Galveston’s annual Food and Wine Festival pours on the fun for an entire weekend April 24-27, but even before the first corks are pulled for the festival’s marquee events, the tasting and selecting begins.

More than 140 wines will be sampled and judged by the public at the 

festival’s kickoff, the Blind Wine Tasting, scheduled for April 9 at the Bienville Social event space.

“Every year, we recruit the wineries that we think have new and upcoming wines,” said Mike Dean, president of Yaga’s Entertainment, the festival’s presenter.

“Each wine is wrapped in plastic or in paper bags, so that no one knows what winery a particular wine came from. People vote for their three favorites; and at the end of the evening, we reveal the three favorite reds and the three favorite whites.”

The six winners selected by the public then will be presented at a dinner for the local chapter of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world, and its vote will determine the festival’s 2014 Grand Champion wine.

Tickets to the blind tasting are $25.

“We want people to come and get involved,” Dean said, noting that a highly-developed palate is not a prerequisite for voting. “We operate on a general philosophy of ‘If you like it, drink it,’ regardless of the price.”

With so many high-quality wines participating, Dean said, the results of the tasting can be surprising.

“One year, we had a $10 red beat out a $70 wine that had a lot of buzz about it,” he said.

Participants in the blind tasting opt to judge either red wines or white wines.

“Each person will have three beads, and will drop one at each of their three favorites,” Dean said. “The wines with the most beads are the winners.”

Tasters can keep track of their impressions throughout the tasting with a score card, which also will help them identify their favorites at the end of the evening when all the wrappings are removed and the wines are identified.

The blind tasting is the prelude to a weekend of wine and food pairings, vintner dinners and Champagne brunches at local restaurants, and the festival’s focal event, the Grand Tasting.

Held April 26 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., the Grand Tasting features 150 wines, food samplings, live music from Strawberry Jam and artworks in an expanded festival venue at 21st and Market streets.

The Grand Tasting is preceded by the April 25 Premium Wine Tasting and Pairing in Edna’s Room at The Grand 1894 Opera House.

“The first time we did pairings, I was skeptical that the food would have such an impact on the wine,” Dean said. “Then I tasted a wine that had been paired with fish, and thought it was terrible. The chef adjusted the flavoring on the fish, and immediately, the wine that had been terrible was good. It really made a difference in the perception of the wine.”

Tickets for all events in the Galveston Food and Wine Festival, including a limited number of tickets for the April 9 Blind Tasting, are available for purchase at

Savory Parmesan Thumbprints



1 cup butter, softened

14 cup sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bacon Balsamic Jam

3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped

2 cups red onions, chopped

23 cup water

23 cup balsamic vinegar

12 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Tomato Rosemary Jam

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup white onion, chopped

13 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Combine 1 cup butter and sugar in bowl; beat at medium speed, scraping the bowl often until creamy. Add the flour and Parmesan cheese. Beat at low speed until well mixed. The mixture might be crumbly.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets.

Make an indentation in the center of each cookie with your thumb or the back of a spoon. The edges might crack slightly.

Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Fill each thumbprint indentation with about 1 teaspoon of Bacon Balsamic Jam or Tomato Rosemary Jam. Serve immediately.

Bacon Balsamic Jam

Cook the bacon in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes or until browned and cooked; add the onions. Continue cooking 3-5 minutes or until the onions are softened; add all of the remaining ingredients.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture just comes to a boil. Continue cooking 35-40 minutes until almost all of the liquid is evaporated.

Store any leftover jam in airtight container in the refrigerator.

Tomato Rosemary Jam

Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat; add the onions. Cook 3-5 minutes or until slightly softened; add the brown sugar, tomatoes and 12 teaspoon rosemary.

Cook, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes or until almost all of the liquid is evaporated and the jam is slightly thickened. Stir in the remaining rosemary.

Store any leftover jam in an airtight container in refrigerator.

(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy Land O Lakes Butter)


Roasted Chickpeas


3 tablespoons olive, grapeseed or corn oil

2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, well-drained

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon curry powder, chili powder or other spice blend 

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the oil in a large ovenproof skillet or a roasting pan large enough to hold the chickpeas in one layer and turn the heat to medium.

When hot, add the chickpeas, garlic, and some salt and pepper. Shake the pan so all the chickpeas are well coated with the oil and are sitting in one layer. Put the skillet or pan in the oven.

Roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the chickpeas begin to brown, 15 or 20 minutes. Remove the chickpeas from the oven and cool slightly. If you like, sprinkle with the spice blend or more salt and pepper or more oil and some freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

(SOURCE: Recipe from “How to Cook Everything,” by Mark Bittman)




12 cup water

3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted, cut into cubes

14 teaspoon salt

big pinch of chili powder or a few turns of freshly-ground black pepper

12 cup flour

2 large eggs

12 chives, finely-minced (or 1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme)

34 cup grated hard cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Heat the water, butter, salt and chili or pepper in a saucepan until the butter is melted.

Dump in the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let rest for 2 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly. The batter will first appear lumpy, but after a minute or so, it will smooth out. You can transfer the mixture to a bowl before adding to eggs to cool the dough, or do this step in a food processor or electric mixer, if you wish.

Add about 12 cup of the grated cheese and the chives and stir until well mixed.

Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a wide, plain tip and pipe the dough into mounds, evenly-spaced apart, making each about the size of a small cherry tomato.

Top each puff with a bit of the remaining cheese, then pop the baking sheet in the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re completely golden brown.

Serve warm; if made in advance, they can be reheated for 5 minutes at 400 degrees.

(SOURCE: Recipe from “My Paris Kitchen,” by David Lebovitz)

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