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Food and wine show expands with provincewide program

With fresh breads, berries and brews, a collection of Newfoundland and Labrador restaurants are laying out their finest dishes, beckoning you to their tables this spring.

They are taking part in a new program to encourage visitors. The program is being organized by the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (RANL), the organizers of the annual Savour Food and Wine Show.

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With fresh breads, berries and brews, a collection of Newfoundland and Labrador restaurants are laying out their finest dishes, beckoning you to their tables this spring.

They are taking part in a new program to encourage visitors. The program is being organized by the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (RANL), the organizers of the annual Savour Food and Wine Show.

"This year the Savour show is part of a bigger Savour festival. Eventually it will go into all kinds of activities and seminars, but this year is our first year of stepping outside just the show, so we're taking it slow," said RANL executive director Nancy Brace.

The association has stepped out by adding the Dine Out program. The program includes special menus selected by participating restaurants that are charged at a flat rate - with menu combinations ranging in $10 increments from $19 to $49.

The appeal is the potential for the discovery of new favourites - new dishes and new restaurants - at prices you know ahead of time and do not need to worry about.

"The whole idea of the Dine Out program is to help restaurant owners get bums in chairs during the soft season, before it gets busy," said Brace, who explained it has been run successfully in other Atlantic provinces in the past.

The program began last Monday and will continue until May 8.

Supplementing Savour show

The Dine Out program is a supplement to the annual Savour Food and Wine Show, which was held Thursday at the Delta hotel in St. John's.

It was the third year for the show in Newfoundland and Labrador. The show is also run in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

"We pay a percentage of the show to (the Atlantic Provinces Restaurant Association) to pay for our rights to use the logos, the branding, the templates for everything," Brace said.

Savour is a brand that is now recognized, she said.

"The first few years, just like us, it was hard to get the restaurants involved, hard to get people ... now it's a go-to event," Brace said. "It's crazy how much it's grown."

Brace said the Savour Food and Wine Show always holds "a mingling, cocktail party kind of a vibe" and attracts between 350 and 500 people.

In fact, a maximum of 500 tickets are sold so as not to make the room too crowded and not to put too large a requirement on attending restaurants, Brace said.

It is essentially a room full of samplings, introducing people to new flavours and restaurants.

"This guy here goes downtown every Friday night and goes to the same restaurant every Friday night and now he's tasted this restaurant's food and goes, 'Wow, I'm going to have to go there,'" Brace said. "Or this one has fish and chips or pub food, let's say, and would never go to the Gypsy Tea Room because it's not his thing and then he tastes it and goes, 'Wow.' Or there's this couple who goes to Bianca's every weekend and would never go to a pub because they don't eat pub food and then they taste this burger and go, 'Wow.'

"The way it's set up is to promote restaurants, sit-in establishments," she said.

The only problem is the requirements of the show tend to limit it to restaurants in St. John's, with a few adventurous proprietors from beyond the Avalon.

"Yes, people do come in from outside, but you're not going to get the same kind of participation from outside the city as you are from the downtown core when it's at the Delta," Brace said.

"Eventually, perhaps, maybe we could look at doing a bi-coastal Savour show."

Until then, the Dine Out program is acting as a method for stirring new, pre-tourism season business for restaurants all across the island.

A taste of something new

Brace said response from the business community has been positive in the first year of the Dine Out program, with 31 restaurants taking part in 2010.

"Each participant received a package. It had signage in it. It had chits to hand out to advertise it. It had the menu cards for them to print the menus on. All they had to do was print the menus on this paper. So, there was no cost attached at all," she said.

It is all being organized and operated by about 12 volunteers, Brace said, including the board for the restaurant association and the volunteer committee for the food and wine show.

"They're all business owners. They're all busy people," she said, explaining how the program has been able to come together over hurried lunch meetings and late nights.

She added that she hopes to see the program grow in years to come, to spread the word on all that the province has to offer.

"We need that because, unfortunately, outside the province, there is a stereotype," said Brace.

"I worked at a restaurant in town for the last three years and you get people coming in going, 'Wow, I never expected a restaurant like this in Newfoundland,'" she said, bringing a look of shock to her face. "What do you say, right?"

You say, "Have you tried -? It's my favourite place."

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

The following participating Dine Out restaurants will offer special three-course menus at set $19, $29, $39 and $49 prices until May 8.

Avalon

Ches's Fish & Chips (St. John's only)

YellowBelly Brewery & Public House

PJ Billington's at Ramada St. John's

Atlantica

Redrock Bar and Grill

Bianca's

Quinn's at Delta St. John's

The Guv'nor Pub and Eatery

Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland

Zapatas Mexican Restaurant

The Gypsy Tea Room

Jack's Restaurant at The Capital Hotel

Hungry Fishermen

Celtic Hearth

Portobello's

AQUA Kitchen and Bar

Bacalao Novellle Newfoundland Cuisine

Woodstock Colonial Restaurant

Eastern

PJ Billington's at Marystown Hotel

Bacalao at the Inn at Clarenville Inn

Kildare Creative Cuisine

Central

The Albatross Hotel

Mystic at Sinbad's Hotel

Alcock and Brown's at Hotel Gander

Ches's Fish and Chips

Clem's Dining Room at Mount Peyton Hotel

Western

Crown and Moose at Greenwood Inn and Suites

Carriage Room at the Glynmill Inn

Wine Cellar Steakhouse at the Glynmill Inn

Port Side Restaurant at Hotel Port aux Basques

Bay of Islands Bistro

Organizations: Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, Delta hotel, Atlantic Provinces Restaurant Association Fish & Chips Sheraton Hotel Marystown Hotel Clarenville Inn Brown's Peyton Hotel Greenwood Inn Port aux Basques

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia

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