This year’s National Harbor Wine & Food Festival was my first. I attended both days, snacking and sipping on the great wine and gourmet food. I decided to focus on five food vendors and five beverage companies from the many I sampled.
For starters, if you’re into dried meats (and really, who isn’t?), Heidi Jo’s is a must-try. Originating from New Hampshire, the company offers such exciting selections as ostrich or venison jerky, as well as buffalo or elk sticks. They also carry the par-for-the-course beef and turkey jerky, hot sauces, and snacks. The big deal is not really the exotic meats (although they are cool), as much as the fact that all their products are all-natural. No preservatives, artificial flavors, or flavor enhancers — just meat and seasonings. I tried out an elk stick and it was pretty tasty, considering I’ve never had elk.
The next product you’ve got to try is a dressing by Milly’s Organics. She makes a line of organic salad dressings that taste fresh and sublime. From the fifteen available flavors, I sampled six, and they were all very good. The combinations are unique, which is refreshing in and of itself. However, it’s the ingredients that really steal the show. All of the dressings are raw, organic, and have no added salt. I recommend that you try at least one bottle soon; my favorites were the Cayenne Watermelon and the Strawberry Mint.
Next up is the olive oil selection from Laconiko. I taste tested several flavors, including Blood Orange, Rosemary, Basil, and the plain Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The flavored oils were not overwhelming, but you won’t mistake them for the regular. I have to admit that I thought their oils tasted fresher than the typical olive oils I’ve encountered. It turns out that the company takes particular pains to ensure that their product stays out of the light and remains airtight during the stages between tree and delivery. I would recommend trying any of the flavored oils if you’re already a fan of olive oil. If you’re new to the club, start out with their Extra Virgin and you won’t be disappointed.
Another booth that caught my eye was the Gourmet Creations station. The vendors had set up about thirty 8-ounce tubs, each with a different dip inside. I tried the Sugar-Free Raspberry, New York Cheesecake, Roasted Garlic, and Pesto Genovese. Though the packages for the last two specify that they’re supposed to be olive oil mixes, they were proffered as dips — delicious dips, I might add. Either of the two sweet dips could be used as a dressing for fruit salad, or a spread for crackers. The mixes are all sold in the form of powders or dried mixes.
Lastly (for the food), I came across a booth for Mill Stream Farms. The food of choice turned out to be pumpkin rolls. If you’re a fan of anything fall-oriented, you will love this dessert. The cake is spongy and moist, and the cream adds a nice richness to the whole. I sampled the pumpkin, tiramisu, and the lemon rolls, and I can vouch for each flavor. Since I enjoy lemon cakes of all varieties, I would have to say that the latter was my favorite. It would be the perfect thing to go with a tall glass of iced tea.
I decided to pick out the most interesting alcoholic beverages I tried. Instead of being only a review of various wines, I wanted to choose drinks that were different or fresh in some way. Having said that, I did find some very good wines that I can recommend: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, “Artemis” Cabernet Sauvignon; SeaGlass, Riesling; Cupcake, Pinot Noir; and Fenwick Wine Cellars, “Ambrosia” red blend.
If you feel like you’ve tried all the beers out there and want something different, try Woodchuck Hard Cider. I sampled the Amber and the Pear. Both flavors were crisp and delicious. After trying so many different wines and beers at the festival, the Woodchuck was like a refreshing splash in my mouth. The cider’s carbonation and light flavors make for the perfect summer barbecue drink.
Another moment of revitalization came after I tried Pucker’s newest line of flavored vodkas. The cool thing about their beverage is that you can use it as a mixer or drink it straight. I tried the lemonade flavor by itself, and it was a good rendition of an alcoholic summer drink. However, once the lady in the booth mixed me a second drink with the flavored vodka and cranberry juice, I knew it was a winner. The mixed drink had a very light alcohol taste, and the lemonade and cranberry tasted great together.
Calling all fans of the peach Bellini! Instead of using your food processor or blender to create delicious cocktails, just try Canella’s Bellini. I really enjoyed the quality of the drink. Canella uses their own Prosecco, so you know you’re buying a good sparkling wine. The company also uses its own white peaches for the pulp in the beverage. A touch of raspberry juice completes the bottle. I’d recommend picking up a bottle or two to bring to parties for an instant hit.
Right in the midst of all the regular wine booths lay the station for Vine Smoothie. The company blends French Chardonnay, fruit, and cream into each delicious bottle. I tried the Pineapple Coconut flavor, which tasted like a light piña colada. I tried another product by the company: ChocoVine Whipped Cream. Anybody who likes chocolate should go out a buy a bottle immediately. It’s the best combination of chocolate and alcohol that I’ve ever tried. It tasted velvety, not too sweet, creamy, and full of delicious milk chocolate taste. You may want to get two bottles; it’s that good.
Finally, I thought I’d review the products of one actual winery. I chose Knob Hall because their wines left an impression on me. No easy task, given that I tried them around the middle of the second day. If you’ve ever heard of the Jealous Mistress wine, that’s one of Knob Hall’s reds. I tried the Vidal Blanc 2010 and the Tryst, both white blends. I enjoyed both, though I typically avoid blends. The other wine I tried was a specialty red blend called Survivor Celebration, created to commemorate cancer survivors. It was a little fruity and a little spicy, and what I’d consider to be a good table blend.