In Jackson Hole, summer begins heating up around Memorial Day and quickly reaches fever pitch. A whole host of cultural activities pack three warm months and compete with the equally feverish pitch of recreation as visitors and residents take to biking trails, river rafts, and backcountry trails.
In order to stand out in such a crowded field, events must really hit that sweet spot between creative concept, flawless execution, and community impact. The Jackson Hole Food & Wine Festival, a new 3-day festival from June 22-24–and partially evolved from the beloved (and now retired) Jackson Hole Wine Auction–hits just that stride.
A new foodie experience in Jackson Hole
A refined event for a new time
Where the wine auction was heavily auction-based, the Jackson Hole Food & Wine Festival introduces a new range of carefully curated events that cast big-name chefs from out-of-state alongside local gourmet luminaries, bringing Jackson’s locavores into merry contact with one another in events both low key and exclusive. What hasn’t changed is the commitment to tastebud-busting culinary creativity and big wines poured liberally.
When the Jackson Hole Wine Auction retired this year to focus more on raising money via music for the Grand Teton Music Festival, its beneficiary, two former producers of the event—Meghan Gallagher and Haynes Poe—didn’t miss a beat. The two founded a new non-profit with a new goal: combining their experience and passion to produce an intimate and unique food and beverage festival while giving back to the greater good.
Katrina Ryan, a JHFW Board President and Managing Partner echoes this: “I saw it as an opportunity to carry on the great tradition, but with a new vision. All of our events have been created to offer our guests unique and intimate culinary and beverage experiences.”
Plus, a portion of the proceeds from JHFW benefits two worthy local non-profits: Hole Food Rescue, which works to end food insecurity in Jackson Hole and the Central Wyoming College’s culinary program. In fact, students from CWC will be participating in one of the events this year, lending their sweet expertise to the dessert portion of the Savor the South dinner on June 24.
Festival of Fun
A culinary collaboration
Says Gallagher, “One of my favorite things is seeing the collaborations and friendships that develop between local and visiting chefs and winemakers from around the world. We are excited to help promote Jackson Hole as a foodie destination.”
This year’s big name chefs are Ryan Prewitt of New Orleans and Chris Shepherd of Houston. A chef/owner of Underbelly and One Fifth in Houston, Shepherd’s boundary-breaking cuisine has been lauded with a James Beard award. He also serves as the Culinary Director of the Festival. Poe and Gallagher explain that after working with Shepherd at the Wine Auction, they invited him on to help them curate their talent for JHFW due to his modern style and fun-loving team. Prewitt comes here from the Pêche Seafood Grill, and is the recipient of two James Beard awards himself. Both men are super excited to collaborate with local Jackson Hole chefs on an event that brings real backporch-style Southern gourmet dining to the valley.
“My team and I had such a great time in Jackson Hole last year,” Shepherd says. “We joked that we needed to be on our best behavior so they would ask us back! In all seriousness, the team producing Jackson Hole Food & Wine is incredibly organized, efficient and knowledgeable about everything happening during the festival. We can’t wait to come back.”
So how to make the most of JHFW’s four excitement-packed events? Gallagher and Poe urge new attendees not to feel pressure to go to every event. It’s really an a la carte kind of experience, they explained—one where you have the freedom to pick and choose what’s super enticing to you and your tastes. Here’s a preview of just what’s in store.
We urge you to snap up your tickets now as these experiences—especially the private dinners—are bound to sell out quickly.
Taste of Jackson Hole
Thursday, June 22, 6 – 9pm
This one is a classic–the perfect summer kick-off just one day after the longest day of the year. It’s a great introduction to the valley, Poe and Gallagher agree, featuring a ride up the Bridger Gondola at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to get things started and a dive, head first, into what Jackson Hole’s culinary scene is truly about. Sample bites from multiple feted valley restaurants while toasting summer with hand-selected wines and spirits.
Big Wines, Small Plates
Friday, June 23, 12 – 2pm
“We’re really excited about this one,” says Poe. “We wanted to take a wine tasting and kick it up a notch.” Which is exactly what they did. Hosted by the Rendezvous Bistro and Fine Dining Restaurant Group, Big Wines, Small Plates engages in some gastronomic storytelling, recreating exceptional pairings shared by a panel of gourmands, including foodie raconteurs Annie Fenn and Fine Dining Group owner Gavin Fine. Visiting chefs Chris Shepherd and Ryan Prewitt will be on hand, alongside Fine Dining Group chefs, to put together a tasting menu that’ll zing nicely alongside wines being poured from North Berkeley Imports.
Friday, June 23, 7pm
Representing another evolution of the Jackson Hole Wine Auction, the Dinner Series creates three singular dining experiences hosted in two private homes and one restaurant. Once again, Chris Shepherd and Ryan Prewitt will be helming the food at two events, while local architect Nona Yehia has partnered with Ali Cohane of Picnic to host a pop-up Lebanese feast. At each event, wines will be expertly paired and winemakers on hand. This is always popular for second homeowners who want to pack in the full culinary experience of Jackson Hole or anyone who’s curious about being hosted for an intimate evening in a stunning home.
Savor The South
Saturday, June 24, 5 – 8pm
Capping the festival with a little southern spice, the Savor the South dinner will be served al fresco at the Mead Ranch and feature a range of finger-lookin’ good BBQ, six wineries and breweries pouring their finest, a silent auction, live music, and more. Poe and Gallagher describe this event as a “true party.” It will be fun, lighthearted, relaxing, and completely off the hook, food-wise. Multiple local restaurants as well as chefs Prewitt and Shepherd will be masterminding multiple plates, with students from beneficiary Central Wyoming College’s culinary program on deck for the dessert course. Pile your plate high, sample a southern cocktail (or two), let your hair down, and experience a true Jackson Hole evening.
(There’s also the option to purchase a VIP table with personalized service!)
If your appetite—and sense of adventure—is whetted, don’t hesitate to get your tickets now for one, or all, of these events! 2018 festival dates have already been set for June 21 – 23, 2018, so there’s no excuse to miss this the next time you’re in town. In the meantime, keep your nose to the ground to find out what else JHFW has cooking for the community this year.