Are You Experienced?

Foodies and oenephiles, rejoice -- your good taste will benefit the St. Louis Rep

So you're older than 21 now, and you've been invited to a dinner party at the Chase Park Plaza (212 North Kingshighway Boulevard). You're nervous about which utensils to use when (you're nervous about calling them utensils out loud), plus you're anxious that maybe you won't like some of the food and that you won't pick the correct wine to match your meal. Most of all, you're terrified that everyone at the party will know that you don't know what you're doing -- after all, this particular dinner party isn't so much of a party as it is an experience: the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' third annual St. Louis Food and Wine Experience, to be exact. But since this Experience runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, January 29, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, January 30, it's more like a lunch, or even a linner, party. You can handle that!

First of all, about the silverware issue. All of the other invitees (the St. Louis community at large) are going to be too busy observing what's happening on the Viking Main Stage to care, even if you're using your hands to eat. Perhaps they'll be watching the Kelly twins at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday (these women have their own cooking show on the Big 550 AM [KTRS]) or Father Dominic Garramone at 1 p.m. on Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday (he's formerly of PBS' cooking show Breaking Bread with Father Dominic). Also on Sunday, Red Moon's executive chef Marc Felix takes the stage at 12:30 p.m. Pay attention as these chefs and other local culinary masters introduce some of their recipes and demonstrate how they do what they do. You can learn a little something here!

And don't you worry about not liking the food you'll be sampling: special-occasion restaurants like Harvest and Annie Gunn's are just two of the locals offering up their wares. Now, on to the wine-selection process. Again, since everyone else will be juggling their own complimentary wine glass and swirling, sniffing and tasting the hundreds of wines from more than 100 winemakers, they won't have time to see what's on your plate and compare it to what you're sampling. Plus, since this is a wine-tasting and not a wine-drinking event, you can change the color and variety of wine as often as you swallow a bite of food. How's that for class?

But if you insist on actually learning about wine and how to pair it with foods, including chocolates (!), pay $10 in addition to your $25 to $30 per-person-per-day admission price (or if you're of the VIP variety, $40) to attend a Sip and Learn Wine Seminar. These special learning sessions can be enjoyed with or without the Experience, but what fun would that be? The Experience will help you put what you learn at the seminar into practice, and practice makes perfect!

For more information about this fundraiser for the Rep's educational and community-service programs, call the theater at 314-968-4925 or visit; advance tickets are available both by phone and at the Web site or at Schnucks. And the more advanced foodie/ oenophile can make a whole weekend of fun with the $65 "Corks and Caps" package, which includes admission to a private preview party Friday, January 28, from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Mad Art Gallery (2727 South 12th Street) and VIP Experience admission.

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