National Harbor pops its cork

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For many months, Alexandria residents watched as the cranes gradually built the National Harbor and Gaylord Hotel on the Prince Georges County side of the Potomac River. During that time, Event Director Lynn Schwartz and her team here preparing for its official debut: the first annual Food and Wine Festival at National Harbor.

Not one to miss the goings-on, this reporter caught the sleek new water taxithe Lady Josephineacross the river and caught up with Schwartz. We have met our expectations in terms of attendance, she said. Saturday was fabulous, with the weather cooperating.

The festivities opened with a gala evening on Friday and continued through Saturday and Sunday. Event-goers were treated to three pavilions, each one chock full of food and wine vendors for some 150 food and wine merchant tables. A jazz band rocked the docks starting in the afternoon.

Among the food vendors were the team of chefs from Timothy Deans Bistro, who cooked up some truly scrumptious mussels in a white wine and cream broth. Artisanal cheese makers from Bittinger, Marylands Firefly Farms offered tasters their superb goat cheeses. Chefs from the new Gaylord Hotel offered plates of soft polenta topped with duck braised in a brown saucesheer perfection. My Organic Markets local organic offerings were also available.

Numerous wine distributors offered their libations, with tasters having a choice of wines from such places as Chile, Argentina, France, California and New York. We tasted a gorgeous white Bordeaux, which we savored with various food selections, and a fine organic sparkling cider from Calypso Organic Selections based in Washington, D.C., among others.

Friends from Bowie and Laurel, Danielle Johnson and Charles Byrd, promised to come back next year to the new, annual event. Its a great way to bring business into Maryland, and the National Harbor will really become a nice destination, commented Byrd. We think this festival is much better than the D.C. food festival, with its greater variety and riverside location. The Harbor is awesome, Johnson said.

Even though it is raining, I wanted to be here. Jason Lunday of D.C. said. I would come again next year.

In addition to food and wine tastings throughout the day, attendees could visit the stage pavilion for cooking demonstrations and talks by beer and wine experts. Belgian-born Master Beer Sommelier Marc Stroobandt was on hand to discuss using the right glasses for serving beer and how to cook with beer at the Belgian Beer Pavilion. Celebrity wine educator Michael Green offered a tasting of undiscovered wines from around the world, wine educator Sharon Charny discussed organic wines and not but not least, local Master of Wine Jay Youmans of Rock Creek Wine Merchants offered an analysis of Pinot Noirs from around the world.

Then it was home again on the water taxi, with the faint scent of the feast drifting away in our frothy wake, to wait for more fun forthcoming events at the National Harbor include the American market, the Yacht Show and the Sounds of Summer concert.

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