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Savannah International Food and Wine Tasting features impressive lineup – all to help local charities

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THE 15th edition of the Savannah International Food and Wine Tasting happens this Saturday afternoon, with over 50 signature dishes and wines from some of the area’s top restaurants and chefs.

Not to be confused with the Savannah Food and Wine Festival — a completely separate event — this tasting happens in the more relaxed setting of the Hellenic Center.

“This is a much smaller event,” says Jamie Newman, one of the organizers. “We do this purely to help local charities.”

That said, the event still brings in about 400 people a year and is always a hot ticket — mostly because of the popular restaurants dishing up food there, ranging from Olympia Café to Crystal Beer Parlor to Chromatic Dragon, to many more.

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“We’re so lucky year after year to have these great restaurants come aboard,” says Newman. “They are all very willing and we are very grateful for their help.”

The International Food and Wine Tasting is a project of the St. Barbara’s Philoptochos Society, a Greek Orthodox women’s group that focuses on philanthropy.

This year the charities include Coastal Center for Developmental Services, which helps find employment for the disabled; the Savannah Widow’s Society; and the Ronald McDonald House.

Diane Rousakis, daughter in law of the late Savannah Mayor John Rousakis, first created the idea for a local annual cuisine event to benefit charity, and she remains in charge of curating the extensive wine tasting selection.

“Diane started the event, and it’s always been a function of the Philoptochos Society,” says Newman. “We pick different local nonprofits every year to benefit.”

“As a group, we believe it is important to contribute, support and participate in philanthropic activities that will help our local community,” said Bonnie Danos, president of Savannah’s Philoptochos.

The Philoptochos Society is an organization of nearly 30,000 Greek Orthodox women across the U.S.

“It was established in 1931 as a national group to help those in need — the poor, the hungry, the unemployed,” says Newman.

“I am proud of the commitment and generosity of our women’s group who give of their time to host charitable activities and work in the community to help those who are in need,” says Father Vasile Mihai, priest at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church.

“I also appreciate the support of our local restauranteurs and wine distributors who graciously donate food and beverages for this important event to support our local charities, organizations and people in need,” says Father Vasile.

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Rather than the usual silent auction, this year the International Food and Wine Tasting will feature a “Wine Pull Tavern,” where guests can pay for the opportunity to choose a random bottle of wine. Each bottle will be covered in paper, bags, or another decoration so that guests will have no idea which wine they’re pulling.

“People can pick up and feel the bottle and try to guess what it is,” says Newman. “Maybe they’ll feel a cork and think it’s champagne, or maybe they’ll guess it’s a Riesling because the bottle is long and skinny.”

Previous editions of the International Food and Wine Tasting have been held in the fall, but this year marks the move of the Festival to a different time of year.

“There are so many events in September now,” says Newman of the decision to move the event to a more relaxed time of year when people are looking for things to do.

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