The event started at Howland-Hughes on Bank Street a little after noon. After signing a waiver, I was given my souvenir wine glass and my passport, with my group assignment (701).
The hundred or so participants were organized into seven "flight" groups. Seven restaurants participated, each representing a different country, pairing sample wines with appropriate foods (so, for example, our Spain stop featured Spanish wines and paella).
|Our passport booklet was filled with coupons for each of the participating restaurants.|
People browsed the plaques of the Waterbury Hall of Fame and checked out some of the Waterbury-related displays.
|The "boarding area" for each flight group.|
When the groups gathered together at the start of the event, everyone seemed a little nervous, unsure who these strangers in their group might be, wondering if they would enjoy spending the next four or five hours together, wondering what was in store for them at this new event. By the end of the first hour, everyone was having a great time together.
|The first stop for my flight was California.|
California (Signature's Restaurant)
This was a great event for exploring downtown restaurants and bars. We spent half an hour at each location, sampling their food and ambiance along with the wine. Quite a few participants discovered new restaurants that they really liked and would never have known about otherwise.
Each location had a wine menu explaining what we were sampling. I made notes about each wine and whether or not I liked it. One of the event organizers, Nutmeg Wine and Liquor, offered a special tasting day order form, giving us a chance to buy the wines we sampled at a discounted price at the end of the day (with 5% of the proceeds being donated to Main Street Waterbury).
And, of course, there was the food. Signature's served pastries stuffed with broccoli rabe and with steak tips. The orange slices were marinated in olive oil and garlic, sprinkled with black pepper. The flavor was surprisingly good.
South America (Braza Churrascaria)
We walked from one venue to the next, allowing participants to discover businesses they didn't know about before. You notice so much more when you're walking than when you're driving. Several times I overheard someone say "I didn't know this was here!"
Artist Eduardo Paredes had an easel set up outside of Braza on Bank Street, creating a painting inspired by the Wine event.
Braza is one of my favorite Waterbury restaurants, but it is strictly for meat lovers. Their Brazilian BBQ special features eleven different meats.
|Group 701 checking out the setup at Braza.|
|The wines sampled at Braza.|
|The food served at Braza for the wine lovers: a salad with carmelized pears, walnuts, and goat cheese; and chicken sausages with peppers and onions.|
|On the left, in Wine on Main burgundy shirts, our flight attendants: Main Street Waterbury volunteers who escorted us from venue to venue, keeping us moving and on time.|
Northern California (City Hall Cafe)
The longest walk was to City Hall Cafe, but we had a good time. We passed a few people, waiting for a bus, who looked very confused to see a cheery group of people carrying empty wine glasses through downtown.
The weather was nice enough to use the outdoor patio at City Hall Cafe.
The wine samples were served up in plastic shot glasses. The server explained which food was intended to be paired with which wine.
|Crab cakes, bacon-wrapped steak, mini quiches, and spanakopita.|
France (Tryst Lounge)
Every so often, we crossed paths with one of the other groups. They all seemed as happy as our group. Wine has that effect on people. In fact, a couple of people in my group were so happy, they declared this to be the best Saturday they'd ever had.
We spent a little more time at Tryst than at other locations, largely because most of our group had never been there before and went upstairs for a tour of The Loft.
|Toasted pita bread, cheese, and an olive/cheese spread.|
|Fresh-cooked mussels in a delicious sauce.|
|This couple was celebrating their 11th anniversary with Wine on Main.|
|Another one of the groups, waiting for their turn at Tryst.|
Spain (Courtyard by Marriott)
|Chorizo in apple cider, asparagus and artichokes, tapas paella.|
We cut through the hotel building to go to Diorio's without stepping outside.
|The food for the Italian wines was gemelli and sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, mascarpone cream sauce.|
|Leaving Diorio's for the last stop on our tour.|
Australia (The Shamrock)
By the time we got to The Shamrock, we were all ready to stay put for a while.
My ride arrived (no way would I plan to drive after spending an afternoon drinking!) around 6 p.m. and hung out with the remaining group members while I placed my order for the wines I liked. We were on the patio until it got dark out.
This was a fantastic event, fun for everyone who participated and a boost for the participating restaurants. I'm definitely looking forward to doing this again next year, although getting a ticket might be harder. Everyone had such a great time, they'll be telling everyone they know to try it next year.