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Going VIP at F&C

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Luxurious lounging, culinary delights, and posh libations make the Forks & Corks VIP Experience an exclusive annual must.

Attendees gather in the coolness of the Sarasota winter to sip and snack in style during The Grand Tasting in the courtyard of The Ringling Museum of Art.

Hosted by The Scout Guide Sarasota in partnership with Sarasota-Manatee Originals, the coveted $450 VIP event-within-an-event sells out to 350 lucky guests. Tickets for the experience (which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024) go on sale at 9 a.m. Tues. Oct. 10.

“There’s really nothing like this offered anywhere else in town,” says Nikki Logan Curran, the editor of The Scout Guide Sarasota—a publication that champions small, local businesses. “We’ve completely elevated the VIP Experience, and everybody who comes to this event leaves so happy.”

 

As if The Grand Tasting at Forks & Corks isn’t elevated enough—offering an array of scrumptious dishes from 40 local restaurants and 350 global wines—the VIP perks take the 17th annual epicurean food and wine festival to the next level. 

VIP ticket holders get access to the Festival a cool 60 minutes early and can head directly into the Courtyard 30 minutes before General Admission. VIPers score complimentary valet parking, a welcome reception, covered seating in the Ringling courtyard, early admission to the Forks & Corks retail wine shop, engaging cooking demonstrations, and killer views of the concert stage for a live show from Kettle of Fish. The ticket also comes with a $150 voucher that is redeemable in the wine shop.

A sampling of The Originals restaurants will do double duty by participating in the VIP Experience:  1592 Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails, The Chateau Sarasota, Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill, Pop’s Sunset Grill, Sage, Kolucan, Chiles Hospitality restaurants, and more.

The entirety of Forks & Corks, presented by Audi Sarasota and Suncoast Porsche, will be held from January 25 to 29 with a packed inventory of master classes, tastings, and auctions. The goal of these gatherings is to celebrate the 20-year-old Originals—a collaborative of independently owned and operated restaurants and culinary innovators, committed to celebrating the food and friendship that is indigenous to the Gulf Coast lifestyle.

The Originals group (with its “Eat Like a Local” motto) is currently comprised of 63 restaurants, spanning from the north shore of Anna Maria Island to the southern beaches of Venice and every neighborhood in between. Plus, the wildly popular Forks & Corks festival was designed to highlight and raise critical marketing funds for The Originals while showcasing local culinary creations as well as libations from winemakers all over the world. 

 

“I love that we have such a vibrant culinary scene on the Suncoast. And I love that we can create a unique and special VIP Experience at The Grand Tasting that underscores the message of supporting locally-owned, homegrown restaurants and businesses that makes this event relevant,” adds Nikki, a lifelong foodie, and Suncoast culinary advocate who has served on the Forks & Corks Board of Directors for the past decade. 

“Our guests can expect an experience designed from their perspective, with beautiful, covered seating in their own special area, and we create these 45-minute pop-up experiences for them that are really amazing and deliver something they haven't experienced before or something trending that we are bringing to life.” 

 

“We might feature a restaurant this year that is doing something really special with their food or cocktails. For example, last year, we had fresh-pressed coconut cocktails that people loved,” Nikki says. “And a lovely lounge space in the middle of the VIP area courtesy of Beach Suites AMI offers a luxury beach suite feel with cabanas and oversized games. So guests can come and relax, talk with their friends, mingle, try something new and delicious, and play games.”

 

There is a rotating VIP tasting every hour, and attendees can float in and out of the exclusive area over to the main Grand Tasting as they please.

While the 2024 schedule is still a bit of a surprise, the 2023 event featured a complimentary braid bar from Cutting Loose Salon, a signature bite and craft cocktail from Sage, sushi and sake from Tsunami, a beer and dessert pairing from 99 Bottles, mobile cocktails from Liquid Elevation, a coconut cocktail from Pop’s, treats from Simply Gourmet by Metz, coffee from O&A, and selections from 1592.

“As a whole, this event really benefits all of us in our amazing community,” says Nikki. “and it's at one of the most beautiful venues in the entire state. If you’ve never walked into the Ringling Museum courtyard in a beautiful dress on a gorgeous day in January to have some of the best food and wine ever, you’re missing out. There’s no better day.”

  The Scout Guide Sarasota co-owners and husband/wife duo David Warren Curren and Nikki Logan Curran

The Scout Guide Sarasota co-owners and husband/wife duo David Warren Curren and Nikki Logan Cur

For other days in the Forks & Corks lineup, consider the online food and wine auction, various wine dinners and events, and retail tastings, as well as University Master Classes on January 27 and The Trade Tasting (private for hospitality industry personnel only) on January 29.

To purchase tickets to the VIP Experience, visit forks-corks.squadup.com. For more information on The Sarasota-Manatee Originals, call 941-365-2800 or visit dineoriginal.com.

Guest Columnist: Abby Weingarten