derryX Wine Dine the ArtsThis past weekend, along with a trip to Connecticut, I was able to enjoy some of the events at the 2013 Wine and Dine for the Arts festival. As I indicated last week, it’s a grand event that brings together the top names in the local restaurant scene to raise money for local charities.

This year, I was able to only afford tickets to one of the grand tastings. I decided on the Saturday event because it coincided with the Signature Chef Invitational challenge. Let’s talk about these one at a time though.

Wine Fest

The grand tasting was a ridiculously expansive event. In a relatively small room, so many restaurants, vineyards, and liquor companies were giving away things to try. There was a lot of stuff; I can’t imagine that anybody could have hit every booth. We didn’t know where to start. Cassie recognized her friend running the Portofino’s booth, so thatwas a natural place to begin.

Portofino's scallop arancini

Portofino’s scallop arancini

They had a few things, but I thought their scallop arancini were interesting. They were made with arborio rice, scallop stock, and pureed scallop. The pureed scallop gave these some structure I wasn’t expecting for an arancino. They tasted nice.

Next, we worked our way around and found Chef Marla Ortega’s Illium Cafe booth.

Sous Chef Adryana and Chef Ortega

Sous Chef Adryana and Chef Ortega

They were giving out a bunch of stuff, but I thought the Jamaican Jerk wontons they made were awesome!

Illium Cafe's Jamaican Jerk Wonton

Illium Cafe’s Jamaican Jerk Wonton

Next, I went to see Chef Ric Orlando at the New World Bistro booth. I’ve been wanting to meet Chef Orlando for a long time, and it was funny that when I introduced myself, he seemed to recognize me, saying, “you look like Jerry!” I enjoyed the spicy kale salad with spiced cashews they were serving in tiny Chinese food containers with chop sticks, and the slider they had was pretty damn good. I can’t remember what’s on it (I think short rib, but don’t quote me), but it’s what Chef Orlando was working on.

New World Bistro's Slider

New World Bistro’s Slider

After that, I had my favorite bite of the day, a pancetta, sage and asiago cheese croquette from Hotel Albany (and it makes perfect sense that their bite was executed best since they had the home field advantage.). Holy crap, were those delicious. Perfectly fried, rich and cheesy.

Hotel Albany pancetta, sage, and asiago croquette

All Good Bakers had some fun stuff going on. In addition to a few of their baked goods, Chef Nick was gridling up some grilled cheese on fluffy bread, and Britin was dishing out a combination of orzo with speltberries, cranberries, honey roasted pecans, braised leeks, golden beets, honey orange rosemary vinaigrette. I joked that it looked like trail mix and waited for Britin to smack me on the forehead into the crowd of people behind me, but she didn’t. It was very delicious.

AGB Baked Goods

AGB Baked Goods

Orzo with speltberries, cranberries, honey roasted pecans, braised leeks, golden beets and a honey orange rosemary vinaigrette

Orzo with speltberries, cranberries, honey roasted pecans, braised leeks, golden beets and a honey orange rosemary vinaigrette

Cella Bistro was giving away some of my favorite crackers in the universe topped with a smoked trout spread. So delicious.

Cella Bistro's Smoked Trout topped crackers

Cella Bistro’s Smoked Trout topped crackers

Chef Dale Miller, representing Sperry’s, was serving up tasty pork belly with squash puree and salmon cakes. Both were seriously great.

Dale Miller's pork belly and salmon cake

Dale Miller’s pork belly and salmon cake

Aperitivo Bistro had some fun finger foods.

Aperitivo Bistro's Bites

Aperitivo Bistro’s Bites

And as you can imagine, by that point, the room was seriously filling up. The room hit critical mass for me around the same time I spotted Chez Mike’s booth.

Chez Mike's Sign

Chez Mike’s Sign

This guy was whipping up French style scrambled eggs a la minute over a double boiler. It’s a risky thing to do, and something that takes lots of confidence.

Chez Mike's Scrambled Eggs

Chez Mike’s Scrambled Eggs

I wanna let you know that the execution was absolutely perfect (take it from me, the #eggman), and that it was one of the best things I got to try. That’s my kick in the butt to go check out the restaurant some time soon.

I also got to try a few beverages along the way.

Bison Grass Vodka (seriously interesting)

Bison Grass Vodka (a bit odd albeit tasty)

Cazadores Tequila

Cazadores Tequila

Three Olives Brand Smores Vodka (not good)

Three Olives Brand Smores Vodka (not good)

There was also a biergarten that was so packed I could barely see what was going on.

Seriously, on the little bites I had I was getting full, and I missed probably 1/2 of the booths. And on the few liquor samples I had, I could feel a good buzz going on, and I went to about 5% of the drinks booths. If someone was able to stop at every booth, I’m certain you’d have to carry them out on a wheelbarrow. I got my tickets in advance, so it was just $50 each, a deal, in my opinion.

As the room got a little too busy for my taste, we headed downstairs for the Signature Chefs Invitational. I’m going to have to continue this in another post…

6 Comments for this entry

  • Ashley says:

    This looks amazing! Wish I could have been there!

  • Britin F. says:

    Omg, that smoked trout spread and the crackers from Cella Bistro were to die for! They gave us a soup container full at the end because we kept coming back! Very nice couple. Great write up, thanks for mentioning us! You’d have to say a lot worse to get a smackdown from me:) gotta have thick skin in this biz!

  • -R. says:

    Interesting that there is now a ‘version’ of Żubrówka (wiki it) available domestically. I brought a bottle back from Poland nine or ten years ago, and while I regard it as a more of a curiosity than a serious drinking booze, it has something distinctly tasty going for it, and a shot once in a while is certainly pleasant enough. I’ll have to try this one out.

  • Ginny says:

    Saturday Night! No wonder I didn’t see you and Cassie. I looked around for you. Glad you had a good time. Awesome event.

  • Saratoga saint says:

    I was at the Friday grand tasting. It was great. There was an obvious amount of people who were obnoxious and just there to be rowdy and annoying, but it was easy to avoid them.

    I’m really amazed that there isn’t more about the festival on the blogs.

  • mg says:

    Wish i had gone this year. Last year i won two tickets.
    Enjoyed your photos.

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