This 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.
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.
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.
They were giving out a bunch of stuff, but I thought the Jamaican Jerk wontons they made were awesome!
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.
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.
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.
Cella Bistro was giving away some of my favorite crackers in the universe topped with a smoked trout spread. So delicious.
Chef Dale Miller, representing Sperry’s, was serving up tasty pork belly with squash puree and salmon cakes. Both were seriously great.
Aperitivo Bistro had some fun finger foods.
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.
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.
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.
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…