I was told, by one of our food partners, at Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah, The Alameda County Environmental Health Department is the most stringent, for compliance regulations being met in the entire US, as an example of letter-of-the-law compliant. That’s the bad news. The good news is that any event, which anyone goes to in Alameda County having been issued a license by the the Environmental Health Department, is going to be one of the cleanest and safest in the entire United States.

My partner told us that nothing is equal to the hoops that each food partner just had to meet and pass for our Dark & Delicious event. I, too, as the organizer, had to jump through hoops I would never have imagined, and am now feeling a bit more seasoned.

As a public service, I’m going to share their rules and regulations, which you can also find on line (links will be provided). If you landed here by searching on “food safety guidelines for wine and food events,” this blog will pop up as a precursor. You have to dig through a site searching for the right forms; so this one will make life a bit easier for you. I’m saying this from experience, now. This is my public service to you, organizer, with my blessings for an easier go of it.

Also, it’s my firm belief that Alameda County is just the beginning for how it will all later become. They’re the benchmark… period. So, get prepared. If you’re attending a wine and food event, and the event organizer has the Food Safety license, you’ll feel more comfortable that everything is as it should be, and no one gets food poisoning, right?

I can give you the gory details of my own food poisoning experiences in Vermont, at one such wine and food event; but I’m going to spare you.

I, more than anyone else, understand why this had to happen at my wine and food event. I just wish I had had more time, and the minimum of $150/hour for the event didn’t have to have a 10-hour minimum rule, which equaled $1,500 in the final minutes of setting up the event for that same night. It’s a steep learning curve.

So, be forewarned… It’s also very expensive, comparative speaking, if you’re a small event.

Begin with your Alameda County Environmental Health Department Sponsor Application Health Permit for Sponsors of Food Facilities at Temporary Events. Then, follow all of their rules and regulations. Give yourself a month to get it all done.

Next, you’re going to have to prepare for a shopping spree, or you can rent it all.

Temporary Event Booth, Preinspection/Self Inspection Form~ Page 1

I didn’t get these papers until a few hours before our “doors” opened. This gave my poor husband a very small amount of time to go shopping for items that he couldn’t even yet imagine. He had gone out about a half hour earlier to get other things that I needed, at the last minute. (This happens to all of us, when we’re setting up an event, no matter how good your inventory details are. “Expect the unexpected” is the rule of thumb.) All of a sudden, he got my panicked phone call, telling him he had to buy things he couldn’t even envision.

The following, however, are best not left to that rule for expecting the unexpected. Get them gathered early, a month in advance, and you’ll be a much happier organizer.

Necessary washing stations for vendors ~ Page 2

We needed nine of these utensil washing stations, because we had 11 food partners. Four of the partners were within five feet of the station, so we didn’t need to have the other two, to make 11 of them. (It was nine tables, 27 bins, nine water jugs, paper towels, soap for washing utensils, solution of sterilizing utensils, soap for hand washing…)

Make a separate check list, or you’ll forget something.

All wine companies had to have the Wash Hands Set-Up within five feet of them. We had 50 wineries. We needed to have one behind each two 8-foot tables that were joined together. So, prepare for at least half of your tables around your event space having a hand washing station behind them. I know, who’s ever done that in all of the Untied States wine events? Don’t forget your tables for them, either…. Table, water, big bucket, soap, and paper towels, a rack for the dishes.

I’ve never seen a crew set up anything so fast as furiously as Rock Wall Wine Company.

This is all serious business and it’s the future. Like I had to, “Get over it, it’s the law.”

We’ll all be safer for it.

Final thought

No matter where I set up a wine and/or wine and food event, I’ll be checking in with the county first. I figure I have one of two options:

  1. Check in with the county, pay the fees, and comply.
  2. Forgo the county, buy event catastrophe insurance, pray I don’t need it, and then refund everyone, because I didn’t do the job right.

Honestly, Plan Number 1 makes the most sense. Frightened with the potential canceled event, it was a lot easier to comply, regardless of how complicated it was. It would have been a major disaster to tell everyone, “we’ll be reimbursing you.” Besides the ill will that would come from that, my career would have ended on the spot. I’d rather do the work, than be out of work.

Take the education and get on with your life, that’s my motto.