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Quick Review of Savor CT: A Great Wine and Food Event

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Robert Irvine

savor logo jpgIf you like wine and food events you can tell when one is done right.  We always rave about the Newport Mansions event in September.  Mark Gasbarro does a beautiful event for one night as well in the Providence area.  Now everyone has to move over and make room for a new kid on the block.  Savor CT opened for the first time this past weekend at the Hartford Convention Center, with two Grand Tastings and a Celebrity Chef Gala, and it was pretty spectacular.  You would have sworn they had been doing this for ten years.  It was classy, relaxing, extremely fun, so professional and spot on.  We’ll talk about some of the highlights, but there will be follow up articles on the best Red Wines, best White Wines, the food and the charity, as this was benefiting the Robert Irvine Foundation.  His foundation supports American military members and their families, a charity that really resonates with us.

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Glasses at the ready!

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Before the crowds

We managed to make it to the hotel in time for the Friday night Grand Tasting.  By the way, the Convention Center is attached to the downtown Marriot, and the hotel is a great place to stay and enjoy this event.  The two nights there were memorable in their own right, as the hotel staff was one of the most cordial and service oriented we’ve seen anywhere.  But this is about Savor, and the Friday night tasting opened on time, with everything in place and running like a well oiled machine.  Immediately you were struck by the lack of swarming crowds.  They limited ticket sales to this, and kept it to a level where you could roam at will, picking the tables where the wine or food selections tempted you.  At most you had to wait for a few people in front of you.  When you did get to the table you had time to talk to the people pouring, and we had long conversations about the wines and the wine makers.  This was one of the most stress free wine events we have ever attended.  It’s not to say it wasn’t well attended as there were a lot of people there.  There weren’t too many people.

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Bourbon anyone?

You actually had time to notice the little things.  Beautiful flower arrangements were everywhere.  The signage was clear, but not too big.  There were unobstructed views around the entire space, and it lent a feeling of airiness.  The lanes were wide between the booths and tables.  We stayed almost until closing Friday night and it seemed no one had left early.  It was exactly the same on Saturday afternoon and evening.  While we were there we also noticed that a huge table was kept stocked with bottled water at all times.  There were also lots of options outside of wine, with many breweries represented, bourbon, scotch and vodka as well.  You could get a cocktail and unwind for a bit.  You could get dessert.  There was also a big coffee bar open throughout.

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Great wine from Tenuta Santa Maria

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Equally great wine from Allegrini

Let’s talk a little about the wine.  There was lots of it, some great, some good and some not so much, but you find that at any quality event.   Here there were a few trends that clearly emerged.  First, and this was not even close, Italy ruled these two days from a wine perspective.  We will probably end up putting six or so Italian wines in our Top Ten red list.  They will be well represented on the white side of the fence as well.  Two producers were absolutely spectacular, those being Tenuta Santa Maria and Allegrini/Poggio al Tesoro.  From each of these we saw a breathtaking run of six wines that were all stellar in quality, with several of the reds checking into the great category.  This was truly unusual, that every wine on the table was that good.  Another was almost in this category, and wait, that was a run of Italian wines as well from Michelangelo Selections.  There were of course some other stand outs, a French wine here, an American wine there, but it was decidedly one sided.  From a varietal standpoint there was a good showing from the Pinot Noir grape as well.  In the end there were plenty of excellent wines, and that is really all that matters.

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Plan B Burger Bar was there

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Orbs of lobster panna cotta

Now for the food.  All we can say is “Wow”.  Superb quality across the board, with selections from the best local restaurants during the Grand Tastings and from the celebrity chefs during the Gala on Saturday night.  We had pork cheeks, pork belly, scallops, shrimp, lobster and beef tenderloin.  Foie gras was there, in the form of brats no less, and we basically sampled the world’s most expensive hot dog.  It was fantastic.  A home made habanero sauce on a chicken taco was flavorful and hot, but in a good way.  Some ravioli in brown butter sauce melted in your mouth.  And did we mention the cupcakes from Hardcore Sweet?  They have a cupcake truck, which is so cool, but it’s the cupcakes themselves that are memorable.  Throw in some lamb tartare, duck a dozen ways and a great showing from the Vivo restaurant in the attached Marriot, and you start to scratch the service.  Plan B Burger Bar’s sliders were a weekend staple.  We’ll do a separate blog on the Saturday night Gala and the celebrity chefs offerings, as well as more of the Grand Tasting food.  As a spoiler, our favorite dish of the event was the seared foie gras in a soy glaze, over sticky rice, from Chef Tyler Anderson.  It was the best Asian marinade/sauce I’ve ever tasted.

Mary Ann Esposito Double Fisted

Celebrity Chef dual handed drinking

Ming and Mary Ann

Ming Tsai and Mary Ann Esposito

Then there was the show.  The celebrity chefs are much more than good cooks, they are entertainers.  Throughout the event they engaged the audience, using equal parts culinary talent, humor and storytelling to keep everyone involved and engaged.  At most events the chefs come in, do their demos, sign some books and then leave.  These guys have busy schedules.  Here it was different though, as the chefs were integral parts of the entire weekend.  They did demos on Friday and Saturday, some had their restaurants serving throughout the tastings, and they were all there on Saturday night, cooking and serving their food to a very happy group of foodies.  We can only attribute this to Robert Irvine, who asked them to come and probably simply told them they couldn’t leave until Sunday.  It made for some memorable moments.  At the hotel bar Saturday afternoon we were having a snack and some coffee when Chef Tyler Anderson popped into the chair next to us for a cocktail.  We got to talk with him for a while.  Leaving for the nighttime event we ran into Ming Tsai.  We also got a chance to talk to Robert.

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At the Saturday night gala

Robert Irvine and Freekeh

Robert Irvine feeding me Frekkeh!  – Courtesy of the Hartford Courant

Everyone, and we mean everyone we talked to thought the weekend was spectacular.  That’s because it was.  This event was put together by Vicky Cirilli of Cirilli Associates, and she is a master.  We can only imagine how she must have been flying around all weekend, but everything came off as cool and perfectly orchestrated.  This was amazingly well done.  Everyone had a great time, and a lot of money was raised for the Robert Irvine Foundation.  That makes us happy too.

We can’t wait for next year.

A votre sante!

So much more to come.

 

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