The Eastside has many deep pockets and, thankfully, generous hearts. When it comes to food and wine charity events, what’s not to love? On July 8, Chef Bobby Moore will emcee the Fourth Annual Experience Woodinville event at Willows Lodge — a cooking competition featuring local chefs and winemakers. Later in the month, on July 28, Chef John Howie serves as emcee for Taste of the Valley, benefiting the Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance (SVPA) supporting small farmers and the viability of the valley’s land resources.
After five years producing the time-intensive Iron Vintner competition, Moore thought it had run its course and in 2015 transitioned the event to what is now Experience Woodinville in order to invite more people from the community.
To accommodate the 250 guests, the event takes place in the gardens at Willows Lodge, arguably one of Woodinville’s best-known tourist destinations.
“It’s a great way to get to know new people in the neighborhood,” said Moore, who invited chefs from the newly opened Cut Shop and Heritage to participate in the cooking competition featuring a secret-ingredient basket provided by Ecolibrium Farms.
Each chef is paired with a local winemaker. Moore says many of the winemakers are great cooks in their own right. “They’re well-traveled, eat out more than chefs do, and know their (stuff) when it comes to food. They’re totally into it. They bring their own Japanese knives and everything.”
In addition to ticket sales, the event hosts a silent auction with items like wine magnums, a private party with the Barking Frog Mobile Kitchen doing the cooking, and Seahawks paraphernalia. The latter comes from Seahawks executive vice president and general manager John Schneider, one of the judges and founder of Ben’s Fund, the event’s charitable recipient. Schneider and his wife, Traci, created Ben’s Fund (named for their son) to provide financial assistance opportunities for families dealing with the increased expenses related to an autistic child. Last year, the Schneiders donated a private dinner at their home, cooked by Moore with wines donated by Gorman and Sparkman cellars, that went for $8,000.
Moore describes the event as “one giant party,” starting 5 p.m. on July 8, featuring live music, food trucks, and with local wine and beers. “We put on a good show. It’s all about fun — not trying to be cool or pretentious. I personally feel lucky that I can raise money for a charity that helps kids.”
Farther out in farm country, Taste of the Valley will be located at Goose and Gander Farm in Carnation on July 28, starting at 5 p.m. A pre-event VIP Farmer-Chef Mix & Mingle (limited to 100 people), hosted by Chef John Howie, takes place at 4 p.m., showcasing Howie’s Beardslee Public House Chili Lime beer brewed specifically for the Taste of the Valley, incorporating Snoqualmie Valley ingredients. The beer will be paired with heirloom tomato gazpacho and white shrimp ceviche. The live auction and dessert are slated for 7 p.m., followed by a post-event bonfire for those looking to extend the fun a little longer.
A longtime supporter of the event, Howie said he is honored to host this year. “It’s been a great experience to go out there each year. The farmers have such passion for what they do, like chefs have passion for their food. We like to use local products in the restaurants as much as possible.” He went on to say that serving local produce not only brings wholesome food to guests, but often means an improved flavor profile.
During the event, participating chefs try to use exclusively Snoqualmie Valley produce and proteins in the dishes they serve to guests — and they get close. Though the event is an exhibition as opposed to a competition, the chefs always love hearing that their bite is a guest favorite.
The SVPA is currently tackling issues related to flooding. “These families just want to keep working,” said Howie, whose restaurant Ingredients (located on the Microsoft campus) donates part of the proceeds from its cookbooks to the SVPA.
Tickets are $85, willowslodge.com
Taste of the Valley
Tickets are $85, svpa.us