Chronological / Destinations / Food / Illinois / United States / Wines & Spirits

Savoring the Flavors of Fall at Galena’s Food and Wine Festival

Massbach Ridge Winery sign

The Massbach Ridge Winery states the obvious.

Near U.S. Grant’s house and down the street from the Piggly Wiggly, there was a distinct scent of bacon in the air. It was here on a recent Friday night in September that Galena, a historic river town in northwest Illinois, welcomed me to its second annual food and wine festival.

As I walked into the L-shaped exhibit hall at the Galena Convention Center, I couldn’t help overhearing two attendees discussing the intricacies of toasting wine barrels. Yes, foodies and oenophiles united to bring together more than 150 varieties of wine and a plethora of samples from a dozen culinary establishments, all to benefit the Galena Art and Recreation Center, a local YMCA-like nonprofit organization.

Ralph Kluseman, a guitarist and singer from nearby Dubuque, entertained the crowd with covers ranging from James Taylor to the Beatles, as two middle aged women pondered the merits of bidding on a “dammit doll” at the silent auction table.

French toast

The Caramel Apple Bacon French Toast was awarded first runner-up in the BandB.com Best Breakfast in North America competition.

As I strolled to the right, I discovered the source of the pervasive pork smell: caramel apple bacon French toast from the Farmers Guest House, a nearly 150-year-old bed and breakfast in Galena. I almost choked while scarfing down the sweet and salty mixture because I saw a young woman wrinkling her nose and heard her say, “Oh, I don’t really like bacon.” Doesn’t she know everything tastes better with bacon?

Wines from near and far were represented, including a New Zealand Pinot Grigio and a Blackhawk Red by Massbach Ridge Winery, located approximately 20 miles away in Elizabeth. I decided to pass up shots of gin, vodka and “lead mine moonshine” (a tribute to Galena’s history as a mining town) as I set my plate and wine glass next to one of the silver candelabras on an oak wine barrel doubling as a table.

Spinach salad

A spinach salad! Yes, it is possible to eat something healthy at a food and wine expo!

The space lends itself well to an event like this; with a healthy crowd of approximately 200 attendees, there was a festive air without feeling overcrowded or straining to hear others. Toward the end of the evening, I spied a woman standing behind one of the tables popping a hummus-topped corn chip into her mouth – always a good sign when vendors are eating their own food.

To begin the evening, I had stopped by “Cheers! The Art of the Drink”, a new exhibit at the Galena Center for the Arts, highlighting the work of regional artists. Housed in an old medical clinic, the space is being reborn by using physician’s offices as private studio spaces and renovated to include a performance facility. Named by Fodor’s as one of the ten best small towns in the United States, Galena provided a charming slice of Americana on a rainy fall evening.

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