Playing with food is no longer a faux pas.
More people are digging in with both hands. Thanks to the foodie movement, it's now trendy to experiment with what we eat and how we serve it. There are entire TV stations - Food Network and Cooking Channel - devoted to those topics.
Enter: PA Gourmet. The event, which takes the place of the former Pennsylvania Food & Beverage Show, covers all things food, drink and entertaining. It kicks off its second year this weekend at the York Expo Center.
Rick Moran, who does marketing for the event, said the inaugural show in 2011 attracted more than 4,000 guests, including locals and folks from neighboring states. This year, Moran said the event is looking to attract an additional 2,000 people.
A premiere event Friday will give visitors a first crack at exhibitors and demonstrations. It will also bring the thrill of competitive cooking - made popular by network and cable reality shows - to the Expo Center floor.
PA Gourmet will feature its own edition of "Chopped" - a Food Network show in which four chefs battle the clock and unfamiliar ingredients to create dishes. After each course, judges critique the plates and eliminate one chef.
A similar competition will pit regional chefs against one another Friday night. Central Pennsylvania celebrity chef Pippa Calland, a "Chopped" veteran and contestant on "Chef Race: UK vs. US," will judge the dishes.
On Saturday, during the PA Gourmet general admission session, she'll step up to the counter during a cooking demonstration. That night will also feature the event's amateur chef competition: So You Think You Can Cook?
Each night, attendees will leave with new recipes to try, drinks to mix and entertainment tips up their sleeves.
"I think that there's a lot of people out there who are home chefs and are looking to put a new twist on (techniques)," Moran said.
YorKitchen in York's Central Market can be a resource for domestic cooks and an incubator for those trying to translate their culinary skills into a business, said project manager Aeman Bashir.
"Food has always been such a central point in families and in different cultures," she said. "I think people are starting to come back to that as an important element of family togetherness."
As a PA Gourmet exhibitor, YorKitchen will highlight some local businesses that rent the shared commercial kitchen, including Nuts About Granola, Hattie's Gourmet Cheesecake and Sucré Salé. Fledging food companies don't usually get the chance to reach such a large audience in one night, Bashir said.
The show will also let people know that the space is open to community groups and families who might need more elbow room for holiday baking and party prep.
"That has been a surge - people taking pride in their recipes and ... stepping up to test their cuisine," Bashir said.
And any aspiring chef knows, some recipes require more than a trip to the big-box grocery store.
Sonnewald Natural Foods, another PA Gourmet exhibitor from York County, offers a variety of local ingredients. Owner Willa Lefever said the shop's bulk section has more than 300 self-serve items, including spices, herbs, seeds, nuts and pasta. Whole grain flours are ground to order.
"Everybody eats, so to some degree everyone is our target audience," Lefever said. "I say to culinary students: 'delicious food starts with quality ingredients.'"
Due to the rise in obesity, diabetes and food safety issues, people are starting to think more about what they eat and where it comes from, Lefever said. Hence, the natural food movement and Buy Fresh, Buy Local initiatives.
At PA Gourmet, Lefever's goal is to make contacts in the food community and educate attendees. The Sonnewald stand will provide literature about trending food items, including chia seeds, stevia and natural salt.
And people who aren't familiar with those ingredients might discover a few more things to play with in the kitchen.
- ERIN McCRACKEN,
If You Go
The PA Gourmet food and wine show kicks off with a premiere night 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and runs 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in the Toyota Arena at the York Expo Center, 334 Carlisle Ave., West Manchester Township. The gourmet and entertaining experience showcases food, wine, spirits, beer and party hosting ideas.
Cost is $45 for the premiere night, which features VIP offerings, a souvenir wine glass and goodie bag. General admission is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Admission is free for kids 12 and younger. For details, visit www.jmexpo.com.
Beef Bistro demonstration with Giant Foods executive chef Brandi Pratt
Beginning Wine Making presentation with Mr. Steve's Homebrew & Wine Supplies
Ethnic foods and spirits pairings demonstration with Chandler Carranza of Wine & Spirits PA and Chef Srirupa Dasgupta
Grilling with Bacon demonstration with Stu Wilson and the BBQ Stu's Grilling Team
Chopped PA - A live competition featuring American Culinary Federation chefs from central Pennsylvania
Craft Beer Lovers Rejoice sessions with beers of the Susquehanna Ale Trail
Mixology 101 bartending workshop with Barcardi USA
Tailgaters Taste Test demonstration with United Steaks Company's Brandon Marquette
There will be music from the York Symphony Orchestra and a silent auction to benefit the Cultural Alliance of York County.
Potato bar and soup demonstration with Giant Food's executive chef Kathy Wickert
Brewing Beer 101 craft beer demonstration with Mr. Steve's Homebrew & Wine Supplies
Why Organic Spirits with Wine & Spirits PA
Tailgaters Taste Test demonstration with United Steaks Company's Brandon Marquette
More tastings this month
The fourth annual Taste of the Valley wine event and fundraiser is
7 p.m. Friday at Arthur Hufnagel Public Library, 32 Main St., Glen Rock. It will feature vintages from Logan's View and Allegro wineries and music from 3 Dollar Suit. Visitors can shop for pieces from local artisans at the Artisan's Emporium and sample a variety of appetizers and desserts. Tickets for the 21-and-older event are $30 and include a wine glass. A limited amount is available. For details and tickets, call 717-235-1127 or visit www.yorklibraries.org/hufnagel. Read more on page 9.
Mason Dixon Wine Trail Wine Just off the Vine event runs noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Nov. 17 to 18 at the trail's wineries. Visitors are invited behind the scenes for tastings of newly-pressed wines fresh from the harvest.
Tickets are $15 and $5 for designated drivers. One ticket is good for both event weekends and includes a souvenir wine glass. Three Meet the Winemaker Dinners are scheduled for Nov. 16. Prices range from $61.50 to $65. For details, call 888-858-YORK or visit www.MasonDixonWineTrail.com.
Adams County Winery offers winemaking classes Nov. 18 and Dec. 16 at the farm winery, 251 Peach Tree Road, Franklin Township, Adams County.
The class costs $25 and participants will be able to buy winemaking supplies.
For details, call 717-344-4631 or visit www.adamscountywinery.com.
Shank's Mare is teaming up with Liquid Hero Brewery and the York Area Homebrew Association to host a new Hike, Vittles & Hops Series. The events will include a hike, lunch and free beer tastings. Christian Quinlivan from Liquid Hero will lead the first hike 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
The fee is $32 for Shank's Mare members and $36 for nonmembers. Shank's Mare also hosts a Full Moon Hike, Tasting and Dining series this winter. For details and reservations, call 717-252-1616 or www.shanksmare.com. Space is limited.
The inaugural Sweetest Pint Pub Tour kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Central Market, 34 W. Philadelphia St., where participants will register and split into groups of 20 to 25 people. Once assigned a tour guide, groups will visit each of the six participating pubs to sample chocolate-inspired dishes paired with craft beers. Tickets are $35 and include a T-shirt.
Designated driver tickets are $17. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Downtown Inc. Purchase tickets through sweetestpint.eventbrite.com through Friday. Tickets are limited.
So You Think You Can Cook? live amateur chef competition
Chef Pippa Calland from BBC's "Chef Race: UK vs. US" and The Food Network's "Chopped" will prepare a veal dish
The Perfect Home Bar demonstration with Bacardi USA
Homemade Pasta Making demonstration
Seating for some sessions is limited.