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Forks and Corks

Foodies and wine lovers found a bit of paradise last weekend with the second year of Forks and Corks.

The celebration of local cuisine, paired with the best from more than 70 wineries, was a dream come true for the grape nuts.

The Friday night party, Cirque Culinaire, was a casualty of the rainy weather, but plenty of other events took place.

The organization of local restaurants known as the Fresh Originals sponsored the festival and many of them held their own wine-tasting dinners throughout the week.

The Sarasota-Manatee campus of the University of South Florida was the location for Saturday’s seminars, but the high point was Sunday’s Grand Tasting in the Ringling Museum courtyard. A toast to the organizers for donating the day’s proceeds to the Food Bank of Manatee County.

More than 600 people braved the heat for the chance to try out as many food and wine samples as they could hold. Restaurateur-about-town Michael Klauber guided the plans again this year and was pleased that the festival attendance was up.

Susan Lambert-Kopstad of Stanley-Lambert Vineyards was back for the second year, and Bradenton Beach’s Sun House Restaurant, with Chef Darrell Mizell behind the pans, was one of the many restaurants that also made a return appearance.

Harry’s Continental Kitchen’s also participated again, but owner Hal Christensen’s plate was too full to help organize the festival details this year.

He and his wife, Natalie, debuted baby Ella, born 10 weeks ago.

Among the Sunday sippers were Lynne and Marvin Gross, Conrad and Ruth Ann Szymanski, Stu Weisgerber and the Bradenton Herald’s own wine expert, Jim Rawe.

Susan Wilcox, a Florida native, has lived in Bradenton for more than 20 years. She has been active in many local organizations.