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Third Annual SoDel Fest Returns Oct. 6–7

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The event benefits three local charities: Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation, Children & Families First Delaware and Delaware ProStart.

The Delaware beaches, aka the “Culinary Coast,” pull out all the stops when it comes to food-centric festivals, and that is particularly evident at the Southern Delaware Wine, Food & Music Festival, dubbed SoDel Fest for short. This is the third year for the event, which has activities on Friday, Oct. 6, and Saturday, Oct. 7, including a private dinner with a master sommelier, a private wine-tasting class, a friendly culinary competition between Sussex County Chef Doug Ruley and New Castle County Chef Bryan Sikora, and a festival experience with wine tastings, food and music.

Sponsored by the hospitality group SoDel Concepts, the festival kicks off with the Private Reserve Dinner at 6 p.m. on Friday at The Clubhouse at Baywood, which is part of the SoDel Concepts’ family of restaurants. Created by Chef Doug Ruley, who recently cooked at the James Beard House and Bouchaine Winery in Napa, and Chef Tom Deptula, the executive chef at The Clubhouse, the multicourse menu will feature Jackson Family Fine Wines. Larry O’Brien, one of only 236 master sommeliers in the world, and Craig Ellick, ambassador of Stonestreet Estate Winery in Alexander Valley, California, selected the pairings and will talk about the choices. 

Courtesy of Stacy LaMotta

The main event takes place on Saturday, Oct. 7, in the clubhouse at Independence, which is a few miles inland, near the intersection of routes 23 and 24. On Saturday morning at 11 a.m., O’Brien will lead an optional blind tasting class that will help sippers taste the differences between wines – even if they’re made with the same grape varietal. I had the pleasure of listening to the very animated O’Brien last year and learned a lot in a short amount of time. It was far from boring.

The main festival starts at noon and runs until 4 p.m. Sample food from 17 restaurants, as well as more than 30 wines and spirits. Performers include local favorites Savannah Shockley and Peggy Raley.

I’ll be a judge at the ‘’Chopped”-like culinary competition between Ruley and Sikora, which will revolve around ingredients selected by Hari Cameron, who will also serve as master of ceremonies. If you know Cameron, who owns a(MUSE.) in Rehoboth, then you know the selections will be interesting.

Festival tickets are $75 in advance and $85 at the door. The dinner and wine class are priced separately. To take advantage of early bird pricing, purchase tickets by 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 5 on SoDel’s website. Tickets will be available on the day of the events, as long as the activity has not sold out. Call 302-245-4262 for more information. 

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