Best line overheard at the Montclair Food and Wine Festival: “I was hoping to meet 100 hot women, but not like this.”
Second best line: “This festival is great — I’ve already lost five pounds!”
Yes, the Montclair Food and Wine Festival was hot!
Pair a freak pre-summer heat wave with a historic venue that never put in air conditioning, then add a couple hundred guests and food vendors and you’ve got the ingredients for — one steamy food festival.That’s OK though, because even with the heat (did we mention it was hot?), Montclair’s first ever Food and Wine Festival was also a pretty amazing event. The first night was a grand tasting where area restaurants and food purveyors plated up delicious offerings. Our most memorable mouthfuls? Sally Owens of So Tasty Vegan’s roasted vegetable nori rolls, Fricasee’s pâté, Upstairs’ gin and fennel cocktail and char grilled octopus, a steak tartare from NICO Kitchen, standout Indian dishes from Mausam and Brick Lane, the Pie Store’s key lime pie in a cup, Dinosaur BBQ from Newark and oysters from the eight-foot long (icy cold!) raw bar from Fin.
The second night of the festival was the Gala Dinner, where things cooled down a bit (in a good way). Organizer Melody Kettle landed some air conditioning units which helped, as did Mother Nature, who cooperated by dropping the temperature a few degrees. But it was the six local rock star chefs who provided a delicious distraction, dazzling diners with dish after dish of beautifully prepared fare, each paired with the perfect wine by Sharon Sevrens of Amanti Vino (see list below).
Starting with a gorgeous amuse bouche from Pig & Prince’s Michael Carrino and ending with an inventive dessert by Restaurant Blu’s Zod Arifai, each course of the gala dinner built on the last for an incredible dining experience. On the way out, three coffee and chocolate pairings from Java Love and The Chocolate Path were a sweet ending to the evening.
We also loved(!) the live music at the festival, featuring Jazz House Kids Quartet, 3rdValve Jazz during the Grand Tasting and the Jazz House Kids Ensemble, followed by the show-stopping Jazz House Kids Big Band, at the Gala Dinner.
— baristanet (@baristanet) June 2, 2013
— Michele Harriott (@PerfectBite76) June 3, 2013
Kettle is glad to have the first festival under her belt.
“Of course there are always tweaks to be made, but overall it was a huge success. The attendance was phenomenal; we ended up with a wait list on both evenings. The vendors, chefs and wine coordinators all did an outstanding job and really brought their A game. The Gala Chefs all loved working together. The camaraderie in the kitchen was tangible,” says Kettle.“We were also very happy to award a Montclair High School student with the first Montclair Food & Wine Festival Culinary Scholarship in the amount of $1000. We haven’t yet arrived at the final number on what the other charities will receive yet, but we do plan to maximize the charitable contribution to St. Joseph’s Childrens’ Hospital and will be working on developing the community program with Partners for Health by this fall.”
Can we expect another hot festival next year?
“Of course, there was the heat. Unfortunately, with historic buildings – like the Upper Montclair Woman’s Club – you have to take the good with the bad,” says Kettle, adding, “we tried everything we could to mitigate the circumstances on short notice – we brought in auxiliary air units, and it helped a bit on Sunday night.”
“There are many features about the club that I love, specifically the size, the grandeur of the ballroom, and especially the workability of the kitchen. But, all things considered, we are already looking at alternate venues for our next events. Kudos to our vendors and attendees for hanging in with the heat.”
Kettle is already thinking about what’s next — which means Montclair is in store for some more exciting food experiences. “We’re brainstorming about different culinary formats and events – unusual locations, maybe car service pick up and drop off to the event. Our team is very excited to be working on upcoming events together.”
— baristanet (@baristanet) June 3, 2013
Wine pairings at Gala Dinner: Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero NV (on arrival, $11.99); OCD Riesling 2010 (with amuse bouche, $14.99); My Essential Rose 2012 (oysters, $15.99); Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc 2012 (crab agnolotti, $11.99); Capiaux “Chimera” Pinot Noir 2011 (halibut, $31.99); Jean Edwards “Stagecoach Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (short ribs/cote de boeuf, $64.99); Echeverria Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (caramel panna cotta, $19.99).