Group uses local food, wine as bait

Tourism Walla Walla will use special menus, pairings and programs in February to draw visitors during the Valley’s slowest season.

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WALLA WALLA — Organizers of last year’s inaugural “February is for Foodies” promotion are serving up another heapin’ helpin’ of culinary tourism events starting this weekend.

Tourism Walla Walla’s monthlong celebration of gourmet food, wine and chocolate is designed to entice visitors to the community during what is traditionally one of the slower travel times of the year.

In fact, the quieter season is actually marketed as a selling point for the campaign, rolled out last year as a celebration of Walla Walla’s growing culinary scene.

“Experience the other side of Walla Walla this winter,” the promotional mentions targeted to Seattle radio explain. “The slower side, where winemakers have more time to share their stories. Where chefs emerge from the kitchen to greet their guests. And where a luxury suite, your favorite corner table and front-row tickets make for a trip you won’t soon forget.”

The campaign features hands-on cooking demonstrations led by local chefs each Saturday, starting this weekend. It also highlights special “February is for Foodies” menu items at participating restaurants, artisan chocolate pairings at participating wine tasting rooms and getaways for February’s holiday weekends.

Participation from local operators is voluntary and open to all restaurants and wineries, said Tourism Walla Walla board member Kyle Mussman, owner of the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center.

“Our goal is to continue to promote the Walla Walla food scene, as well as try to bring in more overnight visitors during the month of February and our slow season,” he wrote in an email.

Cooking demonstrations, organized by chef Dan Thiessen, will take place Saturdays throughout the month at Titus Creek Café at Walla Walla Community College. The cost if $40 and includes coffee, baked goods, food and wine tastings, lunch, beverages and tax.

Hourlong demonstrations will start at 11 a.m. From noon to 12:45 p.m. will be chocolate demonstrations and wine tasting. From there to 2 p.m. will be buffet lunch and interactive discussions with the chef, chocolatier and winemaker for each day.

This weekend’s featured chef will be Andrae Bopp of Andrae’s Kitchen. He will be joined by Paul Jenes of Bright’s Candies.

Other chefs scheduled are: Michael Kline of Walla Walla Bread Co. and Walla Walla Community College pastry chef instructor Greg Schnorr, Feb. 9; David Belcher of South Fork Grill and a pastry chef to be determined, Feb. 16; Antonio Campolio of the Marcus Whitman Hotel and pastry chef Mandi Konen, Feb. 23.

A complete list of details is expected at wallawalla.org and on the Experience Walla Walla Facebook page.

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