The Northwest is a region full of fresh flavors. Due to the varying climate and landscape, we are able to produce and harvest a vast assortment of vegetables, grains and herbs. The sunny, temperate climate and mineral-rich soils across Central Washington help grow some of the most incredible wine grapes found anywhere in the world. Fresh fish, oysters, clams and shrimp are pulled from the coasts of Oregon and Washington and often find their way onto one’s dinner plate in less than 48 hours. Ranchland all across the area provides well-regarded beef, and the forests of North Idaho provide a bounty of deer and elk for those loving the spirit of the hunt and preparing wild game. The traditions and flavors of this wonderful region we all call home will be on full display at an annual celebration of incredible food and drink where your taste buds will receive a workout like never before.
CRAVE! is putting the finishing touches on its second annual event, which kicks off the evening of Thursday, July 12, and continues through Sunday, July 15. The CenterPlace Regional Events Center in Spokane Valley, Washington, will host the event. The 54,000-square-foot facility will be teeming with chefs, caterers, winemakers and brewers, all of whom will be putting forth their best creations for the event. CRAVE! is the brainchild of Inland Northwest native Adam Hegsted. Well known to frequent diners in the Inland Northwest, Hegsted is a graduate of the Northwest Culinary Academy and Art Institute of Seattle and is a 2016 James Beard Award semi-finalist. His regional restaurants include the likes of Farmhouse Kitchen & Silo Bar in Ponderay, Idaho, Eat Good Café in Liberty Lake, Washington, and several Spokane restaurants including The Wandering Table, Gilded Unicorn and recently opened Incrediburger & Eggs. Hegsted’s vision for CRAVE! is to celebrate, enrich, challenge and expand our regional appreciation of culinary, nutritional and cultural diversity. Through his connections in the culinary world, Hegsted is able to secure chefs not just from the Spokane area but the entire Northwest and other major metropolitan areas across the nation.
“We are planning on 60 chefs including 15 for each main event,” said Karen Stebbins of Vision Marketing, the team that’s behind putting on such an event. “We have Josh Henderson out of Seattle, Matthias Merges from Chicago, as well as others from Missoula, Lewiston and Walla Walla.”
The chef likely traveling the farthest for CRAVE! is Hugh Acheson, whose restaurants are well-known around Atlanta and Athens, Georgia. “I was raised with three older sisters by a professor of economics, and I tired of fish sticks,” he said, “and so I got a job in a kitchen at 15.” Like many aspiring chefs, Acheson started out cleaning kitchens and prepping food, moving his way up and never looking back, happy that he could realize his dream. “I am glad I did because I found the occupation for me, where I can always be a learner and relish in the beauty of discovery each and every day.”
Acheson will be one of many guest chefs putting on cooking demonstrations during the event. Each will bring something different to the table, and guests will have a firsthand look at how they can prepare gourmet meals in their own kitchens. “I am doing a demo in which I will show people how to cook beef striploin with worldly ingredients. It will be a fun trip to Washington mixed with Thailand, mixed with the homeland of Canada and my current home of the American South,” said Acheson. “If I can do a demo where people laugh and learn and take away one thing about making food easier, I have done my job.”
There are several ticket packages available for CRAVE!, allowing attendees to take part in the entire four-day event or pick and choose which events are most enticing. The best part about each event is that once your ticket is purchased and you’re through the door, you won’t need to worry about pulling out your wallet again as unlimited tastes and drinks are included with each session. Grand Tastings are held in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday and feature small plates from dozens of chefs, with each plating some of their most unique and interesting creations. This is when you will also find the demonstrations from regional and nationally acclaimed chefs. If seafood is what you’re after, you’ll want to attend the Seafood Bash on Thursday evening, which features all kinds of fresh flavors using Northwest ingredients. The Friday night theme is Foods from Around the World, and each booth will be providing their distinctive twist on popular worldly cuisines as well as dishes you might not have experienced before. Saturday night is Smoke & Fire, which features the best of the best when it comes to barbecue. CRAVE! wraps up on Sunday with a family friendly brunch and final grand tasting event.
With so much food and so many choices, it would be a shame not to find suitable beverages in which to pair these amazing dishes. Well, there’s no need to worry! The organizers of CRAVE! didn’t forget about that. It wasn’t long ago that Spokane was home to only two craft breweries, while today new tasting rooms are popping up every couple of months. CRAVE! looks to highlight not only regional brewers but winemakers, distillers and purveyors of hard cider as well. Mike Conway is owner and winemaker at Spokane’s Latah Creek Winery and a member of the Spokane Winery Association and Cork District—organizations that promote the many tasting rooms found across the area. With Conway’s help, Friday night’s wine selection will exclusively feature Spokane-area wines, a big benefit to both the wineries and attendees.
“Spokane is unique in that virtually every winery is family owned and operated. I can’t think of a single producing winery locally where the winemaking is not done by the owner or family. You won’t find this in any other wine area in the state,” said Conway.
After taking part in the inaugural CRAVE! in the summer of 2017, Conway was impressed, and the choice to once again participate was a no brainer. “CRAVE! is an amazing event that really emphasizes food and wine together; amazing chefs and amazing wines all in one place. Before CRAVE! 2017, there had never been an event like this in Spokane.”
Whether you are a seasoned foodie, aspiring chef, lover of all things fresh or someone who simply loves a fun-filled summer event, there will be something for you at CRAVE! Travel packages and VIP tickets are currently available, and you can also purchase tickets for individual events at CraveNW.com. By attending the 2018 food and drink extravaganza, you are not only given a culinary experience like no other, but you are also helping the greater Spokane community as proceeds from the event will benefit 2nd Harvest and Spokane Valley Partners, which provides food and clothing to low-income families in the area. Tickets are limited, and you can save a few bucks by purchasing in advance.
The Northwest is indeed a special place and should be celebrated as such, and what better way to celebrate than with fine regional food and drink. Mark your calendar and get ready for a culinary experience like no other.
Three Numbered Facts:
2017: The inaugural CRAVE! Event took place
4: How many days you have to explore and taste the flavors of CRAVE!
60: How many chefs will be participating during this year’s festivities
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