and restaurant trends on Restaurant Radio, 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on WIND 560 AM. Be her friend on Facebook.com at Deb Pankey Daily Herald.