CRAVE! 2018

A taste of .. and toast to … the flavors of the Northwest

By Colin Anderson | Photo by Lauren Denos | Article provided by Coeur d’Alene Living Local

The Northwest is a region full of fresh flavors. Due to the varying climate and landscape, we are able to produce and harvest a vast assortment of vegetables, grains and herbs. The sunny, temperate climate and mineral-rich soils across Central Washington help grow some of the most incredible wine grapes found anywhere in the world. Fresh fish, oysters, clams and shrimp are pulled from the coasts of Oregon and Washington and often find their way onto one’s dinner plate in less than 48 hours. Ranchland all across the area provides well-regarded beef, and the forests of North Idaho provide a bounty of deer and elk for those loving the spirit of the hunt and preparing wild game. The traditions and flavors of this wonderful region we all call home will be on full display at an annual celebration of incredible food and drink where your taste buds will receive a workout like never before.

CRAVE! is putting the finishing touches on its second annual event, which kicks off the evening of Thursday, July 12, and continues through Sunday, July 15. The CenterPlace Regional Events Center in Spokane Valley, Washington, will host the event. The 54,000-square-foot facility will be teeming with chefs, caterers, winemakers and brewers, all of whom will be putting forth their best creations for the event. CRAVE! is the brainchild of Inland Northwest native Adam Hegsted. Well known to frequent diners in the Inland Northwest, Hegsted is a graduate of the Northwest Culinary Academy and Art Institute of Seattle and is a 2016 James Beard Award semi-finalist. His regional restaurants include the likes of Farmhouse Kitchen & Silo Bar in Ponderay, Idaho, Eat Good Café in Liberty Lake, Washington, and several Spokane restaurants including The Wandering Table, Gilded Unicorn and recently opened Incrediburger & Eggs. Hegsted’s vision for CRAVE! is to celebrate, enrich, challenge and expand our regional appreciation of culinary, nutritional and cultural diversity. Through his connections in the culinary world, Hegsted is able to secure chefs not just from the Spokane area but the entire Northwest and other major metropolitan areas across the nation.

“We are planning on 60 chefs including 15 for each main event,” said Karen Stebbins of Vision Marketing, the team that’s behind putting on such an event. “We have Josh Henderson out of Seattle, Matthias Merges from Chicago, as well as others from Missoula, Lewiston and Walla Walla.”

The chef likely traveling the farthest for CRAVE! is Hugh Acheson, whose restaurants are well-known around Atlanta and Athens, Georgia. “I was raised with three older sisters by a professor of economics, and I tired of fish sticks,” he said, “and so I got a job in a kitchen at 15.” Like many aspiring chefs, Acheson started out cleaning kitchens and prepping food, moving his way up and never looking back, happy that he could realize his dream. “I am glad I did because I found the occupation for me, where I can always be a learner and relish in the beauty of discovery each and every day.”

Acheson will be one of many guest chefs putting on cooking demonstration during the event. Each will bring something different to the table, and guests will have a firsthand look at how they can prepare gourmet meals in their own kitchens. “I am doing a demo in which I will show people how to cook beef striploin with worldly ingredients. It will be a fun trip to Washington mixed with Thailand, mixed with the homeland of Canada and my current home of the American South,” said Acheson. “If I can do a demo where people laugh and learn and take away one thing about making food easier, I have done my job.”

There are several ticket packages available for CRAVE!, allowing attendees to take part in the entire four-day event or pick and choose which events are most enticing. The best part about each event is that once your ticket is purchased and you’re through the door, you won’t need to worry about pulling out your wallet again as unlimited tastes and drinks are included with each session. Grand Tastings are held in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday and feature small plates from dozens of chefs, with each plating some of their most unique and interesting creations. This is when you will also find the demonstrations from regional and nationally acclaimed chefs. If seafood is what you’re after, you’ll want to attend the Seafood Bash on Thursday evening, which features all kinds of fresh flavors using Northwest.