The much anticipated National Harbor Wine & Food Festival celebrated its 11th year by returning to the National Harbor Waterfront on the Potomac two weekends ago.
The event kicked-off with a six-course bourbon dinner at Old Hickory Steakhouse, the Harbor’s signature restaurant that Friday evening. The following two days joined over 150 international and local wines, spirits and beers for attendees to sample. Attendees had a chance to sample all the items exhibited and even purchase them by the glass (or buy a full bottle). Many of the items were at a reduced price, special for the event.
Event-goers had a chance to hear the thoughts of the local chefs, wine makers, and beer enthusiasts through cooking demonstrations, wine paring, or beer samplings. There was also the BierGarten where general admission patrons could sample special craft beers. After the craft beers, they had a chance to check out the Cooking Kitchen section, where Chef Scott Drewno of The Source by Wolfgang Puck, Marjorie Meeks-Bradley of Smoke and Stacked, Chef Seng Luangrath of Thip Khao, Chef Victor Albisu of Del Campo and Taco Bamba, and Rock Harper of Rock Solid Creative Food Group who were on hand to give their expertise.
Patron Karla F. took to Yelp! To highlight the great time she had, “We had the best time. Food and wine a plenty. Kudos National Harbor! Just read other reviews. Glad I read them after my event.”
You might be wondering what she meant by “Just read other reviews. Glad I read them after my event.” Well, I read many of the other reviews.
Dianna S. said, “This is the worst festival I have ever been to in my entire life. I paid $48 but I would have been furious even if I had paid $10….I want my money back. I don’t even know why they have food in the title – there’s barely any food samples included in your ticket. The wine samples are only a thimble’s worth and if you want a glass you have to pay $5?!? They have the greatest scam going with this festival. Pay tons of money to get in and then continue to pay more money to eat and drink.”
Kimberly I. said in part, “I have attended this event with a girlfriend of mine about four times since they started this festival at the National Harbor. This will sadly be my last time. When the event first started there were no VIP sections just fun for everyone. Since they started the VIP we always purchased VIP tickets. The past two to three years the quality has consistently gone down, less food choices, the food vendors that attended, had very good food, lines just were so long at some tents, so-so wines and the pourers are not as knowledgeable about the wine. Last year the wine lanyards were free with a VIP ticket, this year they were selling them for $5.00, and the glasses for the Beer Garden were $2.00, also free in previous years. The only positive is the location. I’m in search of finding a food and wine festival like this one used to be 8 years ago.”
Courtney N. said, “Not bad but, I’m going to have to agree with most of the reviewers….sigh…I want to give it 5-stars too…So I went about three years ago and there was definitely more space and attractiveness to the Food & Wine Fest. There is a VIP and a regular admission section. I got regular this time and am glad I did. Don’t know if I should have gotten VIP but it looked smaller (than what I remember) as well. I went on Saturday and the lines were definitely crazy. I really felt like there needed to be more for the amount of people that were there. I feel like it was more of a beer and liquor fest because those lines were not long at all and you got way more to drink. Also, there were food trucks there you had to pay for (of course). I am from (not me my fam) Maryland so I go and know other things to do so it’s not a total loss, but I will definitely think twice before I go to the next one.”
The event overall wasn’t bad. You had a chance to sample some interesting wines, spirits, and beers, and in some cases had a chance to talk to the winemakers about their products. Where I agreed with them with the food options. Unless attendees went to the general area, they didn’t get much to check out.
If Washingtonians are looking for regular wine options inside the Beltway, there’s Wine Mondays at Dacha Beer Garden. They have a happy hour from 4-7 p.m. where selected wines are half-priced. I’ve got a feeling they have serval food options for wine lovers to sample. Perhaps the organizers should reach out to Dacha in the future.