The sounds of conversation and laughter compete with the clinking of glasses in The Wine Artist’s lofty venue. The space sprawls over 2,500 square feet, with plenty of room to host private parties, bridal events, corporate events, and private cooking classes. Events at The Wine Artist feature unique wines, gourmet catering, and experiences such as wine bottling and team building activities.
Although it takes place at the Orange County Fair and Event Center, the Anatolian Cultures & Food Festival actually exists at the nexus of thousands of years of Anatolian history. That's the way it feels, at least. Upon arrival, guests begin this trek through time at the Gates of Civilizations, whose waypoints honor 14 historic and present-day nations ranging from the mighty Hittite Empire to the modern Turkish Republic. Towering, ornate arches and a staff of highly knowledgeable costumed actors guide them through this journey, sharing the traditional dress and customs of bygone regional residents including the Ottomans, Romans, Phrygians, and Byzantines.
Once inside, guests can extend their explorations within stunning recreations of nine different Anatolian cities, grabbing lifelike views of everything from the Topkapi Palace—once occupied by Ottoman sultans—or the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the ancient seat of the Armenian Orthodox patriarch. Along the way, they can stop for souvenirs at the bustling Grand Bazaar, where more than 100 vendor hawk traditional Near Eastern good. A traditional Turkish coffeehouse also occupies part of the festival grounds, tempting guests with cups of rich Turkish coffee that par well with the kebabs, stews, and baked goods prepared by the festival’s food vendors.
To Master Chef Massimo Navarretta—who grew up farming and wine-making in Campania, Italy—it makes little sense to separate wine from food. At his eatery Onotria, which received Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence in 2011 and 2012, he groups dishes on the menu by wine pairing, rather than by main ingredient or ability to be balanced on the tip of a tiny dessert spoon. Seafood-based plates, such as prosciutto-wrapped tiger shrimp or poached octopus with artichokes, complement a glass of dry, sparkling white wine. Lightly breaded pork medallions accompany a light, dry red, while hearty lamb chops or filet go with a bolder varietal such as zinfandel or merlot. These dishes can serve as tasting plates for groups, entrees for individuals, or finger food for visiting giants.
To create the seasonal menu, the kitchen uses hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, as well as organic and biodynamic ingredients. Meals are served under a high-peaked ceiling with wooden rafters, in a dining room with exposed-brick columns and mottled walls that echo the look of an old-country trattoria.
For two days, ScotsFest transforms the Orange County Fair and Event Center into an outpost of Scotland by reproducing its music, food, and traditions. The sound of bagpipes floats over a sea of kilts, joining with nearby drums to create a soundtrack for Highland dancers. These rug cutters showcase national dances such as the Highland Fling, which calls dancers to step, turn, and hover in place atop a small round shield. Athletes flex their muscles at events that range from hammer throws to the National Heavy Athletic Championships, and young visitors partake in potato-sack races and archery. Traditional Scottish food tempts the appetites of visitors, who can wash down native eats with flights of whisky or ales brewed in the inner chambers of truck-size bagpipes.