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Forks & Corks: A Premier Food & Wine Event in Our Own Backyard

Forks & Corks: A Premier Food & Wine Event in Our Own Backyard

wine glasses at Forks & Corks

By Kelly Stilwell

Florida has no shortage of food and wine events. In fact, every single month there is at least one festival made for foodies and oenophiles in the Sunshine State. From Amelia Island all the way down to the Keys, Floridians love to eat and drink. Lucky for those of us in the Sarasota Bradenton area, we have one of the best right here in our backyard. Forks & Corks is a premiere food and wine event featuring wineries from around the world along with some of the top restaurants in our area.

wine bottles at Forks & Corks

If you missed the 17th annual Forks & Corks event in January, I’m sorry. Truly. It was a party for the ages. Though this was my first time attending the sold-out Grand Tasting, I hear it gets better every year. It’s held in the magnificent courtyard of the world-famous Ringling Museum in Sarasota, and Mother Nature delivered the bluest of skies and warm temperatures for partygoers who sampled delicious bites from 40 restaurants along with 350 different wines.

The event started with the sabering of a few bottles of champagne, which you could sip along with Sterling Caviar with traditional toppings. What a way to start the day! For those who also enjoy cocktails, they were flowing, too. Harry’s Continental Kitchens passed out their award-winning Passiflora from last year’s Set the Bar competition, made with habanero and blood orange-infused vodka and juices with a tajin rim. The South of the Border tent served Mexican specialties and cocktails accompanied by a lively mariachi band. A beer garden was serving cold local beer, as well. There really was a perfect pairing for every dish.

The 62 member restaurants which make up Sarasota-Manatee Originals are all locally owned and independent. When you’re looking for a place to dine, the website is a resource sharing how to Eat Like a Local in the Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, Longboat, and Palmetto areas. You can search by name or by the map if you’re looking for something close to home. Going to a show or event? Simply click on the map of the venue and you’ll find a Sarasota-Manatee Originals restaurant close by. From diners to fine dining, there really is something for everyone’s palate.

The Originals is a nonprofit which helps keep the member restaurants locally owned and sustainable. When the organization was started 20 years ago, who knew of the challenges restaurants would face today? By eating at these local restaurants, you are supporting local small businesses. The Forks & Corks event is their biggest fundraiser of the year. The event gives restaurants in the Sarasota-Manatee Originals the chance to show off their cuisine to over 4,000 guests. And show off they did. After sampling dishes from many restaurants, I’ve personally visited three in the last week since discovering them at Forks & Corks!

But the Grand Tasting is only one of the events. Forks & Corks actually starts six days earlier with a high-end online auction. For almost a week, guests bid online for items like bottles of wine, wine tastings, a private dinner for 12 at Michael’s Cellar, and restaurant gift certificates.

For three days before the Grand Tasting, dinners are held at Sarasota-Manatee Originals restaurants featuring hand-picked wines by visiting winemakers and winery representatives. From a seasonally inspired six-course dinner at Chef Christoper Covelli’s Sage restaurant paired with ZD Wines to a night of wine, food, and fun with Willamette Valley Vineyards at Harry’s Continental Kitchens, these dinners leading up to the Grand Tasting are always popular and often sell out, as well.

On Friday and Saturday, retail wine tastings are offered at various wine shops in the area. This is a great way to find new wines to add to your collection. Some events include light bites along with the tastings.

Some of the most popular events are the wine master classes, where guests learn from a panel of world-class wine experts. These seminars range from exploring Bordeaux wines to learning about the relationship between the land and the wine produced from it.

Once dates are announced for the 2025 Forks & Corks, you’ll want to clear your schedule and get tickets before they sell out. This self-proclaimed foodie is already looking forward to it!

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