Triangle diners have no shortage of opportunities to taste the food at local restaurants. They can dine there themselves. They can take part in annual restaurant weeks. They can go to special events with many chefs cooking, such as the annual Farm to Fork picnic in June, the tasting picnic from ChickenWireNC and TerraVita Food & Drink Festival in October.
Despite those opportunities, Samad Hachby and Lisa Jeffries saw room for one more: The Raleigh Food & Wine Festival, which starts Thursday and culminates Sunday with a tasting event at Hachby’s Babylon restaurant featuring more than 30 chefs and vendors.
Hachby has been a fixture in Raleigh’s Glenwood South area for years. He opened Mosaic Wine Lounge in 2006 and Babylon restaurant in 2011. Jeffries is a special events and marketing expert who specializes in working with retail and hospitality businesses. Both are N.C. State University graduates and have dreamed about pulling together such an event for years.
Two things set their event apart from the others. First, Thursday, Friday and Saturday include events at Raleigh restaurants, bars and shops, and Hachby and Jefferies are not dictating what those events can be – neither price point nor format.
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So chef/owner Sean Fowler at Mandolin can offer a six-course goat dinner Thursday for $65 per person. The folks at Driftwood Southern Kitchen can put on a four-course moonshine dinner Thursday for $55. Plates Neighborhood Kitchen has a three-course dinner Saturday for $26. The Raleigh Wine Shop will do a tea sandwich and wine tasting Thursday for $10. There also are cocktail classes, wine and beer dinners, healthy cooking classes and more.
“It allows you to curate the experience you want your guests to have,” Hachby explained.
What also sets them apart is the price for the festival’s tasting event. It costs $24.50 each if you buy two tickets, $29 if you buy an individual ticket and $45 for a VIP ticket. Up to $2 per ticket will be donated to Band Together, which is holding its annual fundraising concert Saturday.
I love a food and wine event as much as the next person. I have been to my fair share as part of my job, either going for my work or paying my own way. But I have always struggled with the pricing. So many of these events cost what I consider special occasion prices. When a ticket costs $85 to $100 per person, that’s an expensive date.
Now I understand that many of these events are fundraisers for good causes. I don’t fault organizers for higher prices as a result. By default, certain folks are priced out of being able to attend.
I celebrated my 40th birthday on Friday and my husband and I ate an amazing meal at the Stanbury in Raleigh for $100. That’s about my limit in the day care years of my life. I cannot be the only one.
So it is refreshing when an event comes on the scene where a couple can attend for $50. I salute Hachby and Jeffries’ efforts to promote their city’s food scene and keep the main event reasonably priced for the public.
“This isn’t about making money at all. This is about supporting the community,” Hachby said.
Jeffries added: “The hope is it will grow into a more mature event.”
I hope they see success this year and can build on it for years to come.
Win VIP tickets
We have two pairs of VIP tickets to give away to two lucky readers for the Sunday tasting event that is part of The Raleigh Food & Wine Festival. Here’s how to enter: “Like” the News & Observer Lifestyles page on Facebook (facebook.com/newsobserverlifestyles) and leave a comment below the post about the giveaway before noon Friday. Good luck!
Want to go?
The Raleigh Food & Wine Festival features events at Raleigh restaurants, bars and wine shops Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as a tasting event 1-5 p.m. Sunday at Babylon restaurant in downtown Raleigh. Tickets cost $24.50-$45.
The restaurant is at 309 N. Dawson St., Raleigh. Information and details on where to park: raleighfoodandwine.com