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Coastal Uncorked

Coastal Uncorked Food and Wine Festival is scheduled for May 16-23. This inaugural event is a celebration of the tastes and tastemakers of the Grand Strand. Heidi Vukov, owner of Croissants Bistro & Bakery in Myrtle Beach, is one of the people making Coastal Uncorked happen.

"This has evolved into a citywide festival. What started with just restaurants has really blossomed," Vukov says. "It's been so awesome and amazing to get so much support from the community to do this." In addition, the festival's main sponsor is Southern Living magazine.

Vukov says that she and the rest of the people behind Coastal Uncorked did a lot of research and looked at food and wine festivals from other cities. They wanted to do something new to bring in visitors, but also engage the Grand Strand community. The result is a weeklong celebration with more than 30 area restaurants participating with special three-course tasting menus for $20.10. In addition, there will be a golf tournament, cooking demonstrations, beer and wine tastings and two highlight events: the Tasting Trolley (May 21 and 22), and the Food Fight Gala (May 23).

"The Tasting Trolley is definitely not to be missed," says Vukov. "The trolley will make 12 stops at various hotels. Each stop has different activities and themes, with entertainment, dancers, cooking demonstrations. It will be just a great time for everybody." Stops include a Pirate Party at The Caravelle, a Mardi Gras Party at the Island Vista and an Australia Down Under Party at Breakers Resort featuring Greg Norman's Australian Grille. There are also events at The Market Common and the Oceanfront Boardwalk exclusive only to Friday or Saturday, so someone can really go on the trolley both days. A one-day pass is $50; two-day pass is $75.

The Food Fight Gala caps off Coastal Uncorked by pitting eight area chefs in a competitive cooking event (think "Iron Chef" with a Southern accent). In addition, there will be tasting stations with wine pairings from local restaurants and entertainment featuring jazz at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes. Cost is $75 per person.

"I hope we have an incredible year this year," says Vukov, who adds optimistically, "we already have our dates for next year!"

Here are some of the daily highlights for Coastal Uncorked. Consult www.coastaluncorked.com for a complete schedule and details:

Monday, May 17: Kick-off of area restaurants hosting weeklong themed dinner offerings

Tuesday, May 18: Cooking demonstration and wine tasting classes all day at Horry-Georgetown Technical College

Wednesday, May 19: Coastal Uncorked Tasting Golf Tournament at Pine Lakes Country Club ($125 per person), featuring tastings from local restaurants and special beers

Thursday, May 20: Champagne tasting with live entertainment

Friday, May 21 and Saturday, May 22: Tasting Trolley

Sunday, May 23: Food Fight Gala

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