April 25 – 28, the annual Eat Drink RI Festival is back for its 7th year to celebrate and showcase the best of Rhode Island’s culinary world. Chefs, farmers, bartenders and food trucks from across the state come together in Providence for this annual event that proves to be delicious year after year.
This year, the festival kicks off on Wednesday evening with its first ever Sommelier Smackdown in the Café at Easy Entertaining. This brand new event is co-hosted by two certified sommeliers, and pits sommeliers from the area, including Alan Freudeman of Downtown’s fine dining restaurant Gracie’s, against each other in a wine theory quiz, a blind wine tasting and a wine pairing collaboration with a local chef. The festival continues Thursday evening with its popular Dinner by Dames at Skyline at Waterplace. This event bring five of Rhode Island’s most talented chefs together to present a multi-course dining event.
Friday night is the festival’s popular Truck Stop benefitting the Rhode Island Community Food Bank in the parking lot of the Food Bank. The biggest food truck event in the state, this event brings 23 mobile food vendors and a trio of local beverage makers together for delicious food and a good cause. Saturday the big event is the Grand Tasting at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Samplings from local restaurants will be alongside samplings of local wine and beer and food and drink presentations from local chefs and bartenders.
In order to properly prepare for such a fun and delicious festival, we sat down with Eat Drink RI founder David Dadekian to find out more about this special event and what’s new this year.
What was the inspiration for the addition of the new Sommelier Smackdown?
We always like to showcase the very talented people here in Rhode Island and not only local products, so when Ian Magiros at M.S. Walker wine distributors asked us if we’d like to produce a wine event focusing on our Certified Sommeliers, we said of course. Clearly wines are a global product, and we have several local wineries at Saturday’s Grand Tasting, so this is a way to show the wide range and expertise of the people and locally owned companies that work with wine here.
Any new vendor this year that you’re excited for people to try?
Oh wow, that’s a big question as we truly do love all the companies and people we work with. What’s exciting is many of the companies have chosen the Festival over the years as a place to launch brand new products or introduce new concepts. I’m a wine fanatic so I’m very interested to see what the Sommeliers bring to drink. Katie Kleyla, Eat Drink RI’s Director of Development, and I both have a deep love for our Dinner by Dames event. Every single one of those ladies make it the best multi-course dining experience in our state by far. There are always a couple of newer trucks or food items at the Truck Stop, and at the Tasting. Go to the site and look at that list and tell us that’s not an incredible selection for four hours of deliciousness.
What’s the perfect strategy for eating at the Grand Tasting and not missing anything delicious?
Get there for the opening of the doors and pace yourself! There is a lot. Plus we have six presentations with some of the state’s best chefs and producers on two different stages, so you can take a little break in between sampling. Take your time and try as much as you can. Many of our exhibitors will be selling their products too so you can take things home that you love. Enjoy!
Why is it important to you to include a fundraiser for the RI Community Food Bank as part of the event?
Combatting food insecurity has been a part of Eat Drink RI’s mission since day one. We produce food events, sometimes elaborate and over-the-top food events, to bring in funds for non-profits like the Food Bank. On an obvious level, it’s the right fit for what we do, but we also want to try to educate and say thank you to our attendees for supporting the charities we think are doing the greatest good at ending hunger.
If you’re coming to the area for this event, Downtown Providence is the perfect home base from which to explore the festival. Many event locations are located right Downtown, such as the Skyline at Waterplace, and the RI Convention Center.
The Café at Easy Entertaining is located in the Olneyville neighborhood on the West Side of Providence. Easily accessible by foot if it’s a nice day, you can also get there using RIPTA, a taxi or Uber. The Truck Stop event is located on Niantic Avenue, almost near the Cranston line. You can visit the Food Bank’s website for directions by car or RIPTA.
Visit the Eat Drink RI website to purchase tickets.
Photos courtesy of Eat Drink RI.