This year, the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic will feature three days of fun, food and festivities ranging from a wine tasting to a grilling competition to a tent full of sweets.
Here are nine things to do at the Classic; your diet can begin Monday.
1. The “Grand Tastings”: You really can't skip them. This year, there are four. Friday's focuses on grilling; Saturday's first tasting is "Lunch Your Face Off," featuring lunch bites, and Saturday's evening tasting focuses on national, regional and local chefs putting out their best dinner bites. Sunday's tasting is, of course, brunch: The popular Rising Stars brunch is now a Grand Tasting, showcasing young talent from around the Cincinnati area.
2. Somm Slam: "Who would have ever thought that an interactive, double-blind wine tasting would be this wildly popular?" asked Donna Covrett, co-founder of the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic. Preliminaries were held at the Western & Southern Open, and this year four sommeliers will put their palates up against last year's champion, Lindsey Furia from Boca. 3-4 p.m. Sunday.
3. Goetta Superstar: Goetta Superstar is another returning event, this year pitting defending champion chefs Dave Taylor of Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment and Andrew Mersmann of Red Feather against two teams of challengers. Think of it like a live version of “Chopped”: They must use goetta and another secret ingredient that will be announced at the event. (Last year, it was the local favorite fruit paw paws). Polly Campbell and Brian Thomas will judge the competition (and yours truly will serve as emcee). 1-2 p.m. Sunday.
4. The Grill Invitational: Imagine 28 professional chefs going head to head grilling meats and other delicious bites on locally-made Arteflame grills -- that’s the Grill Invitational. Pick your favorite, and he or she will be crowned the Grill Master. 6:30-9:30 p.m. Friday
5. Recipes and a Dream: Findlay Market's incubator kitchen helps food-oriented businesses launch. In this competition, these local business owners will participate in a live cooking skills competition judged by local celebrities and a member of the audience. 4-5 p.m. Saturday
6. Thai One On: Learn about Thai food and cooking from Andy Ricker, owner of the popular Pok Pok restaurant empire. He'll be grilling, Thai-style, and you can sample his creations, as well as get his excellent cookbook signed immediately afterward. 2:30-3:15 p.m. Saturday
7. Make Pasta Like a Five-Diamond, Four-Star Chef: Chef Todd Kelly will show you how to make pasta. Sure, it seems daunting, but Kelly, from Orchids, will give you tricks to make it less intimidating. You will walk away with the knowledge to make your own pasta at home, and you will get to try his delicious creations, too. 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Sunday
8. The Vegetable Butcher: Vegetables and butchery -- do they really go together? Sure they do. Maybe you aren't separating the sirloin from the tenderloin, but the knife skills around vegetables can make a huge difference in how they cook and their flavor. (Think about the difference between a mince and a large dice, for example.) Cara Mangini, the first "vegetable butcher" at Eataly, now owns her own restaurant, Little Eater. She will demonstrate how to maximize your knife skills to get the most out of vegetables. 2:45-3:30 p.m. Sunday
9. The Evolution of the Old Fashioned: Cocktails have been on the upswing for years now. While molecular mixology is still a trend, we’re also enjoying going back to basics, like the classic Sidecar, Manhattan and, of course, the Old Fashioned. Cincinnati's own mixologist Molly Wellmann partners with cocktail historian Robert Simonson to discuss the history of the drink, as well as current variations. Bonus: You get to taste Wellmann’s creations. 2-2:45 p.m. Saturday
Feel free to say hello to me at the Sub-Zero/Wolf Demo Kitchen, where I'll be emceeing on Saturday and Sunday! Follow me on Twitter @winemedineme.