The Thessaloniki Book Fair (TBF) opens at 10 a.m. today with a raft of events for readers of all ages, book professionals, cinema fans and gourmets. Gourmets? Yes, the theme of the exhibition at this year’s fair is wine and other delights, and not just in theory. At 3 p.m. today French chef Christophe Felder of Hotel Crillon will demonstrate how to make his delectable recipes with chocolate. That’s just the first of a series of flavor-oriented events running throughout the fair. Among them will be guided visits to wineries in northern Greece, wine tastings, cheese, tea and chocolate, and a display of some 350 books about wine and food. Six films including «Mondovino» and «A Touch of Spice» echo the theme. Distinctive character In just three years, the TBF has managed to grow from very modest beginnings into an institution that attracts a growing number of participants from around the world. With so many international book fairs competing for attention, the new kid on the block needs to differentiate itself, to develop a distinctive character, if it wants to stand out, and there are signs of that in the regional accent it is acquiring. The wine and food theme was a smart choice, enabling the organizers to exploit some of the attractions for which Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean are famous. The focus on Balkan writers is another wise move, giving the fair a unique focus that highlights both the regional and international and capitalizes on longstanding cultural connections. Those connections will be explored in a round-table discussion on contemporary Balkan Literature that will bring together writers from Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania. Other events pick up the theme: The Slovenian Society of Authors is presenting eight Slovenian writers and translations of their work in Greek and English, and organizations from other countries in the region – Turkey, Slovakia and Bosnia-Herzegovina – will be among those making similar presentations. For children Children came in droves to last year’s fair – mainly in school groups but also with their families – and they were not disappointed. A tireless team made Children’s Corner so appealing with imaginative activities that some parents mistook it for a nursery and wanted to drop their youngsters off for the day. Aesop and the beginnings of storytelling is the overarching theme this time, and «Thus Spake Aesop,» an anthology of his fables with an introduction by Eugene Trivizas, is included in the price of the ticket (admission is 2 euros, 1 for students, free for children under 12). Children can meet authors, act in plays, listen to the talented storytellers of Parodos Arts Group, make hand puppets and join in art workshops. Treats for adults include the opportunity to meet dozens of Greek authors and 35 from abroad, a tribute to Samuel Beckett on the centenary of his birth and an event dedicated to Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh organized by the Irish Embassy, a discussion on crime fiction moderated by Greek practitioner Petros Markaris and numerous presentations of books from Greece and abroad. Business Book fairs are about business of course, and the TBF is catering to book professionals with events targeting publishers, librarians and booksellers. One tasty example is «Publishing Today: The Sharks in the Aquarium,» organized by the Panehellenic Federation of Publishers and Booksellers. Other meetings focus on campaigns to promote reading, European collaboration, and innovative services for libraries, archives and museums. The official opening is at 7.30 this evening at the Vellidis Conference center, followed by a reception at the roof garden with music by the Kalamaria Municipal Band. The TBF logo is all around town on banners and posters – the challenge is to make that impression permanent. The TBF is organized by the National Book Center of Greece (EKEBI), Helexpo and POEB and it operates under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture.