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The Greenwich Wine and Food Festival: Best. Day. Ever.

Imagine this table–times 90. That’s a good day in my book.

I have to admit, even I thought my last-minute trip up to Connecticut for the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival was a little ill-advised.  As I drove up 287 north on Saturday morning, I once again found myself thinking who does this?  The answer to that question–foodies, bloggers, and winos.  Guilty on all three counts.

Much of the cooking is done on-site, an amazing feat.

My plan was to stop by for a bit–because, you know, normal people typically drive two and a half hours to ‘stop by for a bit’–check out the offerings, have a few tastes, and then head home.  It was going to be a fact-finding mission; I was attending mainly so that I could write about it.  After all, travel blogs require occasional travel.

My fact-finding mission trip turned into one of the best days I’ve had in a long time–and an overnight trip to boot.  Halfway through the festival it became apparent that not only did I not want to drive home that night, I probably should not drive anywhere.  It really shouldn’t be called the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival; it should be called the Greenwich Wine, Rum, Vodka, Tequila, and Food Festival. Oh–and there was beer, too.

Because I could not find many good reviews of this festival before I attended, I’d like to bring to you my own detailed review.  And so, without any further babbling, here is what  day looks like at the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival, in semi-annoying second-person narrative style…

-You exit the interstate and turn LEFT.  Even though the website tells you to turn right, don’t!  That’s the wrong way and everyone went that way–because of the website–so traffic was a royal mess.  But even if you accidentally turn right, don’t worry.  Your day is about to vastly improve, even after a minor annoying traffic snafu.

-You walk a hundred yards or so to Roger Sherman Baldwin Park.  You enter and are given a wine glass and a tote bag.  You wonder why you need the tote bag until you realize–it’s to hold the wine glass when it is (rarely) empty and when you are (frequently) trying to eat beautifully presented plates of food.

-You wander around for a while.  You sip wine and a variety of cocktails.  Every four feet or so, you encounter a table of food.  You eat the food.  You sip the drinks.  You smile.

Duff’s demo.

-Occasionally you will need to take a break from eating.  That’s ok.  There are picnic tables outside along the waterfront; if they are full, there are rocks to sit on and dangle your legs over the water.

-You check your program and notice that there’s a presentation by two different Food Network Stars–Duff Goldman (of Ace of Cakes) and Ted Allen (of Chopped) in two tents conveniently placed right next to each other.  You grab a seat in one of the tents and enjoy the edu-tainment (that’s education combined with entertainment).

-Bluegrass music starts to play.  Barbecue is served.  There is music and hickory smoke in the air.  You smile.  You sip.  You chew.

-The sun sets.  A variety of grilled meat dishes–and some vegetarian options from an Indian food truck–continue to be served.  Gregg Allman comes on stage.  You dance.  You smile.  You vow to return next year.  And the year after that.  And the year after that.

Before I attended the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival, I thought of myself as a fairly unique and interesting individual.  However, that simply cannot be true, as there were scores and scores of other people at this event which truly appeared to be designed specifically for me.  Amazing food, educational culinary presentations, a lovely waterfront setting, and live music.  If not for the porta-potties, I’d have thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

I think I tried almost everything being offered, both food and beverages.  I also gained some new photography skills–or, rather, balancing skills as I tried to take photos of the food I was enjoying.  Like this photo…

Roasted squash soup, duck crostini, and tuna tartare. Balanced on my left hand while I took the photo with my right. Damn I’m good.

…which required way more balance  than I typically have, particularly after five wine tastings.  I don’t know how I managed it without spilling squash soup all over my boots.

Speaking of that photo, it includes one of the entries in my ‘Seconds Awards’–that is, one of the dishes that was so good it warranted going back for a second taste.  And while I was not physically able to actually go back for seconds on all of the things I loved, my ‘Seconds Awards’ go to…

The duck confit crostini with apple butter and beet creme from Napa and Company (pictured in precarious balancing photo above).  I don’t know if this is what it was actually called, but that’s what it was.  The combination of the rich, salty duck and the sweetness from the apple butter was almost perfect–that is, until you discovered the beet creme.  Then it was entirely perfect.

One of the liquor vendors–American Harvest–offered up two drinks.  One featured some sort of honey whiskey that I did not love (mainly because I don’t like sweet drinks) and the other was my favorite drink of the day (which is saying a lot, considering the huge assortment of wine and spirits available); the Fall Solstice Sour*, a drink made with their own organic vodka, fresh lemon juice and house-made concord grape syrup and topped with a splash of soda water.

My amazing bite from BLT steak, with pumpkin mousse in the distance.

Both dishes offered by BLT Steak White Plains (at the Ritz Carlton) made my ‘Seconds Awards’ list.  The first, a bite of steak covered in something salty and crunchy–I don’t know what it was–and sitting atop the most savory reduction I’ve ever enjoyed.  And though I can’t even name the elements that made up this dish, it doesn’t matter because the steak was truly the star.  I believe it to have been either flank or skirt steak–given the texture–but it was seared on the outside, rare on the inside, and melt-in-your-mouth tender.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.  I would drive to White Plains to eat at BLT.  I live a good two hours from White Plains.  Just saying.

The pumpkin mousse. Not pictured–little hearts flying out of my eyes and hitting it and breaking into smaller hearts.

A day later, I’m still thinking about BLT’s dessert offering–a pumpkin mousse* topped with bits of roasted pumpkin and pumpkin seeds and sitting atop some sort of caramel sauce.  It may have also contained whipped angel tears, it was that good.

Finally, the ‘Best Bite of the Day’ Award goes to a dish that wasn’t actually a bite–it was a sip.  Though surprisingly it was a sip that did not contain any alcohol at all.  The ‘new style’ clam chowder offered by The Hudson House was not only the tastiest dish I tried all day but also the most fun.  A playful take on New England clam chowder, this ‘new style’ chowder was a layered ‘shot’ of soup; on the bottom, a clam and vegetable-filled savory broth.  On the top, a surprisingly rich dollop of potato foam.  Each element–the broth and the foam–were complex enough to enjoy on their own.  But when they combined, well, my notes simply read ‘oh.  my.  god.’

*denotes a dish/drink I actually did  revisit.

Of course, while I could only offer this imaginary award to a limited number of dishes (why this is I’m not so sure, but I think it has something to do with how long this post is becoming), there were also several honorable mentions.  The scallop from Bistro Latino made me reconsider my previous position on seared scallop dishes (my feelings on seared scallop dishes are similar to my feelings on many popular songs–good but overplayed) and the shrimp cocktail with horseradish creme fraiche and tomato syrup was, well, as good as it sounded.  I also wouldn’t kick the Brooklyn Berry Fizz out of bed.

In case you aren’t getting the idea that there was a lot of really great food offered up at this year’s Greenwich Wine and Food Festival, let me say it plainly:  there was a lot of really great food offered up at this year’s Greenwich Wine and Food Festival.  It was worth attending for this alone; the lovely setting, entertaining celebrity chef sessions, and live music were all just a bonus.  It was truly one of the best days I’ve had in a long time, and I will return next year.

My favorite bite–new style clam chowder. Isn’t it pretty?

That being said, when I do return, I’ll do a few things differently.  Thus, here at the end of this gigantic post I shall offer you a tip to make this event even better.  That tip is…

For the love of god, purchase a VIP ticket.

Despite all of the amazing things I’ve said about this event, it was not without its flaws.  The parking situation was less than ideal (next year I’ll take a train in from the city; the train station is right there).  The bathroom situation was worse–toilet paper-less port-o-potties and hand washing stations that ran out of water mid-day.  And after the main tent closed for the evening, it was difficult to find a drink for the remainder of the event.  And when you realize that ‘the remainder of the event’ is ‘a concert’, you’ll understand the importance of having a drink.  Or maybe that’s just me.  But either way, I feel like the private restrooms, the seating area, and the open bar included with the VIP ticket more than makes it a worthwhile purchase.  Ok, to be fair, the open bar alone make the VIP ticket worthwhile.  At least for me.  After all, all of that food soaks up a lot of alcohol.  Right?  Right.

Oh–and as an added bonus, all of the proceeds of the event go to benefit the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a camp for children suffering from serious illnesses.  So really, that VIP admission doesn’t just get you great perks and ten hours worth of drinks, it’s also more money going to a great cause.  If that’s not a win-win situation, I don’t know what is.

Have I gone on enough about this fantastic event?  I feel I have.  And so, I will leave you with a parade of food festival photos that did not fit in the text above.  Enjoy!  I hope to see you at the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival next year.  I’ll be in the VIP tent, smiling between bites and sips.

 

I love Indian food, and it was featured at two different stations; this was the upscale version, Spice Affaire.

 

 

I would definitely call the performance space intimate; this is the stage as viewed from the food area. During the actual concert, I was literally touching the stage.

 

 

Indian food truck with nearby waterfront picnic tables? Yes please.

 

Attractive man with dreadlocks serving margaritas. Yeah.

 

 

Seared scallop with citrus glaze, arugula mashed potatoes (beneath scallop) and serrano ham.

 

 

One of my ‘Seconds Awards’ runners up.

The Greenwich Wine and Food Festival is held at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich, Connecticut; it is presented by Serendipity Magazine.  In addition to Saturday’s events, there is a wine event on Thursday night and a Grand Tasting on Friday night.  Greenwich is easily accessible by car, taking exit 3 off of interstate 95 in Connecticut.  A better option would be to take the train in from NYC; the Greenwich station is maybe two hundred yards from the event site–and then you don’t need to worry about driving anywhere.  In a perfect world, you would secure a room at Delamar Greenwich Harbor, mere steps from the park and overlooking the harbor front, and stay for the weekend.  

Disclosure:  I attended this event as media; thus, my admission was complimentary.  However, as always, all opinions are my own.  And my opinion is–this event rocked.

 

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