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Review of the 2014 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival

IMG_0906We just returned from the 2014 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival, and overall a good time was had onceIMG_0886 again.  This really is more of a foodie event, with lots of food vendors, celebrity chefs, burger battles and even a food truck corner.  There was scotch, bourbon, tequila and lots of beer.  There was also some wine, and a lot of it was good, including a few really outstanding bottles.  We discovered a new line of wines to seriously consider, and got a chance to try the SUVLA wines again from Turkey, which will be hitting store shelves soon in Connecticut.  All in all it was a pretty successful and enjoyable day.

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Ann Burrell and Aaron Sanchez

Food truck corner

Food truck corner

When we say it is more of a foodie event that’s because it clearly is.  You had demos by Anne Burrell, Jean-Georges, Adam Richman, Geoffrey Zakarian and Aaron Sanchez to name a few, and most were signing their latest books as well.  Dozens of local restaurants were serving up bites, burgers were flying out of the burger battle contestant booths and the food trucks were just firing up when we were leaving town.

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The winners from Plan B Burger Bar

Some things that stood out for us on the food side were the burgers from Plan B Burger Bar ( the eventual winner), the chocolate dessert right out of the gate from Samantha Eichenberg, the Granola Bar’s deviled eggs and, no surprise, granola bars, as well as the beef tartare from Harvest.  Cheri does

Excellent Beef Tartare from Harvest

Excellent Beef Tartare from Harvest

not eat beef tartare, unless apparently is it is from Harvest and served on homemade potato chips.  We both wolfed down several of these.  There were lots of other tasty bites as well as a few so so ones.  More of the yummy notables were the coconut macaroons from the Connecticut Cookie Company and the spicy carrot cake from the River House Bar & Grill.  A very large prosciutto ham was quickly cut down to size at the Barcelona table.  The prosciutto was good, and the marketing worked as we ended up at Barcelona in Stamford for dinner that evening.  It was also quite good, and we’ll review the restaurant soon.

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Aaron on the kitchen stage

On the celebrity chef side there was so much going on at the same time as the main tent event that you had to pick a thread and follow it, or just meander.  We picked up on Aaron Sanchez, who early in the afternoon was just strolling through the main tent, shaking hands, signing autographs and taking pictures with just about everyone, including Cheri (see the first picture!).  He spent a lot of time interacting with a pretty large fan base from the looks of it.  Since we had picked his book as the one we wanted to buy, we also went to his live demo.  We have to say Aaron is immensely entertaining as well as a great chef.  Somewhat irreverent, especially when it concerns one particular food retailing corporation, he kept the audience laughing while he passed along historical tidbits that tied together the origins and reasons behind some of the foods he was preparing.  A simple Caesar salad took on a whole new meaning.  Of course it used grapeseed oil and Manchego, but it sounded delicious.  Who knew the Caesar was invented in Mexico?

This also produced the quote of the day, as Aaron was planing off the cheese onto the salad.  Quote: “you guys have disposable income.  Stop thinking about golf and Ambercrombie & Fitch and go get yourself a f***ing micro-planar!”  This was not a suggestion, but more of a command.  Gotta love it.

We ran into Aaron a bit more, had him sign our book and chatted about the judging on Chopped.  He is a very gracious and genuine person.  All the chefs were, and they all know each other and obviously are a close group.  Since we were in Stamford for the night we tried to go to Paloma, his restaurant there, but it was booked out.  Must be good.  As we mentioned we ended up at Barcelona and did not suffer.

We also did mention wine, and there was wine.  It’s not everywhere, and there are limited producers, but some things did stand out.  Our very first table might have been the best,

Some of the Quintessential Wines

Some of the Quintessential Wines

as we ran into the wine from Quintessential Wines, which represents Family owned wineries around the world and were available at Val’s Putnam Wines.  We tasted through ten wines they had lined up.  It was early, so the whites weren’t quite chilled yet, and it was warm so the reds were a bit too warm, but the wines still showed very nicely.  There was only one we

More Quintessential Wines

More Quintessential Wines

would not consider at their respective price points.  Some that stood out are the 2013 Ironstone Vineyards Obsession Symphony, a very different wine of 95% Symphony, 3% Muscat and 2% Verdelho.    Symphony is a hybrid of Muscat and White Grenache.  The wine is refreshing and bright with just a touch of residual sweetness.  Also very good and different was the New Age White from Argentina, which was a little effervescent and makes a great spritzer over ice with a twist of lime.  I liked it all by itself as well.  Both of these whites are value wines in the $10 a $12 range.  On the red side we liked the 2009 Bodegas Muriel Crianza, the Reserva  by the same producer, the 2011 Valentin Bianchi Malbec and the 2012 3 Rings Shiraz.  The Shiraz checked in at 14.9% alcohol but it was balanced and not too hot.  At about $20 it is a serious bottle of wine.  This was pretty much all good, and we’ll keep an eye out for more Quintessential Wines in the future.

Great wines from SUVLA

Great wines from SUVLA

One other major bright spot were the wines of SUVLA, which are launching in CT and are produced in Turkey.  Greg Von Hess was pouring the line, and they range from entry level at about $16 to the more premium wines up to $40.  We like them all, and really do mean that.  They will all represent great value on the shelves and can stand up to pretty much anything else in their price range.  The Reserve Cab and Syrah were extremely good, and the 2011 Grand Reserve is a striking, elegant and powerful wine.  This one is built to last and will compare well with wines twice the price.  Made from select barrel, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a single parcel, it is very high quality juice.  We’re hoping they get into RI so we can buy them in our area.

Fabulous Tom Eddy Napa Malbec

Fabulous Tom Eddy Napa Malbec

A few other wines which stood out were the 2011 JanKris Crossfire red blend at $14.99, the Carmody McKnight Cadenza Meritage at $29.99 as well as one of the 90+ Cellars Bordeaux grape blends from Washington.  An absolutely killer wine was the 2009 Tom Eddy Napa Valley Malbec, a huge, brooding, fruit filled wine with great body and depth.

Finally, the wines of Shaw Vineyards, from the Finger Lakes region of New York, were a total surprise.  We expect a good Riesling from this area, and Shaw Vineyards was pouring a very good one, the 2012 Single Vineyard Riesling.  This had a very classic petrol marker on the nose and a traditional German influence.  It was delicious and bright.  What we didn’t expect were the reds, complex and structured reds that were very

Suprising and delicious Shaw Pinot Noir

Suprising and delicious Shaw Pinot Noir

good.  The 2009 Pinot Noir spends four years in planed, French oak barrels and is very Burgundian and classic in style, as well as delicious in its own right.  Also excellent was the 2007 Keuka Hill Reserve Red Table Wine, which also sees four years in oak and is very elegant, almost Bordeaux like in many ways.  We are going to visit Shaw at some point and do a more in depth article on the father & son team behind these wines.  Unexpected and good stuff here, which is always fun.

So that’s a summary, of course there was much, much more.  We didn’t even mention the bands, including Alabama which

At the Festival

At the Festival

were going to carry the party well into the evening hours.  One thing to consider if you are going is the VIP pass, which gets you priority parking right across the street, access to the VIP tent and area as well as the VIP restrooms!  We were envious of the serene, white cloth covered tables inside the VIP environs.  We were also envious of the private restrooms when the water ran out at the general public hand washing stations.  Bottled water, which was available everywhere, more than did the trick.  If you’re going to make a full day of it this might be the way to go.

With almost perfect weather and an amazing lineup of talent this was a fun day.  If you’re a foodie you should definitely have been there.  We certainly enjoyed ourselves, learned a few new things and found some great wines.  Next year we’ll consider the VIP ticket and maybe see what life is like on the other side of the fence.

We also apparently have to go out and buy a micro-planar.  I wonder if I can email Aaron’s PR person and get a recommendation.

A votre sante!

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