American Wine and Food Festival 2008: The dog ate my homework

Palate
late. It used to be Palate.

This year, I swore, was going to be different. I would write in exhaustive detail about the American Wine and Food Festival. Not only because I’m covering it (as much as you can cover a food festival after the fact) (and because, really, What Kind Of Food Blogger Do You Think You Are If You Can’t Get A Good Blog Post Out Of This), but also because every year I re-remember how much I love this event, more than (it must be said) all the other food and wine hoo-hahs put together.

Not that other food fests aren’t wonderful (they are), but beyond the sheer, bludgeoning scale of the AWFF, and the extraordinary amount of care and expense chefs put into their presence each year, what makes me wax goofy is the giddy (goofy is the new giddy!) of the evening. You run into friends and chefs and chef friends and you remember seeing them from the year before and you exult at how good the Pinot was and marvel at the weather and being on the world’s most impressive studio backlot and feel lucky and happy to be alive.

Really. And even before the stock market made the worst kind of history, that feeling is hard to find and should be preserved at every opportunity.

So, I took notes. Sort of. I did my best to collect a card or other remembrance from every booth and stand I sampled. I already know I didn’t succeed; worse, my dog literally ate some of my handiwork. (In addition to consuming half of the Palate Food + Wine business card, above, I am presuming he also ingested the napkin I snagged from Jasper White’s Summer Shack. God only knows what else he got.)

Anyway, here we go:

Jasper White’s Summer Shack. Fried clam bellies and a lobster roll were delicious, but the homemade pickled beets and the horseradish-spiked coleslaw were full-on knockouts.

Tea Forte. You’d think they’re all about presentation — the "unique handmade pyramid silken infusers" (sheesh), the business-card-as-flipbook — but I’d be happy to buy their teas in unmarked baggies. The white ginger-pear iced tea leaves behind a delicious taste.

Malbec. A tasting of four Malbecs from VineConnections.com. All Argentina, all impressive.

Tantara. Pinot Noir winery from Santa Maria. Tasted a flight of them and the Lindsey’s Vineyard was a knockout — we’d leave, try others (including a really feh Pinot from the makers of Caymus) and come back to Tantara for more.

The Modern. Beautiful cauliflower custard topped with shiny black caviar. I love that combination, but have to say it tasted better than it looked looked better than it tasted; there was a bitter undertaste I didn’t understand or like.

And now I’m getting concerned for Hambone’s digestion because I know I had a thicker pile of cards than that. The rest will have to be from memory:

Corn vichyssoise with crab from Fearing’s in Dallas. The amazing Kalin wines — 1994 Pinot and Chardonnay. Bonny Doon’s Albarino. (I feel for Bonny Doon — they’re still trying to reestablish the brand as a boutique now that they’ve turned all the lesser labels over to Trader Joe’s. But TJ’s is so ubiquitous that it’s a bit of a deal with the devil.) An extraordinary hamachi ceviche on top of chilled lemongrass cream. A terrific selection of Austrian wines, including a dry Riesling that I want more of. (Can’t remember the name, but Dan Fredman will; he repped them.)

And now if you’ll excuse me, I may have to take my dog to the vet.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “American Wine and Food Festival 2008: The dog ate my homework

  1. Muhlyssa

    Sounds like you hit a lot of the same stations we did. That cauliflower panna cotta was probably the biggest miss of the night for me. It was just vile and I love cauliflower. I think the pairing with the American caviar was just way off. The coup soup from Fearings was one of my favorites and Fearing was very sweet and friendly. If you want to talk about what else was there to refresh your memory, shoot me an email.

  2. IT was the 2007 Domäne Wachau Riesling Federspiel, imported by Vin Divino! It was indeed a wonderful event…I didn’t really taste anything I didn’t like. My favorite overall dish was the abalone with shaved truffles that Cal Stamerov of Bernardus created. Mark Peel from Campanile was serving some very simple (yet very great) lamb, and the Shake Shack’s selections were all pretty great. The only really confusing dish I had was from the Aussies with their Wagyu beef. They touted its great texture and amazing flavor and then disguised the meat’s flavor by covering it with some sort of pickled sauce. What were they thinking? I’ve never bought into the stereotypical Queenslander reputation, but these guys seemed unclear on the concept. The most visceral flavor memory of the night for me was at Mozza’s table, where David Rosoff was preparing thick slices of toasted bread with garlic, sea salt and some very fresh olive oil – combined with Ms. Silverton’s fresh Mozzarella, it was simple and great on all counts- aroma, flavor and texture. It was a pretty perfect event, one that’s a real pleasure to be involved with. DF

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