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Recap of the 2013 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival

Cheri and I just attended the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival and have to report that it is a WF2013_Logo1fun day, with excellent food, more wine than we expected and an impressive array of celebrity talent.  You can stroll around for a while enjoying the abundant food options, try some wine, a new cocktail or specialty spirit.  You can intermix some cooking demos, a chef sing along as well as a wine based stand up comedy act.  They were all good, some better than others of course, but all good.  We loved some of the food options and didn’t care for others.  Some I would have sworn I would not like, but I did.  On the wine side there was, as I mentioned, more than I expected, and you need to remember this is primarily a food event.

No - not our boat

No – not our boat

That said, we ran across a line of new wines from Turkey that are going to blow the lid off the wine industry.  The value ratio here is crazy good and these were just the entry level juices.  More to come on those.

The Greenwich Wine+Food Festival runs for three days, with events on Thursday and Friday nights as well as the large,

A tented event.

A tented event.

tented event on Saturday.  We only attended the Saturday event for about 5 hours, but it was well worth the trip.  Fortunately the  weather cooperated, and the location is very nice with the tents pitched on a grassy park right on Long Island Sound.  The whole event benefits the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, so it’s for a worthy cause.  Another positive is how easy it is to get to, as it is right off exit 3 on Route 95 in Greenwich.

Being bloggers we also got to take advantage of the CTbites Bloggers Lounge, which was a running interview session with the celebrity talent at the event.  They had a small area cordoned off to provide a little separation and had half hour interview blocks scheduled

The CTbites Blogger's Lounge

The CTbites Blogger’s Lounge

throughout the afternoon.  We had a chance to catch Duff Goldman hang for a while, learning several interesting facts from the Charm City Cakes master himself.  These included the fact that he played nose tackle on his high school football team and hockey in college at the University of Maryland.  This was not the main UMaryland campus but a satellite, where the “academics were great but the sports not so

Duff holding court

Duff holding court

much.  That’s why I played college hockey.”  Duff also grew up in Sandwich on Cape Cod, a town we know well.  While he maintains the Baltimore connection Duff now spends 70% of his time in LA, where he has a Charm City Cakes and his newest venture, a make your own cake shop called Duff’s Cake Mix.

We took in two of the scheduled events inside the Celebrity Sommelier and Mixologist Tent, catching a tasting of Spanish wines presented by Gretchen Thomas, wine master of the

Gretchen Thomas did a nice Spanish wine tasting

Gretchen Thomas did a nice Spanish wine tasting

Barcelona restaurant group.  The tasting ran through two whites, two reds and a Cava, which is a Spanish sparkler.  The second white was noteworthy, and was the 2011 Louro do Bolo from Rafael Palacios.  This demonstrated some stunning stony and mineral flavors with an excellent finish and length.  Overall the winner here went to red (surprise!) which was the 2009 Quinta Sardonia.  This wine was big and rich, with a stiff tannic backstop that needs more time.  It should last many years and is a very classy wine.  It retails for about $50, so we won’t be stocking up at home but it was excellent.

After the tasting Laurie Forster, the Stand-up Sommelier, took the stage and did a wine themed comedy show with audience interaction.  This was funny and very well received.  Adding to the comedy was Duff Goldman in the next tent, pleading “could anyone associated with the festival please bring me some pots and pans…….and knives……and a cutting board.  Anyone?  Anyone?”  Apparently they had forgotten a few things when setting up his cooking demo.  Laurie also presented five wines in a tasting and used them to provide some basic wine education.  The favorite for me of these was a Nebbiolo, on the lighter side but elegant and flavorful.

Having brought up Duff’s struggle with equipment,  we should launch into our only criticism of the event, which was that organization was a bit lacking.  The Spanish wine tasting started late, mainly due to the fact that the singing chefs next door went late and were too loud too talk over.  This spilled into Laurie’s show, which started about half an hour late.  Then you have Duff’s  plea for cookware.  In fact when we were waiting for the Festival to open at noon there was still a flurry of last minute preps going on, including hanging signs and organizing the entrance area.  It all came together though, and any confusion was quickly forgotten as we strolled in and entered the food tent.  We never did find out if Duff got his cookware.

In summary, right up front, the food tent, or “Culinary Village” was pretty impressive.  You were immediately struck by

Bacon wrapped dates and Sherry

Bacon wrapped dates and Sherry

the amount and quality of the food and beverage offerings, and there was something for everyone.   Immediately upon entering American Harvest was making drinks with their organic vodka.  Cheri got a Ginger Grape Smash and declared it excellent, which must have been true because I saw them everywhere.  I immediately grabbed a large shrimp before finding myself in front of the Barcelona Restaurant table.  Here they were serving bacon wrapped dates over a shot of Spanish sherry.  I was skeptical, especially since the dates were huge and just looked like they would dominate everything.  I was wrong, and the date had some nice mellow flavors that melded with the salty bacon beautifully.  Then you took the shot of sherry and that just iced the cake.  It was a great little composed piece of flavor.

And the winner is....Pumpkin Apple Ravioli

And the winner is….Pumpkin Apple Ravioli

More food favorites were the Chicken Masala and Spinach Fritters from Saffron Indian Cuisine in Norwalk, the White Truffle and Rice fritter from Bar Rosso in Stamford and the deconstructed Shephard’s Pie from MacDuff’s Public House in Greenwich.  Also noteworthy were the lobster and crab sliders from Rive Kitchen and the crab cakes from Rowayton Seafood.  Cheri’s ultimate favorite was the Pumpkin Apple Ravioli with brown butter, Peccorino and almonds from Ali Goss.  This was so good Cheri went back for more later.  There were many good offerings, and quite a few we didn’t like, but this was all about the tasting and trying new things.  It was fun.

To the side of the main tent was another smaller tent housing the barbecue pits and the Best

Under the food tent

Under the food tent

Burger contestants.  We tried a few good burgers, but the best for us was from the Shake Shack in Westport.  This was just delicious, and reminded me of what a Big Mac would be if it was made by hand with the best quality ingredients and didn’t make me run for the bathroom.  We didn’t see who won the judge’s vote and whether they agreed with us.

Burgers on a pole!  Dr. Suess meets Adam Richman?

Burgers on a pole! Dr. Suess meets Adam Richman?

On the wine side there were quite a few options especially considering the food orientation of the event.  Mostly these were presented by distributors, so it’s not a place to meet and talk to wine makers.  Some of wines were noteworthy.  The folks at 90+ Cellars were pouring a series of wine, and they buy, re-label and sell wines that have received 90 points or more from the big rating people, like the Spectator, the Advocate or International Wine Cellar.  These are wines that for some reason aren’t all sold at full retail and that they can offer at a discount.  You just don’t know the exact producer.  So we tried a 2011 St. Emilion which was quite good, especially considering the negative things I’ve heard about that vintage in Bordeaux.  Apparently things fared worse for the Left Bank.  They also opened a Barolo which was quite nice.  It’s an interesting concept, and the wines were good for the money.

The real winner of the event for us though were the wines from SUVLA in Turkey.  These were presented by Gregory Von

The wines of SUVLA

The wines of SUVLA

Hess and aren’t available in the States until next spring.  They are worth waiting for as their price range is around $12 – $14, and they are extremely good.  We tasted three reds, the Kirmizi blend, a Cabernet Sauvignon and the Kirte, which was a traditional Bordeaux style blend.  We liked the 2011 Kirmizi, which has a Red Zin nose but then surprises you with some depth, complexity and spice you weren’t expecting.  The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is excellent, with pure Cab flavors, currants and berries, that run straight to a long finish.  It’s a medium+ bodied cab that really impresses.  Finally, the 2011 Kirte is a blend of Cab Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc.  You could easily believe it is a quality Left Bank offering.  Keep in mind these are the entry level wines.  There are multiple quality tiers above this that I absolutely can’t wait to try.  There is something special going on here.

All in all this is a pretty amazing food event, with more than enough wine and spirits to keep the oenophiles relatively

Did someone say seafood?

Did someone say seafood?

happy.  Considering the Turkish find this was pretty good from a wine perspective.  If you’re looking for a more traditional wine event with tons of different wineries and distributors this is not it.  If you”re looking for a fun afternoon and into the evening then this could be it.  The celebrity talent was great, the food was an experience and the venue was nice.  We’d like to cover it again next year and see how it is progressing since this was just the third year they’ve held it.  I heard some people talking about Groupons, so it might have been a great deal as well.

While we can’t comment on the Thursday or Friday night festivities, we would assume they were well done.  Saturday needs to tighten up the organization a bit, but all the pieces were

No, not our car either.

No, not our car either.

there for a successful event.  It was also for a great charity.  We’ll look to return, and maybe Greg will have the top end Turkish wines by then.  If I could have one thing it would be a little more wine.  But then I always say that.

We need to thank Shelley Kapitulik from Splash PR for tuning us into the event.  Also, thanks to Amy Kundrat for our bloggers passes to the CTbites Bloggers Lounge.

A votre sante!

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