June 3, 2011
Grape Escape: rain or shine

Mother Nature sure has pulled a whammy lately with all this weird weather, but no matter what, Saturday's Grape Escape at Cesar Chavez Plaza (10th and J streets, Sacramento) will proceed rain or shine. Organizers are scrambling today to add extra tents to cover the bulk of the park, which will feature more than 200 wines and food from nearly two dozen local eateries, including Pizza Rock, Piatti, Mulvaney's B&L and Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen. Last year's edition of Grape Escape drew more than 5,000 folks for three hours of wine drinking and face stuffing.

I'll have my rain poncho on stand-by because I'm one of the judges for Grape Escape's "chef's challenge," a culinary throwdown featuring defending champion Adam Pechal of Tuli Bistro/THIR13EN, David English (Press Bistro), Suleka Sun-Lindley (Thai Basil), and Russell Okubo of Fat's Family Restaurants. Each contestant will have 25 minutes to whip up a dish using a secret ingredient, and hopefully wow the judges enough to advance to the finals.

Meanwhile, the libations for Grape Escape read like a who's-who of regional wineries, including Bogle, Carvalho Family Winery, Jodar, Scribner Bend, Klinker Brick and more. Grape Escape runs from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Tickets for this feast cost $40 in advance, with $5 off if purchased at Raley's stores and $50 at the door.

For more information: 21 and up only.

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