We recently attended the International Grand Tasting at the 7th annual Savor Dallas. It was our first time; it won’t be our last.

In a nutshell, it’s three hours to sample delicious food from over 60 Dallas area restaurants and wine and spirits from countless vendors. Staged across adjoining ballrooms at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, it was overwhelming for a Savor Dallas virgin. So let’s talk about what I (and you) might consider doing differently next year.

Advance plan. This is a big event, and we missed more than we thought. Next time, we’ll study the list of restaurants ahead of the event, then use the map provided on-site to plan our strategy and hit places we’ve been dying to try.

Pre-shop. Many guests were spotted carrying trays that held a small appetizer plate and are notched for a wine glass. Good call. Navigating lines, information pamphlets, a plate and glass proved tricky. Crate & Barrel tells me they have discontinued their version of this tray, so I’ll be keeping an eye out…

Get a room. Even though most wine vendors only poured a tasting portion, some were more generous; regardless, the samples do add up. By the end of the evening, you understand why the event organizers suggest taking the elevator home. Next time.

Arrive early or late. We heard there was a considerable line when doors opened at 7. Depending on your personality, arrive early to get to the head of that line, or do what we did – arrive after 7:20 and walk right in.

What about the food?

First, Chef Graham Dodds’ Stinging Nettle Soup was probably the dish garnering the most enthusiastic response. It created new fans of Bolsa on the spot.

Here are some other standout bites we encountered:
• Coffee-Crusted Niman Ranch Tenderloin offered up by The Place at Perry’s was topped with a Blueberry Chipotle Sauce that gave it a nice twist.

• Crawfish Etouffee from Chef Jeff Moschetti at Frisco’s One 2 One was among the best I’ve had.

• And from Opio at the Hilton Dallas Park Cities Hotel, pot roast over spicy carrot puree in a red wine demiglace hit the spot.

Desserts abound, but two particularly memorable ones were:

• A selection of hand-painted chocolates from chocolatier Kate Weiser and Chocolate Secrets Not a bad one in the bunch.

• And Steve Smith’s Texas Tortuga. A classier version of the turtle, this bite combined pecan, nougat and dark chocolate in just the right way, and Steve was a charming proud papa. Nib Chocolates can be found at The Cultured Cup.

We’ll be back at Savor Dallas next spring, wiser and hungrier. Look out.