The 2014 Saratoga Wine and Food Festival is THIS WEEKEND

Saratoga Wine & Food Festival

Inside the Grand Tasting tent. Tom Stock photo.

Yesterday I found a parking spot in downtown Saratoga Springs, New York. That means two things: the track season is over. And the annual Saratoga Wine and Food Festival is coming up fast.

This year’s event snuck up on us because of the early Labor Day—which hopefully will mean warm, beautiful weather for the weekend. The complete schedule and tickets are available here.

I have in the past written about my strategy to focus on the Grand Tasting on Saturday afternoon, where you can enjoy a seemingly endless assortment of foods from local purveyors and restaurants and wines and spirits from around the world. Arrive early (it opens at 1 pm this year) and do your own grand tour then double back on the tables that interest you. (It definitely is not possible to taste everything.) Take a break for local celebrity chef Ric Orlando’s demo of shrimp and grits, then return to the tasting for yet another round.

That’s lunch, dinner and entertainment in beautiful Spa Park for $85, not a bad price. Or you can pony up an additional $90 and go big with the Connoisseur’s Tent, which gives you an extra hour of tasting, even more gourmet delicacies, and wines from the private cellar of Kevin Zraly provided in a tasting seminar.

Last year there was a cooking competition during the Grand Tasting, which was almost too much. This year if you want to see such a contest you’ll have to buy a ticket for Friday night’s “BBQ, Brews & Blue” event. But the contest is a doozie, featuring 4 local chefs and 4 Manhattan grillmasters who will battle it out as you enjoy good food, drink craft beer and listen to live music.

There’s also a classic car road tour and luncheon on Friday and a Jazz Brunch on Sunday at the magnificent Saratoga National Golf Course. See the website for details and to buy tickets.

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